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

Part 2 out of 7

Art thou a god, that thou, indeed, by favouring whom thou wilt
And slighting others, canst at once bring back to life and
GCod moulded beauty from thy form and eke perfumed the breeze With
the sheer sweetness of the scent that cleaves to thee alway.
None of the people of this world, an angel sure thou art, Whom
thy Creator hath sent down, to hearten our dismay.

When Ali and Aboulhusn and the bystanders heard Shemsennehar's
song, they were transported and laughed and sported; but while
they were thus engaged, up came a damsel, trembling for fear, and
said, 'O my lady, Afif and Mesrour and Merjan and others of the
Commander of the Faithful's eunuchs, whom I know not, are at the
door.' When they heard this they were like to die of fright, but
Shemsennehar laughed and said, 'Have no fear.' Then said she to
the damsel, 'Hold them in parley, whilst we remove hence.' And
she caused shut the doors of the alcove upon Ali and Aboulhusn
and drew the curtains over them; after which she shut the door of
the saloon and went out by the privy gate into the garden, where
she seated herself on a couch she had there and bade one of the
damsels rub her feet. Then she dismissed the rest of her women
and bade the portress admit those who were at the door; whereupon
Mesrour entered, he and his company, twenty men with drawn
swords, and saluted her. Quoth she, 'Wherefore come-ye?' And they
answered, 'The Commander of the Faithful salutes thee. He wearies
for thy sight and would have thee to know that this with him is a
day of great joy and gladness and he is minded to seal his
gladness with thy present company: wilt thou then go to him or
shall he come to thee?' At this she rose, and kissing the earth,
said, 'I hear and obey the commandment of the Commander of the
Faithful.' Then she summoned the chief (female) officers of her
household and other damsels and made a show of complying with the
Khalif's orders and commanding them to make preparations for his
reception, albeit all was in readiness; and she said to the
eunuchs, 'Go to the Commander of the Faithful and tell him that I
await him after a little space, that I may make ready for him a
place with carpets and so forth.' So they returned in haste to
the Khalif, whilst Shemsennehar, doffing her (outer) clothing,
repaired to her beloved Ali ben Bekkar and strained him to her
bosom and bade him farewell, whereat he wept sore and said, 'O my
lady, this leave-taking will lead to the ruin of my soul and the
loss of my life; but I pray God to grant me patience to bear this
my love, wherewith He hath smitten me!' 'By Allah, answered she,
'none will suffer perdition but I; for thou wilt go out to the
market and company with those that will divert thee, and thine
honour will be in safety and thy passion concealed; whilst I
shall fall into trouble and weariness nor find any to console me,
more by token that I have given the Khalif a rendezvous, wherein
haply great peril shall betide me, by reason of my love and
longing passion for thee and my grief at being parted from thee.
For with what voice shall I sing and with what heart shall I
present me before the Khalif and with what speech shall I
entertain the Commander of the Faithful and with what eyes shall
I look upon a place where thou art not and take part in a banquet
at which thou art not present and with what taste shall I drink
wine of which thou partakest not?' 'Be not troubled,' said
Aboulhusn 'but take patience and be not remiss in entertaining
the Commander of the Faithful this night, neither show him any
neglect, but be of good courage.' At this juncture, up came a
damsel, who said to Shemsennehar, 'O my lady, the Khalif's pages
are come.' So she rose to her feet and said to the maid, 'Take
Aboulhusn and his friend and carry them to the upper gallery
giving upon the garden and there leave them, till it be dark;
when do thou make shift to carry them forth.' Accordingly, the
girl carried them up to the gallery and locking the door upon
them, went away. As they sat looking on the garden, the Khalif
appeared, preceded by near a hundred eunuchs with drawn swords
and compassed about with a score of damsels, as they were moons,
holding each a lighted flambeau. They were clad in the richest of
raiment and on each one's head was a crown set with diamonds
and rubies. The Khalif walked in their midst with a majestic
gait, whilst Mesrour and Afif and Wesif went before him and
Shemsennehar and all her damsels rose to receive him and meeting
him at the garden door, kissed the earth before him; nor did they
cease to go before him, till they brought him to the couch,
whereon he sat down, whilst all the waiting-women and eunuchs
stood before him and there came fair maids and slave-girls with
lighted flambeaux and perfumes and essences and instruments of
music. Then he bade the singers sit down, each in her room, and
Shemsennehar came up and seating herself on a stool by the
Khalif's side, began to converse with him, whilst Ali and the
jeweller looked on and listened, unseen of the prince. The Khalif
fell to jesting and toying with Shemsennehar and bade throw open
the (garden) pavilion. So they opened the doors and windows and
lighted the flambeaux till the place shone in the season of
darkness even as the day. The eunuchs removed thither the
wine-service and (quoth Aboulhusn), 'I saw drinking-vessels and
rarities, whose like mine eyes never beheld, vases of gold and
silver and all manner precious stones and jewels, such as beggar
description, till indeed meseemed I was dreaming, for excess of
amazement at what I saw!' But as for Ali ben Bekkar, from the
moment Shemsennehar left him, he lay prostrate on the ground for
excess of passion and desire and when he revived, he fell to
gazing upon these things that had not their like, and saying to
Aboulhusn, 'O my brother, I fear lest the Khalif see us or come
to know of us; but the most of my fear is for thee. For myself, I
know that I am surely lost past recourse, and the cause of my
destruction is nought but excess of passion and love-longing and
desire and separation from my beloved, after union with her; but
I beseech God to deliver us from this predicament.' Then they
continued to look on, till the banquet was spread before the
Khalif, when he turned to one of the damsels and said to her, 'O
Gheram, let us hear some of thine enchanting songs.' So she tool:
the lute and tuning it, sang as follows:

The longing of a Bedouin maid, whose folk are far away, Who
yearns after the willow of the Hejaz and the bay,--
Whose tears, when she on travellers lights, might for their water
serve And eke her passion, with its heat, their bivouac-fire
Is not more fierce nor ardent than my longing for my love, Who
deem: that I commit a crime in loving him alway.

When Shemsennehar heard this, she slipped off the stool on which
she sat and fell to the earth insensible; where upon the damsels
came and lifted her up. When Ali ben Bekkar saw this from the
gallery, he also fell down senseless, and Aboulhusn said, 'Verily
Fate hath apportioned passion equally between you!' As he spoke,
in came the damsel who had brought them thither and said to him,
'O Aboulhusn, arise and come down, thou and thy friend, for of a
truth the world is grown strait upon us and I fear lest our case
be discovered or the Khalif become aware of you: so, except you
descend at once, we are dead folk. 'How shall this youth
descend,' replied he, 'seeing that he hath not strength to rise?'
With this she fell to sprinkling rose-water on Ali ben Bekkar,
till he came to himself, when Aboulhusn lifted him up and the
damsel stayed him. So they went down from the gallery and walked
on awhile, till they came to a little iron door, which the damsel
opened, and they found themselves on the Tigris' bank. Here they
sat down on a stone bench, whilst the girl clapped her hands and
there came up a man with a little boat, to whom said she, 'Carry
these two young men to the other bank.' So they all three entered
the boat and the man put off with them; and as they launched out
into the stream, Ali ben Bekkar looked back towards the Khalif's
palace and the pavilion and the garden and bade them farewell
with these verses:

I stretch forth a feeble hand to bid farewell to thee, With the
other upon my burning breast, beneath the heart of me.
But be not this the last of the love betwixt us twain And let not
this the last of my soul's refreshment be.

The damsel said to the boatman, 'Make haste with them.' So he
plied his oars swiftly till they reached the opposite bank, where
they landed, and she took lease of them, saying, 'It were my wish
not to leave you, but I can go no farther than this.' Then she
turned back, whilst Ali ben Bekkar lay on the ground before
Aboulhusn and could not rise, till the latter said to him, 'This
place is not sure and I am in fear of our lives, by reason of the
thieves and highwaymen and men of lawlessness.' With this Ali
arose and essayed to walk a little, but could not. Now Aboulhusn
had friends in that quarter, so he made for the house of one of
them, in whom he trusted and who was of his intimates, and
knocked at the door. The man came out quickly and seeing them,
bade them welcome and brought them into his house, where he made
them sit down and talked with them and asked them whence they
came. Quoth Aboulhusn 'We came out but now, being moved thereto
by a man with whom I had dealings and who hath in his hands
monies of mine. It was told me that he was minded to flee into
foreign countries with my money; so I came out to-night in quest
of him, taking with me this my friend Ali ben Bekkar for company
but he hid from us and we could get no speech of him So we turned
back, empty-handed, and knew not whither to go, for it were
irksome to us to return home at this hour of the night; wherefore
we came to thee, knowing thy wonted courtesy and kindness.' 'Ye
are right welcome,' answered the host, and studied to do them
honour. They abode with him the rest of the night, and as soon as
it was day, they left him and made their way back to the city.
When they came to Aboulhusn's house, the latter conjured his
friend to enter; so they went in and lying down on the bed, slept
awhile. When they awoke, Aboulhusn bade his servants spread the
house with rich carpets saying in himself, 'Needs must I divert
this youth and distract him from thoughts of his affliction, for
I know his case better than another.' Then he called for water
for Ali ben Bekkar, and the latter rose and making his ablutions,
prayed the obligatory prayers that he had omitted for the past
day and night; after which he sat down and began to solace
himself with talk with his friend. When Aboulhusn saw this, he
turned to him and said, 'O my lord, it were better for thy case
that thou abide with me this night, so thy heart may be lightened
and the anguish of love-longing that is upon thee be dispelled
and thou make merry with us and haply the fire of thy heart be
allayed.' 'O my brother,' answered Ali, 'do what seemeth good to
thee; for I may not anywise escape from what hath befallen me.'
Accordingly, Aboulhusn arose and bade his servants summon some of
the choicest of his friends and sent for singers and musicians.
Meanwhile he made ready meat and drink for them, and they came
and sat eating and drinking and making merry till nightfall Then
they lit the candles, and the cups of friendship and good
fellowship went round amongst them, and the time passed
pleasantly with them. Presently, a singing-woman took the lute
and sang the following verses:

Fate launched at me a dart, the arrow of an eye; It pierced me
and cut off from those I love am I.
Fortune hath mauled me sore and patience fails me now; But long
have I forebode misfortune drawing nigh.

When Ali ben Bekkar heard this, he fell to the earth in a swoon
and abode thus till daybreak, and Aboulhusn despaired of him.
But, with the dawning, he came to himself and sought to go home;
nor could Aboulhusn deny him, for fear of the issue of his
affair. So he made his servants bring a mule and mounting Ali
thereon, carried him to his lodging, he and one of his men. When
he was safe at home, the merchant thanked God for his deliverance
from that peril and sat awhile with him, comforting him; but Ali
could not contain himself, for the violence of his passion and
love-longing. Presently Aboulhusn rose to take leave of him and
Ali said, 'O my brother, leave me not without news.' 'I hear and
obey, answered Aboulhusn, and repairing to his shop, opened it
and sat there all day, expecting news of Shemsennehar; but none
came. He passed the night in his own house and when it was day,
he went to Ali ben Bekkar's lodging and found him laid on his
bed, with his friends about him and physicians feeling his pulse
and prescribing this or that. When he saw Aboulhusn, he smiled,
and the latter saluting him, enquired how he did and sat with him
till the folk withdrew, when he said to him, 'What plight is
this?' Quoth Ali, 'It was noised abroad that I was ill and I have
no strength to rise and walk, so as to give the lie to the report
of my sickness, but continue lying here as thou seest. So my
friends heard of me and came to visit me. But, O my brother, hast
thou seen the damsel or heard any news of her?' 'I have not seen
her,' answered Aboulhusn, 'since we parted from her on the
Tigris' bank; but, O my brother, beware of scandal and leave this
weeping.' 'O my brother,' rejoined Ali, 'indeed, I have no
control over myself ;' and he sighed and recited the following

She giveth unto her hand that whereof mine doth fail, A dye on
the wrist, wherewith she doth my patience assail
She standeth in fear for her hand of the arrows she shoots from
her eyes; So, for protection, she's fain to clothe it in
armour of mail.[FN#10]
The doctor in ignorance felt my pulse, and I said to him, "Leave
thou my hand alone; my heart it is that doth ail."
Quoth she to the dream of the night, that visited me and fled,
"By Allah, describe him to me and bate me no jot of the
It answered, "I put him away, though he perish of thirst, and
said, 'Stand off from the watering-place!' So he could not
to drink avail."
She poured forth the pearls of her tears from her eyes' narcissus
and gave The rose of her cheeks to drink and bit upon
jujubes[FN#11] with hail.[FN#12]

Then he said, 'O Aboulhusn, I am smitten with an affliction, from
which I deemed myself in surety, and there is no greater ease for
me than death.' 'Be patient,' answered his friend: 'peradventure
God will heal thee.' Then he went out from him and repairing
to his shop, opened it, nor had he sat long, when up came
Shemsennehar's hand-maid, who saluted him. He returned her salute
and looking at her, saw that her heart was palpitating and that
she was troubled and bore the traces of affliction: so he said to
her, 'Thou art welcome. How is it with Shemsennehar?' 'I will
tell thee,' answered she; 'but first tell me how doth Ali ben
Bekkar.' So he told her all that had passed, whereat she was
grieved and sighed and lamented and marvelled at his case. Then
said she, 'My lady's case is still stranger than this; for when
you went away, I turned back, troubled at heart for you and
hardly crediting your escape, and found her lying prostrate in
the pavilion, speaking not nor answering any, whilst the
Commander of the Faithful sat by her head, unknowing what aided
her and finding none who could give him news of her. She ceased
not from her swoon till midnight, when she revived and the Khalif
said to her, "What ails thee, O Shemsennehar, and what has
behllen thee this night?" "May God make me thy ransom, O
Commander of the Faithful!" answered she. "Verily, bile rose in
me and lighted a fire in my body, so that I lost my senses for
excess of pain, and I know no more." "What hast thou eaten
to-day?" asked the Khalif. Quoth she, "I broke my fast on
something I had never before eaten." Then she feigned to be
recovered and calling for wine, drank it and begged the Khalif to
resume his diversion. So he sat down again on his couch in the
pavilion and made her sit as before. When she saw me, she asked
me how you fared; so I told her what I had done with you and
repeated to her the verses that Ali ben BeLkar had recited at
parting, whereat she wept secretly, but presently stinted. After
awhile, the Khalif ordered a damsel to sing, and she chanted the
following verses:

Life, as I live, has not been sweet since I did part from thee;
Would God I knew but how it fared with thee too after me!
If thou be weeping tears of brine for sev'rance of our loves, Ah,
then, indeed, 'twere meet my tears of very blood should be.

When my lady heard this, she fell back on the sofa in a swoon,
and I seized her hand and sprinkled rose-water on her face, till
she revived, when I said to her, "O my lady, do not bring ruin on
thyself and on all thy house-hold, but be patient, by the life of
thy beloved!" "Can aught befall me worse than death?" answered
she. "That, indeed, I long for, for, by Allah, my ease is
therein." Whilst we were talking, another damsel sang the
following words of the poet:

"Patience shall peradventure lead to solacement," quoth they; and
I, "Where's patience to be had, now he is gone away?"
He made a binding covenant with me to cut the cords Of patience,
when we two embraced upon the parting day.

When Shemsennehar heard this, she swooned away once more, which
when the Khalif saw, he came to her in haste and commanded the
wine-service to be removed and each damsel to return to her
chamber. He abode with her the rest of the night, and when it was
day, he sent for physicians and men of art and bade them medicine
her, knowing not that her sickness arose from passion and
love-longing. He tarried with her till he deemed her in a way of
recovery, when he returned to his palace, sore concerned for her
illness, and she bade me go to thee and bring her news of Ali ben
Bekkar. So I came, leaving with her a number of her bodywomen;
and this is what has delayed me from thee.' When Aboulhusn heard
her story, he marvelled and said, 'By Allah, I have acquainted
thee with his whole case; so now return to thy mistress; salute
her for me and exhort her to patience and secrecy and tell her
that I know it to be a hard matter and one that calls for prudent
ordering.' She thanked him and taking leave of him, returned to
her mistress, whilst he abode in his place till the end of the
day, when he shut the shop and betaking himself to Ali ben
Bekkar's house, knocked at the door. One of the servants came out
and admitted him; and when Ali saw him, he smiled and re-joiced
in his coming, saying, 'O Aboulhusn, thou hast made a weary man
of me by thine absence from me this day; for indeed my soul is
pledged to thee for the rest of my days.' 'Leave this talk,'
answered the other. 'Were thy healing at the price of my hand, I
would cut it off, ere thou couldst ask me; and could I ransom
thee with my life, I had already laid it down for thee. This very
day, Shemsennehar's handmaid has been with me and told me that
what hindered her from coming before this was the Khalif's
sojourn with her mistress;' and he went on to repeat to him all
that the girl had told him of Shemsennehar; at which Ali lamented
sore and wept and said to him, 'O my brother, I conjure thee by
God to help me in this mine affliction and teach me how I shall
do! Moreover, I beg thee of thy grace to abide with me this
night, that I may have the solace of thy company.' Aboulhusn
agreed to this; so they talked together till the night darkened,
when Ali groaned aloud and lamented and wept copious tears,
reciting the following verses:

My eye holds thine image ever; thy name in my mouth is aye And
still in my heart is thy sojourn; so how canst thou absent
How sore is my lamentation for life that passes away Nor is
there, alas! in union a part for thee and me!

And also these:

She cleft with the sword of her glance the helm of my courage in
two And the mail of my patience she pierced with the spear
of her shape through and through.
She unveiled to us, under the musk of the mole that is set on her
cheek, carnphor-whlte dawning a-break through a night of the
ambergris' hue.[FN#13]
Her spirit was stirred to chagrin and she bit on cornelian[FN#14]
with pearls,[FN#15] Whose unions unvalued abide in a lakelet
of sugary dew.
She sighed for impatience and smote with her palm on the snows of
her breast. Her hand left a scar; so I saw what never before
met my view;
Pens fashioned of coral (her nails), that, dinting the book of
her breast Five lines, scored in ambergris ink, on a table
of crystal drew,
O ye that go girded with steel, O swordsmen, I rede you beware Of
the stroke of her death-dealing eyes, that never looked yet
but they slew!
And guard yourselves, ye of the spears, and fence off her thrust
from your hearts, If she tilt with the quivering lance of
her shape straight and slender at you.

Then he gave a great cry and fell down in a swoon. Aboulhusn
thought that his soul had departed his body and he ceased not
from his swoon till daybreak, when he came to himself and talked
with his friend, who sat with him till the forenoon. Then he left
him and repaired to his shop. Hardly had he opened it, when the
damsel came and stood before him. As soon as he saw her, she made
a sign of salutation to him, which he returned; and she greeted
him for her mistress, saying, 'How doth Ali ben BeLkar?' 'O good
damsel,' replied he, 'ask me not how he doth nor what he suffers
for excess of passion; for he sleeps not by night neither rests
by day; wakefulness wasteth him and affliction hath gotten the
mastery of him and his case is distressful to his friend.' Quoth
she, 'My lady salutes thee and him, and indeed she is in worse
case than he. She hath written him a letter and here it is. When
she gave it me, she said to me, "Do not return save with the
answer." So wilt thou go with me to him and get his reply?' 'I
hear and obey,' answered Aboulhusn, and shutting his shop,
carried her, by a different way to that by which he came, to Ali
ben Bekkar's house, where he left her standing at the door and
entered. When Ali saw him, he rejoiced, and Aboulhusn said to
him, 'The reason of my coming is that such an one hath sent his
handmaid to thee with a letter, containing his greeting to thee
and excusing himself for that he hath tarried by reason of a
certain matter that hath betided him. The girl stands even now at
the door: shall she have leave to enter?' And he signed to him
that it was Shemsennehar's slave-girl. Ali understood his sign
and answered, 'Bring her in.' So she entered and when he saw her,
he shook for joy and signed to her, as who should say, 'How doth
thy lord, may God grant him health and recovery!' 'He is well,'
answered she and pulling out the letter, gave it to him. He took
it and kissing it, opened and read it; after which he handed it
to Aboulhusn, who found written therein what follows:

The messenger of me will give thee news aright; So let his true
report suffice thee for my sight.
A lover hast thou left, for love of thee distraught; Her eyes
cease never-more from watching, day or night.
I brace myself to bear affliction, for to foil The buffets of
ill-fate is given to no wight.
But be thou of good cheer; for never shall my heart Forget thee
nor thy thought be absent from my spright.
Look on thy wasted frame and what is fallen thereon And thence
infer of me and argue of my plight.

To proceed: I have written thee a letter without fingers and
speak to thee without tongue; to tell thee my whole state, I have
an eye from which sleeplessness is never absent and a heart
whence sorrowful thought stirs not. It is with me as I had never
known health nor let sadness, neither beheld a fair face nor
spent an hour of pleasant life; but it is as I were made up of
love-longing and of the pain of passion and chagrin. Sickness is
unceasing upon me and my yearning redoubles ever; desire
increases still and longing rages in my heart. I pray God to
hasten our union and dispel the trouble of my mind: and I would
fain have thee write me some words, that I may solace myself
withal. Moreover, I would have thee put on a becoming patience,
till God give relief; and peace be on thee.' When Ali ben Bekkar
had read this letter, he said, 'With what hand shall I write and
with what tongue shall I make moan and lament? Indeed she addeth
sickness to my sickness and draweth death upon my death!' Then he
sat up and taking inkhorn and paper, wrote the following reply:
'In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. O my lady,
thy letter hath reached me and hath given ease to a mind worn out
with passion and desire and brought healing to a wounded heart,
cankered with languishment and sickness; for indeed I am become
even as saith the poet:

Bosom contracted and grievous thought dilated, Eyes ever wakeful
and body wearied aye;
Patience cut off and separation ever present, Reason disordered
and heart all stolen away.

Know that complaining quenches not the fire of calamity; but it
eases him whom love-longing consumes and separation destroys; and
so I comfort myself with the mention of the word "union;" for how
well saith the poet:

If love had not pain and pleasure, satisfaction and despite,
Where of messengers and letters were for lovers the

When he had made an end of this letter, he gave it to Aboulhusn,
saying, 'Read it and give it to the damsel.' So he took it and
read it and its words stirred his soul and its meaning wounded
his vitals. Then he gave it to the girl, and Ali said to her,
'Salute thy lady for me and tell her of my passion and longing
and how love is blent with my flesh and my bones; and say to her
that I need one who shall deliver me from the sea of destruction
and save me from this dilemma; for of a truth fortune oppresseth
me with its vicissitudes; and is there any helper to free me from
its defilements?' So saying, he wept and the damsel wept for his
weeping. Then she took leave of him and Aboulhusn went out with
her and bade her farewell. So she went her way and he returned to
his shop, which he opened, and sat down there, according to his
wont; but as he sat, he found his bosom straitened and his heart
oppressed and was troubled about his case. He ceased not from
melancholy thought the rest of that day and night, and on the
morrow he betook himself to Ali ben Bekkar, with whom he sat till
the folk withdrew, when he asked him how he did. Ali began to
complain of passion and descant upon the longing and distraction
that possessed him, ending by repeating the following words of
the poet:

Folk have made moan of passion before me of past years, And live
and dead for absence have suffered pains and fears;
But what within my bosom I harbour, with mine eyes I've never
seen the like of nor heard it with mine ears.

And also these:

I've suffered for thy love what Cais, that madman[FN#16] hight,
Did never undergo for love of Leila bright.
Yet chase I not the beasts o' the desert, as did he; For madness
hath its kinds for this and th' other wight.

Quoth Aboulhusn, 'Never did I see or hear of one like unto thee
in thy love! If thou sufferest all this transport and sickness
and trouble, being enamoured of one who returns thy passion, how
would it be with thee, if she whom thou lovest were contrary and
perfidious? Meseems, thy case will be discovered, if thou abide
thus.' His words pleased Ali ben Bekkar and he trusted in him and
thanked him.

Now Aboulhusn had a friend, to whom he had discovered his affair
and that of Ali ben Bekkar and who knew that they were close
friends; but none other than he was acquainted with what was
betwixt them. He was wont to come to him and enquire how Ali did
and after a little, he began to ask about the damsel; but
Aboulhusn put him off, saying, 'She invited him to her and there
was between him and her what passeth words, and this is the end
of their affair; but I have devised me a plan which I would fain
submit to thy judgment.' 'And what is that?' asked his friend. 'O
my brother,' answered Aboulhusn, 'I am a man well known, having
much dealing among the notables, both men and women, and I fear
lest the affair of these twain get wind and this lead to my death
and the seizure of my goods and the ruin of my repute and that of
my family. Wherefore I purpose to get together my property and
make ready forthright and repair to the city of Bassora and abide
there, till I see what comes of their affair, that none may know
of me, for passion hath mastered them and letters pass between
them. Their go-between and confidant at this present is a
slave-girl, who hath till now kept their counsel, but I fear lest
haply she be vexed with them or anxiety get the better of her and
she discover their case to some one and the matter be noised
abroad and prove the cause of my ruin; for I have no excuse
before God or man.' 'Thou acquaintest me with a perilous matter,'
rejoined his friend, 'and one from the like of which the wise and
understanding will shrink in affright. May God preserve thee and
avert from thee the evil thou dreadest! Assuredly, thy resolve is
a wise one.' So Aboulhusn returned home and betook himself to
setting his affairs in order and preparing for his journey; nor
had three days elapsed ere he made an end of his business and
departed for Bassora. Three days after, his friend came to visit
him, but finding him not, asked the neighbours of him; and they
answered, 'He set out three days ago for Bassora, for he had
dealings with merchants there and is gone thither to collect his
debts; but he will soon return.' The man was confounded at the
news and knew not whither to go; and he said in himself, 'Would I
had not parted with Aboulhusn!' Then he bethought him how he
should gain access to Ali ben Bekkar and repairing to the
latter's lodging, said to one of his servants, 'Ask leave for me
of thy master that I may go in and salute him.' So the servant
went in and told his master and presently returning, invited the
man to enter. So he went in and found Ali ben Bekkar lying back
on the pillow and saluted him. Ali returned his greeting and bade
him welcome; whereupon the other began to excuse himself for
having held aloof from him all this while and added, 'O my lord,
there was a close friendship between Aboulhusn and myself, so
that I used to trust him with my secrets and could not brook to
be severed from him an hour. It chanced but now that I was absent
three days' space on certain business with a company of my
friends, and when I came back, I found his shop shut; so I asked
the neighbours of him and they replied, "He is gone to Bassora."
Now I know he had no surer friend than thou; so I conjure thee,
by Allah, to tell me what thou knowest of him.' When Ali heard
this, his colour changed and he was troubled and answered, 'I
never heard of his departure till this day, and if it be as thou
sayest, weariness is come upon me.' And he repeated the following

Whilom I wept for what was past of joy and pleasant cheer, Whilst
yet the objects of my love were unremoved and near;
But now my sad and sorry fate hath sundered me and them And I
to-day must weep for those that were to me most dear.

Then he bent his head awhile in thought and presently raising it,
said to one of his servants, 'Go to Aboulhusn'' house and enquire
whether he be at home or gone on a journey. If they say, "He is
abroad;" ask whither.' The servant went out and presently
returning, said to his master, 'When I asked after Aboulhusn, his
people told me that he was gone on a journey to Bassora; but I
saw a damsel standing at the door, who knew me, though I knew her
not, and said to me, "Art thou not servant to Ali ben Bekkar?"
"Yes," answered I. And she said, "I have a message for him from
one who is the dearest of all folk to him." So she came with me
and is now at the door.' Quoth Ali, 'Bring her in.' So the
servant went out and brought her in, and the man who was with Ali
ben Bekkar looked at her and found her comely. She came up to Ali
and saluting him, talked with him privily; and he from time to
time exclaimed with an oath and swore that he had not done as she
avouched. Then she took leave of him and went away. When she was
gone, Aboulhusn's friend, who was a jeweller, took occasion to
speak and said to Ali ben Bekkar, 'Doubtless, the women of the
palace have some claim upon thee or thou hast dealings with the
Khalif's household?' 'Who told thee of this?' asked Ali. 'I
know it by yonder damsel,' replied the jeweller, 'who is
Shemsennehar's slave-girl; for she came to me awhile since with a
written order for a necklace of jewels; and I sent her a costly
one.' When Ali heard this, he was greatly troubled, so that the
jeweller feared for his life, but after awhile he recovered
himself and said, 'O my brother, I conjure thee by Allah to tell
me truly how thou knowest her.' 'Do not press me as to this,'
replied the other; and Ali said, 'Indeed, I will not desist from
thee till thou tell me the truth.' 'Then,' said the jeweller, 'I
will tell thee all, that thou mayst not distrust me nor be
alarmed at what I said, nor will I conceal aught from thee, but
will discover to thee the truth of the matter, on condition that
thou possess me with the true state of thy case and the cause of
thy sickness.' Then he told him all that had passed between
Aboulhusn and himself, adding that he had acted thus only out of
friendship for him and of his desire to serve him and assuring
him that he would keep his secret and venture life and goods in
his service. So Ali in turn told him his story and added, 'By
Allah, O my brother, nought moved me to keep my case secret from
thee and others but my fear lest the folk should lift the veils
of protection from certain persons.' 'And I,' rejoined the
jeweller, 'desired not to foregather with thee but of the great
affection I bear thee and my zeal for thee in every case and my
compassion for the anguish thy heart endureth for severance.
Haply, I may be a comforter to thee in the room of my friend
Aboulhusn, during his absence. So take heart and be of good
cheer.' Ali thanked him and repeated the following verses:

If, 'I am patient,' I say, since forth from me he went, My tears
give me the lie and the stress of my lament.
And how shall I hide the tears, that flow in streams adown The
table of my cheek for his evanishment?

Then he was silent awhile, and presently said to the jeweller,
'Knowest thou what the girl whispered to me?' 'Not I, by Allah, O
my lord,' answered he. Quoth Ali, 'She would have it that I had
counselled Aboulhusn to go to Bassora and that I had used this
device to put a stop to our correspondence and intercourse. I
swore to her that this was not so: but she would not credit me
and went away to her mistress, persisting in her injurious
suspicions; and indeed I know not what I shall do without
Aboulhusn, for she inclined to him and gave ear to his word.' 'O
my brother,' answered the jeweller, 'I guessed as much from her
manner; but, if it please God the Most High, I will help thee to
thy desire.' 'Who can help me,' rejoined Ali, 'and how wilt thou
do with her, when she takes umbrage like a wilding of the
desert?' 'By Allah,' exclaimed the jeweller, 'needs must I
do my utmost endeavour to help thee and contrive to make her
acquaintance, without exposure or mischief!' Then he asked leave
to depart, and Ali said, 'O my brother, see thou keep my counsel'
And he looked at him and wept. The jeweller bade him farewell and
went away, knowing not what he should do to further his wishes;
but as he went along pondering the matter, he spied a letter
lying in the road, and taking it up, found that it bore the
following superscription, 'From the least worthy of lovers to the
most excellent of beloved ones.' He opened it and found these
words written therein:

'The messenger brought me a promise of union and delight; But yet
that he had mistaken 'twas constant in my spright.
Wherefore I joyed not: but sorrow was added unto me, For that I
knew my envoy had read thee not aright.

To proceed: Know, O my lord, that I am ignorant of the cause of
the breaking off of the correspondence between thee and me: but
if it arise from cruelty on thy part, I will meet it with
fidelity, and if love have departed from thee, I will remain
constant to my love in absence for I am with thee even as says
the poet:

Be haughty and I will be patient; capricious, I'll bear; turn
away, I'll draw near thee; be harsh, I'll be abject;
command, I'll give ear and obey.

As he was reading, up came the slave-girl, looking right and
left, and seeing the letter in the jeweller's hand, said to him,
'O my lord, this letter is one I let fall.' He made her no
answer, but walked on, and she followed him, till he came to his
house, when he entered and she after him, saying, 'O my lord,
give me back the letter, for it fell from me.' He turned to her
and said, 'O good slave-girl, fear not, neither grieve, for
verily God the Protector loves to protect [His creatures]; but
tell me the truth of thy case, for I am one who keepeth counsel.
I conjure thee by an oath to hide from me nothing of thy lady's
affair; for haply God shall help me to further her wishes and
make easy what is hard by my hand' 'O my lord,' answered she,
'indeed a secret is not lost whereof thou art the keeper; nor
shall any affair come to nought for which thou strivest. Know
that my heart inclines to thee, and do thou give me the letter.'
Then she told him the whole story, adding, 'God is witness to
what I say.' 'Thou hast spoken truly,' said the jeweller, 'for I
am acquainted with the root of the matter.' Then he told her how
he had come by Ali ben Bekkar's secret and related to her all
that had passed, whereat she rejoiced; and they agreed that she
should carry the letter to Ali and return and tell the jeweller
all that passed. Accordingly he gave her the letter and she took
it and sealed it up as it was before, saying, 'My mistress
Shemsennehar gave it to me sealed; and when he hath read it and
given me the reply, I will bring it to thee.' Then she repaired
to Ali ben Bekkar, whom she found waiting, and gave him the
letter. He read it and writing an answer, gave it to the damsel.
She carried it to the jeweller, who broke the seal and read what
was written therein, as follows:

'Neglected are our messages, for lo, our go-between, That wont to
keep our counsel erst, is wroth with us, I ween.
So choose us out a messenger, a true and trusty wight, Yea, one
of whom fidelity, not falsehood, is well seen.

To proceed: Verily, I have not entered upon perfidy nor left
fidelity; I have not used cruelty, neither have I put off loyalty
nor broken faith. I have not ceased from affection nor severed
myself from grief; neither have I found aught after separation
but misery and ruin. I know nothing of that thou avouchest nor do
I love aught but that which thou lovest. By Him who knoweth the
secret of the hidden things, I have no desire but to be united
with her whom I love and my one business is the concealment of my
passion, though sickness consume me. This is the exposition of my
case and peace be on thee.' When the jeweller read this letter,
he wept sore and the girl said to him, 'Leave not this place,
till I return to thee; for he suspects me of such and such
things, in which he is excusable; so it is my desire to bring
thee in company with my mistress Shemsennehar, howsoever I may
contrive it. I left her prostrate, awaiting my return with the
answer.' Then she went away and the jeweller passed the night in
a state of agitation. On the morrow he prayed the morning prayer
and sat awaiting the girl's coming. Presently she came in to him,
rejoicing, and he said to her, 'What news, O damsel?' Quoth she,
'I gave my mistress Ali ben Bekkar's reply, and when she read it,
she was troubled in her mind; but I said to her, "O my lady, have
no fear of the hindrance of your affair by reason of Aboulhusn's
absence, for I have found one to take his place, better than he
and more of worth and apt to keep secrets." Then I told her what
was between Aboulhusn and thyself and how thou camest by his
confidence and that of Ali ben Bekkar and how I met with thee and
showed her how matters stood betwixt thee and me. Now she is
minded to have speech of thee, that she may be assured by thy
words of the covenants between thee and him; so do thou make
ready to go with me to her forthwith. When the jeweller heard
the girl's words, he saw that what she proposed was a grave
matter and a great peril, not lightly to be undertaken or entered
upon, and said to her, 'O my stster, verily, I am of the common
people and not like unto Aboulhusn; for he was of high rank and
repute and was wont to frequent the Khalif's household, because
of their need of his wares. As for me, he used to talk with me,
and I trembled before him the while. So, if thy mistress would
have speech of me, it must be in some place other than the
Khalif's palace and far from the abode of the Commander of the
Faithful; for my reason will not let me do what thou proposest.'
Accordingly, he refused to go with her, and she went on to assure
him of impunity, saying, 'Fear not,' and pressed him, till he
consented to accompany her; but, when he would have risen, his
legs bent under him and his hands trembled and he exclaimed, 'God
forbid that I should go with thee! Indeed, I cannot do this.'
'Reassure thyself,' answered she; 'if it irk thee to go to the
Khalif's palace and thou canst not muster up courage to accompany
me, I will make her come to thee; so stir not from thy place till
I return to thee with her.' Then she went away and returning
after a little, said to the jeweller, 'Look that there be with
thee neither slave-girl nor man-slave nor any other.' Quoth he,
'I have but an old negress-slave, who waits on me.' So she locked
the door between the jeweller and his negress and sent his
man-servants out of the house, after which she went out and
presently returned, followed by a lady, who filled the house with
the sweet scent of her perfumes. When the jeweller saw her, he
sprang to his feet and set her a couch and a cushion, and she sat
down. He seated himself before her and she abode awhile without
speaking, till she was rested, when she unveiled her face and it
seemed to the jeweller as if the sun had risen in his house. Then
said she to her slave-girl, 'Is this the man of whom thou spakest
to me?' 'Yes,' answered she; whereupon the lady turned to the
jeweller and said to him, 'How is it with thee?' 'Well,' replied
he. 'May God preserve thy life and that of the Commander of the
Faithful!' Quoth she, 'Thou hast moved us to come to thee and
possess thee with our secret.' Then she questioned him of
his household and family; and he discovered to her all his
circumstance and said to her, 'I have another house, which I have
set apart for entertaining my friends and brethren, and there is
none there save the old negress, of whom I spoke to thy handmaid.'
She asked him how he came first to know of the matter and what
had made Aboulhusn absent himself, so he told her all and she
bewailed the loss of Aboulhusn and said to the jeweller, 'Know
that the minds of men are at one in desires, and however they may
differ in estate, men are still men and have need one of the
other: an affair is not accomplished without speech nor is a wish
fulfilled save by endeavour: ease comes not but after weariness
nor is succour compassed save by the help of the generous. Now I
have trusted my secret to thee and it is in thy power to expose
or shield us; I say no more, because of thy generosity of nature.
Thou knowest that this my hand-maid keeps my counsel and is
therefore in high favour with me and I have chosen her to
transact my affairs of importance. So let none be worthier in thy
sight than she and acquaint her with thine affair. Be of good
cheer, for thou art safe from what thou fearest on our account,
and there is no shut place but she shall open it to thee. She
shall bring thee messages from me to Ali ben Bekkar, and thou
shalt be our go-between.' So saying, she rose, scarcely able to
stand, and the jeweller forewent her to the door of the house,
after which he returned and sat down again in his place, having
seen of her beauty what dazzled him and heard of her speech what
confounded his wit and witnessed of her grace and courtesy what
bewitched him. He sat musing on her perfections till his trouble
subsided, when he called for food and ate enough to stay his
stomach. Then he changed his clothes and repairing to Ali ben
Bekkar's house, knocked at the door. The servants hastened to
admit him and brought him to their master, whom he found laid
upon his bed. When he saw the jeweller, he said to him, 'Thou
hast tarried long from me and hast added concern to my concern.'
Then he dismissed his servants and bade shut the doors, after
which he said to the jeweller, 'By Allah, O my brother, I have
not closed my eyes since I saw thee last; for the slave-girl
came to me yesterday with a sealed letter from her mistress
Shemsennehar;' and went on to tell him all that had passed,
adding, 'Indeed, I am perplexed concerning mine affair and my
patience fails me: for Aboulhusn was of comfort to me, because he
knew the girl.' When the jeweller heard this, he laughed and Ali
said, 'Why dost thou laugh at my words, thou in whom I rejoiced
and to whom I looked for succour against the shifts of fortune?'
Then he sighed and wept and repeated the following verses:

Many an one laughs at my weeping, whenas he looks on my pain. Had
he but suffered as I have, he, also, to weep would be fain.
No one hath ruth on the smitten, for that he is doomed to endure
But he who alike is afflicted and long in affliction hath
My passion, my yearning, my sighing, my care and distraction end
woe Are all for a loved one, whose dwelling is in my heart's
innermost fane.
He made his abode in my bosom and never will leave it again; And
yet with my love to foregather I weary and travail in vain.
I know of no friend I can choose me to stand in his stead unto
me, Nor ever, save him, a companion, to cherish and love
have I ta'en.[FN#17]

When the jeweller heard this, he wept also and told him all that
had passed betwixt himself and the slave-girl and her mistress,
since he left him, whilst Ali gave ear to his speech, and at
every fresh word his colour shifted 'twixt white and red and his
body grew now stronger and now weaker, till he came to the end of
his tale, when Ali wept and said to him, 'O my brother, I am a
lost man in any event. Would my end were near, that I might be at
rest from ail this! But I beg thee, of thy favour, to be my
helper and comforter in all my affairs, till God accomplish
His will; and I will not gainsay thee in aught.' Quoth the
jeweller, 'Nothing will quench the fire of thy passion save union
with her whom thou lovest: and this must not be in this perilous
place, but in a house of mine other than in which the girl and
her mistress came to me. This place she chose for herself, to the
intent that ye may there foregather and complain one to the other
of what you have suffered from the pangs of love.' 'O my lord,'
answered Ali ben Bekkar, 'do as thou wilt and may God requite
thee for me! What thou deemest fit will be right: but be not long
about it, lest I die of this anguish.' So I abode with him (quoth
the jeweller) that night, entertaining him with converse, till
daybreak, when I prayed the morning prayers and going out from
him, returned to my house. Hardly had I done so, when the damsel
came up and saluted me. I returned her greeting and told her what
had passed between Ali ben Bekkar and myself; and she said, 'Know
that the Khalif has left us and there is none in our lodging, and
it is safer for us and better.' 'True,' replied I; 'yet it is not
like my house yonder, which is both surer and fitter for us.' 'Be
it as thou wilt,' rejoined she. 'I will go to my lady and tell
her what thou sayest.' So she went away and presently returned
and said to me, 'It is to be as thou sayest: so make us ready the
place and expect us.' Then she took out a purse of diners and
said to me, 'My lady salutes thee and bids thee take this and
provide therewith what the case calls for.' But I swore that I
would have nought of it; so she took the purse and returning to
her mistress, said to her, 'He would not take the money, but gave
it back to me.' 'No matter,' answered Shemsennehar. As soon as
she was gone, I betook myself to my other house and transported
thither all that was needful, by way of furniture and utensils
and rich carpets and vessels of china and glass and gold and
silver, and made ready meat and drink for the occasion. When the
damsel came and saw what I had done, it pleased her and she bade
me fetch Ali ben Bekkar; but I said, 'None shall fetch him but
thou.' Accordingly she went to him and brought him back, dressed
to perfection and looking his best. I met him and welcomed him
and making him sit down on a couch befitting his condition, set
before him sweet-scented flowers in vases of china and crystal of
various colours. Then I set on a tray of vari-coloured meats, of
such as rejoice the heart with their sight, and sat talking with
him and diverting him, whi'st the girl went away and was absent
till after sundown, when she returned with Shemsennehar, attended
by two maids and no more. When Ali saw her, he rose and embraced
her and they both fell down in a swoon. They lay awhile
insensible, then, coming to themselves, began to complain to each
other of the pains of separation. They sat awhile, conversing
with eloquence and tenderness, after which they perfumed
themselves and fell to thanking me for what I had done. Said I,
'Have ye a mind for food?' 'Yes,' answered they. So I set food
before them, and they ate till they were satisfied and washed
their hands, after which I carried them to another room and
brought them wine. So they drank and grew merry with wine and
inclined to one another, and Shemsennehar said to me, 'O my lord,
complete thy kindness by bringing us a lute or other instrument
of music that the measure of our joy may be filled.' 'On my head
and eyes,' answered I and rising, brought her a lute. She took it
and tuned it, then laying it in her lap, made masterly music, at
once exciting to sorrowful thoughts and cheering the afflicted;
after which she sang the following verses:

I wake and I watch till it seemeth as I were in love with unrest
And I waste and I languish, as sickness, meseemeth, were
born in my breast.
The tides of my tears, ever flowing, have burnt up my cheeks with
their heat: Would I knew if our loves, after sev'rance, with
union again will be blest!

She went on to sing song after song, choice words set to various
airs, till our minds were bewitched and it seemed as if the very
room would dance with excess of pleasure for the marvel of her
sweet singing and there was nor thought nor reason left in us.
When we had sat awhile and the cup had gone round amongst us, the
damsel took the lute and sang the following verses to a lively

My love a visit promised me and did fulfil his plight One night
that I shall reckon aye for many and many a night.
O night of raptures that the fates vouchsafed unto us twain;
Unheeded of the railing tribe and in the spies' despite!
My loved one lay the night with me and I of my content Clipped
him with my left hand, while he embraced me with his right.
I strained him to my breast and drank his lips' sweet wine, what
while I of the honey and of him who sells it had delight.

Whilst we were thus drowned in the sea of gladness, in came a
little maid, trembling, and said, 'O my lady, look how you may go
away, for the folk are upon us and have surrounded the house, and
we know not the cause of this.' When I heard this, I arose in
affright, and behold, in came a slave-girl, who said, 'Calamity
hath overtaken you!' At the same moment, the door was burst open
and there rushed in upon us half a score masked men, with
poniards in their hands and swords by their sides, and as many
more behind them. When I saw this, the world, for all its
wideness, was straitened on me and I looked to the door, but saw
no way out; so I sprang (from the roof) into the house of one of
my neighbours and hid myself there. Thence I heard a great uproar
in my house and concluded that the Khalif had gotten wind of us
and sent the chief of the police to seize us and bring us before
him. So I abode confounded and remained in my place, without
daring to move, till midnight, when the master of the house
became aware of me and being greatly affrighted, made at me with
a drawn sword in his hand, saying, 'Who is this in my house?'
Quoth I, 'I am thy neighbour, the jeweller;' and he knew me and
held his hand. Then he fetched a light and coming up to me, said,
'O my brother, indeed that which hath befallen thee this night is
grievous to me.' 'O my brother,' answered I, 'tell me who it was
entered my house and broke in the door, for I fled to thee, not
knowing what was the matter.' Quoth he, 'The robbers, who visited
our neighbours yesterday and slew such an one and took his goods,
saw thee yesterday bringing hither furniture and what not; so
they broke in upon thee and stole thy goods and slew thy guests.'
Then we arose, he and I, and repaired to my house, which I found
empty and stripped of everything, whereat I was confounded and
said to myself, 'I care not for the loss of the gear, though
indeed I borrowed part thereof of my friends; yet is there no
harm in that, for they know my excuse in the loss of my goods and
the pillage of my house; but as for Ali ben Bekkar and the
Khalif's favourite, I fear lest their case get wind and this
cause the loss of my life.' So I turned to my neighbour and said
to him, 'Thou art my brother and my neighbour and wilt cover my
nakedness; what dost thou counsel me to do?' 'I counsel thee to
wait,' answered he; 'for they who entered thy house and stole thy
goods have murdered the better part of a company from the
Khalif's palace, besides some of the police, and the Khalif's
officers are now in quest of them on every side. Haply they will
chance on them and so thy wish will come about without effort of
thine.' Then I returned to my other house, that in which I dwelt,
saying to myself, 'This that hath befallen me is what Aboulhusn
feared and from which he fled to Bassora.' Presently the pillage
of my pleasure-house was noised abroad among the folk, and they
came to me from all sides, some rejoicing in my misfortune and
others excusing me and condoling with me, whilst I bewailed
myself to them and ate not neither drank for grief. As I sat,
repenting me of what I had done, one of my servants came in to me
and said, 'There is a man at the door, who asks for thee; and I
know him not.' So I went out and found at the door a man whom I
knew not. I saluted him, and he said to me, 'I have somewhat to
say to thee privily.' So I brought him in and said to him, 'What
hast thou to say to me?' Quoth he, 'Come with me to thine other
house.' 'Doss thou then know my other house,' asked I. 'I know
all about thee,' replied he, 'and I know that also wherewith God
will dispel thy concern.' So I said to myself, 'I will go with
him whither he will;' and we went out and walked on till we came
to my other house, which when he saw, he said to me, 'It is
without door or doorkeeper, and we cannot sit in it; so come thou
with me to another house.' Accordingly, he went on from place to
place and I with him, till the night overtook us. Yet I put no
question to him and we ceased not to walk on, till we reached the
open country. He kept saying, 'Follow me,' and quickened his
pace, whilst I hurried after him, heartening myself to go on.
Presently; we came to the river-bank, where he took boat with me,
and the boatman rowed us over to the other side. Here my guide
landed and I after him and he took my hand and led me to a street
I had never before entered, nor do I know in what quarter it is.
Presently he stopped at the door of a house, and opening, entered
and made me enter with him; after which he bolted the door with a
bolt of iron and carried me along the vestibule, till he brought
me in presence of ten men, brothers, as they were one and the
same man. We saluted them and they returned our greeting and bade
us be seated; so we sat down. Now I was like to die for very
weariness; so they brought rose-water and sprinkled it on my
face, after which they gave me to drink and set food before me,
of which some of them ate with me. Quoth I to myself, 'Were there
aught of harm in the food, they would not eat with me.' So I ate,
and when we had washed our hands, each of us returned to his
place. Then said they to me, 'Dost thou know us?' 'I never in my
life saw you nor this your abode,' answered I; 'nay, I know not
even him who brought me hither.' Said they, 'Tell us thy case and
lie not in aught.' 'Know then,' rejoined I, 'that my case is
strange and my affair marvellous: but do you know aught of me?'
'Yes,' answered they; 'it was we took thy goods yesternight and
carried off thy friend and her who was singing to him.' 'May God
let down the veil of His protection over you!' said I. 'But
where is my friend and she who was singing to him?' They pointed
to two doors and replied, 'They are yonder, each in a room apart;
but, by Allah, O our brother, the secret of their case is known
to none but thee, for from the time we brought them hither, we
have not seen them nor questioned them of their condition, seeing
them to be persons of rank and dignity. This it was that hindered
us from putting them to death: so tell us the truth of their case
and be assured of their safety and thine own.' When I heard this,
I was like to die of fright and said to them, 'O my brethren, if
generosity were lost, it would not be found save with you and had
I a secret, which I feared to divulge, your breasts alone should
have the keeping of it.' And I went on to expatiate to them in
this sense, till I saw that frankness would profit me more than
concealment; so I told them the whole story. When they heard it,
they said, 'And is this young man Ali ben Bekkar and this damsel
Shemsennehar?' 'Yes,' answered I. This was grievous to them and
they rose and made their excuses to the two lovers. Then they said
to me, 'Part of what we took from thy house is spent, but here is
what is left of it.' So saying, they gave me back the most part
of my goods and engaged to return them to my house and restore me
the rest. So my heart was set at ease, and some of them abode
with me, whilst the rest fetched Ali ben Bekkar and Shemsennehar,
who were well-nigh dead for excess of fear. Then they all sallied
forth with us and I went up to the two lovers and saluting them,
said to them, 'What became of the damsel and the two maids?' 'We
know nothing of them,' answered they. Then we walked on till we
came to the river-bank, where we all embarked in the boat that
had brought me over before, and the boatman rowed us to the other
side; but hardly had we landed and sat down on the bank to rest,
when a troop of horse swooped down on us like eagles and
surrounded us on all sides, whereupon the robbers with us sprang
up in haste and the boatman, putting back for them, took them in
and pushed off into mid-stream, leaving us on the bank, unable to
move or abide still. The horseman said to us, 'Whence come ye?'
And we were perplexed for an answer; but I said, 'Those ye saw
with us are rogues: we know them not. As for us, we are singers,
whom they would have taken to sing to them, nor could we win free
of them, save by subtlety and fair words, and they have but now
left us.' They looked at Ali and Shemsennehar and said to me,
'Thou hast not spoken sooth; but if thy tale be true, tell us who
you are and whence you come and in what quarter you dwell.' I
knew not what to answer, but Shemsennehar sprang up and
approaching the captain of the troop, spoke with him privily,
whereupon he dismounted and setting her on his steed, began to
lead it along by the bridle. Two of his men did the like with Ali
ben Bekkar and myself, and they fared on with us, till they
reached a certain part of the river-bank, when the captain sang
out in jargon and there came to us a number of men with two
boats. The captain embarked with Shemsennehar in one boat and
went his way, whilst the rest of his men put off in the other,
with Ali ben Bekkar and myself, and rowed on with us, we the
while enduring the agonies of death for excess of fear, till they
came to a place whence there was a way to our quarter. Here we
landed and walked on, escorted by some of the horsemen, till we
came to Ali ben Bekkar's house, where they took leave of us and
went their way. We entered the house and abode there, unable to
stir and knowing not night from day, till nightfall of the next
day, when I came to myself and saw Ali ben Bekkar stretched out
without sense or motion, and the men and women of his household
weeping over him. When they saw that I had recovered my senses,
some of them came to me and helping me sit up, said to me, 'Tell
us what hath befallen our son and how he came in this plight.' 'O
folk,' answered I, 'hearken to me and importune me not; but be
patient and he will come to himself and tell you his story for
himself.' And I was round with them and made them afraid of a
scandal between us; but as we were thus, behold, Ali ben Bekkar
moved in his bed, whereat his friends rejoiced and the [most part
of the] folk withdrew from him; but his people forbade me to go
away. Then they sprinkled rose-water on his face, and he
presently revived and breathed the air, whereupon they questioned
him of his case. He essayed to answer them, but could not speak
forthright and signed to them to let me go home. So they let me
go, and I returned to my own house, supported by two men and
hardly crediting my escape. When my people saw me thus, they fell
a-shrieking and buffeting their faces; but I signed to them to
hold their peace, and they were silent. Then the two men went
their way and I threw myself down on my bed, where I lay the rest
of the night and awoke not till the forenoon, when I found my
people collected round me and they said, 'What hath befallen thee
and what (evil) hath smitten thee with its mischief?' Quoth I,
'Bring me to drink.' So they brought me wine, and I drank what I
would and said to them, 'Wine got the better of me and it was
this caused the state in which ye saw me' Then they went away,
and I made my excuses to my friends and asked if any of the goods
that had been stolen from my other house had been returned.'
'Yes,' answered they. 'Some of them have come back: and the
manner of their coming was that a man came and threw them down
in the doorway and we saw him not.' So I comforted myself and
abode two days, unable to rise, at the end of which time I
began to regain strength and went to the bath, for I was worn
out with fatigue and troubled at heart for Ali ben Bekkar and
Shemsennehar, because I had no news of them all this time and
could neither get to Ali's house nor rest in my own, out of fear
for myself. And I repented to God the Most High of what I had
done and praised Him for my safety. Then I bethought me to go to
such and such a place and see the folk and divert myself; so I
went to the stuff-market and sat awhile with a friend of mine
there. When I rose to go, I saw a woman standing in my road; so I
looked at her, and behold it was Shemsennehar's slave-girl. When
I saw her, the world grew dark in my eyes and I hurried on. She
followed me, but I was afraid and fled from her, trembling
whenever I looked at her, whilst she pursued me, saying, 'Stop,
that I may tell thee somewhat.' But I heeded her not and went on,
till I reached a mosque in an unfrequented spot, and she said to
me, 'Enter the mosque, that I may say a word to thee, and fear
nothing.' And she conjured me: so I entered the mosque, and she
after me. I prayed a two-bow prayer, after which I turned to her,
sighing, and said, 'What dost thou want?' She asked me how I did,
and I told her all that had befallen myself and Ali ben Bekkar
and asked her for news of herself. 'Know,' answered she, 'that
when I and the two maids saw the robbers break open thy door, we
doubted not but they were the Khalif's officers and would seize
us and our mistress and we perish forthright: so we fled over the
roofs and casting ourselves down from a high place, took refuge
with some people, who harboured us and brought us to the palace,
where we arrived in the sorriest of plights. We concealed our
case and abode on coals of fire till nightfall, when I opened the
river-gate and calling the boatman who had carried us the night
before, said to him, "I know not what is come of my mistress; so
take me in thy boat, that we may seek her on the river: it may be
I shall chance on some news of her." So he took me into the boat
and rowed about with me till midnight, when I spied a boat making
towards the water-gate, with one man rowing and another standing
up and a woman lying prostrate between them. When they reached
the shore and the woman landed, I looked at her, and behold, it
was Shemsennehar. So I landed and joined her, dazed for joy,
after having lost hope of her. When I came up to her, she bade me
give the man who had brought her thither a thousand diners, and I
and the two maids carried her in and laid her on her bed, and she
at death's door. She abode thus all that day and the next day and
I forbade the eunuchs and women to go in to her; but on the third
day, she revived and I found her as she had come out of the
grave. So I sprinkled rose-water upon her face and changed her
clothes and washed her hands and feet, nor did I cease to
persuade her, till I brought her to eat a little and drink some
wine, though she had no mind to it. As soon as she had breathed
the air and strength began to return to her, I fell to upbraiding
her, saying, "Consider, O my lady, and have pity on thyself; thou
seest what has betided us Surely, enough of evil hath befallen
thee and thou hast been nigh upon death." "By Allah, O good
damsel," replied she, "death were easier to me than what hath
befallen me; for I had renounced all hope of deliverance and gave
myself up for lost. When the robbers took us from the jeweller's
house, they asked me who I was; I replied, 'I am a singing-girl,'
and they believed me. Then they said to Ali ben Bekkar, 'And who
art thou and what is thy condition?' And he answered, 'I am of
the common people.' So they carried us to their abode, and we
hurried on with them for fear; but when they had us with them in
the house, they looked at me and seeing the clothes I wore and my
necklaces and jewellery, believed me not and said to me, 'No
singing-girl ever had such jewels as these; tell us the truth of
thy case.' I returned them no answer, saying in myself, 'Now will
they kill me for my clothes and ornaments;' and I spoke not a
word. Then they turned to Ali ben Bekkar and said to him, 'And
thou, who and whence art thou? For thy favour is not as that of
the common folk.' But he was silent and we ceased not to keep our
counsel and weep, till God inclined the rogues' hearts towards us
and they said to us, 'Who is the owner of the house in which you
were?' 'Such an one, the jeweller,' answered we; whereupon quoth
one of them, 'I know him well and where he lives, and I will
engage to bring him to you forthright.' Then they agreed to set
me in a place by myself and Ali ben Bekkar in a place by himself,
and said to us, 'Be at rest and fear not lest your secret be
divulged; ye are safe from us.' Meanwhile their comrade went away
and returned with the jeweller, who made known to them our case,
and we joined company with him; after which one of the band
fetched a boat, in which they embarked us all three and rowing us
over the river, landed us on the opposite bank and went away;
whereupon up came a horse-patrol and asked us who we were. So I
spoke with the captain and said to him, 'I am Shemsennehar, the
Khalif's favourite; I had drunken wine and went out to visit
certain of my acquaintance of the wives of the Viziers, when
yonder rogues laid hold of me and brought me hither; but when
they saw you, they fled. I met these men with them; so do thou
escort me and them to a place of safety and I will requite thee.'
When the captain heard my speech, he knew me and alighting,
mounted me on his horse; and in like manner did two of his men
with Ali and the jeweller. And now my heart is on fire on their
account, especially for Ali's friend the jeweller: so do thou go
to him and salute him and ask him for news of Ali ben Bekkar." I
spoke to her and blamed her and bade her beware, saying' "O my
lady, have a care for thyself and give up this intrigue." But she
was angered at my words and cried out at me. So I came forth in
quest of thee, but found thee not and dared not go to Ali's
house; so stood watching for thee, that I might ask thee of him
and know how it is with him. And I beg thee, of thy favour, to
take some money of me, for belike thou borrowedst of thy friends
some of the goods, and as they are lost, it behoves thee to make
them compensation.' 'I hear and obey,' answered I. 'Go on.' And I
walked with her till we drew near my house, when she said to me,
'Wait till I return to thee.' So she went away and presently
returned with a bag of money, which she handed to me, saying, 'O
my lord, where shall we meet?' Quoth I, 'I will go to my house at
once and suffer hardship for thy sake and contrive how thou mayst
win to him, for access to him is difficult at this present.' 'Let
me know where I shall come to thee,' said she, and I answered,
'In my other house; I will go thither forthright and have the
doors repaired and the place made secure again, and henceforth we
will meet there.' Then she took leave of me and went her way,
whilst I carried the money home, and counting it, found it five
thousand diners. I gave my people some of it and made good their
loss to all who had lent me aught, after which I took my servants
and repaired to my other house, with builders and carpenters,
who restored it to its former state. Moreover, I placed my
negress-slave there and forgot what had befallen me. Then I
repaired to Ali ben Bekkar's house, where his servants accosted
me, saying, 'Our lord calls for thee day and night and hath
promised his freedom to whichever of us brings thee to him; so we
have been in quest of thee everywhere, but knew not where to find
thee. Our master is by way of recovery, but he has frequent
relapses, and when he revives, he names thee and says, "Needs
must ye bring him to me, though but for an instant," and sinks
back into his torpor.' So I went in to Ali ben Bekkar and finding
him unable to speak, sat down at his head, whereupon he opened
his eyes and seeing me, wept and said, 'Welcome and fair
welcome!' I raised him and making him sit up, strained him to my
bosom, and he said, 'Know, O my brother, that, since I took to my
bed, I have not sat up till now: praised be God that I see thee
again!' Presently, little by little, I made him stand up and walk
a few steps, after which I changed his clothes and he drank some
wine. All this he did to please me. Then, seeing him to be
somewhat restored, I told him what had befallen me with the
slave-girl, none else hearing me, and said to him, 'I know what
thou sufferest; but take heart and be of good courage; for
henceforth nought shall betide thee, but what shall rejoice thee
and ease thine heart.' He smiled and called for food, which being
brought, he signed to his servants, and they withdrew. Then said
he to me, 'O my brother, thou seest what hath befallen me;' and
he made his excuses to me and enquired how I had fared all that
while. I told him all that had befallen me, from first to last,
at which he wondered and calling his servants, said, 'Bring me
such and such things.' Accordingly, they brought in rich carpets
and hangings and utensils of gold and silver, more than I had
lost, and he gave them all to me; so I sent them to my house and
abode with him that night. When the day began to break, he said
to me, 'To everything there is an end, and the end of love is
death or enjoyment. I am nearer unto death, would I had died ere
this befell! For, had not God favoured us, we had been discovered
and put to shame. And now I know not what shall deliver me from
this my strait, and were it not that I fear God, I would hasten
my own death; for know, O my brother, that I am like the bird in
the cage and that my life is of a surety perished, by reason of
the distresses that have befallen me; yet hath it a fixed period
and an appointed term.' And he wept and groaned and repeated the
following verses:

Indeed, it sufficeth the lover the time that his tears have run;
As for affliction, of patience it hath him all fordone.
He who concealeth the secrets conjoined us heretofore And now His
hand hath severed that which Himself made one.

When he had finished, I said to him, 'O my lord, I would fain
return to my house; it may be the damsel will come back to me
with news.' 'It is well,' answered he; 'go and return to me
speedily with news, for thou seest my condition.' So I took leave
of him and went home. Hardly had I sat down, when up came the
damsel, choked with her tears. 'What is the matter?' asked I, and
she said, 'O my lord, what we feared has fallen on us; for, when
I returned yesterday to my lady, I found her enraged with one of
the two maids who were with us the other night, and she ordered
her to be beaten. The girl took fright and ran away; but one of
the gate-keepers stopped her and would have sent her back to her
mistress. However, she let fall some hints, which excited his
curiosity; so he coaxed her and led her on to talk, and she
acquainted him with our case. This came to the ears of the
Khalif, who bade remove my mistress and all her gear to his own
palace and set over her a guard of twenty eunuchs. Since then he
has not visited her nor given her to know the cause of his
action, but I suspect this to be the cause; wherefore I am in
fear for myself and am perplexed, O my lord, knowing not what I
shall do nor how I shall order my affair and hers, for she had
none more trusted nor trustier than myself. So do thou go quickly
to Ali ben Bekkar and acquaint him with this, that he may be on
his guard; and if the affair be discovered, we will cast about
for a means of saving ourselves.' At this, I was sore troubled
and the world grew dark in my sight for the girl's words. Then
she turned to go, and I said to her, 'What is to be done?' Quoth
she, 'My counsel is that thou hasten to Ali ben Bekkar, if thou
be indeed his friend and desire his escape; thine be it to carry
him the news forthright, and be it mine to watch for further
news.' Then she took her leave of me and went away. I followed
her out and betaking myself to Ali ben Bekkar, found him
flattering himself with hopes of speedy enjoyment and staying
himself with vain expectations. When he saw me, he said, 'I see
thou hast come back to me forthwith' 'Summon up all thy
patience,' answered I, 'and put away thy vain doting and shake
off thy preoccupation, for there hath befallen that which may
bring about the loss of thy life and goods.' When he heard this,
he was troubled and his colour changed and he said to me, 'O my
brother, tell me what hath happened.' 'O my lord,' replied I,
'such and such things have happened and thou art lost without
recourse, if thou abide in this thy house till the end of the
day.' At this he was confounded and his soul well-nigh departed
his body, but he recovered himself and said to me, 'What shall I
do, O my brother, and what is thine advice?' 'My advice,'
answered I, 'is that thou take what thou canst of thy property
and whom of thy servants thou trustest and flee with me to a land
other than this, ere the day come to an end.' And he said, 'I
hear and obey.' So he rose, giddy and dazed, now walking and now
falling down and took what came under his hand. Then he made an
excuse to his household and gave them his last injunctions, after
which he loaded three camels and mounted his hackney. I did the
like and we went forth privily in disguise and fared on all day
and night, till nigh upon morning, when we unloaded and hobbling
our camels, lay down to sleep; but, being worn with fatigue, we
neglected to keep watch, so that there fell on us robbers, who
stripped us of all we had and slew our servants, when they would
have defended us, after which they made off with their booty,
leaving us naked and in the sorriest of plights. As soon as they
were gone, we arose and walked on till morning, when we came to a
village and took refuge in its mosque. We sat in a corner of the
mosque all that day and the next night, without meat or drink;
and at daybreak, we prayed the morning prayer and sat down again.
Presently, a man entered and saluting us, prayed a two-bow
prayer, after which he turned to us and said, 'O folk, are ye
strangers?' 'Yes,' answered we, 'robbers waylaid us and stripped
us, and we came to this town, but know none here with whom we may
shelter.' Quoth he, 'What say you? Will you come home with me?'
And I said to Ali ben Bekkar, 'Let us go with him, and we shall
escape two evils; first, our fear lest some one who knows us
enter the mosque and so we be discovered; and secondly, that we
are strangers and have no place to lodge in.' 'As thou wilt,'
answered he. Then the man said to us again, 'O poor folk, give
ear unto me and come with me to my house.' 'We hear and obey,'
answered I; whereupon he pulled off a part of his own clothes and
covered us therewith and made his excuses to us and spoke kindly
to us. Then we accompanied him to his house and he knocked at the
door, whereupon a little servant came out and opened to us. We
entered after our host, who called for a parcel of clothes and
muslin for turbans, and gave us each a suit of clothes and a
piece of muslin; so we made us turbans and sat down. Presently,
in came a damsel with a tray of food and set it before us,
saying, 'Eat.' We ate a little and she took away the tray; after
which we abode with our host till nightfall, when Ali ben Bekkar
sighed and said to me, 'Know, O my brother, that I am a dead man
and I have a charge to give thee: it is that, when thou seest me
dead, thou go to my mother and tell her and bid her come hither,
that she may be present at the washing of my body and take order
for my funeral; and do thou exhort her to bear my loss with
patience.' Then he fell down in a swoon and when he revived, he
heard a damsel singing afar off and addressed himself to give ear
to her and hearken to her voice; and now he was absent from the
world and now came to himself, and anon he wept for grief and
mourning at what had befallen him. Presently, he heard the damsel
sing the following verses:

Parting hath wrought in haste our union to undo After the
straitest loves and concord 'twixt us two.
The shifts of night and day have torn our lives apart. When shall
we meet again? Ah, would to God I knew!
After conjoined delight, how bitter sev'rance is! Would God it
had no power to baffle lovers true!
Death's anguish hath its hour, then endeth; but the pain Of
sev'rance from the loved at heart is ever new.
Could we but find a way to come at parting's self, We'd surely
make it taste of parting's cup of rue.

When he heard this, he gave one sob and his soul quitted his
body. As soon as I saw that he was dead, I committed his body to
the care of the master of the house and said to him, 'I go to
Baghdad, to tell his mother and kinsfolk, that they may come
hither and take order for his burial' So I betook myself to
Baghdad and going to my house, changed my clothes, after which I
repaired to Ali ben Bekkar's lodging. When his servants saw me,
they came to me and questioned me of him, and I bade them ask
leave for me to go in to his mother. She bade admit me; so I
entered and saluting her, said, 'Verily God orders the lives of
all creatures by His commandment and when He decreeth aught,
there is no escaping its fulfilment, nor can any soul depart but
by His leave, according to the Writ which prescribeth the
appointed terms.' She guessed by these words that her son was
dead and wept sore, then she said to me, 'I conjure thee by
Allah, tell me, is my son dead?' I could not answer her for tears
and much grief, and when she saw me thus, she was choked with
weeping and fell down in a swoon. As soon as she came to herself,
she said to me, 'Tell me how my son died.' 'May God abundantly
requite thee for him!' answered I and told her all that had
befallen him, from first to last. 'Did he give thee any charge?'
asked she. 'Yes,' answered I and told her what he had said,
adding, 'Hasten to take order for his funeral.' When she heard
this, she swooned away again; and when she recovered, she
addressed herself to do as I bade her. Then I returned to my
house; and as I went along, musing sadly upon his fair youth, a
woman caught hold of my hand. I looked at her and behold, it was
Shemsennehar's slave-girl, broken for grief. When we knew each
other, we both wept and gave not over weeping till we reached my
house, and I said to her, 'Knowest thou the news of Ali ben
Bekkar?' 'No, by Allah,' replied she; so I told her the manner of
his death and all that had passed, whilst we both wept; after
which I said to her, 'And how is it with thy mistress?' Quoth
she, 'The Khalif would not hear a word against her, but saw all
her actions in a favourable light, of the great love he bore her,
and said to her, "O Shemsennehar, thou art dear to me and I will
bear with thee and cherish thee, despite thine enemies." Then he
bade furnish her a saloon decorated with gold and a handsome
sleeping-chamber, and she abode with him in all ease of life and
high favour. One day, as he sat at wine, according to his wont,
with his favourites before him, he bade them be seated in their
places and made Shemsennehar sit by his side. (Now her patience
was exhausted and her disorder redoubled upon her.) Then he bade
one of the damsels sing: so she took a lute and tuning it,
preluded and sang the following verses:

One sought me of lore and I yielded and gave him that which he
sought. And my tears write the tale of my transport in
furrows upon my cheek.
Meseemeth as if the teardrops were ware, indeed, of our case And
hide what I'd fain discover and tell what to hide I seek.
How can I hope to be secret and hide the love that I feel, Whenas
the stress of my longing my passion for thee doth speak?
Death, since the loss of my loved ones, is sweet to me: would I
knew What unto them is pleasant, now that they've lost me

When Shemsennehar heard these verses, she could not keep her
seat, but fell down in a swoon, whereupon the Khalif threw the
cup from his hand and drew her to him, crying out. The damsels
clamoured and he turned her over and shook her, and behold, she
was dead. The Khalif grieved sore for her death and bade break
all the vessels and lutes and other instruments of mirth and
music in the place; then carrying her body to his closet, he
abode with her the rest of the night. When the day broke, he laid
her out and commanded to wash her and shroud her and bury her.
And he mourned very sore for her and questioned not of her case
nor what ailed her. And I beg thee in God's name,' continued the
damsel, 'to let me know the day of the coming of Ali ben Bekkar's
funeral train, that I may be present at his burial.' Quoth I,
'For myself, thou canst find me where thou wilt; but thou, who
can come at thee where thou art?' 'On the day of Shemsennehar's
death,' answered she, 'the Commander of the Faithful freed all
her women, myself among the rest; and we are now abiding at the
tomb in such a place.' So I accompanied her to the burial-ground
and visited Shemennehar's tomb;[FN#18] after which I went my way
and awaited the coming of Ali ben Bekkar's funeral. When it
arrived, the people of Baghdad went forth to meet it and I with
them; and I saw the damsel among the women and she the loudest of
them in lamentation, crying out and wailing with a voice that
rent the vitals and made the heart ache. Never was seen in
Baghdad a greater funeral than his and we ceased not to follow in
crowds, till we reached the cemetery and buried him to the mercy
of God the most High; nor from that time to this have I ceased to
visit his tomb and that of Shemsennehar." This, then, is their
story, and may God the Most High have mercy upon them!


There was once, of old time, a king called Shehriman, who was
lord of many troops and guards and officers and reigned over
certain islands, known as the Khalidan Islands, on the borders of
the land of the Persians; but he was grown old and decrepit,
without having been blessed with a son, albeit he had four wives,
daughters of kings, and threescore concubines, with each of whom
he was wont to lie one night in turn. This preyed upon his mind
and disquieted him, so that he complained thereof to one of his
Viziers, saying, 'I fear lest my kingdom be lost, when I die, for
that I have no son to take it after me.' 'O King,' answered the
Vizier, 'peradventure God shall yet provide for this; do thou put
thy trust in Him and be constant in supplication to Him.' So the
King rose and making his ablutions, prayed a two-bow prayer with
a believing heart; after which he called one of his wives to bed
and lay with her forthright. By God's grace, she conceived by
him and when her months were accomplished, she bore a male child,
like the moon on the night of its full. The King named him
Kemerezzeman and rejoiced in him with exceeding joy and bade
decorate the city in his honour. So they decorated the city
seven days, whilst the drums beat and the messengers bore the
glad tidings abroad. Meanwhile nurses and attendants were
provided for the boy and he was reared in splendour and delight,
until he reached the age of fifteen. He grew up of surpassing
beauty and symmetry, and his father loved him very dear, so that
he could not brook to be parted from him day or night. One day,
he complained to one of his Viziers of the excess of his love for
his son, saying, 'O Vizier, of a truth I fear the shifts and
accidents of fortune for my son Kemerezzeman and fain would I
marry him in my lifetime.' 'O King,' answered the Vizier,
'marriage is one of the most honourable of actions, and thou
wouldst indeed do well to marry thy son in thy lifetime, ere
thou make him king.' Quoth the King, 'Fetch me my son;' so
Kemerezzeman came and bowed his head before his father, out of
modesty. 'O Kemerezzeman,' said the King, 'I desire to marry
thee and rejoice in thee in my lifetime.' 'O my father,'
answered the prince, 'know that I have no wish to marry, nor doth
my soul incline to women; for that I have read many books and
heard much talk concerning their craft and perfidy, even as saith
the poet:

If ye would know of women and question of their case, Lo, I am
versed in their fashions and skilled all else above.
When a man's head grows grizzled or for the nonce his wealth
Falls from his hand, then, trust me, he hath no part in
their love.

And again:

Gainsay women; he obeyeth Allah best who saith them nay, And he
prospers not who giveth them his bridle-rein to sway;
For they'll hinder him from winning to perfection in his gifts,
Though a thousand years he study, seeking after wisdom's

Wherefore (continued Kemerezzeman) marriage is a thing to which I
will never consent; no, not though I drink the cup of death.'
When the King heard this, the light in his sight became darkness
and he was excessively chagrined at his son's lack of obedience
to his wishes; yet, for the great love he bore him, he forbore to
press him and was not wroth with him, but caressed him and spoke
him fair and showed him all manner of kindness such as tends to
cultivate affection. He took patience with him a whole year,
during which time Kemerezzeman increased daily in beauty and
elegance and amorous grace, till he became perfect in eloquence
and loveliness. All men were ravished with his beauty and every
breeze that blew carried the tidings of his charms; he was a
seduction to lovers and a garden of delight to longing hearts,
for he was sweet of speech and his face put the full moon to
shame. Accomplished in symmetry as in elegance and engaging
manners, his shape was slender and graceful as the willow-wand or
the flowering cane and his cheeks might pass for roses or
blood-red anemones. He was, in fine, charming in all respects,
even as the poet hath said of him:

He comes and "Blest be God!" say all men, high and base. "Glory
to Him who shaped and fashioned forth his face!"
He's monarch of the fair, wherever they may be; For, lo, they're
all become the liegemen of his grace.
The water of his mouth is liquid honey-dew And 'twixt his lips
for teeth fine pearls do interlace.
Perfect in every trait of beauty and unique, His witching
loveliness distracts the human race.
Beauty itself hath writ these words upon his cheek, "Except this
youth there's none that's fair in any place."

When the year came to an end, the King called his son to him and
said, 'O my son, wilt thou not hearken to me?' Whereupon
Kemerezzeman fell down for respect and shame before his father
and replied, 'O my father, how should I not hearken to thee,
seeing that God commandeth me to obey thee and not gainsay thee?'
'O my son,' said King Shehriman, 'know that I desire to marry
thee and rejoice in thee, whilst yet I live, and make thee king
over my realm, before my death.' When the prince heard this, he
bowed his head awhile, then raised it and said, 'O my father,
this is a thing that I will never do, though I drink the cup of
death. I know of a surety that God the Most High enjoins on me
obedience to thee; but in His name I conjure thee, press me not
in this matter of marriage, neither think that I will ever marry
my life long; for that I have read the books both of the ancients
and the moderns and have come to know all the troubles and
calamities that have befallen them through women and the
disasters that have sprung from their craft without end. How
well says the poet:

He, whom the baggages entrap, Deliverance shall never know,
Although a thousand forts he build, Plated with lead;--'gainst
such a foe
It shall not profit him to build Nor citadels avail, I trow.
Women are traitresses to all, Both near and far and high and low.
With fingers dyed and flowing hair Plaited with tresses, sweet of
And eyelids beautified with kohl, They make one drink of bale and

And no less excellently saith another:

Women, for all to chastity they're bidden, everywhere Are carrion
tossed about of all the vultures of the air.
To-night their converse, ay, and all their secret charms are
thine, But on the morn their leg and wrist fall to another's
Like to an inn in which thou lodg'st, departing with the dawn,
And one thou know'st not, after thee, lights down and lodges

When King Shehriman heard these his son's words, he made him no
answer, of his great love for him, but redoubled in favour and
kindness to him. As soon as the audience was over, he called his
Vizier and taking him apart, said to him, 'O Vizier, tell me how
I shall do with my son in this matter of his marriage. I took
counsel with thee thereon and thou didst counsel me to marry him,
before making him king. I have spoken with him once and again of
marriage, and he still gainsaid me; so do thou now counsel me
what to do.' 'O King,' answered the Vizier, 'wait another year,
and if after that thou be minded to speak to him on the matter of
marriage, do it not privily, but on a day of state, when all the
Viziers and Amirs are present and all the troops standing before
thee. Then send for thy son and broach to him the matter of
marriage before the Viziers and grandees and officers of state
and captains; for he will surely be daunted by their presence and
will not dare to oppose thy will.' The King rejoiced exceedingly
in his Vizier's advice, deeming it excellent, and bestowed on him
a splendid robe of honour. Then he took patience with his son
another year, whilst, with every day that passed over him,
Kemerezzeman increased in grace and beauty and elegance and
perfection, till he was nigh twenty years old. Indeed, God had
clad him in the habit of beauty and crowned him with the crown of
perfection: his eyes were more ensorcelling than Harout and
Marout[FN#19] and the play of his glances more misleading than
Taghout.[FN#20] His cheeks shone with redness and his eyelashes
outvied the keen-edged sword: the whiteness of his forehead
resembled the shining moon and the blackness of his hair was as
the murky night. His waist was more slender than the gossamer
and his buttocks heavier than two hills of sand, troubling the
heart with their softness; but his waist complained of their
weight. In fine, his charms ravished all mankind, even as saith
the poet:

By his cheeks' unfading damask and his smiling teeth I swear, By
the arrows that he feathers with the witchery of his air,
By his sides so soft and tender and his glances bright and keen,
By the whiteness of his forehead and the blackness of his
By his arched imperious eyebrows, chasing slumber from mine eyes,
With their yeas and noes that hold me 'twixt rejoicing and
By the scorpious[FN#21] that he launches from his
ringlet-clustered brows, Seeking ever in their meshes
hapless lovers to ensnare,
By the myrtle of his whiskers and the roses of his cheeks, By his
lips' incarnate rubies and his teeth's fine pearls and rare,
By his breath's delicious fragrance and the waters of his mouth,
That defy old wine and choicest with their sweetness to
By his heavy hips that tremble, both in motion and repose, And
the slender waist above them, all too slight their weight to
By his hand's perennial bounty and his true and trusty speech, By
the stars that smile upon him, favouring and debonair,
Lo, the scent of musk none other than his very perfume is, And
the ambergris's fragrance breathes about him everywhere.
Yea, the sun in all his splendour cannot with his brightness vie,
And the crescent moon's a fragment that he from his nail
doth pare.

The King, accordingly, waited till a day of state, when the
audience hall was filled with his Amirs and Viziers and grandees
and officers of state and captains. As soon as they were all
assembled, he sent for his son Kemerezzeman, who came and kissing
the earth three times, stood before him, with his hands clasped
behind his back. Then said the King to him, 'Know, O my son,
that I have sent for thee and summoned thee to appear before this
assembly and all these officers of state that I may lay a
commandment on thee, wherein do thou not gainsay me. It is that
thou marry, for I am minded to wed thee to a king's daughter and
rejoice in thee ere I die.' When the prince heard these his
father's words, he bowed his head awhile, then raising it,
replied, being moved thereto by youthful folly and boyish
ignorance, 'Never will I marry, no, not though I drink the cup of
death! As for thee, thou art great in years and little of wit:
hast thou not, twice before this, questioned me of the matter of
marriage, and I refused thee? Indeed, thou dotest and art not
fit to govern a flock of sheep!' So saying, he unclasped his
hands from behind his back and rolled up his sleeves, in his
rage; moreover, he added many words to his father, knowing not
what he said, in the trouble of his spirit. The King was
confounded and ashamed, for that this befell in the presence of
his grandees and officers assembled on an occasion of state; but
presently the energy of kingship took him and he cried out upon
his son and made him tremble. Then he called to his guards and
bade them seize him and bind his hands behind his back. So they
laid hands on Kemerezzeman and binding him, brought him before
his father, full of shame and confusion, with his head bowed down
for fear and inquietude and his brow and face beaded with sweat.
The King loaded him with reproaches, saying, 'Out on thee, thou
whoreson and nursling of abomination! Dost thou dare to answer
me thus before my captains and officers? But hitherto none hath
corrected thee. Knowest thou not that this thou hast done were
disgraceful in the meanest of my subjects?' And he commanded his
guards to loose his bonds and imprison him in one of the turrets
of the citadel. So they carried the prince into an old tower,
wherein there was a dilapidated saloon, after having first swept
it and cleansed its floor and set him a couch in its midst, on
which they laid a mattress, a leathern rug and a cushion. Then
they brought him a great lantern and a candle, for the place
was dark, even by day, and posting an eunuch at the door, left
him to himself. Kemerezzeman threw himself on the couch,
broken-spirited and mournful-hearted, blaming himself and
repenting of his unseemly behaviour to his father, when
repentance availed him nothing, and saying, 'May God curse
marriage and girls and women, the traitresses! Would I had
hearkened to my father and married! It were better for me than
this prison.'

Meanwhile, King Shehriman abode on his throne till sundown, when
he took the Vizier apart and said to him, 'O Vizier, thine advice
is the cause of all this that hath befallen between me and my
son. What doth thou counsel me to do now?' 'O King,' answered
he, 'leave thy son in prison for the space of fifteen days; then
send for him and command him to marry, and he will not again
gainsay thee.' The King accepted the Vizier's counsel and lay
down to sleep, troubled at heart concerning Kemerezzeman, for he
loved him very dearly, having no other child, and it was his wont
not to sleep, save with his arm about his son's neck. So he
passed the night in trouble and unease, tossing from side to
side, as he were laid on coals of tamarisk-wood; for he was
overcome with inquietude and sleep visited him not all that
night; but his eyes ran over with tears and he repeated the
following verses:

The night, whilst the slanderers sleep, is tedious unto me;
Suffice thee a heart that aches for parting's agony!
I cry, whilst my night for care grows long and longer aye, "O
light of the morning, say, is there no returning for thee?"

And these also:

When the Pleiads I saw leave to shine in their stead And over the
pole-star a lethargy shed
And the maids of the Bier[FN#22] in black raiment unveiled, I
knew that the lamp of the morning was dead.

To return to Kemerezzeman. When the night came on, the eunuch
set the lantern before him and lighting a candle, placed it in
the candlestick; then brought him food. The prince ate a little
and reproached himself for his ill-behaviour to his father,
saying to himself, 'O my soul, knowst thou not that a son of Adam
is the hostage of his tongue and that a man's tongue is what
casts him into perils?' Then his eyes ran over with tears and he
bewailed that which he had done, from an anguished heart and an
aching bosom, repenting him with an exceeding repentance of the
wrong he had done his father repeating the following verses:

For the sheer stumble of his tongue the youth must death aby,
Though for the stumble of his foot the grown man shall not
Thus doth the slipping of his mouth smite off his head, I ween,
What while the slipping of his foot is healed, as time goes

When he had made an end of eating, he called the eunuch, who
washed his hands. Then he made his ablutions and prayed the
prayers of sundown and nightfall, after which he sat down on the
couch, to read[FN#23] the Koran. He read the chapters called
'The Cow,' 'The family of Imran,' 'Ya-Sin,' 'The Compassionate,'
'Blessed be the King,' 'Unity' and 'The two Amulets,' and
concluded with blessing and supplication, seeking refuge with God
from Satan the accursed. Then he put off his trousers and the
rest of his clothes and lay down, in a shirt of fine waxed cloth
and a coif of blue stuff of Merv, upon a mattress of satin,
embroidered on both sides with gold and quilted with Irak silk,
having under his head a pillow stuffed with ostrich-down. In
this guise, he was like the full moon, when it rises on its
fourteenth night. Then, drawing over himself a coverlet of silk,
he fell asleep with the lantern burning at his feet and the
candle at his head, and woke not for a third part of the night,
being ignorant of that which lurked for him in the secret purpose
of God and what He who knoweth the hidden things had appointed
unto him. Now, as chance and destiny would have it, the tower in
question was old and had been many years deserted; and there was
therein a Roman well, inhabited by an Afriteh of the lineage of
Iblis the Accursed, by name Maimouneh, daughter of Ed Dimiryat, a
renowned King of the Jinn. In the middle of the night, Maimouneh
came up out of the well and made for heaven, thinking to listen
by stealth to the discourse of the angels; but, when she reached
the mouth of the well, she saw a light shining in the tower,
contrary to wont; whereat she was mightily amazed, having dwelt
there many years and never seen the like, and said to herself,
'Needs must there be some cause for this.' So she made for the
light and found that it came from the saloon, at whose door she
found the eunuch sleeping. She entered and saw a man Iying
asleep upon the couch, with the lantern burning at his feet and
the candle at his head; at which she wondered and going softly
up to him, folded her wings and drawing back the coverlid,
discovered his face. The lustre of his visage outshone that of
the candle, and the Afriteh abode awhile, astounded at his beauty
and grace; for his face beamed with light, his cheeks were
rose-red and his eyelids languorous; his brows were arched like
bows and his whole person exhaled a scent of musk, even as saith
of him the poet:

I kissed him and his cheeks forthwith grew red, and black and
bright The pupils grew that are my soul's seduction and
O heart, if slanderers avouch that there exists his like For
goodliness, say thou to them, "Produce him to my sight."

When Maimouneh saw him, she glorified God and said, 'Blessed be
Allah, the best of Creators!' For she was of the true-believing
Jinn. She stood awhile, gazing on his face, proclaiming the
unity of God and envying the youth his beauty and grace. And she
said in herself, 'By Allah, I will do him no hurt nor let any
harm him, but will ransom him from all ill, for this fair face
deserves not but that folk should look upon it and glorify God.
But how could his family find it in their hearts to leave him in
this desert place, where if one of our Marids came upon him at
this hour, he would kill him?' Then she bent over him and
kissing him between the eyes, folded back the coverlet over his
face; after which she spread her wings and soaring into the air,
flew upward till she drew near the lowest heaven, when she heard
the noise of wings beating the air and making for the sound,
found that it came from an Afrit called Dehnesh. So she swooped
down on him like a sparrow-hawk; and when he was ware of her and
knew her to be Maimouneh, daughter of the King of the Jinn, he
feared her and his nerves trembled; and he implored her
forbearance, saying, 'I conjure thee by the Most Great and August
Name and by the most noble talisman graven upon the seal of
Solomon, entreat me kindly and harm me not!' When she heard
this, her heart inclined to him and she said, 'Verily, thou
conjurest me with a mighty conjuration, O accursed one!
Nevertheless, I will not let thee go, till thou tell me whence
thou comest at this hour.' 'O princess,' answered he, 'know that
I come from the uttermost end of the land of Cathay and from
among the islands, and I will tell thee of a wonderful thing I
have seen this night. If thou find my words true, let me go my
way and write me a patent under thy hand that I am thy freedman,
so none of the Jinn, whether of the air or the earth, divers or
flyers,[FN#24] may do me let or hindrance.' 'And what is it thou
hast seen this night, O liar, O accursed one?' rejoined
Maimouneh. 'Tell me without leasing and think not to escape from
my hand with lies, for I swear to thee by the inscription on the
beazel of the ring of Solomon son of David (on whom be peace,)
except thy speech be true, I will pluck out thy feathers with
mine own hand and strip off thy skin and break thy bones.' 'I
accept this condition, O my lady,' answered Dehnesh, son of
Shemhourish the Flyer. 'Know that I come to-night from the
Islands of the Inland Sea in the parts of Cathay, which are the
dominions of King Ghaiour, lord of the Islands and the Seas and
the Seven Palaces. There I saw a daughter of his, than whom God
hath made none fairer in her time,--I cannot picture her to thee,
for my tongue would fail to describe her aright; but I will name
to thee somewhat of her charms, by way of approximation. Her
hair is like the nights of estrangement and separation and her
face like the days of union; and the poet hath well described her
when he says:

She took up three locks of her hair and spread them out one night
And straight four nights discovered at once unto my sight.
Then did she turn her visage up to the moon of the sky And showed
me two moons at one season, both burning clear and bright.

She hath a nose like the point of the burnished sword and cheeks
like purple wine or blood-red anemones: her lips are like coral
and cornelian and the water of her mouth is sweeter than old
wine, its taste would allay the torments of Hell. Her tongue is
moved by abounding wit and ready repartee: her breast is a
temptation to all that see it, glory be to Him who created it and
finished it: and joined thereto are two smooth round arms. As
says of her the poet El Welhan:

She hath two wrists, which, were they not by bracelets held, I
trow, Would flow out of their sleeves as brooks of liquid
silver flow.

She has breasts like two globes of ivory, the moons borrow from
their brightness, and a belly dimpled as it were a brocaded cloth
of the finest Egyptian linen, with creases like folded scrolls,
leading to a waist slender past conception, over buttocks like a
hill of sand, that force her to sit, when she would fain stand,
and awaken her, when she would sleep, even as saith of her the

Her slender waist a pair of buttocks overlies, The which both
over her and me do tyrannize.
For they confound my wit, whenas I think on them, And eke enforce
her sit, whenas she fain would rise.

They are upborne by smooth round thighs and legs like columns of
pearl, and all this rests upon two slender feet, pointed like
spear-blades, the handiwork of God, the Protector and Requiter, I
wonder how, of their littleness, they can sustain what is above
them. But I cut short my description of her charms, lest I be
tedious. The father of this young lady is a powerful king, a
fierce cavalier, immersed night and day in wars and battles,
fearless of death and dreading not ruin, for that he is a
masterful tyrant and an irresistible conqueror, lord of troops
and armies, continents and islands, cities and villages, and his
name is King Ghaiour, lord of the Islands and the Seas and of the
Seven Palaces. He loves his daughter, the young lady whom I have
described to thee, very dearly, and for love of her, he gathered
together the treasures of all the kings and built her therewith
seven palaces, each of a different fashion; the first of crystal,
the second of marble, the third of China steel, the fourth of
precious stones, the fifth of porcelain and vari-coloured onyx,
the sixth of silver and the seventh of gold. He filled the seven
palaces with rich silken carpets and hangings and vessels of gold
and silver and all manner of gear befitting kings and commanded
his daughter, whose name is the Princess Budour, to abide in each
by turns for a certain season of the year. When her beauty
became known and her fame was noised abroad in the neighbouring
countries, all the kings sent to her father, to demand her in
marriage, and he consulted her on the matter, but she misliked it
and said, "O my father, I have no mind to marry; for I am a
sovereign lady and a princess ruling over men, and I have no
desire for a man who shall rule over me." The more she refused,
the more the eagerness of her suitors increased and all the kings
of the Islands of the Inland Sea sent gifts and offerings to her
father, with letters asking her in marriage. So he pressed her
again and again to make choice of a husband, despite her
refusals, till at last she turned upon him angrily and said to
him, "O my father, if thou name marriage to me again, I will go
into my chamber and take a sword and fixing its hilt in the
ground, set its point to my breast; then will I lean upon it,
till it come forth from my back, and so kill myself." When the
King heard this, the light became darkness in his sight and his
heart was torn with anxiety and perplexity concerning her affair;
for he feared lest she should kill herself and knew not how to
deal with the kings who sought her hand. So he said to her, "If
thou be irrevocably determined not to marry, abstain from going
in and out." Then he shut her up in her chamber, appointing ten
old body-women to guard her, and made as though he were wroth
with her, forbidding her to go forth to the seven palaces;
moreover, he sent letters to all the kings, giving them to know
that she had been stricken with madness. It is now a year
(continued Dehnesh) since she has been thus cloistered, and every
night I go to her, whilst she is asleep, and take my fill of
gazing on her face and kiss her between the eyes: yet, of my love
to her, I do her no hurt neither swive her, for that her youth is
fair and her loveliness surpassing; every one who sees is jealous
for her of himself. I conjure thee, therefore, O my lady, to go
back with me and look on her beauty and symmetry; and after, if
thou wilt, chastise me or enslave me: for it is thine to command
and to forbid.' So saying, he bowed his head towards the earth
and drooped his wings; but Maimouneh laughed at his words and
spitting in his face, answered, 'What is this girl of whom thou
pratest but a potsherd to cleanse the privities withal? Faugh!
Faugh! By Allah, O accursed one, I thought thou hadst some rare
story to tell me or some marvel to make known to me! How would
it be if thou sawest my beloved? Verily this night I have seen a
young man whom if thou sawest though but in sleep, thou wouldst
be palsied with admiration and thy mouth would water.' 'And who
and what is this youth?' asked the Afrit. 'Know, O Dehnesh,'
answered she, 'that there hath befallen him the like of what
befell thy mistress; for his father pressed him again and again
to marry, but he refused, till at length his father waxed wroth
and imprisoned him in the tower where I dwell: and I came up
to-night and saw him.' 'O my lady,' said Dehnesh, 'show me the
youth, that I may see if he be indeed handsomer than my mistress,
the Princess Budour, or not; for I cannot believe that there
lives her equal.' 'Thou liest, O accursed one!' rejoined
Maimouneh. 'O most ill-omened of Marids and vilest of Satans!
Sure am I that there is not in this world the like of my beloved.
Art thou mad to even thy beloved with mine?' 'I conjure thee by
Allah, O my lady,' said Dehnesh, 'to go back with me and see my
mistress, and after I will return with thee and look upon thy
beloved.' 'It must needs be so, O accursed one!' answered she.
'Yet, for that thou art a knavish devil, I will not go with thee
nor shalt thou come with me, save upon surety and condition of
pledge. If thy beloved prove handsomer than mine, the pledge
shall be thine against me; but if my beloved prove the fairer,
the pledge shall be mine against thee.' 'O my lady,' said
Dehnesh, 'I accept this thy condition; so come with me to the
Islands.' 'Not so,' replied Maimouneh; 'for the abode of my
beloved is nearer than that of thine: here it is under us; so
come down with me and see my beloved, and after we will go look
upon thy mistress.' 'I hear and obey,' said Dehnesh. So they
descended and alighting on the tower, entered the saloon, where
Maimouneh stationed Dehnesh beside the bed and putting out her
hand, drew back the silken coverlet, whereupon Kemerezzeman's
face shone out like the sun. She looked at him a moment, then
turning to Dehnesh, said, ''Look, O accursed one, and be not the
vilest of madmen; I am a maiden and am ravished with him.' So
Dehnesh looked at the prince and gazed steadfastly on him awhile,
then, shaking his head, said to Maimouneh, 'By Allah, O my lady,
thou art excusable; but there is another thing to be considered,
and that is that the female estate differs from the male. By the
virtue of God, this thy beloved is the likest of all created
things to my mistress in beauty and loveliness and grace and
it is as though they were both cast alike in the mould of
perfection!' When Maimouneh heard these words, the light in
her sight became darkness and she dealt him so fierce a buffet
on the head with her wing as well-nigh made an end of him. Then,
'I conjure thee,' said she, 'by the light of his glorious
countenance, go at once, O accursed one, and bring hither thy
mistress in haste that we may lay them together and look on them
both, as they lie asleep side by side; so will it appear to us
whether is the goodlier and more beautiful of the two. Except
thou obey me forthright, I will dart my sparks at thee and
consume thee with my fire; yea, I will rend thee in pieces and
cast thee into the deserts, as an example to stay-at-home and
wayfarer.' 'O my lady,' answered the Afrit, 'I will do thy
bidding, for I know that my mistress is the fairer and sweeter.'
So saying, he flew away and Maimouneh flew with him, to guard
him. They were absent awhile and presently returned, bearing the
young lady, who was clad in a shift of fine Venetian silk, laced
with gold and wrought with the most exquisite broidery and having
the following verses worked upon the ends of the sleeves:

Three things for ever hinder her to visit us, for fear Of the
intriguing spy and eke the rancorous envier;
Her forehead's lustre and the sound of all her ornaments And the
sweet scent her creases hold of ambergris and myrrh.
Grant with the border of her sleeve she hide her brows and doff
Her ornaments, how shall she do her scent away from her?

They carried her into the saloon and laying her beside
Kemerezzeman, uncovered both their faces, and behold, they were
the likest of all folk, one to the other, as they were twins or
an only brother and sister; and indeed they were a temptation to
the pious, even as says of them the poet El Mubin:

Be not thy love, O heart, to one alone confined, Lest, for that
one, amaze and doting thee enwind;
But love thou rather all the fair, and thou shalt find, If one
contrarious prove, another will be kind.

And quoth another:

Two fair ones lying on the earth I did of late espy; Two that I
needs must love, although they lay upon mine eye.

Dehnesh and Maimouneh gazed on them awhile, and the former said,
'By Allah, O my lady, it is good! My mistress is assuredly the
fairer.' 'Not so,' answered she, 'my beloved is the fairer. Out
on thee, O Dehnesh! Thou art blind of eye and heart and
distinguishest not between good and bad.[FN#25] Wilt thou hide
the truth? Dost thou not see his beauty and grace and symmetry?
Out on thee, hear what I purpose to say in praise of my beloved,
and do thou the like for her thou lovest, an thou be a true


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