The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

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

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

“My friends! if ye are banisht from mine eyes,

From heart and mind ye ne’er go wandering:

But ye have left me in my woe, and rob

Rest from my eyelids while ye are slumbering.”

And seeing them Amjad thought of his brother and wept. Such was his case; but as for Bahram, the Magian, he embarked and shouted and bawled to his crew to make sail in all haste. So they shook out the sails and departed and ceased not to fare on many days and nights; and, every other day, Bahram took out As’ad and gave him a bit of bread and made him drink a sup of water, till they drew near the Mountain of Fire. Then there came out on them a storm-wind and the sea rose against them, so that the ship was driven out of her course till she took a wrong line and fell into strange waters; and, at last they came in sight of a city builded upon the shore, with a castle whose windows overlooked the main. Now the ruler of this city was a Queen called Marjánah, and the captain said to Bahram, “O my lord, we have strayed from our course and come to the island of Queen Marjanah, who is a devout Moslemah; and, if she know that we are Magians, she will take our ship and slay us to the last man. Yet needs must we put in here to rest and refit.” Quoth Bahram, “Right is thy recking, and whatso thou seest fit that will I do!” Said the ship master, “If the Queen summon us and question us, how shall we answer her?”; and Bahram replied, “Let us clothe this Moslem we have with us in a Mameluke’s habit and carry him ashore with us, so that when the Queen sees him, she will suppose and say, ‘This is a slave.’ As for me I will tell her that I am a slave-dealer1 who buys and sells white slaves, and that I had with me many but have sold all save this one, whom I retained to keep my accounts, for he can read and write.” And the captain said “This device should serve.” Presently they reached the city and slackened sail and cast the anchors; and the ship lay still, when behold, Queen Marjanah came down to them, attended by her guards and, halting before the vessel, called out to the captain, who landed and kissed the ground before her. Quoth she, “What is the lading of this thy ship and whom hast thou with thee?”” Quoth he, “O Queen of the Age, I have with me a merchant who dealeth in slaves.” And she said, “Hither with him to me”; whereupon Bahram came ashore to her, with As’ad walking behind him in a slave’s habit, and kissed the earth before her. She asked, “What is thy condition?”; and he answered, “I am a dealer in chattels.” Then she looked at As’ad and, taking him for a Mameluke, asked him, “What is thy name, O youth?” He answered, “Dost thou ask my present or my former name?” “Hast thou then two names?” enquired she, and he replied (and indeed his voice was choked with tears), “Yes; my name aforetime was Al–As’ad, the most happy, but now it is Al-Mu’tarr — Miserrimus.” Her heart inclined to him and she said, “Canst thou write?” “Yes,’’ answered he, and she gave him ink-case and reed-pen and paper and said to him, “Write somewhat that I may see it.” So he wrote these two couplets,

“What can the slave do when pursued by Fate,

O justest Judge! whatever be his state?2

Whom God throws hand bound in the depths and says,

Beware lest water should thy body wet?”3

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

1 Arab. “Jalláb,” one of the three muharramát or forbiddens, the Hárik al-hajar (burner of stone) the Káti’ al-shajar (cutter of trees, without reference to Hawarden N. B.) and the Báyi’ al-bashar (seller of men, vulg. Jalláb). The two former worked, like the Italian Carbonari, in desert places where they had especial opportunities for crime. (Pilgrimage iii. 140.) None of these things must be practiced during Pilgrimage on the holy soil of Al–Hijaz — not including Jeddah.

2 The verses contain the tenets of the Murjiy sect which attaches infinite importance to faith and little or none to works. Sale (sect. viii.) derives his “Morgians” from the “Jabrians” (Jabari), who are the direct opponents of the “Kadarians” (Kadari), denying free will and free agency to man and ascribing his actions wholly to Allah. Lane (ii. 243) gives the orthodox answer to the heretical question:—

Water could wet him not if God please guard His own;

Nor need man care though bound of hands in sea he’s thrown:

But if His Lord decree that he in sea be drowned;

He’ll drown albeit in the wild and wold he wone.

It is the old quarrel between Predestination and Freewill which cannot be solved except by assuming a Law without a Lawgiver.

3 Our proverb says: Give a man luck and throw him into the sea.

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

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

“Allah, my patience fails: I have no ward;

My breast is straitened and clean cut my cord;

To whom shall wretched slave of case complain

Save to his Lord? O thou of lords the Lord!”

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

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when he reached the city the shades of evening closed around him and the gates were shut. Now by the decrees of Pate and man’s lot this was the very city wherein he had been a prisoner and to whose King his brother Amjad was Minister. When As’ad saw the gate was locked, he turned back and made for the burial-ground, where finding a tomb without a door, he entered therein and lay down and fell asleep, with his face covered by his long sleeve.1 Meanwhile, Queen Marjanah, coming up with Bahram’s ship, questioned him of As’ad. Now the Magian, when Queen Marjanah overtook him with her ships, baffled her by his artifice and gramarye; swearing to her that he was not with him and that he knew nothing of him. She searched the ship, but found no trace of her friend, so she took Bahram and, carrying him back to her castle, would have put him to death, but he ransomed himself from her with all his good and his ship; and she released him and his men. They went forth from her hardly believing in their deliverance, and fared on ten days’ journey till they came to their own city and found the gate shut, it being eventide. So they made for the burial-ground, thinking to lie the night there and, going round about the tombs, as Fate and Fortune would have it, saw the building wherein As’ad lay wide open; whereat Bahram marvelled and said, “I must look into this sepulchre.” Then he entered and found As’ad lying in a corner fast asleep, with his head covered by his sleeve; so he raised his head, and looking in his face, knew him for the man on whose account he had lost his good and his ship, and cried, “What! art thou yet alive?” Then he bound him and gagged him without further parley, and carried him to his house, where he clapped heavy shackles on his feet and lowered him into the underground dungeon aforesaid prepared for the tormenting of Moslems, and he bade his daughter by name Bostán,2 torture him night and day, till the next year, when they would again visit the Mountain of Fire and there offer him up as a sacrifice. Then he beat him grievously and locking the dungeon door upon him, gave the keys to his daughter. By and by, Bostan opened the door and went down to beat him, but finding him a comely youth and a sweet-faced with arched brows and eyes black with nature’s Kohl,3 she fell in love with him and asked him, “What is thy name?” “My name is As’ad,” answered he; whereat she cried, “Mayst thou indeed be happy as thy name,4 and happy be thy days! Thou deservest not torture and blows, and I see thou hast been injuriously entreated.” And she comforted him with kind words and loosed his bonds. Then she questioned him of the religion of Al–Islam and he told her that it was the true and right Faith and that our lord Mohammed had approved himself by surpassing miracles5 and signs manifest, and that fire-worship is harmful and not profitable; and he went on to expound to her the tenets of Al–Islam till she was persuaded and the love of the True Faith entered her heart. Then, as Almighty Allah had mixed up with her being a fond affection for As’ad, she pronounced the Two Testimonies6 of the Faith and became of the people of felicity. After this, she brought him meat and drink and talked with him and they prayed together: moreover, she made him chicken stews and fed him therewith, till he regained strength and his sickness left him and he was restored to his former health. Such things befel him with the daughter of Bahram, the Magian; and so it happened that one day she left him and stood at the house-door when behold, she heard the crier crying aloud and saying, “Whoso hath with him a handsome young man, whose favour is thus and thus, and bringeth him forth, shall have all he seeketh of money; but if any have him and deny it, he shall be hanged over his own door and his property shall be plundered and his blood go for naught.” Now As’ad had acquainted Bostan bint Bahram with his whole history: so, when she heard the crier, she knew that it was he who was sought for and, going down to him, told him the news. Then he fared forth and made for the mansion of the Wazir, whom, when As’ad saw, exclaimed, “By Allah, this Minister is my brother Amjad!” Then he went up (and the damsel walking behind him) to the Palace, where he again saw his brother, and threw himself upon him; whereupon Amjad also knew him and fell upon his neck and they embraced each other, whilst the Wazir’s Mamelukes dismounted and stood round them. They lay awhile insensible and, when they came to themselves, Amjad took his brother and carried him to the Sultan, to whom he related the whole story, and the Sultan charged him to plunder Bahram’s house. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 As a rule Easterns, I repeat, cover head and face when sleeping especially in the open air and moonlight. Europeans find the practice difficult, and can learn it only by long habit.

2 Pers. = a flower-garden. In Galland, Bahram has two daughters, Bostama and Cavam a. In the Bres. Edit. the daughter is “Bostan” and the slave-girl “Kawám.”

3 Arab. “Kahíl”=eyes which look as if darkened with antimony: hence the name of the noble Arab breed of horses “Kuhaylat” (Al–Ajuz, etc.).

4 “As’ad”=more (or most) fortunate.

5 This is the vulgar belief, although Mohammed expressly disclaimed the power in the Koran (chaps. xiii. 8), “Thou art commissioned to be a preacher only and not a worker of miracles.” “Signs” (Arab. Ayát) may here also mean verses of the Koran, which the Apostle of Allah held to be his standing miracles. He despised the common miracula which in the East are of everyday occurrence and are held to be easy for any holy man. Hume does not believe in miracles because he never saw one. Had he travelled in the East he would have seen (and heard of) so many that his scepticism (more likely that testimony should be false than miracles be true) would have been based on a firmer foundation. It is one of the marvels of our age that whilst two-thirds of Christendom (the Catholics and the “Orthodox” Greeks) believe in “miracles” occurring not only in ancient but even in our present days, the influential and intelligent third (Protestant) absolutely “denies the fact.”

6 Arab. “Al–Shahádatáni”; testifying the Unity and the Apostleship.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Sultan ordered Amjad to plunder Bahram’s house and to hang its owner. So Amjad despatched thither for that purpose a company of men, who sacked the house and took Bahram and brought his daughter to the Wazir by whom she was received with all honour, for As’ad had told his brother the torments he had suffered and the kindness she had done him. Thereupon Amjad related in his turn to As’ad all that had passed between himself and the damsel; and how he had escaped hanging and had become Wazir; and they made moan, each to other, of the anguish they had suffered for separation. Then the Sultan summoned Bahram and bade strike off his head; but he said, “O most mighty King, art thou indeed resolved to put me to death?” Replied the King, “Yes, except thou save thyself by becoming a Moslem.” Quoth Bahram, “O King, bear with me a little while!” Then he bowed his head groundwards and presently raising it again, made pro fession of The Faith and islamised at the hands of the Sultan. They all rejoiced at his conversion and Amjad and As’ad told him all that had befallen them, whereat he wondered and said, “O my lords, make ready for the journey and I will depart with you and carry you back to your father’s court in a ship.” At this they rejoiced and wept with sore weeping but he said, “O my lords, weep not for your departure, for it shall reunite you with those you love, even as were Ni’amah and Naomi.” “And what befel Ni’amah and Naomi?” asked they. “They tell,” replied Bahram, “(but Allah alone is All knowing) the following tale of

Ni’amah bin al-Rabi’a and Naomi his Slave-girl.

There lived once in the city of Cufa1 a man called Al–Rabí‘a bin Hátim, who was one of the chief men of the town, a wealthy and a healthy, and Heaven had vouchsafed him a son, whom he named Ni’amah Allah.2 One day, being in the slave-brokers’ mart, he saw a woman exposed for sale with a little maid of wonderful beauty and grace on her arm. So he beckoned to the broker and asked him, “How much for this woman and her daughter?” He answered “Fifty dinars.” Quoth Al–Rabi’a “Write the contract of sale and take the money and give it to her owner.” Then he gave the broker the price and his brokerage and taking the woman and her child, carried them to his house. Now when the daughter of his uncle who was his wife saw the slave, she said to her husband, “O my cousin, what is this damsel?” He replied, “Of a truth, I bought her for the sake of the little one on her arm; for know that, when she groweth up, there will not be her like for beauty, either in the land of the Arabs or the Ajams.” His wife remarked, “Right was thy rede”, and said to the woman “What is thy name?” She replied, “O my lady, my name is Tauflík.3” “And what is thy daughter’s name?” asked she? Answered the slave, “Sa’ad, the happy.” Rejoined her mistress; “Thou sayst sooth, thou art indeed happy, and happy is he who hath bought thee.” Then quoth she to her husband, “O my cousin, what wilt thou call her?”; and quoth he, “Whatso thou chooses”; so she said, “Then let us call her Naomi,” and he rejoined “Good is thy device.” The little Naomi was reared with Al–Rabi’a’s son Ni’amah in one cradle, so to speak, till the twain reached the age of ten and each grew handsomer than the other; and the boy used to address her, “O my sister!” and she, “O my brother!”, till they came to that age when Al–Rabi’a said to Ni’amah, “O my son, Naomi is not thy sister but thy slave. I bought her in thy name whilst thou wast yet in the cradle; so call her no more sister from this day forth.” Quoth Ni’amah, “If that be so, I will take her to wife.” Then he went to his mother and told her of this, and she said to him, “O my son, she is thy handmaid.” So he wedded and went in unto Naomi and loved her; and two4 years passed over them whilst in this condition, nor was there in all Cufa a fairer girl than Naomi, or a sweeter or a more graceful. As she grew up she learnt the Koran and read works of science and excelled in music and playing upon all kinds of instruments; and in the beauty of her singing she surpassed all the folk of her time. Now one day as she sat with her husband in the wine chamber, she took the lute, tightened the strings, and sang these two couplets,

“While thou’rt my lord whose bounty’s my estate,

A sword whereby my woes to annihilate,

Recourse I never need to Amru or Zayd,5

Nor aught save thee if way to me grow strait!”

Ni’amah was charmed with these verses and said to her, “By my life, O Naomi, sing to us with the tambourine and other instruments!” So she sang these couplets to a lively measure,

“By His life who holds my guiding rein, I swear

I’ll meet on love ground parlous foe nor care:

Good sooth I’ll vex revilers, thee obey

And quit my slumbers and all joy forswear:

And for thy love I’ll dig in vitals mine

A grave, nor shall my vitals weet ’tis there!”

And Ni’amah exclaimed, “Heaven favoured art thou, O Naomi!” But whilst they led thus the most joyous life, behold! Al–Hajjáj,6 the Viceroy of Cufa said to himself, “Needs must I contrive to take this girl named Naomi and send her to the Commander of the Faithful, Abd al-Malik bin Marwán, for he hath not in his palace her like for beauty and sweet singing.” So he summoned an old woman of the duennas of his wives and said to her, “Go to the house of Al–Rabi’a and foregather with the girl Naomi and combine means to carry her off; for her like is not to be found on the face of the earth.” She promised to do his bidding; the next morning she donned the woollen clothes of a devotee and hung around her neck a rosary of beads by the thousand; and, henting in hand a staff and a leather water bottle of Yamani manufacture. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 The name is indifferently derived from the red sand about the town or the reeds and mud with which it was originally built. It was founded by the Caliph Omar, when the old Capital–Madáin (Ctesiphon) opposite was held unwholesome, on the West bank of the Euphrates, four days’ march from Baghdad and has now disappeared. Al–Saffáh, the first Abbaside, made it his Capital — and it became a famous seat of Moslem learning; the Kufi school of Arab Grammarians being as renowned as their opponents, the Basri (of Bassorah). It gave a name to the “Cufic” characters which are, however, of much older date.

2 “Ni’amat” = a blessing, and the word is perpetually occurring in Moslem conversation, “Ni’amatu’lláh” (as pronounced) is also a favourite P.N. and few Anglo–Indians of the Mutiny date will forget the scandalous disclosures of Munshi Ni’amatu ’llah, who had been sent to England by Nana Sahib. Nu’m = prosperity, good fortune, and a P. N. like the Heb. “Naomi.”

3 i.e. “causing to be prosperous”, the name, corrupted by the Turks to “Tevfik,” is given to either sex, e.g. Taufik Pasha of Egypt, to whose unprosperous rule and miserable career the signification certainly does not apply.

4 Lane (ii. 187) alters the two to four years.

5 i.e. “to Tom, Dick or Harry:” the names like John Doe and Richard Roe are used indefinitely in Arab. Grammar and Syntax. I have noted that Amru is written and pronounced Amr: hence Amru, the Conqueror of Egypt, when told by an astrologer that Jerusalem would be taken only by a trium literarum homo, with three letters in his name sent for the Caliph Omar (Omr), to whom the so-called Holy City at once capitulated. Hence also most probably, the tale of Bhurtpore and the Lord Alligator (Kumbhir), who however did not change from Cotton to Combermore for some time after the successful siege.

6 BinYúsuf al-Sakafi, a statesman and soldier of the seventh and eighth centuries (A.D.). He was Governor of Al–Hij az and Al–Irak under the fifth and sixth Ommiades, and I have noticed his vigorous rule of the Moslems’ Holy Land in my Pilgrimage (iii. 194, etc.). He pulled down the Ka’abah and restored it to the condition in which it now is. Al–Siyuti (p. 219) accuses him of having suborned a man to murder Ibn Omar with a poisoned javelin, and of humiliating the Prophet’s companions by “sealing them in the necks and hands,” that is he tied a thong upon the neck of each and sealed the knot with lead. In Irak he showed himself equally masterful, but an iron hand was required by the revolutionists of Kufah and Basrah. He behaved like a good Knight in rescuing the Moslem women who called upon his name when taken prisoners by Dahir of Debal (Tathá in Sind). Al–Hajjaj was not the kind of man the Caliph would have chosen for a pander; but the Shi’ahs hates him and have given him a lasting bad name. In the East men respect manly measures, not the hysterical, philanthropic pseudo-humanitarianism of our modern government which is really the cruellest of all. When Ziyád bin Abihi was sent by Caliph Mu’awiyah to reform Bassorah, a den of thieves, he informed the lieges that he intended to rule by the sword and advised all evil-doers to quit the city. The people were forbidden, under pain of teeth, to walk the streets after prayers, on the first night two hundred suffered; on the second five and none afterwards. Compare this with our civilised rule in Egypt where even bands of brigands, a phenomenon perfectly new and unknown to this century, have started up, where crime has doubled in quantity and quality, and where “Christian rule” has thoroughly scandalised a Moslem land.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old woman promised to do the bidding of Al–Hajjaj, and whenas it was morning she donned the woollen clothes of a devotee1 and hung around her neck a rosary of beads by the thousand and hent in hand a staff and a leather water bottle of Yamani manufacture and fared forth crying, “Glory be to Allah! Praised be Allah! There is no god but the God! Allah is Most Great! There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!” Nor did she leave off her lauds and her groaning in prayer whilst her heart was full of guile and wiles, till she came to the house of Ni’amah bin al-Rabi’a at the hour of noon prayer, and knocked at the door. The doorkeeper opened and said to her, “What dost thou want?” Quoth she, “I am a poor pious woman, whom the time of noon prayer hath overtaken, and fief would I pray in this blessed place.” Answered the porter, “O old woman, this is no mosque nor oratory, but the house of Ni’amah son of al Rabi’a.” She replied, “I know there is neither cathedral-mosque nor oratory like the house of Ni’amah bin al-Rabi’a. I am a chamberwoman of the palace of the Prince of True Believers and am come out for worship and the visitation of Holy Places.” But the porter rejoined, “Thou canst not enter;” and many words passed between them, till at last she caught hold and hung to him saying, “Shall the like of me be denied admission to the house of Ni’amah bin al-Rabi’a, I who have free access to the houses of Emirs and Grandees?” Anon, out came Ni’amah and, hearing their loud language, laughed and bade the old woman enter after him. So she followed him into the presence of Naomi, whom she saluted after the godliest and goodliest fashion, and, when she looked on her, she was confounded at her exceeding seemliness and said to her, “O my lady, I commend thee to the safeguard of Allah, who made thee and thy lord fellows in beauty and loveliness!” Then she stood up in the prayer niche and betook herself to inclination and prostration and prayer, till day departed and night darkened and starkened, when Naomi said to her, “O my mother, rest thy legs and feet awhile.” Replied the old woman “O my lady, whoso seeketh the world to come let him weary him in this world, and whoso wearieth not himself in this world shall not attain the dwellings of the just in the world to come.” Then Naomi brought her food and said to her, “Eat of my bread and pray Heaven to accept my penitence and to have mercy on me.” But she cried, “O my lady, I am fasting. As for thee, thou art but a girl and it befitteth thee to eat and drink and make merry; Allah be indulgent to thee!; for the Almighty saith: All shall be punished except him who shall repent and believe and shall work a righteous work.”2 So Naomi continued sitting with the old woman in talk and presently said to Ni’amah, “O my lord, conjure this ancient dame to sojourn with us awhile, for piety and devotion are imprinted on her countenance.” Quoth he, “Set apart for her a chamber where she may say her prayers; and suffer no one to go in to her: peradventure, Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) shall prosper us by the blessing of her presence and never separate us.” So the old woman passed her night in praying and reciting the Koran; and when Allah caused the morn to dawn, she went in to Ni’amah and Naomi and, giving them good morning, said to them, “I pray Allah have you in His holy keeping!” Quoth Naomi, “Whither away, O my mother? My lord hath bidden me set apart for thee a chamber, where thou mayst seclude thee for thy devotions.” Replied the old woman, “Allah give him long life, and continue His favour to you both! But I would have you charge the doorkeeper not to stay my coming in to you; and, Inshallah! I will go the round of the Holy Places and pray for you two at the end of my devotions every day and night.” Then she went out (whilst Naomi wept for parting with her knowing not the cause of her coming), and returned to Al–Hajjaj who said to her, “As thou do my bidding soon, thou shalt have of me abundant good.” Quoth she, “I ask of thee a full month;” and quoth he “Take the month.” Thereupon the old hag fell to daily visiting Ni’amah’s house and frequented his slave-wife, Naomi. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 The old bawd’s portrait is admirably drawn: all we dwellers in the East have known her well: she is so and so. Her dress and manners are the same amongst the Hindus (see the hypocritical-female ascetic in the Katha, p. 287) as amongst the Moslems; men of the world at once recognise her and the prudent keep out of her way. She is found in the cities of Southern Europe, ever pious, ever prayerful; and she seems to do her work not so much for profit as for pure or impure enjoyment. In the text her task was easy, as she had to do with a pair of innocents.

2 Koran, xxv. 70. I give Sale’s version.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old hag fell to visiting daily Ni’amah’s house and frequenting his slave wife, Naomi; and both ceased not to honour her, and she used to go in to them morning and evening and all in the house respected her till, one day, being alone with Naomi, she said to her, “O my lady! by Allah, when I go to the Holy Places, I will pray for thee; and I only wish thou wert with me, that thou mightest look on the Elders of the Faith who resort thither, and they should pray for thee, according to thy desire.” Naomi cried, “I conjure thee by Allah take me with thee!”; and she replied, “Ask leave of thy mother in law, and I will take thee.” So Naomi said to her husband’s mother, “O my lady, ask my master to let us go forth, me and thee, one day with this my old mother, to prayer and worship with the Fakirs in the Holy Places.” Now when Ni’amah came in and sat down, the old woman went up to him and would have kissed his hand, but he forbade her; so she invoked blessings1 on him and left the house. Next day she came again, in the absence of Ni’amah, and she addressed Naomi, saying, “We prayed for thee yesterday; but arise now and divert thyself and return ere thy lord come home.” So Naomi said to her mother-in-law, “I beseech thee, for Allah’s sake, give me leave to go with this pious woman, that I may sight the saints of Allah in the Holy Places, and return speedily ere my lord come back.” Quoth Ni’amah’s mother, “I fear lest thy lord know;” but said the old woman, “By Allah, I will not let her take seat on the floor; no, she shall look, standing on her feet, and not tarry.” So she took the damsel by guile and, carrying her to Al–Hajjaj’s palace, told him of her coming, after placing her in a lonely chamber; whereupon he went in to her and, looking upon her, saw her to be the loveliest of the people of the day, never had he beheld her like. Now when Naomi caught sight of him she veiled her face from him; but he left her not till he had called his Chamberlain, whom he commanded to take fifty horsemen; and he bade him mount the damsel on a swift dromedary, and bear her to Damascus and there deliver her to the Commander of the Faithful, Abd al-Malik bin Marwan. Moreover, he gave him a letter for the Caliph, saying, “Bear him this letter and bring me his answer and hasten thy return to me.” So the Chamberlain, without losing time, took the damsel (and she tearful for separation from her lord) and, setting out with her on a dromedary, gave not over journeying till he reached Damascus. There he sought audience of the Commander of the Faithful and, when it was granted, the Chamberlain delivered the damsel and reported the circumstance. The Caliph appointed her a separate apartment and going into his Harim, said to his wife, “Al Hajjaj hath bought me a slave-girl of the daughters of the Kings of Cufa2 for ten thousand dinars, and hath sent me this letter.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Easterns, I have observed, have no way of saying “Thank you;” they express it by a blessing or a short prayer. They have a right to your surplus: daily bread is divided, they say and, eating yours, they consider it their own. I have discussed this matter in Pilgrimage i. 75–77, in opposition to those who declare that “gratitude” is unknown to Moslems.

2 Cufa (Kufah) being a modern place never had a “King,” but as the Hindu says, “ Delhi is far” it is a far cry to Loch Awe. Here we can hardly understand “Malik” as Governor or Viceroy: can it be syn. with Zú-mál-(moneyed)?

When it was the Two Hundred and Fortieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph acquainted his wife with the story of the slave-girl, she said to him, “Allah increase to thee His favour!” Then the Caliph’s sister went in to the supposed slave-girl and, when she saw her, she said, “By Allah, not unlucky is the man who hath thee in his house, were thy cost an hundred thousand dinars!” And Naomi replied, “O fair of face, what King’s palace is this, and what is the city?” She answered, “This is the city of Damascus, and this is the palace of my brother, the Commander of the Faithful, Abd al-Malik bin Marwan.1” Then she resumed, “Didst thou not know all this?” Naomi said, “By Allah, O my lady, I had no knowledge of it!”; when the other asked, “And he who sold thee and took thy price did he not tell thee that the Caliph had bought thee?” Now when Naomi heard these words, she shed tears and said to herself, “Verily, I have been tricked and the trick hath succeeded,” adding to herself, “If I speak, none will credit me; so I will hold my peace and take patience, for I know that the relief of Allah is near.” Then she bent her head for shame, and indeed her cheeks were tanned by the journey and the sun. So the Caliph’s sister left her that day and returned to her on the morrow with clothes and necklaces of jewels, and dressed her; after which the Caliph came in to her and sat down by her side, and his sister said to him, “Look on this handmaid in whom Allah hath conjoined every perfection of beauty and loveliness.” So he said to Naomi, “Draw back the veil from thy face;” but she would not unveil, and he beheld not her face. However, he saw her wrists and love of her entered his heart; and he said to his sister, “I will not go in unto her for three days, till she be cheered by thy converse.” Then he arose and left her, but Naomi ceased not to brood over her case and sigh for her separation from her master, Ni’amah, till she fell sick of a fever during the night and ate not nor drank; and her favour faded and her charms were changed. They told the Caliph of this and her condition grieved him; so he visited her with physicians and men of skill, but none could come at a cure for her. This is how it fared with her; but as regards Ni’amah, when he returned home he sat down on his bed and cried, “Ho, Naomi!” But she answered not; so he rose in haste and called out, yet none came to him, as all the women in the house had hidden themselves for fear of him. Then he went out to his mother, whom he found sitting with her cheek on her hand, and said to her, “O my mother, where is Naomi?” She answered, “O my son, she is with one who is worthier than I to be trusted with her, namely, the devout old woman; she went forth with her to visit devotionally the Fakirs and return.” Quoth Ni’amah, “Since when hath this been her habit and at what hour went she forth?” Quoth his mother, “She went out early in the morning.” He asked, “And how camest thou to give her leave for this?”; and she answered, “O my son, ’twas she persuaded me.” “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!” exclaimed Ni’amah and, going forth from his home in a state of distraction, he repaired to the Captain of the Watch to whom said he, “Doss thou play tricks upon me and steal-my slave-girl away from my house? I will assuredly complain of thee to the Commander of the Faithful.” Said the Chief of Police, “Who hath taken her?” and Ni’amah replied, “An old woman of such and such a mien, clad in woollen raiment and carrying a rosary of beads numbered by thousands.” Rejoined the other, “Find me the old woman and I will get thee back thy slave-girl.” “And who knows the old woman?” retorted Ni’amah. “And who knows the hidden things save Allah (may He be extolled and exalted!)?” cried the Chief, who knew her for Al–Hajjaj’s procuress. Cried Ni’amah, “I look to thee for my slave-girl, and Al–Hajjaj shall judge between thee and me;” and the Master of Police answered, “Go to whom thou wilt.” So Ni’amah went to the palace of Al–Hajjaj, for his father was one of the chief men of Cufa; and, when he arrived there, the Chamberlain went in to the Governor and told him the case; whereupon Al–Hajjaj said, “Hither with him!” and when he stood before him enquired, “What be thy business?” Said Ni’amah, “Such and such things have befallen me;” and the Governor said, “Bring me the Chief of Police, and we will commend him to seek for the old woman.” Now he knew that the Chief of Police was acquainted with her; so, when he came, he said to him, “I wish thee to make search for the slave-girl of Ni’amah son of Al–Rabi’a.” And he answered, “None knoweth the hidden things save Almighty Allah.” Rejoined Al–Hajjaj, “There is no help for it but thou send out horsemen and look for the damsel in all the roads, and seek for her in the towns.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Abd al-Malik has been before mentioned as the “Sweat of a Stone,” etc. He died recommending Al–Hajjaj to his son, Al–Walid, and one of his sayings is still remembered. “He who desireth to take a female slave for carnal-enjoyment, let him take a native of Barbary; if he need one for the sake of children, let him have a Persian; and whoso desireth one for service, let him take a Greek.” Moderns say, “If you want a brother (in arms) try a Nubian; one to get you wealth an Abyssinian and if you want an ass (for labour) a Sáwahíli, or Zanzibar negroid.”

When it was the Two Hundred and Forty–First Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Al–Hajjaj said to the Captain of the Watch, “There is no help for it but thou send out horsemen, and look for the damsel on all the roads and seek for her in the towns.” Then he turned to Ni’amah and said to him, “And thy slave-girl return not, I will give thee ten slave-girls from my house and ten from that of the Chief of Police.” And he again bade the Captain of the Watch, “Go and seek for the girl.” So he went out, and Ni’amah returned home full of trouble and despairing of life; for he had now reached the age of fourteen and there was yet no hair on his side cheeks. So he wept and lamented and shut himself up from his household; and ceased not to weep and lament, he and his mother, till the morning, when his father came in to him and said, “O my son, of a truth, Al–Hajjaj hath put a cheat upon the damsel and hath taken her; but from hour to hour Allah giveth relief.” However grief redoubled on Ni’amah, so that he knew not what he said nor knew he who came in to him, and he fell sick for three months his charms were changed, his father despaired of him and the physicians visited him and said, “There is no remedy for him save the damsel.” Now as his father was sitting one day, behold he heard tell of a skillful Persian physician, whom the folk gave out for perfect in medicine and astrology and geomancy. So Al–Rabi’a sent for him and, seating him by his side, entreated him with honour and said to him, “Look into my son’s case.” Thereupon quoth he to Ni’amah, “Give me thy hand.” The young man gave him his hand and he felt his pulse and his joints and looked in his face; then he laughed and, turning to his father, said, “Thy son’s sole ailment is one of the heart.”1 He replied, Thou sayest sooth, O sage, but apply thy skill to his state and case, and acquaint me with the whole thereof and hide naught from me of his condition.” Quoth the Persian, “Of a truth he is enamoured of a slave-girl and this slave-girl is either in Bassorah or Damascus; and there is no remedy for him but reunion with her.” Said Al–Rabi’a, “An thou bring them together, thou shalt live all thy life in wealth and delight.” Answered the Persian, “In good sooth this be an easy matter and soon brought about,” and he turned to Ni’amah and said to him, “No hurt shall befall thee; so be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear.” Then quoth he to Al–Rabi’a, “Bring me out four thousand dinars of your money;” so he gave them to him, and he added, “I wish to carry thy son with me to Damascus; and Almighty Allah willing, I will not return thence but with the damsel.” Then he turned to the youth and asked, “What is thy name?”; and he answered “Ni’amah.” Quoth the Persian, “O Ni’amah, sit up and be of good heart, for Allah will reunite thee with the damsel.” And when he sat up the leach continued, “Be of good cheer for we set out for Damascus this very day: put thy trust in the Lord and eat and drink and be cheerful so as to fortify thyself for travel.” Upon this the Persian began making preparation of all things needed, such as presents and rarities; and he took of Al–Rabi’a in all the sum of ten thousand dinars, together with horses and camels and beasts of burden and other requisites. Then Ni’amah farewelled his father and mother and journeyed with the physician to Aleppo. They could find no news of Naomi there so they fared on to Damascus, where they abode three days, after which the Persian took a shop and he adorned even the shelves with vessels of costly porcelain, with covers of silver, and with gildings and stuffs of price. Moreover, he set before himself vases and flagons of glass full of all manner of ointments and ups, and he surrounded them with cups of crystal — and, placing astrolabe and geomantic tablet facing him, he donned a physician’s habit and took his seat in the shop. Then he set Ni’amah standing before him clad in a shirt and gown of silk and, girding his middle with a silken kerchief gold-embroidered, said to him, “O Ni’amah, henceforth thou art my son; so call me naught but sire, and I will call thee naught but son.” And he replied, “I hear and I obey.” Thereupon the people of Damascus flocked to the Persian’s shop that they might gaze on the youth’s goodliness and the beauty of the shop and its contents, whilst the physician spoke to Ni’amah in Persian and he answered him in the same tongue, for he knew the language, after the wont of the sons of the notables. So that Persian doctor soon became known among the townsfolk and they began to acquaint him with their ailments, and he to prescribe for them remedies. Moreover, they brought him the water of the sick in phials,2 and he would test it and say, “He, whose water this is, is suffering from such and such a disease,” and the patient would declare, “Verily this physician sayeth sooth.” So he continued to do the occasions of the folk and they to flock to him, till his fame spread throughout the city and into the houses of the great. Now, one day as he sat in his-shop, behold, there came up an old woman riding on an ass with a stuffed saddle of brocade embroidered with jewels; and, stopping before the Persian’s shop, drew rein and beckoned him, saying, “Take my hand.” He took her hand, and she alighted and asked him “Art thou the Persian physician from Irak?” “Yes,” answered he, and she said, “Know that I have a sick daughter.” Then she brought out to him a phial — and the Persian looked at it and said to her, “O my mistress, tell me thy daughter’s name, that I may calculate her horoscope and learn the hour in which it will befit her to drink medicine.” She replied, “O my brother the Persian,3 her name is Naomi.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Probably suggested by the history of Antiochus and Stratonice, with an addition of Eastern mystery such as geomancy.

2 Arab, “Kárúrah”: the “water-doctor” has always been an institution in the east and he has lately revived in Europe especially at the German baths and in London.

3 Lane makes this phrase “O brother of the Persians!” synonymous with “O Persian!” I think it means more, a Persian being generally considered “too clever by half.”

When it was the Two Hundred and Forty-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Persian heard the name of Naomi, he fell to calculating and writing on his hand and presently said, “O my lady, I cannot prescribe a medicine for her till I know what country woman she is, because of the difference of climate: so tell me in what land she was brought up and what is her age.” The old woman replied “She is fourteen years old and she was brought up in Cufa of Irak.” He asked, “And how long hath she sojourned in this country?” “But a few months,” answered she. Now when Ni’amah heard the old woman’s words and recognised the name of his slave-girl, his heart fluttered and he was like to faint. Then said the Persian, “Such and such medicines will suit her case;” and the old woman rejoined, “Then make them up and give me what thou hast mentioned, with the blessing of Almighty Allah.” So saying, she threw upon the shop board ten gold pieces, and he looked at Ni’amah and bade him prepare the necessary drugs; whereupon she also looked at the youth and exclaimed, “Allah have thee in his keeping, O my son! Verily, she favoureth thee in age and mien.” Then said she to the physician, “O my brother the Persian, is this thy slave or thy son?” “He is my son,” answered he. So Ni’amah put up the medicine and, placing it in a little box, took a piece of paper and wrote thereon these two couplets,1

“If Naomi bless me with a single glance,

Let Su’adá sue and

Juml joy to

They said, “Forget her: twenty such thou’lt find.”

But none is like her — I will not forget!”

He pressed the paper into the box and, sealing it up, wrote upon the cover the following words in Cufic characters, “I am Ni’amah of al-Rabi’a of Cufa.” Then he set it before the old woman who took it and bade them farewell and returned to the Caliph’s palace, and when she went up with the drugs to the damsel she placed the little box of medicine at her feet, saying, “O my lady, know that there is lately come to our town a Persian physician, than whom I never saw a more skilful nor a better versed in matters of malady. I told him thy name, after showing him the water-bottle, and forthwith he knew thine ailment and prescribed a remedy. Then he bade his son make thee up this medicine; and there is not in Damascus a comelier or a seemlier youth than this lad of his, nor hath anyone a shop the like of his shop.” So Naomi took the box and, seeing the names of her lord and his father written on the cover, changed colour and said to herself, “Doubtless, the owner of this shop is come in search of me.” So she said to the old woman, “Describe to me this youth.” Answered the old woman, “His name is Ni’amah, he hath a mole on his right eyebrow, is richly clad and is perfectly handsome.” Cried Naomi, “Give me the medicine, whereon be the blessing and help of Almighty Allah!” So she drank off the potion (and she laughing) and said, “Indeed, it is a blessed medicine!” Then she sought in the box and, finding the paper, opened it, read it, understood it and knew that this was indeed her lord, whereas her heart was solaced and she rejoiced. Now when the old woman saw her laughing, she exclaimed, “This is indeed a blessed day!”; and Naomi said, “O nurse, I have a mind for something to eat and drink.” The old woman said to the serving women, “Bring a tray of dainty viands for your mistress;” whereupon they set food before her and she sat down to eat. And behold in came the Caliph who, seeing her sitting at meat, rejoiced; and the old woman said to him, “O Commander of the Faithful, I give thee joy of thy hand maid Naomi’s recovery! And the cause is that there is lately come to this our city a physician than whom I never saw a better versed in diseases and their remedies. I fetched her medicine from him and she hath drunken of it but once and is restored to health.” Quoth he, “Take a thousand dinars and apply thyself to her treatment, till she be completely recovered.” And he went away, rejoicing in the damsel’s recovery, whilst the old woman betook herself to the Persian’s house and delivered the thousand dinars, giving him to know that she was become the Caliph’s slave and also handing him a letter which Naomi had written. He took it and gave the letter to Ni’amah, who at first sight knew her hand and fell down in a swoon. When he revived he opened the letter and found these words written therein: “From the slave despoiled of her Ni’amah, her delight; her whose reason hath been beguiled and who is parted from the core of her heart. But afterwards of a truth thy letter hath reached me and hath broadened my breast, and solaced my soul, even as saith the poet,

“Thy note came: long lost hungers wrote that note,

Till drop they sweetest scents for what they wrote:

Twas Moses to his mother’s arms restored;

’Twas Jacob’s eye-sight cured by Joseph’s coat!”2

When Ni’amah read these verses, his eyes ran over with tears and the old woman said to him, “What maketh thee to weep, O my son? Allah never cause thine eye to shed tears!” Cried the Persian, “O my lady, how should my son not weep, seeing that this is his slave-girl and he her lord, Ni’amah son of al-Rabi’a of Cufa; and her health dependeth on her seeing him, for naught aileth her but loving him. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 The verses deal in untranslatable word-plays upon women’s names, Naomi (the blessing) Su’adá or Su’ád (the happy, which Mr. Redhouse, in Ka’ab’s Mantle-poem, happily renders Beatrice); and Juml (a sum or total) the two latter, moreover, being here fictitious.

2 “And he (Jacob) turned from them, and said, ‘O how I am grieved for Joseph’ And his eyes became white with mourning. . . . (Quoth Joseph to his brethren), ‘Take this my inner garment and throw it on my father’s face and he shall recover his sight.’ . . . So, when the messenger of good tidings came (to Jacob) he threw it (the shirt) over his face and he recovered his eye-sight.” Koran, xii. 84, 93, 96. The commentators, by way of improvement, assure us that the shirt was that worn by Abraham when thrown into the fire (Koran, chaps. xvi.) by Nimrod (!). We know little concerning “Jacob’s daughters” who named the only bridge spanning the upper Jordan, and who have a curious shrine tomb near Jewish “Safe” (North of Tiberias), one of the four “Holy Cities.” The Jews ignore these “daughters of Jacob” and travellers neglect them.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Persian cried out to the old woman, “How shall my son not weep, seeing that this is his slave-girl and he her lord, Ni’amah son of al-Rabi’a of Cufa; and the health of this damsel dependeth on her seeing him and naught aileth her but loving him. So, do thou, O my lady, take these thousand dinars to thyself and thou shalt have of me yet more than this; only look on us with eyes of rush; for we know not how to bring this affair to a happy end save through thee.” Then she said to Ni’amah, “Say, art thou indeed her lord?” He replied, “Yes,” and she rejoined, “Thou sayest sooth; for she ceaseth not continually to name thee.” Then he told her all that had passed from first to last, and she said, “O youth, thou shalt owe thy reunion with her to none but myself.” So she mounted and, at once returning to Naomi, looked in her face and laughed saying, “It is just, O my daughter, that thou weep and fall sick for thy separation from thy master, Ni’amah, son of Al–Rabi’a of Cufa.” Quoth Naomi, “Verily, the veil hath been withdrawn for thee and the truth revealed to thee.” Rejoined the old woman, “Be of good cheer and take heart, for I will assuredly bring you together, though it cost me my life.” Then she returned to Ni’amah and said to him, “I went to thy slave-girl and conversed with her, and I find that she longeth for thee yet more than thou for her; for although the Commander of the Faithful is minded to become intimate with her, she refuseth herself to him. But if thou be stout of purpose and firm of heart, I will bring you together and venture my life for you, and play some trick and make shift to carry thee into the Caliph’s palace, where thou shalt meet her, for she cannot come forth.” And Ni’amah answered, “Allah requite thee with good!” Then she took leave of him and went back to Naomi and said, “Thy lord is indeed dying of love for thee and would fain see thee and foregather with thee. What sayest thou?” Naomi replied, “And I too am longing for his sight and dying for his love.” Whereupon the old woman took a parcel of women’s clothes and ornaments and, repairing to Ni’amah, said to him, “Come with me into some place apart.” So he brought her into the room behind the shop where she stained his hands and decked his wrists and plaited his hair, after which she clad him in a slave-girl’s habit and adorned him after the fairest fashion of woman’s adornment, till he was as one of the Houris of the Garden of Heaven, and when she saw him thus she exclaimed, “Blessed be Allah, best of Creators! By Allah, thou art handsomer than the damsel.1 Now, walk with thy left shoulder forwards and thy right well behind, and sway thy hips from side to side.”2 So he walked before her, as she bade him; and, when she saw he had caught the trick of woman’s gait, she said to him, “Expect me tomorrow night, and Allah willing, I will take and carry thee to the palace. But when thou seest the Chamberlains and the Eunuchs be bold, and bow thy head and speak not with any, for I will prevent their speech; and with Allah is success!” Accordingly, when the morning dawned, she returned and, carrying him to the palace, entered before him and he after her step by step. The Chamberlain would have stopped his entering, but the old woman said to him, “O most ill omened of slaves, this is the handmaid of Naomi, the Caliph’s favourite. How durst thou stay her when she would enter?” Then said she, “Come in, O damsel!”; and the old woman went in and they ceased not faring on, till they drew near the door leading to the inner piazza of the palace, when she said to him, “O Ni’amah, hearten thyself and take courage and enter and turn to the left: then count five doors and pass through the sixth, for it is that of the place prepared for thee. Fear nothing, and if any speak to thee, answer not, neither stop.” Then she went up with him to the door, and the Chamberlain there on guard accosted her, saying “What damsel is this?”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Easterns, I have remarked, mostly recognise the artistic truth that the animal-man is handsomer than woman and that “fair sex” is truly only of skin-colour. The same is the general-rule throughout creation, for instance the stallion compared with the mare, the cock with the hen; while there are sundry exceptions such as the Falconidae.

2 The Badawi (who is nothing if not horsey) compares the gait of a woman who walks well (in Europe rarely seen out of Spain) with the slightly swinging walk of a thoroughbred mare, bending her graceful neck and looking from side to side at objects as she passes.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Chamberlain accosted the old woman, saying, “What damsel is this?”; quoth the ancient dame, “Our lady hath a mind to buy her;” and he rejoined, “None may enter save by leave of the Commander of the Faithful; so do thou go back with her. I can not let her pass for thus am I commanded.” Replied the old woman, “O Chief Chamberlain, use thy reason. Thou knowest that Naomi, the Caliph’s slave-girl, of whom he is enamoured, is but now restored to health and the Commander of the Faithful hardly yet crediteth her recovery. She is minded to buy this hand maid; so oppose thou not her entrance, lest haply it come to Naomi’s knowledge and she be wroth with thee and suffer a relapse and this cause thy head to be cut off.” Then said she to Ni’amah, “Enter, O damsel; pay no heed to what he saith and tell not the Queen-consort that her Chamberlain opposed thine entrance.” So Ni’amah bowed his head and entered the palace, and would have turned to the left, but mistook the direction and walked to his right; and, meaning to count five doors and enter the sixth, he counted six and entering the seventh, found himself in a place whose floor was carpeted with brocade and whose walls were hung with curtains of gold-embroidered silk. And therein stood censers of aloes-wood and ambergris and strong-scented musk, and at the upper end was a couch bespread with cloth of gold on which he seated himself, marvelling at the magnificence he saw and knowing not what was written for him in the Secret Purpose. As he sat musing on his case, the Caliph’s sister, followed by her handmaid, came in upon him; and, seeing the youth seated there took him for a slave-girl and accosted him and said, “Who art thou O damsel? and what is thy case and who brought thee hither?” He made no reply, and was silent, when she continued, “O damsel! if thou be one of my brother’s concubines and he be wroth with thee, I will intercede with him for thee and get thee grace.” But he answered her not a word; so she said to her slave-girl, “Stand at the door and let none enter.” Then she went up to Ni’amah and looking at him was amazed at his beauty and said to him, “O lady, tell me who thou art and what is thy name and how thou camest here; for I have never seen thee in our palace.” Still he answered not, whereat she was angered and, putting her hand to his bosom, found no breasts and would have unveiled him, that she might know who he was; but he said to her, “O my lady, I am thy slave and I cast myself on thy protection: do thou protect me.” She said, “No harm shall come to thee, but tell me who thou art and who brought thee into this my apartment.” Answered he, “O Princess, I am known as Ni’amah bin al-Rabi’a of Cufa and I have ventured my life for the sake of my slave-girl, Naomi, whom Al–Hajjaj took by sleight and sent hither.” Said she, “Fear not: no harm shall befall thee;” then, calling her maid, she said to her, “Go to Naomi’s chamber and send her to me.” Meanwhile the old woman went to Naomi’s bedroom and said to her, “Hath thy lord come to thee?” “No, by Allah!” answered Naomi, and the other said, “Belike he hath gone astray and entered some chamber other than thine and lost himself.” So Naomi cried, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Our last hour is come and we are all lost.” And while they were sitting and sadly enough pondering their case, in came the Princess’s handmaid and saluting Naomi said to her, “My lady biddeth thee to her banquet.” “I hear and I obey,” answered the damsel and the old woman said, “Belike thy lord is with the Caliph’s sister and the veil of secrecy hath been rent.” So Naomi at once sprang up and betook herself to the Princess, who said to her, “Here is thy lord sitting with me; it seemeth he hath mistaken the place; but, please Allah, neither thou nor he has any cause for fear.” When Naomi heard these words, she took heart of grace and went up to Ni’amah; and her lord when he saw her. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ni’amah saw his handmaid Naomi, he rose to meet her and strained her to his bosom and both fell to the ground fainting. As soon as they came to themselves, the Caliph’s sister said to them, “Sit ye down and take we counsel for your deliverance from this your strait.” And they answered, “O our lady, we hear and obey: it is thine to command.” Quoth she, “By Allah, no harm shall befall you from us!” Then she bade her handmaids bring meat and drink which was done, and they sat down and ate till they had enough, after which they sat drinking. Then the cup went round amongst them and their cares ceased from them; but Ni’amah said, “Would I knew how this will end.” The Princess asked, “O Ni’amah, dost thou love thy slave Naomi?”; and he answered, “Of a truth it is my passion for her which hath brought me to this state of peril for my life.” Then said she to the damsel, “O Naomi, dost thou love thy lord Ni’amah?”; and she replied, “O my lady, it is the love of him which hath wasted my body and brought me to evil case.” Rejoined the Princess, “By Allah, since ye love each other thus, may he not be who would part you! Be of good cheer and keep your eyes cool and clear.” At this they both rejoiced and Naomi called for a lute and, when they brought it, she took it and tuned it and played a lively measure which enchanted the hearers, and after the prelude sang these couplets,

“When the slanderers cared but to part us twain,

We owed no blood-debt could raise their ire

And they poured in our ears all the din of war,

And aid failed and friends, when my want was dire:

I fought them hard with mine eyes and tears;

With breath and sword, with the stream and fire!”

Then Naomi gave the lute to her master, Ni’amah, saying, “Sing thou to us some verse.” So he took it and playing a lively measure, intoned these couplets,

“Full Moon if unfreckled would favour thee,

And Sun uneclipsed would reflect thy blee:

I wonder (but love is of wonders full

And ardour and passion and ecstasy)

How short the way to my love I fare,

Which, from her faring, so long I see.”

Now when he had made an end of his song, Naomi filled the cup and gave it to him, and he took it and drank it off; then she filled again and gave the cup to the Caliph’s sister who also emptied it; after which the Princess in her turn took the lute and tightened the strings and tuned it and sang these two couplets,

“Grief, cark and care in my heart reside,

And the fires of love in my breast

My wasted form to all eyes shows clear;

For Desire my body hath mortified.”

Then she filled the cup and gave it to Naomi, who drank it off and taking the lute, sang these two couplets,

“O to whom I gave soul which thou tortures”,

And in vain I’d recover from fair Unfaith

Do grant thy favours my care to cure

Ere I die, for this be my latest breath.”

And they ceased not to sing verses and drink to the sweet sound of the strings, full of mirth and merriment and joy and jollity till behold! in came the Commander of the Faithful. Now when they saw him, they rose and kissed the ground before him; and he, seeing Naomi with the lute in her hand, said to her, “O Naomi, praised be Allah who hath done away from thee sickness and suffering!” Then he looked at Ni’amah (who was still disguised as a woman), and said to the Princess, “O my sister, what damsel is this by Naomi’s side?” She replied, “O Commander of the Faithful, thou hast here a handmaid, one of thy concubines and the bosom friend of Naomi who will neither eat nor drink without her.” And she repeated the words of the poet,

“Two contraries, and both concur in opposite charms,

And charms so contraried by contrast lovelier show.”

Quoth the Caliph, “By Allah Omnipotent, verily she is as handsome as Naomi, and to-morrow I will appoint her a separate chamber beside that of her friend and send her furniture and stuffs and all that befitteth her, in honour of Naomi.” Then the Princess called for food and set it before her brother, who ate and made himself at home in their place and company. Then filling a cup he signed to Naomi to sing; so she took the lute, after draining two of them and sang these two couplets,

“Since my toper-friend in my hand hath given

Three cups that brim and bubble, e’er since

I’ve trailed my skirts throughout night for pride

As tho’,

Prince of the Faithful, I were thy Prince!”

The Prince of True Believers was delighted and filling another cup, gave it to Naomi and bade her sing again; so after draining the cup and sweeping the strings, she sang as follows:—

“O most noble of men in this time and stound,

Of whom none may boast he is equal-found!

O matchless in greatness of soul and gifts,

O thou Chief, O thou King amongst all renowned:

Lord, who dealest large boons to the Lords of Earth,

Whom thou vexest not nor dost hold them bound

The Lord preserve thee, and spoil thy foes,

And ne’er cease thy lot with good Fortune crowned!”

Now when the Caliph heard these couplets, he exclaimed, “By Allah, good! By Allah, excellent! Verily the Lord hath been copious1 to thee, O Naomi! How clever is thy tongue and how dear is thy speech!” And they ceased not their mirth and good cheer till midnight, when the Caliph’s sister said to him, “Give ear, O Commander of the Faithful to a tale I have read in books of a certain man of rank.” “And what is this tale?” quoth he. Quoth she “Know, O Prince of the Faithful that there lived once in the city of Cufa a youth called Ni’amah, son of Al–Rabi’a, and he had a slave-girl whom he loved and who loved him. They had been reared in one bed; but when they grew up and mutual-love get hold of them, Fortune smote them with her calamities and Time, the tyrant, brought upon them his adversity and decreed separation unto them. Thereupon designing and slanderous folk enticed her by sleight forth of his house and, stealing her away from his home, sold her to one of the Kings for ten thousand dinars. Now the girl loved her lord even as he loved her, so he left kith and kin and house and home and the gifts of fortune, and set out to search for her and when she was found he devised means to gain access to her”. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Li’lláhi (darr’) al-káil, a characteristic idiom. “Darr”=giving (rich) milk copiously and the phrase expresses admiration, “To Allah be ascribed (or Allah be praised for) his rich eloquence who said etc. Some Hebraists would render it, “Divinely (well) did he speak who said,” etc., holding “Allah” to express a superlative like “Yah” Jah) in Gen. iv. 1; x. 9. Nimrod was a hunter to the person (or presence) of Yah, i.e. mighty hunter.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/part35.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31