They relate, O Ifrit, that in a certain city were two men who dwelt in adjoining houses, having a common party wall; and one of them envied the other and looked on him with an evil eye,1 and did his utmost endeavour to injure him; and, albeit at all times he was jealous of his neighbour, his malice at last grew on him till he could hardly eat or enjoy the sweet pleasures of sleep. But the Envied did nothing save prosper; and the more the other strove to injure him, the more he got and gained and throve. At last the malice of his neighbour and the man’s constant endeavour to work him a harm came to his knowledge; so he said, “By Allah! God’s earth is wide enough for its people;” and, leaving the neighbourhood, he repaired to another city where he bought himself a piece of land in which was a dried up draw well,2 old and in ruinous condition. Here he built him an oratory and, furnishing it with a few necessaries, took up his abode therein, and devoted himself to prayer and worshipping Allah Almighty; and Fakirs and holy mendicants docked to him from all quarters; and his fame went abroad through the city and that country side. Presently the news reached his envious neighbour, of what good fortune had befallen him and how the city notables had become his disciples; so he travelled to the place and presented himself at the holy man’s hermitage, and was met by the Envied with welcome and greeting and all honour. Then quoth the Envier, “I have a word to say to thee; and this is the cause of my faring hither, and I wish to give thee a piece of good news; so come with me to thy cell.” Thereupon the Envied arose and took the Envier by the hand, and they went in to the inmost part of the hermitage; but the Envier said, “Bid thy Fakirs retire to their cells, for I will not tell thee what I have to say, save in secret where none may hear us.” Accordingly the Envied said to his Fakirs, “Retire to your private cells;” and, when all had done as he bade them, he set out with his visitor and walked a little way until the twain reached the ruinous old well. And as they stood upon the brink the Envier gave the Envied a push which tumbled him headlong into it, unseen of any; whereupon he fared forth, and went his ways, thinking to have had slain him. Now this well happened to be haunted by the Jann who, seeing the case, bore him up and let him down little by little, till he reached the bottom, when they seated him upon a large stone. Then one of them asked his fellows, “Wot ye who be this man?” and they answered, “Nay.” “This man,” continued the speaker, “is the Envied hight who, flying from the Envier, came to dwell in our city, and here founded this holy house, and he hath edified us by his litanies3 and his lections of the Koran; but the Envier set out and journeyed till he rejoined him, and cunningly contrived to deceive him and cast him into the well where we now are. But the fame of this good man hath this very night come to the Sultan of our city who designeth to visit him on the morrow on account of his daughter.” “What aileth his daughter?” asked one, and another answered “She is possessed of a spirit; for Maymun, son of Damdam, is madly in love with her; but, if this pious man knew the remedy, her cure would be as easy as could be.” Hereupon one of them inquired, “And what is the medicine?” and he replied, “The black tom cat which is with him in the oratory hath, on the end of his tail, a white spot, the size of a dirham; let him pluck seven white hairs from the spot, then let him fumigate her therewith and the Marid will flee from her and not return; so she shall be sane for the rest of her life.” All this took place, O Ifrit, within earshot of the Envied who listened readily. When dawn broke and morn arose in sheen and shone, the Fakirs went to seek the Shaykh and found him climbing up the wall of the well; whereby he was magnified in their eyes.4 Then, knowing that naught save the black tomcat could supply him with the remedy required, he plucked the seven tail hairs from the white spot and laid them by him; and hardly had the sun risen ere the Sultan entered the hermitage, with the great lords of his estate, bidding the rest of his retinue to remain standing outside. The Envicd gave him a hearty welcome, and seating him by his side asked him, “Shall I tell thee the cause of thy coming?” The King answered, “Yes.” He continued, “Thou hast come upon pretext of a visitation;5 but it is in thy heart to question me of thy daughter.” Replied the King, “’Tis even so, O thou holy Shaykh;” and the Envied continued, “Send and fetch her, and I trust to heal her forthright (an such it be the will of Allah!)” The King in great joy sent for his daughter, and they brought her pinioned and fettered. The Envied made her sit down behind a curtain and taking out the hairs fumigated her therewith; whereupon that which was in her head cried out and departed from her. The girl was at once restored to her right mind and veiling her face, said, “What hath happened and who brought me hither?” The Sultan rejoiced with a joy that nothing could exceed, and kissed his daughter’s eyes,6 and the holy man’s hand; then, turning to his great lords, he asked, “How say ye! What fee deserveth he who hath made my daughter whole?” and all answered, “He deserveth her to wife;” and the King said, “Ye speak sooth!” So he married him to her and the Envied thus became son in law to the King. And after a little the Wazir died and the King said, “Whom can I make Minister in his stead?” “Thy son in law,” replied the courtiers. So the Envied became a Wazir; and after a while the Sultan also died and the lieges said, “Whom shall we make King?” and all cried, “The Wazir.” So the Wazir was forthright made Sultan, and he became King regnant, a true ruler of men. One day as he had mounted his horse; and, in the eminence of his kinglihood, was riding amidst his Emirs and Wazirs and the Grandees of his realm his eye fell upon his old neighbour, the Envier, who stood afoot on his path; so he turned to one of his Ministers, and said, “Bring hither that man and cause him no affright.” The Wazir brought him and the King said, “Give him a thousand miskals7 of gold from the treasury, and load him ten camels with goods for trade, and send him under escort to his own town.” Then he bade his enemy farewell and sent him away and forbore to punish him for the many and great evils he had done. See, O Ifrit, the mercy of the Envied to the Envier, who had hated him from the beginning and had borne him such bitter malice and never met him without causing him trouble; and had driven him from house and home, and then had journeyed for the sole purpose of taking his life by throwing him into the well. Yet he did not requ ite his injurious dealing, but forgave him and was bountiful to him.8 Then I wept before him, O my lady, with sore weeping, never was there sorer, and I recited:—
“Pardon my fault, for ’tis the wise man’s wont
All faults to pardon and revenge forgo:
In sooth all manner faults in me contain
Then deign of goodness mercy grace to show:
Whoso imploreth pardon from on High
Should hold his hand from sinners here below.”
Said the Ifrit, “Lengthen not thy words! As to my slaying thee fear it not, and as to my pardoning thee hope it not; but from my bewitching thee there is no escape.” Then he tore me from the ground which closed under my feet and hew with me into the firmament till I saw the earth as a large white cloud or a saucer9 in the midst of the waters. Presently he set me down on a moun fain, and taking a little dust, over which he muttered some magical words, sprinkled me therewith, saying, “Quit that shape and take thou the shape of an ape!” And on the instant I became an ape, a tail less baboon, the son of a century10. Now when he had left me and I saw myself in this ugly and hateful shape, I wept for myself, but resigned my soul to the tyranny of Time and Circumstance, well weeting that Fortune is fair and constant to no man. I descended the mountain and found at the foot a desert plain, long and broad, over which I travelled for the space of a month till my course brought me to the brink of the briny sea.11 After standing there awhile, I was ware of a ship in the offing which ran before a fair wind making for the shore. I hid myself behind a rock on the beach and waited till the ship drew near, when I leaped on board. I found her full of merchants and passengers and one of them cried, “O Captain, this ill omened brute will bring us ill luck!” and another said, “Turn this ill omened beast out from among us;” the Captain said, “Let us kill it!” another said, “Slay it with the sword;” a third, “Drown it;” and a fourth, “Shoot it with an arrow.” But I sprang up and laid hold of the Rais’s12 skirt, and shed tears which poured down my chops. The Captain took pity on me, and said, “O merchants! this ape hath appealed to me for protection and I will protect him; henceforth he is under my charge: so let none do him aught hurt or harm, otherwise there will be bad blood between us.” Then he entreated me kindly and whatsoever he said I understood and ministered to his every want and served him as a servant, albeit my tongue would not obey my wishes; so that he came to love me. The vessel sailed on, the wind being fair, for the space of fifty days; at the end of which we cast anchor under the walls of a great city wherein was a world of people, especially learned men, none could tell their number save Allah. No sooner had we arrived than we were visited by certain Mameluke officials from the King of that city; who, after boarding us, greeted the merchants and giving them joy of safe arrival said, “Our King welcometh you, and sendeth you this roll of paper, whereupon each and every of you must write a line. For ye shall know that the King’s Minister, a calligrapher of renown, is dead, and the King hath sworn a solemn oath that he will make none Wazir in his stead who cannot write as well as he couId.” Hethen gave us the scroll which measured ten cubits long by a breadth of one, and each of the merchants who knew how to write wrote a line thereon, even to the last of them; after which I stood up (still in the shape of an ape) and snatched the roll out of their hands. They feared lest I should tear it or throw it overboard; so they tried to stay me and scare me, but I signed to them that i could write, whereat all marvelled, saying, “We never yet saw an, ape write.” And the Captain cried, “Let him write; and if he scribble and scrabble we will kick him out and kill him; but if he; write fair and scholarly I will adopt him as my son; for surely I never yet saw a more intelligent and well mannered monkey than he. Would Heaven my real son were his match in morals and manners.” I took the reed, and stretching out my paw, dipped it in ink and wrote, in the hand used for letters,13 these two couplets:—
Time hath recorded gifts she gave the great;
But none recorded thine which be far higher
Allah ne’er orphan men by loss of thee
Who be of Goodness mother. Bounty’s sire.
And I wrote in Rayháni or larger letters elegantly curved14:—
Thou hast a reed15 of rede to every land,
Whose driving causeth all the world to thrive;
Nil is the Nile of Misraim by thy boons
Who makest misery smile with fingers five
Then I wrote in the Suls16 character:—
There be no writer who from Death shall fleet,
But what his hand hath writ men shall repeat:
Write, therefore, naught save what shall serve thee when
Thou see’s on Judgment–Day an so thou see’s!
Then I wrote in the character Naskh17:—
When to sore parting Fate our love shall doom,
To distant life by Destiny decreed,
We cause the inkhorn’s lips to ‘plain our pains,
And tongue our utterance with the talking reed.
And I wrote in the Túmár character18:—
Kingdom with none endures; if thou deny
This truth, where be the Kings of earlier earth?
Set trees of goodliness while rule endures,
And when thou art fallen they shall tell thy worth.
And I wrote in the character Muhakkak19:—
When oped the inkhorn of thy wealth and fame
Take ink of generous heart and gracious hand;
Write brave and noble deeds while write thou can
And win thee praise from point of pen and brand.
Then I gave the scroll to the officials and, after we all had written our line, they carried it before the King. When he saw the paper no writing pleased him save my writing; and he said to the assembled courtiers, “Go seek the writer of these lines and dress him in a splendid robe of honour; then mount him on a she mule,20 let a band of music precede him and bring him to the presence.” At these words they smiled and the King was wroth with them and cried, “O accursed! I give you an order and you laugh at me?” “O King,” replied they, “if we laugh ’tis not at thee and not without a cause.” “And what is it?” asked he; and they answered, “O King, thou orderest us to bring to thy presence the man who wrote these lines; now the truth is that he who wrote them is not of the sons of Adam,21 but an ape, a tail-less baboon, belonging to the ship captain.” Quoth he, “Is this true that you say?” Quoth they, “Yea! by the rights of thy munificence!” The King marvelled at their words and shook with mirth and said, “I am minded to buy this ape of the Captain.” Then he sent messengers to the ship with the mule, the dress, the guard and the state drums, saying, “Not the less do you clothe him in the robe of honour and mount him on the mule and let him be surrounded by the guards and preceded by the band of music.” They came to the ship and took me from the Captain and robed me in the robe of honour and, mounting me on the she mule, carried me in state procession through the streets’, whilst the people were amazed and amused. And folk said to one another, “Halloo! is our Sultan about to make an ape his Minister?”; and came all agog crowding to gaze at me, and the town was astir and turned topsy turvy on my account. When they brought me up to the King and set me in his presence, I kissed the ground before him three times, and once before the High Chamberlain and great officers, and he bade me be seated, and I sat respectfully on shins and knees,22 and all who were present marvelled at my fine manners, and the King most of all. Thereupon he ordered the lieges to retire; and, when none remained save the King’s majesty, the Eunuch on duty and a little white slave, he bade them set before me the table of food, con taining all manner of birds, whatever hoppeth and flieth and treadeth in nest, such as quail and sand grouse. Then he signed me to eat with him; so I rose and kissed ground before him, then sat me down and ate with him. And when the table was removed I washed my hands in seven waters and took the reed-case and reed; and wrote instead of speaking these couplets:—
Wail for the little partridges on porringer and plate;
Cry for the ruin of the fries and stews well marinate:
Keen as I keen for loved, lost daughters of the Katá-grouse,23
And omelette round the fair enbrowned fowls agglomerate:
O fire in heart of me for fish, those deux poissons I saw,
Bedded on new made scones24 and cakes in piles to laniate.
For thee, O vermicelli! aches my very maw! I hold
Without thee every taste and joy are clean annihilate
Those eggs have rolled their yellow eyes in torturing pains of fire
Ere served with hash and fritters hot, that delicatest cate.
Praised be Allah for His baked and roast and ah! how good
This pulse, these pot-herbs steeped in oil with eysill combinate!
When hunger sated was, I elbow-propt fell back upon
Meat pudding25 wherein gleamed the bangles that my wits amate.
Then woke I sleeping appetite to eat as though in sport
Sweets from broceded trays and kickshaws most elaborate.
Be patient, soul of me! Time is a haughty, jealous wight;
Today he seems dark-lowering and tomorrow fair to sight.26
Then I rose and seated myself at a respectful distance while the King read what I had written, and marvelled, exclaiming, “O the miracle, that an ape should be gifted with this graceful style and this power of penmanship! By Allah, ’tis a wonder of wonders!” Presently they set before the King choice wines in flagons of glass and he drank: then he passed on the cup to me; and I kissed the ground and drank and wrote on it:—
With fire they boiled me to loose my tongue,27
And pain and patience gave for fellowship:
Hence comes it hands of men upbear me high
And honey dew from lips of maid I sip!
And these also:—
Morn saith to Night, “withdraw and let me shine;”
So drain we draughts that dull all pain and pine:28
I doubt, so fine the glass, the wine so clear,
If ’tis the wine in glass or glass in twine.
The King read my verse and said with a sigh, “Were these gifts29 in a man, he would excel all the folk of his time and age!” Then he called for the chess board, and said, “Say, wilt thou play with me?”; and I signed with my head, “Yes.” Then I came forward and ordered the pieces and played with him two games, both of which I won. He was speechless with surprise; so I took the pen case and, drawing forth a reed, wrote on the board these two couplets:—
Two hosts fare fighting thro’ the livelong day
Nor is their battling ever finished,
Until, when darkness girdeth them about,
The twain go sleeping in a single bed.30
The King read these lines with wonder and delight and said to his Eunuch,31 “O Mukbil, go to thy mistress, Sitt al-Husn,32 and say her, ‘Come, speak the King who biddeth thee hither to take thy solace in seeing this right wondrous ape!”’ So the Eunuch went out and presently returned with the lady who, when she saw me veiled her face and said, “O my father! hast thou lost all sense of honour? How cometh it thou art pleased to send for me and show me to strange men?” “O Sitt al-Husn,” said he, “no man is here save this little foot page and the Eunuch who reared thee and I, thy father. Prom whom, then, cost thou veil thy face?” She answered, “This whom thou deemest an ape is a young man, a clever and polite, a wise and learned and the son of a King; but he is ensorcelled and the Ifrit Jirjaris, who is of the seed of Iblis, cast a spell upon him, after putting to death his own wife the daughter of King Ifitamus lord of the Islands of Abnus.” The King marvelled at his daughter’s words and, turning to me, said, “Is this true that she saith of thee?”; and I signed by a nod of my head the answer, “Yea, verily;” and wept sore. Then he asked his daughter, “Whence knewest thou that he is ensorcelled?”; and she answered, “O my dear papa, there was with me in my childhood an old woman, a wily one and a wise and a witch to boot, and she taught me the theory of magic and its practice; and I took notes in writing and therein waxed perfect, and have committed to memory an hundred and seventy chapters of egro mantic formulas, by the least of which I could transport the stones of thy city behind the Mountain Kaf and the Circum ambient Main,33 or make its site an abyss of the sea and its people fishes swimming in the midst of it.” “O my daughter,” said her father, “I conjure thee, by my life, disenchant this young man, that I may make him my Wazir and marry thee to him, for indeed he is an ingenious youth and a deeply learned.” “With joy and goodly gree,” she replied and, hending in hand an iron knife whereon was inscribed the name of Allah in Hebrew characters, she described a wide circle — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 The smiter with the evil eye is called “A’in” and the person smitten “Ma’ím” or “Ma’ún.”
2 Arab. “Sákiyah,” the well-known Persian wheel with pots and buckets attached to the tire. It is of many kinds, the boxed, etc., etc., and it is possibly alluded to in the “pitcher broken at the fountain” (Eccleslastes xii. 6) an accident often occurring to the modern “Noria.” Travellers mostly abuse its “dismal creaking” and “mournful monotony”: I have defended the music of the water-wheel in Pilgrimage ii. 198.
3 Arab. “Zikr” lit. remembering, mentioning (i. c. the names of Allah), here refers to the meetings of religious for devotional exercises; the “Zikkirs,” as they are called, mostly standing or sitting in a circle while they ejaculate the Holy Name. These “rogations” are much affected by Darwayshes, or begging friars, whom Europe politely divides Unto “dancing” and “howling”; and, on one occasion, greatly to the scandal of certain Engländerinns to whom I was showing the Ezbekiyah I joined the ring of “howlers.” Lane (Mod. Egypt, see index) is profuse upon the subject of “Zikrs” and Zikkíts. It must not be supposed that they are uneducated men: the better class, however, prefers more privacy.
4 As they thought he had been there for prayer or penance.
5 Arab. “Ziyárat,” a visit to a pious person or place.
6 This is a paternal salute in the East where they are particular about the part kissed. A witty and not unusually gross Persian book, called the “Al-Námah” because all questions begin with “Al” (the Arab article) contains one “Al–Wajib al-busidan?” (what best deserves bussing?) and the answer is “Kus-i-nau-pashm,” (a bobadilla with a young bush).
7 A weight of 71–72 English grains in gold; here equivalent to the diner.
8 Compare the tale of The Three Crows in Gammer Grethel, Evening ix.
9 The comparison is peculiarly apposite; the earth seen from above appears hollow with a raised rim.
10 A hundred years old.
11 “Bahr” in Arab. means sea, river, piece of water; hence the adjective is needed.
12 The Captain or Master of the ship (not the owner). In Al–Yaman the word also means a “barber,” in virtue of the root, Rass, a head.
13 The text has “in the character Ruká’í,”,” or Riká’í,, the correspondence-hand.
14 A curved character supposed to be like the basil-leaf (rayhán). Richardson calls it “Rohani.”
15 I need hardly say that Easterns use a reed, a Calamus (Kalam applied only to the cut reed) for our quills and steel pens.
16 Famous for being inscribed on the Kiswah (cover) of Mohammed’s tomb; a large and more formal hand still used for engrossing and for mural inscriptions. Only seventy two varieties of it are known (Pilgrimage, ii., 82).
17 The copying and transcribing hand which is either Arabi or Ajami. A great discovery has been lately made which upsets all our old ideas of Cufic, etc. Mr. Löytved of Bayrut has found, amongst the Hauranic inscriptions, one in pure Naskhi, dating A. D. 568, or fifty years before the Hijrah; and it is accepted as authentic by my learned friend M. Ch. Clermont–Ganneau (p. 193, Pal. Explor. Fund. July 1884). In D’Herbelot and Sale’s day the Koran was supposed to have been written in rude characters, like those subsequently called “Cufic,” invented shortly before Mohammed’s birth by Murámir ibn Murrah of Anbar in Irák, introduced into Meccah by Bashar the Kindian, and perfected by Ibn Muklah (Al–Wazir, ob. A. H. 328=940). We must now change all that. See Catalogue of Oriental Caligraphs, etc., by G. P, Badger, London, Whiteley, 1885.
18 Capital and uncial letters; the hand in which the Ka’abah veil is inscribed (Pilgrimage iii. 299, 300).
19 A “Court hand” says Mr. Payne (i. 112): I know nothing of it. Other hands are: the Ta’alík; hanging or oblique, used for finer Mss. and having, according to Richardson, “the same analogy to the Naskhi as our Italic has to the Roman.” The Nasta’ lík (not Naskh–Ta’alik) much used in India, is, as the name suggests, a mixture of the Naskhi (writing of transactions) and the Ta’alik. The Shikastah (broken hand) everywhere represents our running hand and becomes a hard task to the reader. The Kirmá is another cursive character, mostly confined to the receipts and disbursements of the Turkish treasury. The Diváni, or Court (of Justice) is the official hand, bold and round. a business character, the lines often rising with a sweep or curve towards the (left) end. The Jáli or polished has a variety, the Jali–Ta’alik: the Sulsi (known in many books) is adopted for titles of volumes, royal edicts, diplomas and so forth; “answering much the same purpose as capitals with us, or the flourished letters in illuminated manuscripts” (Richardson) The Tughrái is that of the Tughrá, the Prince’s cypher or flourishing signature in ceremonial writings, and containing some such sentence as: Let this be executed. There are others e. g. Yákuti and Sirenkil known only by name. Finally the Maghribi (Moorish) hand differs in form and diacritical points from the characters used further east almost as much as German running hand does from English. It is curious that Richardson omits the Jali (intricate and convoluted) and the divisions of the Sulusí, Sulsi or Sulus (Thuluth) character, the Sulus al-Khafíf, etc.
20 Arab. “Baghlah”; the male (Bagful) is used only for loads. This is everywhere the rule: nothing is more unmanageable than a restive “Macho”, and he knows that he can always get you off his back when so minded. From “Baghlah” is derived the name of the native craft Anglo–Indicè a “Buggalow.”
21 In Heb. ““Ben — Adam” is any man opp. to “Beni ish” (Psalm iv. 3) =filii viri, not homines.
22 This posture is terribly trying to European legs; and few white men (unless brought up to it) can squat for any time on their heels. The ‘‘tailor-fashion,” with crossed legs, is held to be free and easy.
23 Arab. “Katá”=Pterocles Alchata, the well-known sand-grouse of the desert. It is very poor white flesh.
24 Arab. “Khubz” which I do not translate “cake” or ‘‘bread,’’ as thee would suggest the idea Of our loaf. The staff of life in the East is a thin flat circle of dough baked in the oven or on the griddle, and corresponding with the Scotch “scone,” the Spanish tortilla and the Australian “flap-jack.”
25 Arab. “Harísah,” a favourite dish of wheat (or rice) boiled and reduced to a paste with shredded meat, spices and condiments. The “bangles” is a pretty girl eating with him.
26 These lines are repeated with a difference in Night cccxxx. They affect Rims cars, out of the way, heavy rhymes: e. g. here Sakáríj (plur. of Sakrúj, platters, porringers); Tayáhíj (plur. of Tayhúj, the smaller caccabis-partridge); Tabáhíj (Persian Tabahjah, an me et or a stew of meat, onions, eggs, etc.) Ma’áríj (“in stepped piles” like the pyramids Lane ii 495, renders “on the stairs”); Makáríj (plur. of Makraj, a small pot); Damálíj (plur. of dumlúj, a bracelet, a bangle); Dayábíj (brocades) and Tafáríj (openings, enjoyments). In Night cccxxx. we find also Sikábíj (plur. of Sikbáj, marinated meat elsewhere explained); Faráríj (plur. of farrúj, a chicken, vulg. farkh) and Dakákíj (plur. of Gr. dakújah,, a small Jar). In the first line we have also (though not a rhyme) Gharánik Gr., a crane, preserved in Romaic. The weeping and wailing are caused by the em remembrance that all these delicacies have been demolished like a Badawi camp.
27 This is the vinum coctum, the boiled wine, still a favourite in Southern Italy and Greece.
28 Eastern topers delight in drinking at dawn: upon this subject I shall have more to say in other Nights.
29 Arab. “Adab,” a crux to translators, meaning anything between good education and good manners. In mod. Turk. “Edibiyyet” (Adabiyat) = belles lettres and “Edebi’ or “Edíb” = a littérateur.
30 The Caliph Al–Maamún, who was a bad player, used to say, “I have the administration of the world and am equal to it, whereas I am straitened in the ordering of a space of two spans by two spans.” The “board” was then “a square field of well-dressed leather.”
31 The Rabbis (after Matth. xix. 12) count three kinds of Eunuchs; (1) Seris chammah=of the sun, i.e. natural, (2) Seris Adam=manufactured per homines; and (3) Seris Chammayim — of God (i.e.. religious abstainer). Seris (castrated) or Abd (slave) is the general Hebrew name.
32 The “Lady of Beauty.”
33 “Káf” has been noticed as the mountain which surrounds earth as a ring does the finger:: it is popularly used like our Alp and Alpine. The “circumambient Ocean” (Bahr al-muhit) is the Homeric Ocean-stream.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Kalandar continued his tale thus:— O my lady, the King’s daughter hent in hand a knife whereon were inscribed Hebrew characters and described a wide circle in the midst of the palace hall, and therein wrote in Cufic letters mysterious names and talismans; and she uttered words and muttered charms, some of which we under stood and others we understood not. Presently the world waxed dark before our sight till we thought that the sky was falling upon our heads, and lo! the Ifrit presented himself in his own shape and aspect. His hands were like many pronged pitch forks, his legs like the masts of great ships, and his eyes like cressets of gleaming fire. We were in terrible fear of him but the King’s daughter cried at him, “No welcome to thee and no greeting, O dog!” whereupon he changed to the form of a lion and said, “O traitress, how is it thou hast broken the oath we sware that neither should contraire other!” “O accursed one,” answered she, “how could there be a compact between me and the like of thee?” Then said he, “Take what thou has brought on thy self;” and the lion opened his jaws and rushed upon her; but she was too quick for him; and, plucking a hair from her head, waved it in the air muttering over it the while; and the hair straightway became a trenchant sword blade, wherewith she smote the lion and cut him in twain. Then the two halves flew away in air and the head changed to a scorpion and the Princess became a huge serpent and set upon the accursed scorpion, and the two fought, coiling and uncoiling, a stiff fight for an hour at least. Then the scorpion changed to a vulture and the serpent became an eagle which set upon the vulture, and hunted him for an hour’s time, till he became a black tom cat, which miauled and grinned and spat. Thereupon the eagle changed into a piebald wolf and these two battled in the palace for a long time, when the cat, seeing himself overcome, changed into a worm and crept into a huge red pomegranate,1 which lay beside the jetting fountain in the midst of the palace hall. Whereupon the pomegranate swelled to the size of a water melon in air; and, falling upon the marble pavement of the palace, broke to pieces, and all the grains fell out and were scattered about till they covered the whole floor. Then the wolf shook himself and became a snow white cock, which fell to picking up the grains purposing not to leave one; but by doom of destiny one seed rolled to the fountain edge and there lay hid. The cock fell to crowing and clapping his wings and signing to us with his beak as if to ask, ‘ Are any grains left?” But we understood not what he meant, and he cried to us with so loud a cry that we thought the palace would fall upon us. Then he ran over all the floor till he saw the grain which had rolled to the fountain edge, and rushed eagerly to pick it up when behold, it sprang into the midst of the water and became a fish and dived to the bottom of the basin. Thereupon the cock changed to a big fish, and plunged in after the other, and the two disappeared for a while and lo! we heard loud shrieks and cries of pain which made us tremble. After this the Ifrit rose out of the water, and he was as a burning flame; casting fire and smoke from his mouth and eyes and nostrils. And immediately the Princess likewise came forth from the basin and she was one live coal of flaming lowe; and these two, she and he, battled for the space of an hour, until their fires entirely compassed them about and their thick smoke filled the palace. As for us we panted for breath, being well nigh suffocated, and we longed to plunge into the water fearing lest we be burnt up and utterly destroyed; and the King said, There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah the Glorious, the Great! Verily we are Allah’s and unto Him are we returning! Would Heaven I had not urged my daughter to attempt the disenchantment of this ape fellow, whereby I have imposed upon her the terrible task of fighting yon accursed Ifrit against whom all the Ifrits in the world could not prevail. And would Heaven we had never seen this ape, Allah never assain nor bless the day of his coming! We thought to do a good deed by him before the face of Allah,2 and to release him from enchantment, and now we have brought this trouble and travail upon our heart.” But I, O my lady, was tongue tied and powerless to say a word to him. Suddenly, ere we were ware of aught, the Ifrit yelled out from under the flames and, coming up to us as we stood on the estrade, blew fire in our faces. The damsel overtook him and breathed blasts of fire at his face and the sparks from her and from him rained down upon us, and her sparks did us no harm, but one of his sparks alighted upon my eye and destroyed it making me a monocular ape; and another fell on the King’s face scorching the lower half, burning off his beard and mustachios and causing his under teeth to fall out; while a third alighted on the Castrato’s breast, killing him on the spot. So we despaired of life and made sure of death when lo! a voice repeated the saying, “Allah is most Highest! Allah is most Highest! Aidance and victory to all who the Truth believe; and disappointment and disgrace to all who the religion of Mohammed, the Moon of Faith, unbelieve.” The speaker was the Princess who had burnt the Ifrit, and he was become a heap of ashes. Then she came up to us and said, “Reach me a cup of water.” They brought it to her and she spoke over it words we understood not, and sprinkling me with it cried, “By virtue of the Truth, and by the Most Great name of Allah, I charge thee return to thy former shape.” And behold, I shook, and became a man as before, save that I had utterly lost an eye. Then she cried out, “The fire! The fire! O my dear papa an arrow from the accursed hath wounded me to the death, for I am not used to fight with the Jann; had he been a man I had slain him in the beginning. I had no trouble till the time when the pomegranate burst and the grains scattered, but I overlooked the seed wherein was the very life of the Jinni. Had I picked it up he had died on the spot, but as Fate and Fortune decreed, I saw it not; so he came upon me all unawares and there befel between him and me a sore struggle under the earth and high in air and in the water; and, as often as I opened on him a gate,3 he opened on me another gate and a stronger, till at last he opened on me the gate of fire, and few are saved upon whom the door of fire openeth. But Destiny willed that my cunning prevail over his cunning; and I burned him to death after I vainly exhorted him to embrace the religion of al-Islam. As for me I am a dead woman; Allah supply my place to you!” Then she called upon Heaven for help and ceased not to implore relief from the fire; when lo! a black spark shot up from her robed feet to her thighs; then it flew to her bosom and thence to her face. When it reached her face she wept and said, “I testify that there is no god but the God and that Mahommed is the Apostle of God!” And we looked at her and saw naught but a heap of ashes by the side of the heap that had been the Ifrit. We mourned for her and I wished I had been in her place, so had I not seen her lovely face who had worked me such weal become ashes; but there is no gainsaying the will of Allah. When the King saw his daughter’s terrible death, he plucked out what was left of his beard and beat his face and rent his raiment; and I did as he did and we both wept over her. Then came in the Chamberlains and Grandees and were amazed to find two heaps of ashes and the Sultan in a fainting fit; so they stood round him till he revived and told them what had befallen his daughter from the If rit; whereat their grief was right grievous and the women and the slave girls shrieked and keened,4 and they continued their lamentations for the space of seven days. Moreover the King bade build over his daughter’s ashes a vast vaulted tomb, and burn therein wax tapers and sepulchral lamps: but as for the Ifrit’s ashes they scattered them on the winds, speeding them to the curse of Allah. Then the Sultan fell sick of a sickness that well nigh brought him to his death for a month’s space; and, when health returned to him and his beard grew again and he had been converted by the mercy of Allah to al-Islam, he sent for me and said, “O youth, Fate had decreed for us the happiest of lives, safe from all the chances and changes of Time, till thou camest to us, when troubles fell upon us. Would to Heaven we had never seen thee and the foul face of thee! For we took pity on thee and thereby we have lost our all. I have on thy account first lost my daughter who to me was well worth an hundred men, secondly I have suffered that which befel me by reason of the fire and the loss of my teeth, and my Eunuch also was slain. I blame thee not, for it was out of thy power to prevent this: the doom of Allah was on thee as well as on us and thanks be to the Almighty for that my daughter delivered thee, albeit thereby she lost her own life! Go forth now, O my son, from this my city, and suffice thee what hath befallen us through thee, even although ’twas decreed for us. Go forth in peace; and if I ever see thee again I will surely slay thee.” And he cried out at me. So I went forth from his presence, O my lady, weeping bitterly and hardly believing in my escape and knowing not whither I should wend. And I recalled all that had befallen me, my meeting the tailor, my love for the damsel in the palace beneath the earth, and my narrow escape from the Ifrit, even after he had determined to do me die; and how I had entered the city as an ape and was now leaving it a man once more. Then I gave thanks to Allah and said, “My eye and not my life!” and before leaving the place I entered the bath and shaved my poll and beard and mustachios and eye brows; and cast ashes on my head and donned the coarse black woollen robe of a Kalandar. Then I fared forth, O my lady, and every day I pondered all the calamities which had betided me, and I wept and repeated these couplets:—
“I am distraught, yet verily His ruth abides with me,
Tho’ round me gather hosts of ills, whence come I cannot see:
Patient I’ll be till Patience self with me impatient wax;
Patient for ever till the Lord fulfil my destiny:
Patient I’ll bide without complaint, a wronged and vanquish” man;
Patient as sunparcht wight that spans the desert’s sandy sea:
Patient I’ll be till Aloe’s5 self unwittingly allow
I’m patient under bitterer things than bitterest aloë:
No bitterer things than aloes or than patience for mankind,
Yet bitterer than the twain to me were Patience’ treachery:
My sere and seamed and seared brow would dragoman my sore
If soul could search my sprite and there unsecret secrecy:
Were hills to bear the load I bear they’d crumble ‘neath the weight,
‘Twould still the roaring wind, ‘twould quench the flame-tongue’s flagrancy,
And whoso saith the world is sweet certès a day he’ll see
With more than aloes’ bitterness and aloes’ pungency.”
Then I journeyed through many regions and saw many a city intending for Baghdad, that I might seek audience, in the House of Peace,6 with the Commander of the Faithful and tell him all that had befallen me. I arrived here this very night and found my brother in Allah, this first Kalandar, standing about as one perplexed; so I saluted him with “Peace be upon thee,” and entered into discourse with him. Presently up came our brother, this third Kalandar, and said to us, “Peace be with you! I am a stranger;” whereto we replied, “And we too be strangers, who have come hither this blessed night.” So we all three walked on together, none of us knowing the other’s history, till Destiny crave us to this door and we came in to you. Such then is my story and my reason for shaving my beard and mustachios, and this is what caused the loss of my eye. Said the house mistress, “Thy tale is indeed a rare; so rub thy head and wend thy ways;” but he replied, “I will not budge till I hear my companions’ stories.” Then came forward the third Kalandar, and said, “O illustrious lady! my history is not like that of these my comrades, but more wondrous and far more marvellous. In their case Fate and Fortune came down on them unawares; but I drew down destiny upon my own head and brought sorrow on mine own soul, and shaved my own beard and lost my own eye. Hear then
1 The pomegranate is probably chosen here because each fruit is supposed to contain one seed from Eden-garden. Hence a host of superstitions (Pilgrimage iii., 104) possibly connected with the Chaldaic–Babylonian god Rimmon or Ramanu. Hence Persephone or Ishtar tasted the “rich pomegranate’s seed.” Lenormant, loc. cit. pp. 166, 182.
2 i.e. for the love of God — a favourite Moslem phrase.
3 Arab. “Báb,” also meaning a chapter (of magic, of war, etc.), corresponding with the Persian “Dar” as in Sad-dar, the Hundred Doors. Here, however, it is figurative “I tried a new mode.” This scene is in the Mabinogion.
4 I use this Irish term = crying for the dead, as English wants the word for the præfica,or myrialogist. The practice is not encouraged in Al–Islam; and Caliph Abu Bakr said,; “Verily a corpse is sprinkled with boiling water by reason of the lamentations of the living, i.e. punished for not having taken measures to prevent their profitless lamentations. But the practice is from Negroland whence it reached Egypt, and the people have there developed a curious system in the “weeping-song” I have noted this in “The Lake Regions of Central Africa.” In Zoroastrianism (Dabistan, chaps. xcvii.) tears shed for the dead form a river in hell, black and frigid.
5 These lines are hardly translatable. Arab. “Sabr” means “patience” as well as “aloes,” hereby lending itself to a host of puns and double entendres more or less vile The aloe, according to Burckhardt, is planted in graveyards as a lesson of patience: it is also slung, like the dried crocodile, over house doors to prevent evil spirits entering: “thus hung without earth and water,” says Lane (M.E., chaps. xi.), “it will live for several years and even blossom. Hence (?) it is called Sabr, which signifies patience. But Sibr as well as Sabr (a root) means “long sufferance.” I hold the practice to be one of the many Inner African superstitions. The wild Gallas to the present day plant aloes on graves, and suppose that when the plant sprouts the deceased has been admitted to the gardens of Wák, the Creator. (Pilgrimage iii. 350.)
6 Every city in the East has its specific title: this was given to Baghdad either on account of its superior police or simply because it was the Capital of the Caliphate. The Tigris was also called the “River of Peace (or Security).”
Know, O my lady, that I also am a King and the son of a King and my name is Ajíb son of Kazíb. When my father died I succeeded him; and I ruled and did justice and dealt fairly by all my lieges. I delighted in sea trips, for my capital stood on the shore, before which the ocean stretched far and wide; and near hand were many great islands with sconces and garrisons in the midst of the main. My fleet numbered fifty merchantmen, and as many yachts for pleasance, and an hundred and fifty sail ready fitted for holy war with the Unbelievers. It fortuned that I had a mind to enjoy myself on the islands aforesaid, so I took ship with my people in ten keel; and, carrying with me a month’s victual, I set out on a twenty days’ voyage. But one night a head wind struck us, and the sea rose against us with huge waves; the billows sorely buffetted us and a dense darkness settled round us. We gave ourselves up for lost and I said, “Whoso endangereth his days, e’en an he ’scape deserveth no praise.” Then we prayed to Allah and besought Him; but the storm blasts ceased not to blow against us nor the surges to strike us till morning broke when the gale fell, the seas sank to mirrory stillness and the sun shone upon us kindly clear. Presently we made an island where we landed and cooked somewhat of food, and ate heartily and took our rest for a couple of days. Then we set out again and sailed other twenty days, the seas broadening and the land shrinking. Presently the current ran counter to us, and we found ourselves in strange waters, where the Captain had lost his reckoning, and was wholly bewildered in this sea; so said we to the look out man,1 “Get thee to the mast head and keep thine eyes open.” He swarmed up the mast and looked out and cried aloud, “O Rais, I espy to starboard something dark, very like a fish floating on the face of the sea, and to larboard there is a loom in the midst of the main, now black and now bright.” When the Captain heard the look out’s words he dashed his turband on the deck and plucked out his beard and beat his face saying, “Good news indeed! we be all dead men; not one of us can be saved.” And he fell to weeping and all of us wept for his weeping and also for our lives; and I said, “O Captain, tell us what it is the look out saw.” “O my Prince,” answered he, “know that we lost our course on the night of the storm, which was followed on the morrow by a two days’ calm during which we made no way; and we have gone astray eleven days reckoning from that night, with ne’er a wind to bring us back to our true course. To morrow by the end of the day we shall come to a mountain of black stone, hight the Magnet Mountain;2 for thither the cu rents carry us willy-nilly. As soon as we are under its lea, the ship’s sides will open and every nail in plank will fly out and cleave fast to the mountain; for that Almighty Allah hath gifted the loadstone with a mysterious virtue and a love for iron, by reason whereof all which is iron travelleth towards it; and on this mountain is much iron, how much none knoweth save the Most High, from the many vessels which have been lost there since the days of yore. The bright spot upon its summit is a dome of yellow laton from Andalusia, vaulted upon ten columns; and on its crown is a horseman who rideth a horse of brass and holdeth in hand a lance of laton; and there hangeth on his bosom a tablet of lead graven with names and talismans.” And he presently added, “And, O King, none destroyeth folk save the rider on that steed, nor will the egromancy be dispelled till he fall from his horse.’’3 Then, O my lady, the Captain wept with exceeding weeping and we all made sure of death doom and each and every one of us farewelled his friend and charged him with his last will and testament in case he might be saved. We slept not that night and in the morning we found ourselves much nearer the Loadstone Mountain, whither the waters crave us with a violent send. When the ships were close under its lea they opened and the nails flew out and all the iron in them sought the Magnet Mountain and clove to it like a network; so that by the end of the day we were all struggling in the waves round about the mountain. Some of us were saved, but more were drowned and even those who had escaped knew not one another, so stupefied were they by the beating of the billows and the raving of the winds. As for me, O my lady, Allah (be His name exalted!) preserved my life that I might suffer whatso He willed to me of hardship, misfortune and~calamity; for I scrambled upon a plank from one of the ships, and the wind and waters threw it at the feet of the Mountain. There I found a practicable path leading by steps carven out of the rock to the summit, and I called on the name of Allah Almighty”4 — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 This is very characteristic: the passengers finding themselves in difficulties at once take command. See in my Pilgrimage (I. chaps. xi.) how we beat and otherwise maltreated the Captain of the “Golden Wire.”
2 The fable is probably based on the currents which, as in Eastern Africa, will carry a ship fifty miles a day out of her course. We first find it in Ptolemy (vii. 2) whose Maniólai Islands, of India extra Gangem, cause iron nails to fly out of ships, the effect of the Lapis Herculeus (Loadstone). Rabelais (v. c. 37) alludes to it and to the vulgar idea of magnetism being counteracted by Skordon (Scordon or garlic). Hence too the Adamant (Loadstone) Mountains of Mandeville (chaps. xxvii.) and the “Magnetic Rock” in Mr Puttock’s clever “Peter Wilkins.” I presume that the myth also arose from seeing craft built, as on the East African Coast, without iron nails. We shall meet with the legend again. The word Jabal (“Jebel” in Egypt) often occurs in these pages. The Arabs apply it to any rising ground or heap of rocks; so it is not always = our mountain. It has found its way to Europe e. g. Gibraltar and Monte Gibello (or Mongibel in poetry) “Mt. Ethne that men clepen Mounte Gybelle.” Other special senses of Jabal will occur.
3 As we learn from the Nubian Geographer the Arabs in early ages explored the Fortunate Islands (Jazírát al-Khálidát=Eternal Isles), or Canaries, on one of which were reported a horse and horseman in bronze with his spear pointing west. Ibn al-Ward) notes two images of hard stone, each an hundred cubits high, and upon the top of each a figure of copper pointing with its hand backwards, as though it would say:— Return for there is nothing behind me!” But this legend attaches to older doings. The 23rd Tobba (who succeeded Bilkis), Malik bin Sharhabíl, (or Sharabíl or Sharahíl) surnamed Náshir al-Ní‘am=scatterer of blessings, lost an army in attempting the Western sands and set up a statue of copper upon whose breast was inscribed in antique characters:—
There is no access behind me,
(Saith) The Son of Sharabíl.
4 i.e. I exclaimed “Bismillah!”
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the third Kalandar said to the lady (the rest of the party sitting fast bound and the slaves standing with swords drawn over their heads):— And after calling on the name of Almighty Allah and passionately beseeching Him, I breasted the ascent, clinging to the steps and notches hewn in the stone, and mounted little by little. And the Lord stilled the wind and aided me in the ascent, so that I succeeded in reaching the summit. There I found no resting place save the dome, which I entered, joying with exceeding joy at my escape; and made the Wuzu-ablution1 and prayed a two bow prayer,2 a thanksgiving to God for my preservation. Then I fell asleep under the dome, and heard in my dream a mysterious Voice3 saying, “O son of Khazib! when thou wakest from thy sleep dig under thy feet and thou shalt find a bow of brass and three leaden arrows, inscribed with talismans and characts. Take the bow and shoot the arrows at the horseman on the dome top and free mankind from this sore calamity. When thou hast shot him he shall fall into the sea, and the horse will also drop at thy feet: then bury it in the place of the bow. This done, the main will swell and rise till it is level with the mountain head, and there will appear on it a skiff carrying a man of laton (other than he thou shalt have shot) holding in his hand a pair of paddles. He will come to thee and do thou embark with him but beware of saying Bismillah or of otherwise naming Allah Almighty. He will row thee for a space of ten days, till he bring thee to certain Islands called the Islands of Safety, and thence thou shalt easily reach a port and find those who will convey thee to thy native land; and all this shall be fulfilled to thee so thou call not on the name of Allah.” Then I started up from my sleep in joy and gladness and, hastening to do the bidding of the mysterious Voice, found the bow and arrows and shot at the horseman and tumbled him into the main, whilst the horse dropped at my feet; so I took it and buried it. Presently the sea surged up and rose till it reached the top of the mountain; nor had I long to wait ere I saw a skiff in the offing coming towards me. I gave thanks to Allah; and, when the skiff came up to me, I saw therein a man of brass with a tablet of lead on his breast inscribed with talismans and characts; and I embarked without uttering a word. The boatman rowed on with me through the first day and the second and the third, in all ten whole days, till I caught sight of the Islands of Safety; whereat I joyed with exceeding joy and for stress of gladness exclaimed, “Allah! Allah! In the name of Allah! There is no god but the God and Allah is Almighty.’’4 Thereupon the skiff forthwith upset and cast me upon the sea; then it righted and sank deep into the depths. Now I am a fair swimmer, so I swam the whole day till nightfall, when my forearms and shoulders were numbed with fatigue and I felt like to die; so I testified to my faith, expecting naught but death. The sea was still surging under the violence of the winds, and presently there came a billow like a hillock; and, bearing me up high in air, threw me with a long cast on dry land, that His will might be fulfilled. I crawled up the beach and doffing my raiment wrung it out to dry and spread it in the sunshine: then I lay me down and slept the whole night. As soon as it was day, I donned my clothes and rose to look whither I should walk. Presently I came to a thicket of low trees; and, making a cast round it, found that the spot whereon I stood was an islet, a mere holm, girt on all sides by the ocean; whereupon I said to myself, “Whatso freeth me from one great calamity casteth me into a greater!” But while I was pondering my case and longing for death behold, I saw afar off a ship making for the island; so I clomb a tree and hid myself among the branches. Presently the ship anchored and landed ten slaves, blackamoors, bearing iron hoes and baskets, who walked on till they reached the middle of the island. Here they dug deep into the ground, until they uncovered a plate of metal which they lifted, thereby opening a trap door. After this they returned to the ship and thence brought bread and flour, honey and fruits, clarified butter,5 leather bottles containing liquors and many household stuffs; also furniture, table service and mirrors rugs, carpets and in fact all needed to furnish a dwelling; and they kept going to and fro, and descending by the trap door, till they had transported into the dwelling all that was in the ship. After this the slaves again went on board and brought back with them garments as rich as may be, and in the midst of them came an old, old man, of whom very little was left, for Time had dealt hardly and harshly with him, and all that remained of him was a bone wrapped in a rag of blue stuff through which the winds whistled west and east. As saith the poet of him:—
Time gars me tremble Ah, how sore the baulk!
While Time in pride of strength cloth ever stalk:
Time was I walked nor ever felt I tired,
Now am I tired albe I never walk!
And the Shaykh held by the hand a youth cast in beauty’s mould, all elegance and perfect grace; so fair that his comeliness deserved to be proverbial; for he was as a green bough or the tender young of the roe, ravishing every heart with his loveliness and subduing every soul with his coquetry and amorous ways.6 It was of him the poet spake when he said:—
Beauty they brought with him to make compare,
But Beauty hung her head in shame and care:
Quoth’ they, “O Beauty, hast thou seen his like?”
And Beauty cried, “His like? not anywhere!”
They stinted not their going, O my lady, till all went down by the trap door and did not reappear for an hour, or rather more; at the end of which time the slaves and the old man came up without the youth and, replacing the iron plate and carefully closing the door slab as it was before, they returned to the ship and made sail and were lost to my sight. When they turned away to depart, I came down from the tree and, going to the place I had seen them fill up, scraped off and removed the earth; and in patience possessed my soul till I had cleared the whole of it away. Then appeared the trap door which was of wood, in shape and size like a millstone; and when I lifted it up it disclosed a winding staircase of stone. At this I marvelled and, descending the steps till I reached the last, found a fair hall, spread with various kinds of carpets and silk stuffs, wherein was a youth sitting upon a raised couch and leaning back on a round cushion with a fan in his hand and nosegays and posies of sweet scented herbs and flowers before him;7 but he was alone and not a soul near him in the great vault. When he saw me he turned pale; but I saluted him courteously and said, “Set thy mind at ease and calm thy fears; no harm shall come near thee; I am a man like thyself and the son of a King to boot; whom the decrees of Destiny have sent to bear thee company and cheer thee in thy loneliness. But now tell me, what is thy story and what causeth thee to dwell thus in solitude under the ground?” When he was assured that I was of his kind and no Jinni, he rejoiced and his fine colour returned; and, making me draw near to him he said, “O my brother, my story is a strange story and ’tis this. My father is a merchant-jeweller possessed of great wealth, who hath white and black slaves travelling and trading on his account in ships and on camels, and trafficking with the most distant cities; but he was not blessed with a child, not even one. Now on a certain night he dreamed a dream that he should be favoured with a son, who would be short lived; so the morning dawned on my father bringing him woe and weeping. On the following night my mother conceived and my father noted down the date of her becoming pregnant.8 Her time being fulfilled she bare me; whereat my father rejoiced and made banquets and called together the neighbors and fed the Fakirs and the poor, for that he had been blessed with issue near the end of his days. Then he assembled the astrologers and astronomers who knew the places of the planets, and the wizards and wise ones of the time, and men learned in horoscopes and nativities,9 and they drew out my birth scheme and said to my father, “Thy son shall live to fifteen years, but in his fifteenth there is a sinister aspect; an he safely tide it over he shall attain a great age. And the cause that threateneth him with death is this. In the Sea of Peril standeth the Mountain Magnet hight; on whose summit is a horseman of yellow laton seated on a horse also of brass and bearing on his breast a tablet of lead. Fifty days after this rider shall fall from his steed thy son will die and his slayer will be he who shoots down the horseman, a Prince named Ajib son of King Khazib.” My father grieved with exceeding grief to hear these words; but reared me in tenderest fashion and educated me excellently well until my fifteenth year was told. Ten days ago news came to him that the horseman had fallen into the sea and he who shot him down was named Ajib son of King Khazib. My father thereupon wept bitter tears at the need of parting with me and became like one possessed of a Jinni. However, being in mortal fear for me, he built me this place under the earth; and, stocking it with all required for the few days still remaining, he brought me hither in a ship and left me here. Ten are already past and, when the forty shall have gone by without danger to me, he will come and take me away; for he hath done all this only in fear of Prince Ajib. Such, then, is my story and the cause of my loneliness.” When I heard his history I marvelled and said in my mind, “I am the Prince Ajib who hath done all this; but as Allah is with me I will surely not slay him!” So said I to him, “O my lord, far from thee be this hurt and harm and then, please Allah, thou shalt not suffer cark nor care nor aught disquietude, for I will tarry with thee and serve thee as a servant, and then wend my ways; and after having borne thee company during the forty days, I will go with thee to thy home where thou shalt give me an escort of some of thy Mamelukes with whom I may journey back to my own city; and the Almighty shall requite thee for me.” He was glad to hear these words, when I rose and lighted a large wax candle and trimmed the ramps end the three lanterns; and I set on meat and drink and sweetmeats. We ate and drank and sat talking over various matters till the greater part of the night was gone; when he lay down to rest and I covered him up and went to sleep myself. Next morning I arose and warmed a little water, then lifted him gently so as to awake him and brought him the warm water wherewith he washed his face10 and said to me, “Heaven requite thee for me with every blessing, O youth! By Allah, if I get quit of this danger and am saved from him whose name is Ajib bin Khazib, I will make my father reward thee and send thee home healthy and wealthy; and, if I die, then my blessing be upon thee.” I answered, “May the day never dawn on which evil shall betide thee; and may Allah make my last day before thy last day!” Then I set before him somewhat of food and we ate; and I got ready perfumes for fumigating the hall, wherewith he was pleased. Moreover I made him a Mankalah-cloth;11 and we played and ate sweetmeats and we played again and took our pleasure till nightfall, when I rose and lighted the lamps, and set before him somewhat to eat, and sat telling him stories till the hours of darkness were far spent. Then he lay down to rest and I covered him up and rested also. And thus I continued to do, O my lady, for days and nights and affection for him took root in my heart and my sorrow was eased, and I said to myself, “The astrologers lied12 when they predicted that he should be slain by Ajib bin Khazib: by Allah, I will not slay him.” I ceased not ministering to him and conversing and carousing with him and telling him all manner tales for thirty nine days. On the fortieth night13 the youth rejoiced and said, “O my brother, Alhamdo, lillah! — praise be to Allah — who hath preserved me from death and this is by thy blessing and the blessing of thy coming to me and I pray God that He restore thee to thy native land. But now, O my brother, I would thou warm me some water for the Ghusl ablution and do thou kindly bathe me and change my clothes.” I replied, “With love and gladness;” and I heated water in plenty and carrying it in to him washed his body all over the washing of health,14 with meal of lupins15 and rubbed him well and changed his clothes and spread him a high bed whereon he lay down to rest, being drowsy after bathing. Then said he, “O my brother, cut me up a water melon, and sweeten it with a little sugar candy.”16 So I went to the store room and bringing out a fine water melon I found there, set it on a platter and laid it before him saying, “O my master hast thou not a knife?” “Here it is,” answered he, “over my head upon the high shelf.” So I got up in haste and taking the knife drew it from its sheath; but my foot slipped in stepping down and I fell heavily upon the youth holding in my hand the knife which hastened to fulfil what had been written on the Day that decided the destinies of man, and buried itself, as if planted, in the youth’s heart. He died on the instant. When I saw that he was slain and knew that I had slain him, maugre myself, I cried out with an exceeding loud and bitter cry and beat my face and rent my raiment and said, “Verily we be Allah’s and unto Him we be returning, O Moslems! O folk fain of Allah! there remained for this youth but one day of the forty dangerous days which the astrologers and the learned had foretold for him; and the predestined death of this beautiful one was to be at my hand. Would Heaven I had not tried to cut the watermelon. What dire misfortune is this I must bear fief or loath? What a disaster! What an affliction! O Allah mine, I implore thy pardon and declare to Thee my innocence of his death. But what God willeth let that come to pass.’’17 — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 The lesser ablution of hands, face and feet; a kind of “washing the points.” More in Night ccccxl.
2 Arab. “Ruka’tayn”; the number of these bows which are followed by the prostrations distinguishes the five daily prayers.
3 The “Beth Kol” of the Hebrews; also called by the Moslems “Hátif”; for which ask the Spiritualists. It is the Hindu “voice divine” or “voice from heaven.”
4 These formulae are technically called Tasmiyah, Tahlil (before noted) and Takbír: i.e. “testifying” is Tashhíd.
5 Arab. “Samn,” (Pers. “Raughan” Hind. “Ghi”) the “single sauce” of the East; fresh butter set upon the fire, skimmed and kept (for a century if required) in leather bottles and demijohns. Then it becomes a hard black mass, considered a panacea for wounds and diseases. It is very “filling”: you say jocosely to an Eastern threatened with a sudden inroad of guests, “Go, swamp thy rice with Raughan.” I once tried training, like a Hindu Pahlawan or athlete, on Gur (raw sugar), milk and Ghi; and the result was being blinded by bile before the week ended.
6 These handsome youths are always described in the terms we should apply to women.
7 The Bull Edit. (i. 43) reads otherwise:— I found a garden and a second and a third and so on till they numbered thirty and nine; and, in each garden, I saw what praise will not express, of trees and rills and fruits and treasures. At the end of the last I sighted a door and said to myself, “What may be in this place?; needs must I open it and look in!” I did so accordingly and saw a courser ready saddled and bridled and picketed; so I loosed and mounted him, and he flew with me like a bird till he set me down on a terrace-roof; and, having landed me, he struck me a whisk with his tail and put out mine eye and fled from me. Thereupon I descended from the roof and found ten youths all blind of one eye who, when they saw me exclaimed, “No welcome to thee, and no good cheer!” I asked them, “Do ye admit me to your home and society?” and they answered, “No, by Allah’ thou shalt not live amongst us.” So I went forth with weeping eyes and grieving heart, but Allah had written my safety on the Guarded Tablet so I reached Baghdad in safety, etc. This is a fair specimen of how the work has been curtailed in that issue.
8 Arabs date pregnancy from the stopping of the menses, upon which the fœtus is supposed to feed. Kalilah wa Dimnah says, “The child’s navel adheres to that of his mother and thereby he sucks” (i. 263).
9 This is contrary to the commands of Al–Islam, Mohammed expressly said “The Astrologers are liars, by the Lord of the Ka’abah!”; and his saying is known to almost all Moslems, lettered or unlettered. Yet, the further we go East (Indiawards) the more we find these practices held in honour. Turning westwards we have:
Iuridicis, Erebo, Fisco, fas vivere rapto:
Militibus, Medicis, Tortori occidere ludo est;
Mentiri Astronomis, Pictoribus atque Poetis.
10 He does not perform the Wuzu or lesser ablution because he neglects his dawn prayers.
11 For this game see Lane (M. E. Chapt. xvii.) It is usually played on a checked cloth not on a board like our draughts; and Easterns are fond of eating, drinking and smoking between and even during the games. Torrens (p. 142) translates “I made up some dessert,” confounding “Mankalah” with “Nukl” (dried fruit, quatre-mendiants).
12 Quoted from Mohammed whose saying has been given.
13 We should say “the night of the thirty-ninth.”
14 The bath first taken after sickness.
15 Arab. “Dikák” used by way of soap or rather to soften the skin: the meal is usually of lupins, “Adas”=“Revalenta Arabica,” which costs a penny in Egypt and half-a-crown in England.
16 Arab. “Sukkar-nabát.” During my day (1842–49) we had no other sugar in the Bombay Presidency.
17 This is one of the myriad Arab instances that the decrees of “Anagké,” Fate, Destiny, Weird, are inevitable. The situation is highly dramatic; and indeed The Nights, as will appear in the Terminal Essay, have already suggested a national drama.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52