ZEIN UL ASNAM AND THE KING OF THE JINN.
There [FN#21] was [once] in the city of Bassora a mighty Sultan and he was exceeding rich, but he had no child who should be his successor [FN#22] after him. For this he grieved sore and fell to bestowing alms galore upon the poor and the needy and upon the friends [FN#23] of God and the devout, seeking their intercession with God the Most High, so He to whom belong might and majesty should of His favour vouchsafe him a son. And God accepted his prayer, for his fostering of the poor, and answered his petition; so that one night of the nights he lay with the queen and she went from him with child. When the Sultan knew this, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy, and as the time of her child-bearing drew nigh, he assembled all the astrologers and those who smote the sand [FN#24] and said to them, It is my will that ye enquire concerning the child that shall be born to me this month, whether it will be male or female, and tell me what will betide it of chances and what will proceed from it. [FN#25] So the geomancers smote their [tables of] sand and the astrologers took their altitudes [FN#26] and observed the star of the babe [un]born and said to the Sultan, O King of the age and lord of the time and the tide, the child that shall be born to thee of the queen is a male and it beseemeth that thou name him Zein ul Asnam. [FN#27] And as for those who smote upon the sand, they said to him, Know, O King, that this babe will become a renowned brave, [FN#28] but he shall happen in his time upon certain travail and tribulation; yet, an he endure with fortitude against that which shall befall him, he shall become the richest of the kings of the world. And the King said to them, Since the babe shall become valiant as ye avouch, the toil and travail which will befall him are nought, for that tribulations teach the sons of kings.
Accordingly, after a few days, the queen gave birth to a male child, extolled be the perfection of Him who created him surpassing in grace and goodliness! His father named him Zein ul Asnam, and he was as say of him certain of his praisers [FN#29] in verse: [FN#30]
He shows and Now Allah be blessed! men say: Extol we his Maker and Fashioner aye!
The king of the fair [FN#31] this is, sure, one and all; Ay, his thralls, every one, and his liegemen are they.
The boy grew and flourished till he came to the age of five [FN#32] years, when his father the Sultan assigned him a governor skilled and versed in all sciences and philosophies, and he proceeded to teach him till he excelled in all manner of knowledge and became a young man. [FN#33] Then the Sultan bade bring him before himself, and assembling all the grandees of his realm and the chiefs of his subjects, proceeded to admonish him before them, saying to him, O my son Zein ul Asnam, behold, I am grown stricken in years and am presently sick; and belike this sickness will be the last of my life in this world and thou shalt sit in my stead; [wherefore I desire to admonish thee]. Beware, O my son, lest thou oppress any or turn a deaf ear to the complaining of the poor; but do thou justify the oppressed after the measure of thy might. And look thou believe not all that shall be said to thee by the great ones of the people, but trust thou still for the most part to the voice of the common folk; for the great will deceive thee, seeing they seek that which befitteth themselves, not that which befitteth the subject. Then, after a few days, the Sultan's sickness redoubled on him and he accomplished his term and died; and as for his son Zein ul Asnam, he arose and donning the raiment of woe, [mourned] for his father the space of six days. On the seventh day he arose and going forth to the Divan, sat down on the throne of the sultanate and held a court, wherein was a great assemblage of the folk, [FN#34] and the viziers came forward and the grandees of the realm and condoled with him for his father and called down blessings upon him and gave him joy of the kingship and the sultanate, beseeching God to grant him continuance of glory and prosperity without end.
When [FN#35] Zein ul Asnam saw himself in this great might and wealth, and he young in years, he inclined unto prodigality and to the converse of springalds like himself and fell to squandering vast sums upon his pleasures and left governance and concern for his subjects. The queen his mother proceeded to admonish him and to forbid him from his ill fashions, bidding him leave that manner of life and apply himself governance and administration and the ordinance of the realm, lest the folk reject him and rise up against him and expel [FN#36] hira; but he would hear not a word from her and abode in his ignorance and folly. At this the people murmured, for that the grandees of the realm put out their hands unto oppression, whenas they saw the king's lack of concern for his subjects; so they rose up in rebellion against Zein ul Asnam and would have laid violent hands upon him, had not the queen his mother been a woman of wit and judgment and address, and the people loved her; so she appeased the folk and promised them good. Then she called her son Zein ul Asnam to her and said to him, See, O my son; said I not to thee that thou wouldest lose thy kingship and eke thy life, an thou persistedst in this thine ignorance and folly, in that thou givest the ordinance of the sultanate into the hands of raw youths and eschewest the old and wastest thy substance and that of the realm, squandering it all upon lewdness and the lust of thy soul?
Zein ul Asnam hearkened to his mother's rede and going out forthright to the Divan, committed the manage of the realm into the hands of certain old men of understanding and experience; save that he did this only after Bassora had been ruined, inasmuch as he turned not from his folly till he had spent and squandered all the treasures of the sultanate and was become exceeding poor. Then he betook himself to repentance and to sorrowing over that which he had done, [FN#37] so that he lost the solace of sleep and eschewed meat and drink, till one night of the nights,--and indeed he had spent it in mourning and lamentation and melancholy thought until the last of the night,--his eyes closed for a little and there appeared to him in his sleep a venerable old man, who said to him, O Zein ul Asnam, grieve not, for that nought followeth after grief save relief from stress, and an thou desire to be delivered from this thine affliction, arise and betake thee to Cairo, where thou wilt find treasuries of wealth which shall stand thee in stead of that thou hast squandered, ay, and twofold the sum thereof. When he awoke from his sleep, he acquainted his mother with all that he had seen in his dream, and she fell to laughing at him; but he said to her, Laugh not, for needs must I journey to Cairo. O my son, answered she, put not thy trust in dreams, for that they are all vain fancies and lying imaginations. And he said to her, Nay, my dream was a true one and the man whom I saw is of the Friends of God [FN#38] and his speech is very sooth.
Accordingly, he left the sultanate and going forth a-journeying one night of the nights, took the road to Egypt [and fared on] days and nights till he came to the city of Cairo. So he entered it and saw it a great and magnificent city; then, being perished for weariness, he took shelter in one of its mosques. When he had rested awhile, he went forth and bought him somewhat to eat; and after he had eaten, he fell asleep in the mosque, of the excess of his weariness, nor had he slept but a little when the old man appeared to him in his sleep and said to him, O Zein ul Assam, [FN#39] thou hast done as I said to thee, and indeed I made proof of thee, that I might see an thou wert valiant or not; but now I know thee, inasmuch as thou hast put faith in my rede and hast done according thereto. So now return to thine own city and I will make thee a king rich after such a measure that neither before thee nor after thee shall [any] of the kings be like unto thee. So Zein ul Asnam arose from his sleep and said, In the name of God. the Compassionate, the Merciful! What is this old man who hath wearier me, so that I came to Cairo, [FN#40] and I trusted in him and deemed of him that he was the Prophet (whom God bless and keep) or one of the pious Friends of God? But there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme. By Allah. I did well in that I acquainted none with my sallying forth neither related my dream unto any! [FN#41] Indeed. I believed in this old man and meseemed. by that which appeared to me, he was none of mankind, [FN#42] extolled be His perfection and magnified be He who [alone] knoweth the truth! By Allah, I will leave trusting in this old man [neither will I comply with him] in that which he would have me do! Accordingly, he lay [the rest of] that night [in the mosque] and at daybreak he arose and mounting his courser, set out on his return to Bassora, [the seat of] his kingship, where, after a few days, he arrived and went in that same night to his mother, who asked him if aught had befallen him of that which the old man had promised him. He acquainted her with that which he had seen [in his sleep] and she fell to condoling with him and comforting him, saying, Grieve not, O my son, for, an God the Most High have appointed thee aught of [good] fortune, thou wilt attain thereto without either travail or toil; but I would have thee be understanding and discreet and leave these things which have brought thee to poverty, O my son, and eschew singing-wenches and the commerce of youths and women; all this is for the baser sort, not for kings' sons like thee. And he swore to her that he would never more gainsay her commandment, but would observe all that she should say to him and would turn his mind to the governance and the kingship and leave that wherefrom she forbade him. Then he slept that night and what while he was on sleep, the old man appeared to him and said to him, O Zein ul Asnam, O valiant one, whenas thou arisest from thy sleep this day, I will accomplish my promise to thee; wherefore take thou a pickaxe and go to the palace of thy father Such-an-one [FN#43] in such a place and dig there in the earth and thou wilt find that which shall enrich thee.
When Zein ul Asnam awoke from his sleep, he hastened to his mother, rejoicing, and acquainted her with his dream; whereupon she fell again to laughing at him and said to him, O my son, indeed this old man laugheth at thee, nought else; wherefore do thou turn thy thought from him. But he said to her, Nay, mother mine, indeed he is soothfast and lieth not; for that, in the first of his dealing, he tried me and now his intent is to accomplish unto me his promise. In any case, rejoined she, the thing is not toilsome; [FN#44] so do that which thou wilt, even as he said to thee, and make proof of the matter, and God willing, thou shalt [FN#45] return to me rejoicing; but methinketh thou wilt return to me and say, 'Thou saidst sooth, O my mother, in thy rede.' The prince accordingly took a pickaxe and going down to the palace where his father was buried, fell a-delving in the earth; nor had he dug long when, behold, there appeared to him a ring fixed in a slab of marble. He raised the slab and seeing a stair, descended thereby and found a great vault, all builded with columns of marble and alabaster; then, proceeding innerward, he found within the vault a hall which ravished the wit, and therein eight jars of green jasper; [FN#46] and he said, What be these jars and what is in them? So [FN#47] he went up and uncovering them, found them all full of old gold ; [FN#48] whereupon he took a little in his hand and going to his mother, gave her thereof and said to her, Thou seest, O my mother. She marvelled at this thing and said to him, Beware, O my son, lest thou squander it, like as thou squanderedst other than this. And he swore to her, saying, Be not concerned, O my mother, and let not thy heart be other than easy on my account, for I would fain have thee also content with me. [FN#49]
Then she arose and went with him, and they descended into the vault and entered the [underground] hall, [FN#50] where she beheld that which ravished the wit and saw the jars of gold. What while they diverted themselves with gazing upon these latter, behold, they espied a little jar of fine jade; so Zein ul Asnam opened it and found in it a golden key. Whereupon quoth his mother to him, O my son, needs must there be a door here which this key will open. Accordingly they sought in all parts of the vault and the hall, so they might see an there were a door or what not else to be found there, and presently espied a bolted lock, to which they knew that this must be the key. So Zein ul Asnam went up and putting the key in the lock, turned it and opened a door which admitted them into a second hall, [FN#51] more magnificent than the first; and it was all full of a light which dazzled the sight, yet was there no flambeau kindled therein, no, nor any window [FN#52] there, whereat they marvelled and looking farther, saw eight images of jewels, each one piece, and that of noble jewels, pure and precious.
Zein ul Asnam was amazed at this and said to his mother, How came my father by these things? And they fell to looking and considering, till presently the queen espied a curtain of silk, whereon were these words written: O my son, marvel not at these great riches, whereto I have won by dint of sore travail; but know that there existeth also another image whose worth is more than that of these [eight] images twenty times told. Wherefore, an thou wouldst come thereby, get thee to Cairo, where thou wilt find a slave of mine, by name Mubarek, who will take thee and bring thee in company [FN#53] with the ninth image. When thou enterest Cairo, the first man whom thou encounterest will direct thee to Mubarek's house, for he is known in all Egypt. [FN#54] When Zein ul Asnam read this inscription, he said, O my mother, it is my wish to journey to Cairo, so I may make search for the ninth image. Tell me, how deemest thou of my dream? Was it true or was it not? Wilt thou still say [FN#55] to me, 'These be idle tales'? But I, O my mother, needs must I journey to Cairo. O my son, answered the queen, since thou art under the safeguard of the Apostle of God [FN#56] (whom God bless and keep), go thou in peace, and I [and] thy Vizier, we will govern the realm in thine absence, against thou shalt return.
So Zein ul Asnam went forth and equipping himself [for travel, set out] and journeyed till he came to Cairo, where he enquired for Mubarek's house and the folk said to him, O my lord, this is a man than whom there is none richer in [all Cairo]; no, nor is there a more abounding than he in bounty and beneficence, and his house is [still] open to the stranger. So they directed him thither and he went till he came to the house and knocked at the door; whereupon there came out to him one of Mubarek's slaves and [FN#57] opening the door, said to him, Who art thou and what wiliest thou? Quoth Zein ul Asnam, I am a stranger, a man from a far country, and I heard tell of your lord, Mubarek, and how he is renowned for hospitality and beneficence; so I came to him, that I may be a guest with him. The slave entered and told his lord Mubarek; then returned and said to Zein ul Asnam, O my lord, blessing hath descended upon us in thy coming. [FN#58] Enter, for my lord Mubarek awaiteth thee. So Zein ul Asnam entered into a courtyard, exceeding spacious and all [full] of trees and waters, and the slave brought him into the pavilion [FN#59] where Mubarek sat. When he entered, the latter arose forthright and coming to meet him, received him with cordiality and said to him, Blessing hath descended upon us and this night is the most auspicious of nights in thy coming to us! But who art thou, O youth, and whence comest thou and whither art thou bound? The prince answered him, saying, I am Zein ul Asnam and I seek Mubarek, slave to the Sultan of Bassora, who died a year agone and whose son I am. What sayst thou? cried Mubarek. Art thou the king's son of Bassora? Yea, verily, replied Zein ul Asnam; I am his son. Quoth Mubarek, Nay, my lord the king of Bassora left no son; but what is thine age, O youth? About twenty years, replied Zein ul Asnam. And thou, added he, how long is it since thou wentest out from my father's house? I went out eighteen years agone, answered Mubarek. But, O my son Zein ul Asnam, by what token canst thou certify me that thou art the son of my lord the king of Bassora? Quoth Zein ul Asnam, Thou knowest that my father builded under his palace a vault and therein [a hall in which] he set forty [FN#60] jars of fine jade and filled them with ancient gold; [FN#61] and within this hall he made a second hall, wherein he placed eight images of precious stones, each wroughten of a single jewel and seated upon a throne of virgin gold. [FN#62] Moreover, he wrote upon a curtain of silk there and I read the writ, whereby I found that he bade me come to thee, saying that thou wouldst acquaint me of the ninth image and where it is, the which, said he, was worth the eight, all of them.
When Mubarek heard these words, he threw himself at Zein ul Asnam's feet and fell to kissing them and saying, Pardon me, O my lord! Verily, thou art the son of my lord. Then said he to the prince, O my lord, I make to-day a banquet unto all the chief men of Cairo and I would fain have thy highness honour me [with thy presence] thereat. And Zein ul Asnam said, With all my heart. [FN#63] So Mubarek arose and foregoing Zein ul Asnam, brought him into the saloon, which was full of the chief men of Cairo, assembled therein. There he sat down and seating the prince in the place of honour, called for the evening-meal. So they laid the tables and Mubarek stood to serve Zein ul Asnam, with his hands clasped behind him [FN#64] and whiles seated upon his knees [and heels]. [FN#65] The notables of Cairo marvelled at this, how Mubarek, the chiefest of them, should serve the youth, and [FN#66] were sore amazed thereat, knowing not [who or] whence he was. But, after they had eaten and drunken and supped and were of good cheer, Mubarek turned to the company and said to them, O folk, marvel not that I serve this youth with all worship and assiduity, for that he is the son of my lord the Sultan of Bassora, whose slave I was, for that he bought me with his money and died without setting me free; wherefore it behoveth me serve my lord, and all that my hand possesseth of monies and gear is his, nor is anywhit thereof mine. When the notables of Cairo heard this speech, they arose to Zein ul Asnam and did him exceeding great worship and saluted him with all reverence and prayed for him; [FN#67] and he said, O company, I am before your presence and ye are witnesses [of that which I am about to do. Then, turning to his host,] O Mubarek, [quoth he,] thou art free and all that is with thee of monies and gear appertaining unto us shall henceforth be thine and thou art altogether acquitted thereof [FN#68] and of every part thereof. Moreover, do thou ask of me whatsoever thou desirest by way of boon, [FN#69] for that I will nowise gainsay thee in aught thou mayst seek. [FN#70] Thereupon Mubarek arose and kissed the prince's hand and thanked him, saying, O my lord, I will nought of thee save that thou be well; for indeed the wealth that I have is exceeding abundant upon me.
So Zein ul Asnam abode with Mubarek four days and every day the chief men of Cairo came to salute him, whenas it reached them that this was Mubarek's lord, the Sultan of Bassora; then, after he was rested, he said to his host, O Mubarek, indeed the time is long upon me; [FN#71] and Mubarek said to him, ``Thou must know, O my lord, that this whereof thou art come in quest is a hard [FN#72] matter, nay, even unto danger of death, and I know not if thy fortitude may suffice thee for the achievement thereof. [FN#73] Know, O Mubarek, rejoined Zein ul Asnam, that wealth [is gotten] by blood [FN#74] and there betideth a man nought except by the will and foreordinance of the Creator (to whom belong might and majesty ); so do thou take heart and concern not thyself on my account. Accordingly Mubarek forthright commended his slaves equip them for travel; so they made all ready and taking horse, journeyed days and nights in the foulest of deserts, [FN#75] witnessing daily things and matters which confounded their wits,--things such as never in their time had they seen,--until they drew near the place [of their destination]; whereupon they lighted down from their steeds and Mubarek bade the slaves and servants abide there, saying to them, Keep watch over the beasts of burden and the horses till we return to you.
Then the twain set out together afoot and Mubarek said to Zein ul Asnam, O my lord, now behoveth fortitude, for that thou art in the land of the image whereof thou comest in quest. And they gave not over walking till they drew near a great lake and a wide, whereupon quoth Mubarek to Zein ul Asnam, Know, O my lord, that there will presently come to us a little boat, bearing a blue flag and builded all with planks of sandal and Comorin aloes-wood of price; and [thereanent] I have a charge to give thee, which it behoveth thee observe. What is this charge? asked the prince and Mubarek said to him, In this boat thou wilt see a boatman, [FN#76] but his make is monstrous; [FN#77] wherefore be thou ware and again, I say, beware lest thou speak aught, for that he will incontinent drown us; and know that this place appertaineth to the King of the Jinn and that all thou seest is their handiwork. Then [FN#78] they came to the lake and behold, a little boat with planks of sandal and Comorin aloes-wood and in it a boatman, whose head was [as] the head of an elephant and the rest of his body [as that of] a wild beast. [FN#79] When he drew near them, he wrapped his trunk about them both and taking them with him into the boat, rowed out with them to the midst of the lake, then fared on with them [FN#80] till he brought them to the other shore, where they landed and walking on, saw there trees of ambergris [FN#81] and aloes and sandal-wood and cloves and jessamine, [FN#82] full-grown and laden with ripe fruits and flowers [FN#83] whose fragrance dilated the breast and cheered the spright; and there [they heard] the voices of the birds twittering their various notes and ravishing the wit with their warblings. So Mubarek turned to Zein ul Asnam and said to him, How deemest thou of this place, O my lord? And the prince answered him, saying, Methinketh, O Mubarek, this is the paradise which the Prophet (whom God bless and keep) promised us withal.
Then they fared on till they came to a magnificent palace, builded all with stones of emerald and rubies, and its doors were of sheer gold. Before it was a bridge, the length whereof was an hundred and fifty cubits and its breadth fifty cubits, and it was [wroughten] of the rib of a fish; whilst at the other end of the bridge were many warriors [FN#84] of the Jinn, gruesome and terrible of aspect, and all of them bore in their hands javelins of steel that flashed in the sun like winter lightning. [FN#85] Quoth Zein ul Asnam to Mubarek, This is a thing that taketh the wits; and Mubarek said to him, It behoveth us abide in our place neither fare forward, lest a mischance betide us. O God, [vouchsafe us] safety! Therewith he brought out of his pocket four pieces of yellow silken stuff and girded himself with one thereof; the second he laid on his shoulders and gave Zein ul Asnam other two pieces, with which he girded himself [and covered his shoulders] on like wise. Moreover, he spread before each of them a sash of white silk and bringing forth of his pocket precious stones and perfumes, such as ambergris and aloes-wood, [set them on the edges thereof ; [FN#86]] after which they sat down, each on his sash, and Mubarek taught Zein ul Asnam these words, which he should say to the King of the Jinn, to wit: O my lord King of the Jinn, we are in thy safeguard. And Zein ul Asnam said to him, And I will instantly conjure him that he accept of us.
Then said Mubarek, O my lord, by Allah, I am exceeding fearful. But now hearken; an he be minded to accept of us without hurt, he will come to us in the semblance of a man accomplished in grace and goodliness; but, an he have no mind to us, he will come to us in a gruesome and a frightful aspect. An thou see him surpassing in beauty, arise forthright and salute him, but beware lest thou overpass thy sash. And Zein ul Asnam said to him, Hearkening and obedience. And be this thy salutation to him, continued Mubarek; thou shalt say, 'O King of the Jinn and lord of the earth, my father, the Sultan of Bassora, the angel of death hath removed, as indeed is not hidden from thee. Now Thy Grace was still wont to take my father under thy protection, and I come to thee likewise to put myself under thy safeguard, even as did he.' Moreover, [FN#87] O my lord Zein ul Asnam, added he, an the King of the Jinn receive us with a cheerful favour, he will without fail ask thee and say to thee, 'Seek of me that which thou wiliest and thou shalt forthright be given [it].' [FN#88] So do thou seek of him and say to him, 'O my lord, I crave of Thy Grace the ninth image, than which there is not the world a more precious; and indeed Thy Grace promised my father that thou wouldst give it to me.'
Having thus taught his lord how he should speak with the King of the Jinn and seek of him the ninth image and how he should make his speech seemly and pleasant, Mubarek fell to conjuring and fumigating and reciting words that might not be understanded; and no great while passed ere the world lightened [FN#89] and rain fell in torrents [FN#90] and it thundered and darkness covered the face of the earth; and after this there came a tempestuous wind and a voice like an earthquake of the earthquakes [FN#91] of the Day of Resurrection. When Zein ul Asnam saw these portents, his joints trembled and he was sore affrighted, for that he beheld a thing he had never in all his life seen nor heard. But Mubarek laughed at him and said to him, Fear not, O my lord; this whereat thou art affrighted is that which we seek; nay, it is a presage of good to-us. So take heart and be of good cheer. After this there came a great clearness and serenity and there breathed pure and fragrant breezes; then, presently, behold, there appeared the King of the Jinn in the semblance of a man comely of favour, there was none like unto him in his goodliness, save He who hath no like and to whom belong might and majesty. He looked on Zein ul Asnam and Mubarek with a cheerful, smiling countenance; whereupon the prince arose forthright and proffered him his petition in the words which Mubarek had taught him.
The King of the Jinn turned to him, smiling, and said to him, O Zein ul Asnam, indeed I loved thy father the Sultan of Bassora, and I used, whenassoever he came to me, to give him an image of those which thou hast seen, each wroughten of a single jewel, and thou also shalt stand in thy father's stead with me and shalt find favour in mine eyes, even as did he, ay, and more. Before he died, I caused him write the writ which thou sawest on the curtain of silk and promised him that I would take thee under my protection, even as himself, and would give thee the ninth image, which is more of worth than those which thou hast seen. Now it is my intent to perform the promise which I made to thy father, that I would take thee under my protection, and [FN#92] [know that] I was the old man whom thou sawest in thy sleep and it was I bade thee dig in the palace for the vault wherein thou foundest the jars of gold and the images of jewels. I know also wherefore thou art come hither; nay, I am he that was the cause of thy coming, and I will give thee that which thou seekest, albeit I had not given it to thy father; but on condition that thou swear to me a solemn oath and abide me constant thereto, to wit, that thou wilt return and bring me a girl of the age of fifteen years, with whom there shall be none to match in loveliness, and she must be a clean maid, who shall never have lusted after man, nor shall man have lusted after her. Moreover, thou must swear to me that thou wilt keep faith with her, coming, and beware lest thou play me false with her by the way.
So Zein ul Asnam swore a solemn oath to him of this and said to him, O my lord, indeed, thou honourest me with this service; but methinketh it will be hard to find a girl like this. Nay, supposing I find a damsel fifteen years of age and beautiful exceedingly, according to Thy Grace's requirement, how shall I know that she hath never in her time lusted after man nor hath man lusted after her? O Zein ul Asnam, replied the King of the Jinn, thou art in the right and certain it is that this knowledge is a thing unto which the sons of man may not avail; but I will give thee a mirror of my fashion, and when thou seest a girl and her beauty pleaseth thee and her grace, do thou open this mirror that I shall give thee, and if thou find her image therein clear and bright, thou shalt know forthright that she is pure without default and that all good qualities are in her; so do thou take her for me. If thou find her image in the mirror other than this, to wit, an it be troubled and clothed with uncleanness, know that the girl is sullied and beware of her; but, an thou find one such as she whose qualities I have set out to thee, bring her to me and watch over her [by the way;] yet beware and again I say, beware of treason and bethink thee that, an thou keep not faith with me, thou wilt assuredly lose thy life.
So Zein ul Asnam made with him a stable and abiding covenant, the covenant of the sons of kings, that he would keep the plighted faith and never play him false, but [FN#93] would bring him the damsel with all continence. Then the King of the Jinn delivered him the mirror and said to him, O my son, take this mirror whereof I bespoke thee, and now depart. Accordingly Zein ul Asnam and Mubarek arose and calling down blessings upon the King, returned upon their steps till they came to the lake, where they sat a little and behold, up came the boat which had brought them and the genie rowing therein, whose head was as [FN#94] the head of an elephant. Now this was by the commandment of the King of the Jinn; so they embarked with the genie and crossed with him to the other shore; after which they returned to Cairo and entering Mubarek's house, abode there awhile till they were rested from the fatigue of the journey.
Then Zein ul Asnam turned to Mubarek and said to him, Come, let us go to the city of Baghdad, so we may seek for a girl who shall be according to the requirement of the King of the Jinn. And Mubarek said to him, O my lord, we are in Cairo, the city of cities and the wonder of the world. [FN#95] I shall without fail find a girl here and it needeth not that we go to a far city. Thou sayst sooth, O Mubarek, rejoined the prince; but how shall we set about the matter and how shall we do to come by [FN#96] a girl like this and who shall go seeking her for us? O my lord, replied Mubarek, concern not thyself [FN#97] for that, for I have with me here an old woman (upon her, [to speak] figuratively, [FN#98] be the malediction [of God] [FN#99]) who is a mistress of wiles and craft and guile and not to be baulked by any hindrance, however great. Then he sent to fetch the old woman and telling her that he wanted a damsel fifteen years old and fair exceedingly, so he might marry her to the son of his lord, promised her largesse galore, an she did her utmost endeavour in the matter; whereupon, O my lord, answered she, be easy; I will accomplish unto thee thy desire beyond thy wish; for that under my hand are damsels unpeered in grace and goodliness and all of them daughters of men of condition. But, O King of the time, [FN#100] the old woman had no knowledge of the affair of the mirror.
Then she arose and went out to go round about in the city and to run along its ways, [FN#101] seeking [FN#102] the girl for Prince Zein ul Asnam, and whenassoever she saw a fair damsel, accomplished in beauty, she proceeded to bring her to Mubarek; but, when he looked at her in the mirror, he would see her image troubled exceedingly and would leave her; so that the old woman brought him all the damsels of Cairo, but there was not found among them one whose image in the mirror was clear; wherefore he bethought him to go to Baghdad, since he found not one in Cairo who pleased him [or] who was a clean maid, like as the King of the Jinn had enjoined him. So he arose and equipping himself, [set out and] journeyed, he and Zein ul Asnam, till they came to the city of Baghdad, where they hired them a magnificent palace amiddleward the city and took up their abode therein. There the chief men of the city used to come to them every day and sat at their table, even to the comer and goer by night and by day. [FN#103] Moreover, when there remained aught from their table, they distributed it to the poor and the afflicted and all the strangers in the mosques [FN#104] would come and eat with them. So the report was noised abroad in the land of their generosity and bounty and they became in high repute and fair fame throughout all Baghdad, nor did any talk but of Zein ul Asnam and his bounty and wealth.
Now it chanced that in one of the mosques was an Imam, [FN#105] corrupt, envious and despiteful in the extreme, and his lodging was near the palace wherein Mubatek and Zein ul Asnam had taken up their abode. When he heard of their bounty and generosity and of the goodliness of their repute, envy get hold upon him and jealousy of them, and he fell to bethinking himself how he should do, so he might bring some calamity upon them and despoil them of that their fair fortune, for it is of the wont of envy that it falleth not but upon the rich. So, one day of the days, as he stood in the mosque, after the mid-afternoon prayer, he came forward into the midst of the folk and said, O my brethren, O ye of the True Faith, ye who ascribe unity to God, know that in this our quarter there be two men dwelling, strangers, and most like you are acquainted with them. Now these twain spend and squander wealth galore, passing all measure, and in my belief they are none other than thieves and highwaymen and are come hither with that which they stole from their own country, so they may squander it. Then [FN#106] O people of Mohammed, added he, I rede you for God's sake keep yourselves from these tricksters, [FN#107] lest belike the Khalif come presently to know of these two men and ye also fall with them into calamity. Now I have warned you and I wash my hands of your affair, for that I have forewarned and awakened you; so do that which you deem well. And they said to him, all who were present, with one voice, We will do whatsoever thou wiliest, O Aboubekr! When the Imam heard this from them, he arose and taking inkhorn and pen and paper, fell to writing a letter to the Commander of the Faithful, setting forth to him [the case] against Zein ul Asnam and Mubarek.
Now, as destiny willed it, the latter chanced to be in the mosque among the folk and heard the accursed Imam's discourse and that which he did by way of writing the letter to the Khalif; whereupon he tarried not, but, returning home forthwith, took an hundred diners and made him a parcel of price, all of silken clothes, [FN#108] wherewith he betook himself in haste to Aboubekr's house and knocked at the door. The Imam came out to him and opened the door; and when he saw him, he asked him surlily who he was and what he would; whereupon quoth the other, O my lord the Imam Aboubekr, I am thy slave Mubarek and I come to thee on the part of my lord the Amir Zein ul Asnam. He hath heard of thy learning and of the excellence of thy repute in the city and would fain become acquainted with thee and do that which behoveth unto thee; wherefore he hath presently sent me with these things and this money for thine expenses and hopeth of thee that thou wilt not blame him, inasmuch as this is little for thy worth, but hereafter, God willing, he will not fail of that which is due unto thee. Aboubekr looked at [the coins and] at their impress and yellowness [FN#109] and at the parcel of clothes and said to Mubarek, O my lord, [I crave] pardon of thy lord the Amir, for that I am presently abashed before him [FN#110] and it irketh me sore that I have not done my duty towards him; [FN#111] but I hope of thee that thou wilt intercede with him on my behalf, so he may of his favour pardon me my default; and (the Creator willing) I will to-morrow do that which behoveth me and will go do my service to him [FN#112] and proffer him the respect which is due from me to him. O my lord Aboubekr, replied Mubarek, the extreme of my lord's desire is to look upon thy worship, so he may be honoured by thy presence and get of thee a blessing. So saying, he kissed the Imam's hand and returned to his lodging.
On the morrow, whilst Aboubekr was [engaged] in the Friday prayers at dawn, he stood up amongst the folk, in the midst of the mosque, and said, O our brethren of the Muslims and people of Mohammed, all of you, verily envy falleth not save upon the rich and the noble and passeth by the poor and those of low estate. Know that of the two stranger men against whom I spoke yesterday one is an Amir, a man of great rank and noble birth, and the case is not as certain of the envious [FN#113] informed me concerning him, to wit, that he was a thief and a robber; for I have enquired into the matter and find that the report lieth. So beware lest any of you missay of the Amir or speak aught of evil against him, such as that which I heard yesterday, or you will cause me and yourselves fall into the gravest of calamities with the Commander of the Faithful; for that a man of high degree like this cannot sojourn in the city of Baghdad without the Khalif's knowledge. On [FN#114] this wise, then, the Imam Aboubekr did away from the minds of the folk the ill thought [FN#115] which he had planted [there] by his speech concerning Zein ul Asnam.
Moreover, when he had made an end of the prayers, he returned to his own house and donned his gabardine; then, weightening his skirts and lengthening his sleeves, [FN#116] he went forth and took his way to the prince's house. When he came in to Zein ul Asnam, the latter rose to him and received him with the utmost reverence. Now he was by nature religious, [FN#117] for all he was a youth of tender age; so he proffered the Imam all manner of honour and seating him by his side on a high divan, let bring him coffee with ambergris. Then the servants spread the table for breakfast and they took their sufficiency of meat and drink, and when they had finished, they fell to talking and making merry together. Presently the Imam asked the prince and said to him, .'O my lord Zein ul Asnam, doth your highness purpose to sojourn long here in Baghdad? Yea, verily, O our Lord the Imam, answered Zein ul Asnam; my intent is to sojourn here awhile, till such time as my requirement be accomplished. And what, asked Aboubekr, is the requirement of my lord the Amir? Belike, an I know it, I may avail to further him to his wish, though I sacrifice my life for him. [FN#118] And the prince said to him, I seek a damsel fifteen years of age and fair exceedingly, that I may marry her; but she must be pure and chaste and a clean maid, whom no man hath anywise defiled nor in all her life hath she thought upon a man; [FN#119] and she must be unique in grace and goodliness.
O my lord, rejoined the Imam, this is a thing exceeding hard to find; but I know a damsel unique in her loveliness and her age is fifteen years. Her father was a Vizier, who resigned office of his own motion, and he abideth presently at home in his palace and is exceeding jealous over his daughter and her bringing up. [FN#120] Methinketh this damsel will suit your Highness's mind, and she will rejoice in an Amir like your Highness, as also will her parents. Quoth Zein ul Asnam, God willing, this damsel whereof thou speakest will answer my requirement and the accomplishment of our desire shall be at thy hands; [FN#121] but, O our lord the Imam, before all things my wish is to see her, so I may know an she be chaste or not. As for her beauty, I am assured of [FN#122] your worship's sufficiency and am content to trust to your word concerning her loveliness, to wit, that she is surpassing; but, for her chastity, you cannot avail to testify with certitude of her case. And how, asked the Imam, can it be possible unto you, O my lord the Amir, to know from her face that she is pure? An this be so, your highness is skilled in physiognomy. However, an your highness will vouchsafe to accompany me, I will carry you to her father's palace and make you known to the latter, and he shall bring her before you.
Accordingly, [FN#123] the Imam Aboubekr took Zein ul Asnam and carried him to the Vizier's house; and when they went in to him, the Vizier rose and welcomed the prince, especially when he knew that he was an Amir and understood from the Imam that he wished to marry his daughter. So he let bring the damsel before him, and when she came, he bade her raise the veil from her face. Accordingly she unveiled herself and Zein ul Asnam, looking upon her, was amazed at her grace and goodliness, for that never had he seen one to match with her in beauty; and he said in himself, I wonder if I shall [FN#124] happen upon one like this damsel, since it is forbidden that she should be mine! Then he brought out the mirror from his pocket and looked thereon; when, behold, its crystal was clear exceedingly, as it were virgin silver; and he observed her image in the mirror and saw it like a white dove. So he forthright concluded the match and sent for the Cadi and the witnesses, who wrote the writ [FN#125] and enthroned the bride; [FN#126] after which Zein ul Asnam took the Vizier, the bride's father, home with him to his house and sent the young lady jewels of great price. Then they celebrated the wedding and held high festival, never was the like thereof, whilst Zein ul Asnam proceeded to entertain the folk and made them banquets for the space of eight days. Moreover, he honoured Aboubekr the Imam and gave him gifts galore and brought the Vizier, the bride's father, presents and great rarities.
Then, the wedding festivities being ended, Mubarek said to Zein ul Asnam, Come, O my lord, let us set out on our way, lest we waste the time in sloth, now we have found that whereof we were in search. And the prince answered him, saying, Thou art in the right. So Mubarek arose and fell to equipping them for the journey; moreover, he let make the young lady a camel-litter [FN#127] with a travelling couch, [FN#128] and they set out. But Mubarek knew that Zein ul Asnam was sunken deep in love of the damsel; so he took him and said to him, O my lord Zein ul Asnam, I would fain remind thee to watch over thyself; nay, again I say, have a care and keep the faith which thou plightedst to the King of the Jinn. O Mubarek, answered the prince, an thou knewest the transport which possesseth me for the love of this young lady [FN#129] and how I still think of nothing but of taking her to Bassora and going in [to her]! And Mubarek said to him, Nay, O my lord; keep thy troth and play not the traitor to thine oath, lest there befall thee a sore calamity and thou lose thy life and the young lady lose hers also. Bethink thee of the oath which thou sworest and let not lust get the mastery over thine understanding, lest thou lose guerdan [FN#130] and honour and life. O Mubarek, rejoined Zein ul Asnam, keep thou watch over her thyself and let me not see her. So [FN#131] Mubarek fell to keeping watch and ward over the bride in the prince's stead and guarded the latter also, lest he should look on her; and so they journeyed on past the road leading unto Egypt and fared on their way to the Island of the Jinn.
When the bride beheld the journey (and indeed it was long upon her) and saw not her husband in all this time since the night of the bridal, she turned to Mubarek and said to him, God upon thee, O Mubarek, tell me, I conjure thee by the life of thy lord the Amir, are we yet far from the dominions [FN#132] of my bridegroom, the Amir Zein ul Asnam? And he said to her, Alack, O my lady, it irketh me for thee and I will discover to thee that which is hidden. To wit, thou deemest that Zein ul Asnam, King of Bassora, is thy bridegroom. Far be it! [FN#133] He is not thy bridegroom. The writing of the writ of his marriage with thee [FN#134] was but a pretext before thy parents and the folk; and now thou art going for a bride to the King of the Jinn, who sought thee from the Amir Zein ul Asnam. When the young lady heard these words, she fell a-weeping and Zein ul Asnam heard her and fell a-weeping also, a sore weeping, of the excess of his love for her. And she said to them, Is there no pity in you and no clemency and have you no fear of God, that I, a stranger maid, you cast me into a calamity like this? What answer will you give unto God [FN#135] concerning this treason that you have wroughten with me?
But her weeping and her words availed her nothing, and they ceased not to fare on with her till they came to the King of the Jinn, to whom they straightway presented her. When he beheld her, she pleased him and he turned to Zein ul Asnam and said to him. Verily, the girl whom thou hast brought me is exceeding in beauty and surpassing in loveliness; but the goodliness of thy loyalty and shine overmastering of thyself for my sake is fairer than she in mine eyes. So return now to thy place and the ninth image that thou seekest of me thou shalt find, on thy return, beside the other images; for I will send it to thee by one of my slaves of the Jinn. Accordingly, Zein ul Asnam kissed the King's hand and returned with Mubarek to Cairo; but, when they came thither, he chose not to abide with Mubarek longer than a resting-while, of the excess of his longing and his yearning to see the ninth image. Withal he ceased not from mourning, bethinking him of the young lady and her grace and goodliness; and he fell to lamenting and saying, Alas for the loss of my delights that were because of thee, O pearl of beauty and loveliness, thou whom I took from thy parents and presented to the King of the Jinn! Alack, the pity of it! And [FN#136] he chid himself for the deceit and the perfidy which he had practised upon the young lady's parents and how he had brought her to the King of the Jinn.
Then he set out and gave not over journeying till he came to Bassora and entering his palace, saluted his mother and told her all that had befallen him; whereupon quoth she to him, Arise, O my son, so thou mayst [FN#137] see this ninth image, for that I am exceeding rejoiced at its presence with us. So they both descended into the underground hall, wherein were the eight images, and found there a great marvel; to wit, instead of the ninth image, they beheld the young lady, resembling the sun in her loveliness. The prince knew her, when he saw her, and she said to him, Marvel not to find me here in place of that which thou soughtest; methinketh thou wilt not repent thee an thou take me in the stead of the ninth image. No, by Allah, oh my beloved! replied Zein ul Asnam, For that thou art the end of my seeking and I would not exchange thee for all the jewels in the world. Didst thou but know the grief which possessed me for thy separation, thou whom I took from thy parents by fraud and brought thee to the King of the Jinn! [FN#138]
Scarce had the prince made an end of his speech when they heard a noise of thunder rending the mountains and shaking the earth and fear get hold upon the queen, the mother of Zein ul Asnam, yea, and sore trembling; but, after a little, the King of the Jinn appeared and said to her, O lady, fear not, it is I who am thy son's protector and I love him with an exceeding love for the love his father bore me. Nay, I am he who appeared to him in his sleep and in this I purposed to try his fortitude, whether or not he might avail to subdue himself for loyalty's sake. Indeed the beauty of this young lady beguiled him and he could not avail to keep his covenant with me so strictly but [FN#139] that he desired her for his bride. However, I know the frailty of human nature and withal I think greatly of him that he guarded her and kept her unsullied and withdrew himself from her; [FN#140] wherefore I accept this his constancy and bestow her on him as a bride. She is the ninth image, which I promised him should be with him, and certes she is fairer than all these images of jewels, inasmuch as her like is rarely found in the world. Then the King of the Jinn turned to Zein ul Asnam and said to him, O Prince Zein ul Asnam, this is thy bride; take her and go in to her, on condition that thou love her and take not unto her a second [wife]; and I warrant thee of the goodliness of her fidelity to-thee-ward. Therewithal he vanished from them and Zein ul Asnam went out, glad and rejoicing in the young lady; [FN#141] and of [the excess of] his love for her he went in to her that night and let celebrate the bridal and hold high festival in all the kingdom. Then he abode upon the throne of his kingship, judging and commanding and forbidding, whilst his bride became queen of Bassora; and after a little his mother died. So he made her funeral obsequies [FN#142] and mourned for her; after which he lived with his bride in all content till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Societies.