ASLEEP AND AWAKE (1)
There was once [at Baghdad], in the Khalifate of Haroun er Reshid, a man, a merchant, who had a son by name Aboulhusn el Khelia. (2) The merchant died and left his son great store of wealth, which he divided into two parts, one of which he laid up and spent of the other half; and he fell to companying with Persians (3) and with the sons of the merchants and gave himself up to good eating and good drinking, till all that he had with him of wealth (4) was wasted and gone; whereupon he betook himself to his friends and comrades and boon-companions and expounded to them his case, discovering to them the failure of that which was in his hand of wealth; but not one of them took heed of him neither inclined unto him.
So he returned to his mother (and indeed his spirit was broken), and related to her that which had happened to him and what had betided him from his friends, how they, had neither shared with him nor requited him with speech. "O Aboulhusn," answered she, "on this wise are the sons (5)of this time: if thou have aught, they make much of thee, (6) and if thou have nought, they put thee away [from them]." And she went on to condole with him, what while he bewailed himself and his tears flowed and he repeated the following verses:
Then he sprang up [and going] to the place wherein was the other half of his good, [took it] and lived with it well; and he swore that he would never again consort with those whom he knew, but would company only with the stranger nor entertain him but one night and that, whenas it morrowed, he would never know him more. So he fell to sitting every night on the bridge (7) and looking on every one who passed by him; and if he saw him to be a stranger, he made friends with him and carried him to his house, where he caroused with him till the morning. Then he dismissed him and would never more salute him nor ever again drew near unto him neither invited him.
On this wise he continued to do for the space of a whole year, till, one day, as he sat on the bridge, according to his custom, expecting who should come to him, so he might take him and pass the night with him, behold, [up came] the Khalif and Mesrour, the swordsman of his vengeance, disguised [in merchants' habits] as of their wont. So he looked at them and rising up, for that he knew them not, said to them, "What say ye? Will you go with me to my dwelling-place, so ye may eat what is ready and drink what is at hand, to wit, bread baked in the platter (8) and meat cooked and wine clarified?" The Khalif refused this, but he conjured him and said to him, "God on thee, O my lord, go with me, for thou art my guest this night, and disappoint not my expectation concerning thee!" And he ceased not to press him till he consented to him; whereat Aboulhusn rejoiced and going on before him, gave not over talking with him till they came to his [house and he carried the Khalif into the] saloon. Er Reshid entered and made his servant abide at the door; and as soon as he was seated, Aboulhusn brought him somewhat to eat; so he ate, and Aboulhusn ate with him, so eating might be pleasant to him. Then he removed the tray and they washed their hands and the Khalif sat down again; whereupon Aboulhusn set on the drinking vessels and seating himself by his side, fell to filling and giving him to drink and entertaining him with discourse.
His hospitality pleased the Khalif and the goodliness of his fashion, and he said to him, "O youth, who art thou? Make me acquainted with thyself, so I may requite thee thy kindness." But Aboulhusn smiled and said, "O my lord, far be it that what is past should recur and that I be in company with thee at other than this time!" "Why so?" asked the Khalif. "And why wilt thou not acquaint me with thy case?" And Aboulhusn said, "Know, O my lord, that my story is extraordinary and that there is a cause for this affair." Quoth the Khalif, "And what is the cause?" And he answered, "The cause hath a tail." The Khalif laughed at his words and Aboulhusn said, "I will explain to thee this [saying] by the story of the lackpenny and the cook. Know, O my lord, that
STORY OF THE LACKPENNY AND THE COOK.
One of the good-for-noughts found himself one day without aught and the world was straitened upon him and his patience failed; so he lay down to sleep and gave not over sleeping till the sun burnt him and the foam came out upon his mouth, whereupon he arose, and he was penniless and had not so much as one dirhem. Presently, he came to the shop of a cook, who had set up therein his pans (9) [over the fire] and wiped his scales and washed his saucers and swept his shop and sprinkled it; and indeed his oils (10) were clear (11) and his spices fragrant and he himself stood behind his cooking-pots [waiting for custom]. So the lackpenny went up to him and saluting him, said to him, 'Weigh me half a dirhem's worth of meat and a quarter of a dirhem's worth of kouskoussou (12) and the like of bread.' So the cook weighed out to him [that which he sought] and the lackpenny entered the shop, whereupon the cook set the food before him and he ate till he had gobbled up the whole and licked the saucers and abode perplexed, knowing not how he should do with the cook concerning the price of that which he had eaten and turning his eyes about upon everything in the shop.
Presently, he caught sight of an earthen pan turned over upon its mouth; so he raised it from the ground and found under it a horse's tail, freshly cut off, and the blood oozing from it; whereby he knew that the cook adulterated his meat with horses' flesh. When he discovered this default, he rejoiced therein and washing his hands, bowed his head and went out; and when the cook saw that he went and gave him nought, he cried out, saying, 'Stay, O sneak, O slink-thief!' So the lackpenny stopped and said to him, 'Dost thou cry out upon me and becall [me] with these words, O cuckold?' Whereat the cook was angry and coming down from the shop, said, 'What meanest thou by thy speech, O thou that devourest meat and kouskoussou and bread and seasoning and goest forth with "Peace (13)[be on thee!]," as it were the thing had not been, and payest down nought for it?' Quoth the lackpenny, 'Thou liest, O son of a cuckold!' Wherewith the cook cried out and laying hold of the lackpenny's collar, said, 'O Muslims, this fellow is my first customer (14) this day and he hath eaten my food and given me nought.'
So the folk gathered together to them and blamed the lackpenny and said to him, 'Give him the price of that which thou hast eaten.' Quoth he, 'I gave him a dirhem before I entered the shop;' and the cook said, 'Be everything I sell this day forbidden (15) to me, if he gave me so much as the name of a piece of money! By Allah, he gave me nought, but ate my food and went out and [would have] made off, without aught [said I]' 'Nay,' answered the lackpenny, 'I gave thee a dirhem,' and he reviled the cook, who returned his abuse; whereupon he dealt him a cuff and they gripped and grappled and throttled each other. When the folk saw them on this wise, they came up to them and said to them, 'What is this strife between you, and no cause for it?' 'Ay, by Allah,' replied the lackpenny, 'but there is a cause for it, and the cause hath a tail!' Whereupon, 'Yea, by Allah,' cried the cook, 'now thou mindest me of thyself and thy dirhem! Yes, he gave me a dirhem and [but] a quarter of the price is spent. Come back and take the rest of the price of thy dirhem.' For that he understood what was to do, at the mention of the tail; and I, O my brother," added Aboulhusn, "my story hath a cause, which I will tell thee."
The Khalif laughed at his speech and said, "By Allah, this is none other than a pleasant tale! Tell me thy story and the cause." "With all my heart," answered Aboulhusn. "Know, O my lord, that my name is Aboulhusn el Khelia and that my father died and left me wealth galore, of which I made two parts. One I laid up and with the other I betook myself to [the enjoyment of the pleasures of] friendship [and conviviality] and consorting with comrades and boon-companions and with the sons of the merchants, nor did I leave one but I caroused with him and he with me, and I spent all my money on companionship and good cheer, till there remained with me nought [of the first half of my good]; whereupon I betook myself to the comrades and cup-companions upon whom I had wasted my wealth, so haply they might provide for my case; but, when I resorted to them and went round about to them all, I found no avail in one of them, nor broke any so much as a crust of bread in my face. So I wept for myself and repairing to my mother, complained to her of my case. Quoth she, 'On this wise are friends; if thou have aught, they make much of thee and devour thee, but, if thou have nought, they cast thee off and chase thee away.' Then I brought out the other half of my money and bound myself by an oath that I would never more entertain any, except one night, after which I would never again salute him nor take note of him; hence my saying to thee, 'Far be it that what is past should recur!' For that I will never again foregather with thee, after this night."
When the Khalif heard this, he laughed heartily and said, "By Allah, O my brother, thou art indeed excused in this matter, now that I know the cause and that the cause hath a tail. Nevertheless if it please God, I will not sever myself from thee." "O my guest," replied Aboulhusn, "did I not say to thee, 'Far be it that what is past should recur! For that I will never again foregather with any'?" Then the Khalif rose and Aboulhusn set before him a dish of roast goose and a cake of manchet-bread and sitting down, fell to cutting off morsels and feeding the Khalif therewith. They gave not over eating thus till they were content, when Aboulhusn brought bowl and ewer and potash (16) and they washed their hands.
Then he lighted him three candles and three lamps and spreading the drinking-cloth, brought clarified wine, limpid, old and fragrant, the scent whereof was as that of virgin musk. He filled the first cup and saying, "O my boon-companion, by thy leave, be ceremony laid aside between us! I am thy slave; may I not be afflicted with thy loss!" drank it off and filled a second cup, which he handed to the Khalif, with a reverence. His fashion pleased the Khalif and the goodliness of his speech and he said in himself, "By Allah, I will assuredly requite him for this!" Then Aboulhusn filled the cup again and handed it to the Khalif, reciting the following verses:
When the Khalif heard his verses, he took the cup from his hand and kissed it and drank it off and returned it to Aboulhusn, who made him an obeisance and filled and drank. Then he filled again and kissing the cup thrice, recited the following verses:
Then he gave the cup to the Khalif, saying, "Drink [and may] health and soundness [attend it]! It doth away disease and bringeth healing and setteth the runnels of health abroach."
They gave not over drinking and carousing till the middle of the night, when the Khalif said to his host, "O my brother, hast thou in thy heart a wish thou wouldst have accomplished or a regret thou wouldst fain do away?" "By Allah," answered he, "there is no regret in my heart save that I am not gifted with dominion and the power of commandment and prohibition, so I might do what is in my mind!" Quoth the Khalif, "For God's sake, O my brother, tell me what is in thy mind!" And Aboulhusn said, "I would to God I might avenge myself on my neighbours, for that in my neighbourhood is a mosque and therein four sheikhs, who take it ill, whenas there cometh a guest to me, and vex me with talk and molest me in words and threaten me that they will complain of me to the Commander of the Faithful, and indeed they oppress me sore, and I crave of God the Most High one day's dominion, that I may beat each of them with four hundred lashes, as well as the Imam of the mosque, and parade them about the city of Baghdad and let call before them, 'This is the reward and the least of the reward of whoso exceedeth [in talk] and spiteth the folk and troubleth on them their joys.' This is what I wish and no more."
Quoth the Khalif, "God grant thee that thou seekest! Let us drink one last cup and rise before the dawn draw near, and to-morrow night I will be with thee again." "Far be it!" said Aboulhusn. Then the Khalif filled a cup and putting therein a piece of Cretan henbane, gave it to his host and said to him, "My life on thee, O my brother, drink this cup from my hand!" "Ay, by thy life," answered Aboulhusn, "I will drink it from thy hand." So he took it and drank it off; but hardly had he done so, when his head forewent his feet and he fell to the ground like a slain man; whereupon the Khalif went out and said to his servant Mesrour, "Go in to yonder young man, the master of the house, and take him up and bring him to me at the palace; and when thou goest out, shut the door."
So saying, he went away, whilst Mesrour entered and taking up Aboulhusn, shut the door after him, and followed his master, till he reached the palace, what while the night drew to an end and the cocks cried out, and set him down before the Commander of the Faithful, who laughed at him. Then he sent for Jaafer the Barmecide and when he came before him, he said to him, "Note this young man and when thou seest him to-morrow seated in my place of estate and on the throne of my Khalifate and clad in my habit, stand thou in attendance upon him and enjoin the Amirs and grandees and the people of my household and the officers of my realm to do the like and obey him in that which he shall command them; and thou, if he bespeak thee of anything, do it and hearken unto him and gainsay him not in aught in this coming day." Jaafer answered with, "Hearkening and obedience," (17) and withdrew, whilst the Khalif went in to the women of the palace, who came to him, and he said to them, "Whenas yonder sleeper awaketh to-morrow from his sleep, kiss ye the earth before him and make obeisance to him and come round about him and clothe him in the [royal] habit and do him the service of the Khalifate and deny not aught of his estate, but say to him, 'Thou art the Khalif.'" Then he taught them what they should say to him and how they should do with him and withdrawing to a privy place, let down a curtain before himself and slept.
Meanwhile, Aboulhusn gave not over snoring in his sleep, till the day broke and the rising of the sun drew near, when a waiting-woman came up to him and said to him, "O our lord [it is the hour of] the morning- prayer." When he heard the girl's words, he laughed and opening his eyes, turned them about the place and found himself in an apartment the walls whereof were painted with gold and ultramarine and its ceiling starred with red gold. Around it were sleeping-chambers, with curtains of gold-embroidered silk let down over their doors, and all about vessels of gold and porcelain and crystal and furniture and carpets spread and lamps burning before the prayer-niche and slave-girls and eunuchs and white slaves and black slaves and boys and pages and attendants. When he saw this, he was confounded in his wit and said, "By Allah, either I am dreaming, or this is Paradise and the Abode of Peace!" (18) And he shut his eyes and went to sleep again. Quoth the waiting-woman, "O my lord, this is not of thy wont, O Commander of the Faithful!"
Then the rest of the women of the palace came all to him and lifted him into a sitting posture, when he found himself upon a couch, stuffed all with floss-silk and raised a cubit's height from the ground. (19) So they seated him upon it and propped him up with a pillow, and he looked at the apartment and its greatness and saw those eunuchs and slave-girls in attendance upon him and at his head, whereat he laughed at himself and said, "By Allah, it is not as I were on wake, and [yet] I am not asleep!" Then he arose and sat up, whilst the damsels laughed at him and hid [their laughter] from him; and he was confounded in his wit and bit upon his finger. The bite hurt him and he cried "Oh!" and was vexed; and the Khalif watched him, whence he saw him not, and laughed.
Presently Aboulhusn turned to a damsel and called to her; whereupon she came to him and he said to her, "By the protection of God, O damsel, am I Commander of the Faithful?" "Yes, indeed," answered she; "by the protection of God thou in this time art Commander of the Faithful." Quoth he, "By Allah, thou liest, O thousandfold strumpet!" Then he turned to the chief eunuch and called to him, whereupon he came to him and kissing the earth before him, said, "Yes, O Commander of the Faithful." "Who is Commander of the Faithful?" asked Aboulhusn. "Thou," replied the eunuch and Aboulhusn said, "Thou liest, thousandfold catamite that thou art!" Then he turned to another eunuch and said to him, "O my chief, (20) by the protection of God, am I Commander of the Faithful?" "Ay, by Allah, O my lord!" answered he. "Thou in this time art Commander of the Faithful and Vicar of the Lord of the Worlds." Aboulhusn laughed at himself and misdoubted of his reason and was perplexed at what he saw and said, "In one night I am become Khalif! Yesterday I was Aboulhusn the Wag, and to-day I am Commander of the Faithful." Then the chief eunuch came up to him and said, "O Commander of the Faithful, (the name of God encompass thee!) thou art indeed Commander of the Faithful and Vicar of the Lord of the Worlds!" And the slave-girls and eunuchs came round about him, till he arose and abode wondering at his case.
Presently, one of the slave-girls brought him a pair of sandals wrought with raw silk and green silk and embroidered with red gold, and he took them and put them in his sleeve, whereat the slave cried out and said, "Allah! Allah! O my lord, these are sandals for the treading of thy feet, so thou mayst enter the draught-house." Aboulhusn was confounded and shaking the sandals from his sleeve, put them on his feet, whilst the Khalif [well-nigh] died of laughter at him. The slave forewent him to the house of easance, where he entered and doing his occasion, came out into the chamber, whereupon the slave- girls brought him a basin of gold and an ewer of silver and poured water on his hands and he made the ablution.
Then they spread him a prayer-carpet and he prayed. Now he knew not how to pray and gave not over bowing and prostrating himself, [till he had prayed the prayers] of twenty inclinations, (21) pondering in himself the while and saying, "By Allah, I am none other than the Commander of the Faithful in very sooth! This is assuredly no dream, for all these things happen not in a dream." And he was convinced and determined in himself that he was Commander of the Faithful; so he pronounced the Salutation (22) and made an end (23) of his prayers; whereupon the slaves and slave-girls came round about him with parcels of silk and stuffs (24) and clad him in the habit of the Khalifate and gave him the royal dagger in his hand. Then the chief eunuch went out before him and the little white slaves behind him, and they ceased not [going] till they raised the curtain and brought him into the hall of judgment and the throne-room of the Khalifate. There he saw the curtains and the forty doors and El Ijli and Er Recashi (25) and Ibdan and Jedim and Abou Ishac (26) the boon-companions and beheld swords drawn and lions (27) encompassing [the throne] and gilded glaives and death-dealing bows and Persians and Arabs and Turks and Medes and folk and peoples and Amirs and viziers and captains and grandees and officers of state and men of war, and indeed there appeared the puissance of the house of Abbas (28) and the majesty of the family of the Prophet.
So he sat down upon the throne of the Khalifate and laid the dagger in his lap, whereupon all [present] came up to kiss the earth before him and called down on him length of life and continuance [of glory and prosperity]. Then came forward Jaafer the Barmecide and kissing the earth, said, "May the wide world of God be the treading of thy feet and may Paradise be thy dwelling-place and the fire the habitation of thine enemies! May no neighbour transgress against thee nor the lights of fire die out for thee, (29) O Khalif of [all] cities and ruler of [all] countries!"
Therewithal Aboulhusn cried out at him and said, "O dog of the sons of Bermek, go down forthright, thou and the master of the police of the city, to such a place in such a street and deliver a hundred dinars to the mother of Aboulhusn the Wag and bear her my salutation. [Then, go to such a mosque] and take the four sheikhs and the Imam and beat each of them with four hundred lashes and mount them on beasts, face to tail, and go round with them about all the city and banish them to a place other than the city; and bid the crier make proclamation before them, saying, 'This is the reward and the least of the reward of whoso multiplieth words and molesteth his neighbours and stinteth them of their delights and their eating and drinking!'" Jaafer received the order [with submission] and answered with ["Hearkening and] obedience;" after which he went down from before Aboulhusn to the city and did that whereunto he had bidden him.
Meanwhile, Aboulhusn abode in the Khalifate, taking and giving, ordering and forbidding and giving effect to his word, till the end of the day, when he gave [those who were present] leave and permission [to withdraw], and the Amirs and officers of state departed to their occasions. Then the eunuchs came to him and calling down on him length of life and continuance [of glory and prosperity], walked in attendance upon him and raised the curtain, and he entered the pavilion of the harem, where he found candles lighted and lamps burning and singing-women smiting [on instruments of music]. When he saw this, he was confounded in his wit and said in himself, "By Allah, I am in truth Commander of the Faithful!" As soon as he appeared, the slave-girls rose to him and carrying him up on to the estrade, (30) brought him a great table, spread with the richest meats. So he ate thereof with all his might, till he had gotten his fill, when he called one of the slave-girls and said to her, "What is thy name?" "My name is Miskeh," replied she, and he said to another, "What is thy name?" Quoth she, "My name is Terkeh." Then said he to a third, "What is thy name?" "My name is Tuhfeh," answered she; and he went on to question the damsels of their names, one after another, [till he had made the round of them all], when he rose from that place and removed to the wine-chamber.
He found it every way complete and saw therein ten great trays, full of all fruits and cakes and all manner sweetmeats. So he sat down and ate thereof after the measure of his sufficiency, and finding there three troops of singing-girls, was amazed and made the girls eat. Then he sat and the singers also seated themselves, whilst the black slaves and the white slaves and the eunuchs and pages and boys stood, and the slave-girls, some of them, sat and some stood. The damsels sang and warbled all manner melodies and the place answered them for the sweetness of the songs, whilst the pipes cried out and the lutes made accord with them, till it seemed to Aboulhusn that he was in Paradise and his heart was cheered and his breast dilated. So he sported and joyance waxed on him and he bestowed dresses of honour on the damsels and gave and bestowed, challenging this one and kissing that and toying with a third, plying one with wine and another with meat, till the night fell down.
All this while the Khalif was diverting himself with watching him and laughing, and at nightfall he bade one of the slave-girls drop a piece of henbane in the cup and give it to Aboulhusn to drink. So she did as he bade her and gave Aboulhusn the cup, whereof no sooner had he drunken than his head forewent his feet [and he fell down, senseless]. Therewith the Khalif came forth from behind the curtain, laughing, and calling to the servant who had brought Aboulhusn to the palace, said to him, "Carry this fellow to his own place." So Mesrour took him up [and carrying him to his own house], set him down in the saloon. Then he went forth from him and shutting the saloon-door upon him, returned to the Khalif, who slept till the morrow.
As for Aboulhusn, he gave not over sleeping till God the Most High brought on the morning, when he awoke, crying out and saying, "Ho, Tuffaheh! Ho, Rahet el Culoub! Ho, Miskeh! Ho, Tuhfeh!" And he gave not over calling upon the slave-girls till his mother heard him calling upon strange damsels and rising, came to him and said, "The name of God encompass thee! Arise, O my son, O Aboulhusn! Thou dreamest." So he opened his eyes and finding an old woman at his head, raised his eyes and said to her, "Who art thou?" Quoth she, "I am thy mother;" and he answered, "Thou liest! I am the Commander of the Faithful, the Vicar of God." Whereupon his mother cried out and said to him, "God preserve thy reason! Be silent, O my son, and cause not the loss of our lives and the spoiling of thy wealth, [as will assuredly betide,] if any hear this talk and carry it to the Khalif."
So he rose from his sleep and finding himself in his own saloon and his mother by him, misdoubted of his wit and said to her, "By Allah, O my mother, I saw myself in a dream in a palace, with slave-girls and servants about me and in attendance upon me, and I sat upon the throne of the Khalifate and ruled. By Allah, O my mother, this is what I saw, and verily it was not a dream!" Then he bethought himself awhile and said, "Assuredly, I am Aboulhusn el Khelia, and this that I saw was only a dream, and [it was in a dream that] I was made Khalif and commanded and forbade." Then he bethought himself again and said, "Nay, but it was no dream and I am no other than the Khalif, and indeed I gave gifts and bestowed dresses of honour." Quoth his mother to him, "O my son, thou sportest with thy reason: thou wilt go to the hospital and become a gazing-stock. Indeed, that which thou hast seen is only from the Devil and it was a delusion of dreams, for whiles Satan sporteth with men's wits in all manner ways."
Then said she to him, "O my son, was there any one with thee yesternight?" And he bethought himself and said, "Yes; one lay the night with me and I acquainted him with my case and told him my story. Doubtless, he was from the Devil, and I, O my mother, even as thou sayst truly, am Aboulhusn el Khelia." "O my son," rejoined she, "rejoice in tidings of all good, for yesterday's record is that there came the Vivier Jaafer the Barmecide [and his company] and beat the sheikhs of the mosque and the Imam, each four hundred lashes; after which they paraded them about the city, making proclamation before them and saying, 'This is the reward and the least of the reward of whoso lacketh of goodwill to his neighbours and troubleth on them their lives!' and banished them from Baghdad. Moreover, the Khalif sent me a hundred dinars and sent to salute me." Whereupon Aboulhusn cried out and said to her, "O old woman of ill-omen, wilt thou contradict me and tell me that I am not the Commander of the Faithful? It was I who commanded Jaafer the Barmecide to beat the sheikhs and parade them about the city and make proclamation before them and who sent thee the hundred dinars and sent to salute thee, and I, O beldam of ill-luck, am in very deed the Commander of the Faithful, and thou art a liar, who would make me out a dotard."
So saying, he fell upon her and beat her with a staff of almond-wood, till she cried out, "[Help], O Muslims!" and he redoubled the beating upon her, till the folk heard her cries and coming to her, [found] Aboulhusn beating her and saying to her, "O old woman of ill-omen, am I not the Commander of the Faithful? Thou hast enchanted me!" When the folk heard his words, they said, "This man raveth," and doubted not of his madness. So they came in upon him and seizing him, pinioned him and carried him to the hospital. Quoth the superintendant, "What aileth this youth?" And they said, "This is a madman." "By Allah," cried Aboulhusn, "they lie against me! I am no madman, but the Commander of the Faithful." And the superintendant answered him, saying, "None lieth but thou, O unluckiest of madmen!"
Then he stripped him of his clothes and clapping on his neck a heavy chain, bound him to a high lattice and fell to drubbing him two bouts a day and two anights; and on this wise he abode the space of ten days. Then his mother came to him and said, "O my son, O Aboulhusn, return to thy reason, for this is the Devil's doing." Quoth he, "Thou sayst sooth, O my mother, and bear thou witness of me that I repent [and forswear] that talk and turn from my madness. So do thou deliver me, for I am nigh upon death." So his mother went out to the superintendant and procured his release and he returned to his own house.
Now this was at the beginning of the month, and when it was the end thereof, Aboulhusn longed to drink wine and returning to his former usance, furnished his saloon and made ready food and let bring wine; then, going forth to the bridge, he sat there, expecting one whom he should carouse withal, as of his wont. As he sat thus, behold, up came the Khalif [and Mesrour] to him; but Aboulhusn saluted them not and said to them, "No welcome and no greeting to the perverters! (31) Ye are no other than devils." However, the Khalif accosted him and said to him, "O my brother, did I not say to thee that I would return to thee?" Quoth Aboulhusn, "I have no need of thee; and as the byword says in verse:
'Twere fitter and better my loves that I leave, For, if the eye see not, the heart will not grieve.
And indeed, O my brother, the night thou camest to me and we caroused together, I and thou, it was as if the Devil came to me and troubled me that night." "And who is he, the Devil?" asked the Khalif. "He is none other than thou," answered Aboulhusn; whereat the Khalif smiled and sitting down by him, coaxed him and spoke him fair, saying, "O my brother, when I went out from thee, I forgot [to shut] the door [and left it] open, and belike Satan came in to thee." Quoth Aboulhusn, "Ask me not of that which hath betided me. What possessed thee to leave the door open, so that the Devil came in to me and there befell me with him this and that?" And he related to him all that had befallen him, from first to last, aud there is no advantage in the repetition of it; what while the Khalif laughed and hid his laughter.
Then said he to Aboulhusn, "Praised be God who hath done away from thee that which irked thee and that I see thee in weal!" And Aboulhusn said, "Never again will I take thee to boon-companion or sitting-mate; for the byword saith, 'Whoso stumbleth on a stone and returneth thereto, blame and reproach be upon him.' And thou, O my brother, nevermore will I entertain thee nor use companionship with thee, for that I have not found thy commerce propitious to me." (32) But the Khalif blandished him and conjured him, redoubling words upon him with "Verily, I am thy guest; reject not the guest," till Aboulhusn took him and [carrying him home], brought him into the saloon and set food before him and friendly entreated him in speech. Then he told him all that had befallen him, whilst the Khalif was like to die of hidden laughter; after which Aboulhusn removed the tray of food and bringing the wine-tray, filled a cup and emptied it out three times, then gave it to the Khalif, saying, "O boon-companion mine, I am thy slave and let not that which I am about to say irk thee, and be thou not vexed, neither do thou vex me." And he recited these verses:
When the Khalif heard these his verses, he was moved to exceeding delight and taking the cup, drank it off, and they ceased not to drink and carouse till the wine rose to their heads. Then said Aboulhusn to the Khalif, "O boon-companion mine, of a truth I am perplexed concerning my affair, for meseemed I was Commander of the Faithful and ruled and gave gifts and largesse, and in very deed, O my brother, it was not a dream." "These were the delusions of sleep," answered the Khalif and crumbling a piece of henbane into the cup, said to him, "By my life, do thou drink this cup." And Aboulhusn said, "Surely I will drink it from thy hand." Then he took the cup from the Khalifs hand and drank it off, and no sooner had it settled in his belly than his head forewent his feet [and he fell down senseless].
Now his parts and fashions pleased the Khalif and the excellence of his composition and his frankness, and he said in himself, "I will assuredly make him my cup- companion and sitting-mate." So he rose forthright and saying to Mesrour, "Take him up," [returned to the palace]. Accordingly, Mesrour took up Aboulhusn and carrying him to the palace of the Khalifate, set him down before Er Reshid, who bade the slaves and slave- girls encompass him about, whilst he himself hid in a place where Aboulhusn could not see him.
Then he commanded one of the slave-girls to take the lute and strike it at Aboulhusn's head, whilst the rest smote upon their instruments. [So they played and sang,] till Aboulhusn awoke at the last of the night and heard the noise of lutes and tabrets and the sound of the pipes and the singing of the slave-girls, whereupon he opened his eyes and finding himself in the palace, with the slave-girls and eunuchs about him, exclaimed, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! Verily, I am fearful of the hospital and of that which I suffered therein aforetime, and I doubt not but the Devil is come to me again, as before. O my God, put thou Satan to shame!" Then he shut his eyes and laid his head in his sleeve and fell to laughing softly and raising his head [bytimes], but [still] found the apartment lighted and the girls singing.
Presently, one of the eunuchs sat down at his head and said to him, "Sit up, O Commander of the Faithful, and look on thy palace and thy slave-girls." Quoth Aboulhusn, "By the protection of God, am I in truth Commander of the Faithful and dost thou not lie? Yesterday, I went not forth neither ruled, but drank and slept, and this eunuch cometh to rouse me up." Then he sat up and bethought himself of that which had betided him with his mother and how he had beaten her and entered the hospital, and he saw the marks of the beating, wherewithal the superintendant of the hospital had beaten him, and was perplexed concerning his affair and pondered in himself, saying, "By Allah, I know not how my case is nor what is this that betideth me!"
Then he turned to a damsel of the damsels and said to her, "Who am I?" Quoth she, "Thou art the Commander of the Faithful;" and he said, "Thou liest, O calamity! (33) If I be indeed the Commander of the Faithful, bite my finger." So she came to him and bit it with her might, and he said to her, "It sufficeth." Then he said to the chief eunuch, "Who am I?" And he answered, "Thou art the Commander of the Faithful." So he left him and turning to a little white slave, said to him, "Bite my ear;" and he bent down to him and put his ear to his mouth. Now the slave was young and lacked understanding; so he closed his teeth upon Aboulhusn's ear with his might, till he came near to sever it; and he knew not Arabic, so, as often as Aboulhusn said to him, "It sufficeth," he concluded that he said, "Bite harder," and redoubled his bite and clenched his teeth upon the ear, whilst the damsels were diverted from him with hearkening to the singing-girls, and Aboulhusn cried out for succour from the boy and the Khalif [well-nigh] lost his senses for laughter.
Then he dealt the boy a cuff and he let go his ear, whereupon Aboulhusn put off his clothes and abode naked, with his yard and his arse exposed, and danced among the slave-girls. They bound his hands and he wantoned among them, what while they [well-nigh] died of laughing at him and the Khalif swooned away for excess of laughter. Then he came to himself and going forth to Aboulhusn, said to him, "Out on thee, O Aboulhusn! Thou slayest me with laughter." So he turned to him and knowing him, said to him, "By Allah, it is thou slayest me and slayest my mother and slewest the sheikhs and the Imam of the Mosque!"
Then the Khalif took him into his especial favour and married him and bestowed largesse on him and lodged him with himself in the palace and made him of the chief of his boon-companions, and indeed he was preferred with him above them and the Khalif advanced him over them all. Now they were ten in number, to wit, El Ijli and Er Recashi and Ibdan and Hassan el Feresdec and El Lauz and Es Seker and Omar et Tertis and Abou Nuwas (34) and Abou Ishac en Nedim and Aboulhusn el Khelia, and by each of them hangeth a story that is told in other than this book. And indeed Aboulhusn became high in honour with the Khalif and favoured above all, so that he sat with him and the Lady Zubeideh bint el Casim and married the latter's treasuress, whose name was Nuzhet el Fuad.
Aboulhusn abode with his wife in eating and drinking and all delight of life, till all that was with them was spent, when he said to her, "Harkye, O Nuzhet el Fuad!" "At thy service," answered she, and he said, "I have it in mind to play a trick on the Khalif and thou shalt do the like with the Lady Zubeideh, and we will take of them, in a twinkling, two hundred dinars and two pieces of silk." "As thou wilt," answered she; "but what thinkest thou to do?" And he said,"We will feign ourselves dead and this is the trick. I will die before thee and lay myself out, and do thou spread over me a kerchief of silk and loose [the muslin of] my turban over me and tie my toes and lay on my heart a knife, and a little salt. (35) Then let down thy hair and betake thyself to thy mistress Zubeideh, tearing thy dress and buffeting thy face and crying out. She will say to thee, 'What aileth thee?' and do thou answer her, saying, 'May thy head outlive Aboulhusn el Khelia! For he is dead." She will mourn for me and weep and bid her treasuress give thee a hundred dinars and a piece of silk and will say to thee, 'Go lay him out and carry him forth [to burial].' So do thou take of her the hundred dinars and the piece of silk and come back, and when thou returnest to me, I will rise up and thou shalt lie down in my place, and I will go to the Khalif and say to him, 'May thy head outlive Nuzhet el Fuad!' and tear my dress and pluck at my beard. He will mourn for thee and say to his treasurer, 'Give Aboulhusn a hundred dinars and a piece of silk.' Then he will say to me, 'Go; lay her out and carry her forth;' and I will come back to thee."
Therewith Nuzhet el Fuad rejoiced and said, "Indeed, this is an excellent device." [Then Aboulhusn stretched himself out] forthright and she shut his eyes and tied his feet and covered him with the kerchief and did what [else] her lord had bidden her; after which she rent her dress and uncovering her head, let down her hair and went in to the Lady Zubeideh, crying out and weeping, When the princess saw her in this case, she said to her, "What plight is this [in which I see thee]? What is thy story and what maketh thee weep?" And Nuzhet el Fuad answered, weeping and crying out the while, "O my lady, may thy head live and mayst thou survive Aboulhusn el Khelia! For he is dead." The Lady Zubeideh mourned for him and said, "Alas for Aboulhusn el Khelia!" And she wept for him awhile. Then she bade her treasuress give Nuzhet el Fuad a hundred dinars and a piece of silk and said to her, "O Nuzhet el Fuad, go, lay him out and carry him forth."
So she took the hundred dinars and the piece of silk and returned to her dwelling, rejoicing, and went in to Aboulhusn and told him what had befallen, whereupon he arose and rejoiced and girt his middle and danced and took the hundred dinars and the piece of silk and laid them up. Then he laid out Nuzhet el Fuad and did with her even as she had done with him; after which he rent his clothes and plucked out his beard and disordered his turban [and went forth] and gave not over running till he came in to the Khalif, who was sitting in the hall of audience, and he in this plight, beating upon his breast. Quoth the Khalif to him, "What aileth thee, O Aboulhusn!" And he wept and said, "Would thy boon-companion had never been and would his hour had never come!" "Tell me [thy case,]" said the Khalif; and Aboulhusn said, "O my lord, may thy head outlive Nuzhet el Fuad!" Quoth the Khalif, "There is no god but God!" And he smote hand upon hand. Then he comforted Aboulhusn and said to him, "Grieve not, for we will give thee a concubine other than she." And he bade the treasurer give him a hundred dinars and a piece of silk. So the treasurer gave him what the Khalif bade him, and the latter said to him,"Go, lay her out and carry her forth and make her a handsome funeral." So Aboulhusn took that which he had given him and returning to his house, rejoicing, went in to Nuzhet el Fuad and said to her, "Arise, for the wish is accomplished unto us." So she arose and he laid before her the hundred dinars and the piece of silk, whereat she rejoiced, and they added the gold to the gold and the silk to the silk and sat talking and laughing at one another.
Meanwhile, when Aboulhusn went out from the presence of the Khalif and went to lay out Nuzhet el Fuad, the prince mourned for her and dismissing the divan, arose and betook himself, leaning upon Mesrour, the swordsman of his vengeance, [to the pavilion of the harem, where he went in] to the Lady Zubeideh, that he might condole with her for her slave-girl. He found the princess sitting weeping and awaiting his coming, so she might condole with him for [his boon-companion] Aboulhusn el Khelia. So he said to her, "May thy head outlive thy slave-girl Nuzhet el Fuad!" And she answered, saying, "O my lord, God preserve my slave-girl! Mayst thou live and long survive thy boon-companion Aboulhusn el Khelia! For he is dead."
The Khalif smiled and said to his eunuch, "O Mesrour, verily women are little of wit. I conjure thee, by Allah, say, was not Aboulhusn with me but now?" ["Yes, O Commander of the Faithful," answered Mesrour] Quoth the Lady Zubeideh, laughing from a heart full of wrath, "Wilt thou not leave thy jesting? Is it not enough that Aboulhusn is dead, but thou must kill my slave-girl also and bereave us of the two and style me little of wit?" "Indeed," answered the Khalif, "it is Nuzhet el Fuad who is dead." And Zubeideh said, "Indeed he hath not been with thee, nor hast thou seen him, and none was with me but now but Nuzhet el Fuad, and she sorrowful, weeping, with her clothes torn. I exhorted her to patience and gave her a hundred dinars and a piece of silk; and indeed I was awaiting thy coming, so I might condole with thee for thy boon- companion Aboulhusn el Khelia, and was about to send for thee." The Khalif laughed and said, "None is dead but Nuzhet el Fuad;" and she, "No, no, my lord; none is dead but Aboulhusn."
With this the Khalif waxed wroth, and the Hashimi vein (36) started out from between his eyes and he cried out to Mesrour and said to him, "Go forth and see which of them is dead." So Mesrour went out, running, and the Khalif said to Zubeideh, "Wilt thou lay me a wager?" "Yes," answered she; "I will wager, and I say that Aboulhusn is dead." "And I," rejoined the Khalif, "wager and say that none is dead save Nuzhet el Fuad; and the stake shall be the Garden of Pleasance against thy palace and the Pavilion of Pictures." So they [agreed upon this and] abode awaiting Mesrour, till such time as he should return with news.
As for Mesrour, he gave not over running till he came to the by-street, [wherein was the house] of Aboulhusn el Khelia. Now the latter was sitting reclining at the lattice, and chancing to look round, saw Mesrour running along the street and said to Nuzhet el Fuad, "Meseemeth the Khalif, when I went forth from him, dismissed the Divan and went in to the Lady Zubeideh, to condole with her [for thee;] whereupon she arose and condoled with him [for me,] saying, 'God greaten thy recompence for [the loss of] Aboulhusn el Khelia!' And he said to her, 'None is dead save Nuzhet el Fuad, may thy head outlive her!' Quoth she, 'It is not she who is dead, but Aboulhusn el Khelia, thy boon-companion.' And he to her, 'None is dead but Nuzhet el Fuad.' And they gainsaid one another, till the Khalif waxed wroth and they laid a wager, and he hath sent Mesrour the sword- bearer to see who is dead. Wherefore it were best that thou lie down, so he may see thee and go and acquaint the Khalif and confirm my saying." So Nuzhet el Fuad stretched herself out and Aboulhusn covered her with her veil and sat at her head, weeping.
Presently, in came Mesrour the eunuch to him and saluted him and seeing Nuzhet el Fuad stretched out, uncovered her face and said, "There is no god but God! Our sister Nuzhet el Fuad is dead. How sudden was the [stroke of] destiny! May God have mercy on thee and acquit thee of responsibility!" Then he returned and related what had passed before the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh, and he laughing. "O accursed one,' said the Khalif, "is this a time for laughter? Tell us which is dead of them." "By Allah, O my lord," answered Mesrour, "Aboulhusn is well and none is dead but Nuzhet el Fuad." Quoth the Khalif to Zubeideh, "Thou hast lost thy pavilion in thy play," and he laughed at her and said to Mesrour, "O Mesrour, tell her what thou sawest." "Verily, O my lady," said the eunuch, "I ran without ceasing till I came in to Aboulhusn in his house and found Nuzhet el Fuad lying dead and Aboulhusn sitting at her head, weeping. I saluted him and condoled with him and sat down by his side and uncovered the face of Nuzhet el Fuad and saw her dead and her face swollen. So I said to him, 'Carry her out forthright [to burial], so we may pray over her.' He answered, 'It is well;' and I left him to lay her out and came hither, that I might tell you the news."
The Khalif laughed and said, "Tell it again and again to thy lady lack-wit." When the Lady Zubeideh heard Mesrour's words [and those of the Khalif,] she was wroth and said, "None lacketh wit but he who believeth a black slave." And she reviled Mesrour, whilst the Khalif laughed. Mesrour was vexed at this and said to the Khalif, "He spoke sooth who said, 'Women lack wit and religion.'" Then said the Lady Zubeideh to the Khalif, "O Commander of the Faithful, thou sportest and jestest with me, and this slave hoodwinketh me, to please thee; but I will send and see which is dead of them." And he answered, saying, "Send one who shall see which is dead of them." So the Lady Zubeideh cried out to an old woman, a stewardess, and said to her, "Go to the house of Nuzhet el Fuad in haste and see who is dead and loiter not." And she railed at her.
The old woman went out, running, whilst the Khalif and Mesrour laughed, and gave not over running till she came into the street. Aboulhusn saw her and knowing her, said to his wife, "O Nuzhet el Fuad, meseemeth the Lady Zubeideh hath sent to us to see who is dead and hath not given credence to Mesrour's report of thy death; so she hath despatched the old woman, her stewardess, to discover the truth; wherefore it behoveth me to be dead in my turn, for the sake of thy credit with the Lady Zubeideh." Accordingly, he lay down and stretched himself out, and she covered him and bound his eyes and feet and sat at his head, weeping.
Presently, the old woman came in to her and saw her sitting at Aboulhusn's head, weeping and lamenting; and when she saw the old woman, she cried out and said to her, "See what hath betided me! Indeed, Aboulhusn is dead and hath left me alone and forlorn!" Then she cried out and tore her clothes and said to the old woman, "O my mother, how good he was!" Quoth the other, "Indeed thou art excused, for thou wast used to him and he to thee." Then she considered what Mesrour had reported to the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh and said to her, "Indeed, Mesrour goeth about to sow discord between the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh." "And what is the [cause of] discord, O my mother?" asked Nuzhet el Fuad. "O my daughter," answered the old woman, "Mesrour came to the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh and gave them news of thee that thou wast dead and that Aboulhusn was well. "And Nuzhet el Fuad said to her, "O my aunt, I was with my lady but now and she gave me a hundred dinars and a piece of silk; and now see my condition and that which hath befallen me! Indeed, I am bewildered, and how shall I do, and I alone, forlorn? Would God I had died and he had lived!"
Then she wept and the old woman with her and the latter went up to Aboulhusn and uncovering his face, saw his eyes bound and swollen for the binding. So she covered him again and said, "Indeed, O Nuzhet el Fuad, thou art afflicted in Aboulhusn!" Then she condoled with her and going out from her, ran without ceasing till she came in to the Lady Zubeideh and related to her the story; and the princess said to her, laughing, "Tell it over again to the Khalif, who maketh me out scant of wit and lacking of religion, and to this ill-omened slave, who presumeth to contradict me." Quoth Mesrour, "This old woman lieth; for I saw Aboulhusn well and Nuzhet el Fuad it was who lay dead." "It is thou that liest," rejoined the stewardess, "and wouldst fain sow discord between the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh." And he said, "None lieth but thou, O old woman of ill-omen, and thy lady believeth thee, and she doteth." Whereupon the Lady Zubeideh cried out at him, and indeed she was enraged at him and at his speech and wept.
Then said the Khalif to her, "I lie and my eunuch lieth, and thou liest and thy waiting-woman lieth; so methinks we were best go, all four of us together, that we may see which of us telleth the truth." Quoth Mesrour, "Come, let us go, that I may put this ill-omened old woman to shame (37) and deal her a sound drubbing for her lying." And she answered him, saying, "O dotard, is thy wit like unto my wit? Indeed, thy wit is as the hen's wit." Mesrour was incensed at her words and would have laid violent hands on her, but the Lady Zubeideh warded him off from her and said to him, "Her sooth-fastness will presently be distinguished from thy sooth-fastness and her leasing from thy leasing."
Then they all four arose, laying wagers with one another, and went forth, walking, from the palace-gate [and fared on] till they came in at the gate of the street in which Aboulhusn el Khelia dwelt. He saw them and said to his wife Nuzhet el Fuad, "Verily, all that is sticky is not a pancake and not every time cometh the jar off safe. (38)' Meseemeth the old woman hath gone and told her lady and acquainted her with our case and she hath disputed with Mesrour the eunuch and they have laid wagers with one another about our death and are come to us, all four, the Khalif and the eunuch and the Lady Zubeideh and the old woman." When Nuzhet el Fuad heard this, she started up from her lying posture and said, "How shall we do?" And he said, "We will both feign ourselves dead and stretch ourselves out and hold our breath." So she hearkened unto him and they both lay down on the siesta[-carpet] and bound their feet and shut their eyes and covered themselves with the veil and held their breath.
Presently, up came the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh and Mesrour and the old woman and entering, found Aboulhusn and his wife both stretched out [apparently] dead; which when the Lady Zubeideh saw, she wept and said, "They ceased not to bring [ill] news of my slave- girl, till she died; methinketh Aboulhusn's death was grievous to her and that she died after him." (39). Quoth the Khalif, "Thou shalt not forestall me with talk and prate. She certainly died before Aboulhusn, for he came to me with his clothes torn and his beard plucked out, beating his breast with two bricks, and I gave him a hundred dinars and a piece of silk and said to him, 'Go, carry her forth [and bury her] and I will give thee a concubine other than she and handsomer, and she shall be in stead of her.' But it would appear that her death was no light matter to him and he died after her; (40) so it is I who have beaten thee and gotten thy stake."
The Lady Zubeideh answered him many words and the talk waxed amain between them. At last the Khalif sat down at the heads of the pair and said, "By the tomb of the Apostle of God (may He bless and preserve him!) and the sepulchres of my fathers and forefathers, whoso will tell me which of them died before the other, I will willingly give him a thousand dinars!" When Aboulhusn heard the Khalifs words, he sprang up in haste and said, "I died first, O Commander of the Faithful! Hand over the thousand dinars and quit thine oath and the conjuration by which thou sworest." Then Nuzhet el Fuad rose also and stood up before the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh, who both rejoiced in this and in their safety, and the princess chid her slave-girl. Then the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh gave them joy at their well-being and knew that this [pretended] death was a device to get the money; and the princess said to Nuzhet el Fuad, "Thou shouldst have sought of me that which thou desiredst, without this fashion, and not have consumed my heart for thee." And she said, "Indeed, I was ashamed, O my lady."
As for the Khalif, he swooned away for laughing and said, "O Aboulhusn, thou wilt never cease to be a wag and do rarities and oddities!" Quoth he, "O Commander of the Faithful, I played off this trick, for that the money was exhausted, which thou gavest me, and I was ashamed to ask of thee again. When I was single, I could never keep money; but since thou marriedst me to this damsel here, if I possessed thy wealth, I should make an end of it. So, when all that was in my hand was spent, I wrought this trick, so I might get of thee the hundred dinars and the piece of silk; and all this is an alms from our lord. But now make haste to give me the thousand dinars and quit thee of thine oath."
The Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh laughed and returned to the palace; and he gave Aboulhusn the thousand dinars, saying, "Take them as a thank-offering for thy preservation from death," whilst the princess did the like with Nuzhet el Fuad. Moreover, the Khalif increased Aboulhusn in his stipends and allowances, and he [and his wife] ceased not [to live] in joy and contentment, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies, he who layeth waste the palaces and peopleth the tombs.