GHANIM BEN EYOUB THE SLAVE OF LOVE.
There lived once at Damascus, in the days of the Khalif Haroun er Reshid, a wealthy merchant, who had a son like the moon at its full and withal sweet of speech, called Ghanim ben Eyoub, and a daughter called Fitneh, unique in her beauty and grace. Their father died and left them abundant wealth and amongst other things a hundred loads of silk and brocade and bladders of musk, on each of which was written, 'This is of the loads intended for Baghdad,' he having been about to make the journey thither, when God the Most High took him to Himself. After awhile, his son took the loads and bidding farewell to his mother and kindred and townsfolk, set out for Baghdad with a company of merchants, committing himself to God the Most High, who decreed him safety, so that he arrived without hindrance at that city. Here he hired a handsome house, which he furnished with carpets and cushions and hangings, and stored his goods therein and put up his mules and camels. Then he abode awhile, resting, whilst the merchants and notables of Baghdad came and saluted him; after which he took a parcel containing ten pieces of costly stuffs, with the prices written on them, and carried it to the bazaar, where the merchants received him with honour and made him sit down in the shop of the chief of the market, to whom he delivered the parcel of stuffs. He opened it and taking out the stuffs, sold them for him at a profit of two dinars on every one of prime cost. At this Ghanim rejoiced and went on to sell his stuffs, little by little, for a whole year. On the first day of the following year, he repaired, as usual, to the bazaar in the market-place, but found the gate shut and enquiring the reason, was told that one of the merchants was dead and that all the others had gone to wail in his funeral and was asked if he were minded to gain the favour of God by going with them. He assented and enquired where the funeral was to be held, whereupon they directed him to the place. So he made the ablution and repaired with the other merchants to the place of prayer, where they prayed over the dead, then went before the bier to the burial-place without the city and passed among the tombs till they came to the grave. Here they found that the dead man's people had pitched a tent over the tomb and brought thither lamps and candles. So they buried the dead and sat down to listen to the reading of the Koran over the tomb. Ghanim sat with them, being overcome with bashfulness and saying to himself, 'I cannot well go away till they do.' They sat listening to the recitation till nightfall, when the servants set the evening meal and sweetmeats before them and they ate till they were satisfied, then sat down again, after having washed their hands. But Ghanim was troubled for his house and property being in fear of thieves, and said to himself, 'I am a stranger here and thought to be rich, and if I pass the night abroad, the thieves will steal the money and the goods.' So he arose and left the company, having first asked leave to go about a necessary business, and following the beaten track, came to the gate of the city, but found it shut and saw none going or coming nor heard aught but the dogs barking and the wolves howling, for it was now the middle of the night. At this he exclaimed, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God! I was in fear for my property and came back on its account, but now I find the gate shut and am become in fear for my life!' And he retraced his steps, seeking a place where he might pass the night, till he found a tomb enclosed by four walls, with a palm-tree in its midst and a gate of granite. The gate stood open; so he entered and lay down, but sleep came not to him and fright and oppression beset him, for that he was alone among the tombs. So he rose to his feet and opening the door, looked out and saw, in the distance, a light making for the tomb from the direction of the city-gate. At this he was afraid and hastening to shut the gate, climbed up into the palm-tree and hid himself among the branches. The light came nearer and nearer, till he could see three black slaves, two carrying a chest and a third a lantern, an adze and a basket of plaster. When they came to the tomb, one of those who were carrying the chest cried out to the other, 'Hello, Sewab!' 'What ails thee, O Kafour?' said the other. 'Were we not here at nightfall,' asked the first, 'and did we not leave the gate open?' 'True,' replied Sewab. 'See,' said the other, 'it is now shut and barred.' 'How small is your wit!' broke in the bearer of the lantern, whose name was Bekhit. 'Do ye not know that the owners of the gardens use to come out of Baghdad to tend them, and when the night overtakes them, they enter this place and shut the gate, for fear the blacks like ourselves should catch them and roast them and eat them?' 'Thou art right,' replied the others; 'but, by Allah, none of us is less of wit than thou!' 'If you do not believe me,' said Bekhit, 'let us go into the tomb and I will unearth the rat for you; I doubt not but that, when he saw the light and us making for the tomb, he took refuge in the palm-tree, for fear of us.' When Ghanim heard this, he said to himself, 'O most damnable of slaves, may God not have thee in His keeping for this thy craft and quickness of wit! There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! How shall I escape from these blacks?' Then said the two bearers to him of the lantern, 'Climb over the wall and open the door to us, O Bekhit, for we are tired of carrying the chest on our shoulders; and thou shalt have one of those that we seize inside, and we will fry him for thee so featly that not a drop of his fat shall be lost.' But he said, 'I am afraid of somewhat that my little sense has suggested to me; we should do better to throw the chest over the wall; for it is our treasure.' 'If we throw it over, it will break,' replied they. And he said, 'I fear lest there be brigands within who kill four and steal their goods; for they are wont when night falls on them, to enter these places and divide their spoil.' 'O thou of little wit!' rejoined they, 'how could they get in here?' Then they set down the chest and climbing the wall, got down and opened the gate, whilst Bekhit held the light for them, after which they shut the door and sat down. Then said one of them, 'O my brothers, we are tired with walking and carrying the chest, and it is now the middle of the night, and we have no breath left to open the tomb and bury the chest: so let us rest two or three hours, then rise and do what we have to do. Meanwhile each of us shall tell how he came to be an eunuch and all that befell him from first to last, to pass away the time, whilst we rest ourselves.' 'Good,' answered the others; and Bekhit said, 'O my brothers, I will begin.' 'Say on,' replied they. So he began as follows, 'Know, O my brothers, that
Story of the Eunuch Bekhit.
I was brought from my native country, when I was five years old, by a slave-merchant, who sold me to one of the royal messengers. My master had a three-year-old daughter, with whom I was reared, and they used to make sport of me, letting me play with the girl and dance and sing to her, till I reached the age of twelve and she that of ten; and even then they did not forbid me from her. One day, I went in to her and found her sitting in an inner room, perfumed with essences and scented woods, and her face shone like the round of the moon on its fourteenth night, as if she had just come out of the bath that was in the house. She began to sport with me, and I with her. Now I had just reached the age of puberty, and my yard rose on end, as it were a great bolt. Then she threw me down and mounting my breast, pulled me hither and thither, till my yard became uncovered. When she saw this, and it in point, she seized it in her hand and fell to rubbing it against the lips of her kaze, outside her trousers. At this, heat stirred in me and I put my arms round her, whilst she wreathed hers about my neck and strained me to her with all her might, till, before I knew what I did, my yard thrust through her trousers, and entering her kaze, did away her maidenhead. When I saw what I had done, I fled and took refuge with one of my comrades. Presently, her mother came in to her, and seeing her in this state, was lost to the world. However, she smoothed the matter over and hid the girl's condition from her father, of the love they bore me, nor did they cease to call to me and coax me, till they took me from where I was. After two months had passed by, her mother married her to a young man, a barber, who used to shave her father, and portioned and fitted her out of her own monies, whilst her father knew nothing of what had passed. Then they took me unawares and gelded me: and when they brought her to her husband, they made me her eunuch, to go before her, wherever she went, whether to the bath or to her father's house. On the wedding-night, they slaughtered a young pigeon and sprinkled the blood on her shift; (116) and I abode with her a long while, enjoying her beauty and grace, by way of kissing and clipping and clicketing, till she died and her husband and father and mother died also; when they seized me for the Treasury and I found my way hither, where I became your comrade. This then, O my brothers, is my story and how I came to be docked of my cullions; and peace be on you.' Then said the second eunuch, 'Know, O my brothers, that
Story of the Eunuch Kafour.
From the time when I was eight years old, I was wont to tell the slave-merchants one lie every year, so that they fell out with one another, till at last my master lost patience with me and carrying me down to the market, delivered me to a broker and bade him cry me for sale, saying, "Who will buy this slave with his fault?" He did so, and it was asked him, "What is his fault?" Quoth he, "He tells one lie every year." Then came up one of the merchants and said to the broker, "How much have they bidden for this slave, with his fault?" "Six hundred dirhems," replied the broker. "And twenty dirhems for thyself," said the merchant. So he brought him to the slave-dealer, who took the money, and the broker carried me to my master's house and went away, after having received his brokerage. The merchant clothed me as befitted my condition, and I bode in his service the rest of the year, until the new year came in with good omen. It was a blessed season, rich in herbage and the fruits of the earth, and the merchants began to give entertainments every day, each bearing the cost in turn, till it came to my master's turn to entertain them in a garden without the city. So he and the other merchants repaired to the garden, taking with them all that they required of food and so forth, and sat, eating and drinking and carousing, till noon, when my master, having need of something from the house, said to me, "O slave, mount the mule and go to the house and get such and such a thing from thy mistress and return quickly." I did as he bade me and started for the house, but as I drew near, I began to cry out and weep copiously, whereupon all the people of the quarter collected, great and small; and my master's wife and daughters, hearing the noise I was making, opened the door and asked me what was the matter. Quoth I, "My master and his friends were sitting beneath an old wall, and it fell on them: and when I saw what had befallen them, I mounted the mule and came hither, in haste, to tell you." When my master's wife and daughters heard this, they shrieked aloud and tore their clothes and buffeted their faces, whilst the neighbours came round them. Then my mistress overturned the furniture of the house, pell-mell, tore down the shelves, broke up the casements and the lattices and smeared the walls with mud and indigo. Presently she said to me, "Out on thee, O Kafour! Come and help me tear down these cupboards and break up these vessels and porcelain!" So I went to her and helped her break up all the shelves in the house, with everything on them, after which I went round about the roofs and every part of the house, demolishing all I could and leaving not a single piece of china or the like in the house unbroken, till I had laid waste the whole place, crying out the while, "Alas, my master!" Then my mistress sallied forth, with her face uncovered and only her kerchief on, accompanied by her sons and daughters, and said to me, "Go thou before us and show us the place where thy master lies dead under the wall, that we may take him out from the ruins and lay him on a bier and carry him to the house and give him a goodly funeral." So I went on before them, crying out, "Alas, my master!" and they after me, bareheaded, crying out, "Alas! Alas for the man!" And there was not a man nor a woman nor a boy nor an old woman in the quarter but followed us, buffeting their faces and weeping sore. On this wise, I traversed the city with them, and the folk asked what was the matter, whereupon they told them what they had heard from me, and they exclaimed, "There is no power and no virtue but in God!" Then said one of them, "He was a man of consideration; so let us go to the chief of the police and tell him what has happened." So they repaired to the magistate and told him, whereupon he mounted and taking with him workmen with spades and baskets, set out for the scene of the accident, following my track, with all the people after him. I ran on before them, buffeting my face and throwing dust on my head and crying out, followed by my mistress and her children, shrieking aloud. But I outran them and reached the garden before them, and when my master saw me in this state and heard me crying out, "Alas, my mistress! Alas! Alas! Who is left to take pity on me, now that my mistress is dead? Would God I had died instead of her!" he was confounded and his colour paled. Then said he to me, "What ails thee, O Kafour? What is the matter?" "O my lord," replied I, "When thou sentest me to the house, I found that the wall of the saloon had given way and the whole of it had fallen in upon my mistress and her children." "And did not thy mistress escape?" "No, by Allah, O my master!" answered I. "Not one of them was saved, and the first to die was my mistress, thine elder daughter." "Did not my younger daughter escape?" asked he. "No," replied I; and he said, "What became of the mule I use to ride? Was she saved?" "No, by Allah," answered I; "the walls of the house and of the stable fell in on all that were in the dwelling, even to the sheep and geese and fowls, so that they all became a heap of flesh and the dogs ate them: not one of them is saved." "Not even thy master, my elder son?" asked he. "No, by Allah!" repeated I. "Not one of them was saved, and now there remains neither house nor inhabitants nor any trace of them: and as for the sheep and geese and fowls, the dogs and cats have eaten them." When my master heard this, the light in his eyes became darkness and he lost command of his senses and his reason, so that he could not stand upon his feet, for he was as one taken with the rickets and his back was broken. Then he rent his clothes and plucked out his beard and casting his turban from his head, buffeted his face, till the blood streamed down, crying out, "Alas, my children! Alas, my wife! Alas, what a misfortune! To whom did there ever happen the like of what hath befallen me?" The other merchants, his companions, joined in his tears and lamentations and rent their clothes, being moved to pity of his case; and my master went out of the garden' buffeting his face and staggering like a drunken man, for stress of what had befallen him and the much beating he had given his face. As he came forth of the garden-gate, followed by the other merchants, behold, they saw a great cloud of dust and heard a great noise of crying and lamentation. They looked, and behold, it was the chief of the police with his officers and the townspeople who had come out to look on, and my master's family in front of them, weeping sore and shrieking and lamenting. The first to accost my master were his wife and children; and when he saw them, he was confounded and laughed and said to them, "How is it with you all and what befell you in the house?" When they saw him, they exclaimed, "Praised be God for thy safety!" and threw themselves upon him, and his children clung to him, crying, "Alas, our father! Praised be God for thy preservation, O our father!" Then said his wife, "Thou art well, praised be God who hath shown us thy face in safety!" And indeed she was confounded and her reason fled, when she saw him, and she said, "O my lord, how did you escape, thou and thy friends the merchants?" "And how fared it with thee in the house?" asked he. "We were all in good health and case," answered they; "nor has aught befallen us in the house, save that thy slave Kafour came to us, bareheaded, with his clothes torn and crying out, 'Alas, my master! Alas, my master!' So we asked what was the matter, and he said, 'The wall of the garden has fallen on my master and his friends, and they are all dead.'" "By Allah," said my master, "he came to me but now, crying out, 'Alas, my mistress! Alas, her children!' and said, 'My mistress and her children are all dead.'" Then he looked round and seeing me with my torn turban hanging down my neck, shrieking and weeping violently and strewing earth on my head, cried out at me. So I came to him and he said, "Woe to thee, O pestilent slave, O whore-son knave, O accurst of race! What mischiefs hast thou wrought! But I will strip thy skin from thy flesh and cut thy flesh off thy bones!" "By Allah," replied I, "thou canst do nothing with me, for thou boughtest me with my fault, with witnesses to testify against thee that thou didst so and that thou knewest of my fault, which is that I tell one lie every year. This is but half a lie, but by the end of the year, I will tell the other half, and it will then be a whole lie." "O dog, son of a dog," exclaimed my master, "O most accursed of slaves, is this but a half lie? Indeed, it is a great calamity! Go out from me; thou art free before God!" "By Allah," rejoined I, "if thou free me, I will not free thee, till I have completed my year and told the other half lie. When that is done, take me down to the market and sell me, as thou boughtest me, to whosoever will buy me with my fault: but free me not, for I have no handicraft to get my living by: and this my demand is according to the law, as laid down by the doctors in the chapter of Manumission." Whilst we were talking, up came the people of the quarter and others, men and women, together with the chief of the police and his suite. So my master and the other merchants went up to him and told him the story and how this was but half a lie, at which the people wondered and deemed the lie an enormous one. And they cursed me and reviled me, whilst I stood laughing and saying, "How can my master kill me, when he bought me with this fault?" Then my master returned home and found his house in ruins, and it was I who had laid waste the most part of it, having destroyed things worth much money, as had also done his wife, who said to him, "It was Kafour who broke the vessels and the china." Thereupon his rage redoubled and he beat hand upon hand, exclaiming, "By Allah, never in my life did I see such a son of shame as this slave; and he says this is only half a lie! How if he had told a whole one1? He would have laid waste a city or two!" Then in his rage he went to the chief of the police, who made me eat stick till I fainted: and whilst I was yet senseless, they fetched a barber, who gelded me and cauterized the parts. When I revived, I found myself an eunuch, and my master said to me, "Even as thou hast made my heart bleed for the most precious things I had, so will I grieve thy heart for that of thy members by which thou settest most store." Then he took me and sold me at a profit, for that I was become an eunuch, and I ceased not to make trouble, wherever I came, and was shifted from Amir to Amir and notable to notable, being bought and sold, till I entered the palace of the Commander of the Faithful, and now my spirit is broken and I have abjured my tricks, having lost my manhood.'
When the others heard his story, they laughed and said, 'Verily, thou art dung, the son of dung! Thou liedst most abominably!' Then said they to the third slave, 'Tell us thy story.' 'O my cousins,' replied he, 'all that ye have said is idle: I will tell you how I came to lose my cullions, and indeed, I deserved more than this, for I swived my mistress and my master's son: but my story is a long one and this is no time to tell it, for the dawn is near, and if the day surprise us with this chest yet unburied, we shall be blown upon and lose our lives. So let us fall to work at once, and when we get back to the palace, I will tell you my story and how I became an eunuch.' So they set down the lantern and dug a hole between four tombs, the length and breadth of the chest, Kafour plying the spade and Sewab clearing away the earth by basketsful, till they had reached a depth of half a fathom, when they laid the chest in the hole and threw back the earth over it: then went out and shutting the door, disappeared from Ghanim's sight. When he was sure that they were indeed gone and that he was alone in the place, his heart was concerned to know what was in the chest and he said to himself; 'I wonder what was in the chest!' However, he waited till break of day, when he came down from the palm-tree and scraped away the earth with his hands, till he laid bare the chest and lifted it out of the hole. Then he took a large stone and hammered at the lock, till he broke it and raising the cover, beheld a beautiful young lady, richly dressed and decked with jewels of gold and necklaces of precious stones, worth a kingdom, no money could pay their price. She was asleep and her breath rose and fell, as if she had been drugged. When Ghanim saw her, he knew that some one had plotted against her and drugged her; so he pulled her out of the chest and laid her on the ground on her back. As soon as she scented the breeze and the air entered her nostrils and lungs, she sneezed and choked and coughed, when there fell from her mouth a pastille of Cretan henbane, enough to make an elephant sleep from night to night, if he but smelt it. Then she opened her eyes and looking round, exclaimed in a sweet and melodious voice, 'Out on thee, O breeze! There is in thee neither drink for the thirsty nor solace for him whose thirst is quenched! Where is Zehr el Bustan?" But no one answered her; so she turned and cried out, 'Ho, Sebiheh, Shejeret ed Durr, Nour el Huda, Nejmet es Subh, Shehweh, Nuzheh, Hulweh, Zerifeh! (117) Out on ye, speak!' But no one answered her; and she looked about her and said, 'Woe is me! they have buried me among the tombs! O Thou who knowest what is in the breasts and who wilt requite at the Day of Resurrection, who hath brought me out from among the screens and curtains of the harem and laid me between four tombs?' All this while Ghanim was standing by: then he said to her, 'O my lady, here are neither screens nor curtains nor palaces; only thy bond slave Ghanim ben Eyoub, whom He who knoweth the hidden things hath brought hither, that he night save thee from these perils and accomplish for thee all that thou desirest.' And he was silent. When she saw how the case stood, she exclaimed, 'I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is the Apostle of God!' Then she put her hands to her face and turning to Ghanim, said in a sweet voice, 'O blessed youth, who brought me hither! See, I am now come to myself.' 'O my lady,' replied he, 'three black eunuchs came hither, bearing this chest;' and told her all that had happened and how his being belated had proved the means of her preservation from death by suffocation. Then he asked her who she was and what was her story. 'O youth,' said she, 'praised be God who hath thrown me into the hands of the like of thee! But now put me back into the chest and go out into the road and hire the first muleteer or horse-letter thou meetest, to carry it to thy house. When I am there, all will be well and I will tell thee my story and who am I, and good shall betide thee on my account.' At this he rejoiced and went out into the road. It was now broad day and the folk began to go about the ways: so he hired a muleteer and bringing him to the tomb, lifted up the chest, in which he had already replaced the young lady, and set it on the mule. Then he fared homeward, rejoicing, for that she was a damsel worth ten thousand dinars and adorned with jewels and apparel of great value, and love for her had fallen on his heart. As soon as he came to the house, he carried in the chest and opening it, took out the young lady, who looked about her, and seeing that the place was handsome, spread with carpets and decked with gay colours, and noting the stuffs tied up and the bales of goods and what not, knew that he was a considerable merchant and a man of wealth. So she uncovered her face and looking at him, saw that he was a handsome young man and loved him. Then said she to him, 'O my lord, bring us something to eat.' 'On my head and eyes,' replied he, and going to the market, bought a roasted lamb, a dish of sweetmeats, dried fruits and wax candles, besides wine and drinking gear and perfumes. With these he returned to the house, and when the damsel saw him, she laughed and kissed and embraced him. Then she fell to caressing him, so that love for her redoubled on him and got the mastery of his heart. They ate and drank, each in love with the other, for indeed they were alike in age and beauty, till nightfall, when Ghanim rose and lit the lamps and candles, till the place blazed with light; after which he brought the wine-service and set on the banquet. Then they sat down again and began to fill and give each other to drink; and they toyed and laughed and recited verses, whilst joy grew on them and each was engrossed with love of the other, glory be to Him, who uniteth hearts! They ceased not to carouse thus till near upon daybreak, when drowsiness overcame them and they slept where they were till the morning. Then Ghanim arose and going to the market, bought all that they required in the way of meat and drink and vegetables and what not, with which he returned to the house; and they both sat down and ate till they were satisfied, when he set on wine. They drank and toyed with each other, till their cheeks flushed and their eyes sparkled and Ghanim's soul yearned to kiss the girl and lie with her. So he said to her, 'O my lady, grant me a kiss of thy mouth; maybe it will quench the fire of my heart.' 'O Ghanim,' replied she, 'wait till I am drunk: then steal a kiss from me, so that I may not know thou hast kissed me.' Then she rose and taking off her upper clothes, sat in a shift of fine linen and a silken kerchief. At this, desire stirred in Ghanim and he said to her, 'O my mistress, wilt thou not vouchsafe me what I asked of thee!' 'By Allah,' replied she, 'this may not be, for there is a stubborn saying written on the ribbon of my trousers.' Thereupon Ghanim's heart sank and passion grew on him the more that what he sought was hard to get; and he recited the following verses:I sought of her who caused my pain A kiss to ease me of my woe.
Then love increased on him, and the fires were loosed in his heart, while she defended herself from him, saying, 'I can never be thine.' They ceased not to make love and carouse, whilst Ghanim was drowned in the sea of passion and distraction and she redoubled in cruelty and coyness, till the night brought in the darkness and let fall on them the skirts of sleep, when Ghanim rose and lit the lamps and candles and renewed the banquet and the flowers; then took her feet and kissed them, and finding them like fresh cream, pressed his face on them and said to her, 'O my lady, have pity on the captive of thy love and the slain of thine eyes; for indeed I were whole of heart but for thee!' And he wept awhile. 'O my lord and light of my eyes,' replied she, 'by Allah, I love thee and trust in thee, but I know that I cannot be thine.' 'And what is there to hinder?' asked he. Quoth she, 'Tonight, I will tell thee my story, that thou mayst accept my excuse.' Then she threw herself upon him and twining her arms about his neck, kissed him and wheedled him, promising him her favours; and they continued to toy and laugh till love got complete possession of them. They abode thus for a whole month, sleeping nightly on one couch, but whenever he sought to enjoy her, she put him off, whilst mutual love increased upon them, till they could hardly abstain from one another. One night as they lay, side by side, both heated with wine, he put his hand to her breast and stroked it, then passed it down over her stomach to her navel. She awoke and sitting up, put her hand to her trousers and finding them fast, fell asleep again. Presently, he put out his hand a second time and stroked her and sliding down to the ribbon of her trousers, began to pull at it, whereupon she awoke and sat up. Ghanim also sat up beside her and she said to him, 'What dost thou want?' 'I want to lie with thee,' answered he, 'and that we may deal frankly one with the other.' Quoth she, 'I must now expound my case to thee, that thou mayst know my condition and my secret and that my excuse may be manifest to thee., 'It is well,' replied he. Then she opened the skirt of her shift, and taking up the ribbon of her trousers, said to him, 'O my lord, read what is on this ribbon.' So he took it and saw, wrought in letters of gold, the following words, 'I am thine, and thou art mine, O descendant of the Prophet's Uncle!' When he read this, he dropped his hand and said to her, 'Tell me who thou art.' 'It is well,' answered she; 'know that I am one of the favourites of the Commander of the Faithful and my name is Cout el Culoub. I was reared in his palace, and when I grew up, he looked on me, and noting my qualities and the beauty and grace that God had bestowed on me, conceived a great love for me; so he took me and assigned me a separate lodging and gave me ten female slaves to wait on me and all this jewellery thou seest on me. One day he went on a journey to one of his provinces and the Lady Zubeideh came to one of my waiting-women and said to her, "I have somewhat to ask of thee." "What is it, O my lady?" asked she. "When thy mistress Cout el Culoub is asleep," said Zubeideh, "put this piece of henbane up her nostrils or in her drink, and thou shalt have of me as much money as will content thee." "With all my heart," replied the woman, and took the henbane, being glad because of the money and because she had aforetime been in Zubeideh's service. So she put the henbane in my drink, and when it was night, I drank, and the drug had no sooner reached my stomach than I fell to the ground, with my head touching my feet, and knew not but that I was in another world. When Zubeideh saw that her plot had succeeded, she put me in this chest and summoning the slaves, bribed them and the doorkeepers, and sent the former to do with me as thou sawest. So my delivery was at thy hands, and thou broughtest me hither and hast used me with the utmost kindness. This is my story, and I know not what is come of the Khalif in my absence. Know then my condition, and divulge not my affair.' When Ghanim heard her words and knew that she was the favourite of the Commander of the Faithful, he drew back, being smitten with fear of the Khalif, and sat apart from her in one of the corners of the place, blaming himself and brooding over his case and schooling his heart to patience, bewildered for love of one who might not be his. Then he wept, for excess of longing, and bemoaned the injustice and hostility of Fortune (Glory be to Him who occupies hearts with love!) reciting the following verses:The heart of the lover's racked with weariness and care, For his reason ravished is for one who is passing fair.
Thereupon Cout el Culoub arose and pressed him to her bosom and kissed him, for love of him mastered her heart, so that she discovered to him her secret and the passion that possessed her and throwing her arms about his neck, embraced him; but he held off from her, for fear of the Khalif. Then they talked awhile (and indeed they were both drowned in the sea of mutual love) till day, when Ghanim rose and going to the market as usual, took what was needful and returned home. He found her in tears; but when she saw him, she ceased weeping and smiled and said, 'Thou hast made me desolate, O beloved of my heart! By Allah, the hour that thou hast been absent from me has been to me as a year! I have let thee see how it is with me for the excess of my passion for thee; so come now, leave what has been and take thy will of me.' 'God forbid that this should be!' replied he. 'How shall the dog sit in the lion's place? Verily, that which is the master's is forbidden to the slave.' And he withdrew from her and sat down on a corner of the mat. Her passion increased with his refusal; so she sat down beside him and caroused and sported with him, till they were both warm with wine, and she was mad for dishonour with him. Then she sang the following verses:The heart of the slave of passion is all but broken in twain: How long shall this rigour last and this coldness of disdain?
Thereupon Ghanim wept and she wept because he did, and they ceased not to drink till nightfall, when he rose and spread two beds, each in its place. 'For whom is the second bed?' asked she. 'One is for me and the other for thee,' answered he. 'Henceforth we must lie apart, for that which is the master's is forbidden to the slave.' 'O my lord,' exclaimed she, 'let us leave this, for all things happen according to fate and predestination.' But be refused, and the fire was loosed in her heart and she clung to him and said, 'By Allah, we will not sleep but together!' 'God forbid!' answered he, and he prevailed against her and lay apart till the morning, whilst love and longing and distraction redoubled on her. They abode thus three whole months, and whenever she made advances to him, he held aloof from her, saying, 'Whatever belongs to the master is forbidden to the slave.' Then, when this was prolonged upon her and affliction and anguish grew on her, for the weariness of her heart she recited the following verses:O marvel of beauty, how long this disdain? And who hath provoked thee to turn from my pain?
Meanwhile, the Lady Zubeideh, when, in the absence of the Khalif, she had done this thing with Cout el Culoub, abode perplexed and said to herself, 'What answer shall I make the Khalif, when he comes back and asks for her?' Then she called an old woman, who was with her, and discovered her secret to her, saying, 'What shall I do, seeing that Cout el Culoub is no more?' 'O my lady,' replied the old woman, 'the time of the Khalif's return is at hand; but do thou send for a carpenter and bid him make a figure of wood in the shape of a corpse. We will dig a grave for it and bury it in the middle of the palace: then do thou build an oratory over it and set therein lighted lamps and candles and command all in the palace to put on mourning. Moreover, do thou bid thy slave-girls and eunuchs, as soon as they know of the Khalif's approach, spread straw in the vestibules, and when the Khalif enters and asks what is the matter, let them say, "Cout el Culoub is dead, may God abundantly replace her to thee! and for the honour in which she was held of our mistress, she hath buried her in her own palace." When the Khalif hears this, it will be grievous to him and he will weep: then will he cause recitations of the Koran to be made over her and will watch by night over her tomb. If he should say to himself, "My cousin Zubeideh has compassed the death of Cout el Culoub out of jealousy," or if love-longing should master him and he order to take her forth of the tomb, fear thou not; for when they dig and come to the figure, he will see it as it were a human body, shrouded in costly grave-clothes; and if he desire to take off the swathings, do thou forbid him and say to him, "It is unlawful to look upon her nakedness." The fear of the world to come will restrain him and he will believe that she is dead and will cause the image to be restored to its place and thank thee for what thou hast done: and so, if it please God, thou shalt be delivered from this strait.' Her advice commended itself to Zubeideh, who bestowed on her a dress of honour and a sum of money, bidding her do as she had said. So she at once ordered a carpenter to make the aforesaid figure, and as soon as it was finished, she brought it to Zubeideh, who shrouded it and buried it and built a pavilion over it, in which she set lighted lamps and candles and spread carpets round the tomb. Moreover, she put on black and ordered her household to do the same, and the news was spread abroad in the palace that Cout el Culoub was dead. After awhile, the Khalif returned from his journey and entered the palace, thinking only of Cout el Culoub. He saw all the pages and damsels and eunuchs in mourning, at which his heart quaked; and when he went in to the Lady Zubeideh, he found her also clad in black. So he asked the cause of this and was told that Cout el Culoub was dead, whereupon he fell down in a swoon. As soon as he came to himself, he enquired of her tomb, and Zubeideh said to him, 'Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that for the honour in which I held her, I have buried her in my own palace.' Then he repaired to her tomb, in his travelling dress, and found the place spread with carpets and lit with lamps. When he saw this, he thanked Zubeldeh for what she had done and abode perplexed, halting between belief and distrust, till at last suspicion got the better of him and he ordered the grave to be opened and the body exhumed. When he saw the figure and would have taken off the swathings to look upon the body, the fear of God the Most High restrained him, and the old woman (taking advantage of his hesitation) said, 'Restore her to her place.' Then he sent at once for readers and doctors of the Law and caused recitations of the Koran to be made over her grave and sat by it, weeping, till he lost his senses. He continued to frequent the tomb for a whole month, at the end of which time, he chanced one day, after the Divan had broken up and his Amirs and Viziers had gone away to their houses, to enter the harem, where he laid down and slept awhile, whilst one damsel sat at his head, fanning him, and another at his feet, rubbing them. Presently he awoke and opening his eyes, shut them again and heard the damsel at his head say to her at his feet, 'Hist, Kheizuran!' 'Well, Kezib el Ban?' answered the other. 'Verily,' said the first, 'our lord knows not what has passed and watches over a tomb in which there is only a carved wooden figure, of the carpenter's handiwork.' 'Then what is become of Cout el Culoub?' enquired the other. 'Know,' replied Kezib el Ban. 'that the Lady Zubeideh bribed one of her waiting-women to drug her with henbane and laying her in a chest, commanded Sewab and Kafour to take it and bury it among the tombs.' Quoth Kheizuran, 'And is not the lady Cout el Culoub dead?' 'No,' replied the other; 'God preserve her youth from death! but I have heard the Lady Zubeideh say that she is with a young merchant of Damascus, by name Ghanim ben Eyoub, and has been with him these four months, whilst this our lord is weeping and watching anights over an empty tomb.' When the Khalif heard the girls' talk and knew that the tomb was a trick and a fraud and that Cout el Culoub had been with Ghanim ben Eyoub for four months, he was sore enraged and rising up, summoned his officers of state, whereupon the Vizier Jaafer the Barmecide came up and kissed the earth before him, and the Khalif said to him, 'O Jaafer, take a company of men with thee and fall upon the house of Ghanim ben Eyoub and bring him to me, with my slave-girl Cout el Culoub, for I will assuredly punish him!' 'I hear and obey,' answered Jaafer, and setting out with his guards and the chief of the police, repaired to Ghanim's house. Now the latter had brought home a pot of meat and was about to put forth his hand to eat of it, he and Cout d Culoub, when the damsel, happening to look out, found the house beset on all sides by the Vizier and the chief of the police and their officers and attendants, with drawn swords in their hands, encompassing the place, as the white of the eye encompasses the black. At this sight, she knew that news of her had reached the Khalif, her master, and made sure of ruin, and her colour paled and her beauty changed. Then she turned to Ghanim and said to him, 'O my love, fly for thy life!' 'What shall I do?' said he; 'and whither shall I go, seeing that my substance and fortune are in this house?' 'Delay not,' answered she, 'lest thou lose both life and goods.' 'O my beloved and light of my eyes,' rejoined he, 'how shall I do to get away, when they have surrounded the house?' 'Fear not,' said she: and taking off his clothes, made him put on old and ragged ones, after which she took the empty pot and put in it a piece of bread and a saucer of meat, and placing the whole in a basket, set it on his head and said, 'Go out in this guise and fear not for me, for I know how to deal with the Khalif.' So he went out amongst them, carrying the basket and its contents, and God covered him with His protection and he escaped the snares and perils that beset him, thanks to the purity of his intent. Meanwhile, Jaafer alighted and entering the house, saw Cout el Culoub, who had dressed and decked herself after the richest fashion and filled a chest with gold and jewellery and precious stones and rarities and what else was light of carriage and great of value. When she saw Jaafer, she rose and kissing the earth before him, said, 'O my lord, the pen (118) hath written from of old that which God hath decreed.' 'By Allah, O my lady,' rejoined Jaafer, 'I am commanded to seize Ghanim ben Eyoub.' 'O my lord,' replied she, 'he made ready merchandise and set out therewith for Damascus and I know nothing more of him; but I desire thee to take charge of this chest and deliver it to me in the palace of the Commander of the Faithful.' 'I hear and obey,' said Jaafer, and bade his men carry the chest to the palace, together with Cout el Culoub, commanding them to use her with honour and consideration. And they did his bidding, after they had plundered Ghanim's house. Then Jaafer went in to the Khalif and told him what had happened, and he bade lodge Cout el Culoub in a dark chamber and appointed an old woman to serve her, thinking no otherwise than that Ghanim had certainly debauched her and lain with her. Then he wrote a letter to the Amir Mohammed ben Suleiman ez Zeini, the viceroy of Damascus, to the following purport, 'As soon as this letter reaches thee, lay hands on Ghanim ben Eyoub and send him to me.' When the letter came to the viceroy, he kissed it and laid it on his head, then caused proclamation to be made in the streets of Damascus, 'Whoso is minded to plunder, let him betake himself to the house of Ghanim ben Eyoub!' So they repaired to the house, where they found that Ghanim's mother and sister had made him a tomb midmost the house and sat by it, weeping for him, whereupon they seized them, without telling them the cause, and carried them before the Sultan, after having plundered the house. The viceroy questioned them of Ghanim, and they replied, 'This year or more we have had no news of him.' So they restored them to their place.
Meanwhile Ghanim, finding himself despoiled of his wealth and considering his case, wept till his heart was well-nigh broken. Then he fared on at random, till the end of the day, and hunger was sore on him and he was worn out with fatigue. Coming to a village, he entered a mosque, where he sat down on a mat, leaning his back against the wall, and presently sank to the ground, in extremity for hunger and weariness, and lay there till morning, his heart fluttering for want of food. By reason of his sweating, vermin coursed over his skin, his breath grew fetid and he became in sorry case. When the people of the town came to pray the morning-prayer, they found him lying there, sick and weak with hunger, yet showing signs of gentle breeding. As soon as they had done their devotions, they came up to him and finding him cold and starving, threw over him an old mantle with ragged sleeves and said to him, 'O stranger, whence art thou and what ails thee?' He opened his eyes and wept, but made them no answer; whereupon, one of them, seeing that he was starving, brought him a saucerful of honey and two cakes of bread. So he ate a little and they sat with him till sunrise, when they went about their occupations. He abode with them in this state for a month, whilst sickness and infirmity increased upon him, and they wept for him and pitying his condition, took counsel together of his case and agreed to send him to the hospital at Baghdad. Meanwhile, there came into the mosque two beggar women, who were none other than Ghanim's mother and sister; and when he saw them, he gave them the bread that was at his head and they slept by his side that night, but he knew them not. Next day the villagers fetched a camel and said to the driver, 'Put this sick man on thy camel and carry him to Baghdad and set him down at the door of the hospital, so haply he may be medicined and recover his health, and God will reward thee.' 'I hear and obey,' said the camel-driver. So they brought Ghanim, who was asleep, out of the mosque and laid him, mat and all, on the back of the camel; and his mother and sister came out with the rest of the people to look on him, but knew him not. However, after considering him, they said, 'Verily, he favours our Ghanim! Can this sick man be he?' Presently, he awoke and finding himself bound with ropes on the back of a camel, began to weep and complain, and the people of the village saw his mother and sister weeping over him, though they knew him not. Then they set out for Baghdad, whither the camel-driver forewent them and setting Ghanim down at the door of the hospital, went away. He lay there till morning, and when the people began to go about the ways, they saw him and stood gazing on him, for indeed he was become as thin as a skewer, till the syndic of the market came up and drove them away, saying, 'I will gain Paradise through this poor fellow; for if they take him into the hospital, they will kill him in one day.' Then he made his servants carry him to his own house, where he spread him a new bed, with a new pillow, and said to his wife, 'Tend him faithfully.' 'Good,' answered she; 'on my head be it!' Then she tucked up her sleeves and heating some water, washed his hands and feet and body, after which she clothed him in a gown belonging to one of her slave-girls and gave him a cup of wine to drink and sprinkled rose-water over him. So he revived and moaned, as he thought of his beloved Cout el Culoub! and sorrows were sore upon him.
Meanwhile, Cout el Culoub abode in duresse fourscore days, at the end of which time, the Khalif chancing one day to pass the place in which she was, heard her repeating verses and saying, '0 my beloved, O Ghanim, how great is thy goodness and how chaste is thy nature! Thou didst good to him who hath injured thee, thou guardedst his honour who hath violated thine, and didst protect the harem of him who hath despoiled thee and thine! But thou wilt surely stand, with the Commander of the Faithful, before the Just Judge and be justified of him on the day when the judge shall be the Lord of all (to whom belong might and majesty) and the witnesses the angels!' When the Khalif heard her complaint, he knew that she had been wrongfully entreated and returning to his palace sent Mesrour the eunuch for her. She came before him, with bowed head, tearful-eyed and mournful-hearted, and he said to her, 'O Cout el Culoub, I find thou taxest me with injustice and tyranny and avouchest that I have wronged him who did me good. Who is this that hath guarded my honour and whose honour I have violated, and who hath protected my harem, whilst I have enslaved his?' 'Ghanim ben Eyoub,' replied she; 'for by thy munificence, O Commander of the Faithful, he never approached me by way of lewdness nor with evil intent!' Then said the Khalif, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God! Ask what thou wilt of me, O Cout el Culoub, and it shall be granted to thee.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' said she, 'I ask of thee my beloved Ghanim ben Eyoub.' The Khalif granted her prayer, and she said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, if I bring him to thee, wilt thou bestow me on him?' 'If he come,' replied the Khalif, 'I will bestow thee on him, the gift of a generous man who does not go back on his giving.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' said she, 'suffer me to go in quest of him: it may be God will unite me with him.' 'Do what seemeth good to thee,' answered he. So she rejoiced and taking with her a thousand dinars, went out and visited the elders of the various religious orders and gave alms for Ghanim's sake. Next day she went to the merchants' bazaar and told the chief of the market what she sought and gave him money, saying, 'Bestow this in alms on strangers.' The following week she took other thousand dinars and going to the market of the goldsmiths and jewellers, called the syndic and gave him the money, saying, 'Bestow this in alms on strangers.' The syndic, who was none other than Ghanim's benefactor, looked at her and said, 'O my lady, wilt thou go to my house and look upon a strange youth I have there and see how goodly and elegant he is?' (Now this stranger was Ghanim, but the syndic had no knowledge of him and thought him to be some unfortunate debtor, who had been despoiled of his property, or a lover parted from his beloved.) When she heard his words, her heart fluttered and her bowels yearned, and she said to him, 'Send with me some one who shall bring me to thy house.' So he sent a little boy, who led her thither and she thanked him for this. When she reached the house, she went in and saluted the syndic's wife, who rose and kissed the ground before her, knowing her. Then said Cout el Culoub, 'Where is the sick man who is with thee?' 'O my lady,' replied she, weeping, 'here he is, lying on this bed. By Allah, he is a man of condition and bears traces of gentle breeding!' So Cout el Culoub turned and looked at him, but he was as if disguised in her eyes, being worn and wasted till he was become as thin as a skewer, so that his case was doubtful to her and she was not certain that it was he. Nevertheless, she was moved to compassion for him and wept, saying, 'Verily, strangers are unhappy, though they be princes in their own land!' And his case was grievous to her and her heart ached for him, though she knew him not to be Ghanim. Then she appointed him wine and medicines and sat by his head awhile, after which she mounted and returned to her palace and continued to make the round of the bazaars in search of Ghanim.
Meanwhile Ghanim's mother and sister arrived at Baghdad and fell in with the charitable syndic, who carried them to Cout el Culoub and said to her, 'O princess of benevolent ladies, there be come to our city this day a woman and her daughter, who are fair of face and the marks of gentle breeding and fortune are manifest upon them, though they are clad in hair garments and have each a wallet hanging to her neck; and they are tearful-eyed and sorrowful-hearted. So I have brought them to thee, that thou mayest shelter them and rescue them from beggary, for they are not fit to ask alms, and if God will, we shall enter Paradise through them.' 'O my lord,' exclaimed she, 'thou makest me long to see them! Where are they? Bring them to me.' So he bade the eunuch bring them in; and when she looked on them and saw that they were both possessed of beauty, she wept for them and said, 'By Allah, they are people of condition and show signs of former fortune.' 'O my lady,' said the syndic's wife, 'we love the poor and destitute, because of the recompense that God hath promised to such as succour them: as for these, belike the oppressors have done them violence and robbed them of their fortune and laid waste their dwelling-place.' Then Ghanim's mother and sister wept sore, recalling their former prosperity and contrasting it with their present destitute and miserable condition and thinking of Ghanim, whilst Cout el Culoub wept because they did. And they exclaimed, 'We beseech God to reunite us with him whom we desire, and he is none other than our son Ghanim ben Eyoub!' When Cout el Culoub heard this, she knew them to be the mother and sister of her beloved and wept till she lost her senses. When she revived, she turned to them and said, 'Have no care and grieve not, for this day is the first of your prosperity and the last of your adversity.' Then she bade the syndic take them to his own house and let his wife carry them to the bath and clothe them handsomely. And she charged him to take care of them and treat them with all honour, and gave him a sum of money. Next day, she mounted and riding to his house, went in to his wife, who rose and kissed her hands and thanked her for her goodness. There she saw Ghanim's mother and sister, whom the syndic's wife had taken to the bath and clothed afresh, so that the traces of their former condition were now plainly apparent. She sat awhile, conversing with them, after which she enquired for the sick youth, and the syndic's wife replied, 'He is in the same state.' Then said Cout el Culoub, 'Come, let us go and visit him.' So they all went into the room where he lay and sat down by him. Presently, Ghanim heard them mention the name of Cout el Culoub, whereupon his life came back to him, wasted and shrunken as he was, and he raised his head from the pillow and cried out, 'O Cout el Culoub!' 'Yes, O friend!' answered she. 'Draw near to me,' said he. So she looked at him earnestly and knew him and said to him, 'Surely thou art Ghanim ben Eyoub?' 'I am indeed he,' replied he. At this, she fell down in a swoon, and when Ghanim's mother and sister heard their words, they both cried out, 'O joy!' and swooned away. When they recovered, Cout el Culoub exclaimed, 'Praised be God who hath brought us together again and hath reunited thee with thy mother and sister!' Then she told him all that had befallen her with the Khalif and said, 'I have made known the truth to the Commander of the Faithful, who believed me and approved of thee; and now he wishes to see thee.' Then she told him how the Khalif had bestowed her on him, at which he was beyond measure rejoiced, and she returned to the palace at once, charging them not to stir till she came back. There she opened the chest that she had brought from Ghanim's house, and taking out some of the money, carried it to the syndic and bade him buy them each four suits of the best stuffs and twenty handkerchiefs and what else they needed; after which she carried them all three to the bath and commanded to wash them and made ready for them broths and galingale and apple-water against their coming out. When they left the bath, they put on new clothes, and she abode with them three days, feeding them with fowls and broths and sherbet of sugar-candy, till their strength returned to them. After this, she carried them to the bath a second time, and when they came out and had changed their clothes, she took them back to the syndic's house and left them there, whilst she returned to the palace and craving an audience of the Khalif, told him the whole story and how her lord Ghanim and his mother and sister were now in Baghdad. When the Khalif heard this, he turned to his attendants and said, 'Bring hither to me Ghanim.' So Jaafer went to fetch him: but Cout el Culoub forewent him to the syndic's house and told Ghanim that the Khalif had sent for him and enjoined him to eloquence and self-possession and pleasant speech. Then she clad him in a rich habit and gave him much money, bidding him be lavish of largesse to the household of the Khalif, when he went in to him. Presently, Jaafer arrived, riding on his Nubian mule, and Ghanim met him and kissed the ground before him, wishing him long life. Now was the star of his good fortune risen and shone, and Jaafer took him and brought him to the Khalif. When he entered, he looked at the viziers and amirs and chamberlains and deputies and grandees and captains, Turks and Medes and Arabs and Persians, and then at the Khalif. Then he made sweet his speech and his eloquence and bowing his head, spoke the following verses:Long life unto a King, the greatest of the great, Still following on good works and bounties without date!
The Khalif was charmed with his eloquence and the sweetness of his speech and said to him, 'Draw near to me.' So he drew near and the Khalif said, 'Tell me thy story and expound to me thy case.' So Ghanim sat down and related to him all that had befallen him, from beginning to end. The Khalif was assured that he spoke the truth; so he invested him with a dress of honour and took him into favour. Then he said to him, 'Acquit me of the wrong I have done thee.' And Ghanim did so, saying, 'O Commander of the Faithful, the slave and all that is his belong to his lord.' The Khalif was pleased with this and bade set apart a palace for Ghanim, on whom he bestowed great store of gifts and assigned him bountiful stipends and allowances, sending his mother and sister to live with him; after which, hearing that his sister Fitneh was indeed a seduction (120) for beauty, he demanded her in marriage of Ghanim, who replied, 'She is thy handmaid and I am thy servant.' The Khalif thanked him and gave him a hundred thousand dinars; then summoned the Cadi and the witnesses, who drew up the contracts of marriage between the Khalif and Fitneh on the one hand and Ghanim and Cout el Culoub on the other; and the two marriages were consummated in one and the same night. On the morrow, the Khalif ordered the history of Ghanim to be recorded and laid up in the royal treasury, that those who came after him might read it and wonder at the dealings of destiny and put their trust in Him who created the night and the day.
End Of Vol. 1