THE DEVOUT PLATTER-MAKER AND HIS WIFE.

There was once among the children of Israel a worthy man, who was strenuous in the service of his Lord and abstained from the things of this world and had put them away from his heart. He had a wife who helped him in his endeavour and was still obedient to him. They earned their living by making platters and fans, at which they wrought all day, and at nightfall the man went out into the streets and highways, to sell what they had made. They were wont to fast continually, and one morning, they arose, fasting, and wrought at their trade till the end of the day, when the man went forth, according to custom, to seek purchasers for his wares, and fared on, till he came to the door of the house of a certain man of wealth and condition.

Now the platter-maker was fair of face and comely of aspect, and the wife of the master of the house, who was then absent, saw him and fell in love with him and her heart inclined to him with an exceeding inclination; so she called her handmaid and said to her, 'Make shift to bring yonder man to me.' Accordingly the maid went out to him and said, 'Come in; my lady hath a mind to buy some of thy wares, after she hath tried them and looked at them.' The man thought she spoke truly and seeing no harm in this, entered and sat down, as she bade him. The maid shut the door upon him, whereupon her mistress, came out and taking him by the gown, drew him into her chamber and said to him, 'How long shall I seek of thee [a lover's] privacy? Verily, my patience is at an end on thine account. See now, the place is perfumed and food ready and the master of the house is absent this night, and I give myself to thee, I whose favours kings and captains and men of fortune have sought this long while, but I have hearkened to none of them.' And she went on talking thus to him, whilst he raised not his eyes from the ground, for shame before God and fear of the pains of His punishment, even as saith the poet:

      'Twas shamefastness, I trow, and nothing else, that came 'Twixt me and dalliance with many a noble dame.
      The antidote it was to them, and should it pass, I'm lost; for antidote was none but very shame.

He strove to free himself from her, but could not; so he said to her, 'I want one thing of thee.' 'What is that?' asked she, and he answered, 'I wish for pure water and that I may carry it to the highest place of thy house and do an occasion therewith and cleanse myself of a defilement, which I may not discover to thee.' Quoth she, 'The house is spacious and hath closets and privy places and lavatories at command.' But he replied, 'I want nothing but to be at a height.' So she said to her handmaid, 'Carry him up up to the belvedere at the top of the house.' Accordingly the maid took him up thither and giving him a vessel of water, went away and left him.

He made the ablution and prayed a two-bow prayer; after which he looked at the ground, thinking to throw himself down, but, seeing it afar off, feared to be torn to pieces in the fall. Then he bethought him of the consequence of his disobedience to God, and it became a light matter to him to offer up his life and shed his blood, [rather than sin]; so he said, 'O my God and my Lord, Thou seest that which is fallen on me; neither is my case hidden from Thee. Thou indeed canst all things, and the tongue of my case reciteth and saith as follows:

      My heart doth sign to Thee and eke my vitals too; The soul within my soul is open to Thy view.
      Lo, if I speak with Thee, I cry indeed aloud, Or, if I'm mute, my signs my speech to Thee renew.
      O Thou to whom indeed no second is conjoined, A wretched lovesick soul and sad to Thee doth sue.
      I have a heart that pants for woe, as well Thou knowst; But yet a hope have I, my thoughts confirm it true.
      The sacrifice of life, for all its worth be small, Is yet the hardest thing of all that can ensue;
      So, an it be Thy will to save me, of Thy grace, Thou, surely, O my hope, art able thereunto!'

Then he cast himself down from the belvedere; but God sent an angel, who bore him up on his wings and brought him to the earth, whole and unhurt. When he found himself safe on the ground, he returned thanks to God (to whom belong might and majesty) for His merciful protection and went straight to his wife, empty-handed. When she saw him, she asked him why he had tarried so long and what was come of that he had taken with him and why he returned empty-handed; whereupon he told her all that had befallen him, and she said, 'Praised be God, who delivered thee from seduction and intervened between thee and calamity!' Then she added, 'O man, the neighbours use to see us light our brasier every night; and if they see us to-night without fire, they will know that we are destitute. Now it behoves us, in gratitude to God, to hide our destitution and join the fast of this night to that of yesterday and continue it for the sake of God the Most High.' So she rose and filling the brasier with wood, lighted it, to give the neighbours the change, reciting the following verses:

      I will conceal what is with me of trouble and distress And light my fire, that so my strait the neighbours may not guess.
      What God decreeth I accept, so haply He may see My humbleness to Him and so accept of me no less.

Then they made the ablution and stood up to pray. Presently, one of the neighbours' wives came in and asked leave to take a light from the fire. 'At thy service,' answered they: but, when she came to the fire, she cried out, saying, 'Ho, such an one, (to the platter-maker's wife,) take up thy bread before it burns!' Quoth the wife to her husband, 'Hearest thou what she says?' 'Go and look,' answered he. So she went up to the oven, and behold, it was full of fine white bread. She took up the loaves, thanking God (to whom belong might and majesty) for the abounding good and great bounty He had bestowed on them, and carried them to her husband; and they ate of the bread and drank water and praised God the Most High. Then said the woman to her husband, 'Come, let us pray to God the Most High, so haply He may vouchsafe us what will quit us of necessity and enable us to dispense with the weariness of toil for daily bread and devote ourselves [wholly] to worshipping Him and keeping His commandments.' So the man rose and prayed, whilst his wife said 'Amen' to his prayer, when, behold, the roof clove in sunder and down fell a ruby, which lit the whole house with its lustre. At this, they rejoiced greatly and redoubled in praise and thanksgiving to God, praying what the Most High willed.

Then, the night being far spent, they lay down to sleep and the woman dreamt that she entered Paradise and saw therein many chairs and stools ranged in rows. She asked what these were and it was answered her, 'These are the chairs of the prophets and the stools of the just and the pious.' 'Which is the stool of such an one, my husband?' asked she; and it was said to her, 'Yonder one.' So she looked and seeing a hole in its side, asked what it was. Quoth they, 'It is the place of the ruby that came down to you from the roof of your house.' Thereupon she awoke, weeping and bemoaning the defect in her husband's stool among the seats of the just; so she told him the dream and said to him, 'Let us pray God to restore the ruby to its place, for to suffer hunger and poverty during the few days [of our life here] were easier than a default in thy seat among the just in Paradise.' Accordingly, he prayed to his Lord, and behold, the ruby flew up to the roof [and disappeared,] whilst they looked at it. And they ceased not from their poverty and piety, till they went to the presence of God, to whom belong might and majesty.




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