THE DEVOTEE TO WHOM GOD GAVE A CLOUD TO SERVE HIM AND THE DEVOUT KING.
There was once among the children of Israel a man of the devout, renowned for piety and continence and asceticism. He was a wanderer in the mountains and was used to pass the night in prayer; and God answered his prayers and gave him all he asked. Moreover, He had subjected to him a cloud, that journeyed with him, wherever he went, and poured water on him copiously, that he might make his ablutions and drink. After a time, his fervour abated, whereupon God took the cloud away from him and ceased to answer his prayers. Great was his grief because of this, and he ceased not to regret the time of grace and divine favour and to lament and bemoan himself, till, one night, he saw in a dream one who said to him, 'An thou wouldst have God restore thee thy cloud, seek out such a king, in such a town, and beg him to pray for thee: so will God give thee back thy cloud, by virtue of his pious prayers.' And he repeated the following verses:I rede thee to the pious prince repair, Who's powerful to order thine affair.
When the hermit awoke, he set out for the town, to which he had been directed by the dream, and coming thither, enquired for the King's palace. At the gate he found an officer sitting on a great chair and clad in splendid apparel; so he saluted him and he returned his salutation and said to him, 'What is thy business?' 'I am a wronged man,' answered the devotee, 'and come to prefer my complaint to the King.' Quoth the officer, 'Thou mayst not win to him to-day; for he hath appointed unto petitioners such a day in every seven, on which they may go in to him; so go thy ways soberly till then.' The hermit was vexed with the King for thus sequestering himself from the folk and said in himself, 'How shall this man be of the friends of God (to whom belong might and majesty) and be on this wise?' Then he went away and awaited the day of audience.
When it came, he repaired to the palace, where he found a number of folk at the gate, awaiting admission, and stood with them, till there came out a Vizier, clad in rich raiment and attended by guards and servants, who said, 'Let those, who have petitions to present, enter.' So the hermit entered with the rest and found the King seated in the midst of his officers and grandees. The Vizier took up his post before him and brought forward the petitioners, one by one, till it came to the hermit's turn, when the King looked on him and said, 'Welcome to the lord of the cloud! Sit down, till I be at leisure for thee.'
The hermit was confounded at his words and confessed his dignity and excellence; and when the King had made an end with the petitioners, he rose and dismissed his Viziers and grandees; then, taking the stranger by the hand, he carried him to the door of the [inner] palace, where they found a black slave, splendidly arrayed, with a helmet on his head and on his right hand and his left bows and coats of mail. He rose and hastening to obey the King's commandment, opened the door, and they went in, hand in hand, till they came to a low door, which the King opened himself and brought the hermit into a ruinous and neglected building and a chamber, wherein was nought but a prayer-carpet, an ewer for ablution and some mats of palm-leaves. Here the King put off his royal habit and donned a gown of coarse white wool and a tall cap of felt. Then he sat down and making the hermit sit, called out to his wife, who answered from within, saying, 'Here am I.' Quoth he, 'Knowst thou who is our guest to-day?' 'Yes,' replied she; 'it is the lord of the cloud.' And the King said, 'Come in: it matters not for him.' So there entered a woman, as she were a vision, with a face that glittered like the new moon; and she was clad in a gown and veil of coarse wool. Then said the King, 'O my brother, dost thou desire to hear our story or that we should pray for thee and let thee go?' 'Nay,' answered the hermit; 'I wish to hear your story, for I long to know it.'
'Know then,' said the King, 'that my forefathers handed down the throne, one to the other, and it descended from great one to great one, in unbroken succession, till it came to me. Now God had made this hateful to me, for I would fain have gone a-wandering, a pilgrim, over the earth and left the folk to govern themselves; but I feared lest they should fall into temptation and anarchy and swerve from the law of God, and the union of the Faith be broken up. Wherefore I took upon me the kingship and appointed to every head of them a set stipend and donned the royal robes and posted officers at the doors, as a terror to evil doers and for the defence of honest folk and the maintenance of law and order. When I had made an end of this, I entered this place and putting off my royal habit, donned these clothes thou seest; and this my uncle's daughter is agreed with me to renounce the world and helps me to serve God. So we use to weave these palm-leaves [into mats or baskets] and earn, in the course of the day, wherewithal to break our fast at night- fall; and thus have we lived nigh upon forty years. Abide thou with us, so God have mercy on thee, till we sell our mats; so shalt thou sup and sleep with us this night and on the morrow go thy ways with that thou desirest, so it please God the Most High.'
So he abode with them till the end of the day, when there came a boy five [feet] high, who took the mats they had made and carrying them to the market, sold them for a carat. (13) With this he bought bread and beans and returned with them to the King. The hermit supped and lay down to sleep with them; but, in the middle of the night, they both arose and fell to praying and weeping. When daybreak was near, the King said, 'O my God, this Thy servant beseeches Thee to return him his cloud; and Thou art able to this; so, O my God, answer Thou his prayer and restore him his cloud.' The Queen said 'Amen' to his prayer and behold, the cloud appeared in the sky; whereupon the King gave the hermit joy and the latter took leave of them and went away, the cloud following him as of old. Moreover, whatsoever he required of God after this, in the names of the pious King and Queen, He granted it to him; and he made thereon the following verses:God 'mongst His servants hath elect, whose pious souls, I ween, Range in the gardens of His love, untroubled and serene.