YOUNUS THE SCRIBE AND THE KHALIF WELID BEN SEHL.

There lived in the reign of the Khalif Hisham a noted [man of letters] called Younus the Scribe, and he set out one day on a journey to Damascus, having with him a slave girl of surpassing beauty and grace, whom he had taught all that was needful to her and whose price was a hundred thousand dirhems. When they drew near Damascus, the caravan halted by the side of a lake and Younus went aside with his damsel and took out some victual he had with him and a leather bottle of wine. As he sat at meat, there came up a young man of goodly presence and dignified aspect, mounted on a sorrel horse and followed by two servants, and said to him, 'Wilt thou accept me to guest?' 'Yes,' answered Younus. So the stranger alighted and said, 'Give me to drink of thy wine.' Younus gave him to drink and he said, 'If it please thee, sing us a song.' So Younus sang this verse:

      Charms, never in one mortal yet combined compriseth she, And tears and wakefulness are sweet, for love of her, to me.

At which the stranger rejoiced exceedingly and Younus gave him to drink again and again, till drunkenness got the better of him and he said, 'Bid thy slave-girl sing.' So she sang this verse:

      A houri, by whose charms my heart confounded is, ah me! Nor wand nor sun nor moon, indeed, may evened with her be.

The stranger was much pleased with this and they sat drinking till nightfall, when they prayed the evening-prayer and the youth said to Younus, 'What brings thee hither?' He answered, '[I come in quest of] wherewithal to discharge my debts and better my case.' Quoth the stranger, 'Wilt thou sell me this thy slave-girl for thirty thousand dirhems?' 'I must have more than that,' answered Younus. 'Will forty thousand content thee?' asked the other; but Younus said, 'That would only pay my debts, and I should remain empty-handed.' Quoth the stranger, 'I will take her of thee at fifty thousand dirhems (46) and give thee a suit of clothes to boot and the expenses of thy journey and make thee a sharer in my estate, as long as thou livest.' 'I sell her to thee on these terms,' answered Younus. Then said the young man, 'Wilt thou let me take her with me and trust me to bring thee the money to-morrow, or shall she abide with thee till I bring thee her price?' And the fumes of the wine and shamefastness and awe of the stranger led Younus to reply, 'I will trust thee; take her and may God bless thee in her!' Whereupon the stranger bade one of his servants take her up before him on his beast, and mounting his own horse, took leave of Younus and rode away.

Hardly had he left him, when Younus bethought himself and knew that he had erred in selling her and said in himself, 'What have I done? I have delivered my slave-girl to a man with whom I am unacquainted, neither know I who he is; and grant that I did know him, how am I to get at him?' So he abode absorbed in anxious thought, till the morning, when he prayed the appointed prayers and his companions entered Damascus, whilst he sat, perplexed and knowing not what to do, till the sun scorched him and he misliked to abide there and thought to enter the city, but said in himself, 'If I enter Damascus, I cannot be sure but that the messenger will come and find me not, in which case I shall have sinned against myself a second time.' So he sat down in the shade of a wall that was there, and towards end of day, up came one of the servants whom he had seen with the young man, at sight of whom great joy possessed Younus and he said in himself, 'I know not that aught hath ever given me more delight than the sight of this servant.' When the man reached him, he said to him, 'O my lord, we have kept thee long waiting;' but Younus said nothing to him of the anxiety he had suffered. Then said the servant, 'Knowest thou the man who bought the girl of thee?' 'No,' answered Younus, and the servant said, 'It was Welid ben Sehl (47) the Heir Apparent.' And Younus was silent.

Then the other made him mount a horse he had with him and they rode till they came to a house, where they dismounted and entered. Here Younus found the damsel, who sprang up at his sight and saluted him. He asked her how she had fared with him who had bought her and she said, 'He lodged me in this apartment and ordered me all I wanted.' Then he sat with her awhile, till one of the servants of the master of the house came in and bade him rise and follow him. So he followed the servant into the presence of his yesternight's guest, whom he found seated on his couch and who said to him, 'Who art thou?' 'I am Younus the Scribe,' answered the other. 'Welcome to thee, O Younus!' rejoined the prince. 'By Allah, I have long wished to look on thee; for I have heard of thy report. How didst thou pass the night?' 'Well,' answered Younus; 'may God the Most High advance thee!' 'Peradventure,' said the prince, 'thou repentedst thee of that thou didst yesterday and saidst in thyself, "I have delivered my slave-girl to a man whom I know not, neither know I his name nor whence he cometh?"' 'God forbid, O Amir,' replied Younus, 'that I should repent over her! Had I made gift of her to the prince, she were the least of the gifts that are given unto him, for indeed she is not worthy of his rank.' 'By Allah,' rejoined Welid, 'but I repented me of having taken her from thee and said in myself, "This man is a stranger and knows me not, and I have taken him by surprise and acted inconsiderately by him, in my haste to take the damsel!" Dost thou recall what passed between us?' 'Yes,' answered Younus. Quoth Welid, 'Dost thou sell her to me for fifty thousand dirhems?' And Younus said, 'I do.'

Then the prince called to one of his servants, to bring him fifty thousand dirhems and a thousand and five hundred dinars (48) to boot, and gave them all to Younus, saying, 'The thousand dinars are for thy fair thought of us and the five hundred for the expenses of thy journey and what thou shalt buy for thy people. Art thou content?' 'I am content,' answered Younus and kissed his hands, saying, 'By Allah, thou hast filled my eyes and my hands and my heart!' Quoth Welid, 'By Allah, I have as yet had no privacy of her nor have I taken my fill of her singing. Bring her to me.' So she came and he bade her sit, then said to her, 'Sing.' And she sang these verses:

      Thou that comprisest all charms of every kind, O sweet of nature and great of amorous grace,
      In Turks and Arabs are beauties all; but none Like thee, my loveling, doth all in all embrace.
      O bless thy lover, my fair, with thy promised sight, Though but in visions of dreams, that flit apace!
      Sweet are the sleepless nights, for thy sake, to me And goodly even abasement and disgrace.
      I'm not the first one distraught for thee; ere me, How many a mortal thou'st slain with that fair face!
      Thou, as my portion o' th' world, wouldst me content; To me thou'rt dearer than life and goods and place.

When he heard this, he was greatly delighted and praised Younus's excellent teaching of her and the fair education he had given her. Then he bade his servants bring him a hackney, with its trappings and furniture, for his riding, and a mule to carry his gear, and said to him, 'O Younus, when thou hearest that the Khalifate has fallen to me, come thou to me, and by Allah, I will fill thy hands with good and advance thee to honour and make thee rich as long as thou livest!' So Younus took his goods and departed; and when he heard that Welid had succeeded to the Khalifate, (49) he repaired to him; and by Allah, he kept his promise to him and entreated him with exceeding munificence. Then Younus abode with him in all content and honour and his affairs prospered and his wealth increased and goods and farms became his, such as sufficed him and his heirs after him; nor did he cease to abide with Welid, till he was slain, (50) the mercy of God the Most High be on him!




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