IBRAHIM OF MOSUL AND THE DEVIL.
(Quoth Abou Ishac Ibrahim el Mausili), I asked Er Reshid once to give me a day's leave that I might be private with the people of my household and my friends, and he gave me leave for Saturday. So I went home and betook myself to making ready meat and drink and other necessaries and bade the doorkeepers shut the doors and let none come in to me. However, presently, as I sat in my sitting-chamber, with my women about me, I was ware of an old man of comely and reverend aspect, clad in white clothes and a shirt of fine stuff, with a doctor's hood on his head and a silver-handled staff in his hand, and the house and porch were full of the sweet smell of the essences with which he was scented. I was greatly vexed at his coming in to me and thought to turn away the doorkeepers; but he saluted me after the goodliest fashion and I returned his greeting and bade him be seated. So he sat down and entertained me with stories of the Arabs and their verses, till my anger left me and methought my servants had sought to pleasure me by admitting a man of such good breeding and elegant culture.
Then said I to him, 'Art thou for meat?' 'I have no need of it,' answered he. 'And for drink?' asked I. 'That is as thou wilt,' said he. So I drank off a pint of wine and poured him out the like. Then said he, 'O Abou Ishac, wilt thou sing us somewhat, so we may hear of thy fashion that wherein thou excellest high and low?' His words vexed me; but I dissembled my annoyance and taking the lute, played and sang. 'Well done, O Abou Ishac!' said he; whereat my anger redoubled and I said to myself, 'Is it not enough that he should come in to me, without my leave, and importune me thus, but he must call me by my name, as though he knew not the right way to address me?' Quoth he, 'If thou wilt sing again, we will requite thee.' I swallowed my annoyance and took the lute and sang again, taking pains with what I sang and rising thereto altogether, because of his saying, 'We will requite thee.' He was delighted and said, 'Well done, O my lord!' Then said he, 'Dost thou give me leave to sing?' 'As thou wilt,' answered I, deeming him weak of wit, in that he should think to sing before me, after that which he had heard from me. So he took the lute and swept the strings, and by Allah, meseemed they spoke in the Arabic tongue, with a sweet and liquid and murmurous voice; then he began and sang the following verses:A heart that is cankered with grief I have: who will sell me therefor A heart that of cankers is whole, unwounded of ulcer or sore?
And by Allah, meseemed the doors and the walls and all that was in the house answered and sang with him, for the beauty of his voice, so that methought my very limbs and clothes answered him, and I abode amazed and unable to speak or move, for the trouble of my heart. Then he sang these verses:Hark ye, O doves of Liwa, (56) come back unto your nest: With longing for your voices my bosom is opprest.
And also these:O wind of Nejed, when thou blowst from Nejed far and wide, Thy wafts add longing unto that for which long time I've sighed!
Then said he, 'O Ibrahim, sing this song after me and do after the fashion thereof in thy singing and teach it to thy slave-girls.' Quoth I, 'Repeat it to me.' But he answered, 'There needs no repetition; thou hast it by heart,' and vanished from my sight. At this I was amazed and running to my sword, drew it and made for the door of the harem, but found it closed and said to the women, 'What have ye heard?' Quoth they, 'We have heard the sweetest and goodliest of singing.' Then I went forth, in amazement, to the door of the house and finding it locked, questioned the doorkeepers of the old man. 'What old man?' said they. 'By Allah, no one hath gone in to thee this day!' So I returned, pondering the matter, when, behold, he cried out from one of the corners of the house, [though I saw none,] saying, 'Fear not, O Abou Ishac; no harm shall befall thee. It is I, Abou Murreh, (57) who have been thy boon-companion this day.' Then I mounted and rode to Er Reshid, to whom I told what had passed, and he said, 'Repeat to me the airs thou heardest from him.' So I took the lute and played and sang them to him; for, behold, they were rooted in my heart. The Khalif was charmed with them and drank thereto, albeit he was no great wine-bibber, saying, 'Would he would some day pleasure us with his company, as he hath pleasured thee!' Then he ordered me a present and I took it and went away.