ARDESHIR AND HEYAT EN NUFOUS.
There was once in the city of Shiraz a mighty king called Seif el Aazem Shah, who had grown old, without being blessed with a son. So he summoned the doctors and sages and said to them, 'I am grown old and ye know my case and the state and ordinance of the kingdom, and I fear for my subjects after me, for that up to now God hath not vouchsafed me a son.' 'We will compound thee drugs,' answered they, 'wherein, if it please God the Most High, there shall be efficacy.' So they mixed him drugs, which he used and lay with his wife, and she conceived by leave of God the Most High, who saith to a thing, 'Be,' and it is. When her months were accomplished, she gave birth to a son like the moon, whom his father named Ardeshir, (94) and he grew up and throve and applied himself to the study of science and polite letters, till he attained the age of fifteen.
Now there was in Irak a king called Abdulcadir, who had a daughter, by name Heyat en Nufous, and she was like the rising full moon; but she had an aversion to men and the folk scarce dared name them in her presence. The kings of the Chosroes had sought her in marriage of her father; but, when he spoke with her thereof, she said, 'Never will I do this thing; and if thou force me, I will slay myself.' Ardeshir heard of her and fell in love with her and told his father, who, seeing his case, took pity on him and promised him that he should marry her. So he despatched his Vizier to demand her in marriage of King Abdulcadir; but he refused, and when the Vizier returned to King Seif el Aazem and acquainted him with the failure of his mission, he was exceeding wroth and said, 'Shall the like of me send to one of the kings on an occasion and he accomplish it not?' Then he let make proclamation to his troops, bidding them get out the tents and equip them for war with all diligence, though they should borrow money for the necessary expenses; and he said, 'I will not turn back, till I have laid waste King Abdulcadir's dominions and slain his men and plundered his treasures and blotted out his traces!'
When the report of this reached Ardeshir, he rose from his bed and going in to his father, kissed the earth before him and said, 'O mighty King, burden not thyself with this thing and levy not thy troops neither spend thy money. Thou art stronger than King Abdulcadir, and if thou loose upon him this thy host, thou wilt lay waste his dominions and spoil his good and slay his men and himself; but, when his daughter comes to know what hath befallen her father and his people on her account, she will kill herself, and I shall die for love of her; for I can never live after her.' 'And what then thinkest thou to do, O my son?' asked the King. 'I will don a merchant's habit and cast about how I may win to the princess and compass my desire of her.' Quoth Seif al Aazem, 'Art thou determined upon this?' And the prince said, 'Yes, O my father;' whereupon the King called his Vizier and said to him, 'Do thou journey with my son, the darling of my heart, and help him to his desire and watch over him and guide him with thy sound judgment and stand to him in my stead.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the Vizier; and the King gave his son three hundred thousand dinars in gold and great store of jewels and precious stones and goldsmiths' ware and stuffs and other things of price. Then Ardeshir went in to his mother and kissed her hands and asked her blessing. She blessed him and opening her treasuries, brought out to him necklaces and trinkets and apparel and all manner of other precious things laid up from the time of the bygone kings, whose price might not be evened with money. Moreover, he took with him of his servants and slaves and cattle all that he needed for the road and clad himself and the Vizier and their company in merchants' habits.
Then he bade his parents and kinsfolk and friends farewell and setting out, fared on over deserts and wastes all tides of the day and watches of the night; and whenas the way was long with him, he recited the following verses:Passion and longing and unease are heavy on my spright, Nor is there one to succour me 'gainst destiny's unright.
Then he swooned away and the Vizier sprinkled rose- water on him, till he came to himself, when he said to him, 'O king's son, possess thy soul in patience; for the issue of patience is solace, and behold, thou art on the way to that thou desirest.' And he ceased not to speak him fair and comfort him, till his trouble subsided and they continued their journey with all diligence. Presently, the prince again became impatient of the length of the way and bethought him of his beloved and recited these verses:Absence is long and restlessness and care upon me weigh; Yea, and my heart in flames of fire consumeth night and day.
Then he wept sore and complained of that which he suffered for stress of passion and love-longing; but the Vizier comforted him and spoke him fair, promising him the attainment of his desire; after which they fared on again, till, in a few days, they came in sight of the White City, [the capital of King Abdulcadir,] soon after sunrise. Then said the Vizier to the prince, 'Rejoice, O king's son, in all good; for see, yonder is the White City, that which thou seekest.' Whereat the prince rejoiced with an exceeding joy and recited the following verses:Friends, I am longing-hearted, distraught with love and dole: Desire abides and yearning cleaves fast unto my soul.
Then they entered the White City and took up their lodging at the Khan of the Merchants, where they hired three magazines and laid up therein all their goods and gear. They abode in the khan till they were rested, when the Vizier applied himself to devise a plan of conduct for the prince, and said to him, 'I have bethought me of somewhat, wherein methinks will be advantage for thee, so it please God the Most High.' 'O Vizier of good counsel,' replied Ardeshir, 'do what cometh to thy mind, and may God direct thy wit aright!' Quoth the Vizier, 'I purpose to hire thee a shop in the bazaar of the stuff- sellers and set thee therein; for all that, great and small, have occasion to the bazaar, and methinks, when the folk see thee sitting in the shop, their hearts will incline to thee and thou wilt thus be able to attain that thou seekest, for thou art fair of favour and souls incline to thee and eyes rejoice in thee.' 'Do what seemeth good to thee,' answered Ardeshir.
So the Vizier clad the prince and himself in their richest raiment and putting a purse of a thousand dinars in his pocket, went forth and walked about the city, whilst all who saw them marvelled at the prince's beauty, saying, 'Glory be to Him who created this youth of vile water! (95) Blessed be God, the most excellent of Creators!' Great was the talk of him and some said, 'This is no mortal, but a noble angel;' (96) and others, 'Hath Rizwan, the door- keeper of Paradise, left the gate unguarded, that this youth hath come forth?' The people followed them to the stuff-market, where they entered and stood, till there came up to them an old man of venerable appearance, who saluted them, and they returned his salute. Then said he to them, 'O my lords, have ye any need, that we may have the honour of accomplishing?' Quoth the Vizier, 'Who art thou, O elder?' And he answered, 'I am the overseer of the market.' 'Know then, O elder,' said the Vizier, 'that this youth is my son and I wish to take him a shop in the bazaar, that he may sit therein and learn to buy and sell and give and take and come to know the ways and habits of merchants.' 'I hear and obey,' replied the overseer and straightway brought them the key of a shop, which he caused the brokers sweep and clean. Then the Vizier sent for a high divan, stuffed with ostrich-down, and set it up in the shop, together with a small prayer-carpet, fringed with broidery of red gold, and a cushion: and he transported thither so much of the goods and stuff that he had brought with him as filled the shop.
Next morning, the prince came and opening the shop, seated himself on the divan, and stationed two white slaves, clad in the richest of raiment, before him and two black slaves of the goodliest of the Abyssinians without the shop. The Vizier enjoined him to keep his secret from the folk, so thereby he might find assistance in the accomplishment of his wishes; then, charging him to acquaint him with what befell him in the shop, day by day, he left him and returned to the khan. The prince sat in the shop all day, as he were the moon at its full, whilst the folk, hearing tell of his beauty, flocked to the place, without errand, to gaze on his beauty and grace and symmetry and glorify God who created and shaped him, till none could pass through the bazaar for the crowding of the folk about him. Ardeshir turned right and left, abashed at the throng of people that stared at him, hoping to make acquaintance with some one about the court, of whom he might get news of the princess, but found no way to this, wherefore his breast was straitened.
On this wise the case abode some time, whilst the Vizier daily promised him the attainment of his desire, till, one day, as he sat in the shop, there came up an old woman of venerable and respectable appearance, clad in raiment of [white wool, such as is worn of] devotees and followed by two slave-girls like moons. She stopped before the shop and considered the prince awhile, after which, 'Glory be to God,' said she, 'who fashioned that face and wrought that handiwork to perfection!' Then she saluted him and he returned her greeting and seated her by his side. Quoth she, 'Whence comest thou, O fair of face?' 'From the parts of Hind, O my mother,' answered he; 'and I have come to his city to see the world and look about me.' 'Honour to thee for a visitor!' rejoined she. 'What goods and stuffs hast thou? Show me something handsome, fit for kings.' Quoth he, 'If thou wish for handsome stuffs, I will show them to thee; for I have wares that beseem persons of every condition.' 'O my son,' answered he, 'I want somewhat costly and fair of fashion; brief, the best thou hast.' Said he, 'Thou must needs tell me for whom thou seekest it, that I may show thee goods according to the rank of the person in question.' 'Thou sayst sooth, O my son,' replied she. 'I want somewhat for my mistress Heyat en Nufous, daughter of Abdulcadir, lord of this land and king of this country.'
When Ardeshir heard his mistress's name, his reason fled for joy and his heart fluttered and he gave no order to slave or servant, but, putting his hand behind him, pulled out a purse of a hundred dinars and gave it to the old woman, saying, 'This is for the washing of thy clothes.' Then he brought out of a wrapper a dress worth ten thousand dinars or more and said to her, 'This is of that which I have brought hither.' When the old woman saw it, it pleased her and she said, 'What is the price of this dress, O perfect in beauty?' 'I will take no price for it,' answered he; whereupon she thanked him and repeated her question; but he said, 'By Allah, I will take no price for it! If the princess will not accept it, I make thee a present of it and it is a guess-gift from me to thee. Praised be God who hath brought us together, so that, if one day I have a want, I shall find thee a helper to me in its accomplishment!' She marvelled at the goodliness of his speech and the excess of his generosity and courtesy, and said to him, 'What is thy name, O my lord?' 'My name is Ardeshir,' answered he; and she said, 'By Allah, this is a rare name! Therewith are kings' sons named, and thou art in the guise of the sons of the merchants.' Quoth he, 'Of the love my father bore me, he gave me this name, but a name signifies nothing.' And she wondered at him and said, 'O my son, take the price of thy goods.' But he swore that he would take nothing.
Then said she to him, 'O my son, truth is the greatest of all things and thou hadst not dealt thus generously by me but for a special reason: so tell me thy case and thy secret thought; belike thou hast some need to the accomplishment of which I may help thee.' Thereupon he laid his hand in hers and swearing her to secrecy, told her the whole story of his passion for the princess and his sufferings by reason thereof. The old woman shook her head and said, 'True, O my son; but the wise say, in the current adage, "If thou wouldst be obeyed, abstain from ordering that which may not be;" and thou, my son, thy name is "Merchant," and though thou hadst the keys of the hidden treasures, yet wouldst thou be called nought but "Merchant." If thou have a find to advance thyself in rank according to thy station, seek the hand of a Cadi's daughter or an emir's; but why, O my son, aspirest thou to none but the daughter of the King of the age and the time, and she a clean maid, who knows nought of the things of the world and has never in her life seen aught but her palace in which she dwells? Yet, for all her tender age, she is intelligent, shrewd, vivacious and quick-witted, well-advised and prudent in action. Her father hath no other child than her and she is dearer to him than his life. Every morning he comes to her and gives her good-morrow, and all who dwell in the palace stand in awe of her. Think not, O my son, that any dare bespeak her with aught of these words; as for me, there is no way for me thereto. By Allah, O my son, my heart and bowels love thee and were it in my power to give thee access to her, I would assuredly do it; but I will tell thee somewhat, wherein Allah may haply appoint the healing of thy heart, and will venture my life and my goods for thee, till I accomplish thy desire for thee.' 'And what is that, O my mother?' asked he. 'Seek of me the daughter of a Vizier or an Amir,' answered she, 'and I will grant thy request; but it may not be that one should mount from earth to heaven at one bound.'
When the prince heard this, he replied to her with courtesy and reasonableness, saying, 'O my mother, thou art a woman of sense and knowest how things go. Doth a man, when his head irketh him, bind up his hand?' 'No, by Allah, O my son,' said she. 'Even so,' rejoined he, 'my heart seeketh none but her and nought slayeth me but the love of her. By Allah, I am a lost man, an I find not one to counsel me aright and succour me! God on thee, O my mother, have pity on my strangerhood and the streaming of my tears!' 'By Allah, O my son,' answered the old woman, 'thy words rend my heart, but I know not how to help thee.' Quoth he, 'I beseech thee of thy favour, carry her a letter and kiss her hands for me.' So she took compassion on him and said, 'Write what thou wilt and I will carry it to her.' When he heard this, he was transported for joy and calling for pen and ink and paper, wrote the following verses:O Heyat en Nufous, be gracious and incline Unto a lover who for severance doth pine.
Then he folded the letter and kissing it, gave it to the old woman; after which he put his hand to a chest and took out a second purse of a hundred dinars, which he gave her, saying, 'Divide this among the slave-girls.' She refused it and said, 'By Allah, O my son, I am not with thee for aught of this!' But he thanked her and said, 'Thou must indeed take it.' So she took it and kissing his hands, returned to the princess, to whom said she, 'O my lady, I have brought thee somewhat the like whereof is not with the people of our city, and it comes from a handsome young man, than whom there is not a goodlier on the surface of the earth.' 'O my nurse,' answered the princess, 'and whence cometh he?' 'From the parts of Hind,' replied the old woman; 'and he hath given me this dress of gold brocade, embroidered with pearls and jewels and worth the kingdom of Chosroes and Caesar.' So saying, she opened the dress and spread it out before her, whereupon the whole palace was illumined by its brightness, by reason of the beauty of its fashion and the wealth of pearls and jewels with which it was broidered, and all who were present marvelled at it. The princess examined it and judging it to be worth no less than a whole year's revenue of her father's kingdom, said to the old woman, 'O my nurse, comes this dress from him or another?' 'From him,' answered she; and Heyat en Nufous said, 'Is he of our town or a stranger?' 'He is a stranger,' replied the old woman, 'newly come hither; and he hath slaves and servants and is fair of face, symmetrical of shape, well-mannered, open-handed and open-hearted, never saw I a goodlier than he, except thyself.'
'O my nurse,' rejoined the princess, 'this is an extraordinary thing, that a dress like this, which money cannot buy, should be in the hands of a merchant! What price did he set on it?' 'He would set no price on it,' answered the old woman, 'but gave me back the money thou sentest by me and swore that he would take nought thereof, saying, 'It is a gift from me to the King's daughter; for it beseemeth none but her; and if she will not accept it, I make thee a present of it.' 'By Allah,' said the princess, 'this is indeed rare liberality and wonderful munificence! But I fear the issue of his affair, lest he be brought to necessity. Why didst thou not ask him, O my nurse, if he had any desire, that we might fulfil it for him?' 'O my lady,' answered the nurse, 'I did ask him, and he said to me, "I have indeed a desire," but would not tell me what it was. However, he gave me this letter and said, "Carry it to the princess."' So Heyat en Nufous took the letter and opened and read it; whereupon she was sore chafed and changing colour for anger, cried out to the old woman, saying, 'Out on thee, O nurse! What is the name of this dog who dares to write thus to a king's daughter? What affinity is there between him and me, that this dog should address me thus? By the great God, Lord of the well Zemzem and of the Kaabeh, but that I fear God the Most High, I would send and bind the dog's hands behind him and slit his nostrils and cut off his nose and ears and crucify him on the gate of the bazaar wherein is his shop!'
When the old woman heard this, she turned pale and trembled in every nerve and her tongue clave to her mouth; but she took courage and said, 'Softly, O my lady! What is there in his letter to trouble thee thus? Is it aught but a memorial, wherein he taketh his complaint to thee of poverty or oppression, from which he hopes to be relieved by thy favour?' 'By Allah, O my nurse,' replied the princess, 'it is nought of this; but verses and shameful words! Needs must the dog be in one of three cases: either he is mad and hath no wit or he seeks his own slaughter, or else he is assisted to his wish of me by some one of exceeding puissance and a mighty Sultan. Or hath he heard that I am one of the light o' loves of the city, who lie a night or two with whosoever seeketh them, that he writeth me shameful verses to debauch my reason withal?' 'By Allah, O my lady,' rejoined the old woman, 'thou sayst sooth! But reck not thou of yonder ignorant dog, for thou art seated in thy high-builded and unapproachable palace, to which the very birds cannot soar neither the wind pass over it, and he is distracted. Wherefore do thou write him a letter and chide him roundly and spare him no kind of reproof, but threaten him exceedingly and menace him with death and say to him, "Whence hast thou knowledge of me, that thou darest to write to me, O dog of a merchant, that trudgest far and wide all thy days in deserts and wastes for the sake of gaining a dirhem or a dinar? By Allah, except thou awake from thy sleep and put off thine intoxication, I will crucify thee on the gate of the bazaar wherein is thy shop!"' Quoth the princess, 'I fear lest he [be encouraged to] presume, if I write to him.' 'And what is he,' rejoined the nurse, 'that he should presume to us? Indeed, we write to him but to the intent that his presumption may be cut off and his fear magnified.' And she ceased not to persuade her, till she called for inkhorn and paper and wrote him the following verses:O thou that feignest thee the prey of love and wakefulness, Thou that for passion spendst the nights in transport and distress,
Then she folded the letter and gave it to the old woman, who repaired to Ardeshir's shop and delivered it to him, saying, 'Here is thine answer, and thou must know that, when she read thy verses, she was exceeding wroth; but I soothed her and spoke her fair, till she consented to write thee an answer.' He took the letter joyfully, but, when he had read it and apprehended its purport, he wept sore, whereat the old woman's heart ached and she said, 'O my son, may God spare thine eyes to weep and thy heart to mourn! What can be more gracious than that she should answer thy letter, under the circumstances?' 'O my mother,' answered he, 'how shall I do for a subtler device? Behold, she writes to me, threatening me with death and crucifixion and forbidding me from writing to her, and by Allah, I see my death to be better than my life; but I beg thee of thy favour to carry her another letter from me.' 'Write,' said she, 'and I warrant I'll bring thee an answer. By Allah, I will venture my life to bring thee to thy desire, though I die to pleasure thee!'
He thanked her and kissing her hands, wrote the following verses:Dost thou with slaughter threaten me, for that I love thee dear? Death is decreed and slaughter eke to me were easefulness.
He folded the letter and gave it to the old woman, together with two purses, containing two hundred dinars, which she would have refused, but he conjured her to take them. So she took them and said, 'Needs must I bring thee to thy desire, despite thine enemies!' Then she returned to the palace and gave the letter to Heyat en Nufous, who said, 'What is this, O my nurse? Here are we in correspondence [with a man] and thou coming and going! Indeed, I fear lest the matter get wind and we be disgraced.' 'How so, O my lady?' rejoined the old woman. 'Who dare speak such a word?' So she took the letter and read it and smote hand on hand, saying, 'Verily, this is a calamity that is fallen upon us, and I know not whence this young man came to us!' 'O my lady,' said the old woman, 'God on thee, write him another letter; but be round with him this time and say to him, "If thou write me another word after this, I will have thy head struck off."' 'O my nurse,' answered the princess, 'I am assured that the thing will not end after this fashion; it were better to leave it unanswered, and except the dog take warning by my previous threats, I will strike off his head.' Quoth the old woman, 'Then write him a letter and give him to know this.' So Heyat en Nufous called for inkhorn and paper and wrote the following verses:Thou that, heedless, letst the lessons of experience pass by, Thou whose amorous heart and doating doth for my possession sigh,
Then she folded the letter and gave it to the old woman, who carried it to Ardeshir, leaving the princess sore incensed by reason of this affair. The prince read the letter and bowed his head to the earth, making as if he wrote with his fingers and speaking not. Quoth the old woman, 'O my son, what ails thee that thou sayst nought?' 'O my mother,' answered he, 'what shall I say, seeing that she doth but threaten me and redoubleth in hard-heartedness and aversion?' 'Write her a letter of what thou wilt,' rejoined the nurse. 'I will protect thee, and let not thy heart be cast down, for needs must I bring you together.' He thanked her for her kindness and kissing her hand, wrote the following verses:A heart that unto him who loves no prayers may mollify Yea, and a lover for his love's possession who doth sigh
Then he folded the letter and gave it to the old woman, together with three hundred dinars, saying, 'This is for the washing of thy hands.' She thanked him and kissed his hands, after which she returned to the palace and gave the letter to the princess who read it and throwing it from her hand, sprang to her feet, whilst the vein of anger started out between her eyes. Then she walked, shod as she was with pattens of gold, set with pearls and jewels, till she came to her father's palace, and none dared ask her how it was with her. When she reached the palace, she asked for the King, and the slave-girls said to her, 'O my lady, he is gone forth a-hunting.' So she returned, as she were a raging lioness, and spoke to none for the space of three hours, at the end of which time her wrath subsided and her brow cleared.
When the old woman saw that her anger was past, she went up to her and kissing the earth before her, said to her, 'O my lady, whither went those noble steps?' 'To the palace of the King my father,' answered Heyat en Nufous. 'And could no one do thine errand?' asked the nurse. 'No,' replied the princess; 'for I went to acquaint him with that which hath befallen me with yonder dog of a merchant, that he might lay hands on him and on all the merchants of the bazaar and crucify them over their shops and suffer no foreign merchant to abide in our town.' Quoth the old woman, 'And was this thine only reason for going to thy father?' 'Yes,' answered Heyat en Nufous; 'but I found him absent a-hunting and await his return.' 'I take refuge with God the All-hearing and knowing!' exclaimed the old woman, 'Praised be He! O my lady, thou art the most sensible of women and how couldst thou think of telling the King these wild words, which it behoveth none to publish?' 'And why so?' asked the princess. 'Suppose,' said the nurse, 'thou hadst found the King in his palace and told him all this and he had sent after the merchants and commanded to hang them over their shops, the folk would have seen them hanging and asked the reason and it would have been answered them, "They sought to debauch the King's daughter.' Then would they have spread divers reports concerning thee, some saying, 'She abode with them half a score days, away from her palace, till they had taken their fill of her;" and other some otherguise; for honour, O my lady, is like milk, the least dust spoils it; or like glass, which, if it be cracked, may not be mended. So beware of telling thy father or any other of this matter, lest thy honour be ruined, for it will never profit thee to tell folk aught. Weigh what I say with thy keen wit, and if thou find it not just, do as thou wilt.'
The princess pondered her words and seeing them to be altogether just, said, 'Thou art right, O my nurse: indeed, anger had blinded my judgment.' Quoth the old woman, 'Thy resolve to tell no one is pleasing to God the Most High; but that is not all: we must not let the insolence of yonder vile dog of a merchant pass without rebuke. Write him a letter and say to him, "O vilest of merchants, but that I found my father absent, I had straightway commanded to hang thee and all thy neighbours. But thou shalt gain nothing by this; for I swear to thee by God the Most High that, if thou return to the like of this talk, I will blot out the trace of thee from the face of the earth!" And deal thou roundly with him in words, so shalt thou discourage him and arouse him from his heedlessness.' 'And wilt these words cause him to abstain from his offending?' asked the princess. 'How should he not abstain?' replied the old woman. 'Besides, I will talk with him and tell him what has passed.' So the princess called for inkhorn and paper and wrote the following verses:Thy hopes unto the winning our favours still cleave fast, And still of us thou meekest thy wishes to attain.
Then she gave the letter to the old woman, saying, 'O my nurse, do thou admonish the dog, lest we [be forced to] cut of his head and commit sin on his account.' 'By Allah, O my lady,' replied the old woman, 'I will not leave him a side to turn on!' Then she returned to Ardeshir and gave him the letter. He read it and shook his head, saying, 'Verily, we are God's and to Him we return! O my mother, what shall I do? My fortitude fails me and my patience is exhausted.' 'O my son,' answered she, 'take patience: peradventure, after this God shall bring somewhat to pass. Write that which is in thy mind and I will fetch thee an answer, and be of good cheer; for needs must I bring about union between her and thee, so God please.' He blessed her and wrote the following verses:Since there is none to succour me in love and to assain, Me who of passion's tyranny am all forgone and slain,
Then he folded the letter and gave it to the old woman, together with a purse of four hundred dinars. She took the whole and returning to the palace, gave the letter to the princess; but she refused to take it and said, 'What is this?' 'O my lady,' replied the old woman, 'this is the answer to the letter thou wrotest to that dog of a merchant.'' Quoth Heyat en Nufous, 'Didst thou forbid him, as I told thee?' 'Yes,' answered she; 'and this is his answer.' So the princess took the letter and read it; then turned to the old woman and said to her, 'Where is the result thou didst promise me?' 'O my lady,' replied she, 'saith he not in his letter that he repenteth and will not again offend, excusing himself for the past?' 'Not so, by Allah!' replied the princess. 'On the contrary, he increases [his offending].' 'O my lady,' rejoined the nurse, 'write him a letter and thou shalt see what I will do with him.' Quoth Heyat en Nufous, 'There needs no letter nor answer'. 'I must have a letter,' answered the nurse, 'that I may rebuke him roundly and cut off his hopes.' 'Thou canst do that without a letter,' rejoined the princess: but the old woman said, 'I cannot do it without the letter.' So Heyat en Nufous called for inkhorn and paper and wrote these verses:Again and again I chide thee; but chiding hinders thee ne'er: How many a time with my writing in verse have I bid thee forbear!
When she had made an end of writing this, she cast the scroll angrily from her hand, and the old woman picked it up and carried it to Ardeshir. When he read it, he knew that she relented not to him, but only redoubled in anger against him, and that he would never win to her, and bethought himself to write her an answer, invoking [God's help] against her. So he called for pen and ink and wrote the following verses:O Lord, by the Five Elders, deliver me, I pray, From her whose love hath wrought me affliction and dismay.
Then he folded the letter and gave it, together with a purse of five hundred dinars, to the old woman, and she took it and carried it to the princess, who read it and casting it from her hand, said to her, 'O wicked old woman, tell me the cause of all that hath befallen me from thee and from thy cunning and thy favouring of him, so that thou hast made me write letter after letter and ceasest not to go and come between him and me and carry messages, till thou hast brought about correspondence and connection between us. Thou sayest still, "I will ensure thee against his mischief and cut off from thee his speech;" but thou speakest thus only to the intent that I may continue to write thee letters and thou to fetch and carry between us, till thou ruin my repute. Out on thee! Ho, eunuchs, seize her!' So they laid hands on the nurse and Heyat en Nufous commanded them to beat her, and they did so till her whole body streamed with blood and she fainted away, whereupon the princess caused her waiting-women drag her forth by the feet and cast her without the palace and bade one of them stand by her, till she recovered, and say to her, 'The princess hath taken an oath that thou shalt never re-enter the palace and hath commanded to slay thee without mercy, if thou return hither.'
So, when she came to herself the damsel told her what the princess said and she answered, saying, 'I hear and obey.' Then the slave-girls fetched a basket and a porter and caused carry her to her own house and sent after her a physician, bidding him tend her assiduously till she recovered. He did as he was commanded and as soon as she was whole of her wounds, she mounted and rode to the shop of Ardeshir, who was sore troubled with concern for her absence from him and longing for news of her. As soon as he saw her, he sprang up and coming to meet her, saluted her. Then he noticed that she was weak and ailing; so he asked her how she did and she told him all that had passed. When he heard this, he was sore concerned and smote hand upon hand, saying, 'By Allah, O my mother, this that hath befallen thee is grievous to me! But what is the reason of the princess's aversion to men?' 'Thou must know, O my son,' answered the old woman, 'that she has a beautiful garden, than which there is not a goodlier on the face of the earth and it chanced that she lay there one night. In the delight of sleep, she dreamt that she went down into the garden, where she saw a fowler set up his net and strew corn thereabout, after which he withdrew and sat down afar of to await what game should fall into it. Before long, the birds flocked to pick up the corn and a male pigeon fell into the net and struggled in it, whereat the others took fright and fled from him. His mate flew away with the rest, but presently returned and coming up to the net, sought out the mesh in which his foot was entangled and ceased not to peck at it with her bill, till she severed it and released her mate, with whom she flew away. All this while, the fowler sat dozing, and when he awoke, he looked at the net and found it broken. So he mended it and strewed fresh corn, then withdrew to a distance and sat down again to watch it. The birds soon returned and began to pick up the corny and amongst the rest the pair of pigeons. Presently, the female pigeon fell into the net and struggled to win free; whereupon the other birds all flew away, and her mate fled with the rest and did not return to her. Meantime, slumber had again overcome the fowler and he slept a great while; and when he awoke, he saw the she-pigeon caught in the net; so he went up to her and freeing her feet from the meshes, killed her. The princess awoke, troubled, and said, "Thus do men with women; for women have pity on men and venture their lives for them, when they are in trouble; but if the Lord decree against a woman and she fall into calamity, her mate deserts her and rescues her not, and wasted is that which she did with him of kindness. May God curse her who putteth her trust in men, for they ill requite the kind offices that women do them!" And from that day she conceived an aversion to men.'
'O my mother,' said the prince, 'doth she never go out into the street?' 'No,' answered the old woman; 'but, O my son, I will tell thee somewhat, wherein, God willing, there shall be profit for thee. It is that every year, at the time of the ripening of the fruits, the princess goes forth into her garden, which is of the goodliest of the pleasaunces of the time, and takes her pleasure therein one day, nor lies the night but in her palace. She enters the garden by the private door of the palace which leads thereto, and it wants now but a month to the time of her going forth. So take my advice and go this very day to the keeper of the garden and clap up an acquaintance with him and insinuate thyself into his good graces, for he lets not a soul enter the garden, because of its communication with the princess's palace. I will let thee know two days beforehand of the day fixed for her coming forth, when do thou repair to the garden, as of thy wont, and make shift to pass the night there. When the princess comes, be thou hidden somewhere and presently show thyself to her. When she sees thee, she will infallibly fall in love with thee; for thou art fair to look upon and love covers all things. So take comfort and be of good cheer, O my son, for needs must I bring about union between her and thee.'
The prince kissed her hand and thanked her and gave her three pieces of Alexandrian silk and three of satin of various colours, and with each piece, linen for shifts and stuff for trouser and a kerchief for the turban and fine white cotton cloth of Baalbek for the linings, so as to make her six complete suits, each handsomer than its fellow. Moreover, he gave her a purse containing six hundred dinars and said to her, 'This is for the fashion.' She took the whole and said to him, 'O my son, wilt thou not acquaint me with thine abiding-place and I also will show thee the way to my lodging?' 'Yes,' answered he and sent a servant with her to note her lodging and show her his own.
Then he rose and bidding his slaves shut the shop, went back to the Vizier, to whom he related all that had passed between him and the old woman. 'O my son,' said the Vizier, 'what wilt thou do, should the princess come out and look upon thee and thou find no favour with her?' Quoth Ardeshir, 'There will be nothing left but to pass from words to deeds and venture my life with her; for I will snatch her up from amongst her attendants and set her behind me on a swift horse and make for the uttermost of the desert. If I escape, I shall have gained my desire and if I perish, I shall be at rest from this loathed life.' 'O my son,' rejoined the Vizier, 'dost thou think to do this thing and live? How shall we make our escape, seeing that our country is far distant, and how wilt thou deal thus with a king of the kings of the time, who has under his hand a hundred thousand horse, nor can we be sure but that he will despatch some of his troops to waylay us? Verily, there is no good in this project and no man of sense would attempt it.' 'And how then shall we do, O Vizier of good counsel?' asked Ardeshir. 'For, [except I get her,] I am a dead man without recourse.' 'Wait till to-morrow,' answered the Vizier, 'till we behold this garden and note its ordinance and see what betides us with the keeper.'
So, on the morrow, they took a thousand dinars and repairing to the garden, found it compassed about with high and strong walls, abounding in trees and streams and well furnished with goodly fruits. And indeed its flowers breathed perfume and its birds warbled, as it were a garden of the gardens of Paradise. Within the door sat an old man on a bench of stone, and they saluted him. When he saw them and noted the goodliness of their favour, he rose to his feet and returned their salute, saying, 'O my lords, peradventure you have a wish, which we may have the honour of satisfying?' 'Know, O elder,' replied the Vizier, 'that we are strangers and the heat hath overcome us. Now our lodging is afar off at the other end of the town; wherefore we desire of thy courtesy that thou take these two dinars and buy us somewhat of victual and open us meanwhile the door of this garden and seat us in some shaded place, where there is cold water, that we may cool ourselves there, against thou return with the victual, when we will eat, and thou with us, and go our ways, rested and refreshed.' So saying, he pulled out a couple of dinars and put them into the keeper's hand.
Now the keeper was a man of seventy years of age and had never in all his life possessed so much money. So, when he saw the two dinars in his hand, he was transported for joy and forthwith opening the garden gate to the prince and the Vizier, made them enter and sit down under the shade of a wide-spreading tree, laden with fruit, saying, 'Sit here and go no further into the garden, for it hath a privy door communicating with the palace of the princess Heyat en Nufous.' 'We will not budge hence,' answered they. Then he went out to buy what they had ordered and returned, after awhile, with a porter bearing on his head a roasted lamb and bread. They ate and drank together and talked awhile, till, presently, the Vizier, looking about him right and left, caught sight of a lofty pavilion in the midst of the garden; but it was old and the plaster was peeled from its walls and its coigns were broken down. So he said to the gardener, 'O elder, is this garden thine own or dost thou hire it?' 'O my lord,' answered the old man, 'I am neither owner nor tenant of the garden, only its keeper.' 'And what is thy wage?' asked the Vizier. 'A dinar a month,' replied the old man, and the Vizier said, 'Verily, they wrong thee, especially if thou hast a family.' 'By Allah, O my lord,' answered the gardener, 'I have eight children.' 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!' exclaimed the Vizier. 'Thou makest my heart bleed for thee, my poor fellow! What wouldst thou say of him who should do thee a good turn, on account of this family of thine?' 'O my lord,' answered the old man, 'whatsoever good thou dost shall be treasured up for thee with God the Most High!'
Then said the Vizier, 'O old man, this garden of thine is a goodly place; but the pavilion yonder is old and ruinous. Now I mean to repair it and plaster it anew and paint it handsomely, so that it will be the finest thing in the garden; and when the owner of the garden comes and finds the pavilion reinstated, he will not fail to question thee concerning it. Then do thou say, "O my lord, I set it in repair, for that I saw it in ruins and none could make use of it nor sit in it." If he says, 'Whence hadst thou the money for this?" say, "I spent of my own money upon it, thinking to whiten my face with thee and hoping for thy bounties.' And he will assuredly recompense thee handsomely. To-morrow, I will bring builders and painters and plasterers to repair the pavilion and will give thee what I promised thee.' Then he pulled out a purse of five hundred dinars and gave it to the gardener, saying, 'Provide thy family with this and let them pray for me and my son here.' When the gardener saw the money, he was transported and fell down at the Vizier's feet, kissing them and calling down blessings on him and his son; and when they went away, he said to them, 'I shall expect you to-morrow: for, by Allah, there must be no parting between us, day or night!' As they went home, the prince said to the Vizier, 'What is the meaning of all this?' and he answered, 'Thou shalt presently see the issue thereof.'
Next day, the Vizier sent for the syndic of the builders and carried him and his men to the garden, where the gardener rejoiced in their sight. He gave them the price of victual and what was needful to the workmen for the amendment of the pavilion, and they repaired it and plastered it and decorated it. Then said the Vizier to the painters, 'Harkye, my masters, give ear unto my words and apprehend my wish and my intent. Know that I have a garden like unto this, where I was sleeping one night and saw in a dream a fowler spread his nets and sprinkle corn thereabout. The birds flocked to pick up the grain, and a he-bird fell into the net, whereupon the others took fright and flew away, and amongst the rest his mate: but, after awhile, she returned alone and pecked at the mesh that held his feet, till she set him free and they flew away together. Now the fowler had fallen asleep and when he awoke and found the net empty, he mended it and strewing fresh corn, sat down at a distance, waiting for game to fall into the snare. Presently the birds assembled again to pick up the corn, and amongst the rest the two pigeons. By and by, the female fell into the net and the other birds took fright at her and flew away, and her mate flew with them and did not return; whereupon the fowler came up and taking the she-bird, killed her. Now, when her mate flew away with the others, a hawk seized him and slew him and ate his flesh and drank his blood, and I would have you pourtray me in lively colours the presentment of this my dream, even as I have related it to you, laying the scene in this garden, with its walls and trees and streams. If ye do this that I have set forth to you and it please me, I will give you what shall gladden your hearts, over and above your wage.'
So the painters applied themselves with all diligence to do what he required of them and wrought it out in masterly wise. When they had made an end of the work, they showed it to the Vizier, who, seeing his [pretended] dream set forth in lively fashion, was pleased and thanked them and rewarded them munificently. Presently, the prince came in, after his wont, and entered the pavilion, knowing not what the Vizier had done. So, when he saw the portraiture of the fowler and the birds and so forth and saw the male pigeon limned in the clutches of the hawk, which had slain him and was eating his flesh and drinking his blood, his understanding was confounded and he returned to the Vizier and said to him, 'O Vizier of good counsel, I have seen this day a wonder, which, were it graven with needles on the corners of the eyes, would serve as an admonition to whoso will be admonished?' 'And what is that, O my lord?' asked the Vizier. 'Did I not tell thee,' said the prince, 'of the dream the princess had and how it was the cause of her aversion to men?' 'Yes,' answered the Vizier; and Ardeshir rejoined, saying, 'O Vizier, by Allah, I have seen the whole dream pourtrayed in painting, as I had beheld it with mine eyes; but with a circumstance that was hidden from the princess, so that she saw it not, and it is upon this that I rely for the attainment of my desire.' 'And what is that, O my son?' said the Vizier. Quoth the prince, 'I saw that, when the male bird flew away and left his mate entangled in the net, a hawk pounced on him and slaying him, ate his flesh and drank his blood; and this was the cause of his failure to return and liberate her. Would that the princess had seen the whole of the dream and beheld, to the end, the story thereof!' 'By Allah, O august King,' replied the Vizier, 'this is indeed a rare and wonderful thing!' And the prince ceased not to marvel at the picture and lament that the princess had not seen the whole of the dream, saying in himself, 'Would she had seen it to the end or might see the whole over again, though but in the illusions of sleep!'
Then said the Vizier to him, 'Thou saidst to me, "Why wilt thou repair the pavilion?" And I answered, "Thou shalt presently see the issue thereof." And behold, now thou seest the issue thereof; for it was I did this thing and caused the painters pourtray the princess's dream thus and paint the male bird in the hawk's clutches, so that, when she comes to the pavilion, she will behold her dream depicted and see how the male pigeon was slain and excuse him and turn from her aversion to men.' When the prince heard the Vizier's words, he kissed his hands and thanked him, saying, 'Verily, the like of thee is fit to be Vizier to the most mighty king, and by Allah, if I accomplish my desire and return to my father, rejoicing, I will acquaint him with this, that he may redouble in honouring thee and advance thee in dignity and hearken to thy word.' The Vizier kissed his hand and they both went to the gardener, to whom said the Vizier, 'Look at yonder pavilion and see how fine it is!' And he answered, 'This is all of thy bounty.' Then said they, 'O elder, when the owners of the place question thee concerning the reinstatement of the pavilion, say thou, "It was I did it of my own monies," to the intent that there may betide thee favour and good fortune.' Quoth he, 'I hear and obey.' And the prince continued to pay him frequent visits.
Meanwhile, when Heyat en Nufous ceased to receive the prince's letters and messages and the old woman was absent from her, she rejoiced beyond measure and concluded that the young man had returned to his own country. One day, there came to her a covered tray from her father; so she uncovered it and finding therein fine fruits, said to her waiting-women, 'Is the season of these fruits come?' 'Yes,' answered they, and she said, 'Would we might make ready to take our pleasure in the garden!' 'O my lady,' answered they, 'thou sayst well, and by Allah, we also long for the garden!' And she said, 'How shall we do, seeing that every year it is my nurse who taketh us to walk in the garden and pointeth out to us the various trees and plants and I have beaten her and forbidden her from me? Indeed, I repent me of the affront I offered her, for that, in any case, she is my nurse and hath over me the right of fosterage. But there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!' When her women heard this, they all rose and kissing the earth before her, said, 'God on thee, O my lady, do thou pardon her and command her to be brought!' 'By Allah,' answered the princess, 'I am resolved upon this; but which of you will go to her, for I have prepared her a splendid dress of honour?
With this two damsels came forwards by name Bulbul and Sewad el Ain, who were comely and graceful and the chief of the princess's women, and said to her, 'We will go to her, O princess!' And she said, 'Do what seemeth good to you.' So they repaired to the house of the nurse, who received them with open arms and welcomed them. When they had sat awhile with her, they said to her, 'O nurse, the princess pardons thee and desires to take thee back into favour.' 'This may never be,' answered she, 'though I drink the cup of perdition! Hast thou forgotten how she put me to shame before those who love me and those who hate me, when my clothes were dyed with my blood and I well-nigh died for excess of beating, and after this they dragged me forth by the feet like a dead dog and cast me without the door? By Allah, I will never return to her nor fill my eyes with her sight!' Quoth they, 'Disappoint not our pains in coming to thee neither send us away, unsuccessful. Where is thy courtesy to us? Think but who it is that cometh to thee: canst thou wish for any higher of standing than we with the princess?' 'God forbid!' answered she. 'I know well that my station is less than yours, were it not that the princess's favour exalted me above all her women, so that, were I wroth with the greatest of them, she had died of fright.' 'All is as it was,' rejoined they, 'and is in nowise changed. Indeed, it is better than before, for the princess humbles herself to thee and seeks a reconciliation without intermediary.' 'By Allah,' said the old woman, 'were it not for your presence [and intercession] with me, I had never returned to her, no, not though she had commanded to put me to death!' They thanked her for this and she rose and dressing herself, accompanied them to the palace.
When the princess saw her, she rose to her feet and the old woman said, 'Allah! Allah! O King's daughter, whose was the fault, thine or mine?' 'The fault was mine,' answered Heyat en Nufous, 'and it is thine to pardon and forgive. By Allah, O my nurse, thy rank is high with me and thou hast over me the right of fosterage; but thou knowest that God (blessed be He!) hath allotted to His creatures four things, disposition and life and fortune and death, nor is it in man's power to avert that which is decreed. Verily, I was beside myself and could not govern my anger; but I repent, O my nurse, of what I did.' With this, the nurse's anger ceased from her and she rose and kissed the ground before the princess, who called for a splendid dress of honour and threw it over her, whereat she rejoiced with an exceeding joy. Things being thus happily accorded, in the presence of the princess's slaves and women, Heyat en Nufous said to the old woman, 'O my nurse, how go the fruits of our garden?' 'O my lady,' replied she, 'I see excellent fruits in the town; but I will enquire of the matter and return thee an answer this very day.'
Then she withdrew, attended with all honour and consideration, and betook herself to Ardeshir, who received her with open arms and rejoiced in her coming, for that he had long expected her. She told him all that had passed between herself and the princess and how the latter was minded to go down into the garden on such a day and said to him, 'Hast thou done as I bade thee with the keeper of the garden and made him taste of thy bounties?' 'Yes,' answered the prince; 'and he is become my good friend: my way is his way and he would well I had need of him.' Then he told her all that had happened and of the paintings that the Vizier had caused to be done in the pavilion: whereat she rejoiced greatly and said, 'God upon thee, do thou set thy Vizier midmost thy heart, for this that he hath done points to the keenness of his wit and he hath helped thee to the attaining thy desire. So rise forthright, O my son, and take a bath and don thy richest clothes; then go to the gardener and make shift to pass the night in the garden, for none may win to enter it, [whilst the princess is there], though he should give the earth full of gold. When thou hast entered, hide thyself where none may see thee and stir not till thou hear me say, 'O Thou whose bounties are hidden, vouchsafe us assurance from that we fear!' Then come forth and walk among the trees and show thy beauty and grace, which put the moons to shame, to the intent that Heyat en Nufous may see thee and that her heart and soul may be filled with love of thee; so shalt thou attain to thy desire and thy grief be done away.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the prince and gave her a purse of a thousand dinars, which she took and went away.
As for Ardeshir, he went straight to the bath and washed; after which he arrayed himself in the richest of clothes of the apparel of the kings of the Chosroes and girt his middle with a sash wherein were assembled all manner precious stones and donned a turban laced with red gold and embroidered with pearls and jewels. His cheeks shone rosy-red and his lips were scarlet; his eyelids wantoned, gazelle-wise, and he swayed in his gait like a drunken man; beauty and grace covered him, as with a garment, and his flexile shape shamed the swaying branches. Then he put in his pocket a purse containing a thousand dinars and repairing to the garden, knocked at the door. The gardener opened to him and received him with joy and honour; then, observing that his face was overcast, he asked him how he did. 'Know, O elder,' answered Ardeshir, 'that I am dear to my father and he never laid his hand on me till this day, when words arose between us and he reviled me and smote me on the face and beat me with the staff and drove me away. Now I have no friend to turn to and I fear the perfidy of fortune, for thou knowest that a father's anger is no light thing. Wherefore I come to thee, O uncle, seeing that thou art known to my father, and desire of thy favour that thou suffer me abide, till the end of the day, in the garden or pass the night there, till God make accord between my father and myself.'
When the old man heard this, he was sore concerned and said, 'O my lord, give me leave to go to thy father and be the means of reconciliation between him and thee.' 'O uncle,' replied Ardeshir, 'thou must know that my father is of a very impatient nature, and if thou proffer him reconciliation in his heat, he will make thee no answer; but when a day or two have passed, his humour will soften. Then go thou in to him and thereupon he will relent.' 'I hear and obey,' said the gardener. 'But, O my lord, do thou go with me to my house, where thou shalt pass the night with my children and family and none shall reproach this to us.' 'O uncle,' replied Ardeshir, 'I must be alone, when I am angry.' Quoth the old man, 'It were grievous to me that thou shouldst lie alone in the garden, when I have a house.' But Ardeshir said, 'O uncle, I have a purpose in this, that the trouble of my mind may be dispelled from me and I know that in this lies the means of regaining his favour and softening his heart to me.' 'If it must be so,' rejoined the gardener, 'I will fetch thee a carpet to sleep on and a coverlet to cover thyself withal.' And the prince said, 'There is no harm in that, O uncle.' So the keeper opened the garden to him and brought him the carpet and coverlet, knowing not that the princess was minded to visit the garden.
Meanwhile, the nurse returned to the princess and told her that the fruits were ripe on the trees of the garden; whereupon she said, 'O my nurse, go down with me to- morrow into the garden, that we may walk about in it and take our pleasure, so God please; and send meanwhile to the gardener, to let him know our purpose.' So she sent to the gardener to tell him that the princess would visit the garden on the morrow, bidding him leave neither tree- tenders nor water-carriers therein nor let one of all the creatures of God enter the place. So when word came to him, he set his trenches and channels in order and going to Ardeshir, said to him, 'O my lord, the place is thy place and I live only in thy favours, besides that my tongue is under thy feet. But do thou excuse me: I must tell thee that the princess Heyat en Nufous, the mistress of this garden, hath a mind to visit it to-morrow at the first of the day and hath bidden me leave none therein to see her. So I would have thee of thy favour go forth of the garden this day, for the princess will only abide in it till the time of afternoon prayer and after it shall be at thy service for months and years.' 'O elder,' said Ardeshir, 'belike we have caused thee some inconvenience?' And the other answered, saying, 'By Allah, O my lord, there hath betided me from thee nothing but honour!' 'If it be so,' rejoined the prince, 'nothing but all good shall befall thee through me; for I will hide in the garden and none shall see me, till the princess has gone back to her palace.' 'O my lord,' said the gardener, 'if she espy the shadow of a human being in the garden, she will strike off my head.' 'Have no fear,' replied the prince; 'I will let none see me. But doubtless to-day thou lackest of spending money for thy family.' Then he put his hand to his purse and pulled out five hundred dinars, which he gave to him, saying, 'Take this gold and spend it on thy family, that thy heart may be at ease concerning them.' When the gardener saw the gold, his life seemed a light matter to him and he suffered the prince to abide where he was, charging him straitly not to show himself in the garden.
Meanwhile, when the eunuchs went in to the princess at break of day, she bade open the private door leading into the garden and donned a royal robe, embroidered with pearls and jewels, over a shift of fine silk, embroidered with rubies. Under the whole was that which the tongue refuses to describe, whereat the mind was confounded and for love whereof the coward would become brave. On her head she set a crown of red gold, inlaid with pearls and diamonds, and put her feet in slippers of cloth of gold, embroidered with fine pearls and adorned with all manner precious stones. Then she put her hand on the old woman's shoulder and commanded to go forth by the privy door; but the nurse looked out and seeing the garden full of eunuchs and girls, walking about, eating the fruits and troubling the streams and taking their ease of sport and pleasance therein, said to the princess, 'O my lady, is this a garden or a madhouse?' Quoth the princess, 'What meaneth thy speech, O nurse?' And the old woman answered, saying, 'Verily, the garden is full of slave-girls and eunuchs, near five hundred girls and the like number of eunuchs, eating of the fruits and troubling the streams and scaring the birds and hindering [us] from taking [our] ease and sporting and laughing and what not else; and thou hast no need of them. Wert thou going forth of thy palace into the highway, this would be fitting, as an honour and protection to thee; but thou goest forth of the privy door into the garden, where none of the creatures of God the Most High may look on thee.' 'By Allah, O nurse,' rejoined the princess, 'thou sayst sooth! But how shall we do?' And the old woman said, 'Send them all away and keep only two of the slave-girls, that we may make merry with them.' So she dismissed them all, with the exception of two of her women, who were most in favour with her.
Then, when the old woman saw that her heart was light and that the season was pleasant to her, she said to her, 'Now we can enjoy ourselves aright: come, let us take our pleasance in the garden.' So the princess put her hand on her shoulder and went out by the private door. The two waiting-women walked in front and she followed them, laughing at them and swaying gracefully to and fro in her robes; whilst the nurse forewent her, showing her the trees and feeding her with fruits; and so they fared on from place to place, till they came to the pavilion, which when the princess beheld and saw that it had been newly repaired, she said to the old woman, 'O my nurse, seest thou yonder pavilion? It has been repaired and its walls newly plastered.' 'By Allah, O my lady,' answered she, 'I heard say that the keeper of the garden had taken stuffs of a company of merchants and sold them and bought bricks and lime and stones and plaster and so forth with the price; so I asked him what he had done with all this, and he said, "I have put the ruined pavilion in repair, and when the merchants sought their due of me, I said to them, 'Wait till the princess visits the garden and sees the repairs and they please her: then will I take of her what she is pleased to bestow on me, and pay you your due.'" Quoth I, "What moved thee to do this thing?" And he said, "I saw the pavilion in ruins, the coigns thrown down and the plaster stripped from the walls, and none had the grace to repair it; so I borrowed the money on my own account and reinstated the place; and I trust in the princess to deal with me as befits her dignity." Quoth I, "The princess is all goodness and generosity and will no doubt requite thee." And he did all this but in hopes of thy bounty.' 'By Allah,' replied the princess, 'he hath dealt nobly in rebuilding it and hath done the deed of a man of worth! Call me my purse-keeper.' The old woman accordingly fetched the purse-keeper, and the princess bade the latter give the gardener two thousand dinars; whereupon the nurse sent a messenger to him, bidding him to the princess's presence.
When the gardener received the summons, he trembled in every limb and said in himself 'Doubtless, the princess has seen the young man, and this day will be the most unlucky of days for me.' So he went home and told his wife and children what had happened and gave them his last injunctions, and they wept for him. Then he took leave of them and returning to the garden, presented himself before the princess, with a face the colour of turmeric and scarce able to stand upright. The old woman remarked his plight and hastened to forestall him, saying, 'O old man, kiss the earth in gratitude to God the Most High and be instant in prayer to Him for the princess; for I told her what thou didst in the matter of repairing the ruined pavilion, and she rejoiceth in this and bestoweth on thee two thousand dinars in requital of thy pains; so take them from the purse-keeper and kiss the earth before the princess and bless her and go thy way.' So he took the money and kissed the earth before Heyat en Nufous, calling down blessings on her. Then he returned to his house, and his family rejoiced in him and blessed him (98) who had been the [prime] cause of all this.
As soon as he was gone, the old woman said to the princess, 'O my lady, this is indeed become a fine place! Never saw I a purer white than its plastering nor goodlier than its painting! I wonder if he have repaired the inside also: else hath he made the outside white and [left] the inside black. Come, let us enter and see.' So they entered and found the interior painted and gilded in the goodliest fashion. The princess looked right and left, till she came to the upper end of the estrade, when she fixed her eyes upon the wall and gazed attentively thereat; whereupon the old woman knew that she had lighted on the presentment of her dream and took the two waiting-women with her, that they might not divert her attention. When the princess had made an end of examining the painting, she turned to the old woman, wondering and beating hand on hand, and said to her, 'O my nurse, come and see a wonderful thing. Were it graven with needles on the corners of the eyes, it would serve as an admonition to him who will be admonished.' 'And what is that, O my lady?' asked she. 'Go, look at the upper end of the estrade,' replied the princess, 'and tell me what thou seest there.'
So she went up and came down, wondering, and said, 'By Allah, O my lady, here is depicted the garden and the fowler and his net and the birds and all thou sawest in thy dream; and verily, nothing but urgent necessity withheld the male pigeon from returning to free his mate; for I see him in the talons of a hawk, which has slaughtered him and is drinking his blood and rending his flesh and eating it; and this, O my lady, accounts for his tarrying to return and rescue her from the net. But the wonder is how thy dream came to be thus depicted, for, wert thou minded to set it forth in portraiture, thou hadst not availed thereto. By Allah, this is a wonder that should be recorded in history! Surely, O my lady, the angels, to whom are committed the care of the sons of Adam, knew that the male pigeon was wronged of us, whenas we blamed him for deserting his mate; so they embraced his cause and made manifest his excuse.' 'O my nurse,' said the princess, 'verily, fate and fore-ordained fortune had course against this bird, and we wronged him.' 'O my lady,' rejoined the nurse, 'adversaries shall meet before God the Most High: but, O my lady, verily, the truth hath been made manifest and the male pigeon's excuse certified to us; for, except the hawk had seized him and killed him, he had not held aloof from his mate, but had returned to her and set her free; but against death there is no recourse, nor, O my lady, is there aught in the world more tenderly solicitous than the male for the female, among all creatures that God the Most High hath created, and especially is it thus with man; for he starves himself to feed his wife, strips himself to clothe her, angers his family to please her and disobeys and denies his parents to give to her. She knoweth his secrets and concealeth them and cannot endure from him an hour. If he be absent from her one night, her eyes sleep not nor is there a dearer to her than he. She tenders him more than her parents and they lie down to sleep in each other's arms, with his hand under her neck and her hand under his neck, even as saith the poet in the following verses:I made my wrist her pillow, yea, and lay with her the night, Saying to it, "Be long," what while the full moon glittered white.
Then he kisses her and she kisses him; and I have heard that a certain king, when his wife fell sick and died, buried himself alive with her, submitting of his own accord to death, for the love of her and the strait companionship that was between them. Moreover, a certain king sickened and died, and when they were about to bury him, his wife said to her people, "Let me bury myself alive with him: else will I slay myself and my blood will be on your heads." So, when they saw she would not be turned from this thing, they left her, and she cast herself into the grave with her dead husband, of the greatness of her love and tenderness over him.' And she ceased not to ply the princess with anecdotes of [mutual fidelity] between men and women, till there ceased that which was in her heart of aversion to the male sex; and when she saw that she had succeeded in renewing in her [the natural] inclination [of women] to men, she said to her, 'It is time to go and walk in the garden.' So they went out and walked among the trees.
Presently the prince chanced to turn and his eyes fell on Heyat en Nufous; and when he saw the justness of her shape and her rosy cheeks and the blackness of her eyes and her exceeding grace and loveliness and her excelling beauty and elegance and her abounding perfection, his reason was confounded and he could not take his eyes off her. His judgement failed him for passion and love overpassed all limits in him; his entrails were occupied with her service and his heart was aflame with the fire of love- longing, so that he swooned away and fell to the ground senseless. When he came to himself, she had passed from his sight and was hidden from him among the trees; so he sighed from his inmost heart and repeated the following verses:Whenas mine eyes her charms beheld, do wonder-excellent, With passion and with love-longing my heart in twain was rent
The old woman ceased not to carry the princess about the garden, till she brought her to the place where the prince lay in wait, when she said, 'O thou whose bounties are hidden, vouchsafe us assurance from that we fear!' The prince, hearing the signal, left his hiding-place and walked among the trees, swaying to and fro with a proud and graceful gait and a shape that shamed the branches. His brow was pearled with sweat and his cheeks red as the afterglow, extolled be the perfection of God the Supreme in that He hath created! When the princess caught sight of him, she gazed a long while on him and saw his beauty and grace and symmetry and his eyes that wantoned, gazelle- wise, and his shape that outvied the branches of the myrobalan; wherefore her reason was confounded and her soul captivated and her heart transfixed with the arrows of his glances. Then she said to the old woman, 'O my nurse, whence came yonder handsome youth?' 'Where is he, O my lady?' enquired the nurse. 'There he is,' answered Heyat en Nufous; 'close at hand, among the trees.' The old woman turned right and left, as if she knew not of his presence, and said, 'Who can have taught this youth the way into the garden?' Quoth Heyat en Nufous, 'Who shall give us news of him? Glory be to Him who created men! Dost thou know him, O my nurse?' 'O my lady,' answered the old woman, 'he is the young merchant who wrote to thee by me.' Quoth the princess (and indeed she was drowned in the sea of her desire and the fire of her passion and love-longing), 'O my nurse, how goodly is this youth! Indeed he is fair of favour. Methinks, there is not on the face of the earth a goodlier than he!'
When the old woman was assured that the love of him had gotten possession of the princess, she said to her, 'O my lady, did I not tell thee that he was a comely youth of a bright visage?' 'O my nurse,' replied Heyat en Nufous, 'kings' daughters know not the ways of the world nor the manners of those that be therein, for that they company with none, neither give nor take. But how shall I do to present myself to him, and what shall I say to him and what will he say to me?' 'What device is left me?' said the old woman. 'Indeed, we were confounded in this matter by thy behaviour.' And the princess said, 'Know, O my nurse, that if any ever died of passion, I shall do so, and behold, I look for nothing but instant death, by reason of the fire of my love-longing.' When the old woman heard her words and saw the transport of her passion for him, she answered, saying, 'O my lady, as for his coming to thee, there is no way thereto; and indeed thou art excused from going to him, because of thy tender age; but follow me and I will accost him. So shalt thou not be put to shame, and in the twinkling of an eye there shall betide familiarity between you.' 'Go before me,' said the princess; 'for the decree of God may not be averted.'
So they went up to the place where Ardeshir sat, as he were the moon at its full, and the old woman said to him, 'See, O youth, who is present before thee! It is the King's daughter of the age, Heyat en Nufous: bethink thee of her rank and the honour she doth thee in coming to thee and rise and stand before her, out of respect for her.' The prince sprang to his feet forthright and his eyes met hers, whereupon they both became as they were drunken without wine. Then the love of him and desire redoubled upon the princess and she opened her arms and he his, and they embraced; but love-longing and passion overcame them and they swooned away and lay a great while without sense. The old woman, fearing scandal, carried them b0th into the pavilion and sitting down at the door, said to the two waiting-women, 'Seize the occasion to take your pleasure in the gardens for the princess sleeps.' So they returned to their diversion.
Presently, the lovers recovered from their swoon and found themselves in the pavilion, whereupon quoth the prince, 'God on thee, O princess of fair ones, is this a dream or an illusion of sleep?' Then they embraced and intoxicated themselves without wine, complaining each to each of the anguish of passion; and the prince recited the following verses:The sun of the day shines out from her forehead's lambent snow And eke from her cheeks flames forth the red of the afterglow;
When he had made an end of these verses, the princess strained him to her bosom and kissed him on the mouth and between the eyes; whereupon life returned to him and he fell to complaining to her of that which he suffered for stress of love and tyranny of passion and excess of transport and distraction and all he had endured for the hardness of her heart. She kissed his hands and feet and unveiled her head, whereupon the darkness (99) gathered and the full moons (100) arose and shone therein. Then said she to him, 'O my beloved and the term of my wishes, would the day of estrangement had never been and God grant it may never return between us!' And they embraced and wept together, whilst she recited the following verses:Thou that the full moon sham'st and eke the sun of day, Thou hast unto thy face committed me to slay;
Then passion overcame her and she was distraught for love and wept copious tears, streaming down like rain. This inflamed the prince's heart and he in turn became troubled and distracted for love of her. So he kissed her hands and wept sore, and they ceased not from tender reproaches and converse and reciting verses, nor was there aught between them other than this, until the call to afternoon prayer, when they bethought them of parting and she said to him, 'O light of mine eyes and kernel of my heart, the time of parting is come: when shall we meet again?' 'By Allah,' replied he (and indeed her words pierced him as with arrows), 'I love not the mention of parting!' Then she went forth of the pavilion, and he turned and saw her sighing sighs that would melt the rock and weeping tears like rain; whereupon he for love was sunken in the sea of desolations and recited the following verses:Distraction, O wish of the heart, are anew For love of thee irketh me: how shall I do?
When she heard his verses in praise of her, she turned back and embracing him, with a heart on fire for the anguish of parting, fire which nought might assuage save kisses and embraces, said, 'Quoth the byword, Patience behoves a lover and not the lack of it. And I will surely contrive a means for our reunion.' Then she bade him adieu and went away, knowing not where she set her feet, for stress of love; nor did she stay her steps till she found herself in her own chamber. When she was gone, passion and love-longing redoubled upon the prince and the delight of sleep was forbidden to him, whilst she in her turn tasted not food and her patience failed and her heart sickened for desire.
As soon as it was day, she sent for her nurse, who came and found her in sorry plight. Quoth the princess, 'Question me not of my case; for all I suffer is due to thee. Where is the beloved of my heart?' 'O my lady,' answered the old woman, 'when did he leave thee? Hath he been absent from thee more than this night?' 'Can I endure from him an hour?' rejoined Heyat en Nufous. 'Come, find some means to bring us together speedily, for my soul is like to depart [my body].' 'O my lady,' said the old woman, 'have patience till I contrive thee some subtle device, whereof none shall be ware.' 'By the Great God,' cried the princess, 'except thou bring him to me this very day, I will tell the King that thou hast corrupted me, and he will cut of thy head!' Quoth the nurse, 'I conjure thee, by Allah, have patience with me, for this is a dangerous matter!' And she humbled herself to her, till she granted her three days' delay, saying, 'O my nurse, the three days will be as three years to me; and if the fourth day pass and thou bring him not, I will go about to slay thee.'
The old woman left her and returned to her lodging, where she abode till the morning of the fourth day, when she summoned the tirewomen of the town and sought of them fine paint and dyes for the painting and adorning of a virgin girl, and they brought her cosmetics of the best. Then she sent for the prince and bringing forth of her chest a suit of woman's apparel, worth five thousand dinars, and a kerchief fringed with all manner jewels, said to him 'O my son, hast thou a mind to foregather with Heyat en Nufous?' 'Yes,' answered he. So she took a pair of tweezers and pulled out the hairs of his face and anointed his eyes with kohl. Then she stripped him and painted him with henna from his nails to his shoulders and from his insteps to his thighs and tattooed him about the body, till he was like red roses on tables of alabaster. After a little, she washed him and dried him and bringing out a shift and a pair of trousers, made him put them on. Then she clad him in the dress aforesaid and binding the kerchief about his head, veiled him and taught him how to walk, saying, 'Advance thy left and draw back thy right.' He did as she bade him and walked before her, as he were a houri escaped from Paradise. Then said she to him, 'Fortify thy heart, for we are going to the King's palace, where there will without fail be guards and eunuchs at the gate; and if thou take fright at them and show hesitation or fear, they will suspect thee and examine thee, and we shall both lose our lives: wherefore an thou feel thyself unable to do this, tell me.' 'This thing hath no terrors for me,' answered he; 'so take courage and be of good cheer.'
Then she went out and he followed her, till they came to the gate of the palace which was full of eunuchs. She turned and looked at him, to see if he were troubled or no, and finding him unchanged, went on. The chief eunuch looked at the nurse and knew her, but seeing a damsel following her, whose charms confounded the reason, he said in himself, 'As for the old woman, she is the nurse; but who is the girl with her? There is none in our land resembleth her in favour or approacheth her in beauty save the princess Heyat en Nufous, who is cloistered and never goeth out. Would I knew how she came into the street and whether or no it was by leave of the King!' Then he rose to discover the matter and nigh thirty eunuchs followed him; which when the old woman saw, her reason fled for fear and she said, 'There is no power and no virtue, save in God! Verily, we are God's and to Him we return! Without doubt we are dead folk this time.' When the chief eunuch heard her say this, fear gat hold upon him, by reason of that which he knew of the princess's violence and that her father was ruled by her, and he said in himself, 'Belike the King hath commanded the nurse to carry his daughter forth upon some occasion of hers, whereof she would have none know; and if I stop her, she will be wroth with me and will say, "This fellow stopped me, that he might pry into my affairs.' So she will go about to kill me, and I have no call to meddle in this matter.'
So saying, he turned back, and the thirty eunuchs with him, and drove the people from the door of the palace; whereupon the nurse entered and saluted the eunuchs with her head, whilst they stood to do her honour and returned her salutation. The prince followed her from door to door, and [God] the Protector protected them, so that they passed all the guards, till they came to the seventh door, which was that of the great pavilion, wherein was the King's throne, and communicated with the apartments of his women and the saloons of the harem, as well as with his daughter's palace. Here the old woman halted and said, 'Glory be to God, O my son, who hath brought us thus far in safety! We cannot foregather with the princess except by night; for night covers the fearful.' 'True,' answered he; 'but what is to be done?' Quoth she, 'Behind the door is a dark and deep cistern, with a cover thereto, wherein thou must hide thyself till nightfall.' So he entered the cistern, and she went away and left him there till ended day, when she returned and carried him into the palace, till they came to the door of Heyat en Nufous's apartment. The old woman knocked at the door and a little maid came out and said, 'Who is there?' 'It is I,' answered the nurse; whereupon the maid returned and told the princess, who said, 'Let her enter, with her companion.'
So they entered and found that the princess had made ready the sitting-chamber and ranged the lamps and lighted candles of wax in chandeliers of gold and silver and spread the divans and estrades with carpets and cushions. Moreover, she had set on food and fruits and confections and perfumed the place with musk and aloes-wood and ambergris. She was seated among the candles and the lamps, and the light of her face outshone the lustre of them all. When she saw the old woman, she said to her, 'O nurse, where is the beloved of my heart?' 'O my lady,' answered she, 'I cannot find him ; but I have brought thee his own sister; and here she is.' 'Art thou mad?' exclaimed the princess. 'What need have I of his sister? If a man's head irk him, doth he bind up his hand?' 'No, by Allah, O my lady!' replied the old woman. 'But look on her, and if she please thee, let her be with thee.' So saying, she uncovered the prince's face, whereupon Heyat en Nufous knew him and running to him) pressed him to her bosom, and he pressed her to his. Then they both fell down in a swoon and lay without sense a long while. The old woman sprinkled rose-water upon them, till they came to themselves, when she kissed him on the mouth more than a thousand times and recited these verses:My heart's belov'd in the darkness visited me; I rose in honour of him, till down sat he.
Quoth she, 'Is it indeed true that I see thee in my abode and that thou art my house-mate and my cup- companion?' Then passion redoubled on her and love was heavy upon her, so that her reason well-nigh fled for joy and she recited the following verses:With all my soul I'll ransom him who came to me by night In darkness, whilst I waited for the tryst between us plight;
When it was day, she made him enter a place of concealment in her apartment and he abode
there till night- fall, when she brought him out and they sat carousing. Presently, he said to her,
"I wish to return to my own country and tell my father what has passed between us, that he may
send his Vizier to demand thee in marriage of thy father.' 'O my love,' answered she, 'I fear, if
thou return to thy country and kingdom, thou wilt be distracted from me and forget the love of
me or that thy father will not fall in with thy wishes, and I shall die. Meseems the better counsel
were that thou abide with me and in my
hand, I looking on thy face and thou on mine, till I devise some plan, whereby we may escape together some night and flee to thy country; for my hopes are cut off from my people and I despair of them.' 'I hear and obey' replied he, and they fell again to their carousal.
He abode with her thus for some time, till, one night, the wine was pleasant to them and they lay not down to sleep till break of day. Now it chanced that one of the Kings sent her father a present, and amongst other things, a necklace of unique jewels, nine-and-twenty in number, to whose price a king's treasures might not suffice. Quoth Abdulcadir, 'This beseemeth none but my daughter Heyat en Nufous,' and calling an eunuch whose jaw-teeth the princess had knocked out, bade him carry the necklace to her and say to her, 'One of the kings hath sent thy father this as a presents and its price may not be paid with money; put it on thy neck.' The slave took the necklace, saying in himself, 'God make it the last thing she shall put on in this world, for that she deprived me of the use of my teeth!' and repairing to the princess's apartment found the door locked and the old woman asleep before it. He shook her, and she awoke in affright and said, 'What dost thou want?' Quoth he, 'The King hath sent me on an errand to his daughter.' 'The key is not here,' answered the old woman. 'Go away, whilst I fetch it.' But he said, 'I cannot go back to the King, without having done his commandment.' So she went away, as if to fetch the key; but fear overtook her and she sought safety in flight.
The eunuch awaited her awhile; then, finding she did not return, he feared that the King would be angry at his delay; so he shook the door, whereupon the bolt gave way and the door opened. He entered and passed on, till he came to the seventh door, [which was that of the princess's chamber], and going in, found the place splendidly furnished and saw candles and flagons there. At this he marvelled and going up to the bed, which was enclosed with a curtain of silk, embroidered with a network of jewels, drew back the curtain and saw the princess asleep in the arms of a young man handsomer than herself; whereat he magnified God the Most High, who had created him of vile water, and said, 'This is a goodly fashion for one who hath an aversion to men! How came she by this fellow? Methinks it was on his account that she knocked out my teeth!' Then he dropped the curtain and made for the door; but the princess awoke in affright and seeing the eunuch, whose name was Kafour, called to him. He made her no answer: so she came down from the bed and catching hold of his skirt, laid it on her head and kissed his feet, saying, 'Cover what God covers!' Quoth he, 'May Allah not cover thee nor him who would cover thee! Thou didst knock out my teeth and saidst to me, "Let none make mention to me of men and their ways!"' So saying, he disengaged himself from her grasp and running out, locked the door on them and set another eunuch to guard it.
Then he went in to the King, who said to him, 'Hast thou given the necklace to Heyat en Nufous?' 'By Allah,' replied the eunuch, 'she deserves more than that!' And the King said, 'What hath happened? Tell me quickly.' 'I will not tell thee, save in private,' answered Kafour; but the King rejoined, saying, 'Tell me at once and in public.' 'Then grant me immunity,' said the eunuch. So the King threw him the handkerchief of immunity and he said, 'O King, I went in to the princess Heyat en Nufous and found her asleep in a carpeted chamber, in the arms of a young man. So I locked the door on them and came back to thee.' When the King heard this, he started up and taking a sword in his hand, cried out to the chief of the eunuchs, saying, 'Take thy lads and go the princess's chamber and bring me her and him who if with her, as they lie on the bed, coverings and all.' So the chief eunuch and his men repaired to the princess's apartment, where he found her and the prince standing up, dissolved in tears, and said to them, 'Lie down on the bed, as you were.' The princess feared for her lover and said to him, 'This is no time for resistance.' So they both lay down and the eunuchs covered them up and carried them into the King's presence.
Abdulcadir pulled off the coverings and the princess sprang to her feet; whereupon he looked at her and would have struck off her head; but the prince threw himself between them, saying, 'The fault was mine, not hers: kill me before her.' The King made at him, to kill him, but Heyat en Nufous threw herself on her father and said, 'Kill me and not him; for he is the son of a great King, lord of all the land in its length and breadth.' When the King heard this, he turned to his chief Vizier, who was a compend of all that is evil, and said to him, 'What sayst thou of this matter, O Vizier?' Quoth the Vizier, 'What I say is that all who find themselves in such case as this have need of lying, and there is nothing for it but to cut off both their heads, after torturing them with all manner of tortures.' With this the King called the swordsman of his vengeance, who came with his lads, and said to him, 'Take this gallows-bird and strike off his head and after do the like with this harlot and burn their bodies, and consult me not again about them.' So the headsman put his hand to her back, to take her; but the King cried out at him and cast at him somewhat he had in his hand, which had well-nigh killed him, saying, 'O dog, wilt thou show clemency to those with whom I am wroth? Put thy hand to her hair and drag her along by it, so that she may fall on her face.' So he haled the two lovers by their hair to the place of blood, where he tore off a piece of his skirt and bound the prince's eyes therewith, putting the princess last, in the hope that some one would intercede for her. Then he swung his sword three times, whilst all the troops wept and prayed God to send them deliverance and raised his hand to cut off Ardeshir's head, when, behold, there arose a cloud of dust, that spread till it covered the landscape.
When King Abdulcadir saw this, he said, 'O folk, what is the meaning of yonder dust that obscures the sight?' The Grand Vizier went out to reconnoitre and found behind the cloud men like locusts, beyond count or limit, tilling the hills and plains and valleys. So he returned and told the King, who said to him, 'Go down and learn who they are and who is their commander and salute him for me and ask him the reason of his coming. If he come in quest of aught we will aid him to his desire, and if he have a feud with one of the kings, we will ride with him; or, if he desire a gift, we will handsel him; for this is indeed a mighty host and a vast power and we fear for our land from its mischief.' Accordingly, the Vizier went forth and walked among the tents and guards and troopers and fared on from the first of the day till near sundown, when he came to tents studded with stars and guards with gilded swords. Passing these, he made his way, through Amirs and Viziers and captains and chamberlains, to the pavilion of the Sultan and found him a mighty King. When the King's officers saw him, they cried out to him, saying, 'Kiss the earth! Kiss the earth!' He did so and would have risen, but they cried out at him a second and a third time. So he kissed the earth again and again and raised his head and would have stood up but fell down for excess of awe. When at last he stood before the King, he said to him, 'O august King, may God prolong thy days and increase thy sovranty and exalt thy rank! King Abdulcadir salutes thee and kisses the earth before thee and asks on what weighty business thou art come. If thou seek to avenge thee on any king, he will take horse in thy service; or, if thou come in quest of aught wherein it is in his power to help thee, he is at thy service on account thereof.' Now this was Ardeshir's father, who, hearing no news of his son, had levied a mighty army and himself set out in quest of him. So he replied to the Vizier, saying, 'O messenger, return to thy lord and tell him that the most mighty King [Seif el Aazem Shah, King of Shiraz] had a son, who has been long absent from him and news of him have been cut off from him, nor knoweth he what is become of him. If he be in this city, he will take him and depart from you; but, if any mischief have befallen him among you, his father will lay waste your land and slay your men and make spoil of your goods and your women. Return, therefore, in haste, to thy lord and tell him this, ere evil befall him.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the Vizier and turned to go away, when the chamberlain cried out to him, saying, 'Kiss the earth! Kiss the earth!' So he kissed the earth a score of times and rose not till his heart was in his mouth.
Then he returned to the city, full of anxious thought concerning the affair of this King and the multitude of his troops, and going in to King Abdulcadir, pale with fear and trembling in every limb, acquainted him with that which he had seen and heard; whereat disquietude and fear for his people laid hold upon him and he said to the Vizier, 'O Vizier, and who is this King's son?' 'It is even he whom thou badest put to death,' answered the Vizier; 'but praised be God who hastened not his slaughter! Else had his father laid waste our lands and spoiled our goods.' 'See now,' quoth the King, 'thy corrupt judgment, in that thou didst counsel us to kill him! Where is the young man, the son of yonder magnanimous king?' 'O mighty King,' answered the Vizier, 'thou didst command him to be put to death.' When the King heard this, he was distracted and cried out in a terrible voice, saying, 'Out on you! Fetch me the headsman forthright, lest death fall on him!' So they fetched the headsman and he said, 'O King of the age, I have smitten off his head even as thou badest me.' 'O dog,' cried Abdulcadir, 'if this be true, I will assuredly send thee after him.' Quoth the headsman, 'O King, thou didst command me to slay him without again consulting thee.' 'I was in my anger,' replied the King; 'but speak the truth, ere thou lose thy life.' And he said, 'O King, he is yet in the chains of life.'
At this Abdulcadir rejoiced and his heart was set at ease; then he called for Ardeshir, and when he came, he stood up to receive him and kissed his mouth, saying, 'O my son, I ask pardon of God for the wrong I have done thee, and say thou not aught that may lower my credit with thy father, the Supreme King.' 'O King of the age,' said the prince, 'and where is my father?' 'He is come hither on thine account,' replied Abdulcadir; and Ardeshir said, 'By thy worship, I will not stir from before thee till I have cleared my honour and that of thy daughter from that which thou laidst to our charge; for she is a clean maid. Send for the midwives and let them examine her before thee. If they find her maidenhead gone, I give thee leave to shed my blood; and if they find her a pure virgin, her innocence and mine will be made manifest.' So he summoned the midwives, who examined the princess and found her a clean maid and told the King, seeking largesse of him. He gave them what they sought, putting off his royal robes to bestow on them, and in like manner he made presents to all who were in the harem. And they brought forth the casting-bottles and perfumed all the officers of state and grandees; and they all rejoiced with an exceeding joy.
Then the King embraced Ardeshir and entreated him with all honour and consideration, bidding his chief eunuchs carry him to the bath. When he came out, he cast over his shoulders a costly robe and set on his head a diadem of jewels. Moreover, he girt him with a sash of silk embroidered with red gold and set with pearls and jewels, and mounted him on one of his finest horses, with trappings of gold inlaid with pearls and jewels. Then he bade his grandees and captains mount and escort him to his father's presence and charged him tell the latter that King Abdulcadir was at his disposal, hearkening to his word and obeying him in whatsoever he should command or forbid. 'I will not fail of this,' answered Ardeshir and repaired to his father, who was transported for joy at sight of him and springing up, advanced to meet him and embraced him, whilst joy and gladness spread among his troops. Then came the viziers and chamberlains and captains and kissed the earth before the prince and rejoiced in his coming: and it was a great day with them for joy. Moreover, the prince gave leave to those of King Abdulcadir's officers who had accompanied him and others of the townsfolk, to view the ordinance of his father's host, without let or hindrance, so they might know the multitude of the Great King's troops and the might of his empire. And all who had seen him selling stuffs in the bazaar marvelled how his soul could have consented thereto, considering the nobility of his rank and the loftiness of his dignity; but it was his love and inclination to the princess that constrained him to this.
Meanwhile, news of the multitude of his troops came to Heyat en Nufous, who was still a prisoner under commandment, till they knew what her father should order respecting her, whether pardon and release or death and burning; and she looked down from the top of the palace and turning towards the mountains, saw the whole plain filled with armed men. When she beheld all these troops and knew that they were the army of Ardeshir's father, she feared lest he should be diverted from her by his father and forget her and depart from her, whereupon her father would put her to death. So she called a maid that was with her in her apartment, by way of service, and said to her, 'Go to Ardeshir, son of the Great King, and fear not. When thou comest into his presence, kiss the earth before him and tell him who thou art and say to him, "My lady salutes thee and would have thee to know that she is a prisoner in her father's palace, awaiting his sentence, whether he be minded to pardon her or kill her, and she beseecheth thee not to forget her or forsake her; for to-day thou art all-powerful; and whatsoever thou commandest none dare cross thee therein. Wherefore, if it seem good to thee to rescue her from her father and take her with thee, it were of thy bounty, for indeed she suffereth all these tribulations on thine account. But if this seem not good to thee, for that thy desire of her is at an end, speak to thy father, so haply he may intercede for her with her father and depart not, till he have made him set her at liberty and taken surety from him that he will not go about to put her to death nor do her any hurt. This is her last word to thee, may God not bereave [her] of thee, and peace be on thee!"'
The maid made her way to Ardeshir and delivered him her mistress's message, which when he heard, he wept sore and said to her, 'Know that Heyat en Nufous is my mistress and that I am her slave and the captive of her love. I have not forgotten what was between us nor the bitterness of the day of separation; so do thou say to her, after thou hast kissed her feet, that I will speak with my father of her, and he will send his Vizier, who sought her aforetime in marriage for me, to demand her hand once more of her father, for he dare not refuse. So, if he send to her to consult her, let her make no opposition; for I will not return to my country without her.' So the maid returned to Heyat en Nufous and kissing her hands, delivered to her the prince's message, which when she heard, she wept for very joy and returned thanks to God the Most High.
Meanwhile, Ardeshir being alone with his father by night, the latter questioned him of his case and he told him all that had befallen him, first and last; whereupon quoth the King, 'What wilt thou have me do for thee, O my son? If thou desire Abdulcadir's ruin, I will lay waste his lands and spoil his treasures and dishonour his family.' 'O my father,' replied Ardeshir, 'I do not desire that, for he hath done nothing deserving thereof; but I wish for union with the princess; wherefore I beseech thee of thy favour to make ready a present for her father, (but let it be a magnificent one,) and send it to him by thy Vizier, the man of just judgment.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the King and sending for the treasures he had laid up from time past, chose out all manner of precious things and showed them to his son, who was pleased with them. Then he called his Vizier and bade him carry the present to King Abdulcadir and demand his daughter in marriage for Ardeshir, saying, 'Accept the present and return him an answer.'
Now from the time of Ardeshir's departure, King Abdulcadir had been troubled and heavy at heart, fearing the laying waste of his kingdom and the spoiling of his realm; so, when the Vizier came in to him and saluting him, kissed the earth before him, he rose to his feet and received him with honour; but the Vizier made haste to fall at his feet and kiss them, saying, 'Pardon, O King of the age! The like of thee should not rise to the like of me, for I am the least of slaves' servants. Know, O King, that Prince Ardeshir hath acquainted his father with some of the favours and kindnesses thou hast done him, wherefore he thanks thee and sends thee, by thy servant who stands before thee, a present, saluting thee and wishing thee all manner of prosperities.' Abdulcadir, of the excess of his fear, could not believe what he heard, till the Vizier laid the present before him, when he saw it to be such as no money could purchase nor could one of the kings of the earth avail to the like thereof; wherefore he was belittled in his own eyes and springing to his feet, praised God the Most High and glorified Him and thanked the prince.
Then said the Vizier to him, 'O noble King, hearken to me and know that the Great King sendeth to thee, desiring thine alliance, and I come to thee, seeking and craving the hand of thy daughter, the chaste lady and treasured jewel Heyat en Nufous, in marriage for his son Ardeshir: wherefore, if thou consent to this, accepting of him, do thou agree with me for her marriage-portion.' 'I hear and obey,' answered Abdulcadir. 'For my part, I make no objection, and nothing can be more agreeable to me; but the girl is of full age and reason and her affair is in her own hand. So I will refer it to her and she shall choose for herself.' Then he turned to the chief eunuch and bade him go and acquaint the princess with this. So he repaired to the harem and kissing the princess's hands, acquainted her with the Great King's proposal, saying, 'What sayst thou in answer?' 'I hear and obey,' replied she. So the eunuch returned to the King and gave him her answer, whereat he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and calling for a sumptuous robe of honour, threw it over the Vizier's shoulders. Moreover, he ordered him ten thousand dinars and bade him carry the answer to the Great King and crave leave for him to pay him a visit. 'I hear and obey,' answered the Vizier, and returning to his master, delivered him the reply and Abdulcadir's message, whereat he rejoiced greatly and Ardeshir was transported for joy and his breast expanded and he was glad.
Moreover, King Seif el Aazem gave King Abdulcadir leave to come forth to visit him; so, on the morrow, he took horse and rode to the camp of the Great King, who came to meet him and saluting him, seated him in the place of honour, and they two sat, whilst Ardeshir stood before them. Then arose an orator of the Great King's court and pronounced an eloquent discourse giving Ardeshir joy of the attainment of his desire and of his marriage with the princess, queen of kings' daughters. When he sat down, King Seif el Aazem caused bring a chest full of pearls and jewels, together with fifty thousand dinars, and said to King Abdulcadir, 'I am my son's deputy in all that concerns this matter.' So Abdulcadir acknowledged to have received the marriage-portion and amongst the rest, fifty-thousand dinars for the expenses of the nuptial festivities; after which they fetched the Cadis and the witnesses, who drew up the contact of marriage between the prince and princess, and it was a notable day, wherein all lovers rejoiced and all haters and enviers were mortified. They made the marriage feasts and banquet and Ardeshir went in to the princess and found her an unpierced and unique pearl, a treasured jewel and a filly that none but he had ridden and notified this to her father. Then said King Seif el Aazem to his son, 'Hast thou any wish thou wouldst have fulfilled ere we depart?' 'Yes, O King,' answered he; 'I would fain take my wreak of the Vizier who entreated us evil and the eunuch who forged a lie against us.' So the King sent forthright to Abdulcadir, demanding of him the vizier and the eunuch, whereupon he despatched them to him and he commanded to hang them over the gate of the city.
After this, they abode a little while and then sought of Abdulcadir leave for his daughter to make ready for departure. So he equipped her and mounted her in a travelling- litter of red gold, inlaid with pearls and diamonds and drawn by thoroughbred horses. She carried with her all her waiting-women and eunuchs, as well as the nurse, who had returned, after her flight, and resumed her office. Then King Seif el Aazem and his son mounted and Abdulcadir mounted also with all the officers of his realm, to take leave of his daughter and his son-in-law; and it was a day to be reckoned of the goodliest of days. After they had gone some distance, Seif el Aazem conjured King Abdulcadir to turn back; so he took leave of him [and his son], after he had strained him to his breast and kissed him between the eyes and thanked him for his favours and commended his daughter to his care. Then he went in to the princess and embraced her; and she kissed his hands and they wept in the stead of parting. Then he returned to his capital and Ardeshir and his company fared on, till they reached Shiraz, where they celebrated the marriage festivities anew. And they abode in all delight and solace and comfort of life, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies, He who layeth waste the palaces and peopleth the tombs.
End of Volume 6.