JULNAR OF THE SEA AND HER SON KING BEDR BASIM OF PERSIA.
There was once of old days and in bygone ages and times, in the land of the Persians, a king called Shehriman, whose abiding-place was Khorassan. He had a hundred concubines, but by none of them had he been vouchsafed a child, male or female, all the days of his life. One day, he bethought him of this and fell a-lamenting for that the most part of his life was past and he had not been blessed with a son, to inherit the kingdom after him, even as he had inherited it from his fathers and forefathers; by reason whereof there betided him sore chagrin and the extreme of care and despite. As he sat thus [absorbed in melancholy thought], one of his officers came in to him and said, 'O my lord, at the door is a merchant, with a slave-girl, than whom a fairer was never seen' 'Bring them to me,' answered the king, and the merchant and the damsel came in to him.
When Shehriman beheld the latter, he saw that she was like a Rudeini lance, (1) and she was wrapped in a veil of gold-embroidered silk. The merchant uncovered her face, whereupon the place was illumined by her beauty and her hair hung down to her anklets, in seven tresses, like horse's tails. She had liquid black eyes, heavy buttocks and slender waist; [the sight of her] healed the sickness of the ailing and quenched the fire of the thirsting, for she was even as saith the poet:I dote on her ; for, lo, in beauty she's complete , Yea, staidness crowns her charms and gravity sedate.
The king marvelled at her beauty and grace and symmetry and said to the merchant, 'O elder, what is the price of this damsel?' 'O my lord,' answered the merchant, 'I bought her for two thousand diners of the merchant who owned her before myself, since when I have travelled with her three years and she hath cost me, up to the time of my coming hither, [other] three thousand diners: but she is a gift from me to thee.' The king bestowed on him a splendid dress of honour and ordered him ten thousand diners, whereupon he kissed his hands, thanking him for his bounty and beneficence, and departed. Then the king committed the damsel to the tire-women, saying, 'Amend ye the case of this damsel (2) and adorn her and furnish her an apartment and set her therein.' And he bade his chamberlains carry her all that she needed and shut all the doors upon her.
Now his capital city, wherein he dwelt, was called the White City and was seated on the sea-shore. So they lodged her in an apartment, whose windows overlooked the sea, and Shehriman went in to her; but she rose not to him neither took any note of him. Quoth he, 'It would seem she hath been with folk who have not taught her manners.' Then he looked at her and saw her surpassing in grace and beauty and symmetry, with a face like the round of the moon at its full or the sun shining in the cloudless sky. So he marvelled at her beauty and symmetry and extolled the perfection of God the Creator (magnified be His power!), after which he pressed her to his bosom and seating her on his knees, sucked the dew of her lips, which he found sweeter than honey. Then he called for trays of all kinds of the richest meats and ate and fed her by mouthfuls, till she had enough; but she spoke not one word. The king began to talk to her and asked her of her name; but she abode still silent and spoke not a word nor made him any answer, neither ceased to hang down her head towards the ground; and it was but the excess of her beauty and loveliness and the amorous grace that distinguished her that saved her from his wrath. Quoth he, 'Glory be to God, the Creator of this damsel! How charming she is, save that she speaks not! But perfection belongs [only] to God the Most High.' And he asked the slave-girls whether she had spoken, and they said, 'From the time of her coming till now, we have not heard her say a word.'
Then he summoned some of his women and bade them sing to her and make merry with her, so haply she might speak. So they played before her all manner of instruments of music and sports and what not and sang, till all who were present were moved to mirth, except the damsel who looked at them in silence, but neither laughed nor spoke, and the king's breast was straitened. Then he dismissed the women and abode alone with the damsel: after which he put off his clothes and disrobing her with his own hand,looked upon her body and saw it as it were an ingot of silver. So he loved her with an exceeding love and falling upon her, took her maidenhead and found her a clean maid; whereat he rejoiced exceedingly and said, 'By Allah, it is a wonder that the merchants should have suffered a girl so fair of form and face to abide a maid!'
Then he devoted himself altogether to her, heeding none other and forsaking all his [other] concubines and favourites, and abode with her a whole year, as it were one day. Still she spoke not, till, one day, he said to her [and indeed the love of her and passion waxed upon him], 'O desire of souls, verily the love of thee is great with me, and for thy sake I have forsaken all my slave girls and concubines and women and favourites and have made thee my portion of the world and had patience with thee a whole year; and now I beseech God the Most High, of His favour, to soften thy heart to me, so thou mayst speak to me. Or, if thou be dumb, tell me by a sign, that I may give up hope of thy speech. I pray God (extolled be His perfection!) to vouchsafe me by thee a male child, who shall inherit the kingdom after me; for I am old and lonely and have none to be my heir. Wherefore, I conjure thee, by Allah, if thou love me, return me an answer.'
She bowed her head awhile, [as if] in thought, and presently raising it, smiled in his face; whereat it seemed to him as if lightning filled the room. Then she said, 'O magnanimous king and valorous lion, God hath answered thy prayer, for I am with child by thee and the time of my delivery is at hand, though I know not if the child be male or female. But, had I not conceived by thee, I had not spoken one word to thee.' When the ring heard her speech, his face shone with joy and happiness and he kissed her head and hands for excess of gladness, saying, 'Praised be God who hath vouchsafed me the things I desire! First, thy speech, and secondly, thy tidings that thou art with child by me.'
Then he went forth from her and seating himself on the throne of his kingship, in an ecstacy of happiness, bade his vizier distribute to the poor and needy and widows and others a hundred thousand diners, by way of alms on his account and thank-offering to God the Most High. The vizier did as the king bade him, and the latter, returning to the damsel, sat with her and pressed her to his bosom, saying, 'O my lady, O thou whose slave I am, thou hast been with me a whole year, night and day, waking and sleeping, yet hast not spoken to me till this day. What was the cause of this thy silence?' 'Hearken, O king of the age,' answered she, 'and know that I am a wretched exile, broken-hearted and parted from my mother and my family and my brother.' When the king heard her words, he knew her desire and said, 'As for thy saying that thou art wretched, there is no ground for such a speech, for my kingdom and all that I possess are at thy service and I also am become thy bondman; but, as for thy saying, "I am parted from my mother and brother and family," tell me where they are and I will send and fetch them to thee.'
'Know then, O august king,' answered she, 'that I am called Julnar of the Sea and that my father was of the kings of the sea. He died and left us his kingdom, but one of the other kings arose against us and took it from our hands. My mother also is a woman of the sea and I have a brother called Salih, with whom I fell out and swore that I would throw myself into the hands of a man of the folk of the land. So I came forth of the sea and eat down on the shore of an island in the moon, where a passer-by found me and carrying me to his house, besought me of love; but I smote him on the head, that he all but died; whereupon he carried me forth and sold me to the merchant from whom thou hadst me, and he was a good and virtuous man, pious and loyal and generous. Were it not that thy heart loved me and that thou preferredst me over all thy concubines, I had not remained with thee an hour, but had cast myself from the window into the sea and gone to my mother and kindred; but I was ashamed to go to them, being with child by thee; for they would have deemed ill of me and would not have credited me, though I swore to them, if I told them that a king had bought me with his monies and made me his portion of the world and preferred me over all his wives and all that his right hand possessed. This then is my story and peace be on thee.'
The king thanked her and kissed her between the eyes, saying, 'By Allah, O my lady and light of mine eyes, I cannot endure to be parted from thee one hour; and if thou leave me, I shall die forthright. What then is to be done?' 'O my lord,' replied she, 'the time of my delivery is at hand and my family must be present, that they may tend me; for the daughters of the land know not the fashion of child-bearing of the daughters of the sea, nor do the daughters of the sea know the fashion of the daughters of the land; and when my people come, I shall be reconciled to them and they to me and I will tell them that thou boughtest me with thy money and hast used me with kindness and beneficence. And it behoves that thou confirm my speech to them and that they see shine estate with their own eyes and know that thou art a king, the son of a king.'
'O my lady,' rejoined the king, 'do what seemeth good to thee and that which liketh thee, for I consent to thee in all thou wouldst do. But how do the people of the sea walk therein, without being wetted?' 'O king of the age,' answered Julnar, 'we walk in the sea with our eyes open, as do ye on the land, by the blessing of the names engraved upon the seal of Solomon son of David (on whom be peace) and see what is therein and behold the sun and moon and stars and sky, as it were on the face of the earth; and this irketh us nought. Know, also, that in the sea are many peoples and various forms and creatures of all the kinds that be in the land, and that all that is on the land is but a very small matter, compared with that which is in the sea.' And the king marvelled at her words.
Then she pulled out from her bosom two pieces of Comorin aloes-wood and kindling fire in a chafing dish, threw in somewhat thereof, then gave a loud whistle and spoke words which none understood; whereupon there arose a great smoke and she said to the king, who was looking on, 'O my lord, arise and hide thyself in a closet, that I may show thee my mother and brother and family, whilst they see thee not; for I design to bring them hither, and thou shalt presently see a wonderful thing and marvel at the various creatures and strange shapes that God the Most High hath created.' So he arose straightway and entering a closet, fell a-watching what she should do. She continued her fumigations and conjurations till the sea foamed and became troubled and there rose from it a handsome young man of a bright countenance, as he were the moon at its full, with flower white forehead, red cheeks and teeth like pearls and jewels. He was the likest of all creatures to his sister [the damsel Julnar], and the tongue of the case spoke these verses in his praise:The full moon groweth perfect once monthly; but thy face Each day anew's perfected in loveliness and grace.
After him there came forth of the sea a gray-haired old woman and five damsels, as they were moons, bearing a likeness to the damsel Julnar. They all walked upon the surface of the water, till they drew near the window and saw Julnar, whereupon they knew her and went in to her. She rose to them and received them with joy and gladness, and they embraced her and wept sore. Then said they to her, 'O Julnar, how couldst thou leave us four years, and we unknowing of thine abiding-place? By AIlah, the world has been straitened upon us, for stress of severance from thee, and we have had no delight of food or drink, no, not for one day, but have wept day and night for the excess of our longing after thee!' Then she fell to kissing the hands of her brother and mother and cousins, and they sat with her awhile, questioning her of her case, and of what had befallen her, as well as of her present estate. 'Know,' replied she, 'that, when I left you, I issued from the sea and sat down on the shore of an island, where a man found me and sold me to a merchant, who brought me to this city and sold me to the king of the country for ten thousand dinars. The latter entreated me with honour and left all his concubines and women and favourites on my account and was distracted by me from all he had and all that was in his city.' 'Praised be God,' said her brother, 'who hath reunited us with thee! But now, O my sister, it is my purpose that thou arise and go with us to our country and people.'
When the king heard this, he was transported for fear lest she should accept her brother's words and he himself avail not to stay her, passionately as he loved her, and he became distracted with fear of losing her. But Julnar answered her brother, saying, 'By Allah, O my brother, he who bought me is lord of this city and he is a mighty king and a wise, good and generous in the extreme. Moreover, he is a man of great worth and wealth and hath neither son nor daughter. He hath entreated me with honour and done me all manner of favour and kindness; nor, from the day of his buying me, have I heard from him an ill word, to grieve my heart; but he hath never ceased to use me courteously, doing nothing without my counsel, and I am in the best of case with him and the perfection of fair fortune. Were I to leave him, he would perish; for he cannot endure to be parted from me an hour; and I, also, if I left him, I should die, for the excess of the love I bear him, by reason of his great goodness to me during the time of my sojourn with him; for, were my father alive, my estate with him would not be like that I enjoy with this great and glorious and puissant king. Moreover, ye see me with child by him and I pray God the Most High to vouchsafe me a son who may inherit of this mighty king that which He hath bestowed upon him of lands and palaces and possessions. Verily, God hath not cut me off, but hath abundantly compensated me [that which I lost], and praised be He for that He hath made me daughter of a king of the sea and my husband the greatest of the kings of the land!'
When her brother and cousins heard this her speech, their eyes were solaced thereby and they said, 'O Julnar, thou knowest thy value in our eyes and the affection we bear thee and art certified that thou art to us the dearest of all creatures and that we seek but ease for thee, without travail or weariness. Wherefore, if thou be in unease, arise and go with us to our land and people; but, if thou be at shine ease here, in honour and happiness, this is our wish and our aim; for we desire only thy happiness in any case.' Quoth she, 'By Allah, I am here in the utmost ease and comfort and honour and have all that I desire!' When the king heard what she said, his heart was set at rest and he rejoiced and thanked her [inwardly] for this [her speech]. Moreover, the love of her redoubled on him and entered his inmost heart, and he knew that she loved him as he loved her and desired to abide with him, that she might see his child by her.
Then Julnar called for food and the waiting women laid the tables and set on all kinds of viands, which had been dressed in the kitchen under her own eyes, and fruits and sweetmeats, of which she ate, she and her kinsfolk. But, presently, they said to her, 'O Julnar, thy lord is a stranger to us, and we have entered his house, without his leave or knowledge. Thou hast extolled to us his excellence and hast set before us of his victual and we have eaten; yet have we not companied with him nor seen him, neither hath he seen us nor come to our presence and eaten with us, so bread and salt might be between us.' And they all left eating and were wroth with her, and fire issued from their mouths, as from cressets; which when the king saw, he was transported for excess of fear of them. But Julnar soothed them and going to the closet where was the king her lord, said to him, 'O my lord, hast thou seen and heard how I praised thee and extolled thee to my people and what they said to me of their desire to carry me away with them?' 'I both heard and saw,' answered he. 'May God abundantly requite thee for me! By Allah, I knew not the measure of shine affection for me until this blessed hour and I doubted not of thy love of me!'
'O my lord,' rejoined she, 'is the reward of kindness aught but kindness? Verily, thou hast dealt generously with me and hast entreated me with worship and done me all manner of honour and kindness and preferred me above all thou lovest and desires, and I have seen that thou lovest me with the utmost love. So how should my heart be content to leave thee and depart from thee, after all thy goodness to me? But now I desire of thy courtesy that thou come and salute my family, so thou mayst see them and they thee and love and friendship may be between you; for know, O king of the age, that my mother and brother and cousins love thee with an exceeding love, by reason of my praises of thee to them, and say, "By Allah, we will not depart from thee nor go to our country till we have foregathered with the king and saluted him." For they desire to see thee and make acquaintance with thee.' 'I hear and obey,' said the king; 'for this is my own wish.' So saying, he rose and went in to them and saluted them after the goodliest fashion; and they sprang up to him and received him with the utmost honour, after which he sat down and ate with them; and he entertained them thus for the space of thirty days. Then they took leave of the king and queen and departed to their own land, after he had done them all possible honour.
Awhile after this, Julnar accomplished the days of her pregnancy and the time of her delivery being come, she bore a boy, as he were the moon at its full, whereat the utmost joy betided the king, for that he had never in his life [till then] been vouchsafed son or daughter. So they held high festival and decorated the city seven days, in the extreme of joy and happiness; and on the seventh day came Julnar's mother and brother and cousins, whenas they knew of her delivery. The king received them with l joy and said to them, 'I said that I would not give my son a name till you should come and name him of your knowledge.' So they named him Bedr Basim, (3) and all agreed upon this name. Then they showed the child to his uncle Salih, who took him in his arms and began to walk about the chamber with him. Presently he carried him forth of the palace and going down to the salt sea, fared on with him, till he was hidden from the king's sight.
When Shehriman saw him take his son and disappear with him in the abysses of the sea, he gave the child up for lost and fell to weeping and wailing; but Julnar said to him, 'O king of the age, fear not neither grieve for thy son, for I love my child more than thou and he is with my brother; so reck thou not of the sea neither fear drowning for him. Except my brother knew that no harm would betide the little one, he had not done this; and he will presently bring thee thy son safe, if it please God the Most High.' Nor was an hour past before the sea became
troubled and King Salih came forth, with the little one safe in his arms, quiet and with a face like the moon on the night of her full, and [rising into the air] flew till he reached the palace and came in to them. Then said he to the king, 'Belike thou fearedst harm for thy son, whenas I plunged into the sea with him?' 'Yes, O my lord,' replied the king; 'I did indeed fear for him and thought he would never be saved therefrom.' 'O king of the land,' rejoined Salih, 'we pencilled his eyes with an eye-powder we know of and recited over him the names engraver upon the seal of Solomon son of David (on whom be peace!), for this is what we use to do with children born among us; and now thou needst not fear for him drowning or suffocation in all the waters of the world, if he should go down into them; for, even as ye walk on the land, so walk we in the sea.'
Then he pulled out of his pocket a casket, graven and sealed, and breaking open the seals, emptied it; whereupon there fell from it strings of all manner jacinths and other jewels, besides three hundred bugles of emerald and other three hundred hollow jewels, as big as ostrich eggs, whose light outshone that of sun and moon. Quoth Salih, 'O king of the age, these jewels and jacinths are a present from rne to thee. We never yet brought thee a present, for that we knew not Julnar's abiding-place neither had we any tidings of her; but now that we see thee to be united with her and we are all become as one thing, we have brought thee this present; and every little while, God willing, we will bring thee the like thereof for that these jewels and jacinths are more plentiful with us than pebbles on the earth and we know the good and bad of them and their whereabouts and the way to them and they are easy to us.'
When the king saw the jewels, his reason was confounded and his mind bewildered and he said, 'By Allah, one of these jewels is worth my kingdom!' Then he thanked Salih for his bounty and said to Julnar, 'I am abashed before thy brother, for that he hath dealt munificently by me and bestowed on me this splendid present, whereto the folk of the land may not avail.' So she thanked her brother for his deed and he said, 'O king of the age, thou hast the prior claim on us and it behoves us to thank thee, for thou hast entreated our sister with kindness and we have entered thy dwelling and eaten of thy victual; and the poet says:Had I, or ever Suada did, to weep for love been fain, I should, before repentance came, have solaced heart and brain.
And if we stood in thy service, O king of the age, a thousand years, yet might we not avail to requite thee, and this were but a scantling of thy due.'
The king thanked him with effusion and they all abode with him forty days' space, at the end of which time Salih arose and kissed the earth before his brother-in-law. Quoth the latter, 'What wantest thou, O Salih?' And he answered, saying, 'O king of the age, indeed thou hast done us [many] favours, and we crave of thy bounties that thou deal charitably with us and give us leave [to depart]; or we yearn after our people and country and kiusfoll and our homes; so will we never forsake thy service nor that of my sister and her son; and by Allah, O king of the age, it is not pleasant to my heart to part from thee; but how shall we do, seeing that we have been reared in the sea and that [the sojourn of] the land liketh us not?' When the king heard this, he rose to his feet and took leave of Salih of the sea and his mother and cousins, and they all wept, because of parting, and said to him, 'We will be with thee again anon, nor will we forsake thee, but will visit thee every few days.' Then they flew off and descending into the sea, disappeared from sight.
After this, King Shehriman redoubled in honour and kindness to Julnar, and the little one grew up and flourished, whilst his uncle and grandmother and cousins visited the king every few days and abode with him a month or two months [at a time]. The boy ceased not to increase in beauty and grace, with increase of years, till he attained the age of fifteen and was unique in his perfection and symmetry. He learnt reading and writing and history and syntax and lexicography and archery and spearplay and horsemanship and what not else behoveth the sons of kings; nor was there one of the children of the folk of the city, men or women, but would talk of the youth's charms, for he was of surpassing beauty and perfection, even such an one as as described in the saying of the poet:The whiskers write upon his cheek, with ambergris on pearl, Two lines, as 'twere with jet upon an apple, line for line.
And in that of another:Upon the table of his cheek, a fringe of jet, I wis, The whiskers grow, and sore threat my soul's amazement is;
And indeed the king loved him with an exceeding great love and summoning his vizier and emirs and the chief officers of state and grandees of his reahn, required of them a binding oath that they would make Bedr Basim king over them after himself; and they took the oath gladly, for the king was beneficent to the people, pleasant in speech and saying nought but that wherein was advantage for them, brief, a very compend of goodness.
On the morrow Shehriman mounted, with all his troops and emirs and grandees, and went forth into the city and returned. When they drew near the palace, the king dismounted, to wait upon his son, whilst the latter abode on horseback, and he and all the emirs and grandees bore the saddle-cloth of honour before him, each in his turn till they came to the vestibule of the palace, where the prince alighted and his father and the emirs embraced him and seated him on the throne of kingship, whilst they all stood before him. Then Bedr judged the people deposing the unjust and appointing the just, till near upon midday, when he descended from the throne and went in to his mother, Julnar of the Sea, with the crown on his head, as he were the moon. When she saw him with the king before him, she rose and kissing him, gave him joy of the sultanate and wished him and his father length of life and victory over their enemies. He sat with her and rested till the hour of afternoon-prayer, when he took horse and repaired, with the emirs before him, to the tilting-ground, where he played at arms with his father and his grandees, till night-fall, when he returned to the palace, preceded by all the folk.
He rode forth thus every day to the tilting-ground, returning to sit and judge the people and do justice between amir and poor man; and thus he did a whole year, at the end of which time he began to ride out a-hunting and to go round about in the cities and countries under his rule, proclaiming peace and security and doing after the fashion of kings; and he was unique among the people of his day for glory and velour and just dealing among the folk.
One day, the old king fell sick and his heart forebode him of translation to the mansion of eternity. His sickness increased on him till he was nigh upon death, when he called his son and commended his mother and subjects to his care and caused all the emirs and grandees once more swear allegiance to the prince and assured himself of them by oaths; after which he lingered a few days and was admitted to the mercy of God the Most High. His son and widow and all the grandees and emirs and viziers mourned over him, and they built him a tomb and buried him therein.
They ceased not to mourn for him a whole month, till Salih and his mother and cousins arrived and condoled with them for the king and said, 'O Julnar, though the king is dead, yet hath he left this noble and peerless youth, the fierce lion and the shining moon; and whoso leaveth the like of him is not dead.' Moreover, the grandees and notables of the empire went in to Bedr
and said to him, 'O king, there is no harm in mourning for the king: but [continuance of] mourning beseemeth none save women; wherefore occupy thou not thy heart and ours with mourning for thy father; for he hath left thee behind him, and whoso leaveth the like of thee is not dead.' Then they comforted him and diverted him and carried him to the bath. When he came out thence, he donned a rich robe, wroughten with gold and embroidered with jewels and jacinths, and setting the royal crown on his head, sat down on his throne of kingship and ordered the affairs of the folk, doing equal justice between the weak and the strong and exacting from the amir the poor man's due; wherefore the people loved him with an exceeding love. Thus he abode a great while, whilst, every now and then, his kinsfolk of the sea visited him, and his life was pleasant and his eye unheated [by tears].
It chanced that his uncle Salih went in one night to Julnar and saluted her; whereupon she rose and embracing him, made him sit by her side and asked him how he did, he and his mother and cousins. 'O my sister,' answered he, 'they are well and in great good case, lacking nought save the sight of thy face.' Then she set food before him and he ate, after which talk ensued between them and they spoke of Bedr Basim and his beauty and grace and symmetry and skill in horsemanship and his wit and good breeding. Now Bedr was reclining [upon a day-bed within ear-shot], and hearing his mother and uncle speak of him, he feigned sleep and listened to their talk. Presently Salih said to his sister, 'Thy son is now seventeen years old and is unmarried, and I fear lest aught befall him and he have no son; wherefore it is my wish to marry him to a princess of the princesses of the sea, who shall be a match for him in beauty and grace.' Quoth Julnar, 'Name them to me, for I know them all.'
So Salih proceeded to name them to her, one by one, but to each she said, 'This one liketh me not for my son; I will not marry him but to one who is his like in beauty and grace and wit and piety and good breeding and worth and dominion and rank and lineage.' Quoth Salih, 'I know none other of the daughters of the kings of the Gear for I have enumerated to thee more than an hundred girls and none of them pleaseth thee: but see, O my sister, whether thy son be asleep or no,' So she felt Bedr and finding on him the signs of sleep, said to Salih, 'He is asleep; what hast thou to say and what is shine object in [assuring thyself of] his sleeping?' 'O my sister,' replied Salih, 'know that I have bethought me of a girl of the girls of the sea who befitteth thy son; but I fear to name her, lest he be awake and his heart be taken with her love and maybe we shall not avail to win to her; so should he and we and the grandees of the realm be wearied [in vain] and trouble betide us through this; for, as saith the poet:Love, at the first, is as a drip of water, verily; But, when the mastery it gains, 'tis as a spreading sea.
'Tell me the name and condition of this girl,' rejoined Julnar; 'for I know all the damsels of the sea, kings' daughters and others; and if I judge her worthy of him, I will demand her in marriage for him of her father, though I spend on her all that my hand possesseth. So tell me who and what she is and fear nought, for my son is asleep.' Quoth Salih, 'I fear lest he be awake; and the poet says:I fell in love with him, what time his charms described heard I; For while it chances that the ear doth love before the eye.'
But Julnar said, 'Speak and be brief and fear nothing, O my brother.' So he said, 'O my sister, none is worthy of thy son save the princess Jauhereh, daughter of King Es Semendel, for that she is like unto him in beauty and grace and brightness and perfection; nor is there, in the sea or on the land, a sweeter or pleasanter of parts than she; for she is fair and graceful and shapely, with red cheeks and flower-white brows, teeth like jewels and great black eyes, heavy buttocks and slender waist and a lovely face. When she turns, she shames the wild cattle and the gazelles, and when she walks, the willow branch is jealous of her. When she unveils, her face outshines the sun and the moon and she enslaves all that look on her; and she is sweet-lipped and soft-sided.'
When Julnar heard what Salih said, she answered, 'Thou sayst sooth, O my brother! By Allah, I have seen her many a time and she was my companion, when we were little; but now I have not set eyes on her for eighteen years and we have no knowledge of each other, for constraint of distance. By Allah, none but she is worthy of my son!' Now Bedr heard all they said and fell in love with the princess on report, wherefore fire was kindled in his heart on her account and he was drowned in a sea without shore or bottom. Then said Salih, 'By Allah, O my sister, there is no greater fool among the kings of the sea than her father nor one more violent of temper! So name not thou the girl to thy son, till we demand her in marriage of her father. If he favour us with his assent we will praise God the Most High; and if he refuse to give her to thy son to wife, we will say no more about it and seek another in marriage.' 'It is well judged of thee,' answered Julnar, and they said no more; but Bedr passed the night with a heart on fire with passion for the princess Jauhereh. However, he concealed his case and spoke not of her to his mother or his uncle, albeit he was on coals of fire for love of her.
Next morning, the king and his uncle went to the bath and washed, after which they came forth and drank wine and the servants set food before them, of which they and Julnar ate, till they were satisfied, and washed their hands Then Salih rose and said to his nephew and sister, 'With your leave, I would fain go to my mother [and kindred], for I have been with you some days and they await me and their hearts are troubled concerning me.' But Bedr said to him, 'Abide with us this day;' and he consented. Then said the king, 'Come, O my uncle, let us go forth to the garden.' So they sallied forth to the garden and walked about and took their pleasure awhile, after which Bedr lay down under a shady tree, thinking to rest and sleep; but he called to mind his uncle's description of the princess and her beauty and grace and shed copious tears, reciting the following verses:If, whilst within mine entrails the fires of hell did stir And flames raged high about me, 'twere spoken in mine ear,
Then he sighed and wept and lamented, reciting these verses also:Ah, who shall be my helper in love of a gazelle, Even as the sun in visage, but fairer, sooth to tell?
When Salih heard what his nephew said, he smote hand upon hand and said, 'There is no god but God! Mohammed is the apostle of God and there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! O my son, didst thou hear what passed between thy mother and myself respecting the princess Jauhereh?' 'Yes, O my uncle,' answered Bedr. 'And I fell in love with her by report, through what I heard you say. Indeed, my heart cleaves to her and I cannot live without her.' 'O king,' rejoined his uncle, let us return to thy mother and tell her how the case stands and ask her leave that I may take thee with me and seek the princess in marriage of her father; for I fear to take thee without her leave, lest she be wroth with me; and indeed the right would be on her side, for I should be the cause of her separation from thee, even as I was that of her separation from us. Moreover, the [people of the] city would be left without a king and there would be none to govern them and look to their affairs; so should the realm be disordered against thee and the kingship depart from thy hands.' But Bedr said, 'O my uncle, if I return to my mother and consult her, she will not suffer me to do this; wherefore I will not return to her nor consult her, but will go with thee and tell her not and after return.' And he wept before him.
When Salih heard what his nephew said, he was bewildered concerning his case and said, 'I crave help of God the most High in any event.' Then, seeing that Bedr was resolved to go with him, without consulting his mother, he drew from his finger a seal-ring, whereon were graven certain of the names of God the Most High, and gave it to him, saying, 'Put this on thy finger, and thou wilt be safe from drowning and other [the perils of the sea] and from the mischief of its beasts and its great fishes.' So Bedr took the ring and put it on his finger. Then they plunged into the sea and fared on till they came to Salih's palace, where they found Bedr's grandmother, the mother of his mother, seated with her kinsfolk, and going in to them, kissed their hands. When the old queen saw Bedr, she rose to him and embracing him, kissed him between the eyes and said to him, 'A blessed coming, O my son! How didst thou leave thy mother Julnar?' 'She is well in health and fortune,' answered he, 'and salutes thee and her cousins.'
Then Salih told his mother how Bedr had fallen in love with the princess Jauhereh by report and was come, purposing to demand her in marriage of her father; which when the old queen heard, she was exceeding wroth with her son and sore troubled and concerned and said to Salih, 'O my son, of a truth thou didst wrong to name the princess Jauhereh before thy nephew, knowing, as thou dost, that her father is stupid and arrogant, little of wit and exceeding violent of temper, grudging his daughter to these who demand her in marriage; for all the kings of the sea have sought her hand, but he would none of them and rejected them all, saying, "Ye are no match for her in beauty nor grace nor aught else." Wherefore we fear to demand her in marriage of him, lest he reject us, even as he hath rejected others; and we are people of spirit and should return broken-hearted.'
'O my mother,' answered Salih, 'What is to do? For King Bedr says, "Needs must I seek her in marriage of her father, though it cost me my whole kingdom," and avouches that he will die of love and longing for her, if he have her not to wife. Moreover, he is handsomer and goodlier than she; his father was king of all the Persians, whose king he now is, and none but he is worthy of Jauhereh. Wherefore I purpose to carry her father a present of jacinths and jewels, befitting his dignity, and demand her of him in marriage. If he object that he is a king, behold, Bedr also is a king and the son of a king; or, if he object her beauty, behold, Bedr is handsomer than she; or, again, if he object the extent of his dominion, behold, Bedr's dominion is vaster than hers and her father's and he hath greater plenty of troops and guards, for that his kingdom is greater than that of Es Semendel. Needs must I do my endeavour to further the desire of my sister's son, though it cost me my life; because I was the cause of what has happened; and even as I plunged him into the ocean of her love, so will I go about to marry him to her, and may God the Most High help me thereto!' 'Do as thou wilt,' rejoined his mother; 'but beware of giving her father rough words, whenas thou speakest with him; for thou knowest his folly and violence and I fear lest he do thee a mischief, for he knoweth not respect for any.' And Salih answered, 'I hear and obey.'
Then he took two bags full of emeralds and rubies and other jewels and giving them to his servants to carry, set out with Bedr for the palace of Es Semendel. When they came thither, he sought an audience of the king and being admitted to his presence, kissed the earth before him and saluted him after the goodliest fashion. The king rose to him and receiving him witn the utmost honour, bade him be seated. So he sat down and presently the king said to him, 'A blessed coming, O Salih! Indeed, thou hast desolated us [by shine absence]. But what brings thee to us? Tell me thine errand, that we may fulfil it to thee.' Whereupon Salih arose and kissing the earth a second time, said, 'O king of the age, my errand is to God and the magnanimous king and the valiant lion, the report of whose good qualities the caravans have spread far and near and whose renown for goodness and beneficence and clemency and graciousness and liberality is bruited abroad in all climes and countries.'
Then he opened the two bags and displaying their contents before the king, said to him, 'O king of the age, belike thou wilt show favour to me and heal my heart by accepting my present.' Quoth the king, 'With what intent dost thou make me this gift? Tell me thy case and acquaint me with thy need. If it be in my power, I will straightway accomplish it to thee and spare thee toil and trouble; and if I be unable "hereunto, God imposeth not upon a souI aught but that whereto it may avail.' (4) So Salih rose and kissing the earth three times, said, 'O king of the age, thou art indeed able to that which I desire; it is in thy power and thou art master thereof; and I impose not on the king a dilemma, nor am I mad, that I should ask of the king a thing whereto he availeth not; for the sage saith, "If thou wouldst be obeyed, ask that which is possible." Wherefore, that of which I am come in quest, the king (whom God preserve!) is able to grant.' 'Ask what thou wouldst have,' replied the king, 'and expound thy case and seek thy desire.' Then said Salih, 'O king of the age, know that I come as a suitor, seeking the unique pearl and the treasured jewel, the princess Jauhereh, daughter of our lord the king; wherefore, O king", disappoint thou not thy suitor.'
When the king heard this, he laughed till he fell backward, in derision of him, and said, 'O Salih, I had thought thee a man of worth and sense, seeking nought but what was reasonable and speaking not but advisedly. What then hath befallen thy reason and urged thee to this monstrous matter and mighty hazard, that thou seekest in marriage the daughters of kings, lords of cities and countries? Art thou of a rank to aspire to this great eminence and hath thy wit failed thee to this pass that thou affrontest me with this demand?'
'God amend the king!' replied Salih. 'I seek her not for myself (albeit, an I did, I am her match and more than her match, for thou knowest that my father was king of the kings of the sea, for all thou art now our king), but for King Bedr Basim, lord of the lands of the Persians and son of King Shehriman, whose puissance thou knowest. If thou object that thou art a great king, King Bedr is a greater; and if thou object thy daughter's beauty, he is handsomer than she and fairer of form and more excellent of rank and lineage; and he is the champion of the people of his day. Wherefore, O king of the age, if thou grant my request, thou wilt have set the thing in its place; but, if thou deal arrogantly with us, thou wilt not use us justly nor travel the right road with us Moreover, O king, thou knowest that the princess Jauhereh, the daughter of our lord the king, must needs be married, for the sage saith, "Needs must for a girl marriage or the grave." So, if thou mean to marry her, my sister's son is worthier of her than any other man.'
When King Es Semendel heard Salih's words, he was exceeding wroth; his reason fled and his soul was like to depart his body for rage, and he said, 'O dog, shall the like of thee dare to bespeak me thus and name my daughter in the assemblies, (5) saying that the son of thy sister Julnar is a match for her? Who art thou and who are thy sister and her son and who was his father, that thou shouldst dare to say these things to me? What are ye all, in comparison with my daughter, but dogs?' And he cried out to his servants, saying, 'Take yonder good-for-nought's head!' So they drew their swords and fell upon Salih, but he fled and made for the palace gate, where he found more than a thousand horse of his cousins and kinsfolk and servants, armed cap-a-pie in iron and strait-knit coats of mail, with spears and naked swords in their hands, whom his mother had despatched to his succour.
When they saw Salih come running out of the palace, they questioned him and he told them what was to do; whereupon they knew that the king was a violent-tempered fool. So they alighted and drawing their swords, went in to King Es Semendel, whom they found seated upon the throne of his kingship, unaware of their coming and violently enraged against Salih; and they saw his guards and servants and officers unprepared. When the king saw them enter, sword in hand, he cried out to his people, saying, 'Out on you! Take me these dogs' heads!' But, before long, Es Semendel's party were put to the rout and addressed themselves to flight, and Salih and his kinsfolk seized upon the king and bound his hands behind him. When Jauhereh awoke and knew that her father was a captive and his guards slain, she fled forth the palace to a certain island and climbing up into a high tree, hid herself therein.
Now, when the two parties came to blows, some of King Es Semendel's servants fled and Bedr, meeting them, questioned them and they told him what had happened, adding that the king was a prisoner, whereupon Bedr feared for himself and said in his heart, 'Verily, all this turmoil is on my account and none is sought for but I.' So he sought safety in flight, knowing not whither he went; but fate fore-ordained from all eternity drove him to the island where the princess had taken refuge, and he came to the very tree on which she sat and cast himself down, like a dead man, thinking to lie and rest and knowing not that there is no rest for the pursued, for none knoweth what destiny hides for him in the future. As he lay down, he raised his eyes to the tree and they met those of the princess. So he looked at her and seeing her to be like the shining moon, said, 'Glory to Him who created yonder perfect form, Him who is the Creator of all things and Almighty! Glory to the Great God, the Creator, the Shaper and Fashioner! By Allah, except my presentiments deceive me, this is Jauhereh, daughter of King Es Semendel! Methinks that, when she heard of our coming to blows with her father, she fled to this island and hid herself in this tree; but, if this be not the princess herself, it is one yet goodlier than she.'
Then he bethought himself and said, 'I will arise and lay hands on her and question her of her case; and if she be indeed Jauhereh, I will demand her in marriage of herself and so accomplish my desire.' So he stood up and said to her, 'O end of all desire, who art thou and who brought thee hither?' She looked at him and seeing him to be as the full moon, when it breaks from under the black clouds, slender of shape and sweet of smile, answered, saying, 'O fair of fashion, I am the princess Jauhereh, daughter of King Es Semendel, and I took refuge in this place, becanse Salih and his men made war on my father and slew his troops and took him prisoner, with some of his men; wherefore I fled, fearing for m' life, and know not what fortune hath done with my father.'
When Bedr heard this, he marvelled exceedingly at the strange chance and said in himself, 'Doubtless I have come to my desire by the taking of her father.' Then he looked at Jauhereh and said to her, 'Come down, O my lady; for I am one slain for love of thee and thine eyes have captived me. Know that all these broils and troubles are on thine account and mine; for I am Bedr Basim, King of the Persians, and Salih is my uncle, and he it is who came to thy father to demand thee in marriage. As for me, I have left my kingdom for thy sake, and our meeting here is a rare coincidence. So come down to me and let us go to thy father's palace, that I may beseech my uncle Salih to release him and take thee to wife according to the law.' When Jauhereh heard his words, she said in herself, 'It was on this vile wretch's account, then, that all this hath befallen and that my father hath been made a prisoner and his guards and chamberlains slain and I constrained to flee far away from my palace and seek refuge in this island, a miserable exile. But, an I go not about with him, to defend myself against him, he will possess himself of me and take his will of me; for he is in love and a lover is not blamed for aught that he cloth.'
Then she beguiled him with [fair] words and soft speeches, whilst he knew not the perfidy she purposed against him, and said to him, 'O my lord and light of my eyes, art thou indeed King Bedr Basim, son of Queen Julnar?' And he answered, 'Yes, O my lady.' 'May God cut off my father,' rejoined she, 'and make his kingdom to cease from him and heal not his heart neither avert from him strangerhood, if he could desire a comelier than thou or aught goodlier than these fair fashions of shine! By Allah, he is little of wit and judgment! But, O king of the age, be thou not wroth with him for that which he hath done; for, if thou love me a span, verily I love thee a cubit. Indeed, I have fallen into the snare of thy love and am become of the number of those thou hast slain. The love that was with thee hath transferred itself to me and there is left thereof with thee but a tithe of that which is with me.'
So saying, she came down from the tree and strained him to her bosom and fell to kissing him; whereat passion and desire for her waxed on him and he doubted not but she loved him and trusted in her. So he returned her caresses and said to her, 'By Allah, O princess, my uncle Salih set forth to me not a fortieth part of thy charms, no, nor a quarter of a carat (6) thereof!' Jauhereh pressed him to her bosom and pronounced some unintelligible words then spat in his face, saying, 'Quit this shape of a man and take that of a bird, the handsomest of birds, white of plumage, with red bill and feet' Hardly had she spoken, when Bedr found himself transformed into a bird, the handsomest of birds, which shook itself and stood, looking at her.
Now Jauhereh had with her one of her slave-girls, by name Mersineh; so she called her and said to her, 'By Allah, but that I fear for my father, who is his uncle's prisoner, I would kill him! May God not requite him with good! How unlucky was his coming to us; for all this trouble is due to him! But do thou carry him to the Thirsty Island and leave him there to die of thirst.' So Mersineh carried him to the island in question and would have returned and left him there; but she said in herself, 'By Allah, one of such beauty and grace deserveth not to die of thirst!' So she brought him to another island, abounding in trees and fruits and streams, and leaving him there, returned to her mistress and told her that she had set him on the Thirsty Island.
Meanwhile, King Salih sought for Jauhereh, but, finding her not, returned to his palace and said to his mother 'Where is my sister's son, King Bedr?' 'By Allah, O my son,' replied she, 'I know nothing of him! For, when he heard that you and King Es Semendel had come to blows and that strife and slaughter had betided between you, he took fright and fled.' When Salih heard this, he grieved for his nephew and said, 'By Allah, O my mother, we have dealt negligently by King Bedr and I fear lest he perish or lest one of King Es Semendel's soldiers or his daughter Jauhereh fall in with him. So should we come to shame with his mother and no good betide us from her, for that I took him without her leave.' Then he despatched guards and scouts throughout the sea and elsewhere to seek for Bedr; but they could learn nothing of him: so they returned and told King Salih, wherefore grief and concern redoubled on him and his breast was straitened for King Bedr.
Meanwhile, Julnar abode many days in expectation of her son's return; but he came not and she heard no news of him. So, when she was weary of waiting, she arose and going down into the sea, repaired to her mother, who rose to her and embraced her and kissed her, as did her cousins. Then she questioned her mother of King Bedr and she answered, saying, 'O my daughter, he came hither with his uncle, who took jacinths and jewels and carrying them to King Es Semendel, demanded his daughter in marriage for thy son; but he consented not and offended against thy brother in words. Now I had sent Salih nigh upon a thousand horse and there befell strife between him and King Es Semendel; but God aided thy brother against him, and he slew his troops and took himself prisoner. Meanwhile, tidings of this reached thy son, and it would seem as if he feared for himself; wherefore he fled forth from us, without our will, and returned not, nor have we heard any news of him.' Then Julnar enquired for King Salih and his mother said, 'He is seated on the throne of kingship, in the stead of King Es Semendel, and hath sent in all directions to seek thy son and the princess Jauhereh.'
When Julnar heard this, she mourned sore for her son and was sore incensed against her brother Salih for that he had taken him and gone down with him into the sea, without her leave; and she said, 'O my mother, I fear to tarry with thee, lest the state fall into disorder and the kingdom pass from our hands; for I came to thee without letting any know. Wherefore I deem well to return and govern the realm, till it please God to order our son's affair for us. But look ye forget him not neither neglect his case; for, should he come to any harm, it would infallibly be the death of me, since I see the world only in him and delight but in his life.' 'With all my heart, O my daughter,' replied the old queen. 'Ask not what we suffer by reason of his loss and absence.' Then she sent to seek for Bedr, whilst Julnar returned to her kingdom, weeping-eyed and mournful-hearted, and indeed the world was straitened upon her and she was in evil case.
To return to King Bedr. He abode days and nights in the semblance of a bird, in the island where Mersineh had left him, eating of its fruits and drinking of its waters and knowing not whither to go nor how to fly; till, one day, there came a fowler to the island to catch somewhat wherewithal to get his living. He espied King Bedr in his form of a white bird, with red bill and feet, captivating the sight and bewildering the thought [with his beauty], and said in himself, 'Verily, yonder is a handsome bird: never saw I its like in make or beauty.' So he cast his net over Bedr and taking him, carried him to the town to sell him. On his way, one of the townsfolk accosted him and asked the price of the bird. Quoth the fowler 'What wilt thou do with him?' 'I will kill him and eat him, answered the other; whereupon said the fowler 'Who could have the heart to kill this bird and eat him? I mean to present him to the king, who will give me more than thou and will not kill him, but will divert himself by gazing on his beauty and grace, for in all my life, since I have been a fowler, I never saw his like among land or water fowl. The utmost thou wouldst give me for him would be a dirhem, and by the Great God, I will not sell him!'
Then he carried the bird up to the king's palace, and when the latter saw it, its beauty pleased him and the red colour of its feet and beak. So he sent an eunuch to buy it, who accosted the fowler and said to him, 'Wilt thou sell this bird?' 'No,' answered he; 'it is a gift from me to the king.' So the eunuch carried the bird to the king and told him what the man had said, and he took it and gave the fowler ten dinars, whereupon he kissed the earth and went away. Then the eunuch carried the bird to the king's palace and placing him ih a handsome cage, set meat and drink by him and hung him up.
When the king came down [from the throne], he said to the eunuch, 'Where is the bird? Bring it to me, that I may look upon it, for, by Allah, it is handsome!' So the eunuch brought the cage and set it before the king, who looked and seeing the food untouched, said, 'By Allah, I know not what it will eat, that I may feed it!' Then he called for food and they laid the tables and the king ate. When the bird saw the meat and froits and sweetmeats and what not, he ate of all that was before the king, whereat the latter and all the bystanders marvelled and the king said to his attendants, 'In all my life I never saw a bird eat as doth this!' Then he sent an eunuch to fetch his wife, that she might look upon the bird, and he went in to her and said, 'O my lady, the king desireth thy presence, that thou mayst divert thyself with the sight of a bird he hath bought. It is goodly of aspect and is a wonder of the wonders of the age; for, when we set on the food, it flew down from its cage and perching on the table, ate of all that was thereon.'
So she came in haste; but, when she saw the bird, she veiled her face and turned to go away. The king followed her and said to her, 'Why cost thou veil thy face, when there is none in presence save the eunuchs and women that wait on thee and thy husband?' 'O king,' answered she, 'this is no bird, but a man like thyself.' 'Thou liest,' rejoined he. 'This is too much of a jest. How should he be other than a bird?' 'By Allah,' replied she, 'I do not jest with thee nor do I tell thee aught but the truth; for this bird is King Bedr Basim, son of King Shehriman,
lord of the land of the Persians, and his mother is Julnar of the Sea.' And how came he in this shape?' asked the king; and she said, 'The princess Jauhereh, daughter of King Es Semendel, hath enchanted him:' and told him all that had befallen King Bedr from first to last; for this queen was the greatest enchantress of her day.
The king marvelled exceedingly at his wife's words and conjured her, on his life, to free Bedr from his enchantment and not leave him in torment, saying, 'May God the Most High cut off Jauhereh's hand, for a foul witch as she is! How little is her piety and how great her craft and perfidy!' Quoth the queen, 'Do thou say to him, "O Bedr Basim, enter yonder closet!"' So the king bade him enter the closet and he did so.
Then the queen veiled her face and taking in her hand a bowl of water, entered the closet, where she pronounced over the water certain words, that might not be uunderstood, and sprinkling the bird therewith, said to him, 'By the virtue of these mighty names and holy verses and of the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, the Quickener of the dead and Appointer of the means of livelihood and the terms of existence, quit this thy present form and return to that in which God created thee!' Hardly had she made an end of these words, when the bird trembled and became a man; and the king saw before him a handsome youth, than whom there was none goodlier on the face of the earth.
When Bedr found himself thus restored to his own shape, he said, 'There is no god but God and Mohammed is the apostle of God! Glory be to the Creator and Provider of all creatures and the Ordainer of their terms of life!' Then he kissed the king's hand and wished him long life, and the king kissed his hand and said to him, 'O Bedr, tell me thy history from beginning to end.' So he told him his whole story, concealing nought: and the king marvelled thereat and said to him, 'O Bedr, God hath delivered thee from the enchantment: but what hath thy judgment decided and what thinkest thou to do?' 'O king of the age,' answered Bedr, 'I desire of thy bounty that thou equip me a ship with a company of thy servants and all that is needful; for I have been long absent and fear lest the kingdom depart from me. And I misdoubt me my mother is dead of grief for my loss; for she knows not what is come of me nor whether I am alive or dead. Wherefore, I beseech thee, O king, to crown thy favours to me by granting me what I seek.'
The king was moved by Bedr's beauty and sweet speech and said, 'I hear and obey.' So he fitted him out a ship, which he furnished with all that was needful and mamled with a company of his servants; and Bedr set sail in it, after having taken leave of the king". They sailed ten days with a favouring wind; but, on the eleventh day, the sea became exceeding troubled, the ship rose and fell and the sailors availed not to govern her. So they drifted at the mercy of the waves, till the ship drove upon a rock and broke up and all on board were drowned, except Bedr, who got astride one of the planks of the vessel, after having been nigh upon death. The sea and the wind carried the plank along for three days, whilst he knew not whither he went and had no means of directing its motion; till, on the fourth day, the plank grounded with him on the sea-shore in sight of a white city, as it were a passing white dove, goodly of ordinance, with high towers and lofty walls, builded upon a tongue of land that jutted out into the sea and the waves beating against its walls.
When Bedr saw this, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy, for he was well-nigh dead with hunger and thirst, and dismounting from the plank, would have gone up the beach to the city; but there came down to him mules and asses and horses, in number as the sands [of the sea] and fell a-striking at him and hindering him from landing. So he swam round to the back of the city, where he landed and entering the place, found none therein and marvelled at this, saying, 'I wonder to whom does this city belong, wherein is no king nor any inhabitant, and whence came the mules and asses and horses that hindered me from landing?'
Then he fared on at hazard, musing on his case, till he espied an old man, a grocer, [sitting at the door of his shop]. So he saluted him and the other returned his greeting and seeing him to be a handsome young man, said to him, 'O youth, whence comest thou and what brings thee to this city?' Bedr told him his story; at which the old man marvelled and said, 'O my son, didst thou see any in thy way?' 'Indeed, O my father,' answered Bedr, 'I wondered to see the city void of people' Quoth the grocer, 'O my son, come up into the shop, lest thou perish.' So Bedr went up into the shop and sat down; whereupon the old man set food before him, saying, 'O my son, come within the shop; glory be to Him who hath preserved thee from yonder she-devil!'
Bedr was sore affrighted at the grocer's words; but he ate his fill and washed his hands; then turned to his host and said to him, 'O my lord, what is the meaning of thy words? Verily, thou hast made me fearful of this city and its people.' 'Know, O my son,' replied the old man, 'that this is the City of the Magicians and its queen is a sorceress and a mighty enchantress, as she were a she-devil, crafty and perfidious exceedingly. All the horses and mules and asses thou sawest were once men and strangers, like unto thee; for whoever enters the city, being a young man like thyself, this misbelieving witch takes him and abides with him forty days, after which she enchants him, and he becomes a horse or a mule or an ass, of those thou sawest on the sea-shore. So, when they saw thee about to land, they feared lest she should enchant thee, even as she had enchanted them, and signed to thee, as who should say, "Do not land,--" of their solicitude for thee, lest she should do with thee like as she had done with them. She possessed herself of this city [and took it] from its people by sorcery and her name is Queen Lab, which, being interpreted, meaneth in Arabic, "The Sun."'
When Bedr heard what the old man said, he was sore affrighted and trembled like a wind-shaken reed, saying in himself, 'Hardly am I delivered from the affliction wherein I was by reason of sorcery, when fate casts me into yet sorrier case!' And he fell a-musing over his case and that which had betided him. When the grocer saw the violence of his fear, he said to him, 'O my son, come, sit at the threshold of the shop and look upon yonder creatures and upon their dress and favour and that wherein they are by reason of enchantment, and fear not; for the queen and all in the city love and tender me and will not [do aught to] vex my heart or trouble my mind.' So Bedr came out and sat at the shop-door, looking out upon the folk; and there passed by him creatures without number.
When the people saw him, they accosted the grocer and said to him, 'O elder, is this thy captive and thy prey that [thou hast gotten] in these [latter] days?' 'He is my brother's son,' answered the old man. 'I heard that his father was dead; so I sent for him, that I might quench with him the fire of my longing.' Quoth they, 'Indeed he is a comely youth; but we fear for him from Queen Lab, lest she turn on thee with treachery and take him from thee, for she loves handsome young men.' 'The queen will not gainsay my commandment,' answered the grocer, 'for she loves and tenders me; and when she knows that he is my brother's son, she will not molest him nor afflict me in him, neither trouble my heart on his account.' Then Bedr abode some months with the grocer, eating and drinking, and the old man loved him with an exceeding love.
One day, as he sat in the shop, as of his wont, there came up a thousand eunuchs, with drawn swords, mounted upon Arabian horses and clad in various kinds of raiment and girt with jewelled girdles and Indian swords. They saluted the grocer, as they passed, and were followed by a thousand damsels like moons, clad in various raiment of silks and satin, laced with gold and embroidered with jewels, and armed with spears. In their midst rode a young lady, mounted on an Arabian mare, saddled with a saddle of gold, set with various kinds of jewels and jacinths. The damsels saluted the grocer and passed OD, till up came Queen Lab, in great state, and seeing Bedr sitting in the shop, as he were the moon at its full, was amazed at his beauty and grace and became passionately enamoured of him.
So she alighted and sitting down by King Bedr, said to the old man, 'Whence hadst thou this fair one?' 'He is my brother's son,' answered the grocer, 'and is [but] lately come to me.' Quoth Lab, 'Let him be with me this night, that I may talk with him.' And the old man said, 'Wilt thou take him from me and not enchant him?' 'Yes,' answered she, and he said, 'Swear to me.' So she swore to him that she would not enchant Bedr nor do him any hurt, and bidding bring him a handsome horse, saddled and bridled with a bridle of gold and decked with trappings all of gold, set with jewels, gave the old man a thousand dinars, saying, 'Use this for shine occasions.' Then she took Bedr and carried him off, as he were the full moon on its fourteenth night, whilst all the folk, seeing his beauty, were grieved for him and said, 'By Allah, this youth deserves better than to be bewitched by yonder accursed sorceress!'
Bedr heard all they said, but was silent, committing his case to God the Most High, till they came to the gate of Queen Lab's palace, where the emirs and eunuchs and notables of the realm dismounted and she bade the chamberlains dismiss her officers and grandees, who kissed the earth and went away, while she entered the palace with Bedr and her eunuchs and women. Here he found a palace, whose like he had never seen, for in its midst was a great basin full of water, amiddleward a vast garden. He looked at the garden and saw it full of birds of various kinds and colours, warbling in all manner tongues and voices, joyous and plaintive. Brief, [everywhere] he beheld great state and dominion and said, 'Glory be to God, who of His bounty and clemency provided those who worship other than Himself!'
The queen sat down at a lattice-window overlooking the garden, on a couch of ivory, whereon was a high bed, and Bedr seated himself by her side. She kissed him and pressing him to her bosom, bade her women bring a table of food. So they brought a table of red gold, inlaid with pearls and jewels and spread with all manner meats, and the queen and Bedr ate, till they were satisfied, and washed their hands; after which the waiting-women set on flagons of gold and silver and crystal, together with all kinds of cowers and dishes of fruits and confections. Then the queen called for the singing-women, and there came ten damsels, as they were moons, with all manner of musical instruments in their hands. The queen filled a cup and drinking it off, filled another and gave it to Bedr, who took it and drank; and they ceased not to drink till they had enough. Then she bade the damsels sing, and they sang all manner airs, till it seemed to Bedr as if the palace danced with him for delight. His sense was ravished [with the music] and his breast expanded, and he forgot his strangerhood and said in himself, 'Verily, this queen is a handsome young woman, and I will never leave her; for her kingdom is vaster than mine and she is fairer than the princess Jauhereh.'
He ceased not to drink with her till nightfall, when they lighted the lamps and candles and diffused perfumes |from the censers]; nor did they leave drinking, till they were both drunken, and the singing-women sang the while. Then the queen lay down on a bed and dismissing her women, called to Bedr to come and lie with her. So he lay with her, in all delight of life, till the morning, when they entered the bath, that was in the palace, and washed; after which she clad him in the finest of raiment and called for wine. So the waiting-women brought the drinking-vessels and they drank. Presently, the queen arose and taking Bedr by the hand, sat down with him on chairs and commanded to bring food, of which they ate and washed their hands. Then the damsels brought the drinking-vessels and fruits and flowers and confections, and they ceased not to eat and drink, whilst the singing-girls sang various airs, till the evening.
They gave not over eating and drinking and merry-making forty days, at the end of which time the queen said to him, 'O Bedr, whether is the pleasanter, this place or the shop of shine uncle the grocer?' 'By Allah, O queen,' answered he, 'this is the pleasanter, for my uncle is but a poor man, who sells pot-herbs.' She laughed at his words, and they lay together in the pleasantest of case till the morning, when Bedr awoke and not finding Queen Lab by his side, was troubled at her absence and perplexed and said, 'Where can she have gone?' And indeed she was absent from him a great while and did not return; so he donned his clothes and went in search of her, but found her not and said in himself, 'Haply, she is gone to the garden.'
So he went out into the garden and came to a running stream, beside which he saw a white she-bird and on the bank a tree full of birds of various colours, and stood and watched the birds, without their seeing him. Presently, a black bird flew down upon the white bird and fell to billing her, after the manner of doves; then he leapt on her and trod her three times, after which she changed and became a woman. Bedr looked at her and behold, it was Queen Lab. So he knew that the black bird was a man enchanted and that she was enamoured of him and had transformed herself into a bird, that he might lie with her; wherefore jealousy got hold upon him and he was wroth with the queen because of the black bird.
Then he returned to his place and lay down on the bed, and presently she came back and fell to kissing him and jesting with him; but he answered her not a word, being sore incensed against her. She saw what was to do with him and was assured that he had seen what befell between her and the black bird; yet she discovered to him nothing, but concealed that which ailed her. When he had done her occasion, he said to her, 'O queen, give me leave to go to my uncle's shop, for I long after him and have not seen him these forty days.' 'Go,' answered she, 'but do not tarry from me, for I cannot brook to be parted from thee, nor can I endure without thee an hour.' 'I hear and obey,' said he and mounting, rode to the shop of the grocer, who received him with open arms and said to him, 'How hast thou fared with yonder idolatress?' 'I was well, in health and prosperity,' answered Bedr, 'till this last night,'--and told him what had passed in the garden.
When the old man heard this, he said, 'Beware of her, for know that the birds upon the tree were all young men and strangers, whom she loved and enchanted and turned into birds. The black bird thou sawest was one of her officers, whom she loved with an exceeding love, till he cast his eyes upon one of her women, wherefore she changed him into a black bird; and whenas she longs after him, she transforms herself into a she-bird, that he may swive her, for she still loves him passionately. When she found that thou knewest of her case, she plotted evil against thee, for she loves thee not truly. But no harm shall betide thee from her, whilst I protect thee; so fear nothing; for I am a Muslim, by name Abdallah, and there is none in my day better skilled in magic than I; yet do I not make use of the art except upon constraint. Many a time have I put to nought the sorceries of yonder accursed witch and delivered folk from her, and I care not for her, for she can do me no hurt: nay, she fears me with an exceeding fear, as do all in the city who, like her, are magicians and serve the fire, not the Omnipotent King. So, to-morrow, come thou to me and tell me what she doth with thee; for this very night she will cast about to destroy thee, and l will tell thee how thou shalt do with her, that thou mayst save thyself from her malice.'
Then Bedr took leave of the old man and resumed to the palace, where he found the queen seated, awaiting him. When she saw him, she rose to welcome him and making him sit down, brought him meat and drink, and they ate till they had enough and washed their hands. after which she called for wine and they drank till the night was half spent, when she plied him with wine, till he was drunken and lost sense and wit. When she saw him thus, she said to him, 'I conjure thee by Allah and by that thou worshippest, if I ask thee a question, wilt thou answer me truly?' And he, being drunken, answered, 'Yes, O my lady.' 'O my lord and light of mine eyes,' said she, 'when thou awokest last night and foundest me not, thou soughtest me, till thou foundest me in the garden, in the guise of a white she-bird, and sawest a black bird leap on me and tread me. Now I will tell the truth of this matter. That black bird was one of my servants and I loved him with an exceeding love; but one day he cast his eyes on one of my women, wherefore jealousy get hold upon me and I transformed him by my spells into a black bird and the woman I put to death. Now I cannot endure without him an hour; so, whenever I lust after him, I change myself into a bird and go to him, that he may leap me and possess me, even as thou hast seen. Art thou not therefore incensed against me, because of this, albeit, by the virtue of the fire and the light and the shade and the heat, I love thee more than ever and have made thee my portion of the world?' He answered, being drunken, 'Thy conjecture of the cause of my anger is correct, and it had no cause other than this.'
With this, she embraced him and kissed him and made a show of love to him; then she lay down to sleep and he by her side. Presently she rose from the bed, and Bedr was awake; but he feigned sleep and watched stealthily, to see what she would do. She took out of a red bag somewhat red, which she planted in the midst of the chamber, and it became a stream, running like the sea; after which she took a handful of barley and strewing it on the ground, watered it with water from the stream, whereupon it became corn in the ear, and she gathered it and ground it into meal. Then she laid it by and returning to bed, lay down by Bedr till morning, when he arose and washed his face and asked her leave to visit his uncle. She gave him leave and he repaired to Abdallah and told him what had passed. The old man laughed and said, 'By Allah, the misbelieving witch plotteth mischief against thee; but reck thou never of her.'
Then he gave him a pound of parched barley (7) and said to him, 'Take this with thee and know that, when she sees it, she will say to thee, "What is this and what wilt thou do with it?" Do thou answer, "Abundance of good things is good;" and eat of it. Then will she bring forth to thee parched grain of her own and bid thee eat of it; and do thou feign to her that thou eatest thereof, but eat of this instead and have a care lest thou eat of hers; for, if thou eat so much as a grain thereof, her spells will have power over thee and she will enchant thee and say to thee, "Leave this form of a man." Whereupon thou wilt quit shine own shape for what shape she will. But, if thou eat not thereof, her enchantments will be avoided and no harm will betide thee therefrom; whereat she will be abashed to the utmost and say to thee, "I did but jest with thee." Then will she make a show of love and affection to thee; but this will all be but hypocrisy and craft in her. And do thou also make a show of love to her and say to her, "O my lady and light of mine eyes, eat of this parched barley and see how delicious it is." And if she eat thereof, though it be but a grain, take water in thy hand and cast it in her face, saying, "Quit this human form for--" what form soever thou wilt have her take. Then leave her and come to me and I will counsel thee what to do.'
Bedr took leave of him and returning to the palace, went in to the queen, who said to him, 'Welcome and fair welcome to thee!' And she rose and kissed him, saying, 'Thou hast tarried long from me, O my lord.' 'I have been with my uncle,' answered he, 'and he gave me to eat of this parched barley.' Quoth she, 'We have better than that.' Then she laid his parched grain in one dish and hers in another and said to him, 'Eat of this, for it is better than thine.' So he feigned to eat of it, and when she thought he had done so, she took water in her hand and sprinkled him therewith, saying, 'Quit this form, vile wretch that thou art, and take that of a one-eyed mule, foul of favour!' But he changed not; which when she saw, she went up to him and kissed him between the eyes, saying, 'O my beloved, I did but jest with thee; bear me no malice because of this.'
'O my lady,' answered he, 'I bear thee no whit of malice; nay, I am assured that thou lovest me: but eat of this my parched barley.' So she took a mouthful of Abdallah's barley and ate it; but no sooner had she swallowed it than she was convulsed; and Bedr took water in his hand and cast it in her face, saying, 'Quit this human form and take that of a dapple mule.' No sooner had he spoken than she found herself changed into a mule, whereupon the tears rolled down her cheeks and she fell to rubbing her muzzle against his feet. Then he would have bridled her, but she would not take the bit; so he left her and going to the grocer, told him what had passed. Abdallah gave him a bridle and bade him bridle her therewith. So he returned to the palace, and when she saw him, she came up to him and he set the bit in her mouth and mounting her, rode to the grocer's shop.
When the old man saw her, he rose and said to her, 'God the Most High confound thee, O accursed woman!' Then said he to Bedr, 'O my son, there is no more abiding for thee in this city; so ride her and fare with her whither thou wilt and beware lest thou commit the bridle to any.' Bedr thanked him and taking leave of him, fared on three days, without ceasing, till he drew near another city and there met him an old man, gray-headed and comely, who said to him, 'Whence comest thou, O my son?' 'From the city of yonder enchantress,' answered Bedr; and the old man said, 'Thou art my guest this night.'
Bedr consented and went with him; but by the way they met an old woman, who wept, when she saw the mule, and said, 'There is no god but God! Verily, this mule resembles my son's mule, which is dead, and my heart aches for her; so, God upon thee, O my lord, do thou sell her to me!' 'By Allah, O my mother,' answered he, 'I cannot sell her.' But she said, 'God on thee, do not refuse me, for my son will surely die, except I buy him this mule.' And she importuned him, till he said, 'I will not sell her save for a thousand dinars,' saying in himself, 'Whence should this old woman get a thousand diners?' Thereupon she brought out from her girdle a purse, containing a thousand diners, which when Bedr saw, he said, 'O my mother, I did but jest with thee; I cannot sell her.' But the old man looked at him hard said, 'O my son, none may lie in this city, for whoso lieth they put to death'
So Bedr lighted down from the mute and delivered her to the old woman, who drew the bit from her mouth and taking water in her hand, sprinkled the mule therewith, saying, 'O my daughter, quit this form and return to that wherein thou wast aforetime!' Whereupon she was straightway restored to her original shape and the two women embraced and kissed each other. So Bedr knew that the old woman was Queen Lab's mother and that he had been tricked and would have fled; but the old woman gave a loud whistle and there appeared before her an Afrit, as he were a great mountain, whereat Bedr was affrighted and stood still. Then the old woman mounted on the Afrit's back, taking her daughter behind her and Bedr before her, and the Afrit flew off with them; nor was it long before they were in the palace of Queen Lab, who sat down on the throne of kingship and said to Bedr, 'Knave that thou art, now am I come hither and have attained to that I desired, and I will show thee how I will do with thee and with yonder old man the grocer! How many favours have I done him! Yet he cloth me ill; for thou hadst not attained thine end but by his intervention.' Then she took water and sprinkled him therewith, saying, 'Quit the form wherein thou art for that of a foul-favoured bird, the foulest of all birds!' And immediately he became a foul-favoured bird; and she set him in a cage and cut off from him meat and drink; but one of her women took compassion on him and gave him to eat and drink, without her knowledge.
One day, the damsel took her mistress at unawares and going forth the palace, repaired to the old grocer, to whom she told the whole case, saying, 'The queen is purposed to make an end of thy brother's son.' He thanked her and said, 'Needs must I take the city from her and make thee queen thereof in her stead.' Then he gave a loud whistle and there came forth to him an Afrit with four wings, to whom said he, Carry this damsel to the city of Julnar of the Sea and her mother Ferasheh, for they two are the most powerful magicians on the face of the earth.' And he said to the damsel, 'When thou comest thither, tell them that King Bedr Basim is Queen Lab's captive.'
Then the Afrit took her up and flying off with her, set her down, in a little while, upon the roof of Queen Julnar's palace. So she descended and going in to the queen, kissed the earth and told her what had befallen her son, whereupon Julnar rose to her and thanked her and entreated her with honour Then she let beat the drums in the city and acquainted her people and the grandees of her realm with the good news that King Bedr was found; after which she and her mother Ferasheh and her brother Salih assembled the tribes of the Jinn and the warriors of the sea; for the kings of the Jinn obeyed them, since the taking of King Es Semendel. Then they all Hew up into the air and lighting down on the city of the sorceress, sacked the town and the palace and slew all the misbelievers therein in the twinkling of an eye.
Then said Julnar to the damsel, 'Where is my son?' And the girl brought her the cage and showing her the bird within, said, 'This is thy son.' So Julnar took him forth of the cage and sprinkled him with water, saying, 'Quit this form for that wherein thou west aforetime.' Nor had she made an end of her speech ere he shook and became a man as before; whereupon his mother embraced him and he wept sore. On like wise did his uncle Salih and his grandmother and the daughters of his uncle and fell to kissing his hands and feet. Then Julnar sent for Abdallah and thanking him for his kind dealing with her son, married him to the damsel, whom he had despatched to her with news of him, and made him king of the city. Moreover, she summoned those
who survived of the inhabitants of the city, (and they were Muslims), and made them swear fealty to him; after which she and her company took leave of him and returned to their own city. The townsfolk came out to meet them with drums beating, and decorated the city three days and held high festival, of the greatness of their joy for the return of their king.
After this Bedr said to his mother, 'O my mother, there remains but that I marry and we be all united.' 'Thou sayst well, O my son,' answered she; 'but wait till we enquire who befitteth thee among the daughters of the kings.' And his grandmother and the daughters of his uncle all said, 'O Bedr, we will help thee to thy wish forthright.' Then each of them arose and went forth a-questing in the lands, whilst Julnar sent out her waiting-women on the backs of Afrits, bidding them leave not a city nor a king's palace, without noting all the handsome girls that were therein. But, when Bedr saw their endeavour in the matter, he said to Juloar, 'O my mother leave this thing, for none will content me but Jauhereh daughter of King Es Semendel; for that she is indeed a jewel, according to her name.' (8) 'I know that which thou seekest,' replied Julnar and sent forthright to fetch King Es Semendel. As soon as he was present, she sent for Bedr and acquainted him with the king's coming, whereupon he went in to him.
When Es Semenael was aware of his presence, he rose to him and saluted him and bade him welcome; and Bedr demanded of him his daughter in marriage. She is shine handmaid and at thy service and disposition,' replied the king and despatched some of his officers to fetch her. So they flew up into the air and returned, after awhile, with the princess, who, as soon as she saw her father, went up to him and embraced him. Then said he to her, 'Know, O my daughter, that I have given thee in marriage to this magnanimous king and valiant lion, Bedr Basim, son of Queen Julnar, for that he is the goodliest and most power-ful of the folk of his day and the most exalted of them in degree and the noblest in rank; he befitteth none but thee and thou none but him.' 'O my father,' answered she, 'I may not gainsay thee; do as thou wilt, for indeed chagrin and despite are at an end and I am one of his handmaids.'
So they summoned the Cadis and the witnesses, who drew up the marriage contract between King Bedr and the princess Jauhereh, and the townsfolk decorated the city and beat the drums in token of rejoicing. Moreover, they released all who were in the prisons, whilst the king clothed the widows and the orphans and bestowed dresses of honour upon the grandees and emirs and notables; and they made bride-feasts and held high festival night and morn ten days, at the end of which time they unveiled the bride, in nine different dresses, before Bedr, who bestowed a dress of honour upon King Es Semendel and sent him back to his country and people and kinsfolk. And they ceased not from the most delightsome of life and the most solaceful of days till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Companies; and this is the end of their story, may God have mercy on them all!