HASSAN OF BASSORA AND THE KING'S DAUGHTER OF THE JINN.
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a rich merchant, who dwelt in the land of Bassora. [In due time] God the all-hearing and knowing decreed that he should be admitted to the mercy of the Most High; so he died, leaving a widow and a son, (26) by name Hassan, a youth of surpassing beauty and grace, to inherit his wealth. They laid him out and buried him, after which Hassan betook himself to the company of folk [of lewd life], women and boys, consorting with them in gardens and making them [banquets of] meat and wine for months together and occupying himself not with traffic, like as his father had done, for that he exulted in [the assured possession of] abundant wealth.
After he had led this life for some time and had wasted all his ready money, he sold all his father's lands and houses and [spent their price in riotous living, till] there remained in his hand nothing, neither little nor much, nor was one of his friends left who knew him. He abode thus, anhungred, he and his mother, three days, and on the fourth day, as he went along, unknowing whither, there met him a man of his father's friends, who questioned him of his case. So he told him what had befallen him and the other said, 'O my son, I have a brother, a goldsmith; if thou wilt, thou shalt be with him and learn his craft and become skilled therein.' Hassan consented and accompanied him to his brother, to whom he commended him, saying, 'This is my son; do thou teach him for my sake.' So Hassan abode with the goldsmith and busied himself with the craft; and God prospered him, [so that he became proficient therein] and [in due course] opened a shop for himself.
One day, as he sat in his shop in the bazaar, there came up to him a Persian, with a great white beard and a white (27) turban on his head, having the appearance of a merchant, who looked at his handiwork and examined it knowingly. It pleased him and he shook his head, saying, 'By Allah, thou art a cunning goldsmith!' And he continued to look at his wares, whilst Hassan read in an old book he had in his hand and the folk were taken up with his beauty and grace and symmetry, till the hour of afternoon prayer, when the shop became clear of people and the Persian accosted the young man, saying, 'O my son, thou art a goodly youth! What book is that? Thou hast no father and I have no son, and I know an art, than which there is no goodlier in the world. Many have sought of me instruction therein, but I consented not to teach it to any of them; yet will I gladly teach it to thee, for the love of thee hath gotten hold upon my heart and I will make thee my son and set up a barrier between thee and poverty, so shalt thou be quit of this handicraft [and toil] with hammer and charcoal and fire.'
'O my lord,' said Hassan, 'and when wilt thou teach me this?' 'To-morrow,' answered the Persian, 'if it please God the Most High, I will come to thee and make thee fine gold of copper in thy presence.' Whereupon Hassan rejoiced and sat talking with the Persian till nightfall, when he took leave of him and going in to his mother, saluted her and ate with her; but he was dazed, without thought or reason, by reason of the hold that the stranger's words had gotten upon his heart. So she questioned him and he told her what had passed between himself and the Persian, which when she heard, her heart fluttered and she strained him to her breast, saying, 'O my son, beware of hearkening to the talk of the folk, and especially of the Persians, and obey them not in aught; for they are sharpers and tricksters, who profess the art of alchemy and swindle people and take their good and devour it in vain.' 'O my mother,' answered Hassan, 'we are poor folk and have nothing he may covet, that he should put a cheat on us. Indeed, this Persian is an old man of worth and the signs of virtue are manifest on him; God hath inclined his heart to me and he hath adopted me to son.' She was silent for chagrin, and he passed the night with a heart full of what the Persian had said to him, nor did sleep visit him, for the excess of his joy therein.
On the morrow, he rose and taking the keys, opened the shop, nor was it long before the Persian made his appearance. Hassan rose to him and would have kissed his hands; but he forbade him from this and said to him, 'O Hassan, set on the melting-pot and mount the bellows.' So he did as the stranger bade him and lighted the charcoal. Then said the other, 'O my son, hast thou any copper?' And he answered, 'I have a broken dish.' So he caused him cut it into small pieces with the shears and cast it into the crucible and blow up the fire with the bellows, till the copper became liquid, when he took from his turban a folded paper and opening it, sprinkled thereout into the pot about half a drachm of somewhat like eye-powder. Then he bade Hassan blow the bellows, and he did so, till the contents of the crucible became a lump of gold.
When he saw this, he was at his wits' end for joy and taking the ingot [forth of the melting-pot], handled it and tried it with the file and found it pure gold of the finest quality: whereupon his reason fled and he was dazed with excess of delight and bent over the Persian's hand to kiss it. But he forbade him, saying, 'Carry the ingot to the market and sell it and take the price in haste and speak not.' So Hassan went down into the market and gave the ingot to the broker, who took it and rubbed it [with the touchstone] and found it pure gold. So they opened the biddings at ten thousand dirhems and the merchants bid against one another for it up to fifteen thousand dirhems, at which price he sold it and taking the money, went home and told his mother what had passed, saying, 'O my mother, I have learnt this art.' But she laughed at him, saying, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!' And she was silent for vexation.
Then, of his ignorance, he took a [brass] mortar and returning to the shop, laid it before the Persian, who was still sitting there and who said to him. 'O my son, what wilt thou do with this mortar?' 'Let us put it in the fire,' answered Hassan, 'and make of it ingots of gold.' The Persian laughed and said, 'O my son, art thou mad that thou wouldst go down into the market with two ingots of gold in one day? Knowst thou not that the folk would suspect us and we should lose our lives? If I teach thee this craft, thou must practise it but once a year; for that will suffice thee from year to year.' 'True, O my lord,' answered Hassan, and sitting down, threw charcoal on the fire and set on the melting-pot. Quoth the Persian, 'What wilt thou, O my son?' And Hassan replied, 'Teach me this craft.' 'There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!' cried the Persian, laughing. 'Verily, O my son, thou art little of wit and in nowise fitted for this noble craft. Did ever any in his life learn this art in the beaten way or in the markets? If we busy ourselves with it here, the folk will say, "These practise alchemy;" and the magistrates will hear of us, and we shall lose our lives. Wherefore, O my son, if thou desire this forthright, come with me to my house.'
So Hassan closed his shop and went with him; but by the way he bethought him of his mother's words and stood still, with bowed head, thinking in himself a thousand thoughts. The Persian turned and seeing him thus, laughed and said to him, 'Art thou mad? What! I purpose thee good in my heart and thou misdoubtest I will harm thee! But, if thou fear to go with me to my house, I will go with thee to thine and teach thee there.' 'It is well, O uncle,' answered Hassan, and the Persian said, 'Go thou before me.' So Hassan led the way to his own house, where he left the Persian standing at the door, and going in, told his mother of his coming. She set the house in order for them and when she had made an end of furnishing and adorning it, her son bade her go to one of the neighbours' houses. So she left the house to them and went her way, whereupon Hassan brought in the Persian.
Then he took a dish and going to the market, returned with food, which he set before the Persian, saying, 'Eat, O my lord, that there may be bread and salt between us, and may God the Most High do vengeance upon him who is unfaithful to the bond of bread and salt!' The Persian smiled and answered, 'True, O my son! Who knoweth the virtue of bread and salt?' Then he came forward and ate with Hassan, till they were satisfied; after which, 'O my son Hassan,' said he, 'bring us some sweetmeats.' So Hassan went to the market, rejoicing in his words, and returned with ten saucers of sweetmeats, of which they both ate and the Persian said, 'May God abundantly requite thee, O my son! It is the like of thee with whom folk company and to whom they discover their secrets and teach what may profit him!' Then said he, 'O Hassan, bring the gear.'
No sooner did Hassan hear this than he went forth, like a colt let out to grass in the Spring, and hastening to the shop, fetched the gear and set it before the Persian, who pulled out a paper and said, 'O Hassan, wert thou not dearer to me than my son, I would not let thee into this mystery, for I have none of the elixir left save what is in this paper; but by and by I will bring the ingredients whereof it is composed and make it before thee and teach thee its fashion; and do thou observe, when I compound the simples and lay them before thee. Know, O my son Hassan, that thou must lay to every ten pounds of copper half a drachm of that which is in this paper, and the whole will presently become virgin gold without alloy. There are in this paper three ounces, Egyptian measure, and when it is spent, I will make thee more.' Hassan took the packet and finding therein a yellow powder, finer than before, said to the Persian, 'O my lord, what is the name of this substance and where is it found and how is it made?' But he laughed and said, 'Of what dost thou question? Indeed, thou art an impertinent boy! Do and hold thy peace.'
So Hassan arose and fetching a [brass] bowl from the house, cut it up and threw it into the melting-pot; then he scattered on it a little of the powder and it became a lump of pure gold. When he saw this, he rejoiced mightily and was filled with amazement and could think of nothing but the gold; but, whilst he was occupied with taking up the ingot from the melting-pot, the Persian pulled out of his turban in haste a packet of Cretan henbane, which if an elephant smelt, he would sleep from night to night, and cutting off a little thereof, put it in a piece of sweetmeat. Then said he to Hassan, 'O Hassan, thou art become my very son and dearer to me than my soul and my wealth and I have a daughter whose like never have eyes beheld for beauty and grace and symmetry. Now I see that thou befittest none but her and she none but thee; wherefore, if it be the will of God, I will marry thee to her.' 'I am thy servant,' replied Hassan; 'and whatsoever thou dost with me [of good] will be [credited to thee] with God the Most High.' 'O my son,' rejoined the Persian, 'have patience and good shall betide thee.'
Therewithal he gave him the piece of sweetmeat and he took it and kissed his hand, knowing not what was hidden for him in the future. Then he put it in his mouth, but hardly had he swallowed it, when he fell down, head foremost, and was lost to the world; whereupon the Persian rejoiced exceedingly and said, 'Thou hast fallen into my snare, O good-for-nothing dog of the Arabs! This many a year have I sought thee, O Hassan, and now I have got thee!' Then he girt himself and binding Hassan hand and foot, laid him in a chest, which he emptied for the purpose, and locked it upon him. Moreover, he emptied another chest and laying therein all Hassan's valuables, together with the ingot of gold [and the price of that which he had sold], locked it.
Then he ran to the market and fetching a porter, took up the two chests and made off with them without the city, where he set them down on the sea-shore, hard by a vessel at anchor there. Now this vessel was freighted by the Persian and her captain was awaiting him; so, when the sailors saw him, they came to him and carried the chests on board. Then the Persian called out to the captain, saying, 'Up and let us begone, for I have done my errand and compassed my desire.' So the captain cried out to the crew, saying, 'Weigh anchor and set sail!' And the ship put out to sea with a fair wind.
Meanwhile, Hassan's mother awaited him till nightfall, but heard neither sound nor news of him; so she went to the house and Ending it open, entered and saw none therein and missed the chests and valuables; wherefore she knew that her son was lost and that destiny had overtaken him and buffeted her face and tore her clothes, crying out and lamenting and saying, 'Alas, my son! Alas, the fruit of my entrails!' And she recited the following verses:My patience fails me and unrest is sore upon me; yea, Lament and sickness, after you, redouble on me aye.
And she ceased not to weep and bemoan herself till the morning, when the neighbours came in to her and questioned her of her son, and she told them what had befallen him with the Persian, assured that she should never see him again. Then she went round about the house weeping, till she espied two lines written upon the wall; so she sent for a learned man, who read them to her; and they were as follows:Tbe phantom of Leila came to me in dreams, tow'rds the break of day, When slumber ruled and my comrades all in the desert sleeping lay;
When she heard this, she cried out and said, 'Yes, O my son! Indeed, the house is desolate and distant the place of visitation!' Then the neighbours took leave of her and went away, after they had prayed that she might be vouchsafed patience and speedy reunion with her son; but she ceased not to weep all tides of the day and watches of the night and built a tomb amiddleward the house, on which she let write Hassan's name and the date of his loss, and thenceforward she quitted it not, but sojourned by it night and day.
Now this Persian was a Magian, who hated Muslims with an exceeding hatred and destroyed all who fell into his power. He was a lewd and filthy villain, an alchemist, an astrologer and a seeker after hidden treasures, such an one as he of whom quoth the poet:A dog, the son of a dog, is he and his grandfather, too was one; And when was there ever aught of good in a dog, of a dog the son?
The name of this accursed wretch was Behram the Magian, and he was won: every year, to take a Muslim and slaughter him for a purpose of his own. So, when he had carried out his plot against Hassan the goldsmith, they sailed on till dark, when the ship made fast to the shore for the night, and at sunrise, when they set sail again, Behram bade his slaves and servants bring him the chest in which was Hassan. They did so and he opened it and taking out the young man, made him smell to vinegar and blew a powder into his nostrils. Hassan sneezed and cast up the henbane; then, opening his eyes, he looked about him and found himself on board a ship in full sail, amiddleward the sea, and saw the Persian sitting by him; wherefore he knew that the accursed Magian had put a cheat on him and that he had fallen into the very peril of which his mother had bidden him beware. So he spoke the words, which whoso utterest shall not be confounded, that is to say, 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! Verily, we are God's and to Him we return! O my God, be Thou gracious to me in Thine ordinance and give me patience to endure this Thine affliction, O Lord of all creatures!'
Then he turned to the Persian and bespoke him softly, saying, 'O my father, what fashion is this and where is [the bond of] bread and salt and the oath thou sworest to me?' But Behram looked at him and answered, 'O dog, knoweth the like of me [the bond of] bread and salt? I have slain a thousand youths like thee, save one, and thou shalt make up the thousand.' And he cried out at him and Hassan was silent, knowing that the arrow of fate had overtaken him.
Then the accursed wretch commanded to loose his bonds and they gave him a little water, whilst the Magian laughed and said, 'By the Fire and the Light and the Shade and the Heat, methought not thou wouldst fall into my toils! But the Fire gave me the victory over thee and helped me to lay hold upon thee, that I might accomplish my need and return and make thee a sacrifice to it, so it may accept of me.' Quoth Hassan, 'Thou hast betrayed [the bond of] bread and salt.' Whereupon the Magian raised his hand and dealt him a buffet, that he fell and biting the deck, swooned away, whilst the tears steamed down his cheeks. Then Behram bade his servants light him a fire and Hassan said, 'What wilt thou do with it?' 'This is the Fire, giver of light and sparks,' replied the Magian. 'This it is I worship, and if thou wilt worship it even as I, I'll give thee half my wealth and marry thee to my daughter.' 'Out on thee!' cried Hassan. 'Thou art an infidel Magian, that worshippeth the Fire, instead of the All-powerful King, Creator of Night and Day; and this is nought but a calamity among faiths!'
At this the Magian was wroth and said to him, 'Wilt thou not then fall in with me, O dog of the Arabs, and enter my faith?' But Hassan consented not to this: so the accursed Magian arose and prostrating himself to the fire, bade his servants throw him down on his face. They did so, and he beat him with a whip of plaited hide, till his flanks were laid open, whilst he cried aloud for succour, but none succoured him, and besought protection, but none protected him. Then he raised his eyes to the All-powerful King and sought aid of Him, in the name of the Chosen Prophet. And indeed patience failed him; his tears ran down his cheeks, like rain, and he repeated the following verses:Lord, I submit myself to Thee and eke to Fate, Content, if so Thou please, to suffer and to wait.
Then the Magian commanded his slaves to raise him to a sitting posture and bring him meat and drink. So they set food before him; but he refused to eat or drink; and Behram's heart was hardened against him and he ceased not to torment him day and night during the voyage, whilst Hassan took patience and humbled himself in supplication to God the Most High, to whom belong might and majesty.
They sailed the sea three months till God the Most High sent forth upon them a contrary wind and the sea grew black and rose against the ship, by reason of the much wind; whereupon quoth the captain and the sailors, 'By Allah, this is all on account of yonder youth, who hath been these three months in torment with this Magian. Indeed, this is unlawful in the sight of God the Most High.' Then they rose against the Magian and slew his servants and all who were with him; which when he saw, he made sure of death and feared for himself. So he loosed Hassan from his bonds and pulling off the ragged clothes he had on, clad him in others. Moreover, he made his excuses to him and promised to teach him the craft and restore him to his native land, saying, 'O my son, bear me not malice for that I have done with thee.' Quoth Hassan, 'How can I ever again put faith in thee?' But Behram said, 'O my son, but for offence, there were no pardon. Indeed, I did all this with thee but to try thy patience, and thou knowest that the case is altogether in God's hands.'
The sailors and the captain rejoiced in Hassan's release, and he called down blessings on them and praised God the Most High and thanked Him. With this the wind fell and the sky cleared, and they continued their voyage with a fair breeze. Then said Hassan to Behram, 'O Persian, whither goest thou?' 'O my son,' answered the Magian, 'I am bound for the Mountain of Clouds, where is the elixir which we use in alchemy.' And he swore to him by the Fire and the Light that he had no longer any cause to fear him. So Hassan's heart was set at ease and he continued to eat and drink and sleep with the Magian, whilst the latter clad him in his own raiment.
Then they sailed on other three months, at the end of which time the ship came to an anchor off a long beach of pebbles of all colours, white and yellow and blue and black and what not, and the Magian rose and said to Hassan, 'Come, let us go ashore: for we have reached our destination.' So Hassan rose and landed with Behram, after the latter had commended his goods to the captain's care. They walked on inland, till they were out of sight of the ship when Behram sat down and taking from his pocket a little drum of copper and a silken strap, wroughten in gold with talismanic characters, beat the drum with the strap, whereupon there arose a cloud of dust from the further side of the desert.
Hassan marvelled at the Magian's doings and was afraid of him: and he repented of having come ashore with him, and his colour changed. But Behram looked at him and said, 'What ails thee, O my son? By the fire and the light, thou hast nought to fear from me; and were it not that my occasion may not be accomplished save be thy means, I had not brought thee ashore. So rejoice in all good; for yonder cloud of dust is the dust of somewhat we will mount and which will aid us to traverse this desert and make the passage thereof easy to us.' Presently, the dust lifted and discovered three dromedaries, one of which Behram mounted and Hassan another. Then they loaded their victual on the third and fared on seven days, till they came to a wide champaign, in whose midst they saw a pavilion vaulted upon four columns of red gold; so they alighted and entering therein, ate and drank and rested there.
Presently, Hassan chanced to look aside and seeing something lofty [in the distance], said to the Magian, 'O uncle, what is that?' 'It is a palace,' answered Behram. Quoth Hassan, 'Wilt thou not go thither, that we may enter and rest ourselves there and divert ourselves with viewing it?' But the Persian was wroth and said, 'Name not yonder palace to me; for therein dwells an enemy of mine, with whom there befell me somewhat whereof this is no time to tell thee.' Then he beat the drum and up came the dromedaries, and they mounted and fared on other seven days.
On the eighth day, the Magian said, 'O Hassan, what seest thou?' Quoth Hassan, 'I see clouds and mists between the east and the west.' 'That is neither clouds nor mists,' answered Behram, 'but a vast and lofty mountain, on which the clouds divide, and there are no clouds above it, for the excess of its height and the greatness of its elevation. Yonder mountain is the goal of my journey and thereon is what we seek. It is for that I brought thee hither, for my occasion may not be accomplished save at thy hands.' When Hassan heard this, he gave himself up for lost and said to the Magian, 'By the virtue of that thou worshippest and the faith in which thou believest, I conjure thee to tell me what is the occasion on which thou hast brought me!' Quoth Behram, 'The art of alchemy may not be successfully practised save by means of a herb, that grows in the place where the clouds pass and whereon they divide. Such a place is yonder mountain; the herb grows there and I purpose to send thee up thither [to gather it]; and when we have it, I will show thee the secret of this craft that thou desirest to learn.' Hassan answered, in his fear, 'It is well, O my master.' And indeed he despaired of life and wept for his separation from his mother and people and country, repenting him of having gainsaid her and reciting the following verses:Consider but thy Lord His doings and how what Thou wouldst of quick relief He brings; nor at thy lot
They fared on till they came to the foot of the mountain, where they halted and Hassan saw thereon a palace and said to Behram, 'What is yonder palace?' And he answered, 'It is the abode of Jinn and ghouls and devils.' Then the Magian alighted and making Hassan dismount also, kissed his head and said to him, 'Bear me not malice for that I did with thee, for I will keep guard over thee in thine ascent to the palace; and I conjure thee not to wrong me of aught thou shalt bring therefrom, and I and thou will share therein equally.' And Hassan answered, 'I hear and obey.' Then Behram opened a bag and taking out a handmill and a quantity of wheat, ground the latter in the mill and kneaded three cakes of the flour; after which he lighted a fire and baked them.
Then he took out the drum and beat it with the strap, whereupon up came the dromedaries. He chose out one of them and slew and skinned it; then turned to Hassan and said to him, 'Give ear, O my son Hassan, to what I am about to enjoin on thee.' And Hassan replied, 'It is well.' 'Lie down on this skin,' said Behram, 'and I will sew thee up therein and lay thee on the ground; whereupon the rocs will come to thee and carry thee up to the mountain-top. Take this knife with thee, and when thou feelest that the birds have set thee down, slit open the skin with the knife and come forth. They will take fright at thee and fly away ; whereupon do thou look down and speak to me, and I will tell thee what to do.' So saying, he sewed him up in the skin, with the three cakes and a leathern bottle full of water, and withdrew to a distance.
Presently a roc pounced upon him and taking him up, flew away with him to the mountain-top and there set him down. As soon as Hassan felt himself on the ground, he slit the skin and coming forth, called out to the Magian, who rejoiced at hearing his speech and danced for excess of joy, saying to him, 'Look behind thee and tell me what thou seest,' Hassan looked and seeing great store of rotten bones and wood, told Behram, who said to him, 'This is what we seek. Make six bundles of the wood and throw them down to me, for this is wherewithal we do alchemy.' So he threw him the six bundles and when he had gotten them, he said to Hassan, 'O good-for-nought, I have accomplished my need of thee; and now, if thou Wilt, thou mayst abide on this mountain, or cast thyself down to the earth and perish.' So saying, he left him and went away, and Hassan exclaimed, 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! This accursed dog hath played the traitor with me! And he sat bemoaning himself and reciting the following verses:When God upon a man possessed of reasoning, Hearing and sight His will in aught to pass would bring,
Then he rose to his feet and looked right and left, after which he walked on along the mountain-top, making sure of death. He fared on thus till he came to the other brow of the mountain, under which he saw a dark-blue foaming sea, swollen with clashing billows, each as it were a great mountain. So he sat down and repeated what he might of the Koran and besought God the Most High to ease him of his troubles, either by death or deliverance from that his strait. Then he recited for himself the funeral-prayer and cast himself down into the sea; but, by God's grace, the winds bore him up, so that he reached the water unhurt, and the angel to whose charge the sea is committed watched over him, so that, by the decree of the Most High, the waves carried him safe to land. So he rejoiced and praised God the Most High and thanked Him; after which he walked on in quest of somewhat to eat, for stress of hunger, and came presently to the place where he had halted with the Magian.
Then he fared on awhile, till he caught sight of a great palace, rising high into the air, and knew it for that of which he had questioned Behram and he had replied, 'An enemy of mine dwelleth there.' 'By Allah,' said Hassan in himself, 'needs must I enter yonder palace; peradventure relief awaits me there.' So he went up to it and finding the gate open, entered the vestibule, where he saw two girls, like moons, seated on a bench, with a table before them, playing at chess. One of them raised her eyes and seeing him, cried out for joy and said, 'By Allah, here is a mortal, and methinks it is he whom Behram the Magian brought hither this year!' Whereupon Hassan cast himself at their feet and wept sore, saying, 'Yes, by Allah, O my ladies, I am indeed that unhappy wretch!'
Then said the younger to the elder damsel, 'Bear witness against me, O my sister, that this is my brother before God and that I will die for his death and live for his life and rejoice for his joy and mourn for his mourning.' So saying, she embraced him and kissed him and taking him by the hand, led him, and her sister with her, into the palace, where she did off his ragged clothes and brought him a suit of kings' raiment, in which she clothed him. Moreover, she made ready all manner viands and set them before him, and sat and ate with him, she and her sister. Then said they to him, 'Tell us thine adventure with yonder wicked dog of a sorcerer, from the time of thy falling into his hands to that of thine escape from him; and after we will tell thee all that has passed between us and him, so thou mayst be on thy guard against him, if thou see him again.'
Hassan, finding himself thus kindly received, took heart of grace and his reason returned to him and he related to them all that had befallen him with the Magian from first to last. 'Didst thou ask him of this palace?' asked they. 'Yes,' answered Hassan. 'But he said, "Name it not to me; for it belongs to devils and demons."' At this, the two damsels were mightily enraged and said, 'Did the infidel style us devils and demons?' And Hassan answered, 'Yes.' 'By Allah,' cried the younger sister, 'I will assuredly put him to death after the foulest fashion and make him to lack the wind of the world!' 'And how,' asked Hassan, 'wilt thou get at him, to kill him, for he is a crafty magician?' Quoth she, 'He is in a garden by name El Meshid, and needs must I slay him before long.'
Then said her sister, ' All that Hassan hath told us of this dog is true; but now tell him our history, that it may abide in his memory.' So the younger said to him, 'Know, O my brother, that we are the daughters of a king of the mightiest kings of the Jinn, having Marids to troops and guards and servants, and God the Most High blessed him with seven daughters by one wife; but such stiffneckedness got hold upon him and such jealousy and pride beyond compare that he would not give us in marriage to any one and summoning his viziers and officers, said to them, "Can ye tell me of any place inaccessible to men and Jinn and abounding in trees and fruits and streams?" And they said, "What wilt thou therewith, O king of the age?" Quoth he, "I desire to lodge my seven daughters there." "O king," answered they, "the place for them is the Castle of the Mountain of Clouds, built by one of the rebellious Jinn, who revolted from the covenant of cur lord Solomon, on whom be peace. Since his destruction, none hath dwelt there, man nor genie, for it is cut off [from the rest of the world] and none may win to it. It is compassed about with trees and fruits and streams, and around it is running water, sweeter than honey and colder than snow, whereof none trinkets, who is afflicted with leprosy or elephantiasis or what not else, but he is healed forthright."
So our father sent us hither, with an escort of his troops, and provided us with all that we need here. When he is minded to ride [to us], he beats a drum, whereupon all his guards present themselves before him and he chooses whom he shall ride and dismisses the rest; but, when he desireth that we shall visit him, he commandeth the enchanters, his followers, to fetch us, whereupon they come to us and carry us to him, so he may solace himself with our company and we accomplish our desire of him; after which they carry us back again. Our five sisters are gone a-hunting in the desert, wherein are wild beasts past count or reckoning, and we two abode at home, to make them ready food, it being our turn to do this. Indeed, we had besought God (blessed and glorified be He!) to vouchsafe us a man to cheer us with his company and praised be He who hath brought thee to us! So take heart and be of good cheer, for no harm shall befall thee.'
Hassan rejoiced and said, 'Praised be God who guideth us into the way of deliverance and inclineth hearts to us!' Then his [adopted] sister rose and taking him by the hand, led him into a private chamber, where she brought out to him linen and furniture such as no mortal can avail unto. Presently, the other damsels returned from the chase and their sisters acquainted them with Hassan's case; whereupon they rejoiced in him and going in to him in his chamber, saluted him and gave him joy of his deliverance. Then he abode in familiar intercourse with them, riding out with them to the chase and taking his pleasure with them in that fair palace with its gardens and flowers, whilst they entreated him courteously and cheered him with discourse, till his sadness ceased from him and he recovered health and strength and waxed stout and fat, by dint of fair treatment and pleasant life; for indeed he led the goodliest of lives with the damsels, who delighted in him and he yet more in them. Moreover, the youngest princess told her sisters how the Magian had styled them ghouls and demons, and they swore that they would surely slay him.
Next year, the accursed Magian again made his appearance, having with him a handsome young Muslim, as he were the moon, bound hand and foot and suffering grievous tortures, and alighted with him in view of the palace. Now Hassan was sitting under the trees by the side of the stream; and when he espied Behram, his heart fluttered and he changed colour and smote hand upon hand. Then he said to the princesses, 'O my sisters, help me to slay yonder accursed wretch, for he is come back and in your grasp, and he hath with him, captive, a young Muslim of the sons of the notables, whom he is torturing with all manner of grievous torment. Fain would I slay him and solace my heart of him and earn God's favour by delivering the young Muslim from his mischief and restoring him to his country and friends. This will be an almsdeed from you and ye will reap the reward thereof from God the Most High!'
'We hear and obey God and thee, O Hassan,' replied they and binding chinbands about their faces, armed themselves and girt on their swords: after which they brought Hassan a charger of the best and equipped him in complete armour and armed him with goodly weapons. Then they all sallied out and found the Magian ill-using the young Muslim, to make him enter the hide of a camel that he had killed and skinned. Hassan came behind him, without his knowledge, and cried out at him, saying, 'Hold thy hand, O accursed! O enemy of God and of the Muslims! O dog! O traitor! O thou that servest the fire and walkest in the way of the wicked, worshipping the fire and the light and swearing by the shade and the heat!'
When the Magian heard this, he was startled and disconcerted; so he turned and seeing Hassan, thought to wheedle him and said to him, 'O my son, how madest thou thine escape and who brought thee down to earth?' 'God the Most High delivered me,' answered Hassan, 'He who hath appointed the taking of thy life to be at my hand, and I will torture thee even as thou torturedst me the whole way long. O misbeliever, O heretic, thou hast fallen into perdition and hast wandered from the way; and neither mother nor brother shall avail thee, nor friend nor solemn covenant; for thou saidst, "Whoso is faithless to bread and salt, may God do vengeance upon him!" And thou hast broken the bond of bread and salt; wherefore God hath delivered thee into my hands, and small chance hast thou of escape from me.' 'By Allah, O my son,' rejoined Behram, 'thou art dearer to me than my soul and the light of mine eyes!' But Hassan stepped up to him and smote him hastily between the shoulders, that the sword issued gleaming from the tendons of his throat and God hurried his soul to the fire, and evil is the abiding- place [to which he went].
Then Hassan took the Magian's bag and opening it, took out the drum and beat it with the strap, whereupon up came the dromedaries like lightning. So he loosed the young man from his bonds and setting him on one of the camels, loaded him another with victual and water. Then he bade him go whither he would and he departed, after God the Most High had thus delivered him from his strait at the hands of Hassan. When the princesses saw Hassan slay the Magian, they rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and encompassed him, marvelling at his valour and prowess. Moreover, they thanked him for his deed and gave him joy of his safety, saying, 'O Hassan, thou hast done a deed, whereby thou hast healed the burning of him that thirsted [for vengeance] and pleased the Glorious King.'
Then they returned to the palace, and he abode with them, eating and drinking and laughing and making merry; and indeed his sojourn with them was pleasant to him and he forgot his mother; nor did he cease to lead this goodly life with them, till, one day, there arose a great cloud of dust, that darkened the sky, and made towards them from the further side of the desert. When the princesses saw this, they said to him, 'Rise, O Hassan, and hide thyself in thy chamber; or, if thou wilt, enter the garden and conceal thyself among the trees and vines; [but fear not,] for no harm shall befall thee.' So he arose and entering his chamber, locked the door upon himself. Presently the dust lifted and discovered a great host, as it were the swollen sea, coming from the king, the father of the damsels.
When they reached the castle, the princesses received them with all honour and entertained them three days; after which they questioned them of their case and errand, and they answered, saying, 'We come in quest of you from the king.' 'And what would the king with us?' asked the princesses. 'One of the kings celebrateth a marriage festival,' answered the envoys, 'and your father would have you be present thereat and divert yourselves therewith.' 'And how long shall we be absent from our place?' asked the damsels. 'The time to come and go,' answered they, 'and to sojourn two months.' So the princesses arose and going in to Hassan, acquainted him with the case and said to him, 'Verily this place is thy place and our house is thy house; so be of good cheer and fear not nor grieve, for none can come at thee here; but keep a good heart and a cheerful mind, till we return to thee. The keys of our chambers we leave with thee; but, O our brother, we beseech thee, by the due of brotherhood, not to open such a door, for thou hast no call thereto.' Then they took leave of him and went away with the troops, leaving him alone in the palace.
It was not long before his breast grew straitened and his patience came to an end: solitude and sadness were heavy on him and he grieved for his separation from them with an exceeding grief. The palace, for all its vastness, was straitened upon him and finding himself sad and solitary, he bethought him of the damsels and recited the following verses:The spreading plain all straitened is, for longing, on my sight And all my thoughts are troubled grown, that erst were calm and bright.
He used to go a-hunting by himself in the desert and bring back the game and eat thereof alone: but melancholy and unease redoubled on him, by reason of his loneliness. So he arose and went round about the palace and explored its every part. Morever, he opened the princesses' apartments and found therein riches and treasures, fit to do away the beholder's wits; but he delighted not in aught thereof, by reason of their absence. His heart was on fire with solicitude respecting the door they had charged him not to approach or open, and he said in himself, 'My sister had not forbidden me to open this door, except there were behind it somewhat, whereof she would have none to know; but, by Allah, I will arise and open it and see what is within, were death behind it!'
Then he took the key and opening the door, saw nothing therein but a winding stair of Yemen onyx at the upper end of the chamber. So he mounted the stair, which brought him out upon the terraced roof of the palace, whence he looked down upon gardens and orchards, full of trees and fruits and beasts and birds warbling the praises of God the One, the All-powerful, and said in himself, 'This is that wherefrom they forbade me.' Beyond these pleasaunces he saw a surging sea, swollen with clashing billows, and he ceased not to explore the [terraces of the] palace right and left, till he came to a pavilion such as neither Caesar nor Chosroes ever possessed, builded with alternate courses of gold and silver and jacinth and emerald and supported by four columns.
The interior was paved and lined with a mosaic of jacinths and emeralds and balass-rubies and all manner other jewels, and in its midst was a basin of water, over which was a trellis of sandal and aloes-wood, netted with red gold and wands of emerald and set with various kinds of jewels and fine pearls, each the bigness of a pigeon's egg. The trellis was covered with a climbing vine, bearing grapes like rubies, and beside the pool stood a couch of aloes-wood, trellised with red gold and inlaid with great pearls and all manner vari-coloured gems and precious stones, symmetrically disposed. About it the birds warbled, celebrating the praises of God the Most High with sweet and various voices; but, save them, Hassan saw therein none of the creatures of God, whereat he marvelled and said in himself, 'I wonder to which of the kings this place pertaineth, or is it Many-Columned Irem (28) whereof they tell, for who [among mortals] can avail to the like of this?' And indeed he was amazed and sat down in the pavilion, marvelling at the beauty of its ordinance and at the lustre of the pearls and jewels and the curious works that were therein, no less than at the gardens and orchards aforesaid and at the birds that sang the praises of God the One, the Almighty, and pondering the traces of him whom God the Most High had enabled to rear that structure, for indeed He is mickle of might.
Presently, he espied ten birds making for the pavilion from the direction of the desert, and knew that they were bound for the pool, to drink of its waters: so he hid himself lest they should see him and fly from him. They lighted on a great and goodly tree and circled round about it; and he saw amongst them an exceeding great and beautiful bird, the goodliest of them all, and the rest encompassed it and did it worship; whilst it pecked them with its bill and flouted them, and they fled from it. Then they entered the pavilion and perched on the couch; after which each bird rent open its skin with its claws and came forth therefrom; and behold, it was but a garment of feathers, and there came forth therefrom ten maidens, whose beauty shamed the lustre of the moon. They all put off their clothes and plunging into the pool, washed and fell to playing and sporting with one another; whilst the chief of them threw the others down and ducked them, and they fled from her and dared not put out their hands to her.
When Hassan beheld her thus, he took leave of his wits and his reason was enslaved, and he knew that the princess had not forbidden him to open the door, save by reason of this; for he fell passionately in love with her, for what he saw of her beauty and grace and symmetry, as she played and sported and splashed the others with the water. His mind was amazed at her beauty and his heart taken in the snare of her love; fires were loosed in his heart for her sake and there waxed on him a flame, whose raging might not be quenched, and desire, whose signs might not be hidden. So he stood, looking upon them, whilst they saw him not, with eye gazing and heart burning and soul prompting to evil; and he sighed to be with them and wept for longing, because of the beauty and grace of the chief damsel.
Presently, they came up out of the pools whilst Hassan marvelled at their beauty and loveliness and the grace and elegance of their movements. Then he cast a glance at the chief damsel and there was manifest to him what was between her thighs, a goodly rounded dome, like a bowl of silver or crystal, which recalled to him the saying of the Poet:When I took up her shift and discovered the terrace-roof of her kaze, I found it as strait as my humour or eke my worldly ways:
Then they all put on their dresses and ornaments, and the chief maiden donned a green dress, wherein she excelled all the fair ones of the world for loveliness and the lustre of her face outshone the resplendent full moons: she outdid the branches with the grace of her swaying gait and confounded the wit with apprehension of disdain; and indeed she was as saith the poet:A damsel lithe and slim and full of agile grace; Thou'dst deem the very sun had borrowed from her face.
Then they sat talking and laughing, whilst he stood gazing on them, drowned in the sea of passion and wandering in the valley of melancholy thought. And he said in himself, 'By Allah, my sister forbade me not to open the door, but because of these maidens and lest I should fall in love with one of them!' And he continued to gaze on the charms of the chief damsel, who was the loveliest creature God had made in her time, and indeed she outdid all mortals in beauty. She had a mouth like Solomon's seal and hair blacker than the night of estrangement to the despairing lover; her forehead was as the new moon of the Feast of Ramazan (29) and her eyes were like unto gazelles' eyes. She had a polished aquiline nose and cheeks like blood-red anemones, lips like coral and teeth like strung pearls in carcanets of virgin gold and a neck like an ingot of silver, above a shape like a willow-wand. Her belly was full of folds and dimples, such as enforce the distracted lover to magnify God and extol Him therefor, and her navel held an ounce of musk, (30) most sweet of savour. She had thighs great and plump, like columns of marble or bolsters stuffed with ostrich- down, and between them somewhat as it were a great hummock or a hare with ears laid back; and indeed she surpassed the willow-wand and the bamboo-cane with her beauty and symmetry, for she was even as saith the poet of her:There came a lovely maid, whose mouth did dews like honey bear, Yea, and her glances keener far than Indian sabres were.
They ceased not to laugh and play, whilst Hassan stood watching them, forgetting meat and drink, till near the hour of afternoon-prayer, when the chief damsel said to her mates, 'O kings' daughters, it grows late and our country is distant and we have had enough of this place. Come, therefore, let us depart to our own place.' So they put on their feather vests, and becoming birds as before, flew away all together, with the chief damsel in their midst. Then Hassan, despairing of their return, would have arisen and gone away, but could not move; wherefore the tears ran down his cheeks and passion was sore on him and he recited the following verses:May I be denied the fulfilment o' the troth that to me thou didst plight, If, since you departed and left me, I've tasted of slumber's delight!
Then he walked on, little by little, heeding not how he went, till he reached the foot of the stirs, whence he dragged himself to his own chamber and shutting the door, lay there, sick and drowned in the sea of his solicitude, eating not nor drinking. He passed the night thus, weeping and bemoaning himself, till the morning, when he repeated the following verses:The birds took wing at nightfall and far away did fly, And whoso dies of passion, no blame on him may lie.
When the sun rose, he went forth of the chamber and ascending to the roof, sat down before the pavilion and awaited the return of the birds, till nightfall; but they came not; wherefore he wept till he fell down in a swoon. When he came to himself he dragged himself down the stairs to his chamber; and indeed, the night was come and the whole world was straitened upon him and he ceased not to weep and bemoan himself, till the day broke and the sun rose over hill and plain. He ate not nor drank nor slept, nor was there any rest for him; but by day he was distracted and by night wakeful, delirious and drunken with melancholy and excess of passion. And he repeated the verses of the poet El Welhan:Thou that confoundest outright the sun of the morning, heigho! That puttest the branches to shame, though wherefore thou dost not know,
As he abode thus in the stress of his love-distraction, alone and finding none to cheer him with company, there arose a cloud of dust from the desert, wherefore he knew that the princesses had returned and ran down and hid himself. Before long, the troops halted round the palace and the seven princesses alighted and entering, put off their arms and harness. As for the youngest, she stayed not to doff her armour, but went straight to Hassan's chamber, where finding him not, she sought for him till she lighted on him in one of the cabinets, thin and feeble, with wasted bones and emaciated body; and indeed his colour was changed and his eyes sunken for lack of food and much weeping, by reason of his love and longing for the damsel. When she saw him in this plight, she was confounded and [well-nigh] lost her wits [for amazement]; and she questioned him of his case and what had befallen him, saying, 'Tell me what ails thee, O my brother, that I may cast about to do away thine affliction, and I will be thy ransom.' Whereupon he wept sore and answered her with these verses:Whenas a lover from his love to sever Fate hath wrought; For him saw weariness and woe and misery there's nought.
When she heard this, she marvelled at his eloquence and ready wit and goodliness of speech and at his answering her in verse and said to him, 'O my brother, when didst thou fall into this case and what hath befallen thee, that I find thee speaking in verse and shedding plenteous tears? I conjure thee by Allah, O my brother, by the love that is between us, tell me what ails thee and discover thy secret to me, nor hide from me aught of that which hath befallen thee in our absence; for my breast is straitened and my life troubled on thine account.' He sighed and shed tears like rain, after which he said, 'O my sister, I fear, if I tell thee, that thou will not help me to my desire, but wilt leave me to perish miserably in my anguish.' 'No, by Allah, O my brother,' answered she, 'I will not abandon thee, though it cost me my life!'
So he told her all that had befallen him in her absence and that the cause of his distress and affliction was the passion he had conceived for the damsel whom he had seen, when he opened the forbidden door, and how he had not tasted meat nor drink for ten days past. Then he wept sore and recited the following verses:Restore the heart as it used to be to the bosom and the lids Give back again to sleep and then forsake me, an ye list.
The princess wept for his weeping and was moved to compassion for him; so she said to him, 'O my brother, take comfort and be of good cheer, for I will venture my life to content thee and contrive thee a device wherewith thou mayst get possession of her and accomplish thy desire, if it be the will of God, though it cost me my life and all I hold dear. But I charge thee keep the matter secret and discover not thy case to any of my sisters, lest we both lose our lives. If they question thee of the forbidden door, answer them, "I opened it not, being troubled at heart for your absence and my loneliness here and yearning for you."' And he replied, 'Yes: this is the right course.' So he kissed her head and his heart was comforted and his bosom dilated, and his life returned to him, after he had been nigh upon death for excess of affright, for he had gone in fear of her by reason of his having opened the forbidden door.
Then he sought food of her [and she set it before him]; after which she left him and went in to her sisters, weeping and mourning for him. They questioned her of her case and she told them how she was heavy at heart for her brother, for that he was sick and for ten days no food had entered his stomach. So they enquired the cause of his sickness and she said, 'The cause was our absence from him and our leaving him desolate; for these days we have been absent from him were longer to him than a thousand years, and no wonder, seeing he is a stranger, and solitary and we left him alone, with none to company with him or cheer his heart; more by token that he is but a youth and it is like he called to mind his family and his mother, who is an old woman, and bethought him that she weeps for him all tides of the day and watches of the night; and we used to solace him with our society and divert him from thinking of her.'
When her sisters heard this, they wept in the excess of their sorrow for him and said, "Fore Allah, he is excusable!' Then they went out to the troops and dismissed them after which they went in to Hassan and saluted him. When they saw him in sorry case, with his colour paled and his body wasted, they wept for very pity and sat with him and comforted him and cheered him with discourse, relating to him all the wonders and rarities they had seen by the way and what had befallen the bridegroom with the bride. They abode with him thus a whole month, soothing and caressing him; but every day sickness was added to his sickness, which when they saw, they wept sore for him, and the youngest more than any of them.
At the end of this time, the princesses were minded to ride forth a-hunting and invited their sister to accompany them; but she said, 'By Allah, O my sisters, I cannot go forth with you, whilst my brother is in this plight. Rather will I sit with him and comfort him, till he be restored to health and there cease from him that which is with him of affliction.' They thanked her for her humanity and said to her, 'God will requite thee all thou dost with this stranger.' Then they rode forth, taking with them twenty days' victual; and as soon as the youngest princess knew that they were far from the palace, she went in to Hassan and said to him, 'Come, show me where thou sawest the maidens.' He rejoiced in her words, making sure of attaining his desire, and answered, 'In the name of God! On my head!' Then he essayed to rise and show her the place, but could not walk; so she took him in her arms, and opening the staircase door, carried him up to the top of the palace, and he showed her the pavilion and the pool of water, where he had seen the girls.
Then she said to him, 'O my brother, set forth to me their case and how they came.' So he described them to her and especially the damsel of whom he was enamoured; whereupon she knew her and her colour changed and she was troubled. 'O my sister,' quoth he, 'what ails thee to change color and be troubled?' And she answered, 'Know, O my brother, that this damsel is the daughter of one of the most puissant kings of the Jinn, and her father hath dominion over men and Jinn and wizards and diviners and tribesmen and guards and countries and islands and cities galore and hath wealth in plenty. Our father is one of his vassals and none can avail against him, for the multitude of his troops and the vastness of his empire and his much wealth. He hath assigned to his daughters a tract of country, a whole year's journey in length and breadth, compassed about with a great river; and thereto none may win, nor man nor genie. He hath an army of women, smiters with swords and thrusters with spears, five-and-twenty thousand in number, each of whom, whenas she mounteth her charger and donneth her battle-harness, is a match for a thousand stout horsemen. Moreover, he hath seven daughters, who equal and even excel their sisters (32) in valour and prowess, and the eldest of them, the damsel whom thou sawest, (33) he hath made queen over the country aforesaid. She is the wisest of her sisters and excels all the folk of her dominions in valour and horsemanship and craft and skill in magic. The damsels thou sawest with her are her guards and favourites and the grandees of her empire, and the feathered skins wherewith they fly are the handiwork of enchanters of the Jinn.
Now they resort to this place on the first day of each month; so, if thou wouldst get possession of this princess and unique jewel and enjoy her beauty and grace, do thou pay heed to my words and keep them in thy memory. Thou must sit here and watch for them; and when thou seest them coming, do thou hide near the pavilion, whereas thou mayst see them, without being seen of them, and beware lest thou show thyself or we shall all lose our lives. When they put off their clothes, note which is the feather-suit of the princess, her of whom thou art enamoured, and take it, and it only, for this it is that carries her to her country, and when thou hast it, thou hast her. And beware lest she beguile thee, saying, "O thou who hast stolen my dress, restore it to me, for I am here in thine hands and at thy mercy!! For, if thou give it her, she will kill thee and break down the palace over our heads and slay our father. Know then thy case and how thou shalt do. When her companions see that her feather-suit is stolen, they will leave her and fly away, and beware lest thou show thyself to them, but wait till they have flown away and she despaireth of them: whereupon do thou go in to her and seize her by the hair of her head and drag her to thee; which being done, she will be at thy mercy. Then carry her down to thy chamber and I rede thee discover not to her that thou hast taken the feather-suit, but keep it with care; for, so long as thou hast it, she is thy prisoner and in thy power, seeing that she cannot fly to her country save with it.'
When Hassan heard her words, trouble and affliction ceased from him and his heart became at ease; so he rose to his feet and kissing his sister's hand, went down with her into the palace, where they slept that night. He tended himself till the morning; and when the sun rose, he opened the staircase door and ascending to the terrace, sat there till nightfall, when his sister brought him meat and drink and a change of clothes and he slept; and thus they did till the end of the month. When he saw the new moon, he rejoiced and began to watch for the birds, and by and by up they came, like lightning. As soon as he saw them, he hid himself where he could watch them, unseen of them, and they lighted down, near the place where he was hidden, and putting off their clothes, descended into the pool. Thereupon Hassan arose and crept, little by little, towards the dresses, and God covered him, so that he possessed himself of the feather-suit, and none of them saw him, for they were laughing and playing with each other.
When they had made an end of their diversion, they came forth of the pool and each of them donned her suit of feathers, except the princess, who sought her suit, that she might put it on, but found it not; whereupon she shrieked and buffeted her face and rent her clothes. Her companions came to her and enquired what ailed her, and she told them that her feather-suit was missing; wherefore they wept and cried out and buffeted their faces: and they were confounded, knowing not the cause of this, and knew not what to do. Presently the night overtook them and they feared to abide with her lest that which had befallen her should befall them also; so they took leave of her and flying away, left her alone. When they were out of sight, Hassan hearkened and heard her say, 'O thou who hast taken my dress and stripped me, I beseech thee to restore it to me and cover my nakedness, so may God not make thee taste my sorrow!'
When Hassan heard her speak thus, with speech sweeter than syrup, his love for her redoubled, passion got the mastery of his reason and he could not endure from her. So he rushed upon her and laying hold of her by the hair, dragged her to him and carried her down to his own chamber, where he threw over her a coverlet of silk and left her weeping and biting her hands. Then he shut the door on her and going to his sister, told her how he had made prize of the princess and carried her to his chamber, where she was now sitting, weeping and biting her hands. When she heard this, she rose forthright and betook herself to the chamber, where she found the captive princess weeping and mourning.
So she kissed the earth before her and saluted her, and the princess said to her, 'O king's daughter, do folk like you deal thus foully with kings' daughters? Thou knowest that my father is a mighty king and that all the kings of the Jinn stand in awe of him and fear his mischief; for that there are with him magicians and sages and diviners and devils and Marids, such as none may cope withal, and under his hand are folk whose tale none knoweth save God. How then doth it beseem you, O daughters of kings, to harbour mortals with you and discover to them our circumstance and yours? Else how should this man come at us?' 'O king's daughter,' answered the other, 'this man is perfect in nobleness and purposely thee no lewdness; but he loves thee, and women were made for men. Did he not love thee, he had not fallen sick and well-nigh given up the ghost on thine account.' And she told her how Hassan had seen her bathing in the pool, with her attendants, and fallen in love with her, and none had pleased him but she, for the rest were all her handmaids.
When the princess heard this, she despaired of deliverance and Hassan's sister fetched her a sumptuous dress, in which she clad her. Then she set before her meat and drink and ate with her and comforted her heart and appeased her fears. And she ceased not to speak her fair and caress her, soothing her with soft and pleasant words and instances and saying, 'Have pity on him who saw thee once and became the victim of thy love:' but she wept till daybreak, when her trouble subsided and she left weeping, knowing that she had fallen [into the snare] and that there was no escape for her. Then she said to Hassan's sister, 'O king's daughter, this my strangerhood and severance from my country and family was ordained of God [and written] upon my forehead, and it becomes me to support with patience what my Lord hath decreed.' Therewith the youngest princess assigned her a chamber, than which there was no goodlier in the palace, and ceased not to sit with her and cheer her and solace her heart, till she took comfort and her bosom dilated and she laughed and there ceased from her the trouble and oppression that possessed her, by reason of her separation from her people and family and country.
Then the youngest princess repaired to Hassan and said to him, 'Arise, go in to her in her chamber and kiss her hands and feet.' So he went in to her and did this and kissed her between the eyes, saying, 'O princess of fair ones and life of souls and delight of beholders, be easy of heart, for I took thee but that I might be thy slave till the Day of Resurrection, and this my sister will be thy hand- maid. O my lady, I desire nought but to take thee to wife, after the law of God and His Apostle, and if thou wilt, I will journey with thee to my country and carry thee to the city of Baghdad and abide with thee there. Moreover, I will buy thee slaves, male and female, and I have a mother, of the best of women, who will be thine hand- maid. There is no goodlier land than ours; everything there is better than elsewhere and its folk are pleasant and bright of face.'
As he bespoke her thus and strove to comfort her, what while she answered him not a syllable, there came a knocking at the palace-gate. So Hassan went out to see who was at the gate and found there the six princesses, who had returned from hunting, bringing with them great plenty of gazelles and wild oxen and hares and lions and hyenas and other game, whereat he rejoiced and went to meet them and saluted them. They wished him health and safety and he wished them the like; after which they alighted and going each to her chamber, put off their soiled clothes and donned fair linen. Then they came forth and demanded the game: so they (34) brought out some thereof for slaughter, keeping the rest by them in the palace, and Hassan girt himself and fell to slaughtering for them, whilst they sported and made merry, mightily rejoiced to see him standing amongst them [restored to health and spirits].
When they had made an end of slaughtering, they addressed themselves to make ready somewhat for their morning meal, and Hassan, coming up to the eldest princess, kissed her head and on like wise did he with the rest one after another. Whereupon said they to him, 'Indeed, O our brother, thou humblest thyself to us passing measure and we marvel at the excess of the affection thou showest us. But God forbid that thou shouldst do this thing, which it behoves us rather to do with thee, seeing thou art a man and insomuch worthier than we, who are of the Jinn.' (35) Thereupon his eyes ran over with tears and he wept sore; so they said to him, 'What ails thee to weep? Indeed, thou troublest our lives with thy weeping this day. It would seem thou longest after thy mother and country. If so, we will equip thee and carry thee to thy home and thy friends.' 'By Allah,' answered he, 'I desire not to part from you!' 'Then which of us hath vexed thee,' asked they, 'that thou art thus troubled?' But he was ashamed to say, 'Nought troubleth me save love of the damsel,' lest they should disavow him: so he was silent and would tell them nought of his case.
Then his sister came forward and said to them, 'He hath caught a bird from the air and would have you help him tame her.' Whereupon they all turned to him and said, 'We are all at thy service and whatsoever thou seekest, we will do: but tell us thy story and conceal from us nought of thy case.' But he said to his sister, 'Do thou tell them, for I am ashamed to face them with these words.' So she said to them, 'O my sisters, when we went away and left this poor fellow alone, the palace was straitened upon him and he feared lest some one should come in to him, for ye know that the sons of Adam are light-witted. So, of his loneliness and trouble, he opened the door of the staircase leading to the roof and sat there, looking upon the valley and watching the gate, in his fear lest any should come thither. One day, as he sat thus, he saw ten birds making for the palace, and they lighted down on the brink of the pool in the pavilion. He watched them and saw, amongst them, one goodlier than the rest, which pecked the others and flouted them, whilst they dared not put out a claw to it.
Presently, they put their claws to their necks and rending their feathers, came forth therefrom and became damsels like the moon at its full, whereof one was fairer of face than the rest and goodlier of shape and more elegant of apparel. Then they put off their clothes and plunging into the water, fell to playing with one another, whilst the chief damsel ducked the other, who dared not lay a finger on her. They ceased not to do thus till near the hour of afternoon prayer, when they came forth of the pool and donning their feather-dresses, flew way, leaving Hassan distracted, with a heart on fire for love of the chief damsel and repenting him that he had not stolen her feather-dress. Wherefore he fell sick and abode on the roof, expecting her return and abstaining from meat and drink and sleep, till the new moon, when they again made their appearance and putting off their clothes went down into the pool. So he stole the chief damsel's feather-suit, knowing that she could not fly without it, and hid it, lest they should discover him and slay him. Then he waited till the rest had flown away, when he arose and seizing the damsel, carried her down into the castle.'
'Where is she?' asked her sisters; and she answered, 'She is with him in such a chamber.' Quoth they, 'Describe her to us, O our sister.' So she said, 'She is fairer than the moon on the night of its full and her face is brighter than the sun; the water of her mouth is sweeter than honey and her shape more slender than the cane. She hath black eyes and flower-white forehead; a bosom like a jewel, breasts like twin pomegranates and cheeks like apples, a belly covered with dimples, with a navel like a casket of ivory full of musk, and legs like columns of alabaster. She ravishes all hearts with liquid black eyes and the fineness of a slender waist and heavy buttocks and speech that heals the sick. She is goodly of shape and sweet of smile, as she were the full moon.' When the princesses heard this, they turned to Hassan and said to him, 'Show her to us.' So he arose, love- distraught, and carrying them to the chamber in which was the captive damsel, opened the door and entered, followed by the seven princesses.
When they saw her and noted her loveliness, they kissed the earth before her, marvelling at the fairness of her favour and the elegance of her shape, and said to her, 'O daughter of the Supreme King, this is indeed a parlous thing: and hadst thou heard tell among women of this mortal, thou hadst marvelled at him all thy days. Indeed, he is passionately enamoured of thee; yet, O king's daughter, he seeketh not lewdness, but desireth thee only in the way of lawful marriage. But that we know maids cannot do without men, we had hindered him from his intent, albeit he sent thee no messenger, but came to thee himself; and he tells us he hath burnt the feather-dress; else had we taken it from him.' Then one of them agreed with the princess and becoming her deputy in the matter of the marriage contract, performed the marriage ceremony between them, whilst Hassan clapped hands with her, laying his hand in hers, and she wedded him to the damsel with the latter's consent; after which they celebrated her marriage-festival, as beseemeth kings' daughters, and brought Hassan in to his bride. So he rose and opened the door and did away the barrier and broke her seal, whereupon the love of her waxed in him and he redoubled in passion and affection for her. Then, since he had gotten that which he sought, he gave himself joy and repeated these verses:Thy shape a tempter is, thine eyes, gazelle-like, black and white; Thy face with beauty's water drips, with every charm bedight.
Now the princesses were standing at the door, and when they heard his verses, they said to her, 'O king's daughter, hearest thou what this mortal says? How canst thou blame us, seeing that he makes verses for love of thee?' When she heard this, she rejoiced and was glad, and Hassan abode with her forty days in all delight and solace and contentment and cheer, whilst the damsels made him new festivities every day and overwhelmed him with bounty and gifts and presents; and the princess became reconciled to her sojourn amongst them and forgot her people and friends. At the end of this time, Hassan saw in a dream, one night his mother mourning for him and indeed her bones were wasted and her body emaciated and she was pale and wan, whilst he was in good case. When she saw him thus, she said to him, 'O my son Hassan, how is it that thou livest at thine ease and forgettest me? See my plight since thy loss. I do not forget thee, nor will my tongue leave to name thee till I die; and I have made thee a tomb in my house, that I may never forget thee. I wonder, O my son, if I shall live to see thee with me and if we shall ever again be united as we were.'
Hassan awoke from sleep, weeping and lamenting; the tears on down his cheeks like rain and he became mournful and troubled; his tears ceased not nor did sleep visit him, but he had no rest and no patience was left to him. When he arose, the princesses came in to him and gave him good-morrow and made merry with him, as of their wont; but he paid no heed to them. So alley asked his wife what ailed him and she said, 'I know not.' Quoth they 'Ask him of his case.' So she went up to him and said, 'What ails thee, O my lord?' Whereupon he sighed and groaned and told her what he had seen in his dream. Then he repeated the following verses:Afflicted sore am I, distraught with love and dole; Union I seek, yet know no way unto my goal.
His wife repeated what he had said to the princesses, who, hearing the verses, took pity on him and said to him, 'In God's name, do as thou wilt, for we may not hinder thee from visiting thy mother, but will rather help thee thereto by all means in our power. But it behoves that thou desert us not, but visit us, though it be but once a year.' And he answered, 'I hear and obey.' Then they arose forthright and making him ready victual [for the journey], equipped the bride for him with clothes and ornaments and everything of price, such as beggar description. Moreover, they bestowed on him gifts and presents, such as the pen availeth not to set forth, amongst the rest five-and-twenty chests of gold and fifty of silver. Then they beat the drum and up came dromedaries from all sides. They chose of them such as availed to carry all the gear they had prepared and mounting Hassan and his bride on others, rode with them three days, wherein they accomplished three months' journey.
Then they bade them farewell and addressed themselves to return; whereupon the youngest threw herself on Hassan's neck and wept till she fainted. When she came to herself she repeated the following verses:Would God the day of parting ne'er might be! It leaves no sleep unto the eyes of me.
Then she bade him farewell, straitly charging him, whenas he should have come to his native land and foregathered with his mother and set his heart at ease, to fail not of paying her a visit once in every six months and saying, 'If aught trouble thee or thou be in fear of any vexation, beat the Magian's drum, whereupon the dromedaries will come to thee; and do thou mount and return to us.' He swore to do her bidding and conjured them to return. So they returned to the palace, mourning for their separation from him, especially the youngest, to whom no rest was left nor would patience come at her call, but she wept night and day.
Meanwhile, Hassan and his wife fared on night and day, through noontide heats and early dawns, over plains and deserts and valleys and stony wastes; and God decreed them safety, so that they reached Bassora without hindrance and made their camels kneel at the door of his house. Hassan then dismissed the dromedaries and going up to the door, to open it, heard his mother weeping and reciting the following verses, in a faint voice, from a heart worn [with sorrow] and on fire with consuming affliction:How shall she taste, forsooth, of sleep, who lacks of all repose, Who wakes anights, when every eye in slumber else doth close?
When Hassan heard his mother weeping and lamenting, he wept also and knocked loudly at the door. Quoth she, 'Who is at the door?' And he said, 'Open.' Whereupon she opened the door and knowing him, fell down in a swoon: but he tended her till she came to herself, when he embraced her and she embraced him and kissed him, whilst his wife looked on. Then he carried his goods and gear into the house, whilst his mother repeated the following verses, for that her heart was comforted and God had reunited her with her son:Fortune hath taken ruth on my case ; Yea, she hath pitied my long despair,
Then they sat talking and his mother said to him, 'O my son, how faredst thou with the Persian?' 'O my mother,' answered Hassan, 'he was no Persian, but a Magian, who worshipped the fire, not the All-powerful King.' Then he told her how he had dealt with him, in that he had journeyed with him (to the Mountain of Clouds) and sewed him in the camel's skin, and how the rocs had taken him up and set him down on the mountain-top and what he had seen there of dead folk whom the Magian had deluded and left (to perish) on the mountain, after they had done his occasion. And he told her how he had cast himself from the mountain-top into the sea and God the Most High had preserved him and brought him to the palace of the (seven) damsels and how the youngest of them had taken him to brother and he led sojourned with them, till God brought the Magian to the place where he was and he slew him. Moreover, he told her of his passion for the damsel and how he had made prize of her and of his seeing her (his mother) in sleep and all else that had befallen him up to the time when God reunited them.
She marvelled at his story and praised God who had restored him to her in health and safety. Then she arose and examined the baggage and loads and questioned him of them. So he told her what was in them, whereat she was mightily rejoiced. Then she went up to the princess, to talk with her and bear her company; but, when her eyes fell on her, she was confounded at her loveliness and rejoiced and marvelled at her beauty and grace and symmetry: and she sat down beside her, cheering her and comforting her heart. Next morning, early, she went down into the market and bought magnificent furniture and ten suits of the richest raiment in the city, and clad the princess and adorned her with every thing costly. Then said she to Hassan, 'O my son, we cannot abide in this city with all this wealth; for thou knowest that we are poor folk and the people will suspect us of practising alchemy. So come, let us depart to Baghdad, the Abode of Peace, where we may dwell in the Khalif's Sanctuary, and thou shalt sit in a shop to buy and sell, in the fear of God (to whom belong might and majesty) and He shall prosper thee with this wealth.'
Hassan fell in with her counsel and going forth straightway, sold the house and summoned the dromedaries, which he loaded with all his goods and gear, together with his mother and wife. Then he went down to the Tigris, where he hired a vessel to carry them to Baghdad and embarked therein with his mother and wife and all his possessions. They sailed up the river ten days, with a fair wind, till they came in sight of Baghdad, at which they rejoiced, and the ship landed them in the city, where Hassan hired a storehouse in one of the khans and transported his goods thither. He lodged in the khan that night and on the morrow, he changed his clothes and going down into the city, enquired for a broker. The folk directed him to one, and when the broker saw him, he asked him what he lacked. Quoth he, 'I want a house, a handsome and spacious one.' So the broker showed him the houses at his disposal and he chose one that belonged to one of the viziers and buying it of him for a hundred thousand dinars, gave him the price. Then he returned to the khan and removed all his goods to the house; after which he went down to the market and bought all that was needed therefor of vessels and carpets and other household stuff, besides servants and a little black slave for the house.
He abode with his wife in all solace and delight of life three years, during which time he was vouchsafed by her two sons, one of whom he named Nasir and the other Mensour: but, at the end of this time, he bethought him of his sisters, the princesses, and called to mind all their goodness to him and how they had helped him to his desire. So he longed after them and going out to the markets of the city, bought trinkets and costly stuffs and confections such as they had never seen nor known. His mother asked him why he bought these rarities and he answered, 'I purpose to visit my sisters, who entreated me with all kindness and to whose goodness and munificence I owe all that I at present enjoy: wherefore I will journey to them and return soon, so God please.' Quoth she, 'O my son, be not [long] absent from me.'
Then said he, 'Know, O my mother, how thou shalt do with my wife. Here is her feather-dress in a chest, buried in the earth in such a place; do thou watch over it, lest she light on it and take it, for she would fly away, she and her children, and I should never hear of them again and should die of grief; wherefore I warn thee, O my mother, that thou name this not to her. Thou must know that she is the daughter of a king of the Jinn, than whom there is not a greater among the kings of the Jinn nor a richer in troops and treasure, and she is mistress of her people and dearest to her father of all he hath. Moreover, she is exceeding high-spirited, so do thou serve her thyself and suffer her not to go forth the door neither look out of window nor over the wall, for I fear the air for her, when it blows, and if aught befell her, I should slay myself for her sake.' 'O my son,' replied she, 'God forbid that I should gainsay thee! Am I mad that thou shouldst lay this injunction on me and I disobey thee therein? Depart, O my son, with a heart at ease, and God willing, thou shalt return in safety and see her and she shall tell thee how I have dealt with her: but tarry not beyond the time to come and go.'
Now, as fate would have it, his wife heard what he said to his mother and they knew it not. Then Hassan went without the city and beat the drum, whereupon up came the dromedaries and he loaded twenty of them with rarities of Irak; after which he returned to his mother and repeated his injunctions to her and took leave of her and his wife and children, one of whom was a yearling babe and the other two years old. Then he mounted and fared on ten days, without stopping night or day, over hills and valleys and plains and wastes, till, on the eleventh day, he reached the palace and went in to his sisters, with the presents he had brought them. The princesses rejoiced at his sight and gave him joy of his safety, whilst the youngest decorated the palace within and without. Then they took the presents and lodging him in a chamber as of old, enquired at him of his wife and mother and he told them that his wife had borne him two sons. And the youngest princess, seeing him well and in good case rejoiced with an exceeding joy and repeated the followed verse:For news of thee, whene'er it blew, the wind I have besought, And never any but thyself occurreth to my thought.
Then he abode with them, an honoured guest, three months, passing his time in hunting and merrymaking and joy and delight.
To return to his wife. She abode with his mother two days after her husband's departure, and on the third day, she said to her, 'Glory be to God! Have I lived with him three years and shall I never go to the bath?' Then she wept and Hassan's mother took pity on her and said to her, 'O my daughter, we are strangers here and my husband is abroad. Were he at home, he would serve thee himself, but, as for me, I know no one. However, O my daughter, I will heat thee water and wash thy head in the bath that is in the house.' 'O my lady,' answered the princess, 'hadst thou spoken thus to one of the slave- girls, she had demanded to be sold in the open market and had not abode with thee. Men are excusable, for they are jealous and their reason tells them that, if a woman go forth the house, belike she will do lewdness. But, O my lady, women are not all alike and thou knowest that, if a woman have a mind to aught, whether it be the bath or what not else, none may avail against her, to guard her or keep her or debar her from her desire; and nought restraineth her but her reason and her religion.'
Then she wept and cursed and bemoaned herself and her strangerhood, till Hassan's mother was moved to pity for her case and knew that all she said was true and that there was nothing for it but to let her have her will. So she committed the affair to God (extolled and exalted be He!) and making ready all that they needed for the bath, took her and went with her thither. She carried her two little sons with her, and when they entered, they put off their clothes and all the women fell to gazing on the princess and glorifying God (to whom belong might and majesty) for that He had created so glorious a form. The report of her was noised abroad in Baghdad and the women of the city flocked to gaze upon her, till the bath was so crowded that there was no passing through it.
Now, as destiny would have it, there was present that day, with the rest of the women in the bath, one of the slave-girls of the Khalif Haroun er Reshid, by name Tuhfeh the Lutanist, and she, finding the bath crowded and no passing for the multitude of women and girls, asked what was to do; and they told her of the [strange] damsel. So she went up to her and considering her straitly, was amazed at her grace and beauty and glorifed God (magnified be His majesty) for the fair forms He hath created. The sight of her diverted her from her bath, so that she went not [farther] in nor washed, but sat staring at the princess, till she had made an end of washing and coming forth [of the hot room] put on her clothes, whereupon beauty was added to her beauty. She sat down on the divan, whilst the women gazed upon her; then she looked at them and veiling herself, went out.
Tuhfeh went out with her and followed her, till she saw where she dwelt, when she left her and returned to the Khalif's palace. Then she went in to the lady Zubeideh and kissed the earth before her; and the princess said to her, 'O Tuhfeh, why hast thou tarried in the bath?' 'O my lady,' answered she, 'I have seen a marvel, never beheld I its like amongst men or women, and this it was that distracted me and confounded my wit and amazed me, so that I forgot to wash my head.' 'And what was that?' asked Zubeideh. 'O my lady,' replied Tuhfeh, 'I saw a damsel in the bath, having with her two little boys like moons, never saw any her like, before nor after her, nor is there the like of her form in the whole world. By thy munificence, O my lady, if thou toldest the Commander of the Faithful of her, he would slay her husband and take her from him, for she hath not her like among women. I asked of her husband and they told me that he is a merchant called Hassan of Bassora. Moreover, I followed her from the bath to her own house and found it to be that of the vizier, with the two gates, one giving on the river and the other on the street. Indeed, O my lady, I fear lest the Khalif hear of her and break the law t and put her husband to death and take her to wife.'
'Out on thee, O Tuhfeh!' rejoined Zubeideh. 'Is this damsel endowed with such extraordinary grace and beauty that the Commander of the Faithful should, on her account, barter his soul's good for his worldly pleasure and transgress the law! By Allah, I must needs look on her, and if she be not as thou sayest, I will strike off thy head! O baggage, there are in the Khalif's harem three hundred and threescore slave-girls, after the number of the days of the year, yet is there none amongst them such as thou describest!' 'No, by Allah, O my lady!' answered Tuhfeh. 'Nor is there her like in all Baghdad; no, nor amongst the Arabs or the barbarians, nor hath God (to whom belong might and majesty) created the like of her!'
Therewith Zubeideh called for Mesrour, who came and kissed the earth before her, and she said to him, 'O Mesrour, go to the vizier's house, that with the two gates, one giving on the street and the other on the river, and bring me in haste the damsel who dwells there, with her two children and the old woman who is with her, and tarry not.' 'I hear and obey,' answered Mesrour and repairing to Hassan's house, knocked at the door. Quoth the old woman, 'Who is at the door?' 'Mesrour,' answered he, 'the eunuch of the Commander of the Faithful.' So she opened the door and he entered and saluted her; whereupon she returned his salute and asked his errand. Quoth he, 'The lady Zubeideh, daughter of El Casim and wife of the Commander of the Faithful Haroun er Reshid, fifth of the sons of Abbas, uncle of the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve!), bids thee to her, thee and thy son's wife and her children; for the women have told her of her and her beauty.' 'O Mesrour,' answered the old woman, 'we are strangers and my son, the girl's husband, is abroad and hath straitly charged me not to go forth nor let her go forth, in his absence, neither show her to any of the creatures of God the Most High; and I fear me, if aught befall her and he come back, he will slay himself; wherefore I beseech thee, of thy favour, O Mesrour, require us not of that whereto we are unable.' 'O my lady,' rejoined Mesrour, 'if I knew aught to be feared for you in this, I would not require you to go; the lady Zubeideh desireth but to see her and [then] she may return. So disobey not, or thou wilt repent; and like as I take you, I will bring you both back in safety, so it please God the Most High.'
The old woman could not gainsay him; so she went in and making the damsel ready, brought her and her children forth and followed Mesrour to the Khalif's palace, where he carried them in and set them before the lady Zubeideh. They kissed the earth before her and called down blessings upon her; and Zubeideh said to the damsel, who was veiled, 'Wilt thou not uncover thy face, that I may look on it?' So she kissed the ground before her and unveiling, discovered a face that put to shame the full moon in the height of heaven. Zubeideh fixed her eyes on her and let them travel over her, whilst the palace was illuminated by the light of her countenance.
The princess and all who were present were amazed at her beauty and all who looked on her became mad and could speak to none. As for Zubeideh, she rose and making the damsel stand up, (36) strained her to her bosom and seated her by herself on the couch. Moreover, she commanded to decorate the palace [in her honour] and calling for a suit of the richest raiment and a necklace of the most precious jewels, put them upon her. Then said she to her, 'O princess of fair ones, verily thou astoundest me and fillest mine eyes [with delight]. What arts knowest thou?' 'O my lady,' answered she, 'I have a dress of feathers, which if I put on before thee, thou wouldst see one of the fairest of fashions and marvel thereat, and all who saw it would talk of its goodliness, generation after generation.' 'And where is this dress of thine?' asked Zubeideh. 'It is with my husband's mother,' replied the damsel. 'Do thou seek it of her for me.'
So Zubeideh said to the old woman, 'My life on thee, O my mother, go and fetch us her feather-dress, that we may divert ourselves by looking on what she will do, and after take it again.' 'O my lady,' replied the old woman, 'this damsel is a liar. Hast thou ever seen a woman with a dress of feathers? Indeed, this pertaineth but to birds.' But the damsel said to Zubeideh, 'As I live, O my lady, she hath a feather-dress of mine and it is in a chest, which is buried in such a store-closet in the house.' So Zubeideh took from her neck a necklace of jewels, worth all the treasures of Chosroes and Caesar, and gave it to the old woman, saying, 'O my mother, I conjure thee by my life, take this necklace and go and fetch us this dress, that we may divert ourselves with the sight thereof, and after take it again!' But she swore to her that she had never seen the dress and knew not what the damsel meant by her speech.
Then Zubeideh cried out at her and taking the key from her, called Mesrour and said to him, 'Take this key and go to the house and enter such a store-closet there, amiddleward which thou wilt end a chest buried. Take it and break it open and bring me the feather-dress that is therein.' 'I hear and obey,' answered he and went forth, whereupon the old woman arose and followed him, weeping and repenting her of having given ear to the damsel and gone to the bath with her, for her desire to go thither was but a trick. So she went with him to the house and opened the door of the closet, and he entered and brought out the chest. Then he took therefrom the feather- dress and wrapping it in a handkerchief, carried it to the princess Zubeideh, who took it and turned it about, marvelling at the beauty of its fashion; after which she gave it to the damsel, saying, 'Is this thy dress of feathers?' 'Yes, O my lady,' answered she, and took it joyfully. Then she examined it and rejoiced to find it whole as it was, not a feather missing. So she came down from beside the lady Zubeideh and taking her sons in her bosom, wrapped herself in the feather-dress and became a bird, by the ordinance of God (to whom belong might and majesty), whereat Zubeideh and all who were present marvelled. Then she walked with a proud and graceful gait and danced and sported and flapped her wings, whilst all eyes were axed on her and all marvelled at what she did.
Then said she with fluent tongue, 'Is this goodly, O my ladies?' And they answered, 'Yes, O princess of the fair! All that thou dost is goodly.' 'And this,' said she, 'that I am about to do is goodlier yet.' Then she spread her wings and flying up with her children to the dome of the palace, perched on the cornice of the saloon, whilst they all looked at her, wide-eyed and said, 'By Allah, this is indeed a rare and goodly fashion! Never saw we its like.' Then, as she was about to take flight for her own land, she bethought her of Hassan and said, 'Hark ye, my mistresses!' and she recited the following verses:Thou that hast left these lands and tow'rds the countries, where Thy loved ones (37) dwell, with swift and fleeting feet dost fare,
When she had made an end of her verses, the lady Zubeideh said to her, 'Wilt thou not come down to us, that we may take our fill of thy beauty, O fairest of the fair? Glory be to Him who hath given thee eloquence and beauty!' But she said, 'God forbid that what is past should return!' Then to the mother of the wretched Hassan, 'By Allah, O my lady,' said she, 'it irketh me to part from thee; but, when thy son cometh and the days of separation are long upon him and he craveth reunion with me and meeting and the winds of love and longing agitate him, let him come to me in the Islands of Wac.' Then she took flight with her children and sought her own country, whilst the old woman wept and buffeted her face and lamented till she swooned away. When she came to herself she said to the lady Zubeideh, 'O my lady, what is this thou hast done?' And Zubeideh said to her, 'O my lady the pilgrim, I knew not that this would happen and hadst thou told me of the case and acquainted me with her condition, I had not gainsaid thee. Nor did I know that she was of the Flying Jinn; else had I not suffered her to don the dress nor take her children: but now words profit nothing; so do thou acquit me of offence against thee.' And the old woman could do no otherwise than answer, 'Thou art acquitted.'
Then she went forth the palace and returning to her own house, buffeted her face till she swooned away. When she came to herself, she wearied after her daughter- in-law and her children and for the sight of her son and repeated the following verses:Your absence, on the day of parting, when you went From home, enforced me weep for grief and dreariment.
Then she dug three raves in the house and betook herself to them with weeping all tides of the day and watches of the night; and when her son's absence was long upon her and grief and longing and unquiet waxed upon her, she recited these verses:Thine image 'twixt mine eyelids still harbours, when they close, As in my heart thy memory in throbbing and repose.
Meanwhile, when Hassan came to the princesses, they conjured him to tarry with them three months [and he consented and sojourned with them for that time], after which they gave him eve loads of gold and the like of silver and one load of victual and accompanied him on his homeward way, till he conjured them to return, whereupon the youngest came up to him, to bid him farewell, and embracing him, wept till she fainted. Then she recited the following verses:Ah, when shall parting's fire be quenched by thy return once more? When shall I have my wish of thee and we be as of yore?
Then came forward the second princess and embraced him and recited these verses:Like the parting from life is the parting from thee And thy loss as the loss of heaven's rains is to me.
Then came forward the third and embraced him and recited these verses:We left not to take leave, upon our parting day, For weariness or aught of ill intention; nay,
Then came forward the fourth and embraced him and recited these verses:Nought made me weep, save only when he, in parting guise, Did me of his departure so cruelly apprise.
Then came forward the fifth and embraced him and recited these verses:Depart thou not; for I've no strength without thee to endure Nor unto a departing one courage to say farewell;
Then came forward the sixth and embraced him and recited these verses:I said, when the camels away with them fared And longing mine entrails did ravage, 'Ah me!
Then came forward the seventh and embraced him and recited these verses:Indeed, the severance from thee hath made my heart to ache: I have no bowels of the like of thee farewell to take.
Hassan also wept for parting from them, till he swooned, and repeated the following verses:Indeed, upon the parting day, my eye with pearls did rain Of dropping tears, whose necklaces I strung in many a skein.
Then he bade them farewell and fared on diligently night and day, till he came to Baghdad, the Abode of Peace and Sanctuary of the Abbaside Khalifs, unknowing what had passed in his absence. Here he dismissed the dromedaries and entering his house, went in to his mother, to salute her, but found her worn of body and wasted of bones, for much mourning and watching and weeping and lamentation, till she was grown like a skewer and could make him no answer. He asked her of his wife and children and she wept till she swooned away, whereupon he searched the house for them, but found no trace of them. So he went to the store-closet and finding it open and the chest broken and the feather-dress missing, knew that his wife had possessed herself thereof and flown away with her children. Then he returned with his mother and finding her recovered from her swoon, questioned her of his wife and children, whereupon she wept and said, 'O my son, may God amply requite thee their loss! These are their three tombs.'
When Hassan heard these words of his mother, he gave a great cry and fell down in a swoon, in which he lay from the first of the day till noon; wherefore anguish was added to his mother's anguish and she despaired of his life. However, after awhile, he came to himself and wept and buffeted his face and rent his clothes and went about the house in a state of distraction, reciting the following verses:Folk have made moan of passion before me, of past years, And live and dead for absence have suffered pains and fears;
Then he drew his sword, and coming up to his mother, said to her, 'Except thou tell me the truth of the case, I will strike of thy head and [after] kill myself.' 'O my son,' answered she, 'put up thy sword and sit down, till I tell thee what hath passed.' So he sheathed his sword and sat by her side, whilst she recounted to him all that had passed in his absence, adding, 'O my son, but that I saw her weep to go to the bath and feared that she would complain to thee, on thy return, and thou wouldst be wroth with me, I had not carried her thither; nor had I brought out the feather-dress, though I died for it, were it not that the princess Zubeideh was wroth with me and took the key from me by force: and thou knowest, O my son, that no hand may measure length with that of the Khalifate. (38) When they brought her the dress, she took it and turned it over, fearing lest somewhat might be lost thereof, but found it whole, wherefore she rejoiced and making her children fast to her middle, donned the feather-vest, after the lady Zubeideh had pulled off to her all that was upon her and clad her therein, in honour of her and because of her beauty. No sooner had she done this than she shook and becoming a bird, walked about the palace, whilst all who were present gazed at her and marvelled at her beauty and grace. Then she flew up to the roof and perching on the cornice, looked at me and said, "When thy son cometh and the nights of separation are long on him and he craveth reunion with me and meeting and the winds of love and longing agitate him, let him leave his native land and journey to the Islands of Wac." This, then, is her story and what befell in thine absence.'
When she had made an end of her story, Hassan gave a great cry and fell down in a swoon, from which he ceased not till nightfall, when he revived and fell to buffeting his face and writhing on the floor like a wounded snake. His mother sat by his head, weeping, till midnight, when he came to himself and wept sore and recited the following veres:Pause and behold his sorry state whom ye have left to mourn, So haply you will pity him, after despite and scorn.
Then he rose and went round about the house, weeping and lamenting and bemoaning himself, five days, without tasting meat or drink. His mother came to him and conjured him, till he broke his fast, and besought him to leave weeping; but he hearkened not to her and continued to weep and lament, whilst she strove to comfort him and he heeded her not. Then he recited the following verses:My soul for love a burden bears, so great, All strength that is would fail beneath its weight.
He abode thus till daybreak when his eyes closed and he [fell asleep, for sheer weariness, and] saw [in a dream] his wife weeping and repentant for that which she had done. So he started up from sleep, crying out and reciting the following verses:Their image is never absent a breathing-while from my breast: I have made it within my bosom the place of the honoured guest.
He abode thus a whole month, weeping-eyed and mournful-hearted, wakeful by night and eating little, till he bethought him to repair to his sisters and take counsel with them in the matter of his wife, so haply they might help him to regain her. So he summoned the dromedaries and loading fifty of them with rarities of Irak, committed the house to his mother's care and deposited all his goods in safe keeping, except some few he left with her. Then he set out on his journey and stayed not till he reached the palace of the Mountain of Clouds, when he went in to the princesses and gave them the presents, in which they rejoiced. Then they gave him joy of his safety and said to him, 'O our brother, what ails thee to come [again so soon], seeing thou wast with us but two months since?' Whereupon he wept and repeated the following verses:I see my soul all pined for loss of her it held so dear; It hath no ease, in any wise, of life and all its cheer.
Then he gave a great cry and swooned away. The princesses sat round him, weeping over him, till he came to himself and repeated these verses:It may be Fate at last shall turn its bridle-rein And bring me her I love, for Fortune changeth still;
Then he wept, till he fainted again, and presently coming to himself, recited the following:O term of all my pains and all my languishment, Art thou content? Indeed, in passion I'm content.
Then he wept till he swooned away once more and when he came to himself, he repeated these verses:Sleep hath my lids departed, but wake is ever nigh And of the hoarded teardrops still lavish is mine eye.
Then he wept till he fainted away a fourth time, and presently recovering, recited the following lines:Do ye for passion and distress e'en suffer as we do? And is the love of us with you, like to our love for you?
When his sisters heard this and saw his condition, the transport of love and longing and the passion and distraction that possessed him were manifest to them and they questioned him of his case. He wept and told them what had befallen in his absence and how his wife had taken flight with her children, wherefore they grieved for him and asked him what she said at leave-taking. 'O my sisters,' answered be, 'she said to my mother, "Tell thy son, when he cometh and the nights of separation are long upon him and he craveth reunion with me and meeting and the winds of love and longing agitate him, let him join me in the islands of Wac."' When they heard this, they signed to one another with their eyes and shook their heads, and each looked at her sister, whilst Hassan looked at them. Then they bowed their heads and bethought themselves awhile; after which they raised their heads and said, 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! Put forth thy hand to heaven and if thou win thither, then shalt thou win to thy wife and children.'
When he heard this, the tears ran down his cheeks like rain and wet his clothes, and he recited the following verses:Red cheeks and eyes of melting black have charmed my wit away; And still, when cometh sleeplessness, patience farewell doth say.
Then he wept, whilst the princesses wept for his weeping, and they were moved to compassion and jealousy for him. So they fell to comforting him and exhorting him to patience and offering up prayers for his reunion with his wife; whilst his sister [the youngest] said to him, 'O my brother, take heart and be of good courage and have patience; so shalt thou come to thy desire; for whoso is patient and waiteth, attaineth that he seeketh. Patience is the key of relief and indeed the poet saith:Let destiny with slackened rein its course appointed fare And lie thou down to sleep by night, with heart devoid of care;
So take heart and brace up thy resolution, for one who is to live ten years diets not when he is but nine. Weeping and grief and mourning engender sickness and disease; wherefore do thou abide with us till thou be rested, and I will cast about how thou mayst win to thy wife and children, so it please God the Most High.' And he wept sore and recited these verses:An if of its disease my body be made whole, I'm still unhealed of that which harbours in my soul.
Then he sat down beside her and she proceeded to talk with him and comfort him and question him of the manner of his wife's departure. So he told her and she said, 'By Allah, O my brother, I had it in mind to bid thee burn the feather-dress, but Satan made me forget it.' She ceased not to talk with him and caress him and company with him other ten days, whilst sleep visited him not and he delighted not in food; and when the case was long upon him and unrest waxed in him, he recited the following verses:A loved one owns my heart, with whom I companied of yore: There is no creature save herself I wish or weary for.
When the youngest princess saw him thus distracted for passion and love-longing and the fever of desire, she went in to her sisters, tearful-eyed and mournful-hearted, and throwing herself upon them, kissed their feet, weeping, and besought them to devise some means of bringing Hassan to the Wac Islands and effecting his reunion with his wife and children. She ceased not to conjure them to further her brother in the accomplishment of his desire and to weep before them, till she made them weep and they said to her, 'Be of good cheer: we will do our endeavour to bring about his reunion with his family, if it be the will of God the Most High.' And he abode with them a whole year, during which his eyes ceased never from tears.
Now the princesses had an uncle, their father's brother- german, whose name was Abdulcuddous, and he loved the eldest with an exceeding love and was wont to visit her once a year and do her desires. They had told him of Hassan's adventure with the Magian and how he had availed to slay him; whereat he rejoiced and gave the eldest princess perfumes, saying, 'O daughter of my brother, if thou be in concern for aught or stand in any need or if aught irk thee, cast of these perfumes upon fire, naming me, and I will be with thee presently and will do thy desire.' This was said on the first day of the year that was now at an end; and the eldest princess said to her youngest sister, 'Lo, the year is wholly past and my uncle is not come. Rise, bring me somewhat of fire and the box of perfumes.' So the damsel arose, rejoicing, and fetching what she sought, laid it before her sister, who opened the box and taking thence a little of the perfume, cast it into the fire, naming her uncle; nor was it burnt out ere a cloud of dust appeared at the farther end of the valley and presently lifting, discovered an old man riding on an elephant, which trumpeted as it came.
As soon as he came within sight of the princesses, he fell to making signs to them with his hands and feet; nor was it long ere he reached the castle and alighting from the elephant, came in to them, whereupon they embraced him and kissed his hands and saluted him. Then he sat down, whilst the girls talked with him and questioned him of his absence. Quoth he, 'I was sitting but now with your aunt, when I smelt the perfumes and hastened to you on this elephant. What wouldst thou, O daughter of my brother?' 'O uncle,' answered she, 'indeed we longed for thee, for the year is past and it is not thy wont to be absent from us more than a year.' 'I was busy,' answered he, 'but I purposed to come to you to-morrow.' Wherefore they thanked him and blessed him and sat talking with him.
Presently the eldest said to him, 'O my uncle, we told thee the story of Hassan of Bassora, whom Behram the Magian brought and how he slew the latter and after made prize of the Supreme King's daughter and took her to wife and journeyed with her to his native land?' 'Yes,' answered he; 'and what befell him after that?' 'He was blest with two sons by her,' said the princess; 'but she played him false; for she took them in his absence and fled with them to her own country, saying to his mother, "When thy son returneth and asketh for me and the nights of separation are long upon him and he craveth reunion with me and meeting and the winds of love and longing agitate him, let him come to me in the Islands of Wac."'
When Abdulcuddous heard this, he shook his head and bit his hands; then, bowing his head, he fell a-drumming on the earth with his fingers; after which he shook his head and looked right and left and shook his head again, whilst Hassan watched him from a place where he was hidden from him. Then said the princesses to their uncle, 'Vouchsafe us an answer, for our hearts are rent in sunder.' But he shook his head at them, saying, 'O my daughters, this man hath wearied himself [in vain] and cast himself into grievous stress and sore peril; for he may not win to the Wac Islands.'
With this the princesses called Hassan, who came forth and kissed Abdulcuddous's hand and saluted him. The old man rejoiced in him and seated him by his side; whereupon quoth the damsels, 'O uncle, acquaint our brother Hassan with that which thou hast told us.' So he said to Hassan, 'O my son, put away from thee this sore torment; for thou canst never win to the Wac Islands, though the Flying Jinn and the wandering stars were with thee; for that betwixt thee and these islands are seven valleys and seven seas and seven mighty mountains. How then canst thou come at this place and who shall bring thee thither? Wherefore I conjure thee by Allah, O my son, do thou reckon them (40) as dead and turn back forthright and weary not thy soul! Indeed, I give thee good counsel, an thou wilt but accept it.' At these words Hassan wept till he fainted, and the princesses sat round him, weeping for his weeping, whilst the youngest rent her clothes and buffeted her face, till she swooned away.
When the old man saw them in this transport of grief and trouble and mourning, he was moved to pity for them and bidding them be silent, said to Hassan, 'O my son, be of good comfort and rejoice in the accomplishment of thy desire, if it be the will of God the Most High. Rise, O my son, take courage and follow me.' So Hassan arose and followed him, rejoicing in the fulfilment of his wish, after he had taken leave of the princesses. Then the old man called the elephant and mounting, took Hassan up behind him and fared on three days and nights, like the blinding lightning, till he came to a vast blue mountain, whose stones were all blue and amiddleward which was a cavern, with a door of Chinese iron. Here he set Hassan down and alighting, dismissed the elephant. Then he went up to the door and knocked, whereupon it opened and there came out to him a black slave, hairless, as he were an Afrit, with a sword in his right hand and a target of steel in the other. When he saw Abdulcuddous, he threw his sword and buckler from his hand and coming up to him, kissed his hand.
Abdulcuddous took Hassan by the hand and entered with him, whilst the slave shut the door after them; whereupon Hassan found himself in a vast and spacious cavern, through which ran a vaulted passage, and they fared on therein a mile's space, till they came forth upon a great open space and made for an angle [of the mountain] wherein were two great doors of solid brass. The old man opened one of the doors and said to Hassan, 'Sit at the door, whilst I enter and return to thee in haste, and beware lest thou open it and enter.' Then he entered and shutting the door after him, was absent an hour, after which he returned, leading a horse saddled and bridled, which, when it ran, flew, and when it flew, the very dust overtook it not, and brought it to Hassan, saying, 'Mount.' So he mounted and Abdulcuddous opened the second door, beyond which appeared a vast desert.
They passed through the door into the desert and the old man said to him, 'O my son, take this letter and go whither this horse will carry thee. When thou seest him stop at the door of a cavern like this, dismount and throw the bridle over the saddle-bow and let him go. He will enter the cavern, which do thou not enter with him, but abide at the door five days, without losing patience. On the sixth day there will come forth to thee a black elder, clad all in black, with a long white beard, flowing down to his navel. Kiss his hands and take his skirt and lay it on thy head and weep before him, till he take compassion on thee and ask thee what thou wouldst have. Then give him the letter, which he will take and go in and leave thee, without speaking. Wait at the door other five days, without wearying, and on the sixth day expect him; and if he come out to thee himself know that thy need will be accomplished but, if one of his servants come forth to thee, know that he who cometh forth to thee purposeth to kill thee; and peace be on thee! For know, O my son, that whoso imperilleth himself is his own undoer; wherefore, if thou fear for thy life, cast it not into [peril of] destruction; but, if thou fear not, up and do thy will, for I have expounded the case to thee. Yet, if thou be minded to return to thy friends, let me mount thee on the elephant; it will carry thee to the daughters of my brother, who will restore thee to thy country and thy home, and [belike] God will vouchsafe thee a better than this girl, of whom thou art enamoured.' Quoth Hassan, 'And how shall life be sweet to me, except I attain my desire? By Allah, I will never turn back till I regain my beloved or my death overtake me!' And he wept and recited the following verses:For the loss of my belovéd and the passion that for e'er On me grows, I stand proclaiming my abjection and despair.
When Abdulcuddous heard this, he knew that he would not turn back from his desire nor would words have effect on him, and was certified that nothing would serve him but he must adventure himself, though it cost him his life. So he said to him, 'Know, O my son, that the Islands of Wac are seven islands, wherein are great plenty of troops, all virgin girls, and the inner isles are peopled by Satans and Marids and warlocks and tribesmen of the Jinn, whose land none ever entered and returned thence. So, God on thee, return presently to thy people; for know that she whom thou seekest is the king's daughter of all these islands; and how canst thou win to her? Hearken to me, O my son, and belike God will vouchsafe thee a better than she in her stead.' 'O my lord,' answered Hassan, 'though for the love of her I were torn limb from limb, yet should I but redouble in love and transport! Needs must I enter the Wac Islands and come to the sight of my wife and children; and God willing, I will not return save with her and them.' 'Then,' said the sheikh, 'nothing will serve thee but thou must make the journey?' 'Nothing,' answered Hassan: 'and I only ask of thee thy prayers for aid and furtherance; so haply God will presently reunite me with my wife and children.' Then he wept for stress of longing and recited these verses:Ye are my wish, the fairest fair of any mortal wight; Indeed, I've lodged you in the stead of hearing and of sight.
Then he wept till he swooned away; and when he came to himself Abdulcuddous said to him, 'O my son, thou hast a mother; make her not taste [the bitterness of] thy loss.' 'By Allah, O my lord,' replied he, 'I will never return except with my wife or my death overtake me.' And he wept and lamented and recited the following verses:I swear by Love's virtue, my faith tow'rds thee hath not changed for a day For absence; I am not, indeed, of those that their troth plight betray.
With this the old man knew that he would not turn from his purpose, though it cost him his life: so he gave him the letter and prayed for him and enjoined him how he should do, saying, 'I have in this letter given a strait charge concerning thee to Abourruweish, son of Belkis, daughter of Muin, for he is my master and teacher, and all, men and Jinn, humble themselves to him and stand in awe of him. Now go with the blessing of God.'
Hassan gave the horse the rein, and it flew off with him, swiftlier than lightning, and stayed not in its course ten days, when he saw before him a vast mountain, blacker than night, that walled the world from East to West. As he neared it, his horse neighed under him, whereupon there flocked to it horses in number as the drops of rain, none could tell their tale, and fell to rubbing themselves against it. Hassan was affrighted at them and rode on, surrounded by the horses, till he came to the cavern which Abdulcuddous had described to him. The steed stood still at the door and Hassan alighted and threw the rein over the saddle-bow; whereupon the horse entered the cavern, whilst he abode without, as the old man had charged him, pondering the issue of his case and knowing not what would befall him.
He abode thus, at the mouth of the cavern, five days and nights, sleepless, mournful, distracted and perplexed, pondering his severance from home and friends and family, with tearful eye and mournful heart. Then he bethought him of his mother and of what might yet happen to him and of his separation from his wife and children and all that he had suffered and recited the following verses:The med'cine of my heart's with you: indeed, my heart doth fail And from my lids' hill-foot run tears, like rillets to the vale.
Hardly had he made an end of his verses, when out came the Sheikh Abourruweish, black and clad in black raiment, and he knew him by the description that Abdulcuddous had given him. So he threw himself at his feet and rubbed his cheeks on them and taking his skirt, laid it on his head and wept before him. Quoth the old man, 'What wantest thou, O my son?' Whereupon he put out his hand to him with the letter, and he took it and re- entered the cavern, without making him any answer. Hassan remained in his place other five days, whilst fear and concern redoubled on him and restlessness clave fast to him, and he abode weeping and bemoaning himself for the anguish of estrangement and much watching. And he recited the following verses:Glory to Him who rules the skies! The lover in affliction lies.
He ceased not to weep till dawn of the sixth day, when Abourruweish came forth to him, clad in white raiment, and beckoned to him to enter. So he went in, rejoicing and assured of the accomplishment of his desire, and the old man took him by the hand and leading him into the cavern, fared on with him half a day's journey, till they came to a vaulted gateway with a door of steel. Abourruweish opened the door and they entered a vestibule vaulted with onyx stones, inlaid with arabesques of gold, which led them to a great hall, wide and lined with marble. In its midst was a garden containing all manner trees and flowers and fruits, with birds warbling on the branches and singing the praises of God, the Almighty King; and there were four estrades, each facing other, and in each estrade a fountain, at whose corners stood lions of red gold, spouting water from their mouths into the basin. On each estrade stood a chair, whereon sat an elder, with great store of books before him and censers of gold, containing fire and perfumes, and before each elder were students, who read the books to him.
When the two entered, the elders rose and did them honour; whereupon Abourruweish signed to them to dismiss their scholars and they did so. Then the four arose and seating themselves before Abourruweish, asked him of Hassan's case, and he said to the latter, 'Tell the company thy story and all that hath betided thee, first and last.' So Hassan wept sore and related to them his adventures [up to the time when Behram sewed him in the camel's skin and caused the rocs carry him up to the mountain- top]; whereupon all the sheikhs cried out and said, 'Is this indeed he whom the Magian caused ascend the Mountain of Clouds by means of the rocs, sewn up in the skin of a camel?' And he said, 'Yes.' So they turned to the Sheikh Abourruweish and said to him, 'O our sheikh, Behram contrived his ascent to the top of the mountain; but how did he descend thence and what wonders saw he there?' And Abourruweish said, 'O Hassan, tell them how thou camest down and what thou sawest of marvels.'
So he told them all that had befallen him, first and last, and how he had gotten the Magian into his power and slain him and delivered the youth from him and sent him back to his own country and how he had taken the king's daughter of the Jinn and married her and she had borne him two children, yet had played him false and taken them and flown away, and related to them all the perils and hardships he had undergone; whereat they all marvelled and said to Abourruweish, 'O elder of elders, by Allah, this youth is to be pitied! But belike thou wilt aid him to regain his wife and children.' 'O my brothers,' answered he, 'this is a grave and perilous matter; and never saw I any loathe life but this youth. You know that the Wac Islands are hard of access and that none may come to them but at the peril of his life; and ye know also the strength of their people and their guards. Moreover, I have sworn an oath not to tread their soil nor transgress against them in aught: so how shall this man win to the daughter of the Great King and who can avail to bring him to her or help him in this matter?'
'O elder of elders,' replied the others, 'verily this man is consumed with desire and he hath adventured himself to bring thee thy brother Abdulcuddous's letter; wherefore it behoves thee to help him.' And Hassan arose and kissed Abourruweish's feet and raising his skirt, laid it on his head, weeping and saying, 'I beseech thee, by Allah, to reunite me with my wife and children, though it cost me my life and soul!' The four elders all wept for his weeping and said to Abourruweish, 'Deal kindly with this poor fellow for the sake of thy brother Abdulcuddous and profit by this occasion to earn the reward of [God for] him.' Quoth he, 'This unhappy youth knoweth not what he undertaketh; but we will help him after the measure of our power.' When Hassan heard the sheikh's words, he rejoiced and kissed the hands of the five elders, one after another, imploring their aid.
Then Abourruweish took inkhorn and paper and wrote a letter, which he sealed and gave to Hassan, together with a leathern pouch, containing perfumes and flint and steel, and said to him, 'Take care of this pouch, and when thou fallest into any strait, burn a little of the perfumes therein and name me, whereupon I will be with thee presently and deliver thee from thy stress.' Moreover, he bade one of those present fetch him an Afrit of the Flying Jinn; and he did so forthright; whereupon quoth Abourruweish to the genie, 'What is thy name?' 'Thy slave is [called] Dehnesh ben Fectesh,' replied the Afrit. And the sheikh said, 'Draw near to me.' So Dehnesh drew near to him and he put his mouth to his ear and said somewhat to him, whereat the Afrit shook his head and answered, 'I accept, O sheikh of sheikhs.'
Then said Abourruweish to Hassan, 'Arise, O my son, mount the shoulders of this Afrit, Dehnesh the Flyer; but, when he soareth with thee to heaven and thou hearest the angels glorifying God in the air, have a care lest thou do the like; else wilt thou perish and he also.' 'I will not say a word,' replied he, and the old man continued: 'O Hassan, to-morrow at peep of day he will set thee down in a land of pure white, like unto camphor, whereupon do thou fare on ten days by thyself, till thou come to the gate of a city. Enter and enquire for the king of the city; and when thou comest to his presence, salute him and kiss his hand: then give him this letter and heed well that which he shall counsel thee.' 'I hear and obey,' replied Hassan and mounted the Afrit's shoulders, whilst the elders rose and offered up prayers for him and commended him to Dehnesh's care.
Then the Afrit soared with him to the very confines of the sky, till he heard the angels glorifying God in heaven, and flew on with him a day and a night, till he set him down, at dawn of the next day, in a land, white as camphor, and went his way, leaving him there. When Hassan found himself alone in the land aforesaid, he fared on day and night for ten days, till he came to the gate of the city in question and entering, enquired for the king. They directed him to him and told him that his name was Hessoun, King of the Land of Camphor, and that he had troops and soldiers, enough to fill the earth, in its length and breadth. So he sought an audience of him and being admitted to his presence, found him a mighty king and kissed the earth before him. Quoth the king, 'What is thine occasion?' Whereupon Hassan kissed the letter and gave it to him. The king read it and shook his head, then said to one of his officers, 'Take this youth and lodge him in the guest-house.' So he took him and lodged him in the guest-house, where he abode three days, eating and drinking and seeing none but the servant who waited on him and who entertained him with discourse and cheered him with his company, questioning him of his case and how he came thither; whereupon he told him his whole story.
On the fourth day, his attendant carried him before the king, who saith to him, 'O Hassan, the sheikh of sheikhs adviseth me that thou comest to me, seeking to enter the Wac Islands. O my son, I would send thee thither forthright, but that by the way are many perils and thirsty deserts, full of terrors; but have patience and all will be Deli, for needs must I make shift to bring thee to thy desire, so it please God the Most High. Know, O my son, that here is a great army, equipped with arms and horses and gear, who desire to enter the Wac Islands and cannot avail thereto. But, for the sake of the Sheikh Abourruweish, I may not send thee back to him unfulfilled of thy desire. There will presently come to us ships from the Wac Islands, and I will set thee on board the first that arrives and give thee in charge to the sailors, so they may take care of thee and carry thee to the islands. If any question thee of thy case and condition, answer him, "I am kinsman to King Hessoun, lord of the Land of Camphor;" and when the ship makes fast to the shore of the Wac Islands and the master bids thee land, do thou land.
When thou comest ashore, thou wilt see a multitude of settles all about the beach, of which do thou choose one and crouch under it and stir not. As soon as it is dark night, thou wilt see an army of women appear and flock about the merchandise [landed from the ship], and one of them will sit down on the settle, under which thou hast hidden thyself, whereupon do thou put forth thy hand to her and take hold of her and implore her protection. If she accord it thee, thou wilt accomplish thy desire and win to thy wife and children; but, if she refuse thee, make thy moan for thyself and give up all hope of life, for thou art a dead man. For know, O my son, that thou adventurest thy life and except the Lord of Heaven had succoured thee, thou hadst not won hither. This is all I can do for thee, and peace be on thee!' When Hassan heard the king's words, he wept till he swooned away, and when he came to himself, he recited the following verses:A term's decreed to me, which I must needs fulfil, And when its days are spent, I die, will I or nill.
Then he kissed the earth before the king and said to him, 'O mighty king, how many days remain till the coming of the ships?' 'In a month's time,' answered Hessoun, 'they will come and will tarry here other two months, to sell their cargo, after which they will return to their own country: so thou must not look to set out save after three whole months.' Then he bade him return to the guest-house and commanded to supply him with all that he needed of meat and drink and raiment fit for kings. Hassan abode there a month, at the end of which time the ships arrived and the king and the merchants went forth to them, taking Hassan with them. Amongst them he saw a ship, with much people therein, like the pebbles [of the beach] for number; none knew their tale save He who created them. She was anchored in mid-harbour and had small boats, which transported her lading to the shore.
Hassan abode till the crew had carried all the goods ashore and sold and bought and there wanted but three days of the day of departure; whereupon the king sent for him and equipped him with all that he required and gave him great gifts: after which he summoned the captain of the great ship and said to him, 'Take this youth with thee in the ship, so none may know of him but thou, and carry him to the Wac Islands and leave him there; and tell none of him.' And the captain said, 'I hear and obey.' Then said the king to Hassan, 'Look thou tell none of those who are with thee in the ships thine errand nor discover to them aught of thy case; else thou art a lost man.' He answered, 'I hear and obey,' and took leave of the king, after he had wished him long life and victory over his enemies and enviers; wherefore the king thanked him and wished him safety and the accomplishment of his desire. Then he committed him to the captain, who laid him in a chest and taking boat therewith, carried him aboard, whilst the folk were busy transporting the goods and doubted not but the chest contained somewhat of merchandise.
After this, the ships set sail and fared on without ceasing ten days, and on the eleventh day they reached land. So the captain set Hassan ashore and there he saw settles without number, none knew their count save God, even as the king had told him. He went on, till he came to one that had no fellow and hid under it till nightfall, when there came up a great host of women on foot, as they were a swarm of locusts, armed cap-a-pie in hauberks and strait-knit coats of mail and bearing drawn swords in their hands, who, seeing the merchandise landed from the ships, busied themselves therewith.
Presently they sat down, to rest themselves, and one of them seated herself on the settle under which Hassan was hidden: whereupon he took hold of the hem of her skirt and laid it on his head and throwing himself before her, fell to kissing her hands and feet and weeping. 'Harkye, sirrah!' said she. 'Arise and stand up, ere any see thee and slay thee.' So he came forth and standing up, kissed her hands and wept and said to her, 'O my lady, I cast myself on thy protection! Have ruth on one who is parted from his people and wife and children, one who hath haste to rejoin them and adventureth his life and soul [for their sake!]. Take pity on me and be assured that Paradise will be thy reward; or, if thou wilt not receive me, I beseech thee, by God the Great, the Concealer, to conceal my case!' The merchants, seeing him talking with her, stared at him; and she, seeing his humility and hearing his speech, was moved to compassion for him; her heart inclined to him and she knew that he had not ventured himself and come to that place, save for a grave matter. So she said to him, 'O my son, take heart and be of good courage and return to thy hiding-place till the coming night, and God shall do as He will.'
Then she took leave of him and he crept under the settle as before, whilst the troops lighted flambeaux compounded of aloes-wood and crude ambergris and passed the night in sport and delight till the morning. At day- break, the boats returned to the shore and the merchants busied themselves with buying and selling and the transport of the goods and gear till nightfall, whilst Hassan abode hidden beneath the settle, tearful-eyed and mournful- hearted, knowing not what was decreed to him in the secret purpose of God. As he was thus, the woman with whom he had taken refuge came up to him and giving him a shirt of mail and a helmet and spear and sword and a gilded girdle, bade him don them and seat himself on the settle and let none know his case, after which she left him, for fear of the troops. So he arose and donned the coat of mail and helmet and clasped the girdle about his middle. Then he slung the sword over his shoulder and taking the spear in his hand, sat down on the settle, whilst his tongue forgot not to name God the Most High and call on Him for protection.
Presently, there appeared cressets and flambeaux and lanterns and up came the army of women. So he arose and mingling with them, became as one of them. A little before daybreak, they set out. and Hassan with them, and fared on till they came to their encampment, where they dispersed, each to her tent, and Hassan followed his protectress into hers. When she entered, she threw down her arms and put off her hauberk and veil. So Hassan did the like and looking at her, saw her to be a grizzled old woman, blue-eyed (41) and big-nosed, a calamity of calamities. Indeed, she was the foulest of all created things, with pock-marked face and bald eyebrows, gap- toothed and chapfallen, with hoary hair, running nose and slavering mouth; even as saith of the like of her the poet:Within the corners of her face afflictions nine do dwell; Each, when she lays her veil aside, discovers very hell.
And indeed she was like a pied snake or a bald she-wolf. When she looked at Hassan, she marvelled and said, 'How won this man to these lands and in which of the ships was he and how came he hither in safety?' And she fell to questioning him of his case and wondering at his coming, whereupon he fell at her feet and rubbed his face on them and wept till he swooned away ; and when he came to himself he recited the following verses:When will the days vouchsafe reunion to us twain And our long-severed loves reknit into one skein?
Then he took the old woman's skirt and laid it on his head and fell to weeping and craving her protection. When she saw his passion and transport and anguish and distress, her heart inclined to him and she promised him her protection, saying, 'Have no fear.' Then she questioned him of his case and he told her the manner of his coming thither, whereat she wondered and said, 'This that hath betided thee, methinks, never betided any but thyself and except thou hadst been vouchsafed the [especial] protection of God the Most High, thou hadst not been saved: but now, O my son, take comfort and be of good courage; thou hast nothing more to fear, for indeed thou hast reached thy goal and attained thy desire, if it please God the Most High!'
Thereat Hassan rejoiced with an exceeding joy and she sent to summon the captains of the army to her presence, and it was the last day of the month. So they presented themselves and the old woman said to them, 'Go out and proclaim to the troops that they come forth, all, to-morrow at daybreak and let none tarry behind, on pain of death.' 'We hear and obey,' answered they and going forth, made proclamation as she bade them, after which they returned and told her of this; wherefore Hassan knew that she was the commander of the army and the chief in authority over them; and she was called Shewahi, hight Mother of calamities. (42) She ceased not to command and forbid and Hassan put not off his arms from his body that day.
When the day broke, all the troops came forth from their places, but the old woman came not forth with them, and as soon as they were gone and the camp was clear of them, she said to Hassan, 'Draw near unto me, O my son.' So he drew near unto her and stood before her. Quoth she, 'Why hast thou adventured thyself hither and how came thy soul to consent to its own destruction? Tell me the truth and fear not, for thou hast my plighted word and I am moved to compassion for thy case and pity thee and have taken thee under my protection. So, if thou tell me the truth, I will help thee to accomplish thy desire, though it involve the loss of souls and the destruction of bodies; and since thou hast won to me, no hurt shall betide thee from me, nor will I suffer any to come at thee with harm of all that be in the Wac Islands.' So he related to her his story from first to last, acquainting her with the matter of his wife and of the birds, how he had taken her from amongst the ten and married her and abode with her, till she had borne him two sons, and how she had taken her children and flown away with them, whenas she knew the way to the feather-dress: brief, he concealed from her no whit of his case.
When Shewahi heard his relation, she shook her head and said to him, 'Glory be to God who hath brought thee hither in safety and made thee to happen upon me! For, hadst thou lighted on any but me, thou hadst lost thy life, without attaining thy desire: but the truth of thine intent and thy love and the excess of thy longing for thy wife and children, these it was that have brought thee to the attainment of thy wish. Didst thou not love her to distraction, thou hadst not thus adventured thyself, and praised be God for thy safety! Wherefore it behoves us to further thy desire and help thee to thy quest, so thou mayst presently attain that thou meekest, if it be the will of God the Most High. But know, O my son, that thy wife is not here, but in the seventh of the Wac Islands, and between us and it is seven months' journey, night and day. From here we go to an island called the Land of Birds, wherein, for the loud clamour of the birds and the flapping of their wings, one cannot hear other speak.
Therein we journey, night and day, eleven days, after which we come to another land, called the Land of Wild Beasts, where, for the roaring of the lions and howling of wolves and the screaming of hyenas and other beasts of prey, we shall hear nothing; and therein we travel twenty days' journey. Then we come to a third country, called the Land of Jinn, where, for the greatness of the crying of the Jinn and the noise of their groaning and the flaming of fires and the flight of sparks and smoke from their mouths and their arrogance in blocking up the road before us, our ears will be deafened and our eyes blinded, so that we shall neither hear nor see, nor dare any look behind him, or he perishes: but there the horseman bows his head on his saddle-bow and raises it not for three days. After this, we come to a vast mountain and a running river, bordering on the Wac Islands, which are seven in number and the extent whereof is a whole year's journey for a diligent horseman. And thou must know, O my son, that the ruler over us is a woman of these islands and that these troops are all virgin girls.
On the bank of the river aforesaid is another mountain, called Wac, and it is thus named by reason of a tree [which grows there and] which bears fruits like human heads. When the sun rises on them, the heads cry out all, saying, "Wac! Wac! Glory be to the Creating King!" And when we hear their crying, we know that the sun is risen. In like manner, at sundown, the heads set up the same cry, and so we know that the sun hath set. No man may abide with us or win to us or tread our earth. Moreover, betwixt us and the abiding-place of the queen who ruleth over us is a month's journey from this shore, all the people whereof are under her hand, as are also the tribes of the Jinn, Marids and Satans and warlocks, whose number none knoweth save He who created them. Wherefore, if thou be afraid, I will send with thee one who will bring thee to the coast and embark thee on board a ship that shall carry thee to thine own country. But if thou be content to abide with us, I will not forbid thee and thou shalt be with me [as thou wert] in mine eye, till thou accomplish thy desire, so it please God the Most High.'
'O my lady,' answered Hassan, 'I will never leave thee till I foregather with my wife or lose my life!' 'This is a light matter,' rejoined she; 'be of good heart, for thou shalt come to thy desire, God willing; and needs must I let the queen know of thee, that she may help thee to attain thine object.' Hassan blessed her and kissed her head and hands, thanking her for her exceeding kindness. Then he set out with her, pondering the issue of his case and the horrors of his strangerhold; wherefore he fell a-weeping and groaning and recited the following verses:From out my loved one's land a zephyr blows; for stress Of love thou seest me dazed and passion's sheer excess.
Then the old woman bade beat the drums for departure and the army set out. Hassan accompanied her, drowned in the sea of solicitude and reciting verses, whilst she strove to comfort him and exhorted him to patience; but he awoke not [from his melancholy] and paid no heed to her exhortations. They fared on thus till they came to the Land of Birds, and when they entered it, it seemed to Hassan as if the world were overturned, for the exceeding clamor. His head ached and his mind was dazed, his eyes were blinded and his ears deaved, and he feared with an exceeding fear and looked for nothing but death, saying in himself, 'If this be the Land of Birds, how will the Land of Beasts be?' But, when Shewahi saw him in this plight, she laughed at him, saying, 'O my son, if this be thy case in the first island, how will it fare with thee, when thou comest to the others?'
So he humbled himself in prayer to God, beseeching Him to succour him against that wherewithal He had afflicted him and bring him to his wishes; and they ceased not going till they passed out of the Land of Birds and traversing the Land of Beasts, came to the Land of Jinn, which when Hassan saw, he was sore affrighted and repented him of having entered it with them. But he sought aid of God the Most High and fared on with them, till they were quit of the Land of Jinn and came to the river, on whose banks they halted and pitched their tents at the foot of a vast and lofty mountain. Then they rested and ate and drank and slept in security, for they were come to their own country.
On the morrow the old woman set Hassan a settle of alabaster, inlaid with pearls and jewels and nuggets of red gold, by the river-side, and he sat down thereon, having first bound his face with a chinband, that discovered nought of him but his eyes. Then she let proclaim among the troops that they should all assemble before her tent and put off their clothes and go down into the stream and wash; and this she did to the intent that she might show him all the girls, so haply his wife should be amongst them and he know her. So the whole army assembled before her and putting off their clothes, went down into the stream, [company after company;] and Hassan watched them washing and frolicking and making merry, whilst they took no heed of him, deeming him to be of the daughters of the kings. When he beheld them stripped of their clothes, his yard rose on end, for that he saw what was between their thighs, and that of all kinds, soft and domed, plump and cushioned, large-lipped, perfect, redundant and ample (43) and their faces were as moons and their hair as night upon day, for that they were of the daughters of the kings.
When they were clean, they came up out of the water, naked, as the moon on the night of her full, and the old woman questioned Hassan of them, company by company, if his wife were among them; but, as often as she asked him, he made answer, 'She is not among these, O my lady.' Last of all, there came up a damsel, attended by half a score slave-girls and thirty waiting-women, all high-bosomed maids. They all put of their clothes and went down into the river, where the damsel fell to carrying it with a high hand over her women, throwing them down and ducking them. Presently, she came up out of the water and sat down and they brought her napkins of silk, embroidered with gold, with which she dried herself Then they brought her clothes and jewels and ornaments of the handiwork of the Jinn, and she donned them and rose and walked among the troops, she and her maids. When Hassan saw her, his heart fluttered and he said, 'Verily this girl is the likest of all folk to the bird I saw in the lake atop of the palace of my sisters the princesses, and she lorded it over her attendants even as doth this one.' 'O Hassan,' said the old woman, 'is this thy wife?' 'No, by thy life, O my lady,' replied he, 'this is not my wife, nor ever in my life have I set eyes on her; neither among all the girls I have seen in these islands is there the like of my wife nor her match for beauty and grace and symmetry!'
Then said Shewahi, 'Describe her to me and acquaint me with all her attributes, that I may have her in my mind; for I know every girl in the islands, being commander of the army of maids and governor over them; wherefore, if thou describe her to me, I shall know her and will contrive for thee to take her.' Quoth he, 'My wife is of surpassing beauty, dulcet of speech and sweet of fashion, as she were a bending branch. She hath a fair face, a slender shape, smooth cheeks, high breasts, great liquid black eyes, white teeth and soft red lips like coral. On her right cheek is a mole and on her belly, under her navel, is a sign; her face shines as the round of the moon, her waist is slight, her buttocks heavy, and the water of her mouth healeth the sick, as it were Kauther or Selsebil.' (44) 'Give me some plainer account of her,' said the old woman, 'may God increase thee of passion for her!' Quoth he, 'My wife hath a lovely face, oval cheeks like twin roses, long neck and melting black eyes, mouth like a seal of carnelian and flashing teeth, that stand one in stead of cup and ewer. She is cast in the mould of pleasantness and between her thighs is the throne of the Khalifate, there is no such sanctuary among the holy places; as saith in its praise the poet:The letters of that which hath made Me distraught are renowned among men: They are four, multiplied into five, Thereafter and six into ten.' (45)
Then wept Hassan and chanted the following couplet:O heart, if the beloved should play thee false in aught, Renounce her not, I rede thee, nor be thy love forgot.
And this also:If all thy days thou wouldst be safe from trouble and dismay, Despair thou never neither be discouraged nor [too] gay.
Thereupon the old woman bowed her head awhile, then, rising it, said, 'Glory be to God, the Mighty of Estate! Indeed I am afflicted with thee, O Hassan! Would I had never known thee! This woman, whom thou describers to me as thy very wife, I know by thy description to be none other than the eldest daughter of the Supreme King, she who ruleth over all the Wac Islands. (47) So open thine eyes and consider thine affair; and if thou be asleep, awake; for, if this woman be indeed thy wife, it is impossible for thee ever to win to her, and though thou wonnest to her, yet couldst thou not avail to her possession, since the distance between thee and her is as that between earth and heaven. Wherefore, O my son, return presently and cast not thyself into destruction and me with thee; for meseemeth thou hast no lot in her; so return whence thou camest, lest our lives be lost.' And she feared for herself and for him.
When he heard her words, he wept till he swooned away and she sprinkled water on his face, till he came to himself when he continued to weep, so that he wet his clothes with his tears, for the much trouble and chagrin that betided him by reason of her words. And indeed he despaired of life and said to the old woman, 'O my lady, and how shall I turn back, after having won hither? Verily, I thought not thou wouldst forsake me nor fail of the accomplishment of my desire, especially as thou art the chief of the army of girls.' 'O my son,' answered Shewahi, 'I doubted not but thy wife was a maid of the maids, and had I known that she was the king's daughter, I had not suffered thee to come hither nor had I shown thee [the girls], for all the love I bear thee. But now, O my son, thou hast seen all the girls naked; so tell me which of them pleaseth thee and I will give her to thee, in lieu of thy wife, and do thou put it that thy wife and children are dead and take her and return to thine own country in safety, ere thou fall into the king's hand and I have no means of delivering thee. I conjure thee, by Allah, hearken to me. Choose thyself one of these damsels, in the stead of yonder woman and return presently to thy country in safety and cause me not quaff the cup of thine anguish. For, by Allah, thou hast cast thyself into sore affliction and grievous peril, wherefrom none may avail to deliver thee!' But Hassan bowed him head and wept sore and recited these verses:'Reproach me not,' to those who censured me I said; 'For sure my lids for tears and nought but tears were made."
Then he wept till he swooned away and the old woman sprinkled water on him till he revived, when she said to him, 'O my son, I have no shift left; for, if I carry thee to the city, thy life is lost and mine also; for, when the queen cometh to know of this, she will blame me for admitting thee into her islands, to which none of the sons of Adam hath access, and will slay me for bringing thee with me and for suffering thee to look upon these virgins, whom no male hath touched, neither hath husband come near them.' And Hassan swore that he had never looked on them with an evil eye. 'O my son,' continued she, 'hearken to me and return to thy country and I will give thee a girl of the best of them, beside wealth and measures and things of price, such as shall suffice thee for all the women in the world. Give ear, then, to my words and return presently and imperil not thyself; indeed, I give thee good counsel.' But he wept and rubbed his cheeks against her feet, saying, 'O my lady and mistress and solace of mine eyes, how can I turn back without the sight of those I desire, now that I have made my way hither and come near to the abode of the beloved, hoping presently for meetings so haply there may be for me a portion in reunion?' And he recited the following verses:Be kind, O kings of graces to one who's thrall to eyes And eyelids that have ta'en Chosroës' realm to prize.
Then the old woman was moved to pity for him and coming up to him, comforted him, saying, 'Be of good heart and cheerful eye and put away trouble from thy thought, for, by Allah, I will venture myself with thee, till thou attain thy desire or death overtake me!' With this, Hassan's heart was comforted and his bosom dilated and he sat talking with the old woman till the end of the day, when the girls dispersed, some entering their mansions in the city and others passing the night in the tents.
Then the old woman carried him into the city and lodged him in a place apart, lest any should come to know of him and tell the queen of him and she should kill him and her who had brought him thither. Moreover, she served him herself and strove to put him in fear of the mischief of the Supreme King, his wife's father; whilst he wept before her and said, 'O my lady, I choose death for myself and loathe the world, if I foregather not with my wife and children: I have set my life on the venture and will either attain my wish or die.' So the old woman fell to pondering the means of bringing him and his wife together and casting about how to do in this poor wretch's case, who had cast himself into destruction and would not be diverted from his purpose by fear or aught else; for, indeed, he recked not of his life and the byword saith, 'A man in love hearkeneth not to the speech of him who is heart-free.'
Now the name of the queen of the island in which they were was Nour el Huda, eldest daughter of the Supreme King, ruler over the islands and all the lands of Wac, and she had six virgin sisters, abiding with their father, whose court was in the chief city of the land of Wac. The old woman had a claim on her for favour, for that she had reared all the king's daughters and had authority over them all and was high in honour and consideration with them and with the king. So, when she saw Hassan on fire with yearning after his wife and children, she betook herself to the palace and going in to the queen, kissed the earth before her; whereupon Nour el Huda rose to her and embracing her, seated her by her side and asked her of her journey. 'By Allah, O my lady,' answered she, 'it was a blessed journey and I have brought thee a present, which I will lay before thee. Moreover, O my daughter, O queen of the age and the time, I have an occasion to thee and I would fain discover it to thee, that thou mayst help me to accomplish it, and but for my confidence that thou wilt not gainsay me therein, I would not expose it to thee.' 'And what is thine occasion?' asked the queen. 'Expound it to me, and I will accomplish it to thee, for I and my kingdom and troops are all at thy commandment and disposition.'
Therewithal the old woman shook, as the reed shakes on a day of stormy wind, and saying in herself, 'O Protector, protect me from the queen's mischief!' fell down before her and acquainted her with Hassan's case, saying, 'O my lady, a man who had hidden himself under my settle on the sea-shore, besought me of protection; so I took him under my safeguard and carried him with me among the army of women, armed and accoutred so that none might know him, and brought him into the city; and indeed I have striven to fear him with thy mischief, giving him to know of thy prowess and power; but, as often as I threaten him, he weeps and recites verses and says, "Needs must I regain my wife and children or die, and I will not return to my country without them." And indeed he hath adventured himself and won to the Islands of Wac, and never in my life saw I mortal stouter of heart than he or doughtier of courage, save that passion hath gotten the mastery of him to the utmost.'
When Nour el Huda heard this, she was exceeding wroth with her and bowed her head awhile. Then, raising it, she looked at Shewahi and said to her, 'O ill-omened old woman, art thou come to such a pass of lewdness that thou carriest males with thee into the Wac Islands and bringest them in to me, unfearing of my danger? Who hath foregone thee with this fashion, that thou shouldst do thus? By the head of the king, but for thy claim on me for fosterage and service, I would forthwith put both him and thee to the foulest of deaths, that travellers might take warning by thee, O accursed woman, lest any other do the like of this outrageous deed of thine, whereunto none hath dared hitherto! But go and bring him hither forthright, that I may see him; or I will strike off thy head, O accursed one.'
So the old woman went out from her, confounded, knowing not whither she went and saying, 'All this calamity hath God caused betide me from this queen because of Hassan!' and going in to the latter, said to him, 'Come speak with the queen, O thou whose last hour is at hand!' So he rose and went with her, whilst his tongue ceased not to call upon God the Most High and say, 'O my God, be gracious to me in Thy judgments and deliver me from [this] Thine affliction!' And Shewahi charged him by the way how he should speak with the queen. When he stood before Nour el Huda, he found her veiled with the chinband; so he kissed the earth before her and saluted her, reciting the following verses:May God thy glory cause in gladness to endure And that which unto thee He gives to thee secure!
Then Nour el Huda bade the old woman question him before her, that she might hear his answers: so she said to him, 'The queen returns thy greeting and asks thee what is thy name and that of thy country, and what are the names of thy wife and children, on whose account thou art come hither?' 'O queen of the age and the day and peerless jewel of the epoch and the time,' answered he, (and indeed he had made firm his heart and providence aided him,) 'my name is Hassan, the fulfilled of sorrow, and my native city is Bassora. I know not the name of my wife, but my children's names are Mensour and Nasir.'
When the queen heard his reply, she bespoke him herself and said, 'And whence took she her children?' 'O queen,' answered he, 'she took them from the city of Baghdad and the palace of the Khalifate.' Quoth Nour el Huda, 'And did she say nought to thee, whenas she flew away?' And he replied, 'Yes; she said to my mother, "When thy son cometh and the days of separation are long upon him and he craveth meeting with me and reunion and the winds of love and longing agitate him, let him come to me in the Islands of Wac."' Whereupon the queen shook her head and said to him, 'Except she desired thee and yearned for reunion with thee, she had not said this to thy mother, neither had she bidden thee to her country nor acquainted thee with her abiding-place.' 'O mistress of kings and asylum of rich and poor,' rejoined Hassan, 'I have told thee what happened and have concealed nought thereof, and I appeal to God and to thee for succour; wherefore oppress me not, but have compassion on me and earn recompense and requital for me [from God] by aiding me to regain my wife and children. Grant me my urgent need and solace mine eyes with my children and help me to the sight of them.' Then he wept and lamented and recited the following verses:What while the turtle-dove complains, I'll praise thee with my might, Albeit I should fail of that which is thy due and right.
The queen shook her head and bowed it in thought a great while; then, raising it, she said to Hassan (and indeed she was wroth), 'I have compassion on thee and am resolved to show thee all the girls in the city and in the provinces of my island; and if thou know thy wife, I will deliver her to thee; but, if thou know her not and know not her place, I will put thee to death and crucify thee over the old woman's door.' 'I accept this from thee, O queen of the age,' answered Hassan, 'and am content to submit to this thy condition. There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!' And he recited the following verses:Ye've roused my heart to love and yet unmoved yourselves remain; Ye've doomed my wounded lids to wake and sleep, whilst I complain.
Then Queen Nour el Huda commanded that all the girls in the city should come up to the palace and pass in review before Hassan and bade Shewahi go down and bring them up herself. So all the maidens in the city presented themselves before the queen, who caused them go in to Hassan, hundred by hundred, till there was no girl left in the place, but she had shown her to him; but he saw not his wife amongst them. Then said she to him, 'Seest thou her amongst these?' And he answered, saying, 'By thy life, O queen, she is not amongst them.'
With this she was sore enraged against him and said to the old woman, 'Go in and bring out all who are in the palace and show them to him.' So she showed him all the girls in the palace, but he saw not his wife among them and said to the queen, 'As thy head liveth, O queen, she is not among these.' Whereat the queen was wroth and cried out to those about her, saying, 'Take him and drag him along, face to ground, and cut off his head, lest any adventure himself after him and intrude upon us in our country and tread the soil of our islands and spy out our estate.' So they threw him down on his face and covering his eyes with his skirt, stood at his head with drawn swords, awaiting permission [to strike].
But Shewahi came forward and kissing the earth before the queen, took her skirt and laid it on her head, saying, 'O queen, by the claim I have on thee for fosterage, be not hasty with him, more by token of thy knowledge that this poor wretch is a stranger, who hath adventured himself and suffered perils and hardships, such as none ever suffered before him, and God preserved him from death, for that his life was ordained to be long. He heard of thy justice and entered thy city and sanctuary; wherefore, if thou put him to death, the report will be noised abroad of thee, by means of the travellers, that thou hatest strangers and slayest them. In any case he is at thy mercy and the slain of thy sword, if his wife be not found in thy dominions; and whensoever thou desirest his presence, I can bring him back to thee. And indeed I took him not under my protection but of my confidence in thy generosity, through my claim on thee for fosterage, so that I engaged to him that thou wouldst bring him to his desire, of my knowledge of thy justice and kindness of heart. But for this, I had not brought him into thy kingdom; for I said to myself, "The queen will take pleasure in looking upon him and hearing his verses and his sweet and eloquent discoursed like strung pearls." Moreover, he hath entered our land and eaten of our victual; wherefore it behoved us to give him his due, the more that I promised to bring him in company with thee; and thou knowest that parting is grievous and separation slaughter, especially separation from children. Now he hath seen all our women, save only thyself; so do thou show him thy face.'
The queen smiled and said, 'How can he be my husband and have had children by me, that I should show him my face?' Then she made them bring Hassan before her and unveiled her face, which when he saw, he gave a great cry and fell down in a swoon. The old woman ceased not to tend him, till he came to himself and recited the following verses:O zephyr from the land of Irak that dost stray and blowest to the land of those 'Wac! Wac!' that say,
Then he rose and looking on the queen's fare, cried out with a great cry, for stress whereof the palace was like to fall on those who were therein. Then he swooned away again and the old woman tended him till he revived, when she asked him what ailed him and he said, 'This queen is either my wife or else the likest of all folk to her.' Quoth Nour el Huda to the old woman, 'Out on the, O nurse! This stranger is either mad or disordered in mind, for he stareth me in the face with wide eyes and saith I am his wife.' 'O queen,' answered Shewahi, 'indeed he is excusable; so blame him not, for the proverb says, "There is no remedy for the sick of love, and he and the madman are alike." And Hassan wept sore and recited the following verses:I see their traces and pine for longing pain; My tears rain down on the empty dwelling-place;
Then said he to the queen, 'By Allah, thou art not my wife, but thou art the likest of all folks to her!'
Nour el Huda laughed till she fell backward and turned over on her side. Then said she to him, 'O my friend, take thy time and observe me attentively: answer me at thy leisure what I shall ask thee and put away from thee madness and confusion and perplexity, for relief is at hand.' 'O mistress of kings and refuge of all, rich and poor,' answered Hassan, 'when I looked on thee, I was distracted, seeing thee to be either my wife or the likest of all folk to her; but now ask me what thou wilt.' Quoth she, 'What is it in thy wife that resembles me?' 'O my lady,' replied he, 'all that is in thee of beauty and elegance and amorous grace, such as the symmetry of thy shape and the sweetness of thy speech and the redness of thy cheeks and thy swelling breasts and so forth, resembleth her and thou art her very self in thy speech and the fairness of thy favour and the brilliancy of thy forehead.'
When the queen heard this, she smiled and gloried in her beatify and grace and her cheeks reddened and her eyes wantoned; then she turned to Shewahi and said to her, 'O my mother, carry him back to the place where he was with thee and tend him thyself, till I examine into his affair; for, if he be indeed a man of worth and mindful of friendship and love and affection, it becometh us to help him to his desire, more by token that he hath taken up his abode in our country and eaten of our victual, to say nought of the hardships of travel he hath suffered and the horrors and perils he hath undergone. But, when thou hast brought him to thy house, commend him to thy servants' care and return to me in all haste; and God willing, all shall be well.'
So Shewahi carried him back to her lodging and charged her servants and women wait upon him and bring him all he needed nor fail in that which was his due. Then she returned to Nour el Huda, who bade her don her arms and set out, taking with her a thousand stout horsemen, for the city of the Supreme King, her father, there to alight at the abode of her youngest sister, Menar es Sena, and say to her, 'Clothe thy two sons in the coats of mail that their aunt hath made them and send them to her; for she longeth for them.' Moreover the queen charged her keep Hassan's affair secret and say to Menar es Sena, 'Thy sister invitees thee to visit her.'
'Then,' continued she, 'take the children and bring them to me in haste and let her follow at her leisure. Do thou come by a road other than hers and journey night and day and beware of discovering this matter to any. And I swear by all possible oaths that, if my sister prove to be his wife and it appear that her children are his, I will not hinder him from taking her and them and departing with them to his own country, but will aid him thereto. If she be not his wife, I will slay him; but if the children resemble him, we will believe him. For, O my mother, if my thought tell me true, my sister Menar es Sena is his wife, seeing that these traits are her traits and the attributes of surpassing beauty and excelling grace, of which he spoke, are found in none except my sisters and especially the youngest; but God alone is All-knowing!'
The old woman put faith in her words, knowing not what she purposed in herself; so she kissed her hand and returning to Hassan, told him what the queen had said, whereat he was transported for joy and coming up to her, kissed her head. 'O my son,' said she, 'kiss not my head, but my mouth, and be it by way of guerdon for thy salvation. Be of good heart and cheerful eye and grudge not to kiss my mouth, for I was the means of thy fore- gathering with her. So take comfort and be of good cheer nor be thy heart other than light, for, God willing, thy desire shall be accomplished at my hand.' So saying, she bade him farewell and departed, whilst he recited the following verses:My witnesses unto the love of thee are four; Two witnesses each case requireth, and no more.
And these also:Two things there are, whereover if eye wept tear on tear Of blood, till they for weeping were like to disappear,
Then the old women armed herself and taking with her a thousand armed horsemen, set out and journeyed till she came to the island and the city where dwelt the princess Menar es Sena and between which and that of her sister Nour el Huda was three days' journey. Now the king had seven daughters, all sisters-german by one mother and father except the youngest: the eldest was called Nour el Huda, the second Nejm es Sebah, the third Shems ez Zuha, the fourth Shejeret et Durr, the fifth Cout el Culoub, the sixth Sheref el Benat and the youngest Menar es Sena, Hassan's wife, who was their sister by the father's side only. When Shewahi reached the city, she went in to the princess Menar es Sena and saluting her, gave her her sister's greeting and acquainted her with the latter's longing for her and her children and that she reproached her for not visiting her. Quoth Menar es Sena, 'Verily, I am beholden to my sister and have failed of my duty to her in not visiting her, but I will do so now.' Then she bade pitch her tents without the city and took with her a suitable present for her sister.
Presently, the king her father looked out of the window of his palace, and seeing the tents pitched by the road, enquired of them, and they said to him, 'The princess Menar es Sena hath pitched her tents there, being minded to visit her sister Queen Nour el Huda.' When the king heard this, he equipped troops to escort her to her sister and brought out to her from his treasuries meat and drink and treasure and jewels and rarities, that beggar description. Presently the old woman again presented herself and kissed the earth before the princess, who said to her, 'Hast thou any need, O my mother?' Quoth Shewahi, 'Thy sister, Queen Nour el Huda, biddeth thee clothe thy sons in the two coats of mail which she made for them and send them to her by me, and I will take them and forego thee with them and be the harbinger of thy coming to her.'
When the princess heard these her words, her colour changed and she bowed her head a long while, after which she shook it and looking up, said to the old woman, 'O my mother, when thou namest my children, my mind is troubled and my heart fluttereth; for, from the time of their birth, none, neither genie nor man, male nor female, hath looked on their faces, and I am jealous for them of the soft-blowing zephyr.' 'What words are these, O my lady?' replied the old woman. 'Dost thou fear for them from thy sister? God keep thy reason! Thou mayst not cross the queen in this thing, for she would be wroth with thee. Indeed, O my lady, the children are young, and thou art excusable in fearing for them, for those that love are apt to deem evil: but, O my daughter, thou knowest my tenderness and solicitude over thee and thy children, for indeed I reared thee before them. I will take them and make my cheek their pillow and open my heart and set them within, nor is it needful to commend them to my care in the like of this case; so be of good heart and cheerful eye and send them to her, for, at the most, I shall but forego thee with them a day or two.' And she went on to urge her, till she gave way, fearing her sister's anger and knowing not what lurked for her in the future, and consented to send them with the old woman.
So she called them and bathed them and equipped them and changed their apparel. Then she clad them in the two coats of mail and delivered them to Shewahi, who took them and sped on with them like a bird, by another road than that by which their mother should travel, even as the queen had charged her; nor did she cease to fare on with all diligence, being fearful for them, till she came in sight of their aunt's city, when she crossed the river and entering the town, carried them in to Nour el Huda. The queen rejoiced at their sight and embraced them and pressed them to her bosom; after which she seated them, one on each knee, and said to the old women, 'Now fetch me Hassan, for I have granted him my safeguard and have spared him from my sabre and he hath sought refuge in my house and taken up his abode in my courts, after having endured hardships and horrors and come through all manner of mortal perils, each more terrible than the other; yet hitherto is he not safe from drinking the cup , of death and from the cutting off of his breath.' 'If I bring him to thee,' replied Shewahi, 'wilt thou reunite him with these his children? Or if they prove not his, wilt thou pardon him and restore him to his own country?'
The queen was exceeding wroth at her words and said to her, 'Out on thee, O ill-omened old woman! How long wilt thou play us false in the matter of this stranger, who hath dared [to intrude] upon us and hath lifted our veil and pried into our conditions? Thinkest thou that he shall come to our land and look upon our faces and soil our honours and after return in safety to his own country and expose our affairs to his people, wherefore our report will be bruited abroad among all the kings of the quarters of the earth and the merchants will bear tidings of us in every direction, saying, "A mortal entered the Wac Islands and traversed the land of the Jinn and the lands of the Wild Beasts and the Birds and set foot in the country of the warlocks and the enchanters and returned in safety?" This shall never be; and I swear by Him who created the heavens and builded them. Him who spread out the earth and levelled it, who made all creatures and numbered them, that, if they be not his children, I will assuredly slay him and strike of his head with my own hand!'
Then she cried out at the old woman, who fell down for fear; and she said to the chamberlain, 'Take twenty slaves and go with this old woman and fetch me in haste the youth who is in her house.' So they dragged Shewahi along, pale and trembling in every nerve, till they came to her house, where she went in to Hassan, who rose to her and kissed her hands and saluted her. She returned not his greeting, but said to him, 'Come; speak with the queen. Did I not forbid thee from all this, saying, "Return presently to thine own country and I will give thee that to which no mortal may avail?" But thou wouldst not obey me nor hearken to my words, but rejectedst my counsel and chosest to bring destruction on thyself and me. Up, then, and take that which thou hast chosen; for death is at hand. Arise: speak with yonder wicked tyrannical baggage.' So Hassan arose, broken-spirited, mournful-hearted and fearful, despairing of life and saying, 'O Preserver, preserve Thou me! O my God, be gracious to me in that which Thou hast decreed to me of Thine affliction and protect me, O Thou the most merciful of those that show mercy!' Then he followed the old woman and the chamberlain and the guards to the queen's presence, where he found his two sons Nasir and Mensour sitting in her lap, whilst she played and made merry with them. As soon as his eyes fell on them, he knew them and giving a great cry, fell down in a swoon for excess of joy at their sight. They also knew him and natural affection moved them, so that they freed themselves from the queen's lap and fell upon Hassan, and God (to whom belong knight and majesty) made them speak and say to him, 'O our father!' Whereupon the old woman and all who were present wept for pity and tenderness over them and said, 'Praised be God, who hath reunited you with your father!' Presently, Hassan came to himself and embracing his children, wept till he fainted again, and when he revived, he recited the following verses:Now, by your life, my heart may not 'gainst severance endure, Though certain ruin union were and sure discomfiture!
When Nour el Huda was certified that the little ones were indeed Hassan's children and that her sister, the princess Menar es Sena, was his wife, of whom he was come in quest, she was beyond measure enraged against her and railed at Hassan and reviled him and kicked him in the breast, so that he fell on his back in a swoon. Then she cried out at him, saying, 'Arise, fly for thy life! But that I swore no evil should betide thee from me, if thy story proved true, I would slay thee with mine own hand forthright!' And she cried out at the old woman, who fell on her face for fear, and said to her, 'By Allah, but that I am loath to break the oath that I swore, I would put both thee and him to death after the foulest fashion!' [Then, turning to Hassan,] 'Arise,' [added she,] 'go out from before me in safety and return to thine own country, for I swear by my fortune. if ever mine eye behold thee or if any bring thee in to me after this, I will smite of thy head and that of whoso bringeth thee!' Then she cried out to her officers, saying, 'Put him out from before me!' So they put him out; and when he came to himself, he recited the following verses:You're far away, yet to my thought you're nearest of all folk; You're absent, yet within my heart for evermore you dwell.
Then he once more fell down in a swoon, and when he came to himself, he found himself without the palace, whither they had dragged him on his face. (Now this was grievous to Shewahi; but she dared not remonstrate with the queen by reason of the violence of her wrath.) So he rose, stumbling in his skirts and hardly crediting his escape from Nour el Huda, and went forth, distracted and knowing not whither to go. The world, for all its wideness, was straitened upon him and he found none to comfort him nor any to whom he might resort for counsel or refuge; wherefore he gave himself up for lost, for that he availed not to journey [to his own country] and knew none to travel with him, neither knew he the way [thither] nor might pass through the Valley of Jinn and the Land of Beasts and the Island of Birds. So he bewept himself, till he fainted, and when he revived, he bethought him of his children and his wife and of that which might befall her with her sister, repenting him of having come to those parts and hearkened to none, and recited the following verses:Let mine eyes weep for loss of her I love, with tears like rain: Rare is my solace and my woes increase on me amain.
Then he went on, till he came without the city, where he found the river and fared on along its bank, knowing not whither he went.
To return to his wife, Menar es Sena. As she was about to set out, on the second day after the departure of the old woman with her children, there came in to her one of the king her father's chamberlains and kissed the earth before her, saying, 'O princess, the king thy father salutes thee and bids thee to him.' So she rose and accompanied the chamberlain to her father, who made her sit by his side on the couch, and said to her, 'O my daughter, know that I have had a dream this night, which maketh me fear for thee and that long sorrow will betide thee from this thy journey.' 'How so, O my father,' asked she, 'and what didst thou see in thy dream?' Quoth he, 'I dreamt that I entered a hidden treasure, wherein was great store of jewels and jacinths and other riches; but meseemed nought pleased of all this me save seven beazels, which were the finest things there. I chose out one of the seven jewels, for it was the smallest and finest and most lustrous of them and its beauty pleased me; so I took it in my hand and went forth. When I came without the door of the treasure, I opened my hand and turned over the jewel, rejoicing, when, behold, there swooped down on me out of the sky a strange bird from a far land (for it was not of the birds of our country), and snatching it from my hand, returned with it whence it came. Whereupon grief and concern and vexation overcame me and exceeding chagrin, which troubled me so that I awoke, mourning and lamenting for the loss of the jewel. So I summoned the interpreters and expounders of dreams and related to them my dream, and they said to me, "Thou hast seven daughters, the youngest of whom thou wilt lose, and she will be taken from thee perforce, without thy consent." Now thou art the youngest and dearest of my daughters and the most loving of them to me, and thou art about to journey to thy sister, and I know not what may befall thee from her; so go thou not, but return to thy palace.'
When the princess heard her father's words, her heart fluttered and she feared for her children and bent her head awhile. Then she raised it and said to him, 'O King, Queen Nour el Huda hath made ready for me an entertainment and looks for my coming to her, hour by hour. She hath not seen me these four years and if I delay to visit her, she will be wroth with me. The most of my stay with her will be a month and then I will return to thee. Besides, who is there can travel our land and make his way to the Wac Islands? Who can avail to reach the White Country and the Black Mountain and come to the Land of Camphor and the Castle of Crystal, and how shall he traverse the Island of Birds and the Land of Beasts and the Valley of Jinn and enter our islands? If any stranger came hither, he would be drowned in the seas of destruction: so be of good heart and cheerful eye concerning my journey; for none may avail to tread our earth.' And she ceased not to persuade him, till he gave her leave to go and bade a thousand horse escort her to the river and abide there, till she entered her sister's city and palace [and returned to them], when they should take her and carry her back to him. Moreover, he charged her sojourn with her sister two days [only] and return to him in haste; and she answered, 'I hear and obey.' Then she went forth and he with her and bade her farewell.
Now his words had sunken deep into her heart and she feared for her children; but it availeth not to fortify oneself by caretaking against the assaults of destiny. So she set out and fared on diligently three days, till she came to the river and pitched her tents on its banks. Then she crossed the stream, with some of her officers and attendants, and going up to the city and the palace, went in to Queen Nour el Huda, with whom she found her children, and they were weeping and crying out, 'O our father!' At this, the tears ran from her eyes and she wept and strained them to her bosom, saying, 'What put you in mind of your father at this time? Would the hour had never been, in which I left him! If I knew him to be in the house of the world, I would carry you to him.' Then she bemoaned herself and her husband and her children's weeping and recited these verses:Distance despite, belovéd mine, and inhumanity, I turn to you with yearning love, wherever you may be.
When her sister saw her press her children to her bosom, saying, 'It is I who have wrought thus with myself and my children and have ruined my own house!' she saluted her not, but said to her, 'O harlot, whence hadst thou these children? Hast thou married without thy father's knowledge or hast thou committed fornication? If thou have played the whore, it behoves that thou be exemplarily punished; and if thou have married without our knowledge, why didst thou leave thy husband and sever thy children from their father and bring them hither? Thou hast hidden thy children from us. Thinkest thou we know not of this? God the Most High, He who knoweth the secret things, hath made known to us thy case and discovered thy shame.'
Then she bade her guards seize her and bind her hands behind her and shackle her with shackles of iron. So they did as she commanded and she beat her grievously, that her skin was torn, and crucified her by the hair; after which she cast her in prison and wrote the king her father a letter acquainting him with her case and saying, 'There hath appeared in our country a man, a mortal, by name Hassan, and our sister Menar es Sena avoucheth that she is lawfully married to him and hath by him two sons, whom she hath hidden from us and thee; nor did she discover aught of herself till there came to us this man and informed us that he married her and she abode with him a long while; after which she took her children and departed, without his knowledge, after bidding his mother tell her son, whenas longing betided him, to come to her in the Wac Islands. So we laid hands on the man and sent the old woman Shewahi to fetch her and her children, enjoining her to bring us the children in advance of her. And she did so, whilst Menar es Sena equipped herself, and set out to visit me.
When the children were come, I sent for Hassan, and he knew them and they him; wherefore I was certified that they were indeed his children and that she was his wife and that his story was true and he was not to blame, but that the blame and disgrace rested with my sister. Now I feared the soiling of our honour before the people of our islands; so, when this lewd traitress came in to me, I was incensed against her and beat her grievously and crucified her by the hair and cast her into prison. Behold, I have acquainted thee with her case and it is thine to command, and that thou orderest us, we will do. Thou knowest that in this affair is dishonour and disgrace to us and to thee, and belike the people of the islands will hear of it, and we shall become a byword amongst them; wherefore it befits that thou return us an answer with speed.'
Then she delivered the letter to a courier and he carried it to the king, who, when he read it, was exceeding wroth with his daughter Menar es Sena and wrote to Nour el Huda, saying, 'I commit her case to thee and give thee power over her life; so, if the thing be as thou sayest, put her to death, without consulting me.' When the queen received her father's letter, she sent for Menar es Sena and they brought her, drowned in her blood and pinioned with her hair, fettered with heavy shackles of iron and clad in hair-cloth; and she stood before her, abject and cast down. When she saw herself in this condition of humiliation and exceeding abasement, she called to mind her former high estate and wept sore and recited the following verses:O Lord, my foes do cast about to slay me and conceive I cannot anywise escape from out the snares they weave.
Then she wept, till she fell down in a swoon, and presently coming to herself, repeated the following verses:Troubles familiar with my heart are grown and I with them, Erst shunning; for the generous are sociable still.
And also these:Full many a sorry chance doth light upon a man and fill His life with trouble; yet with God the issue bideth still.
Then the queen sent for a ladder of wood and made the eunuchs bind her with cords thereto, on her back, with her arms spread out; after which she uncovered her head and wound her hair about the ladder; for pity for her was rooted out from her heart. When Menar es Sena saw herself in this state of abjection and humiliation, she cried out and wept; but none succoured her. Then said she to the queen, 'O my sister, how is thy heart hardened against me? Hast thou no mercy on me nor on these little children?' But her words only hardened her sister's heart and she reviled her, saying, 'O wanton! O harlot! May God have no mercy on whoso hath mercy on thee! How should I have pity on thee, O traitress?' 'I appeal to the Lord of the Heavens,' replied Menar es Sena, 'concerning that wherewith thou reproached me and whereof I am innocent! By Allah, I have done no whoredom, but am lawfully married to him, and my Lord knoweth if I speak truth or not! Indeed, my heart is wroth with thee, by reason of thine excessive hard-heartedness against me! How canst thou accuse me of harlotry, without knowledge? But my Lord will deliver me from thee and if that whereof thou accusest me be true, may He punish me for it!' Quoth Nour el Huda, 'How darest thou bespeak me thus?' and beat her till she swooned away; whereupon they sprinkled water on her till she revived; and indeed her charms were wasted for excess of beating and humiliation and the straitness of her bonds. Then she recited these verses:If I've in aught offended against you Or anywise done that I should not do,
When Nour el Huda heard this, her wrath redoubled and she said to her, 'O harlot, wilt thou speak before me in verse and seek to excuse thyself for the heinous sin, thou hast done? It was my desire that thou shouldst return to thy husband, that I might witness thy depravity and assurance; for thou gloriest in thy lewdness and profligacy and the heinousness of thy conduct.' Then she called for a palm-stick and tucking up her sleeves, beat her from head to foot; after which she called for a whip of plaited thongs, wherewith if one smote an elephant, he would start off at speed, and beat her on her back and stomach and every part of her body, till she swooned away.
When the old woman Shewahi saw this, she fled forth from the queen's presence, weeping and cursing her; but Nour el Huda cried out to her guards, saying, 'Fetch her to me!' So they ran after her and seizing her, brought her back to the queen, who caused throw her on the ground and bidding them lay hold of her, rose and took the whip, with which she beat her, till she fainted, when she said to her waiting-women, 'Drag this ill- omened old woman forth on her face and put her out.' And they did as she bade them.
Meanwhile, Hassan walked on beside the river, in the direction of the desert, distracted, troubled and despairing of life; and indeed he was dazed and knew not night from day, for stress of affliction. He fared on thus, till he came to a tree, to which he saw a scroll hanging, so he took it and found these verses written thereon:I ordered thy case, without hindrance or let, Whilst thou in the womb of thy mother wast yet.
When he read this, he made sure of deliverance from trouble and reunion with those he loved. Then he went on a few steps and found himself alone in a wild and perilous desert, in which there was none to company with him; whereupon his heart sank within him for fear and loneliness and he trembled in every nerve, for that frightful place, and recited the following verses:O East wind, if thou passest by my loved ones' dwelling-place, Abundant greeting bear to them from me and full of grace,
Then he walked on a few steps farther beside the river, till he came upon two little boys of the sons of the magicians, beside whom lay a wand of brass, graven with talismans, and a skull-cap of leather, made in three pieces and wroughten in steel with names and figures. The boys were disputing and beating one another, till the blood ran down between them; whilst each said, 'None shall take the wand but I.' Hassan interposed and parted them, saying, 'What is the cause of this your contention?' 'O uncle,' answered they, 'be thou judge of our case, for God the Most High hath surely sent thee to do justice between us.' 'Tell me your case,' said Hassan; 'and I will judge between you.' So one of them said to him, 'We are brothers-german and our father was a mighty magician, who dwelt in a cavern in yonder mountain. He died and left us this cap and wand; and my brother says, "None shall have the wand but I," whilst I say the like; so be thou judge between us and deliver us from each other.' Quoth Hassan, 'What is the difference between the wand and the cap and what is their value? The wand appears to be worth six farthings and the cap three.' But they answered, 'Thou knowest not their properties.' 'And what are their properties?' asked Hassan. 'Each of them hath a wonderful secret virtue,' replied they, 'wherefore the wand is worth the revenue of all the Wac Islands and their provinces and dependencies, and the cap the like.' And Hassan said, 'By Allah, O my sons, discover to me their secret virtues.'
'O uncle,' answered they, 'they are extraordinary; for our father wrought at their contrivance a hundred and thirty and five years, till he brought them to perfection and informed them with secret properties and engraved them after the likeness of the revolving sphere, so that he made them serve him extraordinary services and by their aid he dissolved all enchantments; and when he had made an end of their fashion, death, which needs must all suffer, overtook him. Now the virtue of the cap is, that whoso sets it on his head is hidden from all folk's eyes, nor can any see him, whilst it abideth on his head; and that of the wand is, that whoso possesseth it hath command and authority over seven tribes of the Jinn, who all serve the wand; and whenever he smiteth therewith on the ground, their kings [appear before him and] do him homage, and all the Jinn are at his service.'
When Hassan heard this, he bowed his head and said in himself, 'By Allah, I have need of this wand and cap, and I am worthier of them than these boys. So I will go about to get them from them by craft, that I may use them to free myself and my wife and children from yonder tyrannical queen, and then will we depart from this dismal place, whence there is no deliverance nor fight for mortal man. Doubtless, God caused me not to fall in with these two boys, but that I might get the wand and cap from them.' Then he raised his head and said to the boys, 'If ye would have me decide the case, I will make trial of you and see what each of you deserveth. He who overcometh his brother shall have the wand and he who faileth shall have the cap.' 'O uncle,' answered they, 'we depute thee to make trial of us and do thou decide between us as thou seest fit.' Quoth Hassan, 'Will ye hearken to me and have regard to my words?' And they said, 'Yes.' Then said he, 'I will take a stone and throw it and he who foregoeth his brother thereto and taketh it shall have the wand, and the other shall have the cap.' And they said, "We consent to this.'
Then he took a stone and threw it with his might, that it disappeared from sight. The two boys ran after it and when they were at a distance, Hassan donned the cap and taking the wand in his hand, removed from his place, that he might prove the truth of that which the boys had said, with regard to their properties. The younger outran the elder and coming first to the stone, took it and returned with it to the place where they had left Hassan, but found no signs of him. So he called to his brother, saying, 'Where is the man who was to judge between us?' Quoth the other, 'I see him not nor know whether he hath flown up to the height of heaven or sunk into the nether earth.' Then they sought for him, but saw him not, though all the while he was standing by them. So they reviled each other, saying, 'The wand and the cap are both gone; they are neither mine nor thine: and indeed our father warned us of this very thing; but we forgot what he said.' Then they retraced their steps and entered the city.
When Hassan was thus certified of the truth of their speech, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and returned to the city, with the cap on his head and the wand in his hand. None saw him and he entered the palace and went up into the lodging of Shewahi, who saw him not, because of the cap. Then he went up to a shelf over her head, on which were vessels of glass and chinaware, and shook it with his hand, so that what was thereon fell to the ground. The old woman cried out and buffeted her face; then she rose and restored the fallen things to their places, saying in herself, 'By Allah, methinks Queen Nour el Huda hath sent a devil to torment me, and he hath played me this trick! I beg God the Most High to deliver me from her and ensure me against her wrath, for, O Lord, if she deal thus abominably with her sister, beating and crucifying her, dear as she is to her father, how will she do with a stranger like myself, against whom she is incensed?'
Then said she, 'I conjure thee, O devil, by the Most Merciful God, the Bountiful, the High of Estate, the Mighty of Dominion, Creator of men and Jinn, and by the writing upon the seal of Solomon son of David (on whom be peace!) speak to me and answer me!' Quoth Hassan, 'I am no devil; I am Hassan, the afflicted, the distracted lover.' Then he took the cap from his head and appeared to the old woman, who knew him and taking him apart, said to him, 'What is come to thy wit, that thou returnest hither? Go and hide; for, if this wicked woman have tormented thy wife thus, and she her sister, how will she do, if she light on thee?'
Then she told him all that had befallen his wife and that wherein she was of duresse and misery and torment, adding, 'And indeed the queen repents her of having let thee go and hath sent one after thee, promising him a quintal of gold and my post in her service; and she hath sworn that, if he bring thee back, she will put thee and thy wife and children to death.' And she wept and discovered to Hassan what the queen had done with her self, whereat he wept and said, 'O my lady, how shall I do to deliver myself and my wife and children from this tyrannical queen and return with them in safety to my own country?' 'Out on thee!' replied the old woman. 'Save thyself.' Quoth he, 'Needs must I deliver her and my children from the queen in her despite.' 'How canst thou rescue them from her?' said Shewahi. 'Go and hide thyself, O my son, till God the Most High permit.'
Then Hassan showed her the wand and the cap, whereat she rejoiced with an exceeding joy and said, 'Glory be to Him who quickeneth the bones, though they be rotten! By Allah, O my son, thou and thy wife were but lost folk, but now thou art saved, thou and thy wife and children! For I know the wand and I know its maker, who was my master in magic. He was a mighty magician and wrought a hundred and thirty and five years at this wand and cap, till he brought them to perfection, when death the inevitable overtook him. And I have heard him say to his two sons, "O my sons, these things are none of your lot, for there will come a stranger from a far country, who will take them from you perforce, and ye shall not know how he takes them." "O our father," said they, "tell us how he will win to take them." But he answered, "I know not." And how,' added she, 'availedst thou to take them, O my son?'
So he told her how he had taken them from the two boys, whereat she rejoiced and said, 'O my son, since thou hast gotten [the means of freeing] thy wife and children, give ear to what I shall say to thee. There is no abiding for me with this wicked woman, after the fashion in which she hath dared to use me; wherefore I am minded to depart from her to the caves of the Magicians and abide with them there till I die. But do thou, O my son, don the cap and take the wand in thy hand and enter the place where thy wife and children are. Loose her bonds and smite the earth with the wand, saying, "Be present, O servants of these names!" whereupon the servants of the wand will appear; and if there present himself one of the heads of the tribes, command him what thou wilt.'
So he bade her farewell and donning the cap, went forth and entered the place where his wife was. He found her bound to the ladder by her hair, well-nigh lifeless, weeping-eyed and mourning-hearted, in the sorriest of plights, knowing no way to deliver herself. Her children were playing under the ladder, whilst she looked at them and wept for them and herself; and he heard her repeat the following verses:Nothing is left her but a fluttering spright, Ay, and an eye bereaved of its light.
When Hassan saw her in this state of torment and misery and abjection, he wept till he swooned away; and when he revived, he saw his children playing and their mother aswoon for excess of pain; so he took the cap from his head and the children saw him and cried out, saying, 'O our father!' Then he covered his head again and the princess came to herself hearing their cry, but only saw her children weeping and crying out, 'O our father!' When she heard them name their father and weep, her heart was broken and her entrails rent in sunder and she said to them, 'What makes you in mind of your father at this time?' And she wept sore and cried out, from a bleeding heart and an aching bosom, 'Where are ye and where is your father?'
Then she recalled the days of her union with Hassan and what had befallen her since her desertion of him and wept till her face was drowned in tears and her cheeks were furrowed with much weeping. Her tears ran down and wet the ground and she had not a hand loose to wipe them from her cheeks, whilst the flies fed their fill on her skin, and she found no helper but weeping and no solace but repeating verses. Then she recited the following:I call to mind the parting-day that rent our loves in twain, When, as I turned away, the tears in very streams did rain.
Then she turned right and left, seeking the cause of her children's crying out, 'O our father!' but saw no one and marvelled that they should name him at that time and call upon him. When Hassan heard her verses, he wept till he swooned away and the tears ran down upon his cheeks like rain. Then he drew near the children and uncovered his head to them, [unseen of his wife,] whereupon they saw him and knowing him, cried out, saying, 'O our father!' Their mother fell a-weeping again, when she heard them name their father and said, 'There is no resource against the ordinance of God the Most High! Strange! What makes them bethink them of their father at this time and call upon him, albeit it is not of their wont?' Then she wept and recited the following verses:The land is empty of the moon that shone so bright whilere: Be lavish of your tears, mine eyes; I charge you, do not spare!
With this, Hassan could no longer contain himself, but took the cap from his head; whereupon his wife saw him and recognizing him, gave a scream that startled all in the place. Then she said to him, 'How camest thou hither? Hast thou dropped from the sky or come up through the earth?' And her eyes filled with tears and Hassan also wept. 'O man,' quoth she, 'this is no time for tears or reproaches. Fate hath had its course and the sight was blinded and the pen hath run with what was ordained of God from all eternity: so, God on thee, whencesoever thou comest, go and hide, lest any see thee and tell my sister and she slaughter thee and me!' 'O my lady and lady of all queens,' answered he, 'I have ventured myself and come hither, and either I will die or I will deliver thee from this thy strait and return with thee and my children to my country, in despite of thy shrew of a sister.'
But she smiled and shook her head, saying, 'Far, O my life, far is it from the power of any save God the Most High to deliver me from this my stress! Save thyself by flight and cast not thyself into destruction; for she hath troops without number, that none may withstand. Grant that thou tookest me and wentest forth with me, how canst thou win to thy country and escape from these islands and the perils of these dreadful places? Verily, in thy way hither, thou hast seen the wonders and dangers and terrors of the road, such as none may escape, not even one of the rebellious Jinn. Depart, therefore, forthright and add not anguish to my anguish and trouble to my trouble, neither do thou pretend to rescue me from this my plight; for who shall bring me to thy country, through all these valleys and thirsty deserts and fatal places?' 'By thy life, O light of mine eyes,' rejoined Hassan, 'I will not depart this place but with thee!' 'O man,' quoth she, 'thou knowest not what thou sayst! How canst thou avail unto this thing and what manner of man art thou? None can escape from these realms, even had he command over Jinn and Afrits and warlocks. So fly and leave me; peradventure God will bring about a change.' 'O lady of fair ones,' answered Hassan, 'I came but to deliver thee with this wand and cap.' And he told her what had befallen him with the two boys; but, whilst he was speaking, up came the queen and heard them talking.
When he was ware of her, he put on the cap and was hidden from sight, and she entered and said to the princess, 'O harlot, who is he with whom thou wast talking?' 'Who is with me that should talk with me,' answered Menar es Sena, 'except these little ones?' Then the queen took the whip and beat her, whilst Hassan stood by, nor did she leave beating her till she fainted; whereupon she bade remove her to another place. So they loosed her and carried her to another chamber, whilst Hassan followed [unseen]. There they cast her down, senseless, and stood looking upon her, till she revived and recited the following verses:Long, long have I bewailed the sev'rance of our loves, With tears that from my lids streamed down like burning rain,
Then the slave-girls went out from her and Hassan took off the cap; whereupon his wife said to him, 'See, O man, all this hath befallen me by reason of my having gainsaid thee and transgressed thy commandment and gone forth without thy leave. But, I conjure thee by Allah, reproach me not for mine offence and know that women know not a man's worth till they have lost him. Indeed, I have sinned and done evil; but I crave pardon of God the Great for that I did, and if He reunite us, I will never again disobey thee in aught.' Quoth Hassan (and indeed his heart ached for her), 'It was not thou that sinnedst, but I, for I departed and left thee with one who knew not thy rank nor thy worth. But know, O beloved of my heart and fruit of mine entrails and light of mine eyes, that God (blessed be He!) hath given me power to release thee; so wouldst thou have me carry thee to thy father, there to accomplish what God decreeth unto thee, or wilt thou presently depart with me to my country, now that relief is come to thee?' 'Who can deliver me save the Lord of the skies?' answered she. 'Go to thine own country and put away from thee false hope; for thou knowest not the perils of these parts: but, if thou obey me not, thou wilt see.' And she recited the following verses:What thou wouldst have is law to me and pleasing in my sight! What ails thee, then, to look on me with anger and despite?
Then she wept and her children wept also and the slave-girls heard them: so they came in to them and found them weeping, but saw not Hassan with them; wherefore they wept for pity of them and cursed Queen Nour el Huda. Then Hassan took patience till it was night and her guards had gone to their sleeping-places, when he went up to her and loosing her, pressed her to his bosom and kissed her on the head and between the eyes, saying, 'How long have we wearied for our country and for reunion there! Is this our meeting in sleep, or on wake?' Then he took up the elder boy and she took up the younger and they went forth. God covered them with the veil of His protection, so that they came safe to the outer door of the palace, but found it locked from without, and Hassan said, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! We are God's and to Him we return!' With this they despaired of escape and Hassan beat hand upon hand, saying, 'O Thou that dispellest troubles! Verily, I had bethought me of every thing and considered its issue but this; and now, when it is day, they will take us, and what resource have we in this case?' And he recited the following verses:Thou madest fair thy thought of Fate, whenas the days were fair, And fearedst not the unknown ills that they to thee might bring.
Then he wept and she wept for his weeping and for the abasement she had suffered and the cruelties of fortune: and he turned to her and recited the following verses:Fortune is vehement on me, as if I were its foe; Yea, day by day, she meeteth me with this or the other woe.
And also these:My fate doth irk and baffle me, unknowing that I am Most worthy and that Fortune's shifts are little worth, ywis.
Then she said to him, 'By Allah, thee is no relief for us but to kill ourselves and be at rest from this great weariness; else we shall suffer grievous torment on the morrow.' At this moment, they heard a voice from without the door say, 'By Allah, O my lady Menar es Sena, I will not open to thee and thy husband Hassan, except ye obey me in what I shall say to you!' When they heard this, they were silent for excess of fear and would have returned whence they came; when behold, the voice spoke again, saying, 'What ails you to be silent and answer me not?' Therewith they knew the speaker for the old woman Shewahi and said to her, 'Whatsoever thou biddest us, that will we do; but first open the door to us, for this is no time for talk.' 'By Allah,' replied she, 'I will not open to you, except ye swear to me that you will take me with you and not leave me with yonder harlot: so, whatever befalls you shall befall me and if ye escape, I shall escape, and if ye perish, I shall perish: for yonder lewd minion entreats me with indignity and still torments me on your account; and thou, O my daughter, knowest my worth.'
So they trusted in her and swore to her such an oath as contented her, whereupon she opened the door to them and they came out and found her riding on a Greek jar of red earthenware with a rope of palm fibres about its neck [by way of halter], which turned under her and ran faster than a Nejd colt, and she said to them, 'Follow me and fear nothing, for I know forty magical formulas, by the least of which I could make this city a surging sea, swollen with clashing billows, and turn each damsel therein into a fish, and all before dawn. But I was not able to work aught of magic, for fear of the king her father and of regard for her sisters, for that they are redoubtable, by reason of their many guards and servants and tribesmen. However, I will yet show you wonders of my skill and magic; and now let us on, with God's help and blessing.'
Hassan and his wife rejoiced in this, making sure of escape, and they left the palace and went forth, till they came without the city, when he fortified his heart and smiting the earth with the wand, said, 'Ho, servants of these names, appear to me and discover to me your estates!' Thereupon the earth clove in sunder and out came seven Afrits, with their feet in the bowels of the earth and their heads in the clouds. They kissed the earth three times before Hassan and said with one voice, 'Here are we at thy service, O our lord and ruler over us! What dost thou bid us do? For we hear and obey thy commandment. An thou wilt we will dry thee up seas and remove mountains from their places.' Hassan rejoiced in their words and at their speedy answer [to his summons], so he took courage and bracing up his resolution, said to them, 'Who are ye and what are your names and races? And to what tribes and companies do ye belong?' They kissed the earth once more and answered with one voice, saying, 'We are seven kings, each ruling over seven tribes of the Jinn of all conditions, Marids and devils, flyers and divers, dwellers in mountains and wastes and deserts and haunters of the seas: so command us what thou wilt; for we are thy servants and slaves, and whoso possesseth this wand hath dominion over all our necks and we owe him obedience.'
When Hassan heard this, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy, he and his wife and the old woman, and he said to the Kings of the Jinn, 'I desire of you that ye show me your tribes and hosts and armies.' 'O our lord,' answered they, 'if we show thee our hosts, we fear for thee and these who are with thee, for they are many in number and various in form and fashion and favour. Some of us are heads without bodies and others bodies without heads, and others again are in the likeness of wild animals and beasts of prey. However, if this be thy will, needs must we first show thee those of us who are like unto wild beasts. But, O our lord, what wouldst thou of us at this present?' Quoth Hassan, 'I would have you carry me forthwith to the city of Baghdad, me and my wife and this old woman.'
But they hung down their heads and were silent, whereupon quoth Hassan, 'Why do ye not reply?' And they said with one voice, 'O our lord and ruler over us, we are of the covenant of Solomon son of David (on whom be peace!) and he made us swear that we would carry none of the sons of Adam on our backs; since which time we have carried no moral on our backs or shoulders: but we will straightway harness the horses of the Jinn, that shall carry thee and thy company to thy country.' 'And how far are we from Baghdad?' asked Hassan. Quoth they, 'Seven years' journey for a diligent horseman.' Hassan marvelled at this and said to them, 'Then how came I hither in less than a year?' They answered, 'God inclined the hearts of His pious servants to thee, else hadst thou never won hither nor set eyes on these regions. For the Sheikh Abdulcuddous, who mounted thee on the elephant and the enchanted horse, traversed with thee, in ten days, three years' journey for a diligent horseman, and the Afrit Dehnesh, to whom the Sheikh Abourruweish committed thee, carried thee a like distance in a day and a night; all which was of the blessing of God the Most High, for that the Sheikh Abourruweish is of the lineage of Asef ben Berkhiya (48) and knoweth the Most Great name of God. (49) Moreover, from Baghdad to the Palace of the Mountain of Clouds is a year's journey, and this makes the seven years.'
When Hassan heard this, he marvelled exceedingly and said, 'Glory be to God, who maketh the difficult easy and leadeth the broken, who bringeth near the distant and humblest every froward tyrant who hath eased us of every stress and brought me hither and subjected these creatures to me and reunited me with my wife and children! I know not whether I sleep or wake or if I be sober or drunken!' Then he turned to the Jinn and said, 'In how many days will your horses bring us to Baghdad?' 'They will carry you thither in less than a year,' answered they, 'but not till after ye have endured terrible perils and hardships and traversed thirsty valleys and frightful wastes and terrors without number; and we cannot warrant thee, O our lord, from the people of these islands nor from the mischief of the Supreme King and his enchanters and warlocks. It may be they will force us and take you from us and we fall into affliction with them, and all to whom the news shall come after this will say to us, "Ye are evil-doers. How could ye affront tile Supreme King and carry a mortal out of his dominions, and the king's daughter with him?" Wert thou alone with us,' continued they, 'the thing were easy; but He who brought thee hither is able to cary thee back to thy country and reunite thee presently with thy people. So take heart and put thy trust in God and fear not; for we are at thy service, to convey thee to thy country.'
Hassan thanked them and said, 'God requite you with good. But now make haste with the horses.' 'We hear and obey,' answered they and struck the ground with their feet, whereupon it opened and they disappeared within it and were absent awhile, after which they reappeared with three horses, saddled and bridled, and on each saddle-bow a pair of saddle-bags, with a leathern bottle of water in one pocket and the other full of victual. Hassan mounted one horse and took a child before him, whilst his wife mounted a second and took the other child before her. Then the old woman alighted from the jar and mounted the third horse and they rode on, without ceasing, all night. At break of day, they turned aside from the road and made for the mountain, whilst their tongues ceased not to name God.
They fared on under the mountain all that day, till Hassan caught sight of a black object in the distance, as it were a tall column of smoke ascending to the sky; so he recited somewhat of the Koran and sought refuge with God from Satan the Stoned. The black thing grew plainer, as they approached, and when they drew near to it, they saw that it was an Afrit, with a head like a huge dome and tusks like grapnels and jaws like a street and nostrils like ewers and ears like leathern bucklers and mouth like a cavern and teeth like pillars of stone and hands like winnowing forks and legs like masts: his head was in the clouds and his feet in the bowels of the earth. When he saw Hassan, he bowed himself and kissed the earth before him, saying, 'O Hassan, have no fear of me; for I am the chief of the dwellers in this land, which is the first of the Wac Islands, and I am a Muslim and a believer in the unity of God. I have heard of you and your coming and when I knew of your case, I desired to depart from the land of the magicians to another land, void of inhabitants, and far from men and Jinn, that I might dwell there alone and serve God till my end came upon me. Wherefore I wish to company with you and be your guide, till ye win forth of the Wac Islands. I will appear only at night: so comfort your hearts on my account; for I am a Muslim, even as ye are Muslims.'
When Hassan heard the Afrit's words, he was mightily rejoiced and made sure of deliverance; and he said to him, 'God amply requite thee! Go with us, with the blessing of Allah!' So the Afrit went before them and they followed, talking and making merry, for their hearts were at ease and their breasts relieved, and Hassan fell to telling his wife all that had befallen him and all the stresses he had undergone, whilst she excused herself to him and told him, in turn, all she had seen and suffered. The horses bore them on all night, like the blinding lightning, and when the day rose, they put their hands to the saddle-bags and took forth victual and water and ate and drank.
Then they sped on their way, preceded by the Afrit, who turned aside with them from the beaten track into another road, till then untrodden, along the sea-shore, and they fared on, without stopping, across valleys and deserts, a whole month, till on the one-and-thirtieth day there arose before them a cloud of dust, that walled the world and darkened the day, and they heard a frightful noise of crying and clamour. When Hassan saw and heard this, he was confused and turned pale; and the old woman said to him, 'O my son, this is the army of the Wac Islands, that hath overtaken us; and presently they will lay hands on us.' 'What shall I do, O my mother?' asked he. And she answered, 'Strike the earth with the wand.' He did so and immediately the seven kings presented themselves and saluted him, kissing the ground before him and saying, 'Fear not neither grieve.' Hassan rejoiced at their words and answered them, saying, 'Well said, O princes of the Jinn and the Afrits! This is your time.' Quoth they, 'Get ye up to the mountain-top, thou and thy company, and leave us to deal with them, for we know that you are in the right and they in the wrong and God will aid us against them.' So Hassan and his wife and children and the old woman dismounted and dismissing the horses, ascended the flank of the mountain.
Presently up came Queen Nour el Huda, with troops right and left, and the captains went round about among the troops and ranged them in battle array. Then the two hosts charged down upon one another and clashed together with a mighty shock, the brave pressed forward and the coward fled and the Jinn cast flames of fire from their mouths, whilst the smoke of them rose up to the confines of the sky and the two armies appeared and disappeared. The champions fought and heads flew from bodies and the blood ran in streams, nor did the sword leave to play and the blood to bow and the fire of the battle to rage, till the dark night came, when the two armies drew apart and alighting, kindled fires and rested upon the field.
Therewith the seven kings went up to Hassan and kissed the ground before him. He thanked them and prayed God to give them the victory and asked them how they had fared with the queen's troops. Quoth they, 'They will withstand us but three days, for we had the better of them to-day, taking two thousand of them prisoners and slaying of them much people, whose number may not be told. So take comfort and be of good cheer.' Then they took leave of him and went down to their troops, to hearten them. They kept up the fires till the day rose with its light and shone, when the fighting-men mounted their stout horses and smote each other with the edge of the sword and thrust with the brown of the lance; nor did they cease from the battle that day. Moreover, they passed the night on horseback, clashing together like seas; the fires of war raged among them and they stinted not from battle and strife, till the army of Wac was defeated and their power broken and their courage quelled; their feet slipped and whithersoever they fled, defeat was before them; wherefore they turned their backs and betook themselves to flight: but the most part of them were slain and their queen and her chief officers and the grandees of her realm taken prisoners.
On the morrow, the seven kings set Hassan a throne of alabaster inlaid with pearls and jewels, and he sat down thereon. Moreover, they set thereby a throne of ivory, plated with glittering gold, for the princess Menar es Sena and another for the old woman Shewahi. Then they brought before them the captives and among the rest, Queen Nour el Huda bound and shackled, whom when Shewahi saw, she said to her, 'O harlot, O wicked wretch, thy recompense shall be that two bitches be starved and two horses stinted of water, till they be athirst: then shalt thou be bound, with the bitches after thee, to the horses' tails and the latter driven to the river, that the bitches may rend thy skin; and after, thy flesh shall be cut of and given them to eat. How couldst thou deal thus with thy sister, O vile woman, seeing that she was lawfully married, after the law of God and of His Apostle? For there is no monkery in Islam and marriage is of the ordinances of the Apostles (on whom be peace!) nor were women created but for men.'
Then Hassan commanded to put all the captives to death and the old woman cried out, saying, 'Slay them all and spare none!' But, when Menar es Sena saw her sister in this plight, a prisoner and in fetters, she wept over her and said, 'O my sister, who is this hath conquered us and made us captives in our own land?' Quoth Nour el Huda, 'Verily, this is a grave matter. Indeed this man Hassan hath gotten the mastery over us and God hath given him dominion over us and over all our realm and he hath overcome us, us and the Kings of the Jinn.' And her sister answered her, saying, 'Indeed, God aided him not against you nor did he overcome you nor make you prisoners, save by means of this cap and wand.' So Nour el Huda was assured that he had conquered her by means thereof and humbled herself to her sister, till she was moved to pity for her and said to Hassan, 'What wilt thou do with my sister? Behold, she is in thy hands and she hath done thee no offence that thou shouldst punish her.' Quoth Hassan, 'Her torturing of thee was offence enough.' But she answered, saying, 'She hath excuse for all she did with me. As for thee, thou hast set my fathers heart on fire for the loss of me, and how will it be with him, if he lose my sister also?' And he said to her, 'It is thine to decide; do what thou wilt.'
So she commanded to loose her sister and the rest of the captives, and they did her bidding. Then she went up to Queen Nour el Huda and embraced her, and they wept together awhile; after which quoth the queen, 'O my sister, bear me not malice for that I did with thee.' 'O my sister,' replied Menar es Sena, 'this was decreed to me.' Then they sat on the couch talking and Menar es Sena made peace between the old woman and her sister, after the goodliest fashion, and their hearts were set at ease. After this Hassan dismissed the servants of the wand, thanking them for the succour which they had afforded him against his enemies, and Menar es Sena related to her sister all that had befallen her with Hassan and all he bad suffered for her sake, saying, 'O my sister, it behoves us to fail not of what is due to him who hath done these deeds and is possessed of this might and whom God the Most High hath gifted with such exceeding prowess, that he hath won to our country and beaten thine army and taken thee prisoner and defied our father, the Supreme King, who hath dominion over all the princes of the Jinn.' 'By Allah, O my sister,' replied Nour el Huda, 'thou sayst sooth! What this man hath undergone is something marvellous and none may fail of respect to him, more by token of his generosity. But was all this on thine account?' 'Yes,' answered Menar es Sena, and they passed the night in converse till the morning.
When the sun rose, they were minded to depart; so Hassan smote the earth with the wand and the Jinn appeared and saluted him, saying, 'Praised be God who hath set thy heart at ease! Command us what thou wilt, and we will do it for thee in less than the twinkling of an eye.' He thanked them and said to them, 'God requite you with good! Saddle me two horses of the best.' So they brought him forthwith two saddled horses, one of which he mounted, taking his elder son before him, and his wife mounted the other, taking the younger son before her. Then the queen and the old woman also took horse and they bade each other farewell and departed, Hassan and his wife taking the right and the queen and Shewahi the left-hand road. The former fared on with their children, without stopping, for a whole month, till they came in sight of a city, compassed about with trees and streams, and alighted among the trees, thinking to rest there. As they sat talking, they saw many horsemen coming towards them, whereupon Hassan rose and going to meet them, found that it was King Hessoun, lord of the Land of Camphor and Castle of Crystal, with his attendants.
So he went up to the king and kissed his hands and saluted him; and when the latter saw him, he returned his salute and gave him joy of his safety and rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy. Then he dismounted and seating himself with Hassan upon carpets under the trees, said to him, 'O Hassan, tell me all that hath befallen thee, first and last.' So he told him all that had passed and the king marvelled thereat and said to him, 'O my son, none ever won to the Wac Islands and returned thence but thou, and indeed thy case is wonderful; but praised be God for safety!' Then he mounted and carried Hassan and his wife and children into the city, where he lodged them in the guest-house of his palace; and they abode with him three days, feasting and making merry, after which Hassan sought his leave to depart to his own country and he granted it. So they took horse and the king rode with them ten days, after which he took leave of them and turned back, whilst Hassan and his wife and children fared on a whole month, till they came to a great cavern, whose floor was of brass. Quoth Hassan to his wife, 'Knowest thou yonder cavern?' And she answered, 'No.' Said he, 'Therein dwells a Sheikh named Abourruweish, to whom I am greatly beholden, for that he was the means of my knowing King Hessoum.'
Then he went on to tell her all that had passed between him and Abourruweish and as he was thus engaged, behold, the Sheikh himself issued from the cavern. When Hassan saw him, he dismounted and kissed his hands, and the Sheikh saluted him and gave him joy of his safety and rejoiced in him. Then he carried him into the cavern and sat down with him, whilst Hassan told him what had befallen him in the Wac Islands; whereat the Sheikh marvelled exceedingly and said, 'O Hassan, how didst thou deliver thy wife and children?' So he told him the story of the cap and the wand, at which he marvelled and said, 'O Hassan, O my son, but for this wand and cap, thou hadst never delivered thy wife and children.' And he replied, 'Even so, O my lord.'
As they were talking, there came a knocking at the door and Abourruweish went out and found Abdulcuddous mounted on his elephant. So he saluted him and brought him into the cavern, where he embraced Hassan and gave him joy of his safety, rejoicing greatly in his return. Then said Abourruweish to Hassan, 'Tell the Sheikh Abdulcuddous all that hath befallen thee, O Hassan.' So he repeated to him all that had passed, till he came to the story of the wand and cap, whereupon quoth Abdulcuddous, 'O my son, thou hast delivered thy wife and thy children and hast no further need of the wand and the cap. Now we were the means of thy winning to the Wac Islands and I have done thee kindness for the sake of the daughters of my brother; wherefore I beg thee, of thy bounty and favour, to give me the wand and the Sheikh Abourruweish the cap.'
When Hassan heard this, be hung down his head, being ashamed to reply, 'I will not give them to you,' and said in himself, 'Indeed, these two elders have done me great kindness and but for them, I had never won to the Wac Islands and delivered my children, nor had I gotten me this wand and cap.' So he raised his head and answered, 'Yes, I will give them to you: but, O my lords, I fear lest the Supreme King, my wife's father, come upon me with his hosts and beset me in my own country, and I be unable to repel them, for want of the wand and the cap.' 'Fear not, O my son,' answered Abdulcuddous; 'we will succour thee and keep watch for thee in this place and fend off from thee whosoever shall come against thee from thy wife's father or any other; wherefore be thou of good cheer and comfort and fear nothing, for no harm shall come to thee.' When Hassan heard this, he was abashed and gave the cap to Abourruweish, saying to Abdulcuddous, 'Bear me company to my own land and I will give thee the wand.' At this the two elders rejoiced exceedingly and made him ready riches and treasures past description.
He abode with them three days, at the end of which time he set out again and the Sheikh Abdulcuddous made ready to depart with him. So he and his wife mounted their beasts and Abdulcuddous whistled, whereupon a great elephant came running up from the heart of the desert and he mounted it. Then they took leave of Abourruweish and fared on across country, whilst Abdulcuddous guided them by a short and easy way, till they drew near the princesses' country; whereupon Hassan rejoiced and praised God for his safe return and reunion with his wife and children after so many hardships and perils and thanked Him for His favours and bounties, reciting the following verses:Sure God will soon for us cause union to betide And in your arms locked fast, I shall to you confide
Hardly had he made an end of these verses, when they came in sight of the green pavilion (50) and the pool and the green palace, and the Mountain of Clouds appeared to them afar off; whereupon quoth Abdulcuddous, 'Rejoice, O Hassan, in good news! For to-night shalt thou be the guest of my nieces.' At this he rejoiced with an exceeding joy, he and his wife, and they alighted at the pavilion, where they ate and drank and rested; after which they took horse again and rode on till they came in sight of the palace.
As they drew near, the princesses came forth to meet them and saluted them; and their uncle said to them, 'O daughters of my brother, behold, I have accomplished your brother Hassan's occasion and have helped him to regain his wife and children.' So they embraced him and gave him joy of his return in health and safety and of his reunion with his wife and children, and it was a day of festival with them. Then came forward his sister, the youngest princess, and embraced him, weeping sore, whilst he also wept for his long estrangement: after which she complained to him of that which she had suffered for the pangs of separation and weariness of heart in his absence and recited these verses:Mine eyes, since thou departedst hence, ne'er on a creature fell, But straight thine image mirrored rose before it, sooth to tell;
When she had made an end of her verses, she rejoiced with an exceeding joy and Hassan said to her, 'O my sister, I have thee to thank in this matter, over all thy sisters, and may God the Most High vouchsafe thee aid and countenance!' Then he related to her all that had befallen him in his journey, first and last, and all that he had undergone, telling her what had betided him with his wife's sister and how he had delivered his wife and children and all that he had seen of marvels and grievous perils, even to how Queen Nour el Huda would have slain him and his wife and children and none saved them from her but God the Most High. Moreover, he related to her the adventure of the cap and the wand and how Abdulcuddous and Abourruweish had sought them of him and he had not agreed to give them to them but for her sake; wherefore she thanked him and wished him long life; and he said, 'By Allah, I shall never forget all the kindness thou hast done me, first and last!'
Then she turned to his wife Menar es Sena and embraced her and pressed her children to her bosom, saying to her, 'O daughter of the Supreme King, was there no pity in thy heart, that thou partedst him and his children and set his heart on fire for them? Didst thou desire by this that he should die?' The princess laughed and answered, 'Thus was it ordained of God (blessed and exalted be He!) and whoso beguileth folk, may God beguile him!' (51) Then they set on meat and drink, and they all ate and drank and made merry. They abode thus ten days feasting and merry-making, at the end of which time Hassan prepared to continue his journey. So his sister rose and made him ready riches and rarities, such as beggar description. Then she strained him to her bosom, because of leave-taking, and embraced him, whilst he recited the following verses on her account:Solace from those who love far distant is, heigho! And severance of friends is nought but grievous woe.
With this he gave the wand to the Sheikh Abdulcuddous, who rejoiced therein with an exceeding joy and thanking him. mounted and returned to his own place. Then Hassan took horse with his wife and children and departed from the palace of the princesses, who went forth with him, to bid him farewell. Then they turned back and Hassan fared on, over hill and dale, two months and ten days, till he came to the city of Baghdad, the Abode of Peace, and repairing to his house by the private way that gave upon the open country, knocked at the door.
Now his mother, for long absence, had forsworn repose and given herself to mourning and weeping and lamentation, till she fell sick and ate not, neither took delight in sleep, but shed tears night and day. Her son's name was never from her mouth, albeit she despaired of his return; and as he stood at the door, he heard her weeping and reciting the following verses:By Allah, med'cine, O my lord, one sick for love of you, Whose heart is broken and her frame all wasted and unsound!
When she had made an end of these verses, she heard her son's voice at the door, calling out and saying, 'O mother mine, fortune hath been kind and vouchsafeth [us] reunion!' She knew his voice and went to the door, between belief and doubt; but, when she opened it and saw him standing there and with him his wife and children, she cried out, for excess of joy, and fell to the earth in a swoon. Hassan tended her, till she revived and embraced him, weeping; after which she called his slaves and servants and bade them carry his baggage into the house. So they brought in all the loads, and his wife and children entered also, whereupon Hassan's mother went up to the princess and kissed her head and feet, saying, 'O daughter of the Supreme King, if I have failed of thy due, behold, I crave pardon of God the Great.'
Then she turned to Hassan and said to him, 'O my son, what was the cause of this long absence?' So he related to her all his adventures from beginning to end; and when she heard tell of all that had befallen him, she gave a great cry and fell down in a swoon. He tended her, till she came to herself and said to him, 'By Allah, O my son, thou hast erred in parting with the wand and the cap, for, hadst thou kept them, thou wert master of the whole earth, in its breadth and length; but praised be God for thy safety and that of thy wife and children!' They passed the night in all pleasance and happiness, and on the morrow Hassan changed his clothes and donning a suit of the richest apparel, went down into the bazaar and bought slaves and slave-girls and stuffs and ornaments and raiment and carpets and costly vessels and all manner other precious things, whose like is not found with kings. Moreover, he bought houses and gardens and lands and so forth and abode with his wife and children and mother, eating and drinking and taking their pleasure: nor did they cease from all delight and solace of life till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies. And Glory be to Him who hath dominion over the Seen and the Unseen, the Living, the Eternal, who dieth not!