ALI NOUREDDIN AND THE FRANK KING'S DAUGHTER.
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, in the parts of Cairo, a merchant named Tajeddin, who was of the most considerable of the merchants and of the chiefs of the freeborn [of the city]. He was given to travelling to all parts and loved to fare over desert and down and stony waste and to journey to the islands of the sesame in quest of dirhems and dinars: wherefore he had in his time encountered dangers and suffered hardships of gavel, such as would make little children gray. He was possessed of slaves and servants, white and black and male and female, and was the wealthiest of the merchants of his time and the goodliest of them in speech, owning horses and mules and Bactrian and other camels and sacks, great and small, and goods and merchandise and stuffs beyond compare, such as Hems muslins and Baalbek silks and brocades and Merv cottons and Indian stuffs and Baghdad gauzes and Moorish burnouses and Turkish white slaves and Abyssinian eunuchs and Greek slave-girls and Egyptian boys; and the coverings of his bales were of gold-embroidered silk, for he was abundantly wealthy. Moreover he was accomplished in goodliness, stately of Port and pleasant of composition, even as saith of him one of his describers:A certain merchant once I did espy, Between whose lovers war raged fierce and high.
And saith another in his praise lad sail well and accomplisheth the wish of him:A merchant came to visit us, whoso eye Did with its glance my heart still stupefy.
He had a son called Ali Noureddin, as he were the full moon whenas it waxeth on its fourteenth night, a marvel of beauty and grace, elegant of shape and accomplished in symmetry who was sitting one day in his father's shop, selling and buying and giving and taking, as was his wont, when the sons of the merchants encompassed him about and he was amongst them as the moon among stars, with flower-white forehead and rosy cheeks, covered with tender down, and body like alabaster, even as saith of him the poet:A fair one said, 'Describe me well;' And I, 'In grace thou dost excel.
And as saith of him one of his describers:A mole on as cheek he hath, as 'twere a grain Of ambergris on alabaster plate,
The young merchants invited him [to go with them], saying, 'O my lord Noureddin, we wish thee to go this day a-pleasuring with us in such a garden.' And he answered, '[Wait] till I consult my father, for I cannot go without his consent.' As they were talking, up came Tajeddin, and his son turned to him and said, 'O my father, the sons of the merchants have invited me to go a-pleasuring with them in such a garden. Dost thou give me leave to go?' 'Yes, O my son,' answered his father; 'go with them;' and gave him money.
So he mounted a mule and the other young men mounted mules and asses, and they all rode till they came to a garden, wherein was all the soul desireth and that charmeth the eye. It was high walled and had a vaulted gateway, with a portico like a saloon and a sky-blue door, as it were one of the gates of Paradise. Moreover, the name of the door-keeper was Rizwan, (25) and over the gate were trained a hundred trellises of grapes of various colours, the red like coral, the black like negroes' faces and the white like pigeons' eggs, growing in clusters and singly: even as saith of them the poet:Grapes, as the taste of wine their savour is, I trow: The black thereof in hue are as the corby-crow,
And as saith another:Grape-clusters, that show, on their stalks as they sway, Like my body for languishment wasted away.
Then they entered the arbour [that led into the garden] and saw there the gate-keeper sitting, as he were Rizwan, guardian of Paradise, and on the door were written these verses:A garden watered was of God, until its clusters leant And dangled all and for excess of drink, its branches bent.
And within the arbour were written the following verses:Enter with us, O friend, this garden fair, That cleanses from the heart its rust of care.
So they entered and found within fruits of all kinds and birds of all sorts and colours, such as the ringdove and the nightingale and the curlew and the turtle and the cushat, carolling on the branches. Therein were streams that ran with limpid water and delightsome flowers, and it was even as saith of it the poet:The zephyr o'er its branches breathes and sways them to and fro, As they were girls that in their skirts still stumble as they go;
And again:The river passes by and laves the branches with its flood And still it mirrors in its heart the younglings of the wood;
On the trees of the garden were all manner fruits, each in two kinds, and amongst them the pomegranate, as it were a ball of silver dross, whereof saith the poet and saith well:Pomegranates, fine-skinned, like the breasts of a maid, Whenas, rounded and firm, to the sight they're displayed.
And as quoth another:To him, who seeks to come at its inside, there are displayed Rubies together pressed and clad in raiment of brocade.
There were apples, sugar and musk and Damani, amazing the beholder, whereof saith the poet:The apple in itself two hues, that image to the sight The cheeks of lover and belov'd foregathering, doth unite;
There also were apricots of various kinds, almond and camphor and Jilani and Antabi, whereof says the poet:The almond-apricot most like a lover is, To whom his loved one came and dazed his wit and will.
And saith another and saith well:In the apricot's coverage whole gardens there be: Consider them straitly their brightness thou'll see.
There likewise were plums and thence: and grapes that heal the sick of [all] diseases and do away giddiness and bile from the head; and figs on the branches, parcel red and green, amazing sight and sense even as saith the poet:'Tis as the fig, whose whiteness, with mingling green bedight, Amongst the tree-leaves fruited, appeareth to the sight,
And saith another and saith well:Hail to the fig! It comes to us On dishes in fair order laid,
And saith a third alike well:Give me the fig, with beauty that's clad and good to eat: Its outward with its inward accordeth, as is meet.
And how excellent is the saying of one of them:Quoth they (and I on the fig, forsooth, was wont my fill to feed And Made no count of the other fruits to which they gave the meed,)
And still goodlier that of another:The fig to me is pleasing above all fruits that be, Whenas it's ripe and dangles upon its shining tree.
There were also pears of various kinds, Sinai, Aleppo and Greek, growing singly and in clusters, parcel green and parcel yellow, amazing the beholder, as saith of them the poet:Fair fall thee of a pear, whose hue is grown Even as a lover pale (37) for love and moan;
And Sultani (38) peaches of various shades of red and yellow whereof saith the poet:'Tis as the peach, i' the gardens, when with red, like unto dragon's blood, 'tis all o'erspread,
And green almonds of exceeding sweetness, resembling the heart (39) of the palm-tree, with their kernels hidden within three tunics of the handiwork of the Munificent King, even as is said of them:A tender body, various of attributes and pent In tunics three, the handiwork of God Omnipotent.
And as well saith another:Dost thou not see the almonds, when from the parent stem The gentle hand of a plucker pulls and detaches them?
And as saith a third better than he:How goodly is the almond green! The smallest fills the hand, I ween.
And as saith yet another and saith well:Mine eyes have not looked on the like of the almond For beauty, with blossoms in spring-time bedight.
And jujube-plums of various colours, growing singly and in clusters, whereof saith one, describing them:Look at the jujube-plums, upon the branches all arrayed, Like wonder-goodly apricots (to dry) on osiers laid. (40)
And as saith another and saith well:The lote-tree doth itself array In some fresh beauty every day.
And [blood] oranges, as they were galingale, (41) whereof quoth the poet El Welhan:Red oranges, that fill the hand, upon the boughs arow, Shining with loveliness; without they're fire, within they're snow.
And quoth another and quoth well:Trees of blood oranges, whose fruit, in beauty manifold, Unto his eye who draweth near, its brightness to behold,
And yet another:The hills of oranges, what time the zephyrs o'er them glide And to their touch the branches bend and sway from side to side,
And a fourth:One day of a young gazelle that he should praise Our garden and oranges we did require.
And citrons in colour as virgin gold, dropping from on high and dangling among the branches, as they were ingots of vegetable gold, as saith thereof the poet El Welhan:Hast thou not seen a fruited wood of citrons, laden all So heavily that, when they bend, one feareth lest they fall?
And shaddocks, that hung among their boughs, an they were the breasts of gazelle-like virgins contenting the utmost of desire, as saith of them the poet and saith well:A shaddock, midst the garden ways, I saw, its leaves between, On a fresh branch, as a maid's shape with symmetry beseen.
And the lemon, sweet of savour, which resembles a hen's egg, but yellowness is the ornament of its ripe fruit, and its fragrance heartens him who plucks it, as saith the poet of it:Beholdst not the lemon, that, whenas on high It shineth, for brilliancy dazzles the eye?
Moreover in this garden were all manner sweet-scented herbs and plants and fragrant powers, such as jessamine and henna and water-lilies (42) and spikenard and roses of all kinds and plaintain and myrtle and so forth: and indeed it was without parallel, seeming as it were a piece of Paradise to him who beheld it. If a sick man entered it, he came forth from it like a raging lion, and the tongue availeth not to its description, by reason of that which was therein of wonders and rarities that are not found but in Paradise: and how should it not be thus, when its door- keeper's name was Rizwan? Though widely different were their stations.
When the sons of the merchants had walked about the garden and taken their pleasure therein [awhile], they sat down in one of its pavilions and seated Noureddin in their midst on a rug of leather of Et Taif, (43) embroidered with gold, leaning on a round cushion of minever, stuffed with ostrich down. And they gave him a fan of ostrich feathers whereon were written the following verses:A fan, whose breath is fragrant; it calleth aye to mind The days of joy and solace, when fortune still was kind,
Then they laid by their turbans and [upper] clothes and sat talking and contending with one another in discourse, while they all kept their eyes fixed on Noureddin and gazed on his beauty. Presently, up came a slave with a tray on his head, wherein were dishes of china and crystal containing meats of all sorts, whatever walks [the earth] or wings the air or swims the waters, such as grouse and quails and pigeons and mutton and chickens and the most delicate of fish, for one of the young men had given the people of his house a charge of this, before coming forth to the garden. So, the tray being set before them, they fell to and ate their fill; and when they had made an end of eating, they rose from meat and washed their hands with pure water and soap scented with musk, and dried them with napkins embroidered with silk and bugles; but to Noureddin they brought a napkin laced with red gold, on which he wiped his hands.
Then coffee was served up and each drank what he would, after which they sat talking, till presently the keeper of the garden went away and returning with a basket full of roses, said to them, 'What say ye to flowers, O my masters?' Quoth one of them, 'They are welcome, (44) especially roses, which are not to be refused.' 'It is well,' answered the gardener: 'but it is of our wont not to give roses but in exchange for some contribution to the general amusement; so whoso would have aught thereof let him recite some apposite verses.' Now they were ten in number; so one of them said, 'Agreed: give me [of them], and I will recite thee somewhat of verse apt to the case.' So the gardener gave him a bunch of roses and he recited these verses:The rose I honour over all, Because its beauties never pall.
Then he gave another a bunch and he recited the following verses:Glory to thee my lord the rose! The scent Of musk recalls the fragrance thou dost shed.
Then he gave a third a bunch and he recited these verses:A precious rose, the heart of man it gladdeneth with its sight; Its scent the best of ambergris recalleth to the spright.
Then he gave a fourth a bunch and he recited these verses:Seest not the rose-bush in blossom? Each mounted on its cane, Full many a marvel it holdeth, that ravish heart and brain.
Then he gave a bunch to a fifth and he recited these verses:Wands of green beryl fruit did bear, and when 'twas ripe, behold, As ingots to the sight it was of vegetable gold.
Then he gave a sixth a bunch and he recited the following verses:O rose, thou dost all charms comprise, that may amuse the wit, And God to thee the pleasantest of secrets doth commit.
Then he gave a bunch to a seventh and he recited these verses:I said to the rose, 'What ails thy thorns to be So swift to wound and hurt all those that touch thy charms?'
And he gave an eighth a bunch and he recited the following:God watch o'er a rose that's grown yellow and bright, Resplendent, pure gold as it were to the sight,
Then he gave a bunch to a ninth and he recited these verses:The yellow roses stir to gladness uncontrolled The heart of every slave of passion, young or old.
Then he gave a bunch of roses to the tenth and last and he recited the following verses:Seest not the hosts of the rose, in raiment red And yellow that glitter from out their blossoming-stead?
Then the gardener brought the wine-service and setting it before them, on a tray of porcelain sprayed with red gold, recited the following verses:Dawn heraldeth the light; so pour me out, I pray, Of wine, such wine as makes the faintest-hearted gay.
Then he filled and drank and the cup went round, till it came to Noureddin's turn, whereupon the gardener filled the cup and handed it to him; but he said, 'I know not this thing nor have I ever drunken thereof, for therein is a great sin and the Almighty Lord hath forbidden it in His book.' 'O my lord Noureddin,' answered the gardener, 'if thou forbear to drink only by reason of the sin, verily God (blessed and exalted be He!) is bountiful, mild, forgiving and compassionate and pardoneth the greatest sins. His mercy embraceth all things and be it upon the poet who says:Be as thou wilt and banish dread and care, For God is bountiful and debonair;
Then said one of the sons of the merchants, 'My life on thee, O my lord Noureddin, drink of this cup!' And another conjured him by the oath of divorce and yet another stood before him, till he was ashamed and taking the cup from the gardener, drank a mouthful, but spat it out again, saying, 'It is bitter.' 'O my lord Noureddin,' said the gardener, 'knowest thou not that the sweetest things, when taken by way of medicine, are bitter? Were this not bitter, it would lack of the [many] virtues it possesseth; amongst which are that it digesteth food and doth away care and anxiety and dispelleth vapours and clarifieth the blood and cleareth the complexion and enliveneth the body and hearteneth the poltroon and fortifieth the sexual power; but to name all its virtues would be tedious. Quoth one of the poets:We'll drink, for God His clemency encompasseth the soul On every side: I medicine my ailments with the bowl;
Then he opened one of the cupboards there and taking out a loaf of reined sugar, broke of a great piece, which he put in Noureddin's cup, saying, 'O my lord, if thou fear to drink wine, because of its bitterness, drink now, for it is sweet.' So he took the cup and emptied it: whereupon one of his comrades filled him another, saying, 'I am thy slave,' and another [did the like], saying, 'I am one of thy servants,' and a third said, 'For my sake!' and a fourth, 'God on thee, O my lord Noureddin, heal my heart!' And so they plied him with wine, till they had made him drink ten cups.
Now Noureddin's body wag virgin [of wine-bibbing], nor all his life had he drunken wine till then, wherefore its fumes mounted to his brain and drunkenness was stark upon him and he stood up (and indeed his tongue was embarrassed and his speech thick) and said, 'O company, by Allah, ye are fair and your speech and place are goodly, but there needs the hearing of sweet music; for drink without music lacks the chief of its essentials, even as saith the poet:Pass round the cup to the old and the young man, too, And take the bowl from the hand of the shining moon, (48)
Therewith up rose the gardener and mounting one of the young men's mules, was absent awhile, after which he returned with a girl of Cairo, as she were a delicate fat sheep's tail or pure silver or a dinar in a porcelain dish or a gazelle in the desert. She had a face that put to shame the shining sun and bewitching eyes (50) and brows like bended bows and rosy cheeks and pearly teeth and sugared lips and languishing glances and ivory breasts and slender body, full of folds and dimples, and buttocks like stuffed pillows and thighs like columns of Syrian marble, and between them what was like a sachet [of spices] folded in a wrapper. Quoth the poet of her:A fair one, to idolaters if she herself should show, They'd leave their idols and her face for only Lord would know.
And quoth another:More brilliant than the moon at full, with liquid languorous eyes, She seems an antelope that takes the lion-whelps to prize.
And how well saith a third:Three things for ever hinder her to visit us, for fear Of the intriguing spy and eke the rancorous envier;
She was like the moon, when it appears on its fourteenth night, and was clad in a garment of blue, with a veil of green, over a flower-white forehead, that amazed all wits and confounded those of understanding. And indeed she was possessed of the utmost grace and beauty and symmetry, as it were she of whom the poet would speak when he saith:She comes in a robe the colour of ultramarine, Blue as the stainless sky unflecked with white.
And how goodly is the saying of another and how excellent!She came unto me, straitly veiled, and I to her did say, 'Thy face, the bright, resplendent moon, uncover and display.'
Then said the gardener to her, 'O lady of fair ones and mistress of every shining star, know that we sought not, in bringing thee hither, but that thou shouldst entertain this comely youth here, my lord Noureddin, for he hath only come to this place this day.' And she answered, saying, 'Would thou hadst told me, that I might have brought what I have with me!' 'O my lady,' rejoined the gardener, 'I will go and fetch it to thee.' 'As thou wilt,' replied she: and he said, 'Give me a token.' So she gave him a handkerchief and he went away in haste and returned after awhile, bearing a bag of green satin, with cords of gold. She took the bag from him and opening it, shook it, whereupon there fell thereout two-and-thirty pieces of wood, which she fitted, one into another, till they became a polished lute of Indian workmanship.
Then she uncovered her wrist and laying the lute in her lap, bent over it, as the mother bends over her child, and swept the strings with the tips of her fingers; whereupon it moaned and resounded and yearned after its former habitations; and it remembered the waters that gave it to drink [whilst yet in the tree,] and the earth whence it sprang and wherein it grew up and the carpenters who cut it and the polishers who polished it and the merchants who exported it and the ships that carried it; and it cried out and wailed and lamented; and it was as if she questioned it of all these things and it answered her with the tongue of the case, reciting the following verses:Whilom I was a tree, wherein the nightingales did nest; Whilst green my head, I swayed for them with longing and unrest.
Then she was silent awhile, but presently taking the lute in her lap, bent over it, as the mother bends over her child, and preluded in many different modes; then, returning to the first, she sang the following verses:An they'd unto the lover incline or visit pay, From off his back the burden of longing he might lay.
When Noureddin heard this, he looked on her with eyes of love and could scarce contain himself for the violence of his inclination to her; and on like wise was it with her, because she looked at the company who were present of the sons of the merchants and at Noureddin and saw that he was amongst the rest as the moon among stars; for that he was sweet of speech and full of amorous grace, perfect in beauty and brightness and loveliness and accomplished in symmetry, pure of all defect, blander than the zephyr and more delicate than Tesnim, (55) as saith of him the poet:By his cheeks' unfading damask and his smiling teeth I swear, By the arrows that he feathers with the witchery of his air,
Her verses pleased him and he swayed from side to side for drunkenness and fell a-praising her and saying:A luting maiden stole away Our wits for drunkenness one day.
When she heard this, she looked at him with eyes of love and redoubled in passion and desire for him increased upon her, and indeed she marvelled at his beauty and grace and symmetry, so that she could not contain herself but took the lute again and sang the following:He chides me, if I look on him, and with disdain Entreats me, though my life is his for weal and bane;
Noureddin wondered at the beauty of her song and the sweetness of her voice and the eloquence of her speech and his wit fled for stress of love and longing and distraction, so that he could not refrain from her a moment, but bent to her and strained her to his bosom; and she in like manner abandoned herself to his caresses and kissed him between the eyes. Then he kissed her on the mouth and they played at kisses with one another, after the manner of the billing of doves, till the others were distracted and rose to their feet; whereupon Noureddin was abashed and held his hand from her. Then she took her lute and preluding thereon in many different modes, returned to the first and sang the following verses:A moon, he draws from out his lids, whenas he turns and sways, A sword and puts gazelles to shame, whenas he stands at gaze.
When Noureddin heard the sweetness of her voice and the beauty of her verses, he inclined to her for delight and could not contain himself for excess of wonderment; so he recited these lines:Methought she was the very sun of morning's self, until She veils her; but the fire she lit flames in my entrails still.
She marvelled at his eloquence and grace and taking her lute, smote thereon after the goodliest of fashions repeating all the melodies, and sang the following verses:As thy face liveth, O thou the life of my spirit, I swear, I cannot remove from thy love, if I do or I do not despair.
Her song moved Noureddin to the utmost wonder and delight and he answered her as follows:The face o' the sun is not unveiled in the darkness of the night, But is the far horizon's marge the full moon hides its light,
When she heard Noureddin's words and noted the beauty of his eloquence, she was transported and her wit was dazed and love of him got hold upon her whole heart. So she pressed him to her bosom and fell to kissing him after the manner of doves billing, whilst he returned her caresses; but the vantage is to the first comer. When she had made an end of kissing, she took the lute and recited the following verses:Ah, woe's us for a blamer, to censure ever prone, Whether or no of passion to him I make my moan!
And also these:Quoth his lovers, 'Except of the nectar so rare of his mouth he vouchsafe us to drink, debonair,
Noureddin marvelled at the fluency of her tongue and praised her grace and exceeding seductiveness; whereupon she rose and putting off all that was upon her of [outer] clothes and trinkets, sat down on his knees and kissed him between the eyes and on the mole of his cheek. Then she gave him all she had put off, saying, 'O beloved of my heart, the gift is after the measure of the giver's capacity.' So he accepted this from her and gave it back to her and kissed her on the mouth and cheeks and eyes.
When this was done, (for nought endureth save God, the Living, the Eternal, Provider of the peacock and the owl), Noureddin rose from the place of session and stood upon his feet, for the darkness was now fallen and the stars shone out; whereupon quoth the damsel to him, 'Whither away, O my lord?' And he said, 'To my father's house.' Then the sons of the merchants conjured him to pass the night with them, but he refused and mounting his mule, rode, without stopping, till he reached his father's house, where his mother met him and said to him, 'O my son, what hath kept thee abroad till this hour? By Allah, thou hast troubled thy father and myself by thine absence from us, and our hearts have been occupied with thee.' Then she came up to him, to kiss him on his mouth, and smelling the fumes of the wine, said, 'O my son, how is this? Art thou, after prayer and worship, become a wine-bibber and a transgressor of His word to whom belong creation and commandment?' But Noureddin threw himself down on the bed and lay there.
Presently in came his father and said:, 'What ails Noureddin to lie thus?' And his mother answered, saying, 'It would seem his head irketh him for the air of the garden.' So Tajeddin went up to his son, to question him of his ailment and salute him, and smelt the wine he had drunk. Now he loved not wine-drinkers; so he said to Noureddin, 'Out on thee, O my son! Is folly come to such a pass with thee, that thou drinkest wine?' When Noureddin heard this, he raised his hand, being yet in his drunkenness, and dealt him a buffet. As fate would leave it, the blow lit on his father's right eye [and struck it out] and it ran down on his cheek; whereupon he fell down in a swoon and lay therein awhile. They sprinkled rose-water on him till he came to himself, when he would have beaten Noureddin; but his wife withheld him, and he swore, by the oath of divorcement from her, that, as soon as it was day, he would assuredly cut off his son's right hand. When she heard her husband's words, her breast was straitened and she feared for her son and ceased not to soothe and appease Tajeddin, till sleep overcame him.
Then she waited till the moon was risen, when she went in to her son, whose drunkenness had now ceased from him, and said to him, 'O Noureddin' what is this foul thing thou hast done with thy father?' 'And what did I with him?' asked he. Quoth she, 'Thou dealtest him a buffet on the right eye and struckest it out; and he hath sworn by the oath of divorcement that, as soon as it is day, he will without fail cut off thy right hand.' Noureddin repented him of that which he had done, whenas repentance profited him nothing, and his mother said to him, 'O my son, this repentance will not profit thee; nor will aught serve thee but that thou arise forthright and seek safety in flight. Go forth the house privily and take refuge with one of thy friends and there await what God shall do, for He changeth case after case.'
Then she opened a chest and taking out a purse of a hundred dinars, said to Noureddin, 'O my son, take these dinars and provide thyself therewith, and when they are at an end, send and give me to know thereof that I may send thee other than these, and at the same time send me news of thyself privily. It may be God will decree thee relief and thou shalt return to thy dwelling.' And she bade him farewell and wept passing sore. Noureddin took the purse and was about to go forth, when he espied a great purse containing a thousand dinars, which his mother had forgotten beside the chest. So he took this also and tying the two purses about his middle, set out before dawn in the direction of Boulac, where he arrived whenas the day broke and all creatures arose, attesting the unity of God the Opener [of the gates of sustenance and mercy] and went forth each upon his several business, to suffer that which God had allotted to him.
He walked on along the river-bank till he saw a ship with her gangway out and her four grapnels made fast to the land. The folk were going up into her and coming down from her, and Noureddin, seeing some sailors standing there, asked them whither they were bound. 'To the city of Rosetta,' answered they; and he said, 'Take me with you.' Quoth they, 'Welcome and fair welcome to thee, O goodly youth!' So he betook himself forthright to the market and buying what he needed of victual and bedding and covering [for the voyage,] returned to the port and went on board the ship, which was ready to sail and tarried with him but a little while before it weighed anchor and fared on, without stopping, till it reached Rosetta, where Noureddin saw a small boat going to Alexandria. So he embarked in it and traversing the [Mehmoudiyeh] canal, fared on till he came to a bridge called El Jami, where he landed and entered Alexandria by the gate called the Gate of the Lote-tree.
God protected him, so that none of those who stood At the gate saw him, and he entered the city, which he found a strongly fortified city, goodly of pleasaunces, delightful to its inhabitants and inviting to abide therein. The season of winter had departed from it with its cold and the season of spring was come to it with its roses: its flowers were in blossom and its trees in full leaf; its fruits were ripe and its waters welled forth. Indeed, it was a city goodly of ordinance and construction; its folk were of the best of men, and when the gate thereof were shut, its people were in safety. And it was even as is said of it in the following verses:'Describe Alexandria, I pray,' Quoth I to a comrade one day,
Or as saith one of the poets:Alexandria's a frontier seat; (60) The water of its lips is sweet. How fair the coming to it is, So one therein no raven meet!
Noureddin walked about the city till he came to the merchants' bazaar, whence he passed on to the bazaar of the money-changers and so on in turn to those of the confectioners and fruiterers and druggists, marvelling, as he went at the city, for that its qualities accorded with its name. (61) As he walked in the druggists' bazaar, an old man came down from his shop and saluting him, took him by the hand and carried him to a fair by-street, swept and sprinkled, whereon the zephyr blew and was pleasant and the leaves of the trees overshaded it. Therein stood three houses and at the upper end a mansion, whose foundations were stablished in the water and its roofs rose up to the confines of the sky. The space before it was paved with marble, swept and sprinkled, and those who approached it smelt the fragrance of flowers, borne on the zephyr, which breathed upon the place, an it were one of the gardens of Paradise.
The old man carried Noureddin into the house and set food before him, whereof he ate with him. When they had made an end of eating, the druggist said to him, 'When camest thou hither from Cairo?' And Noureddin old man, 'What is thy name?' And he replied, 'Ali Noureddin.' 'O my son, O Noureddin,' said the druggist, 'be the triple divorcement incumbent on me, if thou leave me so long as thou abidest in this town; and I will set thee apart a place wherein to dwell.' Quoth Noureddin, 'O my lord, let me know more of thee.' And the other answered, 'Know, O my son, that years ago I came to Cairo with merchandise, which I sold there and bought other, and I had occasion for a thousand dinars. So thy father paid them down for me, for all he had no knowledge of me, and would take no security of me, but had patience with me till I returned hither and sent him the amount by one of my servants, together with a present. I saw thee, whilst thou wast little, and if it please God the Most High, I will repay thee somewhat of the kindness thy father did me.' When Noureddin heard the old man's story, he smiled and showed joy and pulling out the purse of a thousand dinars, gave it to his host and said to him, 'Take charge of this for me, against I buy me therewith somewhat of merchandise whereon to trade.'
Then he abode some days in Alexandria, eating and drinking and making merry and taking his pleasure in its thoroughfares, till he had made an end of the hundred dinars he had kept by way of spending-money; whereupon he repaired to the old druggist, to take of him somewhat of the thousand dinars to spend, but found him not in his shop and sat down there, to await his return. As he sat thus, gazing right and left and amusing himself with watching the merchants and passers-by, there came into the bazaar a Persian riding on a mule and having behind him a damsel, as she were virgin silver or a turbot in a tank or a gazelle in the desert. Her face outvied the shining sun and she had bewitching eyes and breasts of ivory, teeth of pearl, slender body and dimpled sides and legs like fat sheep's tails; and indeed she was perfect in beauty and grace and symmetry, even as saith one, describing her:As she wished, she was created, after such a wise that lo, She in beauty's mould was fashioned, perfect, neither less nor mo'.
The Persian lighted down from his mule and making the damsel alight also, called the broker and said to him, 'Take this damsel and cry her for sale in the market.' So he fetched a stool of ebony, inlaid with ivory, and setting it amiddleward the bazaar, seated her thereon. Then he raised her veil and discovered a face as it were a Median targe (63) or a sparkling star: and indeed she was like the full moon, when it appears on its fourteenth night, accomplished to the utmost in surpassing beauty. As saith the poet:The full moon ignorantly vied in beauty with her face, But was eclipsed and split in twain for wrath at its disgrace;
And how well saith another:Say to the fair in the muffler laced and wrought with gold, 'Hark ye! What hast thou done with a pious man was like a monk to be?'
Then said the broker to the merchants, 'How much do ye bid for the pearl of the diver and prize of the fowler?' Quoth one, 'She is mine for a hundred dinars.' And another said, 'Two hundred,' and a third, 'Three hundred;' and they ceased not to bid, one against another, till they made her price nine hundred and fifty dinars, and there the biddings stopped. Then the broker went up to the Persian and said to him, 'The biddings for this thy slave-girl have reached nine hundred and fifty dinars: wilt thou sell her at that price and take the money?' 'Doth she consent to this?' asked the Persian. 'I desire to consult her wishes, for I fell sick on my journey hither and she tended me with all possible care, wherefore I swore not to sell her but to him of whom she should approve, and I have put her sale in her own hand. So do thou consult her and if she say, "I consent," sell her to whom thou wilt: but if she say "No," sell her not.'
So the broker went up to her and said to her, 'Know, O princess of fair ones, that thy master putteth thy sale in thine own hands, and thy price hath reached nine hundred and fifty dinars; dost thou give me leave to sell thee?' 'Show me him who is minded to buy me,' answered she, 'before thou clinch the bargain.' So he brought her up to one of the merchants, a very old and decrepit man, and she looked at him awhile, then turned to the broker and said to him, 'O broker, art thou mad or afflicted in thy wit?' 'Why dost thou ask me this, O princess of fair ones?' said he. And she answered, 'Is it permitted of God to sell the like of me to yonder decrepit old man, who saith of his wife's case the following verses:Quoth she to me,--and sore enraged for wounded pride was she, For she in sooth had bidden me to that which might not be,--
And quoth he likewise of his yard:I leave a yard that sleeps on base and shameful wise, Whenever one I love with my desire complies;
And again quoth he thereof:I have an ill yard, passing froward, to wit: Him who honoureth it, with reproach it doth quit.
When the old merchant heard this scurvy gibing from the damsel, he was exceeding wroth and said to the broker, 'O unluckiest of brokers, thou hast not brought this ill-conditioned wench into the market but to flout me and make mock of me before the merchants.' Then the broker took her aside and said to her, 'O my lady, be not lacking in manners. The old man whom thou didst mock at is the syndic of the bazaar and inspector of weights and measures thereof and one of the council of the merchants.' But she laughed and said:'It behoveth the folk that bear rule in our time, Yea, 'tis one of the duties of magistrateship,
By Allah, O my lord,' added she, 'I will not be sold to yonder old man; so sell me to other than him, for belike he will be abashed at me and sell me again and I shall become a servant and it beseems not that I sully myself with menial service; and indeed thou knowest that the matter of my sale is committed to myself.' 'I hear and obey,' answered he and carried her to one of the chief merchants. 'How sayst thou, O my lady?' asked he. hundred and fifty dinars?' She looked at him and seeing him to be an old man, with a dyed beard, said to the broker, 'Art thou mad, that thou wouldst sell me to this worn-out old man? Am I cotton refuse or threadbare rags that thou marchest me about from graybeard to graybeard, each like a wall ready to fall or an Afrit smitten down of a [shooting] star? As for the first, the poet had him in mind when he said:'I sought of a fair maid to kiss her lips of coral red, But, "No, by Him who fashioned things from nothingness!" she said.
And how goodly is the saying of the poet:They say that hoary hair is as a shining light, The face with venerance and lustre that doth dight;
And yet goodlier is the saying of another:A guest unhonoured on my head hath stolen by surprise, With my side-locks the sword than he had dealt on milder wise.
As for the other, he is a reprobate and a lewd fellow and a blackener of the face of hoariness; he acts the foulest of lies; and the tongue of his case reciteth the following verses:Quoth she to me, "I see thou dy'st thy hoariness;" and I, "I do but hide it from thy sight, O thou mine ear and eye!"
And how excellent is the saying of the poet:O thou with black that drest thy hoariness, that so Lost youth with thee may tarry or come to thee once mo',
When the old man with the dyed beard heard this, he was exceeding wroth and said to the broker, 'O most ill-omened of brokers, what aileth thee to bring this crack- brained wench into our market, to gibe at all who are therein, one after other, and flout them with mocking verses and idle jests?' And he came down from his shop and smote the broker on the face. So he took her and carried her away, in a rage, saying to her, 'By Allah, never in my life saw I a more impudent wench than thyself! Thou hast spoilt my trade and thine own this day and all the merchants will bear me a grudge on thine account.'
Then they saw in the way a merchant called Shihabeddin, who bid ten dinars more for her, and the broker asked her leave to sell her to him. Quoth she, 'Let me see him and question him of a certain thing, which if he have in his house, I will be sold to him; and if not, not.' So the broker left her standing there and going up to Shihabeddin, said to him, 'O my lord, know that yonder damsel tells me she hath a mind to ask thee of somewhat, which if thou have in thy house, she will be sold to thee. Now thou hast heard what she said to thy fellows the [other] merchants, and by Allah, I fear to bring her to thee, lest she do with thee like as she did with thy neighbours and so I fall into disgrace with thee: but, if thou bid me bring her to thee, I will do so.' Quoth the merchant, 'Bring her to me.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the broker and fetched the damsel, who looked at him and said, 'O my lord Shihabeddin, hast thou in thy house cushions stuffed with minever parings?' 'Yes, O princess of fair ones,' replied Shihabeddin, 'I have half a score such cushions at home; but I conjure thee by Allah, tell me, what wilt thou do with them?' Quoth she, 'I will wait till thou be asleep, when I will lay them on thy mouth and nose [and press on them] till thou die.'
Then she turned to the broker and said to him, 'O filthiest of brokers, meseemeth thou art mad, for that, this hour past, thou slowest me, first to a pair of graybeards, in each of whom are two faults, and then to my lord Shihabeddin here, in whom are three defects; first, he is short of stature; secondly, he hath a big nose, and thirdly, he hath a long beard. Of him quoth one of the poets:Ne'er saw we in our lives nor heard of such a wight Of all that live and be beneath the sun his light:
And quoth another poet:The mosque's minaret from his visage doth spring, As the ring-finger juts from the round of the ring.
When Shihabeddin heard this, he came down from his shop and seized the broker by the collar, saying, 'O scurviest of brokers, what ails thee to bring us a damsel to flout and make mock of us, one after other, with idle talk and verses?' So the broker took her and carried her away from before him, saying, 'By Allah, all my life long, since I have plied this craft, I never set eyes on the like of thee for unmannerliness nor aught more curst to me than thy star, for thou hast cut off my livelihood this day and I have gained nought by thee save cuffs on the neck and taking by the collar!' Then he brought her to the shop of another merchant, owner of slaves and servants, and stationing her before him, said to her, 'Wilt thou be sold to this my lord Alaeddin?' She looked at him and seeing him to be humpbacked, said, 'This fellow is a hunchback, and quoth the poet of him:Shoulders drawn in and spine thrust out, 'twould seem as if to find A tar that Satan promised him, indeed, he had a mind;
And saith another:Whene'er a hunchback mounts a mule, straightway A laughing-stock to all mankind are they.
And another:A hunchback often foulness adds to his deformity, And all men's eyes upon the wight look with antipathy;
With this the broker hurried up to her and carrying her to another merchant, said to her, 'Wilt thou be sold to this man?' She looked at him and said, 'This man is blue-eyed; how wilt thou sell me to him? Quoth one of the poets of him:Ophthalmia's disorders him ply; They have broken his strength down well nigh. O people, I rede you arise And look at the mote in his eye.'
Then the broker carried her to another and she looked at him and seeing that he had a long beard, said to the broker, 'Out on thee! This is a ram, whose tail has sprouted from his gullet. Wilt thou sell me to him, O unluckiest of brokers? Hast thou not heard that all long-bearded men are little of wit? Indeed, after the measure of the length of the beard is the lack of understanding; and this is a well-known thing among men of sense. As saith one of the poets:No man, whose beard is long, although he gain some whit In gravity of mien and dignity by it,
And quoth another:I have a friend, who hath a beard that God Caused flourish without profit, till, behold,
With this the broker took her and turned away with her, and she said to him, 'Whither guest thou with me?' 'Back to thy master the Persian,' answers he; 'it suffices me what hath befallen me because of thee this day; for thou hast spoilt both my trade and his by thine unmannerliness.' Then she looked about the market right and left and front and rear, till, as fate would have it, her eyes fell on Ali Noureddin. So she looked at him and saw him to be a comely youth, fourteen years old, like the moon on the night of its full, surpassing in beauty and loveliness and elegance and amorous grace, smooth- faced and slender-shaped, with flower-white forehead and rosy cheeks, neck like alabaster and teeth like jewels and spittle sweeter than sugar, even as saith of him one of his describers:Full moons and fawns with him conclusions came to try In beauty and in grace; but 'Soft!' to them quoth I.
And how well saith another :A slender one, from his brows and the night of his jetty hair, Mankind in alternate gloom and splendour of light do fare.
When she saw him he interposed between her and her wit; the love of him sat stark hold upon her soul and her heart was taken with passion for him; so she turned to the broker and said to him, 'Will not yonder young merchant in the striped gown bid for me?' 'O lady of fair ones,' replied the broker, 'yonder young man is a stranger from Cairo, where his father is chief of the merchants and hath the pass over all the merchants and notables of the place. He is but lately come to our city and lodgeth with one of his father's friends; but he hath made no bid for thee, more nor less.'
When she heard this, she drew from her finger a ruby ring of price and said to the broker, 'Carry me to yonder youth, and if he buy me, this ring shall be thine, in requital of thy toil with me this day.' The broker rejoiced at this and brought her up to Noureddin, and she considered him straitly and found him like the full moon, accomplished in grace and elegance and symmetry, even as saith of him one of his describers:The waters of grace in his visage run clear And his glances cast arrows at all who draw near:
Then said she to Noureddin, 'God on thee, O my lord, am I not handsome?' And he answered, 'O princess of fair ones, is there in the world a goodlier than thou?' 'Then why,' rejoined she, 'seest thou the other merchants bid for me and art silent nor sayest a word neither addest one dinar to my price? It would seem I please thee not, O my lord!' Quoth he, 'O my lady, were I in mine own land, I had bought thee with all that my hand possesseth of good.' 'O my lord,' replied she, 'I would not have thee buy me against thy will; yet, didst thou but add somewhat to my price, it would comfort my heart, though thou buy me not, so the merchants may say, "Were not this girl handsome, yonder merchant of Cairo had not bidden for her, for the people of Cairo are connoisseurs in slave- girls."'
Her words abashed Noureddin and he blushed and said to the broker, 'How stand the biddings for her?' 'Her price hath reached nine hundred and sixty dinars,' answered he, 'besides brokerage. As for the Sultan's dues, they fall on the seller.' Quoth Noureddin, 'Let me have her for a thousand dinars, price and brokerage.' And the damsel hastened to leave the broker, saying, 'I sell myself to this handsome young man for a thousand dinars.' Quoth one, 'We sell to him;' and another, 'He deserves her;' and a third, 'Accursed, son of accursed, is he who bids and does not buy!' and a fourth, 'By Allah, they befit one another!' Then, before Noureddin could think, the broker fetched cadis and witnesses, who drew up a contract of sale and purchase, which the broker handed to Noureddin, saying, 'Take thy slave-girl and may God make her a blessing to thee, for she beseemeth none but thee and none but thou beseemeth her.' And he recited the following verses:Unto him fair fortune all unbidden hies, Drags her skirts (71) to-him-ward on obsequious wise. None but she befitteth him and none but he Of the maid is worthy, underneath the skies.
Noureddin was abashed before the merchants; so he paid down the thousand dinars, that he had left with his friend the druggist, and taking the girl, carried her to the house in which the latter had lodged him. When she entered and saw nothing but patched carpets and worn- out rugs, she said to him, 'O my lord, have I no value in thine eyes and am I not worthy that thou shouldst carry me to thine own house wherein are thy goods, that thou bringest me into thy servant's lodging? Why dost thou not carry me to thy father's dwelling?' 'By Allah, O princess of fair ones,' answered he, 'this is my house wherein I dwell; but it belongs to an old man, a druggist of this city, who hath set it apart for me and lodged me therein. I told thee that I was a stranger and that I am of the people of Cairo.' 'O my lord,' rejoined she, 'the least of houses will serve till thy return to thy native place; but, God on thee, O my lord, go now and fetch me somewhat of roast meat and wine and fruit and dessert.' 'By Allah, O princess of fair ones,' answered he, 'I had no money with me but the thousand dinars I paid down to thy price! The few dirhems I had I spent yesterday.' Quoth she, 'Hast thou no friend in the town, of whom thou mayst borrow fifty dirhems and bring them to me, that I may tell thee what thou shalt do therewith?' And he said, 'I have no friend but the druggist.'
Then he betook himself forthright to the druggist and said to him, 'Peace be on thee, O uncle!' He returned his salutation and said to him, 'O my son, what hast thou bought for a thousand dinars this day?' 'I have bought a slave-girl,' answered Noureddin. 'O my son,' rejoined the old man, 'art thou mad that thou givest a thousand dinars for one slave-girl? What kind of slave-girl is she?' 'She is a damsel of the children of the Franks,' replied Noureddin and the druggist said, 'O my son, the best of the girls of the Franks are to be had in this town for a hundred dinars, and by Allah, they have put a cheat on thee in the matter of this damsel! However, if thou hast a mind to her, lie with her this night and do thy will of her and to-morrow morning go down with her to the market and sell her, through thou lose two hundred dinars by her, and put it that thou hast been robbed of them or lost them by shipwreck.' 'Thou sayst well, O uncle,' replied Noureddin; 'but thou knowest that I had but the thousand dinars wherewith I bought the damsel, and now I have not a single dirhem left to spend; so I desire of thy favour and goodness that thou lend me fifty dirhems, to provide me withal, till to-morrow, when I will sell her and repay thee out of her price.' 'Willingly, O my son,' said the old man and counted out to him the fifty dirhems.
Then he said to him, 'O my son, thou art young and the damsel is fair, and belike thy heart will be taken with her and it will be grievous to thee to part from her. Now thou hast nothing to live on and the fifty dirhems will [soon] be spent and thou wilt come to me and I shall lend thee once or twice and thrice and so on up to ten times; but, if thou come to me after this, I will not return thee the legal salutation (72) and our friendship with thy father will come to nought.' Noureddin took the fifty dirhems and returned with them to the damsels who said to him, 'O my lord, go straight to the market and fetch me twenty dirhems' worth of silk of five colours and with the other thirty buy meat and bread and wine and fruit and flowers.' So he went to the market and buying her all she sought, returned to her therewith, whereupon she rose and tucking up her sleeves, cooked food after the most skilful fashion, and set it before him. He ate and she ate with him, till they had enough, after which she set on the wine, and they drank, and she ceased not to ply him with drink and entertain him with talk, till he became drunken and fell asleep: whereupon she arose and taking out of her budget a sachet of Tain leather, (73) opened it and brought out a pair of knitting-pins, with which she fell to work and stinted not, till she had made a beautiful girdle. She cleaned it and ironed it and folding it in a piece of rag, laid it under the pillow.
Then she put off her clothes and lying down beside Noureddin, kneaded him till he awoke and found by his side a girl like virgin silver, softer than silk and more delicate than a fat sheep's tail, more conspicuous than a standard (74) and goodlier than the red camels, (75) low of stature, with swelling breasts, eyes like gazelles' eyes and brows like bended bows and cheeks like blood-red anemones, slender belly, full of dimples, and a navel holding an ounce of benzoin ointment, thighs like bolsters stuffed with ostrich down, and between them what the tongue fails to describe and at mention whereof the tears pour forth. Indeed it seemed as it were she to whom the poet alludes in the following verses:Her hair is night, her forehead day, her cheeks a blossomed rose And wine the honeyed dews wherewith her mouth for ever flows.
And how excellent is another's saying:She shineth forth, a moon, and bends, a willow-wand, And breathes out ambergris and gazes, a gazelle.
And quoth a third:Unveiled, new moons they shine, and all displayed, like moons at full, They burn: like boughs they sway, and eke like antelopes they turn:
So he turned to her and pressing her to his bosom, sucked first her under lip and then her upper lip and slid his tongue into her mouth. Then he rose to her and found her an unpierced pearl and a filly that none but he had mounted. So he did away her maidenhead and had of her the amorous delight and there was contracted between them love that might never know breach nor severance. He rained down kisses upon her cheeks, like the falling of pebbles into water, and beset her with stroke upon stroke, like the thrusting of spears in the mellay; for that Noureddin still yearned after clipping of necks and sucking of lips and letting down of tresses and pressing of waists and biting of cheeks and pinching of breasts, with Cairene motitations and Yemani wrigglings and Abyssinian sobbings and Hindi torsions and Nubian lasciviousness and Rifi (76) leg-liftings and Damiettan gruntings and Upper Egyptian heat and Alexandrian languor, and this damsel united in herself all these attributes, together with excess of beauty and amorous grace; and indeed she was even as saith of her the poet:By Allah, I will never all my life long forget her, my dear, And those only will I tender who shall bring her to me to draw near!
So Noureddin lay with the damsel in solace and delight, clad in the strait-linked garments of emplacement, secure against the accidents of night and day, and they passed the night after the goodliest fashion, fearing not, in love-delight, abundance of talk and prate. As says of them the right excellent poet:Cleave fast to her thou lov'st and let the envious rail amain; For calumny and envy ne'er to favour love were fain.
When the morning appeared and gave forth its light and shone, Noureddin awoke from sleep and found that she had brought water: (77) so they washed, he and she, and he acquitted that which behoved him of prayer to his Lord, after which she brought him meat and drink, and he ate and drank. Then she put her hand under her pillow and pulling out the girdle, gave it to Noureddin, who said, 'Whence cometh this girdle?' 'O my lord,' answered she, 'it is the silk thou boughtest yesterday for twenty dirhems. Rise now and go to the Persian bazaar and give it to the broker, to cry for sale, and sell it not for less than twenty dinars, money down.' 'O princess of fair ones,' said Noureddin, 'how can a thing, that cost twenty dirhems and will sell for as many dinars, be made in a single night?' 'O my lord,' replied she, 'thou knowest not its value; but go to the market and give it to the broker, and when he cries it, its worth will appear to thee.'
So he carried the girdle to the market and gave it to the broker, bidding him cry it, whilst he himself sat down on a bench before a shop. After awhile, the broker returned and said to him, 'O my lord, rise and take the price of thy girdle, for it hath fetched twenty dinars.' When Noureddin heard this, he marvelled exceedingly and shook with delight. Then he rose, between belief and disbelief to take the money and when he had received it, he spent it all on silk of various colours and returning home, gave the silk to the damsel, saying, 'Make this all into girdles and teach me likewise how to make them, that I may work with thee; for never in my life saw I a goodlier craft than this nor a more abounding in profit. By Allah, it is a thousand times better than the trade of A merchant!' She laughed and said, 'Go to thy friend the druggist and borrow other thirty dirhems of him, and to-morrow pay him the whole eighty from the price of the girdles.'
So he repaired to the druggist and said to him, 'O uncle, lend me other thirty dirhems, and to-morrow, God willing, I will repay thee the whole fourscore.' The old man counted him out thirty dirhems, with which he went to the market and buying meat and bread and dessert and fruit and flowers as before, carried them home to the damsel, whose name was Meryem, the girdle-maker. She rose forthright and making ready rich meats, set them before Noureddin; after which she brought wine, and they drank and plied each other with liquor. When the wine began to sport with their senses, his beauty and grace pleased her and the elegance of his manners, and she recited the following verses:Unto a slender one, who with a goblet came With musk from out his breath perfumed, to give it zest.
And she ceased not to carouse with him and ply him with wine and require of him that he should fill to her and give her to drink of that which sweetens the spirits, and whenever he laid his hand on her, she drew back from him, out of coquetry. The wine added to her beauty and gee, and Noureddin recited these verses:A slender one, desiring wine, unto her lover said, In an assembly, whenas he did sickness for her dread,
They gave not over drinking till drunkenness got the mastery of Noureddin and he slept; whereupon she rose and fell to work upon a girdle, according to her wont. When she had wrought it to end, she wrapped it in paper and putting off her clothes, lay down by his side, and they passed the night in dalliance and delight.
On the morrow, she gave him the girdle and bade him carry it to the market and sell it for twenty dinars, like as he had sold its fellow the day before. So he went to the market and sold the girdle for twenty dinars, after which he repaired to the druggist and paid him back the four- score diadems, thanking him for his bounties and calling down blessings upon him. 'O my son,' said he, 'hast thou sold the damsel?' 'Wouldst thou have me sell the soul out of my body?' answered Noureddin and told him all that had passed, whereat the druggist was mightily pleased and said to him, 'By Allah, O my son, thou rejoicest me! So God please, mayst thou still abide in prosperity! Indeed I wish thee well by reason of my affection for thy father and the continuance of our friendship.' Then he took leave of him and going to the market, bought meat and fruit and wine and all that he needed, as of wont, and returned therewith to Meryem.
They abode thus a whole year in eating and drinking and sport and merriment and love and good cheer, and every night she made a girdle and he sold it on the morrow for twenty dinars, wherewith he bought what they needed and gave the rest to her, to keep against a time of need. After this, she said to him one day, 'O my lord, when thou sellest the girdle to-morrow, buy me silk of six colours with its price, for I have a mind to make thee a kerchief to wear on thy shoulders, such as never son of merchant, no, nor king's son, ever rejoiced in its fellow.' So next day he brought her what she aught and she wrought at the kerchief a whole week; for, every night, when she had made an end of the girdle, she would work awhile at the kerchief. When it was finished, she gave it to Noureddin, who put it on his shoulders and went out to walk in the market, whilst all the merchants and people and notables of the town crowded about him, to gaze on his beauty and that of the kerchief.
One night, after this, he awoke from sleep and found Meryem weeping passing sore and reciting the following verses:The severance of friends draws near and nearer aye: Alas for severance! Alas, the parting day!
'O my lady Meryem,' said he, 'what ails thee to weep?' 'I weep for the anguish of parting,' answered she; 'for my heart forebodes me thereof.' Quoth he, 'O lady of fair ones, and who shall part us, seeing that I love and tender thee above all creatures?' And she replied, 'And I love thee twice as well as thou me; but [blind] confidence in fortune still causes folk fall into affliction, and right well saith the poet:Thou thoughtest well of Fate, whilst yet the days for thee were fair, And fearedst not the unknown ills that destiny might bring.
O my lord Noureddin,' added she, 'if thou desire to avert separation, be on thy guard against a swart-visaged, bushy-bearded old Frank, blind of the right eye and lame of the left leg; for he it is who will be the cause of our separation. I saw him enter the city [to-day] and methinks he is come hither in quest of me.' 'O lady of fair ones,' replied Noureddin, 'if my eyes light on him, I will slay him and make an example of him.' 'O my lord,' rejoined she, 'slay him not; but talk not nor trade with him, neither buy nor sell with him nor sit nor walk with him nor speak one word to him, no, not even to make the prescribed answer, (78) and I pray God to keep us from his craft and mischief!'
Next morning, Noureddin carried the girdle to the market, where he sat down on a bench before a shop and talked with the young merchants, till drowsiness overcame him and he lay down on the bench and fell asleep. Presently, up came the Frank whom the damsel had described to him, in company of seven others, and seeing Noureddin lying asleep on the bench, with his head wrapped in the kerchief which Meryem had made him and the end thereof in his hand, sat down by him and took the end of the kerchief in his hand and examined it. This disturbed Noureddin and he awoke and seeing the very man sitting by him of whom Meryem had warned him, cried out at him with a great cry, that startled him. Quoth the Frank, 'What ails thee to cry out thus at us? Have we taken aught from thee?' 'By Allah, O accursed one,' replied Noureddin, 'hadst thou taken aught from me, I would hale thee before the master of police!'
Then said the Frank, 'O Muslim, I conjure thee by thy faith and by that in which thou believest, tell me whence thou hadst that kerchief.' And Noureddin answered, 'It is the handiwork of my mother, who made it for me with her own hand.' 'Wilt thou sell it to me?' asked the Frank. 'By Allah, O accursed one,' replied Noureddin, 'I will not sell it to thee nor to any other, for she made none other than it.' 'Sell it to me,' repeated the Frank, 'and I will give thee to its price eve hundred dinars ready money; and let her who made it make thee another and handsomer.' But Noureddin said, 'I will not sell it at all, for there is not the like of it in this city.' 'O my lord,' insisted the Frank, 'wilt thou sell it for six hundred dinars of fine gold?' And he went on to add to his offer hundred by hundred, till he bid nine hundred dinars; but Noureddin said, 'God will provide me otherwise than by my selling it. I will never sell it, no, not for two thousand dinars nor more than that.'
Then the Frank went on to tempt him with money, till he bid him a thousand dinars, and the merchants present said, 'We sell thee the kerchief at that price: pay down the money.' Quoth Noureddin, 'By Allah, I will not sell it!' But one of the merchants said to him, 'O my son, the worth of this kerchief is a hundred dinars at most and that to an eager purchaser, and if this Frank pay thee down a thousand for it, thy profit will be nine hundred dinars, and what profit canst thou desire greater than that? Wherefore it is my counsel that thou sell him the kerchief at that price and gain nine hundred dinars by this accursed Frank, the enemy of God and of the faith, and bid her who wrought it make thee other or handsomer than it.'
Noureddin was abashed at the merchants and sold the kerchief to the Frank, who, in their presence, paid him down the thousand dinars, with which he would have returned to Meryem, to tell her what had passed; but the stranger said, 'Harkye, O company of merchants, stop my lord Noureddin, for you and he are my guests this night. I have a pitcher of old Greek wine and a fat lamb and fruit and flowers and confections; wherefore needs must ye all cheer me with your company to-night and not one of you tarry behind.' So the merchants said to Noureddin, 'O my lord Noureddin, we desire that thou be with us on the like of this night, so we may talk together, we and thou, and we pray thee, of thy favour, to bear us company, so we may be, we and thou, the guests of this Frank, for he is a hospitable man.' And they conjured him by the oath of divorce and hindered him by force from going home.
Then they rose forthright and shutting up their shops took Noureddin and went with the Frank, who brought them to a goodly and spacious saloon, wherein were two estrades. Here he made them sit and laid before them [a tray covered with] a scarlet cloth of rare and goodly workmanship, wroughten in gold with figures of breaker and broken, lover and beloved, asker and asked, whereon he set precious vessels of porcelain and crystal, full of the costliest fruits and flowers and confections, and brought them a pitcher of old Greek wine. Then he commanded to slaughter a fat lamb and kindling fare, proceeded to roast of its flesh and feed the merchants therewith and give them to drink of the wine, winking them the while to ply Noureddin with liquor. So they plied him with wine till he became drunken and took leave of his wits, which when the Frank saw, he said to him, 'O my lord Noureddin, thou gladdenest us with thy company to-night: welcome, a thousand times welcome to thee!'
Then he drew near unto him and dissembled with him awhile in talk, till he [found his opportunity and] said to him, 'O my lord, wilt thou sell me thy slave-girl, whom thou boughtest a year ago for a thousand dinars, in presence of these merchants? I will give thee five thousand dinars for her and thou wilt thus make four thousand dinars profit.' Noureddin refused but the Frank ceased not to ply him with meat and drink and tempt him with money, still adding to his offers, till he bid him ten thousand dinars for her; whereupon Noureddin, in his drunkenness, said, in the presence of the merchants, 'I sell her to thee for ten thousand dinars; hand over the money.' At this the Frank rejoiced mightily and took the merchants to witness of the sale.
They passed the night in eating and drinking and making merry, till the morning, when the Frank cried out to his servants, saying, 'Bring me the money.' So they brought it to him and he counted out ten thousand dinars to Noureddin, saying, 'O my lord, take the price of thy slave-girl, whom thou soldest to me last night, in the presence of these Muslim merchants.' 'Thou liest, O accursed one,' replied Noureddin. 'I sold thee nothing and have no slave-girls.' Quoth the Frank, 'Verily thou didst sell her to me and these merchants were witnesses to the bargain.' 'Yes,' said they all, 'thou soldest him thy slave-girl before us for ten thousand dinars, O Noureddin, and we will all bear witness against thee of the sale. Come, take the money and deliver him the girl, and God will give thee a better than she in her stead. Doth it mislike thee, O Noureddin, that thou boughtest the girl for a thousand dinars and hast enjoyed her beauty and grace and taken thy fill of her company and converse night and day for a year and a half, wherein thou hast gained half a score thousand dinars by the sale of the girdle which she made thee every day and thou soldest for twenty dinars, and after all this thou hast sold her again at a profit of nine thousand dinars over and above her original price? And withal thou deniest the sale and belittlest the profit! What gain is greater than this gain and what profit wouldst thou have greater than this? If thou love her, thou hast had thy fill of her all this time: so take the money and buy another handsomer than she; or we will marry thee to one of our daughters lovelier than she, at a dowry of less than half this price, and the rest of the money will remain in thy hand an capital.' And they ceased not to ply him with persuasion and argument till he took the ten thousand dinars, the price of the damsels and the Frank straightway fetched Cadis and witnesses, who drew up the contract of sale.
Meanwhile, Meryem sat awaiting Noureddin from morning till sundown and from sundown till midnight; and when he returned not, she was troubled and wept sore. The druggist heard her weeping and sent his wife to her, who went in to her and finding her in tears said to her, 'O my lady, what ails thee to weep?' 'O my mother,' answered she, 'I have sat awaiting my lord Noureddin all day; but he cometh not, and I fear lest some one have put a cheat on him, to make him sell me, and he have fallen into the snare and sold me.' 'O my lady Meryem, rejoined the druggist's wife, 'were they to give thy lord this room full of gold to thy price, yet would he not sell thee, for what I know of his love to thee. Belike there be folk come frown his parents at Cairo and he hath made them an entertainment in their lodging, being ashamed to bring them hither, for that the place is overstrain for them or maybe their condition is less than that he should bring them to his own house; or belike he preferred to conceal thine affair from them, so passed the night with them; and if it be the will of God the Most High, to-morrow he will come to thee, safe and well. So burden not thy soul with care nor anxiety, O my lady, for of a certainty this is the cause of his absence from thee and I will abide with thee this night and comfort thee, till thy lord return.'
So she abode with her and cheered her with talk till the morning, when Meryem saw Noureddin enter the street, followed by the Frank and a company of merchants, whereupon she trembled in every nerve and her colour changed and she fell a-shaking, as the ship shakes in mid-ocean for the violence of the winds. When the druggist's wife saw this, she said to her, 'O my lady Meryem, what ails thee that I see thy case changed and thy face grown pale and disfeatured?' 'By Allah, O my mother,' replied she, 'my heart forebodeth me of parting and severance of union!' And she bemoaned herself and sighed heavily, reciting the following verses:Incline not to parting, I pray; For bitter its savour is aye.
Then she wept passing sore, making sure of separation, and said to the druggist's wife, 'O my mother, said I not to thee that my lord Noureddin had been tricked into selling me? I doubt not but he hath sold me this night to yonder Frank, albeit I bade him beware of him; but precaution availeth not against destiny. So the truth of my words is made manifest to thee.' Whilst they were talking, in came Noureddin, and she looked at him and saw that his colour was changed and that he trembled and there appeared on his face signs of grief and repentance: so she said to him, 'O my lord Noureddin, meseemeth thou hast sold me.' Whereupon he wept sore and groaned and lamented and recited the following verses:Twas Fate, and taking thought avails not anything; If thou err, it errs not in its foreordering.
Then he began to excuse himself to her, saying, 'O my lady Meryem, verily the pen runneth with what God hath decreed. The folk put a cheat on me, to make me sell thee, and I fell into the snare and sold thee. Indeed, I have sorely failed of my duty to thee; but peradventure He who decreed our parting will vouchsafe us reunion.' Quoth she, 'I warned thee against this, for this it was I feared.' Then she strained him to her bosom and kissed him between the eyes, reciting the following verses:Nay, by your love, I'll ne'er forget the troth betwixt us plight, Though my life perish for desire and yearning for your sight.
At this juncture, the Frank came in to them and went up to Meryem, to kiss her hands; but she dealt him a buffet on the cheek, saying, 'Avaunt, O accursed one! Thou hast followed after me without cease, till thou hast tricked my lord into selling me! But please God, all shall yet be well.' The Frank laughed at her speech and wondered at her deed and excused himself to her, saying, 'O my lady Meryem, what is my offence? Thy lord Noureddin here sold thee of his full consent and of his free will. Had he loved thee, by the virtue of the Messiah, he had not transgressed against thee! And had he not accomplished his desire of thee, he had not sold thee. Quoth one of the poets:Whoso of me is weary, my presence let him flee: If e'er again I name him, to call me fool thou'rt free.
Now this damsel was the daughter of the King of France, the which is a wide and spacious city, (79) abounding in arts and manufactures and rarities and trees and flowers and other plants, and resembleth the city of Constantinople: and for her going forth of her father's city there was an extraordinary cause and thereby hangs a rare story, that we will set out in due order, to divert and delight the reader. She was reared with her father and mother in honour and indulgence and learnt rhetoric and penmanship and arithmetic and martial exercises and all manner crafts both of men and women, such as broidery and sewing and weaving and girdle-making and silk-cord making and enamelling gold on silver and silver on gold, till she became the pearl of her time and the unique [jewel] of her age and her day. Moreover, God (to whom belong might and majesty) had endowed her with such beauty and grace and elegance and perfection that she excelled therein all the folk of her time, and the kings of the isles sought her in marriage of her father, but he refused to give her to wife to any of her suitors, for that he loved her with an exceeding love and could not brook to be parted from her an hour. Moreover, he had no other daughter than herself albeit he had many sons, but she was dearer to him than they.
It chanced one year that she fell sick of an exceeding sickness and came nigh upon death, wherefore she made a vow that, if she recovered from her sickness, she would make the pilgrimage to a certain monastery, situate in much an island, which was high in repute among the Franks who used to make vows to it and look for a blessing therefrom. When she was whole of her sickness she wished to accomplish her vow and her father despatched her to the convent in a little ship, with sundry knights and daughters of the chief men of the city to wait upon her. As they drew near the island, there came out upon them a ship of the ships of the Muslims, champions of the faith, warring in the way of God, who boarded the vessel and making prize of all who were therein, sold their booty in the city of Cairawan. Meryem herself fell into the hands of a Persian merchant, who was impotent and for whom no woman had ever discovered her nakedness; and he set her to serve him.
Presently he fell ill and sickened well-nigh unto death, and the sickness abode with him two months, during which time she tended him after the goodliest fashion, till God made him whole of his malady, when he recalled her loving-kindness to him and the zeal with which she had tended him and being minded to requite her the good offices she had done him, bade her ask a boon of him. 'O my lord,' said she, 'I ask of thee that thou sell me not but to the man of my choice.' 'So be it,' answered he, 'I grant thee this. By Allah, O Meryem, I will not sell thee but to him of whom thou shalt approve, and I put thy sale in thine own hand!' And she rejoiced mightily in this. Now the Persian had expounded Islam to her and she became a Muslim and learnt of him the tenets and observances of the faith. Moreover, he made her get the Koran by heart and taught her somewhat of the theological sciences and the traditions of the Prophet; after which, he brought her to Alexandria and sold her to Noureddin, as hath been before set out.
Meanwhile, when her father, the King of France, heard what had befallen his daughter and her company, he was sore concerned and despatched after her ships full of knights and champions, horsemen and footmen: but they all returned to him, crying out and saying, 'Alas!' and 'Ruin!' and 'Woe worth the day!' after having searched the islands of the Muslims and come on no tidings of her. The king grieved for her with an exceeding grief and sent after her that one-eyed lameter, for that he was his chief vizier, a stubborn tyrant and a froward devil, (80) full of craft and guile, bidding him make search for her in all the lands of the Muslims and buy her, though with a shipload of gold. So the accursed wretch sought her in all the lands of the seas and all the cities of the Muslims, but found no sign of her till he came to Alexandria, when he discovered that she was with Noureddin Ali of Cairo, being directed to the trace of her by the kerchief aforesaid, [in which he recognized her handiwork,] for that none could have wrought it on such goodly wise but she. Then he bribed the merchants to help him in getting her from Noureddin and beguiled the latter into selling her, as hath been already related.
When he had her in his possession, she ceased not to weep and lament: so he said to her, 'O my lady Meryem, put away from thee this mourning and weeping and return with me to thy father's city, the seat of thy royalty and the place of thy power and thy home, so thou mayst be among thy servants and attendants and be quit of this abasement and stranglehold. Enough hath betided me of travel and weariness and expense on thine account, for thy father bade me buy thee back though with a shipload of gold; and now I have spent nigh a year and a half in travel and toil and ravishment of wealth.' And he fell to kissing her feet and hands and humbling himself to her; but she only redoubled in wrath against him, for all he could do to appease her, and said to him, 'O Accursed one, may God the Most High not bring thee to thy desire!'
Then his servants brought her a mule with gold- embroidered housings and mounting her thereon, raised over her head a silken canopy, with staves of gold and silver, and the Franks walked about her, till they brought her forth the city by the sea-gate, where they took boat with her and rowing out to a great ship [that lay in the harbour], embarked her therein. Then the vizier cried out to the sailors, saying, 'Up with the mast!' So they set up the mast and spreading the sails and the pendants, manned the sweeps and put out to sea. Meryem continued to gaze upon Alexandria till it disappeared from her eyes, when she fell a-weeping and lamenting passing sore and recited the following verses:O dwelling of the loved, shall there returning ever be To thee? But what know I of that which Allah shall decree?
The knights came up to her and would have comforted her, but she heeded them not, being distracted with passion and love-longing. And she wept and moaned and complained and recited the following verses:The tongue of passion in my heart bespeaketh thee of me And giveth thee to know that I enamoured am of thee.
In this plight she abode during all the voyage; no peace was left her nor would patience come at her call.
Meanwhile, when the ship had sailed with Meryem, the world was straitened upon Noureddin and he had neither peace nor patience. He returned to the lodging where they had dwelt he and she, and it appeared black and gloomy in his sight. Then he saw the pins and silk with which she had been wont to make the girdles and her clothes that had been upon her body: so he pressed them to his breast, whilst the tears streamed from his eyes and he recited the following verses:Will union after severance return to me some day, After my long-continued tale of sorrow and dismay?
Then he wept passing sore and looking about the place, recited these verses also:I see their traces and pine for longing pain; My tears rain down on the empty dwelling-place;
Then he rose and locking the door of the house, went out, running, to the shore of the sea, where he fixed his eyes on the place of the ship that had carried her off, whilst sighs burst from his breast and he recited the following verses:Peace be upon thee! Nought to me can compensate for thee: I'm in two cases, near in thought, yet distant verily.
And he wept and wailed and bemoaned himself, crying out and saying, 'O Meryem! O Meryem! Was it but in sleep I saw thee or in the illusions of dreams?' And by reason of that which waxed on him of regrets, he recited these verses:Shall mine eyes ever look on thee, after this parting's pain, And shall I ever hear thy call by house and camp again?
As he was in this case, weeping and crying out, 'O Meryem!' an old man landed from a vessel and coming up to him, saw him weeping and heard him recite these verses:O Meryem of loveliness, (81) return to me again; My eyeballs are as clouds that pour with never-ceasing rain.
'O my son,' said the old man, 'meseems thou weepest for the damsel who sailed yesterday with the Frank?' When Noureddin heard his words, he fell down in a swoon and lay awhile without life; then, coming to himself, he wept passing sore and recited the following verses:Is union after severance with her past hoping for And will the perfectness of cheer return to me no more?
The old man looked at him and noting his beauty and grace and symmetry and the eloquence of his tongue and the seductiveness of his charms, took compassion on him and his heart mourned for his case. Now he was the captain of a ship, bound to the damsel's city, and in this ship were a hundred Muslim merchants: so he said to Noureddin, 'Have patience and all shall yet be well; God willing, I will bring thee to her.' 'When shall we set out?' asked Noureddin, and the other said, 'Come but three days more and we will depart in peace and prosperity.' Noureddin was mightily rejoiced at the captain's words and thanked him for his bounty and kindness. Then he recalled the days of love-delight and union with his slave- girl without peer, and he wept sore and recited the following verses:Will the Compassionate, indeed, unite us, me and thee, And shall I win to my desire by favouring Fate's decree?
Then he went to the market and bought what he needed of victual and other necessaries for the voyage and returned to the captain, who said to him, "O my son, what is that thou hast with thee?' 'My provisions and that whereof I have need for the voyage,' answered Noureddin. 'O my son,' said the old man, laughing, 'art thou going a-pleasuring to Pompey's Pillar? Verily, between thee and that thou seekest is two months' journey, if the wind be favourable and the weather fair.' Then he took of him somewhat of money and going to the market, bought him all that he needed for the voyage and filled him a cask with fresh water. Noureddin abode in the ship three days, till the merchants had made an end of their preparations and embarked, when they set sail and putting out to sea, fared on one-and-fifty days. After this, there came out upon them corsairs, who sacked the ship and taking Noureddin and the rest prisoners, carried them to the city of France and showed them to the king, who bade cast them into prison.
At this moment the galleon arrived with the Princess Meryem and the one-eyed vizier, and when it reached the harbour, the latter landed and going up to the king, gave him the glad news of his daughter's safe return: whereupon they beat the drums for good tidings and decorated the city after the goodliest fashion. Then the king took horse, with all his guards and nobles, and rode down to the sea to meet her. Presently, she landed and the king embraced her and mounting her on a horse, carried her to the palace, where her mother received her with open arms and asked her how she did and whether she was yet a maid. 'O my mother,' replied Meryem, 'how should a girl who has been sold from merchant to merchant in the land of the Muslims, [a slave] commanded, abide a maid ? The merchant who bought me threatened me with beating and forced me and did away my maidenhead, after which he sold me to another and he fain to a third.'
When the queen heard this, the light in her eyes became darkness and she repeated her words to the king, who was sore chagrined thereat and his affair was grievous to him. So he expounded her case to his grandees and patriarchs, (82) who said to him, 'O king, she hath been defiled by the Muslims, and nothing will purify her save the striking off of a hundred of their heads.' Whereupon the king sent for the prisoners and commanded to strike off their heads. So they beheaded them, one after another, beginning with the captain, till there was none left but Noureddin. They tore off a strip of his skirt and binding his eyes therewith, set him on the carpet of blood and were about to cut off his head, when an old woman came up to the king and said, 'O my lord, thou didst vow to bestow upon the church five Muslim captives, to help us in the service thereof, so God would restore thee thy daughter the Princess Meryem; and now she is restored to thee, so do thou fulfil thy vow.' 'O my mother,' replied the king, 'by the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith, there remaineth to me but this one captive, whom they are about to put to death: so take him to help thee in the service of the church, till there come to me [other] prisoners of the Muslims, when I will send thee other four. Hadst thou come earlier, before they cut of the heads of these, I had given thee as many as thou wouldst.'
The old woman thanked him and wished him continuance Of life and glory and prosperity. Then she went up to Noureddin and seeing him to be a comely and elegant youth, with a delicate skin and a face like the moon at her full, carried him to the church, where she said to him, 'O my son, put of these clothes that are upon thee, for they are fit only for the king's service.' So saying, she brought him a gown and cowl of black wool and a broad girdle, in which she clad him, and bade him do the service of the church. Accordingly, he tended the church seven days, at the end of which time the old woman came up to him and said, 'O Muslim, don thy silken clothes and take these ten dirhems and go out forthright and divert thyself abroad this day, and tarry not here a moment, lest thou lose thy life.' Quoth he, 'What is to do, O my mother?' And she answered, 'Know, O my son, that the king's daughter, the Princess Meryem, hath a mind to visit the church today, to seek a blessing thereof and to make oblation thereto, by way of thank-offering for her deliverance from the land of the Muslims and in fulfilment of the vows she made to the Messiah, so he would deliver her. With her are four hundred damsels, not one of whom but is perfect in beauty and grace, and they will be here forthwith, and if their eyes fall on thee, they will hew thee in pieces with swords.'
So Noureddin took the ten dirhems and donning his own clothes, went out to the market and walked about the city, till he knew its highways and gates; after which he returned to the church and saw the Princess Meryem come up, attended by four hundred damsels, high-bosomed maids like moons, amongst whom was the daughter of the one-eyed vizier and those of the amirs and grandees of the realm; and she walked in their midst as she were the moon among the stars. When he saw her, he could not contain himself but cried out from the bottom of his heart, saying, 'O Meryem! O Meryem!' Which when the damsels heard, they ran at him with shining swords like flashes of lightning and would have killed him forthright. But the princess turned and looking on him, knew him but too well and said to her maidens, 'Leave this youth; doubtless he is mad, for the signs of madness appear on his face.'
When Noureddin heard this, he uncovered his head and made signs with his hands and twisted his legs, rolling his eyes and foaming at the mouth. 'Did I not tell you he was mad?' said the princess. 'Bring him to me and stand off from him, that I may hear what he saith; for I know the speech of the Arabs and will look into his case and see if his madness be curable or not.' So they laid hold of him and brought him to her; after which they withdrew to a distance and she said to him, 'Hast thou come hither on my account and ventured thy life and feignest thyself mad?' 'O my lady,' answered he, 'hast thou not heard the saying of the poet:Quoth they, "Thou'rt surely raving mad for her thou lov'st;" and I, "There is no pleasantness in life but for the mad," reply.
'By Allah, O Noureddin,' rejoined she, 'thou hast sinned against thyself, for I warned thee of this before it fell out; yet wouldst thou not hearken to me, but followedst thine own inclinations; albeit that whereof I gave thee to know I learnt not by means of divination nor augury nor dreams, but by eye-witness and very sight; for I saw the one-eyed vizier and knew that he was not come to Alexandria but in quest of me.' 'O my lady Meryem,' replied he, 'we seek refuge with God from the error of the intelligent!' (83) Then his affliction redoubled on him and he recited these verses:Pardon his fault whose slipping feet caused bite in error fall, And let the master's clemency embrace his erring thrall.
And they ceased not from lovers' chiding, which to set out would be tedious, relating to each other that which had befallen them and reciting verses and making moan, one to the other, of the violence of passion and the pangs of longing and desire, whilst the tears ran down their cheeks like rivers, till there was left them no strength to say a word. Now the princess was clad in a green dress, inwoven with red gold and broidered with pearls and jewels, which added to her beauty and grace; and right well saith the poet of her:Like the full moon she shineth in garments all of green, With loosened vest and collars and flowing hair beseen.
They abode thus till the day departed and night darkened on them, when Meryem went up to her women and said to them, 'Have ye locked the door?' And they answered, 'We have locked it.' So she took them and went with them to a place called the Chapel of the Lady Mary the Virgin, Mother of Light, because the Christians pretend that her heart and soul are there. The girls betook themselves to prayer and worship and made the round of all the church; and when they had made an end of their visitation, the princess said to them, 'I desire to pass the night alone in the Virgin's chapel and seek a blessing thereof, for that yearning thereafter hath betided me, by reason of my long absence in the land of the Muslims: and as for you, when ye have made an end of your visitation, do ye sleep where ye will.' 'Be it as thou wilt,' replied they, and leaving her alone in the chapel, dispersed about the church and slept.
The lady Meryem waited till they were out of sight and hearing, then went in search of Noureddin, whom she found sitting on coals of fire in a corner, awaiting her. He rose and kissed her hands and she sat down and made him sit by her side. Then she pulled off all that was upon her of clothes and ornaments and fine linen and taking Noureddin in her arms, strained him to her bosom. And they ceased not from kissing and clipping and clicketing to the tune of 'In and out,' saying the while, 'How short are the nights of union and how long the nights of separation!' and reciting the following cinquains:O night of delight and first fruits of fair fate, Forefront of white nights, with glad fortune elate,
As they were in this great delight and engrossing joy, they heard one of the servants of the Saint (86) smite the gong (87) upon the roof, to call the folk to the rites of their worship, and he was even as saith the poet:I saw him smite upon the gong and unto him did say, 'Who taught the antelope (88) to smite upon the gong, I pray?'
Then she rose forthwith and donned her clothes and ornaments: but this was grievous to Noureddin, and his gladness was troubled; the tears streamed from his eyes and he recited the following verses:The rose of a soft cheek, all through the livelong night, I stinted not to kiss and bite with many a bite,
Then she pressed him to her bosom and kissed his cheek and said to him, 'O Noureddin, how long hast thou been in the town?' 'Seven days' answered he. 'Hast thou walked about in it,' asked she, 'and dost thou know its ways and issues and its sea-gales and land-gates?' And he said, 'Yes.' Quoth she, 'Knowest thou the way to the offertory-chest of the church?' 'Yes,' replied he; and she said, 'Since thou knowest all this, as soon as the first watch of the coming night is over, go to the offertory- chest and take thence what thou wilt. Then open the door, that gives upon the passage leading to the sea, and go down to the harbour, where thou wilt find a little ship and ten men therein, and when the captain sees thee, he will put out his hand to thee. Give him thy hand and he will take thee up into the ship, and do thou wait there till I come to thee. But have a care lest sleep overtake thee this night, or thou wilt repent whenas repentance shall avail thee nothing.'
Then she took leave of him and going forth from him, roused her women and the rest of the damsels, with whom she betook herself to the church door and knocked; whereupon the old woman opened to her and she went forth and found the knights and serving-men standing without. They brought her a dapple mule and she mounted: whereupon they raised over her head a canopy with curtains of silk, and the knights took hold of the mule's halter. Then the guards encompassed her about with drawn swords in their hands and fared on with her, followed by her maidens, till they brought her to the palace of the king her father.
Meanwhile, Noureddin abode concealed behind the curtain, under cover of which Meryem and he had passed the night, till it was high day, when the [great] door was opened and the church became full of people. Then he mingled with the folk and accosted the old woman, who said to him, 'Where didst thou lie last night?' 'In the town,' answered he, 'as thou badest me.' 'O my son,' answered she, 'thou didst well; for, hadst thou passed the night in the church, she had slain thee on the foulest wise.' And he said, 'Praised be God who hath delivered me from the peril of this night!' Then he busied himself with the service of the church, till the day departed and the night came with the darkness, when be opened the offertory-chest and took thence of jewels what was light of weight and great of worth.
Then he waited till the first watch of the night was past, when he made his way to the postern and opening it, went forth, calling on God for protection, and fared on, till he came to the sea. Here he found the vessel moored to the shore, near the gate, with her captain, a tall old man of comely aspect, with a long beard, standing in the waist, surrounded by his ten men. Noureddin gave him his hand, as Meryem had bidden him, and the captain took it and pulling him on board, cried out to his crew, saying, 'Cast off the moorings and put out to sea with us, ere the day break.' 'O my lord the captain,' said one of the sailors, 'how shall we put out now when the king hath notified us that to-morrow he will embark in this ship and go round about this sea, being fearful for his daughter Meryem from the Muslim thieves?' But the captain cried out at them, saying, 'Woe to you, O accursed ones! Dare ye gainsay me and bandy words with me?' So saying, he drew his sword and dealt the sailor who had spoken a thrust in the throat, that the steel came out gleaming from his nape, and quoth another of the sailors, 'What crime hath our comrade committed, that thou shouldst cut off his head?' The captain replied by putting his hand to his sword and striking off the speaker's head, nor did he leave smiting the rest of the sailors, till he had slain them all and cast their bodies ashore. Then he turned to Noureddin and cried out at him with a terrible great cry, that made him tremble, saying, 'Go down and pull up the mooring-stake.' Noureddin feared lest he should strike him also with the sword; so he leapt ashore and pulling up the stake, sprang aboard again, swiftlier than the dazzling lightning. The captain ceased not to bid him do this and do that and tack and wear and look at the stare and Noureddin did all that he bade him, with heart a-tremble for fear; whilst he himself spread the sails and the ship stretched out with them with a fair wind into the surging sea, swollen with clashing billows. Noureddin held on to the tackle, drowned in the sea of solicitude and knowing not what was hidden for him in the future; and whenever he looked at the captain, his heart quaked and he knew not whither he went with him.
He abode thus, distraught with concern and inquietude, till it was broad day, when he looked at the captain and saw him take hold of his beard and pull at it, whereupon it came off in his hand and Noureddin, examining it, saw that it was but a false beard stuck on. So he considered the captain straitly, and behold, it was the Princess Meryem, his mistress and the beloved of his heart, who had waylaid the captain and killed him and skinned off his beard, which she had clapped on to her own face. At this Noureddin was transported for joy and his breast dilated and he marvelled at her valour and prowess and the stoutness of her heart and said to her, 'Welcome, O thou my hope and my desire and the end of all my wishes!' Then desire and gladness agitated him and he made sure of attaining his hope and his wish ; wherefore he broke out into carol and sang the following verses:Say to those who know nought of my transport and heat For a loved one, whose favours they never may meet,
The princess marvelled at his song and thanked him therefor, saying, 'Him whose case is thus it behoveth to walk the ways of men and eschew the fashion of losers and poltroons.' Now she was stout of heart and versed in the sailing of ships over the salt sea, and she knew all the winds and their changes and all the courses of the sea. 'O my lady,' said Noureddin, 'hadst thou prolonged this case on me, (91) I had surely died for excess of fear and chagrin, more by token of the fire of passion and love- longing and the cruel anguish of separation.' She laughed at his speech and presently rising, brought out somewhat of meat and drink; and they ate and drank and made merry. Then she brought out rubies and other gems and precious stones and trinkets of gold and silver and all manner things of price, light of carriage and great of worth, that she had taken from the palace of her father and his treasuries, and showed them to Noureddin, who rejoiced therein with an exceeding joy.
Meanwhile the wind blew fair for them and they sailed on, without hindrance, till they drew near the city of Alexandria and sighted its landmarks, old and new, and Pompey's Pillar. When they reached the port, Noureddin landed and making the ship fast to one of the Fulling- Stones, took somewhat of the treasures that Meryem had brought with her, and said to her, 'O my lady, abide in the ship against I [return and] carry thee up into the city on such wise as I should wish.' Quoth she, 'It behoves that this be done quickly, for tardiness in affairs engenders repentance.' 'There is no tardiness in me,' answered he and leaving her in the ship, went up into the city to the druggist's house, to borrow of his wife for Meryem veil and muffler and mantle and walking boots, after the usage of the women of Alexandria, knowing not that there was appointed to betide him of the vicissitudes of time, the father of wonders, that which was not in his reckoning.
Meanwhile, when the King of France arose in the morning, he missed his daughter and questioned her eunuchs and women of her. 'O our lord,' answered they, 'she went out last night, to go to the church, and after that we know nothing of her.' But, as the king talked with them, there arose a great clamour of cries without the palace, that the place rang thereto, and he said, .What is to do?' 'O king,' answered the folk, 'we have found ten men slain on the sea-shore, and thy ship is missing. Moreover, we found the postern of the church, that gives upon the alley leading to the sea, open and the Muslim prisoner, who serves in the church, missing.' Quoth the king, 'If my ship be missing, without doubt my daughter is in it.' So he summoned the captain of the port and cried out at him, saying, 'By the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith, except thou overtake my ship forthright with troops and bring it back to me, with those who are therein, I will put thee to death after the foulest fashion and make an example of thee!'
The captain went out from before him, trembling, and betook himself to the old woman of the church, to whom said he, 'Heardest thou aught from the captive, that was with thee, concerning his native land and what countryman he was?' And she answered, 'He used to say, "I come from the town of Alexandria."' When the captain heard this, he returned forthright to the port and cried out to the sailors to make sail. So they did his bidding and straightway putting out to sea, sailed night and day till they came in sight of the city of Alexandria, what time Noureddin landed, leaving the princess in the ship. They soon espied the king's bark and knew it; so they moored their own vessel at a distance therefrom and putting off in a little ship they had with them, which drew but three feet of water and in which were a hundred fighting-men, amongst them the one-eyed vizier (for that he was a stubborn tyrant and a froward devil and a wily thief, none could avail against his craft, as he were Abou Mohammed el Bettal (92)) rowed up to the bark and boarding her, all at once, found none therein save the Princess Meryem. So they took her and the ship, and returning to their own vessel, after they had landed and waited a long while, (93) set sail forthright for the land of the Franks, having accomplished their errand, without drawing sword.
The wind blew fair for them and they sailed on, without hindrance, till they reached the city of France and landing with the princess, carried her to her father, who received her, seated on the throne of his kingship. As soon as he saw her, he said to her, 'Out on thee, O traitress! What ailed thee to leave the faith of thy forefathers and the safeguard of the Messiah, on whom is our reliance, and follow after the faith of the vagabonds, (94) to wit, the faith of Islam, the which arose with the sword against the Cross and the Images?' 'I am not at fault,' replied Meryem. 'I went out by night to the church, to visit the Lady Mary and seek a blessing of her, when there fell upon me, at unawares, a band of Muslim robbers, who gagged me and bound me fast and carrying me on board the bark, set sail with me for their own country. However, I beguiled them and talked with them of their religion, till they loosed my bonds; and before I knew what was toward, thy men overtook me and delivered me. And by the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith and the Cross and Him who was crucified thereof I rejoiced with an exceeding joy in my release from them and my bosom expanded and I was glad fob my deliverance from the bondage of the Muslims!' 'Thou liest, O shameless baggage!' rejoined the king. 'By the virtue of that which is revealed of prohibition and allowance in the manifest evangel, (95) I will assuredly slay thee after the foulest fashion and make of thee the vilest of examples! Did it not suffice thee to do as thou didst the first time and put off thy lies upon us, but thou must return upon us with thy falsehoods?'
Then he commanded to slay her and crucify her over the gate of the palace: but the one-eyed vizier, who had long been enamoured of the princess, came in to him and said, 'Slay her not, but give her to me to wife, and I will watch over her with the utmost vigilance, nor will I go in to her, till I have built her a palace of solid stone, exceeding high of fashion, so no thieves may avail to climb up to its roof; and when I have made an end of building it, I will sacrifice thirty Muslims before the gate thereof, as an expiatory offering to the Messiah for her and for myself.' The king granted his request and bade the priests and monks and patriarchs marry the princess to him; so they did his bidding, whereupon he gave commandment to set about building a strong and lofty palace, befitting her, and the workmen fell to work upon it.
To return to Noureddin. When he came back with the veils and what not else he had borrowed of the druggist's wife, he 'found the air empty and the place of visitation distant;' whereupon his heart sank within him and he wept floods of tears and recited the following verses:The phantom of Saada came to me by night, near the break of day, And roused me, whenas my comrades all in the desert sleeping lay:
Then he walked on along the beach and turned right and left, till he saw people gathered together on the beach and heard them say, 'O Muslims, there abideth no sanctity in the city of Alexandria, since the Franks enter it and snatch away those who are therein and return to their own land at their leisure, unpursued of any of the Muslims or men-of-war!' Quoth Noureddin to them, 'What is to do?' And they answered, 'O my son, one of the ships of the Franks, full of armed men, came down but now upon the harbour and carried off a ship that was moored here, with her who was therein, and made for their own land unhindered.' Noureddin fell down in a swoon, on hearing these words; and when he came to himself, they questioned him of his case and he told them all that had befallen him; whereupon they all fell to blaming him and railing at him, saying, 'Why couldst thou not bring her up into the town without veil and muffler?' And each gave him some grievous word, berating him with sharp speech, and shot at him each his shaft of reproach, albeit some said, 'Let him be; that which hath befallen him sufficeth him,' till he again fell down in a swoon.
At this moment, up came the old druggist, who, seeing the folk gathered together, drew near to learn what was the matter and found Noureddin lying aswoon in their midst. So he sat down at his head and arousing him, said to him, 'O my son, what is this case in which I see thee?' 'O uncle,' replied Noureddin, 'I had brought back my slave-girl, whom I lost, from her father's city, after suffering all manner of perils and hardships; and when I came hither with her, I made the vessel fast to the shore and leaving her therein, repaired to thy dwelling and took of thy wife what was needful for her, that I might bring her up into the city; but the Franks came and taking the ship and the damsel therein, made off unhindered, and returned to their own land.'
When the druggist heard this, the light in his eyes became darkness and he grieved sore for Noureddin and said to him, 'O my son, why didst thou not bring her out of the ship into the city without a veil? But talk availeth not at this season; so rise, O my son, and come up with me to the city; it may be God will vouchsafe thee a girl fairer than she, who shall console thee for her. Praised be God who hath not made thee lose aught by her! Nay, thou hast gained by her. And bethink thee, O my son, that union and separation are in the hands of the Most High King.' 'By Allah, O uncle,' replied Noureddin, 'I can never be consoled for her loss nor will I ever leave seeking her, though I drink the cup of death on her account!' 'O my son,' rejoined the druggist, 'and what dost thou purpose to do?' Quoth Noureddin, 'I purpose to return to the land of the Franks and enter the city of France and venture myself there, come what may.' 'O my son,' said the druggist, 'quoth the current byword, "Not always comes the pitcher off unbroken;" and if they did thee no hurt before, belike they will slay thee this time, more by token that they know thee now but too well.' 'O my uncle,' replied Noureddin, 'let me set out and be slain presently for the love of her, and not die slowly of despair for her loss.'
Now, as fate would have it, there was then a ship in the port ready to sail, for its passengers had made an end of their affairs and the sailors had pulled up the mooring- stakes, when Noureddin embarked in her. So they put out to sea and sailed many days, with fair wind and weather, till they fell in with certain of the Frank cruisers, that were scouring those waters and seizing upon all ships they saw, in their fear for the king's daughter from the Muslim corsairs: and as often as they made prize of a Muslim ship, they carried all her people to the King of France, who put them to death in accomplishment of the vow he had made on account of his daughter Meryem. So they boarded the ship in which was Noureddin and taking him and the rest of the company prisoners, to the number of a hundred Muslims, carried them to the king, who bade cut their throats. So they slaughtered them all, one after another, till there was none left but Noureddin, whom the headsman had left till the last, in pity of his tender age and slender shape.
When the king saw him, he knew him right well and said to him, 'Art thou not Noureddin, that was with us before?' 'I was never with thee,' answered he; 'and my name is not Noureddin, but Ibrahim.' 'Thou liest,' rejoined the king; 'thou art Noureddin, he whom I gave to the old woman, the prioress, to help her in the service of the church.' But Noureddin said, 'O my lord, my name is Ibrahim.' Quoth the king, 'Wait awhile,' and bade his knights fetch the old woman forthright, saying, 'When she comes and sees thee, she will know if thou be Noureddin or not.' At this juncture, in came the one- eyed vizier and kissing the earth before the king, said to him, 'Know, O king, that the palace is finished; and thou knoweth that I vowed to the Messiah that, when I had made an end of building it, I would slaughter thirty Muslims before its gate; wherefore I am come to get them of thee, that I may sacrifice them and so fulfil my vow to the Messiah. They shall be at my charge, by way of loan and whenas there come prisoners to my hands, I will give thee other thirty in their stead.' 'By the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith,' replied the king, 'I have but this one captive left!' And he pointed to Noureddin. 'Take him and slaughter him now, and the rest I will send thee, whenas there come to my hands [other] prisoners of the Muslims.'
So the vizier took Noureddin and carried him to his palace, thinking to slaughter him on the threshold of the gate; but the painters said to him, 'O my lord, we have two days' painting yet to do; so have patience with us and delay to slaughter this captive, till we have made an end of our work; belike by that time the rest of the thirty will come, so thou mayst despatch them all at one but and accomplish thy vow in one day.' So the vizier bade imprison him and they carried him to the stables and left him there in chains, hungering and thirsting and making moan for himself; for indeed he saw death face to face.
Now it chanced, by the ordinance of destiny and fore-ordered fated that the king had two chargers, own brothers, (96) such as the kings of the Chosroes might sigh in vain to possess themselves of one of them; they were called Sabic (97) and Lahic (98) and one of them was pure white and the other black as the darksome night. And all the kings of the isles had said, 'Whoso stealeth us one of these horses, we will give him all he seeketh of red gold and pearls and jewels;' but none could avail unto this. Now one of them fell sick of a jaundice and there came a whiteness over his eyes; (99) whereupon the king sent for all the farriers in the city to treat him; but they all failed of his cure. Presently the vizier came in to the king and finding him troubled, because of the horse, thought to do away his concern and said to him, 'O king, give me the horse and I will cure him.' The king consented and caused carry the horse to the stable wherein was Noureddin; but, when he missed his brother, he cried out with an exceeding great cry and neighed, so that he affrighted all the folk. The vizier, seeing that he did thus but because of his separation from his brother, sent to tell the king, who said, 'If this, which is but a beast, cannot brook to be parted from his brother, how should it be with those that have reason?' And he bade his grooms take the other horse and put him with his brother in the vizier's stable, saying, 'Tell the vizier that the two horses are a present from me to him, for the sake of my daughter Meryem.'
Noureddin was lying in the stable, chained and shackled, when they brought the horses, and saw that one of them had a web in his eyes. Now he had some knowledge of horses and of the treatment of their diseases; so he said in himself, 'By Allah, this is my opportunity! I will go to the vizier and lie to him, saying, "I will cure thee this horse:" then will I do with him somewhat that will destroy his eyes; and he will kill me and I shall be at rest from this wretched life.' So he waited till the vizier entered the stable, to look upon the horse, and said to him, 'O my lord, what wilt thou give me, if I cure this horse, and make his eyes whole again?' 'As my bead liveth,' replied the vizier, 'an thou cure him, I will spare thy life and give thee leave to ask a boon of me!' And Noureddin said, 'O my lord, command my hands to be unbound.' So the vizier bade unbind him and he rose and taking virgin glass (100) brayed it and mixed it with unslaked lime and onion-juice. Then he applied the whole to the horse's eyes and bound them up, saying in himself: 'Now will his eyes be put out and they will kill me and I shall be at rest from this wretched life.' And he passed the night with a heart free of care and trouble, humbling himself to God the Most High and saying, 'O Lord, in Thy knowledge is that which dispenseth with asking!'
When the day came and the sun shone out upon the hills and valleys, the vizier came to the stable and loosing the bandage from the horse's eyes, found them [altogether cured and] handsomer than ever, by the ordinance of the King who openeth [unto His servants the fates of sustenance and mercy]. So he said to Noureddin, 'O Muslim, never in the world saw I the like of thee for the excellence of thy skill. By the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith, thou fillest me with wonder, for all the farriers of our land have failed to heal this horse's eyes!' Then be did off his shackles with his own hand and clad him in a costly dress and made him his master of the horse. Moreover, he appointed him stipends and allowances and lodged him in an apartment over the stables. So Noureddin abode awhile, eating and drinking and making merry and commanding and forbidding those who tended the horses; and whoso neglected them or failed to fodder those tied up in the stable wherein was his service, he would throw down and beat grievously and lay him by the legs in shackles of iron. Moreover, he used every day to go down to the two chargers and rub them down with his own hand, by reason of that which he knew of their value in the vizier's eyes and his love for them; wherefore the latter rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and his breast dilated and he was glad, unknowing what was to be the issue of his affair.
Now in the new palace, that he had built for the Princess Meryem, was a lattice window overlooking his old house and Noureddin's lodging. The vizier had a daughter, a virgin of extreme beauty, as she were a fleeing gazelle (101) or a bending branch, and it chanced that she sat one day at the lattice aforesaid and heard Noureddin singing and solacing himself under his afflictions by reciting the following verses:O censor of love, thou that wast fortunate aye, Bright with the sheen of thy joys as the blossomed spray:
Quoth the vizier's daughter to herself, 'By the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith, but this Muslim is a handsome youth! Doubtless, he is a lover separated from his mistress. I wonder if his beloved is fair like unto him and if she pines for him as he for her! If she be comely as he is, it behoveth him to pour forth tears and make moan of passion; but, if she be other than fair, his life is wasted in vain regrets and he is denied the taste of delights.'
Now the Princess Meryem had removed to the [new] palace the day before and the vizier's daughter knew that she was heavy at heart; so she bethought herself to go to her and talk with her and tell her of the young man and the verses she had heard him recite; but, before she could do this, the princess sent for her to cheer her with her converse. So she went to her and found her breast straitened and her tears coursing down her cheeks; and she was weeping sore and reciting the following verses:My life is spent; but love lives yet, that nought may kill, And for my longing's stress my breast is straitened still.
Quoth the vizier's daughter to her, 'What ails thee, O princess, to be sick at heart and melancholy?' Whereupon Meryem recalled the greatness of the delights that were past and recited the following verses:will th' estrangement of my love with fortitude abide, Whilst down my cheeks the pearls of tears in chains unending glide;
'O princess,' said the vizier's daughter, 'let not thy breast be straitened, but come with me straightway to the lattice; for there is with us in the stable a comely young man, slender of shape and sweet of speech, and meseemeth he is a lover separated [from his beloved].' 'And by what sign knowest thou that he is a separated lover?' asked Meryem. And she answered, 'O queen, I know it by his reciting odes and verses all tides of the day and watches of the night.' Quoth the princess in herself, 'If what the vizier's daughter says be true, these are the traits of the wretched, the afflicted Ali Noureddin. Can it indeed be he of whom she speaketh?' At this thought love-longing and distraction redoubled on her and she rose at once and going with the maiden to the lattice, looked down upon the stables, where she saw her love and lord Noureddin and fixing her eyes on him, knew him but too well, albeit he was sick, of the greatness of his love for her and of the fire of passion and the anguish of separation and yearning and distraction. Emaciation was sore upon him and he was reciting and saying as follows:My heart a bondslave is; mine eyes rain tears for e'er: With them, is pouring forth, no rain-cloud can compare.
When the Princess Meryem heard the eloquence of his verses and the excellence of his sketch, she was assured that it was indeed her lord Noureddin; but she dissembled with the vizier's daughter and said to her, 'By the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith I thought not thou knewest of my sadness!' Then she withdrew from the window and returned to her own place, whilst the vizier's daughter went about her occasions. The princess waited awhile, then returned to the window and sat there, gazing upon her beloved Noureddin and feasting her eyes on his beauty and grace. And indeed, she saw that he was like unto the moon at its full; but he was ever sighing and pouring forth tears, for that he recalled what was past. Then he recited the following verses:Union with my beloved for ever I await, But gain not; whilst life's bitter for ever is my mate.
When Meryem heard her lover's verses, they kindled a fire in her entrails and she recited the following, whilst her eyes ran over with tears:I longed for him I love; but when I saw him, for surprise I was amazed and had no power to move or tongue or eyes.
When Noureddin heard her voice, he knew it and wept sore, saying, 'By Allah, this is assuredly the voice of the Princess Meryem! I wonder if my thought be true and if it be indeed she herself or another!' And regrets redoubled upon him and he bemoaned himself and recited the following verses:When my blamer for love saw me meet with my dear In a place wide and open to eye and to ear
When he had made an end of these verses, the princess fetched inkhorn and paper and wrote the following letter. 'In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful! The peace of God be upon thee and His mercy and Blessings! Thy slave-girl Meryem salutes thee, who longeth sore for thee; and this is her message to thee. As soon as this letter falls into thy hands, do thou arise and apply thyself with all diligence to that she would have of thee, and beware with all wariness of transgressing her commandment and of sleeping. When the first watch of the night is past, (for that hour is of the most favourable of times,) saddle the two horses [that the vizier had of the king] and go forth with them to the Sultan's Gate, [where do thou await me]. If any ask thee whither thou goest, answer, "I am going to exercise them," (105) and none will hinder thee; for the folk of this city trust to the locking of the gates.'
Then she folded the letter in a silken handkerchief and threw it out of the window to Noureddin, who took it and reading it, knew it for the handwriting of the Indy Meryem. So he kissed the letter and laid it between his eyes; then, calling to mind that which had betided him with her of the sweets of love-delight, he recited the following verses, whilst the tears streamed from his eyes:A letter came to me from thee by favour of the night: At once It healed me and in me love-longing did excite.
As soon as it was dark he busied himself with making ready the horses and waited till the first watch of the night was past, when he saddled them with saddles of the goodliest, and leading them forth of the stable, locked the door after him and repaired with them to the city-gate, where he sat down to await the princess's coming.
Meanwhile, Meryem returned to her apartment, where she found the one-eyed vizier seated, leaning upon a cushion stuffed with ostrich-down; but he was ashamed to put out his hand to her or bespeak her. When she saw him, she appealed to God in her heart, saying, 'O my God, bring him not to his will of me neither decree Thou to me defilement after purity!' Then she went up to him and made a show of affection for him and sat down by his side and caressed him, saying, 'O my lord, what is this aversion thou discovereth to me? Is it pride or coquetry on thy part? But the current byword saith, "If the salutation be little in demand, the sitters salute the standers." So I, O my lord, thou come not to me neither accost me, I will go to thee and accost thee.' 'To thee belong favour and kindness, O queen of the earth in its length and breadth,' answered he, 'nor am I but one of thy slaves and the least of thy servants. Indeed, I was ashamed to intrude upon thine illustrious presence, O unique pearl, and my face is in the dust at thy feet.' 'Leave this talk,' rejoined she, 'and bring us to eat and drink.'
So he called to his eunuchs and women to bring food, and they set before them a tray containing birds of all kinds that walk and fly and couple in the nests, such as grouse and quails and pigeons and lambs and fat geese and fricasseed fowls and other dishes of all sorts and colours. The princess put out her hand to the tray and began to eat and feed the vizier and kiss him on the mouth. They ate till they had enough and washed their hands, after which the servants removed the table of food and set on the table of wine. So the princess filled the cup and drank and gave the vizier to drink and served him with the utmost assiduity, so that he was transported for joy and his breast expanded and he was glad.
When she saw that the wine had gotten the mastery of his senses, she brought out of her bosom a pastille of Moorish henbane, which she had provided against this oration, whereof if an elephant smelt the least whiff, he would sleep from year to year. She took him at unawares and crumbled the henbane into the cup, then, filling it up, handed it to the vizier, who could hardly credit his senses for joy. So he took it and kissing her hand, drank it off; but hardly had it reached his stomach when he fell prostrate on the earth. Then she rose and filling two great pairs of saddle-bags with what was light of carriage and great of price of jewels and jacinths and precious stones, together with somewhat of meat and drink, donned harness of war and armed herself for battle. Moreover, she took with her for Noureddin what should rejoice him of rich and royal apparel and splendid arms and armour, and shouldering the bags, (for indeed she was both strong and valiant), went forth of the palace to join her lover.
Meanwhile the latter sat at the city-gate, with the horses' halters in his hand, till God (to whom belong might and majesty) sent a sleep upon him and he slept, glory be to Him who sleepeth not! Now, in those days, the Kings of the Islands had spent much measure in bribing folk to steal the two horses or one of them; and there was a black slaver who had been reared in the islands and was skilled in horse-stealing; wherefore the kings of the Franks bribed him with wealth galore to steal one of the chargers and promised him, if he could avail to steal the two that they would give him a whole island and invest him with a splendid dress of honour. He had long gone about the city of France in disguise, but availed not to take the horses, whilst they were with the king; but, when he gave them to the vizier and the latter carried them to his own stable, the thief rejoiced with an exceeding joy and made sure of success, saying in himself, 'By the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith, I will certainly steal them!'
Now he had gone out that very night, intending for the stable, to steal them, but, as he went along, he came upon Noureddin lying asleep, with the halters in his hands. So he went up to the horses and loosing the halters from their heads, was about to mount one of them and drive the other before him, when up came the Princess Meryem, carrying the two pairs of saddle-bags. She took the black for Noureddin and handed him one pair of bags, which he laid on one of the horses: after which she gave him the other pair and he laid it on the other horse, without word said. Then they mounted and rode out of the gate (106) in silence. 'O my lord Noureddin,' quoth she, 'what aileth thee to be silent?' Whereupon the black turned to her and said angrily, 'What sayst thou, O damsel?' When she heard his outlandish speech, she knew that he was not Noureddin: so she looked at him and saw that he was a black slave, snub-nosed and wide-mouthed, with nostrils like ewers; whereupon the light in her eyes became darkness and she said to him, 'Who art thou, O sheikh of the sons of Ham and what is thy name among men?' 'O daughter of the base,' replied he, 'my name is Mesoud, and I steal horses, when folk are asleep.' She made him no answer, but drawing her sabre forthright, smote him on the nape and the blade came out, gleaming, from the tendons of his throat, whereupon he fell to the ground, weltering in his blood, and God hurried his soul to the fire and ill is the abiding- place [to which he went].
Then she took the other horse by the bridle and retraced her steps in search of Noureddin, whom she found lying, asleep and snoring, in the place where she had appointed him to meet her, with the halters in his hand and knowing not his hands from his feet. So she dismounted and gave him a cuff, whereupon he awoke in affright and said to her, 'O my lady, praised be God for thy safe coming!' 'Rise,' answered she, 'and mount this steed and speak not.' So he rose and mounted one of the horses, whilst she bestrode the other, and they went forth the city and rode on awhile in silence. Then said she to him, 'Did I not bid thee beware of sleeping? Verily, he prospers not who sleeps.' 'O my lady,' answered he, 'I slept not but because of the solacement of my heart by reason of thy promise. But what hath happened, O my lady?' So she told him her adventure with the black, and he said, 'Praised be God for safety!'
Then they fared on at full speed, committing their affair to the Subtle, the All-wise and conversing as they went, till they came to the place where the black lay prostrate in the dusty as he were an Afrit, and Meryem said to Noureddin, 'Dismount; strip him of his clothes and take his arms.' 'By Allah, O my lady,' answered he, 'I dare not dismount nor approach him.' And indeed he marvelled at the black's stature and at the valour and stout-heartedness of the princess and praised her for her deed. They fared on loftily all that night and halted not till the day broke and the sun shone out upon the hills and plains, when they came to a wide champaign, abounding in herbs and fruits of all kinds. Therein were gazelles frisking and birds singing lustily on the branches: its slopes for flowers were like serpents' bellies and many and various were its channels of running water. And indeed it was as saith the poet and saith well and accomplisheth desire:As 'twere a sun-scorched tract, a valley ruddy red, With twice the common tale of herbs and flowers o'erspread.
And as saith another:When its birds sing in the dawn o'er its limpid lake, El Welhan longs for its sight ere morning break;
Here the two lovers alighted to rest and turning the horses loose to pasture in the valley, ate of its fruits and drank of its streams; after which they sat talking and recalling all that had befallen them and complaining one to the other of the anguish of separation and of that which they had suffered for estrangement and love-longing. As they were thus engaged, there arose in the distance a cloud of dust, which spread till it walled the world, and they heard the neighing of horses and clank of arms.
Now the reason of this was, that the king had gone forth at daybreak, to give the vizier and his daughter good morrow, after the custom of kings with their daughter [on the morrow of their wedding-night,] taking with him silken stuffs [as a present] and scattering gold and silver among the eunuchs and tire-women, that they might scramble for it: but when he came to the new palace, he and one of his pages, he found the vizier prostrate on the carpet, knowing not his head from his feet, and searched the palace right and left for his daughter, but found her not; whereat he was sore troubled and concerned and his wit forsook him.
Then he called for hot water and frankincense and virgin vinegar and mingling them together, blew the mixture into the vizier's nostrils and shook him, whereupon he cast the henbane forth of his stomach, as it were a piece of cheese. He repeated the injection, whereupon the vizier came to himself and the king questioned him of his case and that of his daughter. 'O mighty king,' answered the vizier, 'I have no knowledge of her save that she poured me out a cup of wine with her own hand; and from that moment to this I have no recollection of aught nor know I what is come of her.' When the king heard this, the light in his eyes became darkness, and he drew his sword and smote the vizier on the head, that the steel came out gleaming from between his teeth. Then he called the grooms and stable-men and demanded the two horses of them; but they said, 'O king, when we awoke in the morning, we found all the doors open and the two chargers missing; and our chief, the master of the horse, is also missing.' Quoth the king, 'By my faith and all wherein my belief is stablished, none but my daughter hath taken the horses, she and the Muslim captive that used to tend the church and who took her aforetime! Indeed I knew him right well and none delivered him from my hand save this one-eyed vizier; but now is he requited his deed.'
Then he called his three sons, who were three doughty champions, each of whom could cope with a thousand horse in the field and the stead of strife, and bade them mount. So they took horse forthwith and the King and the flower of his knights and nobles and officers mounted with them and followed in the track of the fugitives till they came up with them in the valley aforesaid. When Meryem saw them, she mounted her horse and girt on her sword and took her arms. Then she said to Noureddin, 'How is it with thee and how is thy stomach for battle and strife and contention?' Quoth he, 'Verily, my steadfastness in battle is as the steadfastness of the stake in bran.' And he recited the following verses:I prithee, Meryem, spare me reproaches and despite And do not thou my slaughter or torment long invite.
When she heard his speech and his verses, she laughed and said, 'O my lord Noureddin, abide in thy place and I will keep thee from their mischief, though they be as the sands of the sea in number. But mount and be behind me, and if we be defeated and put to flight, beware of falling, for none can overtake thy charger.' So saying, she couched her lance and gave her horse the rein, whereupon he darted off with her, like the storm wind or like water poured forth of the strictness of the pipes. Now Meryem was the doughtiest of the folk of her time and the unique pearl of her age; for her father had taught her, whilst she was yet little, to ride on horseback and plunge auto the ocean of battle in the darkness of the night.
When the King saw her pricking towards them, he knew her but too well and said to his eldest son, 'O Bertaut, thou who art surnamed Ras el Killaut, (107) this is certainly thy sister Meryem who charges upon us, and she seeks to do battle and wage war with us. So go thou out to her and give her battle: and I charge thee by the Messiah and the True Faith, if thou get the better of her, kill her not till thou have propounded to her the Nazarene faith. If she return to her old faith, bring her to me prisoner, but if she refuse, slay her after the foulest fashion and make of her the vilest of examples, as well as of the accursed wretch who is with her.' 'I hear and obey,' replied Bertaut and pricking out forthright to meet his sister, said to her, 'O Meryem, doth not what hath already befallen on thine account suffice thee, but thou must leave the faith of thy fathers and forefathers and follow after the faith of the rovers in the lands, that is to say, the faith of Islam? By the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith, except thou return to the faith of the kings thy forefathers and walk therein after the goodliest wise, I will put thee to an ill death and make of thee the most shameful of examples!'
She laughed at his speech and replied, 'Avaunt! God forbid that the past should return or that he who is dead should live again! I will make thee drink the sorest of regrets! By Allah, I will not forsake the faith of Mohammed the son of Abdallah, who directed all peoples into the right road, for it is the true faith; nor will I leave the way of righteousness, though I drink the cup of perdition!' When the accursed Bertaut heard this, the light in his eye became darkness and there befell a sore battle between them. They swayed to and fro, lighting, throughout the length and breadth of the valley, whilst all eyes were fixed upon them in admiration: after which they wheeled about and foiled and feinted a great while, and as often as Bertaut opened on his sister a gate of war, (108) she parried his attack and put it to nought, of the goodliness of her fashion and her strength and skill in horsemanship and the use of arms.
They abode on this wise till the dust hung vaulted over their heads and they were hidden from men's eyes; and she ceased not to baffle Bertaut and stop the way upon him, till he was weary and his courage ebbed and his resolution was broken and his strength weakened; whereupon she smote him on the nape, that the sword came out gleaming from the tendons of his throat and God hurried his soul to the fire and ill is the abiding-place [to which he went]. Then Meryem wheeled about in the mid-field and the stead of strife and offered battle, crying out and saying, 'Who is for fighting? Who is for jousting? Let no sluggard or weakling come forth to me to-day; ay, let none come forth to me but the champions of the enemies of the Faith, that I may give them to drink the cup of ignominious punishment. O worshippers of idols, O misbelievers, O froward folk, verily this day shall the faces of the people of the True Faith be whitened and theirs be blackened who deny the Compassionate One!'
When the king saw his eldest son slain, he smote his face and rent his clothes and called out to his second son, saying, 'O Bertous, thou who art surnamed Khura es Sous, (109) go forth, O my son, in haste and do battle with thy sister Meryem; avenge me thy brother's death on her and bring her to me a prisoner, abject and humiliated!' 'I hear and obey, O my father,' answered he and setting spurs to his horse, drove at his sister, who met him in mid-career, and they fought, he and she, a sore battle, yet sorer than the first. Bertous soon found himself unable to cope with her and would have sought safety in flight, but could not avail unto this, of the greatness of her prowess; for, as often as he turned to flee, she drove after him and still clave to him and pressed him hard, till presently she smote him with the sword in his throat, that it issued gleaming from his nape, and sent him after his brother. Then she wheeled about in the mid-field, crying out and saying, 'Where are the horsemen? Where are the braves? Where is the one-eyed vizier, the cripple, the man of the crooked (110) faith?'
Thereupon the king her father cried out with a bleeding heart and eyes ulcerated with tears, saying, 'By the virtue of the Messiah and the true faith, she hath killed my second son!' And he cried out to his youngest son, saying, 'O Fusyan, surnamed Selh es Subyan, (111) go forth, O my son, to do battle with thy sister and take of her the blood-revenge for thy brothers and fall on her, come what may; and if thou conquer her, kill her without mercy!' So he pricked out to Meryem, who ran at him with the best of her skill and courage and prowess and said to him, 'O accursed one, O enemy of God and the Muslims, I will assuredly send thee after thy brothers, and woeful is the abiding-place of the unbelievers!' So saying, she drew her sword and smote him and cut off his head and arms and sent him after his brothers and God hurried his soul to the fire and ill is the abiding-place [to which he went].
When the knights and horsemen who rode with her father saw his three sons slain, who were the doughtiest of the folk of their day, there fell on their hearts terror of the Princess Meryem and they bowed their heads in affright and confusion and made sure of destruction. So they turned their backs and addressed themselves to flight. When the king saw his sons slain and his troops in full flight, there fell on him dismay and bewilderment and his heart was on fire. 'Verily,' quoth he, 'the Princess Meryem hath the better of us; and if I venture myself and go out against her alone, most like she will overcome me and slay me without pity, even as she slew her brothers, and make of me the foulest of examples; for she hath no longer any desire for us nor have we any hope of her return. Wherefore, meseemeth I were better guard my honour and return to my capital city.' So he gave reins to his horse and returned to the city.
When he found himself in his palace, fire was loosed in his heart for rage and chagrin for the death of his sons and the defeat of his troops and the violation of his honour; nor did he abide half an hour before he summoned his grandees and officers of state and complained to them of that which his daughter had done with him of the slaughter of her brothers and all he suffered of grief and chagrin therefrom, and sought counsel of them. They all counselled him to write to the Vicar of God in His earth, the Commander of the Faithful, Haroun er Reshid, and acquaint him with the case. So he wrote a letter to the Khalif containing, after the usual salutations, the following words: 'Know that we have a daughter called Meryem, and a Muslim captive, by name Noureddin Ali, son of the merchant Tajeddin of Cairo, hath debauched her from us and taken her by night and gone forth with her to his own country: wherefore I beg of the favour of our lord the Commander of the Faithful that he write to all the lands of the Muslims to seize her and send her back to us by a trusty messenger of the servants of His Highness. And in requital of thy help in this matter, we will appoint to thee half of the city of Rome the Great, that thou mayst build therein mosques for the Muslims, and the tribute thereof shall be sent to thee.'
Then he folded the letter and calling his vizier, whom he bad appointed in the stead of the one-eyed vizier, bade him seal it with the seal of the kingdom, and the officers of state also set their hands and seals thereto; after which the king bade the vizier carry the letter to Baghdad, the abode of peace, and deliver it into the Khalif's own hand, saying, 'If thou bring her back, thou shalt have of me the fiefs of two Amirs and I will bestow on thee a robe of honour with fringes [of gold].' The vizier set out with the letter and fared on over hill and dale, till he came to the city of Baghdad, where he abode three days, till he was rested, when he sought out the palace of the Commander of the Faithful and craved an audience of him. The Khalif bade admit him; so he entered and kissing the ground before him, presented him with the letter of the King of France, together with rich and rare gifts beseeming the Commander of the Faithful.
When the Khalif read the letter and apprehended its purport, he commanded his viziers to write despatches to all the lands of the Muslims, setting out the name and favour of Noureddin and the princess and bidding all who found them lay hands on them and send them to the Commander of the Faithful, and warning them to use no delay or neglect in that manner. So the viziers wrote the letters and sealing them, despatched them by couriers to the different governors, who hastened to obey the Khalif's commandment and addressed themselves to make search in all the lands for the persons in question.
Meanwhile, Noureddin and Meryem fared on and [God] the Protector protected them, till they came to the land of Syria and entered the city of Damascus. Now the Khalif's messengers had foregone them thither by a day and the governor of Damascus knew that he was commanded to lay hands on them; so, when they entered the city, the police accosted them and asked them their names. They told them the truth and acquainted them with their story, whereupon they knew them for those of whom they were in search and seizing them, carried them before the governor of the city. He despatched them to the city of Baghdad [under escort of some of his officers], who, when they came thither, sought an audience of the Khalif and kissing the earth before him, said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, this is Meryem, daughter of the King of France, and this is the captive Noureddin, son of the merchant Tajeddin of Cairo, who debauched her from her father and fled with her to Damascus, where we came upon them, as they entered the city, and questioned them. They told us the truth of their case: so we laid hands on them and brought them to thee.'
The Khalif looked at Meryem and saw that she was slender and elegant of form and figure, the handsomest of the folk of her day and the unique pearl of her age and her time. Moreover, [he spoke with her and found her] sweet of speech and fluent of tongue, stable of soul and stout of heart. So she kissed the earth before him and wished him continuance of glory and prosperity and cease of evil and enmity. He was charmed with the beauty of her shape and the sweetness of her voice and the quickness of her answers and said to her, 'Art thou Meryem, daughter of the King of France?' 'Yes,' answered she, 'O Commander of the Faithful and High Priest of those that believe in the Unity of God and Defender of the Faith and Cousin of the Prince of Apostles!'
Then the Khalif turned to Noureddin and seeing him to be a comely youth, as he were the shining full moon on its fourteenth night, said to him, 'And thou, art thou Ali Noureddin, son of the merchant Tajeddin of Cairo?' 'Yes, O Commander of the Faithful and stay of those who seek [after righteousness]!' replied he. 'How comes it,' asked the Khalif, 'that thou hast taken this young lady and fled forth with her of her father's kingdom?' So Noureddin proceeded to relate to the Commander of the Faithful all that had befallen him, first and last; whereat the latter was beyond measure astonished and diverted and exclaimed, 'How manifold are the things that men suffer!'
Then he turned to the princess and said to her, 'Know, O Meryem, that thy father, the King of France, hath written to me, concerning thee. What sayst thou?' 'O Vicar of God in His earth,' replied she, 'and Executor of His ordinances and the precepts of His prophet, may He vouchsafe thee eternal happiness and preserve thee from evil and enmity! Thou art Vicar of God in His earth and I have entered thy faith, for that it is the true and righteous one, and have left the religion of the infidels, who make the Messiah a liar (112) and I am become a true believer in God the Bountiful and in the revelation of His compassionate Apostle. I serve God (blessed and exalted be He!) and acknowledge Him to be the One God and prostrate myself humbly before Him and glorify Him; and I say before the Khalif, 'Verily, I testify that there is no god but God and I testify that Mohammed is the apostle of God, whom He sent with guidance [into the right way] and the true faith. that he might cause it to prevail over faiths, all of them, in despite of the idolaters." (113) Is it, therefore, permitted to thee, O Commander of the Faithful, to comply with the letter of the king of the heretics and send me back to the land of those who deny the Faith and give partners to the All-wise King, who magnify the Cross and believe in the divinity of Jesus, for all he was [but] a creature? If thou deal thus with me, O Vicegerent of God, I will lay hold upon thy skirts on the day of appearing before God and make my complaint of thee to thy cousin the Apostle of Allah (whom God bless and preserve!) on the day when wealth availeth not neither children [nor aught], except one come unto God with a whole heart.' (114)
'O Meryem,' answered the Khalif, 'God forbid that I should do this ever! How can I send back a Muslim woman and a true believer in the unity of God and in His Apostle to that which they have forbidden?' Quoth she, 'I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is His Apostle!' 'O Meryem,' rejoined the Khalif, 'may God bless and stablish thee in the way of righteousness! Since thou art a Muslim and a believer in the unity of God, I owe thee an imperative duty, and it is that I should never transgress against thee nor forsake thee, though the world full of gold and jewels be lavished unto me on thine account. So be of good heart and cheerful eye and be thy breast dilated and thy mind at ease. Art thou willing that this youth Ali of Cairo should be thy husband and thou his wife?' 'How should I be other than willing,' replied Meryem, 'seeing that he bought me with his money and hath entreated me with the utmost kindness and for crown of his good offices, he hath ventured his life many times for my sake?'
So the Khalif summoned the Cadi and the witnesses and married her to him. Moreover, he assigned her a dowry and caused the grandees of his realm be present at their marriage, and it was a notable day. Then he turned to the French king's vizier, who was present, and said to him, 'Hast thou heard her words? How can I send her back to her father the infidel, seeing that she is a Muslim and a believer in the Unity of God? Belike he will evil entreat her and deal harshly with her, more by token that she hath slain his sons, and I shall be accountable to her therefor on the Day of Resurrection. And indeed quoth God the Most High, "God shall in nowise give the infidels power over the true-believers.' (115) So return to thy king and say to him, "Turn from this thing and hope not to come at thy desire thereof."'
Now this vizier was a fool: so he said to the Khalif, 'O Commander of the Faithful, by the virtue of the Messiah and the true faith, were she forty times a Muslim and forty times thereto, I may not depart from thee without Meryem! And if thou send her not back with me of free will, I will return to her father and cause him despatch thee an army, wherewith I will come upon you from the landward and the seaward and the van whereof shall be at your capital city, whilst the rear is yet on the Euphrates, and they shall lay waste thy dominions.' When the Khalif heard these words from the vizier of the King of France, the light in his face became darkness and he was exceeding wroth at his speech and said to him, 'O accursed one, O dog of the Nazarenes, who art thou that thou shouldst dare to come out against me with the King of the Franks?' [Then to his guards,] 'Take this accursed fellow and put him to death;' and he repeated the following verse:This is the recompense of those Who their superiors' will oppose.
Then he commanded to cut off the vizier's head and burn his body; but Meryem said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, defile not thy sword with the blood of this accursed wretch.' So saying, she drew her sword and smote him and made his head fly from his body, and he went to the house of perdition; his abode was Gehenna and evil is the abiding-place [to which he went]. The Khalif marvelled at the power of her arm and the strength of her mind, and they carried the dead vizier forth of the palace and burnt him. Then the Commander of the Faithful bestowed upon Noureddin a splendid dress of honour and assigned them a lodging in his palace. Moreover, he appointed them stipends and allowances and commanded to supply them with all that they needed of raiment and furniture and vessels of price.
They sojourned awhile in Baghdad in all delight and solace of life, till Noureddin longed for his mother and father. So he expounded the matter to the Khalif and sought his permission to repair to his native land and visit his kinsfolk, and he granted him the leave he sought and calling for Meryem, commended them to each other. Moreover, he loaded them with costly presents and rarities and bade write letters to the amirs and scribes and notables of Cairo the [God-]guarded, commending Noureddin and his wife and parents to their care and charging them entreat them with the utmost honour.
When the news reached Cairo, the merchant Tajeddin rejoiced in the return of his son and Noureddin's mother likewise rejoiced therein with an exceeding joy. The amirs and notables of the city went forth to meet him, in obedience to the Khalif's injunction, and indeed it was for them a notable day, wherein the lover and the beloved foregathered and the seeker attained the sought. Moreover, all the amirs made them bride-feasts, each on his own day, and rejoiced in them with an exceeding joy and vied with each other in doing them honour. When Noureddin foregathered with his father and mother, they rejoiced in each other with the utmost joy and care and affliction ceased from them, whilst his parents rejoiced no less in the Princess Meryem and entreated her with the utmost honour. Every day, there came to them presents from all the amirs and great merchants, and they were daily in new delight and gladness exceeding the gladness of festival. Then they abode in joy and pleasance and good cheer and abounding prosperity, eating and drinking and making merry, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies, he who layeth waste houses and palaces and peopleth the bellies of the tombs. So they were removed from the world and became of the number of the dead; and glory be to the Living One, who dieth not and in whose hand are the keys of the Seen and the Unseen!