THE MAN OF UPPER EGYPT AND HIS FRANK WIFE.
(Quoth the Amir Shijaeddin, Prefect of New Cairo) We lay one night in the house of a man of Upper Egypt, and he entertained us and entreated us with the utmost hospitality. Now he was an old man, exceeding swarthy of favour, and he had little children, who were white, of a white mingled with red. So we said to him, 'Harkye, such an one, how comes it that these thy children are white, whilst thou thyself art exceeding swarthy?' Quoth he, 'Their mother was a Frank woman, whom I took in the days of El Melik en Nasir Selaheddin, (116) after the battle of Hittin, (117) when I was a young man.' 'And how gottest thou her?' asked we, and he said, 'I had a rare adventure with her.' Quoth we, 'Favour us with it;' and he answered, 'With all my heart.
Know that I once sowed a crop of flax in these parts and pulled it and scutched it and spent five hundred dinars on it; after which I would have sold it, but could get no more than this [that I had spent] for it, and the folk said to me, "Carry it to Acre: for there thou wilt assuredly make a good profit by it." Now Acre was then in the hands of the Franks; (118) so I carried my flax thither and sold part of it at six months' credit. One day, as I was selling, there came up a Frankish woman, (now it is the custom of the women of the Franks to go about the market-place [and the streets] with unveiled faces,) to buy flax of me, and I saw of her beauty what dazzled my wit. So I sold her somewhat of flax and was easy with her concerning the price; and she took it and went away. Some days after, she returned and bought more flax of me and I was yet easier with her about the price; and she repeated her visits to me, seeing that I was in love with her.
Now she was used to go in company of an old woman ; so I said to the latter, "I am sore enamoured of thy mistress. Canst thou contrive to bring me to enjoy her?" Quoth she, "I will contrive this for thee; but the secret must not go beyond us three, and needs must thou be lavish with money, to boot." And I answered, "Though my life were the price of her favours, it were no great matter." So it was agreed that I should pay her fifty dinars and that she should come to me; whereupon I procured the money and gave it to the old woman. She took it and said, "Make ready a place for her in thy house, and she will come to thee this night." So I went home and made ready what I could of meat and drink and wax candles and sweet- meats. Now my house overlooked the sea and it was the season of summer; so I spread the bed on the roof of the house.
Presently, the Frank woman came and we ate and drank and the night fell down. We lay down under the sky, with the moon shining on us, and fell to watching the reflection of the stars in the sea: and I said to myself, "Art thou not ashamed before God (to whom belong might and majesty!) and thou a stranger, under the heavens and in presence of the sea, to disobey Him with a Nazarene woman and merit the fiery torment?" Then said I, "O my God, I call thee to witness that I abstain from this Christian woman this night, of shamefastness before Thee and fear of Thy wrath!" So I slept till the morning, and she arose at peep of day and went away, full of anger. I went to my shop and sat there; and presently she passed, as she were the moon, followed by the old woman, who was angry; whereat my heart sank within me and I said to myself, "Who art thou that thou shouldst forbear yonder damsel? Art thou Seri es Seketi or Bishr Barefoot or Junaid of Baghdad or Fuzail ben Iyaz?" (119)
Then I ran after the old woman and said to her, "Bring her to me again." "By the virtue of the Messiah," answered she, "she will not return to thee but for a hundred dinars!" Quoth I, "I will give thee a hundred dinars." So I paid her the money and the damsel came to me a second time; but no sooner was she with me than I returned to my former way of thinking and abstained from her and forbore her for the sake of God the Most High. So she went away and I betook me to my shop, and presently the old woman came up, in a rage. Quoth I to her, "Bring her to me again." And she answered, "By the virtue of the Messiah, thou shalt never again rejoice in her presence with thee, except for five hundred dinars, and thou shalt perish miserably!" At this I trembled and resolved to sacrifice the whole price of my flax and ransom myself therewith. But, before I could think, I heard the crier proclaiming and saying, "Ho, all ye Muslims, the truce that was between us and you is expired, and we give all of you who are here a week from this time to make an end of your business and depart to your own country."
So her visits were cut off from me and I betook myself to getting in the price of my flax, that I had sold upon credit, and bartering what remained in my hands for other commodities. Then I took with me goodly mer- chandise and departing Acre, full of love and longing for the Frankish woman, for that she had taken my heart and my money, repaired to Damascus, where I sold my merchandise, that I had brought from Acre, at a great price, because of the cutting off of communication by reason of the expiry of the truce; and God (blessed and exalted be He!) vouchsafed me a good profit. Then I fell to trafficking in captive slave-girls, thinking thus to ease my heart of its longing for the Frankish woman, and on this wise I abode three years, till there befell between El Melik en Nasir and the Franks what befell of the battle of Hittin and other encounters and God gave him the victory over them, so that he took all their kings prisoners and opened (120) the cities of the coast (121) by His leave.
One day, after this, there came a man to me and sought of me a slave-girl for El Melik en Nasir. Now I had a handsome girl; so I showed her to him and he bought her of me for a hundred dinars and gave me ninety thereof, leaving ten still due to me, for that there was no more found with the king that day, because he had expended all his treasures in waging war against the Franks. So they took counsel with him and he said, "Carry him to the tent (122) where are the captives and give him his choice among the damsels of the Franks, so he may take one of them for the ten dinars that are due to him." So they brought me to the prisoners' lodging and showed me all who were therein, and I saw amongst them the Frank damsel with whom I had fallen in love at Acre and knew her right well.
Now she was the wife of one of the cavaliers of the Franks. So I said, "Give me this one," and carrying her to my tent, said to her, "Dost thou know me?" She answered "No;" and I said, "I am the flax- merchant with whom thou hadst to do at Acre. Thou tookst money of me and saidst, 'Thou shalt never again see me but for five hundred dinars.' And now thou art become my property for ten dinars." Quoth she, "This is a mystery. Thy faith is the true one, and I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is the Apostle of God!" And she made hearty profession of Islam. Then said I to myself, "By Allah, I will not go in to her till I have set her free and acquainted the Cadi, [so he may marry us!]" So I betook myself to Ibn Sheddad (123) and told him what had passed and he married me to her. Then I lay with her that night and she conceived; after which the troops departed and we returned to Damascus.
Presently there came an ambassador from the king of the Franks, to seek the prisoners, according to the treaty between the kings. So El Melik en Nasir restored all the men and women he held in captivity, till there remained but the woman who was with me and the Franks said, "The wife of such an one the knight is not here." So they enquired after her and making instant search for her, found that she was with me; whereupon they demanded her of me and I went in to her, pale and sore concerned; and she said to me, "What ails thee and what hath befallen thee?" Quoth I, "A messenger is come from the king to take all the captives, and they demand thee of me." "Have no fear," answered she; "bring me to the king and I know what to say to him." So I carried her before the Sultan El Melik en Nasir, who was seated, with the ambassador of the king of the Franks on his right hand, and said to him, "This is the woman that is with me."
Then said the king and the ambassador to her, "Wilt thou go to thy country or to (124) thy husband? For God hath loosed thy bonds and those of thy fellows in cap- tivity." Quoth she, "I am become a Muslim and am great with child, as ye may see, and the Franks shall have no more profit of me." "Whether is dearer to thee," asked the ambassador, "this Muslim or thy husband the knight such an one?" And she answered him even as she had answered the Sultan. Then said he to the Franks with him, "Heard ye her words? " They answered, "Yes." And he said to me, "Take thy wife and depart with her." So I took her and went away; but the ambassador sent after me in haste and said, "Her mother sent her a charge by me, saying, 'My daughter is a captive and naked: and I would have thee carry her this chest.' So take it thou and deliver it to her."
Accordingly I carried the chest home and gave it to her. She opened it and found in it all her clothes, and therein I saw the two purses of fifty and a hundred dinars, that I had given her, untouched and tied up with my own tying, wherefore I praised God the Most High. These are my children by her and she is yet alive and it was she dressed you this food.' And we marvelled at his story and at that which had befallen him of good fortune, and God [alone] is [All-]knowing.