ABOULHUSN OF KHORASSAN.

The Khalif El Mutezid Billah (33) was a high-spirited and noble-minded prince; he had in Baghdad six hundred viziers and no whit of the affairs of the folk was hidden from him. He went forth one day, he and Ibn Hemdoun, (34) to divert himself with observing his subjects and hearing the latest news of the folk, and being overtaken with the heats of noonday, they turned aside from the main thoroughfare into a little by-street, at the upper end whereof they saw a handsome and high-builded house, discoursing of its owner with the tongue of praise. They sat down at the gate to rest, and presently out came two servants, as they were moons on their fourteenth night. Quoth one of them to his fellow, 'Would some guest would seek admission! My master will not eat but with guests and we are come to this hour and I have seen no one.'

The Khalif marvelled at their speech and said, 'This is a proof of the hospitality of the master of the house; needs must we go in to him and note his generosity, and this shall be a means of favour betiding him from us.' So he said to the servant, 'Ask leave of thy master for the admission of a company (35) of strangers.' For it was the Khalif's wont, whenas he was minded to observe his subjects, to disguise himself in a merchant's habit. The servant went in and told his master, who rejoiced and rising, came out to them in person. He was a comely and well-favoured man, clad in a tunic of Nishapour [silk] and a gold-laced mantle; and he dripped with scented waters and wore a ring of rubies on his hand. When he saw them, he said to them, 'Welcome and fair welcome to the lords who do us the utmost of favour by their coming!' So they entered the house and found it such as would make a man forget home and family, for it was as it were a piece of Paradise. Within it was a garden, full of all kinds of trees, confounding the beholder, and its dwelling-places were furnished with costly furniture. They sat down and the Khalif sat looking at the house and the furniture.

(Quoth Ibn Hemdoun), I looked at the Khalif and saw his countenance change, and being wont to know from his face whether he was pleased or angry, said to myself, 'I wonder what has vexed him.' Then they brought a golden basin and we washed our hands, after which they spread a silken cloth and set thereon a table of bamboo. When the covers were taken off the dishes, we saw therein meats [costly] as the flowers of Spring in the season of their utmost scarcity, in pairs and singly, and the host said, '[Eat,] O my lords, in the name of God! By Allah, hunger pricks me; so favour me by eating of this food, as is the fashion of the noble.'

Then he fell to tearing fowls apart and laying them before us, laughing the while and repeating verses and telling stories and talking gaily with quaint and pleasant sayings such as sorted with the entertainment. We ate and drank, then removed to another room, which confounded the beholder with its beauty and which reeked with exquisite perfumes. Here they brought us a tray of freshly-gathered fruits and delicious sweetmeats, whereat our joys redoubled and our cares ceased. But withal the Khalif ceased not to wear a frowning face and smiled not at that which gladdened the soul, albeit it was his wont to love mirth and merriment and the putting away of cares, and I knew that he was free from envy and no oppressor. So I said to myself, 'I wonder what is the cause of his moroseness and ill-humour.'

Presently they brought the wine-tray, the uniter of friends, and clarified wine in flagons of gold and crystal and silver, and the host smote with a wand of bamboo on the door of an inner chamber, whereupon it opened and out came three damsels, high-bosomed maids, with faces like the sun at the fourth [hour] of the day, one a lute-player, another a harpist and the third a dancer. Then he set before us fruits and confections and drew between us and the damsels a curtain of brocade, with tassels of silk and rings of gold. The Khalif paid no heed to all this, but said to the host, who knew not who was in his company, 'Art thou noble?' 'No, my lord,' answered he; 'I am but a man of the sons of the merchants and am known among the folk as Aboulhusn Ali, son of Ahmed of Khorassan.'

Quoth the Khalif, 'Dost thou know me, O man?' 'By Allah, O my lord,' answered he, 'I have no knowledge of either of your worships!' Then said I to him, 'O man, this is the Commander of the Faithful El Mutezid Billah, grandson of El Mutawekkil ala Allah.' Whereupon he rose and kissed the ground before the Khalif, trembling for fear of him. Then said he, 'O Commander of the Faithful, I conjure thee by the virtue of thy pious ancestors, if thou have seen in me any shortcoming or lack of good manners in thy presence, do thou forgive me!' 'As for that which thou hast done with us of hospitality,' replied the Khalif, 'nothing could have exceeded it; and as for that wherewith I have to reproach thee here, if thou tell me the truth respecting it and it commend itself to my reason, thou shalt be saved from me; but, if thou tell me not the truth, I will take thee with manifest proof and punish thee as I have never yet punished any.'

'God forbid that I should tell thee a lie!' answered the host. 'But what is it that thou reproachest to me, O Commander of the Faithful?' Quoth the Khalif, 'Since I entered thy house and looked upon its goodliness, I have noted the furniture and vessels therein, nay, even to thy clothes, and behold, on all of them is the name of my grandfather, El Mutawekkil ala Allah.' (36) 'Yes,' answered Aboulhusn. 'O Commander of the Faithful (may God protect thee), truth is thine inner and sincerity thine outer garment and none may speak other than truly in thy presence.' The Khalif bade him be seated and said, 'Tell us.' So he sat down and said, 'Know, O Commander of the Faithful, whom God stablish with His aid and encompass with His bounties, that there is not a richer in Baghdad than am I nor than was my father: but do thou grant me thine ears and eyes and understanding, whilst I expound to thee the cause of that which thou reproachest to me.' Quoth the Khalif, 'Say thy say.'

'Know then, O Commander of the Faithful,' began Aboulhusn, 'that my father belonged to the markets of the money-changers and druggists and linendrapers and had in each a shop and an agent and all kinds of goods. Moreover, behind the money-changer's shop he had an apartment, where he might be private, appointing the shop for buying and selling. His wealth was beyond count and limit, but he had no child other than myself, and he loved me and was tenderly solicitous over me. When his last hour was at hand, he called me to him and commended my mother to my care and charged me to fear God the Most High. Then he died, may God have mercy upon him and continue the Commander of the Faithful [on life!] And I gave myself up to pleasure and eating and drinking and took to myself friends and comrades and boon-companions. My mother used to forbid me from this and to blame me for it, but I would not hear a word from her, till my money was all gone, when I sold my lands and houses and nought was left me save the house in which I now dwell, and it is a goodly house, O Commander of the Faithful.

So I said to my mother, "I wish to sell the house." "O my son," answered she, "if thou sell it, thou wilt be dishonoured and wilt have no place wherein to take shelter." Quoth I, "It is worth five thousand dinars, and with one thousand thereof I will buy me another house and trade with the rest." "Wilt thou sell it to me at that price?" asked she; and I replied, "Yes." Whereupon she went to a coffer and opening it, took out a porcelain vessel, wherein were five thousand dinars. When I saw this, meseemed the house was all gold and she said to me, "O my son, think not that this is of thy father's good. By Allah, it was of my own father's money and I have treasured it up against a time of need; for, in thy father's time, I had no need of it."

I took the money from her and fell again to feasting and merry-making with my friends, without heeding my mother's words and admonitions, till the five thousand dinars came to an end, when I said to her, "I wish to sell the house." "O my son," answered she, "I forbade thee from selling it before, of my knowledge that thou hadst need of it; so how wilt thou sell it a second time?" Quoth I, "Do not multiply words upon me, for I must and will sell it." "Then sell it to me for fifteen thousand dinars," said she, "on condition that I take charge of thine affairs." So I sold her the house at that price and gave up my affairs into her charge, whereupon she sought out my father's factors and gave each of them a thousand dinars, keeping the rest in her own hands and ordering the outgoings and the incomings. Moreover she gave me money to trade withal and said to me, "Sit thou in thy father's shop." So I took up my abode in the chamber behind the shop in the market of the money-changers, and my friends came and bought of me and I sold to them; whereby I profited well and my wealth increased. When my mother saw me in this fair way, she discovered to me that which she had treasured up of jewels and pearls and gold, and I bought back my houses and lands that I had wasted and my wealth became great as before. I abode thus for some time, and the factors of my father came to me and I gave them goods, and I built me a second chamber behind the shop.

One day, as I sat in my shop, according to my wont, there came up to me a damsel, never saw eyes a fairer than she of favour, and said, "Is this the shop of Aboulhusn Ali ibn Ahmed el Khurasani?" "Yes," answered I. "Where is he?" asked she. "I am he," said I, and indeed my wit was dazed at the excess of her loveliness. She sat down and said to me, "Bid thy servant count me out three hundred dinars." So I bade him give her that sum and he counted it out to her and she took it and went away, leaving me stupefied. Quoth my clerk to me, "Dost thou know her?" And I answered, "No, by Allah!" "Then why," asked he, "didst thou bid me give her the money?" "By Allah," replied I, "I knew not what I said, of my amazement at her beauty and grace!" Then he rose and followed her, without my knowledge, but presently returned, weeping and with the mark of a blow on his face. I asked him what ailed him, and he said, "I followed the damsel, to see whither she went; but, when she was aware of me, she turned and dealt me this blow and all but put out my eye."

After this, a month passed, without my seeing her, and I abode bewildered for love of her; but, at the end of this time, she came again and saluted me, whereat I was like to fly for joy. She asked me how I did and said to me, "Belike thou saidst to thyself, 'What manner of trickstress is this, who hath taken my money and made off?"' "By Allah, O my lady," answered I, "my money and my life are all at thy service!" With this she unveiled herself and sat down to rest, with the jewels and ornaments playing over her face and bosom. Presently, she said to me, "Give me three hundred dinars." "I hear and obey," answered I and counted out to her the money. She took it and went away and I said to my servant, "Follow her." So he followed her, but returned mumchance, and some time passed without my seeing her. But, as I was sitting one day, she came up to me and after talking awhile, said to me, "Give me five hundred dinars, for I have occasion for them." I would have said to her, "Why should I give thee my money?" But excess of passion hindered me from speaking; for, whenever I saw her, I trembled in every limb and my colour paled and I forgot what I would have said and became even as saith the poet:

      I may not chance to look on her on unexpected wise, But so amazed am I, I scarce can answer, for surprise.

So I counted her out the five hundred dinars and she took them and went away; whereupon I arose and followed her myself, till she came to the jewel-market, where she stopped at a man's shop and took of him a necklace. Then she turned and seeing me, said, "Pay [him] five hundred dinars for me." When the jeweller saw me, he rose to me and made much of me, and I said to him, "Give her the necklace and be the price at my charge." "I hear and obey," replied he, and she took it and went away. I followed her, till she came to the Tigris and took boat there, whereupon I signed to the ground, as who should say, "I kiss it before thee." She went off, laughing, and I stood, watching her, till I saw her land and enter a palace, which when I considered, I knew it for the palace of the Khalif El Mutawekkil. So I turned back, with all the trouble in the world fallen on my heart, for she had had of me three thousand dinars, and I said in myself, "She hath taken my money and ravished my wit, and belike I shall lose my life for love of her."

Then I returned home and told my mother all that had befallen me, and she said, "O my son, beware how thou have to do with her after this, or thou art a lost man." When I went to my shop, my factor in the drug-market, who was a very old man, came to me and said, "O my lord, how is it that I see thee in ill case and with marks of chagrin upon thee? Tell me what ails thee." So I told him all that had befallen me with her and he said, "O my son, this is one of the women of the palace of the Commander of the Faithful and indeed she is the Khalif's favourite: so do thou reckon the money [expended] for the sake of God the Most High (37) and occupy thyself no more with her. If she come again, beware lest she have to do with thee and tell me of this, that I may contrive thee somewhat, lest perdition betide thee." Then he went away and left me with a flame of fire in my heart.

At the end of the month she came again and I rejoiced in her with an exceeding joy. Quoth she, "What ailed thee to follow me?" And I said, "Excess of passion that is in my heart urged me to this," and I wept before her. She wept out of pity for me and said, "By Allah, there is not in thy heart aught of passion, but in mine is more! But how shall I do? By Allah, I have no resource but to see thee thus once a month." Then she gave me a bill, saying, "Carry this to such an one, who is my factor, and take of him what is named therein." But I replied, "I have no need of money; be my money and my life thy sacrifice!" Quoth she, "I will assuredly contrive thee a means of access to me, whatever trouble it cost me." Then she took leave of me and went away; whilst I repaired to the old druggist and told him what had passed. He went with me to the Khalif's palace, which I knew for that which the lady had entered; and he was at a loss for a device.

Presently he espied a tailor sitting with his journeymen at work in his shop, opposite the lattice giving upon the river-bank, and said to me, "Yonder is one by whom thou shalt come to thy desire; but first tear thy pocket and go to him and bid him sew it up. When he hath done this, give him ten dinars." "I hear and obey," answered I and taking two pieces of Greek brocade, went to the tailor and bade him make of them four suits, two with surcoats and two without. When he had made an end of cutting them out and sewing them, I gave him to his hire much more than of wont, and he put out his hand to me with the clothes; but I said, "Take them for thyself and those who are with thee." And I fell to sitting with him and sitting long. Moreover, I bespoke of him other clothes and bade him hang them out in front of his shop, that the folk might see them and buy them. He did as I bade him, and whoso came forth of the palace and aught of the clothes pleased him, I made him a present thereof, even to the doorkeeper.

One day, the tailor said to me, "O my son, I would have thee tell me the truth of thy case; for thou hast bespoken of me a hundred costly suits, each worth much money, and hast given the most of them to the folk. This is no merchant's fashion, for a merchant calleth an account for [every] dirhem, and what can be the sum of thy capital and what thy gain every year, that thou givest these gifts? Tell me then the truth of thy case, that I may further thee to thy desire." Then, "I conjure thee by God," added he, "[tell me,] art thou not in love?" "Yes," answered I; and he said, "With whom?" Quoth I, "With one of the women of the Khalif's palace." And he exclaimed, "May God put them to shame! How long shall they seduce the folk? Knowest thou her name?" "No," answered I; and he said, "Describe her to me." So I described her to him and he said, "Out on it! This is the favourite lutanist of the Khalif El Mutawekkil. But she hath a servant, and do thou clap up a friendship with him; it may be he shall be the means of thy having access to her."

As we were talking, out came the servant in question from the palace, as he were the moon on its fourteenth night. Now I had before me the clothes that the tailor had made me, and they were of brocade of all colours. He began to look at them and examine them; then he came up to me and I rose and saluted him. "Who art thou?" asked he; and I answered, "I am a man of the merchants." Quoth he, "Wilt thou sell these clothes?" "Yes," replied I. So he chose out five of them and said to me, "How much these five?" Quoth I, "They are a present from me to thee, in earnest of friendship between us." At this he rejoiced and I went home and fetching a suit embroidered with jewels and jacinths, worth three thousand dinars, gave it to him.

He accepted it and carrying me into a room within the palace, said to me, "What is thy name among the merchants?" Quoth I, "I am a man of them." (38) "Verily," rejoined he, "I misdoubt me of thine affair." "Why so?" asked I. "Because," answered he, "thou hast bestowed on me a great matter (39) and won my heart therewith, and I doubt not but thou art Aboulhusn of Khorassan the money-changer." With this I fell aweeping and he said to me, "Why dost thou weep? By Allah, she for whom thou weepest is yet more passionately in love with thee than thou with her! And indeed her case with thee is notorious among all the women of the palace. But what wouldst thou have?" Quoth I, "I would have thee succour me in my affliction." So he appointed me for the morrow and I returned home.

Next morning, I betook myself to him and waited in his chamber till he came, when he said to me, "Know that, when she returned to her apartment yesternight, after having made an end of her service about the Khalif's person, I related to her all that passed between me and thee and she is minded to foregather with thee. So abide thou with me till the end of the day." Accordingly I abode with him till dark, when he brought me a shirt of gold-inwoven stuff and a suit of the Khalif's apparel and clothing me therein, incensed me (40) and I became most like the Khalif. Then he brought me to a gallery with rows of doors on each side and said to me, "These are the lodgings of the chief of the slave-girls; and when thou passest along the gallery, do thou lay a bean at each door,--for it is the Khalif's wont to do this every night,--till thou come to the second passage on thy right hand, when thou wilt see a door with a threshold of alabaster. Touch it with thy hand; or, if thou wilt, count the doors, so many, and enter the one whose marks are thus and thus. There thy mistress will see thee and take thee in with her. As for thy coming forth, God will make it easy to me, though I carry thee out in a chest."

Then he left me and returned, whilst I went on, counting the doors and laying at each a bean. When I had reached the middle of the gallery, I heard a great noise and saw the light of flambeaux coming towards me. As the light drew near me, I looked at it and behold the Khalif himself, surrounded by the slave-girls carrying flambeaux, and I heard one of the women [by whose door I had passed] say to another, "O my sister, have we two Khalifs? Verily, the Khalif hath already passed by my chamber and laid the bean at my door, as is his wont, and I smelt the perfumes and essences on him, and now I see the light of his flambeaux, and here he comes with them." "Indeed this is a strange thing," replied the other; "for none would dare disguise himself in the Khalif's habit."

Then the light drew near me, whilst I trembled in every limb; and up came an eunuch, crying out to the women and saying, "Hither!" Whereupon they turned aside to one of the chambers and entered. Then they came out again and went on till they came to the chamber of my mistress and I heard the Khalif say, "Whose chamber is this?" They answered, "This is the chamber of Shejeret ed Durr." And he said, "Call her." So they called her and she came out and kissed the feet of the Khalif, who said to her, "Wilt thou drink to-night?" Quoth she, "But for thy presence and the looking on thy face, I would not drink, for I have no mind to wine this night." Then said the Khalif to the eunuch, "Bid the treasurer give her such a necklace." And he commanded to enter her chamber. So the torches entered before him and he followed them into the apartment.

At the same moment, there came up to me a damsel, the lustre of whose face outshone that of the flambeau in her hand, and said, "Who is this?" Then she laid hold of me and carrying me into one of the chambers, said to me, "Who art thou?" I kissed the earth before her, saying, "I implore thee by Allah, O my lady, spare my blood and have pity on me and commend thyself unto God by saving my life!" And I wept for fear of death. Quoth she, "Doubtless, thou art a thief." "No, by Allah," answered I, "I am no thief. Seest thou on me the signs of thieves?" "Tell me the truth of thy case," said she, "and I will put thee in safety." So I said, "I am a silly, ignorant lover, whom passion and my ignorance have moved to do as thou seest, so that I am fallen into this peril." Quoth she, "Abide here till I come back to thee."

Then she went out and presently returning with some of her maids' clothes, clad me therein and bade me follow her. So I followed her till she came to her apartment and bade me enter. I went in and she brought me to a couch, whereon was a splendid carpet, and said, "Sit down here: no harm shall befall thee. Art thou not Aboulhusn el Khurasani, the money-changer?" And I answered, "Yes." "May God spare thy blood," rejoined she, "an thou speak truth! If thou be a thief, thou art a lost man, more by token that thou art dressed in the Khalif's habit and perfumed with his scents. But, if thou be indeed Aboulhusn, thou art safe and no hurt shall come to thee, for that thou art the lover of Shejeret ed Durr, who is my sister and stinteth never to name thee and tell us how she took of thee money, yet wast thou not chagrined, and how thou didst follow her to the river-bank and madest as thou wouldst kiss the ground in her honour; and her heart is yet more aflame for thee than thine for her. But how camest thou hither? Was it by her order or without? [If she hath bidden thee unto this,] she hath imperilled thy life. But what seekest thou in foregathering with her?"

"By Allah, O my lady," replied I, "it is I who have ventured my own life, and my desire in foregathering with her is but to look on her and hear her speech." And she said, "Thou hast spoken well." "O my lady," added I, "God is my witness that my soul prompteth me to no transgression against her honour." Quoth she, "In this intent may God deliver thee! Indeed compassion for thee hath taken hold upon my heart." Then she called her maid and said to her, "Go to Shejeret ed Durr and say to her, 'Thy sister salutes thee and bids thee to her; so favour her by coming to her this night, according to thy wont, for her breast is straitened.'" So the maid went out and presently returning, told her mistress that Shejeret ed Durr said, "May God bless me with thy long life and make me thy ransom! By Allah, hadst thou bidden me to other than this, I had not hesitated; but the Khalif's meagrims constrain me and thou knowest my rank with him.' (41) But the other said to her maid, "Return to her and say, 'Nothing will serve but thou must come to my mistress, upon a privy matter between her and thee.'"

So the maid went out again and presently returned with the lady, whose face shone like the full moon. Her sister met her and embraced her; then said she, "Ho, Aboulhusn, come forth to her and kiss her hands." Now I was in a closet within the apartment; so I came out; and when my mistress saw me, she threw herself upon me and strained me to her bosom, saying, "How camest thou in the Khalif's clothes and his ornaments and perfumes? Tell me what hath befallen thee." So I related to her all that had befallen me and what I had suffered for fright and so forth; and she said, "What thou hast endured for my sake is grievous to me, and praised be God who hath appointed the issue to be safety, and the fulfilment of safety is in thy entering my lodging and that of my sister." Then she carried me to her own apartment, saying to her sister, "I have made a covenant with him that I will not foregather with him unlawfully; but, as he hath ventured himself and incurred this great peril, I will be even as earth for his treading and as dust to his shoes." "In this intent may God deliver him!" replied her sister. "Thou shalt see," added my mistress, "how I will do, so I may foregather with him in the way of law, and needs must I lavish my heart's blood to contrive this."

As we were in talk, we heard a great noise and turning, saw the Khalif making for her lodging, of the greatness of the store he set by her; whereupon she hid me in an underground chamber and shut down the trap-door upon me. Then she went out to meet the Khalif, who entered and sat down, whilst she stood before him, to serve him, and commanded to bring wine. Now the Khalif loved a damsel by name Benjeh, who was the mother of El Mutezz Billah; (42) but they had fallen out and in the pride of her beauty and grace, she would not [offer to] make peace with him, nor, for the dignity of the Khalifate and the Kingship, would he [offer to] make peace with her nor humble himself to her, albeit his heart was aflame with passion for her, but sought to divert his mind from her with her mates among the slave-girls and with going in to them in their chambers. Now he loved Shejeret ed Durr's singing: so he bade her sing. Accordingly she took the lute and tuning it, sang the following verses:

      I marvel at the ruthless stress of fate against us two And how it stinted, having wrought our union to undo.
      I held aloof from thee, till, "Love he knoweth not," 'twas said And did thee visit, till 'twas said, "He lacks of patience due."
      Add to my transport, love of her, each night, and solacement Of loves, the Resurrection be thy day of rendezvous!
      She hath a skin like very silk and a soft speech and sweet: Gracious to all, her words are nor too many nor too few.
      Two eyes she hath, quoth God Most High, "Be," and forthright they were: Even with the reason as doth wine, so with the hearts they do.

When the Khalif heard these verses, he was moved to exceeding delight, and I also was moved to delight in my hiding-place, and but for the bounty of God the Most High, I had cried out and we had been discovered. Then she sang these also:

      I clip him close and still my soul doth yearn for him full fain: Can aught of straiter union be than clips for lovers twain?
      I kiss his mouth, to do away my heat; but every kiss, Alack! doth only aggravate the transport of my pain;
      As 'twere, indeed, until my heart our souls commingled saw, Nought could it of its thirst for him on anywise assain.

The Khalif was delighted and said, "O Shejeret ed Durr, ask a boon of me." "O Commander of the Faithful," answered she, "I ask of thee my freedom, for the sake of the reward that is therein." (43) "Thou art free for the love of God," said he; whereupon she kissed the earth before him. Quoth he, "Take the lute and sing me somewhat on the subject of my slave-girl, of whom I am enamoured: the folk seek my approof and I seek hers." So she took the lute and sang as follows:

      Lady of beauty, that hast done away my piety, (44) I cannot brook, whate'er betide, to live withouten thee;
      So, or with humbleness, that best befitteth love, I'll gain Thy favours, or with might, that best befitteth kings like me.

The Khalif was charmed with these verses and said, "Now sing me somewhat setting out my case with three damsels, who hold the reins of my heart and hinder my repose; and they are thyself and this froward one and another I will not name, who hath not like her." (45) So she took the lute and playing a lively measure, sang the following verses:

      There are three lovely maidens, the reins of me that sway: Within my heart's high places they lord it night and day.
      There's none in all creation can bow me to his will; Yet I obey these maidens and they my will gainsay.
      This is of Love's dominion, whereby they overcome A prouder than my empire and force it still obey.

The Khalif marvelled exceedingly at the aptness of these verses to his case and the delight [to which they moved him] inclined him to reconciliation with the refractory damsel. So he went forth and made for her lodging, whither a slave-girl forewent him and acquainted her with the Khalif's coming. She came to meet him and kissed the earth before him; then she kissed his feet and he was reconciled to her and she to him.

Meanwhile Shejeret ed Durr came to me, rejoicing, and said, "I am become free by thy blessed coming! Surely God will help me in that which I shall contrive, so I may foregather with thee in the way of law." And I said, "Praised be God!" As we were talking, in came her servant, to whom we related that which had passed, and he said, "Praised be God who hath made the affair to end well, and we implore Him to crown His favours with thy safe going-out hence!" Presently, in came my mistress's sister, whose name was Fatir, and Shejeret ed Durr said to her, "O my sister, how shall we do to bring him out of the palace in safety? For God hath vouchsafed me emancipation and by the blessing of his coming, I am become a free woman." Quoth Fatir, "I see nothing for it but to dress him in a woman's habit." So she brought me a suit of women's clothes and clad me therein; and I went out forthwith; but, when I came to the midst of the palace, I found the Khalif seated there, with the eunuchs in attendance upon him.

When he saw me, he misdoubted of me exceedingly and said to his attendants, "Hasten and bring me yonder damsel." So they brought me back to him and raised the veil from my face, which when he saw, he knew me and questioned me of my case. I told him the whole truth, hiding nought, and when he heard my story, he bethought himself awhile, then rose and going into Shejeret ed Durr's chamber, said to her, "How couldst thou prefer one of the sons of the merchants before me?" She kissed the earth before him and told him her story from first to last, in accordance with the truth; wherewith he had compassion upon her and his heart relented to her and he excused her by reason of love and its conditions. Then he went away and her servant came in to her and said, "Be of good cheer; for, when thy lover came before the Khalif, he questioned him and he told him that which thou toldest him, word by word."

Presently the Khalif returned and calling me before him, said to me, "What made thee dare to violate the palace of the Khalifate?" "O Commander of the Faithful," answered I, "it was my ignorance and passion and my confidence in thy clemency and generosity that led me to this." And I wept and kissed the earth before him. Then said he, "I pardon you both," and bade me be seated. So I sat down and he sent for the Cadi Ahmed ibn Abi Dawud (46) and married me to her. Then he commanded to make over to me all that was hers and they brought her to me in bridal procession (47) in her lodging. After three days, I went forth and transported all her goods and gear to my own house; so all that thou hast seen, O Commander of the Faithful, in my house and whereof thou misdoubtest is of her marriage-equipage.

After this, she said to me, one day, "Know that El Mutawekkil is a generous man and I fear lest he bethink him of us, or that some one of the envious remind him of us; wherefore I have it in mind to do somewhat that may ensure us against this." "And what is that?" asked I. Quoth she, "I mean to ask his leave to go the pilgrimage and renounce (48) singing." "This is well thought," answered I; but, as we were talking, in came a messenger from the Khalif to seek her, for that El Mutawekkil loved her singing. So she went with the officer and did her service to the Khalif, who said to her, "Sever not thyself from us." (49) And she answered, "I hear and obey."

One day, after this, she went to him, he having sent for her, according to his wont; but, before I knew, she came back, with her clothes torn and her eyes full of tears. At this I was alarmed, misdoubting me that he had commanded to seize upon us, and said, "We are God's and to Him we return! Is El Mutawekkil wroth with us?" "Where is El Mutawekkil?" answered she. "Verily, El Mutawekkil's rule is ended and his trace is blotted out!" Quoth I, "Tell me what hath happened." And she said, "He was seated behind the curtain, drinking, with El Feth ben Khacan (50) and Sedekeh ben Sedekeh, when his son El Muntesir fell upon him, with a company of the Turks, (51) and slew him; and mirth was turned to misery and fair fortune to weeping and lamentation. So I fled, I and the maid, and God saved us." When I heard this, O Commander of the Faithful, I arose forthright and went down to Bassora, where the news reached me of the falling out of war between El Muntesir and El Mustain; (52) wherefore I was affrighted and transported my wife and all my good to Bassora. This, then, is my story, O Commander of the Faithful, nor have I added to nor diminished the truth by a syllable. So all that thou seest in my house, bearing the name of thy grandfather El Mutawekkil, is of his bounty to us, and the source of our fortune is from thy noble ancestors; for indeed ye are people of munificence and a mine of generosity.'

The Khalif marvelled at his story and rejoiced therein with an exceeding joy: and Aboulhusn brought forth to him the lady and the children she had borne him, and they kissed the earth before the Khalif, who marvelled at their beauty. Then he called for inkhorn and paper and wrote Aboulhusn a patent of exemption from taxes on his lands and houses for twenty years. Moreover, he rejoiced in him and made him his boon-companion, till time sundered them and they took up their abode in the tombs, after having dwelt in palaces; and glory be to God, the Most Merciful King!




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