ABDALLAH BEN FAZIL AND HIS BROTHERS.
The Khalif Haroun er Reshid was one day examining the tributes of the various provinces of his empire, when he observed that the tributes of all the countries and regions had come into the treasury, except that of Bassora, which had not arrived that year. So he held a Divan because of this and sending for the Vizier Jaafer, said to him, 'The tributes of all the provinces have come into the treasury, save that of Bassora, no part whereof hath arrived.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Jaafer, 'belike there hath befallen the governor of Bassora somewhat that hath diverted him from sending the tribute.' Quoth the Khalif, 'The time of the coming of the tribute was twenty days [ago]; what, then, can be his excuse for that, in this time, he hath neither sent it nor sent to show cause for not doing so?' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied Jaafer, 'if it please thee, we will send him a messenger.' 'Send him Abou Ishac el Mausili, (96) the boon-companion,' rejoined the Khalif, and Jaafer said, 'Hearkening and obedience to God and to thee, O Commander of the Faithful!'
Then he returned to his house and summoning Abou Ishac, wrote him a royal letter and said to him, 'Go to Abdallah ben Fazil, Viceroy of Bassora, and see what hath diverted him from sending the tribute. If it be ready, do thou receive it from him in full and bring it to me in haste, for the Khalif hath examined the tributes of the provinces and finds that they are all come in, except that of Bassora: but if thou find it not ready and he make an excuse to thee, bring him back with thee, that he may with his own tongue acquaint the Khalif with his excuse.' 'I hear and obey,' answered Abou Ishac and taking with him five thousand horse, set out for Bassora.
When Abdallah heard of his approach, he went out to meet him with his troops and carried him to his palace, whilst the escort encamped without the city, where he furnished them with all of which they stood in need. Abou Ishac entered the audience-chamber and sitting down on the throne, seated the governor beside himself, whilst the notables sat round him, according to their several ranks. After the salutation, (97) Abdallah said to him, 'O my lord, is there any cause for thy coming to us?' 'Yes,' answered Abou Ishac, 'I come to seek the tribute; for the Khalif enquireth of it and the time of its coming is past.' 'O my lord,' rejoined Abdallah, 'would thou hadst not wearied thyself nor taken upon thyself the fatigue of the journey! For the tribute is ready in full and I had purposed to despatch it to-morrow. But, since thou art come, I will deliver it to thee, after I have entertained thee three days; and on the fourth day I will bring the tribute before thee. But now it behoveth us to offer thee a present in part requital of thy kindness and that of the Commander of the Faithful.' 'There is no harm in that,' said Abou Ishac.
So Abdallah dismissed the Divan and carrying him into a saloon, that had not its match, set a table of food before him and his companions. They ate and drank and made merry, after which the table was removed and there came coffee and sherbets. They sat conversing till a third part of the night was past, when they spread Abou Ishac a bed on a couch of ivory, inlaid with glittering gold. So he lay down and the viceroy lay down beside him on another couch; but wakefulness possessed Abou Ishac and he fell to meditating on the metres of verse and composing poetry, for that he was one of the chief of the Khalif's boon-companions and was eminently skilled (98) in composing verses and pleasant stories; nor did he leave to lie awake and make verses till half the night was past. Presently, Abdallah arose, thinking Abou Ishac asleep, and girding his middle, opened a cupboard, whence he brought out a whip; then, taking a lighted candle, he went forth by the door of the saloon. When Abou Ishac saw this, he marvelled and said, 'Whither goeth Abdallah ben Fazil with that whip? Belike he is minded to punish some one. But needs must I follow him and see what he will do this night.' So he arose and went out softly after him, so that he saw him not, and presently saw him open a closet and take thence a tray containing four dishes of meat and bread and a gugglet of water. Then he went on, carrying the tray and followed by Abou Ishac, till he came to another saloon and entered, whilst Abou Ishac stood behind the door and looking through the chink, saw a spacious saloon, richly furnished and having in its midst a couch of ivory plated with glittering gold, to which two dogs were made fast with chains of gold.
Abdallah set down the tray in a corner and tucking up his sleeves, loosed the first dog, which began to struggle in his hands and put its muzzle to the ground, as it would kiss the ground before him, whining the while in a low, weak voice. Abdallah tied its paws behind its back and throwing it on the ground, drew forth the whip and beat it without mercy. The dog struggled, but could not get free, and Abdallah ceased not to beat it till it left groaning and lay without motion. Then he took it and tied it up in its place, and unbinding the second dog, did with him as he had done with the first; after which he pulled out a handkerchief and fell to wiping away their tears and comforting them, saying, 'Bear me not malice; for, by Allah, this is not of my will, nor is it easy to me! But it may be God will grant you relief and issue from your affliction.' And he prayed for them, what while Abou Ishac stood hearkening with his ears and watching with his eyes, and indeed he marvelled at this case.
Then Abdallah brought the dogs the tray of food and fell to feeding them with his own hand, till they had enough, when he wiped their mouths and lifting up the gugglet, gave them to drink; after which he took up the tray and gugglet and candle and made for the door. But Abou Ishac forewent him and making his way back to his couch, lay down; so that he saw him not neither knew that he had followed him and watched him. Then the governor replaced the tray and the gugglet in the closet and returning to the saloon, opened the cupboard and laid the whip in its place; after which he put off his clothes and lay down. But Abou Ishac passed the rest of the night pondering this affair nor did sleep visit him, for excess of wonder, and he ceased not to say in himself, 'I wonder what can be the meaning of this!' Nor did he leave wondering till the morning, when they arose and prayed the morning prayer. Then they set breakfast before them and they ate and drank coffee, after which they went out to the divan. Abou Ishac's thought was occupied with this enigma all day, but he concealed the matter and questioned not Abdallah thereof. Next night, he again followed the governor and saw him do with the two dogs as on the previous night, first beating them and then making his peace with them and giving them to eat and to drink; and on like wise he did the third night.
On the fourth day he brought the tribute to Abou Ishac, who took it and departed, without opening the matter to him. He fared on, without ceasing, till he came to Baghdad, where he delivered the tribute to the Khalif, who questioned him of the cause of the delay. 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied he, 'I found that the governor of Bassora had made ready the tribute and was about to despatch it; and had I delayed a day, it had met me on the road. But, O Commander of the Faithful, I had a rare adventure with Abdallah ben Fazil; never in my life saw I its like.' 'And what was it, O Abou Ishac?' asked the Khalif. So he acquainted him with that which he had seen the governor do with the two dogs, adding, 'On this wise I saw him do three nights following, first beating the dogs, then making his peace with them and comforting them and giving them to eat and drink, what while I watched him, whereas he saw me not.' 'Didst thou question him of the cause of this?' asked the Khalif. 'No, as thy head liveth, O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Abou Ishac.
Then said Er Reshid, 'O Abou Ishac, I command thee to return to Bassora and bring me Abdallah ben Fazil and the two dogs.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied he, 'excuse me from this; for indeed Abdallah entreated me with the utmost hospitality and I chanced upon this thing without design and acquainted thee therewith. So how can I go back to him and bring him to thee? Verily, if I return to him, I shall find no countenance for shame of him; wherefore it were meet that thou send him another than myself, with a letter under thine own hand, and he shall bring him to thee, him and the two dogs.' Quoth the Khalif, 'If I send him other than thyself, most like he will deny the whole affair and say, "I have no dogs." But, if I send thee and thou say to him, "I saw them with mine own eyes," he will not be able to deny it. Wherefore nothing will serve but that thou go and fetch him and the two dogs; else will I put thee to death.' 'I hear and obey, O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Abou Ishac. 'God is our sufficiency and good is He in whom we trust. He spoke sooth who said, "The calamity of man is from the tongue," and it is I who sinned against myself in telling thee. But write me a royal letter (99) and I will go to him and bring him back to thee.' So the Khalif wrote him a royal letter and he took it and repaired to Bassora. When he came in to the governor, the latter said, 'God keep us from the mischief of thy return, O Abou Ishac! How comes it that I see thee return in haste? Belike the tribute is deficient and the Khalif will not accept it?' 'O Amir Abdallah,' answered Abou Ishac, 'my return is not on account of the deficiency of the tribute, for it is full measure and the Khalif accepts it; but I hope that thou wilt excuse me, for that I have sinned against thee, and indeed this that I have done was decreed of God the Most High.' 'And what hast thou done, O Abou Ishac?' asked Abdallah. 'Tell me; for thou art my friend and I will not reproach thee.' 'Know thee,' answered Abou Ishac, 'that, when I was with thee, I followed thee three nights in succession and saw thee rise at midnight and beat the dogs and return; whereat I marvelled, but thought shame to question thee thereof. When I came back to Baghdad, I told the Khalif of thine affair, casually and without design, whereupon he charged me return to thee, and here is a letter under his hand. Had I known that the affair would lead to this, I had not told him, but this was fore-ordained to happen.' And he went on to excuse himself to him.
Quoth Abdallah, 'Since thou hast told him this, I will bear thee out with him, lest he deem thee a liar, for thou art my friend. Were it other than thou, I had denied the affair and given him the lie. But now I will go with thee and carry the two dogs with me, though in this be my own ruin and the ending of my term of life.' 'God will protect (100) thee,' rejoined Abou Ishac, 'even as thou hast veiled (101) my face with the Khalif!' Then Abdallah took a present beseeming the Khalif and mounting the dogs with him, each on a camel, bound with chains of gold, journeyed with Abou Ishac to Baghdad, where he went in to the Khalif and kissed the earth before him. He bade him sit; so he sat down and brought the two dogs before Er Reshid, who said to him, 'What are these dogs, O Amir Abdallah?' Whereupon they fell to kissing the ground before him and wagging their tails and weeping, as if complaining to him.
The Khalif marvelled at this and said to the governor, 'Tell me the history of these two dogs and the reason of thy beating them and after entreating them with honour.' 'O Vicar of God,' replied Abdallah, 'these are no dogs, but two handsome young men, endowed with grace and shapeliness and symmetry, and they are my brothers and the sons of my father and my mother.' 'How is it,' asked the Khalif, 'that they were men and are become dogs?' Quoth Abdallah, 'If thou give me leave, O Commander of the Faithful, I will acquaint thee with the truth of the case.' 'Tell me,' said the Khalif, 'and beware of leasing, for it is of the fashion of the hypocrites, and look thou tell truth, for that it is the ark of safety and the characteristic of the virtuous.' 'O Vicar of God,' rejoined Abdallah, 'when I tell thee the story of these dogs, they will both bear witness against me.' Quoth the Khalif, 'These are dogs; they cannot speak nor answer; so how can they testify for thee or against thee?' So Abdallah said to them, 'O my brothers, if I speak an untrue word, do ye lift your heads and stare with your eyes; but, if I speak truth, hang down your heads and lower your eyes.'
Then said he to the Khalif, 'Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that we are three brothers by one father and mother. Our father's name was Fazil and he was thus named for that his mother bore two sons at one birth, one of whom died forthright and the other remained [alive], wherefore they named him Fazil. (102) His father brought him up and reared him well, till he grew up, when he married him to our mother and died. Our mother conceived a first time and bore this my first brother, whom my father named Mensour; then she conceived again and bore this my second brother, whom he named Nasir; after which she conceived a third time and bore me, whom he named Abdallah. My father reared us all three till we came to man's estate, when he died, leaving us a house and a shop full of coloured stuffs of all kinds, Indian and Greek and Khurasani (103) and what not, besides threescore thousand dinars. We washed him and buried him to the mercy of his Lord, after which we builded him a splendid monument and let pray for him prayers for the deliverance of his soul from the fire and held recitations of the Koran and gave alms on his behalf, till the forty days (104) were past; at the end of which time I called together the merchants and nobles of the folk and made them a sumptuous entertainment.
When they had eaten, I said to them, "O merchants, verily this world is fleeting, but the world to come is eternal, and extolled be the perfection of Him who endureth after His creatures have passed away! Know ye why I have called you together this blessed day?" And they answered, "Extolled be the perfection of God, who [alone] knoweth the hidden things." (105) Quoth I, "My father died, leaving much good, and I fear lest any have a claim against him for a debt or a pledge [left in his hands] or what not else, and I desire to discharge my father's obligations towards the folk. So whoso hath any claim on him, let him say, 'He oweth me so and so, and I will satisfy it to him, that I may acquit my father's responsibility." (106)
"O Abdallah," replied the merchants, "verily the goods of this world stand not in stead of those of the world to come, and we are no fraudful folk, but all of us know the lawful from the unlawful and fear God the Most High and abstain from devouring the substance of the orphan. We know that thy father (may God have mercy on him!) still let his good lie with the folk, (107) nor did he suffer any one's claim on him to go unquitted, and we have often heard him say, 'I am fearful of the people's substance.' He used always to say, when he prayed, 'O my God, Thou art my stay and my hope! Let me not die in debt.' And it was of his wont that, if he owed any one aught, he would pay it to him, without asking, and if any owed him aught, he would not dun him, but would say to him, 'At thy leisure.' If his debtor were poor, he would forgive him the debt and acquit him of responsibility; and if he were not poor and died [without paying], he would say, 'God forgive him what he owed me!' And we all testify that he owed no one aught."
"May God bless you!" said I. Then I turned to these my brothers and said to them, "O my brothers, our father owed no man aught and hath left us much money and stuffs, besides the house and shop. Now we are three brothers and each of us is entitled to one third part. So shall we agree to forego division and abide copartners in our property and eat together and drink together, or shall we divide the money and the stuffs and take each his part?" Said they, "We will divide them and take each his share."' Then Abdallah turned to the two dogs and said to them, 'Did it happen thus, O my brothers?' And they bowed their heads and lowered their eyes, as who should say, 'Yes.' 'So,' continued Abdallah, 'I called in a departitor from the Cadi's court and he divided amongst us the money and the stuffs and all our father's effects, allotting the house and shop to me in exchange for a part of the money and stuffs to which I was entitled. We were content with this; so the house and shop fell to my share, whilst my brothers took theirs in money and stuffs. I opened the shop and stocking it with [my part of] the stuffs, bought others with the money allotted to me, over and above the house and the shop, till the latter was full, and I sat selling and buying. As for my brothers, they bought stuffs and chartering a ship, set out on a voyage to foreign parts. Quoth I, "God aid them! As for me, my livelihood is ready to my hand and peace is priceless."
I abode thus a whole year, during which time God prospered me and I made great profits, till I became possessed of the like of that which our father had left us. One day, as I sat in my shop, with two fur pelisses on me, one of sable and the other of miniver, for it was the winter season and the time of the great cold, there came up to me my two brothers, each clad in nothing but a ragged shirt, and their lips were white with cold and they were shivering. When I saw them in this plight, it was grievous to me and I mourned for them and my reason fled from my head. So I rose and embraced them and wept over their condition. Then I put on one of them the pelisse of sable and on the other that of miniver and carrying them to the bath, sent them thither each a suit of apparel such as befitted a merchant worth a thousand purses. (108) When they had washed and donned each his suit, I carried them to my house, where, seeing them to be sore anhungred, I set a tray of food before them and ate with them, caressing them and comforting them. Then he turned to the two dogs and said to them, 'Was this so, O my brothers?' And they bent their heads and lowered their eyes.
'Then, O Vicar of God,' continued Abdallah, 'I said to them, "What hath befallen you and where are your goods?" Quoth they, "We fared up the river, (109) till we came to a city called Cufa, where we sold for ten dinars the piece of stuff that had cost us half a dinar and that which cost us a dinar for twenty. So we profited greatly and bought Persian (110) stuffs at the rate of ten dinars the piece of silk worth forty in Bassora. Thence we removed to a city called El Kerkh, (111) where we sold and bought and made great profit and amassed store of wealth." And they went on to set forth to me the places [they had visited] and the profits [they had made]. So I said to them, "Since ye had such good luck, how comes it that I see you return naked?" They sighed and answered, "O our brother, some one must have belooked us with the evil eye and there is no security in travel. When we had gotten together these riches and goods, we freighted a ship therewith and set sail, intending for Bassora. We fared on three days and on the fourth day we saw the water rise and fall and roar and foam and swell and rage, whilst the waves clashed together, striking out sparks like fire. The winds blew contrary for us and our ship struck upon the point of a rock, where it broke up and plunged us into the river, and all we had with us was lost in the water. We abode struggling on the surface a day and a night, till God sent us another ship, whose crew picked us up and we begged our way from town to town, suffering sore hardships and selling our clothes piecemeal, to buy us food, till we drew near Bassora; nor did we win thither till we had endured a thousand miseries. But, had we come off in safety with that which was with us, we had brought back riches that might vie with those of the king: but this was ordained of God to us."
"O my brothers," said I, "let not your hearts be troubled, for wealth is the ransom of bodies and safety is [to be accounted] gain. Since God hath written you of the saved, this is the end of desire, for poverty and riches are but as it were illusions of dreams, and gifted of God is he who saith:So but a man may win to save his soul alive from death, But as the paring of his nail his wealth he reckoneth.
O my brothers," continued I, "we will put it that our father died to-day and left us all this money that is with me, for I am willing to share it with you equally." So I fetched a departitor from the Cadi's court and brought out to him all my money, which he divided into three equal parts, and we each took one. Then said I to them, "O my brothers, God blesseth a man in his livelihood, if he be in his own country: so let each of you open a shop and sit therein to get his living; and he to whom ought is ordained in the secret purpose of God, (112) needs must he get it." Accordingly, I helped each of them to open a shop and stocked it for him with goods, saying to them, "Sell and buy and keep your monies and spend nought thereof, for I will furnish you with all ye need of meat and drink and so forth."
I continued to entreat them generously and they fell to selling and buying by day and lay the night in my house nor would I suffer them to spend aught of their own monies. But, whenever I sat talking with them, they would praise travel and vaunt its charms and set out the gains they had made therein; and they ceased not to urge and tempt me and importune me thus till, to please them, I agreed to travel with them.' Then he said to the dogs, 'Was this so, O my brothers?' And they confirmed his speech by bowing their heads and lowering their eyes. 'Then, O Vicar of God,' continued Abdallah, 'I entered into a contract of partnership with them and we chartered a ship and packing up all manner of precious stuffs and merchandise of all kinds, freighted it therewith; after which we embarked therein all that we needed [of victual and what not else for the voyage] and setting sail from Bassora, launched out into the surging sea, swollen with clashing billows, into which whoso entereth is lost and from which whoso cometh forth is as a new-born child.
We sailed on till we came to a city of the cities, where we sold and bought and made great profit. Thence we went on to another city, and we ceased not to pass from land to land and city to city, selling and buying and profiting, till we had gotten us great wealth and much gain. Presently, we came to a mountain, (113) where the captain cast anchor and said to us, "O passengers, go ye ashore; ye shall be saved from this day, (114) and make search; it may be ye shall find water." So we all landed and dispersed about the island in search of water.
As for me, I climbed to the top of the mountain, and as I went along, I saw a white snake fleeing and a black dragon, foul of favour and frightful to look upon, pursuing her. Presently he overtook her and pressing straitly upon her, seized her by the head and wound his tail about hers, whereupon she cried out and I knew that he purposed to ravish her. So I was moved to pity for her and taking up a flint-stone, five pounds or more in weight, threw it at the dragon. It smote him on the head and crushed it, and before I knew, the snake changed and became a handsome young woman, full of grace and brightness and symmetry, as she were the shining full moon, who came up to me and kissing my hands, said to me, "May God veil thee with two veils, one [to protect thee] from reproach in this world and the other from the fire in the world to come on the day of the great upstanding, the day when wealth shall not avail neither children, [nor aught] but that one come to God with a whole heart! (115) O mortal," continued she, "thou hast saved my honour and I am beholden to thee for kindness, wherefore it behoveth me to requite thee."
So saying, she signed with her hand to the earth, which opened and she descended into it. Then it closed up again over her and by this I knew that she was of the Jinn. As for the dragon, fire was kindled in him and consumed him and he became a heap of ashes. I marvelled at this and returned to my comrades, whom I acquainted with that which I had seen, and we passed the night [in the island]. On the morrow the captain weighed anchor and spread the sails and coiled the ropes and we sailed till we lost sight of land. We fared on twenty days, without seeing land or bird, till our water came to an end and the captain said to us, "O folk, our fresh water is spent." Quoth we, "Let us make for land; peradventure we shall find water." "By Allah," answered he, "I have lost my way and I know not what course will bring me to the land!"
When we heard this, there betided us sore chagrin and we wept and besought God the Most High to guide us into the right course. We passed that night in the sorriest case: but gifted of God is he who saith:How many a night have I passed in dismay And in grief that might well-nigh cause sucklings grow gray,
On the morrow, when the day arose and gave forth its light and shone, we caught sight of a high mountain and rejoiced therein. When we came [to the island wherein] it [was], the captain said to us, "O folk, go ashore and seek for water." So we all landed and sought for water, but found none, whereat we were sore afflicted. As for me, I climbed up to the hill-top and on the other side thereof I saw a spacious enclosure, (116) an hour's journey or more in breadth. So I called my companions and said to them, "Look at yonder enclosure, behind this mountain; for I see therein a lofty and strong-built city, [girt about] with walls and towers and hills and meadows, and doubtless it wants not for water and good things. So let us go thither and fetch water therefrom and buy what we need of meat and fruit and [other] victual and return." But they said, "We fear lest the inhabitants of the city be unbelievers, ascribing partners to God, and enemies of the faith and lay hands on us and take us captive or else slay us; so were we the means of the loss of our own lives, having cast ourselves into destruction and evil emprise. Indeed, the presumptuous man is never praiseworthy, for that he goeth still in danger of calamities, even as saith of him one of the poets:Whilst earth is earth and sky is sky, the rash presumptuous wight, No commendation meriteth, although he 'scape outright.
Wherefore we will not expose ourselves to peril." "O folk," answered I, "I have no authority over you; so I will take my brothers and go to the city." But my brothers said to me, "We also fear this thing and will not go with thee." Quoth I, "I am resolved to go thither; and I put my trust in God and accept whatsoever He shall decree to me. Do ye therefore await me, whilst I go thither and return to you."
Then I left them and walked on till I came to the gate of the place and saw it a city rare of building and magnificent of proportion, with lofty walls and strong-builded towers and palaces soaring high into the air. Its gates were of Chinese iron, curiously gilded and graven on such wise as confounded the wit. I entered the gateway and saw there a stone bench, whereon sat a man, with a chain of brass on his arm, to which hung fourteen keys; wherefore I knew him to be the porter of the city and that it had fourteen gates. So I drew near him and said to him, "Peace be on thee!" But he returned not my greeting and I saluted him a second and a third time; but he made me no reply. So I laid my hand on his shoulder and said to him, "O man, why dost thou not return my greeting? Art thou asleep or deaf or other than a Muslim, that thou refusest to return the salutation?" But he answered me not neither stirred; so I considered him and saw that he was stone. Quoth I, "Strange! This is a stone wroughten in the likeness of a man and wanting nothing but speech!"
Then I left him and entering the city, saw a man standing in the road. I went up to him and examined him and found him stone. Presently, I met an old woman with a bundle of clothes on her head, ready for washing, so I went up to her and examining her, saw that she was stone, and the bundle of clothes on her head was stone also. Then I came to the market, where I saw a chandler, with his scales set up and various kinds of wares before him, such as cheese and so forth, all of stone. Moreover, I saw all manner of tradesmen seated in their shops and men and women and children, some standing and some sitting; but they were all stone. Then I entered the merchants' bazaar, where I saw each merchant seated in his shop and the shops full of various kinds of merchandise, all stone; but the stuffs were like spiders' webs. I amused myself with looking upon them, and as often as I laid hold upon a piece of stuff, it fell to dust in my hands.
Presently, I saw some chests and opening one of them, found it full of gold in bags; so I laid hold upon the bags, but they crumbled away in my grasp, whilst the gold abode unchanged. I took of it what I could carry and said to myself, "Were my brothers here, they might take their fill of this gold and possess themselves of these treasures that have no owner." Then I entered another shop and found therein more than this, but could carry no more than I had: so I left this market and went on to another and thence to another and another, diverting myself with the sight of all manner creatures of various kinds, all stone, even to the cats and the dogs, till I came to the goldsmiths' bazaar, where I saw men sitting in their shops, with their wares about them, some in their hands and others in trays of wicker-work. When I saw this, I threw down the money and loaded myself with goldsmiths' ware, as much as I could carry. Then I went on to the jewel market and saw there the jewellers, every one of them stone, seated in their shops, each with a tray before him, full of all manner precious stones, jacinths and diamonds and emeralds and balass rubies and so forth; whereupon I threw away the goldsmiths' ware and took as many jewels as I could carry, regretting that my brothers were not with me, so they might take what they would thereof.
Then I left the jewel market and went on till I came to a great door, gilded and decorated after the fairest fashion, within which were benches and in the porch sat eunuchs and guards and horsemen and footmen and officers of police, all clad in the richest of raiment; but they were all stones. I touched one of them and his clothes crumbled away from his body like cobwebs. Then I entered and saw a palace without equal for its building and the goodliness of its ordinance and of the curious works that were therein. Here I found an audience-chamber, full of grandees and viziers and officers and emirs, seated upon chairs and every one of them stone. Moreover, I saw a throne of red gold, inlaid with pearls and jewels, and seated thereon a man arrayed in the most sumptuous raiment and bearing on his head an imperial (117) crown, set with precious stones, that shed a light like the light of the day; but, when I came up to him, I found him stone.
Then I went on to the gate of the harem and entering, found myself in the queen's presence-chamber, wherein I saw a throne of red gold, inlaid with pearls and jewels, and the queen seated thereon. On her head she wore a crown diademed with precious jewels, and round about her were women like moons, seated upon chairs and clad in the most sumptuous raiment of all colours. There also stood eunuchs, with their hands upon their breasts, in the attitude of service, and indeed this hall confounded the beholder's wits with what was therein of gilding and rare painting and carving and magnificent furniture. There hung the most brilliant pendants (118) of limpid crystal, and in every hollow (119) of the crystal was an unique jewel, to whose price money might not avail. So I threw down that which was with me and fell to taking of these jewels what I could carry, bewildered as to what I should take and what I should leave, for indeed I saw the place as it were a treasure of the treasures of the cities.
Presently, I espied a little door open and within it stairs: so I entered and mounting forty stairs, heard a human voice reciting the Koran in a low voice. I followed the sound till I came to a silken curtain, laced with wires of gold, whereon were strung pearls and coral and rubies and emeralds, that gave forth a light like the light of the stars. The voice came from behind the curtain: so I raised it and discovered a gilded door, whose beauty amazed the mind. I opened the door and found myself in a saloon, as it were an enchanted treasure-house upon the surface of the earth, (120) and therein a girl as she were the shining sun amiddleward the cloudless sky. She was clad in the costliest of raiment and decked with the most precious jewels, and withal she was of surpassing beauty and grace, full of symmetry and elegance and perfection, with slender waist and heavy buttocks and spittle such as heals the sick and languorous eyelids, as it were she of whom the poet would speak, when he saith:My salutation to the shape that through the wede doth show And to the roses in the cheeks' full-flowering meads that blow!
When I saw her, I fell passionately in love with her and going straight up to her, found her seated on a high couch, reciting from memory the Book of God, to whom belong might and majesty. Her voice was like the sound of the gates of Paradise, when Rizwan opens them, and the words fell from her lips like a shower of jewels; whilst her face was of surpassing beauty, bright and blossom-white, even as saith the poet of the like of her:O thou whose speech and fashions charm with their seductive grace, Longing and wistfulness for thee increase on me apace.
When I heard her melodious voice reciting the sublime Koran, my heart recited from her assassinating glances, "Peace, a word from a compassionate Lord;" (122) but I hesitated in my speech and could not say the salutation aright, for my mind and sight were confounded and I was become as saith the poet:Love-longing moved me not to err in speech nor entered I The camp but that the shedding of my blood I might aby;
Then I braced myself against the stress of passion and said to her, "Peace be upon thee, O noble lady and treasured jewel! May God cause the foundations of thy fair fortune to endure and uplift the pillars of thy glory!" "And on thee from me be peace and salutation and honour, O Abdallah, O son of Fazil!" answered she. "Welcome and fair welcome to thee, O my beloved and solace of my eyes!" "O my lady," rejoined I, "whence knowest thou my name and who art thou and what aileth the people of this city, that they are become stones? I would have thee tell me the truth of the case, for indeed I am wondered at this city and its folk and that I have found none [alive] therein but thee. So, God on thee, tell me the cause of all this, according to the truth!" Quoth she, "Sit, O Abdallah, and God willing, I will talk with thee and acquaint thee in full with the truth of my case and that of this city and its people; and there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!"
So I sat down by her side and she said to me, "Know, O Abdallah, (may God have mercy on thee!) that I am the daughter of the king of this city and that it is my father whom thou sawest seated on the high throne in the divan, and those who are about him were the grandees of his realm and the officers of his household. He was a king of exceeding prowess and had under his hand a thousand thousand and six-score thousand troopers. The number of the emirs of his realm was four-and-twenty thousand, all of them governors and dignitaries. He ruled over a thousand cities, besides towns and hamlets and fortresses and citadels and villages, and the amirs of the [wild] Arabs under his hand were a thousand in number, each ruling over twenty thousand horse. Moreover, he had riches and treasures and precious stones and jewels and things of price, such as eye never saw nor ear heard of. He used to conquer kings and do to death champions and warriors in battle and in the listed field, so that the mighty feared him and the Chosroës (123) humbled themselves to him. For all this, he was a misbeliever, ascribing partners to God and worshipping idols, instead of his Lord, and his troops were all idolaters like himself.
One day, as he sat on the throne of his kingship, compassed about with the grandees of his realm, there came in to him a man, whose face lighted up the whole divan with its brightness. My father looked at him and saw him clad in a green habit, tall of stature and with hands that reached below his knees. He was of reverend and majestic aspect and light shone from his face. Quoth he to my father, 'O rebel, O idolater, how long wilt thou be deluded to worship idols and leave the service of the All-knowing King? Say, "I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is His servant and His apostle," and embrace Islam, thou and thy people, and put away from you the worship of idols, for they neither advantage nor intercede. None is worshipworth save God alone, who raised up the heavens without pillars and spread out the earths, in mercy to His creatures.'
'Who art thou,' asked my father, 'O man that rejectest the worship of idols, that thou sayst thus? Fearest thou not that they will be wroth with thee?' 'The idols are stones,' answered the stranger; 'their wrath cannot hurt me nor their favour profit me. So do thou send for thine idol which thou worshippest and bid all thy people bring each his idol: and when they are all present, do ye pray them to be wroth with me and I will pray my Lord to be wroth with them, and ye shall see the difference between the anger of the creature and that of the Creator. For your idols, ye fashioned them yourselves and the devils clad themselves therewith as with a garment, and they it is who speak to you from within the bellies of the idols, for your idols are made and my God is the maker, to whom nought is impossible. If the True appear to you, do ye follow it, and if the False, do ye leave it.' Quoth they, 'Give us a proof of thy god, that we may see it. And he answered, 'Give me proof of your gods.' So the king bade every one who had an idol bring it, and all the troops brought their idols to the divan.
Now I was sitting behind a curtain, whence I could look upon my father's divan, and I had an idol of emerald, the bigness of a man. My father demanded it, so I sent it to the divan, where they set it up beside that of my father, which was of jacinth, whilst the vizier's idol was of diamond. As for those of the grandees and notables, some were of ruby and some of cornelian, others of coral or Comorin aloes-wood and yet others of ebony or silver or gold; and each had his own idol, after the measure of that which he could afford; whilst the idols of the common soldiers and of the people were some of granite, some of wood, some of pottery and some of mud; and they were all of various colours, yellow and red and green and black and white. Then said the stranger to my father, 'Pray your idol and these idols to be wroth with me.'
So they ranged the idols in a divan, (124) setting my father's idol on a chair of gold at the upper end, with mine by its side, and ranking the others each according to the condition of him who owned it and worshipped it. Then my father arose and prostrating himself to his own idol, said to it, 'O my god, thou art the Bountiful Lord, nor is there among the idols a greater than thou. Thou knowest that this man cometh to me, attacking thy divinity and making mock of thee; yea, he avoucheth that he hath a god stronger than thou and biddeth us leave worshipping thee and worship his god. So be thou wroth with him, O my god!' And he went on to supplicate the idol; but it returned him no answer neither bespoke him with aught; whereupon quoth he, 'O my god, this is not of thy wont, for thou usest to answer me, when I speak to thee. How cometh it that I find thee silent and speaking not? Art thou unheeding or asleep? Awake; succour me and speak to me!' And he shook it with his hand; but it spoke not neither stirred from its stead.
Quoth the stranger, 'What aileth thine idol that it speaketh not?' And the king replied, 'Methinks he is unheeding or asleep.' 'O enemy of God,' exclaimed the other, 'how canst thou worship a god that speaketh not nor availeth unto aught and not worship my God, who is a speedy answerer of prayer and who is ever present and never absent, never unheeding nor sleeping, whom conjecture may not apprehend, who seeth and is not seen and who is able unto all things? Thy god is powerless and cannot ward off hurt from itself; and indeed an accursed devil hath clothed himself therewith as with a garment, that he might lead thee astray and delude thee. But now hath its devil departed; so do thou worship God and testify that there is no god but He and that none is worshipful nor worshipworth save He, nor is there any good but His good. As for thy god, he cannot ward off hurt from himself; so how shall he ward it from thee? See with thine own eyes his impotence.'
So saying, he went up to the idol and dealt him a buffet on the neck, that he fell to the ground; whereupon the king waxed wroth and said to the bystanders, 'This heretic hath smitten my god. Slay him!' So they would have arisen to smite him, but none of them could avail to stir from his place. Then he propounded Islam to them; but they refused to become Muslims and he said, 'I will show you the wrath of my Lord.' Quoth they, 'Let us see it.' So he spread out his hands and said, 'O my God and my Lord, Thou art my stay and my hope; answer Thou my prayer against these froward folk, who eat of Thy bounty and worship other than Thee. O Thou the Truth, O Almighty One, O Creator of Night and Day, I beseech Thee to turn these people into stones, for Thou art omnipotent, nor is aught impossible to Thee, and Thou art able unto all things!' And God transformed the people of this city into stones; but, as for me, when I saw the manifest proof of His deity, I submitted myself to Him and was saved from that which befell the rest.
Then the stranger drew near unto me and said to me, 'Felicity (125) was fore-ordained to thee of God and He had a purpose in this.' And he went on to instruct me and I took unto him the oath and covenant. (126) I was then seven years of age and am now thirty years old. Then said I to him, 'O my lord, all that is in the city and all its folk are become stones, by thine effectual prayer, and I am saved, for that I embraced Islam at thy hands. Wherefore thou art become my sheikh; (127) so do thou tell me thy name and extend to me thy succour and provide me with that whereon I may subsist.' Quoth he, 'My name is Aboulabbas el Khizr;' (128) and he planted me a pomegranate-tree, which grew up forthright and putting out leaf, flowered and fruited and bore one pomegranate; whereupon quoth he, 'Eat of that wherewith God the Most High provideth thee and worship Him with the worship that is His due.'
Then he taught me the tenets of Islam and the canons of prayer and the way of worship, together with the recital of the Koran, and I have now worshipped God in this place three-and-twenty years. Each day the tree yields me a pomegranate and I eat it and am sustained thereby from day to day. Moreover, every Friday, El Khizr (on whom be peace!) comes to me and it is he who acquainted me with thy name and gave me the glad tidings of thy coming hither, saying to me, 'When he cometh, entreat him with honour and give ear unto his commandment and gainsay him not; but be thou his wife and he shall be thy husband, and go with him whither he will.' So, when I saw thee, I knew thee, and this is the story of this city and of its people, and peace be on thee!" Then she showed me the pomegranate-tree, whereon was one pomegranate, which she took and eating one-half thereof herself, gave me the other to eat, and never did I taste aught sweeter or more delicious than this pomegranate or more satisfying.
After this, I said to her, "Art thou content, as the Sheikh el Khizr charged thee, to be my wife and go with me to my own country and abide with me in the city of Bassora?" "Yes," answered she, "if it please God the Most High. I hearken to thy word and obey thy commandment, without gainsaying." Then I made a binding covenant with her and she carried me into her father's treasury, whence we took what we could carry and going forth the city, fared on till we came to my brothers, whom I found searching for me. "Where hast thou been?" asked they. "Indeed thou hast tarried long from us, and our hearts were troubled for thee." And the captain of the ship said to me, "O merchant Abdallah, the wind has been fair for us this great while, and thou hast hindered us from setting sail." "There is no harm in that," answered I. "Assuredly delay (129) is good and my absence hath wrought us nothing but profit; for indeed, there hath betided me therein the attainment of [our] hopes and gifted of God is he who saith:When to a land I fare in quest of good, perdie, I know not of the twain, which fortune mine shall be;
Then said I to them, "See what hath fallen to me in my absence." And I showed them that which was with me of things of price and told them what I had seen in the City of Stone, adding, "If ye had hearkened to me and gone with me, ye had gotten great good thereby." But they said, "By Allah, had we gone, we had not dared to go in to the king of the city!"
Then I said to my brothers, "No harm shall befall you; for that which I have will suffice us all and I will share it with you." (130) So saying, I divided my booty into four parts and gave one to each of my brothers and to the captain, taking the fourth for myself, [after setting aside] somewhat [which] I gave to the servants and sailors, who rejoiced and blessed me: and all were content with what I gave them, save my brothers, who changed countenance and rolled their eyes. I perceived that covetise had gotten possession of them; so I said to them, "O my brothers, methinketh what I have given you doth not content you; but we are brothers and there is no difference between us. My good and yours are one [and the same] thing, and if I die, none will inherit of me but you." And I went on to soothe them.
Then I carried the lady on board the ship and lodged her in the cabin, where I sent her somewhat to eat and we sat talking, I and my brothers. "O our brother," said they, "what wilt thou do with yonder damsel of surpassing beauty?" And I answered, "I mean to marry her, as soon as I reach Bassora, and make a splendid wedding and go in to her there." "O my brother," said one of them, "verily, this young lady excelleth in beauty and grace and the love of her is fallen on my heart; wherefore I desire that thou give her to me and I will marry her." "I too desire this," said the other. "Give her to me, that I may marry her." "O my brothers," answered I, "she took of me an oath and a covenant that I would marry her myself; so, if I give her to one of you, I shall be false to my oath and to the covenant between her and me, and belike she will be broken-hearted, for she came not with me but on condition that I should marry her. So how can I give her to wife to other than myself? As for your loving her, I love her more than you, for she is my treasure-trove, and as for my giving her to one of you, that is a thing that may not be. But, if we reach Bassora in safety, I will look you out two girls of the best of the damsels of Bassora and demand them for you in marriage and pay the dower of my own monies and make one wedding and we will all three go in to our brides on one [and the same] night. But leave this damsel, for she is of my portion."
They held their peace and I thought they were content with that which I had said. Then we fared on towards Bassora, and every day I sent meat and drink to the lady, who came not forth of the cabin, whilst I lay with my brothers on the deck. We sailed thus forty days, till we sighted the city of Bassora and rejoiced in that we were come near thereunto. Now I trusted in my brothers and was at my ease with them, for none knoweth the hidden things save God the Most High; so I lay down to sleep that night; but as I abode drowned in slumber, I found myself caught up by my brothers, one seizing me by the legs and the other by the arms, for they had taken counsel together to drown me in the sea, because of the damsel. When I saw myself in this case, I said to them, "O my brothers, why do ye this with me?" And they answered, saying, "Lack-courtesy that thou art, wilt thou barter our aproof for a girl? We mean to cast thee into the sea, because of this." So saying, they threw me over-board.'
Here Abdallah turned to the two dogs and said to them, 'O my brothers, is this that I have said true or not?'' And they bowed their heads and fell a-whining, as if confirming his speech; whereat the Khalif wondered. 'O Commander of the Faithful,' continued Abdallah, 'I sank to the bottom of the sea; but the water bore me up again to the surface, and before I could think, a great bird, the bigness of a man, swooped down upon me and snatching me up, flew up with me into the height of the air. [I swooned away and] when I opened my eyes, I found myself in a strong and high-builded palace, adorned with magnificent paintings and pendants of jewels of all shapes and colours. Therein were damsels standing with their hands on their breasts and in their midst was a lady seated on a throne of red gold, set with pearls and jewels, and clad in apparel whereon no mortal might open his eyes, for the lustre of the jewels with which they were decked. About her waist she wore a girdle of jewels beyond price, and on her head a triple crown, amazing thought and wit and dazzling heart and sight.
Then the bird that had carried me thither shook and became a young lady, as she were the shining sun. I fixed my eyes on her and behold, it was she whom I had seen on the mountain in the guise of a snake and had rescued from the dragon. Then said to her the lady who sat upon the throne, "Why hast thou brought this mortal hither?" "O my mother," answered she, "this is he who was the means of veiling my honour (131) among the maidens of the Jinn." Then said she to me, "Knowest thou who I am?" And I answered, "No." Quoth she, "I am she who was on such a mountain, where the black dragon strove with me and would have forced my honour, but thou slewest him." And I said, "I saw but a white snake with the dragon." "It is I who was the white snake," answered she; "but I am the Red King's daughter of the Jinn and my name is Saïdeh. She who sits there is my mother and her name is Mubarekeh, wife of the Red King. The black dragon who would have done away my honour was the Black King's Vizier, Derfil by name, and he was foul of favour. It chanced that he saw me and fell in love with me; so he sought me in marriage of my father, who sent to him to say, 'Who art thou, O scum of viziers, that thou shouldst wed with kings' daughters?' Whereupon he was wroth and swore an oath that he would assuredly do away my honour, to spite my father.
Then he fell to tracking my steps and following me whithersoever I went, designing to ravish me; wherefore there befell between him and my father fierce wars and sore troubles, but my father could not prevail against him, for that he was a mighty man of war and a crafty cheat, and as often as my father pressed hard upon him, he would escape from him, till my father was at his wits' end. Every day I was forced to take some new shape; for, as often as I assumed a shape, he would assume its contrary, and to whatsoever land I fled, he would snuff my scent and pursue me thither, so that I suffered sore affliction of him. At last I took the form of a snake and betook myself to the mountain where thou sawest me; whereupon he took the shape of a dragon and pursued me, till I fell into his hands, when he strove with me and I with him, till he wearied me and overrode me, meaning to do his will of me: but thou camest and smotest him with the stone and slewest him. Then I returned to my own shape and showed myself to thee, saying, 'I am beholden to thee for a service such as is not lost save with the base-born.' So, when I saw thy brothers do with thee this treachery and cast thee into the sea, I hastened to thee and saved thee from destruction, and now it behoveth my father and mother to do thee honour."
Then she said to the Queen, "O my mother, do thou honour him as he deserveth who saved my honour." So the queen said to me, "Welcome, O mortal! Indeed thou hast done us a service that meriteth honour." Then she ordered me a treasure-suit, (132) worth much money, and store of jewels and precious stones, and said, "Take him and carry him in to the king." So they carried me in to the king in his divan, where I found him seated on his throne, with his Marids and guards before him; and when I saw him, my eyes were dazzled for that which was upon him of jewels; but when he saw me, he rose to his feet and all his officers rose also, to do him worship. Then he saluted me and bade me welcome, entreating me with the utmost honour, and gave me of that which was with him of good things; after which he said to some of his followers, "Take him and carry him back to my daughter, that she may restore him to the place whence she brought him." So they carried me back to the princess Saïdeh, who took me up and flew away with me and my treasures.
Meanwhile, the captain of the galleon, being aroused by the splash [of my fall], when my brothers threw me into the sea, said, "What is that which hath fallen overboard?" Whereupon my brothers fell to weeping and beating their breasts and answered, "Alas, for our brother's loss! He thought to do an occasion in the ship's side and fell into the water!" Then they laid their hands on my good, but there befell strife between them because of the lady, each saying, "None shall have her but I." And they abode disputing with one another and remembered not their brother nor his drowning and their mourning for him ceased. As they were thus, behold, Saïdeh alighted with me in the midst of the galleon; and when my brothers saw me, they embraced me and rejoiced in me, saying, "O our brother, how hast thou fared in that which befell thee? Indeed our hearts have been occupied with thee." Quoth Saïdeh, "Had ye any bowels for him or had ye loved him, ye had not cast him into the sea; but choose now what death ye will die."
Then she seized on them and would have slain them but they cried out, saying, ["We throw ourselves] on thy mercy, O our brother!" And I said to her, "I beseech thee, kill not my brothers." Quoth she, "Needs must I slay them, for they are traitors." But I ceased not to speak her fair and intercede with her, till she said, "To content thee, I will not kill them, but I will enchant them." So saying, she brought out a cup and filling it with sea-water, pronounced over it words that might not be understood; then she sprinkled them with the water, saying, "Quit this human shape for that of a dog;" and immediately they became dogs, as thou seest them, O Vicar of God.' Then he turned to the dogs and said to them, 'Have I spoken the truth, O my brothers?' And they bowed their heads, as who should say, 'Thou hast spoken truly.'
'Then,' continued he, 'she said to those who were in the galleon, "Know ye that Abdallah ben Fazil here present is become my brother and I shall visit him once or twice every day: so, whoso of you thwarteth him or gainsayeth his commandment or doth him hurt with hand or tongue, I will do with him like as I have done with these two traitors and turn him into a dog, and he shall end his days in that shape, nor shall he find deliverance." And they all said to her, "O our lady, we are all his slaves and his servants and will not gainsay him in aught." Moreover, she said to me, "When thou comest to Bassora, examine all thy property and if there lack aught thereof, tell me and I will bring it thee, in whose hands and wheresoever it may be, and will change him who took it into a dog. When thou hast laid up thy goods, clap a collar of iron on the neck of each of these two traitors and tie them to the leg of a couch and shut them up by themselves. Moreover, every night, at midnight, do thou go down to them and beat each of them till he swoon away; and if thou suffer a single night to pass, without beating them, I will come to thee and swinge thee soundly, after which I will beat them." And I answered, "I hear and obey." Then said she, "Tie them up with ropes till thou come into Bassora." So I tied a rope about each dog's neck and bound them to the mast, and she went her way.
On the morrow we entered Bassora and the merchants came out to meet me and saluted me, and none enquired of my brothers. But they looked at the dogs and said to me, "What wilt thou do with these two dogs thou hast brought with thee?" Quoth I, "I reared them on the voyage and have brought them home with me." And they laughed at them, knowing not that they were my brothers. When I reached my house, I put the dogs in a closet and busied myself with the unpacking and disposition of the bales of stuffs and jewels I had with me. Moreover, the merchants were with me, because of salutation; wherefore I was occupied with them and forgot to beat the dogs or chain them up. Then I lay down to sleep, but hardly had I done so, when there came to me the Red King's daughter Saïdeh and said to me, "Did I not bid thee clap chains on their necks and give each of them a beating?" So saying, she seized me and pulling out a whip, beat me till I swooned away, after which she went to the place where my brothers were and beat them till they came nigh upon death.
Then said she to me, "Beat each of them thus every night, and if thou let a night pass without doing this, I will beat thee;" and I answered, "O my lady, to-morrow I will put chains on their necks, and next night I will beat them nor will I leave them one night unbeaten." And she charged me straitly to beat them [and disappeared]. When the day came, it being grievous to me to put fetters of iron on their necks, I went to a goldsmith and bade him make them collars and chains of gold. He did this and I put the collars on their necks and chained them up, as she bade me; and next night I beat them in mine own despite. This befell in the Khalifate of El Mehdi, (133) third of the sons of Abbas, and I ingratiated myself with him by sending him presents, wherefore he invested me with the government and made me viceroy of Bassora.
On this wise I abode some time and after awhile, I said in myself, "It may be her wrath is grown cool;" and left them a night unbeaten, whereupon she came to me and gave me a beating the pain whereof I shall never forget so long as I live. So, from that time to this, I have never left them a single night unbeaten; and when El Mehdi died and thou camest to the throne, thou sentest to me, confirming me in the government of Bassora. These twelve years past have I beaten them every night, against my will, and after I have beaten them, I excuse myself to them and comfort them and give them to eat and drink; and they have remained shut up, nor did any of the creatures of God know of them, till thou sentest Abou Ishac the boon-companion to me, on account of the tribute, and he discovered my secret and returning to thee, acquainted thee therewith. Then thou sentest him back to fetch me and them; so I answered with "hearkening and obedience" and brought them before thee, whereupon thou questionedst me and I told thee the truth of the case; and this is my history.'
The Khalif marvelled at the case of the two dogs and said to Abdallah, 'Hast thou now forgiven thy two brothers the wrong they did thee, ay or no?' 'O my lord,' answered he, 'may God forgive them and acquit them of guilt in this world and the next! Indeed, it is I who stand in need of their forgiveness, for that these twelve years past I have beaten them grievously every night!' 'O Abdallah,' rejoined the Khalif, 'God willing, I will endeavour for their release and that they may become men again, as they were before, and I will make peace between thee and them; so shall you live the rest of your lives as loving brothers; and like as thou hast forgiven them, so shall they forgive thee. But now take them and go down with them to thy lodging and this night beat them not, and to-morrow all shall be well.' 'O my lord,' answered Abdallah, 'as thy head liveth, if I leave them one night unbeaten, Saïdeh will come to me and beat me, and I have no body to brook beating.' 'Fear not,' quoth the Khalif; 'for I will give thee a writing under my hand. If she come to thee, do thou give her the scroll and if, when she has read it, she spare thee, the favour will be hers; but, if she obey not my commandment, commit thine affair to God and let her beat thee and suppose that thou hast forgotten to beat them for one night and that she beats thee because of that: and if it fall out thus and she gainsay me, as sure as I am Commander of the Faithful, I will be even with her.'
Then he wrote her a letter on a piece of paper, two fingers broad, and sealing it, gave it to Abdallah, saying, 'O Abdallah, if she come, say to her, "The Khalif, king of mankind, hath commanded me to leave beating them and hath written me this letter for thee; and he saluteth thee." Then give her the warrant and fear no hurt.' And he took of him a solemn pledge that he would not beat them. So he took the dogs and carried them to his lodging, saying in himself, 'I wonder what the Khalif will do with the King's daughter of the Jinn, if she disobey him and beat me to-night! But I will run the risk of a beating for once and leave my brothers at peace this night, though I suffer torture for their sake.' Then he bethought himself awhile, and his reason said to him, 'Did not the Khalif rely on some great support, he had not forbidden me from beating them.' So he entered his lodging and did off the collars from the dogs' necks, saying, 'I put my trust in God,' and fell to comforting them and saying, 'No harm shall befall you; for the Khalif, fifth of the sons of Abbas, hath undertaken for your deliverance and I have forgiven you. If it please God the Most High, the time is come and ye shall be delivered this blessed night; so rejoice ye in the prospect of peace and happiness.'
When they heard his words, they fell awhining, after the fashion of dogs, and rubbed their jowls against his feet, as if praying for him and humbling themselves before him. He mourned over them and fell to stroking their backs till supper time; and when they set on the evening meal, he bade the dogs sit. So they sat down and ate from the tray, whilst his officers stood gaping and marvelling at his eating with dogs and saying, 'Is he mad or are his wits deranged? How can the Viceroy of Bassora, he who is greater than a vizier, eat with dogs? Knoweth he not that the dog is unclean?' And they stared at the dogs, as they ate with him on decorous wise, knowing not that they were his brothers; nor did they leave staring at them, till they had made an end of eating, when Abdallah washed his hands and the dogs also put out their paws and washed; whereupon all who were present fell alaughing at them and saying, one to another, 'Never in our lives saw we dogs eat and after wash their paws!'
Then the dogs sat down on the divans beside Abdallah, nor dared any question him of this; and thus the case abode till midnight, when he dismissed the attendants and lay down to sleep and the dogs with him, each on a couch; whereupon the servants said to each other, 'Verily, he hath lain down to sleep and the dogs with him.' Quoth another, 'Since he hath eaten with the dogs from the [same] tray, there is no harm in their sleeping with him; and this is nought but the fashion of madmen.' Moreover, they ate not anydele of the food that remained in the tray, saying, 'How shall we eat of dogs' leavings?' And they took the tray, with what was therein, and threw it away, saying, 'It is unclean.'
As for Abdallah, ere he could think, the earth clove in sunder and out came Saïdeh, who said to him, 'O Abdallah, why hast thou not beaten them this night and why hast thou done off the collars from their necks? Hast thou done this to thwart me and in mockery of my commandment? But now I will beat thee and change thee into a dog like unto them.' 'O my lady,' answered he, 'I conjure thee by the graving upon the ring of Solomon, son of David (on whom be peace!), have patience with me till I tell thee the reason [of this] and after do with me what thou wilt.' 'Say on,' quoth she; and he said, 'The king of mankind, the Commander of the Faithful, the Khalif Haroun er Reshid, commanded me not to beat them this night and took of me oaths and covenants to that effect; and he saluteth thee and hath committed to me a mandate under his own hand, which he bade me give thee. So I obeyed his commandment, for it is obligatory to obey the Commander of the Faithful; and here is the mandate. Take it and read it and after do thy will.'
So he gave her the letter and she opened it and read as follows, 'In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful! From the king of mankind, Haroun er Reshid, to Saïdeh, daughter of the Red King!' Then, after the usual salutations, 'Verily, this man hath forgiven his brothers and hath let drop his claim against them, and we have enjoined them to reconciliation. Now, when reconciliation cometh about, punishment is remitted, and if you [of the Jinn] thwart us in our commandments, we will thwart you in yours and traverse your ordinances; but, if ye obey our bidding and execute our commandments, we will do the like with yours. Wherefore I bid thee do them no hurt, and if thou believe in God and in His Apostle, it behoveth thee to obey him to whom the commandment is committed. So, if thou spare them, I will requite thee with that whereunto my Lord shall enable me; and the token of obedience is that thou remove thine enchantment from these two men, so they may come before me to-morrow, free. But, if thou release them not, I will release them in thy despite, by the aid of God the Most High.'
When she had read the letter, she said, 'O Abdallah, I will do nought till I go to my father and show him the mandate of the king of mankind and return to thee in haste.' So saying, she signed to the earth, which opened, and she disappeared therein, whilst Abdallah's heart was transported for joy and he said, 'God advance the Commander of the Faithful!' As for Saïdeh, she went in to her father and acquainting him with that which had passed, gave him the Khalif's letter, which he kissed and laid on his head. Then he read it and said, 'O my daughter, verily, the ordinance of the king of mankind hath course with us and his commandments are executory amongst us, nor can we gainsay him: so go thou and release the two men forthwith and say to them, "Ye are [free] by the intercession of the king of mankind." For, should he be wroth with us, he would destroy us to the last of us: so do not thou impose on us that whereto we are unable.'
'O my father,' said she, 'if the king of mankind were wroth with us, what could he do with us?' Quoth he, 'He hath power over us for several reasons. In the first place, he is a man and hath thus pre-eminence over us; (134) secondly, he is the Vicar of God; and thirdly, he is constant in praying the two-bow prayer of the foredawn; wherefore, if all the tribes of the Jinn assembled together against him from the seven worlds, they could do him no hurt. But he, should he be wroth with us, he would pray the two-bow prayer of the foredawn and cry out upon us one cry, whereupon we should all present ourselves before him obediently and be before him as sheep before the butcher. If he would, he could command us to depart our abiding-places to a desert country wherein we might not sojourn; and if he desired to destroy us, he would bid us destroy ourselves, whereupon we should destroy one another. Wherefore we may not disobey his commandment, for, if we did this, he would consume us, nor could we flee from before him. Thus is it with every true believer who is diligent in praying the two-bow prayer of the foredawn; his commandment is effectual over us: so be not thou the means of our destruction, because of two mortals, but go forthright and release them, ere the anger of the Commander of the Faithful fall upon us.'
So she returned to Abdallah and acquainted him with her father's words, saying, 'Kiss me the hands of the Commander of the Faithful and seek his approof for us.' Then she brought out the cup and filling it with water, conjured over it and spoke words that might not be understood; after which she sprinkled the dogs with the water, saying, 'Quit the form of dogs and return to that of men!' Whereupon they became men as before and the spell of the enchantment was dissolved from them. Quoth they, 'I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is the Apostle of God!' And fell on their brother's feet and hands, kissing them and beseeching his forgiveness: but he said, 'Do ye forgive me.' Then they both repented with a sincere repentance, saying, 'Verily, Satan the Accursed tempted us and covetise deluded us: but our Lord hath requited us after our deserts, and forgiveness is of the fashion of the generous.' And they went on to supplicate their brother and weep and profess repentance for that which they had done.
Then said he to them, 'What did ye with my wife whom I brought from the City of Stone?' Quoth they, 'When Satan tempted us and we cast thee into the sea, there befell strife between us, each saying, "I will have her to wife." Which when she heard, she came up from the cabin and said to us, "Contend not because of me, for I will not belong to either of you. My husband is gone into the sea and I will follow him." So saying, she cast herself overboard and died.' 'Verily,' exclaimed Abdallah, 'she died a martyr! (135) But there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!' Then he wept sore for her and said to his brothers, 'It was not well of you to do this thing and bereave me of my wife!' And they answered, 'Indeed, we have sinned, but our Lord hath requited us our deed and this was a thing that God decreed unto us, ere He created us.' And he accepted their excuse; but Saïdeh said to him, 'Have they done all these things to thee and wilt thou forgive them?' 'O my sister,' answered he, 'whoso hath power (136) and spareth, his reward is with God.' Then said she, 'Be on thy guard against them, for they are traitors.' And she took leave of him and went away.
Abdallah and his brothers passed the rest of the night in eating and drinking and merriment and good cheer, and on the morrow, he sent them to the bath and clad each of them, on his coming forth, in a suit worth much money. Then he called for the tray of food and they set it before him and he ate, he and his brothers. When his attendants saw the latter and knew them for his brothers, they saluted them and said to him, 'O our lord, may God give thee joy of thy reunion with thy dear brothers! Where have they been this while?' Quoth he, 'It was they whom ye saw in the guise of dogs; praised be God who hath delivered them from prison and grievous torment!'
Then he carried them to the Khalif's Divan and kissing the earth before the prince, wished him continuance of honour and fortune and cease of evil and enmity. 'Welcome, O Amir Abdallah!' said the Khalif. 'Tell me what hath befallen thee.' 'O Commander of the Faithful (whose power God increase!),' replied he, 'when I carried my brothers home to my lodging, my heart was at rest concerning them, for that thou hadst pledged thyself to their release and I said in myself, "Kings fail not of aught for which they endeavour, for the divine favour aideth them." So I did off the collars from their necks, putting my trust in God, and ate with them from the [same] tray, which when my attendants saw, they made light of my wit and said to each other, "He is surely mad! How can the governor of Bassora, who is greater than the vizier, eat with dogs?" Then they threw away what was in the tray, saying, "We will not eat the dogs' leavings." And they went on to impeach my reason, whilst I heard what they said, but made them no answer, because of their ignorance that the dogs were my brothers. When the hour of sleep came, I sent them away and addressed myself to sleep; but, ere I could think, the earth clave in sunder and out came Saïdeh, the Red King's daughter, enraged against me, with eyes like fire.' And he went on to relate to the Khalif what had passed between him and her and her father and how she had restored his brothers to human form, adding, 'And here they are before thee, O Commander of the Faithful!'
The Khalif looked at them and seeing two young men like moons, said, 'God requite thee for me with good, O Abdallah, for that thou hast acquainted me with an advantage (137) whereof I knew not! Henceforth, God willing, I will never leave to pray these two inclinations before the breaking of the dawn, what while I abide on life.' Then he reproved Abdallah's brothers for that wherein they had sinned against him of time past and they excused themselves before the Khalif, who said, 'Join hands (138) and forgive one another and God pardon what is past!' After which he turned to Abdallah and said to him, 'O Abdallah, make thy brothers thine assistants and be careful of them.' Then he charged them to be obedient to their brother and bade them return to Bassora, after he had bestowed on them abundant largesse. So they went down from the divan, whilst the Khalif rejoiced in this advantage that he had gotten by the fashion aforesaid, to wit, his assiduity in praying two inclinations before dawn, and said, 'He spoke truth who said, "The misfortunes of some folk profit others."' (139)
Abdallah and his brothers departed from Baghdad in all honour and worship and increase of dignity, and fared on till they drew near Bassora, when the notables and chief men of the place came out to meet them and brought them into the city in state that had not its match. Moreover, they adorned the city in their honour and all the folk shouted out blessings on Abdallah, whilst he scattered gold and silver amongst them. But none took heed to his brothers; wherefore jealousy and envy entered their hearts, for all he tendered them as one tenders an ailing eye; but the more he cherished them, the more they redoubled in hatred and envy of him: and indeed it is said on the subject:I seek to win me the good will of all folk, small and great, But hardly him who envieth me I may conciliate.
Then he gave each of them a concubine, that had not her like, and slaves and servants, black and white and male and female, forty of each kind. Moreover, he gave each of them fifty thoroughbred horses and they got them guards and followers. And he assigned to them revenues and appointed them stipends and allowances and made them his assistants, saying to them, 'O my brothers, you and I are equal and there is no distinction between us and after God and the Khalif, the commandment is mine and yours. So rule you in Bassora in my absence and in my presence, and your commandments shall be executory; but look that ye fear God in your ordinances and beware of oppression, for oppression, if it endure, ruineth [a country]; and apply yourselves unto justice, for justice, if it endure, maketh [a country] to flourish. Oppress not the believers, or they will curse you and your report will come to the ears of the Khalif, wherefore dishonour will betide both you and me. Go not therefore about to oppress any, but whatsoever ye covet of the goods of the folk, take it from my goods, over and above that whereof ye have need; for it is not unknown to you what is handed down of unequivocal verses [of the Koran] on the subject of oppression, and gifted of God is he who saith:Oppression in man's soul doth latent sit And nought but lack of power concealeth it.
And he went on to admonish his brothers and enjoin them to justice and forbid them from oppression, doubting not but they would love him the better for his lavishment of good counsel upon them, and he trusted in them and entreated them with the utmost honour; but, for all his generosity to them, they only waxed in hatred and envy of him, till, one day, the two being together [alone], Nasir said to Mensour, 'O my brother, how long shall we be subject to our brother Abdallah, and he in this estate of lordship and commandment? After being a merchant, he is become an Amir, and from being little, he is grown great: but we, we grow not great nor is there aught of rank or worth left us; for, behold, he laugheth at us and maketh us his assistants! What is the meaning of this? Is it not that we are his servants and under his commandment? But, what while he abideth on life, our rank will never be raised nor shall we be of any account; wherefore we shall not attain to our wish, except we slay him and take his good, nor will it be possible to take his good, save after his death. So, when we have killed him, we shall become lords and will take all that is in his treasuries of jewels and [other] things of price and divide them between us. Then will we send the Khalif a present and demand of him the government of Cufa, and thou shalt be governor of Bassora and I of Cufa, or thou shalt be governor of Cufa and I of Bassora. On this wise each of us shall have a rank and a condition, but we shall never compass this, except we do away with him.'
'Thou sayest sooth,' answered Mensour; 'but how shall we do to kill him?' Quoth Nasir, 'We will make an entertainment in the house of one of us and bid him thereto and serve him with the utmost assiduity. Then will we watch the night with him in converse and tell him stories and jests and anecdotes, till his heart is dissolved with watching, when we will spread him a bed, that he may lie down to sleep. When he is asleep, we will kneel upon him and strangle him and cast him into the river; and on the morrow, we will say, "His sister the Jinniyeh came to him, as he sat talking with us, and said to him, 'O scum of mankind, who art thou that thou shouldst complain of me to the Commander of the Faithful? Deemest thou that we are afraid of him? If he be a king, we too are kings, and if he mend not his manners with us, we will kill him by the foulest of deaths. But meantime I will kill thee, that we may see what the Commander of the Faithful can do.' So saying, she caught him up and the earth opened and she disappeared with him; which when we saw, we swooned away. Then we came to ourselves and we know not what is become of him." Then will we send to the Khalif and tell him of this and he will invest us with the government in his room. After awhile, we will send him a rich present and seek of him the government of Cufa, and one of us shall abide in Bassora and the other in Cufa. So shall the land be pleasant to us and we will subdue the people and attain our desire.' 'Thou counsellest well, O my brother,' answered Mensour and they agreed upon this thing.
So Nasir made an entertainment and said to Abdallah, 'O my brother, verily I am thy brother, and I would have thee and my brother Mensour heal my heart and eat of my guest-meal in my house, so I may glory in thee and that it may be said, "The Amir Abdallah hath eaten of his brother Nasir's guest-meal;" whereby my heart will be solaced.' 'So be it, O my brother,' answered Abdallah. 'There is no distinction between me and thee, and my house is thy house; but since thou biddest me, none refuseth hospitality save the churl.' Then he turned to Mensour and said to him, 'Wilt thou go with me to thy brother Nasir's house and eat of his guest-meal and ease his heart?' 'As thy head liveth, O my brother,' replied Mensour, 'I will not go with thee, except thou swear to me that, after thou comest forth of my brother Nasir's house, thou wilt enter my house and eat of my banquet! Is Nasir thy brother and am not I thy brother? So, even as thou healest his heart, do thou heal mine.' 'With all my heart,' answered Abdallah. 'When I come out from Nasir's house, I will enter thine, for thou art my brother even as he.' So Nasir kissed his hand and going forth of the divan, made ready his banquet.
On the morrow, Abdallah took horse and repaired, with his brother Mensour and a company of his officers, to Nasir's house, where they sat down, he and Mensour and his company. Then Nasir set the table of food before them and bade them welcome; so they ate and drank; after which the tray and the platters were removed and they washed their hands. They passed the day in eating and drinking and merry-making and good cheer till night-fall, when they supped and prayed the prayers of sundown, and evensong. Then they sat carousing, and Nasir and Mensour fell to telling stories, first one and then the other, whilst Abdallah hearkened. Now they three were alone in a pavilion, the rest of the company being in another place, and they ceased not to tell tales and jests and pleasant traits and anecdotes, till Abdallah's heart was dissolved within him for watching and sleep overcame him. So they spread him a bed and he put off his clothes and lay down.
They lay down beside him on another couch and waited till they saw that he was drowned in sleep, when they arose and knelt upon him: whereupon he awoke and seeing them kneeling on his breast, said to them, 'What is this, O my brothers?' 'We are no brothers of thine,' answered they, 'nor do we know thee, lack-courtesy that thou art! Thy death is become better than thy life.' Then they gripped him by the throat and throttled him till he lost his senses and abode without motion, so that they deemed him dead. Now the pavilion in which they were overlooked the river; so they cast him therein; but, when he fell, God sent to his aid a dolphin, which was wont to come under the pavilion, for that the kitchen had a window that gave upon the water, and as often as they killed any beast there, it was their wont to throw the offal into the river and the dolphin came and picked it up from the surface of the water; wherefore it still resorted to the place. That day they had cast out much offal, by reason of the banquet; so the dolphin ate more than of wont and gained strength. When it heard the splash of Abdallah's fall, it hastened to the spot, where it saw a man, and God guided it, so that it took him on its back and crossing the river, made with him for the other bank, where it cast him ashore.
Now the place where the dolphin cast him up was a beaten way, and presently up came a caravan and finding him lying on the river-bank, said, 'Here is a drowned man, whom the river hath cast up.' Now the chief of the caravan was a man of worth and sound judgment, skilled in all sciences and versed in the art of medicine: so he said to them, 'O folk, what is to do?' And they answered, saying, 'Here is a drowned man.' Whereupon he went up to Abdallah and examining him, said to them, 'O folk, there is yet life in this young man, who is a person of condition and a nursling of honour and fortune, and God willing, there is still hope in him.' Then he took him and clothing him in warm apparel, nursed him and tended him three days' journey, till he revived; but he was exceeding weak, by reason of the shock, and the chief of the caravan proceeded to medicine him with such simples as he knew, what while they fared on, without ceasing, till they had travelled thirty days' journey from Bassora and came to a city in the land of the Persians, by name Auj. Here they alighted at a khan and spread Abdallah a bed, where he lay groaning all night and disturbing the folk with his groans.
On the morrow the porter of the khan came to the chief of the caravan and said to him, 'What is this sick man thou hast with thee? Verily, he disturbeth us.' Quoth the chief, 'I found him by the way, shipwrecked and cast up by the river, and have tended him, but to no effect, for he recovereth not.' 'Show him to the Sheikheh (140) Rajiheh,' said the porter. 'Who is she?' asked the chief of the caravan, and the porter answered, saying, 'There is with us a holy woman, a comely and clean maid, called Rajiheh, to whom they carry whoso hath any ailment; and he lies the night in her house and awakes on the morrow, whole and ailing nothing.' Quoth the chief, 'Direct me to her;' and the porter said, 'Take up thy sick man. So he took up Abdallah and the porter forewent him, till he came to a hermitage, where he saw folk entering with votive offerings and other folk coming forth, rejoicing. The porter went in, till he came to the curtain, (141) and said, 'Permission, O Sheikheh Rajiheh! Take this sick man.' Quoth she, 'Bring him within the curtain.' And the porter said to Abdallah, 'Enter.'
So he entered and looking upon the holy woman, saw her to be his very wife whom he had brought from the City of Stone. She also knew him and saluted him and he her. Then said he, 'Who brought thee hither?' And she answered, 'When I saw that thy brothers had cast thee overboard and were contending concerning me, I threw myself into the sea; but my sheikh El Khizr took me up and brought me to this hermitage, where he gave me leave to heal the sick and made proclamation in the city, saying, "Whoso hath any ailment, let him repair to the Sheikheh Rajiheh." Moreover he said to me, "Abide in this hermitage till the time be accomplished, and thy husband shall come to thee here." So all the sick used to come to me and I rubbed them and kneaded them and they awoke on the morrow, whole and well. On this wise the report of me became noised abroad among the folk, and they brought me votive gifts, so that I have with me good galore. Moreover, I live here in all honour and worship, and all the people of these parts seek my prayers.'
Then she rubbed him and by the ordinance of God the Most High he became whole. Now El Khizr used to come to her every Friday night, and it chanced that the day of Abdallah's coming was a Friday. So, when the night darkened, they made the evening meal of the richest meats, he and she, and sat awaiting the coming of El Khizr, who made his appearance anon and carrying them forth of the hermitage, set them down in Abdallah's palace at Bassora, where he left them and went his way. As soon as it was day, Abdallah examined the palace and knew it for his own; then, hearing the folk in clamour [without], he looked forth of the window and saw his brothers crucified, each on his own cross.
Now the reason of this was as follows. When they had thrown him into the Tigris, they arose on the morrow, weeping and saying, 'The Jinniyeh hath carried off our brother!' Then they made ready a present and sent it to the Khalif, acquainting him with these tidings and seeking of him the government of Bassora. He sent for them and questioned them and they told him the story aforesaid, (142) whereupon he was exceeding wroth [with Saïdeh]. So that night he prayed a two-bow prayer before daybreak, as of his wont, and called upon the tribes of the Jinn, who came before him obediently, and he questioned them of Abdallah; but they swore to him that none of them had done him aught of hurt and said, 'We know not what is come of him.' Then came Saïdeh, daughter of the Red King, and acquainted the Khalif with the truth of Abdallah's case, and he dismissed the Jinn.
On the morrow, he caused beat Nasir and Mensour, till they confessed, one against the other: whereupon the Khalif was enraged with them and bade carry them to Bassora and crucify them there before Abdallah's palace. As for the latter, when he saw his brothers crucified, he commanded to bury them, then took horse and repairing to Baghdad, acquainted the Khalif with that which his brothers had done with him, from first to last [and told him how he had recovered his wife]; whereat Er Reshid marvelled and summoning the Cadi and the witnesses, let draw up the contract of marriage between Abdallah and the damsel whom he had brought from the City of Stone. So he went in to her and abode with her at Bassora, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies; and extolled be the perfection of the [Ever-] Living One, who dieth not!