STORY OF INS AL WUJJOOD AND WIRD AL IKMAUM, DAUGHTER OF IBRAHIM, VIZIER TO SULTAN SHAMIKH.
Many ages past there was a very powerful sultan who had a vizier named Ibrahim, and this minister had a daughter the most beautiful of her sex and accomplished of her age, so that she became distinguished by the appellation of Wird al Ikmaum, or the rose among flowers. It was the custom of sultan Shamikh to hold annually a general assembly of all the nobles of his kingdom, and persons eminent for science or the arts, during which they were magnificently entertained at the royal expense. The former displayed their prowess in martial exercises before the sovereign, and the latter the productions of their genius and skill; when valuable prizes were bestowed by the arbitration of appointed judges on those who deserved them. On one of the days of this festival, the vizier's daughter from a latticed balcony of the palace, in which she sat to view the sports, was so struck with the manly figure and agility of a young nobleman named Ins al Wujjood (or the perfection of human nature), that love took possession of her mind. She pointed him out to a female confidant, and gave her a letter to convey to the object of her affections. The young nobleman, who had heard her praises, was enraptured by his good fortune, and the next day, having obtained as full a sight of her beauties as could be had through the golden wires of the balcony, retired overcome by love. Letters now passed daily, and almost hourly, between them; but they were impatient (or a meeting, which was at length planned; but the note fixing the place and time was unfortunately dropped by the confidant and carried to the vizier; who, alarmed for the honour of his family, sent his daughter the same night to a far distant castle belonging to himself, and situated on an island in a vast lake, surrounded by mountainous deserts thinly inhabited. The unfortunate lady was obliged to submit to her fate, but before her departure contrived to write on the outside of her balcony the following words, "They are carrying me off, but I know not where." In the morning her lover repairing, as usual, in hopes of seeing his mistress in the balcony, read the unwelcome intelligence, which for a time deprived him of his senses. When somewhat recovered he resolved to leave the court, though then the chief favourite of the sultan, and go in search of his beloved. Having put on the habit of a wandering devotee, he, on the following evening, quitted the city, and recommending himself to Providence, set out, but knew not whither. Many weeks did he travel, but could find no traces of his beloved object; when suddenly, passing through a thick forest, there met him a monstrous lion, from whom he thought it impossible to escape, and having uttered a prayer for the happiness of his beloved, and repeated the testimony of martyrdom, he resigned himself to his fate, and waited the spring of his expected devourer. What was his surprise when the majestic animal, instead of making him his prey, on approaching close to him, having looked compassionately in his face, licked his hands, and turning round, walked gently onwards, moving his head, as if to signify the youth should follow him. Ins al Wujjood did so, and was conducted through the forest by the lion; who, ascending a high mountain, suddenly stopped at the entrance of a cave, to which was a door of iron, then moving his head, and once more licking the hands of his companion, the generous animal left him, and retired back to the woods. The youth now went to the cave, and having knocked at the door, it was opened by a venerable hermit, who bade him welcome, brought him warm water to wash his feet, and set before him refreshments of various kinds. When he had eaten, he inquired the cause of his coming to such a desolate country; and Ins al Wujjood having related his adventures, the old man exclaimed, "Thou art a favourite of Heaven, or the lion would have devoured thee; despair not, therefore, of success, for my mind presages that thou wilt be happy, nor shalt thou want my assistance." Ins al Wujjood having thanked him for his hospitality and generous offers, the hermit informed him, that for nearly twenty years past he had not beheld a human face till a few days prior to his coming, when, wandering over the mountains, he had seen an encampment on the margin of the great lake below, in which appeared a crowd of men and women, some very richly habited, part of whom had embarked on board a stately yacht, and the remainder having taken leave of them, struck their tents, and returned by the road they had come. "Most probably," said the hermit, "the yacht may have conveyed thy mistress to the castle which stands on an island in the middle of the lake, and if so thou shalt soon be safely landed: for the rest Providence must be thy guide. I will this night remember thee in my prayers, and meditate on what can be done for thy benefit." Having said this, the hermit conducted the wanderer to a chamber, and left him to his repose.
The beautiful Wird al Ikmaum during this time remained overwhelmed with uneasiness in her confinement, and it was in vain that her attendants tried to amuse her. She wandered melancholy through the magnificent gardens of the castle, the groves of which were filled with every variety of birds, whose harmony was delightful; but the soft cooing of the turtle dove and the plaintive note of the lovelorn nightingale alone caught her attention. To these she would listen for hours together, reclined on a mossy bank, and fancy their pensive strains the language of her beloved. Such was her daily employment, nor would she quit the garden till forced by her attendants to take shelter from the falling dews of night. We now return to her lover.
Fatigue and the consoling assurances of the friendly hermit had greatly composed the mind of Ins al Wujjood, who enjoyed a refreshing sleep, nor did he awake till the sun was mounted high in the heavens, when he joined his venerable host in his devotions; after which they partook of a repast of bread, milk, and fresh fruits. This ended, the old man requested him to fetch from the forest a bundle of the filaments of palm bark, which, when brought to him, he plaited into a, shape resembling a little boat, and giving it to Ins al Wujjood, said, "Repair to the lake, and put this into the water, when it will become instantly large enough to hold thee, then embark in it, and trust to Heaven for the rest. Farewell!"
Ins al Wujjood having taken leave of his venerable friend the hermit, with many thanks, did as he had been commanded, and soon arrived on the margin of the lake, into which he launched his. little vessel, when, to his great surprise, it instantaneously became a handsome boat with the sails set. He got into it, and a fair wind springing up was soon out of sight of land. For some days he was wafted over the deep; but at length the shore of an island appeared, on which he landed, and made his boat fast to the trunk of a large tree. He then walked into the country, and found it beautifully interspersed with green meadows, clear streams, and shady groves of bending fruit trees, on the branches of which all sorts of birds were warbling in their different strains. Having refreshed himself with several fruits, he proceeded onwards, and at length came in sight of a superb edifice, to the gateway of which he advanced; but found it locked. For three days he waited in hopes of seeing some of its inhabitants, but in vain. However on the fourth morning the gate was opened by a man, who seeing Ins al Wujjood, advanced towards him, and inquired who he was, whence he came, and what was his reason for waiting at the gate. "I am of Ispahaun," replied Ins al Wujjood, "and was shipwrecked in a trading voyage upon this coast, to the shore of which I alone of all my companions had the good fortune to escape." Upon hearing this the man burst into tears, embraced him, and said, "May God preserve thee from future calamities! I am also a native of Ispahaun, where also dwelt my cousin, whom I dearly loved, and by whom I was beloved. At this happy period of my youth a nation stronger than ours made war against us, overcame us, and among other captives forced me from my country; after which they sold me as a slave to my present master: but come, my dear countryman, enter the palace, and repose thyself in my apartment, where we will endeavour to console each other under our misfortunes till Providence shall restore us to our homes."
Ins al Wujjood gladly accepted such a friendly invitation, and on entering the court beheld a lofty and wide-spreading tree, from the branches of which were suspended several golden cages, each inhabited by a beautiful bird, and each striving to rival the other in melody, as if in welcome of his approach. He inquired of his host to whom the splendid edifice belonged, and was informed to the vizier of sultan Shamikh; who, to secure his daughter from the vicissitudes of fortune, had lodged her here, and only visited her annually to inquire after her health, and bring the necessary supplies for her convenience and the support of her attendants in the castle. Upon hearing the above circumstances, Ins al Wujjood was nearly overcome with ecstacy; but restraining his feelings, exclaimed to himself, "At length I have reached the abode of my beloved, and may hope for success;" which was yet, however, afar off. His charming mistress, little thinking that her lover was so near, and weary of absence and the solitude of her abode, had that very evening resolved to escape from confinement. In the darkness of night she accordingly let herself down from the battlements by a silken rope, which she had twisted from slips of various robes, and reached the ground unhurt. With haste she fled towards the sea shore, where she perceived a fishing boat, the owner of which, though at first alarmed, supposing her, from her dazzling appearance (for she was covered with jewels), to be an ensnaring genie, at length, on her assurances that she was really a woman, admitted her into his vessel. She thanked him for his kindness, which she rewarded by the gift of many rich jewels, and requested to be conveyed across the lake. The fisherman hoisted sail, and for some hours the wind was prosperous; but now a heavy tempest arose, which tossed them constantly in imminent danger for three days, and drove them far from their intended course. At length the gale subsided, the sea became assuaged, and land appeared. As they approached the shore a stately city rose to their view, the buildings of which seemed unusually magnificent. Under the terrace of the sultan's palace they safely, at last, cast anchor; and it chanced that the prince, who was named Dara, was then sitting with his daughter in a balcony to enjoy the fresh sea breeze, and the view of the extensive harbour, crowded with the vessels of every country. Perceiving the boat, the sultan commanded his officers to bring the master and his crew to the presence. Great was his surprise at the introduction of the beautiful Wird al Ikmaum. From her rich dress, dignified air, and demeanour, he concluded her to be of superior rank, and having seated her near his daughter, he graciously requested to be informed of the name of her country, and the cause of her having travelled to his capital; to which she replied in eloquent language, giving a summary detail of all her adventures. The sultan consoled her by encouraging assurances of his protection, promised to exert his authority to effect a union with her beloved, and immediately dispatched his vizier with costly presents to sultan Shamikh, requesting him to send Ins al Wujjood to his court.
The vizier, after a prosperous voyage, having reached the capital of sultan Shamikh, presented his offerings, and made known the request of his master; to which the sultan replied, That nearly a year had elapsed since Ins al Wujjood had, to his great regret, absented himself from his court, nor had any tidings been obtained of the place of his retirement; but that he would order his vizier to accompany the ambassador in search of his retreat, being willing to oblige his master the sultan to the utmost of his power. Accordingly, after a repose of some days, the two viziers departed in search of Ins al Wujjood, but without knowing where to bend their journey. At length they reached the shore of the ocean of Kunnooz, on which they embarked in a hired vessel, and sailed to the mountainous island of Tukkalla, of which the vizier of sultan Shamikh gave to his companion the following account. "This island was some ages back inhabited by genii; a princess of whom became violently enamoured of a handsome young man, a son of an ameer of the city of Misr, or Cairo, whom she beheld in her flight sleeping in his father's garden in the heat of the day. She sat down by him, and having gently awoke him, the youth, on looking up, to his astonishment and rapture saw a most beautiful damsel who courted his addresses: he was not backward in offering them; and mutual protestations of love and constancy took place. After some hours of happiness the genie princess took an affectionate leave, promising soon to visit him again, and vanished from sight. The youth remained musing on his fortunate adventure till the dews of night began to fall, when his parents, fearful of some injury, sent attendants to conduct him to their palace, but he refused to go; and talked, as it appeared to them, so incoherently concerning his beloved, that they thought him distracted; seized him roughly, and forced him homewards. His father and mother were alarmed: it was in vain that they courted him to partake of refreshment; he was sullen and gloomy, and at length abruptly retired to his chamber, where he remained in restless anxiety all night, waiting impatiently for morning, that he might revisit the happy spot where his charmer had promised again to meet him.
"At early dawn the ameer's son repaired to the garden, and was soon gratified with the sight of his beloved; but while they were exchanging mutual protestations of regard, the mother of the genie princess, who had suspected from her daughter's conduct that she was carrying on some intrigue, and had followed her in the air unperceived, suddenly appeared. Rushing upon the lovers, she seized her daughter by the hair, beat, and abused her in the harshest language for having disgraced the honour of the genii by an amour with a wretched son of mortality: to all which the genie princess replied, that her remonstrances were vain; she had fixed her affections, and would rather be torn into a thousand pieces than desert the object of her heart. The mother upon this finding the case desperate, and being herself softened by the uncommon beauty of the youth, who had fallen at her feet, entreating mercy for his beloved, at length relented, and agreed to sanctify their loves by her consent to their marriage. It was accordingly celebrated; and this island, which after the name of the genie princess was called Tukkalla, was fixed upon for the place of their residence. Its magnificent palace still remains, after the lapse of many ages, and is at present in my possession. Here I hope to meet my only daughter, whom I brought to reside in it nearly a year ago, to secure her from the attempts of a young courtier, on whom she had, against my consent, fixed her affections."
The two viziers now disembarked, and proceeded up the island; but what was the astonishment and mortification of Ibrahim on learning, when he arrived at the palace, that his daughter had escaped, nor had the attendants heard of her since her departure, though they had repeatedly searched every quarter of the island. Perceiving among his attendants whom he had left at the palace a strange young man of pallid countenance, wasted frame, and melancholy air, the vizier inquired how he had come among them; and received for reply, that he was a shipwrecked merchant of Ispahaun, whom they had taken in for the sake of charity. Ibrahim now requested of the vizier of sultan Dara that he would return to his master, and inform him of their vain search after Ins al Wujjood; at the same time desiring him to receive into his suite the supposed merchant as far as the city of Ispahaun, which lay in his route. To this the vizier of sultan Dara consented: and the two ministers having taken a friendly leave of each other separated, and departed for their several capitals.
The vizier of sultan Dara, in the course of the journey, became so pleased with the agreeable manners of the supposed merchant, that he often conversed with him familiarly; and at length the young man, emboldened by his condescending attention, ventured to inquire the cause of his travels to regions so distant from his own country: upon which he was informed of the arrival of the beautiful Wird al Ikmaum at the court of sultan Dara; of the compassion of that sultan for her misfortunes; his generous protection; and his own fruitless mission in search of her lover Ins al Wujjood. A this happy intelligence, the latter, overcome with ecstacy, could no longer contain himself, but discovered who he was; and the vizier was also overjoyed at knowing, when least expected, that he had found the despaired of object of his long journey. He embraced the young man, congratulated him upon the speedy termination of absence from his beloved, and the happy union which awaited him. He then made him an inmate of his own tents, supplied him with rich attire, and every necessary becoming the condition of a person for whose fortunes he knew his sovereign to be so highly concerned. Ins al Wujjood, now easy in mind, and renovated by the happy prospects before him, daily recovered health and strength, so that by the time of their arrival at the capital of sultan Dara he had regained his pristine manliness and vigour.
When the vizier waited upon his master the sultan Dara to communicate his successful commission, the sultan commanded the youth to his presence. Ins al Wujjood performed the usual obeisance of kissing the ground before the throne, with the graceful demeanour of one who had been used to a court. The sultan graciously returned his salutation, and commanded him to be seated; after which he requested him to relate his adventures, which he did in eloquent language, interspersing in his narrative poetical quotations, and extempore verses applicable to the various incidents and situations. The sultan was charmed with his story; and when he had finished its relation, sent for a cauzee and witnesses to tie the marriage knot between the happy Ins al Wujjood and the beautiful Wird al Ikmaum; at the same time dispatching a messenger to announce the celebration of the nuptials to sultan Shamikh and Ibrahim his vizier, who were bewailing their supposed irrecoverable losses; one that of his favourite, and the latter that of his daughter. Sultan Dara detained the happy couple at his court for some time, after which he dismissed them with valuable presents to their own country, which they reached in safety, and were received with the most heart-felt rejoicings by the sultan and the repentant vizier, who now recompensed them by his kindness for the former cruelty of his behaviour towards them; so that in favour with the sultan, and happy in their own family, the lovers henceforth enjoyed every earthly felicity, sweetened by the reflection on past distresses, till the angel of death summoned them to submit to the final destination of mortality.