THE CITY OF LABTAYT. [FN#139]



There was once a royal-city in the land of Roum, called the City of Labtayt wherein stood a tower which was always shut. And whenever a King died and another King of the Greeks took the Kingship after him, he set on the tower a new and strong lock, till there were four-and-twenty locks upon the gate, according to the number of the Kings. After this time, there came to the throne a man who was not of the old royal-house, and he had a mind to open these locks, that he might see what was within the tower. The grandees of his kingdom forbade him this and pressed him to desist and reproved him and blamed him; but he persisted saying, "Needs must this place be opened." Then they offered him all that their hands possessed of monies and treasures and things of price, if he would but refrain; still he would not be baulked,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Seventy-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the grandees offered that King all their hands possessed of monies and treasures if he would but refrain; still he would not be baulked and said "There is no help for it but I open this tower." So he pulled off the locks and entering, found within the tower figures of Arabs on their horses and camels, habited in turbands [FN#140] hanging down at the ends, with swords in baldrick-belts thrown over their shoulders and bearing long lances in their hands. He found there also a scroll which he greedily took and read, and these words were written therein, "Whenas this door is opened will conquer this country a raid of the Arabs, after the likeness of the figures here depicted; wherefore beware, and again beware of opening it." Now this city was in Andalusia; and that very year Tárik ibn Ziyád conquered it, during the Caliphate of Al-Walíd son of Abd al-Malik [FN#141] of the sons of Umayyah; and slew this King after the sorriest fashion and sacked the city and made prisoners of the women and boys therein and got great loot. Moreover, he found there immense treasures; amongst the rest more than an hundred and seventy crowns of pearls and jacinths and other gems of price; and he found a saloon, wherein horsemen might throw the spears, full of vessels of gold and silver, such as no description can comprise. Moreover, he found there the table of food for the Prophet of Allah, Solomon, son of David (peace with both of them!), which is extant even now in a city of the Greeks, it is told that it was of grass-green emerald with vessels of gold and platters of jasper. Likewise he found the Psalms written in the old Ionian [FN#142] characters on leaves of gold bezel'd with jewels; together with a book setting forth the properties of stones and herbs and minerals, as well as the use of characts and talismans and the canons of the art of alchymy; and he found a third volume which treated of the art of cutting and setting rubies and other precious stones and of the preparation of poisons and theriacks. There found he also a mappa mundi figuring the earth and the seas and the different cities and countries and villages of the world; and he found a vast saloon full of hermetic powder, one drachm of which elixir would turn a thousand drachms of silver into fine gold; likewise a marvellous mirror, great and round, of mixed metals, which had been made for Solomon, son of David (on the twain be peace!) wherein whoso looked might see the counterfeit presentment of the seven climates of the world; and he beheld a chamber full of Brahmini [FN#143] jacinths for which no words can suffice. So he despatched all these things to Walid bin Abd al-Malik, and the Arabs spread all over the cities of Andalusia which is one of the finest of lands. This is the end of the story of the City of Labtayt. And a tale is also told of