CALIPH AL-MUTAWAKKIL AND HIS CONCUBINE MAHBUBAH.
There were in the palace of the Caliph al-Mutawakkil ala'llah [FN#426] four thousand concubines, whereof two thousand were Greeks and other two thousand slave born Arabians [FN#427] and Abyssinians; and 'Obayd ibn Táhir [FN#428] had given him two hundred white girls and a like number of Abyssinian and native girls. Among these slave-borns was a girl of Bassorah, hight Mahbúbah, the Beloved, who was of surpassing beauty and loveliness, elegance and voluptuous grace. Moreover, she played upon the lute and was skilled in singing and making verses and wrote a beautiful hand; so that Al-Mutawakkil fell passionately in love with her and could not endure from her a single hour. But when she saw this affection, she presumed upon his favour to use him arrogantly, wherefore he waxed exceeding wroth with her and forsook her, forbidding the people of the palace to speak with her. She abode on this wise some days, but the Caliph still inclined to her; and he arose one morning and said to his courtiers, "I dreamt, last night, that I was reconciled to Mahhubah." They answered, "Would Allah this might be on wake!"; and as they were talking, behold, in came one of the Caliph's maidservants and whispered him; so he rose from his throne and entered the Serraglio; for the whisper had said, "Of a truth we heard singing and lute-playing in Mahbubah's chamber and we knew not what this meant." So he went straight to her apartment, where he heard her playing upon the lute and singing the following verses,
"I wander through the palace, but I sight there not a soul * To whom I may complain or will 'change a word with me.
It is as though I'd done so grievous rebel-deed * Wherefrom can no contrition e'er avail to set me free.
Have we no intercessor here to plead with King, who came * In sleep to me and took me back to grace and amity;
But when the break of day arose and showed itself again, * Then he departing sent me back to dree my privacy?"
Now when the Caliph heard her voice, he marvelled at the verse and yet more at the strange coincidence of their dreams and entered the chamber. As soon as she perceived him, she hastened to rise and throw herself at his feet, and kissing them, said, "By Allah, O my lord, this hap is what I dreamt last night; and, when I awoke, I made the couplets thou hast heard." Replied Al- Mutawakkil, "By Allah, I also dreamt the like!" Then they embraced and made friends and he abode with her seven days with their nights. Now Mahbubah had written upon her cheek, in musk, the Caliph's name, which was Ja'afar: and when he saw this, he improvised the following,
"One wrote upon her cheek with musk, his name was Ja'afar highs; * My soul for hers who wrote upon her cheek the name I sight!
If an her fingers have inscribed one line upon her cheek, * Full many a line in heart of mine those fingers did indite:
O thou, whom Ja'afar sole of men possesseth for himself, * Allah fill Ja'afar [FN#429] stream full draught, the wine of thy delight!"
When Al-Mutawakkil died, his host of women forgot him, all save Mahhubah,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Three Hundred and Fifty-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Al-Mutawakkil died, his host of women forgot him all save Mahbubah who ceased not to mourn for him, till she deceased and was buried by his side, the mercy of Allah be on them both! And men also tell the tale of