THE BLACKSMITH WHO COULD HANDLE FIRE WITHOUT HURT.
It reached the ears of a certain pious man that there abode in such a town a blacksmith, who could put his hand into the fire and pull out the iron red-hot, without the flames doing him aught of hurt. [FN#482] So he set out for the town in question and asked for the blacksmith; and, when the man was shown to him, he watched him at work and saw him do as had been reported to him. He waited till he had made and end of his day's work; then, going up to him, saluted him with the salam and said, "I would be thy guest this night." Replied the smith, "With gladness and goodly gree!" and carried him to his place, where they supped together and lay down to sleep. The guest watched, but saw no sign in his host of praying through the night or of special devoutness and said in his mind, "Haply he hideth himself from me." So he lodged with him a second and a third night, but found that he did not exceed the devotions prescribed by the law and custom of the Prophet and rose but little in the dark hours to pray. At last he said to him, "O my brother, I have heard of the gift with which Allah hath favoured thee and have seen the truth of it with mine eyes. Moreover, I have taken note of thine assiduity in religious exercises, but find in thee no such piety as distinguisheth those who work saintly miracles: whence, then, cometh this to thee?" "I will tell thee," answered the smith, "Know that I was once passionately enamoured of a slave-girl and ofttimes sued her for love-liesse, but could not prevail upon her, because she still held fast by her chastity. Presently there came a year of drought and hunger and hardship; food failed and there befel a sore famine. As I was sitting one day at home, somebody knocked at the door; so I went out and behold, she was standing there; and she said to me, 'O my brother, I am sorely an-hungered and I lift mine eyes to thee, beseeching thee to feed me for Allah's sake!' Quoth I, 'Wottest thou not how I love thee and what I have suffered for thy sake? Now I will not give thee one bittock of bread except thou yield thy person to me.' Quoth she, 'Death, but not disobedience to the Lord!' Then she went away and returned after two days with the same prayer for food as before. I made her a like answer, and she entered and sat down in my house being nigh upon death. I set food before her, whereupon her eyes brimmed with tears and she cried, 'Give me meat for the love of Allah, to whom belong Honour and Glory!' But I answered, 'Not so, by Allah, except thou yield thyself to me.' Quoth she, 'Better is death to me than the wrath and wreak of Allah the Most Highest;' and she rose and left the food untouched"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Four Hundred and Seventy-second Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the man set food before her, the woman said, "Give me meat for the love of Allah to whom be Honour and Glory!' But I answered, 'Not so, by Allah, except thou yield to me thy person.' Quoth she, 'Better is death than the wrath and wreak of Allah;' and she rose and left the food untouched and went away repeating these couplets,
'O Thou, the One, whose grace doth all the world embrace; * Thine ears have heard, Thine eyes have seen my case!
Privation and distress have dealt me heavy blows; * The woes that weary me no utterance can trace.
I am like one athirst who eyes the landscape's eye, * Yet may not drink a draught of streams that rail and race.
My flesh would tempt me by the sight of savoury food * Whose joys shall pass away and pangs maintain their place.'
She then disappeared for two days, when she again came and knocked at the door; so I went out to her, and lo! hunger had taken away her voice; but, after a rest she said, 'O my brother, I am worn out with want and know not what to do, for I cannot show my face to any man but to thee. Say, wilt thou feed me for the love of Allah Almighty?' But I answered, 'Not so, except thou yield to me thy person.' And she entered my house and sat down. Now I had no food ready; but, when the meat was dressed and I laid it in a saucer, behold, the grace of Almighty Allah entered into me and I said to myself, 'Out on thee! This woman, weak of wit and faith, hath refrained from food till she can no longer, for stress of hunger; and, while she refuseth time after time, thou canst not forbear from disobedience to the Lord!' And I said, 'O my God, I repent to Thee of that which my flesh purposed!' Then I took the food and carrying it to her, said, 'Eat, for no harm shall betide thee: this is for the love of Allah, to whom belong Honour and Glory!' Then she raised her eyes to heaven and said, 'O my God, if this man say sooth, I pray Thee forbid fire to harm him in this world and the next, for Thou over all things art Omnipotent and Prevalent in answering the prayer of the penitent!' Then I left her and went to put out the fire in the brasier. [FN#483] Now the season was winter and the weather cold, and a live coal fell on my body: but by the decree of Allah (to whom be Honour and Glory!) I felt no pain and it became my conviction that her prayer had been answered. So I took the coal in my hand, and it burnt me not; and going in to her, I said, 'Be of good cheer, for Allah hath granted thy prayer!'"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Four Hundred and Seventy-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the blacksmith continued: "So I went in to her and said, 'Be of good cheer, for Allah hath granted thy prayer!' Then she dropped the morsel from her hand and said, 'O my God, now that Thou hast shown me my desire of him and hast granted me my prayer for him, take Thou my soul, for Thou over all things art Almighty!' And straightway He took her soul to Him, the mercy of Allah be upon her!" And the tongue of the case extemporised and spake on this theme,
"She prayed: the Lord of grace her prayer obeyed; * And spared the sinner, who for sin had prayed:
He showed her all she prayed Him to grant; * And Death (as prayed she) her portion made:
Unto his door she came and prayed for food, * And sued his ruth for what her misery made:
He leant to error following his lusts, * And hoped to enjoy her as her wants persuade;
But he knew little of what Allah willed; * Nor was Repentance, though unsought, denayed.
Fate comes to him who flies from Fate, O Lord, * And lot and daily bread by Thee are weighed."
And they also tell of