THE DEVOTEE TO WHOM ALLAH GAVE A CLOUD FOR SERVICE AND THE DEVOUT KING.



There was once, among the children of Israel, a man of the devout, for piety acclaimed and for continence and asceticism enfamed, whose prayers were ever granted and who by supplication obtained whatso he wanted; and he was a wanderer in the mountains and was used to pass the night in worship. Now Almighty Allah had subjected to him a cloud which travelled with him wherever he went, and poured on him its water-treasures in abundance that he might make his ablutions and drink. After a long time when things were thus, his fervour somewhat abated, whereupon Allah took the cloud away from him and ceased to answer his prayers. On this account, great was his grief and long was his woe, and he ceased not to regret the time of grace and the miracle vouchsafed to him and to lament and bewail and bemoan himself, till he saw in a dream one who said to him, "An thou wouldest have Allah restore to thee thy cloud, seek out a certain King, in such a town, and beg him to pray for thee: so will Allah (be He extolled and exalted!) give thee back thy cloud and bespread it over thee by virtue of his pious prayers." And he began repeating these couplets,

"Wend to that pious prayerful Emir, * Who can with gladness thy condition cheer;
An he pray Allah, thou shalt win thy wish; * And heavy rain shall drop from welkin clear.
He stands all Kings above in potent worth; * Nor to compare with him doth aught appear:
Near him thou soon shalt hap upon thy want, * And see all joy and gladness draw thee near:
Then cut the wolds and wilds unfounted till * The goal thou goest for anigh shalt speer!"

So the hermit set out for the town named to him in the dream; and, coming thither after long travel, enquired for the King's palace which was duly shown to him. And behold, at the gate he found a slave-officer sitting on a great chair and clad in gorgeous gear; so he stood to him and saluted him; and he returned his salam and asked him, "What is thy business?" Answered the devotee, "I am a wronged man, and come to submit my case to the King." Quoth the officer, "Thou hast no access to him this day; for he hath appointed unto petitioners and enquirers one day in every seven" (naming the day), "on which they may go in to him; so wend thy ways in welfare till then." The hermit was vexed with the King for thus veiling himself from the folk and said in thought, "How shall this man be a saint of the saints of Allah (to whom belong Majesty and Might!) and he on this wise?" Then he went away and awaited the appointed day. "Now" (quoth he)"when it came, I repaired to the palace, where I found a great number of folk at the gate, expecting admission; and I stood with them, till there came out a Wazir robed in gorgeous raiment and attended by guards and slaves, who said, 'Let those, who have petitions to present, enter.' So I entered with the rest and found the King seated facing his officers and grandees who were ranged according to their several ranks and degrees. The Wazir took up his post and brought forward the petitioners, one by one, till it came to my turn, when the King looked on me and said, 'Welcome to the 'Lord of the Cloud'! Sit thee down till I make leisure for thee.' I was confounded at his words and confessed his dignity and superiority; and, when the King had answered the petitioners and had made an end with them, he rose and dismissed his Wazirs and Grandees; then, taking my hand he led me to the door of the private palace, where we found a black slave, splendidly arrayed, with helm on head, and on his right hand and his left, bows and coats of mail. He rose to the King; and, hastening to obey his orders and forestall his wishes, opened the door. We went in, hand in hand, till we came to a low wicket, which the King himself opened and led me into a ruinous place of frightful desolation and thence passed into a chamber, wherein was naught but a prayer-carpet, an ewer for ablution and some mats of palm-leaves. Here the King doffed his royal robes and donned a coarse gown of white wool and a conical bonnet of felt. Then he sat down and making me sit, called out to his wife, 'Ho, such an one!' and she answered from within saying, 'Here am I.' Quoth he, 'Knowest thou who is our guest to-day?' Replied she, 'Yes, it is the Lord of the Cloud.' The King said, 'Come forth: it mattereth not for him.' And behold, there entered a woman, as she were a vision, with a face that beamed like the new moon; and she wore a gown and veil of wool."-And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Seventy-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that 'when the King called to his wife, she came forth from the inner room; and her face beamed like the new moon; and she wore a gown and a veil of wool. Then said the King, 'O my brother, dost thou desire to hear our story or that we should pray for thee and dismiss thee?' Answered the hermit; 'Nay, I wish to hear the tale of you twain, for that to me were preferable.' Said the King, 'My forefathers handed down the throne, one to the other, and it descended from great one to great one, in unbroken succession, till the last died and it came to me. Now Allah had made this hateful to me, for I would fain have gone awandering over earth and left the folk to their own affairs; but I feared lest they should fall into confusion and anarchy and misgovernment so as to swerve from divine law, and the union of the Faith be broken up. Wherefore, abandoning my own plans, I took the kingship and appointed to every head of them a regular stipend; and donned the royal robes; and posted slave-officers at the doors, as a terror to the dishonest and for the defence of honest folk and the maintenance of law and limitations. Now when free of this, I entered this place and, doffing my royal habit, donned these clothes thou seest; and this my cousin, the daughter of my father's brother, hath agreed with me to renounce the world and helpeth me to serve the Lord. So we are wont to weave these palm-leaves and earn, during the day, a wherewithal to break our fast at nightfall; and we have lived on this wise nigh upon forty years. Abide thou with us (so Allah have mercy on thee!) till we sell our mats; and thou shalt sup and sleep with us this night and on the morrow wend thy ways with that thou wishest, Inshallah!' So he tarried with them till the end of the day, when there came a boy five years old who took the mats they had made and carrying them to the market, sold them for a carat; [FN#484] and with this bought bread and beans and returned with them to the King. The hermit broke his fast and lay down to sleep with them; but in the middle of the night they both arose and fell to praying and weeping. When daybreak was near, the King said, "O my God, this Thy servant beseecheth Thee to return him his cloud; and to do this Thou art able; so, O my God, let him see his prayer granted and restore him his cloud." The Queen amen'd to his orisons and behold, the cloud grew up in the sky; whereupon the King gave the hermit joy and the man took leave of them and went away, the cloud companying him as of old. And whatsoever he required of Allah after this, in the names of the pious King and Queen, He granted it without fail and the man made thereon these couplets,

"My Lord hath servants fain of piety; * Hearts in the Wisdom-garden ranging free: Their bodies' lusts at peace, and motionless * For breasts that bide in purest secresy. Thou seest all silent, awesome of their Lord, * For hidden things unseen and seen they see."

And they tell a tale of



Prev Next