THE FERRYMAN OF THE NILE AND THE HERMIT.



"I was once a ferryman on the Nile and used to ply between the eastern and the western banks. Now one day, as I sat in my boat, there came up to me an old man of a bright and beaming countenance, who saluted me and I returned his greeting; and he said to me, 'Wilt thou ferry me over for the love of Allah Almighty?' I answered, 'Yes,' and he continued, 'Wilt thou moreover give me food for Allah's sake?'; to which again I answered, 'With all my heart.' So he entered the boat and I rowed him over to the eastern side, remarking that he was clad in a patched gown and carried a gourd-bottle and a staff. When he was about to land, he said to me, 'I desire to lay on thee a heavy trust.' Quoth I, 'What is it?' Quoth he, 'It hath been revealed to me that my end is nearhand and that to-morrow about noon thou wilt come and find me dead under yonder tree. Wash me and wrap me in the shroud thou wilt see under my head and after thou hast prayed over me, bury me in this sandy ground and take my gown and gourd and staff, which do thou deliver to one who shall come and demand them of thee.' I marvelled at his words, and I slept there. On the morrow I awaited till noon the event he had announced, and then I forgot what he had said till near the hour of afternoon-prayer, when I remembered it and hastening to the appointed place, found him under the tree, dead, with a new shroud under his head, exhaling a fragrance of musk. So I washed him and shrouded him and prayed over him, then dug a hole in the sand and buried him, after I had taken his ragged gown and bottle and staff, with which I crossed the Nile to the western side and there nighted. As soon as morning dawned and the city gate opened, I sighted a young man known to me as a loose fellow, clad in fine clothes and his hands stained with Henna, who said to me, 'Art thou not such an one?' 'Yes,' answered I; and he said, 'Give me the trust.' Quoth I, 'What is that?' Quoth he, 'The gown, the gourd and the staff.' I asked him, 'Who told thee of them?' and he answered, 'I know nothing save that I spent yesternight at the wedding of one of my friends singing and carousing till daylight, when I lay me down to sleep and take my rest; and behold, there stood by me a personage who said, 'Verily Allah Almighty hath taken such a saint to Himself and hath appointed thee to fill his place; so go thou to a certain person (naming the ferryman), and take of him the dead man's gown and bottle and staff, for he left them with him for thee.' So I brought them out and gave them to him; whereupon he doffed his clothes and, donning the gown, went his way and left me. [FN#497] And when the glooms closed around me, I fell a-weeping; but, that night, while sleeping I saw the Lord of Holiness (glorified and exalted be He!) in a dream saying, 'O my servant, is it grievous to thee that I have granted to one of My servants to return to Me? Indeed, this is of My bounty, that I vouchsafe to whom I will, for I over all things am Almighty.' So I repeated these couplets,

'Lover with loved [FN#498] loseth will and aim! * All choice (an couldst thou know) were sinful shame.
Or grant He favour and with union grace, * Or from thee turn away, He hath no blame.
An from such turning thou no joy enjoy * Depart! the place for thee no place became.
Or canst His near discern not from His far? * Then Love's in vain and thou'rt a-rear and lame.
If pine for Thee afflict my sprite, or men * Hale me to death, the rein Thy hand shall claim!
So turn Thee to or fro, to me 'tis one; * What Thou ordainest none shall dare defame:
My love hath naught of aim but Thine approof * And if Thou say we part I say the same.'"
And of the tales they tell is one concerning



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