YUNUS THE SCRIBE AND THE CALIPH WALID BIN SAHL.


There lived in the reign of the Caliph Hishám,  [FN#110] son of Abd al-Malik, a man called Yúnus the Scribe well-known to the general, and he set out one day on a journey to Damascus, having with him a slave-girl of surpassing beauty and loveliness, whom he had taught all that was needful to her and whose price was an hundred thousand dirhams. When they drew near to Damascus, the caravan halted by the side of a lake and Yunus went down to a quiet place with his damsel and took out some victual he had with him and a leather bottle of wine. As he sat at meat, behold, came up a young man of goodly favour and dignified presence, mounted on a sorrel horse and followed by two eunuchs, and said to him, "Wilt thou accept me to guest?" "Yes," replied Yunus. So the stranger alighted and said, "Give me to drink of thy wine." Yunus gave him to drink and he said, "If it please thee, sing us a song." So Yunus sang this couplet extempore,

"She joineth charms were never seen conjoined in mortal dress: * And for her love she makes me love my tears and wakefulness."

At which the stranger rejoiced with exceeding joy and Yunus gave him to drink again and again, till the wine got the better of him and he said, "Bid thy slave-girl sing." So she improvised this couplet,

"A houri, by whose charms my heart is moved to sore distress: * Nor wand of tree nor sun nor moon her rivals I confess!"

The stranger was overjoyed with this and they sat drinking till nightfall, when they prayed the evening-prayer and the youth said to Yunus, "What bringeth thee to our city?" He replied, "Quest of wherewithal to pay my debts and better my case." Quoth the other, "Wilt thou sell me this slave-girl for thirty thousand dirhams?" Whereto quoth Yunus, "I must have more than that." He asked, "Will forty thousand content thee?"; but Yunus answered, "That would only settle my debts, and I should remain empty-handed." Rejoined the stranger, "We will take her of thee of fifty thousand dirhams [FN#111] and give thee a suit of clothes to boot and the expenses of thy journey and make thee a sharer in my condition as long as thou livest." Cried Yunus, "I sell her to thee on these terms." Then said the young man, "Wilt thou trust me to bring thee the money to-morrow and let me take her with me, or shall she abide with thee till I pay down her price?" Whereto wine and shame and awe of the stranger led Yunus to reply, "I will trust thee; take her and Allah bless thee in her!" Whereupon the visitor bade one of his pages sit her before him on his beast, and mounting his own horse, farewelled of Yunus and rode away out of sight. Hardly had he left him, when the seller bethought himself and knew that he had erred in selling her and said to himself, "What have I done? I have delivered my slave-girl to a man with whom I am unacquainted, neither know I who he is; and grant that I were acquainted with him, how am I to get at him?" So he abode in thought till the morning, when he prayed the dawn-prayers and his companions entered Damascus, whilst he sat, perplexed and wotting not what to do, till the sun scorched him and it irked him to abide there. He thought to enter the city, but said in his mind, "If I enter Damascus, I cannot be sure but that the messenger will come and find me not, in which case I shall have sinned against myself a second sin." Accordingly he sat down in the shade of a wall that was there, and towards the wane of day, up came one of the eunuchs whom he had seen with the young man, whereat great joy possessed Yunus and he said in himself, "I know not that aught hath ever given me more delight than the sight of this castrato." When the eunuch reached him, he said to him, "O my lord, we have kept thee long waiting"; but Yunus disclosed nothing to him of the torments of anxiety he had suffered. Then quoth the castrato, "Knowest thou the man who bought the girl of thee?"; and quoth Yunus, "No," to which the other rejoined, "'Twas Walid bin Sahl, [FN#112] the Heir Apparent." And Yunus was silent. Then said the eunuch, "Ride," and made him mount a horse he had with him and they rode till they came to a mansion, where they dismounted and entered. Here Yunus found the damsel, who sprang up at his sight and saluted him. He asked her how she had fared with him who had bought her and she answered, "He lodged me in this apartment and ordered me all I needed." Then he sat with her awhile, till suddenly one of the servants of the houseowner came in and bade him rise and follow him. So he followed the man into the presence of his master and found him yesternight's guest, whom he saw seated on his couch and who said to him, "Who art thou?" "I am Yunus the Scribe." "Welcome to thee, O Yunus! by Allah, I have long wished to look on thee; for I have heard of thy report. How didst thou pass the night?" "Well, may Almighty Allah advance thee!" "Peradventure thou repentedest thee of that thou didst yesterday and saidst to thyself: I have delivered my slave-girl to a man with who I am not acquainted, neither know I his name nor whence he cometh?" "Allah forbid, O Emir, that I should repent over her! Had I made gift of her to the Prince, she were the least of the gifts that are given unto him,"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Six Hundred and Eighty-fifth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Yunus the Scribe said to Walid, "Allah forbid I should repent over her! Had I made gift of her to the Prince, she were the least of gifts that are given to him, nor indeed is she worthy of his rank," Walid rejoined, "By Allah, but I repented me of having carried her away from thee and said to myself, 'This man is a stranger and knoweth me not, and I have taken him by surprise and acted inconsiderately by him, in my haste to take the damsel!' Dost thou recall what passed between us?" Quoth Yunus, "Yes!" and quoth Walid, "Dost thou sell this damsel to me for fifty thousand dirhams?" And Yunus said, "I do." Then the Prince called to one of his servants to bring him fifty thousand dirhams and a thousand and five hundred dinars to boot, and gave them all to Yunus, saying, "Take the slave's price: the thousand dinars are for thy fair opinion of us and the five hundred are for thy viaticum and for what present thou shalt buy for thy people. Art thou content?" "I am content," answered Yunus and kissed his hands, saying, "By Allah, thou hast filled my eyes and my hands and my heart!" Quoth Walid, "By Allah, I have as yet had no privacy of her nor have I taken my fill of her singing. Bring her to me!" So she came and he bade her sit, then said to her, "Sing." And she sang these verses,

"O thou who dost comprise all Beauty's boons! * O sweet of nature, fain of coquetry!
In Turks and Arabs many beauties dwell; * But, O my fawn, in none thy charms I see.
Turn to thy lover, O my fair, and keep * Thy word, though but in visioned phantasy:
Shame and disgrace are lawful for thy sake * And wakeful nights full fill with joy and glee:
I'm not the first for thee who fared distraught; * Slain by thy love how many a many be!
I am content with thee for worldly share * Dearer than life and good art thou to me!"

When he heard this, he was delighted exceedingly and praised Yunus for his excellent teaching of her and her fair education. Then he bade his servants bring him a roadster with saddle and housings for his riding, and a mule to carry his gear, and said to him, "O Yunus, when it shall reach thee that command hath come to me, do thou join me; and, by Allah, I will fill thy hands with good and advance thee to honour and make thee rich as long as thou livest!" So Yunus said, "I took his goods and went my ways; and when Walid succeeded to the Caliphate, I repaired to him; and by Allah, he kept his promise and entreated me with high honour and munificence. Then I abode with him in all content of case and rise of rank and mine affairs prospered and my wealth increased and goods and farms became mine, such as sufficed me and will suffice my heirs after me; nor did I cease to abide with Walid, till he was slain, the mercy of Almighty Allah be on him!" And men tell a tale concerning