ISHAK OF MOSUL AND HIS MISTRESS AND THE DEVIL. [FN#168]



Quoth Ishak bin Ibrahim al-Mausili: I was in my house one night in the winter time, when the clouds had dispread themselves and the rains poured down in torrents, as from the mouths of water skins, and the folk forbore to come and go about the ways for that which was therein of rain and slough. Now I was straitened in breast because none of my brethren came to me nor could I go to them, by reason of the mud and mire; so I said to my servant, "Bring me wherewithal I may divert myself." Accordingly he brought me meat and drink, but I had no heart to eat, without some one to keep me company, and I ceased not to look out of window and watch the ways till nightfall, when I bethought myself of a damsel belonging to one of the sons of Al-Mahdi, [FN#169] whom I loved and who was skilled in singing and playing upon instruments of music, and said to myself, "Were she here with us to night, my joy would be complete and my night would be abridged of the melancholy and restlessness which are upon me." At this moment one knocked at the door, saying, "Shall a beloved enter in who standeth at the door?" Quoth I to myself, "Meseems the plant of my desire hath fruited." So I went to the door and found my mistress, with a long green skirt [FN#170] wrapped about her and a kerchief of brocade on her head, to fend her from the rain. She was covered with mud to her knees and all that was upon her was drenched with water from gargoyles [FN#171] and house spouts; in short, she was in sorry plight. So I said to her, "O my mistress, what bringeth thee hither through all this mud?" Replied she, "Thy messenger came and set forth to me that which was with thee of love and longing, so that I could not choose but yield and hasten to thee." I marvelled at this And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Six Hundred and Ninety-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the damsel came and knocked at Ishak's door, he went forth to her and cried, 'O my lady, what bringeth thee hither through all this mud?"; and she replied, "Thy messenger came and set forth to me that which was with thee of love and longing, so that I could not choose but yield and hasten to thee." I marvelled at this, but did not like to tell her that I had sent no messenger; wherefore I said, "Praised be Allah for that He hath brought us together, after all I have suffered by the mortification of patience! Verily, hadst thou delayed an hour longer, I must have run to thee, because of my much love for thee and longing for thy presence." Then I called to my boy for water, that I might better her plight, and he brought a kettle full of hot water such as she wanted. I bade pour it over her feet, whilst I set to work to wash them myself; after which I called for one of my richest dresses and clad her therein after she had doffed the muddy clothes. Then, as soon as we were comfortably seated, I would have called for food, but she refused and I said to her, "Art thou for wine?"; and she replied, "Yes." So I fetched cups and she asked me, "Who shall sing?" "I, O my princess!" "I care not for that;" "One of my damsels?" "I have no mind to that either!" "Then sing thyself." "Not I!" "Who then shall sing for thee?" I enquired, and she rejoined, "Go out and seek some one to sing for me." So I went out, in obedience to her, though I despaired of finding any one in such weather and fared on till I came to the main street, where I suddenly saw a blind man striking the earth with his staff and saying, "May Allah not requite with weal those with whom I was! When I sang, they listened not, and when I was silent, they made light of me." So I said to him, "Art thou a singer?" and he replied, "Yes." Quoth I, "Wilt thou finish thy night with us and cheer us with thy company?"; and quoth he, "If it be thy will, take my hand." So I took his hand and, leading him to my house, said to the damsel, "O my mistress, I have brought a blind singer, with whom we may take our pleasure and he will not see us." She said, "Bring him to me." So I brought him in and invited him to eat. He ate but a very little and washed his hands, after which I brought him wine and he drank three cupsful. Then he said to me, "Who art thou?"; and I replied, "I am Ishak bin Ibrahim al-Mausili." Quoth he, "I have heard of thee and now I rejoice in thy company;" and I, "O my lord, I am glad in thy gladness." He said, "O Ishak, sing to me." So I took the lute by way of jest, and cried, "I hear and I obey." When I had made an end of my song, he said to me, "O Ishak, thou comest nigh to be a singer!" His words belittled me in mine own eyes and I threw the lute from my hand, whereupon he said, "Hast thou not with thee some one who is skilled in singing?" Quoth I, "I have a damsel with me;" and quoth he "Bid her sing." I asked him, "Wilt thou sing, when thou hast had enough of her singing?"; and he answered "Yes." So she sang and he said, "Nay, thou hast shown no art." Whereupon she flung the lute from her hand in wrath and cried, "We have done our best: if thou have aught, favour us with it by way of an alms." Quoth he, "Bring me a lute hand hath not touched." So I bade the servant bring him a new lute and he tuned it and preluding in a mode I knew not began to sing, improvising these couplets,

"Clove through the shades and came to me in night so dark and sore * The lover weeting of herself 'twas trysting tide once more:
Naught startled us but her salaam and first of words she said * 'May a beloved enter in who standeth at the door!'"

When the girl heard this, she looked at me askance and said, "What secret was between us could not thy breast hold for one hour, but thou must discover it to this man?" However, I swore to her that I had not told him and excused myself to her and fell to kissing her hands and tickling her breasts and biting her cheeks, till she laughed and, turning to the blind man, said to him, "Sing, O my lord!" So he took the lute and sang these two couplets,

"Ah, often have I sought the fair; how often fief and fain * My palming felt the finger ends that bear the varied stain!
And tickled pouting breasts that stand firm as pomegranates twain * And bit the apple of her cheek kissed o'er and o'er again."

So I said to her, "O my princess, who can have told him what we were about?" Replied she, "True," and we moved away from him. Presently quoth he, "I must make water;" and quoth I, "O boy, take the candle and go before him." Then he went out and tarried a long while. So we went in search of him, but could not find him; and behold, the doors were locked and the keys in the closet, and we knew not whether to heaven he had flown or into earth had sunk. Wherefore I knew that he was Iblis and that he had done me pimp's duty, and I returned, recalling to my self the words of Abu Nowas in these couplets,

"I marvel in Iblis such pride to see * Beside his low intent and villainy:
He sinned to Adam who to bow refused, * Yet pimps for all of Adam's progeny,"

And they tell a tale concerning