THE LOVERS OF AL-MEDINAH.



Quoth Ibrahim the father of Ishak, [FN#172] I was ever a devoted friend to the Barmecide family. And it so happened to me one day, as I sat at home quite alone, a knock was heard at the door; so my servant went out and returned, saying, "A comely youth is at the door, asking admission." I bade admit him and there came in to me a young man, on whom were signs of sickness, and he said, "I have long wished to meet thee, for I have need of thine aid." "What is it thou requirest?" asked I. Whereupon he pulled out three hundred dinars and laying them before me, said, "I beseech thee to accept these and compose me an air to two couplets I have made." Said I, "Repeat them to me;"-- and Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

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

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the youth came in to Ibrahim and placed the gold in his hands, saying, "Prithee accept it and compose me an air to two couplets," he replied, "Recite them to me," whereupon he recited,

"By Allah, glance of mine! thou hast opprest * My heart, so quench the fire that burns my breast
Blames me the world because in him [FN#173] * I live Yet cannot see him till in shroud I rest.”

Accordingly, quoth Ibrahim, I set the verses to an air plaintive as a dirge and sang it to him; whereupon he swooned away and I thought that he was dead. However, after a while, he came to himself, and said to me, "Repeat the air." But I conjured him by Allah to excuse me, saying, "I fear lest thou die." "Would Heaven it were so!" replied he and ceased not humbly to importune me, till I had pity on him and repeated it; whereupon he cried out with a grievous cry and fell into a fit worse than before and I doubted not but that he was dead; but I sprinkled rose water on him till he revived and sat up. I praised Allah for his recovery and laying the ducats before him, said, "Take thy money and depart from me." Quoth he, "I have no need of the money and thou shalt have the like of it, if thou wilt repeat the air." My breast broadened at the mention of the money and I said, "I will repeat it, but on three conditions: the first, that thou tarry with me and eat of my victual, till thou regain strength; the second, that thou drink wine enough to hearten thy heart, and the third, that thou tell me thy tale." He agreed to this and ate and drank; after which he said, "I am of the citizens of Al-Medinah and I went forth one day a pleasuring with my friends; and, following the road to Al-Akík, [FN#174] saw a company of girls and amongst them a damsel as she were a branch pearled with dew with eyes whose sidelong glances were never withdrawn till they had stolen away his soul who looked on them. The maidens rested in the shade till the end of the day, when they went away leaving in my heart wounds slow to heal. I returned next morning to scent out news of her, but found none who could tell me of her; so I sought her in the streets and markets, but could come on no trace of her; wherefore I fell ill of grief and told my case to one of my kinsmen, who said to me, 'No harm shall befall thee: the days of spring are not yet past and the skies show sign of rain, [FN#175] whereupon she will go forth, and I will go out with thee, and do thou thy will.' His words comforted my heart and I waited till al-Akik ran with water, when I went forthwith my friends and kinsmen and sat in the very same place where I first saw her. We had not been seated long before up came the women, like horses running for a wager; and I whispered to a girl of my kindred, 'Say to yonder damse-- ‘Quoth this man to thee, He did well who spoke this couplet,

'She shot my heart with shaft, then turned on heel * And flying dealt fresh wound and scarring wheel.'

So she went to her and repeated my words, to which she replied saying, 'Tell him that he said well who answered in this couplet,

'The like of whatso feelest thou we feel; * Patience! perchance swift cure our hearts shall heal.'

I refrained from further speech for fear of scandal and rose to go away. She rose at my rising, and I followed and she looked back at me, till she saw I had noted her abode. Then she began to come to me and I to go to her, so that we foregathered and met often, till the case was noised abroad and grew notorious and her sire came to know of it. However I ceased not to meet her most assiduously and complained of my condition to my father, who assembled our kindred and repaired to ask her in marriage for me, of her sire, who cried, 'Had this been proposed to me before he gave her a bad name by his assignations, I would have consented; but now the thing is notorious and I am loath to verify the saying of the folk.' " Then (continued Ibrahim) I repeated the air to him and he went away, after having acquainted me with his abode, and we became friends. Now I was devoted to the Barmecides; so next time Ja'afar bin Yahya sat to give audience, I attended, as was my wont, and sang to him the young man's verses. They pleased him and he drank some cups of wine and said, "Fie upon thee whose song is this?" So I told him the young man's tale and he bade me ride over to him and give him assurances of the winning of his wish. Accordingly I fetched him to Ja'afar who asked him to repeat his story. He did so and Ja'afar said, "Thou art now under my protection: trust me to marry thee to her." So his heart was comforted and he abode with us. When the morning morrowed Ja'afar mounted and went in to Al-Rashid, to whom he related the story. The Caliph was pleased with it and sending for the young man and myself, commanded me to repeat the air and drank thereto. Then he wrote to the Governor of Al-Hijaz, bidding him despatch the girl's father and his household in honour able fashion to his presence and spare no expense for their outfit. So, in a little while, they came and the Caliph, sending for the man, commanded him to marry his daughter to her lover; after which he gave him an hundred thousand dinars, and the father went back to his folk. As for the young man, he abode one of Ja'afar's cup companions till there happened what happened [FN#176] whereupon he returned with his household to al-Medinah; may Almighty Allah have mercy upon their souls one and all! And they also tell, O auspicious King, a tale of