There was once in the city of Shíráz a mighty King called Sayf al-A'azam Shah, who had grown old, without being blessed with a son. So he summoned the physicists and physicians and said to them, "I am now in years and ye know my case and the state of the kingdom and its ordinance; and I fear for my subjects after me; for that up to this present I have not been vouchsafed a son." Thereupon they replied, "We will compound thee a somewhat of drugs wherein shall be efficacy, if it please Almighty Allah!" So they mixed him drugs, which he used and knew his wife carnally, and she conceived by leave of the Most High Lord, who saith to a thing, "Be," and it becometh. When her months were accomplished, she gave birth to a male child like the moon, whom his father named Ardashir, [FN#262] and he grew up and throve and applied himself to the study of learning and letters, till he attained the age of fifteen. Now there was in Al-Irak a King called Abd al-Kádir who had a daughter, by name Hayát al-Nufús, and she was like the rising full moon, but she had an hatred for men and the folk very hardly dared name mankind in her presence. The Kings of the Chosroës had sought her in marriage of her sire; but, when he spoke with her thereof, she said, "Never will I do this; and if thou force me thereto, I will slay myself." Now Prince Ardashir heard of her fame and fell in love with her and told his father who, seeing his case, took pity on him and promised him day by day that he should marry her. So he despatched his Wazir to demand her in wedlock, but King Abd al-Kadir refused, and when the Minister returned to King Sayf al-A'azam and acquainted him with what had befallen his mission and the failure thereof, he was wroth with exceeding wrath and cried, "Shall the like of me send to one of the Kings on a requisition and he accomplish it not?" Then he bade a herald make proclamation to his troops, bidding them bring out the tents and equip them for war with all diligence, though they should borrow money for the necessary expenses; and he said, "I will on no wise turn back, till I have laid waste King Abd al-Kadir's dominions and slain his men and plundered his treasures and blotted out his traces!" When the report of this reached Ardashir he rose from his carpet-bed, and going in to his father, kissed ground [FN#263] between his hands and said, "O mighty King, trouble not thyself with aught of this thing"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twentieth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when report of this reached the Prince he went in to his sire the King and, kissing ground between his hands, said, "O mighty King, trouble not thy soul with aught of this thing and levy not thy champions and armies neither spend thy monies. Thou art stronger than he, and if thou loose upon him this thy host, thou wilt lay waste his cities and dominions and spoil his good and slay his strong men and himself; but when his daughter shall come to know what hath befallen her father and his people by reason of her, she will slay herself, and I shall die on her account; for I can never live after her; no, never." Asked the King, "And what then thinkest thou to do, O my son?" and the Prince answered, "I will don a merchant's habit and cast about how I may win to the Princess and compass my desire of her." Quoth Sayf al-A'azam, "Art thou determined upon this?"; and quoth the Prince, "Yes, O my sire;" whereupon the King called to his Wazir, and said to him, "Do thou journey with my son, the core of my heart, and help him to win his will and watch over him and guide him with thy sound judgment, for thou standest to him even in my stead." "I hear and obey," answered the Minister; and the King gave his son three hundred thousand dinars in gold and great store of jewels and precious stones and goldsmiths' ware and stuffs and other things of price. Then Prince Ardashir went in to his mother and kissed her hands and asked her blessing. She blessed him and, forthright opening her treasures, brought out to him necklaces and trinkets and apparel and all manner of other costly objects hoarded up from the time of the bygone Kings, whose price might not be evened with coin. Moreover, he took with him of his Mamelukes and negro-slaves and cattle all that he needed for the road and clad himself and the Wazir and their company in traders' gear. Then he farewelled his parents and kinsfolk and friends; and, setting out, fared on over wolds and wastes all hours of the day and watches of the night; and whenas the way was longsome upon him he improvised these couplets,
"My longing bred of love with mine unease for ever grows; * Nor against all the wrongs of time one succourer arose:
When Pleiads and the Fishes show in sky the rise I watch, * As worshipper within whose breast a pious burning glows:
For Star o' Morn I speer until at last when it is seen, * I'm madded with my passion and my fancy's woes and throes:
I swear by you that never from your love have I been loosed; * Naught am I save a watcher who of slumber nothing knows!
Though hard appear my hope to win, though languor aye increase, * And after thee my patience fails and ne'er a helper shows;
Yet will I wait till Allah shall be pleased to join our loves; * I'll mortify the jealous and I'll mock me of my foes."
When he ended his verse he swooned away and the Wazir sprinkled rose-water on him, till the Prince came to himself, when the Minister said to him, "O King's son, possess thy soul in patience; for the consequence of patience is consolation, and behold, thou art on the way to whatso thou wishest." And he ceased not to bespeak him fair and comfort him till his trouble subsided; and they continued their journey with all diligence. Presently, the Prince again became impatient of the length of the way and bethought him of his beloved and recited these couplets,
"Longsome is absence, restlessness increaseth and despite; * And burn my vitals in the blaze my love and longings light:
Grows my hair gray from pains and pangs which I am doomed bear * For pine, while tear-floods stream from eyes and sore offend my sight:
I swear, O Hope of me, O End of every wish and will, * By Him who made mankind and every branch with leafage dight,
A passion-load for thee, O my Desire, I must endure, * And boast I that to bear such load no lover hath the might.
Question the Night of me and Night thy soul shall satisfy * Mine eyelids never close in sleep throughout the livelong night."
Then he wept with sore weeping and 'plained of that he suffered for stress of love-longing; but the Wazir comforted him and spoke him fair, promising him the winning of his wish; after which they fared on again for a few days, when they drew near to the White City, the capital of King Abd al-Kadir, soon after sunrise. Then said the Minister to the Prince, "Rejoice, O King's son, in all good; for see, yonder is the White City, that which thou seekest." Whereat the Prince rejoiced with exceeding joy and recited these couplets,
"My friends, I yearn in heart distraught for him; * Longing abides and with sore pains I brim:
I mourn like childless mother, nor can find * One to console me when the light grows dim;
Yet when the breezes blow from off thy land, * I feel their freshness shed on heart and limb;
And rail mine eyes like water-laden clouds, * While in a tear-sea shed by heart I swim."
Now when they entered the White City they asked for the Merchants' Khan, a place of moneyed men; and when shown the hostelry they hired three magazines and on receiving the keys [FN#264] they laid up therein all their goods and gear. They abode in the Khan till they were rested, when the Wazir applied himself to devise a device for the Prince,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twenty-first Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Prince and the Minister alighted at the Khan and lodged their goods in the ground-floor magazines and there settled their servants. Then they tarried awhile till they had rested, when the Wazir arose and applied himself to devise a device for the Prince, and said to him, "I have bethought me of somewhat wherein, methinks, will be success for thee, so it please Almighty Allah." Quoth Ardashir, "O thou Wazir of good counsel, do what cometh to thy mind, and may the Lord direct thy rede aright!" Quoth the Minister, "I purpose to hire thee a shop in the market-street of the stuff-sellers and set thee therein; for that all, great and small, have recourse to the bazar and, meseems, when the folk see thee with their own eyes sitting in the shop their hearts will incline to thee and thou wilt thus be enabled to attain thy desire, for thou art fair of favour and souls incline to thee and sight rejoiceth in thee." The other replied, "Do what seemeth good to thee." So the Wazir forthright began to robe the Prince and himself in their richest raiment and, putting a purse of a thousand dinars in his breast-pocket, went forth and walked about the city, whilst all who looked upon them marvelled at the beauty of the King's son, saying, "Glory be to Him who created this youth 'of vile water [FN#265]'! Blessed be Allah excellentest of Creators!" Great was the talk anent him and some said, "This is no mortal, 'this is naught save a noble angel'"; [FN#266] and others, "Hath Rizwan, the door-keeper of the Eden-garden, left the gate of Paradise unguarded, that this youth hath come forth." The people followed them to the stuff- market, where they entered and stood, till there came up to them an old man of dignified presence and venerable appearance, who saluted them, and they returned his salam. Then the Shaykh said to them, "O my lords, have ye any need, that we may have the honour of accomplishing?"; and the Wazir asked him, "Who art thou, O elder?" He answered, "I am the Overseer of the market." Quoth the Wazir, "Know then, O Shaykh, that this youth is my son and I wish to hire him a shop in the bazar, that he may sit therein and learn to sell and buy and take and give, and come to ken merchants' ways and habits." "I hear and I obey," replied the Overseer and brought them without stay or delay the key of a shop, which he caused the brokers sweep and clean. And they did his bidding. Then the Wazir sent for a high mattress, stuffed with ostrich-down, and set it up in the shop, spreading upon it a small prayer-carpet, and a cushion fringed with broidery of red gold. Moreover he brought pillows and transported thither so much of the goods and stuffs that he had brought with him as filled the shop. Next morning the young Prince came and opening the shop, seated himself on the divan, and stationed two Mamelukes, clad in the richest of raiment before him and two black slaves of the goodliest of the Abyssinians in the lower part of the shop. The Wazir enjoined him to keep his secret from the folk, so thereby he might find aid in the winning of his wishes; then he left him and charging him to acquaint him with what befel him in the shop, day by day returned to the Khan. The Prince sat in the shop till night as he were the moon at its fullest, whilst the folk, hearing tell of his comeliness, flocked to the place, without errand, to gaze on his beauty and loveliness and symmetry and perfect grace and glorify the Almighty who created and shaped him, till none could pass through that bazar for the excessive crowding of the folk about him. The King's son turned right and left, abashed at the throng of people that stared at him, hoping to make acquaintance with some one about the court, of whom he might get news of the Princess; but he found no way to this, wherefore his breast was straitened. Meanwhile, the Wazir daily promised him the attainment of his desire and the case so continued for a time till, one morning, as the youth sat in the shop, there came up an old woman of respectable semblance and dignified presence clad in raiment of devotees [FN#267] and followed by two slave-girls like moons. She stopped before the shop and, having considered the Prince awhile, cried, "Glory be to God who fashioned that face and perfected that figure!" Then she saluted him and he returned her salam and seated her by his side. Quoth she, "Whence cometh thou, O fair of favour?"; and quoth he, "From the parts of Hind, O my mother; and I have come to this city to see the world and look about me." "Honour to thee for a visitor! What goods and stuffs hast thou? Show me something handsome, fit for Kings." "If thou wish for handsome stuffs, I will show them to thee; for I have wares that beseem persons of every condition." "O my son, I want somewhat costly of price and seemly to sight; brief, the best thou hast." "Thou must needs tell me for whom thou seekest it, that I may show thee goods according to the rank of the requiter." "Thou speakest sooth, O my son," said she. "I want somewhat for my mistress, Hayat al-Nufus, daughter of Abd al-Kadir, lord of this land and King of this country." Now when Ardashir heard his mistress's name, his reason flew for joy and his heart fluttered and he gave no order to slave or servant, but, putting his hand behind him, pulled out a purse of an hundred dinars and offered it to the old woman, saying, "This is for the washing of thy clothes." Then he again put forth his hand and brought out of a wrapper a dress worth ten thousand dinars or more and said to her, "This is of that which I have brought to your country." When the old woman saw it, it pleased her and she asked, "What is the price of this dress, O perfect in qualities?" Answered he, "I will take no price for it!" whereupon she thanked him and repeated her question; but he said, "By Allah, I will take no price for it. I make thee a present of it, an the Princess will not accept it and 'tis a guest-gift from me to thee. Alham- dolillah--Glory be to God--who hath brought us together, so that, if one day I have a want, I shall find in thee a helper to me in winning it!" She marvelled at the goodliness of his speech and the excess of his generosity and the perfection of his courtesy and said to him, "What is thy name, O my lord?" He replied, "My name is Ardashir;" and she cried, "By Allah this is a rare name! Therewith are Kings' sons named, and thou art in a guise of the sons of the merchants!" Quoth he, "Of the love my father bore me, he gave me this name, but a name signifieth naught;" and quoth she in wonder, "O my son, take the price of thy goods." But he swore that he would not take aught. Then the old lady said to him, "O my dear one, Truth (I would have thee know) is the greatest of all things and thou hadst not dealt thus generously by me but for a special reason: so tell me thy case and thy secret thought; belike thou hast some wish to whose winning I may help thee." Thereupon he laid his hand in hers and, after exacting an oath of secrecy, told her the whole story of his passion for the Princess and his condition by reason thereof. The old woman shook her head and said, "True; but O my son, the wise say, in the current adage, 'An thou wouldest be obeyed, abstain from ordering what may not be made'; and thou, my son, thy name is Merchant, and though thou hadst the keys of the Hidden Hoards, yet wouldst thou be called naught but Merchant. An thou wouldst rise to high rank, according to thy station, then seek the hand of a Kazi's daughter or even an Emir's; but why, O my son, aspirest thou to none but the daughter of the King of the age and the time, and she a clean maid, who knoweth nothing of the things of the world and hath never in her life seen anything but her palace wherein she dwelleth? Yet, for all her tender age, she is intelligent, shrewd, vivacious, penetrating, quick of wit, sharp of act and rare of rede: her father hath no other child and she is dearer to him than his life and soul. Every morning he cometh to her and giveth her good-morrow, and all who dwell in the palace stand in dread of her. Think not, O my son, that any dare bespeak her with aught of these words; nor is there any way for me thereto. By Allah, O my son, my heart and vitals love thee and were it in my power to give thee access to her, I would assuredly do it; but I will tell thee somewhat, wherein Allah may haply appoint the healing of thy heart, and will risk life and goods for thee, till I win thy will for thee." He asked, "And what is that, O my mother?" and she answered, "Seek of me the daughter of a Wazir or an Emir, and I will grant thy request; but it may not be that one should mount from earth to heaven at one bound." When the Prince heard this, he replied to her with courtesy and sense, "O my mother, thou art a woman of wit and knowest how things go. Say me doth a man, when his head irketh him, bind up his hand?" Quoth she, "No, by Allah, O my son"; and quoth he, "Even so my heart seeketh none but her and naught slayeth me but love of her. By Allah, I am a dead man, and I find not one to counsel me aright and succour me! Allah upon thee, O my mother, take pity on my strangerhood and the streaming of my tears!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twenty-second Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ardashir, the King's son said to the old woman, "Allah upon thee, O my mother, take pity on my strangerhood and the streaming of my tears." Replied she, "By Allah, O my son, thy words rend my heart, but my hand hath no cunning wherewith to help thee." Quoth he, "I beseech thee of thy favour, carry her a letter and kiss her hands for me." So she had compassion on him and said, "Write what thou wilt and I will bear it to her." When he heard this, he was ready to fly for joy and calling for ink-case and paper, wrote these couplets,
"O Hayát al-Núfus, be gen'rous, and incline * To one who loving thee for parting's doomed to pine.
I was in all delight, in gladsomest of life, * But now I am distraught with sufferings condign.
To wakefulness I cling through longsomeness of night * And with me sorrow chats [FN#268] through each sad eye of mine;
Pity a lover sad, a sore afflicted wretch, * Whose eyelids ever ulcered are with tearful brine;
And when the morning comes at last, the real morn, * He finds him drunken and distraught with passion's wine."
Then he folded the scroll and kissing it, gave it to the old woman; after which he put his hand to a chest and took out a second purse containing an hundred dinars, which he presented to her, saying, "Divide this among the slave-girls." She refused it and cried, "By Allah, O my son, I am not with thee for aught of this!"; however, he thanked her and answered, "There is no help but that thou accept of it." So she took it and kissing his hands, returned home; and going in to the Princess, cried, "O my lady, I have brought thee somewhat the like whereof is not with the people of our city, and it cometh from a handsome young man, than whom there is not a goodlier on earth's face!" She asked "O my nurse, and whence cometh the youth?" and the old woman answered, "From the parts of Hind; and he hath given me this dress of gold brocade, embroidered with pearls and gems and worth the Kingdom of Chosroes and Caesar." Thereupon she opened the dress and the whole palace was illuminated by its brightness, because of the beauty of its fashion and the wealth of unions and jewels wherewith it was broidered, and all who were present marvelled at it. The Princess examined it and, judging it to be worth no less than a whole year's revenue of her father's kingdom, said to the old woman, "O my nurse, cometh this dress from him or from another?" [FN#269] Replied she, "From him;" and Hayat al-Nufus asked, "Is this trader of our town or a stranger?" The old woman answered, "He is a foreigner, O my lady, newly come hither; and by Allah he hath servants and slaves; and he is fair of face, symmetrical of form, well mannered, open-handed and open-hearted, never saw I a goodlier than he, save thyself." The King's daughter rejoined, "Indeed this is an extraordinary thing, that a dress like this, which money cannot buy, should be in the hands of a merchant! What price did he set on it, O my nurse?" Quoth she, "By Allah, he would set no price on it, but gave me back the money thou sentest by me and swore that he would take naught thereof, saying, ''Tis a gift from me to the King's daughter; for it beseemeth none but her; and if she will not accept it, I make thee a present of it.'" Cried the Princess, "By Allah, this is indeed marvellous generosity and wondrous munificence! But I fear the issue of his affair, lest haply [FN#270] he be brought to necessity. Why didst thou not ask him, O my nurse, if he had any desire, that we might fulfil it for him?" The nurse replied, "O my lady, I did ask him, and he said to me, 'I have indeed a desire'; but he would not tell me what it was. However, he gave me this letter and said, 'Carry it to the Princess.'" So Hayat al-Nufus took the letter and opened and read it to the end; whereupon she was sore chafed; and lost temper and changing colour for anger she cried out to the old woman, saying, "Woe to thee, O nurse! What is the name of this dog who durst write this language to a King's daughter? What affinity is there between me and this hound that he should address me thus? By Almighty Allah, Lord of the well Zemzem and of the Hatim Wall, [FN#271] but that I fear the Omnipotent, the Most High, I would send and bind the cur's hands behind him and slit his nostrils, and shear off his nose and ears and after, by way of example, crucify him on the gate of the bazar wherein is his booth!" When the old woman heard these words, she waxed yellow; her side-muscles [FN#272] quivered and her tongue clave to her mouth; but she heartened her heart and said, "Softly, O my lady! What is there in his letter to trouble thee thus? Is it aught but a memorial containing his complaint to thee of poverty or oppression, from which he hopeth to be relieved by thy favour?" Replied she, "No, by Allah, O my nurse, 'tis naught of this; but verses and shameful words! However, O my nurse, this dog must be in one of three cases: either he is Jinn-mad, and hath no wit, or he seeketh his own slaughter, or else he is assisted to his wish of me by some one of exceeding puissance and a mighty Sultan. Or hath he heard that I am one of the baggages of the city, who lie a night or two with whosoever seeketh them, that he writeth me immodest verses to debauch my reason by talking of such matters?" Rejoined the old woman, "By Allah, O my lady, thou sayst sooth! But reck not thou of yonder ignorant hound, for thou art seated in thy lofty, firm-builded and unapproachable palace, to which the very birds cannot soar neither the wind pass over it, and as for him, he is clean distraught. Wherefore do thou write him a letter and chide him angrily and spare him no manner of reproof, but threaten him with dreadful threats and menace him with death and say to him, 'Whence hast thou knowledge of me, that thou durst write me, O dog of a merchant, O thou who trudgest far and wide all thy days in wilds and wolds for the sake of gaining a dirham or a dinar? By Allah, except thou awake from thy sleep and put off thine intoxication, I will assuredly crucify thee on the gate of the market-street wherein is thy shop!'" Quoth the Princess, "I fear lest he presume, if I write to him"; and quoth the nurse, "And pray what is he and what is his rank that he should presume to us? Indeed, we write him but to the intent that his presumption may be cut off and his fear magnified." And she ceased not craftily to persuade her, till she called for ink-case and paper and wrote him these couplets,
"O thou who claimest to be prey of love and ecstasy; * Thou, who for passion spendest nights in grief and saddest gree:
Say, dost thou (haughty one!) desire enjoyment of the moon? * Did man e'er sue the moon for grace whate'er his lunacy?
I verily will counsel thee with rede the best to hear: * Cut short this course ere come thou nigh sore risk, nay death, to dree!
If thou to this request return, surely on thee shall fall * Sore punishment, for vile offence a grievous penalty.
Be reasonable then, be wise, hark back unto thy wits; * Behold, in very truth I speak with best advice to thee:
By Him who did all things that be create from nothingness; * Who dressed the face of heaven with stars in brightest radiancy:
If in the like of this thy speech thou dare to sin again! * I'll surely have thee crucified upon a trunk of tree."
Then she rolled up the letter and gave it to the old woman who took it and, repairing to Ardashir's shop, delivered it to him, --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twenty-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the old woman took that letter from Hayat al-Nufus she fared forth till she found the youth who was sitting in his shop and gave it to him, saying, "Read thine answer and know that when she perused thy paper she was wroth with exceeding wrath; but I soothed her and spake her fair, till she consented to write thee a reply." He took the letter joyfully but, when he had read it and understood its drift, he wept sore, whereat the old woman's heart ached and she cried, "O my son, Allah never cause thine eyes to weep nor thy heart to mourn! What can be more gracious than that she should answer thy letter when thou hast done what thou diddest?" He replied, "O my mother what shall I do for a subtle device? Behold, she writeth to me, threatening me with death and crucifixion and forbidding me from writing to her; and I, by Allah, see my death to be better than my life; but I beg thee of thy grace [FN#273] to carry her another letter from me." She said, "Write and I warrant I'll bring thee an answer. By Allah, I will assuredly venture my life to win for thee thy wish, though I die to pleasure thee!" He thanked her and kissing her hands, wrote these verses,
"Do you threaten me wi' death for my loving you so well? * When Death to me were rest and all dying is by Fate?
And man's death is but a boon, when so longsome to him grows * His life, and rejected he lives in lonest state:
Then visit ye a lover who hath ne'er a soul to aid; * For on pious works of men Heaven's blessing shall await.
But an ye be resolved on this deed then up and on; * I'm in bonds to you, a bondsman confined within your gate:
What path have I whose patience without you is no more? * How is this, when a lover's heart in stress of love is strait?
O my lady show me ruth, who by passion am misused; * For all who love the noble stand for evermore excused."
He then folded the scroll and gave it to the old woman, together with two purses of two hundred dinars, which she would have refused, but he conjured her by oath to accept of them. So she took them both and said, "Needs must I bring thee to thy desire, despite the noses of thy foes." Then she repaired to the palace and gave the letter to Hayat al-Nufus who said, "What is this, O my nurse? Here are we in a correspondence and thou coming and going! Indeed, I fear lest the matter get wind and we be disgraced." Rejoined the old woman, "How so, O my lady? Who dare speak such word?" So she took the letter and after reading and understanding it she smote hand on hand, saying "Verily, this is a calamity which is fallen upon us, and I know not whence this young man came to us!" Quoth the old woman, "O my lady, Allah upon thee, write him another letter; but be rough with him this time and say to him, 'An thou write me another word after this, I will have thy head struck off.'" Quoth the Princess, "O my nurse, I am assured that the matter will not end on such wise; 'twere better to break off this exchange of letters; and, except the puppy take warning by my previous threats, I will strike off his head." The old woman said, "Then write him a letter and give him to know this condition." So Hayat al-Nufus called for pen-case and paper and wrote these couplets,
'Ho, thou heedless of Time and his sore despight! * Ho, thou heart whom hopes of my favours excite!
Think O pride-full! would'st win for thyself the skies? * Would'st attain to the moon shining clear and bright?
I will burn thee with fire that shall ne'er be quenched, * Or will slay thee with scymitar's sharpest bite!
Leave it, friend, and 'scape the tormenting pains, * Such as turn hair- partings [FN#274] from black to white.
Take my warning and fly from the road of love; * Draw thee back from a course nor seemly nor right!"
Then she folded the scroll and gave it to the old woman, who was puzzled and perplexed by the matter. She carried it to Ardashir, and the Prince read the letter and bowed his head to the earth, making as if he wrote with his finger and speaking not a word. Quoth the old woman, "How is it I see thee silent stay and not say thy say?"; and quoth he, "O my mother, what shall I say, seeing that she doth but threaten me and redoubleth in hard- heartedness and aversion?" Rejoined the nurse, "Write her a letter of what thou wilt: I will protect thee; nor let thy heart be cast down, for needs must I bring you twain together." He thanked her for her kindness and kissing her hand, wrote these couplets,
"A heart, by Allah! never soft to lover-wight, * Who sighs for union only with his friends, his sprite!
Who with tear-ulcered eyelids evermore must bide, * When falleth upon earth first darkness of the night:
Be just, be gen'rous, lend thy ruth and deign give alms * To love-molested lover, parted, forced to flight!
He spends the length of longsome night without a doze; * Fire-brent and drent in tear-flood flowing infinite:
Ah; cut not off the longing of my fondest heart * Now disappointed, wasted, flutt'ring for its blight."
Then he folded the scroll and gave it to the old woman, together with three hundred dinars, saying, "This is for the washing of thy hands." She thanked him and kissed his hands, after which she returned to the palace and gave the letter to the Princess, who took it and read it and throwing it from her fingers, sprang to her feet. Then she walked, shod as she was with pattens of gold, set with pearls and jewels, till she came to her sire's palace, whilst the vein of anger started out between her eyes, and none dared ask her of her case. When she reached the palace, she enquired for the King, and the slave-girls and concubines replied to her, "O my lady, he is gone forth a-hunting and sporting." So she returned, as she were a rending lioness, and bespake none for the space of three hours, when her brow cleared and her wrath cooled. As soon as the old woman saw that her irk and anger were past, she went up to her and, kissing ground between her hands, asked her, "O my lady, whither went those noble steps?" The Princess answered, "To the palace of the King my sire." "And could no one do thine errand?" enquired the nurse. Replied the Princess, "No, for I went to acquaint him of that which hath befallen me with yonder cur of a merchant, so he might lay hands on him and on all the merchants of his bazar and crucify them over their shops nor suffer a single foreign merchant to tarry in our town." Quoth the old woman, "And was this thine only reason, O my lady, for going to thy sire?"; and quoth Hayat al-Nufus, "Yes, but I found him absent a-hunting and sporting and now I await his return." Cried the old nurse, "I take refuge with Allah, the All hearing, the All knowing! Praised be He! O my lady, thou art the most sensible of women and how couldst thou think of telling the King these fond words, which it behoveth none to publish?" Asked the Princess, "And why so?" and the nurse answered, "Suppose thou had found the King in his palace and told him all this tale and he had sent after the merchants and commanded to hang them over their shops, the folk would have seen them hanging and asked the reason and it would have been answered them, 'They sought to seduce the King's daughter.'" --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twenty-fourth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old woman said to the Princess, "Suppose thou had told this to the King and he had ordered the merchants to be hanged, would not folk have seen them and have asked the cause of the execution when the answer would have been, 'They sought to seduce the King's daughter?' Then would they have dispread divers reports concerning thee, some saying, 'She abode with them ten days, away from her palace, till they had taken their fill of her'; and other some in otherguise: for woman's honour, O my lady, is like ourded milk, the least dust fouleth it; and like glass, which, if it be cracked, may not be mended. So beware of telling thy sire or any other of this matter, lest thy fair fame be smirched, O mistress mine, for 'twill never profit thee to tell folk aught; no, never! Weigh what I say with thy keen wit, and if thou find it not just, do whatso thou wilt." The Princess pondered her words, and seeing them to be altogether profitable and right, said, "Thou speaketh sooth, O my nurse; but anger had blinded my judgment." Quoth the old woman, "Thy resolve to tell no one is pleasing to the Almighty; but something remaineth to be done: we must not let the shamelessness of yonder vile dog of a merchant pass without notice. Write him a letter and say to him 'O vilest of traders, but that I found the King my father absent, I had straightway commanded to hang thee and all thy neighbours. But thou shalt gain nothing by this; for I swear to thee, by Allah the Most High, that an thou return to the like of this talk, I will blot out the trace of thee from the face of earth!' And deal thou roughly with him in words, so shalt thou discourage him in this attempt and arouse him from his heedlessness." "And will these words cause him to abstain from his offending?" asked the Princess; and the old woman answered, "How should he not abstain? Besides, I will talk with him and tell him what hath passed." So the Princess called for ink-case and paper and wrote these couplets,
"To win our favours still thy hopes are bent; * And still to win thy will art confident!
Naught save his pride-full aim shall slay a man; * And he by us shall die of his intent
Thou art no lord of might, no chief of men, * Nabob or Prince or Soldan Heaven-sent;
And were this deed of one who is our peer, * He had returned with hair for fear white-sprent:
Yet will I deign once more excuse thy sin * So from this time thou prove thee penitent."
Then she gave the missive to the old woman, saying, "O my nurse, do thou admonish this puppy lest I be forced to cut off his head and sin on his account." Replied the old woman, "By Allah, O my lady, I will not leave him a side to turn on!" Then she returned to the youth and, when salams had been exchanged, she gave him the letter. He read it and shook his head, saying, "Verily, we are Allah's and unto him shall we return!" adding, "O my mother, what shall I do? My fortitude faileth me and my patience palleth upon me!" She replied, "O my son, be long- suffering: peradventure, after this Allah shall bring somewhat to pass. Write that which is in thy mind and I will fetch thee an answer, and be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear; for needs must I bring about union between thee and her,-- Inshallah!" He blessed her and wrote to the Princess a note containing these couplets,
"Since none will lend my love a helping hand, * And I by passion's bale in death low-lain,
I bear a flaming fire within my heart * By day and night nor place of rest attain,
How cease to hope in thee, my wishes' term? * Or with my longings to be glad and fain?
The Lord of highmost Heaven to grant my prayer * Pray I, whom love of lady fair hath slain;
And as I'm clean o'erthrown by love and fear, * To grant me speedy union deign, oh deign!"
Then he folded the scroll and gave it to the old woman, bringing out at the same time a purse of four hundred dinars. She took the whole and returning to the palace sought the Princess to whom she gave the letter; but the King's daughter refused to take it and cried, "What is this?" Replied the old woman, "O my lady, this is only the answer to the letter thou sentest to that merchant dog." Quoth Hayat al-Nufus, "Didst thou forbid him as I told thee?"; and quoth she, "Yes, and this is his reply." So the Princess took the letter and read it to the end; then she turned to the old woman and exclaimed, "Where is the result of thy promise?" "O my lady, saith he not in his letter that he repenteth and will not again offend, excusing himself for the past?" "Not so, by Allah!: on the contrary, he increaseth." "O my lady, write him a letter and thou shalt presently see what I will do with him." "There needeth nor letter nor answer." "I must have a letter that I may rebuke him roughly and cut off his hopes." "Thou canst do that without a letter." "I cannot do it without the letter." So Hayat al-Nufus called for pen-case and paper and wrote these verses,
"Long have I chid thee but my chiding hindereth thee not * How often would my verse with writ o' hand ensnare thee, ah!
Then keep thy passion hidden deep and ever unrevealed, * And if thou dare gainsay me Earth shall no more bear thee, ah!
And if, despite my warning, thou dost to such words return, * Death's Messenger [FN#275] shall go his rounds and dead declare thee, ah!
Soon shall the wold's fierce chilling blast o'erblow that corse o' thine; * And birds o' the wild with ravening bills and beaks shall tear thee, ah!
Return to righteous course; perchance that same will profit thee; * If bent on wilful aims and lewd I fain forswear thee, ah!"
When she had made an end of her writing this, she cast the writ from her hand in wrath, and the old woman picked it up and went with it to Ardashir. When he read it to the last he knew that she had not softened to him, but only redoubled in rage against him and that he would never win to meet her, so he bethought himself to write her an answer invoking Allah's help against her. Thereupon he indited these couplets,
"O Lord, by the Five Shaykhs, I pray deliver me * From love, which gars me bear such grief and misery.
Thou knowest what I bear for passion's fiery flame; * What stress of sickness for that merciless maid I dree.
She hath no pity on the pangs to me decreed; * How long on weakly wight shall last her tyranny?
I am distraught for her with passing agonies * And find no friend, O folk! to hear my plaint and plea.
How long, when Night hath drooped her pinions o'er the world, * Shall I lament in public as in privacy?
For love of you I cannot find forgetfulness; * And how forget when Patience taketh wings to flee?
O thou wild parting-bird [FN#276] say is she safe and sure * From shift and change of time and the world's cruelty?"
Then he folded the scroll and gave it to the old woman, adding a purse of five hundred dinars; and she took it and carried it to the Princess, who read it to the end and learned its purport. Then, casting it from her hand, she cried, "Tell me O wicked old woman, the cause of all that hath befallen me from thee and from thy cunning and thine advocacy of him, so that thou hast made me write letter after letter and thou ceasest not to carry messages, going and coming between us twain, till thou hast brought about a correspondence and a connection. Thou leavest not to say, 'I will ensure thee against his mischief and cut off from thee his speech'; but thou speakest not thus save only to the intent that I may continue to write thee letters and thou to fetch and carry between us, evening and morning, till thou ruin my repute. Woe to thee! Ho, eunuchs, seize her!" Then Hayat al-Nufus commanded them to beat her, and they lashed her till her whole body flowed with blood and she fainted away, whereupon the King's daughter caused her slave-women to drag her forth by the feet and cast her without the palace and bade one of them stand by her head till she recovered, and say to her, "The Princess hath sworn an oath that thou shalt never return to and re-enter this palace; and she hath commanded to slay thee without mercy an thou dare return hither." So, when she came to herself, the damsel told her what the King's daughter said and she answered, "Hearkening and obedience." Presently the slave-girls fetched a basket and a porter whom they caused carry her to her own house; and they sent after her a physician, bidding him tend her assiduously till she recovered. He did what he was told to do and as soon as she was whole she mounted and rode to the shop of Ardashir who was concerned with sore concern for her absence and was longing for news of her. As soon as he saw her, he sprang up and coming to meet her, saluted her; then he noticed that she was weak and ailing; so he questioned her of her case and she told him all that had befallen her from her nursling. When he heard this, he found it grievous and smote hand upon hand, saying, "By Allah, O my mother, this that hath betided thee straiteneth my heart! But, what, O my mother, is the reason of the Princess's hatred to men?" Replied the old woman, "Thou must know O my son, that she hath a beautiful garden, than which there is naught goodlier on earth's face and it chanced that she lay there one night. In the joyance of sleep, she dreamt a dream and 'twas this, that she went down into the garden, where she saw a fowler set up his net and strew corn thereabout, after which he withdrew and sat down afar off to await what game should fall into it. Ere an hour had passed the birds flocked to pick up the corn and a male pigeon [FN#277] fell into the net and struggled in it, whereat all the others took fright and fled from him. His mate was amongst them, but she returned to him after the shortest delay; and, coming up to the net, sought out the mesh wherein his foot was entangled and ceased not to peck at it with her bill, till she severed it and released her husband, with whom she flew away. All this while, the fowler sat dozing, and when he awoke, he looked at the net and found it spoilt. So he mended it and strewed fresh grain, then withdrew to a distance and sat down to watch it again. The birds soon returned and began to pick up the corn, and among the rest the pair of pigeons. Presently, the she-pigeon fell into the net and struggled to get free; whereupon all the other birds flew away, and her mate, whom she had saved, fled with the rest and did not return to her. Meantime, sleep had again overcome the fowler; and, when he awoke after long slumbering, he saw the she-pigeon caught in the net; so he went up to her and freeing her feet from the meshes, cut her throat. The Princess startled by the dream awoke troubled, and said, 'Thus do men with women, for women have pity on men and throw away their lives for them, when they are in difficulties; but if the Lord decree against a woman and she fall into calamity, her mate deserteth her and rescueth her not, and wasted is that which she did with him of kindness. Allah curse her who putteth her trust in men, for they ill requite the fair offices which women do them!' And from that day she conceived an hatred to men." Said the King's son, "O my mother, doth she never go out into the highways?"; and the old woman replied, "Nay, O my son; but I will tell thee somewhat wherein, Allah willing, there shall be profit for thee. She hath a garden which is of the goodliest pleasaunces of the age; and every year, at the time of the ripening of the fruits, she goeth thither and taketh her pleasure therein only one day, nor layeth the night but in her pavilion. She entereth the garden by the private wicket of the palace which leadeth thereto; and thou must know that it wanteth now but a month to the time of her going forth. So take my advice and hie thee this very day to the keeper of that garden and make acquaintance with him and gain his good graces, for he admitteth not one of Allah's creatures into the garth, because of its communication with the Princess's palace. I will let thee know two days beforehand of the day fixed for her coming forth, when do thou repair to the garden, as of thy wont, and make shift to night there. When the King's daughter cometh be thou hidden in some place or other";--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twenty-fifth Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old woman charged the King's son, saying, "I will let thee know two days beforehand of the King's daughter going down to the garden: do thou hide thee in some place or other; and, when thou espiest her, come forth and show thyself to her. When she seeth thee, she will fall in love with thee; for thou art fair to look upon and love covereth all things. So keep thine eyes cool and clear [FN#278] and be of good cheer, O my son, for needs must I bring about union between thee and her." The young Prince kissed her hand and thanked her and gave her three pieces of Alexandrian silk and three of satin of various colours, and with each piece, linen for shifts and stuff for trousers and a kerchief for the turband and fine white cotton cloth of Ba'albak for the linings, so as to make her six complete suits, each handsomer than its sister. Moreover, he gave her a purse containing six hundred gold pieces and said to her, "This is for the tailoring." She took the whole and said to him, "O my son, art thou not pleased to acquaint me with thine abiding-place and I also will show thee the way to my lodging?" "Yes," answered he and sent a Mameluke with her to note her home and show her his own house. Then he rose and bidding his slaves shut the shop, went back to the Wazir, to whom he related all that had passed between him and the old woman, from first to last. Quoth the Minister, "O my son, should the Princess Hayat al-Nufus come out and look upon thee and thou find no favour with her what wilt thou do?" Quoth Ardashir, "There will be nothing left but to pass from words to deeds and risk my life with her; for I will snatch her up from amongst her attendants and set her behind me on a swift horse and make for the wildest of the wold. If I escape, I shall have won my wish and if I perish, I shall be at rest from this hateful life." Rejoined the Minister, "O my son, dost thou think to do this thing and live? How shall we make our escape, seeing that our country is far distant, and how wilt thou deal thus with a King of the Kings of the Age, who hath under his hand an hundred thousand horse, nor can we be sure but that he will despatch some of his troops to cut off our way? Verily, there is no good in this project which no wise man would attempt." Asked Ardashir, "And how then shall we do, O Wazir of good counsel? For unless I win her I am a dead man without a chance." The Minister answered, "Wait till to-morrow when we will visit this garden and note its condition and see what betideth us with the care-taker." So when the morning morrowed they took a thousand dinars in a poke and, repairing to the garden, found it compassed about with high walls and strong, rich in trees and rill-full leas and goodly fruiteries. And indeed its flowers breathed perfume and its birds warbled amid the bloom as it were a garden of the gardens of Paradise. Within the door sat a Shaykh, an old man on a stone bench and they saluted him. When he saw them and noted the fairness of their favour, he rose to his feet after returning their salute, and said, "O my lords, perchance ye have a wish which we may have the honour of satisfying?" Replied the Wazir, "Know, O elder, that we are strangers and the heat hath overcome us: our lodging is afar off at the other end of the city; so we desire of thy courtesy that thou take these two dinars and buy us somewhat of provaunt and open us meanwhile the door of this flower-garden and seat us in some shaded place, where there is cold water, that we may cool ourselves there, against thy return with the provision, when we will eat, and thou with us, and then, rested and refreshed, we shall wend our ways." So saying, he pulled out of his pouch a couple of dinars and put them into the keeper's hand. Now this care-taker was a man aged three-score and ten, who had never in all his life possessed so much money: so, when he saw the two dinars in his hand, he was like to fly for joy and rising forthwith opened the garden gate to the Prince and the Wazir, and made them enter and sit down under a wide-spreading, fruit-laden, shade-affording tree, saying, "Sit ye here and go no further into the garden, for it hath a privy door communicating with the palace of the Princess Hayat al-Nufus." They replied, "We will not stir hence." Whereupon he went out to buy what they had ordered and returned after awhile, with a porter bearing on his head a roasted lamb and bread. They ate and drank together and talked awhile, till, presently, the Wazir, looking about him in all corners right and left, caught sight of a lofty pavilion at the farther end of the garden; but it was old and the plaster was peeled from its walls and its buttresses were broken down. So he said to the Gardener, "O Shaykh, is this garden thine own or dost thou hire it?"; and he replied, "I am neither owner nor tenant of the garden, only its care-taker." Asked the Minister, "And what is thy wage?" whereto the old man answered, "A dinar a month," and quoth the Wazir, "Verily they wrong thee, especially an thou have a family." Quoth the elder, "By Allah, O my lord, I have eight children and I"-- The Wazir broke in, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Thou makest me bear thy grief my poor fellow! What wouldst thou say of him who should do thee a good turn, on account of this family of thine?" Replied the old man, "O my lord, whatsoever good thou dost shall be garnered up for thee with God the Most High!" Thereupon said the Wazir, "O Shaykh, thou knowest this garden of thine to be a goodly place; but the pavilion yonder is old and ruinous. Now I mean to repair it and stucco it anew and paint it handsomely, so that it will be the finest thing in the garth; and when the owner comes and finds the pavilion restored and beautified, he will not fail to question thee concerning it. Then do thou say, 'O my lord, at great expense I set it in repair, for that I saw it in ruins and none could make use of it nor could anyone sit therein.' If he says, 'Whence hadst thou the money for this?' reply, 'I spent of my own money upon the stucco, thereby thinking to whiten my face with thee and hoping for thy bounties.' And needs must he recompense thee fairly over the extent of thine expenses. To-morrow I will bring builders and plasterers and painters to repair this pavilion and will give thee what I promised thee." Then he pulled out of his poke a purse of five hundred dinars and gave it to the Gardener, saying, "Take these gold pieces and expend them upon thy family and let them pray for me and for this my son." Thereupon the Prince asked the Wazir, "What is the meaning of all this?" and he answered, "Thou shalt presently see the issue thereof."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twenty-sixth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Wazir gave five hundred ducats to the old Gardener, saying, "Take these gold pieces and expend them upon thy family and let them pray for this my son," the old man looked at the gold and his wits fled; so he fell down at the Wazir's feet, kissing them and invoking blessings on him and his son; and when they went away, he said to them, "I shall expect you to-morrow: for by Allah Almighty, there must be no parting between us, night or day." Next morning the Wazir went to the Prince's shop and sent for the syndic of the builders; then he carried him and his men to the garth, where the Gardener rejoiced in their sight. He gave them the price of rations [FN#279] and what was needful to the work- men for the restoration of the pavilion, and they repaired it and stucco'd it and decorated it. Then said the Minister to the painters, "Harkye, my masters, listen to my words and apprehend my wish and my aim. Know that I have a garden like this, where I was sleeping one night among the nights and saw in a dream a fowler set up nets and sprinkle corn thereabout. The birds flocked to pick up the grain, and a cock-bird fell into the net, whereupon the others took fright and flew away, and amongst the rest his mate; but, after awhile, she returned alone and picked at the mesh that held his feet, till she set him free and they flew away together. Now the fowler had fallen asleep and, when he awoke, he found the net empty; so he mended it and strewing fresh grain sat down afar off, waiting for game to fall into that snare. Presently the birds assembled again to pick up the grains, and amongst the rest the two pigeons. By-and-by, the hen-bird fell into the net, when all the other birds took fright at her and flew away, and her husband flew with them and did not return; whereupon the fowler came up and taking the quarry, cut her throat. Now, when her mate flew away with the others, a bird of raven seized him and slew him and ate his flesh and drank his blood, and I would have you pourtray me the presentment of this my dream, even as I have related it to you, in the liveliest colours, laying the fair scene in this rare garden, with its walls and trees and rills, and dwell especially on the fowler and the falcon. If ye do this I have set forth to you and the work please me, I will give you what shall gladden your hearts, over and above your wage." The painters, hearing these words, applied themselves with all diligence to do what he required of them and wrought it out in masterly style; and when they had made an end of the work, they showed it to the Wazir who, seeing his so-called dream set forth as it was [FN#280] was pleased and thanked them and rewarded them munificently. Presently, the Prince came in, according to his custom, and entered the pavilion, unweeting what the Wazir had done. So when he saw the portraiture of the fowler and the birds and the net and beheld the male pigeon in the clutches of the hawk, which had slain him and was drinking his blood and eating his flesh, his understanding was confounded and he returned to the Minister and said, "O Wazir of good counsel, I have seen this day a marvel which, were it graven with needle-gravers on the eye-corners would be a warner to whoso will be warned?" Asked the Minister, "And what is that, O my lord?"; and the Prince answered, "Did I not tell thee of the dream the Princess had and how it was the cause of her hatred for men?" "Yes," replied the Wazir; and Ardashir rejoined, "By Allah, O Minister, I have seen the whole dream pourtrayed in painting, as I had eyed it with mine own eyes; but I found therein a circumstance which was hidden from the Princess, so that she saw it not, and 'tis upon this that I rely for the winning of my wish." Quoth the Wazir, "And what is that, O my son?"; and quoth the Prince, "I saw that, when the male bird flew away; and, leaving his mate entangled in the net, failed to return and save her, a falcon pounced on him and slaying him, ate his flesh and drank his blood. Would to Heaven the Princess had seen the whole of the dream and had beheld the cause of his failure to return and rescue her!" Replied the Wazir, "By Allah, O auspicious King, this is indeed a rare thing and a wonderful!" And the King's son ceased not to marvel at the picture and lament that the King's daughter had not beheld the dream to its end, saying in himself, "Would she had seen it to the last or might see the whole over again, though but in the imbroglio of sleep!" Then quoth the Wazir to him, "Thou saidst to me, 'Why wilt thou repair the pavilion?'; and I replied, 'Thou shalt presently see the issue thereof.' And behold, now its issue thou seest; for it was I did this deed and bade the painters pourtray the Princess's dream thus and paint the male bird in the pounces of the falcon which eateth his flesh and drinketh his blood; so that when she cometh to the pavilion, she will behold her dream depicted and see how the cock-pigeon was slain and excuse him and turn from her hate for men." When the Prince heard the Wazir's words, he kissed his hands and thanked him, saying, "Verily, the like of thee is fit to be Minister to the most mighty King, and, by Allah, an I win my wish and return to my sire, rejoicing, I will assuredly acquaint him with this, that he may redouble in honouring thee and advance thee in dignity and hearken to thine every word." So the Wazir kissed his hand and they both went to the old Gardener and said, "Look at yonder pavilion and see how fine it is!" And he replied, "This is all of your happy thought." Then said they, "O elder, when the owners of the place question thee concerning the restoration of the pavilion, say thou, ''Twas I did it of my own monies'; to the intent that there may betide thee fair favour and good fortune." He said, "I hear and I obey"; and the Prince continued to pay him frequent visits. Such was the case with the Prince and the Wazir; but as regards Hayat al-Nufus, when she ceased to receive the Prince's letters and messages and when the old woman was absent from her, she rejoiced with joy exceeding and concluded that the young man had returned to his own country. One day, there came to her a covered tray from her father; so she uncovered it and finding therein fine fruits, asked her waiting-women, "Is the season of these fruits come?" Answered they, "Yes." Thereupon she cried, "Would we might make ready to take our pleasure in the flower-garden!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twenty-seventh Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Princess, after receiving the fruit from her sire, asked, "Is the season of these fruits set in?"; and they answered, "Yes!" Thereupon she cried, "Would we might make ready to take our pleasure in the flower-garden!" "O my lady," they replied, "thou sayest well, and by Allah, we also long for the garden!" So she enquired, "How shall we do, seeing that every year it is none save my nurse who taketh us to walk in the garden and who pointeth out to us the various trees and plants; and I have beaten her and forbidden her from me? Indeed, I repent me of what was done by me to her, for that, in any case, she is my nurse and hath over me the right of fosterage. But there is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" When her handmaids heard this, they all sprang up; and, kissing the ground between her hands, exclaimed, "Allah upon thee, O my lady, do thou pardon her and bid her to the presence!"; and quoth she, "By Allah, I am resolved upon this; but which of you will go to her, for I have prepared her a splendid robe of honour?" Hereupon two damsels came forward, by name Bulbul and Siwad al-'Ayn, who were comely and graceful and the principals among the Princess's women, and her favourites. And they said, "We will go to her, O King's daughter!"; and she said, "Do what seemeth good to you." So they went to the house of the nurse and knocked at the door and entered; and she, recognising the twain, received them with open arms and welcomed them. When they had sat awhile with her, they said to her, "O nurse, the Princess pardoneth thee and desireth to take thee back into favour." She replied, "This may never be, though I drink the cup of ruin! Hast thou forgotten how she put me to shame before those who love me and those who hate me, when my clothes were dyed with my blood and I well nigh died for stress of beating, and after this they dragged me forth by the feet, like a dead dog, and cast me without the door? So by Allah, I will never return to her nor fill my eyes with her sight!" Quoth the two girls, "Disappoint not our pains in coming to thee nor send us away unsuccessful. Where is thy courtesy uswards? Think but who it is that cometh in to visit thee: canst thou wish for any higher of standing than we with the King's daughter?" She replied, "I take refuge with Allah: well I wot that my station is less than yours; were it not that the Princess's favour exalted me above all her women, so that, were I wroth with the greatest of them, she had died in her skin of fright." They rejoined, "All is as it was and naught is in anywise changed. Indeed, 'tis better than before, for the Princess humbleth herself to thee and seeketh a reconciliation without intermediary." Said the old woman, "By Allah, were it not for your presence and intercession with me, I had never returned to her; no, not though she had commanded to slay me!" They thanked her for this and she rose and dressing herself accompanied them to the palace. Now when the King's daughter saw her, she sprang to her feet in honour, and the old woman said, "Allah! Allah! O King's daughter, say me, whose was the fault, mine or thine?" Hayat al-Nufus replied, "The fault was mine, and 'tis thine to pardon and forgive. By Allah, O my nurse, thy rank is high with me and thou hast over me the right of fosterage; but thou knowest that Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) hath allotted to His creatures four things, disposition, life, daily bread and death; nor is it in man's power to avert that which is decreed. Verily, I was beside myself and could not recover my senses; but, O my nurse, I repent of what deed I did." With this, the crone's anger ceased from her and she rose and kissed the ground before the Princess, who called for a costly robe of honour and threw it over her, whereat she rejoiced with exceeding joy in the presence of the Princess's slaves and women. When all ended thus happily, Hayat al-Nufus said to the old woman, "O my nurse, how go the fruits and growths of our garth?"; and she replied, "O my lady, I see excellent fruits in the town; but I will enquire of this matter and return thee an answer this very day." Then she withdrew, honoured with all honour and betook herself to Ardashir, who received her with open arms and embraced her and rejoiced in her coming, for that he had expected her long and longingly. She told him all that had passed between herself and the Princess and how her mistress was minded to go down into the garden on such a day.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twenty-eighth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old woman betook herself to the Prince and told him all that had passed between herself and the Princess Hayat al-Nufus; and how her mistress was minded to go down into the garden on such a day and said to him, "Hast thou done as I bade thee with the Warder of the garden and hast thou made him taste of thy bounties?" He replied, "Yes, and the oldster is become my good friend: my way is his way and he would well I had need of him." Then he told her all that had happened and of the dream-paintings which the Wazir had caused to be limned in the pavilion; especially of the fowler, the net and the falcon: whereat she joyed with great joy and said, "Allah upon thee, do thou set thy Minister mid- most thy heart, for this that he hath done pointeth to the keenness of his wit and he hath helped thee to the winning thy wish. So rise forthright, O my son, and go to the Hammam-bath and don thy daintiest dress, wherein may be our success. Then fare thou to the Gardener and make shift to pass the night in the garden, for though he should give the earth full of gold none may win to pass into it, whilst the King's daughter is therein. When thou hast entered, hide thee where no eye may espy thee and keep concealed till thou hear me cry, 'O Thou whose boons are hidden, save us from that we fear!' Then come forth from thine ambush and walk among the trees and show thy beauty and loveliness which put the moons to shame, to the intent that Princess Hayat al-Nufus may see thee and that her heart and soul may be filled with love of thee; so shalt thou attain to thy wish and thy grief be gone." "To hear is to obey," replied the young Prince and gave her a purse of a thousand dinars, which she took and went away. Thereupon Ardashir fared straight for the bath and washed; after which he arrayed himself in the richest of robes of the apparel of the Kings of the Chosroes and girt his middle with a girdle wherein were conjoined all manner precious stones and donned a turband inwoven with red gold and purfled with pearls and gems. His cheeks shone rosy-red and his lips were scarlet; his eyelids like the gazelle's wantoned; like a wine-struck wight in his gait he swayed; beauty and loveliness garbed him, and his shape shamed the bowing of the bough. Then he put in his pocket a purse containing a thousand dinars and, repairing to the flower-garden, knocked at the door. The Gardener opened to him and rejoicing with great joy salamed to him in most worshipful fashion; then, observing that his face was overcast, he asked him how he did. The King's son answered, "Know, O elder, that I am dear to my father and he never laid his hand on me till this day, when words arose between us and he abused me and smote me on the face and struck me with his staff and drave me away. Now I have no friend to turn to and I fear the perfidy of Fortune, for thou knowest that the wrath of parents is no light thing. Wherefore I come to thee, O uncle, seeing that to my father thou art known, and I desire of thy favour that thou suffer me abide in the garden till the end of the day, or pass the night there, till Allah grant good understanding between myself and my sire." When the old man heard these words he was concerned anent what had occurred and said, "O my lord, dost thou give me leave to go to thy sire and be the means of reconciliation between thee and him?" Replied Ardashir, "O uncle, thou must know that my father is of impatient nature, and irascible; so an thou proffer him reconciliation in his heat of temper he will make thee no answer; but when a day or two shall have passed, his heat will soften. Then go thou in to him and thereupon he will relent." "Hearkening and obedience," quoth the Gardener; "But, O my lord, do thou come with me to my house, where thou shalt night with my children and my family and none shall reproach this to us." Quoth Ardashir, "O uncle, I must be alone when I am angry." [FN#281] The old man said, "It irketh me that thou shouldst lie solitary in the garden, when I have a house." But Ardashir said, "O uncle, I have an aim in this, that the trouble of my mind may be dispelled from me and I know that in this lies the means of regaining his favour and softening his heart to me." Rejoined the Gardener, "I will fetch thee a carpet to sleep on and a coverlet wherewith to cover thee;" and the Prince said, "There is no harm in that, O uncle." So the keeper rose and opened the garden to him, and brought him the carpet and coverlet, knowing not that the King's daughter was minded to visit the garth. On this wise fared it with the Prince; but as regards the nurse, she returned to the Princess and told her that the fruits were kindly ripe on the garden trees; whereupon she said, "O my nurse, go down with me to-morrow into the garden, that we may walk about in it and take our pleasure,--Inshallah; and send meanwhile to the Gardener, to let him know what we purpose." So she sent to the Gardener to say, "The Princess will visit the parterre to-morrow, so leave neither water-carriers nor tree-tenders therein, nor let one of Allah's creatures enter the garth." When word came to him, he set his water-ways and channels in order and, going to Ardashir, said to him, "O my lord, the King's daughter is mistress of this garden; and I have only to crave thy pardon, for the place is thy place and I live only in thy favours, except that my tongue is under thy feet. [FN#282] I must tell thee that the Princess Hayat al-Nufus hath a mind to visit it to-morrow at the first of the day and hath bidden me leave none therein who might look upon her. So I would have thee of thy favour go forth of the garden this day, for the Queen will abide only in it till the time of mid-afternoon prayer and after it shall be at thy service for se'nnights and fortnights, months and years." Ardashir asked, "O elder, haply we have caused thee some mishap?"; and the other answered, "By Allah, O my lord, naught hath betided me from thee but honour!" Rejoined the Prince, "An it be so, nothing but all good shall befal thee through us; for I will hide in the garden and none shall espy me, till the King's daughter hath gone back to her palace." Said the Gardener, "O my lord, an she espy the shadow of a man in the garden or any of Allah's male creatures she will strike off my head;"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Twenty-ninth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Gardener said to the Prince, "An the King's daughter espy the shadow of a man in her garden, she will strike off my head;" the youth replied, "Have no fear, I will on no wise let any see me. But doubtless to-day thou lackest of spending-money for thy family." Then he put his hand to his purse and pulled out five hundred ducats, which he gave to him saying, "Take this gold and lay it out on thy family, that thy heart may be at ease concerning them." When the Shaykh looked upon the gold, his life seemed a light thing to him [FN#283] and he suffered the Prince to tarry where he was, charging him straitly not to show himself in the garden. Then he left him loitering about. Meanwhile, when the eunuchs went in to the Princess at break of day, she bade open the private wicket leading from the palace to the parterres and donned a royal robe, embroidered with pearls and jewels and gems, over a shift of fine silk purfled with rubies. Under the whole was that which tongue refuseth to explain, whereat was confounded the brain and whose love would embrave the craven's strain. On her head she set a crown of red gold, inlaid with pearls and gems and she tripped in pattens of cloth of gold, embroidered with fresh pearls [FN#284] and adorned with all manner precious stones. Then she put her hand upon the old woman's shoulder and commanded to go forth by the privy door; but the nurse looked at the garden and, seeing it full of eunuchs and handmaids walking about, eating the fruits and troubling the streams and taking their ease of sport and pleasure in the water said to the Princess, "O my lady, is this a garden or a madhouse?" Quoth the Princess, "What meaneth thy speech, O nurse?"; and quoth the old woman, "Verily the garden is full of slave-girls and eunuchs, eating of the fruits and troubling the streams and scaring the birds and hindering us from taking our ease and sporting and laughing and what not else; and thou hast no need of them. Wert thou going forth of thy palace into the highway, this would be fitting, as an honour and a ward to thee; but, now, O my lady, thou goest forth of the wicket into the garden, where none of Almighty Allah's creatures may look on thee." Rejoined the Princess, "By Allah, O nurse mine, thou sayst sooth! But how shall we do?"; and the old woman said, "Bid the eunuchs send them all away and keep only two of the slave-girls, that we may make merry with them. So she dismissed them all, with the exception of two of her handmaids who were most in favour with her. But when the old woman saw that her heart was light and that the season was pleasant to her, she said to her, "Now we can enjoy ourselves aright: so up and let us take our pleasance in the garden." The Princess put her hand upon her shoulder and went out by the private door. The two waiting-women walked in front and she followed them laughing at them and swaying gracefully to and fro in her ample robes; whilst the nurse forewent her, showing her the trees and feeding her with fruits; and so they fared on from place to place, till they came to the pavilion, which when the King's daughter beheld and saw that it had been restored, she asked the old woman, "O my nurse, seest thou yonder pavilion? It hath been repaired and its walls whitened." She answered, "By Allah, O my lady, I heard say that the keeper of the garden had taken stuffs of a company of merchants and sold them and bought bricks and lime and plaster and stones and so forth with the price; so I asked him what he had done with all this, and he said, 'I have repaired the pavilion which lay in ruins,' presently adding, 'And when the merchants sought their due of me, I said to them, 'Wait 'till the Princess visit the garden and see the repairs and they satisfy her; then will I take of her what she is pleased to bestow on me, and pay you what is your due.' Quoth I, 'What moved thee to do this thing?'; and quoth he, 'I saw the pavilion in ruins, the coigns thrown down and the stucco peeled from the walls, and none had the grace to repair it; so I borrowed the coin on my own account and restored the place; and I trust in the King's daughter to deal with me as befitteth her dignity.' I said, 'The Princess is all goodness and generosity and will no doubt requite thee.' And he did all this but in hopes of thy bounty." Replied the Princess, "By Allah, he hath dealt nobly in rebuilding it and hath done the deed of generous men! Call me my purse-keeperess." The old woman accordingly fetched the purse-keeperess, whom the Princess bade give the Gardener two thousand dinars; whereupon the nurse sent to him, bidding him to the presence of the King's daughter. But when the messenger said to him, "Obey the Queen's order," the Gardener felt feeble and, trembling in every joint, said in himself, "Doubtless, the Princess hath seen the young man, and this day will be the most unlucky of days for me." So he went home and told his wife and children what had happened and gave them his last charges and farewelled them, while they wept for and with him. Then he presented himself before the Princess, with a face the colour of turmeric and ready to fall flat at full length. The old woman remarked his plight and hastened to forestall him, saying "O Shaykh, kiss the earth in thanksgiving to Almighty Allah and be constant in prayer to Him for the Princess. I told her what thou didst in the matter of repairing the ruined pavilion, and she rejoiceth in this and bestoweth on thee two thousand dinars in requital of thy pains; so take them from the purse-keeperess and kiss the earth before the King's daughter and bless her and wend thy way." Hearing these words he took the gold and kissed the ground before Hayat al-Nufus, calling down blessings on her. Then he returned to his house, and his family rejoiced in him and blessed him [FN#285] who had been the prime cause of this business.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirtieth Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Care-taker took the two thousand ducats from the Princess and returned to his house, all his family rejoiced in him and blessed him who had been the prime cause of this business. Thus it fared with these; but as regards the old woman, she said to the Princess, "O my lady, this is indeed become a fine place! Never saw I a purer white than its plastering nor properer than its painting! I wonder if he have also repaired it within: else hath he made the outside white and left the inside black. Come, let us enter and inspect." So they went in, the nurse preceding, and found the interior painted and gilded in the goodliest way. The Princess looked right and left, till she came to the upper end of the estrade, when she fixed her eyes upon the wall and gazed long and earnestly thereat; whereupon the old woman knew that her glance had lighted on the presentment of her dream and took the two waiting-women away with her, that they might not divert her mind. When the King's daughter had made an end of examining the painting, she turned to the old woman, wondering and beating hand on hand, and said to her, "O my nurse, come, see a wondrous thing which were it graven with needle-gravers on the eye corners would be a warner to whoso will be warned." She replied, "And what is that, O my lady?"; when the Princess rejoined, "Go, look at the upper end of the estrade, and tell me what thou seest there." So she went up and considered the dream-drawing: then she came down, wondering, and said, "By Allah, O my lady, here is depicted the garden and the fowler and his net and the birds and all thou sawest in thy dream; and verily, nothing but urgent need withheld the male pigeon from returning to free his mate after he had fled her, for I see him in the talons of a bird of raven which hath slaughtered him and is drinking his blood and rending his flesh and eating it; and this, O my lady, caused his tarrying to return and rescue her from the net. But, O my mistress, the wonder is how thy dream came to be thus depicted, for, wert thou minded to set it forth in painture, thou hadst not availed to portray it. By Allah, this is a marvel which should be recorded in histories! Surely, O my lady, the angels appointed to attend upon the sons of Adam, knew that the cock-pigeon was wronged of us, because we blamed him for deserting his mate; so they embraced his cause and made manifest his excuse; and now for the first time we see him in the hawk's pounces a dead bird." Quoth the Princess, "O my nurse, verily, Fate and Fortune had course against this bird, and we did him wrong." Quoth the nurse, "O my mistress, foes shall meet before Allah the Most High: but, O my lady, verily, the truth hath been made manifest and the male pigeon's excuse certified to us; for had the hawk not seized him and drunk his blood and rent his flesh he had not held aloof from his mate, but had returned to her, and set her free from the net; but against death there is no recourse, nor, O my lady, is there aught in the world more tenderly solicitous than the male for the female, among all creatures which Almighty Allah hath created. And especially 'tis thus with man; for he starveth himself to feed his wife, strippeth himself to clothe her, angereth his family to please her and disobeyeth and denieth his parents to endow her. She knoweth his secrets and concealeth them and she cannot endure from him a single hour. [FN#286] An he be absent from her one night, her eyes sleep not, nor is there a dearer to her than he: she loveth him more than her parents and they lie down to sleep in each other's arms, with his hand under her neck and her hand under his neck, even as saith the poet,
'I made my wrist her pillow and I lay with her in litter; * And I said to Night 'Be long!' while the full moon showed glitter:
Ah me, it was a night, Allah never made its like; * Whose first was sweetest sweet and whose last bitt'rest bitter!' [FN#287]
Then he kisseth her and she kisseth him; and I have heard of a certain King that, when his wife fell sick and died, he buried himself alive with her, submitting himself to death, for the love of her and the strait companionship which was between them. Moreover, a certain King sickened and died, and when they were about to bury him, his wife said to her people: 'Let me bury myself alive with him: else will I slay myself and my blood shall be on your heads.' So, when they saw she would not be turned from this thing, they left her, and she cast herself into the grave with her dead husband, of the greatness of her love and tenderness for him." And the old woman ceased not to ply the Princess with anecdotes of conjugal love between men and women, till there ceased that which was in her heart of hatred for the sex masculine; and when she felt that she had succeeded in renewing in her the natural inclination of woman to man, she said to her, "'Tis time to go and walk in the garden." So they fared forth from the pavilion and paced among the trees. Presently the Prince chanced to turn and his eyes fell on Hayat al-Nufus; and when he saw the symmetry of her shape and the rosiclearness of her cheeks and the blackness of her eyes and her exceeding grace and her passing loveliness and her excelling beauty and her prevailing elegance and her abounding perfection, his reason was confounded and he could not take his eyes off her. Passion annihilated his right judgment and love overpassed all limits in him; his vitals were occupied with her service and his heart was aflame with the fire of repine, so that he swooned away and fell to the ground. When he came to himself, she had passed from his sight and was hidden from him among the trees;--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirty-first Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Prince Ardashir, who lay hid in the garden, saw the Princess and her nurse walking amongst the trees, he swooned away for very love-longing. When he came to himself Hayat al-Nufus had passed from his sight and was hidden from him among the trees; so he sighed from his heart-core and improvised these couplets,
"Whenas mine eyes behold her loveliness, * My heart is torn with love's own ecstasy.
I wake o'erthrown, castdown on face of earth * Nor can the Princess [FN#N#288] my sore torment see.
She turned and ravished this sad Love-thrall'd sprite; * Mercy, by Allah, ruth; nay, sympathy!
O Lord, afford me union, deign Thou soothe * My soul, ere grave-niche house this corse of me;
I'll kiss her ten times ten times, and times ten * For lover's wasted cheek the kisses be!"
The old woman ceased not to lead the Princess a-pleasuring about the garden, till they reached the place where the Prince lay ambushed, when, behold she said, "O Thou whose bounties are hidden, vouchsafe us assurance from that we fear!" The King's son hearing the signal, left his lurking-place and, surprised by the summons, walked among the trees, swaying to and fro with a proud and graceful gait and a shape that shamed the branches. His brow was crowned with pearly drops and his cheeks red as the afterglow, extolled be Allah the Almighty in that He hath created! When the King's daughter caught sight of him, she gazed a long while on him and noticed his beauty and grace and loveliness and his eyes that wantoned like the gazelle's, and his shape that outvied the branches of the myrobalan; wherefore her wits were confounded and her soul captivated and her heart transfixed with the arrows of his glances. Then she said to the old woman, "O my nurse, whence came yonder handsome youth?"; and the nurse asked, "Where is he, O my lady?" "There he is," answered Hayat al-Nufus; "near hand, among the trees." The old woman turned right and left, as if she knew not of his presence, and cried, "And pray, who can have taught this youth the way into this garden?" Quoth Hayat al-Nufus, "Who shall give us news of the young man? Glory be to Him who created men! But say me, dost thou know him, O my nurse?" Quoth the old woman, "O my lady, he is the young merchant who wrote to thee by me." The Princess (and indeed she was drowned in the sea of her desire and the fire of her passion and love-longing) broke out, "O my nurse, how goodly is this youth! Indeed he is fair of favour. Methinks, there is not on the face of earth a goodlier than he!" Now when the old woman was assured that the love of him had gotten possession of the Princess, she said to her, "Did I not tell thee, O my lady, that he was a comely youth with a beaming favour?" Replied Hayat al-Nufus, "O my nurse, King's daughters know not the ways of the world nor the manners of those that be therein, for that they company with none, neither give they nor take they. O my nurse, how shall I do to bring about a meeting and present myself to him, and what shall I say to him and what will he say to me?" Said the old woman, "What device is left me? Indeed, we were confounded in this matter by thy behaviour"; and the Princess said, "O my nurse, know thou that if any ever died of passion, I shall do so, and behold, I look for nothing but death on the spot by reason of the fire of my love-longing." When the old woman heard her words and saw the transport of her desire for him, she answered, "O my lady, now as for his coming to thee, there is no way thereto; and indeed thou art excused from going to him, because of thy tender age; but rise with me and follow me. I will accost him: so shalt thou not be put to shame, and in the twinkling of an eye affection shall ensue between you." The King's daughter cried, "Go thou before me, for the decree of Allah may not be rejected." Accordingly they went up to the place where Ardashir sat, as he were the full moon at its fullest, and the old woman said to him, "See O youth, who is present before thee! 'Tis the daughter of our King of the age, Hayat al-Nufus: bethink thee of her rank and appreciate the honour she doth thee in coming to thee and rise out of respect for her and stand before her." The Prince sprang to his feet in an instant and his eyes met her eyes, whereupon they both became as they were drunken without wine. Then the love of him and desire redoubled upon the Princess and she opened her arms and he his, and they embraced; but love-longing and passion overcame them and they swooned away and fell to the ground and lay a long while without sense. The old woman, fearing scandalous exposure, carried them both into the pavilion, and, sitting down at the door, said to the two waiting-women, "Seize the occasion to take your pleasure in the garden, for the Princess sleepeth." So they returned to their diversion. Presently the lovers revived from their swoon and found themselves in the pavilion, whereat quoth the Prince, "Allah upon thee, O Princess of fair ones, is this vision or sleep-illusion?" Then the twain embraced and intoxicated themselves without wine, complaining each to other of the anguish of passion; and the Prince improvised these couplets,
"Sun riseth sheen from her brilliant brow, * And her cheek shows the rosiest afterglow:
And when both appear to the looker-on, * The skyline star ne'er for shame will show:
An the leven flash from those smiling lips, * Morn breaks and the rays dusk and gloom o'erthrow.
And when with her graceful shape she sways, * Droops leafiest Ban-tree [FN#289] for envy low:
Me her sight suffices; naught crave I more: * Lord of Men and Morn, be her guard from foe!
The full moon borrows a part of her charms; * The sun would rival but fails his lowe.
Whence could Sol aspire to that bending grace? * Whence should Luna see such wit and such mind-gifts know?
Who shall blame me for being all love to her, * 'Twixt accord and discord aye doomed to woe:
'Tis she won my heart with those forms that bend * What shall lover's heart from such charms defend?"
--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirty-second Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Prince had made an end of his verses, the Princess strained him to her bosom and kissed him on the mouth and between the eyes; whereupon his soul returned to him and he fell to complaining to her of that he had endured for stress of love and tyranny of longing and excess of transport and distraction and all he had suffered for the hardness of her heart. Hearing those words she kissed his hands and feet and bared her head, [FN#290] whereupon the gloom gathered and the full moons dawned therein. Then said she to him, "O my beloved and term of all my wishes, would the day of estrangement had never been and Allah grant it may never return between us!" And they embraced and wept together, whilst she recited these couplets,
"O who shamest the Moon and the sunny glow: * Thou whose slaught'ring tyranny lays me low;
With the sword of a look thou hast shorn my heart, * How escape thy sword-glance fatal of blow?
Thus eke are thine eyebrows a bow that shot * My bosom with shafts of fiercest lowe:
From thy cheeks' rich crop cometh Paradise; * How, then, shall my heart the rich crop forego?
Thy graceful shape is a blooming branch, * And shall pluck the fruits who shall bear that bough.
Perforce thou drawest me, robst my sleep; * In thy love I strip me and shameless show: [FN#291]
Allah lend thee the rays of most righteous light, * Draw the farthest near and a tryst bestow:
Then have ruth on the vitals thy love hath seared, * And the heart that flies to thy side the mo'e!"
And when she ended her recitation, passion overcame her and she was distraught for love and wept copious tears, rain-like streaming down. This burnt the Prince's heart and he in turn became troubled and distracted for love of her. So he drew nearer to her and kissed her hands and wept with sore weeping and they ceased not from lover-reproaches and converse and versifying, until the call to mid-afternoon prayer (nor was there aught between them other than this), when they bethought them of parting and she said to him, "O light of mine eyes and core of my heart, the time of severance has come between us twain: when shall we meet again?" "By Allah," replied he (and indeed her words shot him as with shafts), "to mention of parting I am never fain!" Then she went forth of the pavilion, and he turned and saw her sighing sighs would melt the rock and weeping shower-like tears; whereupon he for love was sunken in the sea of desolation and improvised these couplets,
"O my heart's desire! grows my misery * From the stress of love, and what cure for me?
By thy face, like dawn when it lights the dark, * And thy hair whose hue beareth night-tide's blee,
And thy form like the branch which in grace inclines * To Zephyr's [FN#292] breath blowing fain and free,
By the glance of thine eyes like the fawn's soft gaze, * When she views pursuer of high degree,
And thy waist down borne by the weight of hips, * These so heavy and that lacking gravity,
By the wine of thy lip-dew, the sweetest of drink, * Fresh water and musk in its purity,
O gazelle of the tribe, ease my soul of grief, * And grant me thy phantom in sleep to see!"
Now when she heard his verses in praise of her, she turned back to him and embracing him, with a heart on fire for the anguish of severance, fire which naught save kisses and embraces might quench, cried, "Sooth the byword saith, Patience is for a lover and not the lack thereof. There is no help for it but I contrive a means for our reunion." Then she farewelled him and fared forth, knowing not where she set her feet, for stress of her love; nor did she stay her steps till she found herself in her own chamber. When she was gone, passion and love-longing redoubled upon the young Prince and the delight of sleep was forbidden him, and the Princess in her turn tasted not food and her patience failed and she sickened for desire. As soon as dawned the day, she sent for the nurse, who came and found her condition changed and she cried, "Question me not of my case; for all I suffer is due to thy handiwork. Where is the beloved of my heart?" "O my lady, when did he leave thee? Hath he been absent from thee more than this night?" "Can I endure absence from him an hour? Come, find some means to bring us together speedily, for my soul is like to flee my body." "O my lady, have patience till I contrive thee some subtle device, whereof none shall be ware." "By the Great God, except thou bring him to me this very day, I will tell the King that thou hast corrupted me, and he will cut off thy head!" "I conjure thee, by Allah, have patience with me, for this is a dangerous matter!" And the nurse humbled herself to her, till she granted her three days' delay, saying, "O my nurse, the three days will be three years to me; and if the fourth day pass and thou bring him not, I will go about to slay thee." So the old woman left her and returned to her lodging, where she abode till the morning of the fourth day, when she summoned the tirewomen of the town and sought of them fine dyes and rouge for the painting of a virgin girl and adorning; and they brought her cosmetics of the best. Then she sent for the Prince and, opening her chest, brought out a bundle containing a suit of woman's apparel, worth five thousand dinars, and a head-kerchief fringed with all manner gems. Then said she to him, "O my son, hast thou a mind to foregather with Hayat al-Nufus?"; and he replied, "Yes." So she took a pair of tweezers and pulled out the hairs of his face and pencilled his eyes with Kohl. [FN#293] Then she stripped him and painted him with Henna [FN#294] from his nails to his shoulders and from his insteps to his thighs and tattooed [FN#295] him about the body, till he was like red roses upon alabaster slabs. After a little, she washed him and dried him and bringing out a shift and a pair of petticoat-trousers made him put them on. Then she clad him in the royal suit aforesaid and, binding the kerchief about his head, veiled him and taught him how to walk, saying, "Advance thy left and draw back thy right." He did her bidding and forewent her, as he were a Houri faring abroad from Paradise. Then said she to him, "Fortify thy heart, for thou art going to the King's palace, where there will without fail be guards and eunuchs at the gate; and if thou be startled at them and show doubt or dread, they will suspect thee and examine thee, and we shall both get into grievous trouble and haply lose our lives: wherefore an thou feel thyself unable to this, tell me." He answered, "In very sooth this thing hath no terrors for me, so be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear." Then she went out preceding him till the twain came to the palace-gate, which was full of eunuchs. She turned and looked at him, as much as to say, "Art thou troubled or no?" and finding him all unchanged, went on. The chief eunuch glanced at the nurse and knew her but, seeing a damsel following her, whose charms confounded the reason, he said in his mind, "As for the old woman, she is the nurse; but as for the girl who is with her there is none in our land resembleth her in favour or approacheth her in fairness save the Princess Hayat al-Nufus, who is secluded and never goeth out. Would I knew how she came into the streets and would Heaven I wot whether or no 'twas by leave of the King!" Then he rose to learn somewhat concerning her and well nigh thirty castratos followed him; which when the old woman saw, her reason fled for fear and she said, "Verily, we are Allah's and to Him we shall return! Without recourse we are dead folk this time."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirty-third Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the old nurse saw the head of the eunuchry and his assistants making for her she was in exceeding fear and cried, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Verily we are God's and unto him we shall return; without recourse we be dead folk this time." When the head eunuch heard her speak thus, fear gat hold upon him, by reason of that which he knew of the Princess's violence and that her father was ruled by her, and he said to himself, "Belike the King hath commanded the nurse to carry his daughter forth upon some occasion of hers, whereof she would have none know; and if I oppose her, she will be wroth with me and will say, 'This eunuch fellow stopped me, that he might pry into my affairs.' So she will do her best to kill me, and I have no call to meddle in this matter." So saying, he turned back, and with him the thirty assistants who drove the people from the door of the palace; whereupon the nurse entered and saluted the eunuchs with her head, whilst all the thirty stood to do her honour and returned her salam. She led in the Prince and he ceased not following her from door to door, and the Protector protected them, so that they passed all the guards, till they came to the seventh door: it was that of the great pavilion, wherein was the King's throne, and it communicated with the chambers of his women and the saloons of the Harim, as well as with his daughter's pavilion. So the old woman halted and said, "Here we are, O my son, and glory be to Him who hath brought us thus far in safety! But, O my son, we cannot foregather with the Princess except by night; for night enveileth the fearful." He replied, "True, but what is to be done?" Quoth she, "Hide thee in this black hole," showing him behind the door a dark and deep cistern, with a cover thereto. So he entered the cistern, and she went away and left him there till ended day, when she returned and carried him into the palace, till they came to the door of Hayat al-Nufus's apartment. The old woman knocked and a little maid came out and said, "Who is at the door?" Said the nurse, "'Tis I," whereupon the maid returned and craved permission of her lady, who said, "Open to her and let her come in with any who may accompany her." So they entered and the nurse, casting a glance around, perceived that the Princess had made ready the sitting-chamber and ranged the lamps in row and lighted candles of wax in chandeliers of gold and silver and spread the divans and estrades with carpets and cushions. Moreover, she had set on trays of food and fruits and confections and she had perfumed the place with musk and aloes-wood and ambergris. She was seated among the lamps and the tapers and the light of her face outshone the lustre of them all. When she saw the old woman, she said to her, "O nurse, where is the beloved of my heart?"; and the other replied, "O my lady, I cannot find him nor have mine eyes espied him, but I have brought thee his own sister; and here she is." Cried the Princess, "Art thou Jinn-mad? What need have I of his sister? Say me, an a man's head irk him, doth he bind up his hand?" The old woman answered, "No, by Allah, O my lady! But look on her, and if she pleases thee, let her be with thee." Then she uncovered the Prince's face, whereupon Hayat al-Nufus knew him and running to him, pressed him to her bosom, and he pressed her to his breast. Then they both fell down in a swoon and lay without sense a long while. The old woman sprinkled rose-water upon them till they came to themselves, when she kissed him on the mouth more than a thousand times and improvised these couplets,
"Sought me this heart's dear love at gloom of night; * I rose in honour till he sat forthright,
And said, 'O aim of mine, O sole desire * In such night-visit hast of guards no fright?'
Replied he, 'Yes, I feared much, but Love * Robbed me of all my wits and reft my sprite.'
We clipt with kisses and awhile clung we, * For here 'twas safe; nor feared we watchman-wight:
Then rose we parting without doubtful deed * And shook out skirts where none a stain could sight."
--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirty-fourth Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when her lover visited Hayat al-Nufus in her palace, the twain embraced and she improvised some happy couplets beseeming the occasion. And when she had ended her extempore lines she said, "Is it indeed true that I see thee in my abode and that thou art my cup-mate and my familiar?" Then passion grew on her and love was grievous to her, so that her reason well-nigh fled for joy and she improvised these couplets,
"With all my soul I'll ransom him who came to me in gloom * Of night, whilst I had waited long to see his figure loom;
And naught aroused me save his weeping voice of tender tone * And whispered I, 'Fair fall thy foot and welcome and well come!'
His cheek I kissed a thousand times, and yet a thousand more; * Then clipt and clung about his breast enveiled in darkling room.
And cried, 'Now verily I've won the aim of every wish * So praise and prayers to Allah for this grace now best become.'
Then slept we even as we would the goodliest of nights * Till morning came to end our night and light up earth with bloom."
As soon as it was day, she made him enter a place in her apartment unknown to any and he abode there till nightfall, when she brought him out and they sat in converse and carouse. Presently he said to her, "I wish to return to my own country and tell my father what hath passed between us, that he may equip his Wazir to demand thee in marriage of thy sire." She replied, "O my love, I fear, an thou return to thy country and kingdom, thou wilt be distracted from me and forget the love of me; or that thy father will not further thy wishes in this matter and I shall die. Meseems the better rede were that thou abide with me and in my hand-grasp, I looking on thy face, and thou on mine, till I devise some plan, whereby we may escape together some night and flee to thy country; for I have cut off my hopes from my own people and I despair of them." He rejoined, "I hear and obey;" and they fell again to their carousal and conversing. He tarried with her thus for some time till, one night, the wine was pleasant to them and they lay not down nor did they sleep till break of day. Now it chanced that one of the Kings sent her father a present, and amongst other things, a necklace of union jewels, nine-and-twenty grains, to whose price a King's treasures might not suffice. Quoth Abd al-Kadir, "This riviere beseemeth none but my daughter Hayat al-Nufus;" and, turning to an eunuch, whose jaw-teeth the Princess had knocked out for reasons best known to herself, [FN#296] he called to him and said, "Carry the necklace to thy lady and say to her, 'One of the Kings hath sent thy father this, as a present, and its price may not be paid with money; put it on thy neck.'" The slave took the necklace, saying in himself, "Allah Almighty make it the last thing she shall put on in this world, for that she deprived me of the benefit of my grinder-teeth!"; and repairing to the Princess's apartment, found the door locked and the old woman asleep before the threshold. He shook her, and she awoke in affright and asked, "What dost thou want?"; to which he answered, "The King hath sent me on an errand to his daughter." Quoth the nurse, "The key is not here, go away, whilst I fetch it;" but quoth he, "I cannot go back to the King without having done his commandment." So she went away, as if to fetch the key; but fear overtook her and she sought safety in flight. Then the eunuch awaited her awhile; then, finding she did not return, he feared that the King would be angry at his delay; so he rattled at the door and shook it, whereupon the bolt gave way and the leaf opened. He entered and passed on, till he came to the seventh door and walking in to the Princess's chamber found the place splendidly furnished and saw candles and flagons there. At this spectacle he marvelled and going close up to the bed, which was curtained by a hanging of silk, embroidered with a net-work of jewels, drew back the curtain from before the Princess and saw her sleeping with her arms about the neck of a young man handsomer than herself; whereat he magnified Allah Almighty, who had created such a youth of vile water, and said, "How goodly be this fashion for one who hateth men! How came she by this fellow? Methinks 'twas on his account that she knocked out my back teeth!" Then he drew the curtain and made for the door; but the King's daughter awoke in affright and seeing the eunuch, whose name was Kafur, called to him. He made her no answer: so she came down from the bed on the estrade; and catching hold of his skirt laid it on her head and kissed his feet, saying, "Veil what Allah veileth!" Quoth he, "May Allah not veil thee nor him who would veil thee! Thou didst knock out my grinders and saidst to me, 'Let none make mention to me aught of men and their ways!'" So saying, he disengaged himself from her grasp and running out, locked the door on them and set another eunuch to guard it. Then he went in to the King who said to him "Hast thou given the necklace to Hayat al-Nufus?" The eunuch replied, "By Allah, thou deservest altogether a better fate;" and the King asked, "What hath happened? Tell me quickly;" whereto he answered, "I will not tell thee, save in private and between our eyes," but the King retorted, saying, "Tell me at once and in public." Cried the eunuch, "Then grant me immunity." So the King threw him the kerchief of immunity and he said, "O King, I went into the Princess Hayat al-Nufus and found her asleep in a carpeted chamber and on her bosom was a young man. So I locked the door upon the two and came back to thee." When the King heard these words he started up and taking a sword in his hand, cried out to the Rais of the eunuchs, saying, "Take thy lads and go to the Princess's chamber and bring me her and him who is with her as they twain lie on the bed; but cover them both up."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirty-fifth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King commanded the head eunuch to take his lads and to fetch and set before him Hayat al-Nufus and him who was with her, the chief and his men entered the Princess's apartment where he found her standing up, dissolved in railing tears, and the Prince by her side; so he said to them, "Lie down on the bed, as thou wast and let him do likewise." The King's daughter feared for her lover [FN#297] and said to him, "This is no time for resistance." So they both lay down and the eunuchs covered them up and carried the twain into the King's presence. Thereupon Abd al-Kadir pulled off the coverings and the Princess sprang to her feet. He looked at her and would have smitten her neck: but the Prince threw himself on the father's breast, saying, "The fault was not hers but mine only: kill me before thou killest her." The King made at him, to cut him down, but Hayat al-Nufus cast herself on her father and said, "Kill me not him; for he is the son of a great King, lord of all the land in its length and breadth." When the King heard this, he turned to the Chief Wazir, who was a gathering-place of all that is evil, and said to him, "What sayst thou of this matter, O Minister?" Quoth his Wazir, "What I say is that all who find themselves in such case as this have need of lying, and there is nothing for it but to cut off both their heads, after torturing them with all manner of tortures." Hereupon the King called his sworder of vengeance, who came with his lads, and said to him, "Take this gallows bird and strike off his head and after do the like with this harlot and burn their bodies, and consult me not about them a second time." So the headsmen put his hand to her back, to take her; but the King cried out at him and cast at him somewhat he hent in hand, which had well-nigh killed him, saying, "O dog, how durst thou show ruth to those with whom I am wroth? Put thy hand to her hair and drag her along by it, so that she may fall on her face." Accordingly he haled her by her hair and the Prince in like manner to the place of blood, where he tore off a piece of his skirt and therewith bound the Prince's eyes putting the Princess last, in the hope that some one would intercede for her. Then, having made ready the Prince he swung his sharp sword three times (whilst all the troops wept and prayed Allah to send them deliverance by some intercessor), and raised his hand to cut off Ardashir's head when, behold, there arose a cloud of dust, that spread and flew till it veiled the view. Now the cause thereof was that when the young Prince had delayed beyond measure, the King, his sire, had levied a mighty host and had marched with it in person to get tidings of his son. Such was his case; but as regards King Abd al-Kadir, when he saw this, he said, "O wights, what is the meaning of yonder dust that dimmeth sights?" The Grand Wazir sprang up and went out to reconnoitre and found behind the cloud men like locusts, of whom no count could be made nor aught avail of aid, filling the hills and plains and valleys. So he returned with the report to the King, who said to him, "Go down and learn for us what may be this host and the cause of its marching upon our country. Ask also of their commander and salute him for me and enquire the reason of his coming. An he came in quest of aught, we will aid him, and if he have a blood-feud with one of the Kings, we will ride with him; or, if he desire a gift, we will handsel him; for this is indeed a numerous host and a power uttermost, and we fear for our land from its mischief." So the Minister went forth and walked among the tents and troopers and body-guards, and ceased not faring on from the first of the day till near sundown, when he came to the warders with gilded swords in tents star-studded. Passing these, he made his way through Emirs and Wazirs and Nabobs and Chamberlains, to the pavilion of the Sultan, and found him a mighty King. When the King's officers saw him, they cried out to him, saying, "Kiss ground! Kiss ground!" [FN#298] He did so and would have risen, but they cried out at him a second and a third time. So he kissed the earth again and again and raised his head and would have stood up, but fell down at full length for excess of awe. When at last he was set between the hands of the King he said to him, "Allah prolong thy days and increase thy sovranty and exalt thy rank, O thou auspicious King! And furthermore, of a truth, King Abd al-Kadir saluteth thee and kisseth the earth before thee and asketh on what weighty business thou art come. An thou seek to avenge thee for blood on any King, he will take horse in thy service; or, an thou come in quest of aught, wherein it is in his power to help thee, he standeth up at thy service on account thereof." So Ardashir's father replied to the Wazir, saying, "O messenger, return to thy lord and tell him that the most mighty King Sayf al-A'azam Shah, Lord of Shiraz, had a son who hath been long absent from him and news of him have not come and all traces of him have been cut off. An he be in this city, he will take him and depart from you; but, if aught have befallen him or any mischief have ensued to him from you, his father will lay waste your land and make spoil of your goods and slay your men and seize your women. Return, therefore, to thy lord in haste and tell him this, ere evil befal him." Answered the Minister, "To hear is to obey!" and turned to go away, when the Chamberlains cried out to him, saying, "Kiss ground! Kiss ground!" So he kissed the ground a score of times and rose not till his life-breath was in his nostrils. [FN#299] Then he left the King's high court and returned to the city, full of anxious thought concerning the affair of this King and the multitude of his troops, and going in to King Abd al-Kadir, pale with fear and trembling in his side-muscles, acquainted him with that had befallen him; --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirty-sixth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir returned from the court of the Great King, pale with fear and with side-muscles quivering for dread exceeding; and acquainted his lord with that had befallen him. Hereat disquietude and terror for himself and for his people laid hold upon him and he said to the Minister, "O Wazir, and who is this King's son?" Replied the other, "'Tis even he whom thou badest put to death, but praised be Allah who hastened not his slaughter! Else had his father wasted our lands and spoiled our good." Quoth the King "See now thy corrupt judgment, in that thou didst counsel us to slay him! Where is the young man, the son of yonder magnanimous King?" And quoth the Wazir, "O mighty King, thou didst command him be put to death." When the King heard this, he was clean distraught and cried out from his heart's core and in-most of head, saying, "Woe to you! Fetch me the Heads- man forthright, lest death fall on him!" So they fetched the Sworder and he said, "0 King of the Age, I have smitten off his head even as thou badest me." Cried Abd al-Kadir "O dog, an this be true, I will assuredly send thee after him." The Heads- man replied, "O King, thou didst command me to slay him without consulting thee a second time." Said the King, "I was in my wrath; but speak the truth, ere thou lose thy life;" and said the Sworder, "O King, he is yet in the chains of life." At this Abd al-Kadir rejoiced and his heart was set at rest; then he called for Ardashir, and when he came, he stood up to receive him and kissed his mouth, saying, "O my son, I ask pardon of Allah Almighty for the wrong I have done thee, and say thou not aught that may lower my credit with thy sire, the Great King." The Prince asked "O King of the Age, and where is my father?" and the other answered, "He is come hither on thine account." Thereupon quoth Ardashir, "By thy worship, I will not stir from before thee till I have cleared my honour and the honour of thy daughter from that which thou laidest to our charge; for she is a pure virgin. Send for the midwives and let them examine her before thee. An they find her maidenhead gone, I give thee leave to shed my blood; and if they find her a clean maid, her innocence of dishonour and mine also will be made manifest." So he summoned the midwives, who examined the Princess and found her a pure virgin and so told the King, seeking largesse of him. He gave them what they sought, putting off his royal robes to bestow on them, and in like manner he was bountiful to all who were in the Harim. And they brought forth the scent-cups and perfumed all the Lords of estate and Grandees; and not one but rejoiced with exceeding joy. Then the King threw his arms about Ardashir's neck and entreated him with all worship and honour, bidding his chief eunuchs bear him to the bath. When he came out, he cast over his shoulders a costly robe and crowned him with a coronet of jewels; he also girt him with a girdle of silk, purfled with red gold and set with pearls and gems, and mounted him on one of his noblest mares, with selle and trappings of gold inlaid with pearls and jewels. Then he bade his Grandees and Captains mount on his service and escort him to his father's presence; and charged him tell his sire that King Abd al-Kadir was at his disposal, hearkening to and obeying him in whatso he should bid or forbid. "I will not fail of this," answered Ardashir and farewelling him, repaired to his father who, at sight of him, was transported for delight and springing up, advanced to meet him and embraced him, whilst joy and gladness spread among all the host of the Great King. Then came the Wazirs and Chamberlains and Captains and guards and kissed the ground before the Prince and rejoiced in his coming: and it was a great day with them for enjoyment, for the King's son gave leave to those of King Abd al-Kadir's officers who had accompanied him and others of the townsfolk, to view the ordinance of his father's host, without let or stay, so they might know the multitude of the Great King's troops and the might of his empire. And all who had seen him selling stuffs in the linendrapers' bazar marvelled how his soul could have consented thereto, considering the nobility of his spirit and the loftiness of his dignity; but it was his love and inclination to the King's daughter that to this had constrained him. Meanwhile, news of the multitude of her lover's troops came to Hayat al-Nufus, who was still jailed by her sire's commandment, till they knew what he should order respecting her, whether pardon and release or death and burning; and she looked down from the terrace-roof of the palace and, turning towards the mountains, saw even these covered with armed men. When she beheld all those warriors and knew that they were the army of Ardashir's father, she feared lest he should be diverted from her by his sire and forget her and depart from her, whereupon her father would slay her. So she called a handmaid that was with her in her apartment by way of service, and said to her, "Go to Ardashir, son of the Great King, and fear not. When thou comest into his presence, kiss the ground before him and tell him what thou art and say to him, 'My lady saluteth thee and would have thee to know that she is a prisoner in her father's palace, awaiting his sentence, whether he be minded to pardon her or put her to death, and she beseecheth thee not to forget her or forsake her; for to-day thou art all-powerful; and, in whatso thou commandest, no man dare cross thee. Wherefore, an it seem good to thee to rescue her from her sire and take her with thee, it were of thy bounty, for indeed she endureth all these trials for thy sake. But, an this seem not good to thee, for that thy desire of her is at an end, still speak to thy sire, so haply he may intercede for her with her father and he depart not, till he have made him set her free and taken surety from and made covenant with him, that he will not go about to put her to death nor work her aught of harm. This is her last word to thee, may Allah not desolate her of thee, and so The Peace!'" [FN#300]--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirty-seventh Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the bondmaid sent by Hayat al-Nufus made her way to Ardashir and delivered him her lady's message, which when he heard, he wept with sore weeping and said to her, "Know that Hayat al-Nufus is my mistress and that I am her slave and the captive of her love. I have not forgotten what was between us nor the bitterness of the parting day; so do thou say to her, after thou hast kissed her feet, that I will speak with my father of her, and he shall send his Wazir, who sought her aforetime in marriage for me, to demand her hand once more of her sire, for he dare not refuse. So, if he send to her to consult her, let her make no opposition; for I will not return to my country without her." Then the handmaid returned to Hayat al-Nufus; and, kissing her hands, delivered to her the message, which when she heard, she wept for very joy and returned thanks to Almighty Allah. Such was her case; but as regards Ardashir, he was alone with his father that night and the Great King questioned him of his case, whereupon he told him all that had befallen him, first and last. Then quoth the King, "What wilt thou have me do for thee, O my son? An thou desire Abd al-Kadir's ruin, I will lay waste his lands and spoil his hoards and dishonour his house." Replied Ardashir, "I do not desire that, O my father, for he hath done nothing to me deserving thereof; but I wish for union with her; wherefore I beseech thee of thy favour to make ready a present for her father (but let it be a magnificent gift!) and send it to him by thy Minister, the man of just judgment." Quoth the King, "I hear and consent;" and sending for the treasures he had laid up from time past, brought out all manner precious things and showed them to his son, who was pleased with them. Then he called his Wazir and bade him bear the present with him [FN#301] to King Abd al-Kadir and demand his daughter in marriage for Ardashir, saying, "Accept the present and return him a reply." Now from the time of Ardashir's departure, King Abd al-Kadir had been troubled and ceased not to be heavy at heart, fearing the laying waste of his reign and the spoiling of his realm; when behold, the Wazir came in to him and saluting him, kissed ground before him. He rose up standing and received him with honour; but the Minister made haste to fall at his feet and kissing them cried, "Pardon, O King of the Age! The like of thee should not rise to the like of me, for I am the least of servants' slaves. Know, O King, that Prince Ardashir hath acquainted his father with some of the favours and kindnesses thou hast done him, wherefore he thanketh thee and sendeth thee in company of thy servant who standeth before thee, a present, saluting thee and wishing thee especial blessings and prosperities." Abd al-Kadir could not believe what he heard of the excess of his fear, till the Wazir laid the present before him, when he saw it to be such gift as no money could purchase nor could one of the Kings of the earth avail to the like thereof; wherefore he was belittled in his own eyes and springing to his feet, praised Almighty Allah and glorified Him and thanked the Prince. Then said the Minister to him, "O noble King, give ear to my word and know that the Great King sendeth to thee, desiring thine alliance, and I come to thee seeking and craving the hand of thy daughter, the chaste dame and treasured gem Hayat al-Nufus, in wedlock for his son Ardashir, wherefore, if thou consent to this proposal and accept of him, do thou agree with me for her marriage-portion." Abd al-Kadir hearing these words replied, "I hear and obey. For my part, I make no objection, and nothing can be more pleasurable to me; but the girl is of full age and reason and her affair is in her own hand. So be assured that I will refer it to her and she shall choose for herself." Then he turned to the chief eunuch and bade him go and acquaint the Princess with the event. So he repaired to the Harim and, kissing the Princess's hands, acquainted her with the Great King's offer adding, "What sayest thou in answer?" "I hear and I obey," replied she.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirty-eighth Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the chief eunuch of the Harim having informed the Princess how she had been demanded in marriage by the Great King and having heard her reply, "I hear and I obey," returned therewith to the King and gave him this answer, whereat he rejoiced with exceeding joy and, calling for a costly robe of honour, threw it over the Wazir's shoulders. Furthermore, he ordered him ten thousand dinars and bade him carry the answer to the Great King and crave leave for him to pay him a visit. "Hearing and obeying," answered the Minister; and, returning to his master, delivered him the reply and Abd al-Kadir's message, and repeated all their talk, whereat he rejoiced greatly and Ardashir was transported for delight and his breast broadened and he was a most happy man. King Sayf al-A'azam also gave King Abd al-Kadir leave to come forth to visit him; so, on the morrow, he took horse and rode to the camp of the Great King, who came to meet him and saluting him, seated him in the place of honour, and gave him welcome; and they two sat whilst Ardashir stood before them. Then arose an orator of the King Abd al-Kadir's court and pronounced an eloquent discourse, giving the Prince joy of the attainment of his desire and of his marriage with the Princess, a Queen among King's daughters. When he sat down the Great King caused bring a chest full of pearls and gems, together with fifty thousand dinars, and said to King Abd al-Kadir, "I am my son's deputy in all that concerneth this matter." So Abd al-Kadir acknowledged receipt of the marriage-portion and amongst the rest, fifty thousand dinars for the nuptial festivities; after which they fetched the Kazis and the witnesses, who wrote out the contract of marriage between the Prince and Princess, and it was a notable day, wherein all lovers made merry and all haters and enviers were mortified. They spread the marriage-feasts and banquets and lastly Ardashir went in unto the Princess and found her a jewel which had been hidden, an union pearl unthridden and a filly that none but he had ridden, so he notified this to his sire. Then King Sayf al-A'azam asked his son, "Hast thou any wish thou wouldst have fulfilled ere we depart?"; and he answered, "Yes, O King, know that I would fain take my wreak of the Wazir who entreated us on evil wise and the eunuch who forged a lie against us." So the King sent forthright to Abd al-Kadir, demanding of him the Minister and the castrato, whereupon he despatched them both to him and he commanded to hang them over the city gate. After this, they abode a little while and then sought of Abd al-Kadir leave for his daughter to equip her for departure. So he equipped her and mounted her in a Takhtrawan, a travelling litter of red gold, inlaid with pearls and gems and drawn by noble steeds. She carried with her all her waiting-women and eunuchs, as well as the nurse, who had returned, after her flight, and resumed her office. Then King Sayf al-A'azam and his son mounted and Abd al-Kadir mounted also with all the lords of his land, to take leave of his son-in-law and daughter; and it was a day to be reckoned of the goodliest of days. After they had gone some distance, the Great King conjured Abd al-Kadir to turn back; so he farewelled him and his son, after he had strained him to his breast and kissed him between the eyes and thanked him for his grace and favours and commended his daughter to his care. Then he went in to the Princess and embraced her; and she kissed his hands and they wept in the standing-place of parting. After this he returned to his capital and Ardashir and his company fared on, till they reached Shiraz, where they celebrated the marriage- festivities anew. And they abode in all comfort and solace and joyance of life, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and Severer of societies; the Depopulator of palaces and the Garnerer of graveyards. And men also relate the tale of