ALI NUR AL-DIN AND MIRIAM THE GIRDLE-GIRL [FN#377]
There was once in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before in the parts of Cairo, a merchant named Táj al-Dín who was of the most considerable of the merchants and of the chiefs of the freeborn. But he was given to travelling everywhere and loved to fare over wild and wold, waterless lowland and stony waste, and to journey to the isles of the seas, in quest of dirhams and dinars: wherefore he had in his time encountered dangers and suffered duresse of the way such as would grizzle little children and turn their black hair grey. He was possessed of black slaves and Mamelukes, eunuchs and concubines, and was the wealthiest of the merchants of his time and the goodliest of them in speech, owning horses and mules and Bactrian camels and dromedaries; sacks great and small of size; goods and merchandise and stuffs such as muslins of Hums, silks and brocades of Ba'allak, cotton of Mery, stuffs of India, gauzes of Baghdad, burnouses of Moorland and Turkish white slaves and Abyssinian castratos and Grecian girls and Egyptian boys; and the coverings of his bales were silk with gold purfled fair, for he was wealthy beyond compare. Furthermore he was rare of comeliness, accomplished in goodliness, and gracious in his kindliness, even as one of his describers doth thus express,"A merchant I spied whose lovers * Were fighting in furious guise:
And saith another in his praise and saith well enough to accomplish the wish of him,"Came a merchant to pay us a visit * Whose glance did my heart surprise:
Now that merchant had a son called Ali Nur al-Din, as he were the full moon whenas it meeteth the sight on its fourteenth night, a marvel of beauty and loveliness, a model of form and symmetrical grace, who was sitting one day as was his wont, in his father's shop, selling and buying, giving and taking, when the sons of the merchants girt him around and he was amongst them as moon among stars, with brow flower-white and cheeks of rosy light in down the tenderest dight, and body like alabaster-bright even as saith of him the poet,"'Describe me!' a fair one said. * Said I, 'Thou art Beauty's queen.'
And as saith of him one of his describers,"His mole upon plain of cheek is like * Ambergrís-crumb on marble plate,
The young merchants invited him saying, "O my lord Nur al-Din, we wish thee to go this day a-pleasuring with us in such a garden." And he answered, "Wait till I consult my parent, for I cannot go without his consent." As they were talking, behold, up came Taj al-Din, and his son looked at him and said, "O father mine, the sons of the merchants have invited me to wend a-pleasuring with them in such a garden. Dost thou grant me leave to go?" His father replied, "Yes, O my son, fare with them;" and gave him somewhat of money. So the young men mounted their mules and asses and Nur al-Din mounted a she-mule and rode with them to a garden, wherein was all that sould desireth and that eye charmeth. It was high of walls which from broad base were seen to rise; and it had a gateway vault-wise with a portico like a saloon and a door azure as the skies, as it were one of the gates of Paradise: the name of the door-keeper was Rizwán, [FN#379] and over the gate were trained an hundred trellises which grapes overran; and these were of various dyes, the red like coralline, the black like the snouts of Súdán [FN#380]-men and the white like egg of the pigeon-hen. And in it peach and pomegranate were shown and pear, apricot and pomegranate were grown and fruits with and without stone hanging in clusters or alone,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Sixty-fourth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the sons of the merchants entered the vergier, they found therein all that soul desireth or eye charmeth, grapes of many hues grown, hanging in bunches or alone, even as saith of them the poet,"Grapes tasting with the taste of wine * Whose coats like blackest Raven's shine:
And as saith another on the same theme,"Grape-bunches likest as they sway * A-stalk, my body frail and snell:
Then they entered the arbour of the garden and say there Rizwan the gate-keeper sitting, as he were Rizwan the Paradise-guardian, and on the door were written these lines,"Garth Heaven-watered wherein clusters waved * On boughs which full of sap to bend were fain:
And within the arbour were written these two couplets,"Come with us, friend, and enter thou * This garth that cleanses rust of grief:
So they entered and found all manner fruits in view and birds of every kind and hue, such as ringdove, nightingale and curlew; and the turtle and the cushat sang their love lays on the sprays. Therein were rills that ran with limpid wave and flowers suave; and bloom for whose perfume we crave and it was even as saith of it the poet in these two couplets,"The Zephyr breatheth o'er its branches, like * Fair girls that trip as in fair skirts they pace:
And again as singeth the songster,"The streamlet swings by branchy wood and aye * Joys in its breast those beauties to display;
On the trees of the garden were all manner fruits, each in two sorts, amongst them the pomegranate, as it were a ball of silver-dross, [FN#385] whereof saith the poet and saith right well,"Granados of finest skin, like the breasts * Of maid firm-standing in sight of male;
And even as quoth another bard,"Close prest appear to him who views th' inside * Red rubies in brocaded skirts bedight:
The apples were the sugared and the musky and the Dámáni, amazing the beholder, whereof saith Hassan the poet,"Apple which joins hues twain, and brings to mind * The cheek of lover and beloved combined:
There also were apricots of various kinds, almond and camphor and Jíláni and 'Antábi, [FN#389] wereof saith the poet,"And Almond-apricot suggesting swain * Whose lover's visit all his wits hath ta'en.
And saith another and saith well,"Look at that Apricot whose bloom contains * Gardens with brightness gladding all men's eyne:
There likewise were plums and cherries and grapes, that the sick of all diseases assain and do away giddiness and yellow choler from the brain; and figs the branches between, varicoloured red and green, amazing sight and sense, even as saith the poet,"'Tis as the Figs with clear white skins outthrown * By foliaged trees, athwart whose green they peep,
And saith another and saith well,"Welcome [FN#392] the Fig! To us it comes * Ordered in handsome plates they bring:
And how well saith a third,"Give me the Fig sweet-flavoured, beauty-clad, * Whose inner beauties rival outer sheen:
And how excellent is the saying of one of them,"Quoth they (and I had trained my taste thereto * Nor cared for other fruits whereby they swore),
And are yet goodlier those of another,"Pleaseth me more the fig than every fruit * When ripe and hanging from the sheeny bough;
And in that garth were also pears of various kinds Sinaïtic, [FN#395] Aleppine and Grecian growing in clusters and alone, parcel green and parcel golden.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Sixty-fifth Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the merchants' sons went down into the garth they saw therein all the fruits we mentioned and found pears Sinaïtic, Aleppine and Grecian of every hue, which here clustering there single grew, parcel green and parcel yellow to the gazer a marvel-view, as saith of them the poet,"With thee that Pear agree, whose hue a-morn * Is hue of hapless lover yellow pale;
And Sultani [FN#396] peaches of shades varied, yellow and red, whereof saith the poet,"Like Peach in vergier growing * And sheen of Andam [FN#397] showing:
There were also green almonds of passing sweetness, resembling the cabbage [FN#398] of the palm-tree, with their kernels within three tunics lurking of the Munificent King's handiworking, even as is said of them,"Three coats yon freshest form endue * God's work of varied shape and hue:
And as well saith another,"Seest not that Almond plucked by hand * Of man from bough where wont to dwell:
And as saith a third better than he,"How good is Almond green I view! * The smallest fills the hand of you:
And as saith yet another and saith well,"Mine eyes ne'er looked on aught the Almond like * For charms, when blossoms [FN#399] in the Prime show bright:
And jujube-plums of various colours, grown in clusters and alone whereof saith one, describing them,"Look at the Lote-tree, note on boughs arrayed * Like goodly apricots on reed-strown floor, [FN#400]
And as saith another and saith right well,"The Jujube-tree each Day * Robeth in bright array.
And in that garth grew blood oranges, as they were the Khaulanján, [FN#402] whereof quoth the enamoured poet, [FN#403]"Red fruits that fill the hand, and shine with sheen * Of fire, albe the scarf-skin's white as snow.
And quoth another and quoth well,"And trees of Orange fruiting ferly fair * To those who straitest have their charms surveyed;
And yet another as well,"Like are the Orange-hills [FN#404] when Zephyr breathes * Swaying the boughs and spray with airy grace,
And a fourth as fairly,"And fairest Fawn, we said to him 'Portray * This garth and oranges thine eyes survey:'
In that garden too grew citrons, in colour as virgin gold, hanging down from on high and dangling among the branches, as they were ingots of growing gold; [FN#405] and saith thereof the 'namoured poet,"Hast seen a Citron-copse so weighed adown * Thou fearest bending roll their fruit on mould;
And shaddocks, [FN#406] that among their boughs hung laden as though each were the breast of a gazelle-like maiden, contenting the most longing wight, as saith of them the poet and saith aright,"And Shaddock mid the garden-paths, on bough * Freshest like fairest damsel met my sight;
And the lime sweet of scent, which resembleth a hen's egg, but its yellowness ornamenteth its ripe fruit, and its fragrance hearteneth him who plucketh it, as saith the poet who singeth it,"Seest not the Lemon, when it taketh form, * Catch rays of light and all to gaze constrain;
Moreover in this garden were all manner of other fruits and sweet-scented herbs and plants and fragrant flowers, such as jessamine and henna and water-lilies [FN#407] and spikenard [FN#408] and roses of every kind and plantain [FN#409] and myrtle and so forth; and indeed it was without compare, seeming as it were a piece of Paradise to whoso beheld it. If a sick man entered it, he came forth from it like a raging lion, and tongue availeth not to its description, by reason of that which was therein of wonders and rarities which are not found but in Heaven: and how should it be otherwise when its doorkeeper's name was Rizman? Though widely different were the stations of those twain! Now when the sons of the merchants had walked about gazing at the garden after taking their pleasure therein, they say down in one of its pavilions and seated Nur al-Din in their midst.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Sixty-sixth Night,
She resume, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the sons of the merchants sat down in the pavilion they seated Nur al-Din in their midst on a rug of gold-purfled leather of Al-Táif, [FN#410] leaning on a pillow [FN#411] of minever, stuffed with ostrich down. And they gave him a fan of ostrich feathers, whereon were written these two couplets,"A fan whose breath is fraught with fragrant scent; * Minding of happy days and times forspent,
Then they laid by their turbands and outer clothes and sat talking and chatting and inducing one another to discourse, while they all kept their eyes fixed on Nur al-Din and gazed on his beauteous form. After the sitting had lasted an hour or so, up came a slave with a tray on his head, wherein were platters of china and crystal containing viands of all sorts (for one of the youths had so charged his people before coming to the garden); and the meats were of whatever walketh earth or wingeth air or swimmeth waters, such as Katá-grouse and fat quails and pigeon-poults and mutton and chickens and the delicatest fish. So, the tray being sat before them, they fell to and ate their fill; and when they had made an end of eating, they rose from meat and washed their hands with pure water and musk-scented soap, and dried them with napery embroidered in silk and bugles; but to Nur al-Din they brought a napkin laced with red gold whereon he wiped his hands. Then coffee [FN#412] was served up and each drank what he would, after which they sat talking, till presently the garden-keeper who was young went away and returning with a basket full of roses, said to them, "What say ye, O my masters, to flowers?" Quoth one of them, "There is no harm in them, [FN#413] especially roses, which are not to be resisted." Answered the gardener, "'Tis well, but it is of our wont not to give roses but in exchange for pleasant converse; so whoever would take aught thereof, let him recite some verses suitable to the situation." Now they were ten sons of merchants of whom one said, "Agreed: give me thereof and I will recite thee somewhat of verse apt to the case." Accordingly the gardener gave him a bunch of roses [FN#414] which he took and at once improvised these three couplets,"The Rose in highest stead I rate * For that her charms ne'er satiate;
Then the gardener gave a bunch to another and he recited these two couplets,"Take, O my lord, to thee the Rose * Recalling scent by mush be shed.
Then he gave a bunch to a third who recited these two couplets,"Choice Rose that gladdens heart to see her sight; * Of Nadd recalling fragrance exquisite.
Then he gave a bunch to a fourth and he recited these two couplets,"Seest not that rosery where Rose a-flowering displays * Mounted upon her steed of stalk those marvels manifold?
Then he gave a posy to a fifth and he recited these two couplets,"Wands of green chrysolite bare issue, which * Were fruits like ingots of the growing gold. [FN#416]
Then he gave a sixth a bunch and he recited these two couplets,"O Rose, thou rare of charms that dost contain * All gifts and Allah's secrets singular,
Then he gave a bunch to a seventh and he recited these two couplets,"To Rose quoth I, 'What gars thy thorns to be put forth * For all who touch thee cruellest injury?'
And he gave an eighth a bunch and he recited these two couplets,"Allah save the Rose which yellows a-morn * Florid, vivid and likest the nugget-ore;
Then he gave a bunch to a ninth and he recited these two couplets,"The bushes of golden-hued Rose excite * In the love-sick lover joys manifold:
Then he gave a bunch of roses to the tenth and last and he recited these two couplets,"Seest not how the hosts of the Rose display * Red hues and yellow in rosy field?
And whilst each one hent bunch in hand, the gardener brought the wine-service and setting it before them, on a tray of porcelain arabesqued with red gold, recited these two couplets,"Dawn heralds day-light: so wine pass round, * Old wine, fooling sage till his wits he tyne:
Then the gardener filled and drank and the cup went round, till it came to Nur al-Din's turn, whereupon the man filled and handed it to him; but he said, "This thing I wot it not nor have I ever drunken thereof, for therein is great offence and the Lord of All-might hath forbidden it in His Book." Answered the gardener, "O my Lord Nur al-Din, an thou forbear to drink only by reason of the sin, verily Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) is bountiful, of sufferance great, forgiving and compassionate and pardoneth the mortalest sins: His mercy embraceth all things, Allah's ruth be upon the poet who saith,'Be as thou, wilt, for Allah is bountiful * And when thou sinnest feel thou naught alarm:
Then quoth one of the sons of the merchants, "My life on thee, O my lord Nur al-Din, drink of this cup!" And another conjured him by the oath of divorce and yet another stood up persistently before him, till he was ashamed and taking the cup from the gardener, drank a draught, but spat it out again, crying, "'Tis bitter." Said the young gardener, "O my lord Nur al-Din, knowest thou not that sweets taken by way of medicine are bitter? Were this not bitter, 'twould lack of the manifold virtues it possesseth; amongst which are that it digesteth food and disperseth cark and care and dispelleth flatulence and clarifieth the blood and cleareth the complexion and quickeneth the body and hearteneth the hen-hearted and fortifieth the sexual power in man; but to name all its virtues would be tedious. Quoth one of the poets,'We'll drink and Allah pardon sinners all * And cure of ills by sucking cups I'll find:
Then he sprang up without stay or delay and opened one of the cupboards in the pavilion and taking out a loaf of refined sugar, broke off a great slice which he put into Nur al-Din's cup, saying, "O my lord, an thou fear to drink wine, because of its bitterness, drink now, for 'tis sweet." So he took the cup and emptied it: whereupon one of his comrades filled him another, saying, "O my lord Nur al-Din, I am thy slave," and another did the like, saying, "I am one of thy servants," and a third said, "For my sake!" and a fourth, "Allah upon thee, O my lord Nur al-Din, heal my heart!" And so they ceased not plying him with wine, each and every of the ten sons of merchants till they had made him drink a total of ten cups. Now Nur al-Din's body was virgin of wine-bibbing, or never in all his life had he drunken vine-juice till that hour, wherefore its fumes wrought in his brain and drunkenness was stark upon him and he stood up (and indeed his tongue was thick and his speech stammering) and said, "O company, by Allah, ye are fair and your speech is goodly and your place pleasant; but there needeth hearing of sweet music; for drink without melody lacks the chief of its essentiality, even as saith the poet,'Pass round the cup to the old and the young man, too, And take the bowl from the hand of the shining moon, [FN#420]
Therewith up sprang the gardener lad and mounting one of the young men's mules, was absent awhile, after which he returned with a Cairene girl, as she were a sheep's tail, fat and delicate, or an ingot of pure silvern ore or a dinar on a porcelain plate or a gazelle in the wold forlore. She had a face that put to shame the shining sun and eyes Babylonian [FN#422] and brows like bows bended and cheeks rose-painted and teeth pearly-hued and lips sugared and glances languishing and breast ivory white and body slender and slight, full of folds and with dimples dight and hips like pillows stuffed and thighs like columns of Syrian stone, and between them what was something like a sachet of spices in wrapper swathed. Quoth the poet of her in these couplets,"Had she shown her shape to idolaters' sight, * They would gaze on her face and their gods detest:
And quoth another in these couplets,"Brighter than Moon at full with kohl'd eyes she came * Like Doe, on chasing whelps of Lioness intent:
And how well saith a third bard, [FN#426]"Three things for ever hinder her to visit us, for fear Of the intriguing spy and eke the rancorous envier;
She was like the moon when at fullest on its fourteenth night, and was clad in a garment of blue, with a veil of green, overbrown flower-white that all wits amazed and those of understanding amated.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying his permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Sixty-seventh Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the gardener brought a girl whom we have described, possessed of the utmost beauty and loveliness and fine stature and symmetrical grace as it were she the poet signified when he said, [FN#427]"She came apparelled in a vest of blue,
And how goodly is the saying of another and how excellent,"She came thick veiled, and cried I, 'O display * That face like full moon bright with pure-white ray.'
Then said the young gardener to her, "Know thou, O lady of the fair, brighter than any constellation which illumineth air we sought, in bringing thee hither naught but that thou shouldst entertain with converse this comely youth, my lord Nur al-Din, for he hath come to this place only this day." And the girl replied, "Would thou hadst told me, that I might have brought what I have with me!" Rejoined the gardener, "O my lady, I will go and fetch it to thee." "As thou wilt," said she: and he, "Give me a token." So she gave him a kerchief and he fared forth in haste and returned after awhile, bearing a green satin bag with slings of gold. The girl took the bag from him and opening it shook it, whereupon there fell thereout two-and-thirty pieces of wood, which she fitted one into other, male into female and female into male [FN#428] till they became a polished lute of Indian workmanship. Then she uncovered her wrists and laying the lute in her lap, bent over it with the bending of mother over babe, and swept the strings with her finger-tips; whereupon it moaned and resounded and after its olden home yearned; and it remembered the waters that gave it drink and the earth whence it sprang and wherein it grew and it minded the carpenters who made it their merchandise and the ships that shipped it; and it cried and called aloud and moaned and groaned; and it was as if she asked it of all these things and it answered her with the tongue of the case, reciting these couplets, [FN#429]"A tree whilere was I the Bulbul's home * To whom for love I bowed my grass-green head:
Then the girl was silent awhile, but presently taking the lute in lap, again bent over it, as mother bendeth over child, and preluded in many different modes; then, returning to the first, she sang these couplets,"Would they [FN#430] the lover seek without ado, * He to his heavy grief had bid adieu:
When Nur al-Din heard the girl sing these lines he looked on her with eyes of love and could scarce contain himself for the violence of his inclination to her; and on like wise was it with her, because she glanced at the company who were present of the sons of the merchants and she saw that Nur al-Din was amongst the rest as moon among stars; for that he was sweet of speech and replete with amorous grace, perfect in stature and symmetry, brightness and loveliness, pure of all defect, than the breeze of morn softer, than Tasnim blander, as saith of him the poet, [FN#433]"By his cheeks' unfading damask and his smiling teeth I swear, By the arros that he feathers with the witchery of his air,
When it was the Eight Hundred and Sixty-eighth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Nur al-Din was delighted with the girl's verses and he swayed from side to side for drunkenness and fell a-praising her and saying,"A lutanist to us inclined * And stole our wits bemused with wine:
When she heard him thus improvise the girl gazed at him with loving eyes and redoubled in passion and desire for him increased upon her, and indeed she marvelled at his beauty and loveliness, symmetry and grace, so that she could not contain herself, but took the lute in lap again and sang these couplets,"He blames me for casting on him my sight * And parts fro' me bearing my life and sprite:
Nur al-Din wondered at the charms of her verse and the elegance of her expression and the sweetness of her voice and the eloquence of her speech and his wit fled for stress of love and longing, and ecstasy and distraction, so that he could not refrain from her a single moment, but bent to her and strained her to his bosom: and she in like manner bowed her form over his and abandoned herself to his embrace and bussed him between the eyes. Then he kissed her on the mouth and played with her at kisses, after the manner of the billing of doves; and she met him with like warmth and did with him as she was done by till the others were distracted and rose to their feet; whereupon Nur al-Din was ashamed and held his hand from her. Then she took her lute and, preluding thereon in manifold modes, lastly returned to the first and sang these couplets,"A Moon, when he bends him those eyes lay bare * A brand that gars gazing gazelle despair:
When Nur al-Din heard the sweetness of her voice and the rareness of her verse, he inclined to her for delight and could not contain himself for excess of wonderment; so he recited these couplets."Methought she was the forenoon sun until she donned the veil * But lit she fire in vitals mine still flaring fierce and high,
The girl marvelled at his eloquence and elegance and taking her lute, smote thereon with the goodliest of performance, repeating all the melodies, and sang these couplets,"By the life o' thy face, O thou life o' my sprite! * I'll ne'er leave thy love for despair or delight:
Hereat Nur al-Din was gladdened with extreme gladness and wondered with the utmost wonder, so he answered her verse with these couplets,"The sun yellowed not in the murk gloom li'en * But lay pearl enveiled 'neath horizon-chine;
When the girl heard Nur al-Din's words and noted the beauty of his eloquence her senses fled and her wit was dazed and love of him gat hold upon her whole heart. So she pressed him to her bosom and fell to kissing him like the billing of doves, whilst he returned her caresses with successive kisses; but preeminence appertaineth to precedence. [FN#437] When she had made an end of kissing, she took the lute and recited these couplets,"Alas, alack and well-away for blamer's calumny! * Whether or not I make my moan or plead or show no plea:
And also these two couplets,"His lovers said, 'Unless he deign to give us all a drink * Of wine, of fine old wine his lips deal in their purity;
Nur al-Din, hearing these lines and their rhyme, marvelled at the fluency of her tongue and thanked her, praising her grace and passing seductiveness; and the damsel, delighted at his praise, arose without stay or delay and doffing that was upon her of outer dress and trinkets till she was free of all encumbrance sat down on his knees and kissed him between the eyes and on his cheek-mole. Then she gave him all she had put off.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Sixty-ninth Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the girl gave to Nur al-Din all she had doffed, saying, "O beloved of my heart, in very sooth the gift is after the measure of the giver." So he accepted this from her and gave it back to her and kissed her on the mouth and cheeks and eyes. When this was ended and done, for naught is durable save the Living, the Eternal, Provider of the peacock and the owl, [FN#438] Nur al-Din rose from the séance and stood upon his feet, because the darkness was now fallen and the stars shone out; whereupon quoth the damsel to him, "Whither away, O my lord?"; and quoth he, "To my father's home." Then the sons of the merchants conjured him to night with them, but he refused and mounting his shemule, rode, without stopping, till he reached his parent's house, where his mother met him and said to him, "O my son, what hath kept thee away till this hour? By Allah, thou hast troubled myself and thy sire by thine absence from us, and our hearts have been occupied with thee." Then she came up to him, to kiss him on his mouth, and smelling the fumes of the wine, said, "O my wine-bibber and a rebel against Him to whom belong creation and commandment?" But Nur al-Din threw himself down on the bed and lay there. Presently in came his sire and said, "What aileth Nur al-Din to lie thus?"; and his mother answered, "'Twould seem his head acheth for the air of the garden." So Taj al-Din went up to his son, to ask him of his ailment, and salute him, and smelt the reek of wine. [FN#439] Now the merchant loved not wine-drinkers; so he said to Nur al-Din, "Woe to thee, O my son! Is folly come to such a pass with thee, that thou drinkest wine?" When Nur al-Din heard his sire say this, he raised his hand, being yet in his drunkenness, and dealt him a buffet, when by decree of the Decreer the blow lit on his father's right eye which rolled down on his cheek; whereupon he fell a-swoon and lay therein awhile. They sprinkled rose-water on him till he recovered, when he would have beaten his son; but the mother withheld him, and he swore, by the oath of divorce from his wife that, as soon as morning morrowed, he would assuredly cut off his son's right hand. [FN#440] When she heard her husband's words, her breast was straitened and she feared for he son and ceased not to soothe and appease his sire, till sleep overcame him. Then she waited till moon-rise, when she went in to her son, whose drunkenness had now departed from him, and said to him, "O Nur al-Din, what is this foul deed thou diddest with thy sire?" He asked, "And what did I with him?"; and answered she, "Thou dealtest him a buffet on the right eye and struckest it out so that it rolled down his cheek; and he hath sworn by the divorce-oath that, as soon as morning shall morrow he will without fail cut off thy right hand." Nur al-Din repented him of that he had done, whenas repentance profited him naught, and his mother sait to him, "O my son, this penitence will not profit thee; nor will aught avail thee but that thou arise forthwith and seek safety in flight: go forth the house privily and take refuge with one of thy friends and there what Allah shall do await, for he changeth case after case and state upon state." Then she opened a chest and taking out a purse of an hundred dinars said, "O my son, take these dinars and provide thy wants therewith, and when they are at an end, O my son, send and let me know thereof, that I may send thee other than these, and at the same time covey to me news of thyself privily: haply Allah will decree thee relief and thou shalt return to thy home. And she farewelled him and wept passing sore, nought could be more. Thereupon Nur al-Din took the purse of gold and was about to go forth, when he espied a great purse containing a thousand dinars, which his mother had forgotten by the side of the chest. So he took this also and binding the two purses about his middle, [FN#441] set out before dawn threading the streets in the direction of Búlák, where he arrived when day broke and all creatures arose, attesting the unity of Allah the Opener and went forth each of them upon his several business, to win that which Allah had unto him allotted. Reaching Bulak he walked on along the riverbank till he sighted a ship with her gangway out and her four anchors made fast to the land. The folk were going up into her and coming down from her, and Nur al-Din, seeing some sailors there standing, asked them whither they were bound, and they answered, "To Rosetta-city." Quoth he, "Take me with you;" and quoth they, "Well come, and welcome to thee, to thee, O goodly one!" So he betook himself forthright to the market and buying what he needed of vivers and bedding and covering, returned to the port and went on board the ship, which was ready to sail and tarried with him but a little while before she weighed anchor and fared on, without stopping, till she reached Rosetta, [FN#442] where Nur al-Din saw a small boat going to Alexandria. So he embarked in it and traversing the sea-arm of Rosetta fared on till he came to a bridge called Al-Jámí, where he landed and entered Alexandria by the gate called the Gate of the Lote-tree. Allah protected him, so that none of those who stood on guard at the gate saw him, and he walked on till he entered the city.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventieth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Nur al-Din entered Alexandria he found it a city goodly of pleasaunces, delightful to its inhabitants and inviting to inhabit therein. Winter had fared from it with his cold and Prime was come to it with his roses: its flowers were kindly ripe and welled forth its rills. Indeed, it was a city goodly of ordinance and disposition; its folk were of the best of men, and when the gates thereof were shut, its folk were safe. [FN#443] And it was even as is said of it in these couplets,"Quoth I to a comrade one day, * A man of good speech and rare,
Or as saith one of the poets,"Alexandria's a frontier; [FN#444] Whose dews of lips are sweet and clear;
Nur al-Din walked about the city and ceased not walking till her came to the merchants' bazar, whence he passed on to the mart of the money-changers and so on in turn to the markets of the confectioners and fruiterers and druggists, marvelling, as he went, at the city, for that the nature of its qualities accorded with its name. [FN#445] As he walked in the druggists' bazar, behold, an old man came down from his shop and saluting him, took him by the hand and carried him to his home. And Nur al-Din saw a fair bystreet, swept and sprinkled, whereon the zephyr blew and made pleasantness pervade it and the leaves of the trees overshaded it. Therein stood three houses and at the upper end a mansion, whose foundations were firm sunk in the water and its walls towered to the confines of the sky. They had swept the space before it and they had sprinkled it freshly; so it exhaled the fragrance of flowers, borne on the zephyr which breathed upon the place; and the scent met there who approached it on such wise as it were one of the gardens of Paradise. And, as they had cleaned and cooed the by-street's head, so was the end of it with marble spread. The Shaykh carried Nur al-Din into the house and setting somewhat of food before him ate with his guest. When they had made an end of eating, the druggist said to him, "When camest thou hither from Cairo?"; and Nur al-Din replied, "This very night, O my father." Quoth the old man, "What is thy name?"; and quoth he, "Ali Nur al-Din." Said the druggist, "O my son, O Nur al-Din, be the triple divorce incumbent on me, an thou leave me so long as thou abidest in this city; and I will set thee apart a place wherein thou mayst dwell." Nur al-Din asked, "O my lord the Shaykh, let me know more of thee"; and the other answered, "Know, O my son, that some years ago I went to Cairo with merchandise, which I sold there and bought other, and I had occasion for a thousand dinars. So thy sire Taj al-Din weighed them out [FN#446] for me, all unknowing me, and would take no written word of me, but had patience with me till I returned hither and sent him the amount by one of my servants, together with a gift. I saw thee, whilst thou wast little; and, if it please Allah the Most High, I will repay thee somewhat of the kindness thy father did me." When Nur al-Din heard the old man's story, he showed joy and pulling out with a smile the purse of a thousand dinars, gave it to his host the Shaykh and said to him, "Take charge of this deposit for me, against I buy me somewhat of merchandise whereon to trade." Then he abode some time in Alexandria city taking his pleasure every day in its thoroughfares, eating and drinking ad indulging himself with mirth and merriment till he had made an end of the hundred dinars he had kept by way of spending-money; whereupon he repaired to the old druggist, to take of him somewhat of the thousand dinars to spend, but found him not in his shop and took a seat therein to await his return. He sat there gazing right and left and amusing himself with watching the merchants and passers-by, and as he was thus engaged behold, there came into the bazar a Persian riding on a she-mule and carrying behind him a damsel; as she were argent of alloy free or a fish Balti [FN#447] in mimic sea or a doe-gazelle on desert lea. Her face outshone the sun in shine and she had witching eyne and breasts of ivory white, teeth of marguerite, slender waist and sides dimpled deep and calves like tails of fat sheep; [FN#448] and indeed she was perfect in beauty and loveliness, elegant stature and symmetrical grace, even as saith one, describing her, [FN#449]"'Twas as by will of her she was create * Nor short nor long, but Beauty's mould and mate:
Presently the Persian lighted down from his she-mule and, making the damsel also dismount, loudly summoned the broker and said to him as soon as he came, "Take this damsel and cry her for sale in the market." So he took her and leading her to the middlemost of the bazar disappeared for a while and presently he returned with a stool of ebony, inlaid with ivory, and setting it upon the ground, seated her thereon. Then he raised her veil and discovered a face as it were a Median targe [FN#450] or a cluster of pearls: [FN#451] and indeed she was like the full moon, when it filleth on its fourteenth night, accomplished in brilliant beauty. As saith the poet,"Vied the full moon for folly with her face, * But was eclipsed [FN#452] and split for rage full sore;
And how well saith another,"Say to the fair in the wroughten veil * How hast made that monk-like worshipper ail?
Then said the broker to the merchants, [FN#455] "How much do ye bid for the union-pearl of the diver and prize-quarry of the fowler?" Quoth one, "She is mine for an hundred dinars." And another said, "Two hundred," and a third, "Three hundred"; and they ceased not to bid, one against other, till they made her price nine hundred and fifty dinars, and there the biddings stopped awaiting acceptance and consent. [FN#456]--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventy-first Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the merchants bid one against other till they made the price of the girl nine hundred and fifty dinars. Then the broker went up to her Persian master and said to him, "The biddings for this thy slavegirl have reached nine hundred and fifty dinars: so say me, wilt thou sell her at that price and take the money?" Asked the Persian, "Doth she consent to this? I desire to fall in with her wishes, for I sickened on my journey hither and this handmaid tended me with all possible tenderness, wherefore I sware not to sell her but to him whom she should like and approve, and I have put her sale in her own hand. So do thou consult her and if she say, 'I consent,' sell her to whom thou wilt: but an she say, 'No,' sell her not." So the broker went up to her and asked her, "O Princess of fair ones, know that thy master putteth thy sale in thine own hands, and thy price hath reached nine hundred and fifty dinars; dost thou give me leave to sell thee?" She answered, "Show me him who is minded to buy me before clinching the bargain." So he brought her up to one of the merchants a man stricken with years and decrepit; and she looked at him a long while, then turned to the broker and said to him, "O broker, art thou Jinn-mad or afflicted in thy wit?" Replied he, "Why dost thou ask me this, O Princess of fair ones?"; and said she, "Is it permitted thee of Allah to sell the like of me to yonder decrepit old man, who saith of his wife's case these couplets,'Quoth she to me,--and sore enraged for wounded pride was she, * For she in sooth had bidden me to that which might not be,--
And said he likewise of his yard,'I have a yard that sleeps in base and shameful way * When grants my lover boon for which I sue and pray:
And again quoth he thereof of his yard,'I have a froward yard of temper ill * Dishonoring him who shows it most regard:
When the old merchant heard this ill flouting from the damsel, he was wroth with wrath exceeding beyond which was no proceeding and said to the broker, "O most ill-omened of brokers, thou hast not brought into the market this ill-conditioned wench but to gibe me and make mock of me before the merchants." Then the broker took her aside and said to her, "O my lady, be not wanting in self-respect. The Shaykh at whom thou didst mock is the Syndic of the bazar and Inspector [FN#459] thereof and a committee-man of the council of the merchants." But she laughed and improvised these two couplets,"It behoveth folk who rule in our time, * And 'tis one of the duties of magistrateship,
Adding, "By Allah, O my lord, I will not be sold to yonder old man; so sell me to other than him, for haply he will be abashed at me and vend me again and I shall become a mere servant [FN#460] and it beseemeth not that I sully myself with menial service; and indeed thou knowest that the matter of my sale is committed to myself." He replied, "I hear and I obey," and carried her to a man which was one of the chief merchants. And when standing hard by him the broker asked, "How sayst thou, O my lady? Shall I sell thee to my lord Sharíf al-Dín here for nine hundred and fifty gold pieces?" She looked at him and, seeing him to be an old man with a dyed beard, said to the broker, "Art thou silly, that thou wouldst sell me to this worn out Father Antic? Am I cotton refuse or threadbare rags that thou marchest me about from greybeard to greybeard, each like a wall ready to fall or an Ifrit smitten down of a fire-ball? As for the first, the poet had him in mind when he said, [FN#461]'I sought of a fair maid to kiss her lips of coral red, But, 'No, by Him who fashioned things from nothingness!' she said.
And how goodly is the saying of the poet,'The wise have said that white of hair is light that shines and robes * The face of man with majesty and light that awes the sight;
And yet goodlier is the saying of another,'A guest hath stolen on my head and honour may he lack! * The sword a milder deed hath done that dared these locks to hack.
As for the other, he is a model of wantonness and scurrilousness and a blackener of the face of hoariness; his dye acteth the foulest of lies: and the tongue of his case reciteth these lines, [FN#464]'Quoth she to me, 'I see thou dy'st thy hoariness;' and I, 'I do but hide it from thy sight, O thou mine ear and eye!'
And how excellent is the saying of the poet,'O thou who dyest hoariness with black, * That youth wi' thee abide, at least in show;
When the old man with dyed beard heard such words from the slave-girl, he raged with exceeding rage in fury's last stage and said to the broker, "O most ill-omened of brokers, this day thou hast brought to our market naught save this gibing baggage to flout at all who are therein, one after other, and fleer at them with flyting verse and idle jest?" And he came down from his shop and smote on the face the broker, who took her an angered and carried her away, saying to her, "By Allah, never in my life saw I a more shameless wench than thyself! [FN#465] Thou hast cut off my daily bread and thine own this day and all the merchants will bear me a grudge on thine account." Then they saw on the way a merchant called Shihab al-Din who bid ten dinars more for her, and the broker asked her leave to sell her to him. Quoth she, "Trot him out that I may see him and question him of a certain thing, which if he have in his house, I will be sold to him; and if not, then not." So the broker left her standing there and going up to Shihab al-Din, said to him, "O my lord, know that yonder damsel tells me she hath a mind to ask thee somewhat, which an thou have, she will be sold to thee. Now thou hast heard what she said to thy fellows, the merchants,"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventy-second Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the broker said to the merchant, "Thou hast heard what this handmaid said to thy fellows, the traders, and by Allah, I fear to bring her to thee, lest she do with thee like as she did with thy neighbours and so I fall into disgrace with thee: but, an thou bid me bring her to thee, I will bring her." Quoth the merchant, "Hither with her to me." "Hearing and obeying," answered the broker and fetched for the purchaser the damsel, who looked at him and said, "O my lord, Shihab al-Din, hast thou in thy house round cushions stuffed with ermine strips?" Replied Shihab al-Din, "Yes, O Princess of fair ones, I have at home half a score such cushions; but I conjure thee by Allah, tell me, what will thou do with them?" Quoth she, "I will bear with thee till thou be asleep, when I will lay them on thy mouth and nose and press them down till thou die." Then she turned to the broker and said to him, "O thou refuse of brokers, meseemeth thou art mad, in that thou showest me this hour past, first to a pair of greybeards, in each of whom are two faults, and then thou proferrest me to my lord Shihab al-Din wherein be three defects; and thirdly, he is dwarfish, secondly, he hath a nose which is big, and thirdly, he hath a beard which is long. Of him quoth one of the poets,'We never heard of wight nor yet espied * Who amid men three gifts hath unified:
And quoth another poet,'From the plain of his face springs a minaret * Like a bezel of ring on his finger set:
When Shihab al-Din heard this, he came down from his shop and seized the broker by the collar, saying, "O scurviest of brokers, what aileth thee to bring us a damsel to flout and make mock of us, one after other, with her verses and talk that a curse is?" So the broker took her and carried her away from before him and fared, saying, "By Allah, all my life long, since I have plied this profession never set I eyes on the like of thee for unmannerliness nor aught more curst to me than thy star, for thou hast cut off my livelihood this day and I have gained no profit by thee save cuffs on the neck-nape and catching by the collar!" Then he brought her to the shop of another merchant, owner of negro slaves and white servants, and stationing her before him, said to her, "Wilt thou be sold to this my lord 'Alá al-Dín?" She looked at him and seeing him hump-backed, said, "This is a Gobbo, and quoth the poet of him,'Drawn in thy shoulders are and spine thrust out, * As seeking star which Satan gave the lout; [FN#466]
And saith another on the same theme,'As one of you who mounted mule, * A sight for me to ridicule:
And another on a similar subject,'Oft hunchback addeth to his bunchy back * Faults which gar folk upon his front look black:
With this the broker hurried up to her and, carrying her to another merchant, said to her, "Wilt thou be sold to this one?" She looked at him and said, "In very sooth this man is blue-eyed; [FN#467] how wilt thou sell me to him?" Quoth one of the poets,'His eyelids sore and bleared * Weakness of frame denote:
Then the broker carried her to another and she looked at him and seeing that he had a long beard, said to the broker, "Fie upon thee! This is a ram, whose tail hath sprouted from his gullet. Wilt thou sell me to him, O unluckiest of brokers? Hast thou not heard say: 'All long of beard are little of wits? Indeed, after the measure of the length of the beard is the lack of sense; and this is a well-known thing among men of understanding.' As saith one of the poets,'Ne'er was a man with beard grown overlong, * Tho' be he therefor reverenced and fear'd,
And quoth another, [FN#468]'I have a friend with a beard which God hath made to grow to a useless length,
With this the broker took her and turned away with her, and she asked, "Whither goest thou with me?" He answered, "Back to thy master the Persian; it sufficeth me what hath befallen me because of thee this day; for thou hast been the means of spoiling both my trade and his by thine ill manners." Then she looked about the market right and left, front and rear till, by the decree of the Decreer her eyes fell on Ali Nur al-Din the Cairene. So she gazed at him and saw him [FN#469] to be a comely youth of straight slim form and smooth of face, fourteen years old, rare in beauty and loveliness and elegance and amorous grace like the full moon on the fourteenth night with forehead flower-white, and cheeks rosy red, neck like alabaster and teeth than jewels and dews of lips sweeter than sugar, even as saith of him one of his describers,"Came to match him in beauty and loveliness rare * Full moons and gazelles but quoth I, 'Soft fare!
And how well saith another bard,"Slim-waisted loveling, from his hair and brow * Men wake a-morn in night and light renewed.
When the slave-girl beheld Nur al-Din he interposed between her and her wits; she fell in love to him with a great and sudden fall and her heart was taken with affection for him;--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventy-third Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the slave-girl beheld Nur al-Din, her heart was taken with affection for him; so she turned to the broker and said to him, "Will not yonder young merchant, who is sitting among the traders in the gown of striped broadcloth, bid somewhat more for me?" The broker replied, "O lady of fair ones, yonder young man is a stranger from Cairo, where his father is chief of the trader-guild and surpasseth all the merchants and notables of the place. He is but lately come to this our city and lodgeth with one of his father's friends; but he hath made no bid for thee nor more nor less." When the girl heard the broker's words, she drew from her finger a costly signet-ring of ruby and said to the man, "Carry me to yonder youth, and if he buy me, this ring shall be thine, in requital of thy travail with me this day." The broker rejoiced at this and brought her up to Nur al-Din, and she considered him straitly and found him like the full moon, perfect in loveliness and a model of fine stature and symmetric grace, even as saith of him one of his describers."Waters of beauty o'er his cheeks flow bright, * And rain his glances shafts that sorely smite:
The girl gazed at Nur al-Din and said, "O my lord, Allah upon thee, am I not beautiful?"; and he replied, "O Princess of fair ones, is there in the world a comelier than thou?" She rejoined, "Then why seest thou all the other merchants bid high for me and art silent nor sayest a word neither addest one dinar to my price? 'Twould seem I please thee not, O my lord!" Quoth he, "O my lady, were I in my own land, I had bought thee with all that my hand possesseth of monies;" and quoth she, "O my lord, I said not, 'Buy me against thy will,' yet, didst thou but add somewhat to my price, it would hearten my heart, though thou buy me not, so the merchants may say, 'Were not this girl handsome, yonder merchant of Cairo had not bidden for her, for the Cairenes are connoisseurs in slave-girls.'" These words abashed Nur al-Din and he blushed and said to the broker, "How high are the biddings for her?" He replied, "Her price hath reached nine hundred and sixty dinars, [FN#471] besides brokerage, as for the Sultan's dues, they fall on the seller." Quoth Nur al-Din, "Let me have her for a thousand dinars, brokerage and price." And the damsel hastening to the fore and leaving the broker, said "I sell myself to this handsome young man for a thousand dinars." But Nur al-Din held his peace. Quoth one, "We sell to him;" and another, "He deserveth her;" and a third, "Accursed, son of accursed, is he who biddeth and doth not buy!"; and a fourth, "By Allah, they befit each other!" Then, before Nur al-Din could think, the broker fetched Kazis and witnesses, who wrote out a contract of sale and purchase; and the broker handed the paper to Nur al-Din, saying, "Take thy slave-girl and Allah bless thee in her for she beseemeth none but thee and none but thou beseemeth her." And he recited these two couplets,"Boom Fortune sought him in humblest way [FN#472] * And came to him draggle-tailed, all a-stir:
Hereat Nur al-Din was abashed before the merchants; so he arose without stay or delay and weighed out the thousand dinars which he had left as a deposit with his father's friend the druggist, and taking the girl, carried her to the house wherein the Shaykh had lodged him. When she entered and saw nothing but ragged patched carpets and worn out rugs, she said to him, "O my lord, have I no value to thee and am I not worthy that thou shouldst bear me to thine own house and home wherein are thy goods, that thou bringest me into thy servant's lodging? Why dost thou not carry me to thy father's dwelling?" He replied, "By Allah, O Princess of fair ones, this is my house wherein I dwell; but it belongeth to an old man, a druggist of this city, who hath set it apart for me and lodged me therein. I told thee that I was a stranger and that I am of the sons of Cairo city." She rejoined, "O my lord, the least of houses sufficeth till thy return to thy native place; but, Allah upon thee, O my lord, go now and fetch us somewhat of roast meat and wine and dried fruit and dessert." Quoth Nur al-Din, "By Allah, O Princess of fair ones, I had no money with me but the thousand dinars I paid down to thy price nor possess I any other good. The few dirhams I owned were spent by me yesterday." Quoth she, "Hast thou no friend in the town, of whom thou mayst borrow fifty dirhams and bring them to me, that I may tell thee what thou shalt do therewith?" And he said, "I have no intimate but the druggist." Then he betook himself forthright to the druggist and said to him, "Peace be with thee, O uncle!" He returned his salam and said to him, "O my son, what hast thou bought for a thousand dinars this day?" Nur al-Din replied, "I have bought a slave-girl;" and the oldster rejoined, "O my son, art thou mad that thou givest a thousand dinars for one slave-girl? Would I knew what kind of slave-girl she is?" Said Nur al-Din, "She is a damsel of the children of the Franks;"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventy-fourth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Nur al-Din said to the ancient druggist, "The damsel is of the children of the Franks;" and the Shaykh said, "O my son, the best of the girls of the Franks are to be had in this our town for an hundred dinars, and by Allah, O my son, they have cheated thee in the matter of this damsel! However, an thou have taken a fancy to her, lie with her this night and do thy will of her and to-morrow morning go down with her to the market and sell her, though thou lose by her two hundred dinars, and reckon that thou hast lost them by shipwreck or hast been robbed of them on the road." Nur al-Din replied, "Right is thy rede, O uncle, but thou knowest that I had but the thousand dinars wherewith I purchased the damsel, and now I have not a single dirham left to spend; so I desire of thy favour and bounty that thou lend me fifty dirhams, to provide me withal, till to-morrow, when I will sell her and repay thee out of her price." Said the old man, "Willingly, O my son," and counted out to him the fifty dirhams. Then he said to him, "O my son, thou art but young in years and the damsel is fair, so belike thy heart will be taken with her and it will be grievous to thee to vend her. Now thou hast nothing to live on and these fifty dirhams will readily be spent and thou wilt come to me and I shall lend thee once and twice and thrice, and so on up to ten times; but, an thou come to me after this, I will not return thy salam [FN#473] and our friendship with thy father will end ill." Nur al-Din took the fifty dirhams and returned with them to the damsel, who said to him, "O my lord, wend thee at once to the market and fetch me twenty dirhams' worth of stained silk of five colours and with the other thirty buy meat and bread and fruit and wine and flowers." So he went to the market and purchasing for her all she sought, brought it to her, whereupon she rose and tucking up her sleeves, cooked food after the most skilful fashion, and set it before him. He ate and she ate with him, till they had enough, after which she set on the wine, and she drank and he drank, and she ceased not to ply him with drink and entertain him with discourse, till he became drunken and fell asleep. Thereupon she arose without stay or delay and taking out of her bundle a budget of Táifí leather, [FN#474] opened it and drew forth a pair of knitting needles, wherewith she fell to work and stinted not till she had made a beautiful zone, which she folded up in a wrapper after cleaning it and ironing it, and laid it under her pillow. Then she doffed her dress till she was mother-naked and lying down beside Nur al-Din shampoo'd him till he awoke from his heavy sleep. He found by his side a maiden like virgin silver, softer than silk and delicater than a tail of fatted sheep, than standard more conspicuous and goodlier than the red camel, [FN#475] in height five feet tall with breasts firm and full, brows like bended bows, eyes like gazelles' eyes and cheeks like blood-red anemones, a slender waist with dimples laced and a navel holding an ounce of the unguent benzoin, thighs like bolsters stuffed with ostrich-down, and between them what the tongue fails to set forth and at mention whereof the tears jet forth. Brief it was as it were she to whom the poet alluded in these two couplets,"From her hair is Night, from her forehead Noon * From her side-face Rose; from her lip wine boon:
And how excellent is the saying of another bard, [FN#476]"A Moon she rises, Willow-wand she waves * Breathes ambergris and gazeth a gazelle.
And quoth a third also,"They shine fullest Moons, unveil Crescent-bright; * Sway tenderest Branches and turn wild kine;
So Nur al-Din turned to her at once and clasping her to his bosom, sucked first her upper lip and then her under lip and slid his tongue between the twain into her mouth. Then he rose to her and found her a pearl unthridden and a filly none but he had ridden. So he abated her maidenhead and had of her amorous delight and there was knitted between them a love-bond which might never know breach nor severance. [FN#479] He rained upon her cheeks kisses like the falling of pebbles into water, and struck with stroke upon stroke, like the thrusting of spears in battle brunt; for that Nur al-Din still yearned after clipping of necks and sucking of lips and letting down of tress and pressing of waist and biting of cheek and cavalcading on breast with Cairene buckings and Yamani wrigglings and Abyssinian sobbings and Hindí pamoisons and Nubian lasciviousness and Rífí leg-liftings [FN#480] and Damiettan moanings and Sa'ídí [FN#481] hotness and Alexandrian languishment [FN#482] and this damsel united in herself all these virtues, together with excess of beauty and loveliness, and indeed she was even as saith of her the poet,"This is she I will never forget till I die * Nor draw near but to those who to her draw nigh.
So Nur al-Din lay with the damsel through the night in solace and delight,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventy-fifth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Nur al-Din lay with that damsel through the night in solace and delight, the twain garbed in the closely buttoned garments of embrace, safe and secure against the misways of nights and days, and they passed the dark hours after the goodliest fashion, fearing naught, in their joys love-fraught, from excess of talk and prate. As saith of them the right excellent poet, [FN#483]"Go, visit her thou lovest, and regard not
When the morning morrowed in sheen and shone, Nur al-Din awoke from deep sleep and found that she had brought water: [FN#484] so they made the Ghusl-ablution, he and she, and he performed that which behoved him of prayer to his Lord, after which she set before him meat and drink, and he ate and drank. Then the damsel put her hand under her pillow and pulling out the girdle which she had knitted during the night, gave it to Nur al-Din, who asked, "Whence cometh this girdle?" [FN#485] Answered she, "O my lord, 'tis the silk thou boughtest yesterday for twenty dirhams. Rise now and go to the Persian bazar and give it to the broker, to cry for sale, and sell it not for less than twenty gold pieces in ready money." Quoth Nur al-Din, "O Princess of fair ones how can a thing, that cost twenty dirhams and will sell for as many dinars, be made in a single night?"; and quoth she, "O my lord, thou knowest not the value of this thing; but go to the market therewith and give it to the broker, and when he shall cry it, its worth will be made manifest to thee." Herewith he carried the zone to the market and gave it to the broker, bidding him cry it, whilst he himself sat down on a masonry bench before a shop. The broker fared forth and returning after a while said to him, "O my lord, rise take the price of thy zone, for it hath fetched twenty dinars money down." When Nur al-Din heard this, he marvelled with exceeding marvel and shook with delight. Then he rose, between belief and misbelief, to take the money and when he had received it, he went forthright and spent it all on silk of various colours and returning home, gave his purchase to the damsel, saying, "Make this all into girdles and teach me likewise how to make them, that I may work with thee; for never in the length of my life saw I a fairer craft than this craft nor a more abounding in gain and profit. By Allah, 'tis better than the trade of a merchant a thousand times!" She laughed at his language and said, "O my lord, go to thy friend the druggist and borrow other thirty dirhams of him, and to-morrow repay him from the price of the girdle the thirty together with the fifty already loaned to thee." So he rose and repaired to the druggist and said to him, "O Uncle, lend me other thirty dirhams, and to-morrow, Almighty Allah willing, I will repay thee the whole fourscore." The old man weighed him out thirty dirhams, wherewith he went to the market and buying meat and bread, dried fruits, and flowers as before, carried them home to the damsel whose name was Miriam, [FN#486] the Girdle-girl. She rose forthright and making ready rich meats, set them before her lord Nur al-Din; after which she brought the wine-service and they drank and plied each other with drink. When the wine began to play with their wits, his pleasant address and inner grace pleased her, and she recited these two couplets,"Said I to Slim-waist who the wine engraced * Brought in musk-scented bowl and a superfine,
And the damsel ceased not to carouse with her lord and ply him with cup and bowl and require him to fill for her and give her to drink of that which sweeteneth the spirits, and whenever he put forth hand to her, she drew back from him, out of coquetry. The wine added to her beauty and loveliness, and Nur al-Din recited these two couplets,"Slim-waist craved wine from her companeer; * Cried (in meeting of friends when he feared for his fere,)
They ceased not drinking till drunkenness overpowered Nur al-Din and he slept; whereupon she rose forthright and fell to work upon a zone, as was her wont. When she had wrought it to end, she wrapped it in paper and doffing her clothes, lay down by his side and enjoyed dalliance and delight till morn appeared.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventy-sixth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Miriam the Girdle-girl, having finished her zone and wrapped it in paper doffed her dress and lay down by the side of her lord; and then happened to them what happened of dalliance and delight; and he did his devoir like a man. On the morrow, she gave him the girdle and said to him, "Carry this to the market and sell it for twenty dinars, even as thou soldest its fellow yesterday." So he went to the bazar and sold the girdle for twenty dinars, after which he repaired to the druggist and paid him back the eighty dirhams, thanking him for the bounties and calling down blessings upon him. He asked, "O my son, hast thou sold the damsel?"; and Nur al-Din answered, "Wouldst thou have me sell the soul out of my body?" and he told him all that had passed, from commencement to conclusion, whereat the druggist joyed with joy galore, than which could be no more and said to him, "By Allah, O my son, thou gladdenest me! Inshallah, mayst thou ever be in prosperity! Indeed I wish thee well by reason of my affection for thy ather and the continuance of my friendship with him." Then Nur al-Din left the Shaykh and straightway going to the market, bought meat and fruit and wine and all that he needed according to his custom and returned therewith to Miriam. They abode thus a whole year in eating and drinking and mirth and merriment and love and good comradeship, and every night she made a zone and he sold it on the morrow for twenty dinars, wherewith he bought their needs and gave the rest to her, to keep against a time of necessity. After the twelvemonth she said to him one day, "O my lord, whenas thou sellest the girdle to-morrow, buy for me with its price silk of six colours, because I am minded to make thee a kerchief to wear on thy shoulders, such as never son of merchant, no, nor King's son, ever rejoiced in its like." So next day he fared forth to the bazar and after selling the zone brought her the dyed silks she sought and Miriam the Girdle-girl wrought at the kerchief a whole week, for, every night, when she had made an end of the zone, she would work awhile at the kerchief till it was finished. Then she gave it to Nur al-Din, who put it on his shoulders and went out to walk in the market-place, whilst all the merchants and folk and notables of the town crowded about him, to gaze on his beauty and that of the kerchief which was of the most beautiful. Now it chanced that one night, after this, he awoke from sleep and found Miriam weeping passing sore and reciting these couplets,"Nears my parting fro' my love, nigher draws the Severance-day * Ah well-away for parting! and again ah well-away!
He said, "O my lady Miriam, [FN#487] what aileth thee to weep?"; and she replied, "I weep for the anguish of parting for my heart presageth me thereof." Quoth he, "O lady of fair ones, and who shall interpose between us, seeing that I love thee above all creatures and tender thee the most?"; and quoth she, "And I love thee twice as well as thou me; but fair opinion of fortune still garreth folk fall into affliction, and right well saith the poet, [FN#488]'Think'st thou thyself all prosperous, in days which prosp'rous be,
Presently she added, "O my lord Nur al-Din, an thou desire to nonsuit separation, be on thy guard against a swart-visaged oldster, blind of the right eye and lame of the left leg; for he it is who will be the cause of our severance. I saw him enter the city and I opine that he is come hither in quest of me." Replied Nur al-Din, "O lady of fair ones, if my eyes light on him, I will slay him and make an example of him." Rejoined she, "O my lord, slay him not; but talk not nor trade with him, neither buy nor sell with him nor sit nor walk with him nor speak one word to him, no, not even the answer prescribed by law, [FN#489] and I pray Allah to preserve us from his craft and his mischief." Next morning, Nur al-Din took the zone and carried it to the market, where he sat down on a shop-bench and talked with the sons of the merchants, till the drowsiness preceding slumber overcame him and he lay down on the bench and fell asleep. Presently, behold, up came the Frank whom the damsel had described to him, in company with seven others, and seeing Nur al-Din lying asleep on the bench, with his head wrapped in the kerchief which Miriam had made for him and the edge thereof in his grasp, sat down by him and hent the end of the kerchief in hand and examined it, turning it over for some time. Nur al-Din sensed that there was something and awoke; then, seeing the very man of whom Miriam had warned him sitting by his side, cried out at him with a great cry which startled him. Quoth the Frank, "What aileth thee to cry out thus at us? Have we taken from thee aught?"; and quoth Nur al-Din, "By Allah, O accursed, haddest thou taken aught from me, I would carry thee before the Chief of Police!" Then said the Frank, "O Moslem, I conjure thee by thy faith and by that wherein thou believest, inform me whence thou haddest this kerchief;" and Nur al-Din replied, "Tis the handiwork of my lady mother,"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventy-seventh Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Frank asked Nur al-Din anent the maker of the kerchief, he answered, saying, "In very sooth this kerchief is the handiwork of my mother, who made it for me with her own hand." Quoth the Frank "Wilt thou sell it to me and take ready money for it?," and quoth Nur al-Din, "By Allah, I will not sell it to thee or to any else, for she made none other than it." "Sell it to me and I will give thee to its price this very moment five hundred dinars, money down; and let her who made it make thee another and a finer." "I will not sell it at all, for there is not the like of it in this city." "O my lord, wilt thou sell it for six hundred ducats of fine gold?" And the Frank went on to add to his offer hundred by hundred, till he bid nine hundred dinars; but Nur al-Din said, "Allah will open to me otherwise than by my vending it. I will never sell it, not for two thousand dinars nor more than that; no, never." The Frank ceased not to tempt him with money, till he bid him a thousand dinars, and the merchants present said, "We sell thee the kerchief at that price: [FN#490] pay down the money." Quoth Nur al-Din, "I will not sell it, I swear by Allah!" [FN#491] But one of the merchants said to him, "Know thou, O my son, that the value of this kerchief is an hundred dinars at most and that to an eager purchaser, and if this Frank pay thee down a thousand for it, thy profit will be nine hundred dinars, and what gain canst thou desire greater than this gain? Wherefore 'tis my rede that thou sell him this kerchief at that price and bid her who wrought it make thee other finer than it: so shalt thou profit nine hundred dinars by this accursed Frank, the enemy of Allah and of The Faith." Nur al-Din was abashed at the merchants and sold the kerchief to the Frank, who, in their presence, paid him down the thousand dinars, with which he would have returned to his handmaid to congratulate her on what had passed; but the stranger said, "Harkye, O company of merchants, stop my lord Nur al-Din, for you and he are my guests this night. I have a jar of old Greek wine and a fat lamb, fresh fruit, flowers and confections; wherefore do ye all cheer me with your company to-night and not one of you tarry behind." So the merchants said, "O my lord Nur al-Din, we desire that thou be with us on the like of this night, so we may talk together, we and thou, and we pray thee, of thy favour and bounty, to bear us company, so we and thou, may be the guests of this Frank, for he is a liberal man." And they conjured him by the oath of divorce [FN#492] and hindered him by main force from going home. Then they rose forthright and shutting up their shops, took Nur al-Din and fared with the Frank, who brought them to a goodly and spacious saloon, wherein were two daïses. Here he made them sit and set before them a scarlet tray-cloth of goodly workmanship and unique handiwork, wroughten in gold with figures of breaker and broken, lover and beloved, asker and asked, whereon he ranged precious vessels of porcelain and crystal, full of the costliest confections, fruits and flowers, and brought them a flagon of old Greek wine. Then he bade slaughter a fat lamb and kindling fire, proceeded to roast of its flesh and feed the merchants therewith and give them draughts of that wine, winking at them the while to ply Nur al-Din with drink. Accordingly they ceased not plying him with wine till he became drunken and took leave of his wits; so when the Frank saw that he was drowned in liquor, he said to him, "O my lord Nur al-Din, thou gladdenest us with thy company to-night: welcome, and again welcome to thee." Then he engaged him awhile in talk, till he could draw near to him, when he said, with dissembling speech, "O my lord, Nur al-Din, wilt thou sell me thy slave-girl, whom thou boughtest in presence of these merchants a year ago for a thousand dinars? I will give thee at this moment five thousand gold pieces for her and thou wilt thus make four thousand ducats profit." Nur al-Din refused, but the Frank ceased not to ply him with meat and drink and lure him with lucre, still adding to his offers, till he bid him ten thousand dinars for her; whereupon Nur al-Din, in his drunkenness, said before the merchants, "I sell her to thee for ten thousand dinars: hand over the money." At this the Frank rejoiced with joy exceeding and took the merchants to witness the sale. They passed the night in eating and drinking, mirth and merriment, till the morning, when the Frank cried out to his pages, saying, "Bring me the money." So they brought it to him and he counted out ten thousand dinars to Nur al-Din, saying, "O my lord, take the price of thy slave-girl, whom thou soldest to me last night, in the presence of these Moslem merchants." Replied Nur al-Din, "O accursed, I sold thee nothing and thou liest anent me, for I have no slave-girls." Quoth the Frank, "In very sooth thou didst sell her to me and these merchants were witnesses to the bargain." Thereupon all said, "Yes, indeed! thou soldest him thy slave-girl before us for ten thousand dinars, O Nur al-Din and we will all bear witness against thee of the sale. Come, take the money and deliver him the girl, and Allah will give thee a better than she in her stead. Doth it irk thee, O Nur al-Din, that thou boughtest the girl for a thousand dinars and hast enjoyed for a year and a half her beauty and loveliness and taken thy fill of her converse and her favours? Furthermore thou hast gained some ten thousand golden dinars by the sale of the zones which she made thee every day and thou soldest for twenty sequins, and after all this thou hast sold her again at a profit of nine thousand dinars over and above her original price. And withal thou deniest the sale and belittlest and makest difficulties about the profit! What gain is greater than this gain and what profit wouldst thou have profitabler than this profit? An thou love her thou hast had thy fill of her all this time: so take the money and buy thee another handsomer than she; at a dowry of less than half this price, and the rest of the money will remain in thy hand as capital." And the merchants ceased not to ply him with persuasion and special arguments till he took the ten thousand dinars, the price of the damsel, and the Frank straightway fetched Kazis and witnesses, who drew up the contract of sale by Nur al-Din of the handmaid hight Miriam the Girdle-girl. Such was his case; but as regards the damsel's, she sat awaiting her lord from morning till sundown and from sundown till the noon of night; and when he returned not, she was troubled and wept with sore weeping. The old druggist heard her sobbing and sent his wife, who went in to her and finding her in tears, said to her, "O my lady, what aileth her and finding her in tears, said to her, "O my lady, what aileth thee to weep?" Said she, "O my mother, I have sat waiting the return of my lord, Nur al-Din all day; but he cometh not, and I fear lest some one have played a trick on him, to make him sell me, and he have fallen into the snare and sold me."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventy-eighth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Miriam the Girdle-girl said to the druggist's wife, "I am fearful lest some one have been playing a trick on my lord to make him sell me, and he have fallen into the snare and sold me." Said the other, "O my lady Miriam, were they to give thy lord this hall full of gold as thy price, yet would he not sell thee, for what I know of his love to thee. But, O my lady, belike there be a company come from his parents at Cairo and he hath made them an entertainment in the lodging where they alighted, being ashamed to bring them hither, for that the place is not spacious enough for them or because their condition is less than that he should bring them to his own house; or belike he preferred to conceal thine affair from them, so passed the night with them; and Inshallah! to-morrow he will come to thee safe and sound. So burden not thy soul with cark and care, O my lady, for of a certainty this is the cause of his absence from thee last night and I will abide with thee this coming night and comfort thee, until thy lord return to thee." So the druggist's wife abode with her and cheered her with talk throughout the dark hours and, when it was morning, Miriam saw her lord enter the street followed by the Frank and amiddlemost a company of merchants, at which sight her side-muscles quivered and her colour changed and she fell a-shaking, as ship shaketh in mid-ocean for the violence of the gale. When the druggist's wife saw this, she said to her, "O my lady Miriam what aileth thee that I see thy case changed and thy face grown pale and show disfeatured?" Replied she, "By Allah, O my lady, my heart forebodeth me of parting and severance of union!" And she bemoaned herself with the saddest sighs, reciting these couplets, [FN#493]"Incline not to parting, I pray; * For bitter its savour is aye.
Then Miriam wept passing sore wherethan naught could be more, making sure of separation, and cried to the druggist's wife, "O my mother, said I not to thee that my lord Nur al-Din had been tricked into selling me? I doubt not but he hath sold me this night to yonder Frank, albeit I bade him beware of him; but deliberation availeth not against destiny. So the truth of my words is made manifest to thee." Whilst they were talking, behold, in came Nur al-Din, and the damsel looked at him and saw that his colour was changed and that he trembled and there appeared on his face signs of grief and repentance: so she said to him, "O my lord Nur al-Din, meseemeth thou hast sold me." Whereupon he wept with sore weeping and groaned and lamented and recited these couplets, [FN#494]"When e'er the Lord 'gainst any man,
Then Nur al-Din began to excuse himself to his handmaid, saying, "By Allah, O my lady Miriam, verily runneth the Reed with whatso Allah hath decreed. The folk put a cheat on me to make me sell thee, and I fell into the snare and sold thee. Indeed, I have sorely failed of my duty to thee; but haply He who decreed our disunion will vouchsafe us reunion." Quoth she, "I warned thee against this, for this it was I dreaded." Then she strained him to her bosom and kissed him between the eyes, reciting these couplets,"Now, by your love! your love I'll ne'er forget, * Though lost my life for stress of pine and fret:
At this juncture, behold, the Frank came in to them and went up to Miriam, to kiss her hands; but she dealt him a buffet with her palm on the cheek, saying, "Avaunt, O accursed! Thou hast followed after me without surcease, till thou hast cozened my lord into selling me! But O accursed, all shall yet be well, Inshallah!" The Frank laughed at her speech and wondered at her deed and excused himself to her, saying, "O my lady Mirian, what is my offence? Thy lord Nur al-Din here sold thee of his full consent and of his own free will. Had he loved thee, by the right of the Messiah, he had not transgressed against thee! And had he not fulfilled his desire of thee, he had not sold thee." Quoth one of the poets,'Whom I irk let him fly fro' me fast and faster * If I name his name I am no directer.
Now this handmaid was the daughter of the King of France, the which is a wide an spacious city, [FN#497] abounding in manufactures and rarities and trees and flowers and other growths, and resembleth the city of Constantinople; and for her going forth of her father's city there was a wondrous cause and thereby hangeth a marvellous tale which we will set out in due order, to divert and delight the hearer. [FN#498]--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Seventy-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the cause of Miriam the Girdle-girl leaving her father and mother was a wondrous and thereby hangeth a marvellous tale. She was reared with her father and mother in honour and indulgence and learnt rhetoric and penmanship and arithmetic and cavalarice and all manner crafts, such as broidery and sewing and weaving and girdle-making and silk-cord making and damascening gold on silver and silver on gold, brief all the arts both of men and women, till she became the union-pearl of her time and the unique gem of her age and day. Moreover, Allah (to whom belong Might and Majesty!) had endowed her with such beauty and loveliness and elegance and perfection of grace that she excelled therein all the folk of her time, and the Kings of the isles sought her in marriage of her sire, but he refused to give her to wife to any of her suitors, for that he loved her with passing love and could not bear to be parted from her a single hour. Moreover, he had no other daughter than herself, albeit he had many sons, but she was dearer to him than all of them. It fortuned one year that she fell sick of an exceeding sickness and came nigh upon death, werefore she made a vow that, if she recovered from her malady, she would make the pilgrimage to a certain monastery, situate in such an island, which was high in repute among the Franks, who used to make vows to it and look for a blessing therefrom. When Miriam recovered from her sickness, she wished to accomplish her vow anent the monastery and her sire despatched her to the convent in a little ship, with sundry daughters of the city-notables to wait upon her and patrician Knights to protect them all. As they drew near the island, there came out upon them a ship of the ships of the Moslems, champions of The Faith, warring in Allah's way, who boarded the vessel and making prize of all therein, knights and maidens, gifts and monies, sold their booty in the city of Kayrawán. [FN#499] Miriam herself fell into the hands of a Persian merchant, who was born impotent [FN#500] and for whom no woman had ever discovered her nakedness; so he set her to serve him. Presently, he fell ill and sickened well nigh unto death, and the sickness abode with him two months, during which she tended him after the goodliest fashion, till Allah made him whole of his malady, when he recalled her tenderness and loving-kindness to him and the persistent zeal with which she had nurst him and being minded to requite her the good offices she had done him, said to her, "Ask a boon of me?" She said, "O my lord, I ask of thee that thou sell me not but to the man of my choice." He answered, "So be it. I guarantee thee. By Allah, O Miriam, I will not sell thee but to him of whom thou shalt approve, and I put thy sale in thine own hand." And she rejoiced herein with joy exceeding. Now the Persian had expounded to her Al-Islam and she became a Moslemah and learnt of him the rules of worship. Furthermore during that period the Perisan had taught her the tenets of The Faith and the observances incumbent upon her: he had made her learn the Koran by heart and master somewhat of the theological sciences and the traditions of the Prophet; after which, he brought her to Alexandria-city and sold her to Nur al-Din, as we have before set out. Meanwhile, when her father, the King of France, heard what had befallen his daughter and her company, he saw Doomsday break and sent after her ships full of knights and champions, horsemen and footsmen; but they fell not in any trace of her whom they sought in the Islands [FN#501] of the Moslems; so all returned to him, crying out and saying, "Well-away!" and "Ruin!" and "Well worth the day!" The King grieved for her with exceeding grief and sent after her that one-eyed lameter, blind of the left, [FN#502] for that he was his chief Wazir, a stubborn tyrant and a froward devil, [FN#503] full of craft and guile, bidding him make search for her in all the lands of the Moslems and buy her, though with a ship-load of gold. So the accursed sought her, in all the islands of the Arabs and all the cities of the Moslems, but found no sign of her till he came to Alexandria-city where he made quest for her and presently discovered that she was with Nur al-Din Ali the Cairene, being directed to the trace of her by the kerchief aforesaid, for that none could have wrought it in such goodly guise but she. Then he bribed the merchants to help him in getting her from Nur al-Din and beguiled her lord into selling her, as hath been already related. When he had her in his possession, she ceased not to weep and wail: so he said to her, "O my lady Miriam, put away from thee this mourning and grieving and return with me to the city of thy sire, the seat of thy kingship and the place of thy power and thy home, so thou mayst be among thy servants and attendants and be quit of this abasement and this strangerhood. Enough hath betided me of travail, of travel and of disbursing monies on thine account, for thy father bade me buy thee back, though with a shipload of gold; and now I have spent nigh a year and a half in seeking thee." And he fell to kissing her hands and feet and humbling himself to her; but the more he kissed and grovelled she only redoubled in wrath against him, and said to him, "O accursed, may Almighty Allah not vouchsafe thee to win thy wish!" Presently his pages brought her a shemule with gold-embroidered housings and mounting her thereon, raised over her head a silken canopy, with staves of gold and silver, and the Franks walked round about her, till they brought her forth the city by the sea-gate, [FN#504] where they took boat with her and rowing out to a great ship in harbor embarked therein. Then the monocular Wazir cried out to the sailors, saying, "Up with the mast!" So they set it up forthright and spreading the newly bent sails and the colours manned the sweeps and put out to sea. Meanwhile Miriam continued to gaze upon Alexandria, till it disappeared from her eyes, when she fell a-weeping in her privacy with sore weeping.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Eightieth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Wazir of the Frankish King put out to sea in the ship bearing Miriam the Girdle-girl, she gazed Alexandria-wards till the city was hidden from her sight when she wailed and wept copious tears and recited these couplets,"O dwelling of my friends say is there no return * Uswards? But what ken I of matters Allah made?
Then she could not refrain from weeping and wailing. So the patrician [FN#505] knights came up to her and would have comforted her, but she heeded not their consoling words, being distracted by the claims of passion and love-longing. And she shed tears and moaned and complained and recited these couplets,"The tongue of Love within my vitals speaketh * Saying, 'This lover boon of Love aye seeketh!'
In this plight Miriam abode during all the voyage; no peace was left her at all nor would patience come at her call. Such was her case in company with the Wazir, the monocular, the lameter; but as regards Nur al-Din the Cairene, when the ship had sailed with Miriam, the world was straitened upon him and he had neither peace nor patience. He returned to the lodging where they twain had dwelt, and its aspect was black and gloomy in his sight. Then he saw the métier wherewith she had been wont to make the zones and her dress that had been upon her beauteous body; so he pressed them to his breast, whilst the tears gushed from his eyes and he recited these couplets,"Say me, will Union after parting e'er return to be * After long-lasting torments, after hopeless misery?
Then Nur al-Din wept with weeping galore than which naught could be more; and peering into ever corner of the room, recited these two couplets,"I view their traces and with pain I pine * And by their sometime home I weep and yearn;
Then Nur al-Din sprang to his feet and locking the door of the house, fared forth running at speed, to the sea shore whence he fixed his eyes on the place of the ship which had carried off his Miriam whilst sighs burst from his breast and tears from his lids as he recited these couplets,"Peace be with you, sans you naught compensateth me * The near, the far, two cases only here I see:
And Nur al-Din wept and wailed, bemoaned himself and complained, crying out and saying, "O Miriam! O Miriam! Was it but a vision of thee I saw in sleep or in the allusions of dreams?" And by reason of that which grew on him of regrets, he recited these couplets, [FN#506]"Mazed with thy love no more I can feign patience,
As Nur al-Din was in this case, weeping and crying out, "O Miriam! O Miriam!" behold, an old man landed from a vessel and coming up to him, saw him shedding tears and heard him reciting these verses,"O Maryam of beauty [FN#507] return, for these eyne * Are as densest clouds railing drops in line:
Said the old man, "O my son, meseems thou weepest for the damsel who sailed yesterday with the Frank?" When Nur al-Din heard these words of the Shaykh he fell down in a swoon and lay for a long while without life; then, coming to himself, he wept with sore weeping and improvised these couplets,"Shall we e'er be unite after severance-tide * And return in the perfectest cheer to bide?
The old man looked at him and noting his beauty and grace and symmetry and the fluency of his tongue and the seductiveness of his charms, had ruth on him and his heart mourned for his case. Now that Shaykh was the captain of a ship, bound to the damsel's city, and in this ship were a hundred Moslem merchants, men of the Saving Faith; so he said to Nur al-Din, "Have patience and all will yet be well; I will bring thee to her an it be the will of Allah, extolled and exalted be He!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Eighty-first Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the old skipper said to Nur al-Din, "I will bring thee to her, Inshallah!" the youth asked, "When shall we set out?" and the other said, "Come but three days more and we will depart in peace and prosperity." Nur al-Din rejoiced at the captain's words with joy exceeding and thanked him for his bounty and benevolence. Then he recalled the days of love-liesse dear and union with his slave-girl without peer, and he shed bitter tears and recited these couplets,"Say, will to me and you the Ruthful union show * My lords! Shall e'er I win the wish of me or no?
Then Nur al-Din went forthright to the market and bought what he needed of viaticum and other necessaries for the voyage and returned to the Rais, who said to him, "O my son, what is that thou hast with thee?" said he, "My provisions and all whereof I have need for the voyage." Thereupon quoth the old man, laughing, "O my son, art thou going a-pleasuring to Pompey's Pillar? [FN#509] Verily, between thee and that thou seekest is two months' journey and the wind be fair and the weather favourable." Then he took of him somewhat of money and going to the bazar, bought him a sufficiency of all that he needed for the voyage and filled him a large earthen jar [FN#510] with fresh water. Nur al-Din abode in the ship three days until the merchants had made an end of their precautions and preparations and embarked, when they set sail and putting out to sea, fared on one-and-fifty days. After this, there came out upon them corsairs, [FN#511] pirates who sacked the ship and taking Nur al-Din and all therein prisoners, carried them to the city of France and paraded them before the King, who bade cast them into jail, Nur al-Din amongst the number. As they were being led to prison the galleon [FN#512] arrived with the Princess Miriam and the one-eyed Wazir, and when it made the harbour, the lameter landed and going up to the King gave him the glad news of his daughter's safe return: whereupon they beat the kettledrums for good tidings and decorated the city after the goodliest fashion. Then the King took horse, with all his guards and lords and notables and rode down to the sea to meet her. The moment the ship cast anchor she came ashore, and the King saluted her and embraced her and mounting her on a bloodsteed, bore her to the palace, where her mother received her with open arms, and asked her of her case and whether she was a maid as before or whether she had become a woman carnally known by man. [FN#513] She replied, "O my mother, how should a girl, who hath been sold from merchant to merchant in the land of Moslems, a slave commanded, abide a virgin? The merchant who bought me threatened me with the bastinado and violenced me and took my maidenhead, after which he sold me to another and he again to a third." When the Queen heard these her words, the light in her eyes became night and she repeated her confession to the King who was chagrined thereat and his affair was grievous to him. So he expounded her case to his Grandees and Patricians [FN#514] who said to him, "O King, she hath been defiled by the Moslems and naught will purify her save the striking off of an hundred Mohammedan heads." Whereupon the King sent for the True Believers he had imprisoned; and they decapitated them, one after another, beginning with the captain, till none was left save Nur al-Din. They tare off a strip of his skirt and binding his eyes therewith, led him to the rug of blood and were about to smite his neck, when behold, an ancient dame came up to the King at that very moment and said, "O my lord, thou didst vow to bestow upon each and every church five Moslem captives, to held us in the service thereof, so Allah would restore thee thy daughter the Princess Miriam; and now she is restored to thee, so do thou fulfil thy vow." The King replied, "O my mother, by the virtue of the Messiah and the Veritable Faith, there remaineth to me of the prisoners but this one captive, whom they are about to put to death: so take him with thee to help in the service of the church, till there come to me more prisoners of the Moslems, when I will send thee other four. Hadst thou come earlier, before they hewed off the heads of these, I had given thee as many as thou wouldest have." The old woman thanked the King for his boon and wished him continuance of life, glory and prosperity. Then without loss of time she went up to Nur al-Din, whom she raised from the rug of blood; and, looking narrowly at him saw a comely youth and a dainty, with a delicate skin and a face like the moon at her full; whereupon she carried him to the church and said to him, "O my son, doff these clothes which are upon thee, for they are fit only for the service of the Sultan." [FN#515] So saying the ancient dame brought him a gown and hood of black wool and a broad girdle, [FN#516] in which she clad and cowled him; and, after binding on his belt, bade him do the service of the church. Accordingly, he served the church seven days, at the end of which time behold, the old woman came up to him and said, "O Moslem, don thy silken dress and take these ten dirhams and go out forthright and divert thyself abroad this day, and tarry not here a single moment, lest thou lose thy life." Quoth he, "What is to do, O my mother?"; and quoth she, "Know, O my son, that the King's daughter, the Princess Miriam the Girdle-girl, hath a mind to visit the church this day, to seek a blessing by pilgrimage and to make oblation thereto, a douceur [FN#517] of thank-offering for her deliverance from the land of the Moslems and in fulfilment of the vows she vowed to the Messiah, so he would save her. With her are four hundred damsels, not one of whom but is perfect in beauty and loveliness and all of them are daughters of Wazirs and Emirs and Grandees: they will be here during this very hour and if their eyes fall on thee in this church, they will hew thee in pieces with swords." Thereupon Nur al-Din took the ten dirhams from the ancient dame, and donning his own dress, went out to the bazar and walked about the city and took his pleasure therein, till he knew its highways and gates,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Eighty-second Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Nur al-Din, after donning his own dress and taking the ten dirhams from the ancient dame, fared forth to the market streets and wandered about a while till he knew every quarter of the city, after which he returned to the church [FN#518] and saw the Princess Miriam the Girdle-girl, daughter of the King of France come up to the fane, attended by four hundred damsels, high-bosomed maids like moons, amongst whom was the daughter of the one-eyed Wazir and those of the Emirs and Lords of the realm; and she walked in their midst as she were moon among stars. When his eyes fell upon her Nur al-Din could not contain himself, but cried out from the core of his heart, "O Miriam! O Miriam!" When the damsels heard his outcry they ran at him with swords shining bright like flashes of leven-light and would have slain him forthright. But the Princess turned and looking on him, knew him with fullest knowledge, and said to her maidens, "Leave this youth; doubtless he is mad, for the signs of madness be manifest on his face." When Nur al-Din heard this, he uncovered his head and rolled his eyes and made signs with his hands and twisted his legs, foaming the while at the mouth. Quoth the Princess, "Said I not that the poor youth was mad? Bring him to me and stand off from him, that I may hear what he saith; for I know the speech of the Arabs and will look into his case and see if his madness admit of cure or not." So they laid hold of him and brought him to her; after which they withdrew to a distance and she said to him, "Hast thou come hither on my account and ventured thy life for my sake and feignest thyself mad?" He replied, "O my lady, hast thou not heard the saying of the poet?, [FN#519]'Quoth they, 'Thou'rt surely raving mad for her thou lov'st;' and I, 'There is no pleasantness in life but for the mad,' reply.
Miriam replied, "By Allah, O Nur al-Din, indeed thou hast sinned against thyself, for I warned thee of this before it befell thee: yet wouldst thou not hearken to me, but followest thine own lust: albeit that whereof I gave thee to know I learnt not by means of inspiration nor physiognomy [FN#520] nor dreams, but by eye-witness and very sight; for I saw the one-eyed Wazir and knew that he was not come to Alexandria but in quest of me." Said he, "O my lady Miriam, we seek refuge with Allah from the error of the intelligent!" [FN#521] Then his affliction redoubled on him and he recited this saying, [FN#522]"Pass o'er my fault, for 'tis the wise man's wont
Then Nur al-Din and Princess Miriam ceased not from lovers' chiding which to trace would be tedious, relating each to other that which had befallen them and reciting verses and making moan, one to other, of the violence of passion and the pangs of pine and desire, whilst the tears ran down their cheeks like rivers, till there was left them no strength to say a word and so they continued till day deprated and night darkened. Now the Princess was clad in a green dress, purfled with red gold and broidered with pearls and gems which enhanced her beauty and loveliness and inner grace; and right well quoth the poet of her, [FN#523]"Like the full moon she shineth in garments all of green, With loosened vest and collars and flowing hair beseen.
And when night darkened on them the Lady Miriam went up to her women and asked them, "Have ye locked the door?"; and they answered, "Indeed we have locked it." So she took them and went with them to a place called the hapel of the Lady Mary the Virgin, Mother of Light, because the Nazarenes hold that there are her heart and soul. The girls betook themselves to prayer for blessings from above and circuited all the church; and when they had made an end of their visitation, the Princess turned to them and said, "I desire to pass the night alone in the Virgin's chapel and seek a blessing thereof, for that yearning after it hath betided me, by reason of my long absence in the land of the Moslems; and as for you, when ye have made an end of your visitation, do ye sleep whereso ye will." Replied they, "With love and goodly gree: be it as thou wilt!"; and leaving her alone in the chapel, dispersed about the church and slept. The Lady Miriam waited till they were out of sight and hearing, then went in search of Nur al-Din, whom she found sitting in a corner on live coals, awaiting her. He rose and kissed her hands and feet and she sat down and seated him by her side. Then she pulled off all that was upon her of raiment and ornaments and fine linen and taking Nur al-Din in her arms strained him to her bosom. And they ceased not, she and he, from kissing and clipping and strumming to the tune of "hocus-pocus," [FN#524] saying the while, "How short are the nights of Union and the nights of Disunion how long are they!" and reciting these verses,"O Night of Union, Time's virginal prized, * White star of the Nights with auroral dyes,
As they were in this mighty delight and joy engrossing they heard one of the servants of the Saint [FN#526] smite the gong [FN#527] upon the roof, to call the folk to the rites of their worship, and he was even as saith the poet,"I saw him strike the gong and asked of him straightway, * Who made the Fawn [FN#528] at striking going so knowing, eh?'
--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Eighty-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Nur al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-girl rose forthwith and donned her clothes and ornaments; but this was grievous to Nur al-Din, and his gladness was troubled; the tears streamed from his eyes and he recited these couplets,"I ceasèd not to kiss that cheek with budding roses dight * And eyes down cast and bit the same with most emphatic bite;
Then the Lady Miriam pressed him to her bosom and kissed his cheek and asked him, "O Nur al-Din, how long hast thou been in this town?" "Seven days." "Hast thou walked about in it, and dost thou know its ways and issues and its sea-gates and land gates?" "Yes!" "Knowest thou the way to the offertory-chest [FN#532] of the church?" "Yes!" "Since thou knowest all this, as soon as the first third [FN#533] of the coming night is over, go to the offertory-chest and take thence what thou wishest and willest. Then open the door that giveth upon the tunnel [FN#534] leading to the sea, and go down to the harbour, where thou wilt find a little ship and ten men therein, and when the Rais shall see thee, he will put out his hand to thee. Give him thy hand and he will take thee up into the ship, and do thou wait there till I come to thee. But 'ware and have a care lest sleep overtake thee this night, or thou wilt repent whenas repentance shall avail thee naught." Then the Princess farewelled him and going forth from Nur al-Din, aroused from sleep her women and the rest of the damsels, with whom she betook herself to the church door and knocked; whereupon the ancient dame opened to her and she went forth and found the knights and varlets standing without. They brought her a dapple she-mule and she mounted: whereupon they raised over her head a canopy [FN#535] with curtains of silk, and the knights took hold of the mule's halter. Then the guards [FN#536] encompassed her about, drawn brand in hand, and fared on with her, followed by her, till they brought her to the palace of the King her father. Meanwhile, Nur al-Din abode concealed behind the curtain, under cover of which Miriam and he had passed the night, till it was broad day, when the main door was opened and the church became full of people. Then he mingled with the folk and accosted the old Prioress, the guardian [FN#537] of the shrine, who said to him, "Where didst thou lie last night?" Said he, "In the town as thou badest me." Quoth she, "O my son, thou hast done the right thing; for, hadst thou nighted in the Church, she had slain thee on the foulest wise." And quoth he, "Praised be Allah who hath delivered me from the evil of this night!" Then he busied himself with the service of the church and ceased not busying till day departed and night with darkness starkened when he arose and opened the offertory-chest and took thence of jewels whatso was light of weight and weighty of worth. Then he tarried till the first watch of the night was past, when he made his way to the postern of the tunnel and opening it, went forth, calling on Allah for protection, and ceased not faring on until, after finding and opening the door, he came to the sea. Here he discovered the vessel moored to the shore near the gate; and her skipper, a tall old man of comely aspect with a long beard, standing in the waist, his ten men being ranged before him. Nur al-Din gave him his hand, as Miriam had bidden him, and the captain took it and pulling him on board of the ship cried out to his crew, saying, "Cast off the moorings and put out to sea with us, ere day break." Said one of the ten, "O my lord the Captain, how shall we put out now, when the King hath notified us that to-morrow he will embark in this ship and go round about the sea, being fearful for his daughter Miriam from the Moslem thieves?" But the Rais cried out at them saying, "Woe to you, O accursed; Dare ye gainsay me and bandy words with me?" So saying the old captain bared his blade and with it dealt the sailor who had spoken a thrust in the throat, that the steel came out gleaming from his nape; and quoth another of the sailors, "What hath our comrade done of crime, that thou shouldst cut his throat?" Thereupon the captain clapped hand to sword and smote the speaker's head, nor did he leave smiting the rest of the sailors till he had slain them all, one after other, and cast the ten bodies ashore. Then he turned to Nur al-Din and cried out at him with a terrible great cry, that made him tremble, saying, "Go down and pull up the mooring-satke." Nur al-Din feared lest he should strike him also with the sword; so he sprang up and leapt ashore and pulling up the stake jumped aboard again, swiftlier than the dazzling leven. The captain ceased not to bid him do this and do that and tack and wear hither and thither and look at the stars, and Nur al-Din did all that he bade him, with heart a-quaking for affright; whilst he himself spread the sails, and the ship fared with the twain into the dashing sea, swollen with clashing billows.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Eighty-fourth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the old skipper had made sail he drave the ship, aided by Nur al-Din, into the dashing sea before a favouring gale. Meanwhile, Nur al-Din held on to the tackle immersed in deep thought, and drowned in the sea of solicitude, knowing not what was hidden for him in the future; and whenever he looked at the captain, his heart quaked and he knew not whither the Rais went with him. He abode thus, preoccupied with care and doubt, till it was high day, when he looked at the skipper and saw him take hold of his long beard and pull at it, whereupon it came off in his hand and Nur al-Din, examining it, saw that it was but a false beard glued on. So he straitly considered that same Rais, and behold, it was the Princess Miriam, his mistress and the dearling of his heart, who had contrived to waylay the captain and slay him and skinned off his beard, which she had stuck on to her own face. At this Nur al-Din was transported for you, and his breast broadened and he marvelled at her prowess and the stoutness of her heart and said to her, "Welcome, O my hope and my desire and the end of mine every wish!" Then love and gladness agitated him and he made sure of winning to his hopes and his expectancy; wherefore he broke out into song and chanted these couplets,"To all who unknown my love for the May * From whom Fate disjoins me O say, I pray,
When Nur al-Din ceased to sing, the Princess Miriam marvelled at his song and thanked him therefor, saying, "Whoso's case is thus it behoveth him to walk the ways of men and never do the deed of curs and cowards." Now she was stout of heart and cunning in the sailing of ships over the salt sea, and she knew all the winds and their shiftings and every course of the main. So Nur al-Din said, "O my lady, hadst thou prolonged this case on me, [FN#538] I had surely died for stress of affright and chagrin, more by token of the fire of passion and love-longing and the cruel pangs of separation." She laughed at his speech and rising without stay or delay brought out somewhat of food and liquor; and they ate and drank and enjoyed themselves and made merry. Then she drew forth rubies and other gems and precious stones and costly trinkets of gold and silver and all manner things of price, light of weight and weighty of worth, which she had taken from the palace of her sire and his treasuries, and displayed them to Nur al-Din, who rejoiced therein with joy exceeding. All this while the wind blew fair for them and merrily sailed the ship nor ceased sailing till they drew near the city of Alexandria and sighted its landmarks, old and new, and Pompey's Pillar. When they made the port, Nur al-Din landed forthright and securing the ship to one of the Fulling-Stones, [FN#539] took somewhat of the treasures that Miriam had brought with her, and said to her, "O my lady, tarry in the ship, against I return and carry thee up into the city in such way as I should wish and will." Quoth she, "It behoveth that this be done quickly, for tardiness in affairs engendereth repentance." Quoth he, "There is no tardiness in me;" and, leaving her in the ship, went up into the city to the house of the druggist his father's old fried, to borrow of his wife for Miriam veil and mantilla, and walking boots and petticoat-trousers after the usage of the women of Alexandria, unknowing that there was appointed to betide him of the shifts of Time, the Father of Wonders, that which was far beyond his reckoning. Thus it befel Nur al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-girl; but as regards her sire the King of France, when he arose in the morning, he missed his daughter and questioned her women and her eunuchs of her. Answered they, "O our lord, she went out last night, to go to Church and after that we have no tidings of her." But, as the King talked with them, behold, there arose so great a clamour of cries below the palace, that the place rang thereto, and he said, "What may be the news?" The folk replied, "O King, we have found ten men slain on the sea-shore, and the royal yacht is missing. Moreover we saw the postern of the Church, which giveth upon the tunnel leading to the sea, wide open; and the Moslem prisoner, who served in the Church, is missing." Quoth the King, "An my ship be lost, without doubt or dispute."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Eighty-fifth Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King of France missed his daughter they brought him tidings of her, saying, "Thy yacht is lost"; and he replied, "An the craft be lost, without dispute or doubt my daughter is in it." So he summoned without stay or delay the Captain of the Port and cried out at him, saying, "By the virtue [FN#540] of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar, except thou and thy fighting men overtake my ship forthright and bring it back to me, with those who are therein, I will do thee die the foulest of deaths and make a terrible example of thee!" Thereupon the captain went out from before him, trembling, and betook himself to the ancient dame of the Church, to whom said he, 'Heardest thou aught from the captive, that was with thee, anent his native land and what countryman he was?" And she answered, "He used to say, I come from the town of Alexandria." When the captain heard the old woman's words he returned forthright to the port and cried out to the sailors, "Make ready and set sail." So they did his bidding and straightway putting out to sea, fared night and day till they sighted the city of Alexandria at the very time when Nur al-Din landed, leaving the Princess in the ship. They soon espied the royal yacht and knew her; so they moored their own vessel at a distance therefrom and putting off in a little frigate they had with them, which drew but two cubits of water and in which were an hundred fighting-men, amongst them the one-eyed Wazir (for that he was a stubborn tyrant and a froward devil and a wily thief, none could avail against his craft, as he were Abu Mohammed al-Battál [FN#541]), they ceased not rowing till they reached the bark and boarding her, all at once, found none therein save the Princess Miriam. So they took her and the ship, and returning to their own vessel, after they had landed and waited a long while, [FN#542] set sail forthright for the land of the Franks, having accomplished their errand, without a fight or even drawing sword. The wind blew fair for them and they sailed on, without ceasing and with all diligence, till they reached the city of France and landing with the Princess Miriam carried her to her father, who received her, seated on the throne of his Kingship. As soon as he saw her, he said to her, "Woe to thee, O traitress! What ailed thee to leave the faith of thy fathers and forefathers and the safeguard of the Messiah, on whom is our reliance, and follow after the faith of the Vagrants, [FN#543] to wit, the faith of Al-Islam, the which arose with the sword against the Cross and the Images?" Replied Miriam, "I am not at fault, I went out by night to the church, to visit the Lady Mary and seek a blessing of her, when there fell upon me unawares a band of Moslem robbers, who gagged me and bound me fast and carrying me on board the barque, set sail with me for their own country. However, I beguiled them and talked with them of their religion, till they loosed my bonds; and ere I knew it thy men overtook me and delivered me. And by the virtue of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar and the Cross and the Crucified thereon, I rejoiced with joy exceeding in my release from them and my bosom broadened and I was glad for my deliverance from the bondage of the Moslems!" Rejoined the King, "Thou liest, O whore! O adultress! By the virtue of that which is revealed of prohibition and permission in the manifest Evangel, [FN#544] I will assuredly do thee die by the foulest of deaths and make thee the vilest of examples! Did it not suffice thee to do as thou didst the first time and put off thy lies upon us, but thou must return upon us with thy deceitful inventions?" Thereupon the King bade kill her and crucify her over the palace gate; but, at that moment the one-eyed Wazir, who had long been enamoured of the Princess, came in to him and said, "Ho King! saly her not, but give her to me to wife, and I will watch over her with the utmost warding, nor will I go in unto her, till I have built her a palace of solid stone, exceeding high of foundation, so no thieves may avail to climb up to its terrace-roof; and when I have made an end of building it, I will sacrifice thirty Moslems before the gate thereof, as an expiatory offering to the Messiah for myself and for her." The King granted his request and bade the priests and monks and patriarchs marry the Princess to him; so they did his bidding, whereupon he bade set about building a strong and lofty palace, befitting her rank and the workmen fell to work upon it. On this wise it betided the Princess Miriam and her sire and the one-eyed Wazir; but as regards Nur al-Din, when he came back with the petticoat-trousers and mantilla and walking boots and all the attire of Alexandrian women which he had borrowed of the druggist's wife, he "found the air void and the fane afar [FN#545]";--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Eighty-sixth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Nur al-Din, "found the aire void [FN#546] and the fane afar," his heart sank within him and he wept floods of tears and recited these verses, [FN#547]"The phantom of Soada came by nigh to wake me towards morning while my companions were sleeping in the desert:
Then Nur al-Din walked on along the sea-shore and turned right and left, till he saw folk gathered together on the beach and heard them say, "O Moslems, there remaineth no honour to Alexandria-city, since the Franks enter it and snatch away those who are therein and return to their own land, at their leisure [FN#548] nor pursued of any of the Moslems or fighters for the Faith!" Quoth Nur al-Din to them, "What is to do?"; and quoth they, "O my son, one of the ships of the Franks, full of armed men, came down but now upon the port and carried off a ship which was moored here, with her that was therein, and made unmolested for their own land." Nur al-Din fell down a-swoon, on hearing these words; and when he recovered they questioned him of his case and he told them all that had befallen him first and last; whereupon they all took to reviling him and railing at him, saying, "Why couldst thou not bring her up into the town without mantilla and muffler?" And all and each of the folk gave him some grievous word, berating him with sharp speech, and shooting at him some shaft or reproach, albeit one said, "Let him be; that which hath befallen him sufficeth him," till he again fell down in a fainting-fit. And behold, at this moment, up came the old druggist, who, seeing the folk gathered together, drew near to learn what was the matter and found Nur al-Din lying a-swoon in their midst. So he sat down at his head and arousing him, said to him as soon as he recovered, "O my son, what is this case in which I see thee?" Nur al-Din said, "O uncle, I had brought back in a barque my lost slave-girl from her father's city, suffering patiently all I suffered of perils and hardships; and when I came with her to this port, I made the vessel fast to the shore and leaving her therein, repaired to thy dwelling and took of thy consort what was needful for her, that I might bring her up into the town; but the Franks came and capturing barque and damsel made off unhindered, and returned to their own land." Now when the Shaykh, the druggist, heard this, the light in his eyes became night and he grieved with sore grieving for Nur al-Din and said to him, "O my son, why didst thou not bring her out of the ship into the city without mantilla? But speech availeth not at this season; so rise, O my son, and come up with me to the city; haply Allah will vouchsafe thee a girl fairer than she, who shall console thee for her. Alhamdolillah-praised be Allah-who hath not made thee lose aught by her! Nay, thou hast gained by her. And bethink thee, O my son, that Union and Disunion are in the hands of the Most High King.." Replied Nur al-Din, "By Allah, O uncle, I can never be consoled for her loss nor will I ever leave seeking her, though on her account I drink the cup of death!" Rejoined the druggist, "O my son, and what art thou minded to do?" Quoth Nur al-Din, "I am minded to return to the land of the Franks [FN#549] and enter the city of France and emperil myself there; come what may, loss of life or gain of life." Quoth the druggist, "O my son, there is an old saw, 'Not always doth the crock escape the shock'; and if they did thee no hurt the first time, belike they will slay thee this time, more by token that they know thee now with full knowledge." Quoth Nur al-Din, "O my uncle, let me set out and be slain for the love of her straightway and not die of despair for her loss by slow torments." Now as Fate determined there was then a ship in port ready to sail, for its passengers had made an end of their affairs [FN#550] and the sailors had pulled up the mooring-stakes, when Nur al-Din embarked in her. So they shook out their canvas and relying on the Compassionate, put out to sea and sailed many days, with fair wind and weather, till behold, they fell in with certain of the Frank cruisers, which were scouring those waters and seizing upon all ships they saw, in their fear for the King's daughter from the Moslem corsairs: and as often as they made prize of a Moslem ship, they carried all her people to the King of France, who put them to death in fulfilment of the vow he had vowed on account of his daughter Miriam. So, seeing the ship wherein was Nur al-Din they boarded her and taking him and the rest of the company prisoners, to the number of an hundred Moslems, carried them to the King and set them between his hands. He bade cut their throats. Accordingly they slaughtered them all forthwith, one after another, till there was none left but Nur al-Din, whom the headsman had left to the last, in pity of his tender age and slender shape. When the King saw him, he knew him right well and said to him, "Art thou not Nur al-Din, who was with us before?" Said he, "I was never with thee: and my name is not Nur al-Din, but Ibrahim." Rejoined the King; "Thou liest, thou art Nur al-Din, he whom I gave to the ancient dame the Prioress, to help her in the service of the church." But Nur al-Din replied, "O my lord, my name is Ibrahim." Quoth the King, "Wait a while," and bade his knights fetch the old woman forthright, saying, "When she cometh and seeth thee, she will know an thou be Nur al-Din or not." At this juncture, behold, in came the one-eyed Wazir who had married the Princess and kissing the earth before the King said to him, "Know, O King, that the palace is finished; and thou knowest how I vowed to the Messiah that, when I had made an end of building it, I would cut thirty Moslems' throats before its doors; wherefore I am come to take them of thee, that I may sacrifice them and so fulfil my vow to the Messiah. They shall be at my charge, by way of loan, and whenas there come prisoners to my hands, I will give thee other thirty in lieu of them." Replied the King, 'By the virtue of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar, I have but this one captive left!" And he pointed to Nur al-Din, saying, "Take him and slaughter him at this very moment and the rest I will send thee when there come to my hands other prisoners of the Moslems." Thereupon the one-eyed Wazir arose and took Nur al-Din and carried him to his palace, thinking to slaughter him on the threshold of the gate; but the painters said to him, "O my lord, we have two days' painting yet to do: so bear with us and delay to cut the throat of this captive, till we have made an end of our work; haply by that time the rest of the thirty will come, so thou mayst despatch them all at one bout and accomplish thy vow in a single day." Thereupon the Wazir bade imprison Nur al-Din.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Eighty-seventh Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Wazir bade imprison Nur al-Din, they carried him to the stables and left him there in chains, hungering and thirsting and making moan for himself; for indeed he saw death face to face. Now it fortuned, by the ordinance of Destiny and fore-ordained Fate, that the King had two stallions, own brothers, [FN#551] such as the Chosroe Kings might sigh in vain to possess themselves of one of them; they were called Sábik and Láhik [FN#552] and one of them was pure silvern white while the other was black as the darksome night. And all the Kings of the isles had said, "Whoso stealeth us one of these stallions, we will give him all he seeketh of red gold and pearls and gems;" but none could avail to steal them. Now one of them fell sick of a jaundice and there came a whiteness over his eyes; [FN#553] whereupon the King gathered together all the farriers in the city to treat him; but they all failed of his cure. Presently the Wazir came into the King; and finding him troubled because of the horse, thought to do away his concern and said to him, "O King, give me the stallion and I will cure him," The King consented and caused carry the horse to the stable wherein Nur al-Din lay chained; but, when he missed his brother, he cried out with an exceeding great cry and neighed, so that he affrighted all the folk. The Wazir, seeing that he did thus but because he was parted from his brother, went to tell the King, who said, "If this, which is but a beast, cannot brook to be parted from his brother, how should it be with those that have reason?" And he bade his grooms take the other horse and put him with his brother in the Wazir's stables, saying, "Tell the Minister that the two stallions be a gift from me to him, for the sake of my daughter Miriam." Nur al-Din was lying in the stable, chained and shackled, when they brought in the two stallions and he saw that one of them had a film over his eyes. Now he had some knowledge of horses and of the doctoring of their diseases; so he said to himself, "This by Allah is my opportunity! I will go to the Wazir and lie to him, saying, 'I will heal thee this horse': then will I do with him somewhat that shall destroy his eyes, and he will slay me and I shall be at rest from this woe-full life." So he waited till the Wazir entered the stable, to look upon the steed, and said to him, "O my lord, what will be my due, an I heal this horse, and make his eyes whole again?" Replied the Wazir, "As my head liveth, an thou cure him, I will spare thy life and give thee leave to crave a boon of me!" And Nur al-Din said, "O my lord, bid my hands be unbound!" So the Wazir bade unbind him and he rose and taking virgin glass, [FN#554] brayed it and mixed it with unslaked lime and a menstruum of onion-juice. Then he applied the whole to the horse's eyes and bound them up, saying in himself, "Now will his eyes be put out and they will slay me and I shall be at rest from this woe-full life." Then he passed the night with a heart free from the uncertainty [FN#555] of cark and care, humbling himself to Allah the Most High and saying, "O Lord, in Thy knowledge is that which dispenseth with asking and craving!" Now when the morning morrowed and the sun shone, the Wazir came to the stable and, loosing the bandage from the horse's eyes considered them and found them finer than before, by the ordinance of the King who openeth evermore. So he said to Nur al-Din, "O Moslem, never in the world saw I the like of thee for the excellence of thy knowledge. By the virtue of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar, thou makest me with wonder to admire, for all the farriers of our land have failed to heal this horse!" Then he went up to Nur al-Din and, doing off his shackles with his own hand, clad him in a costly dress and made him his master of the Horse; and he appointed him stipends and allowances and lodged him in a story over the stables. So Nur al-Din abode awhile, eating and drinking and making merry and bidding and forbidding those who tended the horses; and whoso neglected or failed to fodder those tied up in the stable wherein was his service, he would thrown down and beat with grievous beating and lay him by the legs in bilboes of iron. Furthermore, he used every day to descend and visit the stallions and rub them down with his own hand, by reason of that which he knew of their value in the Wazir's eyes and his love for them; wherefore the Minister rejoiced in him with joy exceeding and his breast broadened and he was right glad, unknowing what was to be the issue of his case. Now in the new palace, which the one-eyed Wazir had bought for Princess Miriam, was a lattice-window overlooking his old house and the flat wherein Nur al-Din lodged. The Wazir had a daughter, a virgin of extreme loveliness, as she were a fleeing gazelle or a bending branchlet, and it chanced that she sat one day at the lattice aforesaid and behold, she heard Nur al-Din, singing and solacing himself under his sorrows by improvising these verses,"O my Censor who wakest a-morn to see * The joys of life and its jubilee!
And when Nur al-Din ended his say and ceased to sing his rhyming lay, the Wazir's daughter said to herself, "By the virtue of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar, verily this Moslem is a handsome youth! But doubtless he is a lover separated from his mistress. Would Heaven I wot an the beloved of this fair one is fair like unto him and if she pine for him as he for her! An she be seemly as he is, it behoveth him to pour forth tears and make moan of passion; but, an she be other than fair, his days are wasted in vain regrets and he is denied the taste of delights."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Eighty-eighth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir's daughter said to herself, "An his beloved be fair as he, it behoveth him to pour forth tears; and, if other than fair, his heart is wasted in vain regrets!" Now Miriam the Girdle-girl, the Minister's consort, had removed to the new palace the day before and the Wazir's daughter knew that she was straitened of breast; so she was minded to seek her and talk with her and tell her the tidings of the young man and the rhymes and verses she had heard him recite; but, before she could carry out her design the Princess sent for her to cheer her with her converse. So she went to her and found her heavy at heart and her tears hurrying down her cheeks; and whilst she was weeping with sore weeping she recited these couplets,"My life is gone but love-longings remain * And my breast is straitened with pine and pain:
Quoth the Wazir's daughter to her, "What aileth thee, O Princess, to be thus straitened in breast and sorrowful of thought?" Whereupon Miriam recalled the greatness of the delights that were past and recited these two couplets,"I will bear in patience estrangement of friend * And on cheeks rail tears that like torrents wend:
Said the Wazir's daughter, "O Princess, let not thy breast be straitened, but come with me straightway to the lattice; for there is with us in the stable [FN#556] a comely young man, slender of shape and sweet of speech, and meseemeth he is a parted lover." Miriam asked, "And by what sign knowest thou that he is a parted lover?"; and she answered, "O Queen, I know it by his improvising odes and verses all watches of the night and tides of the day." Quoth the Princess in herself, "If what the Wazir's daughter says be true, these are assuredly the traits of the baffled, the wretched Ali Nur al-Din. Would I knew if indeed he be the youth of whom she speaketh." At this thought, love-longing and distraction of passion redoubled on her and she rose at once and walking with the maiden to the lattice, looked down upon the stables, where she saw her love and lord Nur al-Din and fixing her eyes steadfastly upon him, knew him with the bestest knowledge of love, albeit he was sick, of the greatness of his affection for her and of the fire of passion, and the anguish of separation and yearning and distraction. Sore upon him was emaciation and he was improvising and saying,"My heart is a thrall; my tears ne'er abate * And their rains the railing of clouds amate;
When the Princess Miriam beheld Nur al-Din and heard his loquence and verse and speech, she made certain that it was indeed her lord Nur al-Din; but she concealed her case from the Wazir's daughter and said to her, "By the virtue of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar, I thought not thou knewest of my sadness!" Then she arose forthright and withdrawing from the window, returned to her own place, whilst the Wazir's daughter went to her own occupations. The Princess awaited patiently awhile, then returned to the window and sat there, gazing upon her beloved Nur al-Din and delighting her eyes with his beauty and inner and outer grace. And indeed, she saw that he was like unto moon at full on fourteenth night; but he was ever sighing with tears never drying, for that he recalled whatso he had been abying. So he recited these couplets,"I hope for Union with my love which I may ne'er obtain * At all, but bitterness of life is all the gain I gain:
When Miriam heard the verses of Nur al-Din the loving-hearted, the parted; they kindled in her vitals a fire of desire, and while her eyes ran over with tears, she recited these two couplets,"I longed for him I love; but, when we met, * I was amazed nor tongue nor eyes I found.
When Nur al-Din heard the voice of Princess Miriam, he knew it and wept bitter tears, saying, "By Allah, this is the chanting of the Lady Miriam."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
End of Volume 8.