When it was the Eight Hundred and Eighty-ninth Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Nur al-Din heard the voice singing these verses he said in himself, "Verily this be the Lady Miriam chanting without hesitation or doubt or suspicion of one from without. [FN#1] Would Heaven I knew an my thought be true and if it be indeed she herself or other self!" And regrets redoubled upon him and he bemoaned himself and recited these couplets,
"When my blamer saw me beside my love * Whom I met in a site that lay open wide,
I spake not at meeting a word of reproach * Though oft it comfort sad heart to chide;
Quoth the blamer, 'What means this silence that bars * Thy making answer that hits his pride?'
And quoth I, 'O thou who as fool dost wake, * To misdoubt of lovers and Love deride;
The sign of lover whose love is true * When he meets his beloved is mum to bide.'"
When he had made an end of these verses, the Lady Miriam fetched inkcase and paper and wrote therein: "After honour due to the Basmalah, [FN#2] may the peace of Allah be upon thee and His mercy and blessings be! I would have thee know that thy slavegirl Miriam saluteth thee, who longeth sore for thee; and this is her message to thee. As soon as this letter shall fall into thy hands, do thou arise without stay and delay and apply thyself to that we would have of thee with all diligence and beware with all wariness of transgressing her commandment and of sleeping. When the first third of the night is past, (for that hour is of the most favourable of times) apply thee only to saddling the two stallions and fare forth with them both to the Sultan's Gate. [FN#3] If any ask thee whither thou wend, answer, 'I am going to exercise the steeds,' and none will hinder thee; for the folk of this city trust to the locking of the gates." Then she folded the letter in a silken kerchief and threw it out of the latticed window to Nur al-Din, who took it and reading it, knew it for the handwriting of the Lady Miriam and comprehended all its contents. So he kissed the letter and laid it between his eyes; then, calling to mind that which had betided him with her of the sweets of love-liesse, he poured forth his tears whilst he recited these couplets,
"Came your writ to me in the dead of the night * And desire for you stirred heart and sprite;
And, remembered joys we in union joyed, * Praised the Lord who placed us in parting plight."
As soon as it was dark Nur al-Din busied himself with making ready the stallions and patiented till the first watch of the night was past; when, without a moment delay, Nur al-Din the lover full of teen, saddled them with saddles of the goodliest, and leading them forth of the stable, locked the door after him and repaired with them to the city-gate, where he sat down to await the coming of the Princess. Meanwhile, Miriam returned forthright to her private apartment, where she found the one-eyed Wazir seated, elbow-propt upon a cushion stuffed with ostrich-down; but he was ashamed to put forth his hand to her or to bespeak her. When she saw him, she appealed to her Lord in heart, saying, "Allahumma-O my God-bring him not to his will of me nor to me defilement decree after purity!" Then she went up to him and made a show of fondness for him and sat down by his side and coaxed him, saying, "O my lord, what is this aversion thou displayest to me? Is it pride or coquetry on thy part? But the current byword saith, 'An the salam-salutation be little in demand, the sitters salute those who stand." [FN#4] So if, O my lord, thou come not to me neither accost me, I will go to thee and accost thee." Said he, "To thee belong favour and kindness, O Queen of the earth in its length and breadth; and what am I but one of thy slaves and the least of thy servants. Indeed, I was ashamed to intrude upon thine illustrious presence, O unique pearl, and my face is on the earth at thy feet." She rejoined, "Leave this talk and bring us to eat and drink." Accordingly he shouted to his eunuchs and women an order to serve food, and they set before them a tray containing birds of every king that walk and fly and in nests increase and multiply, such as sand-grouse and quails and pigeon-poults and lambs and fatted geese and fried poultry and other dishes of all sorts and colours. The Princess put out her hand to the tray and began to eat and feed the Wazir with her fair finger-tips and kiss him on the mouth. They ate till they had enough and washed their hands, after which the handmaidens removed the table of food and set on the service of wine. So Princess Miriam filled the cup and drank and gave the Wazir to drink and served him with assiduous service, so that he was like to fly for joy and his breast broadened and he was of the gladdest. When she saw that the wine had gotten the better of his senses, she thrust her hand into her bosom and brought out a pastil of virgin Cretan-Bhang, which she had provided against such an hour, whereof if an elephant smelt a dirham's weight, he would sleep from year to year. She distracted his attention and crumbled the drug into the cup: then, filling it up, handed it to the Wazir, who could hardly credit his senses for delight. So he took it and kissing her hand, drank it off, but hardly had it settled in his stomach when he fell head foremost to the ground. Then she rose and filling two great pairs of saddle-bags with what was light of weight and weighty of worth of jewels and jacinths and precious stones, together with somewhat of meat and drink, donned harness of war and armed herself for fight. She also took with her for Nur al-Din what should rejoice him of rich and royal apparel and splendid arms and armour, and shouldering the bags (for indeed her strength equalled her valiancy), hastened forth from the new palace to join her lover. On this wise fared it with the Lady Miriam; but as regards Nur al-Din,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninetieth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Lady Miriam left the new palace, she went straightways to meet her lover for indeed she was as valiant as she was strong; but Nur al-Din the distracted, the full of teen, sat at the city-gate hending the horses' halters in hand, till Allah (to whom belong Majesty and Might) sent a sleep upon him and he slept-glory be to Him who sleepeth not! Now at that time the Kings of the Islands had spent much treasure in bribing folk to steal the two steeds or one of them; and in those days there was a black slave, who had been reared in the islands skilled in horse-lifting; wherefore the Kings of the Franks seduced him with wealth galore to steal one of the stallions and promisted him, if he could avail to lift the two, that they would give him a whole island and endue him with a splendid robe of honour. He had long gone about the city of France in disguise, but succeeded not in taking the horses, whilst they were with the King; but, when he gave them in free gift to the Wazir and the monocular one carried them to his own stable, the blackamoor thief rejoiced with joy exceeding and made sure of success, saying in himself, "By the virtue of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar, I will certainly steal the twain of them!" Now he had gone out that very night, intending for the stable, to lift them; but, as he walked along, behold, he caught sight of Nur al-Din lying asleep, with the halters in his hands. So he went up to the horses and loosing the halters from their heads, was about to mount one of them and drive the other before him, when suddenly up came the Princess Miriam, carrying on her shoulders the couple of saddle-bags. She mistook the black for Nur al-Din and handed him one pair of bags, which he laid on one of the stallions: after which she gave him the other and he set it on the second steed, without word said to discover that it was not her lover. Then they mounted and rode out of the gate [FN#5] in silence till presently she asked, "O my lord Nur al-Din, what aileth thee to be silent?" Whereupon the black turned to her and cried angrily, "What sayst thou, O damsel?" When she heard the slave's barbarous accents, she knew that the speech was not of Nur al-Din; so raising her eyes she looked at him and saw that he was a black chattel, snub-nosed and wide-mouthed, with nostrils like ewers; whereupon the light in her eyes became night and she asked him, "Who art thou, O Shaykh of the sons of Ham and what among men is thy name?" He answered, "O daughter of the base, my name is Mas'úd, the lifter of horses, when folk slumber and sleep." She made him no reply, but straightway baring her blade, smote him on the nape and the blade came out gleaming from his throat-tendons, whereupon he fell earthwards, weltering in his blood, and Allah hurried his soul to the Fire and abiding-place dire. Then she took the other horse by the bridle and retraced her steps in search of Nur al-Din, whom she found lying, asleep and snoring, in the place where she had appointed him to meet her, hending the halters in hand, yet knowing not his fingers from his feet. So she dismounted and gave him a cuff, [FN#6] whereupon he awoke in affright and said to her, "O m lady, praised be Allah for thy safe coming!" Said she "Rise and back this steed and hold thy tongue!" So he rose and mounted one of the stallions, whilst she bestrode the other, and they went forth the city and rode on awhile in silence. Then said she to him, "Did I not bid thee beware of sleeping? Verily, he prospereth not who sleepeth." He rejoined, "O my lady, I slept not but because of the cooling of my heart by reason of thy promise. But what hath happened, O my lady?" So she told him her adventure with the black, first and last, and he said, "Praised be Allah for safety!" Then they fared on at full speed, committing their affair to the Subtle, the All-wise and conversing as they went, till they came to the place where the black lay prostrate in the dust, as he were an Ifrit, and Miriam said to Nur al-Din, "Dismount; strip him of his clothes and take his arms." He answered, "By Allah, O my lady, I dare not dismount nor approach him." And indeed he marvelled at the blackamoor's stature and praised the Princess for her deed, wondering the while at her valour and stout-heartedness. They fared on lustily and ceased not so doing all that night and halted not till the day broke with its shine and sheen and the sun shone bright upon plain and height when they came to a wide riverino lea wherein the gazelles were frisking gracefully. Its surface was clothed with green and on all sides fruit trees of every kind were seen: its slopes for flowers like serpents' bellies showed, and birds sang on boughs aloud and its rills in manifold runnels flowed. And indeed it was as saith the poet and saith well and accomplisheth the hearer's desire,
"Rosy red Wady hot with summer-glow, * Where twofold tale of common growth was piled.
In copse we halted wherein bent to us * Branches, as bendeth nurse o'er weanling-child.
And pure cold water quenching thirst we sipped: * To cup-mate sweeter than old wine and mild:
From every side it shut out sheen of sun * Screen-like, but wooed the breeze to cool the wild:
And pebbles, sweet as maidens deckt and dight * And soft as threaded pearls, the touch beguiled."
And as saith another,
"And when birdies o'er warble its lakelet, it gars * Longing [FN#7] lover to seek it where morning glows;
For likest to Paradise lie its banks * With shade and fruitage and fount that flows."
Presently Princess Miriam and Nur al-Din alighted to rest in this Wady,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninety-first Night,
She said, It hat reached me, O auspicious King, that when Princess Miriam and Nur al-Din alighted in that valley, they ate of its fruits and frank of its streams, after turning the stallions loose to pasture: then they sat talking and recalling their past and all that had befallen them and complaining one to other of the pangs of parting and of the hardships suffered for estrangement and love-longing. As they were thus engaged, behold, there arose in the distance a dust-cloud which spread till it walled the world, and they heard the neighing of horses and clank of arms and armour. Now the reason of this was, that after the Princess had been bestowed in wedlock upon the Wazir who had gone in to her that night, the King went forth at daybreak, to give the couple good morrow, taking with him, after the custom of Kings with their daughters, a gift of silken stuffs and scattering gold and silver among the eunuchs and tire-women, that they might snatch at and scramble for it. And he fared on escorted by one of his pages; but when he came to the new palace, he found the Wazir prostrate on the carpet, knowing not his head from his heels; so he searched the place right and left for his daughter, but found her not; whereat he was troubled sore with concern galore and his wits forlore. Then he bade bring hot water and virgin vinegar and frankincense [FN#8] and mingling them together, blew the mixture into the Wazir's nostrils and shook him, whereupon he cast the Bhang forth of his stomach, as it were a bit of cheese. He repeated the process, whereupon the Minister came to himself and the King questioned him of his case and that of his daughter. He replied, "O mighty King, I have no knowledge of her save that she poured me out a cup of wine with her own hand; and from that tide to this I have no recollection of aught nor know I what is come of her." When the King heard this, the light in his eyes became night, and he drew his scymitar and smote the Wazir on the head, then the steel came out gleaming from between his grinder teeth. Then, without an instant delay, he called the groom sand syces and demanded of them the two stallions: but they said, "O King, the two steeds were lost in the night and together with them our chief, the Master of Horse; for, when we awoke in the morning, we found all the doors wide open." Cried the King, "By the faith of me and by all wherein my belief is stablished on certainty, none but my daughter hath taken the steeds, she and the Moslem captive which used to tend the Church and which took her aforetime! Indeed I knew him right well and none delivered him from my hand save this one-eyed Wazir; but now he is requited his deed." Then the King called his three sons, who were three doughty champions, each of whom could withstand a thousand horse in the field of strife and the stead where cut and thrust are rife; and bade them mount. So they took horse forthwith and the King and the flower of his knights and nobles and officers mounted with them and followed on the trail of the fugitives till Miriam saw them, when she mounted her charger and baldrick'd her blade and took her arms. Then she said to Nur al-Din, "How is it with thee and how is thy heart for fight and strife and fray?" Said he, "Verily, my steadfastness in battle-van is as the steadfastness of the stake in bran." [FN#9] And he improvised and said,
"O Miriam thy chiding I pray, forego; * Nor drive me to death or injurious blow:
How e'er can I hope to bear fray and fight * Who quake at the croak of the corby-crow?
I who shiver for fear when I see the mouse * And for very funk I bepiss my clo'!
I loveno foin but the poke in bed, * When coynte well knoweth my prickle's prow;
This is rightful rede, and none other shows * Righteous as this in my sight, I trow."
Now when Miriam heard his speech and the verse he made, she laughed and smilingly said, "O my lord Nur al-Din, abide in thy place and I will keep thee from their ill grace, though they be as the sea-sands in number. But mount and ride in rear of me, and if we be defeated and put to flight, beware of falling, for none can overtake thy steed." So saying, she turned her lance-head towards foe in plain and gave her horse the rein, whereupon he darted off under her, like the stormy gale or like waters that from straitness of pipes outrail. Now Miriam was the doughtiest of the folk of her time and the unique pearl of her age and tide; for her father had taught her, whilst she was yet little, on steeds to ride and dive deep during the darkness of the night in the battle tide. When the King saw her charging down upon them, he knew her but too well and turning to his eldest son, said, "O Bartaut, [FN#10] thou who art surnamed Ras al-Killaut [FN#11] this is assuredly thy sister Miriam who chargeth upon us, and she seeketh to wage war and fight fray with us. So go thou out to give her battle: and I enjoin thee by the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar, an thou get the better of her, kill her not till thou have propounded to her the Nazarene faith. An she return to her old creed, bring her to me prisoner; but an she refuse, do her die by the foulest death and make of her the vilest of examples, as well as the accursed which is with her." Quoth Bartaut, "Hearkening obedience"; and, rushing out forthright to meet his sister, said to her, "O Miriam, doth not what hath already befallen us on thine account suffice thee, but thou must leave the faith of thy fathers and forefathers and follow after the faith of the Vagrants in the lands, that is to say, the faith of Al-Islam? By the virtue of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar, except thou return to the creed of the Kings thy Forebears and walk therein after the goodliest fashion, I will put thee to an ill death and make of thee the most shameful of ensamples!" But Miriam laughed at his speech and replied, "Well-away! Far be it that the past should present stay or that he who is dead should again see day! I will make thee drink the sourest of regrets! By Allah, I will not turn back upon the faith of Mohammed son of Abdullah, who made salvation general; for his is the True Faith; nor will I leave the right road though I drain the cup of ruin!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninety-second Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Miriam exclaimed to her brother, "Well-away! Heaven forfend that I turn back from the faith of Mohammed Abdullah-son who made salvation general; for his is the Right Road nor will I leave it although I drain the cup of ruin." When the accursed Bartaut heard this, the light in his eyes became night, the matter was great and grievous to him and between them there befel a sore fight. The twain swayed to and fro battling throughout the length and breadth of the valley and manfully enduring the stress of combat singular, whilst all eyes upon them were fixed in admiring surprise: after which they wheeled about and foined and feinted for a long bout and as often as Bartaut opened on his sister Miriam a gate of war, [FN#12] she closed it to and put it to naught, of the goodliness of her skill and her art in the use of arms and her cunning of cavalarice. Nor ceased they so doing till the dust overhung their heads vault-wise and they were hidden from men's eyes; and she ceased not to baffle Bartaut and stop the way upon him, till he was weary and his courage wavered and his resolution was worsted and his strength weakened; whereupon she smote him on the nape, that the sword came out gleaming from his throat tendons and Allah hurried his soul to the Fire and the abiding-place which is dire. Then Miriam wheeled about in the battleplain and the stead where cut and thrust are fain; and championed it and offered battle, crying out and saying, "Who is for fighting? Who is for jousting? Let come forth to me to-day no weakling or niderling; ay, let none come forth to me but the champions who the enemies of The Faith represent, that I may give them to drink the cup of ignominious punishment. O worshippers of idols, O miscreants, O rebellious folk, this day verily shall the faces of the people of the True Faith be whitened and theirs who deny the Compassionate be blackened!" Now when the King saw his eldest son slain, he smote his face and rent his dress and cried out to his second son, saying, "O Batrús, thou who art surnamed Khara al-Sús, [FN#13] go forth, O my son, in haste and do battle with thy sister Miriam; avenge me the death of thy brother Bartaut and bring her to me a prisoner, abject and humiliated!" He answered, "Hearkening and obedience, O my sire, and charging down drave at his sister, who met him in mid-career, and they fought, he and she, a sore fight, yet sorer than the first. Bartus right soon found himself unable to cope with her might and would have sought safety in flight, but of the greatness of her prowess could not avail unto this sleight; for, as often as he turned to flee, she drave after him and still clave to him and pressed him hard, till presently she smote him with the sword in his throat, that it issued gleaming from his nape, and sent him after his brother. Then she wheeled about in the mid-field and plain where cut and thrust are dealed, crying out and saying, "Where be the Knights? Where be the Braves? Where is the one-eyed Wazir, the lameter, of the crooked faith [FN#14] the worthy believer?" Thereupon the King her father cried out with heart in bleeding guise and tear-ulcerated eyes, saying, "She hath slain my second son, by the virtue of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar!" And he called aloud to his youngest son, saying, "O Fasyán, surnamed Salh al-Subyán, [FN#15] go forth, O my son, to do battle with thy sister and take of her the blood-wreak for thy brothers and fall on her, come what may; and whether thou gain or thou lose the day; [FN#16] and if thou conquer her, slay her with foulest slaughter!" So he drave out to Miriam, who ran at him with the best of her skill and charged him with the goodliness of her cleverness and her courage and her cunning in fence and cavalarice, crying to him, "O accursed, O enemy of Allah and the Moslems, I will assuredly send thee after thy brothers and woeful is the abiding-place of the Miscreants!" So saying, she unsheathed her sword and smote him and cut off his head and arms and sent him after his brothers and Allah hurried his soul to the Fire and the abiding-place dire. Now when the Knights and riders who rode with her sire saw his three sons slain, who were the doughtiest of the folk of their day, there fell on their hearts terror of the Princess Miriam, awe of her overpowered them; they bowed their heads earthwards and they made sure of ruin and confusion, disgrace and destruction. So with the flames of hate blazing in heart they turned their backs forthright and addressed themselves to flight. When the King saw his sons slain and on his flying troops cast sight, there fell on him bewilderment and affright, whilst his heart also was a-fire for despight. Then quoth he to himself, "In very sooth Princess Miriam hath belittled us; and if I venture myself and go out against her alone, haply she will gar me succumb and slay me without ruth, even as she slew her brothers and make of me the foulest of examples, for she hath no longer any desire for us nor have we of her return any hope. Wherefore it were the better rede that I guard mine honour and return to my capital." So he gave reins to his charger and rode back to his city. But when he found himself in his palace, fire was loosed in his heart for rage and chagrin at the death of his three gallant sons and the defeat of his troops and the disgrace to his honour; nor did he abide half an hour ere he summoned his Grandees and Officers of state and complained to them of that his daughter Miriam had done with him of the slaughter of her brothers and all he suffered therefrom of passion and chagrin, and sought advice of them. They all counselled him to write to the Vicar of Allah in His earth, the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, and acquaint him with his circumstance. So he wrote a letter to the Caliph, containing, after the usual salutations, the following words. "We have a daughter, Miriam the Girdle-girl hight, who hath been seduced and debauched from us by a Moslem captive, named Nur al-Din Ali, son of the merchant Taj al-Din of Cairo, and he hath taken her by night and went forth with her to his own country; wherefore I beg of the favour of our lord the Commander of the Faithful that he write to all the lands of the Moslems to seize her and send her back to us by a trusty messenger."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninety-third Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the King of France wrote to the Caliph and Prince of True Believers, Harun al-Rashid, a writ humbling himself by asking for his daughter Miriam and begging of his favour that he write to all the Moslems, enjoining her seizure and sending back to him by a trusty messenger of the servants of his Highness the Commander of the Faithful; adding, "And in requital of your help and aidance in this matter, we will appoint to you half of the city of Rome the Great, that thou mayst build therein mosques for the Moslems, and the tribute thereof shall be forwarded to you." And after writing this writ, by rede of his Grandees and Lords of the land, he folded the scroll and calling his Wazir, whom he had appointed in the stead of the monocular Minister, bade him seal it with the seal of the kingdom, and the Officers of state also set hands and seals thereto; after which the King bade the Wazir bear the letter to Baghdad, [FN#17] the Palace of Peace, and hand it into the Caliph's own hand, saying, "An thou bring her back, thou shalt have of me the fiefs of two Emirs and I will bestow on thee a robe of honour with two-fold fringes of gold." The Wazir set out with the letter and fared on over hill and dale, till he came to the city of Baghdad, where he abode three days, till he was rested from the way, when he sought the Palace of the Commander of the Faithful and when guided thereto he entered it and craved audience. The Caliph bade admit him; so he went in and kissing ground before him, handed to him the letter of the King of France, together with rich gifts and rare presents beseeming the Commander of the Faithful. When the Caliph read the writ and apprehended its significance, he commanded his Wazir to write, without stay or delay, despatches to all the lands of the Moslems, setting out the name and favour of Princess Miriam and of Nur al-Din, stating how they had eloped and bidding all who found them lay hands on them and send them to the Commander of the Faithful, and warning them on no wise in that matter to use delay or indifference. So the Wazir wrote the letters and sealing them, despatched them by couriers to the different Governors, who hastened to obey the Caliph's commandment and addressed themselves to make search in all the lands for persons of such name and favour. On this wise it fared with the Governors and their subjects; but as regards Nur al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-girl, they fared on without delay after defeating the King of France and his force and the Protector protected them, till they came to the land of Syria and entered Damascus-city. Now the couriers of the Caliph had foregone them thither by a day and the Emir of Damascus knew that he was commanded to arrest the twain as soon as found, that he might send them to the Caliph. Accordingly, when they entered the city, the secret police [FN#18] accosted them and asked them their names. They told them the truth and acquainted them with their adventure and all that had betided them; whereupon they knew them for those of whom they were in search and seizing them, carried them before the Governor of the city. He despatched them to the city of Baghdad under escort of his officers who, when they came thither, craved audience of the Caliph which he graciously granted; so they came into the presence; and, kissing ground before him, said, "O Commander of the Faithful, this is Miriam the Girdle-girl, daughter of the King of France, and this is the captive Nur al-Din, son of the merchant Taj al-Din of Cairo, who debauched her from her sire and stealing her from his kingdom and country fled with her to Damascus, where we found the twain as they entered the city, and questioned them. They told us the truth of their case: so we laid hands on them and brought them before thee." The Caliph looked at Miriam and saw that she was slender and shapely of form and stature, the handsomest of the folk of her tide and the unique pearl of her age and her time; sweet of speech [FN#19] and fluent of tongue, stable of soul and hearty of heart. Thereupon she kissed the ground between his hands and wished him permanence of glory and prosperity and surcease of evil and enmity. He admired the beauty of her figure and the sweetness of her voice and the readiness of her replies and said to her, "Art thou Miriam the Girdle-girl, daughter of the King of France?" Answered she, "Yes, O Prince of True Believers and Priest of those who the Unity of Allah receive and Defender of the Faith and cousin of the Primate of the Apostles!" Then the Caliph turned to Nur al-Din Ali and seeing him to be a shapely youth, as he were the shining full moon on fourteenth night, said to him, "And thou, art thou Ali Nur al-Din, son of the merchant Taj al-Din of Cairo?" Said he, "Yes, O Commander of the Faithful and stay of those who for righteousness are care-full!" The Caliph asked, "How cometh it that thou hast taken this damsel and fled forth with her of her father's kingdom?" So Nur al-Din proceeded to relate to the Commander of the Faithful all his past, first and last; whereat the Caliph was astonied with extreme astonishment and diverted and exclaimed, "How manifold are the sufferings that men suffer!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninety-fourth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph Harun al-Rashid asked Nur al-Din of his adventure and was told of all that had passed, first and last, he was astonied with extreme astonishment and exclaimed, "How manifold are the sufferings that men suffer!" Then he turned to the Princess and said to her, "Know, O Miriam, that thy father, the King of France, hath written to me anent thee. What sayst thou?" She replied, "O Vicar of Allah on His earth and Executor of the precepts of His prophet and commands to man's unworth, [FN#20] may He vouchsafe thee eternal prosperity and ward thee from evil and enmity! Thou art Viceregent of Allah in His earth and I have entered thy Faith, for that it is the creed which Truth and Righteousness inspire; and I have left the religion of the Miscreants who make the Messiah a liar, [FN#21] and I am become a True Believer in Allah the Bountiful and in the revelation of His compassionate Apostle. I worship Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) and acknowledge Him to be the One God and prostrate myself humbly before Him and glorify Him; and I say before the Caliph, 'Verily , I testify that there is no god but the God and I testify that Mohammed is the Messenger of God, whom He sent with the Guidance and the True Faith, that He might make it victorious over every other religion, albeit they who assign partners to God be averse from it.' [FN#22] Is it therefore in thy competence, O Commander of the Faithful, to comply with the letter of the King of the heretics and send me back to the land of the schismatics who deny The Faith and give partners to the All-wise King, who magnify the Cross and bow down before idols and believe in the divinity of Jesus, for all he was only a creature? An thou deal with me thus, O Viceregent of Allah, I will lay hold upon thy skirts on the Day of Muster before the Lord and make my complaint of thee to thy cousin the Apostle of Allah (whom God assain and preserve!) on the Day when wealth availeth not neither children save one come unto Allah wholehearted!" [FN#23] Answered the Caliph, "O Miriam, Allah forfend that I should do this ever! How can I send back a Moslemah believer in the one God and in His Apostle to that which Allah hath forbidden and eke His Messenger hath forbidden?" Quoth she, "I testify that there is no god but the God and that Mohammed is the Apostle of God!" Rejoined the Caliph, "O Miriam, Allah bless and direct thee in the way of righteousness! Since thou art a Moslemah and a believer in Allah the One, I owe thee a duty of obligation and it is that I should never transgress against thee nor forsake thee, though be lavished unto me on thine account the world full of gold and gems. So be of good cheer and eyes clear of tear; and be thy breast broadened and thy case naught save easy. Art thou willing that this youth Ali of Cairo be to thee man and thou to him wife?" Replied Miriam, "O Prince of True Believers, how should I be other than willing to take him to husband, seeing that he bought me with his money and hath entreated me with the utmost kindness and, for crown of his good offices, he hath ventured his life for my sake many times?" So the Caliph summoned the Kazi and the witneses and married her to him assigning her a dowry and causing the Grandees of his realm be present and the marriage day was a notable. Then he turned to the Wazir of the French King, who was present, and said to him, "Hast thou heard her words? How can I her send back to her father the Infidel, seeing that she is a Moslemah and a believer in the Unity? Belike he will evil entreat her and deal harshly with her, more by token that she hath slain his sons, and I shall bear blame for her on Resurrection-day. And indeed quoth the Almighty 'Allah will by no means make a way for the Infidels over the True Believers.' [FN#24] So return to thy King and say to him, 'Turn from this thing and hope not to come at thy desire thereof.'" Now this Wazir was a Zany: so he said to the Caliph, "O Commander of the Faithful, by the virtue of the Messiah and the Faith which is no liar, were Miriam forty times a Moslemah and forty times thereto, I may not depart from thee without that same Miriam! And if thou send her not back with me of free will, I will hie me to her sire and cause him despatch thee an host, wherewith I will come upon you from the landward and the seaward; and the van whereof shall be at your capital city whilst the rear is yet on the Euphrates [FN#25] and they shall lay waste thy realms." When the Caliph heard these words from the accursed Wazir of the King of France, the light in his face became night and he was wroth at his speech with exceeding wrath and said to him, "O damned one, O dog of the Nazarenes, art thou come to such power that thou durst assail me with the King of the Franks?" Then quoth he to his guards, "Take this accursed and do him die"; and he repeated this couplet, [FN#26]
"This be his recompense who will * Oppose and thwart his betters' will."
Then he commanded to cut off the Wazir's head and burn his body; but Princess Miriam cried, "O Commander of the Faithful, soil not thy sword with the blood of this accursed." So saying, she barred her brand and smote him and made his head fly from his corpse, and he went to the house of ungrace; his abode was Gehenna, and evil is the abiding-place. The Caliph marvelled at the force of her fore-arm and the strength of her mind, and they carried the dead Wazir forth of the pavilion and burnt him. Then the Commander of the Faithful bestowed upon Nur al-Din a splendid robe of honour and assigned to him and her a lodging in his palace. Moreover, he appointed them solde and rations, and commanded to transport to their quarters all they needed of raiment and furniture and vessels of price. They sojourned awhile in Baghdad in all delight of life and solace thereof till Nur al-Din longed for his mother and father. So he submitted the matter to the Caliph and sought his leave to revisit his native land and visit his kinsfolk, and he granted him the permission he sought and calling Miriam, commended them each to other. He also loaded them with costly presents and rarities and bade write letters to the Emirs and Olema and notables of Cairo the God-guarded, commending Nur al-Din and his wife and parents to their care and charging them honour them with the highmost honour. When the news reached Cairo, the merchant Taj al-Din joyed at the return of his son and Nur al-Din's mother likewise rejoiced therein with passing joy. The Emirs and the notables of the city went forth to meet him, in obedience to the Caliph's injunctions, and indeed it was for them a right note-worthy day, wherein foregathered the lover and the beloved and the seeker attained the sought. Moreover, alit he Emirs made them bride-feasts, each on his own day, and joyed in them with joy exceeding and vied in doing them honour, one the other succeeding. When Nur al-Din foregathered with his mother and father, they were gladdened in each other with the utmost gladness and care and affliction ceased from them, whilst his parents joyed no less in the Princess Miriam and honoured her with the highmost honour. Every day, there came to them presents from all the Emirs and great merchants, and they were in new delight and gladness exceeding the gladness of festival. Then they ceased not abiding in solace and pleasance and good cheer and abounding prosperity, eating and drinking with mirth and merriment, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and Sunderer of societies, Waster of houses and palace-domes and Peopler of the bellies of the tombs. So they were removed from worldly stead and became of the number of the dead; and glory be to the Living One, who dieth not and in whose hand are the keys of the Seen and the Unseen! And a tale was also told by the Emir Shujá al-Dín, [FN#27] Prefect of Cairo anent