RUINED MAN OF BAGHDAD AND HIS SLAVE-GIRL
There was of old time in Baghdad a man of condition, who had inherited from his father abounding affluence. He fell in love with a slave-girl; so he bought her and she loved him as he loved her; and he ceased not to spend upon her, till all his money was gone and naught remained thereof; whereupon he sought a means of getting his livelihood, but availed not to find any. Now this young man had been used, in the days of his affluence, to frequent the assemblies of those who were versed in the art of singing and had thus attained to the utmost excellence therein. Presently he took counsel with one of his intimates, who said to him, "Meseems thou canst find no better profession than to sing, thou and thy slave-girl; for on this wise thou wilt get money in plenty and wilt eat and drink." But he misliked this, he and the damsel, and she said to him, "I have bethought me of a means of relief for thee." He asked, "What is it?;" and she answered, "Do thou sell me; thus shall we be delivered of this strait, thou and I, and I shall be in affluence; for none will buy the like of me save a man of fortune, and with this I will contrive for my return to thee." He carried her to the market and the first who saw her was a Hashimi [FN#37] of Bassorah, a man of good breeding, fine taste and generosity, who bought her for fifteen hundred dinars. (Quoth the young man, the damsel's owner), "When I had received the price, I repented me and wept, I and the damsel; and I sought to cancel the sale; but the purchaser would not consent. So I took the gold in a bag, knowing not whither I should wend, now my house was desolate of her and buffeted my face and wept and wailed as I had never done before. Then I entered a mosque and sat shedding tears, till I was stupefied and losing my senses fell asleep, with the bag of money under my head by way of pillow. Presently, ere I could be ware, a man plucked the bag from under my head and ran off with it at speed: whereupon I started up in alarm and affright and would have arisen to run after him; but lo! my feet were found with a rope and I fell on my face. Then I took to weeping and buffeting myself, saying, 'Thou hast parted with thy soul [FN#38] and thy wealth is lost!'"-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninety-seventh Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young man continued, "So I said to myself, 'Thou hast parted with thy soul and thy wealth is lost.' Then, of the excess of my chagrin, I betook myself to the Tigris and wrapping my face in my gown, cast myself into the stream. The bystanders saw me and cried, 'For sure, this is because of some great trouble that hath betided him.' They cast themselves in after me and bringing me ashore, questioned me of my case. I told them what misadventure had befallen me and they condoled with me. Then an old man of them came to me and said, 'Thou hast lost thy money, but why goest thou about to lose thy life and become of the people of The Fire? [FN#39] Arise, come with me, that I may see thy lodging.' I went with him to my house and he sat with me awhile, till I waxed calmer, and becoming tranquil I thanked him and he went away. When he was gone I was like to kill myself, but bethought me of the Future and the Fire; so I fared forth my house and fled to one of my friends and told him what had befallen me. He wept for pity of me and gave me fifty dinars, saying, 'Take my advice and hie thee from Baghdad forthright and let this provide thee till thy heart be diverted from the love of her and thou forget her. Thy forbears were Secretaries and Scribes and thy handwriting is fine and thy breeding right good: seek out, then, whom thou wilt of the Intendants [FN#40] and throw thyself on his bounty; thus haply Allah shall reunite thee with thy slave-girl.' I hearkened to his words (and indeed my mind was strengthened and I was somewhat comforted) and resolved to betake myself to Wasit, [FN#41] where I had kinfolk. So I went down to the river-side, where I saw a ship moored and the sailors embarking goods and goodly stuffs. I asked them to take me with them and carry me to Wásit; but they replied, 'We cannot take thee on such wise, for the ship belongeth to a Hashimi.' However, I tempted them with promise of passage-money and they said, 'We cannot embark thee on this fashion; [FN#42] but, if it must be, doff those fine clothes of thine and don sailor's gear and sit with us as thou wert one of us.' I went away and buying somewhat of sailors' clothes, put them on; after which I bought me also somewhat of provisions for the voyage; and, returning to the vessel, which was bound for Bassorah, embarked with the crew. But ere long I saw my slave-girl herself come on board, attended by two waiting-women; whereupon what was on me of chagrin subsided and I said in myself, 'Now shall I see her and hear her singing, till we come to Bassorah.' Soon after, up rode the Hashimi, with a party of people, and they embarked aboard the ship, which dropped down the river with them. Presently the Hashimi brought out food and ate with the damsel, whilst the rest ate amidships. Then said he to her, 'How long this abstinence from singing and permanence in this wailing and weeping? Thou art not the first that hath been parted from a beloved!' Wherefore I knew what she suffered for love of me. Then he hung a curtain before her along the gunwale and calling those who ate apart, sat down with them without the curtain; and I enquired concerning them and behold they were his brethren. [FN#43] he set before them what they needed of wine and dessert, and they ceased not to press the damsel to sing, till she called for the lute and tuning it, intoned these two couplets,
'The company left with my love by night, * Nor forbore to fare with heart's delight:
And raged, since their camels off paced, a fire * As of Ghazá [FN#44]-wood in the lover's sprite.'
Then weeping overpowered her and she threw down the elute and ceased singing; whereat the folks were troubled and I slipped down a-swoon. They thought I was possessed [FN#45] and one of them began reciting exorcisms in my ear; nor did they cease to comfort her and beseech her to sing, till she tuned the lute again and chaunted these couplets twain,
'I stood and bewailed who their loads had bound * And far yode but still in my heart are found;
I drew near the ruins and asked of them * And the camp was void and lay waste the ground.'
Then she fell down in a fainting-fit and weeping arose amongst the folk; and I also cried out and fainted away. The sailors were startled by me and one of the Hashimi's pages said to them, 'How came ye to take this madman on board?' So they said one to other, 'As soon as we come to the next village, we will set him ashore and rid us of him.' When I heard this, I was sore troubled but I heartened and hardened myself, saying in thought, 'Nothing will serve me to deliver myself from their hands, except I make shift to acquaint her with my presence in the ship, so she may prevent my being set ashore.' Then we sailed when we came hard by a hamlet [FN#46] and the skipper said, 'Come, let us go ashore.' Therewith they all landed, save myself; and as evening fell I rose and going behind the curtain took the lute and changed its accord, mode [FN#47] by mode, and tuning it after a fashion of my own, [FN#48] that she had learnt of me, returned to my place in the ship;" --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninety-eighth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young man continued, "I returned to my place in the ship; and presently the whole party came on board again and the moon shone bright upon river and height. Then said the Hashimi to the damsel, 'Allah upon thee, trouble not our joyous lives!' So she took the lute, and touching it with her hand, gave a sob, that they thought her soul had fled her frame, and said, 'By Allah, my master and teacher is with us in this ship!' Answered the Hashimi, 'By Allah, were this so, I would not forbid him our conversation! Haply he would lighten thy burthen, so we might enjoy thy singing: but his being on board is far from possible.' However she said, 'I cannot smite lute-string or sing sundry airs I was wont to sing whilst my lord is with us.' Quoth the Hashimi, 'Let us ask the sailors;' and quoth she, 'Do so.' He questioned them, saying, 'Have ye carried anyone with you!'; and they answered, 'No.' then I feared lest the enquiry should end there; so I laughed and said, 'Yes; I am her master and taught her whenas I was her lord.' Cried she, 'By Allah, that is my lord's voice!' Thereupon the pages carried me to the Hashimi, who knew me at first sight and said to me, 'Out on thee! What plight is this in which I see thee and what hath brought thee to such condition?' I related to him all that had befallen me of my affair, weeping the while, and the damsel made loud wail from behind the curtain. The Hashimi wept with sore weeping, he and his brethren, for pity of me, and he said, 'By Allah, I have not drawn near this damsel nor enjoyed her, nor have I even heard her sing till this day! I am a man to whom Allah hath been ample and I came to Baghdad but to hear singing and seek my allowances of the Commander of the Faithful. I accomplished both my needments and being about to return home, said to myself, 'Let us hear some what of the singing of Baghdad.' Wherefore I bought this damsel, knowing not that such was the case with you twain; and I take Allah to witness that, when I reach Bassorah I will free her and marry her to thee and assign you what shall suffice you, and more; but on condition that, whenever I have a mind to hear music, a curtain shall be hung for her and she shall sing to me from behind it, and thou shalt be of the number of my brethren and boon-companions.' Hereat I rejoiced and the Hashimi put his head within the curtain and said to her, 'Will that content thee?'; whereupon she fell to blessing and thanking him. Then he called a servant and said to him, 'Take this young man and do off his clothes and robe him in costly raiment and incense [FN#49] him and bring him back to us.' So the servant did with me as his master bade him and brought me back to him, and served me with wine, even as the rest of the company. Then the damsel began singing after the goodliest fashion and chanted these couplets,
'They blamed me for causing my tears to well * When came my beloved to bid farewell:
They ne'er tasted the bitters of parting nor felt * Fire beneath my ribs that flames fierce and fell!
None but baffled lover knows aught of Love, * Whose heart is lost where he wont to dwell.'
The folk rejoiced in her song with exceeding joy and my gladness redoubled, so that I took the lute from the damsel and preluding after the most melodious fashion, sang these couplets,
'Ask (if needs thou ask) the Compassionate, * And the generous donor of high estate.
For asking the noble honours man * And asking the churl entails bane and bate:
When abasement is not to be 'scaped by wight * Meet it asking boons of the good and great.
Of Grandee to sue ne'er shall vilify man, * But 'tis vile on the vile of mankind to 'wait.'
The company rejoiced in me with joy exceeding and the ceased not from pleasure and delight, whilst anon I sang and anon the damsel, till we came to one of the landing-places, where the vessel moored and all on board disembarked and I with them. Now I was drunken with wine and squatted on my hams to make water; but drowsiness overcame me and I slept, and the passengers returned to the ship which ran down stream without any missing me, for that they also were drunken, and continued their voyage until they reached Bassorah. As for me I awoke not till the heat of the sun aroused me, when I rose and looked about me, but saw no one. Now I had given my spending money to the damsel and had naught left: I had also forgotten to ask the Hashimi his name and where his house was at Bassorah and his titles; thus I was confounded and my joy at meeting the damsel had been but a dream; and I abode in perplexity till there came up a great vessel wherein I embarked and she carried me to Bassorah. Now I knew none there, much less the Hashimi's house, so I accosted a grocer and taking of him inkcase and paper, -- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninety-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Baghdad man who owned the maid entered Bassorah, he was perplexed for not knowing the Hashimi's house. "So I accosted" (said he) "a grocer and, taking of him inkcase and paper, sat down to write. He admired my handwriting and seeing my dress stained and soiled, questioned me of my case, to which I replied that I was a stranger and poor. Quoth he, 'Wilt thou abide with me and order the accounts of my shop and I will give thee thy food and clothing and half a dirham a day for ordering the accompts of my shop?'; and quoth I, ''Tis well,' and abode with him and kept his accounts and ordered his income and expenditure for a month, at the end of which he found his income increased and his disbursements diminished; wherefore he thanked me and made my wage a dirham a day. When the year was out, he proposed to me to marry his daughter and become his partner in the shop. I agreed to this and went in to my wife and applied me to the shop. But I was broken in heart and spirit, and grief was manifest upon me; and the grocer used to drink and invite me thereto, but I refrained for melancholy. I abode on this wise two years till, one day, as I sat in the shop, behold, there passed by a parcel of people with meat and drink, and I asked the grocer what was the matter. Quoth he, 'This is the day of the pleasure-makers, when all the musicians and dancers of the town go forth with the young men of fortune to the banks of the Ubullah river [FN#50] and eat and drink among the trees there.' The spirit prompted me to solace myself with the sight of this thing and I said in my mind, 'Haply among these people I may foregather with her I love.' So I told the grocer that I had a mind to this and he said, 'Up and go with them an thou please.' He made me ready meat and drink and I went till I came to the River of Ubullah, when, behold, the folk were going away: I also was about to follow, when I espied the Rais of the bark wherein the Hashimi had been with the damsel and he was going along the river. I cried out to him and his company who knew me and took me onboard with them and said to me, 'Art thou yet alive?'; and they embraced me and questioned me of my case. I told them my tale and they said, 'Indeed, we thought that drunkenness had gotten the better of thee and that thou hadst fallen into the water and wast drowned.' Then I asked them of the damsel, and they answered, 'When she came to know of thy loss, she rent her raiment and burnt the lute and fell to buffeting herself and lamenting and when we returned with the Hashimi to Bassorah we said to her, 'Leave this weeping and wailing.' Quoth she, 'I will don black and make me a tomb beside the house and abide there and repent from singing.' [FN#51] we allowed her so to do and on this wise she abideth to this day. Then they carried me to the Hashimi's house, where I saw the damsel as they had said. When she espied me, she cried out a great cry, methought she had died, and I embraced her with a long embrace. Then said the Hashimi to me, 'Take her;' and I said, ''Tis well: but do thou free her and according to thy promise marry her to me.' Accordingly he did this and gave us costly goods and store of raiment and furniture and five hundred dinars, saying, 'This is the amount of that which I purpose to allow you every month, but on condition that thou be my cup-companion and that I hear the girl sing when I will.' Furthermore, he assigned us private quarters and bade transport thither all our need; so, when I went to the house I found it filled full of furniture and stuffs and carried the damsel thither. Then I betook myself to the grocer and told him all that had betided me, begging to hold me guiltless for divorcing his daughter, without offence on her part; and I paid her her dowry [FN#52] and what else behoved me. [FN#53] I abode with the Hashimi in this way two years and became a man of great wealth and was restored to the former estate of prosperity wherein I had been at Baghdad, I and the damsel. And indeed Allah the Bountiful put an end to our troubles and loaded us with the gifts of good fortune and caused our patience to result in the attainment of our desire: wherefore to Him be the praise in this world and the next whereto we are returning." [FN#54] And among the tales men tell is that of