HARUN AL-RASHID AND ABU HASAN, THE MERCHANT OF OMAN.
The Caliph Harun al-Rashid was one night wakeful exceedingly; so he called Masrur and said to him as soon as he came, "Fetch me Ja'afar in haste." Accordingly, he went out and returned with the Wazir, to whom said the Caliph, "O Ja'afar wakefulness hath mastered me this night and forbiddeth sleep from me, nor wot I what shall drive it away from me." Replied Ja'afar, "O Commander of the Faithful, the wise say, 'Looking on a mirror, entering the Hamman-bath and hearkening unto song banish care and chagrin.'" He rejoined, "O Ja'afar I have done all this, but it hath brought me naught of relief, and I swear by my pious forbears unless thou contrive that which shall abate from me this insomny, I will smite thy neck." Quoth Ja'afar, "O Commander of the Faithful, wilt thou do that which I shall counsel thee?" whereupon quoth the Caliph, "And what is that thou counselleth?" He replied, "It is that thou take boat with us and drop down Tigris River with the tide to a place called Karn al-Sirat, so haply we may hear what we never heard or see what we never saw, for 'tis said, 'The solace of care is in one of three things; that a man see what he never before saw or hear what he never yet heard or tread an earth he erst hath never trodden.' It may be this shall be the means of remedying thy restlessness, O Commander of the Faithful, Inshallah! There, on either side of the river, are windows and balconies one facing other, and it may be we shall hear or see from one of these somewhat wherewith our hearts may be heartened." Ja'afar's counsel pleased the Caliph, so he rose from his place and taking with him the Wazir and his brother Al-Fazl and Isaac [FN#276] the boon-companion and Abu Nowas and Abu Dalaf [FN#277] and Masrur the Sworder,-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-seventh Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph arose from his seat with Ja'afar and the rest of the party, all entered the wardrobe, where they donned merchant's gear. Then they went down to the Tigris and embarking in a gilded boat, dropped down with the stream, till they came to the place they sought, when they heard the voice of a damsel singing to the lute and chanting these couplets,
"To him when the wine cup is near I declare, * While in coppice loud shrilleth and trilleth Hazár,
'How long this repining from joys and delight? * Wake up for this life is a borrowed ware!'
Take the cup from the hand of the friend who is dear * With languishing eye-lids and languorous air.
I sowed on his cheek a fresh rose, which amid * His side-locks the fruit of granado-tree bare.
Thou wouldst deem that the place where he tare his fair cheek [FN#278] * Were ashes, while cheeks hues incendiary wear.
Quoth the blamer, 'Forget him! But where's my excuse * When his side-face is growing the downiest hair? [FN#279]'"
When the Caliph heard this, he said, "O Ja'afar, how goodly is that voice!"; and the Wazir replied, "O our lord, never smote my hearing aught sweeter or goodlier than this singing! But, good my lord, hearing from behind a wall is only half hearing; how would it be an we heard it from behind a curtain?" Quoth the Caliph, "Come, O Ja'afar, let us play the parasites with the master of this house; and haply we shall look upon the songstress, face to face;" and quoth Ja'afar, "I hear and I obey." So they landed and sought admittance; when behold, there came out to them a young man, fair of favour, sweet of speech and fluent of tongue, who said to them, "Well come and welcome, O lords that honour me with your presence! Enter in all comfort and convenience!" So they went in (and he with them) to a saloon with four faces, whose ceiling was decorated with gold and its walls adorned with ultramarine. [FN#280] At its upper end was a dais, whereon stood a goodly row of seats [FN#281] and thereon sat an hundred damsels like moons. The house-master cried out to them and they came down from their seats. Then he turned to Ja'afar and said to him, "O my lord, I know not the honourable of you from the more honourable: Bismillah! deign he that is highest in rank among you favour me by taking the head of the room, and let his brethren sit each in his several stead." So they sat down, each according to his degree, whilst Masrur abode standing before them in their service; and the host asked them, "O my guests, with your leave, shall I set somewhat of food before you?" and they answered, "Yes." Hearing this he bade his handmaids bring food, whereupon four damsels with girded waists placed in front of them a table, whereon were rare meats of that which flieth and walketh earth and swimmeth seas, sand-grouse and quails and chickens and pigeons; and written on the raised edge of the tray were verses such as sorted with the entertainment. So they ate till they had enough and washed their hands, after which said the young man, "O my lords, if you have any want, let us know it, that we may have the honour of satisfying it." They replied, "'Tis well: we came not to thy dwelling save for the sake of a voice we heard from behind the wall of thy house, and we would fain hear it again and know her to whom it belongeth. So, an thou deem right to vouchsafe us this favour, it will be of the generosity of thy nature, and after we will return whence we came." Quoth the host, "Ye are welcome;" and, turning to a black slave-girl, said to her, "Fetch me thy mistress such an one." So she went away and returning with a chair of chinaware, cushioned with brocade, set it down: then withdrew again and presently returned with a damsel, as she were the moon on the night of its full, who sat down on the chair. Then the black girl gave her a bag of satin wherefrom she brought out a lute, inlaid with gems and jacinths and furnished with pegs of gold.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-eighth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the damsel came forward, she took her seat upon the chair and brought out from its case a lute and behold, it was inlaid with gems and jacinths and furnished with pegs of gold. Then she tuned its strings, even as saith the poet of her and her lute in these lines,
"She sits it in lap like a mother fond * And she strikes the strings that can make it speak:
And ne'er smiteth her right an injurious touch * But her left repairs of her right the wreak. [FN#282]"
Then she strained the lute to her bosom, bending over it as mother bendeth over babe, and swept the strings which complained as child to mother complaineth; after which she played upon it and began improvisng these couplets,
"An Time my lover restore me I'll blame him fain, * Saying, 'Pass, O my dear, the bowl and in passing drain
The wine which hath never mixed with the heart of man * But he passes to joy from annoy and to pleasure from pain.'
Then Zephyr arose to his task of sustaining the cup: * Didst e'er see full Moon that in hand the star hath ta'en? [FN#283]
How oft I talked thro' the night, when its rounded Lune * Shed on darkness of Tigris' bank a beamy rain!
And when Luna sank in the West 'twas as though she'd wave * O'er the length of the watery waste a gilded glaive."
When she had made an end of her verse, she wept with sore weeping and all who were in the place wept aloud till they were well-nigh dead; nor was there one of them but took leave of his wits and rent his raiment and beat his face, for the goodliness of her singing. Then said Al-Rashid, "This damsel's song verily denoteth that she is a lover departed from her beloved." Quoth her master, "She hath lost father and mother;" but quoth the Caliph, "This is not the weeping of one who hath lost mother and father, but the yearning of one who hath lost him she loveth." And he was delighted with her singing and said to Isaac, "By Allah, never saw I her like!"; and Isaac said, "O my lord, indeed I marvel at her with utterest marvel and am beside myself for delight." Now Al-Rashid with all this stinted not to look upon the house-master and note his charms and the daintiness of his fashion; but he saw on his face a pallor as he would die; so he turned to him and said, "Ho, youth!" and the other said, "Adsum!--at thy service, O my lord." The Caliph asked, "Knowest thou who we are?"; and he answered, "No." Quoth Ja'afar, "Wilt thou that I tell thee the names of each of us?"; and quoth the young man "Yes;" when the Wazir said, "This is the Commander of the Faithful, descendant of the uncle of the Prince of the Apostles," and named to him the others of the company; after which quoth Al-Rashid, "I wish that thou acquaint me with the cause of the paleness of thy face, whether it be acquired or natural from thy birthtide." Quoth he, "O Prince of True Believers, my case is wondrous and my affair marvellous; were it graven with gravers on the eye-corners it were a warner to whoso will be warned." Said the Caliph, "Tell it to me: haply thy healing may be at my hand." Said the young man, "O Commander of the Faithful, lend me thine ears and give me thy whole mind." And he, "Come; tell it me, for thou makest me long to hear it." So the young man began,--"Know then, O Prince of True Believers, that I am a merchant of the merchants of the sea and come from Oman city, where my sire was a trader and a very wealthy trader, having thirty ships trafficking upon the main, whose yearly hire was thirty thousand dinars; and he was a generous man and had taught me writing and all whereof a wight hath need. When his last hour drew near, he called me to him and gave me the customary charge; then Almighty Allah took him and admitted him to His mercy and may He continue the Commander of the Faithful on life! Now my late father had partners trading with his coin and voyaging on the ocean. So one day, as I sat in my house with a company of merchants, a certain of my servants came in to me and said, 'O my lord, there is at the door a man who craveth admittance to thee!' I gave leave and he came in, bearing on his head a something covered. He set it down and uncovered it, and behold it was a box wherein were fruits out of season and herbs conserved in salt and fresh, such as are not found in our land. I thanked him and gifted him with an hundred dinars, and he went away grateful. Then I divided these things amongst my friends and guests who were present and asked them whence they came. Quoth they, 'They come from Bassorah,' and praised them and went on to portray the beauties of Bassorah and all agreed that there was naught in the world goodlier than Baghdad and its people. Then they fell to describing Baghdad and the fine manners of its folk and the excellence of its air and the beauty of its ordinance, till my soul longed for it and all my hopes clave to looking upon it. So I arose and selling my houses and lands, ships and slaves, negroes and handmaids, I got together my good, to wit, a thousand thousand dinars, besides gems and jewels, wherewith I freighted a vessel and setting out therein with the whole of the property, voyaged awhile. Then I hired a barque and embarking therein with all my monies sailed up the river some days till we arrived at Baghdad. I enquired where the merchants abode and what part was pleasantest for domicile and was answered, 'The Karkh quarter.' So I went thither and hiring a house in a thoroughfare called the Street of Saffron, transported all my goods to it and took up my lodging therein for some time. At last one day which was a Friday, I sallied forth to solace myself taking with me somewhat of coin. I went first to a cathedral-mosque, called the Mosque of Mansur, where the Friday service was held, and when we had made an end of congregational prayers, I fared forth with the folk to a place hight Karn al-Sirat, where I saw a tall and goodly mansion, with a balcony overlooking the river-bank and pierced with a lattice- window. So I betook myself thither with a company of folk and sighted there an old man sitting, handsomely clad and exhaling perfumes. His beard forked upon his breast in two waves like silver-wire, and about him were four damsels and five pages. So I said to one of the folk, 'What is the name of this old man and what is his business?'; and the man said, 'His name is Táhir ibn al-Aláa, and he is a keeper of girls: all who go into him eat and drink and look upon fair faces.' Quoth I, 'By Allah, this long while have I wandered about in search of something like this!'"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Forty-ninth Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young merchant cried, "'By Allah this long while I have gone about in search of something like this!' So I went up to the Shaykh, O Commander of the Faithful, and saluting him said to him, 'O my lord, I need somewhat of thee!' He replied, 'What is thy need?' and I rejoined, ''Tis my desire to be thy guest to-night.' He said, 'With all my heart; but, O my son, with me are many damsels, some whose night is ten dinars, some forty and others more. Choose which thou wilt have.' Quoth I, 'I choose her whose night is ten dinars.' And I weighed out to him three hundred dinars, the price of a month; whereupon he committed me to a page, who carried me to a Hammam within the house and served me with goodly service. When I came out of the Bath he brought me to a chamber and knocked at the door, whereupon out came a handmaid, to whom said he, 'Take thy guest!' She met me with welcome and cordiality, laughing and rejoicing, and brought me into a mighty fine room decorated with gold. I considered her and saw her like the moon on the night of its fulness having in attendance on her two damsels as they were constellations. She made me sit and seating herself by my side, signed to her slave-girls who set before us a tray covered with dishes of various kinds of meats, pullets and quails and sand-grouse and pigeons. So we ate our sufficiency, and never in my life ate I aught more delicious than this food. When we had eaten she bade remove the tray and set on the service of wine and flowers, sweetmeats and fruits; and I abode with her a month in such case. At the end of that time, I repaired to the Bath; then, going to the old man, I said to him, 'O my lord, I want her whose night is twenty dinars.' 'Weigh down the gold,' said he. So I fetched money and weighed out to him six hundred dinars for a month's hire, whereupon he called a page and said to him, 'Take thy lord here.' Accordingly he carried me to the Hammam and thence to the door of a chamber, whereat he knocked and there came out a handmaid, to whom quoth he, 'Take thy guest!' She received me with the goodliest reception and I found in attendance on her four slave-girls, whom she commanded to bring food. So they fetched a tray spread with all manner meats, and I ate. When I had made an end of eating and the tray had been re- moved, she took the lute and sang thereto these couplets,
'O waftings of musk from the Babel-land! * Bear a message from me which my longings have planned:
My troth is pledged to that place of yours, * And to friends there 'biding--a noble band;
And wherein dwells she whom all lovers love * And would hend, but she cometh to no man's hand.'
I abode with her a month, after which I returned to the Shaykh and said to him, 'I want the forty dinar one.' 'Weigh out the money,' said he. So I weighed out to him twelve hundred dinars, the mensual hire, and abode with her one month as it were one day, for what I saw of the comeliness of her semblance and the goodliness of her converse. After this I went to the Shaykh one evening and heard a great noise and loud voices; so I asked him, 'What is to do?'; and he answered, saying, 'This is the night of our remarkablest nights, when all souls embark on the river and divert themselves by gazing one upon other. Hast thou a mind to go up to the roof and solace thyself by looking at the folk?' 'Yes,' answered I, and went up to the terrace roof, [FN#284] whence I could see a gathering of people with flambeaux and cressets, and great mirth and merriment. Then I went up to the end of the roof and beheld there, behind a goodly curtain, a little chamber in whose midst stood a couch of juniper-wood [FN#285] plated with shimmering gold and covered with a handsome carpet. On this sat a lovely young lady, confounding all beholders with her beauty and comeliness and symmetry and perfect grace, and by her side a youth, whose hand was on her neck; and he was kissing her and she kissing him. When I saw them, O Prince of True Believers, I could not contain myself nor knew where I was, so dazed and dazzled was I by her beauty: but, when I came down, I questioned the damsel with whom I was and described the young lady to her. 'What wilt thou with her?' asked she; and I, 'She hath taken my wit.' 'O Abu al-Hasan, hast thou a mind to her?' 'Ay, by Allah! for she hath captivated my heart and soul.' 'This is the daughter of Tahir ibn al-Alaa; she is our mistress and we are all her handmaids; but knowest thou, O Abu al-Hasan, what be the price of her night and her day?' 'No!' 'Five hundred dinars, for she is a regret to the heart of Kings!' [FN#286] 'By Allah, I will spend all I have on this damsel!' So saying I lay, heartsore for desire, through the livelong night till the morning, when I repaired to the Hammam and presently donned a suit of the richest royal raiment and betaking myself to Ibn al-Alaa, said to him, 'O my lord, I want her whose night is five hundred dinars.' Quoth he, 'Weigh down the money.' So I weighed out to him fifteen thousand dinars for a month's hire and he took them and said to the page, 'Carry him to thy mistress such an one!' Accordingly he took me and carried me to an apartment, than which my eyes never saw a goodlier on the earth's face and there I found the young lady seated. When I saw her, O Commander of the Faithful, my reason was confounded with her beauty, for she was like the full moon on its fourteenth night,"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fiftieth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young man continued to describe before the Prince of True Believers the young lady's characteristics, saying, "She was like the full moon on her fourteenth night, a model of grace and symmetry and loveliness. Her speech shamed the tones of the lute, and it was as it were she whom the poet meant in these verses,
'She cried while played in her side Desire, * And Night o'er hung her with blackest blee:--
'O Night shall thy murk bring me ne'er a chum * To tumble and futter this coynte of me?'
And she smote that part with her palm and sighed * Sore sighs and a-weeping continued she,
'As the toothstick beautifies teeth e'en so * Must prickle to coynte as a toothstick be.
O Moslems, is never a stand to your tools, * To assist a woman's necessity?'
Thereat rose upstanding beneath its clothes * My yard, as crying, 'At thee! at thee!'
And I loosed her trouser-string, startling her: * 'Who art thou?' and I said, 'A reply to thy plea!'
And began to stroke her with wrist-thick yard, * Hurting hinder cheeks by its potency:
And she cried as I rose after courses three * 'Suit thy gree the stroke!' and I--'suit thy gree!'
And how excellent is the saying of another! [FN#287],
'A fair one, to idolaters if she her face should show, They'd leave their idols and her face for only Lord would know.
If in the Eastward she appeared unto a monk, for sure, He'd cease from turning to the West and to the East bend low;
And if into the briny sea one day she chanced to spit, Assuredly the salt sea's floods straight fresh and sweet would grow.'
And that of another,
'I looked at her one look and that dazed me * Such rarest gifts of mind and form to see,
When doubt inspired her that I loved her, and * Upon her cheeks the doubt showed showily.'
I saluted her and she said to me, 'Well come and welcome, and fair welcome!'; and taking me by the hand, O Prince of True Believers, made me sit down by her side; whereupon, of the excess of my desire, I fell a-weeping for fear of severance and pouring forth the tears of the eye, recited these two couplets,
'I love the nights of parting though I joy not in the same * Time haply may exchange them for the boons of Union-day:
And the days that bring Union I unlove for single thought, * Seeing everything in life lacking steadfastness of stay.'
Then she strave to solace me with soft sweet speech, but I was drowned in the deeps of passion, fearing even in union the pangs of disunion, for excess of longing and ecstasy of passion; and I bethought me of the lowe of absence and estrangement and repeated these two couplets,
'I thought of estrangement in her embrace * And my eyes rained tears red as 'Andam-wood.
So I wiped the drops on that long white neck; * For camphor [FN#288] is wont to stay flow of blood.'
Then she bade bring food and there came four damsels, high-bosomed girls and virginal, who set before us food and fruits and confections and flowers and wine, such as befit none save kings. So, O Commander of the Faithful, we ate, and sat over our wine, compassed about with blooms and herbs of sweet savour, in a chamber suitable only for kings. Presently, one of her maids brought her a silken bag, which she opened and taking thereout a lute, laid it in her lap and smote its strings, whereat it complained as child complaineth to mother, and she sang these two couplets,
'Drink not pure wine except from hand of slender youth * Like wine for daintiness and like him
eke the wine:
For wine no joyance brings to him who drains the cup * Save bring the cup-boy cheek as fair and fain and fine.'
So, I abode with her, O Commander of the Faithful, month after month in similar guise, till all my money was spent; wherefore I began to bethink me of separation as I sat with her one day and my tears railed down upon my cheeks like rills, and I became not knowing night from light. Quoth she, 'Why dost thou weep?'; and quoth I, 'O light of mine eyes, I weep because of our parting.' She asked, 'And what shall part me and thee, O my lord?'; and I answered, 'By Allah, O my lady, from the day I came to thee, thy father hath taken of me, for every night, five hundred dinars, and now I have nothing left. Right soothfast is the saw, 'Penury maketh strangerhood at home and money maketh a home in strangerhood'; and indeed the poet speaks truth when he saith,
'Lack of good is exile to man at home; * And money shall house him where'er he roam.'
She replied, 'Know that it is my father's custom, whenever a merchant abideth with him and hath spent all his capital, to entertain him three days; then doth he put him out and he may return to us nevermore. But keep thou thy secret and conceal thy case and I will so contrive that thou shalt abide with me till such time as Allah will; [FN#289] for, indeed, there is in my heart a great love for thee. Thou must know that all my father's money is under my hand and he wotteth not its full tale; so, every morning, I will give thee a purse of five hundred dinars which do thou offer to my sire, saying, 'Henceforth, I will pay thee only day by day.' He will hand the sum to me, and I will give it to thee again, and we will abide thus till such time as may please Allah.' Thereupon I thanked her and kissed her hand; and on this wise, O Prince of True Believers, I abode with her a whole year, till it chanced on a certain day that she beat one of her handmaids grievously and the slave-girl said, 'By Allah, I will assuredly torture thy heart, even as thou hast tortured me!' So she went to the girl's father and exposed to him all that had passed, first and last, which when Tahir ibn Alaa heard he arose forthright and coming in to me, as I sat with his daughter, said, 'Ho, such an one!'; and I said, 'At thy service.' Quoth he, ''Tis our wont, when a merchant grow poor with us, to give him hospitality three days; but thou hast had a year with us, eating and drinking and doing what thou wouldst.' Then he turned to his pages and cried to them, 'Pull off his clothes.' They did as he bade them and gave me ten dirhams and an old suit worth five silvers; after which he said to me, 'Go forth; I will not beat thee nor abuse thee; but wend thy ways and if thou tarry in this town, thy blood be upon thine own head.' So I went forth, O Commander of the Faithful, in my own despite, knowing not whither to hie, for had fallen on my heart all the trouble in the world and I was occupied with sad thought and doubt. Then I bethought me of the wealth which I had brought from Oman and said in myself, 'I came hither with a thousand thousand dinars, part price of thirty ships, and have made away with it all in the house of yonder ill-omened man, and now I go forth from him, bare and broken-hearted! But there is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!' Then I abode three days in Baghdad, without tasting meat or drink, and on the fourth day seeing a ship bound for Bassorah, I took passage in her of the owner, and when we reached our port, I landed and went into the bazar, being sore anhungered. Presently, a man saw me, a grocer, whom I had known aforetime, and coming up to me, embraced me, for he had been my friend and my father's friend before me. Then he questioned me of my case, seeing me clad in those tattered clothes; so I told him all that had befallen me, and he said, 'By Allah, this is not the act of a sensible man! But after this that hath befallen thee what dost thou purpose to do?' Quoth I, 'I know not what I shall do,' and quoth he, 'Wilt thou abide with me and write my outgo and income and thou shalt have two dirhams a day, over and above thy food and drink?' I agreed to this and abode with him, O Prince of True Believers, selling and buying, till I had gotten an hundred dinars; when I hired me an upper chamber by the river-side, so haply a ship should come up with merchandise, that I might buy goods with the dinars and go back with them to Baghdad. Now it fortuned that one day, there came ships with merchandise, and all the merchants resorted to them to buy, and I went with them on board, when behold, there came two men out of the hold and setting themselves chairs on the deck, sat down thereon. The merchants addressed themselves to the twain with intent to buy, and the man said to one of the crew, 'Bring the carpet.' Accordingly he brought the carpet and spread it, and another came with a pair of saddle-bags, whence he took a budget and emptied it on the carpet; and our sights were dazzled with that which issued therefrom of pearls and corals and jacinths and carnelians and other jewels of all sorts and colours."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifty-first Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young merchant, after recounting to the Caliph the matter of the bag and its containing jewels of all sorts, continued, "Presently, O Commander of the Faithful, said one of the men on the chairs, 'O company of merchants, we will sell but this to-day, by way of spending-money, for that we are weary.' So the merchants fell to bidding one against other for the jewels and bid till the price reached four hundred dinars. Then said to me the owner of the bag (for he was an old acquaintance of mine, and when he saw me, he came down to me and saluted me), 'Why dost thou not speak and bid like the rest of the merchants?' I said, 'O my lord, by Allah, the shifts of fortune have run against me and I have lost my wealth and have only an hundred dinars left in the world.' Quoth he, 'O Ománi, after this vast wealth, can only an hundred dinars remain to thee?' And I was abashed before him and my eyes filled with tears; whereupon he looked at me and indeed my case was grievous to him. So he said to the merchants, 'Bear witness against me that I have sold all that is in this bag of various gems and precious stones to this man for an hundred gold pieces, albeit I know them to be worth so many thousand dinars, and this is a present from me to him.' Then he gave me the saddle-bag and the carpet, with all the jewels that were thereon, for which I thanked him, and each and every of the merchants present praised him. Presently I carried all this to the jewel-market and sat there to sell and buy. Now among the precious stones was a round amulet of the handi-work of the masters, [FN#290] weighing half a pound: it was red of the brightest, a carnelian on both whose sides were graven characts and characters, like the tracks of ants; but I knew not its worth. I sold and bought a whole year, at the end of which I took the amulet [FN#291] and said, 'This hath been with me some while, and I know not what it is nor what may be its value.' So I gave it to the broker who took it and went round with it and returned, saying, 'None of the merchants will give me more than ten dirhams for it.' Quoth I, 'I will not sell it at that price;' and he threw it in my face and went away. Another day I again offered it for sale and its price reached fifteen dirhams; whereupon I took it from the broker in anger and threw it back into the tray. But a few days after, as I sat in my shop, there came up to me a man, who bore the traces of travel, and saluting me, said, 'By thy leave, I will turn over what thou hast of wares.' Said I, ''Tis well,' and indeed, O Commander of the Faithful, I was still wroth by reason of the lack of demand for the talisman. So the man fell to turning over my wares, but took nought thereof save the amulet, which when he saw, he kissed his hand and cried, 'Praised be Allah!' Then said he to me, 'O my lord, wilt thou sell this?'; and I replied, 'Yes,' being still angry. Quoth he, 'What is its price?' And I asked, 'How much wilt thou give?' He answered 'Twenty dinars': so I thought he was making mock of me and exclaimed, 'Wend thy ways.' But he resumed, 'I will give thee fifty dinars for it.' I made him no answer, and he continued, 'A thousand dinars.' But I was silent, declining to reply, whilst he laughed at my silence and said, 'Why dost thou not return me an answer?' 'Hie thee home,' repeated I and was like to quarrel with him. But he bid thousand after thousand, and I still made him no reply, till he said, 'Wilt thou sell it for twenty thousand dinars?' I still thought he was mocking me; but the people gathered about me and all of them said, 'Sell to him, and if he buy not, we will all up and at him and drub him and thrust him forth the city.' So quoth I to him, 'Wilt thou buy or dost thou jest?'; and quoth he, 'Wilt thou sell or dost thou joke?' I said, 'I will sell if thou wilt buy;' then he said, 'I will buy it for thirty thousand dinars; take them and make the bargain;' so I cried to the bystanders, 'Bear witness against him,' adding to him, 'But on condition that thou acquaint me with the virtues and profit of this amulet for which thou payest all this money.' He answered, 'Close the bargain, and I will tell thee this;' I rejoined, 'I sell it to thee;' and he retorted, 'Allah be witness of that which thou sayst and testimony!' Then he brought out the gold and giving it to me took the amulet, and set it in his bosom; after which he turned to me and asked, 'Art thou content?' Answered I, 'Yes,' and he said to the people, 'Bear witness against him that he hath closed the bargain and touched the price, thirty thousand dinars.' Then he turned to me and said, 'Harkye, my poor fellow, hadst thou held back from selling, by Allah I would have bidden thee up to an hundred thousand dinars, nay, even to a thousand thousand!' When I heard these words, O Commander of the Faithful, the blood fled my face, and from that day there overcame it this pallor thou seest. Then said I to him, 'Tell me the reason of this and what is the use of this amulet.' And he answered, saying, 'Know that the King of Hind hath a daughter, never was seen a thing fairer than she, and she is possessed with a falling sickness. [FN#292] So the King summoned the Scribes and men of science and Divines, but none of them could relieve her of this. Now I was present in the assembly; so I said to him, 'O King, I know a man called Sa'adu'lláh the Babylonian, than whom there is not on the face of the earth one more masterly in these matters, and if thou see fit to send me to him, do so.' Said he, 'Go to him;' and quoth I, 'Bring me a piece of carnelian.' Accordingly he gave me a great piece of carnelian and an hundred thousand dinars and a present, which I took, and with which I betook myself to the land of Babel. Then I sought out the Shaykh and when he was shown to me I delivered to him the money and the present, which he accepted and sending for a lapidary, bade him fashion the carnelian into this amulet. Then he abode seven months in observation of the stars, till he chose out an auspicious time for engraving it, when he graved upon it these talismanic characters which thou seest, and I took it and returned with it to the King.'"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifty-second Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young man said to the Commander of the Faithful, "'So after the Shaykh had spoken, I took this talisman and returned with it to the King. Now the Princess was bound with four chains, and every night a slave-girl lay with her and was found in the morning with her throat cut. The King took the amulet and laid it upon his daughter who was straightway made whole. At this he rejoiced with exceeding joy and invested me with a vest of honour and gave alms of much money; and he caused set the amulet in the Princess's necklace. It chanced, one day, that she embarked with her women in a ship and went for a sail on the sea. Presently, one of her maids put out her hand to her, to sport with her, and the necklace brake asunder and fell into the waves. From that hour the possessor [FN#293] of the Princess returned to her, wherefore great grief betided the King and he gave me much money, saying, 'Go thou to Shaykh Sa'adu'llah and let him make her another amulet, in lieu of that which is lost.' I journeyed to Babel, but found the old man dead; whereupon I returned and told the King, who sent me and ten others to go round about in all countries, so haply we might find a remedy for her: and now Allah hath caused me happen on it with thee.' Saying these words, he took from me the amulet, O Commander of the Faithful, and went his ways. Such, then, is the cause of the wanness of my complexion. As for me, I repaired to Baghdad, carrying all my wealth with me, and took up my abode in the lodgings where I lived whilome. On the morrow, as soon as it was light, I donned my dress and betook myself to the house of Tahir ibn al-Alaa, that haply I might see her whom I loved, for the love of her had never ceased to increase upon my heart. But when I came to his home, I saw the balcony broken down and the lattice builded up; so I stood awhile, pondering my case and the shifts of Time, till there came up a serving-man, and I questioned him, saying, 'What hath God done with Tahir ibn al-Alaa?' He answered, 'O my brother, he hath repented to Almighty Allah. [FN#294]' Quoth I, 'What was the cause of his repentance?'; and quoth he, 'O my brother, in such a year there came to him a merchant, by name Abu al-Hasan the Omani, who abode with his daughter awhile, till his wealth was all spent, when the old man turned him out, broken-hearted. Now the girl loved him with exceeding love, and when she was parted from him, she sickened of a sore sickness and came nigh upon death. As soon as her father knew how it was with her, he sent after and sought for Abu al-Hasan through the lands, pledging himself to bestow upon whoso should produce him an hundred thousand dinars; but none could find him nor come on any trace of him; and she is now hard upon death.' Quoth I, 'And how is it with her sire?' and quoth the servant, 'He hath sold all his girls, for grief of that which hath befallen him, and hath repented to Almighty Allah.' Then asked I, 'What wouldst thou say to him who should direct thee to Abu al-Hasan the Omani?'; and he answered, 'Allah upon thee, O my brother, that thou do this and quicken my poverty and the poverty of my parents! [FN#295]' I rejoined, 'Go to her father and say to him, Thou owest me the reward for good news, for that Abu al-Hasan the Omani standeth at the door.' With this he set off trotting, as he were a mule loosed from the mill, and presently came back, accompanied by Shaykh Tahir himself, who no sooner saw me than he returned to his house and gave the man an hundred thousand dinars which he took and went away blessing me. Then the old man came up and embraced me and wept, saying, 'O my lord, where hast thou been absent all this while? Indeed, my daughter hath been killed by reason of her separation from thee; but come with me into the house.' So we entered and he prostrated himself in gratitude to the Almighty, saying, 'Praised be Allah who hath reunited us with thee!' Then he went in to his daughter and said to her, 'The Lord hath healed thee of this sickness;' and said she, 'O my papa, I shall never be whole of my sickness, save I look upon the face of Abu al-Hasan.' Quoth he, 'An thou wilt eat a morsel and go to the Hammam, I will bring thee in company with him.' Asked she, 'Is it true that thou sayst?'; and he answered, 'By the Great God, 'tis true!' She rejoined, 'By Allah, if I look upon his face, I shall have no need of eating!' Then said he to his page, 'Bring in thy lord.' Thereupon I entered, and when she saw me, O Prince of True Believers, she fell down in a swoon, and presently coming to herself, recited this couplet,
'Yea, Allah hath joined the parted twain, * When no thought they thought e'er to meet again.'
Then she sat upright and said, 'By Allah, O my lord, I had not deemed to see thy face ever more, save it were in a dream!' So she embraced me and wept, and said, 'O Abu al-Hasan, now will I eat and drink.' The old man her sire rejoiced to hear these words and they brought her meat and drink and we ate and drank, O Commander of the Faithful. After this, I abode with them awhile, till she was restored to her former beauty, when her father sent for the Kazi and the witnesses and bade write out the marriage-contract between her and me and made a mighty great bride-feast; and she is my wife to this day and this is my son by her." So saying he went away and returned with a boy of rare beauty and symmetry of form and favour to whom said he, "Kiss the ground before the Commander of the Faithful." He kissed ground before the Caliph, who marvelled at his beauty and glorified his Creator; after which Al-Rashid departed, he and his company, saying, "O Ja'afar, verily, this is none other than a marvellous thing, never saw I nor heard I aught more wondrous." When he was seated in the palace of the Caliphate, he cried, "O Masrur!" who replied, "Here am I, O my lord!" Then said he, "Bring the year's tribute of Bassorah and Baghdad and Khorasan, and set it in this recess. [FN#296]" Accordingly he laid the three tributes together and they were a vast sum of money, whose tale none might tell save Allah. Then the Caliph bade draw a curtain before the recess and said to Ja'afar, "Fetch me Abu al-Hasan." Replied Ja'afar, "I hear and obey," and going forth, returned presently with the Omani, who kissed ground before the Caliph, fearing lest he had sent for him because of some fault that he had committed when he was with him in his house. Then said Al-Rashid, "Harkye, O Omani!" and he replied, "Adsum, O Prince of True Believers! May Allah ever bestow his favours upon thee!" Quoth the Caliph, "Draw back yonder curtain." Thereupon Abu al-Hasan drew back the curtain from the recess and was confounded and perplexed at the mass of money he saw there. Said Al-Rashid, "O Abu al-Hasan, whether is the more, this money or that thou didst lose by the amulet? [FN#297]"; and he answered, "This is many times the greater, O Commander of the Faithful!" Quoth the Caliph, "Bear witness, all ye who are present, that I give this money to this young man." So Abu al-Hasan kissed ground and was abashed and wept before the Caliph for excess of joy. Now when he wept, the tears ran down from his eyelids upon his cheeks and the blood returned to its place and his face became like the moon on the night of its fulness. Whereupon quoth the Caliph, "There is no god but the God! Glory be to Him who decreeth change upon change and is Himself the Everlasting who changeth not!" Saying these words, he bade fetch a mirror and showed Abu al-Hasan his face therein, which when he saw, he prostrated himself, in gratitude to the Most High Lord. Then the Caliph bade transport the money to Abu al-Hasan's house and charged the young man not to absent himself from him, so he might enjoy his company as a cup-companion. Accordingly he paid him frequent visits, till Al-Rashid departed to the mercy of Almighty Allah; and glory be to Him who dieth not the Lord of the Seen and the Unseen! And among tales they tell is one touching