ABU AL-HASAN OF KHORASAN. [FN#346]
The Caliph Al-Mu'tazid bi 'llah [FN#347] was a high-spirited Prince and a noble-minded lord; he had in Baghdad six hundred Wazirs and of the affairs of the folk naught was hidden from him. He went forth one day, he and Ibn Hamdún, [FN#348] to divert himself with observing his lieges and hearing the latest news of the people; and, being overtaken with the heats of noonday, they turned aside from the main thoroughfare into a little by-street, at the upper end whereof they saw a handsome and high-builded mansion, discoursing of its owner with the tongue of praise. They sat down at the gate to take rest, and presently out came two eunuchs as they were moons on their fourteenth night. Quoth one of them to his fellow, "Would Heaven some guest would seek admission this day! My master will not eat but with guests and we are come to this hour and I have not yet seen a soul." The Caliph marvelled at their speech and said, "This is a proof of the house-master's liberality: there is no help but that we go in to him and note his generosity, and this shall be a means of favour betiding him from us." So he said to the eunuch, "Ask leave of thy lord for the admission of a company [FN#349] of strangers." For in those days it was the Caliph's wont, whenas he was minded to observe his subjects, to disguise himself in merchant's garb. The eunuch went in and told his master, who rejoiced and rising, came out to them in person. He was fair of favour and fine of form and he appeared clad in a tunic of Níshápúr [FN#350] silk and a gold laced mantle; and he dripped with scented waters and wore on his hand a signet ring of rubies. When he saw them, he said to them, "Well come and welcome to the lords who favour us with the utmost of favour by their coming!" So they entered the house and found it such as would make a man forget family and fatherland for it was like a piece of Paradise.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Sixtieth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph entered the mansion, he and the man with him, they saw it to be such as would make one forget family and fatherland, for it was like a piece of Paradise. Within it was a flower-garden, full of all kinds of trees, confounding sight and its dwelling-places were furnished with costly furniture. They sat down and the Caliph fell to gazing at the house and the household gear. (Quoth Ibn Hamdún), "I looked at the Caliph and saw his countenance change, and being wont to know from his face whether he was amused or anangered, said to myself, 'I wonder what hath vexed him.' Then they brought a golden basin and we washed our hands, after which they spread a silken cloth and set thereon a table of rattan. When the covers were taken off the dishes, we saw therein meats rare as the blooms of Prime in the season of their utmost scarcity, twofold and single, and the host said, 'Bismillah, O my lords! By Allah, hunger pricketh me; so favour me by eating of this food, as is the fashion of the noble.' Thereupon he began tearing fowls apart and laying them before us, laughing the while and repeating verses and telling stories and talking gaily with pleasant sayings such as sorted with the entertainment. We ate and drank, then removed to another room, which confounded beholders with its beauty and which reeked with exquisite perfumes. Here they brought us a tray of fruits freshly-gathered and sweetmeats the finest flavoured, whereat our joys increased and our cares ceased. But withal the Caliph" (continued Ibn Hamdun) "ceased not to wear a frowning face and smiled not at that which gladdened all souls, albeit it was his wont to love mirth and merriment and the putting away of cares, and I knew that he was no envious wight and oppressor. So I said to myself, 'Would Heaven I knew what is the cause of his moroseness and why we cannot dissipate his ill-humour!' Presently they brought the tray of wine which friends doth conjoin and clarified draughts in flagons of gold and crystal and silver, and the host smote with a rattan-wand on the door of an inner chamber, whereupon behold, it opened and out came three damsels, high-bosomed virginity with faces like the sun at the fourth hour of the day, one a lutist, another a harpist and the third a dancer-artiste. Then he set before us dried fruits and confections and drew between us and the damsels a curtain of brocade, with tassels of silk and rings of gold. The Caliph paid no heed to all this, but said to the host, who knew not who was in his company, 'Art thou noble?' [FN#351] Said he, 'No, my lord; I am but a man of the sons of the merchants and am known among the folk as Abú al-Hasan Ali, son of Ahmad of Khorasan.' Quoth the Caliph, 'Dost thou know me, O man?', and quoth he, 'By Allah, O my lord, I have no knowledge of either of your honours!' Then said I to him, 'O man, this is the Commander of the Faithful, AI-Mu'tazid bi 'llah grandson of Al-Mutawakkil alà 'llah.' [FN#352] Whereupon he rose and kissed the ground before the Caliph, trembling for fear of him, and said, 'O Prince of True Believers, I conjure thee, by the virtue of thy pious forbears, an thou have seen in me any shortcomings or lack of good manners in thy presence, do thou forgive me!' Replied the Caliph, 'As for that which thou hast done with us of honouring and hospitality nothing could have exceeded it; and as for that wherewith I have to reproach thee here, an thou tell me the truth respecting it and it commend itself to my sense, thou shalt be saved from me; but, an thou tell me not the truth, I will take thee with manifest proof and punish thee with such punishment as never yet punished any.' Quoth the man, 'Allah forbid that I tell thee a lie! But what is it that thou reproachest to me, O Commander of the Faithful?' Quoth the Caliph, 'Since I entered thy mansion and looked upon its grandeur, I have noted the furniture and vessels therein, nay, even to thy clothes, and behold, on all of them is the name of my grandfather Al-Mutawakkil ala 'llah.' [FN#353] Answered Abu al-Hasan, 'Yes, O Commander of the Faithful (the Almighty protect thee), truth is thine inner garb and sincerity is thine outer garment and none may speak otherwise than truly in thy presence.' The Caliph bade him be seated and said, 'Tell us.'" So he began, "Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that my father belonged to the markets of the money-changers and druggists and linendrapers and had in each bazar a shop and an agent and all kinds of goods. Moreover, behind the money-changer's shop he had an apartment, where he might be private, appointing the shop for buying and selling. His wealth was beyond count and to his riches there was none amount; but he had no child other than myself, and he loved me and was tenderly fain of me. When his last hour was at hand, he called me to him and commended my mother to my care and charged me to fear Almighty Allah. Then he died, may Allah have mercy upon him and continue the Prince of True Believers on life! And I gave myself up to pleasure and eating and drinking and took to myself comrades and intimates. My mother used to forbid me from this and to blame me for it, but I would not hear a word from her, till my money was all gone, when I sold my lands and houses and naught was left me save the mansion wherein I now dwell, and it was a goodly stead, O Commander of the Faithful. So I said to my mother, 'I wish to sell the house;' but she said, 'O my son, an thou sell it, thou wilt be dishonoured and wilt have no place wherein to take shelter.' Quoth I, ''Tis worth five thousand dinars, and with one thousand of its price I will buy me another house and trade with the rest.' Quoth she, 'Wilt thou sell it to me at that price?'; and I replied, 'Yes.' Whereupon she went to a coffer and opening it, took out a porcelain vessel, wherein were five thousand dinars. When I saw this meseemed the house was all of gold and she said to me, 'O my son, think not that this is of thy father's good. By Allah, O my son, it was of my own father's money and I have treasured it up against a time of need; for, in thy father's day I was a wealthy woman and had no need of it.' I took the money from her, O Prince of True Believers, and fell again to feasting and carousing and merrymaking with my friends, unheeding my mother's words and admonitions, till the five thousand dinars came to an end, when I said to her, 'I wish to sell the house.' Said she, 'O my son, I forbade thee from selling it before, of my knowledge that thou hadst need of it; so how wilt thou sell it a second time?' Quoth I, 'Be not longsome of speech with me, for I must and will sell it;' and quoth she, 'Then sell it to me for fifteen thousand dinars, on condition that I take charge of thine affairs.' So I sold her the house at that price and gave up my affairs into her charge, whereupon she sought out the agents of my father and gave each of them a thousand dinars, keeping the rest in her own hands and ordering the outgo and the income. Moreover she gave me money to trade withal and said to me, 'Sit thou in thy father's shop.' So I did her bidding, O Commander of the Faithful, and took up my abode in the chamber behind the shop in the market of the money-changers, and my friends came and bought of me and I sold to them; whereby I made good cheape and my wealth increased. When my mother saw me in this fair way, she discovered to me that which she had treasured up of jewels and precious stones, pearls, and gold, and I bought back my houses and lands that I had squandered and my wealth became great as before. I abode thus for some time, and the factors of my father came to me and I gave them stock-in-trade, and I built me a second chamber behind the shop. One day, as I sat there, according to my custom, O Prince of True Believers, there came up to me a damsel, never saw eyes a fairer than she of favour, and said, 'Is this the private shop of Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Ahmad al-Khorasani?' Answered I, 'Yes,' and she asked, 'Where is he?' 'He am I,' said I, and indeed my wit was dazed at the excess of her loveliness. She sat down and said to me, 'Bid thy page weigh me out three hundred dinars.' Accordingly I bade him give her that sum and he weighed it out to her and she took it and went away, leaving me stupefied. Quoth my man to me, 'Dost thou know her?', and quoth I, 'No, by Allah!' He asked, 'Then why didst thou bid me give her the money?'; and I answered, 'By Allah, I knew not what I said, of my amazement at her beauty and loveliness!' Then he rose and followed her, without my knowledge, but presently returned, weeping and with the mark of a blow on his face. I enquired of him what ailed him, and he replied, 'I followed the damsel, to see whither she went; but, when she was aware of me, she turned and dealt me this blow and all but knocked out my eye.' After this, a month passed, without her coming, O Commander of the Faithful, and I abode bewildered for love of her; but, at the end of this time, she suddenly appeared again and saluted me, whereat I was like to fly for joy. She asked me how I did and said to me, 'Haply thou saidst to thyself, What manner of trickstress is this, who hath taken my money and made off?' Answered I, 'By Allah, O my lady, my money and my life are all thy very own!' With this she unveiled herself and sat down to rest, with the trinkets and ornaments playing over her face and bosom. Presently, she said to me, 'Weigh me out three hundred dinars. 'Hearkening and obedience,' answered I and weighed out to her the money. She took it and went away and I said to my servant, 'Follow her.' So he followed her, but returned dumbstruck, and some time passed without my seeing her. But, as I was sitting one day, behold, she came up to me and after talking awhile, said to me, 'Weigh me out five hundred dinars, for I have need of them.' I would have said to her, 'Why should I give thee my money?'; but my love immense hindered me from utterance; for, O Prince of True Believers, whenever I saw her, I trembled in every joint and my colour paled and I forgot what I would have said and became even as saith the poet,
''Tis naught but this! When a-sudden I see her * Mumchance I bide nor a word can say her.'
So I weighed out for her the five hundred ducats, and she took them and went away; whereupon I arose and followed her myself, till she came to the jewel-bazar, where she stopped at a man's shop and took of him a necklace. Then she turned and seeing me, said, 'Pay him five hundred dinars for me.' When the jeweller saw me, he rose to me and made much of me, and I said to him, 'Give her the necklace and set down the price to me.' He replied, 'I hear and obey,' and she took it and went away;"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Sixty-first Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu Hasan the Khorasani thus pursued his tale, "So I said to the jeweller, 'Give her the necklace and set down the price to me.' Then she took it and went away; but I followed her, till she came to the Tigris and boarded a boat there, whereupon I signed with my hand to the ground, as who should say, 'I kiss it before thee.' She went off laughing, and I stood watching her, till I saw her land and enter a palace, which when I considered, I knew it for the palace of the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil. So I turned back, O Commander of the Faithful, with all the cares in the world fallen on my heart, for she had of me three thousand dinars, and I said to myself, 'She hath taken my wealth and ravished my wit, and peradventure I shall lose my life for her love.' Then I returned home and told my mother all that had befallen me, and she said, 'O my son, beware how thou have to do with her after this, or thou art lost.' When I went to my shop, my factor in the drug-market, who was a very old man, came to me and said, 'O my lord, how is it that I see thee changed in case and showing marks of chagrin? Tell me what aileth thee.' So I told him all that had befallen me with her and he said, 'O my son, this is indeed one of the handmaidens of the palace of the Commander of the Faithful and haply she is the Caliph's favourite concubine: so do thou reckon the money as spent for the sake of Almighty Allah [FN#354] and occupy thyself no more with her. An she come again, beware lest she have to do with thee and tell me of this, that I may devise thee some device lest perdition betide thee.' Then he fared forth and left me with a flame of fire in my heart. At the end of the month behold, she came again and I rejoiced in her with exceeding joy. Quoth she, 'What ailed thee to follow me?'; and quoth I, 'Excess of passion that is in my heart urged me to this,' and I wept before her. She wept for ruth of me and said, 'By Allah, there is not in thy heart aught of love-longing but in my heart is more! Yet how shall I do? By Allah, I have no resource save to see thee thus once a month.' Then she gave me a bill saying, 'Carry this to such an one of such a trade who is my agent and take of him what is named therein.' But I replied, 'I have no need of money; be my wealth and my life thy sacrifice!' Quoth she, 'I will right soon contrive thee a means of access to me, whatever trouble it cost me.' Then she farewelled me and fared forth, whilst I repaired to the old druggist and told him what had passed. He went with me to the palace of Al-Mutawakkil which I knew for that which the damsel had entered; but the Shaykh was at a loss for a device. Presently he espied a tailor sitting with his apprentices at work in his shop, opposite the lattice giving upon the river bank and said to me, 'Yonder is one by whom thou shalt win thy wish; but first tear thy pocket and go to him and bid him sew it up. When he hath done this, give him ten dinars.' 'I hear and obey,' answered I and taking with me two pieces [FN#355] of Greek brocade, went to the tailor and bade him make of them four suits, two with long-sleeved coats and two without. When he had finished cutting them out and sewing them, I gave him to his hire much more than of wont, and he put out his hand to me with the clothes; but I said, 'Take them for thyself and for those who are with thee.' And I fell to sitting with him and sitting long: I also bespoke of him other clothes and said to him, 'Hang them out in front of thy shop, so the folk may see them and buy them.' He did as I bade him, and whoso came forth of the Caliph's palace and aught of the clothes pleased him, I made him a present thereof, even to the doorkeeper. One day of the days the tailor said to me, 'O my son, I would have thee tell me the truth of thy case; for thou hast bespoken of me an hundred costly suits, each worth a mint of money, and hast given the most of them to the folk. This is no merchant's fashion, for a merchant calleth an account for every dirham, and what can be the sum of thy capital that thou givest these gifts and what thy gain every year? Tell me the truth of thy case, that I may assist thee to thy desire;' presently adding, 'I conjure thee by Allah, tell me, art thou not in love?' 'Yes,' replied I; and he said, 'With whom?' Quoth I, 'With one of the handmaids of the Caliph's palace;' and quoth he, 'Allah put them to shame! How long shall they seduce the folk? Knowest thou her name?' Said I, 'No;' and said he, 'Describe her to me.' So I described her to him and he cried, 'Out on it! This is the lutanist of the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil and his pet concubine. But she hath a Mameluke [FN#356] and do thou make friends with him; it may be he shall become the means of thy having access to her.' Now as we were talking, behold, out walked the servant in question from the palace, as he were a moon on the fourteenth night; and, seeing that I had before me the clothes which the tailor had made me, and they were of brocade of all colours, he began to look at them and examine them. Then he came up to me and I rose and saluted him. He asked, 'Who art thou?' and I answered, 'I am a man of the merchants.' Quoth he, 'Wilt thou sell these clothes?'; and quoth I, 'Yes.' So he chose out five of them and said to me, 'How much these five?' Said I, 'They are a present to thee from me in earnest of friendship between me and thee.' At this he rejoiced and I went home and fetching a suit embroidered with jewels and jacinths, worth three thousand dinars, returned therewith and gave it to him. He accepted it and carrying me into a room within the palace, said to me, 'What is thy name among the merchants?' Said I, 'I am a man of them.' [FN#357] He continued, 'Verily I misdoubt me of thine affair.' I asked, 'Why so?' and he answered, 'Because thou hast bestowed on me a costly gift and won my heart therewith, and I make certain that thou art Abu alHasan of Khorasan the Shroff.' With this I fell aweeping, O Prince of True Believers; and he said to me, 'Why dost thou weep? By Allah, she for whom thou weepest is yet more longingly in love with thee than thou with her! And indeed her case with thee is notorious among all the palace women. But what wouldst thou have?' Quoth I, 'I would have thee succour me in my calamity.' So he appointed me for the morrow and I returned home. As soon as I rose next morning, I betook myself to him and waited in his chamber till he came in and said to me, 'Know that yesternight when, after having made an end of her service by the Caliph, she returned to her apartment, I related to her all that had passed between me and thee and she is minded to foregather with thee. So stay with me till the end of the day.' Accordingly I stayed with him till dark, when the Mameluke brought me a shirt of gold-inwoven stuff and a suit of the Caliph's apparel and clothing me therein, incensed me [FN#358] and I became like the Commander of the Faithful. Then he brought me to a gallery with rows of rooms on either side and said to me, 'These are the lodgings of the Chief of the slavegirls; and when thou passest along the gallery, do thou lay at each door a bean, for 'tis the custom of the Caliph to do this every night,'"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Sixty-second Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Mameluke said to Abu Hasan, "When thou passest along the gallery set down at each door a bean for 'tis the custom of the Caliph so to do, till thou come to the second passage on thy right hand, when thou wilt see a door with a marble threshold . [FN#359] Touch it with thy hand or, an thou wilt, count the doors which are so many, and enter the one whose marks are thus and thus. There thy mistress will see thee and take thee in with her. As for thy coming forth, verily Allah will make it easy to me, though I carry thee out in a chest."--"Then he left me and returned, whilst I went on, counting the doors and laying at each a bean. When I had reached the middle of the gallery, I heard a great clatter and saw the light of flambeaux coming towards me. As the light drew near me, I looked at it and behold, the Caliph himself, came surrounded by the slave-girls carrying waxen lights, and I heard one of the women [FN#360] say to another, 'O my sister, have we two Caliphs? Verily, the Caliph whose perfumes and essences I smelt, hath already passed by my room and he hath laid the bean at my door, as his wont; and now I see the light of his flambeaux, and here he cometh with them.' Replied the other, 'Indeed this is a wondrous thing, for disguise himself in the Caliph's habit none would dare.' Then the light drew near me, whilst I trembled in every limb; and up came an eunuch, crying out to the concubines and saying, 'Hither!' Whereupon they turned aside to one of the chambers and entered. Then they came out again and walked on till they came to the chamber of my mistress and I heard the Caliph say, 'Whose chamber is this?' They answered, 'This is the chamber of Shajarat al-Durr.' And he said, 'Call her.' So they called her and she came out and kissed the feet of the Caliph, who said to her, 'Wilt thou drink to-night?' Quoth she, 'But for thy presence and the looking on thine auspicious countenance, I would not drink, for I incline not to wine this night.' Then quoth the Commander of the Faithful to the eunuch, 'Bid the treasurer give her such necklace;' and he commanded to enter her chamber. So the waxen lights entered before him and he followed them into the apartment. At the same moment, behold, there came up a damsel, the lustre of whose face outshone that of the flambeau in her hand, and drawing near she said, 'Who is this?' Then she laid hold of me and carrying me into one of the chambers, said to me, 'Who art thou?' I kissed the ground before her saying, 'I implore thee by Allah, O my lady, spare my blood and have ruth on me and commend thyself unto Allah by saving my life!'; and I wept for fear of death. Quoth she, 'Doubtless, thou art a robber;' and quoth I, 'No, by Allah, I am no robber. Seest thou on me the signs of thieves?' Said she, 'Tell me the truth of thy case and I will put thee in safety.' So I said, 'I am a silly lover and an ignorant, whom passion and my folly have moved to do as thou seest, so that I am fallen into this slough of despond.' Thereat cried she, 'Abide here till I come back to thee;' and going forth she presently returned with some of her handmaid's clothes wherein she clad me and bade me follow her; so I followed her till she came to her apartment and commanded me to enter. I went in and she led me to a couch, whereon was a mighty fine carpet, and said, 'Sit down here: no harm shall befal thee. Art thou not Abu al-Hasan Ali the Khorasani, the Shroff?' I answered, 'Yes,' and she rejoined, 'Allah spare thy blood given thou speak truth! An thou be a robber, thou art lost, more by token that thou art dressed in the Caliph's habit and incensed with his scents. But, an thou be indeed Abu al-Hasan, thou art safe and no hurt shall happen to thee, for that thou art the friend of Shajarat al-Durr, who is my sister and ceaseth never to name thee and tell us how she took of thee money, yet wast thou not chagrined, and how thou didst follow her to the river bank and madest sign as thou wouldst kiss the earth in her honour; and her heart is yet more aflame for thee than is thine for her. But how camest thou hither? Was it by her order or without it? She hath indeed imperilled thy life [FN#361]. But what seekest thou in this assignation with her?' I replied, 'By Allah, O my lady, 'tis I who have imperilled my own life, and my aim in foregathering with her is but to look on her and hear her pretty speech.' She said, 'Thou hast spoken well;' and I added, 'O my lady, Allah is my witness when I declare that my soul prompteth me to no offence against her honour.' Cried she, 'In this intent may Allah deliver thee! Indeed compassion for thee hath gotten hold upon my heart.' Then she called her handmaid and said to her, 'Go to Shajarat al-Durr and say to her, 'Thy sister saluteth thee and biddeth thee to her; so favour her by coming to her this night, according to thy custom, for her breast is straitened.' The slave-girl went out and presently returning, told her mistress that Shajarat al-Durr said, 'May Allah bless me with thy long life and make me thy ransom! By Allah, hadst thou bidden me to other than this, I had not hesitated; but the Caliph's migraine constraineth me and thou knowest my rank with him.' But the other said to her damsel, 'Return to her and say, 'Needs must thou come to my mistress upon a private matter between thee and her!' So the girl went out again and presently returned with the damsel, whose face shone like the full moon. Her sister met her and embraced her; then said she, 'Ho, Abu al-Hasan, come forth to her and kiss her hands!' Now I was in a closet within the apartment; so I walked out, O Commander of the Faithful, and when my mistress saw me, she threw herself upon me and strained me to her bosom saying, 'How camest thou in the Caliph's clothes and his ornaments and perfumes? Tell me what hath befallen thee.' So I related to her all that had befallen me and what I had suffered for affright and so forth; and she said, 'Grievous to me is what thou hast endured for my sake and praised be Allah who hath caused the issue to be safety, and the fulfilment of safety is in thy entering my lodging and that of my sister.' Then she carried me to her own apartment, saying to her sister, 'I have covenanted with him that I will not be united to him unlawfully; but, as he hath risked himself and incurred these perils, I will be earth for his treading and dust to his sandals!'"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Sixty-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth the damsel to her sister, "I have covenanted with him that I will not be united to him unlawfully; but, as he hath risked himself and incurred these perils, I will be earth for his treading and dust to his sandals!" Replied her sister, "In this intent may Allah deliver him!"--"and my mistress rejoined, 'Soon shalt thou see how I will do, so I may lawfully foregather with him and there is no help but that I lavish my heart's blood to devise this.' Now as we were in talk, behold, we heard a great noise and turning, saw the Caliph making for her chamber, so engrossed was he by the thought of her; whereupon she took me, O Prince of True Believers and hid me in a souterrain [FN#362] and shut down the trap-door upon me. Then she went out to meet the Caliph, who entered and sat down, whilst she stood between his hands to serve him, and commanded to bring wine. Now the Caliph loved a damsel by name Banjah, who was the mother of Al-Mu'tazz bi 'llah [FN#363]; but they had fallen out and parted; and in the pride of her beauty and loveliness she would not make peace with him, nor would Al-Mutawakkil, for the dignity of the Caliphate and the kingship, make peace with her neither humble himself to her, albeit his heart was aflame with passion for her, but sought to solace his mind from her with her mates among the slave-girls and with going in to them in their chambers. Now he loved Shajarat al-Durr's singing: so he bade her sing, when she took the lute and tuning the strings sang these verses,
'The world-tricks I admire betwixt me and her; * How, us parted, the World would to me incline:
I shunned thee till said they, 'He knows not Love;' * I sought thee till said they, 'No patience is mine!'
Then, O Love of her, add to my longing each night, * And, O Solace, thy comforts for Doomsday assign!
Soft as silk is her touch and her low sweet voice * Twixt o'er much and o'er little aye draweth the line:
And eyne whereof Allah said 'Be ye!' and they * Became to man's wit like the working of wine.'
When the Caliph heard these verses, he was pleasured with exceeding pleasure, and I also, O Commander of the Faithful, was pleasured in my hiding-place, and but for the bounty of Almighty Allah, I had cried out and we had been disgraced. Then she sang also these couplets,
'I embrace him, yet after him yearns my soul * For his love, but can aught than embrace be nigher?
I kiss his lips to assuage my lowe; * But each kiss gars it glow with more flaming fire;
'Tis as though my vitals aye thirst unquencht * Till I see two souls mixt in one entire.'
The Caliph was delighted and said, 'O Shajarat al-Durr, ask a boon of me.' She replied, 'O Commander of the Faithful, I ask of thee my freedom, for the sake of the reward thou wilt obtain therein.' [FN#364] Quoth he, 'Thou art free for the love of Allah;' whereupon she kissed ground before him. He resumed, 'Take the lute and sing me somewhat on the subject of my slave-girl, of whom I am enamoured with warmest love: the folk seek my pleasure and I seek hers.' So she took the lute and sang these two couplets,
'My charmer who spellest my piety [FN#365] * On all accounts I'll have thee, have thee,
Or by humble suit which besitteth Love * Or by force more fitting my sovranty.'
The Caliph admired these verses and said, 'Now, take up thy lute and sing me a song setting out my case with three damsels who hold the reins of my heart and make rest depart; and they are thyself and that wilful one and another I will not name, who hath not her like.' [FN#366] So she took the lute and playing a lively measure, sang these couplets,
'Three lovely girls hold my bridle-rein * And in highest stead my heart overreign.
I have none to obey amid all mankind * But obeying them I but win disdain:
This is done through the Kingship of Love, whereby * The best of my kingship they made their gain.'
The Caliph marvelled with exceeding marvel at the aptness of these verses to his case and his delight inclined him to reconciliation with the recalcitrant damsel. So he went forth and made for her chamber whither a slave-girl preceded him and announced to her the coming of the Caliph. She advanced to meet him and kissed the ground before him; then she kissed his feet and he was reconciled to her and she was reconciled to him. Such was the case with the Caliph; but as regards Shajarat al-Durr, she came to me rejoicing and said, 'I am become a free woman by thy blessed coming! Surely Allah will help me in that which I shall contrive, so I may foregather with thee in lawful way.' And I said, 'Alhamdolillah!' Now as we were talking, behold her Mameluke-eunuch entered and we related to him that which had passed, when he said, 'Praised be Allah who hath made the affair to end well, and we implore the Almighty to crown His favours with thy safe faring forth the palace!' Presently appeared my mistress's sister, whose name was Fátir, and Shajarat al-Durr said to her, 'O my sister, how shall we do to bring him out of the palace in safety; for indeed Allah hath vouchsafed me manumission and, by the blessing of his coming, I am become a free woman.' Quoth Fatir, 'I see nothing for it but to dress him in woman's gear.' So she brought me a suit of women's clothes and clad me therein; and I went out forthwith, O Commander of the Faithful; but, when I came to the midst of the palace, behold, I found the Caliph seated there, with the eunuchs in attendance upon him. When he saw me, he misdoubted of me with exceeding doubt, and said to his suite, 'Hasten and bring me yonder handmaiden who is faring forth.' So they brought me back to him and raised the veil from my face, which when he saw, he knew me and questioned me of my case. I told him the whole truth, hiding naught, and when he heard my story, he pondered my case awhile, without stay or delay, and going into Shajarat al-Durr's chamber, said to her, 'How couldst thou prefer before me one of the sons of the merchants?' She kissed ground between his hands and told him her tale from first to last, in accordance with the truth; and he hearing it had compassion upon her and his heart relented to her and he excused her by reason of love and its circumstances. Then he went away and her eunuch came in to her and said, 'Be of good cheer; for, when thy lover was set before the Caliph, he questioned him and he told him that which thou toldest him, word by word.' Presently the Caliph returned and calling me before him, said to me, 'What made thee dare to violate the palace of the Caliphate?' I replied, 'O Commander of the Faithful, 'twas my ignorance and passion and my confidence in thy clemency and generosity that drave me to this.' And I wept and kissed the ground before him. Then said he, 'I pardon you both,' and bade me be seated. So I sat down and he sent for the Kazi Ahmad ibn Abi Duwád [FN#367] and married me to her. Then he commanded to make over all that was hers to me and they displayed her to me [FN#368] in her lodging. After three days, I went forth and transported all her goods and gear to my own house; so every thing thou hast seen, O Commander of the Faithful, in my house and whereof thou misdoubtest, is of her marriage-equipage. After this, she said to me one day, 'Know that Al-Mutawakkil is a generous man and I fear lest he remember us with ill mind, or that some one of the envious remind him of us; wherefore I purpose to do somewhat that may ensure us against this.' Quoth I, 'And what is that?;' and quoth she, 'I mean to ask his leave to go the pilgrimage and repent [FN#369] of singing.' I replied, 'Right is this rede thou redest;' but, as we were talking, behold, in came a messenger from the Caliph to seek her, for that Al-Mutawakkil loved her singing. So she went with the officer and did her service to the Caliph, who said to her, 'Sever not thyself from us;' [FN#370] and she answered 'I hear and I obey.' Now it chanced one day, after this, she went to him, he having sent for her, as was his wont; but, before I knew, she came back, with her raiment rent and her eyes full of tears. At this I was alarmed, misdoubting me that he had commanded to seize upon us, and said, 'Verily we are Allah's and unto Him shall we return! Is Al-Mutawakkil wroth with us?' She replied, 'Where is Al-Mutawakkil? Indeed Al-Mutawakkil's rule is ended and his trace is blotted out!' Cried I, 'Tell me what has happened:' and she, 'He was seated behind the curtain, drinking, with Al-Fath bin Khákán [FN#371] and Sadakah bin Sadakah, when his son Al-Muntasir fell upon him, with a company of the Turks, [FN#372] and slew him; and merriment was turned to misery and joy to weeping and wailing for annoy. So I fled, I and the slave-girl, and Allah saved us.' When I heard this, O Commander of the Faithful, I arose forthright and went down stream to Bassorah, where the news reached me of the falling out of war between Al-Muntasir and Al-Musta'ín bi 'llah; [FN#373] wherefore I was affrighted and transported my wife and all my wealth to Bassorah. This, then, is my tale, O Prince of True Believers, nor have I added to or taken from it a single syllable. So all that thou seest in my house, bearing the name of thy grandfather Al-Mutawakkil, is of his bounty to us, and the fount of our fortune is from thy noble sources; [FN#374] for indeed ye are people of munificence and a mine of beneficence." The Caliph marvelled at his story and rejoiced therein with joy exceeding: and Abu al-Hasan brought forth to him the lady and the children she had borne him, and they kissed ground before the Caliph, who wondered at their beauty. Then he called for inkcase and paper and wrote Abu al-Hasan a patent of exemption from taxes on his lands and houses for twenty years. Moreover, he rejoiced in him and made him his cup-companion, till the world parted them and they took up their abode in the tombs, after having dwelt under the palace-domes; and glory be to Allah, the King Merciful of doom. And they also tell a tale concerning