"O thou tomb! O thou tomb! Be his beauty set in shade?
Hast thou darkened that countenance all-sheeny as the noon?
O thou tomb! Neither earth nor yet Heaven art to me,
Then how cometh it in thee are conjoined my sun and moon?"
When I heard such verses as these rage was heaped upon my rage, I cried out: "Wellaway! How long is this sorrow to last?" and I began repeating:
"O thou tomb! O thou tomb! Be his horrors set in blight?
Hast thou darkened his countenance that sickeneth the soul?
O thou tomb! Neither cesspool nor pigskin art to me,
Then how cometh it in thee are conjoined soil and coal?"
When she heard my words she sprang to her feet crying: "Fie upon thee,
thou cur! All this is of thy doings. Thou hast wounded my heart's
darling and thereby worked me sore woe, and thou hast wasted his youth
so that these three years he hath lain abed more dead than alive!"
In my wrath I cried: "O thou foulest of harlots and filthiest of
whores ever futtered by Negro slaves who are hired to have at thee!
Yes, indeed it was I who did this good deed." And snatching up my
sword, I drew it and made at her to cut her down. But she laughed my
words and mine intent to scorn, crying: "To heel, hound that thou art!
Alas for the past which shall no more come to pass, nor shall anyone
avail the dead to raise. Allah hath indeed now given into my hand
him who did to me this thing, a deed that hath burned my heart with
a fire which died not a flame which might not be quenched!"
Then she stood up, and pronouncing some words to me unintelligible, she said, "By virtue of my egromancy become thou half stone and half man!" Whereupon I became what thou seest, unable to rise or to sit, and neither dead nor alive. Moreover, she ensorceled the city with all its streets and garths, and she turned by her gramarye the four islands into four mountains around the tarn whereof thou questionest me. And the citizens, who were of four different faiths, Moslem, Nazarene, Jew, and Magian, she transformed by her enchantments into fishes. The Moslems are the white, the Magians red, the Christians blue, and the Jews yellow. And every day she tortureth me and scourgeth me with a hundred stripes, each of which draweth floods of blood and cutteth the skin of my shoulders to strips. And lastly she clotheth my upper half with a haircloth and then throweth over them these robes. Hereupon the young man again shed tears and began reciting:
"In patience, O my God, I endure my lot and fate,
I will bear at will of Thee whatsoever be my state.
They oppress me, they torture me, they make my life a woe,
Yet haply Heaven's happiness shall compensate my strait.
Yea, straitened is my life by the bane and hate o' foes,
But Mustafa and Murtaza shall ope me Heaven's gate."
After this the Sultan turned toward the young Prince and said: "O
youth, thou hast removed one grief only to add another grief. But now,
O my friend, where is she, and where is the mausoleum wherein lieth
the wounded slave?" "The slave lieth under yon dome," quoth the
young man, "and she sitteth in the chamber fronting yonder door. And
every day at sunrise she cometh forth, and first strippeth me, and
whippeth me with a hundred strokes of the leathern scourge, and I weep
and shriek, but there is no power of motion in my lower limbs to
keep her off me. After ending her tormenting me she visiteth the
slave, bringing him wine and boiled meats. And tomorrow at an early
hour she will be here." Quoth the King: "By Allah, O youth, I will
assuredly do thee a good deed which the world shall not willingly
let die, and an act of derring-do which shall be chronicled long after
I am dead and gone by."
Then the King sat him by the side of the young Prince and talked till nightfall, when he lay down and slept. But as soon as the false dawn showed, he arose and, doffing his outer garments, bared his blade and hastened to the place wherein lay the slave. Then was he ware of lighted candles and lamps, and the perfume of incenses and unguents, and directed by these, he made for the slave and struck him one stroke, killing him on the spot. After which he lifted him on his back and threw him into a well that was in the palace. Presently he returned and, donning the slave's gear, lay down at length within the mausoleum with the drawn sword laid close to and along his side. After an hour or so the accursed witch came, and first going to her husband, she stripped off his clothes and, taking a whip, flogged him cruelly while he cried out: "Ah! Enough for me the case I am in! Take pity on me, O my cousin!" But she replied, "Didst thou take pity on me and spare the life of my truelove on whom I doated?"
Then she drew the cilice over his raw and bleeding skin and threw the robe upon all and went down to the slave with a goblet of wine and a bowl of meat broth in her hands. She entered under the dome weeping and wailing, "Wellaway!" and crying: "O my lord! Speak a word to me! O my master! Talk awhile with me!" and began to recite these couplets:
"How long this harshness, this unlove, shall bide?
Suffice thee not tear floods thou hast espied?
Thou dost prolong our parting purposely
And if wouldst please my foe, thou'rt satisfied!"
Then she wept again and said: "O my lord! Speak to me, talk with
me!" The King lowered his voice and, twisting his tongue, spoke
after the fashion of the blackamoors and said "'Lack, 'lack! There
be no Majesty and there be no Might save in Allauh, the Gloriose,
Now when she heard these words she shouted for joy, and fell to the ground fainting, and when her senses returned she asked, "O my lord, can it be true that thou hast power of speech?" And the King, making his voice small and faint, answered: "O my cuss! Dost thou deserve that I talk to thee and speak with thee?" "Why and wherefore?" rejoined she, and he replied: "The why is that all the livelong day thou tormentest thy hubby, and he keeps calling on 'eaven for aid until sleep is strange to me even from evenin' till mawnin', and he prays and damns, cussing us two, me and thee, causing me disquiet and much bother. Were this not so, I should long ago have got my health, and it is this which prevents my answering thee." Quoth she, "With thy leave I will release him from what spell is on him," and quoth the King, "Release him, and let's have some rest!" She cried, "To hear is to obey," and, going from the cenotaph to the palace, she took a metal bowl and filled it with water and spake over it certain words which made the contents bubble and boil as a caldron seetheth over the fire. With this she sprinkled her husband saying, "By virtue of the dread words I have spoken, if thou becamest thus by my spells, come forth out of that form into thine own former form."
And lo and behold! the young man shook and trembled, then he rose to his feet and, rejoicing at his deliverance, cried aloud, "I testify that there is no god but the God, and in very truth Mohammed is His Apostle, whom Allah bless and keep!" Then she said to him, "Go forth and return not hither, for if thou do I will surely slay thee," screaming these words in his face. So he went from between her hands, and she returned to the dome and, going down to the sepulcher, she said, "O my lord, come forth to me that I may look upon thee and thy goodliness!" The King replied in faint low words: "What thing hast thou done? Thou hast rid me of the branch, but not of the root." She asked: "O my darling! O my Negroling! What is the root?" And he answered: "Fie on thee, O my cuss! The people of this city and of the four islands every night when it's half-passed lift their heads from the tank in which thou hast turned them to fishes and cry to Heaven and call down its anger on me and thee, and this is the reason why my body's balked from health. Go at once and set them free, then come to me and take my hand, and raise me up, for a little strength is already back in me."
When she heard the King's words (and she still supposed him to be the slave) she cried joyously: "O my master, on my head and on my eyes be thy command. Bismillah!" So she sprang to her feet and, full of joy and gladness, ran down to the tarn and took a little of its water in the palm of her hand and spake over it words not to be understood, and the fishes lifted their heads and stood up on the instant like men, the spell on the people of the city having been removed. What was the lake again became a crowded capital. The bazaars were thronged with folk who bought and sold, each citizen was occupied with his own calling, and the four hills became islands as they were whilom.
Then the young woman, that wicked sorceress, returned to the King and (still thinking he was the Negro) said to him: "O my love! Stretch forth thy honored hand that I may assist thee to rise." "Nearer to me," quoth the King in a faint and feigned tone. She came close as to embrace him, when he took up the sword lying hid by his side and smote her across the breast, so that the point showed gleaming behind her back. Then he smote her a second time and cut her in twain and cast her to the ground in two halves. After which he fared forth and found the young man, now freed from the spell, awaiting him and gave him joy of his happy release while the Prince kissed his hand with abundant thanks.
Quoth the King, "Wilt thou abide in this city, or go with me to my capital?" Quoth the youth, "O King of the Age, wettest thou not what journey is between thee and thy city?" "Two days and a half," answered he, whereupon said the other: "An thou be sleeping, O King, awake! Between thee and thy city is a year's march for a well-girt walker, and thou haddest not come hither in two days and a half save that the city was under enchantment. And I, O King, will never part from thee- no, not even for the twinkling of an eye." The King rejoiced at his words and said: "Thanks be to Allah, Who hath bestowed thee upon me! From this hour thou art my son and my only son, for that in all my life I have never been blessed with issue." Thereupon they embraced and joyed with exceeding great joy. And, reaching the palace, the Prince who had been spellbound informed his lords and his grandees that he was about to visit the Holy Places as a pilgrim, and bade them get ready all things necessary for the occasion.
The preparations lasted ten days, after which he set out with the Sultan, whose heart burned in yearning for his city, whence he had been absent a whole twelvemonth. They journeyed with an escort of Mamelukes carrying all manners of precious gifts and rarities, nor stinted they wayfaring day and night for a full year until they approached the Sultan's capital, and sent on messengers to announce their coming. Then the Wazir and the whole army came out to meet him in joy and gladness, for they had given up all hope of ever seeing their King, and the troops kissed the ground before him and wished him joy of his safety. He entered and took seat upon his throne and the Minister came before him and, when acquainted with all that had befallen the young Prince, he congratulated him on his narrow escape.
When order was restored throughout the land, the King gave largess to many of his people, and said to the Wazir, "Hither the fisherman who brought us the fishes!" So he sent for the man who had been the first cause of the city and the citizens being delivered from enchantment, and when he came into the presence, the Sultan bestowed upon him a dress of honor, and questioned him of his condition and whether he had children. The fisherman gave him to know that he had two daughters and a son, so the King sent for them and, taking one dauhter to wife, gave the other to the young Prince and made the son his head treasurer. Furthermore, he invested his Wazir with the Sultanate of the City in the Black Islands whilom belonging to the young Prince, and dispatched with him the escort of fifty armed slaves, together with dresses of honor for all the emirs and grandees. The Wazir kissed hands and fared forth on his way, while the Sultan and the Prince abode at home in all the solace and the delight of life, and the fisherman became the richest man of his age, and his daughters wived with the Kings until death came to them.
And yet, O King! this is not more wondrous than the story of
the porter and the three ladies of baghdad.