Page:The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night - Volume 4.djvu/21

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bin al-Rabi'a at the hour of noon prayer, and knocked at the door. The doorkeeper opened and said to her, "What dost thou want?" Quoth she, "I am a poor pious woman, whom the time of noon prayer hath overtaken, and fief would I pray in this blessed place." Answered the porter, "O old woman, this is no mosque nor oratory, but the house of Ni'amah son of al Rabi'a." She replied, "I know there is neither cathedral-mosque nor oratory like the house of Ni'amah bin al-Rabi'a. I am a chamberwoman of the palace of the Prince of True Believers and am come out for worship and the visitation of Holy Places." But the porter rejoined, "Thou canst not enter;" and many words passed between them, till at last she caught hold and hung to him saying, "Shall the like of me be denied admission to the house of Ni'amah bin al-Rabi'a, I who have free access to the houses of Emirs and Grandees?" Anon, out came Ni'amah and, hearing their loud language, laughed and bade the old woman enter after him. So she followed him into the presence of Naomi, whom she saluted after the godliest and goodliest fashion, and, when she looked on her, she was confounded at her exceeding seemliness and said to her, "O my lady, I commend thee to the safeguard of Allah, who made thee and thy lord fellows in beauty and loveliness!" Then she stood up in the prayer niche and betook herself to inclination and prostration and prayer, till day departed and night darkened and starkened, when Naomi said to her, "O my mother, rest thy legs and feet awhile." Replied the old woman "O my lady, whoso seeketh the world to come let him weary him in this world, and whoso wearieth not himself in this world shall not attain the dwellings of the just in the world to come." Then Naomi brought her food and said to her, "Eat of my bread and pray Heaven to accept my penitence and to have mercy on me." But she cried, "O my lady, I am fasting. As for thee, thou art but a girl and it befitteth thee to eat and drink and make merry; Allah be indulgent to thee!; for the Almighty saith: All shall be punished except him who shall repent and believe and shall work a righteous work."[1] So Naomi continued sitting with the old woman in talk and presently said to Ni'amah, "O my lord, conjure this ancient dame to sojourn with us awhile, for piety and devotion are imprinted on her countenance." Quoth he, "Set apart for her a chamber where she may say her prayers; and suffer no one to go in to her: peradventure, Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) shall prosper us by the blessing of her presence and never separate us." So the old woman passed her night in praying and reciting the Koran; and when Allah caused the morn to dawn, she went in to Ni'amah and Naomi and, giving them good morning, said to them, "I pray Allah have you in His holy keeping!" Quoth Naomi, "Whither away, O my mother? My lord hath bidden me set apart for thee a chamber, where thou mayst seclude thee for thy devotions." Replied the old woman, "Allah give him long life, and continue His favour to you both! But I would have you charge the doorkeeper not to stay my coming in to you; and, Inshallah! I will go the round of the Holy Places and pray for you two at the end of my devotions every day and night." Then she went out (whilst Naomi wept for parting with her knowing not the cause of her coming), and returned to Al-Hajjaj who said to her, "As thou do my bidding soon, thou shalt have of me abundant good." Quoth she, "I ask of thee a full month;" and quoth he "Take the month." Thereupon the old hag fell to daily visiting Ni'amah's house and frequented his slave-wife, Naomi.— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Thirty-ninth Night,

  1. Koran, xxv. 70. I give Sale's version.