Page:The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night - Volume 4.djvu/33

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so oppose thou not her entrance, lest haply it come to Naomi's knowledge and she be wroth with thee and suffer a relapse and this cause thy head to be cut off." Then said she to Ni'amah, "Enter, O damsel; pay no heed to what he saith and tell not the Queen-consort that her Chamberlain opposed thine entrance." So Ni'amah bowed his head and entered the palace, and would have turned to the left, but mistook the direction and walked to his right; and, meaning to count five doors and enter the sixth, he counted six and entering the seventh, found himself in a place whose floor was carpeted with brocade and whose walls were hung with curtains of gold- embroidered silk. And therein stood censers of aloes-wood and ambergris and strong-scented musk, and at the upper end was a couch bespread with cloth of gold on which he seated himself, marvelling at the magnificence he saw and knowing not what was written for him in the Secret Purpose. As he sat musing on his case, the Caliph's sister, followed by her handmaid, came in upon him; and, seeing the youth seated there took him for a slave-girl and accosted him and said, "Who art thou O damsel? and what is thy case and who brought thee hither?" He made no reply, and was silent, when she continued, "O damsel! if thou be one of my brother's concubines and he be wroth with thee, I will intercede with him for thee and get thee grace." But he answered her not a word; so she said to her slave-girl, "Stand at the door and let none enter." Then she went up to Ni'amah and looking at him was amazed at his beauty and said to him, "O lady, tell me who thou art and what is thy name and how thou camest here; for I have never seen thee in our palace." Still he answered not, whereat she was angered and, putting her hand to his bosom, found no breasts and would have unveiled him, that she might know who he was; but he said to her, "O my lady, I am thy slave and I cast myself on thy protection: do thou protect me." She said, "No harm shall come to thee, but tell me who thou art and who brought thee into this my apartment." Answered he, "O Princess, I am known as Ni'amah bin al-Rabi'a of Cufa and I have ventured my life for the sake of my slave-girl, Naomi, whom Al-Hajjaj took by sleight and sent hither." Said she, "Fear not: no harm shall befall thee;" then, calling her maid, she said to her, "Go to Naomi's chamber and send her to me." Meanwhile the old woman went to Naomi's bedroom and said to her, "Hath thy lord come to thee?" "No, by Allah!" answered