The Tale of Attaf (Cotheal)
|←Note on the Tale of Attaf||The Tale of Attaf (Cotheal)
, translated by Alexander Isaac Cotheal
|History of Prince Habib→|
|From The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Supplemental Nights, Volume VII, pp.197-222.|
- story of attaf the generous, and what happened to him with the wazir ja'afar who fell in love with a young lady not knowing her to be the cousin-wife of attaf who, in his generosity divorced her and married her to him. The naib of damascus being jealous of attaf's intimacy with ja'afar imprisons him for treason and pillages his property. escape of attaf from prison and his flight to baghdad where he arrives in a beggarly condition, and being accused of assassination is condemned to death, but being released he goes to ja'afar who recognises him and is rewarded by him and the caliph. His wife is restored to him and after a while they are sent home to damascus of which he is appointed wali in place of the naib who is condemned to death, but is afterwards exiled.
They say God is omniscient, knowing the past and the future, and we learn from the histories of the peoples that there was in ancient times and bygone seasons (and God knows best!) a Caliph of the Caliphs or the orthodox and he was Harun er-Rashid who one night became very restless and from the drowsiness that came upon him he sat down upon the bed and dressed himself in sleeping-clothes; then it was that he called to his service Mesrúr the sword-bearer of grace who came immediately into his presence and said to him, O Mesrur, the night is very oppressive and I wish thee to dispel my uneasiness. Then Mesrur said to him, O Commander of the Faithful, arise now and go to the terrace-roof of the palace and look upon the canopy of heaven and upon the twinkling stars and the brightness of the moon, while listening to the music of the rippling streams and the creaking norias as they are spoken of by the poet who said:—
- A Noria that discharges by the spouts of her tears resembles the actions of a distracted lover:
- She is the lover of her branches (sweeps or levers) by the magic in her heart until she laughs:
- She complains and the tears run from her eyes, she rises in the morning to find herself weeping and complaining.
Then he said, O Commander of the Faithful, the streams also are thus mentioned by one of them:—
- My favorite is a damsel dispensing drink, and my recreation is a running stream;
- A damsel whose eyes are a garden of Paradise, and a garden whose springs make a running brook.
Then again said Harun er-Rashid, O Mesrur, such is not my wish, and Mesrur replied, O Commander of the Faithful, in thy palace are three hundred and sixty damsels, they are thy concubines and thy slaves, and they are as if they were rising moons and beautiful gazelles, and in elegant robes they are dressed like the flowers. Walk around in the midst of the palaces and from thy hiding-place see each of them enter by herself in her own apartment admiring her beauty and her magnificent dresses, all showing their joy and mirth since they will not know of thee; then listen to their singing and their playing and their joyous company in their apartments and perhaps you'll attach yourself to one of them who'll play with thee, keep thee awake and be thy cup-companion, dispelling what may remain of thy restlessness. But he replied, O Mesrur, bring to me my cousin Ja'afar the Barmeky immediately. So he answered, Hearing is obedience. Then Mesrur went out to the house of Ja'afar and said to him, Come to the Commander of the Faithful, and he answered, To hear is to obey. Then Ja'afar dressed himself and went with Mesrur to the Caliph and kissing the ground before him he said, May it be good! O Commander of the Faithful. It is not other than good, he answered, but I am wearied this night with a great weariness and I sent for you to divert me so that my unrest may be dissipated. Then Ja'afar said, Let's get up, O Commander of the Faithful, and we'll go out into the garden of the palace and listen to the warbling of the birds and smell of the odours of the flowers, and the cool zephyr with its gentle breath will pass over us, dispelling our uneasiness and gladdening the heart. The Rawi says that Ja'afar was very familiar with the Caliph by reason of the endearment between them. Then the Caliph arose and with Ja'afar and Mesrur went to the garden. The Caliph began to be thoughtful and asked about the trees and the qualities of the flowers and the fruits and the nature of their colours, and as the Caliph took pleasure in that, he walked around for an hour and then passed over to the palaces and houses, going from place to place, from quarter to quarter, and from market to market; and, whilst they were going on, they stopped before a book-shop and the Caliph opened a book-case and began to turn over the books one by one, and taking one in his hand opened it, began to read in it, and then suddenly laughed until he fell upon his back. He read in it again and wept until his beard was wet with the falling tears, and wrapping up the book he put it in his sleeve when Ja'afar said, O Commander of the Faithful and Lord of the two worlds, what was it that made thee laugh and then weep at the same time? When the Caliph heard that he was angered and cried out at him in the midst of his rage, O dog of a Barmeky, what an impertinence on thy part about what concerns thee not,
why meddle with what thou hast not lost. You've taken upon yourself to be annoying and conceited, you have passed beyond your place and it only remained for you to brave the Caliph. By my fathers and grandfathers, if thou dost not bring me someone who can tell me about the contents of this book from the first page to the last, I'll strike thy neck and show thee what it is that has made me laugh and cry. When Ja'afar heard these words and saw his passion he said, O Commander of the Faithful, I have committed a fault: sin is for the like of me and forgiveness for the like of your Highness; to which the Caliph answered, I have made oath, thou must bring that person to explain the book or I'll strike thy neck this very hour. Then Ja'afar said, O Commander of the Faithful, God created the heavens and the two worlds in six days and if it had pleased Him He could have created them in a single hour, but He did so for an instruction to his worshippers that one should not fault with another but be patient; then, O Lord, be thou patient with thy servant if it be for three days only; and the Caliph replied to him, If thou bringest not to me him whom I have mentioned I will slay thee with the most horrible of deaths. At this Ja'afar said, I depart on thy mission; thereupon Ja'afar went home with a sorrowful heart to his father Yahya and his brother El-Fadl to take leave of them and weep. Then they said to him, What is thy trouble? so he told them of what had occurred between him and the Caliph and of the condition laid upon him of execution if not complied with in three days, for doubtless the Caliph seeks my death; he who strikes against a point, 'twill pierce his hand, and he that struggles with a lion will be killed; but as to myself I can no longer remain with him for that would be the greatest of dangers for me and for thee, O my father, and for thee, O my brother. I now set out to travel and I wish to go far away from his eye. The preservation of life is not esteemed and is of little value: distance is the best preservative for our necks—as is said by the poet:—
- Save your life if menaced by evil (danger), and leave the house to complain of the builder:
- You'll find a land upon a land, but not another life for your own life.
When he had finished, his father and his brother said to him, Do not do so, for probably the Caliph will be merciful to you. And Ja'afar answered, Only good will come of my travel. Then he went to his treasure-room and took out a purse containing 1,000 dinars, mounted his horse, put on his sword, bade adieu to his father and brother and set forth in his time and hour; then, not taking with him any servants, either slave or boy, he hastened on his journey, travelling day and night for twenty days until he reached the city of Aleppo without stopping, passing by Hamah and Homs until he reached Teniyát al-Igáb and arrived at Damascus where he entered the city and saw the Minaret of the Bride from bottom to top covered with gilded tiles; and it surrounded with meadows, irrigated gardens with all kinds of flowers, fields of myrtle with mountains of violets and other beauties of the gardens. He dwelt upon these
charms while listening to the singing of the birds in the trees; and he saw a city whose like has never been created in any other country of the world. Turning then to the right hand and to the left he espied a man standing near him and said to him, O my brother, what's the name of this city? and he answered, O my lord, this city in ancient times was called Jullag the same that is mentioned by the poet who says:—
- I am called Jullag and my heart I attach, in me flow the waters, in and out;
- The Garden of Eden upon the earth, birth-place of the fairies:
- I will never forget thy beauties, O Damascus, for none but thee will I ever long:—
- Blessed be the wonders that glitter on thy roofs (expanse).
She was also called Sham (grain of beauty) because she is the Sham of Cities and the Sham of God on earth. Ja'afar was pleased at the explanation of the name, and dismounted with the intention of taking a stroll through the streets, by the great houses and the domes (mosks). Whilst thus engaged in examining the various places and their beauties, he perceived a tent of silk brocade called Dibáj, containing carpets, furniture, cushions, silk curtains, chairs and beds. A young man was sitting upon a mattress, and he was like a rising moon, like the shining orb in its fourteenth night. He was in an undress, upon his head a kerchief and on his body a rose-coloured gaberdine; and as he sat before him were a company and drinks worthy of Kings. Ja'afar stopped and began to contemplate the scene, and was pleased with what he saw of the youth; then looking further he espied a damsel like unto the sun in serene firmament who took her lute and played on it while singing:—
- Evil to whoever have their heart in possession of their lovers, for in obtaining it they will kill it:
- They have abandoned it when they have seen it amorous: when they see it amorous they abandon it.
- Nursling, they pluck it out from the very entrails: O bird, repeat "Nursling they have plucked thee out!"
- They have killed it unjustly: the loved plays the coquette with the humble lover.
- The seeker of the effects of love, love am I, brother of love, and sigh
- Behold the man stricken by love, though his heart change not they bury it (him?).
The Rawi said that Ja'afar was pleased and he rejoiced at hearing the song and all his organs were moved at the voice of the damsel and he said, Wallahy, it is fine. Then she began again to sing, reciting the following verses:—
- With these sentiments thou art in love, it is not wonderful that I should love thee:
- I stretch out my hand to thee asking for mercy and pity for my humility—mayst thou be charitable;
- My life has passed away soliciting thy consent, but I have not found it in my confidence to be charitable,
- And I have become a slave in consequence of her possession of love my heart is imprisoned and my tears flow.
When the poem was finished Ja'afar gave himself up more and more to the pleasure of hearing and looking at the damsel. The youth, who was reclining, sat up and calling some of his boys said to them, Don't you see that young man standing there in front of us? They answered, Yes, and he said, He must be a stranger for I see on him the signs of travel: bring him to me and take care not to offend him. They answered, With joy and gladness, and went towards Ja'afar, who, while contemplating the damsel, perceived the boy that came and who said to him, In the name of God, O my lord, please have the generosity to come in to our master. Ja'afar came with the boy to the door of the tent, dismounted from his horse and entered at the moment when the youth was rising upon his feet, and he stretched out his two hands and saluted him as if he had always known him, and after he had chanted the prayer to the envoy (of Allah) he sang:—
- O my visitor be welcome, thou enlivenest us and bringest us our union:
- By thy face I live when it appears and I die if it disappears.
Then he said to Ja'afar, Please be seated, my dear sir; thanks be to God for your happy arrival; and he continued his chant after another prayer to the envoy (of God):—
- If we had known of thy arrival we would have covered (thy) heart with the black of our eyes,
- And we would have spread the street with out cheeks that thy coming might have been between our eyelids.
After that he arose, kissed the breast of Ja'afar, magnified his power and said to him, O my Master, this day is a happy one and were it not a fast-day I would have fasted for thee to render thanks to God. Then came up the servants to whom he said, Bring us what is ready. They spread the table of viands and the youth said, O my lord, the Sages say, 'If you are invited content yourself with what's before you, but if you are not invited, stay not and visit not again; if we had known that you would arrive to-day we would have sacrified the flesh of our bodies and our children.' Ja'afar said, I put out my hand and I ate until I was satisfied, while he was presenting me with his hand the delicate morsels and taking pleasure in entertaining me. When we had finished they brought the ewer and basin, we washed our hands and we passed into the drinking room where he told the damsel to sing. She took up her lute, tuned it, and holding it against her breast she began:—
- A visitor of whom the sight is venerated by all, sweeter than either spirit or hope:
- He spreads the darkness of his hair over the morning dawn and the dawn of shame appeared not;
- And when my lot would kill me I asked his protection, his arrival revived a soul that death reclaimed:
- I've become the slave of the Prince of the Lovers and the dominion of love was of my making.
The Rawi says that Ja'afar was moved with exceeding joy, as was also the youth, but he did not fail to be fearful on account of his affair with the Caliph, so that it showed itself in his countenance, and this anxiety was apparent to the youth who knew that he was anxious, frightened, dreaming and uncertain. Ja'afar perceived that the youth was ashamed to question him on his position and the cause of his condition, but the youth said to him, O my lord, listen to what the Sages have said:—
- Worry not thyself for things that are to come, drive away your cares by the intoxicating bowl:
- See you not that hands have painted beautiful flowers on the robes of drink?
- Spoils of the vine-branch, lilies and narcissus, and the violet and the striped flower of N'uman:
- If troubles overtake you, lull them to sleep with liquors and flowers and favourites.
Then said he to Ja'afar, Contract not thy breast, and to the damsel, Sing; and she sang, and Ja'afar who was delighted with her songs, said Let us not cease our enjoyment, now in conversation, now in song until the day closes and night comes with darkness.
The youth ordered the servants to bring up the horses and they presented to his guest a mare fit for Kings. We mounted (said Ja'afar), and, entering Damascus, I proceeded to look at the bazars and the streets until we came to a large square in the middle of which were two mastabas or stone benches before a high doorway brilliantly illuminated with divers lights, and before a portière was suspended a lamp by a golden chain. There were lofty domes surrounded by beautiful statues, and containing various kinds of birds and abundance of flowing water, and in their midst was a hall with windows of silver. He opened it and found it looking upon a garden like that of Paradise animated by the songs of the birds and the perfumes of the flowers and the ripple of the brooks. The house, wherein were fountains and birds warbling their songs understood in every language, was carpeted with silken rugs and furnished with cushions of Dibaj-brocade. It contained also in great number costly articles of every kind, it was perfumed with the odours of flowers and fruits and it contained every other imaginable thing, plates and dishes of silver and gold, drinking vessels, and a censer for ambergris, powder of aloes and every sort of dried fruits. Brief, it was a house like that described by the poet:—
- Society became perfectly brilliant in its beauty and shone in the éclat of its magnificence.
Ja'afar said, When I sat down the youth came to me and asked, From what country art thou? I replied, From Basora, soldier by profession, commandant over a company of men and I used to pay a quit-rent to the Caliph. I became afraid of him for my life and I came away fleeing with downcast face for dread of him, and I never ceased wandering about the country and in the deserts until Destiny has brought me to thee. The youth said, A blessed arrival, and
what may be thy name? I replied, My name is like thine own. On hearing my words he smiled, and said, laughing, O my lord, Abu 'l-Hasan, carry no trouble in your heart nor contraction of your breast; then he ordered a service and they set for us a table with all kinds of delicacies and we ate until satisfied. After this they took away the table and brought again the ewer and basin and we washed our hands and then went to the drinking room where there was a pleasaunce filled with fruits and flowers in perfection. Then he spoke to the damsel for music and she sang, enchanting both Ja'afar and the youth with delight at her performances, and the place itself was agitated, and Ja'afar in the excess of his joy took off his robes and tore them. Then the youth said to him, Wallahy, may the tearing be the effect of the pleasure and not of sorrow and waywardness, and may God disperse far from you the bitterness of your enemies. Then he went to a chest (continued Ja'afar) and took out from it a complete dress, worth a hundred dinars and putting it upon me said to the damsel, Change the tune of thy lute. She did so, and sang the following verses:—
- My jealous regard is attached to him and if he regard another I am impatient:
- I terminate my demand and my song crying, Thy friendship will last until death in my heart.
The Rawi said: When she had finished her poetry Ja'afar threw off the last dress and cried out, and the youth said, May God ameliorate your life and make its beginning the end. Then he went to the chest and took out a dress better than the first and put it upon Ja'afar and the damsel was silent for an hour during the conversation. The youth said, Listen, O my lord Abu 'l-Hasan, to what people of merit have said of this valley formerly called the Valley of Rabwat in which we now are and spoken of in the poem, saying:—
- O bounty of our Night in the valley of Rabwat where the gentle zephyr brings in her perfumes:
- It is a valley whose beauty is like that of the necklace: trees and flowers encompass it.
- Its fields are carpeted with every variety of flowers and the birds fly around above them;
- When the trees saw us seated beneath them they dropped upon us their fruits.
- We continued to exchange upon the borders of its gardens the flowing bowls of conversation and of poesy,
- The valley was bountiful and her zephyrs brought to us what the flowers had sent to us.
So when the youth had finished his recitation he turned to the damsel and told her to sing:—
- I consume (with desire) when I hear from him a discourse whose sweetness is a melting speech:
- My heart palpitates when he sees it, it is not wonderful that the drunken one should dance:
- It has on this earth become my portion, but on this earth I have no chance to obtain it.
- O Lord! tell me the fault that I've committed, perhaps I may be able to correct it.
- I find in thee a heart harder than that of others and the hearts consume my being.
Now when she had finished, Ja'afar in his joy threw off the third dress. The youth arose, kissed him on the head, and then took out for him another suit and put it upon him, for he was the most generous man of his time. Then he entertained Ja'afar with the news of the day and of the subjects and anecdotes of the great pieces of poetry and said to him, O my lord, load not thyself with cares. The Rawi says that they continued living in the same way for forty days and on the forty-first Ja'afar said to the young man, Know, O my lord, that I have left my country neither for eating nor for drinking, but to divert myself and to see the world; but if God vouchsafe my return to my country to talk to my people, my neighbours and friends, and they ask me where I have been and what I have seen, I will tell them of your generosity and of the great benefactions that you have heaped upon me in your country of Damascus. I will say that I have sighted this and that, and thus I will entertain them with what I have espied in Damascus and of its order. The young man replied, Thou sayest true: and Ja'afar said, I desire to go out and visit the city, its bazars and its streets, to which the young man answered, With love and good will, to-morrow morning if it please Allah. That night Ja'afar slept there and when God brought the day, he rose, went in to the young man, wished him good morning and said to him, O my lord, thy promise! to which he replied, With love and good will; and, ordering a white dress for him, he handed him a purse of three hundred dinars saying, Bestow this in charity and return quick after thou hast made thy visit, and lastly said to his servants, Bring to your lord a horse to ride. But Ja'afar answered, I do not wish to have one, for a rider cannot observe the people but the people observe him. The young man, who was named Attaf, said, O my lord, be it as thou wishest and desirest; be not away long on my account for thine absence gives me pain. Then he gave to Ja'afar a grain of red musk saying, Take this and keep it in thy hand and if thou go into any place where there is a bad odour thou wilt take a smell of the musk. Ja'afar the Barmeky (Allah be merciful to him!) said, After that I left him and set out to walk in the streets and quarters of Damascus and went on until I came to the Mosk of the 'Omeyyades where I saw a fountain casting the water from its upper part and falling like serpents in their flight. I sat down under the pulpit; and as it was a Friday I heard the preacher and made my Friday prayer and remained until I made the afternoon prayer when I went to distribute the money I had, after which I recited these verses:—
- I see the beauties united in the mosk of Jullag, and around her the meaning of beauty is explained;
- If people converse in the mosks tell them their entrance door is open.
Then I left the mosk and began to promenade the quarters and the streets until I came before a splendid house, broad in its richness and strong in its build, having a border of gold astonishing the mind by the beauty of the work, showing curtains of silk embroidered with gold and in front of the door were
two carpeted steps. I sat down upon one of them and began to think of myself and of the events that had happened to me and of my ignorance of what had taken place after my departure. In the midst of my sadness at the contemplation of my troubles (and the wind blowing upon me) I fell asleep and I awaked not until a sprinkling of water came down upon me. On opening my eyes I saw a young woman behind the curtain dressed in a morning gown and a Sa'údí fillet upon her forehead. Her look and eyelids were full of art and her eyebrows were like the fronts of the wings of light. The Rawi says she resembled a full moon. When my eyes fell upon her (continued Ja'afar) and looked at her, that look brought with it a thousand sighs and I arose and my disposition was changed. The young woman cried at me and I said, I am your servant, O my lady, and here at thy command, but said she, No labbayka and no favour for thee! Is this house thine? Said I, No my lady, and she replied, O dog of the streets, this house is not thine, why art thou sitting here? When Ja'afar heard this he was greatly mortified, but he took courage and dissimulated, answering, O my lady, I am resting here only to recite some verses which I have composed for thee, then she asked, And what hast thou said about me? He continued:—
- She appeared in a whitish robe with eyelids and glances of wonder,
- I said she came out without greeting, with her I'm content to my heart's content.
- Blessed be He that clothed thy cheeks with roses, He can create what He wills without hindrance.
- Thy dress like thy lot is as my hand, white, and they are white upon white upon my white.
When he had finished these verses he said, I have composed others on thine expression, and recited the following:—
- Dost thou see through her veil that face appearing how it shines, like the moon in the horizon?
- Its splendour enlightens the shade of her temples and the sun enters into obscurity by system:
- Her forehead eclipses the rose and the apple, and her look and expression enchant the people;
- It is she that if mortal should see her he'd become victim of love, of the fires of desire.
On hearing this recitation the young lady said to Ja'afar, Miserable fellow, what is this discourse which does not belong to the like of thee? Get up and begone with the malediction of Allah and the protection of Satan. Ja'afar arose, seized with a mighty rage in addition to his love; and in this love for her he departed and returned to the house of his friend Attaf and saluted him with a prepossessed heart. As soon as Attaf saw him he cast himself on his breast and kissed him between the eyes, saying to him, O my lord, thou hast made me feel desolate to-day by thine absence. Then Attaf, looking in the face of Ja'afar and reading in it many words, continued to him, O my lord, I find thy countenance changed and thy mind broken. Ja'afar answered, O my lord,
since I left thee up to the present time I have been suffering with a headache and a nervous attack for I was sleeping upon my ear. The people in the mosk recited the afternoon prayer without my knowing it, and now I have a mind to get an hour's sleep, probably I shall find repose for the body, and what I suffer will pass off. Accordingly, Attaf went into the house and ordered cushions to be brought out and a bed to be made for him. Ja'afar then stretched himself upon it depressed and out of spirits, and covering himself up began to think of the young lady and of the offensive words she gave him so contrary to usage. Also he thought of her beauty and the elegance of her stature and perfect proportions and of what Allah (to whom be praise!) had granted her of magnificence. He forgot all that happened to him in other days and also his affair with the Caliph and his people and his friends and his society. Such was the burden of his thoughts until he was taken with monomania and his body wasted. Hereupon Attaf sent for doctors, they surrounded him constantly, they employed all their talents for him, but they could find no remedy. So he remained during a certain time without anyone being able to discover what was the matter with him. The breast of Attaf became straitened, he renounced all diversions and pleasures, and Ja'afar getting worse and worse, his trouble augmented. One day a new doctor arrived, a man of experience in the art of gallantry, whose name was Dabdihkán. When he came to Ja'afar and looked at his face and felt his pulse and found everything in its place, no suffering, no pain, he comprehended that he was in love, so he took a paper and wrote a prescription and placed it beneath Ja'afar's head. He then said, Thy remedy is under thy head, I've prescribed a purge, if thou take it thou wilt get well, for he was ashamed to tell Attaf his love-sick condition. Presently, the Doctor went away to other patients and Attaf arose and when about entering to see Ja'afar he heard him recite the following verses:—
- A doctor came to me one day and took my hand and pulse, when I said to him Let go my hand, the fire's in my heart
- He said, Drink syrup of the rose and mix it well with water of the tongue but tell it not to anyone:
- I said, The syrup of the rose is quite well known to me; it is the water of the cheek that breaks my very heart;
- But can it be that I can get the water of the tongue that I may cool the burning fire that within me dwells?
- The doctor said, Thou art in love, I said Yes to him, and said he to me, Its remedy is to have the body here.
Then when Attaf went in to him after the end of the recitation he sat down at the head of the bed and asked him about his condition and what had been prescribed for him by the Hakím. Ja'afar said, O my lord, he wrote for me a paper which is under the pillow. Attaf put out his hand, took the paper and read it and found upon it written:—"In the name of God the Curer—To be taken, with the aid and blessing of God, 3 miskals of pure presence of the beloved unmixed with morsels of absence and fear of being watched: plus,
3 miskals of a good meeting cleared of any grain of abandonment and rupture: plus, 2 okes of pure friendship and discretion deprived of the wood of separation. Then take some extract of the incense of the kiss, the teeth and the waist, 2 miskals of each; also take 100 kisses of pomegranate rubbed and rounded, of which 50 small ones are to be sugared, 30 pigeon-fashion and 20 after the fashion of little birds. Take of Aleppine twist and sigh of Al-Iráq 2 miskals each; also 2 okes of tongue-sucking, mouth and lip kissing, all to be pounded and mixed. Then put upon a furnace 3 drams of Egyptian grain with the addition of the beautiful fold of plumpness, boil it in love-water and syrup of desire over a fire of wood of pleasure in the retreat of the ardour. Decant the whole upon a royal díbáqy divan and add to it 2 okes of saliva syrup and drink it fasting during 3 days. Next take for dinner the melon of desire mixed with embrace-almond and juice of the lemon of concord, and lastly 3 rolls of thigh-work and enter the bath for the benefit of your health. And—The Peace! When Attaf had finished reading of this paper he burst into a laugh at the prescription and, turning to Ja'afar, he asked him with whom he was in love and of whom he was enamoured. Ja'afar gave no answer, he spoke not neither did he commence any discourse, when Attaf said, O my brother, thou are not my friend, but thou art in my house esteemed as is the soul in the body. Between me and thee there has been for the last four months friendship, company, companionship and conversation. Why then conceal thy situation? For me, I have fear and sorrow on thine account. Thou art a stranger, thou art not of this capital. I am a son of this city, I can dispel what thou hast (of trouble) and that of which thou sufferest. By my life, which belongs to you, by the bread and salt between us, reveal to me thy secret. And Attaf did not cease to speak thus until Ja'afar yielded and said to him, It shall no longer be concealed, and I will not blame those who are in love and are impatient. Then he told his story from beginning to end, what was said to him by the young lady and what she did with him and lastly he described the quarter and the place. Now when Attaf heard the words of Ja'afar he reflected on the description of the house and of the young lady and concluded that the house was his house and the young lady was his cousin-wife, and said to himself, There is no power nor strength but in Allah the High, the Great. We are from God and to Him we return. Then he came to his mind again and to the generosity of his soul and said to himself, O Attaf! God hath favoured me and hath made me worthy of doing good and hath sent to me I know not whence this stranger who hath become bound in friendship with me during all this time and he hath acquired over me the ties of friendship. His heart hath become attached to the young woman and his love for her hath reached in him an imminent point. Since that time he is almost on the verge of annihilation, in so pitiable a condition and behold, he hopeth from me a good issue from his trouble. He hath made known to me his situation after having concealed it for so long a time: if I do not befriend him in his misfortune I should resemble him who would build upon water and thus would aid him to annihilate his
existence. By the magnanimity of my God, I will further him with my property and with my soul. I will divorce my cousin and will marry her to him and I will not change my character, my generosity nor my resolution. The Rawi says, that young woman was his wife and his cousin, also a second wife as he was previously married to another, and she occupied the house, his own house containing all that he possessed of property and so forth, servants, odalisques and slaves. There was also his other house which was for his guests, for drinking and eating and to receive his friends and his company. Of this, however, he said nothing to his cousin-wife when he came to see her at certain times. When he heard that Ja'afar was in love with her he could not keep from saying to him, Be quiet, I take upon myself to dispel thy chagrin, and soon I shall have news of her, and if she is the daughter of the Naïb of Damascus I will take the proper steps for thee even though I should lose all my property; and if she is a slave-girl I will buy her for thee even were her price such as to take all I possess. Thus he calmed the anguish of Ja'afar the best way he could; then he went out from his own house and entered that of his cousin-wife without making any change in his habits or saying a single word save to his servants, Go to my uncle's and bring him to me. The boy then went for the uncle and brought him to Attaf, and when the uncle entered the nephew arose to receive him, embraced him and made him be seated, and, after he had been seated awhile, Attaf came to him and said, O my uncle! there is naught but good! Know that when God wills good to his servitor he shows to him the way and my heart inclines to Meccah, to the house of God, to visit the tomb of Mohammed (for whom be the most noble of prayers and the most complete of salutations!). I have decided to visit those places this year and I cannot leave behind me either attachments or debts or obligations; nothing in fact that can disturb the mind, for no one can know who will be the friend of the morrow. Here, then, is the writ of divorce of thy daughter and of my other wife. Now when his uncle heard that, he was troubled and exaggerating to himself the matter, he said, O son of my brother, what is it that impels thee to this? If thou depart and leave her and be absent as long as thou willest she is yet thy wife and thy dependent which is sufficient. But Attaf said, O my uncle, what hath been done is done. As soon as the young wife heard that, the abomination of desolation overcame her, she became as one in mourning and was upon the point of killing herself, because she loved her husband by reason of his relationship and his education. But this was done by Attaf only to please Ja'afar, and for that he was incited by his duty to do good to his fellow beings. Then Attaf left the house and said to himself, If I delay this matter it will be bruited abroad, and will come to the ears of my friend who will be afflicted and will be ashamed to marry, and what I have done will come to naught. The divorce of Attaf's second spouse was only out of regard to his cousin-wife, and that there might not be an impediment to the success of his project. Then Attaf proceeded to his guest-house and went in to Ja'afar, who when he saw him, asked where he
had been. Attaf replied, Make yourself easy, O my brother, I am now occupied with your affair, I have sought out the young lady and I know her. She is divorced from her husband and her 'iddah is not yet expired, so expand your breast and gladden your soul, for when her obligatory term of waiting shall be accomplished I will marry her to you. And Attaf ceased not to divert him by eating and drinking, amusements and shows, song and songstress until he knew that the 'iddah of his cousin had ended; then he went to Ja'afar and said to him, "Know, O my lord, that the father of the young woman thou sawest is one of my friends, and if I betroth her that would not be proper on my part and he will say: My friend hath not done well in betrothing my daughter to a man who is a stranger and whom I know not. He will take her and carry her to his own country and we shall be separated. Now I have an idea that has occurred to me, and 'tis to send out for you a tent with ten mamelukes and four servants upon horses and mules, baggage, stuffs, chests of dresses, and horses and gilded vehicles. Everything I have mentioned will be placed outside the city that no one shall know of thee, and I will say that thou art Ja'afar the Barmeky the Caliph's Wazir. I will go to the Kady and the Wali and the Naïb and I will inform them of thee (as Ja'afar); so will they come out to meet and salute thee. Then thou wilt salute them and tell them that thou hast come on business of the Caliph. Thou must also say thou hast heard that Damascus is a very fine city and a hospitable, and add, I will go in to visit it and if it prove favourable to me I will remain and marry to establish between myself and its inhabitants relationship and friendship, and I would like you to seek for me a man of high position and noble origin who hath a beautiful cousin that I may marry. Attaf then said to Ja'afar, O my lord, we know one who hath a daughter of noble origin, that man is such-and-such an one, ask her of him for betrothal and say to him, Here is her dowry, which is all that thou hast in the chests. Then produce a purse of a thousand dinars and distribute them among those present, and display the characteristic of the Barmekys, and take out a piece of silken stuff and order them to draw up the marriage contract immediately. If they sign it, declare to them that thou wilt not enter the city because thou art pressed and thy bride will come to thee. Should thou do thus, thou wilt accomplish what thou desirest, God willing, then leave instantly and order that the tents be struck, the camels loaded, and set out for thine own country in peace. Know that all I shall do for you is little for the rights of friendship and devotedness. Ja'afar sprang up to kiss the hand of Attaf, but was prevented, then he thanked him and praised him and passed the night with him. The next morning at break of day he arose, made his ablutions, and having recited his morning prayer, accompanied his host to the outside of the city. Attaf ordered a great tent to be pitched and that everything necessary should be carried to it; of horses, camels, mules, slaves, mamelukes, chests containing all kinds of articles for distribution, and boxes holding purses of gold and silver. He dressed his guest in a robe worthy of a Wazir, and set up for him a throne and sent some slaves to
the Naïb of Damascus to announce the arrival of Ja'afar on business of the Caliph. As soon as the Naïb of Damascus was informed of that, he went out accompanied by the notables of the city and of his government and met the Wazir Ja'afar, and kissing the ground between his hands, said to him, O my lord, why didst thou not inform me sooner in order that we might be prepared for thine arrival. Ja'afar said, That was not necessary, may God augment thy wealth, I have not come but with the intention to visit this city; I desire to stay in it for some time and I would also marry in it. I have learned that the Amír 'Amr has a daughter of noble descent, I wish thou wouldst cause her to be brought before thee and that thou betroth her to me. The Naïb of Damascus said, Hearing is obeying. Her husband hath divorced her and desireth to go to al-Hejaz on the pilgrimage, and after her 'iddah hath expired and there remaineth not any impediment the betrothal can take place. At the proper time the Naïb of Damascus caused to be present the father of the lady and spoke to him of what the Wazir Ja'afar had said and that he should betroth his daughter, so that there was nothing more for the father to say than, I hear and I obey. The Rawi says that Ja'afar ordered to be brought the dress of honour and the gold from the purses to be thrown out for distribution and commanded the presence of the Kady and witnesses; and, when they arrived, he bade them write the marriage contract. Then he brought forward and presented the ten chests and the ten purses of gold, the dowry of the bride, and all those present, high and low, and rich and poor gave him their best wishes and congratulations. After the father of the lady had taken the dowry he ordered the Kady to draw up the contract and presented to him a piece of satin; he also called for sugar-water to drink and set before them the table of viands, and they ate and washed their hands. Afterwards they served sweet dishes and fruits; and when that was finished and the contract passed, the Naïb of Damascus said to the Wazir, O my lord, I will prepare a house for thy residence and for the reception of thy wife. Ja'afar said, That cannot be; I am here on a commission of the Commander of the Faithful, and I wish to take my wife with me to Baghdad and only there can I have the bridal ceremonies. The father of the lady said, Enter unto thy bride and depart when thou wilt. Ja'afar replied, I cannot do that, but I wish thee to make up the trousseau of thy daughter and have it ready so as to depart this very day. We only wait, said the father of the bride, for the Naïb of Damascus to retire, to do what the Wazir commands. He answered, With love and good will; and the lady's father set about getting together the trousseau and making her ready. He took her out and got her trousseau, mounted her upon a Hodaj, and when she arrived at Ja'afar's camp her people made their adieus and departed. When Ja'afar had ridden to some distance from Damascus and had arrived at Tiniat el 'Iqáb he looked behind him and perceived in the distance in the direction of Damascus a horseman galloping towards him; so he stopped his attendants and when the rider had come near them Ja'afar looked at him and behold it was Attaf. He had come out after him and cried, Hasten not, O my brother. And when he came up he embraced
him and said, O my lord, I have found no rest without thee, O my brother Abu 'l-Hasan, it would have been better for me never to have seen thee nor known thee, for now I cannot support thine absence. Ja'afar thanked him and said to him, I have not been able to act against what thou hast prescribed for me and provided, but we pray God to bring near our reunion and never more separate us. He is Almighty to do what He willeth. After that Ja'afar dismounted and spread a silken carpet and they sat down together, and Attaf laid a tablecloth with duck, chicken, sweets and other delicacies, of which they ate and he brought out dry fruits and wine. They drank for an hour of the day when they remounted their horses and Attaf accompanied Ja'afar a way on the journey, when Ja'afar said to him, Every departer must return, and he pressed him to his breast and kissed him and said to him, O my brother Abu 'l-Hasan, do not interrupt the sending of thy letters; but make known to me about thyself, and thy condition as if I were present with thee. Then they bade each other adieu and each went on his way. When the young wife noticed that the camels had stopped on their march as well as their people, she put out her head from the Hodaj and saw her cousin dismounting with Ja'afar and they eating and drinking together and then in company to the end of the road where they bade adieu exchanging a recitation of poetry. So she said, The one, Wallahy, is my cousin Attaf and the other the man whom I saw seated under the window, and upon whom I sprinkled the water. Doubtless he is the friend of my cousin. He hath been seized with love for me, and complaining to my cousin, hath given him a description of me and of my house; and the devotedness of his character and the greatness of his soul must have impelled him to divorce me and to take steps to marry me to that man. The Rawi says that Attaf in bidding good-bye to Ja'afar left him joyful in the possession of the young lady for whom he was on the point of ruin by his love, and in having made the friendship of Attaf whom he intended to reward in gratitude for what he had done by him. So glad was he to have the young wife that everything that had taken place with Er-Rashid had passed out of his mind. In the meanwhile she was crying and lamenting over what had happened to her, her separation from her cousin and from her parents and her country, and bemoaning what she did and what she had been; and her scalding tears flowed while she recited these verses:—
- I weep for these places and these beauties; blame not the lover if some day he's insane:
- For the places the dear ones inhabit. O praise be to God! how sweet is their dwelling!
- God protect the past days while with you, my dear friends, and in the same house may happiness join us!
On finishing this recitation she wept and lamented and recited again:—
- I'm astonished at living without you, at the troubles that come upon us:
- I wish for you, dear absent ones, my wounded heart is still with you.
Then, still crying and lamenting, she went on:—
- O you to whom I gave my soul, return; from you I wish'd to pluck it, but could not succeed:
- Then pity the rest of a life that I've sacrificed for thee, before the hour of death my last look I will take:
- If all of thee be lost astonished I'll not be; my astonishment would be that his lot will be to another.
Presently the Wazir Ja'afar coming up to the Hodaj said to the young wife, O mistress of the Hodaj, thou hast killed us. When she heard this address she called to him with dejection and humility, We ought not to talk to thee for I am the cousin-wife of thy friend and companion Attaf, prince of generosity and devotion. If there be in thee any feeling of the self-denial of a man thou wilt do for him that which, in his devotion, he hath done for thee. When Ja'afar heard these words he became troubled and taking in the magnitude of the situation he said to the young lady, O thou! thou art then his cousin-wife? and said she, Yes! it is I whom thou sawest on such a day when this and that took place and thy heart attached itself to me. Thou hast told him all that. He divorced me, and while waiting for the expiration of my 'iddah diverted thee that such and such was the cause of all my trouble. Now I have explained to thee my situation: do thou the action of a man. When Ja'afar heard these words he uttered a loud cry and said, We are from God and to Him we return. O thou! thou art now to me an interdiction and hast become a sacred deposit until thy return to where it may please thee. Then said Ja'afar to a servant, Take good care of thy mistress. After which they set forward and travelled on day and night. Now Er-Rashid, after the departure of Ja'afar, became uneasy and sorrowful at his absence. He lost patience and was tormented with a great desire to see him again, while he regretted the conditions he had imposed as impossible to be complied with and obliging him to the extremity of tramping about the country like a vagabond, and forcing him to abandon his native land. He had sent envoys after him to search for him in every place, but he had never received any news of him, and was cast into great embarrassment by reason of his absence. He was always waiting to hear of him, and when Ja'afar had approached Baghdad and he, Er-Rashid, had received the good tidings of his coming, he went forth to meet him, and as soon as they came together they embraced each other, and the Caliph became content and joyful. They entered together into the palace and the Prince of True Believers seating Ja'afar at his side, said to him, Relate to me thy story where thou hast been during thine absence and what thou hast come upon. So Ja'afar told him then all that had happened from the time he left him until the moment of finding himself between his hands. Er-Rashid was greatly astonished and said, Wallahy, thou hast made me sorrowful for thine absence, and hast inspired me with great desire to see thy friend. My opinion is that thou divorce this young lady and put her on the road homeward accompanied by someone in whom thou hast confidence. If
thy friend have an enemy he shall be our enemy, and if he have a friend he also shall be ours; after which we will make him come to us, and we shall see him and have the pleasure of hearing him and pass the time with him in joy. Such a man must not be neglected, we shall learn, by his generosity, bounty and useful things. Ja'afar answered, To hear is obedience. Then Ja'afar apportioned to the young lady a spacious house and servants and a handsome enclosure; and he treated with generosity those who had come with her as suite and followers. He also sent to her sets of furniture, mattresses and every thing else she might need, while he never intruded upon her and never saw her. He sent her his salutation and reassuring words that she should be returned to her cousin; and he made her a monthly allowance of a tousand dinars, besides the cost of her living. So far as to Ja'afar; but as to Attaf, when he had bidden adieu to Ja'afar and had returned to his country, those who were jealous of him took steps to ruin him with the Naïb of Damascus, to whom they said, O our lord, what is it that hath made thee neglect Attaf? Dost thou not know that the Wazir was his friend and that he went out after him to bid him adieu after our people had returned, and accompanied him as far as Katifa, when Ja'afar said to him, Hast thou need of anything O Attaf? he said Yes. Of what? asked the Wazir, and he answered, That thou send me an imperial rescript removing the Naïb of Damascus. Now this was promised to him, and the most prudent thing is that thou invite him to breakfast before he takes you to supper; success is in the opportunity and the assaulted profiteth by the assaulter. The Naïb of Damascus replied, Thou has spoken well, bring him to me immediately. The Rawi says that Attaf was in his own house, ignorant that anyone owed him grudge when suddenly in the night he was surrounded and seized by the people of the Naïb of Damascus armed with swords and clubs. They beat him until he was covered with blood, and they dragged him along until they set him in presence of the Pasha of Damascus who ordered the pillage of his house and of his slaves and his servants and all his property and they took everything, his family and his domestics and his goods. Attaf asked, What is my crime? and he was answered, O scoundrel, thou art an ignorant fellow of the rabble, dost dispute with the Naïbat of Damascus? Then the Swordman was ordered to strike his neck, and the man came forward and, cutting off a piece of his robe, with it blindfolded his eyes, and was about to strike his neck when one of the Emírs arose and said, Be not hasty, O my lord, but wait, for haste is the whisper of Satan, and the proverb saith: Man gaineth his ends by patience, and error accompanieth the hasty man. Then he continued, Do not press the matter of this man; perhaps he who hath spoken of him lieth and there is nobody without jealousy; so have patience, for thou mayest have to regret the taking of his life unjustly. Do not rest easy upon what may come to thee on the part of the Wazir Ja'afar, and if he learn what thou hast done by this man be not sure of thy life on his part. He will admit of no excuse for he was his friend and companion. When the Naïb of Damascus heard that he
awoke from his slumber and conformed to the words of the Emir. He ordered that Attaf should be put in prison, enchained and with a padlock upon his neck, and bade them, after severely tightening the bonds, illtreat him. They dragged him out, listening neither to his prayers nor his supplications; and he cried every night, doing penance to God and praying to Him for deliverance from his affliction and his misfortune. In that condition he remained for three months. But one night as he woke up he humiliated himself before God and walked about his prison, where he saw no one; then, looking before him, he espied an opening leading from the prison to the outside of the city. He tried himself against his chain and succeeded in opening it; then, taking it from his neck, he went out from the gaol running at full speed. He concealed himself in a place, and darkness protected him until the opening of the city gate, when he went out with the people and hastening his march he arrived at Aleppo and entered the great mosk. There he saw a crowd of strangers on the point of departure and Attaf asked them whither they were going, and they answered to Baghdad. Whereupon he cried, And I with you. They said, Upon the earth is our weight, but upon Allah is our nourishment. Then they went on their march until they arrived at Koufa after a travel of twenty days, and then continued journeying till they came to Baghdad. Here Attaf saw a city of strong buildings, and very rich in elegant palaces reaching to the clouds, a city containing the learned and the ignorant, and the poor and the rich, and the virtuous and the evil doer. He entered the city in a miserable dress, rags upon his shoulders, and upon his head a dirty, conical cap, and his hair had become long and hanging over his eyes and his entire condition was most wretched. He entered one of the mosks. For two days he had not eaten. He sat down, when a vagabond entered the mosk and seating himself in front of Attaf threw off from his shoulder a bag from which he took out bread and a chicken, and bread again and sweets and an orange, and olive and date-cake and cucumbers. Attaf looked at the man and at his eating, which was as the table of 'Isa son of Miriam (upon whom be peace!). For four months he had not had a sufficient meal and he said to himself, I would like to have a mouthful of this good cheer and a piece of this bread, and then cried for very hunger. The fellow looked at him and said, Bravo! why dost thou squint and do what strangers do? By the protection of God, if you weep tears enough to fill the Jaxartes and the Bactrus and the Dajlah and the Euphrates and the river of Basrah and the stream of Antioch and the Orontes and the Nile of Egypt and the Salt Sea and the ebb and the flow of the Ocean, I will not let thee taste a morsel. But, said the buffoon, if thou wish to eat of chicken and white bread and lamb and sweets and mutton patties, go thou to the house of Ja'afar son of Yahya the Barmeky, who hath received hospitality from a Damascus man named Attaf. He bestoweth charity in honour of him in this manner, and he neither getteth up nor sitteth down without speaking of him. Now when Attaf heard these words from the buffoon he looked up to heaven
and said, O Thou whose attributes are inscrutable, bestow thy benefits upon thy servant Attaf. Then he recited this couplet:—
- Confide thy affairs to thy Creator; set aside thy pains and dismiss thy thoughts.
Then Attaf went to a paper-seller and got from him a piece of paper and borrowed an inkstand and wrote as follows:—From thy brother Attaf whom God knoweth. Let him who hath possessed the world not flatter himself, he will some day be cast down and will lose it in his bitter fate. If thou see me thou wilt not recognise me for my poverty and my misery; and, because of the change in situation and the reverses of the times, my soul and body are reduced by hunger, by the long journey I have made, until at last I have come to thee. And peace be with thee. Then he folded the paper and returning the pen-case to its owner asked for the house of Ja'afar, and when it was shown to him he went there and stood at a distance before it. The doorkeepers saw him standing, neither commencing nor repeating a word, and nobody spoke to him, but as he was thus standing embarassed, an eunuch dressed in a striped robe and golden belt passed by him. Attaf remained motionless before him, then went up to him, kissed his hands and said to him, O my lord, the Apostle of Allah (upon whom be peace and salutation) hath said, The medium of a good deed is like him who did it, and he who did it belongeth to the dwellers in heaven. The man said to him, What is thy need? and said he, I desire of thy goodness to send in this paper to thy lord and say to him, Thy brother Attaf is standing at the door. When the servant heard his words he got into a great and excessive rage so that his eyes swelled in his head and he asked, O cursed one, thou art then the brother of the Wazir Ja'afar! and as he had in his hand a rod with a golden end, he struck Attaf with it in the face and his blood flowed and he fell full length to the ground in his weakness from weeping and from receiving the blow. The Rawi says that God hath placed the instinct of good in the heart of some domestics, even as he hath placed that of evil in the heart of others. Another of the domestics was raised up against his companion by good will to Attaf and reproved him for striking the stranger and was answered, Didst thou not hear, O brother, that he pretended to be the brother of the Wazir Ja'afar? and the second one said, O man of evil, son of evil, slave of evil, O cursed one, O hog! is Ja'afar one of the prophets? is he not a dog of the earth like ourselves? Men are all brethren, of one father and one mother, of Adam and of Eve; and the poet hath said:—
- Men by comparison all are brethren, their father is Adam their mother is Eve;
but certain people are preferable to others. Then he came up to Attaf and made him be seated and wiped off the blood from his face and washed him and shook off the dust that was upon him and said, O my brother, what is thy need? and said he, My need is the sending of this paper to Ja'afar. The servant took the paper from his hand and going in to Ja'afar the Barmeky found
there the officers of the Governor and the Barmekys standing at his service on his right and on his left; and Ja'afar the Wazir who held in his hand a cup of wine was reciting poetry and playing and saying, O you all here assembled, the absent from the eye is not like the present in the heart; he is my brother and my friend and my benefactor, Attaf of Damascus, who was continuous in his generosity and his bounty and his benefactions to me; who for me divorced his cousin-wife and gave her to me. He made me presents of horses and slaves and damsels and stuffs in quantities that I might furnish her dower; and, if he had not acted thus, I should certainly have been ruined. He was my benefactor without knowing who I was, and generous to me without any idea of profiting by it. The Rawi says that when the good servant heard these words from his lord he rejoiced and coming forward he kneeled down before him and presented the paper. When Ja'afar read it he was in a state of intoxication and not being able to discern what he was doing he fell on his face to the floor while holding the paper and the glass in his hand, and he was wounded in the forehead so his blood ran and he fainted and the paper fell from his grasp. When the servant saw that he hastened to depart fearing the consequence; and the Wazir Ja'afar's friends seated their lord and staunched the blood. They exclaimed, There is no power and strength but in God the High, the Mighty. Such is the character of servants; they trouble the life of kings in their pleasures and annoy them in their humours: Wallahy, the writer of this paper merits nothing less than to be handed over to the Wali who shall give him five hundred lashes and put him in prison. Thereupon the Wazir's doorkeeper went out and asked for the owner of the paper, when Attaf answered, 'Tis I, O my lord. Then they seized him and sent him to the Wali and ordered him to give one hundred blows of the stick to the prisoner and to write upon his chain "for life." Thus they did with Attaf and carried him to the prison where he remained for two months when a child was born to Harun er-Rashid, who then ordered that alms should be distributed, and good done to all, and bade liberate all that were in prison and among those that were set free was Attaf. When he found himself out of gaol, beaten and famished and naked, he looked up to heaven and exclaimed, Thanks be to thee, O Lord, in every situation, and crying said, It must be for some fault committed by me in the past, for God had taken me into favour and I have said repaid Him in disobedience; but I pray to Him for pardon for having gone too far in my debauchery. Then he recited these verses:—
- O God! the worshipper doth what he should not do; he is poor, depending on Thee:
- In the pleasures of life he forgetteth himself, in his ignorance, pardon Thou his faults.
Then he cried again and said to himself, What shall I do? If I set out for my country I may not reach it; if I arrive there, there will be no safety for my life on the part of the Naïb, and if I remain here nobody knoweth me among the beggars and I cannot be for them of any use nor for myself as an aid or an intermediate. As for me, I had hope in that man, that he would raise me
from my poverty. The affair hath turned out contrary to my expectations, and the poet was right when he said:—
- O friend, I've run o'er the world west and east; all that I met with was pain and fatigue:
- I've frequented the men of the age, but never have found e'en a friend grateful not even to me.
Once more he cried and exclaimed, God give me the grace of patience. After that he got up and walked away, and entered one of the mosks and staid there until afternoon. His hunger increased and he said, By Thy magnanimity and Thy majesty I shall ask nothing of anyone but of Thee. He remained in the mosk until it became dark when he went out for something, saying to himself, I have heard a call from the Prophet (on whom be the blessing and peace of Allah!) which said, God forbiddeth sleep in the Sanctuary and forbiddeth it to His worshippers. Then he arose, and went out from the mosk to some distance when he entered a ruined building after walking an hour, and here he stumbled in the darkness and fell upon his face. He saw something before him that he had struck with his foot and felt it move, and this was a lad that had been slain and a knife was in his side. Attaf rose up from off the body, his clothes stained with blood; he stood motionless and embarrassed, and while in that situation the Wali and his policemen stood at the door of the ruin and Attaf said to them, Come in and search. They entered with their torches and found the body of the murdered lad and the knife in him and the miserable Attaf standing at the head with his clothes stained with blood. When a man with a scarf saw him he arrested him and said to him, O Wretch, 'tis thou killedst him. Attaf said, Yes. Then said the Wali, Pinion him and take him to prison until we make our report to the Wazir Ja'afar. If he orders his death we will execute him. They did as ordered, and the next day the man with the scarf wrote to the Wazir, We went into a ruin and found there a man who had killed a lad and we interrogated him and he confessed that it was he who had done the deed, what are thine orders? The Wazir commanded them to put him to death; so they took Attaf from the prison to the place of execution and cut off a piece of his garment and with it bandaged his eyes. The Sworder said, O my lord, shall I strike his neck? and the Wali said, Strike! He brandished the sword which whistled and glittered in the air and was about to strike, when a cry from behind, Stop thy hand! was heard, and it was the voice of the Wazir Ja'afar who was out on a promenade. The Wali went to him and kissed the earth before him and the Wazir said to him, What is this great gathering here? He answered, 'Tis the execution of a young man of Damascus whom we found yesterday in a ruin; he had killed a lad of noble blood and we found the knife with him and his clothes spotted with blood. When I said to him, Is it thou that killedst him? he replied Yes three times. To-day I sent to thee my written report and thine Excellency ordered his death, saying, "Let the sentence of God be executed, and now I have brought him out that his
neck may be struck. Ja'afar said, "Oh, hath a man of Damascus come into our country to find himself in a bad condition? Wallahy, that shall never be! Then he ordered that he should be brought to him. The Wazir did not recognise him, for Attaf's air of ease and comfort had disappeared; so Ja'afar said to him, From what country art thou, O young man, and he answered, I am a man from Damascus. From the city or from the villages? Wallahy, O my lord, from Damascus city where I was born. Ja'afar asked, Didst thou happen to know there a man named Attaf? I know when thou wast his friend and he lodged thee in such-and-such a house and thou wentest out to such-and-such a garden; and I know when thou didst marry his cousin-wife, I know when he bade adieu to thee at Katifa where thou drankest with him. Ja'afar said, Yes, all that is true, but what became of him after he left me? He said, O my Lord, there happened to him this and that and he related to him everything from the time he quitted him up to the moment of his standing before him and then recited these verses:—
- This age, must it make me its victim, and thou at the same time art living: wolves are seeking to devour me while thou the lion art here.
- Every thirsty one that cometh his thirst is quenched by thee: can it be that I thirst while thou art still our refuge?
When he had finished the verses he said, O my lord, I am Attaf, and then recalled all that had taken place between them from first to last. While he was thus speaking a great cry was heard, and it came from a Sheikh who was saying, This is not humanity. They looked at the speaker, who was an old man with trimmed beard dyed with henna, and upon him was a blue kerchief. When Ja'afar saw him he asked him what was the matter, and he exclaimed, Take away the young man from under the sword, for there is no fault in him: he hath killed no one nor doth he know anything of the dead youth. Nobody but myself is the killer. The Wazir said, Then 'tis thou that killed him? and he answered. Yes.—Why didst thou kill him? hast thou not the fear of God in killing a Hashimy child? The old man said, He was my servant, serving me in the house and working with me at my trade. Every day he took from me some quarter-pieces of money and went to work for another man called Shumooshag, and to work with Nagísh, and with Gasís, and with Ghúbar, and with Gushír, and every day working with someone. They were jealous of my having him. 'Odís the sweeper and Abu Butrán the stoker, and everyone wanted to have him. In vain I corrected him, but he would not abide corrected and ceased not to do thus until I killed him in the ruin, and I have delivered myself from the torment he gave me. That is my story. I kept silent until I saw thee when I made myself known at the time thou savedst the head of this young man from the sword. Here I am standing before you: strike my neck and take life for life. Pray do no harm to this young man, for he hath committed no fault. The Wazir said, Neither
to thee nor to him. Then he ordered to be brought the parents of the dead lad and reconciled them with the old man, whom he pardoned. He mounted Attaf upon a horse and took him to his house; then he entered the palace of the Caliph and kissed the earth before him and said, Behold Attaf, he who was my host at Damascus, and of whom I have related his treatment of me and his kindness and generosity, and how he preferred me to himself. Er-Rashid said, Bring him in to me immediately. He presented him to the Caliph in the miserable state in which he had found him; and when he entered, he made his salutations in the best manner and with the most eloquent language, Er-Rashid answered and said to him, What is this state in which I find you? and Attaf wept and made his complaint in these verses:—
- Troubles, poverty and distant sojourn far away from the dear ones, and a crushing desire to see them:
- The soul is in them, they became like their fellows, thus the enigma remains in the world;
- While the generous is stricken with misfortune and grief, where's the miser that finds not good fortune therein?
When Attaf had finished he conversed with the Caliph about his history and all his life from beginning to end; and Er-Rashid cried and suffered at what had happened to him after the loss of his riches, nor did he cease to weep with Ja'afar until the close of Attaf's story. The Sheikh who had killed the lad and had been liberated by Ja'afar came in and Er-Rashid laughed at seeing him. Then he caused Attaf to be seated and made him repeat his story. And when Attaf had finished speaking the Caliph looked at Ja'afar and said, The proverb goeth:—
- Good for good, to the giver the merit remains; evil for evil, the doer's most cruel.
Afterwards the Caliph said to Ja'afar, Tell me what thou didst for thy brother Attaf before he came to thee, and he answered, O Commander of the Faithful, he came upon me suddenly, and I now prepare for him three millions of gold, and the like of it in horses, and in slaves, and in boys, and in dresses; and the Caliph said, From me the same. Here endeth the last leaf of the writ, but the Rawi says that two days afterwards Ja'afar restored to his friend Attaf his beloved cousin-wife, saying to him, I have divorced her and now I deliver over to thee intact the precious deposit that thou didst place in my hands. Already hath the order from the Caliph been despatched to Damascus enjoining the arrest of the Naib, to place him in irons and imprison him until further notice. Attaf passed several months in Baghdad enjoying the pleasures of the city in company with his friend Ja'afar and Er-Rashid. He would have liked to have stayed there all his life, but numerous letters from his relations and his friends praying him to return to Damascus, he thought it his duty to do so, and asked
leave of the Caliph, who granted it, not without regrets and fears for his future condition. Er-Rashid appointed him Wali of Damascus and gave him the imperial rescript; and a great escort of horses, mules and dromedaries, with abundant magnificent presents accompanied him as far as Damascus, where he was received with great pomp. All the city was illuminated as a mark of joy for the return of Attaf, so loved and respected by all classes of the people, and above all by the poor who had wept incessantly for him in his absence. As to the Naib, a second decree of the Caliph ordered his being put to death for his oppression of the people, but by the generous intercession of Attaf Er-Rashíd contented himself with commuting the sentence to banishment. Attaf governed his people many years with justice and prosperity, protector of his happy subjects and in the enjoyment of the delights and pleasures of life, until the Angel of Death overtook him and summoned him to Paradise.