Page:The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night - Volume 1.djvu/453

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Tale of King Omar bin al-Nu'uman and his Sons.

of the Messiah, thou hast proved thyself with me a man of keen wit; but now I see what mischief there is in thy heart, and how thou canst permit thyself a speech which proveth thy traitorous intent. How should I do as thou sayest, when I wot that if I came to that King of yours, Omar bin al-Nu'uman, I should never get free from him? For truly he hath not the like of me or behind his city walls or within his palace-halls, Lord of Baghdad and of Khorasan though he be, who hath built for himself twelve pavilions, in number as the months of the year, and in each a concubine after the number of the days; and if I come to him he would not prove shy of me, for your folk believe I am lawful to have and to hold as is said in your writ: Or those women whom your right hand shall possess as slaves.[1] So how canst thou speak thus to me? As for thy saying: Thou shalt look upon the braves of the Moslems, by the truth of the Messiah, thou sayest that which is not true, for I saw your army when it reached our land these two days ago, and I did not see that your ordinance was the ordinance of Kings, but I beheld only a rabble of tribesmen gathered together. And as to thy words: Thou shalt know who I am. I did not do thee kindness because of thy dignity, but out of pride in myself, and the like of thee should not talk thus to the like of me, even wert thou Sharrkan, Omar bin al-Nu'uman's son, the prowest name in these days." "Knowest thou Sharrkan?" asked he. And she answered, " Yes; and I know of his coming with an army numbering ten thousand horsemen. Also that he was sent by his sire with this force to gain prevalence for the King of Constantinople." "O my lady," said Sharrkan, "I adjure thee by thy religion, tell me the cause of all this, that sooth may appear to me clear of untruth, and with whom the fault lies." "Now, by the virtue of thy faith," she replied, " did I not fear lest the' news of me be bruited abroad that I am of the daughters of Roum, I wouldadventure myself and sally forth single-handed against the ten thousand horsemen and slay their leader, the Wazir Dandan, and vanquish their champion Sharrkan.[2] Nor would aught of shame accrue to me thereby, for I

  1. Koran, iv., xxii., etc., meaning it is lawful to marry women taken in war after the necessary purification, although their husbands be still living. This is not permitted with a free woman who is a True Believer. I have noted that the only concubine slave-girls mentioned in the Koran are these " captives possessed by the right hand."
  2. The Amazonian dame is a favourite in folk-lore and is an ornament to poetry from the Iliad to our modern day. Such heroines, apparently unknown to the Pagan Arabs, were common in the early ages of Al-Islam, as Ockley and Gibbon prove, and that the race is not extinct may be seen in my Pilgrimage (iii. 55), where the sister of Ibn Rumi resolved to take blood revenge for her brother.