Page:The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night - Volume 4.djvu/31

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yet more than this; only look on us with eyes of rush; for we know not how to bring this affair to a happy end save through thee." Then she said to Ni'amah, "Say, art thou indeed her lord?" He replied, "Yes," and she rejoined, "Thou sayest sooth; for she ceaseth not continually to name thee." Then he told her all that had passed from first to last, and she said, "O youth, thou shalt owe thy reunion with her to none but myself." So she mounted and, at once returning to Naomi, looked in her face and laughed saying, "It is just, O my daughter, that thou weep and fall sick for thy separation from thy master, Ni'amah, son of Al-Rabi'a of Cufa." Quoth Naomi, "Verily, the veil hath been withdrawn for thee and the truth revealed to thee." Rejoined the old woman, "Be of good cheer and take heart, for I will assuredly bring you together, though it cost me my life." Then she returned to Ni'amah and said to him, "I went to thy slave- girl and conversed with her, and I find that she longeth for thee yet more than thou for her; for although the Commander of the Faithful is minded to become intimate with her, she refuseth herself to him. But if thou be stout of purpose and firm of heart, I will bring you together and venture my life for you, and play some trick and make shift to carry thee into the Caliph's palace, where thou shalt meet her, for she cannot come forth." And Ni'amah answered, "Allah requite thee with good!" Then she took leave of him and went back to Naomi and said, "Thy lord is indeed dying of love for thee and would fain see thee and foregather with thee. What sayest thou?" Naomi replied, "And I too am longing for his sight and dying for his love." Whereupon the old woman took a parcel of women's clothes and ornaments and, repairing to Ni'amah, said to him, "Come with me into some place apart." So he brought her into the room behind the shop where she stained his hands and decked his wrists and plaited his hair, after which she clad him in a slave-girl's habit and adorned him after the fairest fashion of woman's adornment, till he was as one of the Houris of the Garden of Heaven, and when she saw him thus she exclaimed, "Blessed be Allah, best of Creators! By Allah, thou art handsomer than the damsel.[1] Now, walk with thy left

  1. Easterns, I have remarked, mostly recognise the artistic truth that the animal-man is handsomer than woman and that "fair sex" is truly only of skin-colour. The same is the general-rule throughout creation, for instance the stallion compared with the mare, the cock with the hen; while there are sundry exceptions such as the Falconidae.