Page:The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night - Volume 4.djvu/37

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Naomi! How clever is thy tongue and how dear is thy speech!" And they ceased not their mirth and good cheer till midnight, when the Caliph's sister said to him, "Give ear, O Commander of the Faithful to a tale I have read in books of a certain man of rank." "And what is this tale?" quoth he. Quoth she "Know, O Prince of the Faithful that there lived once in the city of Cufa a youth called Ni'amah, son of Al-Rabi'a, and he had a slave-girl whom he loved and who loved him. They had been reared in one bed; but when they grew up and mutual-love get hold of them, Fortune smote them with her calamities and Time, the tyrant, brought upon them his adversity and decreed separation unto them. Thereupon designing and slanderous folk enticed her by sleight forth of his house and, stealing her away from his home, sold her to one of the Kings for ten thousand dinars. Now the girl loved her lord even as he loved her, so he left kith and kin and house and home and the gifts of fortune, and set out to search for her and when she was found he devised means to gain access to her".—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Forty-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph's sister said, "And Ni'amah ceased not absenting himself from his kith and kin and patrial-stead, that he might gain access to his handmaid, and he incurred every peril and lavished his life till he gained access to her, and her name was Naomi, like this slave-girl. But the interview was short; they had not been long in company when in came the King, who had bought her of her kidnapper, and hastily ordered them to be slain, without doing justice by his own soul and delaying to enquire into the matter before the command was carried out. Now what sayest thou, O Commander of the Faithful, of this King's wrongous conduct?" Answered the Caliph; "This was indeed a strange thing: it behoved that King to pardon when he had the power to punish; and he ought to have regarded three things in their favour. The first was that they loved each other; the second that they were in his house and in his grasp; and the third that it befitteth a King to be deliberate in judging and ordering between folk, and how much more so in cases where he himself is concerned! Wherefore this King thus did an unkingly deed." Then