Page:The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night - Volume 4.djvu/40

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As'ad; and Amjad said, "I will go out to him and learn the cause of his coming." So he took horse and, riding forth from the city, repaired to the stranger's camp, where he found the King and with him a mighty many and mounted Mamelukes. When the guards saw him, they knew him for an envoy from the King of the city; so they took him and brought him before their Sultan. Then Amjad kissed the ground before him; but lo! the King was a Queen, who was veiled with a mouth-veil, and she said to Amjad, "Know that I have no design on this your city and that I am come hither only in quest of a beardless slave of mine, whom if I find with you, I will do you no harm, but if I find him not, then shall there befall sore onslaught between me and you." Asked Amjad, "O Queen, what like is thy slave and what is his story and what may be his name?" Said she, "His name is As'ad and my name is Marjanah, and this slave came to my town in company of Bahram, a Magian, who refused to sell him to me; so I took him by force, but his master fell upon him by night and bore him away by stealth and he is of such and such a favour." When Amjad heard that, he knew it was indeed his brother As'ad whom she sought and said to her, "O Queen of the age, Alhamdolillah, praised be Allah, who hath brought us relief! Verily this slave whom thou seekest is my brother." Then he told her their story and all that had befallen them in the land of exile, and acquainted her with the cause of their departure from the Islands of Ebony, whereat she marvelled and rejoiced to have found As'ad. So she bestowed a dress of honour upon Amjad and he returned forthright to the King and told him what had passed, at which they all rejoiced and the King went forth with Amjad and As'ad to meet Queen Marjanah. When they were admitted to her presence and sat down to converse with her and were thus pleasantly engaged, behold, a dust cloud rose and flew and grew, till it walled the view. And after a while it lifted and showed beneath it an army dight for victory, in numbers like the swelling sea, armed and armoured cap-à-pie who, making for the city, encompassed it around as the ring encompasseth the little finger;[1] and a bared brand was in every hand. When Amjad and

  1. The Eastern ring is rarely plain; and, its use being that of a signet, it is always in intaglio: the Egyptians invented engraving hieroglyphics on wooden stamps for marking bricks and applied the process to the ring. Moses B. C. 1491 (Exod. xxviii. 9) took two onyx-stones, and graved on them the names of the children of Israel. From this the signet ring was but a step. Herodotus mentions an emerald seal-set in gold, that of Polycrates, the work of Theodorus, son of Telecles the Samian (iii. 141). The Egyptians also were perfectly acquainted with working in cameo (anaglyph) and rilievo, as may be seen in the cavo rilievo of the finest of their hieroglyphs. The Greeks borrowed from them the cameo and applied it to gems (e.g. Tryphon's in the Marlborough collection), and they bequeathed the art to the Romans. We read in a modern book "Cameo means an onyx, and the most famous cameo in the world is the onyx containing the Apotheosis of Augustus." The ring is given in marriage because it was a seal—by which orders were signed (Gen. xxxviii. 18 and Esther iii. 10-12). I may note that the seal-ring of Cheops (Khufu), found in the Greatest Pyramid, was in the possession of my old friend, Doctor Abbott, of Auburn (U.S.), and was sold with his collection. It is the oldest ring in the world, and settles the Cheops-question.