Page:The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night - Volume 4.djvu/58

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which he owed to the youth's father, the balance of a business-transaction between them; so he went and bade farewell to the Consul, who charged him, "Give the thousand dinars to my son Ala al-Din;" and commended the lad to his care, saying, "He is as it were thy son." Accordingly, Ala al-Din joined company with Mahmud of Balkh.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Fifty-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ala al-Din joined company with Mahmud of Balkh who, before beginning the march, charged the youth's cook to dress nothing for him, but himself provided him and his company with meat and drink. Now he had four houses, one in Cairo, another in Damascus, a third in Aleppo and a fourth in Baghdad. So they set out and ceased not journeying over waste and wold till they drew near Damascus when Mahmud sent his slave to Ala al-Din, whom he found sitting and reading. He went up to him and kissed his hands, and Ala al-Din having asked him what he wanted, he answered, "My master saluteth thee and craveth thy company to a banquet at his place." Quoth the youth, "Not till I consult my father Kamal al-Din, the captain of the caravan." So he asked advice of the Makaddam,[1] who said, "Do not go." Then they left Damascus and journeyed on till they came to Aleppo, where Mahmud made a second entertainment and sent to invite Ala al-Din; but he consulted the Chief Cameleer who again forbade him. Then they marched from Aleppo and fared on, till there remained between them and Baghdad only a single stage. Here Mahmud prepared a third feast and sent to bid Ala al-Din to it: Kamal-al-Din once more forbade his accepting it, but he said, "I must needs go." So he rose and, slinging a sword over his shoulder, under his clothes, repaired to the tent of Mahmud of Balkh, who came to meet him and saluted him. Then he set before him a sumptuous repast and they ate and drank and washed hands. At last Mahmud bent towards Ala al-Din to snatch a kiss from him, but the youth received

  1. The well-known Anglo-Indian "Mucuddum;" lit. "one placed before (or over) others"