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Tale of Nur Al-Din Ali and His Son Badr Al-Din Hasan

As the people were bandying guesses about him, suddenly the morning breeze blew upon Badr al-Din and raising his shirt to his middle, showed a stomach and navel with something below it, and legs and thighs clear as crystal and smooth as cream. Cried the people, "By Allah, he is a pretty fellow!" and at the cry Badr al-Din awoke and found himself lying at a city gate with a crowd gathered around him. At this he greatly marveled and asked: "Where am I, O good folk, and what causeth you thus to gather round me, and what have I had to do with you?" and they answered: "We found thee lying here asleep during the call to dawn prayer, and this is all we know of the matter. But where diddest thou lie last night?" "By Allah, O good people," replied he, "I lay last night in Cairo." Said somebody, "Thou hast surely been eating hashish," and another, "He is a fool," and a third, "He is a citrouille," and a fourth asked him: "Art thou out of thy mind? Thou sleepest in Cairo and thou wakest in the morning at the gate of Damascus city!" Cried he: "By Allah, my good people, one and all, I lie not to you. Indeed I lay yesternight in the land of Egypt and yesternoon I was at Bassorah." Quoth one, "Well! well!" and quoth another, "Ho! ho!" and a third, "So! so!" and a fourth cried, "This youth is mad, is possessed of the Jinni!" So they clapped hands at him and said to one another: "Alas, the pity of it for his youthl By Allah, a madman! And madness is no respecter of persons."
Then said they to him: "Collect thy wits and return to thy reason! How couldest thou be in Bassorah yesterday and in Cairo yesternight and withal awake in Damascus this morning?" But he persisted, "Indeed I was a bridegroom in Cairo last night." "Belike thou hast been dreaming," rejoined they, "and sawest all this in thy sleep." So Hasan took thought for a while and said to them: "By Allah, this is no dream, nor visionlike doth it seem! I certainly was in Cairo, where they displayed the bride before me, in presence of a third person, the hunchback groom, who was sitting hard by. By Allah, O my brother, this be no dream, and if it were a dream, where is the bag of gold I bore with me, and where are my turban and my robe, and my trousers?"
Then he rose and entered the city, threading its highways and byways and bazaar streets, and the people pressed upon him and jeered at him, crying out "Madman! Madman!" till he, beside himself with rage, took refuge in a cook’s shop. Now that cook had been a trifle too clever- that is, a rogue and thief- but Allah had made him repent and turn from his evil ways and open a cookshop, and all the people of Damascus stood in fear of his boldness and his mischief. So when the crowd saw the youth enter his shop, they dispersed, being afraid of him, and went their ways. The cook looked at Badr al-Din and, noting his beauty and loveliness, fell in love with him forthright and said: "Whence comest thou, O youth? Tell me at once thy tale, for thou art become dearer to me than my soul." So Hasan recounted to him all that had befallen him from beginning to end (but in repetition there is no fruition) and the cook said: "O my lord Badr al-Din, doubtless thou knowest that this case is wondrous and this story marvelous. Therefore, O my son, hide what hath betide thee, till Allah dispel what ills be thine, and tarry with me here the meanwhile, for I have no child and I will adopt thee." Badr al-Din replied, "Be it as thou wilt, O my uncle!" Whereupon the cook went to the bazaar and bought him a fine suit of clothes and made him don it, then fared with him to the kazi, and formally declared that he was his son. So Badr al-Din Hasan became known in Damascus city as the cook’s son, and he sat with him in the shop to take the silver, and on this wise he sojourned there for a time.
Thus far concerning him, but as regards his cousin, the Lady of Beauty, when morning dawned she awoke and missed Badr al-Din Hasan from her side; but she thought that he had gone to the privy and she sat expecting him for an hour or so, when behold, entered her father Shams al-Din Mohammed, Wazir of Egypt. Now he was disconsolate by reason of what had befallen him through the Sultan, who had entreated him harshly and had married his daughter by force to the lowest of his menials and he too a lump of a groom hunchbacked withal, and he said to himself, "I will slay this daughter of mine if her own free she had yielded her person to this accursed carle." So he came to the door of the bride’s private chamber, and said, "Ho! Sitt al-Husn." She answered him: "Here am I! Here am I! O my lord," and came out unsteady of pit after the pains and pleasures of the night. And she kissed his hand, her face showing redoubled brightness and beauty for having lain in the arms of that gazelle, her cousin.
When her father, the Wazir, saw her in such case, he asked her, "O thou accursed, art thou rejoicing because of this horse groom?" And Sitt al-Husn smiled sweetly and answered: "By Allah, don’t ridicule me. Enough of what passed yesterday when folk laughed at me, and evened me with that groom fellow who is not worthy to bring my husband’s shoes or slippers- nay, who is not worth the paring of my husband’s nails! By the Lord, never in my life have I nighted a night so sweet as yesternight, so don’t mock by reminding me of the Gobbo." When her parent heard her words he was filled with fury, and his eyes glared and stared, so that little of them showed save the whites and he cried: "Fie upon thee! What words are these? ’Twas the hunchbacked horse groom who passed the night with thee!" "Allah upon thee," replied the Lady of Beauty, "do not worry me about the Gobbo- Allah damn his father- and leave jesting with me, for this groom was only hired for ten dinars and a porringer of meat and he took his wage and went his way. As for me, I entered the bridal chamber, where I found my true bridegroom sitting, after the singer women had displayed me to him- the same who had crossed their hands with red gold till every pauper that was present waxed wealthy. And I passed the night on the breast of my bonny man, a most lively darling, with his black eyes and joined eyebrows."
When her parent heard these words, the light before his face became night, and he cried out at her, saying: "O thou whore! What is this thou tellest me? Where be thy wits?" "O my father," she rejoined, "thou breakest my heart. Enough for thee that thou hast been so hard upon me! Indeed my husband who took my virginity is but just now gone to the draught-house, and I feel that I have conceived by him." The Wazir rose in much marvel and entered the privy, where he found the hunchbacked horse groom with his head in the hole and his heels in the air. At this sight he was confounded and said, "This is none other than he, the rascal hunchback!" So he called to him, "Ho, Hunchback!" The Gobbo grunted out, "Taghum! Taghum!" thinking it was the Ifrit spoke to him, so the Wazir shouted at him and said, "Speak out, or I’ll strike off thy pate with this sword." Then quoth the hunchback, "By Allah, O Sheikh of the Ifrits, ever since thou settest me in this place I have not lifted my head, so Allah upon thee, take pity and entreat me kindly!"
When the Wazir heard this he asked: "What is this thou sayest? I’m the bride’s father and no Ifrit." "Enough for thee that thou hast well-nigh done me die," answered Quasimodo. "Now go thy ways before he come upon thee who hath served me thus. Could ye not marry me to any save the ladylove of buffaloes and the beloved of Ifrits? Allah curse her, and curse him who married me to her and was the cause of this my case." Then said the Wazir to him, "Up and out of this place!" "Am I mad," cried the groom, "that I should go with thee without leave of the Ifrit whose last words to me were: ’When the sun rises, arise and go thy gait.’ So hath the sun risen, or no? For I dare not budge from this place till then." Asked the Wazir, "Who brought thee hither?" And he answered, "I came here yesternight for a call of nature and to do what none can do for me, when lo! a mouse came out of the water, and squeaked at me and swelled and waxed gross till it was big as a buffalo, and spoke to me words that entered my ears. Then he left me here and went away. Allah curse the bride and him who married me to her!"
The Wazir walked up to him and lifted his head out of the cesspool hole, and he fared forth running for dear life and hardly crediting that the sun had risen, and repaired to the Sultan, to whom he told all that had befallen him with the Ifrit. But the Wazir returned to the bride’s private chamber, sore troubled in spirit about her, and said to her, "O my daughter, explain this strange matter to me!" Quoth she: "’Tis simply this. The bridegroom to whom they displayed me yestereve lay with me all night, and took my virginity, and I am with child by him. He is my husband, and if thou believe me not, there are his turban twisted as it was, lying on the settle and his dagger and his trousers beneath the bed with a something, I wot not what, wrapped up in them."
When her father heard this, he entered the private chamber and found the turban which had been left there by Badr al-Din Hasan, his brother’s son, and he took it in hand and turned it over, saying, "This is the turban worn by Wazirs, save that it is of Mosul stuff." So he opened it and, finding what seemed to be an amulet sewn up in the fez, he unsewed the lining and took it out. Then he lifted up the trousers, wherein was the purse of the thousand gold pieces and opening that also, found in it a written paper. This he read, and it was the sale receipt of the Jew in the name of Badr al-Din Hasan son of Nur al-Din All, the Egyptian, and the thousand dinars were also there.
No sooner had Shams al-Din read this than he cried out with a loud cry and fell to the ground fainting, and as soon as he revived and understood the gist of the matter he marveled and said: "There is no god but the God, whose All-might is over all things! Knowest thou, O my daughter, who it was that became the husband of thy virginity?" "No," answered she, and he said: "Verily he is the son of my brother, thy cousin, and this thousand dinars is thy dowry. Praise be to Allah! And would I wot how this matter came about!" Then opened he the amulet which was sewn up and found therein a paper in the handwriting of his deceased brother, Nur al-Din the Egyptian, father of Badr al-Din Hasan. And when he saw the handwriting, he kissed it again and again, and he wept and wailed over his dead brother. Then he read the scroll and found in it recorded the dates of his brother’s marriage with the daughter of the Wazir of Bassorah, and of his going in to her, and her conception, and the birth of Badr al-Din Hasan, and all his brother’s history and doings up to his dying day.
So he marveled much and shook with joy and, comparing the dates with his own marriage and going in unto his wife and the birth of his daughter, Sitt al-Husn, he found that they perfectly agreed. So he took the document and, repairing with it to the Sultan, acquainted him with what had passed, from first to last, whereat the King marveled and commanded the case to be at once recorded. The Wazir abode that day expecting to see his brother’s son, but he came not, and he waited a second day, a third day, and so on to the seventh day without any tidings of him. So he said, "By Allah, I will do a deed such as none hath ever done before me!" And he took reed pen and ink and drew upon a sheet of paper the plan of the whole house, showing whereabouts was the private chamber with the curtain in such a place and the furniture in such another and so on with all that was in the room. Then he folded up the sketch and, causing all the furniture to be collected, he took Badr al-Din’s garments and the turban and fez and robe and purse, and carried the whole to his house and locked them up, against the coming of his nephew, Badr al-Din Hasan, the son of his lost brother, with an iron padlock on which he set his seal.
As for the Wazir’s daughter, when her tale of months was fulfilled, she bare a son like the full moon, the image of his father in beauty and loveliness and fair proportions and perfect grace. They cut his navel string and kohled his eyelids to strengthen his eyes, and gave him over to the nurses and nursery governesses, naming him Ajib, the Wonderful. His day was as a month and his month was as a year, and when seven years had passed over him, his grandfather sent him to school, enjoining the master to teach him Koran-reading, and to educate him well. He remained at the school four years, till he began to bully his schoolfellows and abuse them and bash them and thrash them and say: "Who among you is like me? I am the son of the Wazir of Egypt!
At last the boys came in a body to complain to the monitor of what hard usage they were wont to have from Ajib, and he said to them: "I will tell you somewhat you may do to him so that he shall leave off coming to the school, and it is this. When he enters tomorrow, sit ye down about him and say some one of you to some other: ’By Allah, none shall play with us at this game except he tell us the names of his mamma and papa, for he who knows not the names of his mother and his father is a bastard, a son of adultery, and he shall not play with us."’ When morning dawned, the boys came to school, Ajib being one of them, and all flocked round him saying: "We will play a game wherein none shall join save he can tell the name of his mamma and his papa." And they all cried, "By Allah, good!" Then quoth one of them, "My name is Majid and my mammy’s name is Alawiyah and my daddy’s Izz al-Din." Another spoke in like guise and yet a third, till Ajib’s turn came, and he said, "My name is Ajib, and my mother’s is Sitt al-Husn, and my father’s Shams al-Din, the Wazir of Cairo." "By Allah," cried they, "the Wazir is not thy true father." Ajib answered, "The Wazir is my father in very deed." Then the boys all laughed and clapped their hands at him, saying: "He does not know who is his papa. Get out from among us, for none shall play with us except he know his father’s name."
Thereupon they dispersed from around him and laughed him to scorn, so his breast was straitened and he well-nigh choked with tears and hurt feelings. Then said the monitor to him: "We know that the Wazir is thy grandfather, the father of thy mother, Sitt al-Husn, and not thy father. As for thy father, neither dost thou know him nor yet do we, for the Sultan married thy mother to the hunchbacked horse groom, but the Jinni came and slept with her and thou hast no known father. Leave, then, comparing thyself too advantageously with the littles ones of the school, till thou know that thou hast a lawful father, for until then thou wilt pass for a child of adultery amongst them. Seest thou not that even a huckster’s son knoweth his own sire? Thy grandfather is the Wazir of Egypt, but as for thy father, we wot him not and we say indeed that thou hast none. So return to thy sound senses!"
When Ajib heard these insulting words from the monitor and the schoolboys and understood the reproach they put upon him, he went out at once and ran to his mother, Sitt al-Husn, to complain, but he was crying so bitterly that his tears prevented his speech for a while. When she heard his sobs and saw his tears, her heart burned as though with fire for him, and she said: "O my son, why dost thou weep? Allah keep the tears from thine eyes! Tell me what hath betided thee." So he told her all that he heard from the boys and from the monitor and ended with asking, "And who, O my mother, is my father?" She answered, "Thy father is the Wazir of Egypt." But he said: "Do not lie to me. The Wazir is thy father, not mine! Who then is my father? Except thou tell me the very truth I will kill myself with this hanger."
When his mother heard him speak of his father she wept, remembering her cousin and her bridal night with him and all that occurred there and then, and she repeated these couplets:

"Love in my heart they lit and went their ways,
And all I love to furthest lands withdrew,
And when they left me sufferance also left,
And when we parted Patience bade adieu.
They fled and flying with my joys they fled,
In very constancy my spirit flew.
They made my eyelids flow with severance tears
And to the parting pang these drops are due.
And when I long to see reunion day, ruth I sue.
My groans prolonging sore for ruth I sue.
Then in my heart of hearts their shapes I trace,
And love and longing care and cark renew.
O ye whose names cling round me like a cloak,
Whose love yet closer than a shirt I drew,
Beloved ones, how long this hard despite?
How long this severance and this coy shy flight?"

Then she wailed and shrieked aloud and her son did the like, and behold, in came the Wazir, whose heart burnt within him at the sight of their lamentations and he said, "What makes you weep?" So the Lady of Beauty acquainted him with what happened between her son and the schoolboys, and he also wept, calling to mind his brother and what had past between them and what had betided his daughter and how be had failed to find out what mystery there was in the matter. Then he rose at once and, repairing to the audience hall, went straight to the King and told his tale and craved his permission to travel eastward to the city of Bassorah and ask after his brother’s son. Furthermore, he besought the Sultan to write for him letters patent, authorizing him to seize upon Badr al-Din, his nephew and son-in-law, wheresoever he might find him. And he wept before the King, who had pity on him and wrote royal autographs to his deputies in all climes and countries and cities, whereat the Wazir rejoiced and prayed for blessings on him.
Then, taking leave of his sovereign, he returned to his house, where he equipped himself and his daughter and his adopted child Ajib with all things meet for a long march, and set out and traveled the first day and the second and the third and so forth till he arrived at Damascus city. The Wazir encamped on the open space called AlHasa, and after pitching tents, said to his servants, "A halt here for two days!" So they went into the city upon their several occasions, this to sell and that to buy, this to go to the hammam and that to visit the cathedral mosque of the Banu Umayyah, the Ommiades, whose like is not in this world. Ajib also went, with his attendant eunuch, for solace and diversion to the city, and the servant followed with a quarterstaff of almond wood so heavy that if he struck a camel therewith the beast would never rise again.

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