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

When the people of Damascus saw Ajib’s beauty and brilliancy and perfect grace and symmetry (for he was a marvel of comeliness and winning loveliness, softer than the cool breeze of the North, sweeter than limpid waters to man in drought, and pleasanter than the health for which sick man sueth), a mighty many followed him, whilst others ran on before and sat down on the road until he should come up, that they might gaze on him, till, as Destiny stopped opposite the shop of Ajib’s father, Badr al-Din Hasan. Now his beard had grown long and thick and his wits had ripened during the twelve years which had passed over him, and the cook and ex-rogue having died, the so-called Hasan of Bassorah had succeeded to his goods and shop, for that he had been formally adopted before the kazi and witnesses. When his son and the eunuch stepped before him, he gazed on Ajib and, seeing how very beautiful he was, his heart fluttered and throbbed, and blood drew to blood and natural affection spake out and his bowels yearned over him. He had just dressed a conserve of pomegranate grains with sugar, and Heaven implanted love wrought within him, so he called to his son Ajib and said: "O my lord, O thou who hast gotten the mastery of my heart and my very vitals and to whom my bowels yearn, say me, wilt thou enter my house and solace my soul by eating of my meat?"
Then his eyes streamed with tears which he could not stay, for he bethought him of what he had been and what he had become. When Ajib heard his father’s words, his heart also yearned himward, and he looked at the eunuch and said to him: "Of a truth, O my good guard, my heart yearns to this cook. He is as one that hath a son far away from him. So let us enter and gladden his heart by tasting of his hospitality. Perchance for our so doing Allah may reunite me with my father." When the eunuch heard these words, he cried: "A fine thing this, by Allah! Shall the sons of Wazirs be seen eating in a common cookshop? Indeed I keep off the folk from thee with this quarterstaff lest they even look upon thee, and I dare not suffer thee to enter this shop at all."
When Hasan of Bassorah heard his speech he marveled and turned to the eunuch with the tears pouring down his cheeks, and Ajib said, "Verily my heart loves him!" But he answered: "Leave this talk. Thou shalt not go in." Thereupon the father turned to the eunuch and said, "O worthy sir, why wilt thou not gladden my soul by entering my shop? O thou who art like a chestnut, dark without but white of heart within! O thou of the like, of whom a certain poet said..." The eunuch burst out a-laughing and asked: "Said what? Speak out, by Allah, and be quick about it." So Hasan the Bassorite began reciting these couplets:

"If not master of manners or aught but discreet,
In the household of kings no trust could he take,
And then for the harem! What eunuch is he
Whom angels would serve for his service’ sake?"

The eunuch marveled and was pleased at these words, so he took Ajib by the hand and went into the cook’s shop; whereupon Hasan the Bassorite ladled into a saucer some conserve of pomegranate grains wonderfully good, dressed with almonds and sugar, saying: "You have honored me with your company. Eat, then, and health and happiness to you!" Thereupon Ajib said to his father, "Sit thee down and eat with us, so perchance Allah may unite us with him we long for." Quoth Hasan, "O my son, hast thou then been afflicted in thy tender years with parting from those thou lovest?" Quoth Ajib: "Even so, O nuncle mine. My heart burns for the loss of a beloved one who is none other than my father, and indeed I come forth, I and my grandfather, to circle and search the world for him. Oh, the pity of it, and how I long to meet him!" Then he wept with exceeding weeping, and his father also wept seeing him weep and for his own bereavement, which recalled to him his long separation from dear friends and from his mother, and the eunuch was moved to pity for him.
Then they ate together till they were satisfied, and Ajib and the slave rose and left the shop. Hereat Hasan the Bassorite felt as though his soul had departed his body and had gone with them, for he could not lose sight of the boy during the twinkling of an eye, albeit he knew not that Ajib was his son. So he locked up his shop and hastened after them, and he walked so fast that he came up with them before they had gone out of the western gate. The eunuch turned and asked him, "What ails thee?" and Badr al-Din answered, "When ye went from me, meseemed my soul had gone with you, and as I had business without the city gate, I purposed to bear you company till my matter was ordered, and so return." The eunuch was angered, and said to Ajib: "This is just what I feared! We ate that unlucky mouthful (which we are bound to respect), and here is the fellow following us from place to place, for the vulgar are ever the vulgar."
Ajib, turning and seeing the cook just behind him, was wroth, and his face reddened with rage and he said to the servant: "Let him walk the highway of the Moslems, but when we turn off it to our tents and find that he still follows us, we will send him about his business with a flea in his ear." Then he bowed his head and walked on, the eunuch walking behind him. But Hasan of Bassorah followed them to the plain Al-Hasa, and as they drew near to the tents, they turned round and saw him close on their heels, so Ajib was very angry, fearing that the eunuch might tell his grandfather what had happened. His indignation was the hotter for apprehension lest any say that after he had entered a cookshop the cook had followed him. So he turned and looked at Hasan of Bassorah and found his eyes fixed on his own, for the father had become a body without a soul, and it seemed to Ajib that his eye was a treacherous eye or that he was some lewd fellow.
So his rage redoubled and, stooping down, he took up a stone weighing half a pound and threw it at his father. It struck him on the forehead, cutting it open from eyebrow to eyebrow and causing the blood to stream down, and Hasan fell to the ground in a swoon whilst Ajib and the eunuch made for the tents. When the father came to himself, he wiped away the blood and tore off a strip from his turban and bound up his head, blaming himself the while, and saying, "I wronged the lad by shutting up my shop and following, so that he thought I was some evil-minded fellow." Then he returned to his place, where he busied himself with the sale of his sweetmeats, and he yeamed after his mother at Bassorah, and wept over her and broke out repeating:

"Unjust it were to bid the world be just
And blame her not. She ne’er was made for justice.
Take what she gives thee, leave all grief aside,
For now to fair and then to foul her lust is."

So Hasan of Bassorah set himself steadily to sell his sweetmeats, but the Wazir, his uncle, halted in Damascus three days and then marched upon Emesa, and passing through that town, he made inquiry there, and at every place where he rested. Thence he fared on by way of Hamah and Aleppo and thence through Diyar Bakr and Maridin and Mosul, still inquiring, till he arrived at Bassorah city. Here, as soon as he had secured a lodging, he presented himself before the Sultan, who entreated him with high honor and the respect due to his rank, and asked the cause of his coming. The Wazir acquainted him with his history and told him that the Minister Nur al-Din was his brother, whereupon the Sultan exclaimed, "Allah have mercy upon him!" and added: "My good Sahib, he was my Wazir for fifteen years and I loved him exceedingly. Then he died leaving a son who abode only a single month after his father’s death, since which time he has disappeared and we could gain no tidings of him. But his mother, who is the daughter of my former Minister, is still among us."
When the Wazir Shams al-Din heard that his nephew’s mother was alive and well, he rejoiced and said, "O King, I much desire to meet her." The King on the instant gave him leave to visit her, so he betook himself to the mansion of his brother Nur al-Din and cast sorrowful glances on all things in and around it and kissed the threshold. Then he bethought him of his brother Nur al-Din Ali, and how he had died in a strange land far from kith and kin and friends, and he wept and repeated these lines:

"I wander ’mid these walls, my Lavla’s walls,
And kissing this and other wall I roam.
’Tis not the walls or roof my heart so loves,
But those who in this house had made their home."

Then he passed through the gate into a courtyard and found a vaulted doorway builded of hardest syenite inlaid with sundry kinds of multicolored marble. Into this he walked, and wandered about the house and, throwing many a glance around, saw the name of his brother Nur al-Din written in gold wash upon the walls. So he went up to the inscription and kissed it and wept and thought of how he had been separated from his brother and had now lost him forever.
Then he walked on till he came to the apartment of his brother’s widow, the mother of Badr al-Din Hasan, the Egyptian. Now from the time of her son’s disappearance she had never ceased weeping and wailing through the light hours and the dark, and when the years grew longsome with her, she built for him a tomb of marble in the midst of the saloon and there used to weep for him day and night, never sleeping save thereby. When the Wazir drew near her apartment, he heard her voice and stood behind the door while she addressed the sepulcher in verse and said:

"Answer, by Allah! Sepulcher, are all his beauties gone?
Hath change the power to blight his charms, that beauty’s paragon?
Thou art not earth, O Sepulcher! Nor art thou sky to me.
How comes it, then, in thee I see conjoint the branch and moon?

While she was bemoaning herself after this fashion, behold, the Wazir went in to her and saluted her and informed her that he was her husband’s brother, and, telling her all that had passed beween them, laid open before her the whole story- how her son Badr al-Din Hasan had spent a whole night with his daughter full ten years ago, but had disappeared in the morning. And he ended with saying: "My daughter conceived by thy son and bare a male child who is now with me, and he is thy son and thy son’s son by my daughter." When she heard the tidings that her boy Badr al-Din was still alive and saw her brother-in-law, she rose up to him and threw herself at his feet and kissed them. Then the Wazir sent for Ajib and his grandmother stood up and fell on his neck and wept, but Shams al-Din said to her: "This is no time for weeping. This is the time to get thee ready for traveling with us to the land of Egypt. Haply Allah will reunite me and thee with thy son and my nephew." Replied she, "Hearkening and obedience," and, rising at once, collected her baggage and treasures and her jewels, and equipped herself and her slave girls for the march, whilst the Wazir went to take his leave of the Sultan of Bassorah, who sent by him presents and rarities for the Sultan of Egypt.
Then he set out at once upon his homeward march and journeyed till he came to Damascus city, where he alighted in the usual place and pitched tents, and said to his suite, "We will halt a sennight here to buy presents and rare things for the Sultan." Now Ajib bethought him of the past, so he said to the eunuch: "O Laik, I want a little diversion. Come, let us go down to the great bazaar of Damascus and see what hath become of the cook whose sweetmeats we ate and whose head we broke, for indeed he was kind to us and we entreated him scurvily." The eunuch answered, "Hearing is obeying!" So they went forth from the tents, and the tie of blood drew Ajib toward his father, and forthwith they passed through the gateway, Bab al-Faradis hight, and entered the city and ceased not walking through the streets till they reached the cookshop, where they found Hasan of Bassorah standing at the door. It was near the time of midafternoon prayer, and it so fortuned that he had just dressed a confection of pomegranate grains.
When the twain drew near to him and Ajib saw him, his heart yearned toward him, and noticing the scar of the blow, which time had darkened on his brow, he said to him: "Peace be on thee, O man! Know that my heart is with thee." But when Badr al-Din looked upon his son, his vitals yearned and his heart fluttered, and he hung his head earthward and sought to make his tongue give utterance to his words, but he could not. Then he raised his head humbly and suppliant-wise toward his boy and repeated these couplets:

"I longed for my beloved, but when I saw his face,
Abashed I held my tongue and stood with downcast eye,
And hung my head in dread and would have hid my love,
But do whatso I would, hidden it would not he.
Volumes of plaints I had prepared, reproach and blame,
But when we met, no single word remembered I."

And then said he to them: "Heal my broken heart and eat of my sweetmeats, for, by Allah, I cannot look at thee but my heart flutters. Indeed I should not have followed thee the other day but that I was beside myself." "By Allah," answered Ajib, "thou dost indeed love us! We ate in thy house a mouthful when we were here before and thou madest us repent for it, for that thou followedst us and wouldst have disgraced us, so now we will not eat aught with thee save on condition that thou make oath not to go out after us nor dog us. Otherwise we will not visit thee again during our present stay, for we shall halt a week here whilst my grandfather buys certain presents for the King." Quoth Hasan of Bassorah, "I promise you this."

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