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

So Ajib and the eunuch entered the shop, and his father set before them a saucerful of conserve of pomegranate grains. Said Ajib: "Sit thee down and eat with us. So haply shall Allah dispel our sorrows." Hasan the Bassorite was joyful and sat down and ate with them, but his eyes kept gazing fixedly on Ajib’s face, for his very heart and vitals clove to him, and at last the boy said to him: "Did I not tell thee thou art a most noyous dotard? So do stint thy staring in my face!" Hansan kept putting morsels into Ajib’s mouth at one time and at another time did the same by the eunuch, and they ate till they were satisfied and could no more. Then all rose up and the cook poured water on their hands, and loosing a silken waist shawl, dried them and sprinkled them with rose-water from a casting bottle he had by him. Then he went out and presently returned with a gugglet of sherbet flavored with rose-water, scented with musk, and cooled with snow, and he set this before them saying, "Complete your kindness to me!" So Ajib took the gugglet and drank and passed it to the eunuch, and it went round till their stomachs were full and they were surfeited with a meal larger than their wont.
Then they went away and made haste in walking till they reached the tents, and Ajib went in to his grandmother, who kissed him and, thinking of her son Badr al-Din Hasan, groaned aloud and wept. Then she asked Ajib: "O my son! Where hast thou been?" And he answered, "In Damascus city." Whereupon she rose and set before him a bit of scone and a saucer of conserve of pomegranate grains (which was too little sweetened), and she said to the eunuch, "Sit down with thy master!" Said the servant to himself: "By Allah, we have no mind to eat. I cannot bear the smell of bread." But he sat down, and so did Ajib, though his stomach was full of what he had eaten already and drunken. Nevertheless he took a bit of the bread and dipped it in the pomegranate conserve and made shift to eat it, but he found it too little sweetened, for he was cloyed and surfeited, so he said, "Faugh, what be this wild-beast stuff?" "O my son," cried his grandmother, "dost thou find fault with my cookery? I cooked this myself and none can cook it as nicely as I can, save thy father, Badr al-Din Hasan." "By Allah, O my lady," Ajib answered, "this dish is nasty stuff, for we saw but now in the city of Bassorah a cook who so dresseth pomegranate grains that the very smell openeth a way to the heart and the taste would make a full man long to eat. And as for this mess compared with his, ’tis not worth either much or little."
When his grandmother heard his words, she waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and looked at the servant and said: "Woe to thee! Dost thou spoil my son, and dost take him into common cookshops?" The eunuch was frightened and denied, saying, "We did not go into the shop, we only passed by it." "By Allah," cried Ajib, "but we did go in, and we ate till it came out of our nostrils, and the dish was better than thy dish!" Then his grandmother rose and went and told her brother-in-law, who was incensed against the eunuch, and sending for him, asked him, "Why didst thou take my son into a cookshop?" And the eunuch, being frightened, answered, "We did not go in." But Ajib said, "We did go inside and ate conserve of pomegranate grains till we were fall, and the cook gave us to drink of iced and sugared sherbet."
At this the Wazir’s indignation redoubled and he questioned the castrato, but as he still denied, the Wazir said to him, "If thou speak sooth, sit down and eat before us." So he came forward and tried to eat, but could not, and threw away the mouthful crying: "O my lord! I am surfeited since yesterday." By this the Wazir was certified that he had eaten at the cook’s, and bade the slaves throw him, which they did. Then they came down on him with a rib-basting which burned him till he cried for mercy and help from Allah, saying, "O my master, beat me no more and I will tell thee the truth." Whereupon the Wazir stopped the bastinado and said, "Now speak thou sooth." Quoth the eunuch, "Know then that we did enter the shop of a cook while he was dressing conserve of pomegranate grains, and he set some of it before us. By Allah! I never ate in my life its like, nor tasted aught nastier than this stuff which is now before us." Badr al-Din Hasan’s mother was angry at this and said, "Needs must thou go back to the cook and bring me a saucer of conserved pomegranate grains from that which is in his shop and show it to thy master, that he may say which be the better and the nicer, mine or his." Said the unsexed, "I will."
So on the instant she gave him a saucer and a half-dinar and he returned to the shop and said to the cook, "O Sheikh of all Cooks, we have laid a wager concerning thy cookery in my lord’s house, for they have conserve of pomegranate grains there also. So give me this half-dinar’s worth and look to it, for I have eaten a full meal of stick on account of thy cookery, and so do not let me eat aught more thereof." Hasan of Bassorah laughed and answered: "By Allah, none can dress this dish as it should be dressed save myself and my mother, and she at this time is in a far country." Then he ladled out a saucerful and, finishing it off with musk and rose-water, put it in a cloth, which he sealed, and gave it to the eunuch, who hastened back with it. No sooner had Badr al-Din Hasan’s mother tasted it and perceived its fine flavor and the excellence of the cookery then she knew who had dressed it, and she screamed and fell down fainting.
The Wazir, sorely startled, sprinkled rose-water upon her, and after a time she recovered and said: "If my son be yet of this world, none dressed this conserve of pomegranate grains but he, and this cook is my very son Badr al-Din Hasan. There is no doubt of it, nor can there be any mistake, for only I and he knew how to prepare it and I taught him." When the Wazir heard her words, he joyed with exceeding joy and said: "Oh, the longing of me for a sight of my brother’s son! I wonder if the days will ever unite us with him! Yet it is to Almighty Allah alone that we look for bringing about this meeting." Then he rose without stay or delay and, going to his suite, said to them, "Be off, some fifty of you, with sticks and staves to the cook’s shop and demolish it, then pinion his arms behind him with his own turban, saying, ’It was thou madest that foul mess of pomegranate grains!’ And drag him here perforce, but without doing him a harm." And they replied, "It is well."
Then the Wazir rode off without losing an instant to the palace and, forgathering with the Viceroy of Damascus, showed him the Sultan’s orders. After careful perusal he kissed the letter and placing it upon his head, said to his visitor, "Who is this offender-of thine?" Quoth the Wazir, "A man which is a cook." So the Viceroy at once sent his apparitors to the shop, which they found demolished and everything in it broken to pieces, for whilst the Wazir was riding to the palace his men had done his bidding. Then they awaited his return from the audience, and Hasan of Bassorah, who was their prisoner, kept saying, "I wonder what they have found in the conserve of pomegranate grains to bring things to this pass!"
When the Wazir returned to them after his visit to the Viceroy, who had given him formal permission to take up his debtor and depart with him, on entering the tents he called for the cook. They brought him forward pinioned with his turban, and, when Badr al-Din Hasan saw his uncle, he wept with exceeding weeping and said, "O my lord, what is my offense against thee?" "Art thou the man who dressed that conserve of pomegranate grains?" asked the Wazir, and he answered "Yes! Didst thou find in it aught to call for the cutting off of my head?" Quoth the Wazir, "That were the least of thy deserts!" Quoth the cook, "O my lord, wilt thou not tell me my crime, and what aileth the conserve of pomegranate grains?" "Presently," replied the Wazir, and called aloud to his men, saying "Bring hither the camels."
So they struck the tents and by the Wazir’s orders the servants took Badr al-Din Hasan and set him in a chest which they padlocked and put on a camel. Then they departed and stinted not journeying till nightfall, when they halted and ate some victual, and took Badr al-Din Hasan out of his chest and gave him a meal and locked him up again. They set out once more and traveled till they reached Kimrah, where they took him out of the box and brought him before the Wazir, who asked him, "Art thou he who dressed that conserve of pomegranate grains?" He answered "Yes, O my lord!" and the Wazir said, "Fetter him!" So they fettered him and returned him to the chest and fared on again till they reached Cairo and lighted at the quarter called Al-Raydaniyah. Then the Wazir gave order to take Badr al-Din Hasan out of the chest and sent for a carpenter and said to him, "Make me a cross of wood for this fellow!" Cried Badr al-Din Hasan, "And what wilt thou do with it?" and the Wazir replied, "I mean to crucify thee thereon, and nail thee thereto and parade thee all about the city."
"And why wilt thou use me after this fashion?" "Because of thy villainous cookery of conserved pomegranate grains. How durst thou dress it and sell it lacking pepper?" "And for that it lacked pepper, wilt thou do all this to me? Is it not enough that thou hast broken my shop and smashed my gear and boxed me up in a chest and fed me only once a day?" "Too little pepper! Too little pepper! This is a crime which can be expiated only upon the cross!" Then Badr al-Din Hasan marveled and fell a-mourning for his life, whereupon the Wazir asked him, "Of what thinkest thou?" and he answered him, "Of maggoty heads like thine, for an thou had one ounce of sense, thou hadst not treated me thus." Quoth the Wazir, "It is our duty to punish thee, lest thou do the like again." Quoth Badr al-Din Hasan, "Of a truth my offense were overpunished by the least of what thou hast already done to me, and Allah damn all conserve of pomegranate grains and curse the hour when I cooked it, and would I had died ere this!" But the Wazir rejoined, "There is no help for it. I must crucify a man who sells conserve of pomegranate grains lacking pepper."
All this time the carpenter was shaping the wood and Badr al-Din looked on, and thus they did till night, when his uncle took him and clapped him into the chest, saying, "The thing shall be done tomorrow!" Then he waited till he knew Badr al-Din Hasan to be asleep, when he mounted and, taking the chest up before him, entered the city and rode on to his own house, where he alighted and said to his daughter, Sitt al-Husn, "Praised be Allah Who hath reunited thee with thy husband, the son of thine uncle! Up now, and order the house as it was on thy bridal night." So the servants arose and lit the candles, and the Wazir took out his plan of the nuptial chamber, and directed them what to do till they had set everything in its stead, so that whoever saw it would have no doubt but it was the very night of the marriage. Then he bade them put down Badr al-Din Hasan’s turban on the settle, as he had deposited it with his own hand, and in like manner his bag trousers and the purse which were under the mattress, and told his daughter to undress herself and go to bed in the private chamber as on her wedding night, adding: "When the son of thine uncle comes in to thee say to him, ’Thou hast loitered while going to the privy,’ and call him to lie by thy side and keep him in converse till daybreak, when we will explain the whole matter to him."
Then he bade take Badr al-Din Hasan out of the chest, after loosing the fetters from his feet and stripping off all that was on him save the fine shirt of blue silk in which he had slept on his wedding night, so that he was well-nigh naked, and trouserless. All this was done whilst he was sleeping on utterly unconscious. Then, by doom of Destiny, Badr al-Din Hasan turned over and awoke, and finding himself in a lighted vestibule, said to himself, "Surely I am in the mazes of some dream." So he rose and went on a little to an inner door and looked in, and lo! he was in the very chamber wherein the bride had been displayed to him, and there he saw the bridal alcove and the settle and his turban and all his clothes.
When he saw this, he was confounded, and kept advancing with one foot and retiring with the other, saying, "Am I sleeping or waking?" And he began rubbing his forehead and saying (for indeed he was thoroughly astounded): "By Allah, verily this is the chamber of the bride who was displayed before me! Where am I, then? I was surely but now in a box!" Whilst he was talking with himself, Sitt al-Husn suddenly lifted the corner of the chamber curtain and said, "O my lord, wilt thou not come in? Indeed thou hast loitered long in the watercloset." When he heard her words and saw her face, he burst out laughing and said, "Of a truth this is a very nightmare among dreams!" Then he went in sighing, and pondered what had come to pass with him and was perplexed about his case, and his affair became yet more obscure to him when he saw his turban and bag trousers and when, feeling the pocket, he found the purse containing the thousand gold pieces. So he stood still and muttered: "Allah is All-knowing! Assuredly I am dreaming a wild waking dream!"
Then said the Lady of Beauty to him, "What ails thee to look puzzled and perplexed?" adding, "Thou wast a very different man during the first of the night!" He laughed and asked her, "How long have I been away from thee?" and she answered him: "Allah preserve thee and His Holy Name be about thee! Thou didst but go out an hour ago for an occasion and return. Are thy wits clean gone?" When Badr al-Din Hasan heard this, he laughed and said: "Thou hast spoken truth, but when I went out from thee, I forgot myself awhile in the draughthouse and dreamed that I was a cook at Damascus and abode there ten years, and there came to me a boy who was of the sons of the great, and with him a eunuch." Here he passed his hand over his forehead and, feeling the scar, cried: "By Allah, O my lady, it must have been true, for he struck my forehead with a stone and cut it open from eyebrow to eyebrow, and here is the mark, so it must have been on wake." Then he added: "But perhaps I dreamt it when we fell asleep, I and thou, in each other’s arms, for meseems it was as though I traveled to Damascus without tarboosh and trousers and set up as a cook there."
Then he was perplexed and considered for a while, and said: "By Allah, I also fancied that I dressed a conserve of pomegranate grains and put too little pepper in it. By Allah, I must have slept in the numero-cent and have seen the whole of this is a dream, but how long was that dream!" "Allah upon thee," said Sitt al-Husn, "and what more sawest thou?" So he related all to her, and presently said, "By Allah, had I not woke up, they would have nailed me to a cross of wood!" "Wherefore?" asked she, and he answered: "For putting too little pepper in the conserve of pomegranate grains, and meseemed they demolished my shop and dashed to pieces my pots and pans, destroyed all my stuff, and put me in a box. Then they sent for the carpenter to fashion a cross for me and would have crucified me thereon. Now Alhamdolillah! thanks be to Allah, for that all this happened to me in sleep, and not on wake." Sitt al-Husn laughed and clasped him to her bosom and he her to his.
Then he thought again and said: "By Allah, it could not be save while I was awake. Truly I know not what to think of it." Then he lay down, and all the night he was bewildered about his case, now saying, "I was dreaming!" and then saying, "I was awake!" till morning, when his uncle Shams al-Din, the Wazir, came too him and saluted him. When Badr al-Din Hasan saw him he said: "By Allah, art thou not he who bade bind my hands behind me and smash my shop and nail me to a cross on a matter of conserved pomegranate grains because the dish lacked a sufficiency of pepper?" Whereupon the Wazir said to him: "Know, O my son, that truth hath shown it soothfast and the concealed hath been revealed! Thou art the son of my brother, and I did all this with thee to certify myself that thou wast indeed he who went in unto my daughter that night. I could not be sure of this till I saw that thou knewest the chamber and thy turban and thy trousers and thy gold and the papers in thy writing and in that of thy father, my brother, for I had never seen thee afore that and knew thee not. And as to thy mother, I have prevailed upon her to come with me from Bassorah."
So saying, he threw himself on his nephew’s breast and wept for joy, and Badr al-Din Hasan, hearing these words from his uncle, marveled with exceeding marvel and fell on his neck and also shed tears for excess of delight. Then said the Wazir to him, "O my son, the sole cause of all this is what passed between me and thy sire," and he told him the manner of his father wayfaring to Bassorah and all that had occurred to part them. Lastly the Wazir sent for Ajib, and when his father saw him he cried, "And this is he who struck me with the stone!" Quoth the Wazir, "This is thy son!" And Badr al-Din Hasan threw himself upon his boy and began repeating:

"Long have I wept o’er severance’ ban and bane,
Long from mine eyelids tear rills rail and rain.
And vowed I if Time reunion bring,
My tongue from name of "Severance" I’ll restrain.
Joy hath o’ercome me to this stress that I
From joy’s revulsion to shed tears am fain.
Ye are so trained to tears, O eyne of me!
You weep with pleasure as you weep in pain."

When he had ended his verse his mother came in and threw herself upon him and began reciting:

"When we met we complained,
Our hearts were sore wrung.
But plaint is not pleasant
Fro’ messenger’s tongue."

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