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The Second Kalandar’s Tale

KNOW, O my lady, that I was not born one-eyed, and mine is a strange story. And it were graven with needle graver on the eye corners, it were a warner to whoso would be warned. I am a king, son of a king, and was brought up like a prince. I learned intoning the Koran according the seven schools, and I read all manner books, and held disputations on their contents with the doctors and men of science. Moreover, I studied star lore and the fair sayings of poets, and I exercised myself in all branches of learning until I surpassed the people of my time. My skill in calligraphy exceeded that of all the scribes, and my fame was bruited abroad over all climes and cities, and all the kings learned to know my name.
Amongst others, the King of Hind heard of me and sent to my father to invite me to his court, with offerings and presents and rarities such as befit royalties. So my father fitted out six ships for me and my people, and we put to sea and sailed for the space of a full month till we made the land. Then we brought out the horses that were with us in the ships, and after loading the camels with our presents for the Prince, we set forth inland. But we had marched only a little way when behold, a dust cloud up flew, and grew until it walled the horizon from view. After an hour or so the veil lifted and discovered beneath it fifty horsemen, ravening lions to the sight, in steel armor dight. We observed them straightly and lo! they were cutters-off of the highway, wild as wild Arabs. When they saw that we were only four and had with us but the ten camels carrying the presents, they dashed down upon us with lances at rest. We signed to them with our fingers, as it were saying, "We be messengers of the great King of Hind, so harm us not!" But they answered on like wise, "We are not in his dominions to obey nor are we subject to his sway."
Then they set upon us and slew some of my slaves and put the lave to flight. And I also fled after I had gotten a wound, a grievous hurt, whilst the Arabs were taken up with the money and the presents which were with us. I went forth unknowing whither I went, having become mean as I was mighty, and I fared on until I came to the crest of a mountain, where I took shelter for the night in a cave. When day arose I set out again, nor ceased after this fashion till I arrived at a fair city and a well filled. Now it was the season when winter was turning away with his rime and to greet the world with his flowers came prime, and the young blooms were springing and the streams flowed ringing, and the birds were sweetly singing, as saith the poet concerning a certain city when describing it:

A place secure from every thought of fear,
Safety and peace forever lord it here.
Its beauties seem to beautify its sons
And as in Heaven its happy folk appear.

I was glad of my arrival, for I was wearied with the way, and yellow of face for weakness and want, but my plight was pitiable and I knew not whither to betake me. So I accosted a tailor sitting in his little shop and saluted him. He returned my salaam, and bade me kindly welcome and wished me well and entreated me gently and asked me of the cause of my strangerhood. I told him all my past from first to last, and he was concerned on my account and said: "O youth, disclose not thy secret to any. The King of this city is the greatest enemy thy father hath, and there is blood wite between them and thou hast cause to fear for thy life." Then he set meat and drink before me, and I ate and drank and he with me, and we conversed freely till nightfall, when he cleared me a place in a corner of his shop and brought me a carpet and a coverlet. I tarried with him three days, at the end of which time he said to me, "Knowest thou no calling whereby to will thy living, O my son?" "I am learned in the law," I replied, "and a doctor of doctrine, an adept in art and science, a mathematician, and a notable pen-man." He rejoined, "Thy calling is of no account in our city, where not a soul understandeth science or even writing, or aught save money-making." Then said I, "By Allah, I know nothing but what I have mentioned," and he answered, "Gird thy middle and take thee a hatchet and a cord, and go and hew wood in the wold for thy daily bread till Allah send thee relief, and tell none who thou art lest they slay thee."
Then he bought me an ax and a rope and gave me in charge to certain woodcutters, and with these guardians I went forth into the forest, where I cut fuel wood the whole of my day and came back in the evening bearing my bundle on my head. I sold it for half a dinar, with part of which I bought provision, and laid by the rest. In such work I spent a whole year, and when this was ended, I went out one day, as was my wont, into the wilderness and, wandering away from my companions, I chanced on a thickly grown lowland in which there was an abundance of wood. So I entered and I found the gnarled stump of a great tree and loosened the ground about it and shoveled away the earth. Presently my hatchet rang upon a copper ring, so I cleared away the soil and behold, the ring was attached to a wooden trapdoor. This I raised, and there appeared beneath it a staircase.
I descended the steps to the bottom and came to a door, which I opened and found myself in a noble hall strong of structure and beautifully built, where was a damsel like a pearl of great price, whose favor banished from my heart an grief and cark and care, and whose soft speech healed the soul in despair and captivated the wise and ware. Her figure measured five feet in height, her breasts were firm and upright, her cheek a very garden of delight, her color lively bright, her face gleamed like dawn through curly tresses which gloomed like night, and above the snows of her bosom glittered teeth of a pearly white. When I looked upon her I prostrated myself before Him who had created her, for the beauty and loveliness He had shaped in her, and she looked at me and said, "Art thou man or Jinni?" "I am a man," answered I, and she, "Now who brought thee to this place where I have abided five-and-twenty years without even yet seeing man in it?" Quoth I (and indeed I found her words wondersweet, and my heart was melted to the core by them), "O my lady, my good fortune led me hither for the dispelling of my cark and care."
Then I related to her all my mishap from first to last, and my case appeared to her exceeding grievous, so she wept and said: "I will tell thee my story in my turn. I am the daughter of the King Ifitamus, lord of the Islands of Abnus, who married me to my cousin, the son of my paternal uncle. But on my wedding night an Ifrit named Jirjis bin Rajmus, first cousin- this is, mother’s sister’s son- of Iblis, the Foul Fiend, snatched me up and, flying away with me like a bird, set me down in this place, wither he conveyed all I needed of fine stuffs, raiment and jewels and furniture, and meat and drink and other else. Once in every ten days he comes here and lies a single night with me, and then wends his way, for he took me without the consent of his family. And he hath agreed with me that if ever I need him by night or by day, I have only to pass my hand over yonder two lines engraved upon the alcove and he will appear to me before my fingers cease touching. Four days have now passed since he was here, and as there remain six days before he come again, say me, wilt thou abide with me five days, and go hence the day before his coming?" I replied "Yes, and yes again! O rare, if all this be not a dream!"
Hereat she was glad and, springing to her feet, seized my hand and carried me through an arched doorway to a hammam bath, a fair hall and richly decorate. I doffed my clothes, and she doffed hers, then we bathed and she washed me. And when this was done we left the bath, and she seated me by her side upon a high divan, and brought me sherbet scented with musk. When we felt cool after the bath, she set food before me and we ate and fell to talking, but presently she said to me, "Lay thee down and take thy rest, for surely thou must be weary." So I thanked her, my lady, and lay down and slept soundly, forgetting all that happened to me. When I awoke I found her subbing and shampooing my feet, so I again thanked her and blessed her and we sat for a while talking. Said she, "By Allah, I was sad at heart, for that I have dwelt alone underground for these five-and-twenty years, and praise be to Allah Who hath sent me someone with whom I can converse!" Then she asked, "O youth, what sayest thou to wine?" and I answered, "Do as thou wilt." Whereupon she went to a cupboard and took out a sealed flask of right old wine and set off the table with flowers and scented herbs and began to sing these lines:

"Had we known of thy coming we fain had dispread
The cores of our hearts or the balls of our eyes,
Our cheeks as a carpet to greet thee had thrown,
And our eyelids had strown for thy feet to betread."

Now when she finished her verse I thanked her, for indeed love of her had gotten hold of my heart, and my grief and anguish were gone. We sat at converse and carousal till nightfall, and with her I spent the night- such night never spent I in all my life! On the morrow delight followed delight till midday, by which time I had drunken wine so freely that I had lost my wits, and stood up, staggering to the right and to the left, and said "Come, O my charmer, and I will carry thee up from this underground vault and deliver thee from the spell of thy Jinni." She laughed and replied: "Content thee and hold thy peace. Of every ten days one is for the Ifrit and the other nine are thine." Quoth I (and in good sooth drink had got the better of me), "This very instant will I break down the alcove whereon is graven the talisman and summon the Ifrit that I may slay him, for it is a practice of mine to slay Ifrits!" When she heard my words, her color waxed wan and she said, "By Allah, do not!" and she began repeating:

"This is a thing wherein destruction lies.
I rede thee shun it an thy wits be wise."

And these also:

"O thou who seekest severance, draw the rein
Of thy swift steed nor seek o’ermuch t’ advance.
Ah stay! for treachery is the rule of life,
And sweets of meeting end in severance."

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