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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 1 - 60/63 -

It was near night when this dismal scene concluded. The mother and daughter were both conducted back to king Mahummud's palace. Not being used to walk bare-foot, they were so spent, that they lay a long time in a swoon. The queen of Damascus, highly afflicted at their misfortunes, notwithstanding the caliph's prohibition to relieve them, sent some of her women to comfort them, with all sorts of refreshments and wine, to recover their spirits.

The queen's women found them still in a swoon, and almost past receiving any benefit by what they offered them. However, with much difficulty they were brought to themselves. Ganem's mother immediately returned them thanks for their courtesy. "My good madam," said one of the queen's ladies to her, "we are highly concerned at your affliction, and the queen of Syria, our mistress, has done us a favour in employing us to assist you. We can assure you, that princess is much afflicted at your misfortunes, as well as the king her consort." Ganem's mother entreated the queen's women to return her majesty a thousand thanks from her and her daughter, and then directing her discourse to the lady who spoke to her, "Madam," said she, "the king has not told me why the chief of the believers inflicts so many outrages on us: pray be pleased to tell us what crimes we have been guilty of." "My good lady," answered the other, "the origin of your misfortunes proceeds from your son Ganem. He is not dead, as you imagine. He is accused of having seduced the beautiful Fetnah, the best beloved of the caliph's favourites; but having, by flight, withdrawn himself from that prince's indignation, the punishment is fallen on you. All condemn the caliph's resentment, but all fear him; and you see king Zinebi himself dares not resist his orders, for fear of incurring his displeasure. All we can do is to pity you, and exhort you to have patience."

"I know my son," answered Ganem's mother; "I have educated him carefully, and in that respect which is due to the commander of the believers. He cannot have committed the crime he is accused of; I dare answer for his innocence. But I will cease to murmur and complain, since it is for him that I suffer, and he is not dead. O Ganem!" added she, in a transport of affection and joy, "my dear son Ganem! is possible that you are still alive? I am no longer concerned for the loss of my fortune; and how harsh and unjust soever the caliph's orders may be, I forgive him, provided heaven has preserved my son. I am only concerned for my daughter; her sufferings alone afflict me; yet I believe her to be so good a sister as to follow my example."

On hearing these words, the young lady, who till then had appeared insensible, turned to her mother, and clasping her arms about her neck, "Yes, dear mother," said she, "I will always follow your example, whatever extremity your love for my brother may reduce us to."

The mother and daughter thus interchanging their sighs and tears, continued a considerable time in such moving embraces. In the mean time the queen's women, who were much affected at the spectacle, omitted no persuasions to prevail with Ganem's mother to take some sustenance. She ate a morsel out of complaisance, and her daughter did the like.

The caliph having ordered that Ganem's kindred should be exposed three days successively to the sight of the people, in the condition already mentioned, the unhappy ladies afforded the same spectacle the second time next day, from morning till night. But that day and the following, the streets, which at first had been full of people, were now quite empty. All the merchants, incensed at the ill usage of Abou Ayoub's widow and daughter, shut up their shops, and kept themselves close within their houses. The ladies, instead of looking through their lattice windows, withdrew into the back parts of their houses. There was not a person to be seen in the public places through which those unfortunate women were carried. It seemed as if all the inhabitants of Damascus had abandoned their city.

On the fourth day, the king resolving punctually to obey the caliph's orders, though he did not approve of them, sent criers into all quarters of the city to make proclamation, strictly commanding all the inhabitants of Damascus, and strangers, of what condition soever, upon pain of death, and having their bodies cast to the dogs to be devoured, not to receive Ganem's mother and sister into their houses, or give them a morsel of bread or a drop of water, and, in a word, not to afford them the least support, or hold the least correspondence with them.

When the criers had performed what the king had enjoined them, that prince ordered the mother and the daughter to be turned out of the palace, and left to their choice to go where they thought fit. As soon as they appeared, all persons fled from them, so great an impression had the late prohibition made upon all. They easily perceived that every body shunned them; but not knowing the reason, were much surprised; and their amazement was the greater, when coming into any street, or among any persons, they recollected some of their best friends, who immediately retreated with as much haste as the rest. "What is the meaning of this," said Ganem's mother; "do we carry the plague about us? Must the unjust and barbarous usage we have received render us odious to our fellow-citizens? Come, my child," added she, "let us depart from Damascus with all speed; let us not stay any longer in a city where we are become frightful to our very friends."

The two wretched ladies, discoursing in this manner, came to one of the extremities of the city, and retired to a ruined house to pass the night. Thither some Mussulmauns, out of charity and compassion, resorted to them after the day was shut in. They carried them provisions, but durst not stay to comfort them, for fear of being discovered, and punished for disobeying the caliph's orders.

In the mean time king Zinebi had let fly a pigeon to give the caliph an account of his exact obedience. He informed him of all that had been executed, and conjured him to direct what he would have done with Ganem's mother and sister. He soon received the caliph's answer in the same way, which was, that he should banish them from Damascus for ever. Immediately the king of Syria sent men to the old house, with orders to take the mother and daughter, and to conduct them three days' journey from Damascus, and there to leave them, forbidding them ever to return to the city.

Zinebi's men executed their commission, but being less exact their master, in the strict performance of the caliph's orders, they in pity gave the wretched ladies some small pieces of money, and each of them a scrip, which they hung about their necks, to carry their provisions.

In this miserable state they came to the first village. The peasants' wives flocked about them, and, as it appeared through their disguise that they were people of some condition, asked them what was the occasion of their travelling in a habit that did not seem to belong to them. Instead of answering the question, they fell to weeping, which only served to heighten the curiosity of the peasants, and to move their compassion. Ganem's mother told them what she and her daughter had endured; at which the good countrywomen were sensibly afflicted, and endeavoured to comfort them. They treated them as well as their poverty would permit, took off their horse-hair shifts, which were very uneasy to them, and put on them others which they gave them, with shoes, and something to cover their heads, and save their hair.

Having expressed their gratitude to those charitable women, Jalib al Koolloob and her mother departed from that village, taking short journeys towards Aleppo. They used at dusk to retire near or into the mosques, where they passed the night on the mat, if there was any, or else on the bare pavement; and sometimes rested in the public places appointed for the use of travellers. As for sustenance, they did not want, for they often came to places where bread, boiled rice, and other provisions are distributed to all travellers who desire it.

At length they came to Aleppo, but would not stay there, and continuing their journey towards the Euphrates, crossed the river, and entered Mesopotamia, which they traversed as far as Moussoul. Thence, notwithstanding all they had endured, they proceeded to Bagdad. That was the place they had fixed their thoughts upon, hoping to find Ganem, though they ought not to have fancied that he was in a city where the caliph resided; but they hoped, because they wished it; their affection for him increasing instead of diminishing, with their misfortunes. Their conversation was generally about him, and they inquired for him of all they met. But let us leave Jalib al Koolloob and her mother, and return to Fetnah.

She was still confined closely in the dark tower, since the day that had been so fatal to Ganem and herself. However, disagreeable as her prison was to her, it was much less grievous than the thoughts of Ganem's misfortune, the uncertainty of whose fate was a killing affliction. There was scarcely a moment in which she did not lament him.

The caliph was accustomed to walk frequently at night within the enclosure of his palace, for he was the most inquisitive prince in the world, and sometimes, by those night-walks, came to the knowledge of things that happened in his court, which would otherwise never have reached his ear. One of those nights, in his walk, he happened to pass by the dark tower, and fancying he heard somebody talk, stops, and drawing near the door to listen, distinctly heard these words, which Fetnah, whose thoughts were always on Ganem, uttered with a loud voice: "O Ganem, too unfortunate Ganem! where are you at this time, whither has thy cruel fate led thee? Alas! it is I that have made you wretched! why did you not let me perish miserably, rather than afford me your generous relief? What melancholy return have you received for your care and respect? The commander of the faithful, who ought to have rewarded, persecutes you; and in requital for having always regarded me as a person reserved for his bed, you lose your fortune, and are obliged to seek for safety in flight. O caliph, barbarous caliph, how can you exculpate yourself, when you shall appear with Ganem before the tribunal of the Supreme Judge, and the angels shall testify the truth before your face? All the power you are now invested with, and which makes almost the whole world tremble, will not prevent your being condemned and punished for your violent and unjust proceedings." Here Fetnah ceased her complaints, her sighs and tears putting a stop to her utterance.

This was enough to make the caliph reflect. He plainly perceived, that if what he had heard was true, his favourite must be innocent, and that he had been too hasty in giving such orders against Ganem and his family. Being resolved to be rightly informed in an affair which so nearly concerned him in point of

The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 1 - 60/63

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