Aladdin: The Unfinished Window
Then Alaeddin preceded the Sultan till he conducted him to the upper Kiosque where he saw its skylights, windows and latticed casements and jalousies wholly made of emeralds and rubies and other costly gems; whereat his mind was perplexed and his wits were bewildered and his thoughts were distraught. Presently he took to strolling round the Kiosque and solacing himself with these sights which captured the vision, till he chanced to cast a glance at the window which Alaeddin by design had left unwrought and not finished like the rest; and, when he noted its lack of completion, he cried, “Woe and well away for thee, O window, because of thine imperfection;” ‡184 and, turning to his Minister he asked, “Knowest thou the reason of leaving incomplete this window and its framework?”
The Wazir said to the Sultan, “O my lord, I conceive that the want of finish in this window resulteth from thy Highness having pushed on Alaeddin's marriage and he lacked the leisure to complete it.” Now at that time, Alaeddin had gone in to his bride, the Lady Badr al-Budur, to inform her of her father's presence; and, when he returned, the King asked him, “O my son what is the reason why the window of this Kiosque was not made perfect?” “O King of the Age, seeing the suddenness of my wedding,” answered he, “I failed to find artists for finishing it.” Quoth the Sultan, “I have a mind to complete it myself;” and Quoth Alaeddin, “Allah perpetuate thy glory, O thou the King; so shall thy memory endure in thy daughter's pavilion.” The Sultan forthright bade summon jewellers and goldsmiths and ordered them be supplied from the treasury with all their needs of gold and gems and noble ores; and, when they were gathered together he commanded them to complete the work still wanting in the Kiosque-window. Meanwhile the Princess came forth to meet her sire the Sultan who noticed, as she drew near, her smiling face; so he embraced her and kissed her, then led her to the pavilion and all entered in a body.
Now this was the time of the noon day meal and one table had been spread for the Sovran, his daughter and his son-in-law and a second for the Wazirs, the Lords of the land, the Grandees of the realm, the Chief Officers of the host, the Chamberlains and the Nabobs. The King took seat between the Princess and her husband; and, when he put forth his hand to the food and tasted it, he was struck with surprise by the flavour of the dishes and their savoury and sumptuous cooking. Moreover, there stood before him the fourscore damsels each and every saying to the full moon, “Rise that I may seat myself in thy stead!” ‡185 All held instruments of mirth and merriment and they tuned the same and deftly moved their finger-tips and smote the strings into song most musical, most melodious, which expanded the mourner's heart. Hereby the Sultan was gladdened and time was good to him and for high enjoyment he exclaimed, “In very sooth the thing is beyond the compass of King and Kaysar.” Then they fell to eating and drinking; and the cup went round until they had drunken enough, when sweetmeats and fruits of sorts and other such edibles were served, the dessert being laid out in a different salon whither they removed and enjoyed of these pleasures their sufficiency. Presently the Sultan arose that he might see if the produce of his jewellers and goldsmiths favoured that of the pavilion; so he went upstairs to them and inspected their work and how they had wrought; but he noted a mighty great difference and his men were far from being able to make anything like the rest of Alaeddin's pavilion.
After the King had inspected the work of his jewellers and goldsmiths, they informed him how all the gems stored in the Lesser Treasury had been brought to them and used by them but that the whole had proved insufficient; wherefor he bade open the Greater Treasury and gave the workmen all they wanted of him. Moreover he allowed them, and it sufficed not, to take the jewels wherewith Alaeddin had gifted him. They carried off the whole and pushed on their labours but they found the gems fail them, albeit had they not yet finished half the part wanting to the Kiosque-window. Herewith the King commended them to seize all the precious stones owned by the Wazirs and Grandees of the realm; but, although they did his bidding, the supply still fell short of their requirements. Next morning Alaeddin arose to look at the jeweller's work and remarked that they had not finished a moiety of what was wanting to the Kiosque-window: so he at once ordered them to undo all they had done and restore the jewels to their owners. Accordingly, they pulled out the precious stones and sent the Sultan's to the Sultan and the Wazirs' to the Wazirs. Then the jewellers went to the King and told him of what Alaeddin had bidden; so he asked them, “What said he to you, and what was his reason and wherefore was he not content that the window be finished and why did he undo the work ye wrought?” They answered, “O our lord, we know not at all, but he bade us deface whatso we had done.”
Hereupon the Sultan at once called for his horse, and mounting, took the way pavilion-wards, when Alaeddin, after dismissing the goldsmiths and jewellers had retired into his closet and had rubbed the Lamp. Hereat straightway its Servitor appeared to him and said, “Ask whatso thou wantest: thy Slave is between thy hands;” and said Alaeddin, “ 'tis my desire that thou finish the window which was left unfinished.” The Marid replied, “On my head be it and also upon mine eyes!” then he vanished and after a little while returned saying, “O my lord, verily that thou commandedst me do is completed.” So Alaeddin went upstairs to the Kiosque and found the whole window in wholly finished state; and, whilst he was still considering it, behold, a castrato came in to him and said, “O my lord, the Sultan hath ridden forth to visit thee and is passing through the pavilion-gate.” So Alaeddin at once went down and received his father-in-law.
The Sultan, on sighting his son-in-law, cried to him, “Wherefore, O my child, hast thou wrought on this wise and sufferedst not the jewellers to complete the Kiosque-window leaving in the pavilion an unfinished place?” Alaeddin replied “O King of the Age, I left it not imperfect save for a design of mine own; nor was I incapable of perfecting it nor could I purpose that thy Highness should honour me with visiting a pavilion wherein was aught of deficiency. And, that thou mayest know I am not unable to make it perfect, let thy Highness deign walk upstairs with me and see if anything remain to be done therewith or not.” So the Sultan went up with him and, entering the Kiosque, fell to looking right and left, but he saw no default at all in any of the windows; nay, he noted that all were perfect. So he marvelled at the sight and embraced Alaeddin and kissed him, saying, “O my son, what be this singular feat? Thou canst work in a single night what in months the jewellers could not do. By Allah, I deem thou hast nor brother nor rival in this world.” Quoth Alaeddin, “Allah prolong thy life and preserve thee to perpetuity! thy slave deserveth not this encomium;” and Quoth the King, “By Allah, O my child, thou meritest all praise for a feat whereof all the artists of the world were incapable.” Then the Sultan came down and entered the apartments of his daughter the Lady Badr al-Budur, to take rest beside her, and he saw her joyous exceedingly at the glory and grandeur wherein she was; then, after reposing awhile he returned to his palace. Now Alaeddin was wont every day to thread the city-streets with his Mamelukes riding a-van and a-rear of him showering rightwards and leftwards gold upon the folk; and all the world, stranger and neighbour, far and near, were fulfilled of his love for the excess of his liberality and generosity. Moreover he increased the pensions of the poor Religious and the paupers and he would distribute alms to them with his own hand; by which good deed, he won high renown throughout the realm and most of the Lords of the land and Emirs would eat at his table; and men swore not at all save by his precious life. Nor did he leave faring to the chase and the Maydan-plain and the riding of horses and playing at javelin-play ‡186 in presence of the Sultan; and, whenever the Lady Badr al-Budur beheld him disporting himself on the backs of steeds, she loved him much the more, and thought to herself that Allah had wrought her abundant good by causing to happen whatso happened with the son of the Wazir and by preserving her virginity intact for her true bridegroom, Alaeddin.
Alaeddin won for himself day by day a fairer fame and a rarer report, while affection for him increased in the hearts of all the lieges and he waxed greater in the eyes of men. Moreover it chanced that in those days certain enemies took horse and attacked the Sultan, who armed and accoutred an army to repel them and made Alaeddin commander thereof. So he marched with his men nor ceased marching until he drew near the foe whose forces were exceeding many; and, presently, when the action began he bared his brand and charged home upon the enemy. Then battle and slaughter befel and violent was the hurry-burly, but at last Alaeddin broke the hostile host and put all to flight, slaying the best part of them and pillaging their coin and cattle, property and possessions; and he despoiled them of spoils that could not be counted nor computed. Then he returned victorious after a noble victory and entered the capital which had decorated herself in his honour, of her delight in him; and the Sultan went forth to meet him and giving him joy embraced him and kissed him; and throughout the kingdom was held high festival with great joy and gladness. ✲1