The Maghrabi, the Necromancer, went up to the folk who were talking of the miracles performed by the devout old woman and said to one of them, “O my uncle, I heard you all chatting about the prodigies of a certain saintess named Fatimah: who is she and where may be her abode?” “Marvellous!” ‡217 exclaimed the man: “How canst thou be in our city and yet never have heard about the miracles of the Lady Fatimah? Evidently, O thou poor fellow, thou art a foreigner, since the fastings of this devotee and her asceticism in worldly matters and the beauties of her piety never came to thine ears.” The Moorman rejoined, “ 'tis true, O my lord: yes, I am a stranger and came to this your city only yesternight; and I hope thou wilt inform me concerning the saintly miracles of this virtuous woman and where may be her wone, for that I have fallen into a calamity, and 'tis my wish to visit her and crave her prayers, so haply Allah (to whom be honour and glory!) will, through her blessings, deliver me from mine evil.” Hereat the man recounted to him the marvels of Fatimah the Devotee and her piety and the beauties of her worship; then, taking him by the hand went with him without the city and showed him the way to her abode, a cavern upon a hillock's head. The Necromancer acknowledged his kindness in many words and, thanking him for his good offices, returned to his cell in the caravanserai.
Now by the fiat of Fate on the very next day Fatimah came down to the city, and the Maghrabi, the Necromancer, happened to leave his hostelry a-morn, when he saw the folk swarming and crowding; wherefore he went up to discover what was to do and found the Devotee standing amiddlemost the throng, and all who suffered from pain or sickness flocked to her soliciting a blessing and praying for her prayers; and each and every she touched became whole of his illness. ‡218 The Maroccan, the Necromancer, followed her about until she returned to her antre; then, awaiting till the evening evened, he arose and repaired to a vintner's store where he drank a cup of wine. After this he fared forth the city and finding the Devotee's cavern, entered it and saw her lying prostrate ‡219 with her back upon a strip of matting. So he came for ward and mounted upon her belly; then he drew his dagger and shouted at her; and, when she awoke and opened her eyes, she espied a Moorish man with an unsheathed poniard sitting upon her middle as though about to kill her. She was troubled and sore terrified, but he said to her, “Hearken! an thou cry out or utter a word I will slay thee at this very moment: arise now and do all I bid thee.” Then he sware to her an oath that if she obeyed his orders, whatever they might be, he would not do her die. So saying, he rose up from off her and Fatimah also arose, when he said to her, “Give me thy gear and take thou my habit ;” whereupon she gave him her clothing and head-fillets, her face-kerchief and her mantilla. Then Quoth he, “ 'tis also requisite that thou anoint me with somewhat shall make the colour of my face like unto thine.” Accordingly she went into the inner cavern and, bringing out a gallipot of ointment, spread somewhat thereof upon her palm and with it besmeared his face until its hue favoured her own; then she gave him her staff ‡220 and, showing him how to walk and what to do when he entered the city, hung her rosary around his neck. Lastly she handed to him a mirror and said, “Now look! Thou differest from me in naught;” and he saw himself Fatimah's counterpart as though she had never gone or come. ‡221 But after obtaining his every object he falsed his oath and asked for a cord which she brought to him; then he seized her and strangled her in the cavern; and presently, when she was dead, haled the corpse outside and threw it into a pit hard by.
The Rukh's Egg
The Maghrabi, after murthering Fatimah, threw her body into a pit and went back to sleep in her cavern; and, when broke the day, he rose and repairing to the town took his stand under the walls of Alaeddin's pavilion. Hereupon flocked the folk about him, all being certified that he was Fatimah the Devotee and he fell to doing whatso she was wont to do: he laid hands on these in pain and recited for those a chapter of the Koran and made orisons for a third. Presently the thronging of the folk and the clamouring of the crowd were heard by the Lady Badr al-Budur, who said to her handmaidens, “Look what is to do and what be the cause of this turmoil!” Thereupon the Agha of the eunuchry fared forth to see what might be the matter and presently returning said, “O my lady, this clamour is caused by the Lady Fatimah, and if thou be pleased to command, I will bring her to thee; so shalt thou gain through her a blessing.” The Princess answered, “Go bring her, for since many a day I am always hearing of her miracles and her virtues, and I do long to see her and get a blessing by her intervention, for the folk recount her manifestations in many cases of difficulty.” The Agha went forth and brought in the Maroccan, the Necromancer, habited in Fatimah's clothing; and, when the wizard stood before the Lady Badr al-Budur, he began at first sight to bless her with a string of prayers; nor did any one of those present doubt at all but that he was the Devotee herself. The Princess arose and salam'd to him then seating him beside her, said, “O my Lady Fatimah, 'tis my desire that thou abide with me always, so might I be blessed through thee, and also learn of thee the paths ‡222 of worship and piety and follow thine example making for salvation.” Now all this was a foul deceit of the accursed African and he designed furthermore to complete his guile, so he continued, “O my Lady, I am a poor woman and a religious that dwelleth in the desert; and the like of me deserveth not to abide in the palaces of the kings.” But the Princess replied, “Have no care whatever, O my Lady Fatimah; I will set apart for thee an apartment of my pavilion, that thou mayest worship therein and none shall ever come to trouble thee; also thou shalt avail to worship Allah in my place better than in thy cavern.” The Maroccan rejoined, “Hearkening and obedience, O my lady; I will not oppose thine order for that the commands of the children of the kings may not be gainsaid nor renounced. Only I hope of thee that my eating and drinking and sitting may be within my own chamber which shall be kept wholly private; nor do I require or desire the delicacies of diet, but do thou favour me by sending thy handmaid every day with a bit of bread and a sup of water; ‡223 and, when I feel fain of food, let me eat by myself in my own room.” Now the Accursed hereby purposed to avert the danger of haply raising his face-kerchief at meal-times, when his intent might be baffled by his beard and mustachios discovering him to be a man. The Princess replied, “O my Lady Fatimah, be of good heart; naught shall happen save what thou wishest. But now arise and let me show thee the apartment in the palace which I would prepare for thy sojourn with us.”
The Lady Badr al-Budur arose and taking the Necromancer who had disguised himself as the Devotee, ushered him in to the place which she had kindly promised him for a home and said, “O my Lady Fatimah, here thou shalt dwell with every comfort about thee and in all privacy and repose; and the place shall be named after thy name;” whereupon the Maghrabi acknowledged her kindness and prayed for her. Then the Princess showed him the jalousies and the jewelled Kiosque with its four and twenty windows ‡224 and said to him, “What thinkest thou, O my Lady Fatimah, of this marvellous pavilion?” The Moorman replied, “By Allah, O my daughter, 'tis indeed passing fine and wondrous exceedingly; nor do I deem that its fellow is to be found in the whole universe; but alas for the lack of one thing which would enhance its beauty and decoration !” The Princess asked her, “O my Lady Fatimah, what lacketh it and what be this thing would add to its adornment? Tell me thereof, inasmuch as I was wont to believe it wholly perfect.” The Maroccan answered, “O my lady, all it wanteth is that there be hanging from the middle of the dome the egg of a fowl called the Rukh; ‡225 and, were this done, the pavilion would lack its peer all the world over.” The Princess asked, “What be this bird and where can we find her egg?” and the Maroccan answered, “O my lady, the Rukh is indeed a giant fowl which carrieth off camels and elephants in her pounces and flieth away with them, such is her stature and strength; also this fowl is mostly found in Mount Káf; and the architect who built this pavilion is able to bring thee one of her eggs.” They then left such talk as it was the hour for the noon day meal and, when the handmaid had spread the table, the Lady Badr al-Budur sent down to invite the Accursed African to eat with her. But he accepted not and for a reason he would on no wise consent; nay, he rose and retired to the room which the Princess had assigned to him and whither the slave-girls carried his dinner. Now when evening evened, Alaeddin returned from the chase and met his wife who salam'd to him and he clasped her to his bosom and kissed her. Presently, looking at her face he saw thereon a shade of sadness and he noted that contrary to her custom, she did not laugh; so he asked her, “What hath betided thee, O my dearling? tell me, hath aught happened to trouble thy thoughts!” “Nothing whatever,” answered she, “but, O my beloved, I fancied that our pavilion lacked naught at all; however, O eyes of me, O Alaeddin, were the dome of the upper story hung with an egg of the fowl called Rukh, there would be naught like it in the universe.” Her husband rejoined, “And for this trifle thou art saddened when 'tis the easiest of all matters to me! So cheer thyself; and, whatever thou wantest, 'tis enough thou inform me thereof, and I will bring it from the abysses of the earth in the quickest time and at the earliest hour.”
—It hath reached me, O King of the Age, that Alaeddin after refreshing the spirits of his Princess by promising her all she could desire, repaired straight way to his chamber and taking the Lamp ‡226 rubbed it, when the Marid appeared without let or delay saying, “Ask whatso thou wantest.” Said the other, “I desire thee to fetch me an egg of the bird Rukh and do thou hang it to the dome-crown of this my pavilion.” But when the Marid heard these words, his face waxed fierce and he shouted with a mighty loud voice and a frightful, and cried, “O denier of kindly deeds, sufficeth it not for thee that I and all the Slaves of the Lamp are ever at thy service, but thou must also require me to bring thee our Liege Lady ‡227 for thy pleasure, and hang her up at thy pavilion dome for the enjoyment of thee and thy wife! Now by Allah, ye deserve, thou and she, that I reduce you to ashes this very moment and scatter you upon the air; but, inasmuch as ye twain be ignorant of this matter, unknowing its inner from its outer significance, I will pardon you for indeed ye are but innocents. The offence cometh from that accursed Necromancer, brother to the Maghrabi, the Magician, who abideth here representing himself to be Fatimah, the Devotee, after assuming her dress and belongings and murthering her in the cavern: indeed he came hither seeking to slay thee by way of blood-revenge for his brother; and 'tis he who taught thy wife to require this matter of me.” ‡228 So saying the Marid evanished. But when Alaeddin heard these words, his wits fled his head and his joints trembled at the Marid's terrible shout; but he empowered his purpose and, rising forthright, issued from his chamber and went into his wife's. There he affected an ache of head, for that he knew how famous was Fatimah for the art and mystery of healing all such pains; and, when the Lady Badr al-Budur saw him sitting hand to head and complaining of unease, she asked him the cause and he answered, “I know of none other save that my head acheth exceedingly.” Hereupon she straightway bade summon Fatimah that the Devotee might impose her hand upon his head; ‡229 and Alaeddin asked her, “Who may this Fatimah be?” So she informed him that it was Fatimah the Devotee to whom she had given a home in the pavilion. Meanwhile the slave-girls had fared forth and summoned the Maghrabi, and when the Accursed made act of presence, Alaeddin rose up to him and, acting like one who knew naught of his purpose, salam'd to him as though he had been the real Fatimah and, kissing the hem of his sleeve, welcomed him and entreated him with honour and said, “O my Lady Fatimah, I hope thou wilt bless me with a boon, for well I wot thy practice in the healing of pains: I have gotten a mighty ache in my head.” The Moorman, the Accursed, could hardly believe that he heard such words, this being all that he desired.
—It hath reached me, O King of the Age, that the Maghrabi, the Necromancer, habited as Fatimah the Devotee, came up to Alaeddin that he might place hand upon his head and heal his ache; so he imposed one hand and, putting forth the other under his gown, drew a dagger wherewith to slay him. But Alaeddin watched him and, taking patience till he had wholly unsheathed the weapon, seized him with a forceful grip; and, wrenching the dagger from his grasp plunged it deep into his heart. When the Lady Badr al-Budur saw him do on this wise, she shrieked and cried out, “What hath this virtuous and holy woman done that thou hast charged thy neck with the heavy burthen of her blood shed wrongfully? Hast thou no fear of Allah that thou killest Fatimah, this saintly woman, whose miracles are far-famed?” “No,” replied Alaeddin “I have not killed Fatimah. I have slain only Fatimah's slayer, he that is the brother of the Maghrabi, the Accursed, the Magician, who carried thee off by his black art and transported my pavilion to the Africa-land; and this damnable brother of his came to our city and wrought these wiles, murthering Fatimah and assuming her habit, only that he might avenge upon me his brother's blood; and he also ‘twas who taught thee to require of me a Rukh's egg, that my death might result from such requirement. But, an thou doubt my speech, come forwards and consider the person I have slain.” Thereupon Alaeddin drew aside the Moorman's face-kerchief and the Lady Badr al-Budur saw the semblance of a man with a full beard that well nigh covered his features. She at once knew the truth and said to her husband, “O my beloved, twice have I cast thee into death-risk!” but he rejoined, “No harm in that, O my lady, by the blessing of your loving eyes: I accept with all joy all things thou bringest me.” The Princess, hearing these words, hastened to fold him in her arms and kissed him saying, “O my dearling, all this is for my love to thee and I knew naught thereof; but indeed I do not deem lightly of thine affection.” So Alaeddin kissed her and strained her to his breast; and the love between them waxed but greater. At that moment the Sultan appeared and they told him all that had happened, showing him the corpse of the Maghrabi, the Necromancer, when the King commanded the body to be burned and the ashes scattered on air, even as had befallen the Wizard's brother. And Alaeddin abode with his wife, the Lady Badr al-Budur, in all pleasure and joyance of life and thenceforward escaped every danger; and, after a while, when the Sultan deceased, his son-in-law was seated upon the throne of the Kingdom; and he commanded and dealt justice to the lieges so that all the folk loved him, and he lived with his wife in all solace and happiness until there came to him the Destroyer of delights and the Severer of societies. ‡230
Quoth Dunyazad, “O sister mine, how rare is thy tale and delectable!” and Quoth Shahrazad, “And what is this compared with that I could relate to you after the coming night, an this my lord the King deign leave me on life?” So Shahryar said to himself, “Indeed I will not slay her until she tell me the whole tale.”