Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange (Hardcover Classics)

Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange (Hardcover Classics) by Malcolm C (Tr Lyons

Book: Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange (Hardcover Classics) by Malcolm C (Tr Lyons Read Free Book Online
Authors: Malcolm C (Tr Lyons
she fainted again. He felt sorry for her and asked her to tell him her story and who had been her master and who it was she loved. She said: ‘I was brought up from childhood with my master, whose father was Malik, the qadi of Fustat. It was he who had bought me when I was a child and he reared me with his son Talha until neither of us could bear to be parted from the other even for the blink of an eye.’
    She went on to tell him about herself and Talha from beginning to end, how he had gone from riches to poverty, how he had squandered all his goods, how the two of them had spent three days without eating and how she had advised him to sell her, thinking that she would be bought by someone from Fustat, who would not take her away. She would have been able to look at Talha and hear about him at all times, but God, the Great and Glorious, had decreed that they should be parted. ‘By God,’ she said, ‘you will find no use in me nor will anyone else after Talha, and I know of no one who suffers a worse fate than mine during his life.’
    She shed more tears, and when the Damascene had heard about her and Talha he felt pity for them and sympathized with her in her grief. ‘Tuhfa,’ he said, ‘if this is the case and you have shown such loyalty to your master, I call on God and His angels to witness that I give you backto him as a present. Do not suppose that I am merely saying this to comfort and calm you for, by God, I have never gone back on my word.’
    On hearing his promise, Tuhfa jumped up, kissed his hands and his feet, giving him the most heartfelt thanks and saying: ‘Master, how good and generous you have been! I am your slave, and so do with us what befits a man like you.’ He told her that she could be happy, as God had decreed that she should be reunited with her master and that, if He so willed it, he would soon be with her. She took heart, believing in his promise, and, after they had drunk, she took up the lute and went on singing to him as he drank and poured wine for her until he had made her drunk. He then took his leave and left her in her room while he went off to his bed.
    For Tuhfa the pain of love and longing for her master was partially relieved as she was sure that she was going to meet him, and this calmed her dismay. After that the Damascene used to come to her room every night and drink with her while listening to her singing, choosing the songs and leaving after he had had enough to drink. That went on until he had made all necessary preparations for a journey to Egypt, as she kept on reminding him of his promise and he kept on comforting her.
    So much for Tuhfa, but as for Talha, for the three days that he had stipulated he stayed tearful and distressed, trying but failing to endure, and finding himself unable to forget her. He then went to the slave-dealer to ask what he had done with her, and the man produced a purse with the thousand dinars that was the purchase price. ‘I did my best for you on this,’ he told Talha, ‘as I owe you a favour, God bless you.’ ‘What is this?’ asked Talha, looking at the purse. ‘The price for the girl,’ said the dealer, and Talha, who had almost fainted, said: ‘Give her back to me,’ but the man said: ‘When I sold her I forgot you had made a condition.’
    Talha now slapped his face, rubbed his cheeks in the dust and cried out at the top of his voice while people gathered around. He almost died and was losing his wits, but the dealer told him not to take it so hard. ‘I forgot about the condition when I sold her,’ he said, ‘and it was only afterwards that I remembered, but the buyer had gone.’ When Talha learned that Tuhfa had been sold and taken away, he realized that the condition would no longer be valid and after what had happened there was no way in which he could get her back. He fell to the ground in a faint and when he recovered he struck at his head and his cheeks.
    A crowd gathered around, expressing pity for him but

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