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 Page A

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Authors: Malcolm C (Tr Lyons
blaming him for what he was doing. They then turned against the slave-dealer, crowding in and turning their blame on him. He was afraid that he might findhimself in difficulties with the sultan and when an opportunity came he made off. Talha for his part kept asking where the merchant who had bought Tuhfa had gone, hoping to enlist his sympathy to get her back from her new master in pity for what he had done to himself. When he asked the slave-dealer about the merchant he was told that the man had taken her off immediately after the sale. The dealer himself was then told that this man had not bought her for himself but for a Damascene named Muhammad son of Salih, a most generous man, full of good deeds. He went back and passed on his news to Talha, who was not in his right mind and who tore his tattered clothes and poured dust on his head. He left the money with the dealer and in his grief he started to wander through the streets, sobbing and weeping. Some people pitied him, but others were scornful and kept asking him what was wrong and abusing him. This went on so long, with children following him and shouting abuse again and again, until he was taken to the hospital as a certifiable lunatic and put in chains.
    For six months he stayed there in this wretched state until one day the qadi of Fustat happened to pass the hospital. People complained to him that the man in charge was not looking after the patients or the lunatics properly and was taking its money for himself. The qadi, intending to investigate, dismounted and went in to see what things were like. His eyes fell on Talha, whom he recognized and addressed by name, at first getting no answer from him. The qadi had been one of his father’s greatest friends and he asked Talha what had brought him to this. At that point Talha said: ‘Master, the common people mistreated and afflicted me, taking me and throwing me in here six months ago.’
    The qadi shed tears of pity and ordered him to be taken to the baths, sending him one of his own robes of honour and his riding beast. When he had been cleaned up in the baths, he came out, put on the robe, mounted the beast and went to the qadi’s house. He was taken in and brought up to the qadi, who gave him food and drink until he recovered, forgetting his distress and sufferings. It was then that the qadi asked him for his story, saying: ‘How did you lose what your father left you, and what happened to your slave girl Tuhfa, for I knew that you were very fond of her?’ On hearing Tuhfa’s name Talha was choked by tears, but, after having wept and sobbed noisily, he started to tell his story to the qadi from beginning to end.
    The qadi wept out of pity for him and summoned the slave-dealer, whom he reproached for what he had done and from whom he took thegold. He then said to Talha: ‘Would you like to hear how I think that, God willing, you may be reunited with Tuhfa?’ Talha asked about this, and the qadi said: ‘I shall give you some of my own money over and above what you have yourself, and I shall use it all to buy goods that you can take to Damascus. I shall then write you a letter addressed to the
‘udul
and the leading men of the city, asking them to help you buy back your slave girl. I hope that you may succeed and, if you do, come back here and I shall appoint you to a suitable post. I shall be there to help you, and you will also have what I hope will be a profit from your trading.’
    Talha thanked the qadi, who then spent fifteen hundred dinars on buying goods suitable for Damascus, and he wrote a letter to its qadi and the
‘udul
, asking them to look after him and help him. He also got for him a letter from ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, the ruler of Egypt, to his brother ‘Abd al-Malik son of Marwan . Talha was then sent off to Tanis, where he loaded his goods on a ship that was due to sail in the direction of Damascus. Two days off Tyre, however, it was wrecked, leaving Talha naked, penniless and sadder than

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