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 B

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Authors: Malcolm C (Tr Lyons
before. He decided to make for Damascus, hoping to find employment as a servant so that he might be able to buy back Tuhfa.
    When he got there he was a changed man, in the grip of misery and care, but when he saw the city from the outside it filled him with wonder and he sat down to rest before going in. He had with him some pieces of dry bread, salt and groats that someone had given him and he took these out as he sat by a stream in the shade of a tree. He broke the bread and left it on a stone as he crushed what salt he had and sprinkled it on top. He was about to eat when up came a rider on an Arab mare, dressed as a king and galloping in pursuit of a gazelle. After he had hunted it down he made for the shade of Talha’s tree as he was tired. He dismounted, took off his boots and gaiters and, after washing his hands, feet and face, he was about to stretch out on his back in the shade when Talha, who was embarrassed, called out: ‘Come here, master, the food is ready!’ at which the rider turned to look at him.
    This turned out to be ‘Abd al-Malik son of Marwan, and Talha’s invitation prompted his admiration. He said to himself: ‘This man apparently comes from a good background, and courtesy demands that I should not treat him with haughtiness, for if I don’t accept, that will seem to be mockery and a show of pride on my part.’ He got up and sat with Talha, accepting some of the bread and salt, while Talha talked animatedly to him. He then asked Talha where he came from and when Talha had told him he was from Egypt he went on to ask for his name. When Talha toldhim, ‘Abd al-Malik asked if he was the son of the qadi. ‘I am,’ said Talha, at which ‘Abd al-Malik asked: ‘How can you be Talha son of Malik when you are dressed like this?’ ‘A proper question,’ said Talha, ‘but things happen as God decrees and wills.’ ‘What has brought you to so wretched a state?’ ‘Abd al-Malik went on and when Talha burst into tears he pitied him and urged him to show endurance before repeating the question.
    Talha now told him the whole story from start to finish, how he lost his money, approached the slave-dealer and sold Tuhfa. ‘So she is the only reason that you came here,’ said ‘Abd al-Malik, adding: ‘and who was it who bought her?’ ‘It was a Damascus merchant who bought her for another Damascene named Muhammad son of Salih,’ said Talha. ‘Abd al-Malik knew the man, and he told Talha to finish his remarkable story. Talha said: ‘When I knew that Tuhfa had been passed to someone else and there was no way in which I could get to her, I lost my wits and became mad. I was thrown into hospital and stayed there for six months, suffering the bitterness of a wretched life. Then, in accordance with the will of God, the Great and Glorious, it happened that the qadi of Fustat wanted to inspect the hospital and when he caught sight of me he recognized me and brought me out. He was good to me and gave me a large amount of money as well as advising me to come here and writing a letter for me to the qadi and the
. He also got me a letter from the emir to the caliph, may God prolong his life, asking for help with Muhammad son of Salih, in the hope that he might restore Tuhfa to me. Then my ship was wrecked at sea, and I lost all my goods. I emerged in the state that you see and made for Damascus, hoping to make the acquaintance of Tuhfa’s new master and be accepted by him as a servant. Were I to be taken on as a groom I might catch sight of her some day and hear about her before I give up the ghost. This is the true account of what happened.’
    At this point he was choked by tears, as he heaved deep sighs and wept. ‘Abd al-Malik was filled with pity, but just then chamberlains rode up, dismounted in front of him and greeted him, while the emirs presented their respects. Talha realized that this must be ‘Abd al-Malik himself and he jumped to his feet and started to present excuses for having

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