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En Numan And The Arab Of The Benou Tai
by [?]

En Numan and the Arab of the Benou Tai[168]

It is said that En Numan[169] had two boon-companions, one of whom was called Ibn Saad and the other Amrou ben el Melik, and he became one night drunken and bade bury them alive; so they buried them. When he arose on the morrow, he enquired for them and was acquainted with their case, whereupon he built over them a monument and appointed to himself a day of ill-luck and a day of good-luck. If any met him on his day of ill-omen, he slew him and with his blood he washed the monument aforesaid, the which is a place well known in Cufa; and if any met him on his day of grace, he enriched him.

Now there accosted him once, on his day of ill-omen, an Arab of the Benou Tai,[170] and En Numan would have put him to death; but the Arab said, “God quicken the king! I have two little girls and have made none guardian over them; so, if the king see fit to grant me leave to go to them, I will give him the covenant of God[171] that I will return to him, whenas I have appointed them a guardian.” En Numan had compassion on him and said to him, “If a man will be surety for thee of those who are with us, [I will let thee go], and if thou return not, I will put him to death.” Now there was with En Numan his vizier Sherik ben Amrou; so the Tai[172] looked at him and said,

Sherik ben Amrou, what device avails the hand of death to stay? O brother of the brotherless, brother of all th’ afflicted, say.

Brother of En Numan, with thee lies an old man’s anguish to allay, A graybeard slain, may God make fair his deeds upon the Reckoning-Day!

Quoth Sherik, “On me be his warranty, may God assain the king!” So the Tai departed, after a term had been assigned him for his coming.

[Footnote 171] i.e. I will make a solemn covenant with him before God.

[Footnote 172] i.e. he of the tribe of Tai.

When the appointed day arrived, En Numan sent for Sherik and said to him, “Verily the first part of this day is past.” And Sherik answered, “The king hath no recourse against me till it be eventide.” When it evened, there appeared one afar off and En Numan fell to looking upon him and on Sherik, and the latter said to him, “Thou hast no right over me till yonder fellow come, for belike he is my man.” As he spoke, up came the Tai in haste and En Numan said “By Allah, never saw I [any] more generous than you two! I know not whether of you is the more generous, this one who became warrant for thee in [danger of] death or thou who returnest unto slaughter.” Then said he to Sherik, “What prompted thee to become warrant for him, knowing that it was death?” And he said, “[I did this] lest it be said, ‘Generosity hath departed from viziers.'” Then said En Numan to the Tai, “And thou, what prompted thee to return, knowing that therein was death and thine own destruction?” Quoth the Arab, “[I did this] lest it be said, ‘Fidelity hath departed from the folk.'” And En Numan said, “By Allah, I will be the third of you,[173] lest it be said, ‘Clemency hath departed from kings.'” So he pardoned him and bade abolish the day of ill-omen; whereupon the Arab recited the following verses:

Full many a man incited me to infidelity, But I refused, for all the talk wherewith they set on me.

I am a man in whom good faith’s a natural attribute; The deeds of every upright man should with his speech agree.

[Footnote 173] In generosity.

Quoth En Numan, “What prompted thee to keep faith, the case being as thou sayest?” “O king,” answered the Arab, “it was my religion.” And En Numan said, “What is thy religion?” “The Christian,” replied the other. Quoth the king, “Expound it unto me.” [So the Tai expounded it to him] and En Numan became a Christian.[174]

[Footnote 174] A similar anecdote is told of Omar ben el Khettab, second successor of Mohammed, and will be found in my “Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” Vol. IV. p. 239.