The Journey of Hatim in search of the Pearl.— His interview with Shams Shah, the King of the Fairies.

THE narrators of past events have informed us that Hatim, after leaving Shahabad on his sixth adventure, came to a certain desert, across which he bent his course. After he had walked about two farasangs, he came to a solitary tree, at the foot of which was a rude seat formed of stone. As the the evening was approaching, he there sat down; and having passed some time in deep reflection, with his head stooping towards his knee, the mantle of night began to overspread the world. In the meantime a brace of fowls, dazzling in all the splendour of the seven colours, came and perched upon the tree above him. Those birds were of the species called Natika,* which generally frequent the shores of the sea of Kahrmān, and by special providence they rested on that tree for the night.

The female bird said to the male, “I like not the air of these regions in which we have halted, I wish we were safe in our own country.”— “I agree with you,” said the male; “and though it was my intention to stay here for some days, yet, as you dislike the place, we shall depart early in the morning.”— “Well,” said the female, “I only hope you will abide by your resolution, and at to-morrow’s sun will shine upon us when far hence.”— “Why all this anxiety,” rejoined the male, “you know well that I speak nothing but the truth.”

A short time after, the female natika again broke silence, saying, “Tell me, my dear mate, who is this wanderer from the haunts of men who is seated on the stones below, with his head sunk in the lap of reflection, and his brow stamped with the seal of sorrow?”— “He is the best of men,” replied the male, “and his anxiety is occasioned because he knows not whither to direct his course in quest of a pearl of the size of a Murghab’s egg.* Now Murghab is also the name of the place where these pearls are to be found. But to proceed; this man is Hatim Taï, the noble and generous prince of Yemen. He is now wandering in search of this pearl, not for his own sake, but in order to serve another person. He has left his princely home, and his fond parents, in order to promote the happiness of his fellow creatures.”

“But,” rejoined the female, “inexperienced as Hatim is, how can he ever find the pearl in question?”— “I shall direct him,” replied the male, “if it is your wish, though it may not be altogether for our welfare.”— “Nothing is more noble,” said the female, “than to do good to others, and assuredly we shall ourselves reap the benefit thereof in the end.”— “Listen to me, then, my dear consort,” said the male natika, “and you shall hear how this rare pearl of the Murghab is to be procured. You are aware that our species have lived since the creation of the world on the shores of the sea of Kahrman, and only once in thirty years our females laid an egg of this kind. But for some time past our race has been deprived of the virtue of producing these pearls, and those that had been formerly produced are sunk to an unfathomable depth in the sea. Of these pearls two only are above ground, and these originally fell into the hands of Chamchān, the king of Kahrmān. He again gave one of them as a rare present to Shamshân, a neighbouring prince of great wealth and splendour in his time. Shamshân died without issue; and his splendid capital was soon after reduced to a lifeless desert while his wealth passed into the hands of strangers, and the pearl, after many changes of owner, is now in the possession of Husn Banu, the daughter of Burzakh the merchant.

“As to the other pearl, it happened that Chamchān, the King of Kahrman, died in early life, and another took possession of his crown. The widowed queen, then preg­nant (being her first child), was forced to fly for her life, and the pearl of the Murghab was the only part of her property which she had time to secure. With this rare treasure she left her palace, and fled through the desert till he reached the sea of Kahrman. There she sat down exhausted, not knowing whither to proceed, till a merchant with his ship approached that spot in order to take in fresh water. When the queen saw the vessel she cried aloud for assistance, and the merchant himself came to her in a boat, and conveyed her on board.

“The merchant, whose name was Smbar, was a benevolent man, who had seen much of the world. He treated the queen with the utmost kindness; and on hearing the cause of her distress, he adopted her as his daughter, and conveyed her to his own country. In the course of time she was delivered of a son; and as Simbar the merchant had no children of his own, he appointed this child sole heir of his extensive wealth. Meanwhile the child grew up endowed with princely virtues, and by the time he came to manhood his generous patron Sīmbar died.

“Shortly after, the young prince was appointed chief of that province; and as he was a youth of superior discern­ment, and had abundance of wealth at command, he soon raised himself to be king of that country and the adjacent islands. After his death, his descendants reigned there for many a generation, till the auspicious æra of Sulaiman of Iram (on whom be peace), who reduced into their possession the whole extent of the Koh-i-Käf and the coast of the sea of Kulzum. Since the reign of the prophet Sulaiman, the race has reigned in those regions, but then their intercourse ceased with the inhabitants of the earth. They no longer form a part of the human race, nor dareth a son of Adam visit their dominions.

“In the course of time the pearl came into the hands of a fairy, in the possession of whose son it now is. His name is Mahyar Sulaimani, and his father was of the race of Adam, so that he partakes of the twofold nature of man and fairy. He reigns in the island of Barzakh,* and is on friendly terms with the demons, whose territories are contiguous to his kingdom, for he knows the powerful spell of Sulaiman, and no demon dares injure him.

“Mahyar Sulaimani has an only daughter, now seven years old, and whosoever shall be able to tell the history of the pearl, shall have the daughter in marriage, and the pearl for her dowry. He is also a man of profound knowledge, having in his possession the books of his progenitor the great Sulaiman. In these books are many secrets; and rare among others, the method of procuring the pearl of the Murghab, should the one which he has lost. Since the reign of Sulaiman (on whom be peace), our race has not produced a single pearl, nor is it lawful for us to tell what I have now stated to you, a secret known to Mahyar alone. But to this generous youth, who has been for years exerting himself in the cause of his fellow-creatures, it is proper that I should disclose this much of the subject that now occupies his thought.”

On hearing this the female said, “How is Hatim to find his way to the sea of Kahrman, for the coast is infested by the demons who inhabit those regions, and the perils which await him are numerous?”— “His safety,” replied the male, “depends on heaven alone; for if his days are not yet at an end, he may encounter every danger, and return in safety. Meanwhile he must proceed to the south, and it will be necessary that he take with him several of our feathers. When he arrives at the confines of the mountain Kaf, he will see before him a wide desert, and ere he enter that wilderness, he must use the following precaution:— Let him burn the green feathers and strew the ashes in water, with which he must wash his whole body. This will have so strong a scent that no wild beast of the desert can come near him. Moreover, his appearance will be altogether that of a demon; his colour will be black is night, and his hands and feet will assume an unnatural size, and he will be able to speak the language of the demons.

“After he shall have passed through the wilderness, and arrived at the island of Barzakh, he must then burn the white feathers, and having mingled the ashes with water as before, let him wash his body with the same, and he will assume his original shape. When he enters the dominions of Mahyar Sulaimani, the fairies of those realms will seize him, and take him before their monarch. Then let Hatim boldly state the object of his journey; when the king, as a matter of course, will ask of him to give an account of the pearl, whereupon he shall have both the pearl and the daughter. Then let Hatim tell all that I have stated, and Mahyar, being of most honourable conduct and of strict integrity, will assuredly give his daughter and the pearl.”

Having thus spoken, the male natika flapped his wings, when a shower of feathers fell around Hatim, who immediately arose and carefully collected them. When the female bird saw this, she said to her partner, “He gathers the feathers as if he had understood what you said; how do you know that Hatim is destined for such important services, and how have you recollected all the circumstances of the pearls?”— “The whole history of the two pearls,” replied the male, “has been preserved by our race from one genera­tion to another; but you females attend not to such grave subjects nor are you good for anything but talking. The time will come too, when our race shall be extinct, with the exception of a solitary bird, which is destined to perish only with the world. But these days are still remote, and at present let us enjoy the bounty of Providence, of which we have a greater share than any animal except man. We, like him, are endowed with the faculty of speech, and the ordinary term of our life is longer than his; even we two are destined to live together in this world for the next hundred years.”

By this time the portals of the dawn flew upon in the east, and the two birds took their flight from the tree. Hatim at the same time arose, and commenced his journey towards the south. One night, as he lay down to repose underneath a tree, he heard the cry of some animal in pain exclaiming, “Alas! is there no creature at hand who will, for the sake of God, assist me.” Hatim, ever ready to aid the distressed, quickly arose, and ran towards the spot whence the sound issued. There he saw a female fox stretched on the ground, and beating her head upon the hard stones. “Tell me,” said Hatim, “who has caused thy sorrow?”— “A huntsman,” replied the fox, “has caught in his snares both my husband and children, and has carried them off to be murdered. This heart-rending separation is the cause of my grief.”— “Knowest thou where the huntsman resides?” asked Hatim. “His house,” she replied, “is distant from hence two farasangs.”— “Shew me the way thither,” said Hatim, “and I will endeavour to save thy kindred.”

The fox hesitated, and said, “O man, how can I trust thee! Art thou not one of the blood-thirsty race of him that has torn my heart asunder, and will it not be thy delight to lead me also into the snare? Truly my fate would be like that of the monkey, whose mishap has become a proverb.” — “Tell me,” said Ha im, “what happened to the monkey?” The fox began as follows: “Once upon a time a monkey with his mate took up their abode in a squestered spot in the desert of Damaghan, where they soon had a family. A huntsman happened to pass that way, and succeeded in catching all the monkies except the mother, which effected her escape. Meanwhile the hunts­man conveyed the male with the young ones to a noble­man’s house, where he disposed of them for a high price, while the poor mother wandered through the desert in all the agonies of despair. Regardless of her life, she at last ventured among the haunts of men; and having gone before the chief of the province, she stated the cause of her woe, and implored redress, saying, ‘Noble sir, as you hope for mercy from God, have pity on my sorrows. A huntsman belonging to this place has cruelly deprived me of my husband and family.’

“Now it happened that the chief was the very man to whom the huntsman had sold the monkies, though he was not then aware of it. He therefore said to the monkey, ‘Go, conduct my attendants to that huntsman’s house, and they are empowered by me to bring the parties concerned to my presence.’ The female monkey accordingly led the way to the house of the huntsman, who instantly obeyed the order of the chief. When they returned, the chief said, ‘It is true, huntsman, that you have deprived this poor monkey of her partner and young ones; and if so, what have you done with them?’

“‘It is most true, noble sir, replied he, ‘and the very day I caught them I sold them all to your highness. If, however, you are disposed to pity her distress, and restore to her those that are so dear to her, I am most willing to return to your highness the price that was paid for them.’ On hearing this the chief said, in reply to the huntsman, “What you propose seems very fair; yet I do not conceive it to be the best plan. Now that I have considered the matter seriously, I think the best thing we can do is to detain the female in the same cage with her kindred, for I would not give away for any money the monkies which you sold to me.’

“But the miseries of the monkey did not cease here. After being for some time confined in the same cage with her young, the prince of Damaghan having heard that the chief had some young monkies expressed his wish to have them in his palace. Thus the hapless monkey was doomed to suffer another separation from her young, while her own liberty was lost at the same time. The male had pre­viously died, and now being left solitary, she rejected food and drink, and in a few days escaped from sorrow by the door of death.”