Historians have informed us that there was a certain king of Kharzim who had a son accomplished in mind, and that, through the medium of several men of intelligence, the fame of Husn Banu came to the hearing of this prince. In the heart of this youth was formed an eager desire to see Husn Banu; he therefore sent his own painter with the view of having a sight of Husn Banu, so as to have a portrait of her drawn and brought to him. The painter departed, and after several days arrived in Shahabad, where Husn Banu’s people, according to their general custom, attended and presented him with food, shewing him every attention. After some stay, when about to take leave, they conveyed him to Husn Banu’s presence; she kindly inquired into his circumstances, and offered him money for his journey. The painter said, “My wish is to serve under your government, and spend the remainder of my life on your threshold.” Husn Banu asked, “What is your profession?”— “I am,” said he, “a painter, who can delineate the moon from behind a curtain.”* Husn Banu then said “Well, you may delay (your departure) for a little;” and some short time after she began to consider in her mind, “how can I get a portrait of myself, for the painter is a stranger.* However, what will be the harm of his delineating my features from behind the curtain?” The painter said, “Most bountiful lady, do you stand on the roof* of the house, and cause a vessel full of water to be placed below, then look down into that vessel.” Husn Banu did so, and the painter, seeing her form in the water, drew the picture and went with it to his own house, where he delineated every line and mole* that existed on the original. He at the same time made two copies of the portrait, one of which he presented to Husn Banu, and the other he kept for himself. Shortly after, he requested leave of Husn Banu to return for his family, if agreeable to her; on which she furnished him with money for the journey, and granted him permission.

The painter then conveyed the portrait of Husn Banu to his own prince, who, the instant he saw the picture, became quite frantic. When he returned to his senses, he determined in his own mind to set off without his father’s leave; and without money or necessaries for the journey, without informing any one of his design, and taking no one with him, he put his trust in God, and at the dead of night departed for Shahabad, where in due time he arrived, after encountering the fatigues of the road. Husn Banu’s people brought him food, as was their wont with regard to others, and shewed him all possible attention. Next morning they offered the prince coins of yellow gold, saying, “Accept this for expenditure on your way.” The prince replied, “To me gold is of no use.” Husn Banu’s people observed, “You seem pennyless, pray accept this yellow gold, for our lady bestows it in the service of God.” As he persisted in saying that it had no value for him, they informed Husn Banu, that “a traveller arrived yesterday, who will neither eat food sufficient for him, nor accept yellow gold.” Husn Banu having summoned him to her presence, said, “Well, stranger, why do you refuse gold? Gold is a thing which in times of difficulty people find useful; it converts the pale* countenance to red.” The prince replied, “When I came hither I left much treasure and gold behind me. I am Prince of Kharzim; thy portrait has driven me mad, and my ardent desire to see thy face has sent me hither.” Husn Banu held down her head, and after some time said, “Young man, abandon such vain ideas; if you were the zephyr itself, you should not have wafted your breath over my ringlets.” The prince to this replied, “At least I will sacrifice this my miserable life at thy gates.”— “To give away your life,” said Husn Banu, “is easy, but to see my face is impossible: however, if this idea has found a place in your heart, then you must submit to my injunctions.” The prince said, “Command me, and I shall from my soul con­sider it as a favour.” Husn Banu said, “The first thing I have to propose is this saying, ‘What I once saw I long for a second time;’ and you must travel till you find an explanation of it. Inform me where the man is that utters these words, and also what he has seen. After you have brought me a solution of this first enigma, I shall tell you the second.” The prince asked where that man dwelt; to which, Hush Banu replied, “If I myself knew that, I should have sent my own people for the investigation of the circumstance.” The prince held down his head for some time, and then said, “I am ignorant in what direction I ought to go.”— “Then,” replied Husn Banu, “banish from your thought the idea of seeing my face.” Here the prince observed, “Thus bewildered, whither can I go? I have at least one resource left, and that is to die in thy city.”— “In my city,” said Husn Banu, “there is no room for such as speak thus foolishly; my people would neither permit nor suffer your remaining, nay, they would speedily expel you with disgrace.” Hereupon the prince said, “I suppose I must direct my steps towards the desert, in order to find the way and (explore) the intricacies leading to the abode of that man who exclaims in the words above mentioned. If my stars prove friendly it is well, and if otherwise, I will sacrifice my life for thee.” Husn Banu then stated, “It will be requisite to enter into an agreement as to the length of time for which I am to expect your return.” To this the prince said, “For the space of one year.”

Husn Banu then ordered them to present him with food to eat and water to wash his hands; and having furnished him with necessaries for his journey, she requested to know his name. The prince replied that his name was Munīr Shamī;* and then taking leave of Husn Banu, like one deprived of sight and hearing, he shaped his course to the wilderness, and with tears in his eyes began to traverse the mountains and the deserts. In short, the prince wandered towards the borders of Yemen, and sitting down underneath a tree in the desert, he gave vent to his tears copiously as the show­ers of early spring. It happened that HATIM TAI was pass­ing that way on a hunting excursion, and came close by the prince Munīr. Hatim seeing a handsome youth with elegant apparel thus weeping, his heart melted on his account, and his eyes were filled with tears, as he said, “What calamity can have befallen this stranger? I must go and inquire.” He went up to the prince, and in condoling language asked him, “Oh, brother! what distress has happened to thee, and what accident has occurred that thou weepest so?” The prince raised his head, and was sur­prised at seeing a youth of pleasant countenance, and of air and gait noble as the sun, the flowers in the rosebud of his cheeks fully blown, clothed in elegant apparel, and having his person accoutred with armour, standing by him and interesting himself in his condition. He replied then, “Oh, youth of benignant countenance, to me what avails the mentioning of my sorrows, which can be alleviated neither by my telling, nor by your hearing?” Hatim said to him, “Let your mind be at ease; communicate to me the secrets of your heart, and whatsoever lies in my power, as my trust is in God, I will not fail to perform. I will supply you with money if it be of use to you; and my frail life is constantly devoted to the service of the Almighty, which consists in relieving the distress of my fellow-creatures.” The prince Munir, in rapture exclaimed, “Oh, brother! may God preserve your life,” and instantly taking out Husn Banu’s portrait, which he kept in his bosom, he handed it to Hatim and said, “Judge yourself what must be my condition.” Hatim looked at the portrait and remained for some time in a state of abstraction; at length, he said, “With regard to those questions which she proposes, if you can suggest to me any plan, I will use every exertion in its accomplishment.”*

In short, Hatim carried the prince along with him into Yemen, and there hospitably entertained him. After they had rested three days, he asked the prince whether he had any method to point out by which he could serve him. The prince replied, “Alas! I can propose nothing; to you I resign the affair and its accomplishment, and will remain grateful for your kindness while I have the breath of life.” Hatim called his domestics and strictly charged them, saying, “You shall continue to supply travellers with food, and the poor with money, the same as if I myself were present; so that it may not be known that I have gone anywhere from home, and let each of you be diligently occupied in his own department.” Having issued these orders, he took the prince by the hand, and set out from the capital of Yemen on the road that leads to Shahabad, where, in the course of time, after encountering the toils of the journey, they both arrived.

Husn Banu’s people conveyed them to the caravanserai, presented them with food, and offered them yellow gold. Hatim rejected both, saying, “Worthy people, I have not come either for food or gold; I will neither taste of the one nor accept of the other.” Of this the people informed Husn Banu, who having summoned them both to her presence, said to them, “Why do you refuse gold, a thing which will one day be of service to you? The wise have remarked, ‘a thing laid by, will be found useful, though it be even the head of a serpent.”* Hatim, observing that the amassing of gold was proper only for the purpose of distributing it, stated, “Lady, the fame of yourbeauty and perfections has reached my ears; now if you will agree to one request of mine, I will accept of your gold and eat of your food, but otherwise I will depart hungry and thirsty from your city.” Husn Banu asked him, “Stranger, what is the request with which you wish to me comply?” Hatim answered, saying, “For one instant unveil your face, and afterwards shall do whatsoever you command.” Husn Banu said, “Till once you have bought a solution to my seven questions, it will be impossible for you to see me unveiled.” Hatim asked what the seven questions were, and without waiting the reply, added, “You must promise me further that, if I should answer them, you shall become mine, and that on whomsoever I may bestow you, you shall not dispute my commands.” Husn Banu assented, saying, “When I shall have become yours, you shall do with me what you think proper; you can either bestow me on any other person, or cause me to remain in your own house.” Hatim then observed that it would be requisite to call some witness, in whose presence this agree­ment might be ratified. This was accordingly done, and Hatim had the agreement confirmed before several people. After this, food was presented, of which they partook, and Hatim addressing Husn Banu, said, “This prince is my brother, who is to remain in your city till my return, and to him I expect that you will pay some attention. To this Husn Banu assented, and Hatim then requested to know her first question. “My first question,” replied Husn Banu, “is this: there is a certain man who exclaims, ‘What I once saw, I long for a second time.’ Where is that man? what has he seen? and why does he long for the same a second time? When you have brought me all this information, I shall then tell you my second question.” Hatim having heard this, took leave of Husn Banu, and having conducted the prince Munir to the Mihman-serai,* he set out (on his perilous journey.)