IN the kingdom of Khurasan, during the reign of Kardán Sháh, there lived a worthy merchant, of great dignity, named Burzakh, who was on intimate terms with the king. He died, leaving an only daughter as his heir, twelve years of age, and the king took her under his protection, saying: “She is my daughter.” Husn Bánú esteemed her wealth as no better than sand, and she began to distribute it in charity. One day a darvesh, attended by forty slaves* passed her house while she was seated in her balcony. He was the king's spiritual guide. Husn Bánú sent a servant to invite him to an entertainment at her house, and he promised to come the next day. She prepared for an offering to him nine suits of silken garments, embroidered with gold, and seven trays of pure solid gold and baskets of fruit. The pride of this dar-vesh was such that he would not touch the earth when he walked, but had his path paved with bricks of gold and silver, and on these alone he placed his feet. On entering the house of Husn Bánú he was presented with trays full of gold and silver. He was amazed at the display of wealth, and resolved that very night to seize the treasure. Accordingly he and his forty slaves broke into the house, killed such as resisted them, and carried off all the treasure. Husn Bánú and her nurse, concealed in the lattice, saw the thieves and knew them. Next day, she com­plained to the king that the darvesh had robbed her house. This the king refused to believe, calling the darvesh the most holy man of the age; but she declared that he was the fiend of the age. Upon this the king in a rage ordered Husn Bánú and her attendants to be stoned to death, as a warning to others. But the chief minister reminded him that she was the daughter of Burzakh the merchant, and that by putting her to death he would estrange the hearts of his subjects. So the king spared her life, but caused her to be expelled from the city.

In the desert, under a shady tree, Husn Bánú and her old nurse fell asleep; and in a dream a man appeared to Husn Bánú, and told her that beneath that tree was buried the treasure of the seven regions, hidden there by the King of Truth, for her sake, and she was to arise and take possession thereof. “I am a woman,” she replied, “and how can I bring it out of the earth?” The apparition said: “Dig the earth with a little spade: let the means be applied by thee, and God will grant success. Moreover, no one is able forcibly to deprive thee of the treasure. Arise and build a city on this spot.” Husn Bánú having told of her dream to her nurse, they both set to work and dug with a piece of wood, when instantly they saw a pit full of yellow gold, chests full of jewels, cups full of rubies, and costly pearls the size of ducks' eggs. Husn Bánú rendered thanks to the Most High, then giving some gold to her nurse desired her to return to the city and fetch food and raiment, architects and labourers. Just then her foster-brother, in a mendicant's garb, passed by, and he recognised her. Telling him how God had given her wealth again, she requested him to bring thither his relations.

The foster-brother soon returned with a builder named Mu'amír. She bids him begin to build a city, but he explains that the king's permission must be first obtained. So Husn Bánú dresses herself in man's apparel, and takes for a present a cup full of rubies and a casket full of brilliant jewels. She gives valuable gifts to the king's officers, representing herself as a merchant newly arrived from abroad and desirous of offering presents to the king. His majesty is astonished to see the priceless gifts and asks: “Sir, whence art thou?” She replies that her father was a merchant of Irán, who died at sea; that she was an orphan and without kindred; had heard of his good qualities; had pitched tents in a tract of desert, and desired leave to build a city there. The king presents her with a dress of honour and adopts her as his son; and suggests that she should rather build her city near the capital and call it Sháhábád (i.e. king's city). But Husn Bánú prefers the desert, so the king gives her the required permission.

The city was built in about two years, and Husn Bánú visited the king once every month. One day he tells her that he is about to visit his darvesh and prevails on her to accompany him. She invites the darvesh to her house, and on his consenting she observes: “But my house is far distant, and in the capital there is the unoccupied house of Burzakh the merchant.” The king makes it over to her as a free gift. Finding her father's house has fallen to decay, she has it repaired and furnished splendidly. On the day appointed the darvesh came, and he declined the jewels offered to him by Husn Bánú, who had also displayed vast wealth throughout the apartment; and even at the banquet he pretended that he could not partake of dainty dishes. When the darvesh and his attendants had taken their leave, Husn Bánú caused all the golden dishes, etc. to be left as at the banquet, and warned the captain of the watch that she had reason to fear being robbed. At night the darvesh and his forty slaves entered the house, and having tied up the valuables in bundles were about to be off with their plunder—the darvesh himself carrying a cup full of rubies in his hand—when the night watch rushed in, seized and secured the robbers, and laid them in prison. Next day when the king opened his court Husn Bánú appeared,* and the kutwál brought the prisoners, each with his bundle of booty hanging from his neck, and made his report. The king thought the leader of the gang resembled a certain darvesh. Thereupon Husn Bánú told her story, and the king ordered all the robbers to be instantly put to death. Her father's property, of which she had been formerly robbed, was found in the house of the darvesh, and she presented it all to the king. Soon after this occurrence the king visited Husn Bánú at Sháhabád, and she gave him much gold; then pointing out the source of her wealth desired him to cause his attendants to convey it to his own treasury. But when they began to handle the gold, it turned into serpents and dragons, which convinced the king that it was devoted to her sole use. She built a house for the entertainment of travellers, each of whom received a handsome present on leaving, and the fame of her generosity was noised abroad.

Husn Bánú, being young, beautiful, and passing rich, had of course many suitors for her hand in marriage, and she one day consulted with her nurse as to the best means of securing herself from the importunity of worldly men. The nurse said she had seven questions (or tasks), which Husn Bánú should propose to every suitor, and he who complied with the terms which they embraced should be her husband, to which she agreed. Her fame being spread far and wide, Prince Munir, the son of the king of Kharizm, sent a painter to draw her portrait, which he did from the reflection of her face in a vessel full of water* and brought it to the prince, who on seeing it became quite frantic from love, and that same night he set out privily for Sháhábád. Obtaining an interview with Husn Bánú and declaring his passion, she replied: “You must first answer me seven questions. There is a man who constantly exclaims: ‘What I once saw I long to see a second time.’ Inform me where he lives and what he saw, and then I will put the second question.” The prince takes his leave and wanders about all sad at heart. He is met by Hatim Taï, who learns from him the cause of his evident sorrow, and undertakes to perform the task for him. Having entertained the prince for three days, Hatim takes him back to Sháhábád, and they go into the caravanserai there; but Hatim refusing both the food and the gold always presented to travellers, he is taken before Husn Bánú, who asks him the reason of this strange conduct. Hatim only desires to look at her face. She tells him that he must first bring her the solution of seven questions, to which Hatim agrees, on the condition that she would become at his disposal in the event of his succeeding, which condition was at once written and signed and confirmed by witnesses. Then Hatim, leaving the love-struck prince at the caravanserai, sets out to obtain an answer to Husn Bánú's First Question.

After many surprising adventures, Hatim at length reaches a desert where an old man is crying: “What I once saw I long to see a second time,” and learns from him that once he was walking on the border of a lake, when he saw a damsel who took him by the hand and leaped with him into the water, whereupon he found himself in a magnificent garden and beheld a lovely female form closely veiled; and on venturing to raise the veil he was instantly struck to the ground, and opening his eyes found himself in that desert, where he had ever since wandered about, restless and forlorn, wishing to see that beau­teous fairy once more. Hatim—for whom nothing was too difficult, for he had all sorts of talismans—conducts the old man to the fairy, after which he returns with the required information to Husn Bánú.

His Second Adventure is to ascertain why a man has above his door these words: “Do good, and cast it on the water;” who he is, and where his house is situated. In the course of this expedition he performs three additional tasks in order to obtain for another distracted lover the daughter of a merchant for his wife, the second of which is: Who is the man that cries every Friday and why does he cry: “I have done nothing that will benefit me this night”? Hatim comes to a sand-hill (having been directed to the spot by the grateful inhabitants of a town, whose lives he had saved by slaying a man-eating monster), and hears the voice. As he advances he discovers a number of the dead rising out of their graves, with angelic countenances and apparelled in splendid robes—all save one, who was covered with dust and ashes and sat on the cold ground, while the others sat on thrones drinking nectar, and never gave him to drink thereof. This wight sighed heavily and exclaimed: “Alas, I have not done that which might benefit me this night!” He tells Hatim that he was a merchant and those around him had been his servants. He was a great miser, but his servants fed the hungry and clothed the naked. On a journey a gang of robbers attacked and murdered him and all his followers. “Here they rest as martyrs — they are crowned with glory, while I am plunged in misery. In the capital of China, my native country, are my grandchildren living in abject poverty. In a certain chamber of my house is buried an immense treasure, of which no living man has knowledge.” Hatim inquires whether it was possible for him to minister to his relief. “Proceed to the capital of China,” says the miser's shade, “and find out my house. My name is Yúsuf, and in my day I was well known in all parts of the city. Seek my descendants; tell them of the treasure; divide it into four equal portions; bestow one portion on my grandchildren, and the other three on the poor of the city; then perhaps my case may be ameliorated.” Hatim goes at once to the capital of China, but before he is allowed to enter he must answer three questions put to every stranger by the governor's daughter. Of course Hatim gives correct solutions of the enigmas, and then complies with the directions of the miser's ghost.

He now addresses himself seriously to the solution of the Second Question of Husn Bánú, but he has many wondrous experiences before he comes at length to the bank of a large river, on which is a lofty mansion of stone, and over the door is written the motto: “Do good, and cast it on the water.” Ushered by attendants into the house, Hatim sees a venerable man of a hundred years seated upon a throne, who receives him with great courtesy and causes him to be supplied with refresh­ments. When Hatim asks the meaning of the motto over the door, the old man relates his history: In his youth he was a great robber, yet every day he made two large loaves mixed with sweet oil and sugar, which he threw into the river, saying: “This I give away, to propitiate Heaven.” One day, continues the old robber, “I was seized with a sickness and I thought a man grasped me by the hand and pointing to the infernal regions said: ‘There is the place destined for thee.’ But two youths, divinely fair, came up and laid hold of me, saying: ‘We will not permit this man to be cast into hell, sinful though he has been. His future state is in Paradise, and thither let us carry him.’” They conveyed him accordingly to the regions of bliss, and an angel of exalted rank telling them that he had a hundred years yet to live, they brought him back to his house, and explained that they were the two loaves he was wont to cast into the water for fishes to feed on. His health was at once restored and he made two loaves as before. When he went to cast them into the water he found a hundred dínars, which he took up and carried to the village, where he caused it to be proclaimed that such a sum of money had been found, but no one came to claim it. Next day when he went to the river with the two loaves he found another hundred dínars, and this continued till the eve of the eleventh day, when a man appeared to him in the visions of the night and said: “Servant of the Almighty, thy two loaves have pleaded thy cause in heaven: the merciful Creator has forgiven thy sins. The dínars which thou receivest are for thy subsistence, and what is superfluous do thou bestow in charity.” Since then the old robber had built that mansion and written the motto over the door, and every day when he went to throw the loaves into the river he found a hundred dínars.*

Hatim returns with this story to Husn Bánú, and she forth­with despatches him on his Third Adventure: “There is a man who constantly cries: ‘Injure no one; if you do, evil will overtake you.’ Find out where that man lives, what injury he has done, and what evil has overtaken him.” After having per­formed a difficult task on behalf of a despairing lover whom he met on his way, Hatim at length, aided by a band of fairy troops, arrives at the outskirts of Himyar, where he hears a voice crying these words, and discovers a blind man confined in a cage, which is suspended from a branch of a tree. Hatim having promised to mend his condition and relieve him, the blind man related his history, as follows:

“I am by occupation a merchant, and my name is Hamír. When I became of age, my father had finished the building of this city, and he called the same after my name. Shortly after my father departed on a sea voyage and left me in charge of the city. I was a free-hearted and social young man, and so in a short time expended all the property left under my care by my father. Thus I became surrounded with poverty and want; and as I knew that my father had hidden treasures somewhere in his house I resolved to discover them if possible. I searched every­where, but found nothing; and, to complete my woe, I received the news of my father's death, the ship in which he sailed being wrecked.

“One day as I was sauntering, mournful and dejected, through the bazár, I espied a learned man who cried out: ‘If any one has lost his money by theft or otherwise, my knowledge of the occult sciences enables me to recover the same, but on condition that I receive one fourth of the amount.’ When I heard this seasonable proclamation, I immediately approached the man of science, and stated to him my sad condition and how I had been reduced from affluence to poverty. The sage undertook to restore my wealth, and above all to discover the treasures concealed in my father's house. I conducted him to the house and showed him every apartment, which he carefully examined one after another. At length by his art he discovered the stores we were in search of; and when I saw the gold and silver and other valuables, which exceeded calculation, the demon of fraud entered my heart, and I refused to fulfil my promise of giving a fourth of the property to the man of wisdom. I offered him only a few small pieces of silver; instead of accepting which, he stood for a few moments in silent medita­tion, and with a look of scorn said: ‘Do I thus receive the fourth part of your treasure, which you agreed to give me? Base man, of what perjury are you guilty!’ On hearing this I became enraged, and having struck him several blows on the face I expelled him from my house. In a few days, however, he returned, and so far ingratiated himself into my confidence, that we became intimate friends; and night and day he displayed before my sight the various hidden treasures contained within the bowels of the earth. One day I asked him to instruct me in this wonderful science, to which he answered that no instruction was requisite. ‘Here,’ said he, ‘is a composition of surma, and whoever applies the same to his eyes, to him will all the wealth of this world become visible.’* ‘Most learned sir,’ I replied, ‘if you will anoint my eyes with this substance, I pro­mise to share with you the half of all such treasures as I may discover.’ ‘I agree,’ said my friend: ‘meanwhile let us retire to the desert, where we shall be free from interruption.’

“We immediately set out, and when we arrived here I was surprised at seeing this cage, and asked my companion whose it was. I received for answer, that it belonged to no one. In short, we both sat down at the foot of this tree, and the sage, having produced the surma from his pocket, began to apply it to my eyes. But, alas! no sooner had he applied this composition than I became totally deprived of sight. In a voice of sorrow I asked him why he had thus treated me, and he replied: ‘Such is the reward of treachery; and if you wish to recover your sight, you must for some time undergo penance in this cage. You must utter no complaint and you shall exclaim from time to time: “Do no evil to any one; if you do, evil will befall you.”’ I entreated the sage to relieve me, saying: ‘You are a mere mortal like myself, and dare you thus torment a fellow-creature? How will you account for your deeds to the Supreme Judge?’ He answered: ‘This is the reward of your treachery.’ Seeing him inexorable, I begged of him to inform me when and how my sight was to be restored; and he told me, that a noble youth should one day visit me, and to him I was to make known my condition, and farther state that in the desert of Himyar there is a certain herb called the Flower of Light, which the youth was to procure and apply to my eyes, by means of which my sight should be restored.

“It is now three years since he left me in this prison, which, though quite open, I cannot quit. Were I to attempt to leave my confinement, I should feel the most excruciating pain in my limbs, so as not to have the power of moving, and thus I am compelled to remain. One day, shortly after my companion left me, I reflected that I could do nothing for myself while I continued like a bird in this cage, and accordingly resolved to quit it at all hazards; but the moment I was outside of it the pain that seized my whole body almost killed me. I imme­diately returned to my prison, and have since that time resigned myself to my fate, exclaiming at stated times the words which have attracted your attention. Many people have passed by me, but on learning my condition they left me as they found me.”

When the man in the cage had ended his story, Hatim bade him be of good cheer, for he would at once endeavour to relieve him. By the aid of the fairies who had conducted him thither and now carry him through the air for the space of seven days, he arrives in the desert where the Flowers of Light shine brilliant as lamps on a festival night, diffusing the sweetest perfume far and wide; and, recking naught for the serpents, scorpions, and other beasts of prey which infest the place (for he was guarded by a powerful talisman), he advances and plucks three of the largest and most brilliant flowers. Returning in the same manner as he had come, he reaches the spot where the blind man Hamír is imprisoned. Taking down the cage, he releases the wretched man, compresses the stalk of the flower so that the juice should drop upon his sightless eyeballs, and when this has been repeated three times Hamír opens his eyes, and, seeing Hatim, falls prostrate at his feet with a profusion of thanks.

The Fourth Adventure is: “Who is the man that has this motto over his door: ‘He who speaks the truth is always tranquil; wherein has he spoken the truth, and what degree of tranquility does he enjoy in consequence?” Passing through regions of enchantment, Hatim then comes to a city, and dis­covers the motto written above the gate of a splendid mansion. He enters and is received graciously by an old man, who entertains him hospitably. Next day he relates his story: He is eight hundred years old. In youth he was a great gambler, and having lost all his substance he became a robber. One night he broke into the king's palace, entered one of the chambers, where the daughter of the king was sleeping, and seizing all her jewels and a golden lamp that burned beside her he made his escape. He fled to a desert, where he found a gang of thieves dividing their plunder, to whom he showed his own booty, and their avarice was aroused so that they were proceeding to take it from him by force, when a tremendous voice was heard close by, at which they ran off in different directions. Presently a figure appeared before him and demanded: “Who art thou?” He told his story. “'Tis well for thee,” said the figure, “that thou hast related the whole truth; therefore I forgive thy crime, and leave the treasure to thy enjoyment. But swear never to gamble again.” He took the required oath. “Well, keep thy oath, and the years of thy life shall reach nine hundred.” Returning to the city with his plunder, his comrades envied his prosperity, and reported him to the chief of the police, who brought him before the king, to whom he told the whole truth as to the source of his wealth, and the king pardoned him and gave him more gold. Then he wrote that motto over his door.

Hatim's Fifth Adventure is to bring an account of Mount Nida, whence a voice from time to time proceeds, crying: “Come quickly!” Whereupon one of the citizens in the neighbourhood is seized with an uncontrolable frenzy, rushes away to the mountain and is seen no more. This strange occurrence Hatim learns is the manner in which the inhabitants taste of death: when the doomed person approached a rock it split asunder, and as soon as he had entered the opening it closed behind him and his soul quitted his body.

The Sixth Adventure is to procure Husn Bánú a pearl similar to one she already possesses, which is as large as a duck's egg. Hatim learns from the conversation of a pair of Nitka birds that their species used to “lay” such pearls once in thirty years, but this faculty had ceased since the days of Solomon; that only two were on the face of the earth now (all others being at the bottom of the sea), one being in the possession of Husn Bánú, the other in the treasury of a fairy, who has an only daughter: he who can tell the history of that pearl (which Hatim has heard from the well-informed birds) shall have her in marriage and the pearl for her dowry. Needless to add that Hatim is successful in his quest, bestows the young fairy on her lover, who had been unable to comply with her father's condition, and returns with the pearl to Husn Bánú.

Hatim's Seventh Adventure, and the last, is to bring the lady an account of the bath of Badgird—an enchanted palace erected for the preservation of a peerless and priceless diamond by its owner, a powerful magician. The stone is in the body of a parrot, Hatim is told by a bird of the same species before entering the hall, and whoever enters shall never return unless he obtain possession of the gem. He will find a bow and three arrows laid on a sofa in the hall, and must shoot the arrows at the parrot, and if he hit right through its head he will break the spell, but if not, he will, like all others before him, be turned to marble. Nothing daunted, Hatim shoots one arrow, and, missing, he becomes marble up to his knees; the second arrow also missing, he becomes marble up to his middle; but (placing his reliance in God) when he shoots the third arrow it pierces the head of the parrot and it falls lifeless to the ground. This achievement is immediately followed by a storm of wind, thunder, lightning—darkness. And Hatim can see no palace or parrot, but at his feet are the bow and arrow and a diamond of dazzling brilliance. No sooner had Hatim seized the diamond than all the marble statues started into life, being freed from the spell of the enchanter.

Returning to Sháhábád, Hatim presented the diamond to Husn Bánú, and, as he had now fulfilled all her conditions, she was straightway married to Prince Munir, who thus reached the summit of happiness. Hatim then returned to the capital of Yaman, where he was affectionately received by his father and mother, and his arrival was hailed with universal joy, while every house resounded with music and mirth. Shortly after this Hatim's father resigned the reins of government into his hand and lived in retirement for the remainder of his life, which amounted to twelve years, seven months, and nine days. Hatim reigned long and happily in Yaman.*

Such is the substance of the wonderful Adventures of Hatim Taï, though I have necessarily omitted many details and some rather curious incidents: like a tale in the Arabian Nights, out of which spring several other tales, each of Hatim's expeditions led him on to others, which had to be accomplished before he could attain the end for which he originally set out. He undergoes some extraordinary experiences, too, such as being swallowed alive and unhurt by a dragon of such monstrous dimensions that he kept tramping to and fro in its stomach till it was at last obliged, for its internal peace, to eject him and be off; dipping his hand into a lake in order to drink of the waters, and finding it instantly turned into pure silver—where, O where is that lake?—and coming to another, which had the property of restoring the argentine member to flesh and blood; not to speak of the scenes of enchantment, which indeed seem to have been begot of hashish or a like narcotic. With all its absurdities, however, the morale of the romance is excellent: the hero goes about constantly doing good; benevolent towards bird and beast as well as to mankind; feeding the hungry, relieving the distressed, and binding up the broken heart.—This work is still a first favourite among the Persians, who continue to entertain a firm belief in dívs, parís, and many other kinds of spirits, good and evil.

Of the three stories which are interwoven with our tale of Hatim and the Benevolent Lady but one is represented in the Romance, that of the Blind Man, namely, but the details are very different in the two versions.