BETA

FARISTAN AND FATIMA.

An Oriental Legend.

Part I.

Once in a famous Eastern city,1
There lived a tailor with a pretty,2
In fact a very pretty wife,3
Whom he loved better than his life.4
Her eyes were of the blackest sort,5
No lily’s stem was half so slender,6
Of finest silk her hair seem’d wrought,7
Her rosy cheeks were smooth and tender,8
Her age scarce twenty,—and, in short,9
It was impossible to mend her.10
One day quoth he :  “ You darling little wife, you !11
Whatever would become of hapless me,12
If I should happen to survive you,13
And your fair body I should see14
Lying a corpse, all cold and void of motion,15
Within my arms ?  The very notion16
Gives me a chill as if I now were dying !17
I swear that if I, wretched man,18
Only survive the shock, you’ll find me lying19
Upon your tomb for nine long days, and crying,20
Crying the very best I can !” —21
And if, dear husband,” she began,22
I’m the survivor when we’re parted,23
I’ll buried be, my Faristan,24
Inside your coffin, broken-hearted.”—25
A noble woman !” he with rapture thought,26
As in his arms his wife he caught.27
He felt no doubt about it, for, you know,28
She said it,—so it must be so !29
About a year had pass’d away30
Since the agreement made that day,31
When it so chanced that, as they sat.32
Over their evening meal of curry,33
Spending the time in pleasant chat,34
Poor Fatima, in too great hurry35
To eat some tit-bit, while her eyes36
Ogled, in manner far from wise,37
Her husband, not her plate, by ill-luck swallow’d38
A little bone—of course you guess what follow’d.39
What could be done ?  Poor Faristan40
Skips here and there, does all he can,41
Upon the back he thumps her,42
He shakes her, bumps her, jumps her,43
He tries to push it down, heupwards tries to pull it,—44
In vain !  She’s choked by that small bone inside
her little gullet !
45
Only imagine his despair !46
Soon in her winding-sheet they fold her,47
Black in the face, it may be, yet so fair !48
He could not summon courage to behold her.49
Now Fatima is in her grave,50
And Faristan begins to rave,51
And rolls upon it, sighing with such ardour,52
That he is heard a mile away and more,53
Fully resolved (so much did he regard her)54
Nine days to stop there, as we know he swore.55
The Prophet chanced to pass that way,56
Found it impossible to pray57
In such a noise, she asked politely :—58
What mean these groans and writhings so un-
sightly ? ”
59
O, sir !” ’ said he, “ within this tomb “a lies60
The best of wives,—I never knew a chaster61
Or nobler woman, loving, young, and wise,—62
And in the grave this very day I’ve placed her.”63
The Prophet answer’d :  “ Since you for her sake64
Are grieving so, and merit to be lucky,65
I’ll grant your wish,” and as he spake,66
The staff his hand was grasping struck he67
Upon the tomb, and, lo ! it open’d wide,68
And Fatima appear’d outside69
In health and beauty, and with rapturous passion70
Rush’d to her husband’s arms in loving fashion.71
How they embraced and hugg’d each other !72
Any spectator must have thought73
Such kisses were enough to smother74
Both man and wife.—And next they sought75
To thank the Prophet for this miracle portentous,76
But couldn’t—he was non inventus !77

Part II.

Good Faristan bethought him then78
That Fatima’s loose funeral linen raiment79
(Although ’twas dusk) for walking home again80
Was scarcely, in the usual way, meant.81
Light of my eyes ! behind these stones stoop down,82
While I run home and fetch your shoes and gown ;83
The moon is up, there’s little danger in it,84
Fear not, and I’ll be back in half a minute.”85
He spoke, and vanish’d like a shot.—86
Meanwhile there happen’d to approach the spot87
The Sultan’s son, escorted by the light88
Of many torches through the night.89
His servants, by the flickering glare,90
Perceived a woman with dishevell’d hair,91
And scanty clothing, seeking to conceal92
Her somewhat striking dishabille,93
Which in the darkness, by the torchlight aided,94
Seem’d greater than it in the day did.95
The Sultan’s son his march suspended,96
And then approach’d her unattended,97
While she with arms and hands was trying98
Her want of clothing to replace,99
And left exposed, in beauty vying,100
Two legs and feet of matchless grace.101
The Prince, instead of putting (as his duty102
Clearly enjoin’d) his hands before his face,103
With might and main stood staring at the beauty104
What loveliness is this I trace !105
And yet the time, spot, dress, are rather funny— ”106
My lord !” she said in accents sweet as honey,107
I feel so awkward in this negligée,108
I really know not what to say !”109
The Prince at once confess’d the force110
Of her remark, and then of course111
Gave her his own great coat at this suggestion,112
And said, “ Fair lady, just one question !113
A man and a woman sitting cross-legged and looking at one another on a short platform. There is a cat and a hookah on the floor. 1/2 page.
Pray, are you married ?  If you single are,114
Come home with me, and be the brightest
star
115
Within my harem !  Be a prince’s bride,116
I love you more than all the world beside !” ’117
Fair Fatima soon comprehended118
Th’ advantage of this offer splendid,119
And found her knowledge as a tailor120
In measuring its extent avail her.121
Alas ! when this proposal made he,122
I grieve to say the naughty lady123
Forgot her duty and her plighted troth,124
Forgot her husband and her oath.125
My lord ! I’m single, and quite ready126
To offer you allegiance steady,127
And live but for Your Royal Highness !”128
A bargain !” he exclaim’d with slyness ;—129
A horse is brought, and, lighted by the
torches,
130
Soon Fatima’s inside his harem’s porches.131
Scarce had she gone, when Faristan comes back,132
Bringing the clothes she seem’d to lack.133
She is not there !  His wonderment immense is ;134
He shouted, search’d, and well-nigh lost his senses.135
She is some robber’s prize,” then thought he,—136
In this we scarce can contradict him ;137
He little dreamt that she could be so naughty,138
As to have been a willing victim !139
Why didn’t I escort her home at once,140
Dress’d as she was ?  Alas, poor silly dunce !141
In what distress my darling little wife ;142
Will be !  She said that she should find her life143
So sad without me, that she needs must be144
Buried alive in the same grave with me.145
You phoenix of a woman ! if a stranger146
Has dared to pester you with his advances,147
I’m sure that you’ll have saved yourself from danger,148
As any noble matron would,—the chance is149
That you have scratch’d your face, or torn your hair,150
Or even stabb’d yourself in your despair !”151
Alas, poor Faristan deluded,152
She felt more happy far than you did !153
She liked her quarters in the harem so,154
That she had not the slightest wish to go,155
And took so kindly to her new position,156
She quite forgot you and your sad condition.157

Part III.

Poor Faristan begins to seek her158
Early and late, through all the country round,159
But all in vain; his hopes grow weaker,160
No trace of her can anywhere be found.161
He also searches for his friend the Prophet,162
Hoping that he could tell him something of it.—163
At length a person who was present164
At the adventure, brought the news un-
pleasant
165
That Fatima, the good and tender,166
Instead of swearing “ No surrender!”167
Had shown the Prince a preference decided,168
And in his harem happily resided.169
Our hero now no longer waits,170
But hastens to the palace gates,171
Past all the servants, heralds,
pushes,
172
Into the Prince’s very presence rushes,173
And there begins he to implore him174
His faithful lost one to restore him.175
A group of men and one woman. One man is holding a hookah in the background. 1/2 page.
The Prince, kind man (who maybe had enough176
Of Fatima ere this), gave no rebuff,177
But told him what had pass’d, without conceal-
ment
,
178
On learning what this strong appeal meant.179
She doubtless was beside herself with terror,”180
Said Faristan, “ and thought that you were
me ;
181
O let her come, and I’ll explain her error,—182
My own dear wife !  You presently shall see,183
My gracious lord, with how much fervour184
She’ll rush to kiss me—heaven preserve her !”185
’Tis well !” the Prince replied, “ so be it !186
I’ll at a distance stand to see it.”187
The lady came—good Faristan188
Was so much dazzled by the splendour189
Of her gold clothes and jewels, that, poor man,190
He knew her scarce, and felt like some pretender.191
But Fatima in half a second192
Knew him too well, stepp’d back, turn’d deadly
white,
193
Then fiery red ; but soon she reckon’d194
With woman’s wit the way to win the fight.195
Now, when the Prince observed her start, he196
Rush’d up and said, “ You know this party ?”197
O yes !” replied the gentlest of all creatures,198
I recognise too well his features.199
This is the robber who attack’d me,200
Beat me, and dragg’d me to the spot from whence201
Your Highness had the goodness to extract me,202
Half-naked, thanks to his impertinence !”203
On hearing his dear wife thus speak,204
Poor Faristan turns pale as death,205
Stares wildly round, feels faint and weak,206
His senses swim, he gasps for breath.207
The Court in chorus all asserted208
Such conduct proved a mind perverted ;209
His guilt was clear, the Prince commanded210
That they should take him to the Cadi.211
Into the judgment-room he’s handed,212
The case is tried, the gentle lady213
Duly deposes, our poor friend214
Makes no defence, what cares he for his life,215
Seeing this conduct of his faithless wife ?216
He’d rather have it at an end.217
The verdict’s “ Guilty !” ’ so they take him straight-
way
218
Off to the gallows near the city’s gateway.219
What could have saved his neck and reputation,220
As he stood trembling at the gallows’ base,221
Had not the Prophet (who in our narration222
Has play’d a part) approach’d the place ?223
His figure glisten’d with an angel’s splendour.224
This man is innocent, and no offender,225
And I’m his witness too !” he cried aloud.226
The hangman dropp’d the rope, the crowd227
Stared when they heard this speech of one228
Who never spoke in ignorance or malice,229
And all together hasten’d to the palace ;230
The Sultan came, attended by his son.231
The Prophet, highly honour’d at the Court,232
First says his say ; then Fatima is brought.233
Around them both, the others form a ring ;234
Too conscious of her guilt, the naughty thing235
Lifts up her eyes, the Prophet recognises,236
Falls down a corpse, while great the crowd’s sur-
prise is.
237
Good Faristan gets ample compensation,238
While Fatima’s consign’d to her old tomb ;239
There she may stop until the day of doom.240
He hasn’t now the slightest inclination241
To throw himself, and weep, and rave242
E’en for nine seconds on her grave.243