Avt’handil's Letter in Answer to P'hatman's
1093
"THOU hast written to me; I have read thy letter in
praise of me. Thou hast anticipated me, but the burning of
the fire of love afflicts me more lhan thee. Thou wishest,
I too want thy company uninterrupted. Our union is agreed
since it is the desire of both."
1094
I CANNOT tell thee how P'hatman's pleasure increased.
She wrote: "The tears I, absent from thee, have shed
suffice. Now I shall be unaccompanied, here shalt thou
find me alone; hasten my union with thee, to-night when
evening falls. Come!"
1095
THAT very night when the letter of invitation was
presented to the knight, when twilight was falling and he
was going, another slave met him on the way with the
message: "Come not to-night; thou shalt find me unready
for thee." This vexed him, he turned not back, he said:
"What sort of thing is this ?"
1096
THE invited guest went not back again on the withdrawal
of his invitation. P'hatman sits troubled. Avt'handil the
tree-like went in alone. He perceived the woman's
uneasiness, he saw it forthwith on his going in; she could
not reveal it from fear, and also out of complaisance for
him.
1097
THEY sat down together and began to kiss, to sport
pleasantly, when a certain elegant youth of graceful mien
appeared standing in the doorway. He entered; close
behind followed a slave with sword and shield. When he
saw Avt'handil he felt afraid as before a rocky road.
1098
WHEN P'hatman saw, she was afraid, she shook and fell
a-trembling. The stranger gazed with wonder at them lying
caressing; he said: "I will not hinder, 0 woman ... but
when day breaks I shall cause thee to repent that thou hast
had this youth.
1099
"THOU hast shamed me, 0 wicked woman, and made me
to be despised, but to-morrow thou shalt know the answer
to be paid for this deed; I shall make thee to devour thy
children with thy teeth; if fail to do this, spit upon my
beard, let me run mad in the fields!"
1100
THUS he spake, and the man touched his beard and went
out of the door, P'hatman began to beat her head, her
cheeks were scratched, the gurgling of her tears flowing like
a fountain was heard. She said: "Come, stone me with stone,
let the throwers approach!"
1101
SHE laments: "I have, alas! slain my husband, I have
killed off my little children, I have given away as loot our
possessions, the peerless cut gems! I am separated from my
dear ones! Alas! the upbringer! Alas! the upbrought! I have
made an end of myself; shameful are my words!"
1102
AVT'HANDIL hearkened to all this in perplexity. He said:
"What troubles thee, what say'st thou, why dost thou thus
lament, why did that youth threaten thee, what fault found
he in thee ? Be calm; tell me who he was and on what errand
he roved!"
1103
THE woman replied: "0 lion! I am mad with the flow of
tears; ask me no more tidings, nought can I tell thee with
my tongue. I have slain my children with mine own hand,
therefore can I no more be gay; impatient for thy love
I have slain myself.
1104
"THIS kind of thing certainly should happen to the utterer
of idle words, the chatterer who cannot hide a secret, the
witless, mad, raving. 'Help me with your lamentations!'
This will I say to all who see me. A physician cannot cure
one who drinks his own blood!
1105
"DO one thing of two: desire nothing more than this: If
thou canst kill that man, go, slay him secretly by night:
thus shalt thou save me and all my house from slaughter:
return, I will tell thee all, the reason why I shed tears.
1106
"IF not, take away thy loads on asses this very night,
escape from my neighbourhood, gather everything for
flight. I doubt my sins will fill thee too with woe. If that
knight go to court he will make me eat my children with my
mouth."
1107
WHEN Avt'handil, the proud, gifted with bold resolve
heard this, he arose and took a mace-how fair, how hold is
he! "To ignore this matter would be remissness on my
part!" said he. Think not any living is his like; there is none
other like unto him!
1108
TO P'hatman he said: "Give me a man as instructor, as
guide, let him show me the road truly, else I want no helper;
I cannot look on that man as a warrior and mine equal.
What I do I shall tell thee; wait for me, be calm!"
1109
THE woman gave him a slave as guide and leader. Again
she cried out: "Inasmuch as the hot fire is to be cooled, if
thou slay that knight to assuage the irritation of my heart,
he has my ring, I entreat thee to bring it hither."
1110
AVT'HANDIL of the peerless form passed the city. On the
seashore stood a building of red-green stone; in the lower
part fair palaces, then above terrace upon terrace, vast,
beautiful, numerous, hanging one over the other.
1111
THITHER is the sun-faced Avt'handil led by his guide,
who says to him in a low voice: "This is the palace of him
thou seekest." He shows it to him, and says: "Seest thou
him standing on yonder terraced roof? Know this, there he
lie? to sleep; or thou shalt find him sitting."
1112
. BEFORE the door of that luckless youth lay two guards.
Avt'handil passed, he stole in without making a sound; he
put a hand on each of their throats, forthwith he slew them,
he struck head upon head, brain and hair were mingled.