Home          The Knight in the Tiger Skin by M. S. Wardrope Contents
The Meeting of Tariel and Avt'handil
THE maid rose and went to bring that knight. "He is
not angry," quoth she, to encourage him. She took him by
the hand and led him forth, like the full moon. When
Tariel saw him he thought him like the sun.
TARIEL met him. They were both fit to be ranked as
suns, or as the moon in heaven, cloudless, spreading her
rays on the plain beneath. Compared with them the
aloe-tree was of no worth; they were like the seven planets;
to what else shall I liken them ?
THEY kissed each other, they were not bashful at being
strangers; they opened the rose, from their lips their white
teeth shone transparent. They embraced each other's neck,
together they wept; their jacinth, which was worth rubies,
they turned into amber.
THE knight turned, he grasped Avt'handil's hand in his
hand; they sat down together, and wept long with hot tears.
Asmat'h calmed them with wonderful words: "Slay not
yourselves; darken not the sun with your eclipse."
TARIEL'S rose was only covered with a light frost, not
frozen. He said to Avt'handil: "Haste, tell me thy secret.
Who art thou ? Whence art thou come ? Where is thy home ?
As for me, death has forgotten me; even by it am I
AVT'HANDIL gave answer; beautiful are his words:
"0 lion and hero Tariel, thou who behavest gently, I am an
Arabian, from the court of Arabia; I am consumed by love,
unquenchable fire burns me.
"I LOVE the daughter of my lord; her lusty-armed servants
now view her as their queen. Though thou knowest me not,
I have seen thee, if thou wilt call it to mind. Dost thou
remember when thou slowest the strong-armed slaves ?
"WE saw thee roaming in the plain, and we came upon
thee. My lord was angry with thee, and we quarrelled fiercely
with thee. We called thee, thou earnest not, we pursued
thee with soldiers; thou didst dye the fields crimson with
the blood thou madest to flow.
"THOU didst cut the heads of all with a whip, without
a sword. The king mounted, thou wert lost to us, we could
not cut off thy track; like a Kadj thou wert hidden, the
slaves were terrified. This enraged us still more; we were
completely stunned.
"THE king became gloomy; you know that a monarch
also has humours. They looked for thee, they sought thee
everywhere, they traced a map. They could find none who
had seen thee, neither young nor old. Now she has sent me,
she to whom neither sun nor ether is to be compared.
"SHE said to me: 'Learn for me news of that vanished sun;
then will I do that which thou desirest.' She told me that
for three years the stream of tears was to flow without
her; dost thou not marvel that I could bear the lack of
the sight of her smile?
"UNTIL now I have seen no man who saw thee. I saw
Kurds who spoke rudely with joy; thou didst strike them
with thy whip; one thou madest like a corpse; they whose
brother was dying told me."
TARIEL recalled their bygone fight. He said: "I remember
the affair, though it happened long ago. I saw thee and
thy master together at the chase. I was weeping because I was
thinking, alas! of my destroyer.
"WHAT did you want with me ? What did you desire ?
What had we in common? You, mighty, were sporting;
we bathed our cheeks in tears. When you set the slaves
upon me you dared to take me; now, methinks, instead of
capturing me you bare away corpses.
"I LOOKED round when I saw thy lord approach me, I had
pity on his kingship; therefore I laid not my hands upon
him, I fled before your eyes, I said nothing. My horse looks
an invisible spirit, to what else can I compare him ?
"BEFORE a man can blink or wink the eye, I can flee
that which I know to be unpleasant. Those Kurds, on the other
hand, I did not consider myself unjust to them; their
overbearance and my prowess ill became them.
"NOW thou art come with good intent, the sight of thy
face rejoices nie, 0 cypress-tormed, sunlike-faced, brave as
a hero; but thou hast toiled, thou art not untried by
trouble; hard is it to find a man abandoned by God in
AVTHANDIL said: "How dost thou praise me, thou
worthy of the praise of the tongue of the wise ? What am
I to deserve such praise from thee ? Thou art the image of
the one sun, the light of heaven above, for the misery of
the flowing of so many tears cannot change thee.
"THIS day has made nie forget her who darkened my heart.
I renounce her service; äs for that, it shall be as thou
wishest. Thus, though a jacinth is better, still a thousand
times more do I desire enamel. I shall stay near thee till
death, more than this I desire not."
TARIEL said: "Thy heart now is warm to me. I am
amazed. What service worthy of thine attachment have I
done for thee ? But such is the law: lover pities lover.
Thou art parted from thy beloved; what can recompense
thee for this ?
"THOU art come forth to seek me in thy lady's service.
God has made thee find me. Thou also hast endeavoured
manfully. But how shall I teil thee why I am thus
wandering ? If I speak of it, hot fire will fire me; I shall
become a flame, a smoke."
UPON this Tariel was silent, burned and enflamed. He
said to Asmat'h: "Since thou hast been near me all the
time, how dost thou not know that this bruised bruise
is incurable ? Anew this weeping knight burns nie; I am his
debtor for tears.
"HOW can man find that which has not been created by
God ? Therefore has my heart been born in the embers of a
glowing furnace. My path has been cut ofF, I am bound in
a net, caught in a snare. Of my feasts—only straw for my
bed and my nabadi1 remain.
"BUT merciful God, whom the sun has made known to us,
has accorded me two blessings to-day: the first is that two
lovers will be reunited by me, and the second that mayhap
the flaming fire will be unable to consume me."
HE said to the knight: "Whatever man takes to himself
a brother—ay, or a sister—must have not care of death and
trouble for their sake. How should God save the one if He
cause not the other to perish ? Listen, and I shall teil thee
whatever befall me."
HE said to Asmat'h: "Come, sit down here, bring water
with thee, sprinkle me when fainting, bathe my breast. If
thou seest me a corpse, weep for me, sob ceaselessly, dig
a grave for me, here let the earth cradle me."
HE sat down unbuttoned to teil his tale; he laid bare his
shoulders. Like the sun clad in clouds he sat; a long time
he shed no ray. He could not open his lips to speak; he
clenched them. Then he drew his breath, cried out, hot tears
gushed forth.
HE sobbed: "O beloved, mine own, lost to me! My hope and
life, my thought, my soul, my heart! Who cut thee off I
know not, O heart a hundred times kindled!"
 1 Nabadi-a shaggy cloak of goat-skin.