Friday, March 03, 2006

From 'Other people-Other Worlds'



Robert L. Fielding

  No one ever refused an invitation from the Sultan.  No one would be so imprudent or absurd.  The Sultan's hospitality was so lavish, and his displeasure so legendary in its might, potency and jurisdiction that only a madman, would even think of such a thing.
  But although the Sultan was potent as a ruler, he was a man of extraordinary compassion.  Learning of any disasters that befell his subjects, be they weak or strong, rich or poor, he was known to weep openly, and to spend long hours in fervent prayer in his private domain.  He was a devout, godly, pious man who believed in the wealth of man's estate upon Earth, and who believed in the spirit of love, devotion and the attachment which bound him to his people, and they to him.  He was a just leader of his people, slow to chide, but severe in his admonishment.  Penalties for sinfulness and iniquity within his realm were grave, momentous and often fatal.
  The punishment for defrauding was exile from the protection and welfare savoured by those who lived and breathed within the walls of his city state.  Exile meant living at variance with nature, exposed to the harsh elements of the desert to the north, or running the gauntlet of hordes of savage warriors raiding to and fro across the wastes of the steppe to east and west.
  Adulterers met their portions of the Sultan's reprimands either in the vast Karakum desert if they were male, or else in the stone keep known by the people as the Witches' kitchen, and life in both places was thought to be Hell on Earth.
  By day the Sultan could often be seen walking slowly through the groves to his own place of prayer and seclusion.  As he walked along the pathways, his long, flowing gown trailed along around his feet, making an arc between the ground and his shoulders that the people called 'The arc up to  Heaven'.  When others trod this path, the curving billows of their clothes seemed to make an arc different in shape and purity that let followers know it was not the Sultan who was walking even when they could not see his face.  Where his garment touched the ground small flowers sprang up making this particular pathway an avenue of colour.  The men who tended the earth watered it daily, and tended the flowers to help them flourish and bloom.  By these small signs, the Sultan's people knew their ruler reigned by the will of Allah, the 'kut' that only he bore as Sultan.
  One day the Sultan was walking slowly to his house of prayer, his head so bowed in his fervency, that he nearly fell over a girl who was picking flowers on the pathway in front of him.
  "My child, my child, what do you do that is so demanding of your attention that you impede my path to prayer?"  The girl rose in front of him, and hid her face that she might not see the Sultan's disapproval.
  "I was picking blossoms," she said through the material of her clothes.
  "That, I am able to see," laughed the Sultan, "but why here, and why now?"  The girl let the cloth slip from her face to reply.
  "My father is ill, and I wanted these," she held out the flowers, "to make him well again."
  The Sultan smiled and touched the girl's head softly.  "Go now to your father's side," he said gently, "he has need of you," and he let the girl pass by his side, brushing his gown in her haste.  The sway of his garment caused him to turn, and in turning he saw the girl's face in profile.  
  "What name did your father give to you, my child?"  The girl wavered in her speed and dropped the flowers she had collected.  They fell from her hands onto the mottled sward of the path.  Both bent to gather the flowers, and kneeling at the girl's side, the Sultan again asked his question.
  "What does your father call you, my child?"  The girl turned, flustered that the Sultan should ask her name.
  "Yasemin, my name is Yasemin," and she stood up as she had been taught when speaking.
  "Then, Yasemin, go to your father's side, he has need of you".  Again she sprang into the path.
  "But go more carefully, your father is mending.  Your faith will be rewarded," and he himself turned his feet towards the gate of his place of prayer.
  As the Sultan kneeled in prayer, he saw the girl with her flowers, and again he felt her brush his side as she hurried back to her father.  He heard her speaking.
  "Yasemin, my name is Yasemin," and although he offered up his prayers in peace, the girl's name came back again and again to disturb his devotion, after which he stood up and breathed in deeply.  
  Walking back along the path, he happened to stop at the spot where the girl had nearly made him fall.  He bent and picked up one of the flowers she had left on the ground.  He held it up to his face.  It was yellow, and the patterns intricately folded into its petals shone with a brilliance that also disturbed him, and he dropped the flower and continued along the path.
  In the days and weeks that followed, the Sultan could think of little else but the girl carrying the flowers to her ailing father.  His manservants and those who counselled him noticed a change in their master, but said nothing.
  Every morning Yasemin went into her father's room to see if he had everything he wanted.  She had not slept well, hardly at all, for she tried to listen out for any change in her father's breathing as he laboured in sleep.  This night his breath, though weak, had been even.  In the small hours, when it seemed to Yasemin that her father was resting, she too fell asleep.  Her sleep was light, and the slightest change to the rhythm of her father's breathing would have woken her.  This night she slept, and because her sleep was fitful she dreamed.  Her dreams wandered between the terror she always felt in the night lest her father passed away without her saying goodbye, and the thoughts of any normal, healthy girl.  She dreamed of the man she would marry, her children, and the fine home that she would share with her new family.
  One recurring dream seemed to bring her into marble halls, and she woke from these dreams feeling that she had touched the marble, had felt its delicious coolness even in the midday heat.  She dreamed of gold and silver platters of meat and fragrant fruit, pomegranates lying open exposing their crimson flesh to her quiet gaze.
  She felt as if somebody was constantly inviting her into these places where the sun's rays were stilled as if in divine reverence to those who dwelled there.  Morning after morning, as she awoke, listening for the faint sound of her father's breathing, she found herself mouthing the same words.
  "I will not go.  No, I will not leave him.  He has need of me and I am his daughter.  I will not come."  These words rang in her head.
  This constant need to decline an invitation from something, someone, she knew not what to call it, left her feeling stronger and stronger.  Her father did have need of her, and she was his daughter.  She would not leave him, whoever asked her, she would not.  She hurried to the next room and gently pressed her father's brow.  He still slept.  She ran for water, to wake him so that she could bathe him from the sweat that his fever doused  him in every night.  She held a chalice of water to his frail lips, and he suffered her to lean him forward and up, the better to drink.  
Even in his dull sleep he felt his daughter's soft touch and thanked God he had been blessed with such a girl.  He drank a little, and the tepid water streamed from his thin lips, down his neck until a little pool was made in the hollows of his neck.  He was an old man and his neck was thin and weak.  His Adam's apple moved as he drank the water, and the little pool filled and emptied in time to his swallowing.  Yasemin dabbed his neck and chest.  She made little noises that gurgled in her throat, and watched her father drink and slowly open his eyes.  She smiled, although she was hurting inside.  These eyes were not the fearce eyes she had known as a child, fearce yet with a wonderful capacity to show joy the moment she came into his view.
  She murmured to him as he recognized her after his delirious night.  She spoke softly to him.
  "I am here father.  This is another day and you are already getting better."  He smiled at her kindness, without believing her.
  "You are getting stronger," she said, "I did not have to lift you to drink this morning."  Again he smiled.
  "And every morning I will be here, and every morning you will get stronger,"  and she let him rest from the exertion of drinking, for she too knew that he was still the same.  She spoke these words for him to encourage him back to health, and she spoke them for herself, to make herself think he was recovering, though she was not sure he was.
  In the evening, when Yasemin's father was dozing, and his daughter was tending to the thousand chores that needed doing, and which she did without them keeping her from her father's side, a soft knock came at the door.  She put down her brush, mopped her brow, and went to see who was at the door.  She knew who it would be, for the soft knock was aways at the same time, and always sounded the same.  It was a gentle tap from a horsesoldier's stick.  She knew its sound instinctively, and her expression lightened slightly.
  Rustam heard the bolts being thrown back, and straightened, the better to look his part.  He had recently become a soldier, and knew that those he loved, and who loved him were proud of the young soldier calling.
  The two young people met, their eyes flitted towards each other, and then quickly away.  Modesty forbade any longer contact, though both young hearts beat faster at seeing the other.
  "I have come to see how your father is," said Rustam doffing his hat as he crossed the threshold into the cool house.  Yasemin kept curtains drawn that the harshness of the sun's rays would not cause her father discomfort.
  "He is the same," and then hurriedly, as if to convince herself, "better today, I think."
  "I am glad for that, and.." he looked at her again, "for you."  She lowered her eyes.  Rustam continued to look at her.  This asking and being given the same answer was the ritual that both tacitly entered into.  It brought Yasemin comfort to be asked, and it gave her strength to say he was getting better.
  "You will sit and have tea?"  she asked, and he nodded and placed his stick and hat in the corner of the room.  He sat down and she scurried to the kitchen where the water was bubbling gaily in the pot.
  As she brought the tray of tea and two glasses to his side, he spoke.
  "Have you thought about my.."  She stopped him.
  "I cannot give you your answer while he has need of me," and she beckoned to the door of her father's room.
  "I only ask for you," he said quietly, "I know of your trouble."
  "But yet you continue to ask," she said frowning slightly.
  "Of course," he said, "I would not be worthy of you if I did not."
  She poured out the two, and for a while they drank in silence, the warmth and the sweetness soothing away any distance either might have felt.
  When the Sultan was asked to make judgements in disputes between the people, who traditionally depended on his great wisdom, those who were allowed an audience with him noticed a certain abstraction that came over him from time to time, but they said nothing.  His decisions at these meetings were still imbued with the insight into the nature of his people that they so revered, but now some noticed that his decisions bore a slight partiality to those men who had daughters.  At first it was hardly noticeable, not at all remarkable, and if noticed, put down to the immutable law of averages. As time went on, and more and more conclusions were reached by the Sultan, the scribes and  advisors did start to see that there was a definite bias in the Sultan's decrees towards those citizens whose offspring were female.  As it was observed, it began to be discussed.  Talk of the Sultan's predilection was clandestine, but always took on more of a concern for the Sultan's state of mind, than being given over to elements which displayed any disrespect to him.  On the contrary, the talk very often dwelt on how progressive in his thinking he had become.  But nevertheless, the Sultan's decisions were scrutinised for this bias, and more and more often it was found to be increasing.
  One day, the Sultan's chief adviser, a wise man by the name of Serik, asked the Sultan for a moment of his valuable time.  The Sultan consented, and the two men sat down.  Tea was ordered, the Sultan nodding his wishes to the attendant who had come to be able to read his master's thoughts and wishes manifest in the hundred little nods and frowns that never broke the silence of this room.
  "What is it that you wish to talk about?"  The Sultan turned to Serik for an answer.  Serik straightened at the look he received.
  "You are troubled, sire," he said, allowing a glimmer of kindness and respect to escape.
  "I do not think I would call it troubled."  The Sultan spoke in softer tones, glad of the mingling of respect and concern in Serik's voice.
  "Why do you ask?"
  "Only because it..."  He paused, thinking he had blundered.
  "You do not listen to gossip I hope."  The Sultan's visage grew darker.
  "No, sire."
  "Then continue what you were about to say."  Serik gained a little composure.
  "It has been noticed that you are not looking well these days, that..."
  "Pray continue," said the Sultan, his curiosity overcoming his reserve.
  "That something is giving you some discomfort."  Serik bowed his head in a plea of forgiveness for the intrusion.
  "I am the Sultan." Serik smiled at his master's shrewd observation.
  "Yes, master, that is true, you are.  The Sultan caught the sarcasm in Serik's voice and stiffened.
  "I am the Sultan," he repeated, watching for a sign from Serik.  Serik gave none, and bowed his head at his own unrefined behaviour.  "I have no children, I have no children to carry on my work."  Serik smiled again, but this time it was a sympathetic smile.
  "That is also true, master."  The Sultan looked Serik in the face, looking for disrespect, and finding none he continued.  "And I am getting older.  I am not even married.  I have no wife to bear me an heir."  Serik was again going to say that that was indeed true, but the Sultan started again.
  "I have found a girl.  She is right for the wife of a Sultan, though she is poor."
  "Then you must inform her of your intentions, inform her..."  The Sultan squirmed at being told what he, The Sultan, should and shouldn't do.  It wasn't that he resented Serik's telling him, but rather that as he listened he felt the other's junior.  
The Sultan had spent most of his life cloistered and bent in prayer, only allowing himself to lift up from his prayers and devotion to administer judgements on his people when it was required.  He knew nothing of courtship, of wooing a maiden, of asking a man for his daughter's hand.  He felt naive and slightly simple, but he also felt clean and pure, and these feelings served him to be dignified in his ignorance of such wordly matters.
  "What shall I do,"  he asked meekly.  Serik thought for some long moments.  He had no wish to incur his master's displeasure a second time in one day.
  "Send for her to come here,"  then he added almost as an afterthought, "ask her to come with her father."
  "Her father is unwell, and could not be expected to make the journey."  The Sultan looked glum.
  "Then she must come with another elder.  Send her an invitation.  She must come if you send her an invitation to come and talk.  You are the Sultan."  
  "And I am also someone with designs on a man's daughter.  I can send no such presumption."
  "But what else can you do, if you do not send her an invitation?"  The Sultan pondered over this until Serik almost blurted out a solution.
  "Send your entourage, provide the means of her coming here.  Then she cannot refuse, and would not do in any case."
  "But her father," the Sultan replied quickly, "how will he fare without his daughter at his side when he has need of her."  Both men pondered over this for some time.  At last it was the Sultan who tendered a solution.
  "I will send her my physician."  Serik clapped his hands together silently.
  "That is the answer, then she would not and could not refuse your invitation."
  "One last thing before you go," Serik stood up knowing he had been dismissed.
  "Will you draft a letter for me.  You know of my ignorance in these, erm," he paused, searching for the right word, "these matters."  
Serik bowed his head in obedience, happy at last to be able to do something tangible for his master.
  "I will be happy to, sire," he said, bowed again and left the Sultan to his thoughts, which were racing in his head.  He almost said to himself,   "She will come, she must come if I send her an invitation."  But he only half believed it, only wishing it deeply.  "Wishing would not make it so, he thought."
  Alone in his quarters, Serik thought about what the Sultan had told him.
  "He could choose any girl his heart desired, and yet he chooses a girl from a poor family."  Serik pondered over this, and then said to himself.
  "But that is part of his greatness."  He poured himself a glass of water.
  "He could have a partner with a fabulous dowry, but what does he want with riches, he has everything he wants in the cool domain of his prayers."
  He drank a little water, then held the glass up to his eyes.
  "Purity is everything.  As it is with water, so it is with the heart."
  Alone in his room the Sultan rested.  His thoughts moved to the girl, indeed, they had never been anywhere else.  He drank some milk, and let the cool smoothness flood through his mouth.  The coolness soothed him.
  "What if she refuses me," he thought.  "It is unthinkable."  A smile flickered across his face.  "And yet I am thinking it just the same."  He frowned now, and his brow carried uncustomary furrows.  The smile returned.
  "If she refuses me she will be right.  I cannot expect to command the love of a girl in the same way that I command the love of my people."
He drank a little more of the goat's milk.
  "It is said that a women falls in love because of what she hears from the mouth of a man, and," he paused to recollect the adage, "and a man falls in love because of what he sees in the face of a girl."  He thought of Yasemin again, and tried to remember what he had seen in her face.
  "Something more than beauty," he said softly to himself, "something more profound and longer lasting than mere physical beauty."  He thought of her face, and he remembered seeing it in profile as she passed him on the path.  He remembered what she had been doing there, picking flowers to take to the bedside of her sick father.
  "Beauty of spirit, beauty of thought, and beauty of faith, that is what I saw."  And once he found these words, he never lost sight of her face, radiant, trusting and clear and pure.
  "Like goat's milk, purity is everything," he said, and finished the milk, savouring its purity.
  "But what has she heard of me, I said very little to her.  How can I expect her love if that old proverb has any truth in it?"  The frown returned, and remained in his fitful sleep as the milk and the activity of the day, the uncertainty, the not knowing, all took their toll and he blinked heavy eyelids to a sleep that evaded his troubled mind.
  Yasemin's father was getting weaker.  That was the plain truth, and everyone saw it except Yasemin, who refused to believe that her father was recovering.  She clung to the thought night and day, with the tenacity of a person faced with accepting the awful truth.  She refused to believe he was getting better, and saw daily signs that he was actually in a state of slow recovery.
  "Look, she would say to her uncle when he came in the mornings with the bread for the day, "he has eaten that whole piece I gave him," and she showed her uncle the remains of a piece of bread.  He had tried to nibble at the brown corner, but had not even the strength for that.
  "Yes, he has eaten some bread," her uncle said softly and with some encouragement, though he knew his brother would not last many more nights.
  "He is getting better, and it is all because of you, Yasemin."  
  "I know it, I know it," she cried out, almost with pleasure, "and he will soon be fit and sitting in the garden again."  And then as if to convince herself again she said, "you'll see him soon tending the borders."
  The uncle looked again at his brother's daughter.  She was a good girl, she would fight to the very end.  She would never leave him.  and then he wished he had had daughters instead of the two scoundrels he had to call his sons.
  He muttered to himself, "And she will make someone a good wife," and then added, "she is fit to become the wife of even the Sultan."  Yasemin looked up, and her uncle saw her face in profile.  "And she is beautiful enough."
He only smiled at her turned face, and left her to tend to his dying brother.
  "Say goodbye to him, my child."  
  "You are going somewhere," then hurriedly, "you will not bring bread in the morning while he is like this?"  The man moved his head that she may not see his expression, for he could not know contain or hide his sadness.  He murmured incoherently.
  "Of course, I will bring you bread, for as you say, he is eating again."
  At the usual time that her uncle visited his ailing brother, Yasemin looked out from a window, fully expecting to see him hurrying down the hill towards the house.  She saw nothing, but she heard a great commotion coming from the direction of the hill.
  "Perhaps he has fallen and hurt himself hurrying to get here," she said  to herself.  The noise was growing.  And it was getting nearer and nearer.
  "I should go to see if it is him," she said to her father, who was still sleeping.  She talked to him constantly, whether he was awake or asleep.  If he was awake she spoke normally, and with expression and enthusiasm, but if he was sleeping she spoke in deferential quietness, not wishing to wake him, but still having a need to speak to him as if he were beside her working in the garden.
  Outside the noise, the sound of voices, excited voices, frantic voices, and a rumbling of strong cart wheels along the rough stone of the track, joined with the voices of her neighbours to produce a deafening tumult which ceased outside her door.  It could only mean one thing, that her uncle had fallen, and a cart was bringing him to his brother's house, her own house.  
The situation inside her own house, her father laying sick, together with her unrelenting belief in his recovery, had given her mind over to catastrophes involving others.  It was never never her own dear father who was going to be brought low by disaster, but someone near perhaps.  This sound made her fear worse, though she would not endure the thought where her own father was concerned.
  "It must be him," she said to herself and unbolted the door.  As she unbolted the door and threw it open on its rough iron hinges, the last of the clamour outside died completely.  Directly in front of her, a young man dressed in fine raiment, was getting down from the carriage.  She had never seen a carriage like this one, and wondered what it meant.  As the young man lowered himself with something of a flourish, an older, altogether more serious looking character dressed in black,  had rounded the back of the carriage, and he too was approaching her.  Yasemin's heart leapt.  Could it be that her uncle had been involved in some terrible accident, for she recognized the clothes of the older man.  He was a physician, and he was looking striaght at her, waiting for the younger of the two men to do something or say something, she knew not what.  The younger was unravelling something.  Its yellowy white surface reflected the sunlight of the morning, and his face was illuminated by its irridescence.
  The Sultan sat in the half darkness of the evening and reflected upon his decision.  Now that he had made it, and events were unfolding around him he
found himself in a state of uncertainty.  
  "Freedom from having to make a choice is a great freedom indeed," he said to himself quietly, and smiled.  This choice had been one he felt he had freely entered into, and he had only the coercion of his heart to suffer.
  And yet he still doubted that she would come, although he had sent his entourage, and his finest physician to attend to her father.
  "Will she come?" he asked gazing upwards, "only God knows."  And then as if to revive his spirits which had somehow sunk with the question, he said,
  "Whatever path she chooses will be the right one," and pausing, "and God knows that too."
  He looked around the marble hall in which he sat.  The finery around him, the jewel encrusted chair on which he sat, the fine carpets upon which he walked to and fro, and his own magnificent attire, all was nothing before the peasant girl who held his life in the balance.  It was good that he trusted in God, for the crushing weight of uncertainty, the fear of refusal, could not, would not have been born without his faith.  He kneeled in meek submission to the will of God, and let his faith and his piety be shown as he mouthed his supplication to the Heavens.
  As he prayed there came a sound from outside this private chamber. Hearing it, he continued his devotion, a little disturbed by the noise from without, and finishing his prayer, he stood upright and approached the heavy wooden doors.  There was something going on on the other side, and for an instant his temper flared at the intrusion into the solitude he always required to direct his thoughts to God.
  Opening the door, not without some effort, he found that it was the physician who was responsible for the commotion.
  "They would not let me see you, sire," he almost shouted in his urgency, throwing the two guards back from him as he spoke.  The Sultan was curious.
  "And why would you want to see me, physician, I am not unwell."  The physician who had forgotten himself in the heat of the moment, bowed deeply to his master.  He was now almost breathless.
  "Calm youself man, be not afraid, and say what it is that is bursting your lungs to utter."  The physician straightened sharply, as he was bidden to speak.
  "She will not come, sire, and her father's state worsens by the hour."
  Yasemin's father had indeed become considerably worse.  His breath rasped out of him, and intermitten bouts of coughing racked his frail body, sometimes lifting him off the white bed linen.  Yasemin sat by her father, and would see no one.  Even the Sultan's physician had to enter her father's room before she would speak to him.
  "Cannot you do something for him," she entreated him.  He took out the tools of his trade; a sort of rounded horn, which he placed on the old man's chest to listen to him breathing.
  "I fear your father has pneumonia," he said gently to the girl waiting anxiously for an answer.
  "What does that mean?" she asked uneasily.
  "He is literally drowning, his lungs are filling with water, and that is what is making him cough so," he said.
  "What can be done," and then as if in shock, "there is something to be done, is there not?"  The physician thought for a moment.
  "You can pray for him," and he looked at her realising that she must have been doing all she could, she looked so tired.
  "And you can keep him as warm as possible until his fever passes."  He had said that to give her hope, although he knew that there was none.  The old man would not escape death, his heart would not stand the pounding it was being given by the lungs without their fill of life giving air.
  "And you can ask God for a miracle," he said, turning his face that he might not see the girl's anguish.
  "I have asked for God's forgiveness for my sins, and I have asked God to remember my father's life, his work in the fields tending His Creation."
  "Yes," said the physician gently, "I can feel there is a bond between your father and the Earth," and then he added, "and between you and your father."
  "I am his daughter."
  "Quite so, and you must not leave him now, for if he is to survive this night, he will need you constantly at his side.  His brow will become bathed in perspiration, and you must attend to him."
  I will never leave my father, now or at any time."  She looked down at her ailing father, at him struggling against the interminable fluid that filled his poor lungs.
  "He may sense that you are about to leave his house."
  "He has not heard or seen what has been going on outside," she said with dread in her voice.
  "But he has a sixth sense where you are concerned, he knows everythin8."
  That night was the longest, most agonising night of Yasemin's young life.  

She felt the weight of the seconds, the length of each single minute, and the duration of an hour was almost intolerable, for she weighed time, not by the passing of hours, minutes or seconds, but by her father's heartbeat.  She held his wrist throughout the night, feeling for the faint pulse that told her that his life still hung by a thread.  After one heartbeat came the unendurable stillness until the next, and the next.  She spent the night dying a death between each of her father's heartbeats, stricken by the thought that each one was his last.
  As she held his wrist she prayed.  She could not kneel as she would have liked, but she prayed her most earnest entreaties.  She knew that her God was an all-knowing deity, and she knew that He knew she had entertained thoughts of admitting the Sultan into her young life.  
  "Who would not do so," she had said to herself.  But she knew that she coud not leave her father, and this vow she had made, she did despite the Sultan's prayers for her to become his bride.  She felt almost now as if her prayers were in direct opposition to those of the Sultan, and wept a long tear in the fear that the Sultan would prevail.  She knew of his might, of his legendary displeasure, and his awesome jurisdiction and power, and she became afraid for her own life, as well as the life of her dear father.
  In the darkest hour before the dawn, Yasemin reached a crisis in her thoughts, and her father reached one in his affliction.  As Yasemin and her father came near to God, in their thoughts, and in their bodies, a noise from behind her made her start.  She tugged slightly at her father, and he too started.  A tall man was standing behind the girl, and as she looked round in perfect dread, she saw the figure turn to leave.  As he did so she noticed the shape of his long gown, between his high shoulders and the ground.  It was a heavenly shape, which at first did not strike her vision, but as she peered harder in the darkness, she comprehended the shape that was before her.
  A voice emanated from the figure.
  "Have no fear, my child, you will not leave your father, for he has need of you."  She turned to her father, who had opened his eyes a little.
  "And do not be afraid of anyone, God has seen your faithfulness.  You will not go unrewarded."  The figure merged slowly into the darkened room that had become perceptibly lighter with the passing of the apparition.  Some hours had passed at a pace of unearthly rapidity, and her father's pulse was much stronger.
  The first light of the day streaked through the windows, in spite of Yasemin's attempts to draw the curtains to keep it out.  Now, she stood up and flung them back so that her father, who was now sitting up, and breathing regularly, could gain the benefit of the life giving rays.
  But there was another commotion, and she saw that again the carriage was in the track coming towards her home.
  "He cannot have heard my father is recovering," she thought, and passed out of the room to find out what was happening.
  The same messenger strode to her door, though it seemed that his step was heavier than it had been the day before.  She opened the door.  The crowd, many with sleep in their swollen eyes, were blinking at this second visit.
  "I have news," said the messenger gravely.  Yasemin shook with the fear that she had wronged the Sultan.
  "My Master passed from us in the night."  He bowed his head in sadness.
  "You cannot mean.."  Yasemin shook the man by his arms, "you cannot mean that the Sultan is dead."  The messenger lifted his tearstained face and looked at the girl in front of him.
  "I do mean that, for my master, the Sultan, Sultan Sancar is no more."
The girl turned her face and wept.
  "But he has bidden us to send you a token," he said, pointing at the ground.  At his side lay a casket, bound with iron bands, mighty as the Sultan's displeasure, lavish as his hospitality.
  "But what is it?" she asked.
  "That I cannot say, I only am commanded to bring it to you."  Then, as if commanded again, he turned on his heels and was gone from her door, leaving only the casket to be carried indoors.
  She pulled at it until it was safely inside.  Then she locked and bolted the door.  She took hold of the clasp and bent it open with her tiny hands.  It was stiff, as if it had been closed up for centuries.  It finally yielded to her pressure, and slowly the lid opened.  As it opened, a strange, almost unearthly light glowed from its inner recesses.  Upon it being opened, the room filled with an incandescent glow that was suffused with the singular warmth of the happiness of a full stomach, a raging thirst quenched, or of a mortal infirmity brought low and a restoration to full health.  She mouthed wonder at the sight, but uttered not a word.  Behind her another sound grew, and turning she saw it was her father who was moving slowly towards her.  His face shone and he was hearty.  He looked down at his daughter.
  "This is the Sultan's gift to his new bride, on the morning of their new life."  They smiled at each other, and silently gave thanks for the wisdom and greatness of Sultan Sancar.


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