There was once, in the parts of Khorassan, a man of the affluent of the country, who was a merchant of the chiefest of the merchants and was blessed with two children, a son and a daughter. He was assiduous in rearing them and making fair their education, and they grew up and throve after the goodliest fashion. He used to teach the boy, who taught his sister all that he learnt, so that the girl became perfect in the knowledge of the Traditions of the Prophet and in polite letters, by means of her brother. Now the boy’s name was Selim and that of the girl Selma. When they grew up and waxed, their father built them a mansion beside his own and lodged them apart therein and appointed them slave-girls and servants to tend them and assigned unto each of them pensions and allowances and all that they needed of high and low, meat and bread and wine and raiment and vessels and what not else. So Selim and Selma abode in that mansion, as they were one soul in two bodies, and they used to sleep on one couch; and rooted in each one’s heart was love and affection and familiar friendship [for the other of them].
One night, when the night was half spent, as Selim and Selma sat talking and devising with each other, they heard a noise below the house; so they looked out from a lattice that gave upon the gate of their father’s mansion and saw a man of goodly presence, whose clothes were hidden by a wide cloak, which covered him. He came up to the gate and laying hold of the door-ring, gave a light knock; whereupon the door opened and out came their sister, with a lighted flambeau, and after her their mother, who saluted the stranger and embraced him, saying, ’O beloved of my heart and light of mine eyes and fruit of mine entrails, enter.’ So he entered and shut the door, whilst Selim and Selma abode amazed.
Then Selim turned to Selma and said to her, ’O sister mine, how deemest thou of this calamity and what counsellest thou thereanent?’ ‘O my brother,’ answered she, ’indeed I know not what I shall say concerning the like of this; but he is not disappointed who seeketh direction [of God], nor doth he repent who taketh counsel. One getteth not the better of the traces of burning by[FN#68] haste, and know that this is an affliction that hath descended on us; and we have need of management to do it away, yea, and contrivance to wash withal our shame from our faces.’ And they gave not over watching the gate till break of day, when the young man opened the door and their mother took leave of him; after which he went his way and she entered, she and her handmaid.