Khaled and Djaida part 5
On hearing these words Khaled cast his eyes on the ground; and remained for some time thoughtful and gloomy. Then he answered: “Mother, I cannot remain here longer. I must return home in company with my horsemen and troops. I have no intention of saying more to my cousin; I am convinced that she is a girl whose temper and philosophy are uncertain; her character and mode of speech are destitute of stability and propriety. I have always been accustomed to live with warriors, on whom I spend my wealth, and with whom I win a soldier’s fame. As for my cousin’s love for me, it is the weakness of a woman, a young girl.”
He then put on his armor, mounted his horse, bade his uncle farewell, and announced his intention of leaving on the moment. “What means this haste?” cried Zahir. “I can remain here no longer,” answered Khaled, and, putting his horse to a gallop, he plunged into the wilderness. His mother, after relating to Djaida the conversation she had had with her son, mounted a camel and proceeded on her way towards her own country.
The sensitive soul of Djaida felt keenly this indignity. She brooded over it—sleepless and without appetite. Some days afterwards, as her father was preparing to make a foray with his horsemen against his enemies, his glance fell on Djaida, and seeing how changed she was in face, and dejected in spirit, he refrained from saying anything, thinking and hoping that she would surely become herself again after a short time.
Scarcely was Zahir out of sight of his tents, when Djaida, who felt herself nigh unto death, and whose melancholy was quite insupportable, said to her mother: “Mother, I feel that I am dying, while this miserable Khaled is still in the vigor of life. I should like, if God grants me the power, to make him experience the fury of death, the bitterness of its pang and torture.”
So saying, she rose like a lioness, donned her armor, and mounted her horse, informing her mother she was going on a hunting expedition. Swiftly, and without stopping, she made her way over rocks and mountains, her excitement increasing as she approached the dwelling-place of her cousin. As she was disguised, she entered, without being recognized, into the tent where strangers were received. But her visor was lowered, like that of a horseman of Hijaz.
Slaves and servants welcomed her, offered her hospitality, behaving towards her as to one of the guests, and the most noble personages of the country. That night Djaida took rest; but the following day she took part in the military exercises, challenged many warriors, and exhibited so much skill and bravery, that she called forth great astonishment among all the spectators.
Long before midday the horsemen of her cousin were forced to acknowledge her superiority over themselves. Khaled wished to witness her prowess, and, astonished at the sight of such skill, he offered to match himself with her. Djaida entered the contest with him, and then both of them joining in combat tried, one after another, all the methods of attack and defense, until the shades of night came upon them.