About the Translator: Mahmoud Fathi Saad
CEO and Translation Manager of Endpoint Translation Company
Mahmoud Fathi (born in 1987) is an English <> Arabic translator with more than 12 years experience in this field. He holds two Bachelor degrees in English language; one from the faculty of Education of Fayoum University (2008), and the other is from Minia University (2010). He started his career as an English language translator immediately after his first graduation in 2008. During the past 12 years he has worked for many translation companies around the world including businesses in the USA, Canada, and Asia. He has a track record of more than 10 million words translated in most areas of translation. Now, he is the CEO of Endpoint Translation Company.
About the Author: Mustafa Lutfi el-Manfaluti
Mustafa Lutfi el-Manfaluti (1876–1924) is an iconic Egyptian writer and poet who was famous for his unique and remarkable writing style. One of his most notable traits was that he couldn't read or speak French. He asked some of his friends to translate plays or books to Arabic, then he rewrote them in his fascinating style. The short stories he wrote in his books evoke every emotion and sympathy for the diverse characters, melting even the hardest of hearts. Our short story today is from his book “The Views” (Al Nazarat).
His most prominent books are:
1-The Tears (Al-Abarat)
2- The Views (Al Nazarat) (three parts)
3- For the Sake of the Crown
The Foundling Girl
Once long ago, on a very dusky cold winter’s night, a nobleman was walking through one of the poor neighborhoods in his city when he encountered a young girl who appeared to be in her fourteenth year sheltering beside a crumbling ancient wall. She was squatting with her head between her knees, trying to evade the freezing cold that was tempering her body like a heavy wind striking the branches of a tree. She had nothing to protect her from such freezing cold except ragged clothes which were torn and flapped over her naked body like lashes whipped over the bodies of slaves by their masters during the times of slavery.
Being a generous human who became genuinely upset and deeply moved when seeing miserable people, the man felt sorrow for such a very sad and depressing scene. He stepped forward and gently took her hands. She raised her head in fear and trembling and tried to escape from his hands and flee while yelling, “I won’t go back! I won’t go back!”
He tried to calm her by stroking her head until the fear in her subsided. When she realized that she was no longer in the arms of the bad man who had scared her, she gave him a quiet look; a look that if it were to speak and testify, would have testified deep waves of the sorrow and grief that had been inflicted upon her.
“Hey now, shush, what is your name my little girl?”
“I don’t know, Sir.”
“What do people call you?”
“They call me the foundling girl.”
“Are you really a foundling girl as they call you?”
“Yes, sir. I don’t know who my parents are and whether are they dead or alive. I don’t know anybody except the man who took me into his home and raised me. I thought that he was my father and I loved him. But when he started to torture me with all types of unsustainable agony and torment, I realized that I was alone in this world and truly understood the meaning of the name they called me. I felt a great deal of sorrow and sadness. Every time I walked in the streets and met any little girl, I would ask her, “Do you have a mother?” And when she replied, “Yes,” she would then start to tell me stories about her mother’s kind treatment which would double my grief and sorrow. It occurred to me that I must have committed a sin before I came into this world for which my God punished me by sending me here.
However, in order to be able to live and protect myself against such a monstrous world, I endured this man and all the tasks he assigned to me, including begging by the side of the road. Whenever he reminded me of my need for his home, he severely wronged and treated me badly. He started to beat me to a pulp whenever I returned at the end of the day carrying an amount of money less than the amount he had ordered me to solicit through begging.
I patiently endured his bad treatment for years until one day he was about to inflict one of the severest scourges and disasters on me: he tried to seduce me and deprive me of my last anchor against such a miserable life - my chastity. There was no other way out except by escaping from his house. I stealthily fled under the cover of darkness. I continued walking aimlessly through the streets without knowing where to go or from whom I could seek help until I reached this corner where you see me now. O Master, can you be charitable to me, as God has been charitable to you, and buy me a loaf of bread to eat? It has been two days since I last ate or drank anything.”
Hearing that sad story from the little girl, the man’s tears cascaded down his face like beads flowing from a broken bracelet. He speechlessly held her hand and lead her away. They reached his house quickly. There, in that house, he treated her in the same way a generous nobleman treats his family. She received the kind of treatment that she had never imagined even a tiny bite thereof for herself. It was but few days later, that a new girl appeared in that man’s palace: a girl that was not only very beautiful and decent; but also very kind and polite. Not one of the palace owner’s contacts knew anything about her other than that she was the daughter of one his relatives who had passed away and left her, so she had been brought to the palace.
In the meantime, the master of the palace also had a daughter. She was one of those girls who had been raised according to what it is referred to as the modern edification style. So, all that she got from science, knowledge, and the arts, was:
Uttering foreign jargon with her Negro servants and her Turkish dog.
A fondness for reading romantic novels.
Being an expert in choosing the sexiest clothes.
Arrogance and disrespect for all creatures including her father.
Egotism and self-love in a way that filled her heart with jealousy and envy to the extent that she couldn’t hear anyone speaking about beauty if he was referring to any girl other than her.
That legitimate girl found that not only her father’s love but also the love of the palace’s visitors was shared between her and the foundling girl due to the latter’s physical and moral beauty. She was consumed with hatred towards the foundling girl. She disdained and abused her continuously. She was very glad and happy to see her crying despite the fact that the foundling girl never spoke of any of these ill treatments in gratitude to her master who had saved her from homelessness. She wasn’t such a girl who paid attention to anything this trivial until the following incident occurred.
One day, after the master had entered his palace at night and while he was going upstairs, he found piece of paper on the floor. He picked it up and read what was written on it. It was as follows:
“My Dear Lady. I am waiting for you in the Palace’s Orchard at midnight under the usual Cyprus tree. Your Lover.”
As soon as he read the letter, he felt dizzy. He felt his heart with his hand to check whether it had flown from its cage. In order to mitigate the sorrow and grief that had befallen his soul, he talked to himself and said, “Perhaps that rendezvous belongs to the foundling girl and it's completely unfair to charge my daughter before I ascertain the truth.” He looked at his watch and found that the time of the rendezvous was very close. Accordingly, he slowly went back and headed into the garden and searched for the tree where the rendezvous would be held. When he discovered it, he concealed himself behind it, lurking in the shadow and awaiting the unfolding of the truth.
The rendezvous letter didn’t belong to the low foundling girl but to the chaste lady. While the latter was standing in front of the mirror in her room trying the most exciting outfits for the rendezvous, the former was tranquilly sleeping in her room. She suddenly heard the steps of her master going downstairs and she woke up to see him in a miserable condition and immediately realized that he wasn’t himself. She observed him from whence he couldn’t see her and realized what was going on. She knew that her master would discover the secret relationship between his daughter and her boyfriend. She knew that if he discovered that secret, which she had tried to keep for a long time, he would kill himself out of sadness and despair. She felt sorrow for him, so she started to rack her brains to think what she could do to protect him from such a scourge that would terminate his life; and finally, she had an idea.
Hastily, she ran down the stairs of the palace only to find the girl already out of the door and heading towards her rendezvous. She caught up with her and grabbed the hem of her dress. The girl got a fright and turned to her and said, “What do you want from me? Are you spying on me?”
She replied, “No, my lady.” Then she told her the whole story. The girl was filled with remorse when she realized that her father had found out about her secret relationship. She said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Your father does not know which one of us is the intended recipient of the letter. Just go back to your room and I will go to the rendezvous instead of you. Then, if your father sees me there, all his suspicion of you will cease.”
She headed to the tree where the rendezvous would be held. There, her master realized that it wasn’t his daughter, and he thanked God for the chastity and honor of his daughter.
He then turned to her and said, “Oh, it’s you. You know, I was good to you. I saved you from the claws of misery and gloom and you repay me by disgracing yourself to the extent that I am about to die this night from sorrow and pain. I was about to pin your disgraceful action on my little daughter and let her bear the burden of your shameful act. Leave my house without delay. There is no place for wicked people among us.”
She left the house in a cloud of shame and wandered through the city until she reached the bank of the river.
There, she took her notebook out of her bag and wrote the following last words, “I truly thank my God for enabling me to reward that man, who did me huge favors, by concealing the shameful act of his daughter, removing his sorrows and sadness, and sacrificing myself for him.” Then, she jumped into the river. It took only two or three whirlpools until her soul separated from her body and then floated above the surface of the water.
The next morning, the police found the body of the girl and recognized it. They took the body to the house of her master. He cried over her inconsolably and regretted having hurt her by dismissing her from his house and ordered the burial of her body. Nothing of the girl was left in his hands except for her bag, which he kept in his desk for a long time without looking at it.
Days inundated with occurrences and circumstances passed which served to expose to the man the actual behavior and bad manners of his daughter which had been hitherto unknown to him. He was bitterly disappointed with his daughter. One day he was sitting in his room reflecting on the blights and adversities in which he was trapped, and he felt bored, so he searched through his desk to find the bag of the unfortunate girl; the bag which he hadn’t opened ever; from the day of her burial until now it had remained cast aside in his desk. He read the notebook which he discovered in the bag – only to find the poignant last words written by the girl before she jumped into the river and drowned. When he reached the end of the words, he discovered the truth about his daughter. He collapsed and slipped into unconsciousness, suffering from a severe burden of sorrow and devastation as if he were in the throes and agonies of death.
When he awoke from his coma, he started to shiver as if he were feverish. He stayed in that condition for a few months, fluctuating between illness and recovery, until the illness got the better of him, and he passed away.
“Oh, Unknown Father who subjected that miserable girl to a life of misfortune, didn’t you know, before committing such a shameful act, that you were sending her to a world where she would experience unsustainable and intense levels of misery and pain that couldn’t be withstood by any human being?”
“Oh, great Fathers, if you would deliver your daughters to this western city so it can take over your duties in taking care of and raising them, you must firstly terminate your instincts of gallantry, dignity, and honor to the extent that you don’t get upset or hurt when you observe life depriving them of their chastity and honor.”
“Oh, the whole of humankind, please don’t continue to uphold hereafter lineages and don’t differentiate between people raised in small cottages and those raised in palaces. Don’t think that virtue is only limited to rich or great people, since it has been revealed to you that there are a great number of vices committed by so-called honorable people and virtues upheld by foundling people which are yet to be revealed in this life.”