The Tenth Night of the Month.
When it was eventide, the king summoned the vizier and sought of him the story of the King and the Tither, and he said, “Know, O king, that
STORY OF THE UNJUST KING AND THE TITHER.
There was once a king of the kings of the earth, who dwelt in a populous[FN#236] city, abounding in good; but he oppressed its people and used them foully, so that he ruined[FN#237] the city; and he was named none other than tyrant and misdoer. Now he was wont, whenas he heard of a masterful man[FN#238] in another land, to send after him and tempt him with money to take service with him; and there was a certain tither, who exceeded all his brethren in oppression of the people and foulness of dealing. So the king sent after him and when he stood before him, he found him a mighty man[FN#239] and said to him, ’Thou hast been praised to me, but meseemeth thou overpassest the description. Set out to me somewhat of thy sayings and doings, so I may be dispensed therewith from [enquiring into] all thy circumstance.’ ’With all my heart,’ answered the other. ’Know, O king, that I oppress the folk and people[FN#240] the land, whilst other than I wasteth[FN#241] it and peopleth it not.’
Now the king was leaning back; so he sat up and said, ’Tell me of this.’ ‘It is well,’ answered the tither. ’I go to the man whom I purpose to tithe and circumvent him and feign to be occupied with certain business, so that I seclude myself therewith from the folk; and meanwhile the man is squeezed after the foulest fashion, till nothing is left him. Then I appear and they come in to me and questions befall concerning him and I say, “Indeed, I was ordered worse than this, for some one (may God curse him!) hath slandered him to the king.” Then I take half of his good and return him the rest publicly before the folk and send him away to his house, in all honour and worship, and he causeth the money returned to be carried before him, whilst he and all who are with him call down blessings on me. So is it published in the city that I have returned him his money and he himself saith the like, so he may have a claim on me for the favour due to whoso praiseth me. Then I feign to forget him till some time[FN#242] hath passed over him, when I send for him and recall to him somewhat of that which hath befallen aforetime and demand [of him] somewhat privily. So he doth this and hasteneth to his dwelling and sendeth what I bid him, with a glad heart. Then I send to another man, between whom and the other is enmity, and lay hands upon him and feign to the first man that it is he who hath traduced him to the king and taken the half of his good; and the people praise me.’[FN#243]