Presently, the sharper came to the ruin, rejoicing in that which he deemed he should get, and dug in the place, but found nothing and knew that the idiot had tricked him. So he buffeted his face, for chagrin, and fell to following the other whithersoever he went, so he might get what was with him, but availed not unto this, for that the idiot knew what was in his mind and was certified that he spied upon him, [with intent to rob him]; so he kept watch over himself. Now, if the sharper had considered [the consequences of] haste and that which is begotten of loss therefrom, he had not done thus. Nor,” continued the vizier, “is this story, O king of the age, rarer or more extraordinary or more diverting than the story of Khelbes and his wife and the learned man and that which befell between them.”
When the king heard this story, he renounced his purpose of putting the vizier to death and his soul prompted him to continue him on life. So he bade him go away to his house.
The Seventeenth Night of the Month.
When the evening evened, the king summoned the vizier, and when he presented himself, he required of him the [promised] story. So he said, “Hearkening and obedience. Know, O august king, that
There was once a man hight Khelbes, who was a lewd fellow, a calamity, notorious for this fashion, and he had a fair wife, renowned for beauty and loveliness. A man of his townsfolk fell in love with her and she also loved him. Now Khelbes was a crafty fellow and full of tricks, and there was in his neighbourhood a learned man, to whom the folk used to resort every day and he told them stories and admonished them [with moral instances]; and Khelbes was wont to be present in his assembly, for the sake of making a show before the folk.
Now this learned man had a wife renowned for beauty and loveliness and quickness of wit and understanding and the lover cast about for a device whereby he might win to Khelbes’s wife; so he came to him and told him, as a secret, what he had seen of the learned man’s wife and confided to him that he was enamoured of her and besought him of help in this. Khelbes told him that she was distinguished to the utterest for chastity and continence and that she exposed herself not to suspicion; but the other said, ’I cannot renounce her, [firstly,] because the woman inclineth to me and coveteth my wealth, and secondly, because of the greatness of my love for her; and nothing is wanting but thy help.’ Quoth Khelbes, ‘I will do thy will;’ and the other said, ’Thou shalt have of me two dirhems a day, on condition that thou sit with the learned man and that, when he riseth from the assembly, thou speak a word notifying the breaking up of the session.’ So they agreed upon this and Khelbes entered and sat in the assembly, whilst the lover was assured in his heart that the secret was safe with him, wherefore he rejoiced and was content to pay the two dirhems.