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The following sections, if they exist, are offprint from Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults: "About the Author", "Overview", "Setting", "Literary Qualities", "Social Sensitivity", "Topics for Discussion", "Ideas for Reports and Papers". (c)1994-2005, by Walton Beacham.
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|Table of Contents|
|Start of eBook||1|
|STORY OF THE LACKPENNY AND THE COOK.||1|
|Story of the Unlucky Merchant.||28|
|Story of the Merchant and His Sons.||32|
|STORY OF ABOU SABIR.||36|
|STORY OF PRINCE BIHZAD.||41|
|STORY OF KING DADBIN AND HIS VIZIERS.||43|
|STORY OF KING BEKHTZEMAN.||48|
|STORY OF KING BIHKERD.||51|
|STORY OF ILAN SHAH AND ABOU TEMAM.||53|
|STORY OF KING IBRAHIM AND HIS SON.||59|
|STORY OF KING SULEIMAN SHAH AND HIS SONS.||65|
|STORY OF THE SINGER AND THE DRUGGIST.||91|
|STORY OF THE FULLER AND HIS WIFE.||106|
|STORY OF THE CREDULOUS HUSBAND||110|
|STORY OF THE UNJUST KING AND THE TITHER.||112|
|STORY OF DAVID AND SOLOMON.||113|
|STORY OF THE THIEF AND THE WOMAN.||114|
|STORY OF THE THREE MEN AND OUR LORD JESUS.||116|
|STORY OF THE IDIOT AND THE SHARPER.||123|
|Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)||136|
One of the good-for-noughts found himself one day without aught and the world was straitened upon him and his patience failed; so he lay down to sleep and gave not over sleeping till the sun burnt him and the foam came out upon his mouth, whereupon he arose, and he was penniless and had not so much as one dirhem. Presently, he came to the shop of a cook, who had set up therein his pans[FN#9] [over the fire] and wiped his scales and washed his saucers and swept his shop and sprinkled it; and indeed his oils[FN#10] were clear[FN#11] and his spices fragrant and he himself stood behind his cooking-pots [waiting for custom]. So the lackpenny went up to him and saluting him, said to him, ’Weigh me half a dirhem’s worth of meat and a quarter of a dirhem’s worth of kouskoussou[FN#12] and the like of bread.’ So the cook weighed out to him [that which he sought] and the lackpenny entered the shop, whereupon the cook set the food before him and he ate till he had gobbled up the whole and licked the saucers and abode perplexed, knowing not how he should do with the cook concerning the price of that which he had eaten and turning his eyes about upon everything in the shop.
Presently, he caught sight of an earthen pan turned over upon its mouth; so he raised it from the ground and found under it a horse’s tail, freshly cut off, and the blood oozing from it; whereby he knew that the cook adulterated his meat with horses’ flesh. When he discovered this default, he rejoiced therein and washing his hands, bowed his head and went out; and when the cook saw that he went and gave him nought, he cried out, saying, ‘Stay, O sneak, O slink-thief!’ So the lackpenny stopped and said to him, ’Dost thou cry out upon me and becall [me] with these words, O cuckold?’ Whereat the cook was angry and coming down from the shop, said, ’What meanest thou by thy speech, O thou that devourest meat and kouskoussou and bread and seasoning and goest forth with “Peace[FN#13][be on thee!],” as it were the thing had not been, and payest down nought for it?’ Quoth the lackpenny, ‘Thou liest, O son of a cuckold!’ Wherewith the cook cried out and laying hold of the lackpenny’s collar, said, ’O Muslims, this fellow is my first customer[FN#14] this day and he hath eaten my food and given me nought.’
So the folk gathered together to them and blamed the lackpenny and said to him, ’Give him the price of that which thou hast eaten.’ Quoth he, ’I gave him a dirhem before I entered the shop;’ and the cook said, ’Be everything I sell this day forbidden[FN#15] to me, if he gave me so much as the name of a piece of money! By Allah, he gave me nought, but ate my food and went out and [would have] made off, without aught [said I]’ ‘Nay,’ answered the lackpenny, ‘I gave thee a dirhem,’ and he reviled the cook, who returned his abuse; whereupon he dealt him a cuff and they gripped and grappled
The Khalif laughed at his speech and said, “By Allah, this is none other than a pleasant tale! Tell me thy story and the cause.” “With all my heart,” answered Aboulhusn. “Know, O my lord, that my name is Aboulhusn el Khelia and that my father died and left me wealth galore, of which I made two parts. One I laid up and with the other I betook myself to [the enjoyment of the pleasures of] friendship [and conviviality] and consorting with comrades and boon-companions and with the sons of the merchants, nor did I leave one but I caroused with him and he with me, and I spent all my money on companionship and good cheer, till there remained with me nought [of the first half of my good]; whereupon I betook myself to the comrades and cup-companions upon whom I had wasted my wealth, so haply they might provide for my case; but, when I resorted to them and went round about to them all, I found no avail in one of them, nor broke any so much as a crust of bread in my face. So I wept for myself and repairing to my mother, complained to her of my case. Quoth she, ’On this wise are friends; if thou have aught, they make much of thee and devour thee, but, if thou have nought, they cast thee off and chase thee away.’ Then I brought out the other half of my money and bound myself by an oath that I would never more entertain any, except one night, after which I would never again salute him nor take note of him; hence my saying to thee, ’Far be it that what is past should recur!’ For that I will never again foregather with thee, after this night.”
When the Khalif heard this, he laughed heartily and said, “By Allah, O my brother, thou art indeed excused in this matter, now that I know the cause and that the cause hath a tail. Nevertheless if it please God, I will not sever myself from thee.” “O my guest,” replied Aboulhusn, “did I not say to thee, ’Far be it that what is past should recur! For that I will never again foregather with any’?” Then the Khalif rose and Aboulhusn set before him a dish of roast goose and a cake of manchet-bread and sitting down, fell to cutting off morsels and feeding the Khalif therewith. They gave not over eating thus till they were content, when Aboulhusn brought bowl and ewer and potash[FN#16] and they washed their hands.
Then he lighted him three candles and three lamps and spreading the drinking-cloth, brought clarified wine, limpid, old and fragrant, the scent whereof was as that of virgin musk. He filled the first cup and saying, “O my boon-companion, by thy leave, be ceremony laid aside between us! I am thy slave; may I not be afflicted with thy loss!” drank it off and filled a second cup, which he handed to the Khalif, with a reverence. His fashion pleased the Khalif and the goodliness of his speech and he said in himself, “By Allah, I will assuredly requite him for this!” Then Aboulhusn filled the cup again and handed it to the Khalif, reciting the following verses:
Had we thy coming known, we would for sacrifice Have
out heart’s blood or blackness of the eyes;
Ay, and we would have spread our bosoms in thy way, That so thy
feet might fare on eyelids, carpet-wise.
When the Khalif heard his verses, he took the cup from his hand and kissed it and drank it off and returned it to Aboulhusn, who made him an obeisance and filled and drank. Then he filled again and kissing the cup thrice, recited the following verses:
Thy presence honoureth
us and we Confess thy magnanimity;
If thou forsake us, there is none Can stand to us instead of
Then he gave the cup to the Khalif, saying, “Drink [and may] health and soundness [attend it]! It doth away disease and bringeth healing and setteth the runnels of health abroach.”
They gave not over drinking and carousing till the middle of the night, when the Khalif said to his host, “O my brother, hast thou in thy heart a wish thou wouldst have accomplished or a regret thou wouldst fain do away?” “By Allah,” answered he, “there is no regret in my heart save that I am not gifted with dominion and the power of commandment and prohibition, so I might do what is in my mind!” Quoth the Khalif, “For God’s sake, O my brother, tell me what is in thy mind!” And Aboulhusn said, “I would to God I might avenge myself on my neighbours, for that in my neighbourhood is a mosque and therein four sheikhs, who take it ill, whenas there cometh a guest to me, and vex me with talk and molest me in words and threaten me that they will complain of me to the Commander of the Faithful, and indeed they oppress me sore, and I crave of God the Most High one day’s dominion, that I may beat each of them with four hundred lashes, as well as the Imam of the mosque, and parade them about the city of Baghdad and let call before them, ’This is the reward and the least of the reward of whoso exceedeth [in talk] and spiteth the folk and troubleth on them their joys.’ This is what I wish and no more.”
Quoth the Khalif, “God grant thee that thou seekest! Let us drink one last cup and rise before the dawn draw near, and to-morrow night I will be with thee again.” “Far be it!” said Aboulhusn. Then the Khalif filled a cup and putting therein a piece of Cretan henbane, gave it to his host and said to him, “My life on thee, O my brother, drink this cup from my hand!” “Ay, by thy life,” answered Aboulhusn, “I will drink it from thy hand.” So he took it and drank it off; but hardly had he done so, when his head forewent his feet and he fell to the ground like a slain man; whereupon the Khalif went out and said to his servant Mesrour, “Go in to yonder young man, the master of the house, and take him up and bring him to me at the palace; and when thou goest out, shut the door.”
So saying, he went away, whilst Mesrour entered and taking up Aboulhusn, shut the door after him, and followed his master, till he reached the palace, what while the night drew to an end and the cocks cried out, and set him down before the Commander of the Faithful, who laughed at him. Then he sent for Jaafer the Barmecide and when he came before him, he said to him, “Note this young man and when thou seest him to-morrow seated in my place of estate and on the throne of my Khalifate and clad in my habit, stand thou in attendance upon him and enjoin the Amirs and grandees and the people of my household and the officers of my realm to do the like and obey him in that which he shall command them; and thou, if he bespeak thee of anything, do it and hearken unto him and gainsay him not in aught in this coming day.” Jaafer answered with, “Hearkening and obedience,"[FN#17] and withdrew, whilst the Khalif went in to the women of the palace, who came to him, and he said to them, “Whenas yonder sleeper awaketh to-morrow from his sleep, kiss ye the earth before him and make obeisance to him and come round about him and clothe him in the [royal] habit and do him the service of the Khalifate and deny not aught of his estate, but say to him, ‘Thou art the Khalif.’” Then he taught them what they should say to him and how they should do with him and withdrawing to a privy place, let down a curtain before himself and slept.
Meanwhile, Aboulhusn gave not over snoring in his sleep, till the day broke and the rising of the sun drew near, when a waiting-woman came up to him and said to him, “O our lord [it is the hour of] the morning- prayer.” When he heard the girl’s words, he laughed and opening his eyes, turned them about the place and found himself in an apartment the walls whereof were painted with gold and ultramarine and its ceiling starred with red gold. Around it were sleeping-chambers, with curtains of gold-embroidered silk let down over their doors, and all about vessels of gold and porcelain and crystal and furniture and carpets spread and lamps burning before the prayer-niche and slave-girls and eunuchs and white slaves and black slaves and boys and pages and attendants. When he saw this, he was confounded in his wit and said, “By Allah, either I am dreaming, or this is Paradise and the Abode of Peace!"[FN#18] And he shut his eyes and went to sleep again. Quoth the waiting-woman, “O my lord, this is not of thy wont, O Commander of the Faithful!”
Then the rest of the women of the palace came all to him and lifted him into a sitting posture, when he found himself upon a couch, stuffed all with floss-silk and raised a cubit’s height from the ground.[FN#19] So they seated him upon it and propped him up with a pillow, and he looked at the apartment and its greatness and saw those eunuchs and slave-girls in attendance upon him and at his head, whereat he laughed at himself and said, “By Allah, it is not as I were on wake, and [yet] I am not asleep!” Then he arose and sat up, whilst the damsels laughed at him and hid [their laughter] from him; and he was confounded in his wit and bit upon his finger. The bite hurt him and he cried “Oh!” and was vexed; and the Khalif watched him, whence he saw him not, and laughed.
Presently Aboulhusn turned to a damsel and called to her; whereupon she came to him and he said to her, “By the protection of God, O damsel, am I Commander of the Faithful?” “Yes, indeed,” answered she; “by the protection of God thou in this time art Commander of the Faithful.” Quoth he, “By Allah, thou liest, O thousandfold strumpet!” Then he turned to the chief eunuch and called to him, whereupon he came to him and kissing the earth before him, said, “Yes, O Commander of the Faithful.” “Who is Commander of the Faithful?” asked Aboulhusn. “Thou,” replied the eunuch and Aboulhusn said, “Thou liest, thousandfold catamite that thou art!” Then he turned to another eunuch and said to him, “O my chief,[FN#20] by the protection of God, am I Commander of the Faithful?” “Ay, by Allah, O my lord!” answered he. “Thou in this time art Commander of the Faithful and Vicar of the Lord of the Worlds.” Aboulhusn laughed at himself and misdoubted of his reason and was perplexed at what he saw and said, “In one night I am become Khalif! Yesterday I was Aboulhusn the Wag, and to-day I am Commander of the Faithful.” Then the chief eunuch came up to him and said, “O Commander of the Faithful, (the name of God encompass thee!) thou art indeed Commander of the Faithful and Vicar of the Lord of the Worlds!” And the slave-girls and eunuchs came round about him, till he arose and abode wondering at his case.
Presently, one of the slave-girls brought him a pair of sandals wrought with raw silk and green silk and embroidered with red gold, and he took them and put them in his sleeve, whereat the slave cried out and said, “Allah! Allah! O my lord, these are sandals for the treading of thy feet, so thou mayst enter the draught-house.” Aboulhusn was confounded and shaking the sandals from his sleeve, put them on his feet, whilst the Khalif [well-nigh] died of laughter at him. The slave forewent him to the house of easance, where he entered and doing his occasion, came out into the chamber, whereupon the slave- girls brought him a basin of gold and an ewer of silver and poured water on his hands and he made the ablution.
Then they spread him a prayer-carpet and he prayed. Now he knew not how to pray and gave not over bowing and prostrating himself, [till he had prayed the prayers] of twenty inclinations,[FN#21] pondering in himself the while and saying, “By Allah, I am none other than the Commander of the Faithful in very sooth! This is assuredly no dream, for all these things happen not in a dream.” And he was convinced and determined in himself that he was Commander of the Faithful; so he pronounced the Salutation[FN#22] and made an end[FN#23] of his prayers; whereupon the slaves and slave-girls came round about him with parcels of silk and stuffs[FN#24] and clad him in the habit of the Khalifate and gave him the royal dagger in his hand. Then the chief eunuch went out before him and the little white slaves behind him, and they ceased not [going] till they raised the curtain and brought him into the hall of judgment and the throne-room of the Khalifate. There he saw the curtains and the forty doors and El Ijli and Er Recashi[FN#25] and Ibdan and Jedim and Abou Ishac [FN#26] the boon-companions and beheld swords drawn and lions [FN#27] encompassing [the throne] and gilded glaives and death-dealing bows and Persians and Arabs and Turks and Medes and folk and peoples and Amirs and viziers and captains and grandees and officers of state and men of war, and indeed there appeared the puissance of the house of Abbas [FN#28] and the majesty of the family of the Prophet.
So he sat down upon the throne of the Khalifate and laid the dagger in his lap, whereupon all [present] came up to kiss the earth before him and called down on him length of life and continuance [of glory and prosperity]. Then came forward Jaafer the Barmecide and kissing the earth, said, “May the wide world of God be the treading of thy feet and may Paradise be thy dwelling-place and the fire the habitation of thine enemies! May no neighbour transgress against thee nor the lights of fire die out for thee, [FN#29] O Khalif of [all] cities and ruler of [all] countries!”
Therewithal Aboulhusn cried out at him and said, “O dog of the sons of Bermek, go down forthright, thou and the master of the police of the city, to such a place in such a street and deliver a hundred dinars to the mother of Aboulhusn the Wag and bear her my salutation. [Then, go to such a mosque] and take the four sheikhs and the Imam and beat each of them with four hundred lashes and mount them on beasts, face to tail, and go round with them about all the city and banish them to a place other than the city; and bid the crier make proclamation before them, saying, ’This is the reward and the least of the reward of whoso multiplieth words and molesteth his neighbours and stinteth them of their delights and their eating and drinking!’” Jaafer received the order [with submission] and answered with ["Hearkening and] obedience;” after which he went down from before Aboulhusn to the city and did that whereunto he had bidden him.
Meanwhile, Aboulhusn abode in the Khalifate, taking and giving, ordering and forbidding and giving effect to his word, till the end of the day, when he gave [those who were present] leave and permission [to withdraw], and the Amirs and officers of state departed to their occasions. Then the eunuchs came to him and calling down on him length of life and continuance [of glory and prosperity], walked in attendance upon him and raised the curtain, and he entered the pavilion of the harem, where he found candles lighted and lamps burning and singing-women smiting [on instruments of music]. When he saw this, he was confounded in his wit and said in himself, “By Allah, I am in truth Commander of the Faithful!” As soon as he appeared, the slave-girls rose to him and carrying him up on to the estrade,[FN#30] brought him a great table, spread with the richest meats. So he ate thereof with all his might, till he had gotten his fill, when he called one of the slave-girls and said to her, “What is thy name?” “My name is Miskeh,” replied she, and he said to another, “What is thy name?” Quoth she, “My name is Terkeh.” Then said he to a third, “What is thy name?” “My name is Tuhfeh,” answered she; and he went on to question the damsels of their names, one after another, [till he had made the round of them all], when he rose from that place and removed to the wine-chamber.
He found it every way complete and saw therein ten great trays, full of all fruits and cakes and all manner sweetmeats. So he sat down and ate thereof after the measure of his sufficiency, and finding there three troops of singing-girls, was amazed and made the girls eat. Then he sat and the singers also seated themselves, whilst the black slaves and the white slaves and the eunuchs and pages and boys stood, and the slave-girls, some of them, sat and some stood. The damsels sang and warbled all manner melodies and the place answered them for the sweetness of the songs, whilst the pipes cried out and the lutes made accord with them, till it seemed to Aboulhusn that he was in Paradise and his heart was cheered and his breast dilated. So he sported and joyance waxed on him and he bestowed dresses of honour on the damsels and gave and bestowed, challenging this one and kissing that and toying with a third, plying one with wine and another with meat, till the night fell down.
All this while the Khalif was diverting himself with watching him and laughing, and at nightfall he bade one of the slave-girls drop a piece of henbane in the cup and give it to Aboulhusn to drink. So she did as he bade her and gave Aboulhusn the cup, whereof no sooner had he drunken than his head forewent his feet [and he fell down, senseless]. Therewith the Khalif came forth from behind the curtain, laughing, and calling to the servant who had brought Aboulhusn to the palace, said to him, “Carry this fellow to his own place.” So Mesrour took him up [and carrying him to his own house], set him down in the saloon. Then he went forth from him and shutting the saloon-door upon him, returned to the Khalif, who slept till the morrow.
As for Aboulhusn, he gave not over sleeping till God the Most High brought on the morning, when he awoke, crying out and saying, “Ho, Tuffaheh! Ho, Rahet el Culoub! Ho, Miskeh! Ho, Tuhfeh!” And he gave not over calling upon the slave-girls till his mother heard him calling upon strange damsels and rising, came to him and said, “The name of God encompass thee! Arise, O my son, O Aboulhusn! Thou dreamest.” So he opened his eyes and finding an old woman at his head, raised his eyes and said to her, “Who art thou?” Quoth she, “I am thy mother;” and he answered, “Thou liest! I am the Commander of the Faithful, the Vicar of God.” Whereupon his mother cried out and said to him, “God preserve thy reason! Be silent, O my son, and cause not the loss of our lives and the spoiling of thy wealth, [as will assuredly betide,] if any hear this talk and carry it to the Khalif.”
So he rose from his sleep and finding himself in his own saloon and his mother by him, misdoubted of his wit and said to her, “By Allah, O my mother, I saw myself in a dream in a palace, with slave-girls and servants about me and in attendance upon me, and I sat upon the throne of the Khalifate and ruled. By Allah, O my mother, this is what I saw, and verily it was not a dream!” Then he bethought himself awhile and said, “Assuredly, I am Aboulhusn el Khelia, and this that I saw was only a dream, and [it was in a dream that] I was made Khalif and commanded and forbade.” Then he bethought himself again and said, “Nay, but it was no dream and I am no other than the Khalif, and indeed I gave gifts and bestowed dresses of honour.” Quoth his mother to him, “O my son, thou sportest with thy reason: thou wilt go to the hospital and become a gazing-stock. Indeed, that which thou hast seen is only from the Devil and it was a delusion of dreams, for whiles Satan sporteth with men’s wits in all manner ways.”
Then said she to him, “O my son, was there any one with thee yesternight?” And he bethought himself and said, “Yes; one lay the night with me and I acquainted him with my case and told him my story. Doubtless, he was from the Devil, and I, O my mother, even as thou sayst truly, am Aboulhusn el Khelia.” “O my son,” rejoined she, “rejoice in tidings of all good, for yesterday’s record is that there came the Vivier Jaafer the Barmecide [and his company] and beat the sheikhs of the mosque and the Imam, each four hundred lashes; after which they paraded them about the city, making proclamation before them and saying, ’This is the reward and the least of the reward of whoso lacketh of goodwill to his neighbours and troubleth on them their lives!’ and banished them from Baghdad. Moreover, the Khalif sent me a hundred dinars and sent to salute me.” Whereupon Aboulhusn cried out and said to her, “O old woman of ill-omen, wilt thou contradict me and tell me that I am not the Commander of the Faithful? It was I who commanded Jaafer the Barmecide to beat the sheikhs and parade them about the city and make proclamation before them and who sent thee the hundred dinars and sent to salute thee, and I, O beldam of ill-luck, am in very deed the Commander of the Faithful, and thou art a liar, who would make me out a dotard.”
So saying, he fell upon her and beat her with a staff of almond-wood, till she cried out, “[Help], O Muslims!” and he redoubled the beating upon her, till the folk heard her cries and coming to her, [found] Aboulhusn beating her and saying to her, “O old woman of ill-omen, am I not the Commander of the Faithful? Thou hast enchanted me!” When the folk heard his words, they said, “This man raveth,” and doubted not of his madness. So they came in upon him and seizing him, pinioned him and carried him to the hospital. Quoth the superintendant, “What aileth this youth?” And they said, “This is a madman.” “By Allah,” cried Aboulhusn, “they lie against me! I am no madman, but the Commander of the Faithful.” And the superintendant answered him, saying, “None lieth but thou, O unluckiest of madmen!”
Then he stripped him of his clothes and clapping on his neck a heavy chain, bound him to a high lattice and fell to drubbing him two bouts a day and two anights; and on this wise he abode the space of ten days. Then his mother came to him and said, “O my son, O Aboulhusn, return to thy reason, for this is the Devil’s doing.” Quoth he, “Thou sayst sooth, O my mother, and bear thou witness of me that I repent [and forswear] that talk and turn from my madness. So do thou deliver me, for I am nigh upon death.” So his mother went out to the superintendant and procured his release and he returned to his own house.
Now this was at the beginning of the month, and when it was the end thereof, Aboulhusn longed to drink wine and returning to his former usance, furnished his saloon and made ready food and let bring wine; then, going forth to the bridge, he sat there, expecting one whom he should carouse withal, as of his wont. As he sat thus, behold, up came the Khalif [and Mesrour] to him; but Aboulhusn saluted them not and said to them, “No welcome and no greeting to the perverters![FN#31] Ye are no other than devils.” However, the Khalif accosted him and said to him, “O my brother, did I not say to thee that I would return to thee?” Quoth Aboulhusn, “I have no need of thee; and as the byword says in verse:
’Twere fitter and better my loves that I leave,
For, if the eye
see not, the heart will not grieve.
And indeed, O my brother, the night thou camest to me and we caroused together, I and thou, it was as if the Devil came to me and troubled me that night.” “And who is he, the Devil?” asked the Khalif. “He is none other than thou,” answered Aboulhusn; whereat the Khalif smiled and sitting down by him, coaxed him and spoke him fair, saying, “O my brother, when I went out from thee, I forgot [to shut] the door [and left it] open, and belike Satan came in to thee.” Quoth Aboulhusn, “Ask me not of that which hath betided me. What possessed thee to leave the door open, so that the Devil came in to me and there befell me with him this and that?” And he related to him all that had befallen him, from first to last, aud there is no advantage in the repetition of it; what while the Khalif laughed and hid his laughter.
Then said he to Aboulhusn, “Praised be God who hath done away from thee that which irked thee and that I see thee in weal!” And Aboulhusn said, “Never again will I take thee to boon-companion or sitting-mate; for the byword saith, ’Whoso stumbleth on a stone and returneth thereto, blame and reproach be upon him.’ And thou, O my brother, nevermore will I entertain thee nor use companionship with thee, for that I have not found thy commerce propitious to me."[FN#32] But the Khalif blandished him and conjured him, redoubling words upon him with “Verily, I am thy guest; reject not the guest,” till Aboulhusn took him and [carrying him home], brought him into the saloon and set food before him and friendly entreated him in speech. Then he told him all that had befallen him, whilst the Khalif was like to die of hidden laughter; after which Aboulhusn removed the tray of food and bringing the wine-tray, filled a cup and emptied it out three times, then gave it to the Khalif, saying, “O boon-companion mine, I am thy slave and let not that which I am about to say irk thee, and be thou not vexed, neither do thou vex me.” And he recited these verses:
No good’s in life (to the counsel list of one
purpose-whole,) An if thou be not drunken still and gladden
not thy soul.
Ay, ne’er will I leave to drink of wine, what while the night on
me Darkens, till drowsiness bow down my head upon my bowl.
In wine, as the glittering sunbeams bright, my heart’s
contentment is, That banishes hence, with various joys, all
kinds of care and dole.
When the Khalif heard these his verses, he was moved to exceeding delight and taking the cup, drank it off, and they ceased not to drink and carouse till the wine rose to their heads. Then said Aboulhusn to the Khalif, “O boon-companion mine, of a truth I am perplexed concerning my affair, for meseemed I was Commander of the Faithful and ruled and gave gifts and largesse, and in very deed, O my brother, it was not a dream.” “These were the delusions of sleep,” answered the Khalif and crumbling a piece of henbane into the cup, said to him, “By my life, do thou drink this cup.” And Aboulhusn said, “Surely I will drink it from thy hand.” Then he took the cup from the Khalifs hand and drank it off, and no sooner had it settled in his belly than his head forewent his feet [and he fell down senseless].
Now his parts and fashions pleased the Khalif and the excellence of his composition and his frankness, and he said in himself, “I will assuredly make him my cup- companion and sitting-mate.” So he rose forthright and saying to Mesrour, “Take him up,” [returned to the palace]. Accordingly, Mesrour took up Aboulhusn and carrying him to the palace of the Khalifate, set him down before Er Reshid, who bade the slaves and slave- girls encompass him about, whilst he himself hid in a place where Aboulhusn could not see him.
Then he commanded one of the slave-girls to take the lute and strike it at Aboulhusn’s head, whilst the rest smote upon their instruments. [So they played and sang,] till Aboulhusn awoke at the last of the night and heard the noise of lutes and tabrets and the sound of the pipes and the singing of the slave-girls, whereupon he opened his eyes and finding himself in the palace, with the slave-girls and eunuchs about him, exclaimed, ’There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! Verily, I am fearful of the hospital and of that which I suffered therein aforetime, and I doubt not but the Devil is come to me again, as before. O my God, put thou Satan to shame!” Then he shut his eyes and laid his head in his sleeve and fell to laughing softly and raising his head [bytimes], but [still] found the apartment lighted and the girls singing.
Presently, one of the eunuchs sat down at his head and said to him, “Sit up, O Commander of the Faithful, and look on thy palace and thy slave-girls.” Quoth Aboulhusn, “By the protection of God, am I in truth Commander of the Faithful and dost thou not lie? Yesterday, I went not forth neither ruled, but drank and slept, and this eunuch cometh to rouse me up.” Then he sat up and bethought himself of that which had betided him with his mother and how he had beaten her and entered the hospital, and he saw the marks of the beating, wherewithal the superintendant of the hospital had beaten him, and was perplexed concerning his affair and pondered in himself, saying, “By Allah, I know not how my case is nor what is this that betideth me!”
Then he turned to a damsel of the damsels and said to her, “Who am I?” Quoth she, “Thou art the Commander of the Faithful;” and he said, “Thou liest, O calamity![FN#33] If I be indeed the Commander of the Faithful, bite my finger.” So she came to him and bit it with her might, and he said to her, “It sufficeth.” Then he said to the chief eunuch, “Who am I?” And he answered, “Thou art the Commander of the Faithful.” So he left him and turning to a little white slave, said to him, “Bite my ear;” and he bent down to him and put his ear to his mouth. Now the slave was young and lacked understanding; so he closed his teeth upon Aboulhusn’s ear with his might, till he came near to sever it; and he knew not Arabic, so, as often as Aboulhusn said to him, “It sufficeth,” he concluded that he said, “Bite harder,” and redoubled his bite and clenched his teeth upon the ear, whilst the damsels were diverted from him with hearkening to the singing-girls, and Aboulhusn cried out for succour from the boy and the Khalif [well-nigh] lost his senses for laughter.
Then he dealt the boy a cuff and he let go his ear, whereupon Aboulhusn put off his clothes and abode naked, with his yard and his arse exposed, and danced among the slave-girls. They bound his hands and he wantoned among them, what while they [well-nigh] died of laughing at him and the Khalif swooned away for excess of laughter. Then he came to himself and going forth to Aboulhusn, said to him, “Out on thee, O Aboulhusn! Thou slayest me with laughter.” So he turned to him and knowing him, said to him, “By Allah, it is thou slayest me and slayest my mother and slewest the sheikhs and the Imam of the Mosque!”
Then the Khalif took him into his especial favour and married him and bestowed largesse on him and lodged him with himself in the palace and made him of the chief of his boon-companions, and indeed he was preferred with him above them and the Khalif advanced him over them all. Now they were ten in number, to wit, El Ijli and Er Recashi and Ibdan and Hassan el Feresdec and El Lauz and Es Seker and Omar et Tertis and Abou Nuwas[FN#34] and Abou Ishac en Nedim and Aboulhusn el Khelia, and by each of them hangeth a story that is told in other than this book. And indeed Aboulhusn became high in honour with the Khalif and favoured above all, so that he sat with him and the Lady Zubeideh bint el Casim and married the latter’s treasuress, whose name was Nuzhet el Fuad.
Aboulhusn abode with his wife in eating and drinking and all delight of life, till all that was with them was spent, when he said to her, “Harkye, O Nuzhet el Fuad!” “At thy service,” answered she, and he said, “I have it in mind to play a trick on the Khalif and thou shalt do the like with the Lady Zubeideh, and we will take of them, in a twinkling, two hundred dinars and two pieces of silk.” “As thou wilt,” answered she; “but what thinkest thou to do?” And he said,"We will feign ourselves dead and this is the trick. I will die before thee and lay myself out, and do thou spread over me a kerchief of silk and loose [the muslin of] my turban over me and tie my toes and lay on my heart a knife, and a little salt.[FN#35] Then let down thy hair and betake thyself to thy mistress Zubeideh, tearing thy dress and buffeting thy face and crying out. She will say to thee, ’What aileth thee?’ and do thou answer her, saying, ’May thy head outlive Aboulhusn el Khelia! For he is dead.” She will mourn for me and weep and bid her treasuress give thee a hundred dinars and a piece of silk and will say to thee, ’Go lay him out and carry him forth [to burial].’ So do thou take of her the hundred dinars and the piece of silk and come back, and when thou returnest to me, I will rise up and thou shalt lie down in my place, and I will go to the Khalif and say to him, ’May thy head outlive Nuzhet el Fuad!’ and tear my dress and pluck at my beard. He will mourn for thee and say to his treasurer, ’Give Aboulhusn a hundred dinars and a piece of silk.’ Then he will say to me, ’Go; lay her out and carry her forth;’ and I will come back to thee.”
Therewith Nuzhet el Fuad rejoiced and said, “Indeed, this is an excellent device.” [Then Aboulhusn stretched himself out] forthright and she shut his eyes and tied his feet and covered him with the kerchief and did what [else] her lord had bidden her; after which she rent her dress and uncovering her head, let down her hair and went in to the Lady Zubeideh, crying out and weeping, When the princess saw her in this case, she said to her, “What plight is this [in which I see thee]? What is thy story and what maketh thee weep?” And Nuzhet el Fuad answered,
So she took the hundred dinars and the piece of silk and returned to her dwelling, rejoicing, and went in to Aboulhusn and told him what had befallen, whereupon he arose and rejoiced and girt his middle and danced and took the hundred dinars and the piece of silk and laid them up. Then he laid out Nuzhet el Fuad and did with her even as she had done with him; after which he rent his clothes and plucked out his beard and disordered his turban [and went forth] and gave not over running till he came in to the Khalif, who was sitting in the hall of audience, and he in this plight, beating upon his breast. Quoth the Khalif to him, “What aileth thee, O Aboulhusn!” And he wept and said, “Would thy boon-companion had never been and would his hour had never come!” “Tell me [thy case,]” said the Khalif; and Aboulhusn said, “O my lord, may thy head outlive Nuzhet el Fuad!” Quoth the Khalif, “There is no god but God!” And he smote hand upon hand. Then he comforted Aboulhusn and said to him, “Grieve not, for we will give thee a concubine other than she.” And he bade the treasurer give him a hundred dinars and a piece of silk. So the treasurer gave him what the Khalif bade him, and the latter said to him,"Go, lay her out and carry her forth and make her a handsome funeral.” So Aboulhusn took that which he had given him and returning to his house, rejoicing, went in to Nuzhet el Fuad and said to her, “Arise, for the wish is accomplished unto us.” So she arose and he laid before her the hundred dinars and the piece of silk, whereat she rejoiced, and they added the gold to the gold and the silk to the silk and sat talking and laughing at one another.
Meanwhile, when Aboulhusn went out from the presence of the Khalif and went to lay out Nuzhet el Fuad, the prince mourned for her and dismissing the divan, arose and betook himself, leaning upon Mesrour, the swordsman of his vengeance, [to the pavilion of the harem, where he went in] to the Lady Zubeideh, that he might condole with her for her slave-girl. He found the princess sitting weeping and awaiting his coming, so she might condole with him for [his boon-companion] Aboulhusn el Khelia. So he said to her, “May thy head outlive thy slave-girl Nuzhet el Fuad!” And she answered, saying, “O my lord, God preserve my slave-girl! Mayst thou live and long survive thy boon-companion Aboulhusn el Khelia! For he is dead.”
The Khalif smiled and said to his eunuch, “O Mesrour, verily women are little of wit. I conjure thee, by Allah, say, was not Aboulhusn with me but now?” ["Yes, O Commander of the Faithful,” answered Mesrour] Quoth the Lady Zubeideh, laughing from a heart full of wrath, “Wilt thou not leave thy jesting? Is it not enough that Aboulhusn is dead, but thou must kill my slave-girl also and bereave us of the two and style me little of wit?” “Indeed,” answered the Khalif, “it is Nuzhet el Fuad who is dead.” And Zubeideh said, “Indeed he hath not been with thee, nor hast thou seen him, and none was with me but now but Nuzhet el Fuad, and she sorrowful, weeping, with her clothes torn. I exhorted her to patience and gave her a hundred dinars and a piece of silk; and indeed I was awaiting thy coming, so I might condole with thee for thy boon- companion Aboulhusn el Khelia, and was about to send for thee.” The Khalif laughed and said, “None is dead but Nuzhet el Fuad;” and she, “No, no, my lord; none is dead but Aboulhusn.”
With this the Khalif waxed wroth, and the Hashimi vein[FN#36] started out from between his eyes and he cried out to Mesrour and said to him, “Go forth and see which of them is dead.” So Mesrour went out, running, and the Khalif said to Zubeideh, “Wilt thou lay me a wager?” “Yes,” answered she; “I will wager, and I say that Aboulhusn is dead.” “And I,” rejoined the Khalif, “wager and say that none is dead save Nuzhet el Fuad; and the stake shall be the Garden of Pleasance against thy palace and the Pavilion of Pictures.” So they [agreed upon this and] abode awaiting Mesrour, till such time as he should return with news.
As for Mesrour, he gave not over running till he came to the by-street, [wherein was the house] of Aboulhusn el Khelia. Now the latter was sitting reclining at the lattice, and chancing to look round, saw Mesrour running along the street and said to Nuzhet el Fuad, “Meseemeth the Khalif, when I went forth from him, dismissed the Divan and went in to the Lady Zubeideh, to condole with her [for thee;] whereupon she arose and condoled with him [for me,] saying, ’God greaten thy recompence for [the loss of] Aboulhusn el Khelia!’ And he said to her, ’None is dead save Nuzhet el Fuad, may thy head outlive her!’ Quoth she, ’It is not she who is dead, but Aboulhusn el Khelia, thy boon-companion.’ And he to her, ’None is dead but Nuzhet el Fuad.’ And they gainsaid one another, till the Khalif waxed wroth and they laid a wager, and he hath sent Mesrour the sword- bearer to see who is dead. Wherefore it were best that thou lie down, so he may see thee and go and acquaint the Khalif and confirm my saying.” So Nuzhet el Fuad stretched herself out and Aboulhusn covered her with her veil and sat at her head, weeping.
Presently, in came Mesrour the eunuch to him and saluted him and seeing Nuzhet el Fuad stretched out, uncovered her face and said, “There is no god but God! Our sister Nuzhet el Fuad is dead. How sudden was the [stroke of] destiny! May God have mercy on thee and acquit thee of responsibility!” Then he returned and related what had passed before the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh, and he laughing. “O accursed one,’ said the Khalif, “is this a time for laughter? Tell us which is dead of them.” “By Allah, O my lord,” answered Mesrour, “Aboulhusn is well and none is dead but Nuzhet el Fuad.” Quoth the Khalif to Zubeideh, “Thou hast lost thy pavilion in thy play,” and he laughed at her and said to Mesrour, “O Mesrour, tell her what thou sawest.” “Verily, O my lady,” said the eunuch, “I ran without ceasing till I came in to Aboulhusn in his house and found Nuzhet el Fuad lying dead and Aboulhusn sitting at her head, weeping. I saluted him and condoled with him and sat down by his side and uncovered the face of Nuzhet el Fuad and saw her dead and her face swollen. So I said to him, ’Carry her out forthright [to burial], so we may pray over her.’ He answered, ‘It is well;’ and I left him to lay her out and came hither, that I might tell you the news.”
The Khalif laughed and said, “Tell it again and again to thy lady lack-wit.” When the Lady Zubeideh heard Mesrour’s words [and those of the Khalif,] she was wroth and said, “None lacketh wit but he who believeth a black slave.” And she reviled Mesrour, whilst the Khalif laughed. Mesrour was vexed at this and said to the Khalif, “He spoke sooth who said, ’Women lack wit and religion.’” Then said the Lady Zubeideh to the Khalif, “O Commander of the Faithful, thou sportest and jestest with me, and this slave hoodwinketh me, to please thee; but I will send and see which is dead of them.” And he answered, saying, “Send one who shall see which is dead of them.” So the Lady Zubeideh cried out to an old woman, a stewardess, and said to her, “Go to the house of Nuzhet el Fuad in haste and see who is dead and loiter not.” And she railed at her.
The old woman went out, running, whilst the Khalif and Mesrour laughed, and gave not over running till she came into the street. Aboulhusn saw her and knowing her, said to his wife, “O Nuzhet el Fuad, meseemeth the Lady Zubeideh hath sent to us to see who is dead and hath not given credence to Mesrour’s report of thy death; so she hath despatched the old woman, her stewardess, to discover the truth; wherefore it behoveth me to be dead in my turn, for the sake of thy credit with the Lady Zubeideh.” Accordingly, he lay down and stretched himself out, and she covered him and bound his eyes and feet and sat at his head, weeping.
Presently, the old woman came in to her and saw her sitting at Aboulhusn’s head, weeping and lamenting; and when she saw the old woman, she cried out and said to her, “See what hath betided me! Indeed, Aboulhusn is dead and hath left me alone and forlorn!” Then she cried out and tore her clothes and said to the old woman, “O my mother, how good he was!” Quoth the other, “Indeed thou art excused, for thou wast used to him and he to thee.” Then she considered what Mesrour had reported to the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh and said to her, “Indeed, Mesrour goeth about to sow discord between the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh.” “And what is the [cause of] discord, O my mother?” asked Nuzhet el Fuad. “O my daughter,” answered the old woman, “Mesrour came to the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh and gave them news of thee that thou wast dead and that Aboulhusn was well. “And Nuzhet el Fuad said to her, “O my aunt, I was with my lady but now and she gave me a hundred dinars and a piece of silk; and now see my condition and that which hath befallen me! Indeed, I am bewildered, and how shall I do, and I alone, forlorn? Would God I had died and he had lived!”
Then she wept and the old woman with her and the latter went up to Aboulhusn and uncovering his face, saw his eyes bound and swollen for the binding. So she covered him again and said, “Indeed, O Nuzhet el Fuad, thou art afflicted in Aboulhusn!” Then she condoled with her and going out from her, ran without ceasing till she came in to the Lady Zubeideh and related to her the story; and the princess said to her, laughing, “Tell it over again to the Khalif, who maketh me out scant of wit and lacking of religion, and to this ill-omened slave, who presumeth to contradict me.” Quoth Mesrour, “This old woman lieth; for I saw Aboulhusn well and Nuzhet el Fuad it was who lay dead.” “It is thou that liest,” rejoined the stewardess, “and wouldst fain sow discord between the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh.” And he said, “None lieth but thou, O old woman of ill-omen, and thy lady believeth thee, and she doteth.” Whereupon the Lady Zubeideh cried out at him, and indeed she was enraged at him and at his speech and wept.
Then said the Khalif to her, “I lie and my eunuch lieth, and thou liest and thy waiting-woman lieth; so methinks we were best go, all four of us together, that we may see which of us telleth the truth.” Quoth Mesrour, “Come, let us go, that I may put this ill-omened old woman to shame[FN#37] and deal her a sound drubbing for her lying.” And she answered him, saying, “O dotard, is thy wit like unto my wit? Indeed, thy wit is as the hen’s wit.” Mesrour was incensed at her words and would have laid violent hands on her, but the Lady Zubeideh warded him off from her and said to him, “Her sooth-fastness will presently be distinguished from thy sooth-fastness and her leasing from thy leasing.”
Then they all four arose, laying wagers with one another, and went forth, walking, from the palace-gate [and fared on] till they came in at the gate of the street in which Aboulhusn el Khelia dwelt. He saw them and said to his wife Nuzhet el Fuad, “Verily, all that is sticky is not a pancake and not every time cometh the jar off safe.[FN#38]’ Meseemeth the old woman hath gone and told her lady and acquainted her with our case and she hath disputed with Mesrour the eunuch and they have laid wagers with one another about our death and are come to us, all four, the Khalif and the eunuch and the Lady Zubeideh and the old woman.” When Nuzhet el Fuad heard this, she started up from her lying posture and said, “How shall we do?” And he said, “We will both feign ourselves dead and stretch ourselves out and hold our breath.” So she hearkened unto him and they both lay down on the siesta[-carpet] and bound their feet and shut their eyes and covered themselves with the veil and held their breath.
Presently, up came the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh and Mesrour and the old woman and entering, found Aboulhusn and his wife both stretched out [apparently] dead; which when the Lady Zubeideh saw, she wept and said, “They ceased not to bring [ill] news of my slave- girl, till she died; methinketh Aboulhusn’s death was grievous to her and that she died after him."[FN#39]. Quoth the Khalif, “Thou shalt not forestall me with talk and prate. She certainly died before Aboulhusn, for he came to me with his clothes torn and his beard plucked out, beating his breast with two bricks, and I gave him a hundred dinars and a piece of silk and said to him, ’Go, carry her forth [and bury her] and I will give thee a concubine other than she and handsomer, and she shall be in stead of her.’ But it would appear that her death was no light matter to him and he died after her;[FN#40] so it is I who have beaten thee and gotten thy stake.”
The Lady Zubeideh answered him many words and the talk waxed amain between them. At last the Khalif sat down at the heads of the pair and said, “By the tomb of the Apostle of God (may He bless and preserve him!) and the sepulchres of my fathers and forefathers, whoso will tell me which of them died before the other, I will willingly give him a thousand dinars!” When Aboulhusn heard the Khalifs words, he sprang up in haste and said, “I died first, O Commander of the Faithful! Hand over the thousand dinars and quit thine oath and the conjuration by which thou sworest.” Then Nuzhet el Fuad rose also and stood up before the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh, who both rejoiced in this and in their safety, and the princess chid her slave-girl. Then the Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh gave them joy at their well-being and knew that this [pretended] death was a device to get the money; and the princess said to Nuzhet el Fuad, “Thou shouldst have sought of me that which thou desiredst, without this fashion, and not have consumed my heart for thee.” And she said, “Indeed, I was ashamed, O my lady.”
As for the Khalif, he swooned away for laughing and said, “O Aboulhusn, thou wilt never cease to be a wag and do rarities and oddities!” Quoth he, “O Commander of the Faithful, I played off this trick, for that the money was exhausted, which thou gavest me, and I was ashamed to ask of thee again. When I was single, I could never keep money; but since thou marriedst me to this damsel here, if I possessed thy wealth, I should make an end of it. So, when all that was in my hand was spent, I wrought this trick, so I might get of thee the hundred dinars and the piece of silk; and all this is an alms from our lord. But now make haste to give me the thousand dinars and quit thee of thine oath.”
The Khalif and the Lady Zubeideh laughed and returned to the palace; and he gave Aboulhusn the thousand dinars, saying, “Take them as a thank-offering for thy preservation from death,” whilst the princess did the like with Nuzhet el Fuad. Moreover, the Khalif increased Aboulhusn in his stipends and allowances, and he [and his wife] ceased not [to live] in joy and contentment, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies, he who layeth waste the palaces and peopleth the tombs.
TheKhalif Omar ben Abdulaziz and
It is said that, when the Khalifate devolved on Omar ben Abdulaziz[FN#42] (of whom God accept), the poets [of the time] resorted to him, as they had been used to resort to the Khalifs before him, and abode at his door days and days, but he gave them not leave to enter, till there came to Omar Adi ben Artah,[FN#43] who stood high in esteem with him. Jerir[FN#44] accosted him and begged him to crave admission for them [to the Khalif]. “It is well,” answered Adi and going in to Omar, said to him, “The poets are at thy door and have been there days and days; yet hast thou not given them leave to enter, albeit their sayings are abiding[FN#45] and their arrows go straight to the mark.” Quoth Omar, “What have I to do with the poets?” And Adi answered, saying, “O Commander of the Faithful, the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve) was praised [by a poet] and gave [him largesse,] and therein[FN#46] is an exemplar to every Muslim.” Quoth Omar, “And who praised him?” “Abbas ben Mirdas[FN#47] praised him,” replied Adi, “and he clad him with a suit and said, ’O Bilal,[FN#48] cut off from me his tongue!’” “Dost thou remember what he said?” asked the Khalif; and Adi said, “Yes.” “Then repeat it,” rejoined Omar. So Adi recited the following verses:
I saw thee, O thou best of all the human race, display
that came to teach the Truth to those in error’s way.
Thou madest known to us therein the road of righteousness, When
we had wandered from the Truth, what while in gloom it lay.
A dark affair thou littest up with Islam and with proof
“And indeed,” continued Adi, “this ode on the Prophet (may God bless and keep him!) is well known and to comment it would be tedious.” Quoth Omar, “Who is at the door?” “Among them is Omar ibn [Abi] Rebya the Cureishite,"[FN#49] answered Adi, and the Khalif said, “May God show him no favour neither quicken him! Was it not he who said ... ?” And he recited the following verses:
Would God upon that bitterest day, when my death calls
What’s ’twixt thine excrement and blood[FN#50] I still may
smell of thee!
Yea, so but Selma in the dust my bedfellow may prove, Fair fall
it thee! In heaven or hell I reck not if it be.
“Except,” continued the Khalif, “he were the enemy of God, he had wished for her in this world, so he might after [repent and] return to righteous dealing. By Allah, he shall not come in to me! Who is at the door other than he?” Quoth Adi, “Jemil ben Mamer el Udhri[FN#51] is at the door;” and Omar said, “It is he who says in one of his odes” ... [And he recited the following:]
Would we may live together and when we come to die,
God grant the
death-sleep bring me within her tomb to lie!
For if “Her grave above her is levelled” it be said, Of life and
its continuance no jot indeed reck I.
“Away with him from me! Who is at the door?” “Kutheiyir Azzeh,"[FN#52] replied Adi, and Omar said, “It is he who says in one of his odes ... " [And he repeated the following verses:]
Some with religion themselves concern and make it
all; Sitting,[FN#53] they weep for the pains of hell and
still for mercy bawl!
If they could hearken to Azzeh’s speech, as I, I hearken to it,
They straight would humble themselves to her and prone
before her fall.
“Leave the mention of him. Who is at the door?” Quoth Adi, “El Akhwes el Ansari."[FN#54] “God the Most High put him away and estrange him from His mercy!” cried Omar. “Is it not he who said, berhyming on a man of Medina his slave-girl, so she might outlive her master ... ?” [And he repeated the following line:]
God [judge] betwixt me and her lord! Away With
her he flees me
and I follow aye.
“He shall not come in to me. Who is at the door, other than he?” “Heman ben Ghalib el Ferezdec,"[FN#55] answered Adi; and Omar said, “It is he who saith, glorying in adultery ...” [And he repeated the following verses:]
The two girls let me down from fourscore fathoms’
swoops a hawk, with wings all open in full flight;
And when my feet trod earth, “Art slain, that we should fear,”
Quoth they, “or live, that we may hope again thy sight?”
“He shall not come in to me. Who is at the door, other than he?” “El Akhtel et Teghlibi,"[FN#56] answered Adi; and Omar said, “He is the unbeliever who says in his verse ...” [And he repeated the following:]
Ramazan in my life ne’er I fasted, nor e’er
Have I eaten of
flesh, save in public[FN#57] it were.
No exhorter am I to abstain from the fair, Nor to love Mecca’s
vale for my profit I care;
Nor, like others a little ere morning appear who bawl, “Come to
safety!"[FN#58] I stand up to prayer.
Nay, at daybreak I drink of the wind-freshened wine And prostrate
me[FN#59] instead in the dawn-whitened air.
“By Allah, he treadeth no carpet of mine! Who is at the door other than he?” “Jerir ibn el Khetefa,” answered Adi; and Omar said, “It is he who saith ... " [And he recited as follows:]
But for the spying of the eyes [ill-omened,] we had
cattle’s eyes and antelopes’ tresses of sable sheen.
The huntress of th’ eyes[FN#60] by night came to me. “Turn in
peace,” [Quoth I to her;] “This is no time for visiting, I
“If it must be and no help, admit Jerir.” So Adi went forth and admitted Jerir, who entered, saying:
He, who Mohammed sent, as prophet to mankind, Hath
to a just
high-priest[FN#61] the Khalifate assigned.
His justice and his truth all creatures do embrace; The erring he
corrects and those of wandering mind.
I hope for present[FN#62] good [and bounty at thy hand,] For
souls of men are still to present[FN#63] good inclined.
Quoth Omar, “O Jerir, keep the fear of God before thine eyes and say nought but the truth.” And Jerir recited the following verses:
How many, in Yemameh,[FN#64] dishevelled widows plain!
How many a
weakling orphan unsuccoured doth remain,
For whom is thy departure even as a father’s loss! To fly or
creep, like nestlings, alone, they strive in vain.
Now that the clouds have broken their promise to our hope, We
trust the Khalif’s bounty will stand to us for rain.[FN#65]
When the Khalif heard this, he said, “By Allah, O Jerir, Omar possesseth but a hundred dirhems."[FN#66] [And he cried out to his servant, saying,] “Ho, boy! give them to him.” Moreover, he gave him the ornaments of his sword; and Jerir went forth to the [other] poets, who said to him, “What is behind thee?"[FN#67] And he answered, “A man who giveth to the poor and denieth the poets, and I am well-pleased with him."[FN#68]
El Hejjaj and the three young men.[FN#69]
They tell that El Hejjaj[FN#70] once commanded the Master of Police [of Bassora] to go round about [the city] by night, and whomsoever he found [abroad] after nightfall, that he should strike off his head. So he went round one night of the nights and came upon three youths staggering from side to side, and on them signs of [intoxication with] wine. So the officers laid hold of them and the captain of the watch said to them, “Who are ye that ye transgress the commandment of the [lieutenant of the] Commander of the Faithful and come abroad at this hour?” Quoth one of the youths, “I am the son of him to whom [all] necks[FN#71] abase themselves, alike the nose-pierced[FN#72] of them and the [bone-]breaker;[FN#73] they come to him in their own despite, abject and submissive, and he taketh of their wealth[FN#74] and of their blood.”
The master of police held his hand from him, saying, “Belike he is of the kinsmen of the Commander of the Faithful,” and said to the second, “Who art thou?” Quoth he, “I am the son of him whose rank[FN#75] time abaseth not, and if it descend[FN#76] one day, it will assuredly return [to its former height]; thou seest the folk [crowd] in troops to the light of his fire, some standing around it and some sitting.” So the master of the police refrained from slaying him and said to the third, “Who art thou?” Quoth he, “I am the son of him who plungeth through the ranks[FN#77] with his might and correcteth[FN#78] them with the sword,[FN#79] so that they stand straight;[FN#80] his feet are not loosed from the stirrup,[FN#81] whenas the horsemen on the day of battle are weary.” So the master of police held his hand from him also, saying, “Belike, he is the son of a champion of the Arabs.”
Then he kept them under guard, and when the morning morrowed, he referred their case to El Hejjaj, who caused bring them before him and enquiring into their affair, found that the first was the son of a barber-surgeon, the second of a [hot] bean-seller and the third of a weaver. So he marvelled at their readiness of speech[FN#82] and said to his session-mates, “Teach your sons deportment;[FN#83] for, by Allah, but for their ready wit, I had smitten off their heads!”
Haroun er Reshid
and the woman of the
They tell that Haroun er Reshid was sitting one day to do away grievances, when there came up to him a woman and said to him, “O Commander of the Faithful, may God accomplish thine affair and cause thee rejoice in that which He hath given thee and increase thee in elevation! Indeed, thou hast done justice[FN#85] and wrought equitably."[FN#86] Quoth the Khalif to those who were present with him, “Know ye what this woman meaneth by her saying?” And they answered, “Of a surety, she meaneth not otherwise than well, O Commander of the Faithful.” “Nay,” rejoined Haroun; “she purposeth only in this an imprecation against me. As for
Then he turned to the woman and said to her, “Is it not thus?” “Yes, O Commander of the Faithful,” answered she; and he said, “What prompted thee to this?” Quoth she, “Thou slewest my father and my mother and my kinsfolk and tookest their goods.” “Whom meanest thou?” asked the Khalif, and she replied, “I am of the house of Bermek."[FN#93] Then said he to her, “As for the dead, they are of those who are past away, and it booteth not to speak of them; but, as for that which I took of wealth, it shall be restored to thee, yea, and more than it.” And he was bountiful to her to the utmost of munificence.
The ten viziers;
or the history of king
Azadbekht and his son.[FN#94]
There was once, of old days, a king of the kings, whose name was Azadbekht; his [capital] city was called Kuneim Mudoud and his kingdom extended to the confines of Seistan and from the frontiers of Hindustan to the sea He had ten viziers, who ordered his state and his dominion, and he was possessed of judgment and exceeding wisdom. One day he went forth with certain of his guards to the chase and fell in with an eunuch on horseback, holding in his hand the halter of a mule, which he led along. On the mule’s back was a litter of gold-inwoven brocade, garded about with an embroidered band set with gold and jewels, and over against the litter was a company of horsemen. When King Azadbekht saw this, he separated himself from his companions and making for the mule and the horsemen, questioned the latter, saying, “To whom belongeth this litter and what is therein?”. The eunuch answered, (for he knew not that he was King Azadbekht,) saying, “This litter belongeth to Isfehend, vizier to King Azadbekht, and therein is his daughter, whom he purposeth to marry to Zad Shah the King.”
As the eunuch was speaking with the king, behold, the damsel raised a corner of the curtain that shut in the litter, so she might look upon the speaker, and saw the king. When Azadbekht beheld her and noted her fashion and her loveliness (and indeed never set story-teller[FN#95] eyes on her like,) his soul inclined to her and she took hold upon his heart and he was ravished by her sight. So he said to the eunuch, “Turn the mule’s head and return, for I am King Azadbekht and I will marry her myself, for that Isfehend her father is my vizier and he will accept of this affair and it will not be grievous to him.” “O king,” answered the eunuch, “may God prolong thy continuance, have patience till I acquaint my lord her father, and thou shalt take her in the way of approof, for it befitteth thee not neither is it seemly unto thee that thou take her on this wise, seeing that it will be an affront to her father if thou take her without his knowledge.” Quoth Azadbekht, “I have not patience [to wait] till thou go to her father and return, and no dishonour will betide him, if I marry her.” “O my lord,” rejoined the eunuch, “nought that is done in haste is long of durance nor doth the heart rejoice therein; and indeed it behoveth thee not to take her on this foul wise. Whatsoever betideth thee, destroy not thyself with [undue] haste, for I know that her father’s breast will be straitened by this affair and this that thou dost will not profit thee.” But the king said, “Verily, Isfehend is [my boughten] servant and a slave of my slaves, and I reck not of her father, if he be vexed or pleased.” So saying, he drew the reins of the mule and carrying the damsel, whose name was Behrjaur, to his house, married her.
Meanwhile, the eunuch betook himself, he and the horsemen, to her father and said to him, “O my lord, the king is beholden to thee for many years’ service and thou hast not failed him a day of the days; and now, behold, he hath taken thy daughter against thy wish and without thy permission.” And he related to him what had passed and how the king had taken her by force. When Isfehend heard the eunuch’s story, he was exceeding wroth and assembling many troops, said to them, “Whenas the king was occupied with his women [and concerned not himself with the affairs of his kingdom], we took no reck of him; but now he putteth out his hand to our harem; wherefore methinketh we should do well to look us out a place, wherein we may have sanctuary.”
Then he wrote a letter to King Azadbekht, saying to him, “I am a servant of thy servants and a slave of thy slaves and my daughter is a handmaid at thy service, and may God the Most High prolong thy days and appoint thy times [to be] in delight and contentment! Indeed, I still went girded of the waist in thy service and in caring for the preservation of thy dominion and warding off thine enemies from thee; but now I abound yet more than before in zeal and watchfulness, for that I have taken this to charge upon myself, since my daughter is become thy wife.” And he despatched a messenger to the king with the letter and a present.
When the messenger came to King Azadbekht and he read the letter and the present was laid before him, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and occupied himself with eating and drinking, hour after hour. But the chief Vizier of his Viziers came to him and said, “0 king, know that Isfehend the Vizier is thine enemy, for that his soul liketh not that which thou hast done with him, and the message that he hath sent thee [is a trick; so] rejoice thou not therein, neither be thou deluded by the sweetness of his words and the softness of his speech.” The king hearkened [not] to his Vizier’s speech, but made light of the matter and presently, [dismissing it from his thought], busied himself with that which he was about of eating and drinking and merrymaking and delight
Meanwhile, Isfehend the Vizier wrote a letter and despatched it to all the Amirs, acquainting them with that which had betided him with King Azadbekht and how he had taken his daughter by force and adding, “And indeed he will do with you more than he hath done with me.” When the letter reached the chiefs [of the people and troops], they all assembled together to Isfehend and said to him, “What is to do with him?"[FN#96] So he discovered to them the affair of his daughter and they all agreed, of one accord, that they should endeavour for the slaughter of the king and taking horse with their troops, set out, intending for him. Azadbekht knew not [of their design] till the noise [of the invasion] beset his capital city, when he said to his wife Behrjaur, “How shall we do?” And she answered, saying, “Thou knowest best and I am at thy commandment.” So he let bring two swift horses and bestrode one himself, whilst his wife mounted the other. Then they took what they might of gold and went forth, fleeing, in the night, to the desert of Kerman; what while Isfehend entered the city and made himself king.
Now King Azadbekht’s wife was big with child and the pains of labour took her in the mountain; so they alighted at the mountain-foot, by a spring of water, and she gave birth to a boy as he were the moon. Behrjaur his mother pulled off a gown of gold-inwoven brocade and wrapped the child therein, and they passed the night [in that place], what while she gave him suck till the morning. Then said the king to her, “We are hampered by this child and cannot abide here nor can we carry him with us; so methinks we were better leave him here and go, for Allah is able to send him one who shall take him and rear him.” So they wept over him exceeding sore and left him beside the spring, wrapped in the gown of brocade: then they laid at his head a thousand dinars in a bag and mounting their horses, departed, fleeing.
Now, by the ordinance of God the Most High, a company of thieves fell in upon a caravan hard by that mountain and made prize of that which was with them of merchandise. Then they betook themselves to the mountain, so they might share their booty, and looking at the foot thereof, espied the gown of brocade. So they descended, to see what it was, and finding the child wrapped therein and the gold laid at his head, marvelled and said, “Extolled be the perfection of God! By what wickedness cometh this child here?” Then they divided the money between them and the captain of the thieves took the boy and made him his son and fed him with sweet milk and dates, till he came to his house, when he appointed him a nurse, who should rear him.
Meanwhile, King Azadbekht and his wife stayed not in their flight till they came to [the court of] the King of Fars,[FN#97] whose name was Kutrou.[FN#98] When they presented themselves to him, he entreated them with honour and entertained them handsomely, and Azadbekht told him his story, first and last. So he gave him a great army and wealth galore and he abode with him some days, till he was rested, when he made ready with his host and setting out for his own dominions, waged war upon Isfehend and falling in upon the capital, defeated the rebel vizier and slew him. Then he entered the city and sat down on the throne of his kingship; and whenas he was rested and the kingdom was grown peaceful for him, he despatched messengers to the mountain aforesaid in quest of the child; but they returned and informed the king that they had not found him.
As time went on, the boy, the son of the king, grew up and fell to stopping the way[FN#99] with the thieves, and they used to carry him with them, whenas they went a-thieving. They sallied forth one day upon a caravan in the land of Seistan, and there were in that caravan strong and valiant men and with them merchandise galore. Now they had heard that in that land were thieves; so they gathered themselves together and made ready their arms and sent out spies, who returned and gave them news of the thieves. Accordingly, they prepared for battle, and when the robbers drew near the caravan, they fell in upon them and they fought a sore battle. At last the folk of the caravan overmastered the thieves, by dint of numbers, and slew some of them, whilst the others fled. Moreover they took the boy, the son of King Azadbekht, and seeing him as he were the moon, possessed of beauty and grace, brightfaced and comely of fashion, questioned him, saying, “Who is thy father, and how camest thou with these thieves?” And he answered, saying, “I am the son of the captain of the thieves.” So they took him and carried him to the capital of his father King Azadbekht
When they reached the city, the king heard of their coming and commanded that they should attend him with what befitted [of their merchandise]. So they presented themselves before him, [and the boy with them,] whom when the king saw, he said to them, “To whom belongeth this boy?” And they answered, “O king, we were going in such a road, when there came out upon us a sort of robbers; so we made war upon them and overcame them and took this boy prisoner. Then we questioned him, saying, ’Who is thy father?’ and he answered, ’I am the captain’s son of the thieves.’” Quoth the king, “I would fain have this boy.” And the captain of the caravan said, “God maketh thee gift of him, O king of the age, and we all are thy slaves.” Then the king dismissed [the people of] the caravan and let carry the youth into his palace and he became as one of the servants, what while his father the king knew not that he was his son. As time went on, the king observed in him good breeding and understanding and knowledge[FN#100] galore and he pleased him; so he committed his treasuries to his charge and straitened the viziers’ hand therefrom, commanding that nought should be taken forth therefrom except by leave of the youth. On this wise he abode a number of years and the king saw in him nought but fidelity and studiousness in well-doing.
Now the treasuries aforetime had been in the viziers’ hand, so they might do with them what they would, and when they came under the youth’s hand, that of the viziers was straitened from them, and the youth became dearer to the king than a son and he could not brook to be separated from him. When the viziers saw this, they were jealous of him and envied him and cast about for a device against him whereby they might oust him from the king’s favour, but found no opportunity. At last, when came the destined hour,[FN#101] it chanced that the youth one day drank wine and became drunken and wandered from his wits; so he fell to going round about within the palace of the king and fate led him to the lodging of the women, in which there was a little sleeping-chamber, where the king lay with his wife. Thither came the youth and entering the chamber, found there a couch spread, to wit, a sleeping place, and a candle burning. So he cast himself on the couch, marvelling at the paintings that were in the chamber, and slept and slumbered heavily till eventide, when there came a slave-girl, bringing with her all the dessert, eatables and drinkables, that she was wont to make ready for the king and his wife, and seeing the youth lying on his back, (and none knowing of his case and he in his drunkenness unknowing where he was,) thought that he was the king asleep on his bed; so she set the censing-vessel and laid the essences by the couch, then shut the door and went away.
Presently, the king arose from the wine-chamber and taking his wife by the hand, repaired with her to the chamber in which he slept. He opened the door and entering, saw the youth lying on the bed, whereupon he turned to his wife and said to her, “What doth this youth here? This fellow cometh not hither but on thine account.” Quoth she, “I have no knowledge of him.” With this, the youth awoke and seeing the king, sprang up and prostrated himself before him, and Azadbekht said to him, “O vile of origin,[FN#102] O lack-loyalty, what hath prompted thee to outrage my dwelling?” And he bade imprison him in one place and the woman in another.
The First Day.
Ofthe uselessness of endeavour against
persistent ill fortune.
When the morning morrowed and the king sat on the throne of his kingship, he summoned the chief of his viziers and said to him, “What deemest thou of this that yonder robber-youth hath done? Behold, he hath entered my house and lain down on my bed and I fear lest there be an intrigue between him and the woman. How deemest thou of the affair?” “God prolong the king’s continuance!” replied the vizier. “What sawest thou in this youth [to make thee trust in him]? Is he not vile of origin, the son of thieves? Needs must a thief revert to his vile origin, and whoso reareth the young of the serpent shall get of them nought but biting. As for the woman, she is not at fault; for, since [the] time [of her marriage with thee] till now, there hath appeared from her nought but good breeding and modesty; and now, if the king give me leave, I will go to her and question her, so I may discover to thee the affair.”
The king gave him leave for this and the vizier betook himself to the queen and said to her, “I am come to thee, on account of a grave reproach, and I would have thee be truthful with me in speech and tell me how came the youth into the sleeping-chamber.” Quoth she, “I have no knowledge whatsoever [of it]” and swore to him a solemn oath thereof, whereby he knew that she had no knowledge of the matter and that she was not at fault and said to her, “I will teach thee a device, where- with thou mayst acquit thyself and thy face be whitened before the king.” “What is it?” asked she; and he answered, saying, “When the king calleth for thee and questioneth thee of this, say thou to him, ’Yonder youth saw me in the privy-chamber and sent me a message, saying, “I will give thee a hundred jewels, to whose price money may not avail, so thou wilt suffer me to foregather with thee.” I laughed at him who bespoke me with these words and rebuffed him; but he sent again to me, saying, “An thou fall not in with my wishes, I will come one of the nights, drunken, and enter and lie down in the sleeping-chamber, and the king will see me and kill me; so wilt thou be put to shame and thy face will be blackened with him and thine honour abased."’ Be this thy saying to the king, and I will presently go to him and repeat this to him.” Quoth the queen, “And I also will say thus.”
So the vizier returned to the king and said to him, “Verily, this youth hath merited grievous punishment, after abundance of bounty [bestowed on him], and it may not be that a bitter kernel should ever become sweet; but, as for the woman, I am certified that there is no fault in her.” Then he repeated to the king the story which he had taught the queen, which when Azadbekht heard, he rent his clothes and bade fetch the youth. So they brought him and stationed him before the king, who let bring the headsman, and the folk all fixed their eyes upon the youth, so they might see what the king should do with him.
Then said Azadbekht to him (and indeed his words were [prompted] by anger and those of the youth by presence of mind and good breeding), “I bought thee with my money and looked for fidelity from thee, wherefore I chose thee over all my grandees and servants and made thee keeper of my treasuries. Why, then, hast thou outraged my honour and entered my house and played the traitor with me and tookest no thought unto that which I have done thee of benefits?” “O king,” answered the youth, “I did this not of my choice and freewill and I had no [evil] intent in being there; but, of the littleness of my luck, I was driven thither, for that fate was contrary and fair fortune lacking. Indeed, I had striven with all endeavour that nought of foul should proceed from me and kept watch over myself, lest default appear in me; but none may avail to make head against ill fortune, nor doth endeavour profit in case of lack of luck, as appeareth by the example of the merchant who was stricken with ill luck and his endeavour profited him not and he succumbed to the badness of his fortune.” “What is the story of the merchant,” asked the king, “and how was his luck changed upon him by the sorriness of his fortune?” “May God prolong the king’s continuance!” answered the youth.
“There was once a man, a merchant, who was fortunate in trade, and at one time his [every] dirhem profited [him] fifty. Presently, his luck turned against him and he knew it not; so he said in himself, ’I have wealth galore, yet do I weary myself and go round about from country to country; I were better abide in my own country and rest myself in my house from this travail and affliction and sell and buy at home.’ Then he made two parts of his money, with one whereof he bought wheat in summer, saying, ‘When the winter cometh, I will sell it at a great profit.’ But, when the winter came, wheat became at half the price for which he had bought it, whereat he was sore concerned and left it till the next year. However, next year, the price fell yet lower and one of his friends said to him, ’Thou hast no luck in this wheat; so do thou sell it at whatsoever price.’ Quoth the merchant, ’This long while have I profited and it is allowable that I lose this time. God is all- knowing! If it abide [with me] half a score years, I will not sell it save at a profit.’
Then, in his anger, he walled up the door of the granary with clay, and by the ordinance of God the Most High, there came a great rain and descended from the roofs of the house wherein was the wheat [so that the latter rotted]; and needs must the merchant give the porters five hundred dirhems from his purse, so they should carry it forth and cast it without the city, for that the smell of it was noisome. So his friend said to him, ’How often did I tell thee thou hadst no luck in wheat? But thou wouldst not give ear to my speech, and now it behoveth thee to go to the astrologer and question him of thy star.’ Accordingly the merchant betook himself to the astrologer and questioned him of his star, and the astrologer said to him, ’Thy star is unpropitious. Put not thy hand to any business, for thou wilt not prosper therein.’ However, he paid no heed to the astrologer’s words and said in himself, ’If I do my occasion,[FN#103] I am not afraid of aught.’ Then he took the other part of his money, after he had spent therefrom three years, and built [therewith] a ship, which he loaded with all that seemed good to him and all that was with him and embarked on the sea, so he might travel.
The ship tarried with him some days, till he should be certified what he would do,[FN#104] and he said, ’I will enquire of the merchants what this merchandise profiteth and in what country it lacketh and how much is the gain thereon.’ [So he questioned them and] they directed him to a far country, where his dirhem should profit a hundredfold. Accordingly, he set sail and steered for the land in question; but, as he went, there blew on him a tempestuous wind and the ship foundered. The merchant saved himself on a plank and the wind cast him up, naked as he was, on the sea-shore, hard by a town there. So he praised God and gave Him thanks for his preservation; then, seeing a great village hard by, he betook himself thither and saw, seated therein, a very old man, whom he acquainted with his case and that which had betided him. The old man grieved sore for him, when he heard his story, and set food before him. So he ate and the old man said to him, ’Abide here with me, so I may make thee my steward and factor over a farm I have here, and thou shall have of me five dirhems [FN#105] a day.’ ‘God make fair thy reward,’ answered the merchant, ‘and requite thee with benefits!’
So he abode in this employ, till he had sowed and reaped and threshed and winnowed, and all was sheer in his hand and the owner appointed neither inspector nor overseer, but relied altogether upon him. Then he bethought himself and said, ’I* misdoubt me the owner of this grain will not give me my due; so I were better take of it, after the measure of my hire; and if he give me my due, I will restore him that which I have taken.’ So he took of the grain, after the measure of that which fell to him, and hid it in a privy place. Then he carried the rest to the old man and meted it out to him, and he said to him, ’Come, take [of the grain, after the measure of] thy hire, for which I agreed with thee, and sell it and buy with the price clothes and what not else; and though thou abide with me half a score years, yet shall thou still have this wage and I will acquit it to thee thus.’ Quoth the merchant in himself, ’Indeed, I have done a foul thing in that I look it without his leave.’
Then he went to fetch that which he had hidden of the grain, but found it not and returned, perplexed and sorrowful, to the old man, who said to him, ‘What aileth thee to be sorrowful?’ And he answered, ’Methought thou wouldst not pay me my due; so I took of the grain, after the measure of my hire; and now thou hast paid me my due and I went to bring back to thee that which I had hidden from thee, but found it gone, for those who had happened upon it had stolen it.’ The old man was wroth, when he heard this, and said to the merchant, ’There is no device [can cope] with ill luck! I had given thee this, but, of the sorriness of thy luck and thy fortune, thou hast done this deed, O oppressor of thine own self! Thou deemedst I would not acquit thee thy wage; but, by Allah, nevermore will I give thee aught.’ And he drove him away from him.
So the merchant went forth, afflicted, sorrowful, weeping, [and wandered on along the sea-shore], till he came to a sort of divers diving in the sea for pearls. They saw him weeping and mourning and said to him, ’What is thy case and what maketh thee weep?’ So he acquainted them with his history, from first to last, whereby they knew him and said to him, ’Art thou [such an one] son of such an one?’ ‘Yes,’ answered he; whereupon they condoled with him and wept sore for him and said to him, ’Abide here till we dive for thy luck this next time and whatsoever betideth us shall be between us and thee.’ Accordingly, they dived and brought up ten oysters, in each two great pearls; whereat they marvelled and said to him, ’By Allah, thy luck hath returned and thy good star is in the ascendant!’ Then they gave him ten pearls and said to him, ’Sell two of them and make them thy capital [whereon to trade]; and hide the rest against the time of thy straitness.’ So he took them, joyful and contented, and addressed himself to sew eight of them in his gown, keeping the two others in his mouth; but a thief saw him and went and advertised his mates of him; whereupon they gathered together upon him and took his gown and departed from him. When they were gone away, he arose, saying, ’These two pearls [in my mouth] will suffice me,’ and made for the [nearest] city, where he brought out the pearls [and repairing to the jewel- market, gave them to the broker], that he might sell them.
Now, as destiny would have it, a certain jeweller of the town had been robbed of ten pearls, like unto those which were with the merchant; so, when he saw the two pearls in the broker’s hand, he said to him, ‘To whom do these pearls belong?’ and the broker answered, ‘To yonder man.’ [The jeweller looked at the merchant and] seeing him in sorry case and clad in tattered clothes, misdoubted of him and said to him (purposing to surprise him into confession), ‘Where are the other eight pearls?’ The merchant thought he asked him of those which were in the gown and answered, ‘The thieves stole them from me.’ When the jeweller heard his reply, he doubted not but that it was he who had taken his good; so he laid hold of him and haling him before the chief of the police, said to him, ’This is the man who stole my pearls: I have found two of them upon him and he confesseth to the other eight.’
Now the magistrate knew of the theft of the pearls; so he bade clap the merchant in prison. Accordingly they imprisoned him and flogged him, and he abode in the prison a whole year, till, by the ordinance of God the Most High, the Master of Police arrested one of the divers aforesaid and imprisoned him in the prison where the merchant lay. He saw the latter and knowing him, questioned him of his case; whereupon he told them his story and that which had befallen him, and the diver marvelled at the sorriness of his luck. So, when he came forth of the prison, he acquainted the Sultan with the merchant’s case and told him that it was he who had given him the pearls. The Sultan bade bring him forth of the prison and questioned him of his story, whereupon he told him all that had befallen him and the Sultan pitied him and assigned him a lodging in his own palace, together with an allowance for his living.
Now the lodging in question adjoined the king’s house, and whilst the merchant was rejoicing in this and saying, ’Verily, my luck hath returned and I shall live in this king’s shadow the rest of my life,’ he espied an opening walled up with stones and clay. So he pulled out the stones and clearing away the earth from the opening, found that it was a window giving upon the lodging of the king’s women. When he saw this, he was affrighted and rising in haste, fetched clay and stopped it up again. But one of the eunuchs saw him and misdoubting of him, repaired to the Sultan and told him of this. So he came and seeing the stones pulled out, was wroth with the merchant and said to him, ’Is this my recompense from thee, that thou seekest to violate my harem?’ And he bade pluck out his eyes. So they did as he commanded and the merchant took his eyes in his hand and said, ’How long [wilt thou afflict me], O star of ill-omen? First my wealth and now my life!’ And he bewailed himself, saying, ’Endeavour profiteth me nought against evil fortune. The Compassionate aided me not and endeavour was useless.’
On like wise, O king,” continued the youth, “whilst fortune was favourable to me, all that I did came to good; but now that it is grown contrary to me, everything turneth against me.”
When the youth had made an end of his story, the king’s anger subsided a little and he said, “Restore him to the prison, for the day draweth to an end, and tomorrow we will took into his affair.”
Of looking to the issues of affairs.
When it was the second day, the second of the king’s viziers, whose name was Beheroun, came in to him and said, “God advance the king! This that yonder youth hath done is a grave matter and a foul deed and a heinous against the household of the king.” So Azadbekht bade fetch the youth, because of the saying of the vizier; and when he came into his presence, he said to him, “Out on thee, O youth! Needs must I slay thee by the worst of deaths, for
“There was once a man, a merchant, who had a wife and abundant wealth. He set out one day on a journey with merchandise, leaving his wife big with child, and said to her, ’If it be the will of God the Most High, I will return before the birth of the child.’ Then he took leave of her and setting out, journeyed from country to country till he came to the court of one of the kings and foregathered with him. Now this king was in need of one who should order his affairs and those of his kingdom and seeing the merchant well-bred and intelligent, he charged him abide with him and entreated him with honour and munificence. After awhile, he sought of the king leave to go to his own house, but the latter would not consent to this; whereupon he said to him, ’O king, suffer me go and see my children and come again.’ So he gave him leave for this and took surety of him for his return. Moreover, he gave him a purse, wherein were a thousand gold dinars, and the merchant embarked in a ship and set sail, intending for his own country.
Meanwhile, news came to his wife that her husband had taken service with King Such-an-one; so she arose and taking her two sons, (for she had given birth to twin boys in his absence,) set out for those parts. As fate would have it, they happened upon an island and her husband came thither that very night in the ship. [When the woman heard of the coming of the ship], she said to her children, ’This ship cometh from the country where your father is; so go ye to the sea-shore, that ye may enquire of him.’ So they repaired to the sea-shore and [going up into the ship], fell to playing about it and occupied themselves with their play till the evening.
Now the merchant their father lay asleep in the ship, and the crying of the boys troubled him; so he rose to call out to them [and silence them] and let the purse [with the thousand dinars therein] fall among the bales of merchandise. He sought for it and finding it not, buffeted his head and seized upon the boys, saying, ’None took the purse but you. Ye were playing about the bales, so ye might steal somewhat, and there was none here but you.’ Then he took a staff and laying hold of the children, fell to beating them and flogging them, whilst they wept, and the sailors came round about them and said, ’The boys of this island are all thieves and robbers.’ Then, of the greatness of the merchant’s wrath, he swore that, if they brought not out the purse, he would drown them in the sea; so when [by reason of their denial] his oath became binding upon him, he took the two boys and lashing them [each] to a bundle of reeds, cast them into the sea.
Presently, the mother of the two boys, finding that they tarried from her, went searching for them, till she came to the ship and fell to saying, ’Who hath seen two boys of mine? Their fashion is thus and thus and their age thus and thus.’ When they heard her words, they said, ’This is the description of the two boys who were drowned in the sea but now.’ Their mother heard and fell to calling on them and saying, ’Alas, my anguish for your loss, O my sons! Where was the eye of your father this day, that it might have seen you?’ Then one of the crew questioned her, saying, ‘Whose wife art thou?’ And she answered, ’I am the wife of such an one the merchant. I was on my way to him, and there hath befallen me this calamity.’ When the merchant heard her speech, he knew her and rising to his feet, rent his clothes and buffeted his head and said to his wife, ’By Allah, I have destroyed my children with mine own hand! This is the end of whoso looketh not to the issues of affairs.’ Then he fell a-wailing and weeping over them, he and his wife, and he said, ’By Allah, I shall have no ease of my life, till I light upon news of them!’ And he betook himself to going round about the sea, in quest of them, but found them not.
Meanwhile, the wind carried the two children [out to sea and thence driving them] towards the land, cast them up on the sea-shore. As for one of them, a company of the guards of the king of those parts found him and carried him to their master, who marvelled at him with an exceeding wonderment and adopted him to his son, giving out to the folk that he was his [very] son, whom he had hidden,[FN#106] of his love for him. So the folk rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy, for the king’s sake, and the latter appointed him his heir-apparent and the inheritor of his kingdom. On this wise, a number of years passed, till the king died and they crowned the youth king in his room. So he sat down on the throne of his kingship and his estate flourished and his affairs prospered.
Meanwhile, his father and mother had gone round about all the islands of the sea in quest of him and his brother, hoping that the sea might have cast them up, but found no trace of them; so they despaired of finding them and took up their abode in one of the islands. One day, the merchant, being in the market, saw a broker, and in his hand a boy he was calling for sale, and said in himself, ’I will buy yonder boy, so I may console myself with him for my sons.’ So he bought him and carried him to his house; and when his wife saw him, she cried out and said, ’By Allah, this is my son!’ So his father and mother rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and questioned him of his brother; but he answered, ‘The sea parted us and I knew not what became of him.’ Therewith his father and mother consoled themselves with him and on this wise a number of years passed.
Now the merchant and his wife had taken up their abode in a city in the land whereof their [other] son was king, and when the boy [whom they had found] grew up, his father assigned unto him merchandise, so he might travel therewith. So he set out and entered the city wherein his brother was king. News reached the latter that there was a merchant come thither with merchandise befitting kings. So he sent for him and the young merchant obeyed the summons and going in to him, sat down before him. Neither of them knew the other; but blood stirred between them and the king said to the young merchant, ’I desire of thee that thou abide with me and I will exalt thy station and give thee all that thou desirest and cravest.’ So he abode with him awhile, quitting him not; and when he saw that he would not suffer him to depart from him, he sent to his father and mother and bade them remove thither to him. So they addressed them to remove to that island, and their son increased still in honour with the king, albeit he knew not that he was his brother.
It chanced one night that the king sallied forth without the city and drank and the wine got the mastery of him and he became drunken. So, of the youth’s fearfulness for him, he said, ’I will keep watch myself over the king this night, seeing that he deserveth this from me, for that which he hath wrought with me of kindnesses.’ So he arose forthright and drawing his sword, stationed himself at the door of the king’s pavilion. Now one of the royal servants saw him standing there, with the drawn sword in his hand, and he was of those who envied him his favour with the king; so he said to him, ’Why dost thou on this wise at this season and in the like of this place?’ Quoth the youth, ’I am keeping watch over the king myself, in requital of his bounties to me.’
The servant said no more to him, but, when it was morning, he acquainted a number of the king’s servants with this and they said, ’This is an opportunity for us. Come let us assemble together and acquaint the king with this, so the young merchant may lose favour with him and he rid us of him and we be at rest from him.’ So they assembled together and going in to the king, said to him, ‘We have a warning we would give thee.’ Quoth he, ‘And what is your warning?’ And they said, ’Yonder youth, the merchant, whom thou hast taken into favour and whose rank thou hast exalted above the chiefs of the people of thy household, we saw yesterday draw his sword and offer to fall upon thee, so he might slay thee.’ When the king heard this, his colour changed and he said to them, ‘Have ye proof of this?’ Quoth they, ’What proof wouldst thou have? If thou desire this, feign thyself drunken again this night and lie down, as if asleep, and watch him, and thou wilt see with thine eyes all that we have named to thee.’
Then they went to the youth and said to him, ’Know that the king thanketh thee for thy dealing yesternight and exceedeth in [praise of] thy good deed;’ and they prompted him to do the like again. So, when the next night came, the king abode on wake; watching the youth; and as for the latter, he went to the door of the pavilion and drawing his sword, stood in the doorway. When the king saw him do thus, he was sore disquieted and bade seize him and said to him, ’Is this my requital from thee? I showed thee favour more than any else and thou wouldst do with me this vile deed.’ Then arose two of the king’s servants and said to him, ’O our lord, if thou command it, we will strike off his head.’ But the king said, ’Haste in slaying is a vile thing, for it[FN#107] is a grave matter; the quick we can slay, but the slain we cannot quicken, and needs must we look to the issue of affairs. The slaying of this [youth] will not escape us.’[FN#108] Therewith he bade imprison him, whilst he himself returned [to the city] and despatching his occasions, went forth to the chase.
Then he returned to the city and forgot the youth; so the servants went in to him and said to him, ’O king, if thou keep silence concerning yonder youth, who would have slain thee, all thy servants will presume upon thee, and indeed the folk talk of this matter.’ With this the king waxed wroth and saying, ’Fetch him hither,’ commanded the headsman to strike off his head. So they [brought the youth and] bound his eyes; and the headsman stood at his head and said to the king, ’By thy leave, O my lord, I will strike off his head.’ But the king said, ’Stay, till I look into his affair. Needs must I put him to death and the slaying of him will not escape [me].’ So he restored him to the prison and there he abode till it should be the king’s will to put him to death.
Presently, his father and his mother heard of the matter; whereupon the former arose and going up to the place, wrote a letter and [presented it to the king, who] read it, and behold, therein was written, saying, ’Have pity on me, so may God have pity on thee, and hasten not in the slaughter [of my son]; for indeed I acted hastily in a certain affair and drowned his brother in the sea, and to this day I drink the cup of his anguish. If thou must needs kill him, kill me in his stead.’ Therewith the old merchant prostrated himself before the king and wept; and the latter said to him, ‘Tell me thy story.’ ’O my lord,’ answered the merchant, ’this youth had a brother and I [in my haste] cast them both into the sea.’ And he related to him his story from first to last, whereupon the king cried out with an exceeding great cry and casting himself down from the throne, embraced his father and brother and said to the former, ’By Allah, thou art my very father and this is my brother and thy wife is our mother.’ And they abode weeping, all three.
Then the king acquainted the people [of his court] with the matter and said to them,’ O folk, how deem ye of my looking to the issues of affairs?’ And they all marvelled at his wisdom and foresight. Then he turned to his father and said to him, ’Hadst thou looked to the issue of thine affair and dealt deliberately in that which thou didst, there had not betided thee this repentance and grief all this time.’ Then he let bring his mother and they rejoiced in each other and lived all their days in joy and gladness. What then,” continued the young treasurer, “is more grievous than the lack of looking to the issues of affairs? Wherefore hasten thou not in the slaying of me, lest repentance betide thee and sore concern.”
When the king heard this, he said, “Restore him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair; for that deliberation in affairs is advisable and the slaughter of this [youth] shall not escape [us].”
The Third Day.
Of the advantages of patience.
When it was the third day, the third vizier came in to the king and said to him, “O king, delay not the affair of this youth, for that his deed hath caused us fall into the mouths of the folk, and it behoveth that thou slay him presently, so the talk may be estopped from us and it be not said, ’The king saw on his bed a man with his wife and spared him.’"* The king was chagrined by this speech and bade bring the youth. So they brought him in shackles, and indeed the king’s anger was roused against him by the speech of the vizier and he was troubled; so he said to him, “O base of origin, thou hast dishonoured us and marred our repute, and needs must I do away thy life from the world.” Quoth the youth, “O king, make use of patience in all thine affairs, so wilt thou attain thy desire, for that God the Most High hath appointed the issue of patience [to be] in abounding good, and indeed by patience Abou Sabir ascended from the pit and sat down upon the throne.” “Who was Abou Sabir,” asked the king, “and what is his story?” And the youth answered, saying, “O king,
There was once a man, a headman [of a village], by name Abou Sabir, and he had much cattle and a fair wife, who had borne him two sons. They abode in a certain village and there used to come thither a lion and devour Abou Sabir’s cattle, so that the most part thereof was wasted and his wife said to him one day, ’This lion hath wasted the most part of our cattle. Arise, mount thy horse and take thy men and do thine endeavour to kill him, so we may be at rest from him.’ But Abou Sabir said, ’Have patience, O woman, for the issue of patience is praised. This lion it is that transgresseth against us, and the transgressor, needs must Allah destroy him. Indeed, it is our patience that shall slay him, and he that doth evil, needs must it revert upon him.’ A little after,
It befell, after this, that a man was slain in Abou Sabir’s village; wherefore the Sultan caused plunder the village, and they plundered the headman’s goods with the rest So his wife said to him, ’All the Sultan’s officers know thee; so do thou prefer thy plaint to the king, that he may cause thy beasts to be restored to thee.’ But he said to her, ’O woman, said I not to thee that he who doth evil shall suffer it? Indeed, the king hath done evil, and he shall suffer [the consequences of] his deed, for whoso taketh the goods of the folk, needs must his goods be taken.’ A man of his neighbours heard his speech, and he was an envier of his; so he went to the Sultan and acquainted him therewith, whereupon he sent and plundered all [the rest of] his goods and drove him forth from the village, and his wife [and children] with him. So they went wandering in the desert and his wife said to him, ’All that hath befallen us cometh of thy slothfulness in affairs and thy default.’ But he said to her, ‘Have patience, for the issue of patience is good.’
Then they went on a little, and thieves met them and despoiling them of that which remained with them, stripped them of their raiment and took the children from them; whereupon the woman wept and said to her husband, ’O man, put away from thee this folly and arise, let us follow the thieves, so haply they may have compassion on us and restore the children to us.’ ‘O woman,’ answered he, ’have patience, for he who doth evil shall be requited with evil and his wickedness shall revert upon him. Were I to follow them, most like one of them would take his sword and smite off my head and slay me; but have patience, for the issue of patience is praised.’ Then they fared on till they drew near a village in the land of Kirman, and by it a river of water. So he said to his wife, ’Abide thou here, whilst I enter the village and look us out a place wherein we may take up our lodging.’ And he left her by the water and entered the village.
Presently, up came a horseman in quest of water, so he might water his horse. He saw the woman and she was pleasing in his sight; so he said to her, ’Arise, mount with me and I will take thee to wife and entreat thee kindly.’ Quoth she, ’Spare me, so may God spare thee! Indeed, I have a husband.’ But he drew his sword and said to her, ’An thou obey me not, I will smite thee and kill thee.’ When she saw his malice, she wrote on the ground in the sand with her finger, saying, ’O Abou Sabir, thou hast not ceased to be patient, till thy wealth is gone from thee and thy children and [now] thy wife, who was more precious in thy sight than everything and than all thy wealth, and indeed thou abidest in thy sorrow all thy life long, so thou mayst see what thy patience will profit thee.’ Then the horseman took her, and setting her behind him, went his way.
As for Abou Sabir, when he returned, he saw not his wife and read what was written on the ground, wherefore he wept and sat [awhile] sorrowing. Then said he to himself, ’O Abou Sabir, it behoveth thee to be patient, for belike there shall betide [thee] an affair yet sorer than this and more grievous;’ and he went forth wandering at a venture, like to the love-distraught, the madman, till he came to a sort of labourers working upon the palace of the king, by way of forced labour. When [the overseers] saw him, they laid hold of him and said to him, ’Work thou with these folk at the palace of the king; else will we imprison thee for life.’ So he fell to working with them as a labourer and every day they gave him a cake of bread. He wrought with them a month’s space, till it chanced that one of the labourers mounted a ladder and falling, broke his leg; whereupon he cried out and wept. Quoth Abou Sabir to him, ’Have patience and weep not; for thou shall find ease in thy patience.’ But the man said to him, ‘How long shall I have patience?’ And he answered, saying, ’Patience bringeth a man forth of the bottom of the pit and seateth him on the throne of the kingdom.’
Now the king was seated at the lattice, hearkening to their talk, and Abou Sabir’s words angered him; so he bade bring him before him and they brought him forthright. Now there was in the king’s palace an underground dungeon and therein a vast deep pit, into which the king caused cast Abou Sabir, saying to him, ’O lackwit, now shall we see how thou wilt come forth of the pit to the throne of the kingdom.’ Then he used to come and stand at the mouth of the pit and say, ’O lackwit, O Abou Sabir, I see thee not come forth of the pit and sit down on the king’s throne!’ And he assigned him each day two cakes of bread, whilst Abou Sabir held his peace and spoke not, but bore with patience that which betided him.
Now the king had a brother, whom he had imprisoned in that pit of old time, and he had died [there]; but the folk of the realm thought that he was alive, and when his [supposed] imprisonment grew long, the king’s officers used to talk of this and of the tyranny of the king, and the report spread abroad that the king was a tyrant, wherefore they fell upon him one day and slew him. Then they sought the well and brought out Abou Sabir therefrom, deeming him the king’s brother, for that he was the nearest of folk to him [in favour] and the likest, and he had been long in the prison. So they doubted not but that he was the prince in question and said to him, ’Reign thou in thy brother’s room, for we have slain him and thou art king in his stead.’ But Abou Sabir was silent and spoke not a word; and he knew that this was the issue of his patience. Then he arose and sitting down on the king’s throne, donned the royal raiment and discovered justice and equity and the affairs [of the realm] prospered [in his hand]; wherefore the folk obeyed him and the people inclined to him and many were his troops.
Now the king, who had plundered Abou Sabir[’s goods] and driven him forth of his village, had an enemy; and the latter took horse against him and overcame him and captured his [capital] city; wherefore he addressed himself to flight and came to Abou Sabir’s city, craving protection of him and seeking that he should succour him. He knew not that the king of the city was the headman whom he had despoiled; so he presented himself before him and made complaint to him; but Abou Sabir knew him and said to him, ’This is somewhat of the issue of patience. God the Most High hath given me power over thee.’ Then he bade his guards plunder the [unjust] king and his attendants; so they plundered them and stripping them of their clothes, put them forth of his country. When Abou Sabir’s troops saw this, they marvelled and said, ’What is this deed that the king doth? There cometh a king to him, craving protection, and he despoileth him! This is not of the fashion of kings.’ But they dared not [be]speak [him] of this.
After this, news came to the king of robbers in his land; so he set out in quest of them and ceased not to follow after them, till he seized on them all, and behold, they were the [very] thieves who had despoiled him [and his wife] by the way and taken his children. So he bade bring them before him, and when they came into his presence, he questioned them, saying, ’Where are the two boys ye took on such a day?’ Quoth they, ’They are with us and we will present them to our lord the king for slaves to serve him and give him wealth galore that we have gotten together and divest ourselves of all that we possess and repent from sin and fight in thy service.’ Abou Sabir, however, paid no heed to their speech, but took all their good and bade put them all to death. Moreover, he took the two boys and rejoiced in them with an exceeding joy, whereat the troops murmured among themselves, saying, ’Verily, this is a greater tyrant than his brother! There come to him a sort of robbers and seek to repent and proffer two boys [by way of peace-offering], and he taketh the two boys and all their good and slayeth them!’
After this came the horseman, who had taken Abou Sabir’s wife, and complained of her to the king that she would not give him possession of herself, avouching that she was his wife. The king bade bring her before him, that he might hear her speech and pronounce judgment upon her. So the horseman came with her before him, and when the king saw her, he knew her and taking her from her ravisher, bade put the latter to death. Then he became aware of the troops, that they murmured against him and spoke of him as a tyrant; so he turned to his officers and viziers and said to them, ’As for me, by God the Great, I am not the king’s brother! Nay, I am but one whom the king imprisoned upon a word he heard from me and used every day to taunt me therewith. Ye think that I am the king’s brother; but I am Abou Sabir and God hath given me
When the king heard this from the youth, his anger subsided; so he bade restore him to the prison, and the folk dispersed that day.
The Fourth Day.
Of the ill effects of precipitation.
When it was the fourth day, the fourth vizier, whose name was Zoushad, made his appearance and prostrating himself to the king, said to him, “O king, suffer not the talk of yonder youth to delude thee, for that he is not a truth-teller. So long as he abideth on life, the folk will not give over talking nor will thy heart cease to be occupied with him.” “By Allah,” cried the king, “thou sayst sooth and I will cause fetch him this day and slay him before me.” Then he commanded to bring the youth; so they brought him in shackles and he said to him, “Out on thee! Thinkest thou to appease my heart with thy prate, whereby the days are spent in talk? I mean to slay thee this day and be quit of thee.” “O king,”
“There was once, of old time, a king and he had a son [named Bihzad], there was not in his day a goodlier than he and he loved to consort with the folk and to sit with the merchants and converse with them. One day, as he sat in an assembly, amongst a number of folk, he heard them talking of his own goodliness and grace and saying, ‘There is not in his time a goodlier than he.’ But one of the company said, ’Indeed, the daughter of King Such-an-one is handsomer than he.’ When Bihzad heard this saying, his reason fled and his heart fluttered and he called the last speaker and said to him, ’Repeat to me that which thou saidst and tell me the truth concerning her whom thou avouchest to be handsomer than I and whose daughter she is.’ Quoth the man, ’She is the daughter of King Such-an-one;’ whereupon Bihzad’s heart clave to her and his colour changed.
The news reached his father, who said to him, ’O my son, this damsel to whom thy heart cleaveth is at thy commandment and we have power over her; so wait till I demand her [in marriage] for thee.’ But the prince said, ‘I will not wait.’ So his father hastened in the matter and sent to demand her of her father, who required of him a hundred thousand dinars to his daughter’s dowry. Quoth Bihzad’s father, ‘So be it,’ and paid down what was in his treasuries, and there remained to his charge but a little of the dower. So he said to his son, ’Have patience, O my son, till we gather together the rest of the money and send to fetch her to thee, for that she is become thine.’ Therewith the prince waxed exceeding wroth and said, ‘I will not have patience;’ so he took his sword and his spear and mounting his horse, went forth and fell to stopping the way, [so haply that he might win what lacked of the dowry].
It chanced one day that he fell in upon a company of folk and they overcame him by dint of numbers and taking him prisoner, pinioned him and carried him to the lord of that country. The latter saw his fashion and grace and misdoubting of him, said, ’This is no robber’s favour. Tell me truly, O youth, who thou art.’ Bihzad thought shame to acquaint him with his condition and chose rather death for himself; so he answered, ’I am nought but a thief and a bandit.’ Quoth the king, ’It behoveth us not to act hastily in the matter of this youth, but that we look into his affair, for that haste still engendereth repentance.’ So he imprisoned him in his palace and assigned him one who should serve him.
Meanwhile, the news spread abroad that Bihzad, son of the king, was lost, whereupon his father sent letters in quest of him [to all the kings and amongst others to him with whom he was imprisoned]. When the letter reached the latter, he praised God the Most High for that he had not anydele hastened in Bihzad’s affair and letting bring him before himself, said to him, ’Art thou minded to destroy thyself?’ Quoth Bihzad, ’[I did this] for fear of reproach;’ and the king said, ’An thou fear reproach, thou shouldst not practise haste [in that thou dost]; knowest thou not that the fruit of haste is repentance? If we had hasted, we also, like unto thee, we had repented.’
Then he conferred on him a dress of honour and engaged to him for the completion of the dowry and sent to his father, giving him the glad news and comforting his heart with [the tidings of] his son’s safety; after which he said to Bihzad, Arise, O my son, and go to thy father.’ ‘O king,’ rejoined the prince, ’complete thy kindness to me by [hastening] my going-in to my wife; for, if I go back to my father, till he send a messenger and he return, promising me, the time will be long.’ The king laughed and marvelled at him and said to him, ’I fear for thee from this haste, lest thou come to shame and attain not thy desire.’ Then he gave him wealth galore and wrote him letters, commending him to the father of the princess, and despatched him to them. When he drew near their country, the king came forth to meet him with the people of his realm and assigned him a handsome lodging and bade hasten the going-in of his daughter to him, in compliance with the other king’s letter. Moreover, he advised the prince’s father [of his son’s coming] and they busied themselves with the affair of the damsel.
When it was the day of the going-in,[FN#110] Bihzad, of his haste and lack of patience, betook himself to the wall, which was between himself and the princess’s lodging and in which there was a hole pierced, and looked, so he might see his bride, of his haste. But the bride’s mother saw him and this was grievous to her; so she took from one of the servants two red-hot iron spits and thrust them into the hole through which the prince was looking. The spits ran into his eyes and put them out and he fell down aswoon and joyance was changed and became mourning and sore concern. See, then, O king,” continued the youth, “the issue of the prince’s haste and lack of deliberation, for indeed his haste bequeathed him long repentance and his joy was changed to mourning; and on like wise was it with the woman who hastened to put out his eyes and deliberated not. All this was the doing of haste; wherefore it behoveth the king not to be hasty in putting me to death, for that I am under the grasp of his hand, and what time soever thou desirest my slaughter, it shall not escape [thee].”
When the king heard this, his anger subsided and he said, “Carry him back to prison till to-morrow, to we may look into his affair.”
The Fifth Day
Of the issues of good and evil actions.
When it was the fifth day, the fifth Vizier, whose name was Jehrbaur, came in to the king and prostrating himself before him, said, “O king, it behoveth thee, if thou see or hear that one look on thy house,[FN#111] that thou put out his eyes. How then should it be with him whom thou sawest midmost thy house and on thy very bed, and he suspected with thy harem, and not of thy lineage nor of thy kindred? Wherefore do thou away this reproach by putting him to death. Indeed, we do but urge thee unto this for the assurance of thine empire and of our zeal for thy loyal counselling and of our love to thee. How can it be lawful that this youth should live for a single hour?”
Therewith the king was filled with wrath and said, “Bring him forthright,” So they brought the youth before him, shackled, and the king said to him, “Out on thee! Thou hast sinned a great sin and the time of thy life hath been long;[FN#112] but needs must we put thee to death, for that there is for us no ease in thy life after this,” “O king,” answered he, “know that I, by Allah, am guiltless, and by reason of this I hope for life, for that he who is guiltless of offence goeth not in fear of punishment neither maketh great his mourning and his concern; but whoso hath sinned, needs must his sin be expiated upon him, though his life be prolonged, and it shall overtake him, even as it overtook Dadbin the king and his vizier.” “How was that?” asked Azadbekht, and the youth said,
“There was once a king in the land of Teberistan, by name Dadbin, and he had two viziers, called one Zourkhan and the other Kardan. The Vizier Zourkhan had a daughter, there was not in her time a handsomer than she nor yet a chaster nor a more pious, for she was a faster, a prayer and a worshipper of God the Most High, and her name was Arwa. Now Dadbin heard tell of her charms; so his heart clave to her and he called the vizier [her father] and said to him, ‘I desire of thee that thou marry me to thy daughter.’ Quoth Zourkhan, ’Allow me to consult her, and if she consent, I will marry thee with her.’ And the king said, ‘Hasten unto this.’
So the vizier went in to his daughter and said to her, ’O my daughter, the king seeketh thee of me and desireth to marry thee.’ ‘O my father,’ answered she ’I desire not a husband and if thou wilt marry me, marry me not but with one who shall be below me in rank and I nobler than he, so he may not turn to other than myself nor lift his eyes upon me, and marry me not to one who is nobler than I, lest I be with him as a slave-girl and a serving-woman.’ So the vizier returned to the king and acquainted him with that which his daughter had said, whereat he redoubled in desire and love-liking for her and said to her father, ’An thou marry me not to her of good grace, I will take her by force in thy despite.’ The vizier again betook himself to his daughter and repeated to her the king’s words, but she replied, ’I desire not a husband.’ So he returned to the king and told him what she said, and he was wroth and threatened the vizier, whereupon the latter took his daughter and fled with her.
When this came to the king’s knowledge, he despatched troops in pursuit of Zourkhan, to stop the road upon him, whilst he himself went out and overtaking the vizier, smote him on the head with his mace and slew him. Then he took his daughter by force and returning to his dwelling-place, went in to her and married her. Arwa resigned herself with patience to that which betided her and committed her affair to God the Most High; and indeed she was used to serve Him day and night with a goodly service in the house of King Dabdin her husband.
It befell one day that the king had occasion to make a journey; so he called his Vizier Kardan and said to him, ’I have a trust to commit to thy care, and it is yonder damsel, my wife, the daughter of the Vizier [Zourkhan], and I desire that thou keep her and guard her thyself, for that there is not in the world aught dearer to me than she.’ Quoth Kardan in himself, ’Of a truth, the king honoureth me with an exceeding honour [in entrusting me] with this damsel.’ And he answered ’With all my heart.’
When the king had departed on his journey, the vizier said in himself, ’Needs must I look upon this damsel whom the king loveth with all this love.’ So he hid himself in a place, that he might look upon her, and saw her overpassing description; wherefore he was confounded at her and his wit was dazed and love got the mastery of him, so that he said to her, saying, ’Have pity on me, for indeed I perish for the love of thee.’ She sent back to him, saying, ’O vizier, thou art in the place of trust and confidence, so do not thou betray thy trust, but make thine inward like unto thine outward[FN#113] and occupy thyself with thy wife and that which is lawful to thee. As for this, it is lust and [women are all of] one taste.[FN#114] And if thou wilt not be forbidden from this talk, I will make thee a byword and a reproach among the folk.’ When the vizier heard her answer, he knew that she was chaste of soul and body; wherefore he repented with the utmost of repentance and feared for himself from the king and said, ’Needs must I contrive a device wherewithal I may destroy her; else shall I be disgraced with the king.’
When the king returned from his journey, he questioned his vizier of the affairs of his kingdom and the latter answered, ’All is well, O king, save a vile matter, which I have discovered here and wherewith I am ashamed to confront the king; but, if I hold my peace thereof, I fear lest other than I discover it and I [be deemed to] have played traitor to the king in the matter of my [duty of] loyal warning and my trust.’ Quoth Dabdin, ’Speak, for thou art none other than a truth-teller, a trusty one, a loyal counsellor in that which thou sayest, undistrusted in aught.’ And the vizier said, ’O king, this woman to whose love thy heart cleaveth and of whose piety thou talkest and her fasting and praying, I will make plain to thee that this is craft and guile.’ At this, the king was troubled
When Dabdin heard this, he burnt with rage and said to one of his eunuchs,[FN#115] ‘Go and slay her in her chamber.’ But the eunuch said to him, ’O king, may God prolong thy continuance! Indeed, the killing of her may not be at this time; but do thou bid one of thine eunuchs take her up on a camel and carry her to one of the trackless deserts and cast her down there; so, if she be at fault, God shall cause her to perish, and if she be innocent, He will deliver her, and the king shall be free from sin against her, for that this damsel is dear to thee and thou slewest her father by reason of thy love for her.’ Quoth the king, ’By Allah, thou sayst sooth!’ Then he bade one of his eunuchs carry her on a camel to one of the far-off deserts and there leave her and go away, and he forbade [him] to prolong her torment. So he took her up and betaking himself with her to the desert, left her there without victual or water and returned, whereupon she made for one of the [sand-]hills and ranging stones before her [in the form of a prayer-niche], stood praying.
Now it chanced that a camel-driver, belonging to Kisra the king, lost certain camels and the king threatened him, if he found them not, that he would slay him. So he set out and plunged into the deserts till he came to the place where the damsel was and seeing her standing praying, waited till she had made an end of her prayer, when he went up to her and saluted her, saying, ’Who art thou?’ Quoth she, ‘I am a handmaid of God.’ ’What dost thou in this desolate place?’ asked he, and she said, ’I serve God the Most High.’ When he saw her beauty and grace, he said to her, ’Harkye! Do thou take me to husband and I will be tenderly solicitous over thee and use thee with exceeding compassion and I will further thee in obedience to God the Most High.’ But she answered, saying, ’I have no need of marriage and I desire to abide here [alone] with my Lord and His service; but, if thou wouldst deal compassionately with me and further me in the obedience of God the Most High, carry me to a place where there is water and thou wilt have done me a kindness.’
So he carried her to a place wherein was running water and setting her down on the ground, left her and went away, marvelling at her. After he left her, he found his camels, by her blessing, and when he returned, King Kisra asked him, ’Hast thou found the camels?’ [’Yes,’ answered he] and acquainted him with the affair of the damsel and set out to him her beauty and grace; whereupon the king’s heart clave to her and he mounted with a few men and betook
Then he bade set up for her a tent and another for himself, facing hers, so he might worship God with her, and fell to sending her food; and she said in herself, ’This is a king and it is not lawful for me that I suffer him forsake his subjects and his kingdom for my sake. So she said to the serving-woman, who used to bring her the food, ’Speak to the king, so he may return to his women, for he hath no need of me and I desire to abide in this place, so I may worship God the Most High therein.’ The slave-girl returned to the king and told him this, whereupon he sent back to her, saying, ’I have no need of the kingship and I also desire to abide here and worship God with thee in this desert.’ When she found this earnestness in him, she consented to his wishes and said, ’O king, I will consent unto thee in that which thou desirest and will be to thee a wife, but on condition that thou bring me Dadbin the king and his Vizier Kardan and his chamberlain[FN#116] and that they be present in thine assembly, so I may speak a word with them in thy presence, to the intent that thou mayest redouble in affection for me.’ Quoth Kisra, ’And what is thine occasion unto this?’ So she related to him her story from first to last, how she was the wife of Dadbin the king and how the latter’s vizier had miscalled her honour.
When King Kisra heard this, he redoubled in loveliking for her and affection and said to her, ‘Do what thou wilt.’ So he let bring a litter and carrying her therein to his dwelling-place, married her and entreated her with the utmost honour. Then he sent a great army to King Dadbin and fetching him and his vizier and the chamberlain, caused bring them before him, unknowing what he purposed with them. Moreover, he caused set up for Arwa a pavilion in the courtyard of his palace and she entered therein and let down the curtain before herself. When the servants had set their seats and they had seated themselves, Arwa raised a corner of the curtain and said, ’O Kardan, rise to thy feet, for it befitteth not that thou sit in the like of this assembly, before this mighty King Kisra.’ When the vizier heard these words, his heart quaked and his joints were loosened and of his fear, he rose to his feet. Then said she to him, ’By the virtue of Him who hath made thee stand in this place of standing [up to judgment], and thou abject and humiliated, I conjure thee speak the truth and say what prompted thee to lie against me and cause me go forth from my house and from the hand of my husband and made thee practise thus against a man,[FN#117] a true believer, and slay him. This is no place wherein leasing availeth nor may prevarication be therein.’
When the vizier was ware that she was Arwa and heard her speech, he knew that it behoved him not to lie and that nought would avail him but truth-speaking; so he bowed [his head] to the ground and wept and said, ’Whoso doth evil, needs must he abide it, though his day be prolonged. By Allah, I am he who hath sinned and transgressed, and nought prompted me unto this but fear and overmastering desire and the affliction written upon my forehead;[FN#118] and indeed this woman is pure and chaste and free from all fault.’ When King Dadbin heard this, he buffeted his face and said to his vizier, ’God slay thee! It is thou that hast parted me and my wife and wronged me!’ But Kisra the king said to him, ’God shall surely slay thee, for that thou hastenedst and lookedst not into thine affair and knewest not the guilty from the guiltless. Hadst thou wrought deliberately, the false had been made manifest to thee from the true; so where was thy judgment and thy sight?”
Then said he to Arwa, “What wilt thou that I do with them?” And she answered, saying, “Accomplish on them the ordinance of God the Most High;[FN#119] the slayer shall be slain and the transgressor transgressed against, even as he transgressed against us; yea, and the well-doer, good shall be done unto him, even as he did unto us.” So she gave [her officers] commandment concerning Dadbin and they smote him on the head with a mace and slew him, and she said, “This is for the slaughter of my father.” Then she bade set the vizier on a beast [and carry him] to the desert whither he had caused carry her [and leave him there without victual or water]; and she said to him, “An thou be guilty, thou shalt abide [the punishment of] thy guilt and perish of hunger and thirst in the desert; but, if there be no guilt in thee, thou shalt be delivered, even as I was delivered.”
As for the eunuch, the chamberlain, who had counselled King Dadbin [not to slay her, but] to [cause] carry her to the desert [and there abandon her], she bestowed on him a sumptuous dress of honour and said to him, “The like of thee it behoveth kings to hold in favour and set in high place, for that thou spokest loyally and well, and a man is still requited according to his deed.” And Kisra the king invested him with the governance of one of the provinces of his empire. Know, therefore, O king,” continued the youth, “that whoso doth good is requited therewith and he who is guiltless of sin and reproach feareth not the issue of his affair. And I, O king, am free from guilt, wherefore I trust in God that He will show forth the truth and vouchsafe me the victory over enemies and enviers.”
When the king heard this, his wrath subsided and he said, “Carry him back to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair.”
The Sixth Day
Of trust in god.
When it was the sixth day, the viziers’ wrath redoubled, for that they had not compassed their desire of the youth and they feared for themselves from the king; so three of them went in to him and prostrating themselves before him, said to him, “O king, indeed we are loyal counsellors to thy dignity and tenderly solicitous for thee. Verily, thou persistest long in sparing this youth alive and we know not what is thine advantage therein. Every day findeth him yet on life and the talk redoubleth suspicions on thee; so do thou put him to death, that the talk may be made an end of.” When the king heard this speech, he said, “By Allah, indeed, ye say sooth and speak rightly!” Then he let bring the young treasurer and said to him, “How long shall I look into thine affair and find no helper for thee and see them all athirst for thy blood?”
“O king,” answered the youth, “I hope for succour only from God, not from created beings: if He aid me, none can avail to harm me, and if He be with me and on my side, because of the truth, who is it I shall fear, because of falsehood? Indeed, I have made my intent with God a pure and sincere intent and have severed my expectation from the help of the creature; and whoso seeketh help [of God] findeth of his desire that which Bekhtzeman found.” Quoth the king, “Who was Bekhtzeman and what is his story?” “O king,” replied the youth,
“There was once a king of the kings, whose name was Bekhtzeman, and he was a great eater and drinker and carouser. Now enemies of his made their appearance in certain parts of his realm and threatened him; and one of his friends said to him, ’O king, the enemy maketh for thee: be on thy guard against him.’ Quoth Bekhtzeman, ’I reck not of him, for that I have arms and wealth and men and am not afraid of aught.’ Then said his friends to him, ’Seek aid of God, O king, for He will help thee more than thy wealth and thine arms and thy men.’ But he paid no heed to the speech of his loyal counsellors, and presently the enemy came upon him and waged war upon him and got the victory over him and his trust in other than God the Most High profited him nought. So he fled from before him and seeking one of the kings, said to him, ’I come to thee and lay hold upon thy skirts and take refuge with thee, so thou mayst help me against mine enemy.’
The king gave him money and men and troops galore and Bekhtzeman said in himself, ’Now am I fortified with this army and needs must I conquer my enemy therewith and overcome him;’ but he said not, ‘With the aid of God the Most High.’ So his enemy met him and overcame him again and he was defeated and put to the rout and fled at a venture. His troops were dispersed from him and his money lost and the enemy followed after him. So he sought the sea and passing over to the other side, saw a great city and therein a mighty citadel. He asked the name of the city and to whom it belonged and they said to him, ’It belongeth to Khedidan the king.’ So he fared on till he came to the king’s palace aud concealing his condition, passed himself off for a horseman[FN#120] and sought service with King Khedidan, who attached him to his household and entreated him with honour; but his heart still clave to his country and his home.
Presently, it chanced that an enemy attacked King Khedidan; so he sent out his troops to him and made Bekhtzeman head of the army. Then they went forth to the field and Khedidan also came forth and ranged his troops and took the spear and sallied out in person and fought a sore battle and overcame his enemy, who fled, he and his troops, ignominiously. When the king and his army returned in triumph, Bekhtzeman said to him, ’Harkye, O king! Meseemeth this is a strange thing of thee that thou art compassed about with this vast army, yet dost thou apply thyself in person to battle and adventurest thyself.’ Quoth the king, ’Dost thou call thyself a cavalier and a man of learning and deemest that victory is in abundance of troops?’ ‘Ay,’ answered Bekhtzeman; ‘that is indeed my belief.’ And Khedidan said, ’By Allah, then, thou errest in this thy belief! Woe and again woe to him whose trust is in other than God! Indeed, this army is appointed only for adornment and majesty, and victory is from God alone. I too, O Bekhtzeman, believed aforetime that victory was in the multitude of men, and an enemy came out against me with eight hundred men, whilst I had eight hundred thousand. I trusted in the number of my troops, whilst mine enemy trusted in God; so he defeated me and routed me and I was put to a shameful flight and hid myself in one of the mountains, where I met with a recluse, [who had] withdrawn [himself from the world]. So I joined myself to him and complained to him of my case and acquainted him with all that had befallen me. Quoth he, “Knowest thou why this befell thee and thou wast defeated?” “I know not,” answered I, and he said, “Because thou puttest thy trust in the multitude of thy troops and reliedst not upon God the Most High. Hadst thou put thy trust in God and believed in Him that it is He [alone] who advantageth and endamageth thee, thine enemy had not availed to cope with thee. Return unto God.” So I returned to myself and repented at the hands of the solitary, who said to me, “Turn back with what remaineth to thee of troops and confront thine enemies, for, if their intents be changed from God, thou wilt overcome them, wert thou alone.” When I heard these words, I put my trust in God the Most High, and gathering together those who remained with me, fell upon mine enemies at unawares in the night. They deemed us many and fled on the shamefullest wise, whereupon I entered my city and repossessed myself of my place by the might of God the Most High, and now I fight not but [trusting] in His aid.’
When Bekhtzeman heard this, he awoke from his heedlessness and said, ’Extolled be the perfection of God the Great! O king, this is my case and my story, nothing added and nought diminished, for I am King Bekhtzeman and all this happened to me; wherefore I will seek the gate of God[’s mercy] and repent unto Him.’ So he went forth to one of the mountains and there worshipped God awhile, till one night, as he slept, one appeared to him in a dream
When King Bekhtzeman heard this, his heart was comforted and he said in himself, ’I put my trust in God. If He will, I shall overcome mine enemy by the might of God the Most High.’ So he said to the folk, ’ Know ye not who I am?’ and they answered, ’ No, by Allah.’ Quoth he, ‘I am King Bekhtzeman.’ When they heard this and knew that it was indeed he, they dismounted from their horses and kissed his stirrup, to do him honour, and said to him, ‘O king, why hast thou thus adventured thyself?’ Quoth he, ’Indeed, my life is a light matter to me and I put my trust in God the Most High, looking to Him for protection.’ And they answered him, saying, ’May this suffice thee! We will do with thee that which is in our power and whereof thou art worthy: comfort thy heart, for we will succour thee with our goods and our lives, and we are his chief officers and the most in favour with him of all folk. So we will take thee with us and cause the folk follow after thee, for that the inclination of the people, all of them, is to thee.’ Quoth he, ’Do that unto which God the Most High enableth you.’
So they carried him into the city and hid him with them. Moreover, they agreed with a company of the king’s chief officers, who had aforetime been those of Bekhtzeman, and acquainted them with this; whereat they rejoiced with an exceeding joy. Then they assembled together to Bekhtzeman and made a covenant and handfast [of fealty] with him and fell upon the enemy at unawares and slew him and seated King Bekhtzeman again on the throne of his kingship. And his affairs prospered and God amended his estate and restored His bounty to him, and he ruled his subjects justly and abode in the obedience of the Most High. On this wise, O king,” continued the young treasurer, “he with whom God is and whose intent is pure, meeteth nought but good. As for me, I have no helper other than God, and I am content to submit myself to His ordinance, for that He knoweth the purity of my intent.”
With this the king’s wrath subsided and he said, “Restore him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair.”
The Seventh Day.
When it was the seventh day, the seventh vizier, whose name was Bihkemal, came in to the king and prostrating himself to him, said, “O king, what doth thy long-suffering with this youth advantage thee? Indeed the folk talk of thee and of him. Why, then, dost thou postpone the putting him to death?” The vizier’s words aroused the king’s anger and he bade bring the youth. So they brought him before him, shackled, and Azadbekht said to him, “Out on thee! By Allah, after this day there abideth no deliverance for thee from my hand, for that thou hast outraged mine honour, and there can be no forgiveness for thee.”
“O king,” answered the youth, “there is no great forgiveness save in case of a great crime, for according as the offence is great, in so much is forgiveness magnified and it is no dishonour to the like of thee if he spare the like of me. Verily, Allah knoweth that there is no fault in me, and indeed He commandeth unto clemency, and no clemency is greater than that which spareth from slaughter, for that thy forgiveness of him whom thou purposest to put to death is as the quickening of a dead man; and whoso doth evil shall find it before him, even as it was with King Bihkerd.” “And what is the story of King Bihkerd?” asked the king. “O king,” answered the youth,
“There was once a king named Bihkerd aed he had wealth galore and many troops; but his deeds were evil and he would punish for a slight offence and never forgave. He went forth one day to hunt and one of his servants shot an arrow, which lit on the king’s ear and cut it off. Quoth Bihkerd, ‘Who shot that arrow?’ So the guards brought him in haste the offender, whose name was Yetrou, and he of his fear fell down on the ground in a swoon. Then said the king, ‘Put him to death;’ but Yetrou said, ’O King, this that hath befallen was not of my choice nor of my knowledge; so do thou pardon me, in the hour of thy power over me, for that clemency is of the goodliest of things and belike it shall be [in this world] a provision and a good work [for which thou shall be requited] one of these days, and a treasure [laid up to thine account] with God in the world to come. Pardon me, therefore, and fend off evil from me, so shall God fend off from thee evil the like thereof.’ When the king heard this, it pleased him and he pardoned the servant, albeit he had never before pardoned any.
Now this servant was of the sons of the kings and had fled from his father, on account of an offence he had committed. Then he went and took service with King Bihkerd and there happened to him what happened. After awhile, it chanced that a man recognized him and went and told his father, who sent him a letter, comforting his heart and mind and [beseeching him] to return to him. So he returned to his father, who came forth to meet him and rejoiced in him, and the prince’s affairs were set right with him.
It befell, one day of the days, that King Bihkerd embarked in a ship and put out to sea, so he might fish; but the wind blew on them and the ship foundered. The king won ashore on a plank, unknown of any, and came forth, naked, on one of the coasts; and it chanced that he landed in the country whereof the father of the youth aforesaid, [his sometime servant], was king. So he came in the night to the gate of the latter’s city and [finding it shut], took up his lodging [for the night] in a burying-place there.
When the morning morrowed and the folk came forth of the city, they found a murdered man cast down in a corner of the burial-ground and seeing Bihkerd there, doubted not but it was he who had slain him; so they laid hands on him and carried him up to the king and said to him, ‘This fellow hath slain a man.’ The king bade imprison him; [so they clapped him in prison] and he fell a-saying in himself, what while he was in the prison, ’All that hath befallen me is of the abundance of my sins and my tyranny, for, indeed, I have slain much people unrighteously and this is the requital of my deeds and that which I have wrought aforetime of oppression.’ As he was thus pondering in himself, there came a bird and lighted down on the coign of the prison, whereupon, of his much eagerness in the chase, he took a stone and cast it at the bird.
Now the king’s son was playing in the exercise-ground with the ball and the mall, and the stone lit on his ear and cut it off, whereupon the prince fell down in a swoon. So they enquired who had thrown the stone and [finding that it was Bihkerd,] took him and carried him before the prince, who bade put him to death. Accordingly, they cast the turban from his head and were about to bind his eyes, when the prince looked at him and seeing him cropped of an ear, said to him, ’Except thou wert a lewd fellow, thine ear had not been cut off.’ ‘Not so, by Allah!’ answered Bihkerd. ’Nay, but the story [of the loss] of my ear is thus and thus, and I pardoned him who smote me with an arrow and cut off my ear.’ When the prince heard this, he looked in his face and knowing him, cried out and said, ‘Art thou not Bihkerd the king?’ ‘Yes,’ answered he, and the prince said to him ’What bringeth thee here?’ So he told him all that had betided him and the folk marvelled and extolled the perfection of God the Most High.
Then the prince rose to him and embraced him and kissed him and entreated him with honour. Moreover, he seated him in a chair and bestowed on him a dress of honour; and he turned to his father and said to him, ’This is the king who pardoned me and this is his ear that I cut off with an arrow; and indeed he deserveth pardon from me, for that he pardoned me.’ Then said he to Bihkerd, ’Verily, the issue of clemency hath been a provision for thee [in thine hour of need].’ And they entreated him with the utmost kindness and sent him back to his own country in all honour and worship Know, then, O King,” continued the youth, “that there is no goodlier thing than clemency and that all thou dost thereof, thou shalt find before thee, a treasure laid up for thee.”
When the king heard this, his wrath subsided and he said, “Carry him back to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair.”
The Eighth Day.
Of envy and malice.
When it was the eighth day, the viziers all assembled and took counsel together and said, “How shall we do with this youth, who baffleth us with his much talk? Indeed, we fear lest he be saved and we fall [into perdition]. Wherefore, let us all go in to the king and unite our efforts to overcome him, ere he appear without guilt and come forth and get the better of us.” So they all went in to the king and prostrating themselves before him, said to him, “O king, have a care lest this youth beguile thee with his sorcery and bewitch thee with his craft. If thou heardest what we hear, thou wouldst not suffer him live, no, not one day. So pay thou no heed to his speech, for we are thy viziers, [who endeavour for] thy continuance, and if thou hearken not to our word, to whose word wilt thou hearken? See, we are ten viziers who testify against this youth that he is guilty and entered not the king’s sleeping-chamber but with evil intent, so he might put the king to shame and outrage his honour; and if the king slay him not, let him banish him his realm, so the tongue of the folk may desist from him.”
When the king heard his viziers’ words, he was exceeding wroth and bade bring the youth, and when he came in to the king, the viziers all cried out with one voice, saying, “O scant o’ grace, thinkest thou to save thyself from slaughter by craft and guile, that thou beguilest the king with thy talk and hopest pardon for the like of this great crime which thou hast committed?” Then the king bade fetch the headsman, so he might smite off his head; whereupon each of the viziers fell a-saying, “I will slay him;” and they sprang upon him. Quote the youth, “O king, consider and ponder these men’s eagerness. Is this of envy or no? They would fain make severance between thee and me, so there may fall to them what they shall plunder, as aforetime.” And the king said to him, “Consider their testimony against thee.” “O king,” answered the young man, “how shall they testify of that which they saw not? This is but envy and rancour; and thou, if thou slay me, thou wilt regret me, and I fear lest there betide thee of repentance that which betided Ilan Shah, by reason of the malice of his viziers.” “And what is his story?” asked Azadbekht. “O king,” replied the youth,
“There was once a merchant named Abou Temam, and he was a man of understanding and good breeding, quick-witted and truthful in all his affairs, and he had wealth galore. Now there was in his land an unjust king and a jealous, and Abou Temam feared for his wealth from this king and said, ’I will remove hence to another place where I shall not be in fear.’ So he made for the city of Ilan
Now Ilan Shah had three viziers, in whose hands the affairs [of the kingdom] were [aforetime] and they had been used to leave not the king night nor day; but they became shut out from him by reason of Abou Temam and the king was occupied with him to their exclusion. So they took counsel together upon the matter and said, ’What counsel ye we should do, seeing that the king is occupied from us with yonder man, and indeed he honoureth him more than us? But now come, let us cast about for a device, whereby we may remove him from the king.’ So each of them spoke forth that which was in his mind, and one of them said, ’The king of the Turks hath a daughter, whose like there is not in the world, and whatsoever messenger goeth to demand her in marriage, her father slayeth him. Now our king hath no knowledge of this; so, come, let us foregather with him and bring up the talk of her. When his heart is taken with her, we will counsel him to despatch Abou Temam to seek her hand in marriage; whereupon her father will slay him and we shall be quit of him, for we have had enough of his affair.”
Accordingly, they all went in to the king one day (and Abou Temam was present among them,) and mentioned the affair of the damsel, the king’s daughter of the Turks, and enlarged upon her charms, till the king’s heart was taken with her and he said to them, ’We will send one to demand her in marriage for us; but who shall be our messenger?’ Quoth the viziers, ’There is none for this business but Abou Temam, by reason of his wit and good breeding;’ and the king said, ’Indeed, even as ye say, none is fitting for this affair but he.’ Then he turned to Abou Temam and said to him, ’Wilt thou not go with my message and seek me [in marriage] the king’s daughter of the Turks?’ and he answered, ’Hearkening and obedience, O king.’
So they made ready his affair and the king conferred on him a dress of honour, and he took with him a present and a letter under the king’s hand and setting out, fared on till he came to the [capital] city of Turkestan. When the king of the Turks knew of his coming, he despatched his officers to receive him and entreated him with honour and lodged him as befitted his rank. Then he entertained him three days, after which he summoned him to his presence and Abou Temam went in to him and prostrating himself before him, as beseemeth unto kings, laid the present before him and gave him the letter.
The king read the letter and said to Abou Temam, “We will do what behoveth in the matter; but, O Abou Temam, needs must thou see my daughter and she thee, and needs must thou hear her speech and she thine.’ So saying, he sent him to the lodging of the princess, who had had notice of this; so that they had adorned her sitting-chamber with the costliest that might be of utensils of gold and silver and the like, and she seated herself on a throne of gold, clad in the most sumptuous of royal robes and ornaments. When Abou Temam entered, he bethought himself and said, ’The wise say, he who restraineth his sight shall suffer no evil and he who guardeth his tongue shall hear nought of foul, and he who keepeth watch over his hand, it shall be prolonged and not curtailed.’[FN#121] So he entered and seating himself on the ground, [cast down his eyes and] covered his hands and feet with his dress.[FN#122] Quoth the king’s daughter to him, ’Lift thy head, O Abou Temam, and look on me and speak with me.’ But he spoke not neither raised his head, and she continued, ’They sent thee but that thou mightest look on me and speak with me, and behold, thou speakest not at all. Take of these pearls that be around thee and of these jewels and gold and silver. But he put not forth his hand unto aught, and when she saw that he paid no heed to anything, she was angry and said, ’They have sent me a messenger, blind, dumb and deaf.’
Then she sent to acquaint her father with this; whereupon the king called Abou Temam to him and said to him, ’Thou camest not but to see my daughter. Why, then, hast thou not looked upon her?’ Quoth Abou Temam, ‘I saw everything.’ And the king said, ’Why didst thou not take somewhat of that which thou sawest of jewels and the like? For they were set for thee.’ But he answered, ’It behoveth me not to put out my hand to aught that is not mine.’ When the king heard his speech, he gave him a sumptuous dress of honour and loved him exceedingly and said to him, ‘Come, look at this pit.’ So Abou Temam went up [to the mouth of the pit] and looked, and behold, it was full of heads of men; and the king said to him, ’These are the heads of ambassadors, whom I slew, for that I saw them without loyalty to their masters, and I was used, whenas I saw an ambassador without breeding, [FN#123] to say, “He who sent him is less of breeding than he, for that the messenger
When Abou Temam returned with [news of] the accomplishment of his errand and brought the presents and the letter, King Ilan Shah rejoiced in this and redoubled in showing him honour and made much of him. Some days thereafterward, the king of Turkestan sent his daughter and she went in to King Ilan Shah, who rejoiced in her with an exceeding joy and Abou Temam’s worth was exalted in his sight. When the viziers saw this, they redoubled in envy and despite and said, ’An we contrive us not a device to rid us of this man, we shall perish of rage.’ So they bethought them [and agreed upon] a device they should practise.
Then they betook themselves to two boys affected to the [special] service of the king, who slept not but on their knee,[FN#125] and they lay at his head, for that they were his pages of the chamber, and gave them each a thousand dinars of gold, saying, ’We desire of you that ye do somewhat for us and take this gold as a provision against your occasion.’ Quoth the boys, ’What is it ye would have us do?’ And the viziers answered, ’This Abou Temam hath marred our affairs for us, and if his case abide on this wise, he will estrange us all from the king’s favour; and what we desire of you is that, when ye are alone with the king and he leaneth back, as he were asleep, one of you say to his fellow, “Verily, the king hath taken Abou Temam into his especial favour and hath advanced him to high rank with him, yet is he a transgressor against the king’s honour and an accursed one.” Then let the other of you ask, “And what is his transgression?” And the first make answer, “He outrageth the king’s honour and saith, ’The King of Turkestan was used, whenas one went to him to seek his daughter in marriage, to slay him; but me he spared, for that she took a liking to me, and by reason of this he sent her hither, because she loved me.’” Then let his fellow say, “Knowest thou this for truth?” And the other reply, “By Allah, this is well known unto all the folk, but, of their fear of the king, they dare not bespeak him thereof; and as often as the king is absent a-hunting or on a journey, Abou Temam comes to her and is private with her."’ And the boys answered, ‘We will say this.’
Accordingly, one night, when they were alone with the king and he leant back, as he were asleep, they said these words and the king heard it all and was like to die of rage and said in himself, ’These are young boys, not come to years of discretion, and have no intrigue with any; and except they had heard these words from some one, they had not spoken with each other thereof.’ When it was morning, wrath overmastered him, so that he stayed not neither deliberated, but summoned Abou Temam and taking him apart, said to him, ’Whoso guardeth not his lord’s honour,[FN#126] what behoveth unto him?’ Quoth Abou Temam, ’It behoveth that his lord guard not his honour.’ ’And whoso entereth the king’s house and playeth the traitor with him,’ continued the king, ‘what behoveth unto him?’ And Abou Temam answered, ’He shall not be left on life.’ Whereupon the king spat in his face and said to him, ‘Both these things hast thou done.’ Then he drew his dagger on him in haste and smiting him in the belly, slit it and he died forthright; whereupon the king dragged him to a well that was in his palace and cast him therein.
After he had slain him, he fell into repentance and mourning and chagrin waxed upon him, and none, who questioned him, would he acquaint with the cause thereof, nor, of his love for his wife, did he tell her of this, and whenas she asked him of [the cause of] his grief, he answered her not. When the viziers knew of Abou Temam’s death, they rejoiced with an exceeding joy and knew that the king’s grief arose from regret for him. As for Ilan Shah, he used, after this, to betake himself by night to the sleeping-chamber of the two boys and spy upon them, so he might hear what they said concerning his wife. As he stood one night privily at the door of their chamber, he saw them spread out the gold before them and play with it and heard one of them say, ’Out on us! What doth this gold profit us? For that we cannot buy aught therewith neither spend it upon ourselves. Nay, but we have sinned against Abou Temam and done him to death unjustly.’ And the other answered, ’Had we known that the king would presently kill him, we had not done what we did.’
When the king heard this, he could not contain himself, but rushed in upon them and said to them, ’Out on you! What did ye? Tell me.’ And they said, ‘Pardon, O king.’ Quoth he, ’An ye would have pardon from God and me, it behoveth you to tell me the truth, for nothing shall save you from me but truth-speaking.’ So they prostrated themselves before him and said, ’By Allah, O king, the viziers gave us this gold and taught us to lie against Abou Teman, so thou mightest put him to death, and what we said was their words.’ When the king heard this, he plucked at his beard, till he was like to tear it up by the roots and bit upon his fingers, till he well-nigh sundered them in twain, for repentance and sorrow that he had wrought hastily and had not delayed with Abou Temam, so he might look into his affair.
Then he sent for the viziers and said to them, ’O wicked viziers, ye thought that God was heedless of your deed, but your wickedness shall revert upon you. Know ye not that whoso diggeth a pit for his brother shall fall into it? Take from me the punishment of this world and to-morrow ye shall get the punishment of the world to come and requital from God.’ Then he bade put them to death; so [the headsman] smote off their heads before the king, and he went in to his wife and acquainted her with that wherein he had transgressed against Abou Temam; whereupon she grieved for him with an exceeding grief and the king and the people of his household left not weeping and repenting all their lives. Moreover, they brought Abou Temam forth of the well and the king built him a dome[FN#127] in his palace and buried him therein.
See, then, O august king,” continued the youth, “what envy doth and injustice and how God caused the viziers’ malice revert upon their own necks; and I trust in God that He will succour me against all who envy me my favour with the king and show forth the truth unto him. Indeed, I fear not for my life from death; only I fear lest the king repent of my slaughter, for that I am guiltless of offence, and if I knew that I were guilty of aught, my tongue would be mute.”
When the king heard this, he bowed [his head] in perplexity and confusion and said, “Carry him back to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair.”
The Ninth Day
Of destiny or
that which is written on the
When it was the ninth day, the viziers [foregathered and] said, one to another, “Verily, this youth baffleth us, for as often as the king is minded to put him to death, he beguileth him and ensorcelleth him with a story; so what deem ye we should do, that we may slay him and be at rest from him?” Then they took counsel together and were of accord that they should go to the king’s wife [and prompt her to urge the king to slaughter the youth. So they betook themselves to her] and said to her, “Thou art heedless of this affair wherein thou art and this heedlessness will not profit thee; whilst the king is occupied with eating and drinking and diversion and forgetteth that the folk beat upon tabrets and sing of thee and say, ’The king’s wife loveth the youth;’ and what while he abideth on life, the talk will increase and not diminish.” Quoth she, “By Allah, it was ye set me on against him, and what shall I do [now]?” And they answered, “Do thou go in to the king and weep and say to him, ’Verily, the women come to me and tell me that I am become a byword in the city, and what is thine advantage in the sparing of this youth? If thou wilt not slay him, slay me, so this talk may be estopped from us.’”
So she arose and tearing her clothes, went in to the king, in the presence of the viziers, and cast herself upon him, saying, “O king, falleth my shame not upon thee and fearest thou not reproach? Indeed, this is not of the behoof of kings that their jealousy over their women should be thus [laggard]. Thou art heedless and all the folk of the realm prate of thee, men and women. So either slay him, that the talk may be cut off, or slay me, if thy soul will not consent to his slaughter.” Thereupon the king’s wrath waxed hot and he said to her, “I have no pleasure in his continuance [on life] and needs must I slay him this day. So return to thy house and comfort thy heart.”
Then he bade fetch the youth; so they brought him before him and the viziers said, “O base of origin, out on thee! Thy term is at hand and the earth hungereth for thy body, so it may devour it.” But he answered them, saying, “Death is not in your word nor in your envy; nay, it is an ordinance written upon the forehead; wherefore, if aught be written upon my forehead, needs must it come to pass, and neither endeavour nor thought-taking nor precaution will deliver me therefrom; [but it will surely happen] even as happened to King Ibrahim and his son.” Quoth the king, “Who was King Ibrahim and who was his son?” And the youth said, “O king,
There was once a king of the kings, by name Ibrahim, to whom the kings abased themselves and did obedience; but he had no son and was straitened of breast because of this, fearing lest the kingship go forth of his hand. He ceased not vehemently to desire a son and to buy slave-girls and lie with them, till one of them conceived, whereat he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and gave gifts and largesse galore. When the girl’s months were accomplished and the season of her delivery drew near, the king summoned the astrologers and they watched for the hour of her child-bearing and raised astrolabes [towards the sun] and took strait note of the time. The damsel gave birth to a male child, whereat the king rejoiced with an exceeding joy, and the people heartened each other with the glad news of this.
Then the astrologers made their calculations and looked into his nativity and his ascendant, whereupon their colour changed and they were confounded. Quoth the king to them, ’Acquaint me with his horoscope and ye shall have assurance and fear ye not of aught’ ‘O king,’ answered they, ’this child’s nativity denotes that, in the seventh year of his age, there is to be feared for him from a lion, which will attack him; and if he be saved from the lion, there will betide an affair yet sorer and more grievous.’ ‘What is that?’ asked the king; and they said, ’We will not speak, except the king command us thereto and give us assurance from [that which we] fear.’ Quoth the king, ’God assure you!’ And they said, ’If he be saved from the lion, the king’s destruction will be at his hand.’ When the king heard this, his colour changed and his breast was straitened; but he said in himself, ’I will be watchful and do my endeavour and suffer not the lion to eat him. It cannot be that he will kill me, and indeed the astrologers lied.’
Then he caused rear him among the nurses and matrons; but withal he ceased not to ponder the saying of the astrologers and indeed his life was troubled. So he betook himself to the top of a high mountain and dug there a deep pit and made in it many dwelling-places and closets and filled it with all that was needful of victual and raiment and what not else and made in it conduits of water from the mountain and lodged the boy therein, with a nurse who should rear him. Moreover, at the first of each month he used to go to the mountain and stand at the mouth of the pit and let down a rope he had with him and draw up the boy to him and strain him to his bosom and kiss him and play with him awhile, after which he would let him down again into the pit to his place and return; and he used to count the days till the seven years should pass by.
When came the time [of the accomplishment] of the foreordered fate and the fortune graven on the forehead and there abode for the boy but ten days till the seven years should be complete, there came to the mountain hunters hunting wild beasts and seeing a lion, gave chase to him. He fled from them and seeking refuge in the mountain, fell into the pit in its midst. The nurse saw him forthright and fled from him into one of the closets; whereupon the lion made for the boy and seizing upon him, tore his shoulder, after which he sought the closet wherein was the nurse and falling upon her, devoured her, whilst the boy abode cast down in a swoon. Meanwhile, when the hunters saw that the lion had fallen into the pit, they came to the mouth thereof and heard the shrieking of the boy and the woman; and after awhile the cries ceased, whereby they knew that the lion had made an end of them.
Presently, as they stood by the mouth of the pit, the lion came scrambling up the sides and would have issued forth; but, as often as he showed his head, they pelted him with stones, till they beat him down and he fell; whereupon one of the hunters descended into the pit and despatched him and saw the boy wounded; after which he went to the cabinet, where he found the woman dead, and indeed the lion had eaten his fill of her. Then he noted that which was therein of clothes and what not else, and advising his fellows thereof, fell to passing the stuff up to them. Moreover, he took up the boy and bringing him forth of the pit, carried him to their dwelling-place, where they dressed his wounds and he grew up with them, but acquainted them not with his affair; and indeed, when they questioned him, he knew not what he should say, for that he was little, when they let him down into the pit. The hunters marvelled at his speech and loved him with an exceeding love and one of them took him to son and abode rearing him with him [and instructing him] in hunting and riding on horseback, till he attained the age of twelve and became a champion, going forth with the folk to the chase and to the stopping of the way.
It chanced one day that they sallied forth to stop the way and fell in upon a caravan in the night; but the people of the caravan were on their guard; so they joined battle with the robbers and overcame them and slew them and the boy fell wounded and abode cast down in that place till the morrow, when he opened his eyes and finding his comrades slain, lifted himself up and rose to walk in the way. Presently, there met him a man, a treasure-seeker, and said to him, ‘Whither goest thou, O youth?’ So he told him what had betided him and the other said, ’Be of good heart, for that [the season of] thy fair fortune is come and God bringeth thee joy and solace. I am one who am in quest of a hidden treasure, wherein is vast wealth. So come with me, that thou mayst help me, and I will give thee wealth, wherewith thou shalt provide thyself thy life long.’ Then he carried the youth to his dwelling and dressed his wound, and he abode with him some days, till he was rested; when he took him and two beasts and all that he needed, and they fared on till they came to a precipitous mountain.
Here the treasure-seeker brought out a book and reading therein, dug in the crest of the mountain five cubits deep, whereupon there appeared to him a stone. He pulled it up and behold, it was a trap-door covering the mouth of a pit. So he waited till the [foul] air was come forth from the midst of the pit, when he bound a rope about the boy’s middle and let him down to the bottom, and with him a lighted flambeau. The boy looked and beheld, at the upper end of the pit, wealth galore; so the treasure-seeker let down a rope and a basket and the boy fell to filling and the man to drawing up, till the latter had gotten his sufficiency, when he loaded his beasts and did his occasion, whilst the boy looked for him to let down to him the rope and draw him up; but he rolled a great stone to the mouth of the pit and went away.
When the boy saw what the treasure-seeker had done with him he committed his affair to God (extolled be His perfection and exalted be He!) and abode perplexed concerning his case and said, ‘How bitter is this death!’ For that indeed the world was darkened on him and the pit was blinded to him. So he fell a-weeping and saying, ’I was delivered from the lion and the thieves and now is my death [appointed to be] in this pit, where I shall die lingeringly.’ And he abode confounded and looked for nothing but death. As he pondered [his affair], behold, he heard a sound of water running with a mighty noise; so he arose and walked in the pit, following after the sound, till he came to a corner and heard the mighty running of water. So he laid his ear to the sound of the current and hearing it a great strength, said in himself, ’This is the running of a mighty water and needs must I die in this place, be it to-day or to-morrow; so I will cast myself into the water and not die a lingering death in this pit.’
Then he braced up his courage and gathering his skirts about him, threw himself into the water, and it bore him along with an exceeding might and carrying him under the earth, stayed not till it brought him out into a deep valley, wherethrough ran a great river, that welled up from under the earth. When he found himself on the surface of the earth, he abode perplexed and dazed all that day; after which he came to himself and rising, fared on along the valley, till he came to an inhabited land and a great village in the dominions of the king his father. So he entered the village and foregathered with its inhabitants, who questioned him of his case; whereupon he related to them his history and they marvelled at him, how God had delivered him from all this. Then he took up his abode with them and they loved him exceedingly.
To return to the king his father. When he went to the pit, as of his wont, and called the nurse, she returned him no answer, whereat his breast was straitened and he let down a man who [found the nurse dead and the boy gone and] acquainted the king therewith; which when he heard, he buffeted his head and wept passing sore and descended into the midst of the pit, so he might see how the case stood. There he found the nurse slain and the lion dead, but saw not the boy; so he [returned and] acquainted the astrologers with the verification of their words, and they said, ’O king, the lion hath eaten him; destiny hath been accomplished upon him and thou art delivered from his hand; for, had he been saved from the lion, by Allah, we had feared for thee from him, for that the king’s destruction should have been at his hand.’ So the king left [sorrowing for] this and the days passed by and the affair was forgotten.
Meanwhile, the boy [grew up and] abode with the people of the village, and when God willed the accomplishment of His ordinance, the which endeavour availeth not to avert, he went forth with a company of the villagers, to stop the way. The folk complained of them to the king, who sallied out with a company of his men and surrounded the highwaymen and the boy with them, whereupon the latter drew forth an arrow and launched it at them, and it smote the king in his vitals and wounded him. So they carried him to his house, after they had laid hands upon the youth and his companions and brought them before the king, saying, ’What biddest thou that we do with them?’ Quoth he, ’I am presently in concern for myself; so bring me the astrologers.’ Accordingly, they brought them before him and He said to them, ’Ye told me that my death should be by slaying at the hand of my son: how, then, befalleth it that I have gotten my death-wound on this wise of yonder thieves?’ The astrologers marvelled and said to him, ’O king, it is not impossible to the lore of the stars, together with the fore-ordinance of God, that he who hath smitten thee should be thy son.’
When Ibrahim heard this, he let fetch the thieves and said to them, ’Tell me truly, which of you shot the arrow that wounded me.’ Quoth they, ‘It was this youth that is with us.’ Whereupon the king fell to looking upon him and said to him, ’O youth, acquaint me with thy case and tell me who was thy father and thou shalt have assurance from God.’ ‘O my lord,’ answered the youth, ’I know no father; as for me, my father lodged me in a pit [when I was little], with a nurse to rear me, and one day, there fell in upon us a lion, which tore my shoulder, then left me and occupied himself with the nurse and rent her in pieces; and God vouchsafed me one who brought me forth of the pit.’ Then he related to him all that had befallen him, first and last; which when Ibrahim heard, he cried out and said, ’By Allah, this is my very son!’ And he said to him, ‘Uncover thy shoulder.’ So he uncovered it and behold, it was scarred.
Then the king assembled his nobles and commons and the astrologers and said to them, ’Know that what God hath graven upon the forehead, be it fair fortune or calamity, none may avail to efface, and all that is decreed unto a man he must needs abide. Indeed, this my caretaking and my endeavour profited me nought, for that which God decreed unto my son, he hath abidden and that which He decreed unto me hath betided me. Nevertheless, I praise God and thank Him for that this was at my son’s hand and not at the hand of another, and praised be He for that the kingship is come to my son!’ And he strained the youth to his breast and embraced him and kissed him, saying, ’O my son, this matter was on such a wise, and of my care and watchfulness over thee from destiny, I lodged thee in that pit; but caretaking availed not.’ Then he took the crown of the kingship and set it on his son’s head and caused the folk and the people swear fealty to him and commended the subjects to his care and enjoined him to justice and equity. And he took leave of him that night and died and his son reigned in his stead.
On like wise, O king,” continued the young treasurer, “is it with thee. If God have written aught on my forehead, needs must it befall me and my speech to the king shall not profit me, no, nor my adducing to him of [illustrative] instances, against the fore-ordinance of God. So with these viziers, for all their eagerness and endeavour for my destruction, this shall not profit them; for, if God [be minded to] save me, He will give me the victory over them.”
When the king heard these words, he abode in perplexity and said, “Restore him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair, for the day draweth to an end and I mean to put him to death on exemplary wise, and [to-morrow] we will do with him that which he meriteth.”
The Tenth Day.
Of the appointed
term,[FN#128] which, if it be
advanced, may not be deferred and if it be
deferred, may not be advanced.
When it was the tenth day, (now this day was called El Mihrjan[FN#129] and it was the day of the coming in of the folk, gentle and simple, to the king, so they might give him joy and salute him and go forth), the counsel of the viziers fell of accord that they should speak with a company of the notables of the city [and urge them to demand of the king that he should presently put the youth to death]. So they said to them, “When ye go in to-day to the king and salute him, do ye say to him, ’O king, (to God be the praise!) thou art praiseworthy of policy and governance, just to all thy subjects; but this youth, to whom thou hast been bountiful, yet hath he reverted to his base origin and wrought this foul deed, what is thy purpose in his continuance [on life]? Indeed, thou hast prisoned him in thy house, and every day thou hearest his speech and thou knowest not what the folk say.’” And they answered with “Hearkening and obedience.”
So, when they entered with the folk and had prostrated themselves before the king and given him joy and he had raised their rank, [they sat down]. Now it was the custom of the folk to salute and go forth, so, when they sat down, the king knew that they had a word that they would fain say. So he turned to them and said, “Ask your need.” And the viziers also were present. Accordingly, they bespoke him with all that these latter had taught them and the viziers also spoke with them; and Azadbekht said to them, “O folk, I know that this your speech, there is no doubt of it, proceedeth from love and loyal counsel to me, and ye know that, were I minded to slay half these folk, I could avail to put them to death and this would not be difficult to me; so how shall I not slay this youth and he in my power and under the grip of my hand? Indeed, his crime is manifest and he hath incurred pain of death and I have only deferred his slaughter by reason of the greatness of the offence; for, if I do this with him and my proof against him be strengthened, my heart is healed and the heart of the folk; and if I slay him not to-day, his slaughter shall not escape me to-morrow.”
Then he bade fetch the youth and when he was present before him, he prostrated himself to him and prayed for him; whereupon quoth the king to him, “Out on thee! How long shall the folk upbraid me on thine account and blame me for delaying thy slaughter? Even the people of my city blame me because of thee, so that I am grown a talking-stock among them, and indeed they come in to me and upbraid me [and urge me] to put thee to death. How long shall I delay this? Indeed, this very day I mean to shed thy blood and rid the folk of thy prate.”
“O king,” answered the youth, “if there have betided thee talk because of me, by Allah, by Allah the Great, those who have brought on thee this talk from the folk are these wicked viziers, who devise with the folk and tell them foul things and evil concerning the king’s house; but I trust in God that He will cause their malice to revert upon their heads. As for the king’s menace of me with slaughter, I am in the grasp of his hand; so let not the king occupy his mind with my slaughter, for that I am like unto the sparrow in the hand of the fowler; if he will, he slaughtereth him, and if he will, he looseth him. As for the delaying of my slaughter, it [proceedeth] not [from] the king, but from Him in whose hand is my life; for, by Allah, O king, if God willed my slaughter, thou couldst not avail to postpone it, no, not for a single hour. Indeed, man availeth not to fend off evil from himself, even as it was with the son of King Suleiman Shah, whose anxiety and carefulness for the accomplishment of his desire of the new-born child [availed him nothing], for his last hour was deferred how many a time! and God saved him until he had accomplished his [foreordained] period and had fulfilled [the destined term of] his life.”
“Out on thee!” exclaimed the king. “How great is thy craft and thy talk! Tell me, what was their story.” And the youth said, “O king,
There was once a king named Suleiman Shah, who was goodly of polity and judgment, and he had a brother who died and left a daughter. So Suleiman Shah reared her on the goodliest wise and the girl grew up, endowed with reason and perfection, nor was there in her time a fairer than she. Now the king had two sons, one of whom he had appointed in himself that he would marry her withal, and the other purposed in himself that he would take her. The elder son’s name was Belehwan and that of the younger Melik Shah, and the girl was called Shah Khatoun.
One day, King Suleiman Shah went in to his brother’s daughter and kissing her head, said to her, ’Thou art my daughter and dearer to me than a child, for the love of thy father deceased; wherefore I am minded to marry thee to one of my sons and appoint him my heir apparent, so he may be king after me. Look, then, which thou wilt have of my sons, for that thou hast been reared with them and knowest them.’ The damsel arose and kissing his hand, said to him, ’O my lord, I am thine handmaid and thou art the ruler over me; so whatsoever pleaseth thee, do, for that thy wish is higher and more honourable and nobler [than mine] and if thou wouldst have me serve thee, [as a handmaid], the rest of my life, it were liefer to me than any [husband].’
The king approved her speech and bestowed on her a dress of honour and gave her magnificent gifts; after which, for that his choice had fallen upon his younger son, Melik Shah, he married her with him and made him his heir apparent and caused the folk swear fealty to him. When this came to the knowledge of his brother Belehwan and he was ware that his younger brother had been preferred over him, his breast was straitened and the affair was grievous to him and envy entered into him and rancour; but he concealed this in his heart, whilst fire raged therein because of the damsel and the kingship.
Meanwhile Shah Khatoun went in to the king’s son and conceived by him and bore a son, as he were the resplendent moon. When Belehwan saw this that had betided his brother, jealousy and envy overcame him; so he went in one night to his father’s house and coming to his brother’s lodging, saw the nurse sleeping at the chamber-door, with the cradle before her and therein his brother’s child asleep. Belehwan stood by him and fell to looking upon his face, the radiance whereof was as that of the moon, and Satan insinuated himself into his heart, so that he bethought himself and said, ’Why is not this child mine? Indeed, I am worthier of him than my brother, [yea], and of the damsel and the kingship.’ Then envy got the better of him and anger spurred him, so that he took out a knife and setting it to the child’s gullet, cut his throat and would have severed his windpipe.
So he left him for dead and entering his brother’s chamber, saw him asleep, with the damsel by his side, and thought to slay her, but said in himself, ‘I will leave the damsel for myself.’ Then he went up to his brother and cutting his throat, severed his head from his body, after which he left him and went away. Therewithal the world was straitened upon him and his life was a light matter to him and he sought his father Suleiman Shah’s lodging, that he might slay him, but could not win to him. So he went forth from the palace and hid himself in the city till the morrow, when he repaired to one of his father’s strengths and fortified himself therein.
Meanwhile, the nurse awoke, that she might give the child suck, and seeing the bed running with blood, cried out; whereupon the sleepers and the king awoke and making for the place, found the child with his throat cut and the cradle running over with blood and his father slain and dead in his sleeping chamber. So they examined the child and found life in him and his windpipe whole and sewed up the place of the wound. Then the king sought his son Belehwan, but found him not and saw that he had fled; whereby he knew that it was he who had done this deed, and this was grievous to the king and to the people of his realm and to the lady Shah Katoun. So the king laid out his son Melik Shah and buried him and made him a mighty funeral and they mourned passing sore; after which he addressed himself to the rearing of the infant
As for Belehwan, when he fled and fortified himself, his power waxed amain and there remained for him but to make war upon his father, who had cast his affection upon the child and used to rear him on his knees and supplicate God the Most High that he might live, so he might commit the commandment to him. When he came to five years of age, the king mounted him on horseback and the people of the city rejoiced in him and invoked on him length of life, so he might take his father’s leavings[FN#130] and [heal] the heart of his grandfather.
Meanwhile, Belehwan the froward addressed himself to pay court to Caesar, King of the Greeks,[FN#131] and seek help of him in making war upon his father, and he inclined unto him and gave him a numerous army. His father the king heard of this and sent to Caesar, saying, ’O king of illustrious might, succour not an evil-doer. This is my son and he hath done thus and thus and cut his brother’s throat and that of his brother’s son in the cradle.’ But he told not the King of the Greeks that the child [had recovered and] was alive. When Caesar heard [the truth] of the matter, it was grievous to him and he sent back to Suleiman Shah, saying, ’If it be thy will, O king, I will cut off his head and send it to thee.’ But he made answer, saying, ’I reck not of him: the reward of his deed and his crimes shall surely overtake him, if not to-day, then to-morrow.’ And from that day he continued to correspond with Caesar and to exchange letters and presents with him.
Now the king of the Greeks heard tell of the damsel[FN#132] and of the beauty and grace wherewith she was gifted, wherefore his heart clave to her and he sent to seek her in marriage of Suleiman Shah, who could not refuse him. So he arose and going in to Shah Khatoun, said to her, ’O my daughter, the king of the Greeks hath sent to me to seek thee in marriage. What sayst thou?’ She wept and answered, saying, ’O king, how canst thou find it in thy heart to bespeak me thus? Abideth there husband for me, after the son of my uncle?’ ‘O my daughter,’ rejoined the king, ’it is indeed as thou sayest; but let us look to the issues of affairs. Needs must I take account of death, for that I am an old man and fear not but for thee and for thy little son; and indeed I have written to the king of the Greeks and others of the kings and said, “His uncle slew him,” and said not that he [hath recovered and] is living, but concealed his affair. Now hath the king of the Greeks sent to demand thee in marriage, and this is no thing to be refused and fain would we have our back strengthened with him."[FN#133] And she was silent and spoke not.
So King Suleiman Shah made answer unto Caesar with ’Hearkening and obedience.’ Then he arose and despatched her to him, and Cassar went in to her and found her overpassing the description wherewithal they had described her to him; wherefore he loved her with an exceeding love and preferred her over all his women and his love for Suleiman Shah was magnified; but Shah Khatoun’s heart still clave to her son and she could say nought. As for Suleiman Shah’s rebellious son, Belehwan, when he saw that Shah Khatoun had married the king of the Greeks, this was grievous to him and he despaired of her. Meanwhile, his father Suleiman Shah kept strait watch over the child and cherished him and named him Melik Shah, after the name of his father. When he reached the age of ten, he made the folk swear fealty to him and appointed him his heir apparent, and after some days, [the hour of] the old king’s admission [to the mercy of God] drew near and he died.
Now a party of the troops had banded themselves together for Belehwan; so they sent to him and bringing him privily, went in to the little Melik Shah and seized him and seated his uncle Belehwan on the throne of the kingship. Then they proclaimed him king and did homage to him all, saying, ’Verily, we desire thee and deliver to thee the throne of the kingship; but we wish of thee that thou slay not thy brother’s son, for that on our consciences are the oaths we swore to his father and grandfather and the covenants we made with them.’ So Belehwan granted them this and imprisoned the boy in an underground dungeon and straitened him. Presently, the heavy news reached his mother and this was grievous to her; but she could not speak and committed her affair to God the Most High, daring not name this to King Caesar her husband, lest she should make her uncle King Suleiman Shah a liar.
So Belehwan the froward abode king in his father’s room and his affairs prospered, what while the young Melik Shah lay in the underground dungeon four full-told years, till his charms faded and his favour changed. When God (extolled be His perfection and exalted be He!) willed to relieve him and bring him forth of the prison, Belehwan sat one day with his chief officers and the grandees of his state and discoursed with them of the story of King Suleiman Shah and what was in his heart. Now there were present certain viziers, men of worth, and they said to him, ’O king, verily God hath been bountiful unto thee and hath brought thee to thy wish, so that thou art become king in thy father’s stead and hast gotten thee that which thou soughtest. But, as for this boy, there is no guilt in him, for that, from the day of his coming into the world, he hath seen neither ease nor joyance, and indeed his favour is faded and his charms changed [with long prison]. What is his offence that he should merit this punishment? Indeed, it is others than he who were to blame, and God hath given thee the victory over them, and there is no fault in this poor wight.’ Quoth Belehwan, ’Indeed, it is as ye say; but I am fearful of his craft and am not assured from his mischief; belike the most part of the folk will incline unto him.’ ‘O king,’ answered they, ’what is this boy and what power hath he? If thou fear him, send him to one of the frontiers.’ And Belehwan said, ’Ye say sooth: we will send him to be captain over such an one of the marches.’
Now over against the place in question was a host of enemies, hard of heart, and in this he purposed the youth’s slaughter. So he bade bring him forth of the underground dungeon and caused him draw near to him and saw his case. Then he bestowed on him a dress of honour and the folk rejoiced in this. Moreover, he tied him an ensign[FN#134] and giving him a numerous army, despatched him to the region aforesaid, whither all who went were still slain or made prisoners. So Melik Shah betook himself thither with his army and when it was one of the days, behold, the enemy fell in upon them in the night; whereupon some of his men fled and the rest the enemy took; and they took Melik Shah also and cast him into an underground dungeon, with a company of his men. There he abode a whole year in evil plight, whilst his fellows mourned over his beauty and grace.
Now it was the enemy’s wont, at every year’s end, to bring forth their prisoners and cast them down from the top of the citadel to the bottom. So they brought them forth, at the end of the year, and cast them down, and Melik Shah with them. However, he fell upon the [other] men and the earth touched him not, for his term was [God-]guarded. Now those that were cast down there were slain and their bodies ceased not to lie there till the wild beasts ate them and the winds dispersed them. Melik Shah abode cast down in his place, aswoon, all that day and night, and when he recovered and found himself whole, he thanked God the Most High for his safety [and rising, fared on at a venture]. He gave not over walking, unknowing whither he went and feeding upon the leaves of the trees; and by day he hid himself whereas he might and fared on all his night at hazard; and thus he did some days, till he came to an inhabited land and seeing folk there, accosted them and acquainted them with his case, giving them to know that he had been imprisoned in the fortress and that they had cast him down, but God the Most High had delivered him and brought him off alive.
The folk took compassion on him and gave him to eat and drink and he abode with them awhile. Then he questioned them of the way that led to the kingdom of his uncle Belehwan, but told them not that he was his uncle. So they taught him the way and he ceased not to go barefoot, till he drew near his uncle’s capital, and he naked and hungry, and indeed his body was wasted and his colour changed. He sat down at the gate of the city, and presently up came a company of King Belehwan’s chief officers, who were out a-hunting and wished to water their horses. So they lighted down to rest and the youth accosted them, saying, ’I will ask you of somewhat, wherewith do ye acquaint me.’ Quoth they, ’Ask what thou wilt.’ And he said, ‘Is King Belehwan well?’ They laughed at him and answered, ’What a fool art thou, O youth! Thou art a stranger and a beggar, and what concern hast thou with the king’s health?’ Quoth he, ‘Indeed, he is my uncle;’ whereat they marvelled and said, ’It was one question[FN#135] and now it is become two.’ Then said they to him, ’O youth, it is as thou wert mad. Whence pretendest thou to kinship with the king? Indeed, we know not that he hath aught of kinsfolk, except a brother’s son, who was prisoned with him, and he despatched him to wage war upon the infidels, so that they slew him.’ ‘I am he,’ answered Melik Shah, ‘and they slew me not, but there betided me this and that.’
They knew him forthright and rising to him, kissed his hands and rejoiced in him and said to him, ’O our lord, in good sooth, thou art a king and the son of a king, and we desire thee nought but good and beseech [God to grant] thee continuance. Consider how God hath rescued thee from this thy wicked uncle, who sent thee to a place whence none came ever off alive, purposing not in this but thy destruction; and indeed thou fellest into [peril of] death and God delivered thee therefrom. So how wilt thou return and cast thyself again into thine enemy’s hand? By Allah, save thyself and return not to him again. Belike thou shall abide upon the face of the earth till it please God the Most High [to vouchsafe thee relief]; but, if thou fall again into his hand, he will not suffer thee live a single hour.’
The prince thanked them and said to them, ’God requite you with all good, for indeed ye give me loyal counsel; but whither would ye have me go?’ Quoth they, ’Get thee to the land of the Greeks, the abiding-place of thy mother.’ And he said, ’My grandfather Suleiman Shah, when the King of the Greeks wrote to him, demanding my mother in marriage, concealed my affair and hid my secret; [and she hath done the like,] and I cannot make her a liar.’ ‘Thou sayst sooth,’ rejoined they; ’but we desire thine advantage, and even if thou tookest service with the folk, it were a means of thy continuance [on life].’ Then each of them brought out to him money and gave to him and clad him and fed him and fared on with him a parasang’s distance till they brought him far from the city, and giving him to know that he was safe, departed from him, whilst he fared on till he came forth of the dominions of his uncle and entered those [of the king] of the Greeks. Then he entered a village and taking up his abode therein, betook himself to serving one there in ploughing and sowing and the like.
As for his mother, Shah Khatoun, great was her longing for her son and she [still] thought of him and news of him was cut off from her, wherefore her life was troubled and she forswore sleep and could not make mention of him before King Caesar her husband. Now she had an eunuch who had come with her from the court of her uncle King Suleiman Shah, and he was intelligent, quickwitted, a man of good counsel. So she took him apart one day and said to him, ’Thou hast been my servant from my childhood to this day; canst thou not therefore avail to get me news of my son, for that I cannot speak of his matter?’ ‘O my lady,’ answered he, ’this is an affair that thou hast concealed from the first, and were thy son here, it would not be possible for thee to harbour him, lest thine honour fall into suspicion with the king; for they would never credit thee, since the news hath been spread abroad that thy son was slain by his uncle.’ Quoth she, ’The case is even as thou sayst and thou speakest truly; but, provided I know that my son is alive, let him be in these parts pasturing sheep and let me not see him nor he me.’ And he said to her, ’How shall we contrive in this affair?’ ‘Here are my treasures and my wealth,’ answered she. ’Take all thou wilt and bring me my son or else news of him.’
Then they agreed upon a device between them, to wit, that they should feign an occasion in their own country, under pretext that she had there wealth buried from the time of her husband Melik Shah and that none knew of it but this eunuch who was with her, wherefore it behoved that he should go and fetch it. So she acquainted the king her husband with this and sought of him leave for the eunuch to go: and the king granted him permission for the journey and charged him cast about for a device, lest any get wind of him. Accordingly, the eunuch disguised himself as a merchant and repairing to Belehwan’s city, began to enquire concerning the youth’s case; whereupon they told him that he had been prisoned in an underground dungeon and that his uncle had released him and dispatched him to such a place, where they had slain him. When the eunuch heard this, it was grievous to him and his breast was straitened and he knew not what he should do.
It chanced one day that one of the horsemen, who had fallen in with the young Melik Shah by the water and clad him and given him spending-money, saw the eunuch in the city, disguised as a merchant, and recognizing him, questioned him of his case and of [the reason of] his coming. Quoth he, ’I come to sell merchandise.’ And the horseman said, ’I will tell thee somewhat, if thou canst keep it secret.’ ‘It is well,’ answered the eunuch; ‘what is it?’ And the other said, ’We met the king’s son Melik Shah, I and certain of the Arabs who were with me, and saw him by such a water and gave him spending-money and sent him towards the land of the Greeks, near his mother, for that we feared for him, lest his uncle Belehwan should kill him.’ Then he told him all that had passed between them, whereupon the eunuch’s countenance changed and he said to the cavalier, ‘Assurance!’ ’Thou shalt have assurance,’ answered the other, ’though thou come in quest of him.’ And the eunuch rejoined, saying, ’Truly, that is my errand, for there abideth no repose for his mother, lying down or rising up, and she hath sent me to seek news of him.’ Quoth the cavalier, ’Go in safety, for he is in a [certain] part of the land of the Greeks, even as I said to thee.’
The eunuch thanked him and blessed him and mounting, returned upon his way, following the trace, whilst the cavalier rode with him to a certain road, when he said to him, ’This is where we left him.’ Then he took leave of him and returned to his own city, whilst the eunuch fared on along the road, enquiring of the youth in every village he entered by the description which the cavalier had given him, and he ceased not to do thus till he came to the village where the young Melik Shah was. So he entered and lighting down therein, made enquiry after the prince, but none gave him news of him; whereat he abode perplexed concerning his affair and addressed himself to depart. Accordingly he mounted his horse [and set out homeward]; but, as he passed through the village, he saw a cow bound with a rope and a youth asleep by her side, with the end of the halter in his hand; so he looked at him and passed on and took no heed of him in his heart; but presently he stopped and said in himself; ’If he of whom I am in quest be come to the like [of the condition] of yonder sleeping youth, by whom I passed but now, how shall I know him? Alas, the length of my travail and weariness! How shall I go about in quest of a wight whom I know not and whom, if I saw him face to face, I should not know?’
Then he turned back, pondering upon that sleeping youth, and coming to him, as he slept, lighted down from his horse and sat down by him. He fixed his eyes upon his face and considered him awhile and said in himself, ’For aught I know, this youth may be Melik Shah.’ And he fell a-hemming and saying, ‘Harkye, O youth!’ Whereupon the sleeper awoke and sat up; and the eunuch said to him, ’Who is thy father in this village and where
Then he re-entered the village and buying the prince a horse, mounted him thereon and they ceased not going, till they came to the frontier of their own country, where there fell robbers upon them by the way and took all that was with them and pinioned them; after which they cast them into a pit hard by the road and went away and left them to die there, and indeed they had cast many folk into that pit and they had died.
The eunuch fell a-weeping in the pit and the youth said to him, ‘What is this weeping and what shall it profit here?’ Quoth the eunuch, ’I weep not for fear of death, but of pity for thee and the sorriness of thy case and because of thy mother’s heart and for that which thou hast suffered of horrors and that thy death should be this abject death, after the endurance of all manner stresses.’ But the youth said, ’That which hath betided me was forewrit to me and that which is written none hath power to efface; and if my term be advanced, none may avail to defer it.’[FN#136] Then they passed that night and the following day and the next night and the next day [in the pit], till they were weak with hunger and came near upon death and could but groan feebly.
Now it befell, by the ordinance of God the Most High and His providence, that Caesar, king of the Greeks, the husband of Melik Shah’s mother Shah Khatoun, [went forth to the chase that day]. He started a head of game, he and his company, and chased it, till they came up with it by that pit, whereupon one of them lighted down from his horse, to slaughter it, hard by the mouth of the pit. He heard a sound of low moaning from the bottom of the pit} so he arose and mounting his horse, waited till the troops were assembled. Then he acquainted the king with this and he bade one of his servants [descend into the pit]. So the man descended and brought out the youth [and the eunuch], aswoon.
They cut their bonds and poured wine into their gullets, till they came to themselves, when the king looked at the eunuch and recognizing him, said, ‘Harkye, such an one!’ ’Yes, O my lord the king,’ replied the man and prostrated himself to him; whereat the king marvelled with an exceeding wonder and said to him, ’How earnest thou to this place and what hath befallen thee?” Quoth the eunuch, ’I went and took out the treasure and brought it hither; but the [evil] eye was behind me and I unknowing. So the thieves took us alone here and seized the money and cast us into this pit, so we might die of hunger, even as they had done with other than we; but God the Most High sent thee, in pity to us.’
The king marvelled, he and his company, and praised God the Most High for that he had come thither; after which he turned to the eunuch and said to him, ‘What is this youth thou hast with thee?’ ‘O king,’ answered he, ’this is the son of a nurse who belonged to us and we left him little. I saw him to-day and his mother said to me, ‘Take him with thee.’ So I brought him with me, that he might be a servant to the king, for that he is an adroit and quickwitted youth.’ Then the king fared on, he and his company, and the eunuch and the youth with them, what while he questioned the former of Belehwan and his dealing with his subjects, and he answered, saying, ’As thy head liveth, O king, the folk with him are in sore straits and not one of them desireth to look on him, gentle or simple.’
[When the king returned to his palace,] he went in to his wife Shah Khatoun and said to her, ’I give thee the glad news of thine eunuch’s return.’ And he told her what had betided and of the youth whom he had brought with him. When she heard this, her wits fled and she would have cried out, but her reason restrained her, and the king said to her, ’What is this? Art thou overcome with grief for [the loss of] the treasure or [for that which hath befallen] the eunuch?’ ‘Nay, as thy head liveth, O king!’ answered she. ‘But women are fainthearted.’ Then came the servant and going in to her, told her all that had befallen him and acquainted her with her son’s case also and with that which he had suffered of stresses and how his uncle had exposed him to slaughter and he had been taken prisoner and they had cast him into the pit and hurled him from the top of the citadel and how God had delivered him from these perils, all of them; and he went on to tell her [all that had betided him], whilst she wept.
Then said she to him, ’When the king saw him and questioned thee of him, what saidst thou to him?’ And he answered, ’I said to him, “This is the son of a nurse who belonged to us. We left him little and he grew up; so I brought him, that he might be servant to the king,"’ Quoth she, ‘Thou didst well.’ And she charged him to be instant in the service of the prince. As for the king, he redoubled in kindness to the eunuch and appointed the youth a liberal allowance and he abode going in to the king’s house and coming out therefrom and standing in his service, and every day he grew in favour with him; whilst, as for Shah Khatoun, she used to stand a-watch for him at the windows and balconies and gaze upon him, and she on coals of fire on his account, yet could she not speak.
On this wise she abode a great while and indeed yearning for him came nigh to slay her; so she stood and watched for him one day at the door of her chamber and straining him to her bosom, kissed him on the cheek and breast. At this moment, out came the master of the king’s household and seeing her embracing the youth, abode amazed. Then he asked to whom that chamber belonged and was answered, ‘To Shah Khatoun, wife of the king,’ whereupon he turned back, trembling as [one smitten by] a thunderbolt. The king saw him quaking and said to him, ’Out on thee! what is the matter?’ ‘O king,’ answered he, ’what matter is graver than that which I see?’ ‘What seest thou?’ asked the king and the officer said, ’I see that yonder youth, who came with the eunuch, he brought not with him but on account of Shah Khatoun; for that I passed but now by her chamber door, and she was standing, watching; [and when the youth came up,] she rose to him and clipped him and kissed him on his cheek.’
When the king heard this, he bowed [his head] in amazement and perplexity and sinking into a seat, clutched at his beard and shook it, till he came nigh to pluck it out. Then he arose forthright and laid hands on the youth and clapped him in prison. Moreover, he took the eunuch also and cast them both into an underground dungeon in his house, after which he went in to Shah Khatoun and said to her, ’Thou hast done well, by Allah, O daughter of nobles, O thou whom kings sought in marriage, for the excellence of thy repute and the goodliness of the reports of thee! How fair is thy semblance! May God curse her whose inward is the contrary of her outward, after the likeness of thy base favour, whose outward is comely and its inward foul, fair face and foul deeds! Verily, I mean to make of thee and of yonder good-for-nought an example among the folk, for that thou sentest not thine eunuch but of intent on his account, so that he took him and brought him into my house and thou hast trampled my head with him; and this is none other than exceeding hardihood; but thou shall see what I will do with you.’
So saying, he spat in her face and went out from her; whilst Shah Khatoun made him no answer, knowing that, if she spoke at that time, he would not credit her speech. Then she humbled herself in supplication to God the Most High and said, ’O God the Great, Thou knowest the hidden things and the outward parts and the inward’ If an advanced term[FN#137] be [appointed] to me, let it not be deferred, and if a deferred one, let it not be advanced!’ On this wise she passed some days, whilst the king fell into perplexity and forswore meat and drink and sleep and abode knowing not what he should do and saying [in himself], ’If I kill the eunuch and the youth, my soul will not be solaced, for they are not to blame, seeing that she sent to fetch him, and my heart will not suffer me to slay them all three. But I will not be hasty in putting them to death, for that I fear repentance.’ Then he left them, so he might look into the affair.
Now he had a nurse, a foster-mother, on whose knees he had been reared, and she was a woman of understanding and misdoubted of him, but dared not accost him [with questions]. So she went in to Shah Khatoun and finding her in yet sorrier plight than he, asked her what was to do; but she refused to answer. However, the nurse gave not over coaxing and questioning her, till she exacted of her an oath of secrecy. So the old woman swore to her that she would keep secret all that she should say to her, whereupon the queen related to her her history from first to last and told her that the youth was her son. With this the old woman prostrated herself before her and said to her, ‘This is an easy matter.’ But the queen answered, saying, ’By Allah, O my mother, I choose my destruction and that of my son rather than defend myself by avouching a thing whereof they will not credit me; for they will say, “She avoucheth this, but that she may fend off reproach from herself” And nought will avail me but patience.’ The old woman was moved by her speech and her intelligence and said to her, ’Indeed, O my daughter, it is as thou sayst, and I hope in God that He will show forth the truth. Have patience and I will presently go in to the king and hear what he saith and contrive somewhat in this matter, if it be the will of God the Most High.’
Then she arose and going in to the king, found him with his head between his knees, and he lamenting. So she sat down by him awhile and bespoke him with soft words and said to him, ’Indeed, O my son, thou consumest mine entrails, for that these [many] days thou hast not mounted to horse, and thou lamentest and I know not what aileth thee.’ ‘O my mother,’ answered he, ’[this my chagrin] is due to yonder accursed woman, of whom I still deemed well and who hath done thus and thus.’ Then he related to her the whole story from first to last, and she said to him, ’This thy concern is on account of a worthless woman.’ Quoth he, ’I was but considering by what death I should slay them, so the folk may [be admonished by their fate and] repent.’ And she said, ’O my son, beware of haste, for it engendereth repentance and the slaying of them will not escape [thee]. When thou art assured of this affair, do what thou wilt.’ ‘O my mother,’ rejoined he; ’there needeth no assurance concerning him for whom she despatched her eunuch and he fetched him.’
But she said, ’There is a thing wherewith we will make her confess, and all that is in her heart shall be discovered to thee.’ ‘What is that?’ asked the king, and she answered, ’I will bring thee a hoopoe’s heart,[FN#138] which, when she sleepeth, do thou lay upon her heart and question her of all thou wilt, and she will discover this unto thee and show forth the truth to thee.” The king rejoiced in this and said to his nurse, ’Hasten and let none know of thee.’ So she arose and going in to the queen, said to her, ’I have done thine occasion and it is on this wise. This night the king will come in to thee and do thou feign thyself asleep; and if he ask thee of aught, do thou answer him, as if in thy sleep.’ The queen thanked her and the old woman went away and fetching the hoopoe’s heart, gave it to the king.
Hardly was the night come, when he went in to his wife and found her lying back, [apparently] asleep; so he sat down by her side and laying the hoopoe’s heart on her breast, waited awhile, so he might be certified that she slept. Then said he to her, ’Shah Khatoun, Shah Khatoun, is this my recompense from thee?’ Quoth she, ‘What offence have I committed?’ And he, ’What offence can be greater than this? Thou sentest after yonder youth and broughtest him hither, on account of the desire of thy heart, so thou mightest do with him that for which thou lustedst.’ ’I know not desire,’ answered she. ’Verily, among thy servants are those who are comelier and handsomer than he; yet have I never desired one of them.’ ‘Why, then,’ asked he, ’didst thou lay hold of him and kiss him!’ And she said, ’This is my son and a piece of my heart; and of my longing and love for him, I could not contain myself, but sprang upon him and kissed him.’ When the king heard this, he was perplexed and amazed and said to her, ’Hast thou a proof that this youth is thy son? Indeed, I have a letter from thine uncle King Suleiman Shah, [wherein he giveth me to know] that his unck Belehwan cut his throat.’ ‘Yes,’ answered she, ’he did indeed cut his throat, but severed not the windpipe; so my uncle sewed up the wound and reared him, [and he lived,] for that his hour was not come.’
When the king heard this, he said, ‘This proof sufficeth me,’ and rising forthright in the night, let bring the youth and the eunuch. Then he examined the former’s throat with a candle and saw [the scar where] it [had been] cut from ear to ear, and indeed the place had healed up and it was like unto a stretched-out thread. Therewithal the king fell down prostrate to God, [in thanksgiving to Him] for that He had delivered the prince from all these perils and from the stresses that he had undergone, and rejoiced with an exceeding joy for that he had wrought deliberately and had not made haste to slay him, in which case sore repentance had betided him. As for the youth,” continued the young treasurer, “he was not saved but because his term was deferred, and on like wise, O king, is it with me; I too have a deferred term, which I shall attain, and a period which I shall accomplish, and I trust in God the Most High that He will give me the victory over these wicked viziers.”
When the youth had made an end of his speech, the king said, “Carry him back to the prison;” and when they had done this, he turned to the viziers and said to them, “Yonder youth looseth his tongue upon you, but I know your affectionate solicitude for the welfare of my empire and your loyal counsel to me; so be of good heart, for all that ye counsel me I will do.” When they heard tnese words, they rejoiced and each of them said his say Then said the king, “I have not deferred his slaughter but to the intent that the talk might be prolonged and that words might abound, and I desire [now] that ye sit up for him a gibbet without the town and make proclamation among the folk that they assemble and take him and carry him in procession to the gibbet, with the crier crying before him and saying, ’This is the recompense of him whom the king delighted to favour and who hath betrayed him!’” The viziers rejoiced, when they heard this, and slept not that night, of their joy; and they made proclamation in the city and set up the gibbet.
The Eleventh Day.
Of the speedy relief of god.
When it was the eleventh day, the viziers betook them early in the morning to the king’s gate and said to him, “O king, the folk are assembled from the king’s gate to the gibbet, so they may see [the execution of] the king’s commandment on the youth.” So the king bade fetch the prisoner and they brought him; whereupon the viziers turned to him and said to him, “O vile of origin, doth any hope of life remain with thee and lookest thou still for deliverance after this day?” “O wicked viziers,” answered he, “shall a man of understanding renounce hope in God the Most High? Indeed, howsoever a man be oppressed, there cometh to him deliverance from the midst of stress and life from the midst of death, [as is shown by the case of] the prisoner and how God delivered him.” “What is his story?” asked the king; and the youth answered, saying, “O king, they tell that
STORY OF THE PRISONER AND HOW GOD GAVE HIM RELIEF.
There was once a king of the kings, who had a high palace, overlooking a prison of his, and he used to hear in the night one saying, ’O Ever-present Deliverer, O Thou whose relief is nigh, relieve Thou me!’ One day the king waxed wroth and said, “Yonder fool looketh for relief from [the consequences of] his crime. ’Then said he to his officers, ‘Who is in yonder prison?’ And they answered, ’Folk upon whom blood hath been found.’[FN#139] So the king bade bring the man in question before him and said to him, ’O fool, little of wit, how shall thou be delivered from this prison, seeing that thine offence is great?’ Then he committed him to a company of his guards and said to them, ’Take this fellow and crucify him without the city.’
Now it was the night-season. So the soldiers carried him without the city, thinking to crucify him, when, behold, there came out upon them thieves and fell in on them with swords and [other] weapons. Thereupon the guards left him whom they purposed to put to death [and took to flight], whilst the man who was going to slaughter fled forth at a venture and plunging into the desert, knew not whither he went before he found himself in a thicket and there came out upon him a lion of frightful aspect, which snatched him up and set him under him. Then he went up to a tree and tearing it up by the roots, covered the man therewith and made off into the thicket, in quest of the lioness.
As for the man, he committed his affair to God the Most High, relying upon Him for deliverance, and said in himself, ’What is this affair?’ Then he did away the leaves from himself and rising, saw great plenty of men’s bones there, of those whom the lion had devoured. He looked again and saw a heap of gold lying alongside a girdle;[FN#140] whereat he marvelled and gathering up the gold in his skirts, went forth of the thicket and fled in affright at hazard, turning neither to the right nor to the left, in his fear of the lion; till he came to a village and cast himself down, as he were dead. He lay there till the day appeared and he was rested from his fatigue, when he arose and burying the gold, entered the village. Thus God gave him relief and he came by the gold.”
Then said the king, “How long wilt thou beguile us with thy prate, O youth? But now the hour of thy slaughter is come.” And he bade crucify him upon the gibbet. [So they carried him to the place of execution] and were about to hoist him up [upon the cross,] when, behold, the captain of the thieves, who had found him and reared him,[FN#141] came up at that moment and asked what was that assembly and [the cause of] the crowds gathered there. They told him that a servant of the king had committed a great crime and that he was about to put him to death. So the captain of the thieves pressed forward and looking upon the prisoner, knew him, whereupon he went up to him and embraced him and clipped him and fell to kissing him upon his mouth. Then said he, “This is a boy whom I found under such a mountain, wrapped in a gown of brocade, and I reared him and he fell to stopping the way with us. One day, we set upon a caravan, but they put us to flight and wounded some of us and took the boy and went their way. From that day to this I have gone round about the lands in quest of him, but have not lighted on news of him [till now;] and this is he.”
When the king heard this, he was certified that the youth was his very son; so he cried out at the top of his voice and casting himself upon him, embraced him and wept and said, “Had I put thee to death, as was my intent, I should have died of regret for thee.” Then he cut his bonds and taking his crown from his head, set it on that of his son, whereupon the people raised cries of joy, whilst the trumpets sounded and the drums beat and there befell a great rejoicing. They decorated the city and it was a glorious day; the very birds stayed their flight in the air, for the greatness of the clamour and the noise of the crying. The army and the folk carried the prince [to the palace] in magnificent procession, and the news came to his mother Behrjaur, who came forth and threw herself upon him. Moreover, the king bade open the prison and bring forth all who were therein, and they held high festival seven days and seven nights and rejoiced with a mighty rejoicing; whilst terror and silence and confusion and affright fell upon the viziers and they gave themselves up for lost.
After this the king sat, with his son by his side and the viziers sitting before him, and summoned his chief officers and the folk of the city. Then the prince turned to the viziers and said to them, “See, O wicked viziers, that which God hath done and the speedy [coming of] relief.” But they answered not a word and the king said, “It sufficeth me that there is nothing alive but rejoiceth with me this day, even to the birds in the sky, but ye, your breasts are straitened. Indeed, this is the greatest of ill-will in you to me, and had I hearkened to you, my regret had been prolonged and I had died miserably of grief.” “O my father,” quoth the prince, “but for the fairness of thy thought and thy judgment and thy longanimity and deliberation in affairs, there had not bedded thee this great joyance. Hadst thou slain me in haste, repentance would have been sore on thee and long grief, and on this wise doth he who ensueth haste repent.”
Then the king sent for the captain of the thieves and bestowed on him a dress of honour,[FN#142] commanding that all who loved the king should put off [their raiment and cast it] upon him.[FN#143] So there fell dresses of honour [and other presents] on him, till he was wearied with their much plenty, and Azadbekht invested him with the mastership of the police of his city. Then he bade set up other nine gibbets beside the first and said to his son, “Thou art guiltless, and yet these wicked viziers endeavoured for thy slaughter.” “O my father,” answered the prince, “I had no fault [in their eyes] but that I was a loyal counsellor to thee and still kept watch over thy good and withheld their hands from thy treasuries; wherefore they were jealous and envied me and plotted against me and sought to slay me,” Quoth the king, “The time [of retribution] is at hand, O my son; but what deemest thou we should do with them in requital of that which they did with thee? For that they have endeavoured for thy slaughter and exposed thee to public ignominy and soiled my honour among the kings.”
Then he turned to the viziers and said to them, “Out on ye! What liars ye are! What excuse is left you?” “O king,” answered they, “there abideth no excuse for us and our sin hath fallen upon us and broken us in pieces. Indeed we purposed evil to this youth and it hath reverted upon us, and we plotted mischief against him and it hath overtaken us; yea, we digged a pit for him and have fallen ourselves therein.” So the king bade hoist up the viziers upon the gibbets and crucify them there, for that God is just and ordaineth that which is right. Then Azadbekht and his wife and son abode in joyance and contentment, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and they died all; and extolled be the perfection of the [Ever-]Living One, who dieth not, to whom be glory and whose mercy be upon us for ever and ever! Amen.
Yehya and ABDULMEILIK ben
Salih the Abbaside.[FN#144]
It is told of Jaafer ben Yehya the Barmecide that he sat down one day to drink and being minded to be private (with his friends), sent for his boon-companions, in whom he delighted, and charged the chamberlain[FN#145] that he should suffer none of the creatures of God the Most High to enter, save a man of his boon-companions, by name Abdulmelik ben Salih,[FN#146] who was behindhand with them. Then they donned coloured clothes,[FN#147] for that it was their wont, whenas they sat in the wine-chamber, to don raiment of red and yellow and green silk, and sat down to drink, and the cups went round and the lutes pulsed.
Now there was a man of the kinsfolk of the Khalif [Haroun er Reshid], by name Abdulmelik ben Salih ben Ali ben Abdallah ben el Abbas,[FN#148] who was great of gravity and piety and decorousness, and Er Reshid was used instantly to require of him that he should keep him company in his carousals and drink with him and had proffered him, to this end, riches galore, but he still refused. It chanced that this Abdulmelik es Salih came to the door of Jaafer ben Yehya, that he might bespeak him of certain occasions of his, and the chamberlain, doubting not but he was the Abdulmelik ben Salih aforesaid, whom Jaafer had charged him admit and that he should suffer none but him to enter, allowed him to go in to his master.
When Jaafer saw him, his reason was like to depart for shame and he knew that the chamberlain had been deceived by the likeness of the name; and Abdulmelik also perceived how the case stood and confusion was manifest to him in Jaafer’s face. So he put on a cheerful favour and said, “No harm be upon you![FN#149] Bring us of these dyed clothes.” So they brought him a dyed gown[FN#150] and he put it on and sat discoursing cheerily with Jaafer and jesting with him. Then said he, “Give us to drink of your wine.” So they poured him out a pint and he said, “Be ye indulgent with us, for we have no wont of this.” Then he chatted and jested with them till Jaafer’s breast dilated and his constraint ceased from him and his shamefastness, and he rejoiced in this with an exceeding joy and said to Abdulmelik, “What is thine errand?” Quoth the other, “I come (may God amend thee!) on three occasions, whereof I would have thee bespeak the Khalif; to wit, firstly, I have on me a debt to the amount of a thousand thousand dirhems,[FN#151] which I would have discharged; secondly, I desire for my son the office of governor of a province, whereby his rank may be raised; and thirdly, I would fain have thee marry him to a daughter of the Khalif, for that she is his cousin and he is a match for her.” And Jaafer said, “God accomplished! unto thee these three occasions. As for the money, it shall presently be carried to thy house; as for the government, I make thy son viceroy of Egypt; and as for the marriage, I give him to wife such an one, the daughter of our Lord the Commander of the Faithful, at a dowry of such and such a sum. So depart in the assurance of God the Most High.”
So Abdulmelik went away to his house, whither he found that the money had foregone him, and on the morrow Jaafer presented himself before the Khalif and acquainted him with what had passed and that he had appointed Abdulmelik’s son governor of Egypt and had promised him his daughter in marriage. Er Reshid approved of this and confirmed the appointment and the marriage. [Then he sent for the young man] and he went not forth of the palace of the Khalif till he wrote him the patent [of investiture with the government] of Egypt; and he let bring the Cadis and the witnesses and drew up the contract of marriage.
Er Reshid and the Barmecides.[FN#152]
It is said that the most extraordinary of that which happened to Er Reshid was as follows: His brother El Hadi,[FN#153] when he succeeded to the Khalifate, enquired of a seal-ring of great price, that had belonged to his father El Mehdi,[FN#154] and it came to his knowledge that Er Reshid had taken it. So he required it of the latter, who refused to give it up, and El Hadi insisted upon him, but he still denied the seal-ring of the Khalifate. Now this was on the bridge [over the Tigris], and he threw the ring into the river. When El Hadi died and Er Reshid succeeded to the Khalifate, he came in person to that bridge, with a seal-ring of lead, which he threw into the river at the same place, and bade the divers seek it. So they did [his bidding] and brought up the first ring, and this was reckoned [an omen] of Er Reshid’s good fortune and [a presage of] the continuance of his reign.[FN#155]
When Er Reshid came to the throne, he invested Jaafer ben Yehya ben Khalid el Bermeki[FN#156] with the vizierate. Now Jaafer was eminently distinguished for generosity and munificence, and the stories of him to this effect are renowned and are written in the books. None of the viziers attained to the rank and favour which he enjoyed with Er Reshid, who was wont to call him brother[FN#157] and used to carry him with him into his house. The period of his vizierate was nineteen years,[FN#158] and Yehya one day said to his son Jaafer, “O my son, what time thy reed trembleth, water it with kindness."[FN#159] Opinions differ concerning the reason of Jaafer’s slaughter, but the better is as follows. Er Reshid could not brook to be parted from Jaafer nor from his [own] sister Abbaseh, daughter of El Mehdi, a single hour, and she was the loveliest woman of her time; so he said to Jaafer, “I will marry thee to her, that it may be lawful to thee to look upon her, but thou shalt not touch her.” [Accordingly, they were married] and they used both to be present in Er Reshid’s sitting chamber. Now the Khalif would rise bytimes [and go forth] from the chamber, and they being both young and filled with wine, Jaafer would rise to her and swive her. She conceived by him and bore a handsome boy and fearing Er Reshid, despatched the newborn child by one of her confidants to Mecca the Holy, may God the Most High advance it in honour and increase it in venerance and nobility and magnification! The affair abode concealed till there befell despite between Abbaseh and one of her slave-girls, whereupon the latter discovered the affair of the child to Er Reshid and acquainted him with its abiding-place. So, when the Khalif made the pilgrimage, he despatched one who brought him the boy and found the affair true, wherefore he caused befall the Barmecides that which befell.[FN#160]
Ibn es Semmak and er Reshid.[FN#161]
It is related that Ibn es Semmak[FN#162] went in one day to Er Reshid and the Khalif, being athirst, called for drink. So his cup was brought him, and when he took it, Ibn es Semmak said to him, “Softly, O Commander of the Faithful! If thou wert denied this draught, with what wouldst thou buy it?” “With the half of my kingdom,” answered the Khalif; and Ibn es Semmak said, “Drink and God prosper it to thee!” Then, when he had drunken, he said to him, “If thou wert denied the going forth of the draught from thy body, with what wouldst thou buy its issue?” “With the whole of my kingdom,” answered Er Reshid: and Ibn es Semmak said, “O Commander of the Faithful, verily, a kingdom that weigheth not in the balance against a draught [of water] or a voiding of urine is not worth the striving for.” And Haroun wept.
El Mamoun and Zubeideh[FN#163]
It is said that El Mamoun[FN#164] came one day upon Zubeideh, mother of El Amin,[FN#165] and saw her moving her lips and muttering somewhat he understood not; so he said to her, “O mother mine, dost thou imprecate [curses] upon me, for that I slew thy son and despoiled him of his kingdom?” “Not so, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful!” answered she, and he said, “What then saidst thou?” Quoth she, “Let the Commander of the Faithful excuse me.” But he was instant with her, saying, “Needs must thou tell it.” And she replied, “I said, ’God confound importunity!’” “How so?” asked the Khalif, and she said, “I played one day at chess with the Commander of the Faithful [Haroun er Reshid] and he imposed on me the condition of commandment and acceptance.[FN#166] He beat me and bade me put off my clothes and go round about the palace, naked; so I did this, and I incensed against him. Then we fell again to playing and I beat him; so I bade him go to the kitchen and swive the foulest and sorriest wench of the wenches thereof. [I went to the kitchen] and found not a slave-girl fouler and filthier than thy mother;[FN#167] so I bade him swive her. He did as I bade him and she became with child by him of thee, and thus was I [by my unlucky insistance] the cause of the slaying of my son and the despoiling him of his kingdom.” When El Mamoun heard this, he turned away, saying, “God curse the importunate!” to wit, himself, who had importuned her till she acquainted him with that matter.
En Numan and
the Arab of the Benou
It is said that En Numan[FN#169] had two boon-companions, one of whom was called Ibn Saad and the other Amrou ben el Melik, and he became one night drunken and bade bury them alive; so they buried them. When he arose on the morrow, he enquired for them and was acquainted with their case, whereupon he built over them a monument and appointed to himself a day of ill-luck and a day of good-luck. If any met him on his day of ill-omen, he slew him and with his blood he washed the monument aforesaid, the which is a place well known in Cufa; and if any met him on his day of grace, he enriched him.
Now there accosted him once, on his day of ill-omen, an Arab of the Benou Tai,[FN#170] and En Numan would have put him to death; but the Arab said, “God quicken the king! I have two little girls and have made none guardian over them; so, if the king see fit to grant me leave to go to them, I will give him the covenant of God[FN#171] that I will return to him, whenas I have appointed them a guardian.” En Numan had compassion on him and said to him, “If a man will be surety for thee of those who are with us, [I will let thee go], and if thou return not, I will put him to death.” Now there was with En Numan his vizier Sherik ben Amrou; so the Tai[FN#172] looked at him and said,
Sherik ben Amrou, what device avails the hand of death
to stay? O
brother of the brotherless, brother of all th’ afflicted,
Brother of En Numan, with thee lies an old man’s anguish to
allay, A graybeard slain, may God make fair his deeds upon
Quoth Sherik, “On me be his warranty, may God assain the king!”
So the Tai departed, after a term had been assigned him for
When the appointed day arrived, En Numan sent for Sherik and said to him, “Verily the first part of this day is past.” And Sherik answered, “The king hath no recourse against me till it be eventide.” When it evened, there appeared one afar off and En Numan fell to looking upon him and on Sherik, and the latter said to him, “Thou hast no right over me till yonder fellow come, for belike he is my man.” As he spoke, up came the Tai in haste and En Numan said “By Allah, never saw I [any] more generous than you two! I know not whether of you is the more generous, this one who became warrant for thee in [danger of] death or thou who returnest unto slaughter.” Then said he to Sherik, “What prompted thee to become warrant for him, knowing that it was death?” And he said, “[I did this] lest it be said, ’Generosity hath departed from viziers.’” Then said En Numan to the Tai, “And thou, what prompted thee to return, knowing that therein was death and thine own destruction?” Quoth the Arab, “[I did this] lest it be said, ‘Fidelity hath departed from the folk.’” And En Numan said, “By Allah, I will be the third of you,[FN#173] lest it be said, ‘Clemency hath departed from kings.’” So he pardoned him and bade abolish the day of ill-omen; whereupon the Arab recited the following verses:
Full many a man incited me to infidelity, But I refused,
the talk wherewith they set on me.
I am a man in whom good faith’s a natural attribute; The deeds of
every upright man should with his speech agree.
Quoth En Numan, “What prompted thee to keep faith, the case being as thou sayest?” “O king,” answered the Arab, “it was my religion.” And En Numan said, “What is thy religion?” “The Christian,” replied the other. Quoth the king, “Expound it unto me.” [So the Tai expounded it to him] and En Numan became a Christian.[FN#174]
Firouz and his wife[FN#175]
A certain king sat one day on the roof of his palace, diverting himself with looking about him, and presently, chancing to look aside, he espied, on [the roof of] a house over against his palace, a woman, never saw his eyes her like. So he turned to those who were present and said to them, “To whom belongeth yonder house?” “To thy servant Firouz,” answered they, “and that is his wife.” So he went down, (and indeed love had made him drunken and he was passionately enamoured of her), and calling Firouz, said to him, “Take this letter and go with it to such a city and bring me the answer.” Firouz took the letter and going to his house, laid it under his head and passed that night. When the morning morrowed, he took leave of his wife and set out for the city in question, unknowing what the king purposed against him.
As for the king, he arose in haste and disguising himself, repaired to the house of Firouz and knocked at the door. Quoth Firouz’s wife, “Who is at the door?” And he answered, saying, “I am the king, thy husband’s master.” So she opened the door and he entered and sat down, saying, “We are come to visit thee.” Quoth she, “I seek refuge [with God] from this visitation, for indeed I deem not well thereof.” And the king said, “O desire of hearts, I am thy husband’s master and methinks thou knowest me not.” “Nay,” answered she, “I know thee, O my lord and master, and I know thy purpose and that which thou seekest and that thou art my husband’s lord. I understand what thou wishest, and indeed the poet hath forestalled thee in his saying of the following verses, in reference to thy case:
Your water I’ll leave without drinking, for
there Too many
already have drunken whilere.
When the flies light on food, from the platter my hand I raise,
though my spirit should long for the fare;
And whenas the dogs at a fountain have lapped, The lions to drink
of the water forbear.”
Then said she, “O king, comest thou to a [watering-]place whereat thy dog hath drunken and wilt thou drink thereof?” The king was abashed at her and at her words and went out from her, but forgot his sandal in the house.
As for Firouz, when he went forth from his house, he sought the letter, but found it not; so he returned home. Now his return fell in with the king’s going forth and he found the latter’s sandal in his house, whereat his wit was dazed and he knew that the king had not sent him away but for a purpose of his own. However, he held his peace and spoke not a word, but, taking the letter, went on his errand and accomplished it and returned to the king, who gave him a hundred dinars. So Firouz betook himself to the market and bought what beseemeth women of goodly gifts and returning to his wife, saluted her and gave her all that he had brought and said to her, “Arise [go] to thy father’s house.” “Wherefore?” asked she, and he said, “Verily, the king hath been bountiful to me and I would have thee show forth this, so thy father may rejoice in that which he seeth upon thee.” “With all my heart,” answered she and arising forthright, betook herself to the house of her father, who rejoiced in her coming and in that which he saw upon her; and she abode with him a month’s space, and her husband made no mention of her.
Then came her brother to him and said, “O Firouz, an thou wilt not acquaint me with the reason of thine anger against thy wife, come and plead with us before the king.” Quoth he, “If ye will have me plead with you, I will do so.” So they went to the king and found the cadi sitting with him; whereupon quoth the damsel’s brother, “God assist our lord the cadi! I let this man on hire a high-walled garden, with a well in good case and trees laden with fruit; but he beat down its walls
Now the king was leaning back upon the cushion, when he heard the man’s words, he knew the purport thereof; so he sat up and said, “Return to thy garden in all assurance and ease of heart; for, by Allah, never saw I the like of thy garden nor stouter of ward than its walls over its trees!” So Firouz returned to his wife, and the cadi knew not the truth of the affair, no, nor any of those who were in that assembly, save the king and the husband and the damsel’s brother.[FN#176]
KingShah Bekht and his vizier
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a king of the kings of the time, by name Shah Bekht, who had troops and servants and guards galore and a vizier called Er Rehwan, who was wise, understanding, a man of good counsel and a cheerful acceptor of the commandments of God the Most High, to whom belong might and majesty. The king committed to him the affairs of his kingdom and his subjects and said according to his word, and on this wise he abode a long space of time.
Now this vizier had many enemies, who envied him his high place and still sought to do him hurt, but found no way thereunto, and God, in His fore-knowledge and His fore-ordinance from time immemorial, decreed that the king dreamt that the Vizier Er Rehwan gave him a fruit from off a tree and he ate it and died. So he awoke, affrighted and troubled, and when the vizier had presented himself before him [and withdrawn] and the king was alone with those in whom he trusted, he related to them his dream and they counselled him to send for the astrologers and interpreters [of dreams] and commended to him a sage, for whose skill and wisdom they vouched. So the king sent for him and entreated him with honour and made him draw near to himself. Now there had been private with the sage in question a company of the vizier’s enemies, who besought him to slander the vizier to the king and counsel him to put him to death, in consideration of that which they promised him of wealth galore; and he agreed with them of this and told the king that the vizier would slay him in the course of the [ensuing] month and bade him hasten to put him to death, else would he surely slay him.
Presently, the vizier entered and the king signed to him to cause avoid the place. So he signed to those who were present to withdraw, and they departed; whereupon quoth the king to him, “How deemest thou, O excellent vizier, O loyal counsellor in all manner of governance, of a vision I have seen in my sleep?” “What is it, O king?” asked the vizier, and Shah Bekht related to him his dream, adding, “And indeed the sage interpreted it to me and said to me, ’An thou put not the vizier to death within a month, he will slay thee.’ Now I am exceeding both to put the like of thee to death, yet do I fear to leave thee on life. What then dost thou counsel me that I should do in this matter?” The vizier bowed his head awhile, then raised it and said, “God prosper the king! Verily, it skills not to continue him on life of whom the king is afraid, and my counsel is that thou make haste to put me to death.”
When the king heard his speech, he turned to him and said, “It is grievous to me, O vizier of good counsel.” And he told him that the [other] sages testified [to the correctness of their fellow’s interpretation of the dream]; whereupon Er Rehwan sighed and knew that the king went in fear of him; but he showed him fortitude and said to him, “God assain the king! My counsel is that the king accomplish his commandment and execute his ordinance, for that needs must death be and it is liefer to me that I die, oppressed, than that I die, an oppressor. But, if the king see fit to defer the putting of me to death till the morrow and will pass this night with me and take leave of me, when the morrow cometh, the king shall do what he will.”
Then he wept till he wet his gray hairs and the king was moved to compassion for him and granted him that which he sought and vouchsafed him that night’s respite.
The First Night of the Month
When it was eventide, the king caused avoid his sitting chamber and summoned the vizier, who presented himself and making his obeisance to the king, kissed the earth before him and bespoke him as follows:
STORY OF THE MAN OF KHORASSAN, HIS SON AND HIS GOVERNOR.
“There was once a man of Khorassan and he had a son, whose improvement he ardently desired; but the young man sought to be alone and to remove himself from his father’s eye, so he might give himself up to pleasance and delight. So he sought of his father [leave to make] the pilgrimage to the Holy House of God and to visit the tomb of the Prophet (whom God bless and keep!). Now between them and Mecca was a journey of five hundred parasangs; but his father could not gainsay him, for that the law of God made this[FN#178] incumbent on him and because of that which he hoped for him of improvement [therefrom]. So he joined unto him a governor, in whom he trusted, and gave him much money and took leave of him. The son set out on the holy pilgrimage[FN#179] with the governor and abode on that wise, spending freely and using not thrift.
Now there was in his neighbourhood a poor man, who had a slave-girl of surpassing beauty and loveliness, and the youth became enamoured of her and suffered grief and concern for the love of her and her loveliness, so that he was like to perish for passion; and she also loved him with a love yet greater than his love for her. So she called an old woman who used to visit her and acquainted her with her case, saying, ’An I foregather not with him, I shall die.’ The old woman promised her that she would do her endeavour to bring her to her desire; so she veiled herself and repairing to the young man, saluted him and acquainted him with the girl’s case, saying, ’Her master is a covetous man; so do thou invite him [to thy lodging] and tempt him with money, and he will sell thee the damsel.’
Accordingly, he made a banquet, and stationing himself in the man’s way, invited him and carried him to his house, where they sat down and ate and drank and abode in discourse. Presently, the young man said to the other, ’I hear that thou hast with thee a slave-girl, whom thou desirest to sell.’ And he answered, saying, ‘By Allah, O my lord, I have no mind to sell her!’ Quoth the youth, ’I hear that she cost thee a thousand dinars, and I will give thee six hundred, to boot.’ And the other said, ’I sell her to thee [at that price].’ So they fetched notaries, who drew up the contract of sale, and the young man counted out to the girl’s master half the purchase money, saying, ’Let her be with thee till I complete to thee the rest of the price and take my slave-girl.’ The other consented to this and took of him a bond for the rest of the money, and the girl abode with her master, on deposit.
As for the youth, he gave his governor a thousand dirhems and despatched him to his father, to fetch money from him, so he might pay the rest of the girl’s price, saying to him, ’Be not [long] absent.’ But the governor said in himself, ’How shall I go to his father and say to him, “Thy son hath wasted thy money and wantoned it away"?[FN#180] With what eye shall I look on him, and indeed, I am he in whom he confided and to whom he hath entrusted his son? Indeed, this were ill seen. Nay, I will fare on to the pilgrimage[FN#181] [with the caravan of pilgrims], in despite of this fool of a youth; and when he is weary [of waiting], he will demand back the money [he hath already paid] and return to his father, and I shall be quit of travail and reproach.’ So he went on with the caravan to the pilgrimage[FN#182] and took up his abode there.
Meanwhile, the youth abode expecting his governor’s return, but he returned not; wherefore concern and chagrin waxed upon him, because of his mistress, and his longing for her redoubled and he was like to slay himself. She became aware of this and sent him a messenger, bidding him to her. So he went to her and she questioned him of the case; whereupon he told her what was to do of the matter of his governor, and she said to him, ’With me is longing the like of that which is with thee, and I misdoubt me thy messenger hath perished or thy father hath slain him; but I will give thee all my trinkets and my clothes, and do thou sell them and pay the rest of my price, and we will go, I and thou, to thy father.’
So she gave him all that she possessed and he sold it and paid the rest of her price; after which there remained to him a hundred dirhems. These he spent and lay that night with the damsel in all delight of life, and his soul was like to fly for joy; but when he arose in the morning, he sat weeping and the damsel said to him, ‘What aileth thee to weep?’ And he said, ’I know not if my father be dead, and he hath none other heir but myself; and how shall I win to him, seeing I have not a dirhem?’ Quoth she, ’I have a bracelet; do thou sell it and buy small pearls with the price. Then bray them and fashion them into great pearls, and thereon thou shalt gain much money, wherewith we may make our way to thy country.’ So he took the bracelet and repairing to a goldsmith, said to him, ’Break up this bracelet and sell it.’ But he said, ’The king seeketh a good[FN#183] bracelet; I will go to him and bring thee the price thereof.’ So he carried the bracelet to the Sultan and it pleased him greatly, by reason of the goodliness of its workmanship. Then he called an old woman, who was in his palace, and said to her, ’Needs must I have the mistress of this bracelet, though but for a single night, or I shall die.’ And the old woman answered, ’I will bring her to thee.’
So she donned a devotee’s habit and betaking herself to the goldsmith, said to him, ’To whom belongeth the bracelet that is in the king’s hand?’ Quoth he, ’It belongeth to a man, a stranger, who hath bought him a slave-girl from this city and lodgeth with her in such a place.’ So the old woman repaired to the young man’s house and knocked at the door. The damsel opened to her and seeing her clad in devotee’s apparel,[FN#184] saluted her and said to her, ’ Belike thou hast an occasion with us?’ ‘Yes,’ answered the old woman; ’I desire privacy and ablution.’[FN#185] Quoth the girl, ‘Enter.’ So she entered and did her occasion and made the ablution and prayed. Then she brought out a rosary and began to tell her beads thereon, and the damsel said to her, ’Whence comest thou, O pilgrim?’[FN#186] Quoth she ’[I come] from [visiting] the Idol[FN#187] of the Absent in such a church.[FN#188] There standeth up no woman [to prayer] before him, who hath an absent friend and discovereth to him her need, but he acquainteth her with her case and giveth her tidings of her absent one.’ ‘O pilgrim,’ said the damsel, ’we have an absent one, and my lord’s heart cleaveth to him and I desire to go to the idol and question him of him.’ Quoth the old woman, ’[Wait] till to-morrow and ask leave of thy husband, and I will come to thee and go with thee in weal.’
Then she went away, and when the girl’s master came, she sought his leave to go with the old woman and he granted her leave. So the beldam took her and carried her to the king’s door. The damsel entered with her, unknowing whither she went, and beheld a goodly house and chambers adorned [with gold and colours] that were no idol’s chambers. Then came the king and seeing her beauty and grace, went up to her, to kiss her; whereupon she fell down in a fit and strove with her hands and feet. When he saw this, he was solicitous for her and held aloof from her and left her; but the thing was grievous to her and she refused meat and drink, and as often as the king drew near her, she fled from him in affright, wherefore he swore by Allah that he would not approach her, save with her consent, and fell to guerdoning her with trinkets and raiment, but she only redoubled in aversion to him.
Meanwhile, the youth her master abode expecting her; but she returned not and his heart forbode him of the draught [of separation]; so he went forth at hazard, distraught and knowing not what he should do, and fell to strewing dust upon his head and crying out, ‘The old woman hath taken her and gone away!’ The boys followed him with stones and pelted him, saying, ’A madman! A madman!’ Presently, the king’s chamberlain, who was a man of age and worth, met him, and when he saw his youth, he forbade the boys and drove there away from him, after which he accosted him and questioned him of his case. So he told him how it was with him and the chamberlain said to him, ’Fear not: all shall yet be well with thee. I will deliver thy slave-girl for thee: so calm thy trouble.’ And he went on to speak him fair and comfort him, till he put faith in his speech.
Then he carried him to his house and stripping him of his clothes, clad him in rags; after which he called an old woman, who was his stewardess, and said to her. ’Take this youth and clap on his neck this iron chain and go round about with him in all the thoroughfares of the city; and when thou hast made an end of this, go up with him to the palace of the king.’ And he said to the youth, ’In whatsoever place thou seest the damsel, speak not a syllable, but acquaint me with her place and thou shall owe her deliverance to none but me.’ The youth thanked him and went with the old woman on such wise as the chamberlain bade him. She fared on with him till they entered the city [and made the round thereof]; after which she went up to the palace of the king and fell to saying, ’O people of affluence, look on a youth whom the devils take twice in the day and pray for preservation from [a like] affliction!’ And she ceased not to go round about with him till she came to the eastern wing[FN#189] of the palace, whereupon the slave-girls came out to look upon him and when they saw him they were amazed at his beauty and grace and wept for him.
Then they told the damsel, who came forth and looked upon him and knew him not. But he knew her; so he bowed his head and wept. She was moved to compassion for him and gave him somewhat and returned to her place, whilst the youth returned with the stewardess to the chamberlain and told him that she was in the king’s house, whereat he was chagrined and said, ’By Allah, I will assuredly contrive a device for her and deliver her!’ Whereupon the youth kissed his hands and feet. Then he turned to the old woman and bade her change her apparel and her favour. Now this old woman was goodly of speech and nimble of wit; so he gave her costly and delicious perfumes and said to her, ’Get thee to the king’s slave girls and sell them these [perfumes] and make thy way to the damsel and question her if she desire her master or not.’ So the old woman went out and making her way to the palace, went in to the damsel and drew near her and recited the following verses:
God keep the days of love-delight! How dearly
sweet they were!
How joyous and how solaceful was life in them whilere!
Would he were not who sundered us upon the parting day! How many
a body hath he slain, how many a bone laid bare?
Sans fault of mine, my blood and tears he shed and beggared me Of
him I love, yet for himself gained nought thereby whate’er.
When the damsel heard these verses, she wept till her clothes were drenched and drew near the old woman, who said to her, ‘Knowest thou such an one?’ And wept and said, ’He is my lord. Whence knowest thou him?’ ‘O my lady,’ answered the old woman, ’sawst thou not the madman who came hither yesterday with the old woman? He was thy lord. But this is no time for talk. When it is night, get thee to the top of the palace [and wait] on the roof till thy lord come to thee and contrive for thy deliverance.’ Then she gave her what she would of perfumes and returning to the chamberlain, acquainted him with that which had passed, and he told the youth.
When it was eventide, the chamberlain let bring two horses and great store of water and victual and a saddle-camel and a man to show them the way. These he hid without the town, whilst he and the young man took with them a long rope, made fast to a staple, and repaired to the palace. When they came thither, they looked and beheld the damsel standing on the roof. So they threw her the rope and the staple; whereupon she [made the latter fast to the parapet and] wrapping her sleeves about her hands, slid down [the rope] and landed with them. They carried her without the town, where they mounted, she and her lord, and fared on, whilst the guide forewent them, directing them in the way, and they gave not over going night and day till they entered his father’s house. The young man saluted his father, who rejoiced in him, and he related to him all that had befallen him, whereupon he rejoiced in his safety.
As for the governor, he wasted all that was with him and returned to the city, where he saw the youth and excused himself to him. Then he questioned him of what had befallen him and he told him, whereat he marvelled and returned to companionship with him; but the youth ceased to have regard for him and gave him not stipends, as of his [former] wont, neither discovered to him aught of his secrets. When the governor saw that there was no profit for him with the young Khorassani, he returned to the king, the ravisher of the damsel, and told him what the chamberlain had done and counselled him to slay the latter and incited him to recover the damsel, [promising] to give his friend to drink of poison and return. So the king sent for the chamberlain and upbraided him; whereupon he fell upon him and slew him and the king’s servants fell upon the chamberlain and slew him.
Meanwhile, the governor returned to the youth, who questioned him of his absence, and he told him that he had been in the city of the king who had taken the damsel. When the youth heard this, he misdoubted of the governor and never again trusted him in aught, but was still on his guard against him. Then the governor made great store of sweetmeats and put in them deadly poison and presented them to the youth. When the latter saw the sweetmeats, he said in himself, ’This is an extraordinary thing of the governor! Needs must there be mischief in this sweetmeat, and I will make proof of it upon himself.’ So he made ready victual and set on the sweetmeat amongst it and bade the governor to his house and set food before him. He ate and amongst the rest, they brought him the poisoned sweetmeat; so he ate thereof and died forthright; whereby the youth knew that this was a plot against himself and said, ’He who seeketh his fortune of his own [unaided] might[FN#190] attaineth it not.’ Nor (continued the vizier) is this, O king of the age, more extraordinary than the story of the druggist and his wife and the singer.”
When King Shah Bekht heard his vizier’s story, he gave him leave to withdraw to his own house and he abode there the rest of the night and the next day till the evening.
The Second Night of the Month
When the evening evened, the king sat in his privy sitting-chamber and his mind was occupied with the story of the singer and the druggist. So he called the vizier and bade him tell the story. “It is well,” answered he, “They tell, O my lord, that
There was once in the city of Hemadan[FN#191] a young man of comely aspect and excellently skilled in singing to the lute, and he was well seen of the people of the city. He went forth one day of his city, with intent to travel, and gave not over journeying till his travel brought him to a goodly city. Now he had with him a lute and what pertained thereto,[FN#192] so he entered and went round about the city till he
So he went round about, as the druggist bade him, till the sun grew hot, but found none drinking. Then he entered a by-street, that he might rest himself, and seeing there a handsome and lofty house, stood in its shade and fell to observing the goodliness of its ordinance. As he was thus engaged, behold, a window opened and there appeared thereat a face, as it were the moon. Quoth she,[FN#193] ’What aileth thee to stand there? Dost thou want aught?’ And he answered, ‘I am a stranger,’ and acquainted her with his case; whereupon quoth she, ’What sayst thou to meat and drink and the enjoyment of a fair-face[d one] and getting thee what thou mayst spend?’ ‘O my lady,’ answered he, ’this is my desire and that in quest whereof I am going about.’
So she opened the door to him and brought him in. Then she seated him at the upper end of the room and set food before him. So he ate and drank and lay with her and swived her. Then she sat down in his lap and they toyed and laughed and kissed till the day was half spent, when her husband came home and she could find nothing for it but to hide the singer in a rug, in which she rolled him up. The husband entered and seeing the place disordered[FN#194] and smelling the odour of wine, questioned her of this. Quoth she, ’I had with me a friend of mine and I conjured her [to drink with me]; so we drank a jar [of wine], she and I, and she went away but now, before thy coming in.’ Her husband, (who was none other than the singer’s friend the druggist, that had invited him and fed him), deemed her words true and went away to his shop, whereupon the singer came forth and he and the lady returned to their sport and abode on this wise till eventide, when she gave him money and said to him, ’Come hither to-morrow in the forenoon.’ ‘It is well,’ answered he and departed; and at nightfall he went to the bath.
On the morrow, he betook himself to the shop of his friend the druggist, who welcomed him and questioned him of his case and how he had fared that day. Quoth the singer, ’May God requite thee with good, O my brother! For that thou hast directed me unto easance!’ And he related to him his adventure with the woman, till he came to the mention of her husband, when he said, ’And at midday came the cuckold her husband and knocked at the door.
Now the singer had entered and the druggist’s wife said to him, ‘Arise, enter this chest.’ So he entered it and she shut the lid on him and opened to her husband, who came in, in a state of bewilderment, and searched the house, but found none and overlooked the chest. So he said in himself, ’The house [of which the singer spoke] is one which resembleth my house and the woman is one who resembles my wife,’ and returned to his shop; whereupon the singer came forth of the chest and falling upon the druggist’s wife, did his occasion and paid her her due and weighed down the scale for her.[FN#196] Then they ate and drank and kissed and clipped, and on this wise they abode till the evening, when she gave him money, for that she found his weaving good,[FN#197] and made him promise to come to her on the morrow.
So he left her and slept his night and on the morrow he repaired to the shop of his friend the druggist and saluted him. The other welcomed him and questioned him of his case; whereupon he told him how he had fared, till he came to the mention of the woman’s husband, when he said, ’Then came the cuckold her husband and she clapped me into the chest and shut the lid on me, whilst her addlepated pimp of a husband went round about the house, top and bottom; and when he had gone his way, we returned to what we were about.’ With this, the druggist was certified that the house was his house and the wife his wife, and he said, ’And what wilt thou do to-day?’ Quoth the singer, ’I shall return to her and weave for her and full her yarn,[FN#198] and I came but to thank thee for thy dealing with me.’
Then he went away, whilst the fire was loosed in the heart of the druggist and he shut his shop and betaking himself to his house, knocked at the door. Quoth the singer, ’Let me get into the chest, for he saw me not yesterday.’ ‘Nay,’ answered she, ’wrap thyself up in the rug.’ So he wrapped himself up in the rug and stood in a corner of the room, whilst the druggist entered and went straight to the chest, but found it empty. Then he went round about the house and searched it from top to bottom, but found nothing and no one and abode between belief and disbelief, and said in himself, ’Belike, I suspect my wife of that which is not in her.’ So he was certified of her innocence and returned to his shop, whereupon out came the singer and they abode on their former case, as of wont, till eventide, when she gave him one of her husband’s shirts and he took it and going away, passed the night in his lodging.
On the morrow, he repaired to the druggist, who saluted him and came to meet him and rejoiced in him and smiled in his face, deeming his wife innocent. Then he questioned him of his yesterday’s case and he told him how he had fared, saying, ’O my brother, when the cuckold knocked at the door, I would have entered the chest; but his wife forbade me and rolled me up in the rug. The man entered and thought of nothing but the chest; so he broke it open and abode as he were a madman, going up and coming down. Then he went his way and I came out and we abode on our wonted case till eventide, when she gave me this shirt of her husband’s; and behold, I am going to her.’
When the druggist heard the singer’s words, he was certified of the case and knew that the calamity, all of it, was in his own house and that the wife was his wife; and he saw the shirt, whereupon he redoubled in certainty and said to the singer, ’Art thou now going to her?’ ‘Yes, O my brother,’ answered he and taking leave of him, went away; whereupon the druggist started up, as he were a madman, and ungarnished his shop.[FN#199] Whilst he was thus engaged, the singer won to the house, and presently up came the druggist and knocked at the door. The singer would have wrapped himself up in the rug, but she forbade him and said to him, ’Get thee down to the bottom of the house and enter the oven[FN#200] and shut the lid upon thyself.’ So he did as she bade him and she went down to her husband and opened the door to him, whereupon he entered and went round about the house, but found no one and overlooked the oven. So he stood meditating and swore that he would not go forth of the house till the morrow.
As for the singer, when his [stay in the oven] grew long upon him, he came forth therefrom, thinking that her husband had gone away. Then he went up to the roof and looking down, beheld his friend the druggist; whereat he was sore concerned and said in himself, ’Alas, the disgrace of it! This is my friend the druggist, who dealt kindly with me and wrought me fair and I have requited him with foul’ And he feared to return to the druggist; so he went down and opened the first door and would have gone out; but, when he came to the outer door, he found it locked and saw not the key. So he stole up again to the roof and cast himself down into the [next] house. The people of the house heard him and hastened to him, deeming him a thief. Now the house in question belonged to a Persian; so they laid hands on him and the master of the house began to beat him, saying to him, ’Thou art a thief.’ ‘Nay,’ answered he, ’I am no thief, but a singing-man, a stranger. I heard your voices and came to sing to you.’
When the folk heard his words, they talked of letting him go; but the Persian said, ’O folk, let not his speech beguile you. This fellow is none other than a thief who knoweth how to sing, and when he happeneth on the like of us, he is a singer.’ ’O our lord,’ answered they, ’this man is a stranger, and needs must we release him.’ Quoth he, ’By Allah, my heart revolteth from this fellow! Let me make an end of him with beating.’ But they said, ‘Thou mayst nowise do that’ So they delivered the singer from the Persian, the master of the house, and seated him amongst them, whereupon he fell to singing to them and they rejoiced in him.
Now the Persian had a mameluke,[FN#201] as he were the full moon, and he arose [and went out], and the singer followed him and wept before him, professing love to him and kissing his hands and feet. The mameluke took compassion on him and said to him, ’When the night cometh and my master entereth [the harem] and the folk go away, I will grant thee thy desire; and I lie in such a place.’ Then the singer returned and sat with the boon-companions, and the Persian rose and went out, he and the mameluke beside him. [Then they returned and sat down.][FN#202] Now the singer knew the place that the mameluke occupied at the first of the night; but it befell that he rose from his place and the candle went out. The Persian, who was drunken, fell over on his face, and the singer, supposing him to be the mameluke, said, ‘By Allah, it is good!’ and threw himself upon him and clipped him, whereupon the Persian started up, crying out, and laying hands on the singer, pinioned him and beat him grievously, after which he bound him to a tree that was in the house.[FN#203]
Now there was in the house a fair singing-girl and when she saw the singer pinioned and bound to the tree, she waited till the Persian lay down on his couch, when she arose and going to the singer, fell to condoling with him over what had betided him and ogling him and handling his yard and rubbing it, till it rose on end. Then said she to him, ’Do thou swive me and I will loose thy bonds, lest he return and beat thee again; for he purposeth thee evil.’ Quoth he, ‘Loose me and I will do.’ But she said, ’I fear that, [if I loose thee], thou wilt not do. But I will do, and thou standing; and when I have done, I will loose thee.’ So saying, she pulled up her clothes and sitting down on the singer’s yard, fell to going and coming.
Now there was in the house a ram, with which the Persian used to butt, and when he saw what the woman did, he thought she would butt with him; so he broke his halter and running at her, butted her and broke her head. She fell on her back and cried out; whereupon the Persian started up from sleep in haste and seeing the singing-girl [cast down on her back] and the singer with his yard on end, said to the latter, ’O accursed one, doth not what thou hast already done suffice thee?’ Then he beat him soundly and opening the door, put him out in the middle of the night.
He lay the rest of the night in one of the ruins, and when he arose in the morning, he said, ’None is to blame. I sought my own good, and he is no fool who seeketh good for himself; and the druggist’s wife also sought good for herself; but destiny overcometh precaution and there remaineth no abiding for me in this town.’ So he went forth from the city. Nor (added the vizier) is this story, extraordinary though it be, more extraordinary than that of the king and his son and that which bedded them of wonders and rarities.”
When the king heard this story, he deemed it pleasant and said, “This story is near unto that which I know and meseemeth I should do well to have patience and hasten not to slay my vizier, so I may get of him the story of the king and his son.” Then he gave the vizier leave to go away to his own house; so he thanked him and abode in his house all that day.
The Third Night of the Month
When it was the time of the evening meal, the king repaired to the sitting-chamber and summoning the vizier, sought of him the story he had promised him; and the vizier said, “They avouch, O king, that
the king who knew the
quintessence[FN#204] of things.
There came to a king of the kings, in his old age, a son, who grew up comely, quick-witted and intelligent, and when he came to years of discretion and became a young man, his father said to him, ’Take this kingdom and govern it in my stead, for I desire to flee [from the world] to God the Most High and don the gown of wool and give myself up to devotion.’ Quoth the prince, ’And I also desire to take refuge with God the Most High.’ And the king said, ’Arise, let us flee forth and make for the mountains and worship in them, for shamefastness before God the Most High.’
So they gat them raiment of wool and clothing themselves therewith, went forth and wandered in the deserts and wastes; but, when some days had passed over them, they became weak for hunger and repented them of that which they had done, whenas repentance profited them not, and the prince complained to his father of weariness and hunger. ‘Dear my son,’ answered the king, ’I did with thee that which behoved me,[FN#205] but thou wouldst not hearken to me, and now there is no means of returning to thy former estate, for that another hath taken the kingdom and become its defender; but I will counsel thee of somewhat, wherein do thou pleasure me.’ Quoth the prince, ‘What is it?’ And his father said, ’Take me and go with me to the market and sell me and take my price and do with it what thou wilt, and I shall become the property of one who will provide for my support,’ ’Who will buy thee of me,’ asked the prince, ’seeing thou art a very old man? Nay, do thou rather sell me, for the demand for me will be greater.’ But the king said, ’An thou wert king, thou wouldst require me of service.’
So the youth obeyed his father’s commandment and taking him, carried him to the slave-dealer and said to the latter, ’Sell me this old man.’ Quoth the dealer, ’Who will buy this fellow, and he a man of fourscore?’ Then said he to the king, ’In what crafts dost thou excel?’ Quoth he, ’I know the quintessence of jewels and I know the quintessence of horses and that of men; brief, I know the quintessence of all things.’ So the dealer took him and went about, offering him for sale to the folk; but none would buy. Presently, up came the overseer of the [Sultan’s] kitchen and said, ‘What is this man?’ And the dealer answered, ’This is a slave for sale.’ The cook marvelled at this and bought the king for ten thousand dirhems, after questioning him of what he could do. Then he paid down the money and carried him to his house, but dared not employ him in aught of service; so he appointed him an allowance, such as should suffice for his livelihood, and repented him of having bought him, saying, ’What shall I do with the like of this fellow?’
Presently, the king [of the city] was minded to go forth to his garden,[FN#206] a-pleasuring, and bade the cook forego him thither and appoint in his stead one who should dress meat for the king, so that, when he returned, he might find it ready. So the cook fell a-considering of whom he should appoint and was bewildered concerning his affair. As he was on this wise, the old man came to him and seeing him perplexed how he should do, said to him, ’Tell me what is in thy mind; belike, I may avail to relieve thee.’ So he acquainted him with the king’s wishes and he said, ’Have no care for this, but leave me one of the serving-men and go thou in peace and surety, for I will suffice thee of this.’ So the cook departed with the king, after he had brought the old man what he needed and left him a man of the guards.
When he was gone, the old man bade the trooper wash the kitchen-vessels and made ready passing goodly food. When the king returned, he set the meat before him, and he tasted food whose like he had never known; whereat he marvelled and asked who had dressed it. So they acquainted him with the old man’s case and he summoned him to his presence and awarded him a handsome recompense.[FN#207] Moreover, he commanded that they should cook together, he and the cook, and the old man obeyed his commandment.
Awhile after this, there came two merchants to the king with two pearls of price and each of them avouched that his pearl was worth a thousand dinars, but there was none who availed to value them. Then said the cook, ’God prosper the king! Verily, the old man whom I bought avouched that he knew the quintessence of jewels and that he was skilled in cookery. We have made proof of him in cookery and have found him the skilfullest of men; and now, if we send after him and prove him on jewels, [the truth or falsehood of] his pretension will be made manifest to us.’
So the king bade fetch the old man and he came and stood before the Sultan, who showed him the two pearls. Quoth he, ’As for this one, it is worth a thousand dinars.’ And the king said, ’So saith its owner.’ ‘But for this other,’ continued the old man, ’it is worth but five hundred.’ The folk laughed and marvelled at his saying, and the merchant, [the owner of the second pearl], said to him, ’How can this, which is greater of bulk and purer of water and more perfect of rondure, be less of worth than that?’ And the old man answered, ’I have said what is with me.’[FN#208] Then said the king to him, ’Indeed, the outward appearance thereof is like unto that of the other pearl; why then is it worth but the half of its price?’ ‘Yes,’ answered the old man, ‘[its outward resembleth the other]; but its inward is corrupt.’ ‘Hath a pearl then an outward and an inward?’ asked the merchant, and the old man said, ’Yes. In its inward is a boring worm; but the other pearl is sound and secure against breakage.’ Quoth the merchant, ’Give us a token of this and prove to us the truth of thy saying.’ And the old man answered, ’We will break the pearl. If I prove a, liar, here is my head, and if I speak truth, thou wilt have lost thy pearl.’ And the merchant said, ’I agree to that.’ So they broke the pearl and it was even as the old man had said, to wit, in its midst was a boring worm.
The king marvelled at what he saw and questioned him of [how he came by] the knowledge of this. ‘O king,’ answered the old man, ’this [kind of] jewel is engendered in the belly of a creature called the oyster and its origin is a drop of rain and it is firm to the touch [and groweth not warm, when held in the hand]; so, when [I took the second pearl and felt that] it was warm to the touch, I knew that it harboured some living thing, for that live things thrive not but in heat.’[FN#209] So the king said to the cook, ‘Increase his allowance.’ And he appointed to him [fresh] allowances.
Awhile after this, two merchants presented themselves to the king with two horses, and one said, ’I ask a thousand dinars for my horse,’ and the other, ‘I seek five thousand for mine.’ Quoth the cook, ’We have experienced the old man’s just judgment; what deemeth the king of fetching him?’ So the king bade fetch him, and when he saw the two horses, he said, ’This one is worth a thousand and the other two thousand dinars.’ Quoth the folk, ’This [horse that thou judgeth the lesser worth] is an evident thoroughbred and he is younger and swifter and more compact of limb than the other, ay, and finer of head and clearer of skin and colour. What token, then, hast thou of the truth of thy saying?’ And the old man said, ’This ye say is all true, but his sire is old and this other is the son of a young horse. Now, when the son of an old horse standeth still [to rest,] his breath returneth not to him and his rider falleth into the hand of him who followeth after him; but the son of a young horse, if thou put him to speed and make him run, [then check him] and alight from off him, thou wilt find him untired, by reason of his robustness.’
Quoth the merchant, ’Indeed, it is as the old man avoucheth and he is an excellent judge.’ And the king said, ’Increase his allowance.’ But the old man stood still and did not go away. So the king said to him, ‘Why dost thou not go about thy business?’ And he answered, ‘My business is with the king.’ ’Name what thou wouldst have,’ said the king, and the other replied, ’I would have thee question me of the quintessences of men, even as thou hast questioned me of the quintessences of horses.’ Quoth the king, ‘We have no occasion to question thee of [this].’ But the old man replied, ‘I have occasion to acquaint thee.’ ’Say what thou pleasest,’ rejoined the king, and the old man said, ’Verily, the king is the son of a baker.’ Quoth the king ’How knowest thou that?’ And the other replied, ’Know, O king, that I have examined into degrees and dignities[FN#210] and have learnt this.’
Thereupon the king went in to his mother and questioned her of his father, and she told him that me king her husband was weak;[FN#211] ‘wherefore,’ quoth she, ’I feared for the kingdom, lest it pass away, after his death; so I took to my bed a young man, a baker, and conceived by him [and bore a son]; and the kingship came into the hand of my son, to wit, thyself.’ So the king returned to the old man and said to him, ’I am indeed the son of a baker; so do thou expound to me the means whereby thou knewest me for this.’ Quoth the other, ’I knew that, hadst thou been a king’s son, thou wouldst have given largesse of things of price, such as rubies [and the like]; and wert thou the son of a Cadi, thou hadst given largesse of a dirhem or two dirhems, and wert thou the son of a merchant, thou hadst given wealth galore. But I saw that thou guerdonest me not but with cakes of bread [and other victual], wherefore I knew that thou wast the son of a baker.’ Quoth the king, ‘Thou hast hit the mark.’ And he gave him wealth galore and advanced him to high estate.”
This story pleased King Shah Bekht and he marvelled thereat; but the vizier said to him, “This story is not more extraordinary than that of the rich man who married his fair daughter to the poor old man.” The king’s mind was occupied with the [promised] story and he bade the vizier withdraw to his lodging. So he [returned to his house and] abode there the rest of the night and the whole of the following day.
The Fourth Night of the Month.
When the evening evened, the king withdrew to his privy sitting-chamber and bade fetch the vizier. When he presented himself before him, he said to him, “Tell me the story of the wealthy man who married his daughter to the poor old man.” “It is well,” answered the vizier. “Know, O puissant king, that
Story of the
rich man who gave his fair
daughter in marriage to the poor old
A certain wealthy merchant had a fair daughter, who was as the full moon, and when she attained the age of fifteen, her father betook himself to an old man and spreading him a carpet in his sitting-chamber, gave him to eat and caroused with him. Then said he to him, ‘I desire to marry thee to my daughter.’ The other excused himself, because of his poverty, and said to him, ’I am not worthy of her nor am I a match for thee.’ The merchant was instant with him, but he repeated his answer to him, saying, ’I will not consent to this till thou acquaint me with the reason of thy desire for me. If I find it reasonable, I will fall in with thy wish; and if not, I will not do this ever.’
‘Know, then,’ said the merchant, ’that I am a man from the land of China and was in my youth well-favoured and well-to-do. Now I made no account of womankind, one and all, but followed after boys, and one night I saw, in a dream, as it were a balance set up, and it was said by it, “This is the portion of such an one.” Presently, I heard my own name; so I looked and beheld a woman of the utmost loathliness; whereupon I awoke in affright and said, “I will never marry, lest haply this loathly woman fall to my lot.” Then I set out for this city with merchandise and the voyage was pleasant to me and the sojourn here, so that I took up my abode here awhile and got me friends and factors, till I had sold all my merchandise and taken its price and there was left me nothing to occupy me till the folk[FN#212] should depart and depart with them.
One day, I changed my clothes and putting money in my sleeve, sallied forth to explore the holes and corners of this city, and as I was going about, I saw a handsome house. Its goodliness pleased me; so I stood looking on it, and behold, a lovely woman [at the lattice]. When she saw me, she made haste and descended, whilst I abode confounded. Then I betook myself to a tailor there and questioned him of the house and to whom it belonged. Quoth he, “It belongeth to such an one the notary, may God curse him!” “Is he her father?” asked I; [and he replied, “Yes.”] So I repaired in haste to a man, with whom I had been used to deposit my goods for sale, and told him that I desired to gain access to such an one the notary. Accordingly he assembled his friends and we betook ourselves to the notary’s house. When we came in to him, we saluted him and sat with him, and I said to him, “I come to thee as a suitor, desiring the hand of thy daughter in marriage.” Quoth he, “I have no daughter befitting this man.” And I rejoined, “God aid thee! My desire is for thee and not for her."[FN#213] But he still refused and his friends said to him, “This is an honourable man and thine equal in estate, and it is not lawful to thee that thou hinder the girl of her fortune.” Quoth he to them, “Verily, my daughter whom ye seek is passing foul-favoured and in her are all blameworthy qualities.” And I said, “I accept her, though she be as thou sayest.” Then said the folk, “Extolled be the perfection of God! A truce to talk! [The thing is settled;] so say the word, how much wilt thou have [to her dowry]?” Quoth he, “I must have four thousand dinars.” And I said, “Hearkening and obedience.”
So the affair was concluded and we drew up the contract of marriage and I made the bride-feast; but on the wedding-night I beheld a thing[FN#214] than which never made God the Most High aught more loathly. Methought her people had contrived this by way of sport; so I laughed and looked for my mistress, whom I had seen [at the lattice], to make her appearance; but saw her not. When the affair was prolonged and I found none but her, I was like to go mad for vexation and fell to beseeching my Lord and humbling myself in supplication to Him that He would deliver me from her. When I arose in the morning, there came the chamber-woman and said to me, “Hast thou occasion for the bath?” “No,” answered I; and she said, “Art thou for breakfast?” But I replied, “No;” and on this wise I abode three days, tasting neither meat nor drink.
When the damsel[FN#215] saw me in this plight, she said to me, “O man, tell me thy story, for, by Allah, an I may avail to thy deliverance, I will assuredly further thee thereto.” I gave ear to her speech and put faith in her loyalty and told her the story of the damsel whom I had seen [at the lattice] and how I had fallen in love with her; whereupon quoth she, “If the girl belong to me, that which I possess is thine, and if she belong to my father, I will demand her of him and deliver her to thee.” Then she fell to calling slave-girl after slave-girl and showing them to me, till I saw the damsel whom I loved and said, “This is she.” Quoth my wife, “Let not thy heart be troubled, for this is my slave-girl. My father gave her to me and I give her to thee. So comfort thyself and be of good heart and cheerful eye.”
Then, when it was night, she brought her to me, after she had adorned her and perfumed her, and said to her, “Gainsay not this thy lord in aught that he shall seek of thee.” When she came to bed with me, I said in myself, “Verily, this damsel[FN#216] is more generous than I!” Then I sent away the slave-girl and drew not nigh unto her, but arose forthright and betaking myself to my wife, lay with her and did away her maidenhead. She straightway conceived by me and accomplishing the time of her pregnancy, gave birth to this dear little daughter; in whom I rejoiced, for that she was lovely to the utterest, and she hath inherited her mother’s wit and her father’s comeliness.
Indeed, many of the notables of the people have sought her of me in marriage, but I would not marry her to any, for that, one night, I saw, in a dream, the balance aforesaid set up and men and women being weighed, one against the other, therein, and meseemed I saw thee [and her] and it was said to me, “This is such a man,[FN#217] the allotted portion of such a woman."[FN#218] Wherefore I knew that God the Most High had allotted unto her none other than thyself, and I choose rather to marry thee to her in my lifetime than that thou shouldst marry her after my death.’
When the poor man heard the merchant’s story, he became desirous of marrying his daughter. So he took her to wife and was vouchsafed of her exceeding love. Nor,” added the vizier, “is this story more extraordinary than that of the rich man and his wasteful heir.”
When the king heard his vizier’s story, he was assured that he would not slay him and said, “I will have patience with him, so I may get of him the story of the rich man and his wasteful heir.” And he bade him depart to his own house.
The Fifth Night of the Month
When the evening evened, the king sat in his privy closet and summoning the vizier, required of him the promised story. So Er Rehwan said, “Know, O king, that
STORY OF THE RICH MAN AND HIS WASTEFUL SON.
There was once a sage of the sages, who had three sons and sons’ sons, and when they waxed many and their posterity multiplied, there befell dissension between them. So he assembled them and said to them, ’Be ye one hand[FN#219] against other than you and despise[FN#220] not [one another,] lest the folk despise you, and know that the like of you is as the rope which the man cut, when it was single; then he doubled [it] and availed not to cut it; on this wise is division and union. And beware lest ye seek help of others against yourselves[FN#221] or ye will fall into perdition, for by whosesoever means ye attain your desire,[FN#222] his word[FN#223] will have precedence of[FN#224] your word. Now I have wealth which I will bury in a certain place, so it may be a store for you, against the time of your need.’
Then they left him and dispersed and one of the sons fell to spying upon his father, so that he saw him hide the treasure without the city. When he had made an end of burying it, he returned to his house; and when the morning morrowed, his son repaired to the place where he had seen his father bury the treasure and dug and took it and went his way. When the [hour of the] old man’s admission [to the mercy of God] drew nigh, he called his sons to him and acquainted them with the place where he had hidden his riches. As soon as he was dead, they went and dug up the treasure and found wealth galore, for that the money, which the first son had taken by stealth, was on the surface and he knew not that under it was other money. So they took it and divided it and the first son took his share with the rest and laid it to that which he had taken aforetime, behind [the backs of] his father and his brethren. Then he took to wife the daughter of his father’s brother and was vouchsafed by her a male child, who was the goodliest of the folk of his time.
When the boy grew up, his father feared for him from poverty and change of case, so he said to him, ’Dear my son, know that in my youth I wronged my brothers in the matter of our father’s good, and I see thee in weal; but, if thou [come to] need, ask not of one of them nor of any other, for I have laid up for thee in yonder chamber a treasure; but do not thou open it until thou come to lack thy day’s food.’ Then he died, and his wealth, which was a great matter, fell to his son. The young man had not patience to wait till he had made an end of that which was with him, but rose and opened the chamber, and behold, it was [empty and its walls were] whitened, and in its midst was a rope hanging down and half a score bricks, one upon another, and a scroll, wherein was written, ’Needs must death betide; so hang thyself and beg not of any, but kick away the bricks, so there may be no escape[FN#225] for thee, and thou shall be at rest from the exultation of enemies and enviers and the bitterness of poverty.’
When the youth saw this, he marvelled at that which his father had done and said, ‘This is a sorry treasure.’ Then he went forth and fell to eating and drinking with the folk, till nothing was left him and he abode two days without tasting food, at the end of which time he took a handkerchief and selling it for two dirhems, bought bread and milk with the price and left it on the shelf [and went out. Whilst he was gone,] a dog came and took the bread and spoiled the milk, and when the man returned and saw this, he buffeted his face and went forth, distraught, at a venture. Presently, he met a friend of his, to whom he discovered his case, and the other said to him, ’Art thou not ashamed to talk thus? How hast thou wasted all this wealth and now comest telling lies and saying, “The dog hath mounted on the shelf,” and talking nonsense?’ And he reviled him.
So the youth returned to his house, and indeed the world was grown black in his eyes and he said, ‘My father said sooth.’ Then he opened the chamber door and piling up the bricks under his feet, put the rope about his neck and kicked away the bricks and swung himself off; whereupon the rope gave way with him [and he fell] to the ground and the ceiling clove in sunder and there poured down on him wealth galore, So he knew that his father meant to discipline[FN#226] him by means of this and invoked God’s mercy on him. Then he got him again that which he had sold of lands and houses and what not else and became once more in good case. Moreover, his friends returned to him and he entertained them some days.
Then said he to them one day, ’There was with us bread and the locusts ate it; so we put in its place a stone, a cubit long and the like broad, and the locusts came and gnawed away the stone, because of the smell of the bread.’ Quoth one of his friends (and it was he who had given him the lie concerning the dog and the bread and milk), ’Marvel not at this, for mice do more than that.’ And he said, ’Go to your houses. In the days of my poverty, I was a liar [when I told you] of the dog’s climbing upon the shelf and eating the bread and spoiling the milk; and to-day, for that I am rich again, I say sooth [when I tell you] that locusts devoured a stone a cubit long and a cubit broad.’ They were confounded at his speech and departed from him; and the youth’s good flourished and his case was amended.[FN#227] Nor,” added the vizier,"is this stranger or more extraordinary than the story of the king’s son who fell in love with the picture.”
Quoth the king, “Belike, if I hear this story, I shall gain wisdom from it; so I will not hasten in the slaying of this vizier, nor will I put him to death before the thirty days have expired.” Then he gave him leave to withdraw, and he went away to his own house.
The Sixth Night of the Month
When the day departed and the evening came, the king sat in his privy chamber and summoned the vizier, who presented himself to him and he questioned him of the story. So the vizier said, “Know, O august king, that
son who fell in love with
There was once, in a province of Persia, a king of the kings, who was mighty of estate, endowed with majesty and venerance and having troops and guards at his command; but he was childless. Towards the end of his life, his Lord vouchsafed him a male child, and the boy grew up and was comely and learned all manner of knowledge. He made him a private place, to wit, a lofty palace, builded with coloured marbles and [adorned with] jewels and paintings. When the prince entered the palace, he saw in its ceiling the picture [of a woman], than whom he had never beheld a fairer of aspect, and she was compassed about with slave-girls; whereupon he fell down in a swoon and became distraught for love of her. Then he sat under the picture, till, one day, his father came in to him and finding him wasted of body and changed of colour, by reason of his [continual] looking on that picture, thought that he was ill and sent for the sages and physicians, that they might medicine him. Moreover, he said to one of his boon- companions, ’If thou canst learn what aileth my son, thou shalt have of me largesse.’ So the courtier went in to the prince and spoke him fair and cajoled him, till he confessed to him that his malady was caused by the picture. Then he returned to the king and told him what ailed his son, whereupon he transported the prince to another palace and made his former lodging the guest-house; and whosoever of the Arabs was entertained therein, he questioned of the picture, but none could give him tidings thereof.
One day, there came a traveller and seeing the picture, said, ‘There is no god but God! My brother wrought this picture.’ So the king sent for him and questioned him of the affair of the picture and where was he who had wrought it. ‘O my lord,’ answered the traveller, ’we are two brothers and one of us went to the land of Hind and fell in love with the king’s daughter of the country, and it is she who is the original of the portrait. In every city he entereth, he painteth her portrait, and I follow him, and long is my journey.’ When the king’s son heard this, he said,’Needs must I travel to this damsel.’ So he took all manner rarities and store of riches and journeyed days and nights till he entered the land of Hind, nor did he win thereto save after sore travail. Then he enquired of the King of Hind and he also heard of him.
When the prince came before him, he sought of him his daughter in marriage, and the king said, ’Indeed, thou art her equal, but none dare name a man to her, because of her aversion to men.’ So the prince pitched his tents under the windows of the princess’s palace, till one day he got hold of one of her favourite slave-girls and gave her wealth galore. Quoth she to him, ’Hast thou a wish?’ Yes,’ answered he and acquainted her with his case; and she said, ‘Indeed thou puttest thyself in peril.’
Presently he came to the land of the Turks,[FN#228] and he naked and hungry and having with him nought but somewhat of jewels, bound about his fore-arm. So he went to the bazaar of the goldsmiths and calling one of the brokers, gave him the jewels. The broker looked and seeing two great rubies, said to him, ‘Follow me.’ So he followed him, till he brought him to a goldsmith, to whom he gave the jewels, saying, ‘Buy these.’ Quoth he, ‘Whence hadst thou these?’ And the broker replied, ’This youth is the owner of them.’ Then said the goldsmith to the prince, ‘Whence hadst thou these rubies?’ And he told him all that had befallen him and that he was a king’s son. The goldsmith marvelled at his story and bought of him the rubies for a thousand dinars.
Then said the prince to him, ’Make ready to go with me to my country.’ So he made ready and went with the prince till he drew near the frontiers of his father’s kingdom, where the people received him with the utmost honour and sent to acquaint his father with his son’s coming. The king came out to meet him and they entreated the goldsmith with honour. The prince abode awhile with his father, then set out, [he and the goldsmith] to return to the country of the fair one, the daughter of the King of Hind; but there met him robbers by the way and he fought the sorest of battles and was slain. The goldsmith buried him and marked his grave[FN#229] and returned, sorrowing and distraught to his own country, without telling any of the prince’s death.
To return to the king’s daughter of whom the prince went in quest and on whose account he was slain. She had been used to look out from the top of her palace and gaze on the youth and on his beauty and grace; so she said to her slave-girl one day, ’Harkye! What is come of the troops that were encamped beside my palace?’ Quoth the maid, ’They were the troops of the youth, the king’s son of the Persians, who came to demand thee in marriage, and wearied himself on thine account, but thou hadst no compassion on him.’ ‘Out on thee!’ cried the princess. ’Why didst thou not tell me?’ And the damsel answered, ‘I feared thy wrath.’ Then she sought an audience of the king her father and said to him, ’By Allah, I will go in quest of him, even as he came in quest of me; else should I not do him justice.’
So she made ready and setting out, traversed the deserts and spent treasures till she came to Sejestan, where she called a goldsmith to make her somewhat of trinkets. [Now the goldsmith in question was none other than the prince’s friend]; so, when he saw her, he knew her (for that the prince had talked with him of her and had depictured her to him) and questioned her of her case. She acquainted him with her errand, whereupon he buffeted his face and rent his clothes and strewed dust on his head and fell a-weeping. Quoth she, ‘Why dost thou thus?’ And he acquainted her with the prince’s case and how he was his comrade and told her that he was dead; whereat she grieved for him and faring on to his father and mother, [acquainted them with the case].
So the prince’s father and his uncle and his mother and the grandees of the realm repaired to his tomb and the princess made lamentation over him, crying aloud. She abode by the tomb a whole month; then she let fetch painters and caused them limn her portraiture and that of the king’s son. Moreover, she set down in writing their story and that which had befallen them of perils and afflictions and set it [together with the pictures], at the head of the tomb; and after a little, they departed from the place. Nor,” added the vizier, “is this more extraordinary, O king of the age, than the story of the fuller and his wife and the trooper and what passed between them.”
With this the king bade the vizier go away to his lodging, and when he arose in the morning, he abode his day in his house.
The Seventh Night of the Month.
At eventide the king sat [in his privy sitting-chamber] and sending for the vizier, said to him, “Tell me the story of the fuller and his wife.” “With all my heart,” answered the vizier. So he came forward and said, “Know, O king of the age, that
There was once in a certain city a woman fair of favour, who had to lover a trooper. Her husband was a fuller, and when he went out to his business, the trooper used to come to her and abide with her till the time of the fuller’s return, when he would go away. On this wise they abode awhile, till one day the trooper said to his mistress, ’I mean to take me a house near unto thine and dig an underground passage from my house to thy house, and do thou say to thy husband, “My sister hath been absent with her husband and now they have returned from their travels; and I have made her take up her sojourn in my neighbourhood, so I may foregather with her at all times. So go thou to her husband the trooper and offer him thy wares [for sale], and thou wilt see my sister with him and wilt see that she is I and I am she, without doubt. So, Allah, Allah, go to my sister’s husband and give ear to that which he shall say to thee."’
Accordingly, the trooper bought him a house near at hand and made therein an underground passage communicating with his mistress’s house. When he had accomplished his affair, the wife bespoke her husband as her lover had lessoned her and he went out to go to the trooper’s house, but turned back by the way, whereupon quoth she to him, ’By Allah, go forthright, for that my sister asketh of thee.’ So the dolt of a fuller went out and made for the trooper’s house, whilst his wife forewent him thither by the secret passage, and going up, sat down beside her lover. Presently, the fuller entered and saluted the trooper and his [supposed] wife and was confounded at the coincidence of the case.[FN#230] Then doubt betided him and he returned in haste to his dwelling; but she forewent him by the underground passage to her chamber and donning her wonted clothes, sat [waiting] for him and said to him, ’Did I not bid thee go to my sister and salute her husband and make friends with them?’ Quoth he, ’I did this, but I misdoubted of my affair, when I saw his wife.’ And she said, ’Did I not tell thee that she resembleth me and I her, and there is nought to distinguish between us but our clothes? Go back to her.’
So, of the heaviness of his wit, he believed her and turning back, went in to the trooper; but she had foregone him, and when he saw her beside her lover, he fell to looking on her and pondering. Then he saluted her and she returned him the salutation; and when she spoke, he was bewildered. So the trooper said to him, ‘What ails thee to be thus?’ And he answered, ’This woman is my wife and the voice is her voice.’ Then he rose in haste and returning to his own house, saw his wife, who had foregone him by the secret passage. So he went back to the trooper’s house and saw her sitting as before; whereupon he was abashed before her and sitting down in the trooper’s sitting-chamber, ate and drank with him and became drunken and abode without sense all that day till nightfall, when the trooper arose and shaving off some of the fuller’s hair (which was long and flowing) after the fashion of the Turks, clipped the rest short and clapped a tarboush on his head.
Then he thrust his feet into boots and girt him with a sword and a girdle and bound about his middle a quiver and a bow and arrows. Moreover, he put money in his pocket and thrust into his sleeve letters-patent addressed to the governor of Ispahan, bidding him assign to Rustem Khemartekeni a monthly allowance of a hundred dirhems and ten pounds of bread and five pounds of meat and enrol him among the Turks under his commandment. Then he took him up and carrying him forth, left him in one of the mosques.
The fuller gave not over sleeping till sunrise, when he awoke and finding himself in this plight, misdoubted of his affair and imagined that he was a Turk and abode putting one foot forward and drawing the other back. Then said he in himself, ’I will go to my dwelling, and if my wife know me, then am I Ahmed the fuller; but, if she know me not, I am a Turk.’ So he betook himself to his house; but when the artful baggage his wife saw him, she cried out in his face, saying, ’Whither away, O trooper? Wilt thou break into the house of Ahmed the fuller, and he a man of repute, having a brother-in-law a Turk, a man of high standing with the Sultan? An thou depart not, I will acquaint my husband and he will requite thee thy deed.’
When he heard her words, the dregs of the drunkenness wrought in him and he imagined that he was indeed a Turk. So he went out from her and putting his hand to his sleeve, found therein a scroll and gave it to one who read it to him. When he heard that which was written in the scroll, his mind was confirmed in the false supposition; but he said in himself, ’Maybe my wife seeketh to put a cheat on me; so I will go to my fellows the fullers; and if they know me not, then am I for sure Khemartekeni the Turk.’ So he betook himself to the fullers and when they espied him afar off, they thought that he was one of the Turks, who used to wash their clothes with them without payment and give them nothing.
Now they had complained of them aforetime to the Sultan, and he said, ‘If any of the Turks come to you, pelt them with stones.’ So, when they saw the fuller, they fell upon him with sticks and stones and pelted him; whereupon quoth he [in himself], ’Verily, I am a Turk and knew it not.’ Then he took of the money in his pocket and bought him victual [for the journey] and hired a hackney and set out for Ispahan, leaving his wife to the trooper. Nor,” added the vizier, “is this more extraordinary than the story of the merchant and the old woman and the king.”
The vizier’s story pleased King Shah Bekht and his heart clave to the story of the merchant and the old woman; so he bade Er Rehwan withdraw to his lodging, and he went away to his house and abode there the next day.
The Eight Night of the Month
When the evening evened, the king sat in his privy chamber and bade fetch the vizier, who presented himself before him, and the king required of him the promised story. So the vizier answered, “With all my heart. Know, O king, that
STORY OF THE OLD WOMAN, THE MERCHANT AND THE KING.
There was once in a city of Khorassan a family of affluence and distinction, and the townsfolk used to envy them for that which God had vouchsafed them. As time went on, their fortune ceased from them and they passed away, till there remained of them but one old woman. When she grew feeble and decrepit, the townsfolk succoured her not with aught, but put her forth of the city, saying, ’This old woman shall not harbour with us, for that we do her kindness and she requiteth us with evil.’ So she took shelter in a ruined place and strangers used to bestow alms upon her, and on this wise she abode a while of time.
Now the uncle’s son of the king of the city had aforetime disputed [the kingship] with him, and the people misliked the king; but God the Most High decreed that he should get the better of his cousin. However, jealousy of him abode in his heart and he acquainted the vizier, who hid it not and sent [him] money. Moreover, he fell to summoning [all strangers who came to the town], man after man, and questioning them of their faith and their worldly estate, and whoso answered him not [to his liking], he took his good.[FN#231] Now a certain wealthy man of the Muslims was on a journey and it befell that he arrived at that city by night, unknowing what was to do, and coming to the ruin aforesaid, gave the old woman money and said to her, ’No harm upon thee.’ Whereupon she lifted up her voice and prayed [for him], He set down his merchandise by her [and abode with her] the rest of the night and the next day.
Now thieves had followed him, so they might rob him of his good, but availed not unto aught; wherefore he went up to the old woman and kissed her head and exceeded in munificence to her. Then she [warned him of that which awaited strangers entering the town and] said to him, ’I like not this for thee and I fear mischief for thee from these questions that the vizier hath appointed for the confrontation of the ignorant.’ And she expounded to him the case according to its fashion. Then said she to him, ’But have no concern: only carry me with thee to thy lodging, and if he question thee of aught, whilst I am with thee, I will expound the answers to thee.’ Se he carried her with him to the city and established her in his lodging and entreated her kindly.
Presently, the vizier heard of the merchant’s coming; so he sent to him and let bring him to his house and talked with him awhile of his travels and of that which he had abidden therein, and the merchant answered him thereof. Then said the vizier, ’I will put certain questions to thee, which if thou answer me, it will be well [for thee].’ And the merchant rose and made him no answer. Quoth the vizier, ‘What is the weight of the elephant?’ The merchant was perplexed and returned him no answer and gave himself up for lost. Then said he, ‘Grant me three days’ time.’ So the vizier granted him the delay he sought and he returned to his lodging and related what had passed to the old woman, who said, ’When the morrow cometh, go to the vizier and say to him, “Make a ship and launch it on the sea and put in it an elephant, and when it sinketh in the water, [under the beast’s weight], mark the place to which the water riseth. Then take out the elephant and cast in stones in its place, till the ship sink to the mark aforesaid; whereupon do thou take out the stones and weigh them and thou wilt know the weight of the elephant"’
So, when he arose in the morning, he repaired to the vizier and repeated to him that which the old woman had taught him; whereat the vizier marvelled and said to him, ’What sayst thou of a man, who seeth in his house four holes, and in each a viper offering to come out and kill him, and in his house are four staves and each hole may not be stopped but with the ends of two staves? How shall he stop all the holes and deliver himself from the vipers?’ When the merchant heard this, there betided him [of concern] what made him forget the first and he said to the vizier, ’Grant me time, so I may consider the answer.’ ‘Go out,’ replied the vizier, ‘and bring me the answer, or I will seize thy good.’
The merchant went out and returned to the old woman, who, seeing him changed of colour, said to him, ’What did he ask thee, [may God confound] his hoariness?’ So he acquainted her with the case and she said to him, ’Fear not; I will bring thee forth of this [strait].’ Quoth he, ‘God requite thee with good!’ And she said, ’To-morrow go to him with a stout heart and say, “The answer to that whereof thou askest me is that thou put the heads of two staves into one of the holes; then take the other two staves and lay them across the middle of the first two and stop with their heads the second hole and with their butts the fourth hole. Then take the butts of the first two staves and stop with them the third hole."’[FN#232]
So he repaired to the vizier and repeated to him the answer; and he marvelled at its justness and said to him, ’Go; by Allah, I will ask thee no more questions, for thou with thy skill marrest my foundation.’[FN#233] Then he entreated him friendly and the merchant acquainted him with the affair of the old woman; whereupon quoth the vizier, ’Needs must the man of understanding company with those of understanding.’ Thus did this weak woman restore to that man his life and good on the easiest wise. Nor,” added the vizier, “is this more extraordinary than the story of the credulous husband.”
When the king heard this story, he said, “How like is this to our own case!” Then he bade the vizier retire to his lodging; so he withdrew to his house and on the morrow he abode at home [till the king should summon him to his presence.]
The Ninth Night of the Month.
When the night came, the king sat in his privy chamber and sending after the vizier, sought of him the promised story; and he said, “Know, O august king, that
There was once of old time a foolish, ignorant man, who had wealth galore, and his wife was a fair woman, who loved a handsome youth. The latter used to watch for her husband’s absence and come to her, and on this wise he abode a long while. One day, as the woman was private with her lover, he said to her, ’O my lady and my beloved, if thou desire me and love me, give me possession of thyself
When her husband came home, she said to him, ’I desire to go a-pleasuring.’ And he said, ’ With all my heart.’ So he went, till he came to a goodly place, abounding in vines and water, whither he carried her and pitched her a tent beside a great tree; and she betook herself to a place beside the tent and made her there an underground hiding-place, [in which she hid her lover]. Then said she to her husband, ’I desire to mount this tree.’ And he said, ‘Do so.’ So she climbed up and when she came to the top of the tree, she cried out and buffeted her face, saying, ’Lewd fellow that thou art, are these thy usages? Thou sworest [fidelity to me] and liedst.’ And she repeated her speech twice and thrice.
Then she came down from the tree and rent her clothes and said, ’O villain, if these be thy dealings with me before my eyes, how dost thou when thou art absent from me?’ Quoth he, ’What aileth thee?’ and she said, ’I saw thee swive the woman before my very eyes.’ ‘Not so, by Allah!’ cried he. ’But hold thy peace till I go up and see.’ So he climbed the tree and no sooner did he begin to do so than up came the lover [from his hiding-place] and taking the woman by the legs, [fell to swiving her]. When the husband came to the top of the tree, he looked and beheld a man swiving his wife. So he said, ’O strumpet, what doings are these?’ And he made haste to come down from the tree to the ground; [but meanwhile the lover had returned to his hiding-place] and his wife said to him, ‘What sawest thou?’ ’I saw a man swive thee,’ answered he; and she said, ’Thou liest; thou sawest nought and sayst this but of conjecture.’
On this wise they did three times, and every time [he climbed the tree] the lover came up out of the underground place and bestrode her, whilst her husband looked on and she still said, ’O liar, seest thou aught?’ ‘Yes,’ would he answer and came down in haste, but saw no one and she said to him, ’By my life, look and say nought but the truth!’ Then said he to her, ’Arise, let us depart this place,[FN#234] for it is full of Jinn and Marids.’ [So they returned to their house] and passed the night [there] and the man arose in the morning, assured that this was all but imagination and illusion. And so the lover accomplished his desire.[FN#235] Nor, O king of the age,” added the vizier, “is this more extraordinary than the story of the king and the tither.”
When the king heard this from the vizier, he bade him go away [and he withdrew to his house].
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
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]
The king marvelled at this and at his dealing and contrivance and invested him with [the control of] all his affairs and of his kingdom and the land abode [under his governance] and he said to him, ’Take and people.’[FN#244] One day, the tither went out and saw an old man, a woodcutter, and with him wood; so he said to him, ‘Pay a dirhem tithe for thy load.’ Quoth the old man, ‘Behold, thou killest me and killest my family.’ ’What [meanest thou]?’ said the tither. ‘Who killeth the folk?’ And the other answered, ’If thou suffer me enter the city, I shall sell the wood there for three dirhems, whereof I will give thee one and buy with the other two what will support my family; but, if thou press me for the tithe without the city, the load will sell but for one dirhem and thou wilt take it and I shall abide without food, I and my family. Indeed, thou and I in this circumstance are like unto David and Solomon, on whom be peace!’ [’How so?’ asked the tither, and the woodcutter said], ’Know that
Certain husbandmen once made complaint to David (on whom be peace!) against certain owners of sheep, whose flocks had fallen upon their crops by night and devoured them, and he bade value the crops [and that the shepherds should make good the amount]. But Solomon (on whom be peace!) rose and said, “Nay, but let the sheep be delivered to the husbandmen, so they may take their milk and wool, till they have repaid themselves the value of their crops; then let the sheep return to their owners.” So David withdrew his own ordinance and caused execute that of Solomon; yet was David no oppressor; but Solomon’s judgment was more pertinent and he showed himself therein better versed in jurisprudence.’[FN#245]
When the tither heard the old man’s speech, he relented towards him and said to him, ’O old man, I make thee a present of that which is due from thee, and do thou cleave to me and leave me not, so haply I may get of thee profit that shall do away from me my errors and guide me into the way of righteousness.’ So the old man followed him, and there met him another with a load of wood. Quoth the tither to him, ‘Pay what is due from thee.’ And he answered, ’Have patience with me till to-morrow, for I owe the hire of a house, and I will sell another load of wood and pay thee two days’ tithe.’ But he refused him this and the old man said to him, ’If thou constrain him unto this, thou wilt enforce him quit thy country, for that he is a stranger here and hath no domicile; and if he remove on account of one dirhem, thou wilt lose [of him] three hundred and threescore dirhems a year. Thus wilt thou lose the much in keeping the little.’ Quoth the tither, ‘I give him a dirhem every month to the hire of his lodging.’
Then he went on and presently there met him a third woodcutter and he said to him, ‘Pay what is due from thee.’ And he answered, ’I will pay thee a dirhem when I enter the city; or take of me four danics[FN#246] [now].’ Quoth the tither, ‘I will not do it,’ but the old man said to him, ’Take of him the four danics presently, for it is easy to take and hard to restore.’ ’By Allah,’ quoth the tither, ‘it is good!’ and he arose and went on, crying out, at the top of his voice and saying, ’I have no power to-day [to do evil].’ Then he put off his clothes and went forth wandering at a venture, repenting unto his Lord. Nor,” added the vizier, “is this story more extraordinary than that of the thief who believed the woman and sought refuge with God against falling in with her like, by reason of her cunning contrivance for herself.”
When the king heard this, he said in himself, “Since the tither repented, in consequence of the admonitions [of the woodcutter], it behoves that I spare this vizier, so I may hear the story of the thief and the woman.” And he bade Er Rehwan withdraw to his lodging.
The Eleventh Night of the Month.
When the evening came and the king sat in his privy chamber, he summoned the vizier and required of him the story of the thief and the woman. Quoth the vizier, “Know, O king, that
A certain thief was a [cunning] workman and used not to steal aught, till he had spent all that was with him; moreover, he stole not from his neighbours, neither companied with any of the thieves, lest some one should come to know him and his case get wind. On this wise he abode a great while, in flourishing case, and his secret was concealed, till God the Most High decreed that he broke in upon a poor man, deeming that he was rich. When he entered the house, he found nought, whereat he was wroth, and necessity prompted him to wake the man, who was asleep with his wife. So he aroused him and said to him, ‘Show me thy treasure.’
Now he had no treasure; but the thief believed him not and insisted upon him with threats and blows. When he saw that he got no profit of him, he said to him, ’Swear by the oath of divorce from thy wife[FN#247] [that thou hast nothing].’ So he swore and his wife said to him, ’Out on thee! Wilt thou divorce me? Is not the treasure buried in yonder chamber?’ Then she turned to the thief and conjured him to multiply blows upon her husband, till he should deliver to him the treasure, concerning which he had sworn falsely. So he drubbed him grievously, till he carried him to a certain chamber, wherein she signed to him that the treasure was and that he should take it up.
So the thief entered, he and the husband; and when they were both in the chamber, she locked on them the door, which was a stout one, and said to the thief, ’Out on thee, O fool! Thou hast fallen [into the trap] and now I have but to cry out and the officers of the police will come and take thee and thou wilt lose thy life, O Satan!’ Quoth he, ‘Let me go forth;’ and she said, ’Thou art a man and I am a woman; and in thy hand is a knife and I am afraid of thee.’ Quoth he, ‘Take the knife from me.’ So she took the knife from him and said to her husband, ’Art thou a woman and he a man? Mar his nape with beating, even as he did with thee; and if he put out his hand to thee, I will cry out and the police will come and take him and cut him in sunder.’ So the husband said to him, ’O thousand-horned,[FN#248] O dog, O traitor, I owe thee a deposit,[FN#249] for which thou dunnest me.’ And he fell to beating him grievously with a stick of live-oak, whilst he called out to the woman for help and besought her of deliverance; but she said, ’Abide in thy place till the morning, and thou shalt see wonders.’ And her husband beat him within the chamber, till he [well- nigh] made an end of him and he swooned away.
Then he left beating him and when the thief came to himself, the woman said to her husband, ’O man, this house is on hire and we owe its owners much money, and we have nought; so how wilt thou do?’ And she went on to bespeak him thus. Quoth the thief, ’And what is the amount of the rent?’ ‘It will be fourscore dirhems,’ answered the husband; and the thief said, ’I will pay this for thee and do thou let me go my way.’ Then said the wife, ’O man, how much do we owe the baker and the greengrocer?’ Quoth the thief, ‘What is the sum of this?’ And the husband said, ’Sixscore dirhems.’ ‘That makes two hundred dirhems,’ rejoined the other; ‘let me go my way and I will pay them.’ But the wife said, ’O my dear one, and the girl groweth up and needs must we marry her and equip her and [do] what else is needful’ So the thief said to the husband, ‘How much dost thou want?’ And he answered, ’A hundred dirhems, in the way of moderation.’[FN#250] Quoth the thief, ‘That makes three hundred dirhems.’ And the woman said, ’O my dear one, when the girl is married, thou wilt need money for winter expenses, charcoal and firewood and other necessaries.’ ‘What wouldst thou have?’ asked the thief; and she said, ’A hundred dirhems.’ ‘Be it four hundred dirhems,’ rejoined he; and she said, ’O my dear one and solace of mine eyes, needs must my husband have capital in hand, wherewith he may buy merchandise and open him a shop.’ ‘How much will that be?’ asked he, and she said, ‘A hundred dirhems.’ Quoth the thief, ’[That makes five hundred dirhems; I will pay it;] but may I be divorced from my wife if all my possessions amount to more than this, and that the savings of twenty years! Let me go my way, so I may deliver them to thee.’ ‘O fool,’ answered she, ’how shall I let thee go thy way? Give me a right token.’ [So he gave her a token for his wife] and she cried out to her young daughter and said to her, ‘Keep this door.’
Then she charged her husband keep watch over the thief, till she should return, and repairing to his wife, acquainted her with his case and told her that her husband the thief had been taken and had compounded for his release, at the price of seven hundred dirhems, and named to her the token. So she gave her the money and she took it and returned to her house. By this time, the dawn had broken; so she let the thief go his way, and when he went out, she said to him, ’O my dear one, when shall I see thee come and take the treasure?’ ‘O indebted one,’ answered he, ’when thou needest other seven hundred dirhems, wherewithal to amend thy case and that of thy children and to discharge thy debts.’ And he went out, hardly believing in his deliverance from her. Nor,” added the vizier, “is this more extraordinary than the story of the three men and our Lord Jesus.”
And the king bade him depart to his own house.
The Twelfth Night of the Month.
When it was eventide, the king summoned the vizier and bade him tell the [promised] story, “Hearkening and obedience,” answered he. “Know, O king, that
Three men once went out in quest of riches and came upon a block of gold, weighing a hundred pounds. When they saw it, they took it up on their shoulders and fared on with it, till they drew near a certain city, when one of them said, ’Let us sit in the mosque, whilst one of us goes and buys us what we may eat.” So they sat down in the mosque and one of them arose and entered the city. When he came therein, his soul prompted him to play his fellows false and get the gold for himself alone. So he bought food and poisoned it; but, when he returned to his comrades, they fell upon him and slew him, so they might enjoy the gold without him. Then they ate of the [poisoned] food and died, and the gold abode cast down over against them.
Presently, Jesus, son of Mary (on whom be peace!) passed by and seeing this, besought God the Most High for tidings of their case; so He told him what had betided them, whereat great was his wonderment and he related to his disciples what he had seen. Quoth one of them, ’O Spirit of God,[FN#251] nought resembleth this but my own story.’ ‘How so?’ asked Jesus, and the other said,
The disciple’s story.
’I was aforetime in such a city and hid a thousand dirhems in a monastery there. After awhile, I went thither and taking the money, bound it about my middle. [Then I set out to return] and when I came to the desert, the carrying of the money was burdensome to me. Presently, I espied a horseman pricking after me; so I [waited till he came up and] said to him, “O horseman, carry this money [for me] and earn reward and recompense [from God].” “Nay,” answered he; “I will not do it, for I should weary myself and weary my horse.” Then he went on, but, before he had gone far, he said
Quoth Jesus (on whom be peace!), ’Had these dealt prudently, they had taken thought for themselves; but they neglected the issues of events; for that whoso acteth prudently is safe and conquereth,[FN#252] and whoso neglecteth precaution perisheth and repenteth.’ Nor,” added the vizier,” is this more extraordinary nor goodlier than the story of the king, whose kingdom was restored to him and his wealth, after he had become poor, possessing not a single dirhem.”
When the king heard this, he said in himself “How like is this to my own story in the matter of the vizier and his slaughter! Had I not used precaution, I had put him to death.” And he bade Er Rehwan depart to his own house.
The Thirteenth Night of the Month.
When the evening evened, the king sent for the vizier to his privy sitting chamber and bade him [tell] the [promised] story. So he said, “Hearkening and obedience. They avouch, O king, that
STORY OF THE DETHRONED KING WHOSE KINGDOM AND GOOD WERE RESTORED TO HIM.
There was once, in a city of Hind, a just and beneficent king, and he had a vizier, a man of understanding, just in his judgment, praiseworthy in his policy, in whose hand was the governance of all the affairs of the realm; for he was firmly stablished in the king’s favour and high in esteem with the folk of his time, and the king set great store by him and committed himself to him in all his affairs, by reason of his contrivance for his subjects, and he had helpers[FN#253] who were content with him.
Now the king had a brother, who envied him and would fain have been in his place; and when he was weary of looking for his death and the term of his life seemed distant unto him, he took counsel with certain of his partisans and they said, ’The vizier is the king’s counsellor and but for him, there would be left the king no kingdom.’ So the king’s brother cast about for the ruin of the vizier, but could find no means of accomplishing his design; and when the affair grew long upon him, he said to his wife, ’What deemest thou will advantage us in this?’ Quoth she, ‘What is it?’ And he replied, ’I mean in the matter of yonder vizier, who inciteth my brother to devoutness with all his might and biddeth him thereto, and indeed the king is infatuated with his counsel and committeth to him the governance of all things and matters.’ Quoth she, ‘Thou sayst truly; but how shall we do with him?’ And he answered, ’I have a device, so thou wilt help me in that which I shall say to thee.’ Quoth she, ’Thou shall have my help in whatsoever thou desirest.’ And he said, ’I mean to dig him a pit in the vestibule and dissemble it artfully.’
So he did this, and when it was night, he covered the pit with a light covering, so that, whenas the vizier stepped upon it, it would give way with him. Then he sent to him and summoned him to the presence in the king’s name, and the messenger bade him enter by the privy door. So he entered in thereat, alone, and when he stepped upon the covering of the pit, it gave way with him and he fell to the bottom; whereupon the king’s brother fell to pelting him with stones. When the vizier saw what had betided him, he gave himself up for lost; so he stirred not and lay still. The prince, seeing him make no motion, [deemed him dead]; so he took him forth and wrapping him up in his clothes, cast him into the billows of the sea in the middle of the night. When the vizier felt the water, he awoke from the swoon and swam awhile, till a ship passed by him, whereupon he cried out to the sailors and they took him up.
When the morning morrowed, the people went seeking for him, but found him not; and when the king knew this, he was perplexed concerning his affair and abode unknowing what he should do. Then he sought for a vizier to fill his room, and the king’s brother said, ‘I have a vizier, a sufficient man.’ ‘Bring him to me,’ said the king. So he brought him a man, whom he set at the head of affairs; but he seized upon the kingdom and clapped the king in irons and made his brother king in his stead. The new king gave himself up to all manner of wickedness, whereat the folk murmured and his vizier said to him, ’I fear lest the Indians take the old king and restore him to the kingship and we both perish; wherefore, if we take him and cast him into the sea, we shall be at rest from him; and we will publish among the folk that he is dead.’ And they agreed upon this. So they took him up and carrying him out to sea, cast him in.
When he felt the water, he struck out, and gave not over swimming till he landed upon an island, where he abode five days, finding nothing which he might eat or drink; but, on the sixth day, when he despaired of himself, he caught sight of a passing ship; so he made signals to the crew and they came and took him up and fared on with him to an inhabited country, where they set him ashore, naked as he was. There he saw a man tilling; so he sought guidance of him and the husbandman said, ‘Art thou a stranger?’ ‘Yes,’ answered the king and sat with him and they talked. The husbandman found him quickwitted and intelligent and said to him, ’If thou sawest a comrade of mine, thou wouldst see him the like of what I see thee, for his case is even as thy case, and he is presently my friend.’
Quoth the king, ’Verily, thou makest me long to see him. Canst thou not bring us together?’ ‘With all my heart,’ answered the husbandman, and the king sat with him till he had made an end of his tillage, when he carried him to his dwelling-place and brought him in company with the other stranger, aud behold, it was his vizier. When they saw each other, they wept and embraced, and the husbandman wept for their weeping; but the king concealed their affair and said to him, ’This is a man from my country and he is as my brother.’ So they abode with the husbandman and helped him for a wage, wherewith they supported themselves a long while. Meanwhile, they sought news of their country and learned that which its people suffered of straitness and oppression.
One day, there came a ship and in it a merchant from their own country, who knew them and rejoiced in them with an exceeding joy and clad them in goodly apparel. Moreover, he acquainted them with the manner of the treachery that had been practised upon them and counselled them to return to their own land, they and he with whom they had made friends,[FN#254] assuring them that God the Most High would restore them to their former estate. So the king returned and the folk joined themselves to him and he fell upon his brother and his vizier and took them and clapped them in prison.
Then he sat down again upon the throne of his kingship, whilst the vizier stood before him, and they returned to their former estate, but they had nought of the [goods of the world]. So the king said to his vizier, ’How shall we avail to abide in this city, and we in this state of poverty?’ And he answered, ’Be at thine ease and have no concern.’ Then he singled out one of the soldiers[FN#255] and said to him, ’Send us thy service[FN#256] for the year.’ Now there were in the city fifty thousand subjects[FN#257] and in the hamlets and villages a like number; and the vizier sent to each of these, saying, ’Let each of you get an egg and lay it under a hen.’ So they did this and it was neither burden nor grievance to them.
When twenty days had passed by, each [egg] was hatched, and the vizier bade them pair the chickens, male and female, and rear them well. So they did this and it was found a charge unto no one. Then they waited for them awhile and after this the vizier enquired of the chickens and was told that they were become fowls. Moreover, they brought him all their eggs and he bade set them; and after twenty days there were hatched from each [pair] of them thirty or five-and-twenty or fifteen [chickens] at the least. The vizier let note against each man the number of chickens that pertained to him, and after two months, he took the old hens and the cockerels, and there came to him from each man nigh half a score, and he left the [young] hens with them. On like wise he sent to the country folk and let the cocks abide with them. So he got him young ones [galore] and appropriated to himself the sale of the fowls, and on this wise he got him, in the course of a year, that which the regal estate required of the king and his affairs were set right for him by the vizier’s contrivance. And he peopled[FN#258] the country and dealt justly by his subjects and returned to them all that he took from them and lived a happy and prosperous life. Thus good judgment and prudence are better than wealth, for that understanding profiteth at all times and seasons. Nor,” added the vizier, “is this more extraordinary than the story of the man whose caution slew him.”
When the king heard his vizier’s words, he marvelled with the utmost wonderment and bade him retire to his lodging. [So Er Rehwan withdrew to his house and abode there till eventide of the next day, when he again presented himself before the king.]
The Fourteenth Night of the Month.
When the vizier returned to the king, the latter sought of him the story of the man whose caution slew him and be said, “Know, O august king, that
STORY OF THE MAN WHOSE CAUTION WAS THE CAUSE OF HIS DEATH.
There was once a man who was exceeding cautious over himself, and he set out one day on a journey to a land abounding in wild beasts. The caravan wherein he was came by night to the gate of a city; but the warders refused to open to them; so they passed the night without the city, and there were lions there. The man aforesaid, of the excess of his caution, could not fix upon a place wherein he should pass the night, for fear of the wild beasts and reptiles; so he went about seeking an empty place wherein he might lie.
Now there was a ruined building hard by and he climbed up on to a high wall and gave not over clambering hither and thither, of the excess of his carefulness, till his feet betrayed him and he slipped [and fell] to the bottom and died, whilst his companions arose in the morning in health [and weal]. Now, if he had overmastered his corrupt[FN#259] judgment and submitted himself to fate and fortune fore-ordained, it had been safer and better [for him]; but he made light of the folk and belittled their wit and was not content to take example by them; for his soul whispered him that he was a man of understanding and he imagined that, if he abode with them, he would perish; so his folly cast him into perdition. Nor,” added the vizier, “is this more extraordinary than the story of the man who was lavish of his house and his victual to one whom he knew not”
When the king heard this, he said, “I will not isolate myself from the folk and slay my vizier.” And he bade him depart to his dwelling.
The Fifteenth Night of the Month.
When the evening evened, the king let fetch the vizier and required of him the [promised] story. So he said, “Know, O king, that
Story of the
man who was lavish of his
house and his victual to one whom he
There was once an Arab of [high] rank and [goodly] presence, a man of exalted generosity and magnanimity, and he had brethren, with whom he consorted and caroused, and they were wont to assemble by turns in each other’s houses. When it came to his turn, he made ready in his house all manner goodly and pleasant meats and dainty drinks and exceeding lovely flowers and excellent fruits, and made provision of all kinds of instruments of music and store of rare apothegms and marvellous stories and goodly instances and histories and witty anedotes and verses and what not else, for there was none among those with whom he was used to company but enjoyed this on every goodly wise, and in the entertainment he had provided was all whereof each had need. Then he sallied forth and went round about the city, in quest of his friends, so he might assemble them; but found none of them in his house.
Now in that town was a man of good breeding and large generosity, a merchant of condition, young of years and bright of face, who had come to that town from his own country with great store of merchandise and wealth galore. He took up his abode therein and the place was pleasant to him and he was lavish in expenditure, so that he came to the end of all his good and there remained with him nothing save that which was upon him of raiment. So he left the lodging wherein he had abidden in the days of his affluence, after he had wasted[FN#260] that which was therein of furniture, and fell to harbouring in the houses of the townsfolk from night to night.
One day, as he went wandering about the streets, he espied a woman of the utmost beauty and grace, and what he saw of her charms amazed him and there betided him what made him forget his present plight. She accosted him and jested with him and he besought her of foregathering and companionship. She consented to this and said to him, ‘Let us go to thy lodging.’ With this he repented and was perplexed concerning his affair and grieved for that which must escape him of her company by reason of the straitness of his hand,[FN#261] for that he had no jot of spending money. But he was ashamed to say, ‘No,’ after he had made suit to her; so he went on before her, bethinking him how he should rid himself of her and casting about for an excuse which he might put off on her, and gave not over going from street to street, till he entered one that had no issue and saw, at the farther end, a door, whereon was a padlock.
So he said to her, ’Do thou excuse me, for my servant hath locked the door, and who shall open to us?’ Quoth she, ’O my lord, the padlock is worth [but] half a score dirhems.’ So saying, she tucked up [her sleeves] from fore-arms as they were crystal and taking a stone, smote upon the padlock and broke it. Then she opened the door and said to him, ‘Enter, O my lord.’ So he entered, committing his affair to God, (to whom belong might and majesty,) and she entered after him and locked the door from within. They found themselves in a pleasant house, comprising all[FN#262] weal and gladness; and the young man went on, till he came to the sitting-chamber, and behold, it was furnished with the finest of furniture [and arrayed on the goodliest wise for the reception of guests,] as hath before been set out, [for that it was the house of the man aforesaid].
He [seated himself on the divan and] leant upon a cushion, whilst she put out her hand to her veil and did it off. Then she put off her heavy outer clothes and discovered her charms, whereupon he embraced her and kissed her and swived her; after which they washed and returned to their place and he said to her, ’Know that I have little knowledge [of what goes on] in my house, for that I trust to my servant; so arise thou and see what the boy hath made ready in the kitchen.’ Accordingly, she arose and going down into the kitchen, saw cooking pots over the fire, wherein were all manner of dainty meats, and manchet-bread and fresh almond-and-honey cakes. So she set bread on a dish and ladled out [what she would] from the pots and brought it to him.
They ate and drank and sported and made merry awhile of the day; and as they were thus engaged, up came the master of the house, with his friends, whom he had brought with him, that they might carouse together, as of wont. He saw the door opened and knocked lightly, saying to his friends, ’Have patience with me, for some of my family are come to visit me; wherefore excuse belongeth [first] to God the Most High, and then to you.’[FN#263] So they took leave of him and went their ways, whilst he gave another light knock at the door. When the young man heard this, he changed colour and the woman said to him, ’Methinks thy servant hath returned.’ ‘Yes,’ answered he; and she arose and opening the door to the master of the house, said to him, ’Where hast thou been? Indeed, thy master is wroth with thee.’ ‘O my lady,’ answered he, ‘I have but been about his occasions.’
Then he girt his middle with a handkerchief and entering, saluted the young merchant, who said to him, ‘Where hast thou been?’ Quoth he, ‘I have done thine errands;’ and the youth said, ’Go and eat and come hither and drink.’ So he went away, as he bade him, and ate. Then he washed and returning to the saloon, sat down on the carpet and fell to talking with them; whereupon the young merchant’s heart was comforted and his breast dilated and he addressed himself to joyance. They abode in the most delightsome life and the most abounding pleasance till a third part of the night was past, when the master of the house arose and spreading them a bed, invited them to lie down. So they lay down and the youth abode on wake, pondering their affair, till daybreak, when the woman awoke and said to her companion, ’I wish to go.’ So he bade her farewell and she departed; whereupon the master of the house followed her with a purse of money and gave it to her, saying, ‘Blame not my master,’ and made his excuse to her for the young merchant.
Then he returned to the youth and said to him, ’Arise and come to the bath.’ And he fell to shampooing his hands and feet, whilst the youth called down blessings on him and said, ’O my lord, who art thou? Methinks there is not in the world the like of thee, no, nor a pleasanter than thy composition.’ Then each of them acquainted the other with his case and condition and they went to the bath; after which the master of the house conjured the young merchant to return with him and summoned his friends. So they ate and drank and he related to them the story, wherefore they praised the master of the house and glorified him; and their friendship was complete, what while the young merchant abode in the town, till God vouchsafed him a commodity of travel, whereupon they took leave of him and he departed; and this is the end of his story. Nor,” added the vizier, “O king of the age, is this more marvellous than the story of the rich man who lost his wealth and his wit.”
When the king heard the vizier’s story, it pleased him and he bade him go to his house.
The Sixteenth Night of the Month.
When the evening evened, the king sat in his sitting- chamber and sending for his vizier, bade him relate the story of the wealthy man who lost his wealth and his wit. So he said, “Know, O king, that
There was once a man of fortune, who lost his wealth, and chagrin and melancholy got the mastery of him, so that he became an idiot and lost his wit. There abode with him of his wealth about a score of dinars and he used to beg alms of the folk, and that which they gave him he would gather together and lay to the dinars that were left him. Now there was in that town a vagabond, who made his living by sharping, and he knew that the idiot had somewhat of money; so he fell to spying upon him and gave not over watching him till he saw him put in an earthen pot that which he had with him of money and enter a deserted ruin, where he sat down, [as if] to make water, and dug a hole, in which he laid the pot and covering it up, strewed earth upon the place. Then he went away and the sharper came and taking what was in the pot, covered it up again, as it was.
Presently, the idiot returned, with somewhat to add to his hoard, but found it not; so he bethought him who had followed him and remembered that he had found the sharper aforesaid assiduous in sitting with him and questioning him. So he went in quest of him, assured that he had taken the pot, and gave not over looking for him till he espied him sitting; whereupon he ran to him and the sharper saw him. [Then the idiot stood within earshot] and muttered to himself and said, ’In the pot are threescore dinars and I have with me other score in such a place and to-day I will unite the whole in the pot.’ When the sharper heard him say this to himself, muttering and mumbling after his fashion, he repented him of having taken the dinars and said, ’He will presently return to the pot and find it empty; wherefore that[FN#264] for which I am on the look-out will escape me; and meseemeth I were best restore the dinars [to their place], so he may see them and leave all that is with him in the pot, and I can take the whole.’
Now he feared [to return to the pot then and there], lest the idiot should follow him to the place and find nothing and so his plan be marred. So he said to him, ’O Ajlan,[FN#265] I would have thee come to my lodging and eat bread with me.” So the idiot went with him to his lodging and he seated him there and going to the market, sold somewhat of his clothes and pawned somewhat from his house and bought dainty food. Then he betook himself to the ruin and replacing the money in the pot, buried it again; after which he returned to his lodging and gave the idiot to eat and drink, and they went out together. The sharper went away and hid himself, lest the idiot should see him, whilst the latter repaired to his hiding- place and took the pot
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
STORY OF KHELBES AND HIS WIFE AND THE LEARNED MAN.
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.
Then Khelbes used to attend the learned man’s assembly, whilst the other would go in to his wife and abide with her, on such wise as he thought good, till the learned man arose from his session; and when Khelbes saw that he purposed rising, he would speak a word for the lover to hear, whereupon he went forth from Khelbes’s wife, and the latter knew not that calamity was in his own house. At last the learned man, seeing Khelbes do on this wise every day, began to misdoubt of him, more by token of that which he knew of his character, and suspicion grew upon him; so, one day, he advanced the time of his rising before the wonted hour and hastening up to Khelbes, laid hold of him and said to him, ’By Allah, an thou speak a single syllable, I will do thee a mischief!’ Then he went in to his wife, with Khelbes in his grasp, and behold, she was sitting, as of her wont, nor was there about her aught of suspicious or unseemly.
The learned man bethought him awhile of this, then made for Khelbes’s house, which adjoined his own, still holding the latter; and when they entered, they found the young man lying on the bed with Khelbes’s wife; whereupon quoth he to him, ’O accursed one, the calamity is with thee and in thine own house!’ So Khelbes put away his wife and went forth, fleeing, and returned not to his own land. This, then,” continued the vizier, “is the consequence of lewdness, for whoso purposeth in himself craft and perfidy, they get possession of him, and had Khelbes conceived of himself that[FN#266] which he conceived of the folk of dishonour and calamity, there had betided him nothing of this. Nor is this story, rare and extraordinary though it be, more extraordinary or rarer than that of the pious woman whose husband’s brother accused her of lewdness.”
When the king heard this, wonderment gat hold of him and his admiration for the vizier redoubled; so he bade him go to his house and return to him [on the morrow], according to his wont. Accordingly, the vizier withdrew to his lodging, where he passed the night and the ensuing day.
End of Vol. I.
Tales from the Arabic,
[FN#1] Breslau Text, vol. iv. pp. 134-189, Nights cclxxii.-ccxci. This is the story familiar to readers of the old “Arabian Nights” as “Abon Hassan, or the Sleeper Awakened” and is the only one of the eleven tales added by Galland to his version of the (incomplete) Ms. of the Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night procured by him from Syria, the Arabic original of which has yet been discovered. (See my “Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” Vol. IX. pp. 264 et seq.) The above title is of course intended to mark the contrast between the everyday (or waking) hours of Aboulhusn and his fantastic life in the Khalif’s palace, supposed by him to have passed in a dream, and may also be rendered “The Sleeper and the Waker.”
[FN#2] i.e. The Wag.
[FN#3] Always noted for debauchery.
[FN#4] i.e. the part he had taken for spending money.
[FN#5] i.e. “those,” a characteristic Arab idiom.
[FN#6] Lit. draw thee near (to them).
[FN#7] i.e. that over the Tigris.
[FN#8] “Platter bread,” i.e. bread baked in a platter, instead of, as usual with the Arabs, in an oven or earthen jar previously heated, to the sides of which the thin cakes of dough are applied, “is lighter than oven bread, especially if it be made thin and leavened.”—Shecouri, a medical writer quoted by Dozy.
[FN#9] Or cooking-pots.
[FN#10] Or fats for frying.
[FN#11] Or clarified.
[FN#12] Taam, lit. food, the name given by the inhabitants of Northern Africa to the preparation of millet-flour (something like semolina) called kouskoussou, which forms the staple food of the people.
[FN#13] Or “In peace.”
[FN#14] Eastern peoples attach great importance, for good or evil omen, to the first person met or the first thing that happens in the day.
[FN#15] Or “attributed as sin.”
[FN#16] A common Eastern substitute for soap.
[FN#17] This common formula of assent is an abbreviation of “Hearkening and obedience are due to God and to the Commander of the Faithful” or other the person addressed.
[FN#18] Dar es Selam, one of the seven “Gardens” into which the Mohammedan Paradise is divided.
[FN#19] i.e. a mattrass eighteen inches thick.
[FN#20] Complimentary form of address to eunuchs, generally used by inferiors only.
[FN#21] The morning-prayer consists of four inclinations (rekäat) only. A certain fixed succession of prayers and acts of adoration is called a rekah (sing, of rekäat) from the inclination of the body that occurs in it.
[FN#22] i.e. the terminal formula of prayer, “Peace be on us and on all the righteous servants of God!”
[FN#23] i.e. said “I purpose to make an end of prayer.”
[FN#24] Or “linen.”
[FN#25] A well-known poet of the time.
[FN#26] i.e. Ibrahim of Mosul, the greatest musician of his day.
[FN#27] i.e., doughty men of war, guards.
[FN#28] The Abbaside Khalifs traced their descent from Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed, and considered themselves, therefore, as belonging to the family of the Prophet.
[FN#29] i.e. May thy dwelling-place never fall into ruin.
[FN#30] i.e. the raised recess situate at the upper end of an Oriental saloon, wherein is the place of honour.
[FN#31] ie, the necromancers.
[FN#32] Lit. I have not found that thou hast a heel blessed (or propitious) to me.
[FN#33] i.e. O thou who art a calamity to those who have to do with thee!
[FN#34] Abou Nuwas ibn Hani, the greatest poet of the time.
[FN#35] As a charm against evil spirits.
[FN#36] i.e. the vein said to have been peculiar to the descendants of Hashim, grandfather of Abbas and great-grandson of Mohammed, and to have started out between their eyes in moments of anger.
[FN#37] Lit. that I may do upon her sinister deeds.
[FN#38] “The pitcher comes not always back unbroken from the well.”—English proverb.
[FN#39] i.e. of sorrow for his loss.
[FN#40] i.e. of grief for her loss.
[FN#41] Breslau Text, vol. vl. pp. 182-188, Nights ccccxxxii-ccccxxxiv.
[FN#42] The eighth Khalif (A.D. 717-720) of the house of Umeyyeh and the best and most single-hearted of all the Khalifs, with the exception of the second, Omar ben Khettab, from whom he was descended.
[FN#43] A celebrated statesman of the time, afterwards governor of Cuia* and Bassora under Omar ben Abdulaziz.
[FN#44] The most renowned poet of the first century of the Hegira. He is said to have been equally skilled in all styles of composition grave and gay.
[FN#45] Or eternal.
[FN#46] Or “in him.”
[FN#47] Chief of the tribe of the Benou Suleim. Et Teberi tells this story in a different way. According to him, Abbas ben Mirdas (who was a well-known poet), being dissatisfied with the portion of booty allotted to him by the Prophet, refused it and composed a lampoon against Mohammed, who said to Ali, “Cut off this tongue which attacketh me,” i.e. “Silence him by giving what will satisfy him,” whereupon Ali doubled the covetous chief’s share.
[FN#48] Bilal ibn Rebeh was the Prophet’s freedman and crier. The word bilal signifies “moisture” or (metonymically) “beneficence” and it may well be in this sense (and not as a man’s name) that it is used in the text.
[FN#49] Said to have been the best poet ever produced by the tribe of Cureish. His introduction here is an anachronism, as he died A.D. 712, five years before Omar’s accession.
[FN#50] i.e. odorem pudendorum amicæ?
[FN#51] A famous poet of the tribe of the Benou Udhreh, renowned for their passionate sincerity in love-matters. He is celebrated as the lover of Butheineh, as Petrarch of Laura, and died A.D. 701, sixteen years before Omar’s accession.
[FN#52] A friend of Jemil and a poet of equal renown. He is celebrated as the lover of Azzeh, whose name is commonly added to his, and kept a grocer’s shop at Medina.
[FN#53] i.e. in the attitude of prayer.
[FN#54] A famous satirical poet of the time, afterwards banished by Omar for the virulence of his lampoons. His name is wrongly given by the text; it should be El Ahwes. He was a descendant of the Ansar or (Medinan) helpers of Mohammed.
[FN#55] A famous poet of the tribe of the Benou Temim and a rival of Jerir, to whom he was by some preferred. He was a notorious debauchee and Jerir, in one of the satires that were perpetually exchanged between himself and El Ferezdec, accuses his rival of having “never been a guest in any house, but he departed with ignominy and left behind him disgrace.”
[FN#56] A Christian and a celebrated poet of the time.
[FN#57] The poet apparently meant to insinuate that those who professed to keep the fast of Ramazan ate flesh in secret. The word rendered “in public,” i.e. openly, avowedly, may also perhaps be translated “in the forenoon,” and in this El Akhtel may have meant to contrast his free-thinking disregard of the ordinances of the fast with the strictness of the orthodox Muslim, whose only meals in Ramazan-time are made between sunset and dawn-peep. As soon as a white thread can be distinguished from a black, the fast is begun and a true believer must not even smoke or swallow his saliva till sunset.
[FN#58] Prominent words of the Muezzin’s fore-dawn call to prayer.
[FN#59] i.e. fall down drunk.
[FN#60] i.e. she who ensnares [all] eyes.
[FN#61] Imam, the spiritual title of the Khalif, as head of the Faith and leader (lit. “foreman”) of the people at prayer.
[FN#62] Or “worldly.”
[FN#63] Or “worldly.”
[FN#64] A town and province of Arabia, of which (inter alia) Omar ben Abdulaziz was governor, before he came to the Khalifate.
[FN#65] Syn. munificence.
[FN#66] About 2 pounds sterling 10 s.
[FN#67] i.e. what is thy news?
[FN#68] Or “I approve of him.”
[FN#69] Breslau Text, vol. vi. pp. 188-9, Night ccccxxxiv.
[FN#70] El Hejjaj ben Yousuf eth Thekefi, a famous statesman and soldier of the seventh and eighth centuries. He was governor of Chaldaea (Irak Arabi), under the fifth and sixth Khalifs of the Ommiade dynasty, and was renowned for his cruelty, but appears to have been a prudent and capable administrator, who used no more rigour than was necessary to restrain the proverbially turbulent populations of Bassora and Cufa, Most of the anecdotes of his brutality and tyranny, which abound in Arab authors, are, in all probability, apocryphal.
[FN#71] Used, by synecdoche, for “heads.”
[FN#72] i.e. the governed, to wit, he who is led by a halter attached (metaphorically of course) to a ring passed through his nose, as with a camel.
[FN#73] i.e. the governor or he who is high of rank.
[FN#74] i.e. their hair, which may be considered the wealth of the head. This whole passage is a description a double-entente of a barber-surgeon.
[FN#75] Syn. cooking-pot.
[FN#76] Syn. be lowered. This passage is a similar description of an itinerant hot bean-seller.
[FN#77] The rows of threads on a weaver’s loom.
[FN#78] Syn. levelleth.
[FN#79] i.e. that of wood used by the Oriental weaver to govern the warp and weft.
[FN#80] Syn. behave aright.
[FN#81] The loop of thread so called in which the weaver’s foot rests.
[FN#82] Syn. eloquence.
[FN#83] Adeb, one of the terribly comprehensive words which abound in Arabic literature for the confusion of translators. It signifies generally all kinds of education and means of mental and moral discipline and seems here to mean more particularly readiness of wit and speech or presence of mind.
[FN#84] Breslau Text, vol. vi. pp. 189-191, Night ccccxxxiv.
[FN#85] Syn. (Koranic) “Thou hast swerved from justice” or “been unjust” (adeita).
[FN#86] Syn. (Koranic) “Thou hast transgressed” (caset-ta).
[FN#87] Or falling-away.
[FN#88] Koran vi. 44.
[FN#89] Or do injustice, tadilou (syn. do justice).
[FN#90] Koran iv. 134.
[FN#91] El casitouna (syn. those who act righteously or equitably).
[FN#92] Koran lxxii. 15.
[FN#93] Name of the Persian ancestor of the Barmecide (properly Bermeki) family.
[FN#94] Breslau Text, vol. vi. pp. 191-343, Nights ccccxxv-cccclxxxvii. This is the Arab version of the well-known story called, in Persian, the Bekhtyar Nameh, i.e. the Book of Bekhtyar, by which name the prince, whose attempted ruin by the envious viziers is the central incident of the tale, is distinguished in that language. The Arab redaction of the story is, to my mind, far superior to the Persian, both in general simplicity and directness of style and in the absence of the irritating conceits and moral digressions with which Persian (as well as Indian) fiction is so often overloaded. The Persian origin of the story is apparent, not only in the turn of the incidents and style and the names of the personages, but in the fact that not a single line of verse occurs in it.
[FN#95] Rawi; this is probably a copyist’s mistake for raai, a beholder, one who seeth.
[FN#96] Lit. what was his affair? It may be here observed that the word keif (how?) is constantly used in the Breslau Text in the sense of ma (what?).
[FN#97] A district of Persia, here probably Persia itself.
[FN#98] Probably a corruption of Kisra (Chosroës).
[FN#99] i.e. waylaying travellers, robbing on the high road.
[FN#100] Or skill.
[FN#101] Lit. the descended fate.
[FN#102] The Arabs attribute to a man’s parentage absolute power in the determination of his good and evil qualities; eg. the son of a slave, according to them, can possess none of the virtues of the free-born, whilst good qualities are in like manner considered congenitally inherent in the latter.
[FN#103] Or “business.”
[FN#104] i.e. whither he should travel.
[FN#105] About half-a-crown.
[FN#106] It is a common practice with Eastern nations to keep a child (especially a son and one of unusual beauty) concealed until a certain age, for fear of the evil eye. See my “Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” Vol. III. p. 234; Vol. IX. p. 67, etc., etc.
[FN#107] i.e. killing a man.
[FN#108] i.e., it will always be in our power to slay him, when we will.
[FN#109] i.e. the grave.
[FN#110] i.e. the wedding-day.
[FN#111] i.e. thy women
[FN#112] i.e. hath been unduly prolonged.
[FN#113] i.e. Let thy secret thoughts and purposes be righteous, even as thine outward profession.
[FN#114] See my “Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” Vol. V. p. 264.
[FN#115] Afterwards called his “chamberlain,” i.e. the keeper of the door of the harem or chief eunuch. See post, p. III.
[FN#116] i.e. the eunuch who had dissuaded Dadbin from putting her to death.
[FN#117] Apparently referring to Aboulkhair (see ante p. 107), whom Dabdin would seem to have put to death upon the vizier’s false accusation, although no previous mention of this occurs.
[FN#118] The Arabs believe that each man’s destiny is charactered, could we decipher it, in the sutures of his skull.
[FN#119] ie. the lex talionis, which is the essence of Muslim jurisprudence.
[FN#120] i.e. a soldier of fortune, going about from court to court, in quest of service.
[FN#121] This phrase refers to the Arab idiom, “His hand (or arm) is long or short,” i.e. he is a man of great or little puissance.
[FN#122] The Arabs consider it a want of respect to allow the hands or feet to remain exposed in the presence of a superior.
[FN#123] Adeb. See ante, p. 54, note 9.
[FN#124] i.e. that he become my son-in-law.
[FN#125] It is a common Eastern practice to have the feet kneaded and pressed (shampooed) for the purpose of inducing sleep, and thus the king would habitually fall asleep with his feet on the knees of his pages.
[FN#126] Syn. whoso respecteth not his lord’s women.
[FN#127] i.e. a domed tomb.
[FN#128] Of a man’s life. The Muslims believe each man’s last hour to be written in a book called “The Preserved Tablet.”
[FN#129] i.e, the Autumnal Equinox, one of the two great festival days (the other being the New Year) of the Persians. See my “Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” Vol. IV. p. 144.
[FN#130] i.e. heritage.
[FN#131] i.e. The Emperor of the Romans of the Lower Empire, so called by the Arabs. “Caesar” is their generic term for the Emperors of Constantinople, as is Kisra (Chosroës) for the ancient Kings of Persia.
[FN#132] i.e. Shah Khatoun.
[FN#133] i.e. our power increased by his alliance, a. familiar Arab idiom.
[FN#134] In token of deputation of authority, a ceremony usual on the appointment of a governor of a province.
[FN#135] Or enigma.
[FN#136] i.e. if my death be ordained of destiny to befall on an early day none may avail to postpone it to a later day.
[FN#137] Of life. See supra, note, p. 147.
[FN#138] The hoopoe is fabled by the Muslim chroniclers to have been to Solomon what Odin’s ravens were to the Norse god. It is said to have known all the secrets of the earth and to have revealed them to him; hence the magical virtues attributed by the Mohammedans to its heart.
[FN#139] This phrase may be read either literally or in its idiomatic sense, i.e., “Folk convicted or suspected of murder or complicity in murder.”
[FN#140] Or purse-belt.
[FN#141] See supra, p. 66.
[FN#142] Khilaah, lit. that which one takes off from one’s own person, to bestow upon a messenger of good tidings or any other whom it is desired especially to honour. The literal meaning of the phrase, here rendered “he bestowed on him a dress of honour,” is “he put off on him [that which was upon himself.” A Khilaah commonly includes a horse, a sword, a girdle or waist-cloth and other articles, according to the rank of the recipient, and might more precisely be termed “a complete equipment of honour.”
[FN#143] An economical mode of rewarding merit, much in favour with Eastern monarchs.
[FN#144] Breslau Text, vol. vii. pp. 251-4, Night dlxv.
[FN#145] Syn. doorkeper (hajib).
[FN#146] Ibn Khelbkan, who tells this story in a somewhat different style, on the authority of Er Reshid’s brother Ibrahim ben El Mehdi, calls the person whom Jaafer expected “Abdulmelik ben Behran, the intendant of his demesnes.”
[FN#147] The wearing of silk and bright colours is forbidden to the strict Muslim and it is generally considered proper, in a man of position, to wear them only on festive occasions or in private, as in the text.
[FN#148] The Abbasides or descendants of El Abbas, the Prophet’s uncle, were noted for their excessive pride and pretensions to strict orthodoxy in all outward observances. Abdulmelik ben Salih, who was a well-known general and statesman of the time, was especially renowned for pietism and austerity of manners.
[FN#149] i.e. Do not let my presence trouble you.
[FN#150] As a member of the reigning family, he of course wore black clothes, that being the especial colour of the house of Abbas, adopted by them in opposition to the rival (and fallen) dynasty of the Benou Umeyyeh, whose family colour was white, that of the house of Ali being green.
[FN#151] About £25,000. Ibn Khellikan makes the debt four millions of dirhems or about £100,000
[FN#152] Breslau text, vol vii, pp.258-60, Night dlxvii.
[FN#153] Fourth Khalif of the house of Abbas, A.D. 785-786.
[FN#154] Third Khalif of the house of Abbas, A.D. 775-785.
[FN#155] The following is Et Teberi’s version of this anecdote. El Mehdi had presented his son Haroun with a ruby ring, worth a hundred thousand dinars, and the latter being one day with his brother [the then reigning Khalif], El Hadi saw the ring on his finger and desired it. So, when Haroun went out from him, he sent after him, to seek the ring of him. The Khalif’s messenger overtook Er Reshid on the bridge over the Tigris and acquainted him with his errand; whereupon the prince enraged at the demand, pulled off the ring and threw it into
[FN#156] This is an error. Jaafer’s father Yehya was appointed by Haroun his vizier and practically continued to exercise that office till the fall of the Barmecides (A.D. 803), his sons Fezl and Jaafer acting only as his assistants or lieutenants. See my Essay on the History and Character of the Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night.
[FN#157] Another mistake. It was Fezl, the Khalif’s foster-brother, to whom he used to give this title.
[FN#158] A third mistake. The whole period during which the empire was governed by Yehya and his sons was only seventeen years, i.e. A.D 786-803, but see my Essay.
[FN#159] The apparent meaning of this somewhat obscure saying is, “Since fortune is uncertain, conciliate the favour of those with whom thou hast to do by kind offices, so thou mayst find refuge with them in time of need.”
[FN#160] For a detailed account of the Barmecides and of their fall, see my Essay.
[FN#161] Breslau Text, vol. vii. pp. 260-1, Night dlxviii.
[FN#162] Aboulabbas Mohammed Ibn Sabih, surnamed Ibn es Semmak (son of the fishmonger), a well-known Cufan jurisconsult and ascetic of the time. He passed the latter part of his life at Baghdad and enjoyed high favour with Er Reshid, as the only theological authority whom the latter could induce to promise him admission to Paradise.
[FN#163] Breslau Text, vol. vii. pp. 261-2, Night dlxviii.
[FN#164] Seventh Khalif of the house of Abbas, A.D. 813-33.
[FN#165] Sixth Khalif of the house of Abbas, A.D. 809-13, a sanguinary and incapable prince, whose contemplated treachery against his brother El Mamoun, (whom, by the advice of his vizier, the worthless intriguer Fezl ben Rebya, the same who was one of the prime movers in the ruin of the illustrious Barmecide family and who succeeded Yehya and his sons in the vizierate (see my Essay), he contemplated depriving of his right of succession and murdering,) was deservedly requited with the loss of his own kingdom and life. He was, by the way, put to death by El Mamoun’s general, in contravention of the express orders of that generous and humane prince, who wished his brother to be sent prisoner to him, on the capture of Baghdad.
[FN#166] i.e. forfeits. It is a favourite custom among the Arabs to impose on the loser of a game, in lieu of stakes, the obligation of doing whatsoever the winner may command him. For an illustration of this practice, see my “Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” Vol. V. pp. 336-41, Story of the Sandalwood Merchant and the Sharpers.
[FN#167] El Mamoun was of a very swarthy complexion and is said to have been the son of a black slave-girl. Zubeideh was Er Reshid’s cousin, and El Amin was, therefore, a member of the house of Abbas, both on the father’s and mother’s side. Of this purity of descent from the Prophet’s family (in which he is said to have stood alone among the Khalifs of the Abbaside dynasty) both himself and his mother were exceedingly proud, and it was doubtless this circumstance which led Er Reshid to prefer El Amin and to assign him the precedence in the succession over the more capable and worthier El Mamoun.
[FN#168] Breslau Text, vol. viii. pp. 226-9, Nights dclx-i.
[FN#169] A pre-Mohammedan King of the Arab kingdom of Hireh (a town near Cufa on the Euphrates), under the suzerainty of the Chosroes of Persia, and a cruel and fantastic tyrant.
[FN#170] The tribe to which belonged the renowned pre-Mohammedan chieftain and poet, Hatim Tal, so celebrated in the East for his extravagant generosity and hospitality.
[FN#171] i.e. I will make a solemn covenant with him before God.
[FN#172] i.e. he of the tribe of Tai.
[FN#173] In generosity.
[FN#174] A similar anecdote is told of Omar ben el Khettab, second successor of Mohammed, and will be found in my “Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” Vol. IV. p. 239.
[FN#175] Breslau Text, vol. viii. pp. 273-8, Nights dclxxv—vi.
[FN#176] A similar story will be found in my “Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night”, Vol. V. p. 263.
[FN#177] Breslau Text, vol xi. pp. 84-318, Nights dccclxxv-dccccxxx.
[FN#178] i.e. A pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is one of a Muslim’s urgent duties.
[FN#179] By a rhetorical figure, Mecca is sometimes called El Hejj (the Pilgrimage) and this appears to be the case here. It is one of the dearest towns in the East and the chief occupation of its inhabitants a the housing and fleecing of pilgrims. An Arab proverb says, “There is no place in which money goes [so fast] as it goes in Mecca.”
[FN#180] lit. loved with it.
[FN#181] It is not clear what is here meant by El Hejj; perhaps Medina, though this is a “visitation” and not an obligatory part of the pilgrimage. The passage is probably corrupt.
[FN#182] It is not clear what is here meant by El Hejj; perhaps Medina, though this is a “visitation” and not an obligatory part of the pilgrimage. The passage is probably corrupt.
[FN#183] Syn. whole or perfect (sehik).
[FN#184] i.e. in white woollen garments.
[FN#185] i.e. I desire a privy place, where I may make the preliminary ablution and pray.
[FN#186] It is customary in the East to give old men and women the complimentary title of “pilgrim,” assuming, as a matter of course, that they have performed the obligatory rite of pilgrimage.
[FN#187] Or saint.
[FN#188] Keniseh, a Christian or other non-Muslim place of worship.
[FN#189] Apparently the harem.
[FN#190] i.e. otherwise than according to God’s ordinance.
[FN#191] A city of Persian Irak.
[FN#192] Lit. its apparatus, i.e. spare strings, etc.?
[FN#193] i.e. the woman whose face he saw.
[FN#194] Lit. the place of battle, i.e. that where they had lain.
[FN#195] A common Eastern fashion of securing a shop, when left for a short time. The word shebekeh (net) may also be tendered a grating or network of iron or other metal.
[FN#196] i.e. gave her good measure.
[FN#197] i.e. she found him a good workman. Equivoque erotique, apparently founded on the to-and-fro movement of the shuttle in weaving.
[FN!198] Equivoque érotique.
[FN#199] i.e. removed the goods exposed for sale and laid them up in the inner shop or storehouse.
[FN#200] The Eastern oven is generally a great earthenware jar sunken in the earth.
[FN#201] i.e. a boughten white slave (memlouk).
[FN#202] Apparently changing places. The text is here fearfully corrupt and (as in many other parts of the Breslau Edition) so incoherent as to be almost unintelligible.
[FN#203] i.e. in the (inner) courtyard.
[FN#204] i.e. the essential nature, lit. jewel.
[FN#205] i.e. in proffering thee the kingship.
[FN#206] Without the city.
[FN#207] According to the conclusion of the story, this recompense consisted in an augmentation of the old man’s allowances of food. See post, p. 245.
[FN#208] i.e. I have given my opinion.
[FN#209] This passage is evidently corrupt. I have amended it, on conjecture, to the best of my power.
[FN#210] The words ruteb wa menazil, here rendered “degrees and dignities,” may also be rendered, “stations and mansions (of the moon and planets).”
[FN#211] Syn. “ailing” or “sickly.”
[FN#212] i.e. the caravan with which he came.
[FN#213] i.e. I seek to marry thy daughter, not for her own sake, but because I desire thine alliance.
[FN#214] i.e. the face of his bride.
[FN#215] i.e. his wife.
[FN#216] i.e. his wife.
[FN#217] Naming the poor man.
[FN#218] Naming his daughter.
[FN#219] i.e. united.
[FN#220] Or “humble.”
[FN#221] i.e. one another.
[FN#222] Or “conquer.”
[FN#223] Or “commandment.”
[FN#224] Lit. “will be higher than.”
[FN#225] Syn. device or resource (hileh).
[FN#226] Syn. chasten or instruct.
[FN#227] Students of our old popular poetry will recognize, in the principal incident of this story, the subject of the well-known ballad, “The Heir of Linne.”
[FN#228] i.e. Turcomans; afterwards called Sejestan.
[FN#229] With a pile of stones or some such landmark.
[FN#230] i.e. the extraordinary resemblance of the supposed sister to his wife.
[FN#231] The foregoing passage is evidently very corrupt and the meaning is by no means plain, but, in the absence of a parallel version, it is impossible to clear up the obscurity of the text.
[FN#232] This appears to be the sense of the text; but the whole passage is to obscure and corrupt that it is impossible to make sure of its exact meaning.
[FN#233] Meaning apparently, “thou puttest my devices to nought” or (perhaps) “thou art so skilful that I fear lest thou undermine my favour with the king and oust me from my post of vizier.”
[FN#234] Lit. “land;” but the meaning is evidently as in the text.
[FN#235] The reader will recognize the well-known story used by Chaucer, Boccaccio and La Fontaine.
[FN#236] Syn. flourishing.
[FN#237] Syn. depopulated.
[FN#238] Lit. an oppressor.
[FN#239] i.e. a man of commanding presence.
[FN#240] Syn. cause flourish.
[FN#241] Syn. depopulateth.
[FN#242] Lit. the year.
[FN#243] The whole of the tither’s account of himself is terribly obscure and so corrupt that it is hardly possible to make sense of it. The same remark applies to much of the rest of the story.
[FN#244] Or “cause flourish.”
[FN#245] Lit. a better theologian. The Muslim law being entirely based on the Koran and the Traditions of the Prophet, the terms “lawyer” and “theologian” are necessarily synonymous among Mohammedan peoples.
[FN#246] A danic is the sixth of a dirhem, i.e. about one penny.
[FN#247] i.e. say, “May I be [triply] divorced from my wife, if etc.!” By the Muslim law, a divorce three times pronounced is irrevocable, and in case of its appearing that the user of such an oath as the above had sworn falsely, his wife would become divorced by operation of law, without further ceremony. Hence the frequency and binding nature of the oath in question.
[FN#248] i.e. thousandfold cuckold.
[FN#249] i.e. the blows which the thief had given him.
[FN#250] i.e. at least, at the most moderate reckoning.
[FN#251] Or “Breath of God,” a title given to Jesus by the Mohammedans.
[FN#252] i.e. attaineth his desire.
[FN#253] Syn. guards.
[FN#254] i.e. the husbandman.
[FN#255] i.e. those bound to render suit and service to the king, as holders of fiefs.
[FN#256] Syn. the revenue or rent-charge of thy fief.
[FN#257] Heads of families?
[FN#258] Or “caused flourish.”
[FN#259] Or froward.
[FN#260] i.e. sold and spent the price of.
[FN#261] i.e. his lack of means to entertain her.
[FN#262] i.e. all that can conduce to.
[FN#263] i.e. it is for you (after God) to excuse me.
[FN#264] i.e. the [supposed] rest of his hoard.
[FN#265] Apparently the idiot’s name.
[FN#266] i.e. had he been on his own guard against that, etc.
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