Nor,” added the vizier, “is this, O king of the age, more extraordinary or stranger than the story of the king and his chamberlain’s wife; nay, the latter is rarer than this and more delightsome.”
When the king heard this story, he was fortified in his resolve to spare the vizier and to leave haste in an affair whereof he was not assured; so he comforted him and bade him withdraw to his lodging.
The Twenty-Fourth Night of the Month.
When it was night, the king summoned the vizier and sought of him the hearing of the [promised] story. “Hearkening and obedience,” replied Er Rehwan, “Know, O august king, that
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a king of the kings of the Persians, who was passionately addicted to the love of women. His courtiers bespoke him of the wife of a chamberlain of his chamberlains, for that she was endowed with beauty and loveliness and perfection, and this prompted him to go in to her. When she saw him, she knew him and said to him, ’What prompteth the king unto this that he doth?’ And he answered, saying, ’Verily, I yearn after thee with an exceeding yearning and needs must I enjoy thy favours.’ And he gave her of wealth that after the like whereof women hanker; but she said, ’I cannot do that whereof the king speaketh, for fear of my husband.’ And she refused herself to him with the most rigorous of refusals and would not do his desire. So the king went out, full of wrath, and forgot his girdle in the place.
Presently, her husband entered and saw the girdle and knew it. Now he was ware of the king’s love for women; so he said to his wife, ’ What is this that I see with thee?’ Quoth she, ’I will tell thee the truth,’ and recounted to him the story; but he believed her not and doubt entered into his heart. As for the king, he passed that night in chagrin and concern, and when it morrowed, he summoned the chamberlain and investing him with the governance of one of his provinces, bade him betake himself thither, purposing, after he should have departed and come to his destination, to foregather with his wife. The chamberlain perceived [his intent] and knew his design; so he answered, saying, ’Hearkening and obedience. I will go and set my affairs in order and give such charges as may be necessary for the welfare of my estate; then will I go about the king’s occasion.’ And the king said, ‘Do this and hasten.’
So the chamberlain went about that which he needed and assembling his wife’s kinsfolk, said to them, ’I am resolved to put away my wife.’ They took this ill of him and complained of him and summoning him before the king, sat pleading with him. Now the king had no knowledge of that which had passed; so he said to the chamberlain, ’Why wilt thou put her away and how can thy soul consent unto this and why takest thou unto thyself a goodly piece of