As for the king their father, he abode with his wife, their mother, what while God (to whom belong might and majesty) willed, and they rejoiced in reunion with each other. The kingship endured unto them and glory and victory, and the king continued to rule with justice and equity, so that the people loved him and still invoked on him and on his sons length of days and durance; and they lived the most delightsome of lives till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies, He who layeth waste the palaces and peopleth the tombs; and this is all that hath come down to us of the story of the king and his wife and children. Nor,” added the vizier, “if this story be a solace and a diversion, is it pleasanter or more diverting than that of the young man of Khorassan and his mother and sister.”
When King Shah Bekht heard this story, it pleased him and he bade the vizier go away to his own house.
The Twenty-Seventh Night of the Month
When the evening came, the king bade fetch the vizier; so he presented himself before him and the king bade him tell the [promised] story. So he said, “Hearkening and obedience. Know, O king (but God alone knoweth His secret purpose and is versed in all that is past and was foredone among bygone peoples), that
There was once, in the parts of Khorassan, a man of the affluent of the country, who was a merchant of the chiefest of the merchants and was blessed with two children, a son and a daughter. He was assiduous in rearing them and making fair their education, and they grew up and throve after the goodliest fashion. He used to teach the boy, who taught his sister all that he learnt, so that the girl became perfect in the knowledge of the Traditions of the Prophet and in polite letters, by means of her brother. Now the boy’s name was Selim and that of the girl Selma. When they grew up and waxed, their father built them a mansion beside his own and lodged them apart therein and appointed them slave-girls and servants to tend them and assigned unto each of them pensions and allowances and all that they needed of high and low, meat and bread and wine and raiment and vessels and what not else. So Selim and Selma abode in that mansion, as they were one soul in two bodies, and they used to sleep on one couch; and rooted in each one’s heart was love and affection and familiar friendship [for the other of them].
One night, when the night was half spent, as Selim and Selma sat talking and devising with each other, they heard a noise below the house; so they looked out from a lattice that gave upon the gate of their father’s mansion and saw a man of goodly presence, whose clothes were hidden by a wide cloak, which covered him. He came up to the gate and laying hold of the door-ring, gave a light knock; whereupon the door opened and out came their sister, with a lighted flambeau, and after her their mother, who saluted the stranger and embraced him, saying, ’O beloved of my heart and light of mine eyes and fruit of mine entrails, enter.’ So he entered and shut the door, whilst Selim and Selma abode amazed.