“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,
STORY OF KING SULEIMAN SHAH AND HIS SONS.
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.