THE TWO KINGS AND THE VIZIER'S DAUGHTERS. (154)

[Aforetime] I journeyed in [many] lands and climes and towns and visited the great cities and traversed the ways and [exposed myself to] dangers and hardships. Towards the last of my life, I entered a city [of the cities of China], (155) wherein was a king of the Chosroes and the Tubbas (156) and the Caesars. (157) Now that city had been peopled with its inhabitants by means of justice and equitable dealing; but its [then] king was a tyrant, who despoiled souls and [did away] lives; there was no wanning oneself at his fire, (158) for that indeed he oppressed the true believers and wasted the lands. Now he had a younger brother, who was [king] in Samarcand of the Persians, and the two kings abode a while of time, each in his own city and place, till they yearned unto each other and the elder king despatched his vizier in quest of his younger brother.

When the vizier came to the King of Samarcand [and acquainted him with his errand], he submitted himself to the commandment [of his brother and made answer] with 'Hearkening and obedience.' Then he equipped himself and made ready for the journey and brought forth his tents and pavilions. A while after midnight, he went in to his wife, that he might take leave of her, and found with her a strange man, sleeping with her in one bed. So he slew them both and dragging them out by the feet, cast them away and set forth incontinent on his journey. When he came to his brother's court, the latter rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and lodged him in the pavilion of entertainment, [to wit, the guest-house,] beside his own palace. Now this pavilion overlooked a garden belonging to the elder king and there the younger brother abode with him some days. Then he called to mind that which his wife had done with him and remembered him of her slaughter and bethought him how he was a king, yet was not exempt from the vicissitudes of fortune; and this wrought upon him with an exceeding despite, so that it caused him abstain from meat and drink, or, if he ate anything, it profited him not.

When his brother saw him on this wise, he doubted not but that this had betided him by reason of severance from his people and family and said to him, 'Come, let us go forth a-hunting.' But he refused to go with him; so the elder brother went forth to the chase, whilst the younger abode in the pavilion aforesaid. As he was diverting himself by looking out upon the garden from the window of the palace, behold, he saw his brother's wife and with her ten black slaves and as many slave-girls. Each slave laid hold of a damsel [and swived her] and another slave [came forth and] did the like with the queen; and when they had done their occasions, they all returned whence they came. Therewithal there betided the King of Samarcand exceeding wonder and solacement and he was made whole of his malady, little by little.

After a few days, his brother returned and finding him healed of his sickness, said to him, 'Tell me, O my brother, what was the cause of thy sickness and thy pallor, and what is the cause of the return of health to thee and of rosiness to thy face after this?' So he acquainted him with the whole case and this was grievous to him; but they concealed their affair and agreed to leave the kingship and fare forth pilgrim-wise, wandering at a venture, for they deemed that there had befallen none the like of this which had befallen them. [So they went forth and wandered on at hazard] and as they journeyed, they saw by the way a woman imprisoned in seven chests, whereon were five locks, and sunken in the midst of the salt sea, under the guardianship of an Afrit; yet for all this that woman issued forth of the sea and opened those locks and coming forth of those chests, did what she would with the two brothers, after she had circumvented the Afrit.

When the two kings saw that woman's fashion and how she circumvented the Afrit, who had lodged her at the bottom of the sea, they turned back to their kingdoms and the younger betook himself to Samarcand, whilst the elder returned to China and established unto himself a custom in the slaughter of women, to wit, his vizier used to bring him a girl every night, with whom he lay that night, and when he arose in the morning, he gave her to the vizier and bade him put her to death. On this wise he abode a great while, whilst the people murmured and the creatures [of God] were destroyed and the commons cried out by reason of that grievous affair whereinto they were fallen and feared the wrath of God the Most High, dreading lest He should destroy them by means of this. Still the king persisted in that fashion and in that his blameworthy intent of the killing of women and the despoilment of the curtained ones, (159) wherefore the girls sought succour of God the Most High and complained to Him of the tyranny of the king and of his oppressive dealing with them.

Now the king's vizier had two daughters, own sisters, the elder of whom had read books and made herself mistress of [all] sciences and studied the writings of the sages and the histories of the boon-companions, (160) and she was possessed of abundant wit and knowledge galore and surpassing apprehension. She heard that which the folk suffered from the king and his despiteous usage of their children; whereupon compassion gat hold upon her for them and jealousy and she besought God the Most High that He would bring the king to renounce that his heresy, (161) and God answered her prayer. Then she took counsel with her younger sister and said to her, 'I mean to contrive somewhat for the liberation of the people's children; and it is that I will go up to the king [and offer myself to him], and when I come to his presence, I will seek thee. When thou comest in to me and the king hath done his occasion [of me], do thou say to me, 'O my sister, let me hear and let the king hear a story of thy goodly stories, wherewithal we may beguile the waking hours of our night, till we take leave of each other.' 'It is well,' answered the other. 'Surely this contrivance will deter the king from his heresy and thou shalt be requited with exceeding favour and abounding recompense in the world to come, for that indeed thou adventurest thyself and wilt either perish or attain to thy desire.'

So she did this and fair fortune aided her and the Divine favour was vouchsafed unto her and she discovered her intent to her father, who forbade her therefrom, fearing her slaughter. However, she repeated her speech to him a second and a third time, but he consented not. Then he cited unto her a parable, that should deter her, and she cited him a parable in answer to his, and the talk was prolonged between them and the adducing of instances, till her father saw that he availed not to turn her from her purpose and she said to him, 'Needs must I marry the king, so haply I may be a sacrifice for the children of the Muslims; either I shall turn him from this his heresy or I shall die.' When the vizier despaired of dissuading her, he went up to the king and acquainted him with the case, saying, 'I have a daughter and she desireth to give herself to the king.' Quoth the king, 'How can thy soul consent unto this, seeing that thou knowest I lie but one night with a girl and when I arise on the morrow, I put her to death, and it is thou who slayest her, and thou hast done this again and again?' 'Know, O king,' answered the vizier, 'that I have set forth all this to her, yet consented she not unto aught, but needs must she have thy company and still chooseth to come to thee and present herself before thee, notwithstanding that I have cited to her the sayings of the sages; but she hath answered me to the contrary thereof with more than that which I said to her.' And the king said, 'Bring her to me this night and to-morrow morning come thou and take her and put her to death; and by Allah, an thou slay her not, I will slay thee and her also!'

The vizier obeyed the king's commandment and going out from before him, [returned to his own house. When it was night, he took his elder daughter and carried her up to the king; and when she came into his presence,] she wept; whereupon quoth he to her, 'What causeth thee weep? Indeed, it was thou who willedst this.' And she answered, saying, 'I weep not but for longing after my little sister; for that, since we grew up, I and she, I have never been parted from her till this day; so, if it please the king to send for her, that I may look on her and take my fill of her till the morning, this were bounty and kindness of the king.'

Accordingly, the king bade fetch the girl [and she came]. Then there befell that which befell of his foregathering with the elder sister, and when he went up to his couch, that he might sleep, the younger sister said to the elder, 'I conjure thee by Allah, O my sister, an thou be not asleep, tell us a story of thy goodly stories, wherewithal we may beguile the watches of our night, against morning come and parting.' 'With all my heart,' answered she and fell to relating to her, whilst the king listened. Her story was goodly and delightful, and whilst she was in the midst of telling it, the dawn broke. Now the king's heart clave to the hearing of the rest of the story; so he respited her till the morrow, and when it was the next night, she told him a story concerning the marvels of the lands and the extraordinary chances of the folk, that was yet stranger and rarer than the first. In the midst of the story, the day appeared and she was silent from the permitted speech. So he let her live till the ensuing night, so he might hear the completion of the story and after put her to death.

Meanwhile, the people of the city rejoiced and were glad and blessed the vizier's daughter, marvelling for that three days had passed and that the king had not put her to death and exulting in that, [as they deemed,] he had turned [from his purpose] and would never again burden himself with blood-guiltiness against any of the maidens of the city. Then, on the fourth night, she related to him a still more extraordinary story, and on the fifth night she told him anecdotes of kings and viziers and notables. On this wise she ceased not [to do] with him [many] days and nights, what while the king still said in himself, 'When I have heard the end of the story, I will put her to death,' and the people waxed ever in wonder and admiration. Moreover, the folk of the provinces and cities heard of this thing, to wit, that the king had turned from his custom and from that which he had imposed upon himself and had renounced his heresy, wherefore they rejoiced and the folk returned to the capital and took up their abode therein, after they had departed thence; yea, they were constant in prayer to God the Most High that He would stablish the king in that his present case; and this," said Shehrzad, "is the end of that which my friend related to me."

"O Shehrzad," quoth Shehriyar, "finish unto us the story that thy friend told thee, for that it resembleth the story of a king whom I knew; but fain would I hear that which betided the people of this city and what they said of the affair of the king, so I may return from that wherein I was." "With all my heart," answered Shehrzad. "Know, O august king and lord of just judgment and praiseworthy excellence and exceeding prowess, that, when the folk heard that the king had put away from him his custom and returned from that which had been his wont, they rejoiced in this with an exceeding joy and offered up prayers for him. Then they talked with one another of the cause of the slaughter of the girls, and the wise said, 'They (162) are not all alike, nor are the fingers of the hand alike.'"

SHEHRZAD AND SHEHRIYAR. (163)

(Conclusion)

When King Shehriyar heard this story, he came to himself and awaking from his drunkenness, (164) said, "By Allah, this story is my story and this case is my case, for that indeed I was in wrath (165) and [danger of] punishment till thou turnedst me back from this into the right way, extolled be the perfection of the Causer of causes and the Liberator of necks! Indeed, O Shehrzad," continued he, "thou hast awakened me unto many things and hast aroused me from mine ignorance."

Then said she to him, "O chief of the kings, the wise say, 'The kingship is a building, whereof the troops are the foundation,' and whenas the foundation is strong, the building endureth; wherefore it behoveth the king to strengthen the foundation, for that they say, 'Whenas the foundation is weak, the building falleth.' On like wise it behoveth the king to care for his troops and do justice among his subjects, even as the owner of the garden careth for his trees and cutteth away the weeds that have no profit in them; and so it behoveth the king to look into the affairs of his subjects and fend off oppression from them. As for thee, O king," continued Shehrzad, "it behoveth thee that thy vizier be virtuous and versed in the knowledge of the affairs of the folk and the common people; and indeed God the Most High hath named his name (166) in the history of Moses (on whom be peace!) whenas He saith, [Quoth Moses] 'And make me a vizier of my people, Aaron [my brother]. (167) Could a vizier have been dispensed withal, Moses ben Imran had been worthier [than any of this dispensation]. (168)

As for the vizier, the sultan discovereth unto him his affairs, private and public; and know, O king, that the similitude of thee with the people is that of the physician with the sick man; and the condition (169) of the vizier is that he be truthful in his sayings, trustworthy in all his relations, abounding in compassion for the folk and in tender solicitude over them. Indeed, it is said, O king, that good troops (170) are like the druggist; if his perfumes reach thee not, thou still smallest the sweet scent of them; and ill troops are like the black-smith; if his sparks burn thee not, thou smellest his nauseous smell. So it behoveth thee take unto thyself a virtuous vizier, a man of good counsel, even as thou takest unto thee a wife displayed before thy face, for that thou hast need of the man's righteousness for thine own amendment, (171) seeing that, if thou do righteously, the commons will do likewise, and if thou do evil, they also will do evil."

When the king heard this, drowsiness overcame him and he slept and presently awaking, called for the candles. So they were lighted and he sat down on his couch and seating Shehrzad by him, smiled in her face. She kissed the earth before him and said, "O king of the age and lord of the time and the day, extolled be the perfection of [God] the Forgiving One, the Bountiful Giver, who hath sent me unto thee, of His favour and beneficence, so I have informed thee with longing after Paradise; for that this which thou wast used to do was never done of any of the kings before thee. As for women, God the Most High [in His Holy Book] maketh mention of them, [whenas He saith, 'Verily, men who submit [themselves unto God] and women who submit] and true-believing men and true-believing women and obedient men and obedient women and soothfast men and soothfast women [and long-suffering men and long-suffering women and men who order themselves humbly and women who order themselves humbly and charitable men and charitable women and men who fast and women who fast] and men who guard their privities and women who guard their privities [and men who are constantly mindful of God and women who are constantly mindful, God hath prepared unto them forgiveness and a mighty recompense]. (172)

As for that which hath befallen thee, verily, it hath befallen [many] kings before thee and their women have played them false, for all they were greater of puissance than thou, yea, and mightier of kingship and more abounding in troops. If I would, I could relate unto thee, O king, concerning the wiles of women, that whereof I could not make an end all my life long; and indeed, aforetime, in all these my nights that I have passed before thee, I have told thee [many stories and anecdotes] of the artifices of women and of their craft and perfidy; but indeed the things abound on me; (173) wherefore, if it like thee, O king, I will relate unto thee [somewhat] of that which befell kings of old time of the perfidy of their women and of the calamities which overtook them by reason of these latter." "How so?" asked the king. "Tell on." "Hearkening and obedience,"answered Shehrzad."It hath been told me, O king, that a man once related to a company and spoke as follows:




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