KHUSRAU AND SHIRIN WITH THE FISHERMAN

King Khusrau (117) of Persia loved fish; and one day, as he sat in his saloon, he and Shirin (118) his wife, there came a fisherman, with a great fish, and presented it to the King, who was pleased and ordered the man four thousand dirhems. When he was gone, Shirin said to the King, 'Thou hast done ill.' 'Wherefore?' asked he; and she answered, 'Because if, after this, thou give one of thy courtiers a like sum, he will disdain it and say, "He hath but given me the like of what he gave the fisherman." And if thou give him less, he will say, "He makes light of me and gives me less than he gave the fisherman."' 'Thou art right,' rejoined Khusrau; 'but the thing is done and it ill becomes a king to go back on his gift.' Quoth Shirin, 'An thou wilt, I will contrive thee a means to get it back from him.' 'How so?' asked he; and she said, 'Call back the fisherman and ask him if the fish be male or female. If he say, "Male," say thou, "We want a female," and if he say, "Female," say, "We want a male."'

So he sent for the fisherman, who was a man of wit and discernment, and said to him, 'Is this fish male or female?' The fisherman kissed the ground and answered, 'It is of the neuter gender, neither male nor female.' The King laughed and ordered him other four thousand dirhems. So the fisherman went to the treasurer and taking his eight thousand dirhems, put them in a bag he had with him. Then, throwing the bag over his shoulder, he was going away, when he dropped a dirhem; so he laid the bag off his back and stooped down to pick it up. Now the King and Shirin were looking on, and the latter said, 'O King, didst thou note the meanness and greediness of yon man, in that he must needs stoop down, to pick up the one dirhem, and could not bring himself to leave it for one of the King's servants?' When the King heard this, he was wroth with the fisherman and said, 'Thou art right, O Shirin!' So he called the man back and said to him, 'Thou low-minded fellow! Thou art no man! How couldst thou put the bag off thy shoulder and stoop to pick up the one dirhem and grudge to leave it where it fell?' The fisherman kissed the earth before him and answered, 'May God prolong the King's life! Indeed, I did not pick up the dirhem, because of its value in my eyes; but because on one of its faces is the likeness of the King and on the other his name; and I feared lest any should unwittingly set his foot upon it, thus dishonouring the name and presentment of the King, and I be blamed for the offence.' The King wondered at his wit and shrewdness and ordered him yet other four thousand dirhems. Moreover, he let cry abroad in his kingdom, saying, 'It behoveth none to order himself by women's counsel; for whoso followeth their advice, loseth, with his one dirhem, other two.'




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