THE ANGEL OF DEATH WITH THE PROUD KING AND THE DEVOUT MAN.

A certain king of the ancients was once minded to ride out in state with the officers of his court and the grandees of his realm and show forth to the folk the wonders of his magnificence. So he bade his lords and Amirs and grandees equip them to this end and commanded his keeper of the wardrobe to bring him of the richest of raiment, such as befitted the King in his state and [his master of the horse] to bring his steeds of the finest breeds and most renowned pedigrees, which being done, he chose out of the raiment what liked him and of the horses that which he deemed good and donning the clothes, together with a collar set with pearls and rubies and all manner jewels, mounted and set forth in state, making his horse prance and curvet among his troops and glorying in his pride and magnificence. And Satan came to him and laying his hand upon his nose, blew into his nostrils the breath of pride and conceit, so that he magnified himself and said in his heart, 'Who among men is like unto me?' And he became so puffed up with arrogance and conceit and so taken up with the thought of his own glory and magnificence, that he would not vouchsafe a glance to any. Presently, there came up a man clad in tattered clothes and saluted him, but he returned not his greeting, whereupon the stranger laid hold of his horse's bridle. 'Lift thy hand,' said the King, 'thou knowest not whose bridle-rein it is whereof thou takest hold.' Quoth the other, 'I have an occasion to thee.' 'Wait till I alight,' replied the King, 'and then name it.' 'Nay,' rejoined the stranger, 'it is a secret and I will not tell it but in thine ear.' So the King bowed his head to him and he said, 'I am the Angel of Death and I purpose to take thy soul.' 'Have patience with me a little,' said the King, 'whilst I return to my house and take leave of my people and children and neighbours and wife.' 'Not so,' answered the angel; 'thou shalt never return nor look on them again, for the term of thy life is past.' So saying, he took the soul of the King,--who fell off his horse's back, dead,--and departed thence.

Presently, he met a devout man, of whom God the Most High had accepted, and saluted him. He returned his salute, and the Angel of Death said to him, 'O pious man, I have a privy occasion to thee.' 'Tell it in my ear,' said the devotee. Quoth the other, 'I am the Angel of Death.' 'Welcome to thee!' replied the man. 'Praised be God for thy coming! I am weary of awaiting thee; for indeed long hath been thine absence from him who longeth for thee.' Quoth the angel, 'If thou have any business, make an end of it.' But the other answered, saying, 'There is nothing urgent to me as the meeting with my Lord, to whom belong might and majesty!' And the angel said, 'How wouldst thou liefer have me take thy soul? I am bidden to take it as thou willest and choosest.' 'Wait till I make the ablution and pray,' replied the devotee; 'and when I prostrate myself, then take my soul in the act.' Quoth the angel, 'Verily, my Lord commanded me not to take thy soul but with thy consent and as thou shouldst wish; so I will do thy will.' Then the devout man rose and made the ablution and prayed: and the Angel of Death took his soul in the act of adoration, and God transported it to the place of mercy and acceptance and forgiveness.




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