THE ANGEL OF DEATH AND THE KING OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.

There was once a proud and puissant king of the children of Israel, who sat one day upon the throne of his kingship, when he saw come in to him, by the gate of the hall, a man of terrible and forbidding aspect. The King was affrighted at his sudden intrusion upon him and his look terrified him; so he sprang up and said to him, 'Who art thou, O man? Who gave thee leave to come in to me and who sent thee to my house?' Quoth the stranger, 'The Lord of the house sent me to thee and I need no leave to come in to kings, nor can any door- keeper exclude me, for I reck not of a Sultan's majesty neither of the multitude of guards. I am he from whom no tyrant is at rest, nor for any is there escape from my grasp: I am the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Companies.'

When the King heard this, trembling crept over his body and he fell on his face in a swoon; but, presently coming to himself, he said, 'Art thou then the Angel of Death?' 'Yes,' answered the stranger. 'I conjure thee by Allah,' quoth the King, 'grant me one day's respite, that I may ask pardon of my sins and seek absolution of my Lord and restore to their rightful owners the treasures that are in my storehouses, so I may not be burdened with the woe of a reckoning nor suffer the misery of punishment therefor.' 'Away! away!' replied the Angel. 'This may nowise be. How can I grant thee a respite, whenas the days of thy life are counted and thy breaths numbered and thy moments fixed and written?' 'Grant me an hour,' said the King; but the Angel answered, saying, 'The hour was in the account and hath passed, and thou unheeding, and hath expired, and thou taking no thought: and now thy moments are accomplished, and there remains to thee but one breath.' 'Who will be with me, when I am transported to my grave?' asked the King. Quoth the Angel, 'Nought will be with thee but thy work.' 'I have no work,' said the King; and the Angel, 'Doubtless, thine abiding place will be in the fire and thy departure to the wrath of the Almighty.' Then he took the soul of the King, and he fell off his throne and dropped on the earth [dead]. And there arose a mighty weeping and wailing and clamour of lamentation for him among the people of his court, and had they known that to which he went of the wrath of his Lord, their weeping for him had been [yet] sorer and their lamentation louder and more abounding.




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