KING JELYAAD OF HIND AND HIS VIZIER SHIMAS; WHEREAFTER ENSUETH THE HISTORY OF KING WIRD KHAN, SON OF KING JELYAAD, WITH HIS WOMEN AND VIZIERS.
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, in the land of Hind, a mighty king, tall and goodly of parts and presence, noble and generous of nature, beneficent to the poor and loving the tillers of the soil and all the people of his kingdom. His name was Jelyaad and under his hand were two-and-seventy [vassal] kings and in his cities three hundred and fifty Cadis. He had threescore and ten viziers and over every ten of them he set a chief. The chiefest of all his viziers was a man called Shimas, who was then (141) two-and-twenty years old, a man of comely presence and noble nature, pleasant of speech and quick in reply. Moreover, he was shrewd and skilful in all manner of business, for all his tender age, sagacious, a man of good counsel and government, versed in all arts and sciences and accomplishments; and the king loved him with an exceeding love and cherished him by reason of his proficiency in eloquence and rhetoric and the art of government and for that which God had given him of compassion and tender solicitude for the people; for he was a king just in his governance and a protector of his subjects, constant in beneficence to great and small and giving them that which befitted them of good governance and bounty and protection and security and a lightener of their burdens. And indeed he was loving to them all, high and low, entreating them with kindness and clemency and governing them on such goodly wise as none had done before him. But, with all this, God the Most High had not blessed him with a child, and this was grievous to him and to the people of his kingdom.
It chanced, one night, as the king lay in his bed, occupied with anxious thought of the issue of the affair of his kingdom, that sleep overcame him and he dreamt that he poured water upon the roots of a tree, about which were many other trees; and behold there came fire out of this tree and burnt up all that encompassed it; whereupon Jelyaad awoke, affrighted and trembling, and calling one of his servants, bade him fetch the Vizier Shimas in all haste. So he betook himself to Shimas and said to him, 'The king calls for thee, for he hath awoke from his sleep in affright and hath sent me to bring thee to him in haste.'
When Shimas heard this, he arose forthright and going in to the king, found him seated on his bed. So he prostrated himself before him, wishing him continuance of glory and prosperity, and said, 'May God not cause thee grieve, O king! What hath troubled thee this night, and what is the cause of thy seeking me thus in haste?' The king bade him be seated and said to him, 'I have dreamt this night a dream that terrified me, and it was, that methought I poured water upon the roots of a tree and as I was thus engaged, behold, fire issued therefrom and burnt up all the trees that were about it; wherefore I was affrighted and fear took me. Then I awoke and sent to bid thee to me, because of thy much knowledge and skill in the interpretation of dreams and of that which I know of the extent of thy wisdom and the greatness of thine understanding.'
The vizier bowed his head awhile and presently raising it, smiled; whereupon the king said to him, 'What deemest thou, O Shimas? Tell me the truth of the matter and hide nothing from me.' 'O king,' answered Shimas, 'verily God the Most High granteth thee thy wish and solaceth thine eyes; for the matter of this dream presageth all good, to wit, that God will bless thee with a son, who shall inherit the kingdom from thee, after thy long life. But there is somewhat else that I desire not to expound at this present, seeing that the time is not favourable for its exposition.' The king rejoiced in this with an exceeding joy and great was his contentment; his trouble ceased from him and he said, 'If the case be thus of the happy presage of my dream, do thou complete to me its interpretation, when the fitting time cometh: for that which it behoveth not to expound to me now, it behoveth that thou expound to me, when its time cometh, so my joy may be fulfilled, because I seek nought in this but the approof of God, blessed and exalted be He!'
When the vizier saw that the king was urgent to have the rest of the exposition, he put him off with a pretext; but Jelyaad assembled all the astrologers and interpreters of dreams of his realm and related to them his dream, saying, 'I desire you to tell me the true interpretation of this.' Whereupon one of them came forward and craved the king's leave to speak, which being granted, he said, 'Know, O king, that thy Vizier Shimas is nowise unable to the interpretation of this thy dream; but he shrank from troubling thy repose: wherefore he expounded not unto thee the whole thereof: but, if thou bid me speak, I will acquaint thee with that which he hid from thee.' 'Speak without fear, O interpreter,' replied Jelyaad, 'and be truthful in thy speech.' 'Know then, O king,' said the interpreter, 'that there will be born to thee a son who shall inherit the kingship from thee, after thy long life; but he shall not order himself towards the folk after thy fashion, but shall transgress thine ordinances and oppress thy subjects, and there shall befall him what befell the mouse with the cat.' (142) 'I seek refuge with God the Most High!' exclaimed the king. 'But what is the story of the cat and the mouse?' 'May God prolong the king's life!' replied the interpreter. 'It is related that
The Cat and the Mouse
A grimalkin, that is to say, a cat, went out one night to a certain garden, in quest of what she might devour, but found nothing and became weak for the excess of cold and rain that prevailed that night. As she prowled about in search of prey, she espied a nest at the foot of a tree, and drawing near unto it, sniffed and purred about it till she scented a mouse within and went round about it, seeking to enter and take the mouse. When the latter smelt the cat, it turned its back to her and scraped up the earth with its paws, to stop the door against her; whereupon she counterfeited a weak voice and said, "Why dost thou thus, O my brother? I come to seek refuge with thee, hoping that thou wilt take pity on me and shelter me in thy nest this night; for I am weak, because of the greatness of my age and the loss of my strength, and can hardly move. I have ventured into this garden to-night, and how many a time have I prayed for death, that I might be at rest from this misery! Behold, here am I at thy door, prostrate for cold and wet, and I beseech thee, by Allah, take my hand of thy charity and bring me in with thee and give me shelter in the vestibule of thy nest; for I am a stranger and wretched and it is said, 'Whoso shelters a stranger and a wretched one in his dwelling, his shelter shall be Paradise on the Day of Reckoning.' And thou, O my brother, it behoves thee to earn a recompense [from God] by succouring me and suffering me abide with thee this night till the morning, when I will go my way." "How shall I suffer thee enter my nest," answered the mouse, "seeing that thou art my natural enemy and thy food is of my flesh? Indeed I fear lest thou play me false, for that is of thy nature and there is no faith in thee, and the byword says, 'It befits not to entrust a whoremonger with a fair woman nor a needy man with money nor fire with firewood.' Neither doth it behove me to entrust myself to thee; and it is said, 'Enmity of kind grows stronger, as the enemy himself grows weaker.'"
The cat made answer in a very faint voice, as she were in the most piteous case, saying, "What thou sayest of admonitory instances is the truth and I deny not my offences against thee; but I beseech thee to forgive that which is past of the enmity of kind between thee and me; for it is said, 'Whoso forgiveth a creature like himself, his Creator will forgive him his sins.' It is true that I was thy sometime enemy, but today I am a suitor for thy friendship, and it is said, 'If thou wilt have thine enemy be thy friend, do with him good.' O my brother, I swear to thee by Allah and make a binding covenant with thee that I will never do thee hurt, more by token that I have no power unto this; wherefore do thou trust in God and do good and accept my oath and covenant." "How can I accept the covenant of one between whom and me there is a rooted enmity," rejoined the mouse, "and whose wont it is to deal treacherously by me? Were the feud between us aught but one of blood, this were easy to me; but it is an enmity of kind between souls, and it is said, 'He who trusts himself to his enemy is as one who puts his hand into a viper's mouth.'" Quoth the cat, full of wrath, "My breast is straitened and my soul faints within me: indeed I am in extremity and ere long I shall die at thy door and my blood will be on thy head, for that thou hadst it in thy power to save me: and this is my last word to thee."
With this the fear of God the Most High overcame the mouse and pity took hold upon his heart and he said in himself, "Whoso would have the succour of God the Most High against his enemy, let him entreat him with compassion and kindness. I commit myself to God in this matter and will deliver this cat from this her strait and earn the reward [of God] for her." So he went forth and dragged the cat into his nest, where she abode till she was rested and somewhat restored, when she began to bewail her weakness and loss of strength and lack of friends. The mouse entreated her friendly and comforted her and busied himself with her service; but she crept along till she got command of the issue of the nest, lest the mouse should escape. So, when the latter would have gone out, after his wont, he drew near the cat; whereupon she seized him and taking him in her claws, began to bite him and shake him and take him in her mouth and lift him up and throw him down and run after him and crunch him and torture him.
The mouse cried out for help, beseeching God of deliverance, and began to upbraid the cat, saying, "Where is the covenant thou madest with me and where are the oaths thou sworest to me? Is this my reward from thee? I brought thee into my nest and trusted myself to thee: but he speaks sooth who says, 'He who relies on his enemy's promise desireth not salvation for himself.' And again, 'Whoso trusts himself to his enemy merits his own destruction.' Yet do I put my trust in my Creator, for He will deliver me from thee.' The cat was about to pounce on him and devour him, when up came a huntsman, with hunting dogs trained to the chase. One of the dogs passed by the mouth of the nest and hearing a great scuffing within, thought there was a fox there, tearing somewhat; so he thrust into the hole, to get at him, and coming upon the cat, seized on her. When she found herself in the dog's clutches, she was forced to take thought to herself and loosed the mouse alive and whole of wound. Then the dog broke her neck and dragging her forth of the hole, threw her down dead: and thus was exemplified the truth of the saying, "He who hath compassion, compassion shall be shown him at the last; and he who oppresseth shall presently be oppressed."
This, then, O king,' added the interpreter, 'is what befell the cat and the mouse and teaches that none should break faith with those who put trust in him; for whoso doth perfidy and treason, there shall befall him the like of that which befell the cat. As a man meteth, so shall it be meted unto him, and he who betaketh himself unto good shall gain his reward [in the world to come]. But grieve thou not, neither let this trouble thee, O king, for that most like thy son, after his tyranny and oppression, will return to the goodliness of thy policy. And I would that learned man, thy Vizier Shimas, had concealed from thee nought in that which he expounded unto thee; and this had been well-advised of him, for it is said, "Those of the folk who most abound in fear are the amplest of them in knowledge and the most emulous of good."'
The king received the interpreter's speech with submission and dismissing him and his fellow with rich presents, withdrew to his own apartments and fell to musing over the issue of his affair. When the night came, he went in to one of his women, who was most in favour with him and dearest to him of them all, and lay with her: and before four months had passed over her, the child stirred in her belly, whereat she rejoiced with an exceeding joy and told the king. Quoth he, 'My dream said sooth, by God the Helper!' And he lodged her in the goodliest of lodgings and bestowed on her store of rich gifts and entreated her with all honour. Then he sent for his Vizier Shimas and told him what had betided, rejoicing and saying, 'My dream is come true and I have attained my hope. It may be this child will be a son and inherit the kingship after me; what sayst thou of this, O Shimas?' But he was silent and made no reply. Quoth the king, 'What ails thee that thou rejoicest not in my joy and returnest me no answer? Doth the thing mislike thee, O Shimas?'
Thereupon the vizier prostrated himself before him and said, 'O king, may God prolong thy life! What availeth it to sit under the shade of a tree, if there issue fire therefrom, and what is the delight of one who drinketh pure wine, if he be choked withal, and what doth it profit to quench one's thirst with sweet cool water, if one be drowned therein? I am God's servant and thine, O king; but there are three things whereof it beats not the understanding to speak till they be accomplished; to wit, the traveller, till he return from his journey: the man who is at war, till he have overcome his enemy, and the pregnant woman, till she have cast her burden. For know, O king, that he, who speaks of aught before it be accomplished, is like the fakir and the pot of butter.' 'What is the story of the fakir,' asked the king, 'and what happened to him?' 'O king,' answered the vizier,
The Fakir and His Pot of Butter.
'A fakir abode once with one of the nobles of a certain town, who made him a daily allowance of three cakes of bread and a little butter and honey. Now butter was dear in those parts and the fakir laid all that came to him together in a pot he had, till he filled it and hung it up over his head for safe keeping. One night, as he sat on his bed, with his staff in his hand, he fell a-musing upon the butter and the greatness of its price and said in himself, "Needs must I sell all this butter I have and buy an ewe with the price and take to partner therein a husbandman who has a ram. The first year she will bear a male lamb and a female and the second the like, and these in their turn will bear others, nor will they give over bearing males and females, till they become a great matter. The males I will sell and buy with them bulls and cows, which will also engender and multiply and become many.
Then will I take my share and sell thereof what I will and buy such a piece of land and plant a garden therein and build thereon a great palace. Moreover, I will get me clothes and raiment and slaves and slave-girls and take me to wife the daughter of such a merchant and hold a wedding the like whereof was never seen. I will slaughter cattle and make rich meats and sweetmeats and confections and provide flowers and perfumes and all manner sweet herbs and assemble all the musicians and mimes and mountebanks and player-folk. Then will I bid rich and poor and the learned and captains and grandees, and whoso asks for aught, I will cause it to be brought him. Moreover, I will make ready all manner of meat and drink and send out a crier to cry aloud and say, 'Whoso seeketh aught, let him [come] and get it.' Then will I go in to my bride, after they have unveiled her before me, and enjoy her beauty and grace; and I will eat and drink and make merry and say to myself, 'Now hast thou attained thy desire,' and will rest from devotion and asceticism.
In due time my wife will bear me a boy, and I shall rejoice in him and make banquets in his honour and rear him delicately and teach him philosophy and mathematics and polite letters. (143) So shall I make his name renowned among the folk and glory in him among the assemblies of the learned. I will enjoin him to do good and he shall not gainsay me, and I will forbid him from lewdness and iniquity and exhort him to the fear of God and the practice of righteousness. Moreover, I will bestow on him rich and goodly gifts, and if I see him assiduous in obedience, I will redouble in my bounties towards him: but, if I see him incline unto disobedience, I will come down on him with his staff.' So saying, he raised his dand, to beat his son, but the staff struck the pot of butter, that hung over his head, and broke it; whereupon the potsherds fell upon him and the butter ran down upon his head and beard. So his clothes and bed were spoiled and he became an admonition to whoso will profit by admonition. Wherefore, O king,' added the vizier, 'it behoves not a man to speak of aught ere it come to pass.' 'Thou sayst sooth,' answered the king, 'fair fall thee for a vizier! For thou speakest the truth and counsellest righteousness. Verily, thy rank with me is such as thou couldst wish (144) and thou shalt never cease to have acceptance with me.'
The vizier prostrated himself before the king and wished him continuance of prosperity, saying, 'May God prolong thy days and exalt thy dignity! Know that I conceal from thee nought, neither in private nor in public; thy pleasure is my pleasure, and thy wrath my wrath. There is no joy for me but in thy joyance and I cannot sleep, if thou be angered against me, for that God the Most High hath vouchsafed me all good through thy bounties to me; wherefore I beseech Him to guard thee with His angels and make fair thy rewards whenas thou meetest Him.' The king rejoiced in this, and Shimas arose and went out from before him.
In due time the king's wife gave birth to a male child, and the messengers hastened to bear the glad tidings to the king, who rejoiced therein with an exceeding joy and offered up abundant thanks to God, saying, 'Praised be God who hath vouchsafed me a son, after I had despaired! For He is pitiful and tenderly solicitous over His servants.' Then he wrote to all the people of his dominions, acquainting them with the good news and bidding them to his capital; and great were the rejoicings and festivities in all the kingdom. So there came amirs and captains and grandees and sages and men of learning and philosophers from all quarters to the palace and presenting themselves before the king, company after company, according to their several ranks, gave him joy, and he bestowed largesse upon them. Then he signed to the seven chief viziers, whose head was Shimas, to speak, each after the measure of his knowledge, upon the matter in question.
So the Grand Vizier Shimas began and sought leave of the king to speak, which being granted, he spoke as follows. 'Praised be God who brought us forth of nothingness into being and who favoureth His servant with kings who observe justice and equity in that wherewith He hath invested them of dominion and deal righteously with that which He appointeth at their hands of provision for their subjects; and especially our king, by whom He hath quickened the deadness of our land, with that which He hath conferred upon us of bounties, and hath blessed us, of His protection, with ease of life and tranquillity and justice! What king did ever with his people that which this king hath done with us in making provision for our needs and giving us our dues and doing us justice, each of the other, and in unfailing carefulness over us and redress of our grievances? Indeed, it is of the bounty of God to the people that their king be assiduous in ordering their affairs and in defending them from their enemies; for the end of the enemy's intent is to subdue his enemy and hold him in his hand; and many peoples (145) bring their sons unto kings, servant-wise, and they become with them in the stead of slaves, to the intent that they may repel enemies from them. (146) As for us, no enemy hath sodden our soil in our king's time, by reason of this great good fortune and exceeding happiness, that none may avail to describe, for indeed it passeth description. And verily, O king, thou art worthy of this exceeding happiness, and we are under thy safeguard and in the shadow of thy wings, may God make fair thy reward and prolong thy life!
Indeed, we have long been diligent in supplication to God the Most High that He would vouchsafe an answer to our prayers and continue thee to us and grant thee a virtuous son, to be the solace of thine eyes: and now God (blessed and exalted be He!) hath accepted of us and answered our prayer and brought us speedy relief, even as He did to the fishes in the pond of water.' 'And how was that?' asked the king. 'Know, O king,' answered Shimas, 'that
The Fishes and the Crab.
There was once a pond of water, wherein dwelt a number of fish, and it befell that the water of the pond dwindled and shrank away, till there remained barely enough to suffice them and they were nigh upon death and said, "What will become of us? How shall we do and of whom shall we seek counsel for our deliverance?" Quoth one of them, who was the chiefest of them in wit and age, "There is nothing will serve us but that we seek deliverance of God; but, come, let us go to the crab and seek his counsel, for indeed he is the chiefest and wisest of us all." They all approved of the fish's advice and betook themselves to the crab, whom they found squatted in his hole, without news or knowledge of their strait. So they saluted him and said to him, "O our lord, doth not our affair concern thee, who art our ruler and our chief?" The crab returned their salutation, saying, "And on you be peace! What aileth you and what is your want?" So they told him the strait in which they were by reason of the shrinking of the water, and that, when it should be altogether dried up, destruction would betide them. "Wherefore," added they, "we come to thee, expecting thy counsel, so haply deliverance may be therein, for thou art the chiefest and most experienced of us."
The crab bowed his head awhile and said, "Doubtless ye lack understanding, in that ye despair of the mercy of God the Most High and His care for the provision of all His creatures. Know ye not that God (blessed and exalted be He!) provideth all his creatures without stint and that He fore-ordained their means of livelihood ere He created aught and appointed to each of His creatures a fixed term of life and an allotted provision, of His divine providence? How then shall we burden ourselves with concern for a thing that is written in His secret purpose? Wherefore, it is my judgment that ye can do no better than to seek aid of God the Most High, and it behoveth each of us to make clean his conscience with his Lord, both in public and private, and pray Him to succour us and deliver us from our strait; for God the Most High disappointeth not the expectation of those who put their trust in Him and rejecteth not the suit of those who supplicate Him. When we have mended our ways, our affairs will prosper and all will be well with us, and when the winter cometh and our land is deluged, by means of our effectual prayer, He will not undo the good He hath built up. So it is my counsel that we take patience and await what God shall do with us. If death come to us, we shall be at rest, and if there befall us aught that calleth for fight, we will flee and depart our land whither God will."
"Thou sayst sooth, O our lord," answered all the fish with one voice. "May God requite thee for us with good!" Then each returned to his place, and in a few days, God sent them a violent rain and the place of the pond was filled fuller than before. On like wise, O king,' continued Shimas, 'we despaired of a child being born to thee, and now that God hath vouchsafed unto us and unto thee this blessed son, we implore Him to make him indeed blessed and render him the solace of thine eyes and a worthy successor to thee and grant us of him the like of that which He hath granted us of thee; for God the Most High disappointeth not those that seek Him and it behoveth none to despair of His mercy.'
Then the second vizier rose and saluting the king, spoke as follows: 'Verily, a king is not called a king, save he give gifts and do justice and rule with equity and munificence and govern his subjects wisely, maintaining the established law and usages among them and justifying them, one against another, and sparing their blood and warding off hurt from them; and of his qualities should be that he be never unmindful of the poor and that he succour the highest and lowest of them and give them each his due, so that they all bless him and are obedient to his commandment. Without doubt, a king who is after this wise is beloved of his people and gaineth of this world eminence and of the next glory and the favour of the Creator of both worlds. And we thy subjects acknowledge in thee, O king, all the attributes of kingship I have set out, even as it is said, "The best of things is that the king of a people be just and their physician skilful and their teacher experienced, doing according to his knowledge." Now we enjoy this happiness, after we had despaired of the birth of a son to thee, to inherit thy crown; but God (magnified be His name!) hath not disappointed thine expectation, but hath granted thy prayer, by reason of the goodliness of thy trust in Him and thy submission of thine affairs to Him, and there hath betided thee that which betided the crow with the serpent.' 'What was that?' asked the king. 'Know, O king,' replied the vizier, 'that
The Crow and the Serpent.
A crow and his wife once dwelt in a tree, in all delight of life, till they came to the time of the hatching of their young, to wit, the season of midsummer, when a serpent issued from his hole and crawled up the tree, till it came to the crows' nest, where it coiled itself up and there abode all the days of the summer, whilst the crow was driven away and found no place wherein to lie. When the days of heat were past, the serpent went away to its own place and the crow said to his wife, "Let us thank God the Most High, who hath preserved us and delivered us from this serpent, albeit we are forbidden from increase this year. Yet God will not cut off our hope; so let us thank Him for having vouchsafed us safety and bodily weal, for we have none other in whom to trust, and if He will and we live till next year, He will give us other young in the stead of those we have lost this year."
Next year the serpent again sallied forth from its place at the same time and made for the crows' nest: but, as it climbed up the tree, a kite swooped down on it and struck his claws into its head and tore it, whereupon it fell to the ground, senseless, and the ants came out upon it and devoured it. So the crow and his wife abode in peace and quiet and reared a numerous brood and thanked God for their safety and for the young that were born to them. In like manner, O king,' continued the vizier, 'it behoveth us to thank God for that wherewith He hath favoured us and thee in vouchsafing us this happy and blessed child, after despair and hope cut off. May He make fair thy reward and the issue of thine affair!'
Then rose the third vizier and said, 'Rejoice, O just king, in the assurance of present prosperity and future felicity; (147) for him, whom the people of the earth love, the people of heaven love also; and indeed God the Most High hath made love to be thy portion and hath stablished it in the hearts of the people of thy kingdom; wherefore to Him be thanks and praise from us and from thee, so He may redouble in His bounty to thee and to us in thee! For know, O king, that man can nought but by commandment of God the Most High and that He is the Giver and all good that befalleth a creature hath its [origin and] issue in Him. He allotteth His favours to His creatures, as it liketh Him; to some He giveth store of gifts and others may hardly get their daily bread. Some He maketh lords and captains, and others recluses, who abstain from the world and aspire but to Him, for He it is who saith, "I am He who harmeth and who advantageth; I make whole and make sick, I enrich and impoverish, I slay and quicken; in my hand is everything and all things have their issue in Me." Wherefore it behoveth all folk to praise Him.
Thou, O king, art of the fortunate pious men of whom it is said, "The happiest of the just is he for whom God uniteth the goods of this world and the next, who is content with that which God allotted to him and giveth Him thanks for that which He hath established." And indeed he who is froward and seeketh other than that which God hath decreed unto him and for him resembleth the fox [and shall fare as he did] with the wild ass.' 'And what is the story of the fox and the wild ass?' asked the king. 'Know, O king,' replied the vizier, 'that
The Fox and the Wild Ass.
A certain fox was wont every day to leave his earth and go forth in quest of prey. One day, as he was in a certain mountain, the night overtook him and he set out to return. On his way, be fell in with another fox, and each began to tell the other of the prey he had gotten. Quoth the newcomer, "The other day I chanced upon a wild ass and rejoiced in this and thanked God the Most High for bringing him into my power, for that I was anhungred and it was three days since I had eaten. So I tore out his heart and ate it and was full and returned to my earth. That was three days ago and since then I have found nothing to eat, yet am I still full of meat.' When the other fox heard his fellow's story, he envied him his fulness and said in himself, "Needs must I eat a wild ass's heart." So he left eating some days, till he became emaciated and nigh upon death and bestirred not himself neither did his endeavour [to get food], but lay coiled up in his earth.
One day there came out two hunters in quest of prey and started a wild ass. They followed in his track all day, till at last one of them shot at him a barbed arrow, which pierced his heart and killed him, and he fell down before the fox's hole. Then the hunters come up and finding him dead, pulled out the arrow from his heart but only the shaft came away and the barbed head abode in the wound. So they left him where he lay, expecting that others of the wild beasts would flock to him; but, when it was night and nothing fell to them, they returned to their abiding-places. The fox, hearing the commotion at the mouth of his hole, lay quiet till nightfall, when he came forth of his earth, groaning for weakness and hunger, and seeing the dead ass lying at his door, was like to fly for joy and said, "Praised be God who hath made my desire easy to me without toil! Verily, I had lost hope of coming at a wild ass or aught else; and assuredly God hath sent him to me and made him fall in my place."
Then he sprang on the dead ass and tearing open its belly, thrust in his head and routed about in its guts, till he found the heart and tearing it out, swallowed it: but the barbed head of the arrow stuck in his gullet and he could neither get it down into his belly nor bring it forth of his throat. So he made sure of destruction and said, "Of a truth it beseemeth not the creature to seek [aught] over and above that which God hath allotted to him. Had I been content with what He allotted me, I had not come to destruction." Wherefore, O king,' added the vizier, 'it behoveth man to be content with that which God hath allotted him and thank Him for His bounties to him and despair not of his Lord. And behold, O king, because of the purity of thine intent and the multitude of thy good works, God hath blessed thee with a son, after despair: wherefore we pray the Most High to vouchsafe him long life and abiding happiness and make him a blessed successor, faithful in the observance of thy covenant, after thy long life.'
Then arose the fourth vizier and said, 'Verily, if the king be a man of understanding, versed in the canons of science and government and policy, upright in purpose and just to his subjects, honouring and revering those to whom honour and veneration are due, using clemency, whenas it behoveth, in the exercise of his power and protecting both governors and governed, lightening their burdens and bestowing largesse on them, sparing their blood and covering their nakedness and fulfilling his covenant with them, he is worthy of felicity both in this world and the next: and this is of that which protecteth him from them (148) and helpeth him to the stablishing of his kingdom and the victory over his enemies and the accomplishment of his desire, together with increase of God's bounty to him and His favouring him for his praise of Him and the attainment of His protection. But the king who is the contrary of this ceaseth never from misfortunes and calamities, he and the people of his realm; for that his oppression embraceth both stranger and kinsman, and there cometh to pass with him that which befell the unjust king with the pilgrim prince.' 'And how was that?' asked King Jelyaad. 'Know, O king,' answered the vizier, 'that
The Unjust King and the Pilgrim Prince
There was once, in the land of the West, (149) a king who was unjust in his rule, tyrannous, violent and capricious, having no regard to the welfare or protection of his subjects nor of those who entered his kingdom; and from every one who came within his realm his officers took four-fifths of his good and left him one-fifth, and no more. God the Most High decreed that he should have a son, who was fortunate (150) and favoured (151) and seeing the things of the world to be unrighteous, renounced them in his youth and put away from him the world and that which is therein and went forth, a pilgrim, serving God the Most High, wandering over deserts and wastes and [bytimes] entering cities.
One day, he came to his father's capital and the guards laid hands on him and searched him, but found nothing upon him but two gowns, one old and the other new. So they stripped the new one from him and left him the old, after they had passing scurvily entreated him; whereat he complained and said, "Out on you, O oppressors! I am a poor man and a pilgrim, and what shall this gown profit you? Except ye restore it to me, I will go to the king and complain to him of you." "We do this by the king's commandment," answered they. "So do what seemeth good to thee."
So he betook himself to the king's palace; but the chamberlains denied him admittance, and he turned away, saying in himself, "There is nothing for me but to watch for his coming out and complain to him of my case and that which hath betided me." Accordingly, he waited till he heard one of the guards announce the king's coming forth; whereupon he crept up, little by little, till he stood before the gate; and when the king come out, he threw himself in his way and made his complaint to him, giving him to know that he was a man of the people of God, (152) who had renounced the world and went wandering over the earth, seeking acceptance of God and entering every city and hamlet, whilst all the folk he met gave him alms according to their power. "I entered this thy city,' continued he, "hoping that the folk would deal with me as with others of my condition; but thy men stopped me and stripped me of one of my gowns and loaded me with blows. Wherefore do thou look into my case and take me by the hand and get me back my gown and I will not abide in thy city an hour." Quoth the unjust king, "Who counselled thee to enter this city, unknowing the custom of its king?" And the pilgrim answered, "Give me back my gown and do with me what thou wilt."
When the king heard this, he fell into a rage and said, "O fool, we stripped thee of thy gown, so thou mightest humble thyself [to us]; but since thou troublest us with this clamour, we will strip thy soul from thee." Then he commanded to cast him into prison, where he began to repent of having answered the king and reproached himself for not having left him the gown and made off with his life. When it was the middle of the night, he rose to his feet and prayed long and fervently, saying, "O God, Thou art the Righteous Judge; Thou knowest my case and that which hath befallen me with this unjust king, and I, Thine oppressed servant, beseech Thee, of the fulness of Thy mercy, to deliver me from the hand of this unjust king and send down on him Thy vengeance; for Thou art not unmindful of the upright of every oppressor. Wherefore, if Thou know that he hath oppressed me, loose on him Thy vengeance this night and send down on him Thy punishment; for Thy rule is just and Thou art the Helper of every afflicted one, O Thou to whom belong the power and the glory to the end of time!"
When the gaoler heard the prisoner's prayer, he trembled in every limb, and behold, a fire broke out in the king's palace and consumed the city and all that were therein, even to the door of the prison, and none was spared save the gaoler and the pilgrim. When the gaoler saw this he knew that it had not befallen save bemuse of the pilgrim's prayer; so he loosed him and fleeing with him forth of the burning, betook himself, he and the prince, to another city. So was the unjust king consumed, he and his city, by reason of his injustice, and he lost the goods both of this world and the next.
As for us, O august king,' continued the vizier, 'we neither lie down nor rise up without praying for thee and thanking God the Most High for His goodness in giving thee to us, tranquil in reliance on thy justice and the excellence of thy governance; and indeed we were sore concerned for thy lack of a son to inherit thy kingdom, fearing lest there betide us, after thee, a king unlike thee; but now God hath bestowed His favours upon us and done away our concern and brought us gladness in the birth of this blessed child; wherefore we beseech the Most High to make him a worthy successor [to thee] and endow him with eternal glory and felicity and abiding good.'
Then rose the fifth vizier and said, 'Blessed be the Most High God, Giver of [all] good gifts! We are well assured that God favours those who are grateful to Him and mindful of His faith; and thou, O august king, art renowned for these illustrious virtues and for just dealing and equity among thy subjects, in that which is acceptable to God the Most High. By reason of this hath God exalted thy dignity and made thy days happy and bestowed on thee the good gift of this happy child, after thou hadst despaired, wherefrom there hath betided up abiding gladness and joyance that may not be cut off; for before this we were in exceeding anxiety and sore concern because of thy lack of issue, and full of care, bethinking us of all thy justice and gentle dealing with us and fearful lest God decree death to thee and there be none to succeed thee and inherit the kingdom after thee, and so we be divided in our counsels and dissensions arise between us and there befall us what befell the crows.' 'And what befell the crows?' asked the king. 'Know, O august king,' replied the vizier, 'that
The Crows and the Hawk.
There was once, in a certain desert, a spacious valley, full of streams and trees and fruits and birds singing the praises of God, the One, the All-powerful, Creator of day and night; and among them was a troop of crows, which led the goodliest of lives under the governance of one of their number, who ruled them with mildness and benignity, so that they were with him in peace and security; and by reason of their wise ordinance of their affairs, none of the other birds could avail against them. In course of time there befell their chief that which is irrevocably appointed to all creatures and he died; whereupon the others mourned sore for him, and what added to their grief was that there was not amongst them one like unto him. who should fill his place. So they all assembled and took counsel together of whom it befitted to set over them: and some of them chose one crow, saying, "It beseemeth that this one be king over us;" whilst others objected to him and would none of him; and thus there arose division and dissension among them and the strife waxed hot between them.
At last they agreed to sleep the night upon it and that none should go forth at peep of dawn next morning to seek his living, [as of wont], but that all should wait till daybreak, when they should meet all in one place. "Then," said they, "we will all take flight at once and whichsoever soars above the rest in his flying, we will make king over us." So they did as they had agreed and took flight all, but each of them deemed himself higher than his fellow; wherefore quoth this one, "I am highest," and that, "Nay; that am I." Then said the lowest of them , "Look up, all of you, and whomsoever ye find the highest of you, let him be your chief." So they raised their eyes and seeing the hawk soaring over them, said to each other, "We agreed that which bird soever should be the highest of us should be king over us, and behold, the hawk is the highest of us: what say ye to him?" And they all cried out, saying, "We accept of him."
So they called the hawk and said to him, "O father of good, we have chosen thee governor over us, that thou mayst look into our affair." The hawk consented, saying, "God willing, ye shall have of me great good." But, after awhile, he fell to taking a company of them and betaking himself with them afar off to one of the caves, where he struck them down and eating their eyes and brains, threw their bodies into the river. Thus he did every day, it being his intent to destroy them all, [one after another], till, seeing that their number diminished daily, the crows flocked to him and said, "O our king, we complain to thee for that, since the day we made thee king and ruler over us, we are in the sorriest case and every day a company of us is missing and we know not the cause of this, more by token that the most part thereof are of those in attendance on thee."
Thereupon the hawk waxed wroth with them and said to them, "Verily it is ye who have slain them, and ye forestall me [with accusation]." So saying, he pounced upon them and tearing half a score of their chiefs [in pieces] before the rest, threatened them and drove them out from before him with blows and buffets. So they repented them of that which they had done and said, "We have known no good since the death of our first king, especially in the deed of this stranger in kind; but we deserve [all we suffer], even had he destroyed us to the last of us, and there is exemplified in us the saying of Him who saith, 'He who submitteth not himself to the rule of his own people, the enemy hath dominion over him, of his ignorance.' And now there is nothing for it but to flee for our lives, else shall we perish." So they took flight and dispersed to various places.
And we, O king,' continued the vizier, 'we feared lest the like of this befall us and a king become ruler over us, other than thyself; but God hath vouchsafed us this boon and hath sent us this blessed child, and now we are assured of peace and union and security and prosperity in the land. So blessed be God the Great and to Him be thanks and praise and fair honour! And may He bless the king and us all his subjects and vouchsafe unto us and him the utmost felicity and make his life happy and his fortune constant!'
Then arose the sixth vizier and said, 'God grant thee all felicity, O king, in this world and the next! Verily, the ancients say, "He who prayeth and fasteth and giveth parents their due and is just in his rule meeteth his Lord and He is well pleased with him." Thou hast been set over us and hast ruled us justly and thine endeavour in this hath been blessed; wherefore we beseech God the Most High to make great thy reward and requite thee thy goodness. I have heard what this wise man hath said respecting our fear for the loss of our prosperity, by reason of the death of the king or the advent of another who should not be like him, and how after him dissensions would be rife among us and calamity betide thereupon, and how it behoved up therefore to be instant in prayer to God the Most High, so haply He might vouchsafe the king a happy son, to inherit the kingship after him. But, after all, the issue of that which man desireth of the goods of the world and after which he lusteth is unknown unto him, and it behoveth him to ask not of his Lord a thing whose issue he knoweth not; for that belike the hurt of the thing is nearer to him than its profit and his destruction may be in that he seeketh and there may befall him what befell the serpent-charmer's wife and children and the people of his house.' 'What was that?' asked the king. 'Know, O king,' replied the vizier, 'that
The Serpent-charmer and His Wife.
There was once a man, a serpent-charmer, who used to [catch and] train serpents, and this was his trade; and he had a great basket, in which were three snakes; but the people of his house knew this not. Every day he used to take the basket and go round about the town with it, gaining his living and that of his family [by exhibiting the snakes], and at eventide he returned to his house and clapped them back into the basket privily. One day, when he came home, as of wont, his wife asked him what was in the basket and he said, "What wouldst thou with it? Is not victual plentiful with you? Be content with that which God hath allotted to thee and enquire not of aught else." With this she held her peace; but she said in herself, "Needs must I search the basket and know what is therein." So she egged on her children to ask him of the basket and importune him, till he should tell them what was therein. They concluded that it contained something to eat and sought every day of their father that he should show them what was in it; and he still put them off and forbade them from asking this.
On this wise they abode awhile, till they agreed with their mother that they would neither eat nor drink with their father, till he granted them their prayer and opened the basket to them. One night, the serpent-charmer came home with great plenty of meat and drink and called them to eat with him; but they refused and showed him anger; whereupon he began to coax them with fair words, saying, "Tell me what you would have, that I may bring it you, be it meat or drink or clothes." "O our father," answered they, "we want nothing of thee but that thou open this basket and show us what is therein: else we will kill ourselves." "O my children," rejoined he, "there is nothing good for you therein and indeed the opening of it will be hurtful to you." They only redoubled in despite for all he could say, which when he saw, he began to berate them and threaten them with beating, except they left this; but they redoubled in anger and persistence in asking, till at last he waxed wroth and took a stick to beat them, and they fled from him within the house.
Now the basket was present and he had not hidden it anywhere; so his wife left him occupied with the children and opened the basket in haste, that she might see what was therein; whereupon the serpents came out and bit her and killed her. Then they went round about the house and killed all, great and small, who were therein, except the serpent-charmer, who left the place and went away. If then, O august king,' continued the vizier, 'thou consider this, thou wilt know that it is not for a man to desire aught but that which God the Most High refuseth not to him; nay, he should be content with what He willeth. And thou, O king, for the abundance of thy wisdom and the excellence of thine understanding, God hath solaced thine eyes with the advent of this thy son, after despair, and hath comforted thine heart; wherefore we pray God to make him of the just kings, acceptable to Himself and to his subjects.'
Then rose the seventh vizier and said, 'O king, I know and endorse all that my brethren, these wise and learned viziers, have said of thy justice and the goodness of thy policy and how thou art distinguished in this from all other kings; wherefore they gave thee the preference over them. Indeed, this is of that which is incumbent on us, O king, and I say, "Praised be God for that He hath guerdoned thee with His bounty and vouchsafed thee, of His mercy, the welfare of the realm and succoured us and thee, on condition that we abound in gratitude to Him; and all this no otherwise than by thine existence!" What while thou remainest to us, we fear not oppression neither dread unright, nor can any take advantage of our weakness; and indeed it is said, "The greatest good of a a people is a just king and their greatest evil an unjust one;" and again, "Better dwell with devouring lions than with an unjust Sultan." So praised be God the Most High with eternal praise for that He hath blessed us with thy life and vouchsafed thee this blessed child, whenas thou wast stricken in years and hadst despaired of issue! For the goodliest of the gifts of the world is a virtuous child, and it is said, "He who hath no child, [his life] is without result and he hath no remembrance."
As for thee, because of the righteousness of thy justice and thy pious confidence in God the Most High, thou hast been vouchsafed this happy son; yea, this blessed child cometh as a gift from the Most High God to us and to thee, for the excellence of thy governance and the goodliness of thy patience; and in this thou hast fared even as fared the spider with the wind.' 'And what is the story of the spider and the wind?' asked the king. 'Know, O king,' answered the vizier, 'that
The Spider and the Wind.
A spider once took up her abode on a high retired gate and span her web there and dwelt therein in peace, giving thanks to God the Most High, who had made this dwelling-place easy to her and had set her in safety from noxious reptiles. On this wise she abode awhile, still giving thanks to God for her ease and sustenance, till the Creator bethought Him to try her and make essay of her gratitude and patience. So he sent upon her a strong north-east wind, which carried her away, web and all, and cast her into the sea. The waves bore her ashore and she thanked God for safety and began to upbraid the wind, saying, "O wind, why hast thou dealt thus with me and what good hast thou gotten by carrying me hither from my abiding-place, where indeed I was in safety, secure in my house on the top of the gate?' 'Leave thy chiding," replied the wind, "for I will carry thee back and restore thee to thy place, as thou wast aforetime."
So the spider waited patiently, till the north-east wind left blowing and there arose a south-west wind, which caught her up and flew with her towards her dwelling- place; and when she came to her abode, she knew it and clung to it. And we,' continued the vizier, 'beseech God (who hath rewarded the king for his singleness of heart and patience and hath taken pity on his subjects and blessed them with His favour and hath vouchsafed the king this son in his old age, after he had despaired [of issue] and removed him not from the world, till He had granted him the solace of his eyes and bestowed on him what he hath bestowed of kingship and empire), to vouchsafe unto thy son that which He hath vouchsafed unto thee of kingship and dominion and glory! Amen.'
Then said the king, 'Praised be God over all praise and thanks be to Him over all thanks! There is no god but He, the Creator of all things, by the light of whose signs we know the glory of His greatness and who giveth kingship and dominion over his own country to whom He willeth of His servants! He chooseth of them whom He will to make him His vicegerent and steward over His creatures and commandeth him to just and equal dealing with them and the maintenance of laws and observances and the practice of right and constancy in ordering their affairs to that which is most acceptable to Him and to them. He who doth thus and obeyeth the commandment of his Lord, attaineth his desire, and God preserveth him from the perils of this world and maketh fair his recompense in the world to come; for indeed He neglecteth not the reward of the just: and whoso doth otherwise than as God bidders him sinneth grievously and disobeyeth his Lord, preferring his temporal above his spiritual weal. He hath no trace in this world and no part in the next: for God spareth not the unjust and the corrupt, nor doth He forsake any of His servants.
These our viziers have set forth how, by reason of our just dealing with our subjects and our wise governance of their affairs, God hath vouchsafed us and them His grace, for which it behoveth us to thank Him, because of the abundance of His mercies. Moreover, each of them hath spoken that wherewith God inspired him concerning this matter, and they have vied with each other in rendering thanks to God the Most High and praising Him for His favours and bounties. I also render thanks to God, for that I am but a slave commanded; my heart is in His hand and my tongue obedient to Him, accepting that which He adjudgeth to me and to them, come what may.
Each one of them hath said what came to his thought on the subject of this boy and hath set forth that which was of the renewal of [God's] favour to us, after I had reached the age when despair is uppermost and hope faileth. So praised be God who hath saved us from disappointment and from the alternation of rulers, like to the alternation of night and day! For verily, this was a great boon both to us and to them; wherefore we praise God the Most High who hath given a ready answer to our prayer and hath blessed us with this boy and set him in high place, as the inheritor of the kingship. And we entreat Him, of His bounty and clemency, to make him happy in his actions, apt to good works, so he may become a king and a sultan governing his people with justice and equity, guarding them from the perils of error and frowardness of His bounty and grace and goodness!'
When the king had made an end of his speech, the sages and learned men rose and prostrated themselves before God and thanked the king, after which they kissed his hands and departed, each to his own house, whilst the king withdrew into his palace, where he looked upon the new-born child and offered up prayers for him and named him Wird Khan. The boy grew up till he attained the age of twelve, (153) when the king, being minded to have him taught the various branches of knowledge, built him a palace amiddleward the city, wherein were three hundred and threescore rooms, and lodged him therein. Then he assigned him three learned men and bade them relax not from teaching him day and night and look that there was no kind of knowledge but they instructed him therein, so he might become versed in all sciences. Moreover, he commanded them to sit with him one day in each of the rooms in turn and write on the door thereof that which they had aught him therein of various kinds of knowledge and report to himself every seven days what he had learnt. So they went in to the prince and stinted not from teaching him day nor night, withholding from him nought of that which they knew; and there was manifest in him quickness of wit and excellence of apprehension and aptness to receive instruction such as none had shown before him. Every seventh day his governors reported to the king what his son had learnt and mastered, whereby Jelyaad became proficient in goodly learning and fair culture; and they said to him, 'Never saw we one so richly gifted with understanding as is this boy, may God bless thee in him and give thee joy of his life!'
When the prince had completed his twelfth (154) year, he knew the better part of all sciences and excelled all the sages and learned men of his day. So his governors brought him to his father and said to him, 'God solace thine eyes, O king, with this happy youth! We bring him to thee, after he hath learnt all manner of knowledge, and there is not one of the learned men of the time who hath attained to that whereto he hath attained [of proficiency].' The king rejoiced in this with an exceeding joy and prostrated himself in gratitude to God (to whom belong might and majesty), saying, 'Praised be God for His mercies that may not be told!' Then he called his chief vizier and said to him, 'Know, O Shimas, that the governors of my son are come to tell me that he hath mastered all kinds of knowledge and there is nothing but they have instructed him therein, so that he surpasseth all who have foregone him in this. What sayst thou, O Shimas?'
The vizier prostrated himself before God (to whom belong might and majesty) and kissed the king's hand, saying, 'The ruby, though it be embedded in the solid rock, cannot but shine as a lamp, and this thy son is such a jewel; his tender age hath not hindered him from becoming a sage and praised be God for that which He hath bestowed on him! But to-morrow I will call an assembly of the flower of the amirs and men of learning and examine the prince and cause him speak forth that which is with him in their presence.'
So the king commanded the attendance of the keenest-witted and most accomplished of the erudite and learned and sages of his dominions, and they all presented themselves on the morrow at the door of the palace, whereupon the king bade admit them. Then entered Shimas and kissed the hands of the prince, who rose and prostrated himself to him: but Shimas said, 'It behoveth not the lion-whelp to prostrate himself to any of the beasts, nor is it seemly that light prostrate itself to darkness.' Quoth the prince, 'When the lion-whelp sees the leopard, he prostrates himself to him, because of his wisdom, and light prostrates itself to darkness for the purpose of showing forth that which is therewithin.' Quoth Shimas, 'True, O my lord; but I would have thee answer me that whereof I shall ask thee, by leave of his highness and his folk.' And the youth said, 'With [my father's] permission, I will answer thee.'
So Shimas began and said, 'What is the Eternal, the Absolute, and what are the two essences (155) thereof and whether of the two is the abiding one?' 'God,' answered the prince, '(to whom belong might and majesty,) is the Eternal, the Absolute, for that He is the first, without beginning, and the last, without end. His two essences are this world and the next; and the abiding one of the two is the world to come.' (Q.) 'Thou sayst truly: but tell me, how knowest thou that one of God's essences is this world and the other the world to come?' (A.) '[I know this] because this world was created from nothingness and had not its being from any existing thing; wherefore its affair is referable to the first essence. Moreover, it if a commodity swift of ceasing, the works whereof call for requital, and this presumes the reproduction (156) of that which passes away: so the next world is the second essence.' (Q.) 'How knowest thou that the world to come is the abiding one of the two states?' (A.) 'Because it is the stead of requital for deeds done in this world, prepared by the Eternal without cease.' (Q.) 'Who are the people of this world most to be praised for their practice?' (A.) 'Those who prefer their weal in the world to come to their weal in this world.' (Q.) 'And who is he that prefers his future to his present weal?' (A.) 'He who knows that he dwells in a perishing house, that he was created but to pass away and that, after passing away, he will be called to account; and indeed, were there in this world one abiding for ever, he would not prefer it to the next world.' (Q.) 'Can the future life subsist without the present?' (A.) 'He who hath no present life hath no future life: and indeed I liken the people of this world and the goal to which they fare to certain handicraftsmen, for whom an amir builds a narrow house and lodges them therein, commanding each of them to do a certain work and assigning to him a set term and appointing one to act as steward over them. Whoso doth the work appointed unto him, the steward brings him forth of that straitness; but whoso doth it not is punished. After awhile, they find honey exuding from the chinks of the house, and when they have eaten thereof and tasted its sweetness, they slacken in their appointed task and cast it behind their backs. So they endure the straitness and anxiety in which they are, with what they know of the punishment to which they are going, and are content with this trifling sweetness: and the steward leaves not to fetch every one of them forth of the house, [for punishment or reward,] when his appointed term is expired. Now we know the world to be a dwelling, wherein all eyes are dazed, and that each of its folk hath his appointed term; and he who finds the little sweetness that is in the world and occupies himself therewith is of the number of the lost, since he prefers the things of this world to those of the next: but he who pays no heed to this paltry sweetness and prefers the things of the world to come to those of this world, is of those who are saved.' (Q.) 'I accept what thou sayest of this world and the next: but I see they are as two set in authority over man; needs must he content them both, and they are contrary to one another. So, if the creature set himself to seek his livelihood, it is harmful to his soul in the world to come; and if he devote himself to [preparation for] the next world, it is hurtful to his body; and there is no way for him of pleasing both these contraries at once.' (A.) 'Indeed, the quest of one's worldly livelihood with a [pure] intent and on lawful wise is a provision for the quest of the [goods of the] world to come, if a man spend a part of his day in seeking his livelihood in this world, for the sustenance of his body, and devote the rest of his day to seeking [the goods of] the next world, for the repose of his soul and the warding off of hurt therefrom; and indeed I see this world and the next as they were two kings, a just and an unjust.' 'How so?' asked Shimas, and the youth said,
The Two Kings.
There were once two kings, a just and an unjust. The latter's country abounded in trees and fruits and herbs; but he let no merchant pass without robbing him of his goods and his merchandise, and the merchants endured this with patience, by reason of their gain from the fatness of the land in the means of life and its pleasantness, more by token that it was renowned for its richness in precious stones and jewels. Now the just king, who loved jewels, heard of this land and sent one of his subjects thither, giving him much money and bidding him buy jewels therewith from that country. So he went thither and it being told to the unjust king that a merchant was come to his realm, with much money to buy jewels withal, he sent for him and asked him whence and what he was and what was his errand. Quoth the merchant, "I am of such a country, and the king of the land gave me money and bade me buy therewith jewels from this country; so I obeyed him and came." "Out on thee!" cried the unjust king. "Knowst thou not my fashion of dealing with the people of my realm and how each day I take their good? How then comest thou to my country? And behold, thou hast been a sojourner here since such a Time!" "The money is not mine," answered the stranger; "not a doit of it; nay, it is a trust in my hands, till I bring it (157) to its owner." But the king said, "I will not let thee take thy livelihood of my country or go out therefrom, except thou ransom thyself with this money, all of it; else shalt thou die."
So the man said in himself, "I am fallen between two kings, and I know that the oppression of this one embraceth all who abide in his dominions: and if I content him not, I shall lose both life and money and shall fail of my errand; whilst, on the other hand, if I give him all the money, it will assuredly prove my ruin with the other king, its owner: wherefore nothing will serve me but that I give this one a small part thereof and content him therewith and avert perdition from myself and from the money. Thus shall I get my livelihood of the fatness of this land, till I buy that which I desire of jewels and return to the owner of the money with his need, trusting in his justice and indulgence and fearing not that he will punish me for that which this unjust king taketh of the money, especially if it be but a little."
Then he called down blessings on the unjust king and said to him, "O king, I will ransom myself and this money with a small portion thereof, from the time of my entering thy country to that of my going forth therefrom." The king agreed to this and left him at peace for a year, till he bought jewels with all [the rest of] the money and returned therewith to his master, to whom he made his excuses, confessing to having rescued himself from the unjust king as before related. The just king accepted his excuse and praised him for his wise ordinance and set him on his right hand in his divan and appointed him in his kingdom an abiding inheritance and a happy life.
Now the just king is the similitude of the next world and the unjust king that of this world; the jewels that be in the latter's dominions are good deeds and pious works. The merchant is man and the money he hath with him is the provision appointed him of God. When I consider this, I know that it behoves him who seeks his livelihood in this world to leave not a day without seeking the goods of the world to come, so shall he content this world with that which he gains of the fatness of the earth and the next with that which he spends of his life in seeking after it.' (Q.) 'Are the soul and the body alike in reward and punishment or is the [body as the] luster of lusts and doer of sins, alone affected with punishment?' (A.) 'The inclination unto lusts and sins may be the cause of earning reward by the withholding of the soul therefrom and the repenting thereof; but the affair (158) is in the hand of Him who doth what He will, and by their contraries are things distinguished. Thus subsistence is necessary to the body, but there is no body without soul; and the purification of the soul is in making clean the intent in this world and taking thought to that which shall profit in the world to come. Indeed, soul and body are like two horses running for a wager or two foster-brothers or two partners in affairs. By the intent are good deeds distinguished and thus the body and soul are partners in actions and in reward and punishment, and in this they are like the blind man and the cripple with the overseer of the garden.' 'How so?' asked Shimas, and the prince said,
The Blind Man and the Cripple.
'A blind man and a cripple were travelling-companions and used to beg in company. One day they sought admission into the garden of some one of the benevolent, and a kind-hearted man hearing their talk, took compassion on them and carried them into his garden, where he left them and went away, bidding them do no waste nor damage therein. When the fruits became ripe, the cripple said to the blind man, "Harkye, I see ripe fruits and long for them; but I cannot rise to theme to eat thereof; so go thou, for thou art sound of limb, and fetch us thereof, that we may eat." "Out on thee!" replied the blind man. "I had no thought of them, but now that thou callest them to my mind, I long to eat of them and I cannot avail unto this, being unable to see them; so how shall we do to get at them?" At this moment, up came the overseer of the garden, who was a man of understanding, and the cripple said to him, "Harkye, overseer! I long for some of those fruits; but we are as thou seest; I am a cripple and my mate here is stone-blind: so what shall we do?" "Out on ye!" replied the overseer. "Have ye forgotten that the master of the garden stipulated with you that ye should do no waste nor damage therein? Take warning then and abstain from this." But they answered, "Needs must we get at these fruits, that we may eat thereof: so tell us how we shall contrive this."
When the overseer saw that they were not to be turned from their purpose, he said, "O cripple, let the blind man take thee on his back and carry thee to the tree whose fruit pleaseth thee, so thou mayst pluck what thou canst reach thereof." So the blind man took the cripple on his back and the latter guided him, till he brought him to a tree, and he fell to plucking from it what he would and tearing at its branches, till he had despoiled it; after which they went round about the garden and wasted it with their hands and feet; nor did they cease from this fashion, till they had stripped all the trees in the garden.
Then they returned to their place and presently up came the master of the garden, who, seeing it in this plight, was sore angered and said to them, "Out on ye! What fashion is this? Did I not stipulate with you that ye should do no waste in the garden?" Quoth they, "Thou knowest that we cannot avail to come at any of the fruit, for that one of us is a cripple and cannot rise and the other is blind and cannot see that which is before him: so what is our offence?" But the master answered, saying, "Think ye I know not how ye wrought and how ye have gone about to do waste in my garden? I know, as if I had been with thee, O blind man, that thou tookest the cripple on thy back and he guided thee, till thou borest him to the trees." Then he punished them grievously and put them out of the garden. Now the blind man is the similitude of the body, and the cripple that of the soul, for that it hath no power of motion but by the body; the garden is the works, for which the creature is rewarded or punished, and the overseer is the reason, which commandeth to good and forbiddeth from evil. Thus the body and the soul are partners in reward and punishment.' (Q.) 'Which of the learned men is most worthy of praise, according to thee?' (A.) 'He who is learned in the knowledge of God and whose knowledge profiteth him.' (Q.) 'And who is this?' (A.) 'He who is instant in seeking to please his Lord and avoid His wrath.' (Q.) 'And which of them is the most excellent?' (A.) 'He who is most learned in the knowledge of God.' (Q.) 'And which is the most experienced of them?' (A.) 'He who is most constant in doing according to his knowledge.' (Q.) 'And which is the purest-hearted of them?' (A.) 'He who is most assiduous in preparing for death and praising God and least of them in hope, and indeed he who familiarizes his soul with the terrors of death is as one who looks into a clear mirror, for that he knows the truth, and the mirror still increases in clearness and brilliance.' (Q.) 'What are the goodliest of treasures?' (A.) 'The treasures of heaven.' (Q.) 'Which is the goodliest of the treasures of heaven?' (A.) 'The praise and magnification of God.' (Q.) 'Which is the most excellent of the treasures of earth?' (A.) 'The practice of kindness.' (Q.) 'Tell me of three different things, knowledge and judgment and wit, and of that which unites them.' (A.) 'Knowledge comes of learning, judgment of experience and wit of refection, and they are all stablished and united in reason. He in whom these three qualities combine is perfect, and he who adds thereto the fear of God is in the right course.' (Q.) 'Tell me, is it possible, in the case of a man of learning and wisdom, endowed with sound judgment, lucid intelligence and keen and excelling wit, for desire and lust to change these his qualities?' (A.) '[Yes]; for these passions, when they enter into a man, affect his wisdom and understanding and judgment and wit and he is like the eagle, which abode in the upper air of the excess of his subtlety and precaution against the hunters; but, as he was thus, he saw a fowler set up his nets and bait them with a piece of meat; which when he beheld, desire and lust thereof overcame him and he forgot that which he had seen of nets and of the sorry case of all birds that fell into them. So he swooped down from the sky and pouncing upon the piece of meat, was caught in the same snare and could not win free. When the fowler came up and saw the eagle taken in his net, he marvelled exceedingly and said, "I set up my nets, thinking to take therein pigeons and the like of small birds; how came this eagle to fall into it?" It is said that when desire and lust incite a man of understanding to aught, he considers the issue thereof and refrains from that which they make fair and overcomes his passions with his reason; for, when they urge him to aught, it behoves him to make his reason like unto a skilled horseman, who, mounting a skittish horse, curbs him with a sharp bit, so that he goes aright with him and carries him whither he will. As for the ignorant man, who has neither knowledge nor judgment and things are obscure to him and desire and lust lord it over him, verily he does according to his desire and his lust and is of the number of those that perish; nor is there among men one in sorrier case than he.' (Q.) 'When is knowledge profitable and when availeth reason to ward off the ill effects of desire and lust?' (A.) 'When their possessor uses them in quest of the goods of the next world, for reason and knowledge are altogether profitable; but it behoves their owner to expend them not in the quest of the goods of this world, save in so far as may be needful for gaining his livelihood and defending himself from its mischief.' (Q.) 'What is most worthy that a man should apply himself thereto and occupy his heart withal?' (A.) 'Good works.' (Q.) 'If a man do this, it diverts him from gaining his living: how then shall he do for his livelihood, which he cannot dispense withal?' (A.) 'A man's day is four- and-twenty hours, and it behoves him to employ one [third] part thereof in seeking his living, another in prayer and rest and the remainder in the pursuit of knowledge; for a reasonable man without knowledge is as a barren land, wherein is place for neither tillage nor tree-planting nor grass. Except it be prepared for tillage and planted, no fruit will profit therein; but, if it be tilled and planted, it brings forth goodly fruits. So with the ignorant man: there is no profit in him till knowledge be planted in him: then doth he bear fruit.' (Q.) 'What sayst thou of knowledge without understanding?' (A.) 'It is as the knowledge of a brute, which hath learnt the hours of its feeding and watering and waking, but hath no reason.' (Q.) 'Thou hast been brief in thine answer concerning this; but I accept thy reply. Tell me, how shall I guard myself against the Sultan?' (A.) 'By giving him no hold over thee.' (Q.) 'And how can I but give him hold over me, seeing that he is set in dominion over me and that the rein of my affair is in his hand?' (A.) 'His dominion over thee lies in the duties thou owest him; so, if thou give him his due, he hath no [farther] dominion over thee.' (Q.) 'What are a vizier's duties to his king?' (A.) 'Good counsel and zealous service both in public and private, right judgment, the keeping of his secrets and that he conceal from him nought of that which he hath a right to know, lack of neglect of aught of his occasions, with whose accomplishment he charges him, the seeking his approof on every wise and the avoidance of his wrath.' (Q.) 'How should the vizier do with the king?' (A.) 'If thou be vizier to the king and wouldst be safe from him, let thy hearing and thy speech to him overpass his expectation of thee and be thy seeking of thy need from him after the measure of thy rank in his esteem, and beware lest thou advance thyself to a dignity whereof he shall not judge thee worthy, for this would be like to presumption in thee against him. So, if thou presume upon his mildness and assume a rank beyond that which he deemeth thy due, thou wilt be like the hunter, who used to trap wild beasts for their skins and throw the flesh away. Now a lion used to come to the place [where the hunter skinned his prey] and eat of the carrion; and in course of time, he clapped up an acquaintance with the hunter, who would throw [meat] to him and wipe his hands on his back, whilst the lion wagged his tail. When the hunter saw his tameness and gentleness and submissiveness to him, he said in himself, "Verily this lion humbleth himself to me and I am master of him, and I see not why I should not mount him and strip off his hide, as with the other wild beasts." So he sprang on the lion's back, presuming on his mildness and deeming himself sure of him; which when the lion saw, he was exceeding wroth and raising his paw, smote the hunter, that he drove his claws into his guts; after which he cast him under his feet and tore him in pieces and devoured him. By this thou mayst know that it behoves the vizier to bear himself towards the king according to that which he seeth of his condition and not to presume upon the superiority of his own judgment, lest the king become jealous of him.' (Q.) 'How shall the vizier grace himself in the king's sight?' (A.) 'By the performance of the trust of loyal counsel and sound judgment committed to him and the execution of his commandments.' (Q.) 'As for that which thou sayst of the vizier's duty to avoid the king's wrath and perform his wishes and apply himself diligently to the due execution of that wherewith he charges him, that is a matter of course: but how, if the king's whole pleasure be in tyranny and the practice of oppression and extortion, and what shall the vizier do if he be afflicted with the frequentation of this unjust king? If he strive to turn him from his lust and his desire, he cannot avail unto this, and if he follow him in his lusts and flatter him with false counsel, he assumes the responsibility of this and becomes an enemy to the people. What sayst thou of this?' (A.) 'What thou sayst, O vizier, of his responsibility and sin, arises only in the case of his abetting the king in his wrong-doing; but it behoves the vizier, when the king takes counsel with him of the like of this, to show forth to him the way of justice and equity and caution him against tyranny and oppression and expound to him the principles of good government, alluring him with the reward that pertains to this and restraining him with warning of the punishment that he incurs [in following his perverse inclinations]. If the king incline to his words, his end is gained, and if not, there is nothing for it but that he depart from him on courteous wise, for that in separation is ease for each of them.' (Q.) 'What are the duties of the king to his subjects and of the latter to the king?' (A.) 'They shall do what he orders them with a pure intent and obey him in that which pleases him and pleases God and His apostle. It is the king's duty to protect their possessions and guard their women, even as it is their duty to hearken unto him and obey him and expend their lives freely in his defence and give him his lawful due and praise him duly for that which he bestoweth upon them of his justice and beneficence.' (Q.) 'Have his subjects any claim upon the king other than that which thou hast said?' (A.) 'Yes: the king's duty to his subjects is more imperative than their duty to him; for that the breach of his duty towards them is more harmful than that of theirs towards him; because the will of the king and the loss of his kingdom and fortune betide not but by the breach of his duty to his subjects: wherefore it behoves him who is invested with the kingship to be assiduous in ensuing three things, to wit, the furtherance of the faith, the welfare of his subjects and the due administration of government; for by the assiduous observance of these three things, his kingdom shall endure.' (Q.) 'How doth it behove him to do for his subjects' weal?' (A.) 'By giving them their due and maintaining their laws and usages and employing wise and learned men to teach them and justifying them, one of the other, and sparing their blood and defending their goods and lightening their burdens and strengthening their armies.' (Q.) 'What is the king's duty to his vizier?' (A.) 'None hath a more imperative claim on the king than the vizier, for three reasons: firstly, because of that which betides him with him, in case of error in judgment, and because of the common profit to king and people in case of sound judgment: secondly, that the folk may know the goodliness of the rank which the vizier holds in the king's estimation and so look on him with eyes of veneration and respect and submission; and thirdly, that the vizier, seeing this from king and people, may ward off from them that which they mislike and fulfil to them that which they love.' (Q.) 'I have heard all thou hast said of the attributes of king and vizier and people and approve thereof: but now tell me what is incumbent in the matter of keeping the tongue from lying and folly and slander and excess in speech.' (A.) 'It behoves a man to speak nought but good and kindness and to talk not of that which concerns him not; to leave detraction nor carry talk he hath heard from one man to his enemy, neither seek to harm his friend nor his enemy with his sultan and reck not of any, neither of him from whom he hopes for good nor of him whose mischief he fears, save of God the Most High; for, in truth, He is the [only] one who liveth or profiteth. Let him not impute default unto any nor talk ignorantly, lest he incur the burden and the sin thereof before God and earn hatred among men; for know that speech is like an arrow, which, once discharged, none can avail to recall. Moreover, let him beware of confiding his secret to one who shall discover it, lest he fall into mischief by reason of its disclosure, after having relied upon its concealment; and let him be more careful to keep his secret from his friend than from his enemy; for the keeping a secret with all folk is of the performance of trust.' (Q.) 'Tell me how a man should bear himself with his family and friends.' (A.) 'There is no ease for a son of Adam save in good conduct; he should render to his family that which they deserve and to his brethren that which is their due.' (Q.) 'What should one render to one's kinsfolk?' (A.) 'To one's parents, submission and soft speech and affability and honour and reverence. To one's brethren, loyal counsel and readiness to expend one's good for them and assistance in their undertakings and grieving for their grief and joyance in their joy and closing of the eyes toward the errors that they may commit; for, when they experience this from a man, they requite him with the best they can command of good counsel and expend their lives in his defence; so, if thou know thy brother to be trusty, be lavish to him of thy love and helpful to him in all his affairs.' (Q.) 'I see that brethren are of two kinds, brethren of trust (159) and brethren of society. (160) As for the first, there is due to them that which thou hast set forth; but now tell me of the other.' (A.) 'As for brethren of society, thou gettest of them clearance and goodly usance and fair speech and company; so be thou not sparing to them of thy delights, but be lavish to them, like as they are lavish thereof to thee, and render to them that which they render to thee of affability and an open favour and sweet speech; so shall thy life be pleasant and thy speech have acceptance with them.' (Q.) 'Tell me now of the provision decreed by the Creator to all creatures. Hath He allotted to men and beasts each his several provision, to the completion of his appointed term; and if this be so, what maketh him who seeketh his livelihood to incur hardship and toil in the quest of that which he knows he cannot fail of obtaining, if it be decreed to him, though he incur not the misery of endeavour; whilst, if it be not decreed to him, he shall not win thereto, though he strive after it with his utmost endeavour? Shall he therefore leave striving and put his trust in his Lord and rest his body and his soul?' (A.) 'Indeed, we see that to each there is a provision allotted and a term prescribed; but to each provision is a way and means, and he who seeketh would get ease of his seeking by leaving to seek; et needs must he seek his fortune. Moreover, the seeker is in two cases; either he gains his fortune or fails thereof. In the first case, his pleasure consists, first in the having gained his fortune, and secondly, in the satisfactory (161) issue of his quest; and in the other case, his pleasure consists, first, in his readiness to seek his living, secondly, in his abstaining from being a burden to the folk, and thirdly, in his freedom from liability to reproach.' (Q.) 'What sayst thou of the means of seeking one's fortune?' (A.) 'A man shall hold lawful that which God (to whom belong might and majesty) permitteth and unlawful that which He forbiddeth.'
With this the discourse between them came to an end and Shimas and all the learned men, who were present, rose and prostrating themselves before the prince, magnified and extolled him, whilst his father pressed him to his bosom and seating him on the throne of kingship, said, 'Praised be God who hath blessed me with a son to be the solace of mine eyes in my lifetime!' Then said the prince to Shimas, 'O sage that art versed in metaphysical questions, albeit God hath vouchsafed me but little knowledge, yet do I apprehend thine intent in accepting from me what I proffered in answer concerning that whereof thou hast asked me, whether I hit or missed the mark therein, and belike thou forgavest my errors; but now I wish to question thee of a thing, whereof my judgment fails and whereto my capacity is unequal and which my tongue availeth not to set forth, for that it is obscure to me, with the obscurity of limpid water in a black vessel; wherefore I would have thee expound it to me, so no whit thereof may remain doubtful to the like of me, to whom its obscurity may present itself in the future, even as it hath presented itself to me in the past; since God, even as He hath made life to be in water (162) and sustenance in food and the healing of the sick in the physician's skill, so hath He appointed the cure of the ignorant to be in the learning of the wise. Give ear, therefore, to my speech.' 'O luminous of wit and master of apt questions,' replied the vizier, 'thou whose superiority all the learned men attest, by reason of the goodliness of thy discrimination of things and thy departition (163) thereof and the justness of thine answers to the questions I have put to thee, thou knowest that thou canst ask me of nought but thou art better able [than I] to form a just judgment thereon and expound it truly; for that God hath vouchsafed unto thee such wisdom as He hath bestowed on none other: but tell me of what thou wouldst question me.' Quoth the prince, 'Tell me from what did the Creator (magnified be His power!) create the world, albeit there was before it nought and there is nought seen in this world but it is created from something; and the Divine Creator (blessed and exalted be He!) is able to create things from nothing, yet hath His will decreed, for all the perfection of [His] power and grandeur, that He shall create nought but from something.' 'As for those,' answered the vizier, 'who fashion vessels of potters' clay, and other handicraftsmen, who cannot produce one thing except from another, they are themselves but created things: but, as for the Creator, who hath wrought the world after this wondrous fashion, if thou wouldst know His power (blessed and exalted be He!) of calling things into existence, consider the various kinds of created things, and thou wilt find signs and tokens, denoting the perfection of His omnipotence and that He is able to create things out of nothing: nay, He called them into being, after absolute nonentity, for the elements that are the matter of created things were sheer nothingness. I will expound this to thee, so thou mayst be in no doubt thereof, and this the phenomenon of the alternation of night and day shall make clear to thee. When the day departs and the night comes, the day is hidden from us and we know not where it abideth; and when the night passes away with its darkness and its terror, the day comes and we know not the abiding-place of the night. In like manner, when the sun rises upon us, we know not where it has laid up its light, and when it sets, we know not the abiding-place of its setting: and the examples of this among the works of the Creator (magnified be His name and exalted be His power!) abound in what confounds the thought of the keenest-witted of human beings.' 'O sage,' rejoined the prince, 'thou hast set before me of the power of the Creator what may not be denied; but tell me how He called His creatures into existence.' '[He created them] by [the sole power of] His Word,' (164) answered Shimas, 'which existed before time, and with it He created all things.' 'Then,' said the prince, 'God (be His name magnified and His power exalted!) only willed the existence of created things, before they came into being?' 'And of His will,' replied Shimas, 'He created them with His Word and but for His speech and Manifest Word, the creation had not come into existence. And, O my son, there is no man can tell thee other than this that I have said, except he pervert the words handed down to us of the law of God and turn the truths thereof from their evident meaning. And such a perversion is their saying that the Word hath power [of itself] and I take refuge with God from such a conclusion. Nay, the meaning of our saying that God (to whom belong might and majesty) created the world with His Word is that He (exalted be His name!) is One in His essence and His attributes and not that His Word hath power [of itself]. On the contrary, power is one of God's attributes, even as speech and other attributes of perfection are attributes of God (exalted be His dignity and magnified be His dominion!); wherefore He may not be conceived without His Word, nor may His Word be conceived without Him; for, with His Word, God (extolled be His praise!) created all His creatures, and without His Word, he created nought. Indeed, He created all things but by His Word of Truth, and by Truth are we created.' Quoth the prince, 'I apprehend that which thou hast said on the subject of the Creator and accept this from thee with understanding; but I hear thee say that He created the world by His Word of Truth. Now Truth is the opposite of Falsehood; whence then arose Falsehood and its opposition unto Truth, and bow comes it to be possible that it should be confounded therewith and be obscure (165) to human beings, so that they need to distinguish between them? And doth the Creator (to whom belong might and majesty!) love Falsehood or hate it? If thou say He loves the Truth and by it created all things and hates Falsehood, how came the latter, which the Creator hates, to invade the Truth, which He loves?' Quoth Shimas, 'Verily God the Most High created man after His own image and likened him to Himself, all of him truth, without falsehood; then He gave him dominion over himself and ordered him and forbade him, and it was man who transgressed His commandment and erred in his disobedience and brought falsehood upon himself of his own will. When God created man with Truth, he had no need of repentance, till Falsehood invaded the Truth by which he was created, by means of the ableness (166) that God had placed in him, being the will and the inclination called acquisitiveness. (167) When Falsehood invaded Truth on this wise, it became confounded therewith, by reason of the will of man and his ableness and acquisitiveness, which is the voluntary party together with the weakness of human nature: wherefore God created repentance for man, to turn away from him falsehood and stablish him in truth; and He created for him also punishment, if he should abide in the obscurity of falsehood.' Quoth the prince, 'Tell me how came falsehood to invade truth, so as to be confounded therewith and how became man liable to punishment and so stood in need of repentance.' 'When God created man with truth,' replied Shimas, 'He made him loving to Himself and there was for him neither repentance nor punishment; but he abode thus till God put in him the soul, which is of the perfection of humanity, with the inclination to lusts which is inherent therein. From this sprang the growth of falsehood and its confusion with the truth, wherewith man was created and with the love whereof he had been informed; and when man came to this pass, he swerved from the truth with disobedience, and whoso swerves from the truth falls into falsehood.' 'Then,' said the prince, 'falsehood invaded truth only by reason of disobedience and transgression?' 'Yes,' answered Shimas; 'and it is thus because God loves man, and of the abundance of His love to him, He created him having need of Himself, that is to say, of the very Truth: but oftentimes man falls away from this by reason of the inclination of the soul to lusts and turns unto frowardness, wherefore he falls into falsehood by the very act of disobeying his Lord and thus renders himself liable to punishment; and by the putting away from himself of falsehood with repentance and the returning to the love of the truth, he merits reward.' Quoth the prince, 'Tell me the origin of frowardness. We see that all mankind trace their being to Adam, and how comes it that he, being created of God with truth, drew disobedience on himself; then was his disobedience coupled with repentance, after the soul had been set in him, that his issue might be reward or punishment? Indeed, we see some men constant in frowardness, inclining to that which God loves not and transgressing in this the original exigence of their creation, which is the love of the Truth and drawing on themselves the wrath of their Lord, whilst others are constant in seeking to please their Creator and obeying Him and meriting mercy and recompense. Whence comes this difference between them?' 'The origin of disobedience in mankind,' replied Shimas, 'is attributable to Iblis, who was the noblest of all that God (magnified be His name!) created of angels and men and Jinn, and the love [of the Truth] was inherent in him, for he knew nought but this; but, for that he saw himself unique in this, there entered into him conceit and vainglory and arrogance and he revolted from loyalty and obedience to the commandment of his Creator; wherefore God made him inferior to all creatures and cast him out from love, making his abiding-place to be in disobedience. So, when he knew that God (glorified be His name!) loved not disobedience and saw Adam and the case wherein he was of truth and love and obedience to his Creator, envy entered into him and he cast about to pervert Adam from the truth, that he might be a partaker with himself in falsehood; and by this, Adam incurred chastisement, through his inclining to disobedience, which his enemy made fair to him, and his subjection to his lusts, whenas he transgressed the injunction of his Lord, by reason of the appearance of falsehood. When the Creator (magnified be His praises and hallowed be His names!) saw the weakness of man and the swiftness of his inclining to his enemy and leaving the truth, He appointed to him, of His mercy, repentance, that therewith he might arise from the morass of inclination to disobedience and taking the arms of repentance, overcome therewith his enemy Iblis and his hosts and return to the truth, wherein he was created. When Iblis saw that God had appointed him a protracted term, (168) he hastened to wage war upon man and to beset him with wiles, to the intent that he might oust him from his Lord's favour and make him a partaker with himself in the curse which he and his hosts had incurred; wherefore God (extolled be His praises!) appointed unto man the power of repentance and commanded him to apply himself to the truth and persevere therein. Moreover, he forbade him from disobedience and frowardness and revealed to him that he had an enemy on the earth warring against him and relaxing not from him night nor day. Thus hath man a right to reward, if he adhere to the truth, in the love of which his essence was created; but he becomes liable to punishment, if his soul master him and drag him into lusts.' 'But tell me,' rejoined the prince, 'by what power is the creature able to transgress against his Creator, seeing that His power is without bounds, even as thou hast set forth, and that nothing can overcome Him nor depart from His will? Deemst thou not that He is able to turn His creatures from disobedience and compel them to adhere eternally to the truth?' 'Verily,' answered Shimas, 'God the Most High (honoured be His name!) is just and equitable and tenderly solicitous over the people of His love. (169) He created His creatures with justice and equity and of the inspiration of His justice and the abundance of His mercy, He gave them dominion over themselves, that they should do whatever they would. He shows them the way of righteousness and bestows on them the power and ability of doing what they will of good: and if they do the opposite thereof, they fall into destruction and disobedience.' (Q.) 'If the Creator, as thou sayest, hath granted men power and ability (170) and they by reason thereof avail to do what they will, why then doth He not come between them and that which they desire of error and turn them to the truth?' (A.) 'This is of the greatness of His mercy and the excellence of His wisdom; for, even as aforetime He showed wrath to Iblis and had no mercy on him, so He showed Adam mercy, by means (171) of repentance, and accepted of him, after He had been wroth with him.' (Q.) 'He is indeed the very Truth, for He it is who requiteth every one according to his works, and there is no Creator but God, to whom belongeth power over all things. But tell me, hath He created that which He loveth and that which He loveth not or only that which He loveth?' (A.) 'He created all things, but favours only that which He loveth.' (Q.) 'What hast thou to say of two things, one whereof is pleasing to God and earns reward for him who practices it?' (A.) 'Expound to me these two things and make me to apprehend them, that I may speak concerning them.' (Q.) 'They are good and evil, the two things innate in the body and the soul.' (A.) 'O wise youth, I see that thou knowest good and evil to be of the works that the soul and the body do [in conjunction]. Good is named good, because in it is the favour of God, and evil evil, for that in it is His wrath. Indeed, it behoveth thee to know God and to please Him by the practice of good, for that He hath commanded us to this and forbidden us to do evil.' (Q.) 'I see these two things, that is, good and evil, to be wrought only by the five senses known in the body of man, to wit, the seat of taste, whence proceed speech, hearing, sight, smell and touch. Tell me whether these five senses were created for good altogether or for evil.' (A.) 'Hear, O man, the exposition of that whereof thou askest and lay it up in thy memory and notify thy heart thereof, for it is a manifest proof. Know that the Creator (blessed and exalted be He!) created man with truth and informed him with the love thereof and there proceedeth from it no created thing save by the Most High decree, whose impress is on every phenomenon. It (172) is not apt but to the ordering of justice and equity and beneficence and created man for the love of itself and informed him with a soul, wherein the inclination to lusts was innate and assigned him ableness and appointed the five senses aforesaid to be to him a means of winning Paradise or Hell.' (Q.) 'How so?' (A.) 'In that He created the tongue for speech and the hands for doing and the feet for walking and the eyes for seeing and the ears for hearing and gave them power and incited them to exercise and motion, bidding each of them do that only which pleaseth Him. Now what pleaseth Him in speech is truthfulness and abstaining from its opposite, which is falsehood, and what pleases Him in sight is turning it unto that which He liveth and leaving the contrary, which is turning it unto that which He abhorreth, such as looking unto lusts: and what pleaseth Him in hearing is hearkening to nought but that which is truth, such as admonition and that which is in the scriptures of God, and leaving the contrary, which is hearkening to that which incurreth the wrath of God; and what pleaseth Him in the hands is not hoarding up that which He entrusteth to them, but spending it on such wise as shall please Him and leaving the contrary, which is avarice or spending that which He hath committed to them in disobedience; and what pleaseth Him in the feet is that they be instant in the pursuit of good, such as the quest of instruction, and leave its contrary, which is the walking in other than the way of God. As for the other lusts that man practices, they proceed from the body by commandment of the soul. The lusts that proceed from the body are of two kinds, that of reproduction and that of the belly. As for the first, that which pleaseth God thereof is that it be not except in the way of law, and if it be in the way of sin, He is displeased with it. As for the lust of the belly, eating and drinking, what pleaseth God thereof is that each take nought but that which God hath appointed him thereof, be it little or much, and praise God and thank Him: and what angereth Him thereof is that a man take that which is not his by right. All precepts other than these are false, and thou knowest that God created all things and delighteth only in good and commandeth each member of the body to do that which He hath made incumbent thereon, for that He is the all-wise, the all-knowing.' (Q.) 'Was it foreknown unto God (exalted be His power!) that Adam would eat of the tree from which He forbade him and so leave obedience for disobedience?' (A.) 'Yes, O sage. This was foreknown unto God the Most High, before He created Adam; and the proof and manifestation thereof is the warning He gave him against eating of the tree and His giving him to know that, if he ate thereof, he would be disobedient. And this was in the way of justice and equity, lest Adam should have an argument wherewith he might excuse himself against his Lord. When, therefore, he fell into error and calamity and reproach and disgrace were sore upon him, this passed to his posterity after him; wherefore God sent prophets and apostles and gave them scriptures and they taught us the divine ordinances and expounded to us what was therein of admonitions and precepts and made clear to us the way of righteousness and what it behoved us to do and what to leave undone. Now we are endowed with ableness (173) and he who acts within these limits (174) attains [felicity] and prospers, whilst he who transgresses them and does other than that which these precepts enjoin, sins and is mined in both worlds. This then is the road of good and evil. Thou knowest that God can all things and created not lusts for us but of His pleasure and will, and He commanded us to use them in the way of lawfulness, so they might be a good to us; but, when we use them in the way of sin, they are an evil to us. So what of good we compass is from God the Most High and what of evil from ourselves (175) His creatures, not from the Creator, exalted be He for this with great exaltation!' (Q.) 'I understand that which thou hast expounded to me concerning God and His creatures; but tell me of one thing, concerning which my mind is perplexed with extreme wonderment, and that is that I marvel at the sons of Adam, how careless they are of the life to come and at their lack of taking thought thereto and their love of this world, albeit they know that they must needs leave it and depart from it, whilst they are yet young in years.' (A.) 'Yes, verily; and that which thou seest of its changefulness and perfidious dealing with its children is a sign that fortune will not endure to the fortunate, neither affliction to the afflicted; for none of its people is secure from its changefulness and even if one have power over it and be content therewith, yet needs must his estate change and removal (176) hasten unto him. Wherefore man can put no trust therein nor profit by that which he enjoyeth of its painted gauds; and knowing this, we know that the sorriest of men in case are those who are deluded by this world and are unmindful of the world to come; for that this present ease they enjoy will not compensate the fear and misery and horrors that will befall them after their removal therefrom. Thus are we certified that, if the creature knew that which will betide him with the coming of death and his severance from that which he presently enjoyeth of delight and clearance, he would cast away the world and that which is therein; for we are assured that the next life is better for us and more profitable.' 'O sage,' said the prince, 'thou hast with thy shining lamp dispelled the darkness that was upon my heart and hast directed me into the road I must travel in the ensuing of the truth and hast given me a lantern whereby I may see.'
Then rose one of the learned men who were present and said, 'When the season of Spring cometh, needs must the hare seek the pasture as well as the elephant; and indeed I have heard from you both such questions and solutions as I never before heard; but now let me ask you of somewhat. What is the best of the goods of the world?' 'Health of body,' replied the prince, 'lawful provision and a virtuous son.' (Q.) 'What is the greater and what the less?' (A.) 'The greater is that to which a lesser than itself submitteth and the less that which submitteth to a greater than itself.' (Q.) 'What are the four things in which all creatures concur?' (A.) 'Meat and drink, the delight of sleep, the lust of women and the agonies of death.' (Q.) 'What are the three things whose foulness none can do away?' (A.) 'Folly, meanness of nature and lying.' (Q.) 'What is the best kind of lie, though all kinds are foul?' (A.) 'That which averteth harm from its utterer and bringeth profit.' (Q.) 'What kind of truthfulness is foul, though all kinds are fair?' (A.) 'That of a man glorying in that which he hath (177) and boasting himself thereof.' (Q.) 'What is the foulest of foulnesses?' (A.) 'When a man boasteth himself of that which he hath not.' (178) (Q.) 'Who is the most foolish of men?' (A.) 'He who hath no thought but of what he shall put in his belly.'
Then said Shimas, 'O king, verily thou art our king, but we desire that thou assign the kingdom to thy son after thee, and we will be thy servants and subjects.' So the king exhorted the learned men and others who were present to remember that which they had heard and do according thereto and enjoined them to obey his son's commandment, for that he made him his heir-apparent, so he should be the successor of the king his father; and he took an oath of all the people of his empire, doctors and braves and old men and boys, that they would not oppose him [in the succession] nor transgress against his commandment.
When the prince was seventeen years old, the king sickened of a sore sickness and came nigh unto death, so, being certified that his last hour was at hand, he said to the people of his household, 'This is a mortal sickness that is upon me; wherefore do ye summon the grandees and notables of my empire, so not one of them may remain except he be present.' Accordingly, they made proclamation to those who were near and made known the summons to those who were afar off, and they all assembled and went in to the king. Then said they to him, 'How is it with thee, O king, and how deemest thou for thyself of this thy sickness?' Quoth Jelyaad, 'Verily, this my sickness is mortal and the arrow [of death] hath executed that which God the Most High decreed against me: this is the last of my days in this world and the first of my days in the world to come.' Then said he to his son, 'Draw near unto me.' So he drew near, weeping sore, that he came nigh to wet the bed, whilst the king's eyes brimmed over with tears and all who were present wept. Quoth Jelyaad, 'Weep not, O my son; I am not the first whom this inevitable thing betideth; nay, it is common to all that God hath created. But fear thou God and do good, that shall forego thee to the place whither all creatures tend. Obey not thy lusts, but occupy thyself with the praises of God in thy standing up and thy sitting down and in thy sleep and thy wake. Make the truth the aim of thine eyes; this is the last of my speech with thee and peace be on thee.'
Then he bequeathed him the kingdom and the prince said, 'O my father, thou knowest that I have never ceased from obedience unto thee and mindfulness of thine injunctions, still carrying out thy commandment and seeking thine approve; for thou hast been to me the best of fathers. How, then, after thy death, shall I depart from that whereof thou approvest? After having fairly ordered my bringing up, thou art now about to depart from me and I have no power to bring thee back to me; but, if I be mindful of thine injunctions, I shall be blessed therein and great good hap will betide me.' Quoth the king, and indeed he was in the last agony, 'Dear my son, cleave fast unto ten precepts which if thou observe, God shall profit thee herewith in this world and the next, and they are as follows. When thou art angered, curb thy wrath; when thou art afflicted, be patient; when thou speakest, be truthful; when thou promisest, perform; when thou judgest, do justice; when thou hast power, be merciful; deal generously by thy governors and lieutenants; forgive those that transgress against thee; be lavish of good offices to thine enemy and withhold thy mischief from him. Observe also other seven preceptor wherewith God shall profit thee among the people of thy realm, to wit, when thou dividest, be just; when thou punishest, oppress not; when thou makest an engagement, fulfil thine engagement; hearken to those that give thee loyal counsel; abstain from contention; enjoin thy subjects to the observance of the divine laws and of praiseworthy usages; do equal justice between the folk, so they may love thee, great and small, and the froward and corrupt of them may fear thee.'
Thn he addressed himself to the amirs and doctors, who were present when he appointed his son to be his successor, saying, 'Beware of transgressing the commandment of your king and neglecting to hearken to your chief, for in this lies ruin for your country and sundering for your union and hurt for your bodies and perdition for your goods, and your enemies would exult over you. Ye know the covenant ye made with me, and even thus shall be your covenant with this youth, and the pact that is between you and me shall be also between you and him; wherefore it behoveth you to give ear unto his commandment and obey him, for that in this is the well-being of your estates. So be ye constant with him unto that wherein ye were with me and your affair shall prosper and your case be good; for, behold, he hath the kingship over you and is the lord of your fortune, and so peace be on you!' Then the death-agony seized him and his tongue was bridled: so he pressed his son to his bosom and kissed him and gave thanks unto God; after which his hour came and his soul departed [his body].
All his subjects and the people of his court mourned over him and they shrouded him and buried him with pomp and honour and reverence; after which they returned with the prince and seating him on the throne of kingship, clad him in the royal robes and crowned him with his father's crown and put the seal-ring on his finger. He ordered himself towards them, a little while, after his father's fashion of mildness and justice and benevolence, till the world waylaid him and tempted him with its lusts, whereupon he seized on its pleasures and turned to its vain delights, forsaking the engagements which his father had commended to him and casting of his obedience to him, neglecting the affairs of his kingdom and walking in a road wherein was his own destruction. In particular, the love of women was stark in him and came to such a pass that, whenever he heard tell of a fair woman, he would send and make her to wife. After this wise, he collected women more in number than ever had Solomon, son of David, King of the children of Israel, and would shut himself up with a company of them for a month at a time, during which he went not forth neither enquired of his kingdom or its governance nor looked into the grievances of such of his subjects as complained to him; and if they wrote to him, he returned them no answer.
When they saw his neglect of their affairs and interests and those of the state, they were assured that ere long some calamity would betide them and this was grievous to them. So they foregathered privily and took counsel together, and one of them said to the rest, 'Let us go to Shimas, chief of the viziers, and set forth to him our case and acquaint him with the strait wherein we are by reason of this king, so he may admonish him; else, in a little, calamity will betide us, for the world hath intoxicated the king with its delights and beguiled him with its snares.' Accordingly, they repaired to Shimas and said to him, 'O wise and prudent man, the world hath dazed the king with its delights and taken him in its snares, so that he turneth unto vanity and worketh for the disordering of the state. Now with the disordering of the state the commons will be corrupted and our affairs will come to ruin. Months and days we see him not nor cometh there forth from him any commandment to us or to the vizier or whom else. We cannot refer aught to him and he looketh not to the administration of justice nor taketh thought to the case of any of his subjects, in his heedlessness of them. And behold we are come to acquaint thee with the truth of the affair, for that thou art the chiefest and most accomplished of us and it behoveth not that calamity befall a land wherein thou dwellest, seeing that thou art most able of any to amend this thing. Wherefore go thou and speak with him: belike he will hearken to thy word and return unto God.'
So Shimas arose forthright and repairing to the palace, foregathered with the first of the king's officers to whom he might win and said to him, 'Good my son, I beseech thee ask leave for me to go in to the king, for I have an affair, concerning which I would fain see his face and acquaint him therewith and hear what be shall answer me thereof.' 'O my lord,' answered the officer, 'by Allah, this month past hath he given none leave to come in to him, nor all this time have I looked upon his face; but I will direct thee to one who shall crave admission for thee. Do thou lay hold of such a black, who standeth at his head and bringeth him food from the kitchen. When he cometh forth, to go to the kitchen, ask him what seemeth good to thee; for he will do for thee that which thou desirest.' So the vizier repaired to the door of the kitchen and sat there a little while, till up came the black and would have entered the kitchen; but Shimas [caught hold of him] and said to him, 'O my son, I would fain see the king and speak with him of somewhat that nearly concerneth him; so prithee, of thy kindness, when he hath made an end of his morning-meal and his soul is refreshed, speak thou for me to him and get leave for me to come in to him, so I may bespeak him of that which shall please him.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the black and taking the food, carried it to the king, who ate thereof and his soul was refreshed.
Then said the black to him, 'Shimas standeth at the door and craveth admission, so he may acquaint thee with matters that particularly concern thee.' At this the king was alarmed and disquieted and commanded to admit the vizier. So the black went forth to Shimas and bade him enter; whereupon he went in and prostrating himself before God, kissed the king's hands and called down blessings upon him. Then said the king, 'O Shimas, what hath betided thee that thou seekest admission unto me?' And he answered, saying, 'This long while have I not looked upon the face of my lord the king and indeed I longed sore for thee. So, behold, I have seen thy countenance and come to thee with a word which I would fain say to thee, O king stablished in all prosperity.' Quoth the king, 'Say what seemeth good to thee;' and Shimas said, 'O king, verily God the Most High hath endowed thee, for all the tenderness of thy years, with knowledge and wisdom such as He never vouchsafed unto any of the kings before thee, and hath fulfilled the measure of His bounties to thee with the kingship; and He liveth not that thou depart from that wherewith He hath endowed thee unto other than it, by means of thy disobedience to Him; wherefore it behoveth thee not to wage war upon (179) Him with thy treasures, but to be mindful of His injunctions and obedient unto His commandments. This I say because I have seen thee, this while past, forget thy father and his injunctions and forswear his covenant and neglect his admonition and renounce his justice and wise governance, remembering not God's bounty to thee neither requiting it with gratitude to Him.'
'How so?' asked the king. 'And what is the manner of this?' 'The manner of it,' replied Shimas, 'is that thou neglectest to attend to the affairs of the state and that which God hath committed unto thee of the interests of thy subjects and surrenderest thyself to thine own inclinations, in that which they make fair to thee of the paltry lusts of the world. Verily it is said that the welfare of the state and the faith and the people is of the things over which it behoveth the king to keep watch; wherefore it is my counsel, O king, that thou look well to the issue of thine affair, for thus wilt thou find the manifest road wherein is salvation, and give not thyself up to a trifling evanescent delight that leadeth to the abyss of destruction, lest there befall thee that which befell the fisherman.' 'What was that?' asked the king, and Shimas said, 'I have heard tell that
The Foolish Fisherman.
A fisherman went forth one day to a certain river, to fish there, as of his wont; and when he came thither and walked upon the bridge, he saw a great fish in the water and said to himself, "It will not serve me to abide here, but I will follow yonder fish whithersoever it doeth, till I take it. for it will dispense me from fishing days and days." So he put off his clothes and plunged into the river after the fish. The current bore him along till he overtook it and laid hold of it, when he turned and found himself far from land. However, he would not loose the fish and return, but ventured himself and gripping it fast with both hands, let his body float with the current, which carried him on till it cast him into a whirlpool which none might enter and be saved therefrom. With this he fell to crying out and saying, "Save a drowning man!" And there came to him folk of the keepers of the river and said to him, "What ailed thee to cast thyself into this grievous peril?' Quoth he, "It was I myself who forsook the plain way wherein was salvation and gave myself over to coveting and perdition." "O fellow," said they, "why didst thou leave the way of safety and cast thyself into this destruction, knowing from of old that none may enter herein and be saved? What hindered thee from throwing away what was in thy hand and saving thyself? So hadst thou escaped with thy life and not fallen into this perdition, from which there is no deliverance; and now not one of us can rescue thee from this strait." So the man gave up hope of life and lost that which was in his hand and for which his soul had prompted him to venture himself and perish miserably. And I tell thee not this parable, O king,' added Shimas, 'but that thou mayst leave this contemptible thing that diverteth thee from thy duties and look to that which is committed to thee of the governance of thy people and the maintenance of the order of thy kingdom, so that none may see fault in thee.'
'What wouldst thou have me do?' asked the king, and Shimas said, 'To-morrow, if thou be in good health and case, give the folk leave to come in to thee and look into their affairs and excuse thyself to them and promise them good governance and prosperity.' 'O Shimas,' answered the king, 'thou hast spoken advisedly; and to-morrow, if it be the will of God the Most High, I will do that which thou counsellest me.' So the vizier went out from him and told the folk what he had said to him; and on the morrow the king came forth of his seclusion and bade admit the people, to whom he excused himself, promising them that thenceforward he would deal with them as they wished, wherewith they were content and departed each to his dwelling.
Then one of the king's women, who was his best- beloved of them and most in honour with him, went in to him and seeing him pale and thoughtful over his affairs, by reason of that which he had heard from his chief vizier, said to him, 'O king, how comes it that I see thee troubled in mind? Doth aught ail thee?' 'No,' answered he; 'but my pleasures have distracted me from my duties and I know not what hath possessed me to be thus negligent of my affairs and those of my subjects. If I continue on this wise, ere long the kingdom will pass out of my hand.' 'O king,' rejoined she, 'I see that thou hast been duped by thy viziers and ministers, who wish but to torment and spite thee, so thou mayst have no pleasure of this thy kingship neither enjoy ease nor delight, and would have thee consume thy life in warding off trouble from them, till thy days be wasted in toll and weariness and thou be as one who slayeth himself for another's benefit or like the boy and the thieves.' 'How was that?' asked the king, and she answered, 'It is said that
The Boy and the Thieves.
Seven thieves once went out to steal, according to their wont, and fell in with a poor orphan boy, who besought them for somewhat to eat. Quoth one of them to him, "Wilt go with us, O boy, and we will feed thee and clothe thee and entreat thee kindly?" And he answered, saying, "Needs must I go with you whithersoever ye will and ye are as my own people." So they took him and fared on with him till they came to a garden, and entering, went round about therein, till they found a walnut-tree laden with ripe fruit and said one to another, "Look which is the lightest and smallest of us and make him climb the tree." And they said, "None of us is smaller than this boy." So they sent him up into the tree and said to him, "O boy, touch not aught of the fruit, lest some one see thee and do thee a mischief." "How then shall I do?" asked he, and they said, "Sit among the boughs and shake them with thy might, so that which is thereon may fall, and we will pick it up. Then, when thou hast made an end of shaking down the fruit, come down and take thy share of that which we have gathered." So he began to shake every bunch at which he could come, so that the nuts fell and the thieves picked them up and ate [some] and hid [other some] till they were all full, except the boy, who had eaten nought.
As they were thus engaged, up came the owner of the garden and said to them, "What do ye with this tree?" "We have taken nought thereof," answered they; "but we were passing by and seeing yonder boy on the tree, concluded that he was the owner thereof and besought him to give us to eat of the fruit. So he fell to shaking the branches, that the nuts dropped down, and we are not at fault." Quoth the master to the boy, "What sayst thou?" And he answered, "These men lie; but I will tell thee the truth. It is that we all came hither together and they bade me climb the tree and shake its branches, that the nuts might fall down to them, and I obeyed them." "Verily," said the master, "thou hast brought thyself into parlous case; but hast thou profited to eat aught of the fruit?" And he said, "I have eaten nought thereof." "Now know I thy stupidity and folly," rejoined the owner of the garden, "in that thou hast wroughten to ruin thyself and advantage others." Then said he to the thieves, "Go your ways: I have no resort against you." But he laid hands on the boy and punished him. On like wise,' added the favourite, 'thy viziers and officers of state would sacrifice thee to their interests and do with thee as did the thieves with the boy.' 'Thou sayst sooth,' answered the king, 'and I will not go forth to them nor leave my pleasures.'
Then he passed the night with his wife in all delight till the morning, when the chief vizier arose and assembling the officers of state, together with those of the folk who were present with them, repaired with them to the palace, glad and rejoicing [in the anticipation of good]. But the door opened not nor did the king come forth unto them nor give them leave to go in to him. So, when they despaired of him, they said to Shimas, 'O excellent vizier and accomplished sage, seest thou not the behaviour of this boy, young of years and little of wit, how he addeth falsehood to his offences? See how he hath broken his promise to us and hath failed of that for which he engaged unto us, and this it behoveth thee join to his other sins; but we beseech thee go in to him yet again and see what is the cause of his holding back and refusal to come forth; for we doubt not but that the like of this fashion cometh of his depraved nature, and indeed he hath reached the utmost pitch of stiffneckedness.'
Accordingly, Shimas went in to the king and bespoke him, saying, 'Peace be upon thee, O king! How cometh it that I see thee give thyself up to paltry pleasures and neglect the great affair whereto it behoveth thee apply thyself? Thou art like unto a man, who had a milch- camel and coming one day to milk her, the goodness of her milk caused him forget to hold fast her halter; which whenas she felt she pulled herself free and made of into the desert. Thus he lost both milk and camel and the mischief that betided him overpassed his profit. Wherefore do thou look unto that wherein is thy welfare and that of thy subjects; for, even as it behoveth not a man to sit for ever at the kitchen door, because he needeth food, so should he not company overmuch with women, by reason of his inclination to them. A man should eat but as much food as will stay his hunger and drink but what will ward of the pangs of thirst; and in like manner it behoveth the man of understanding to content himself with passing two of the four-and-twenty hours of his day with women and spend the rest in ordering his own affairs and those of his people. For to be longer than this in company with women is hatful both to mind and body, seeing that they command not unto good neither direct thereto: wherefore it behoveth a man to accept from them neither speech nor deed, for indeed I have heard tell that many men have come to ruin through their women, and amongst others [I have heard tell of] a certain man who perished, for that he obeyed his wife's commandment and had to do with her [at an unseasonable time].' 'How was that?' asked the king, and Shimas answered, saying, 'They tell that
The Man and His Wilful Wife.
A certain man had a wife whom he loved and honoured, giving ear to her speech and doing according to her counsel. Moreover, he had a garden, which he had newly planted with his own hand, and was wont to go thither every day, to tend and water it. One day his wife said to him, "What hast thou planted in thy garden?" And he answered, "All that thou lovest and desirest, and I am assiduous in tending and watering it." Quoth she, "Wilt thou not carry me thither and show it to me, so I may see it and offer thee up a prayer [for its prosperity], for that my prayers are effectual?" "I will well," answered he; "but have patience with me till the morrow, when I will come and take thee." So, on the morrow, he carried her to the garden and entered with her therein.
Now two young men saw them enter from afar and said to each other, "Yonder man is an adulterer and yonder woman an adulteress, and they have not entered this garden but to do adultery therein." So they followed them, to see what they would do, and hid themselves in a corner of the garden. The man and his wife abode awhile therein, and presently he said to her, "Pray me the prayer thou didst promise me;" but she answered, saying, "I will not pray for thee, until thou fulfil my desire of that which women seek from men." "Out on thee, O woman!" cried he. "Hast thou not thy fill of me in the house? Here I fear scandal, more by token that thou divertest me from my affairs. Fearest thou not that some one will see us?" Quoth she, "We need have no care for that, seeing that we do neither sin nor lewdness; and as for the watering of the garden, that may wait, for that thou canst water it whenas thou wilt." And she would take neither excuse nor reason from him, but was instant with him in seeking dalliance.
So he arose and lay with her, which when the young men aforesaid saw, they ran upon them and seized them, saying, "We will not let you go. for ye are adulterers, and except we lie with the woman, we will denounce you to the police." "Out on you!" answered the man. "This is my wife and I am the master of the garden." They paid no heed to him, but fell upon the woman, who cried out to him for succour, saying, "Suffer them not to defile me!" So he came up to them, calling out for help, but one of them turned on him and smote him with his dagger and slew him. Then they returned to the woman and ravished her. This I tell thee, O king' continued the vizier, 'but that thou mayst know that it behoveth not men to give ear unto a woman's talk neither obey her in aught nor accept her judgment in counsel. Beware, then, lest thou don the garment of ignorance, after that of knowledge and wisdom, and follow perverse counsel, after knowing that which is true and profitable. Wherefore ensue thou not a paltry pleasure, whose end is corruption and whose inclining is unto sore and uttermost perdition.'
When the king heard this, he said to Shimas, 'To-morrow I will come forth to them, if it be the will of God the Most High.' So Shimas returned to the grandees and notables who were present and told them what the king had said. But this came to the ears of the favourite; so she went in to the king and said to him, 'A king's subjects should be his slaves; but thou art become a slave to thy subjects, for that thou standest in awe of them and fearest their mischief. They do but seek to make proof of thy temper; and if they find thee weak they will disdain thee; but, if they find thee stout and brave they will stand in awe of thee. On this wise do ill viziers with their king, for that their wiles are many: but I will make manifest unto thee the truth of their malice. If thou fall in with their demands, they will cause thee leave thy commandment and do their will; nor will they cease to lead thee on from affair to affair till they cast thee into destruction; and thy case will be as that of the merchant and the thieves.' 'How was that?' asked the king; and she answered, 'I have heard tell that
The Merchant and the Thieves.
There was once a wealthy merchant, who set out for a certain city with merchandise, purposing to sell it there, and when he came thither, he hired a lodging there and took up his abode therein. Now certain thieves saw him, who were wont to lie in wait for merchants, that they might steal their goods; so they went to his house and cast about to enter in, but could find no way thereto, and their captain said, "I will accomplish you his affair." Then he went away and donning a physician's habit, threw over his shoulder a bag containing medicines, with which he set out, crying, "Who lacks a doctor?" and fared on till he came to the merchant's lodging and saw him sitting eating the morning meal. So he said to him, "Dost thou want a physician?" "Not I," answered the merchant; "but sit and eat with me." So the thief sat down over against him and began to eat.
Now this merchant was a great eater; and the thief, seeing this, said to himself, "I have found my opportunity." So he turned to his host and said to him, "It behoveth me to give thee an admonition; and after thy kindness to me, I cannot hide it from thee. I see thee to be a great eater and the cause of this is a disorder in thy stomach; so hasten to take order for thy cure, or thine affair will end in perdition.' Quoth the merchant, "My body is sound and my stomach quick of digestion, and though I be a hearty eater, yet is there no disease in me, to God be the praise and the thanks!" "It may so appear unto thee," rejoined the thief; "but I know thou hast a latent disorder in thy vitals and if thou hearken to me, thou wilt medicine thyself.' "And where shall I find him who knoweth my remedy?" asked the merchant. "God is the Healer," answered the robber; "but a physician like myself tendeth the sick to the best of his power." And the other said, "Show me my remedy and give me thereof." So he gave him a powder, wherein was great plenty of aloes, saying, "Use this to-night."
When the night came, the merchant tasted the powder and found it nauseous of taste; nevertheless he misdoubted not of it, but swallowed it all and found ease therefrom that night. Next night the thief brought him another powder, wherein was yet more aloes, and he took it. It purged him that night, but he bore with this and rejected it not. When the thief saw that he gave ear unto his word and put trust in him, he brought him a deadly drug and gave it to him. The merchant swallowed it and no sooner had he done this than that which was in his belly fell down and his guts were rent in sunder, and by the morrow he was a dead man; whereupon the thieves came and took all that belonged to him. This,' added the favourite, 'I tell thee, O king, but that thou mayst not give ear to these deluders; else will there befall thee that whereby thou wilt destroy thyself.' "Thou sayst sooth,' replied the king; 'I will not go forth to them.'
On the morrow, the folk assembled together and repairing to the king's door, sat there the most part of the day, till they despaired of his coming forth, when they returned to Shimas and said to him, 'O sage philosopher and learned master, seest thou not that this ignorant boy doth but redouble in falsehood to us? Verily it were of reason to take the kingdom from him and give it to another, so our affairs may be set in order and our estates maintained; but go thou in to him a third time and tell him that nought hindereth us from rising against him and taking the kingship from him but [the remembrance] of his father's goodness to us and that which he required from us of oaths and engagements [with respect to him]. However, to-morrow, we will all, to the last of us, assemble here with our arms and break down the gate of the palace; and if he come forth to us and do that which we wish, well and good; else will we go in to him and slay him and put the kingdom in another's hand.'
So Shimas went in to him and said, 'O king, that wallowest in thy lusts and thy pleasures, what is this thou dost with thyself and who promptest thee thereunto? Indeed, thou sinnest against thyself and there hath ceased from thee that which we knew in thee aforetime of integrity and wisdom and eloquence. Would I knew who hath thus changed thee and turned thee from wisdom to folly and from fidelity to iniquity and from complaisance to stiffneckedness and from acceptance of me to aversion from me! How comes it that I admonish thee thrice and thou neglectest my admonition and that I counsel thee justly and thou still gainsayest my counsel? Tell me, what is this heedlessness and folly and who is it prompteth thee thereunto? Know that the people of thy kingdom have agreed together to come in to thee and slay thee and give thy kingdom to another. Art thou able to cope with them all and save thyself from their hands or canst thou quicken thyself after slaughter? If, indeed, thou availest to do all this, thou art safe and hast no occasion for my rede; but, if thou have any concern for thy life and thy kingship, return to thy senses and hold fast thy kingdom and show forth to the people the power of thy prowess and acquaint the folk with thine excuse, for they are minded to tear away that which is in thy hand and commit it unto another, being resolved upon revolt and rebellion, impelled thereto by that which they know of thy youth and thy surrender of thyself to lusts and voluptuousness; for that stones, albeit they lie long in water, if thou take them out therefrom and smite one upon another, fire will be struck from them. Now thy subjects are many in number and they have taken counsel together against thee, to transfer the kingship from thee to another and accomplish upon thee that which they desire of thy destruction. So shalt thou fare as did the wolf with the foxes and the lion.' 'How was that?' asked the king, and the vizier answered, 'They say that
The Foxes and the Wolf.
A troop of foxes went out one day to seek food, and as they coasted about in quest of this, they happened upon a dead camel and said to each other, "Verily we have found wherewithal we may live a great while; but we fear lest one of us oppress other and the strong overbear the weak with his strength, and so the weak of us perish; wherefore it behoveth us seek one who shall judge between us and appoint unto each his part, so the strong may not lord it over the weak." As they consulted together, up came a wolf, and some of the foxes said to the others, "Your counsel is just; let us make this wolf judge between us, for he is the strongest of beasts and his father was sultan over us aforetime; wherefore we hope in God that he will do justice between us." So they accosted the wolf and acquainting him with their determination, said to him, "We make thee judge between us, so thou mayst allot unto each of us his day's meat, after the measure of his need, lest the strong of us overbear the weak and some of us destroy other some."
The wolf consented to take the governance of their affairs and allotted unto each of them what sufficed him that day; but on the morrow he said in himself, "If I divide this camel amongst these weaklings, no part thereof will come to me, save that which they assign to me, and if I eat it alone, they can do me no hurt, seeing that they are a prey to me and to the people of my house. Who shall hinder me from taking it for myself? Surely, it is God who hath bestowed it on me, by way of provision, and no thanks to them. It were best that I keep it for myself, and henceforth I will give them nought." Accordingly, when the foxes came to him, as of wont, and sought of him their food, saying, "O Abou Sirhan, (180) give us our day's provender," he answered, "I have nothing left to give you." Whereupon they went away in the sorriest case, saying, "Verily, God hath cast us into grievous trouble with this vile traitor, that feareth not God neither respecteth Him; but we have neither power nor resource." But one of them said, "Belike it was but stress of hunger that moved him to this; so let him eat his fill to-day, and to-morrow we will go to him again."
So, on the morrow, they again betook themselves to the wolf and said to him, "O Abou Sirhan, we set thee in authority over us, that thou mightest allot unto each of us his day's meat and do the weak justice against the strong of us and that, when this (181) is finished, thou shouldst do thine endeavour to get us other and so we be still under thy safeguard and protection. Now hunger is sore upon us, for that we have not eaten these two days; so do thou give us our day's meat and thou shalt be free to dispose of the rest as thou wilt." But the wolf returned them no answer and redoubled in his stiffneckedness. So they strove to turn him from his purpose; but he would not be turned. Then said one of the foxes to the rest, "Nothing will serve us but that we go to the lion and cast ourselves on his protection and assign the camel unto him. If he vouchsafe us aught thereof it will be of his bounty, and if not, he is worthier of it than this filthy fellow."
So they betook themselves to the lion and acquainted him with that which had betided them with the wolf, saying, "We are thy servants and come to thee, imploring thy protection, so thou mayst deliver us from this wolf, and we will be thy slaves." When the lion heard their story, he was jealous for God the Most High and went with them in quest of the wolf, who, seeing him making for him, addressed himself to flight; but the lion ran after him and seizing him, rent him in pieces and restored their prey to the foxes. This shows,' added Shimas, 'that it behoveth no king to neglect the affairs of his subjects; wherefore do thou hearken to my counsel and give credit to that which I say to thee; for thou knowest that thy father, before his decease, charged thee give ear unto loyal counsel. This is the last of my speech with thee and peace be on thee.' Quoth the king, 'I will hearken to thee and to-morrow, God willing, I will go forth to them.'
So Shimas went forth from him and returning to the Folk, told them that the king had accepted his counsel and promised to come out unto them on the morrow. But, when the favourite heard this saying reported of Shimas and knew that needs must the king go forth to his subjects, she betook herself to him and said to him, 'How great is my wonderment at thy submissiveness and obedience to thy slaves! Knowst thou not that these viziers are thy servants? Why then dost thou exalt them to such a pitch of importance that they conceit them it was they gave thee this kingship and advanced thee to this height and that it is they who confer favours on thee, albeit they have no power to do thee the least hurt? Indeed, it is they who owe thee submission, not thou who owest it unto them, and it is their duty to carry out thine orders; so how cometh it that thou art so mightily affrighted at them? It is said, "Except thy heart be like iron, thou art not fit to be a king." But thy mildness hath deluded these men, so that they presume upon thee and cast off their allegiance to thee, albeit it behoveth that they be constrained unto obedience and enforced to submissiveness unto thee. If therefore, thou hasten to accept their words and leave them in their present case and fulfil to them the least thing against thy will, they will importune thee and presume upon thee, and this will become their wont. But, if thou hearken to me, thou wilt not advance any one of them to power neither wilt thou accept his word nor encourage him to presume upon thee; else wilt thou fare with them as did the shepherd with the robber.' 'How was that?' asked the king, and she answered, 'They say that
The Shepherd and the Thief.
There was once a shepherd, who fed a flock of sheep in the desert and kept strait watch over
them. One night, there came to him a thief thinking to steal some of his flock and finding him
assiduous in guarding them, sleeping
not by night neither relaxing in his vigilance by day, prowled about him all night, but could get nothing of him. So, when he was weary of striving, he betook himself to [another part of] the desert and trapping a lion, skinned him and stuffed his hide with straw; after which he carried it to a high place, where the shepherd might see it and be assured thereof, and set it up there. Then he went up to the shepherd and said to him, "Yonder lion hath sent me to demand his supper of these sheep." "Where is the lion?" asked the shepherd; and the thief answered, "Lift thine eyes: there he stands."
The shepherd raised his eyes and seeing the stuffed hide, deemed it a very lion and was mightily affrighted; so he said to the thief, "O my brother, take what thou wilt. I will not anywise gainsay thee." So the thief took what he would of the sheep and redoubled in avidity by reason of the excess of the shepherd's affright. Accordingly, every little while, he would go to him and frighten him, saying, "The lion hath need of this and that, and his intent is to do thus and thus," and take what he would of the sheep; and he stinted not to do thus with him, till he had wasted the most part of his flock. This, O king,' added the favourite, 'I tell thee but that thou suffer not the grandees of thy realm to be deluded by thy mildness and easiness of temper and presume on thee; and in sound judgment their death were better than that they deal thus with thee.' Quoth the king, 'I accept this thine admonition and will not go hearken to their counsel neither go out unto them..
On the morrow the viziers and officers of state and heads of the people assembled and taking each his arms, repaired to the palace of the king, so they might break in upon him and slay him and make another king in his stead. When they came to the door, they required the doorkeeper to open to them; but he refused, whereupon they sent to fetch fire, wherewith to burn down the doors and enter. The doorkeeper, hearing what was toward amongst them, went in to the king in haste and told him that the folk were gathered together at the gate. 'And,' quoth he, 'they required me to open to them, but I refused and they have sent to fetch fire to burn down the doors withal, so they may come in to thee and slay thee. What dost thou bid me do?' Quoth the king in himself, 'Verily, I am fallen into sheer perdition.'
Then he sent for the favourite and said to her, 'Indeed, Shimas never told me aught but I found it true, and now the folk are come, great and small, purposing to slay me and thee; and for that the doorkeeper would not open to them, they have sent to fetch fire, to burn the doors withal: so will the house be burnt and we therein. What dost thou counsel me to do?' 'Let not thine affair affright thee,' answered she; 'no harm shall betide thee. This is a time in which crackbrains rise against their kings.' 'But what,' asked he, 'dost thou counsel me and how shall I do in this matter?' Quoth she, 'My advice is that thou bind thy head with a fillet and feign thyself sick: then send for the vizier Shimas, who will come and see the case wherein thou art; and do thou say to him, "Verily I purposed to go forth to the folk this day; but this sickness hindered me. So go thou out to them and acquaint them with my case and tell them that to-morrow I will without fail come forth to them and do their occasions and look into their affairs, so they may be reassured and their anger may subside." Then do thou summon ten of thy father's stoutest slaves, men of strength and prowess, to whom thou canst entrust thyself, giving ear to thy word and obedient to thy commandment, keeping thy secret and devoted to thy love, and bid them on the morrow stand at thy head nor suffer any of the folk to enter, save one by one; and all who enter do thou bid them put to death. If they agree with thee upon this, do thou to-morrow set up thy throne in the audience-chamber and open thy doors.
When the folk see that thou hast opened thy doors, their minds will be set at ease and they will come to thee with a whole heart, [thinking no evil], and seek admission to thee. Then do thou bid admit them, one by one, even as I said to thee, and do thy will with them; but it behoveth thee begin by putting Shimas, their chief and leader, to death; for he is the Grand Vizier and head of the matter. So slay him first and after put all the rest to death, one after another, and spare none whom thou knowest to have broken his covenant with thee; and on like wise slay all whose violence thou fearest. lf thou deal thus with them, there will be left them no power to make head against thee; so shalt thou be altogether at rest from them and shalt enjoy thy kingship in peace and do what thou wilt; and know that there is no device that will advantage thee more than this.' 'Verily,' said the king, 'this thy counsel is just and that which thou biddest me well-advised, and I will assuredly do as thou sayest.'
So he called for a fillet and bound his head therewith and feigned sickness. Then he sent for Shimas and said to him, 'O Shimas, thou knowest that I love thee and hearken to thy counsel and thou art to me as brother and father both in one. Moreover, thou knowest that I do all thou biddest me and indeed thou badest me go forth to the folk and sit to judge between them. Now I was certified that this was loyal counsel on thy part and purposed to go forth to them yesterday; but this sickness betided me and I cannot sit up. I hear that the folk are incensed at my failure to come forth to them and are minded of their malice to do with me that which is not seemly, for that they know not what aileth me. So go thou forth to them and acquaint them with my case and excuse me to them, for I am obedient to their bidding and will do according to their desire; wherefore do thou order this affair and engage thyself to them for me of this, for that thou hast been a loyal counsellor to me and to my father before me, and it is of thy wont to make peace between the folk. To- morrow, if it be the will of God the Most High, I will without fail come forth to them, and peradventure my sickness will cease from me this night, by the blessing of the purity of my intent and the good I purpose them in my heart.'
Shimas prostrated himself to God and called down blessings on the king and kissed his hand, rejoicing. Then he went forth to the folk and told them what he had heard from the king and forbade them from that which they had a mind to do, acquainting them with the king's excuse for his absence and that he had promised to come forth to them on the morrow and deal with them according to their wishes; whereupon they dispersed and returned to their houses.
Meanwhile the king sent for ten slaves of gigantic stature, men of stout heart and great prowess, whom he had chosen from amongst his father's body-guards, and said to them, 'Ye know the favour and esteem in which my father held you and all the bounties and honours he bestowed on you, and I will advance you to yet higher rank with me than this. Now I will tell you the reason thereof and ye are under God's safeguard from me. But [first] I will ask you of somewhat wherein if ye do my bidding, obeying me in that which I shall command you and keeping my secret from all men, ye shall have of me largesse and favour overplaying your desire.'
The slaves answered him with one voice, saying, 'All that thou biddest us, O our lord, will we do, nor will we anywise depart from thy commandment, for thou art our lord and master.' 'God be good to you!' said the king. 'Now will I tell you why I have chosen you out for increase of honour with me. Ye know how generously my father dealt with the people of his dominions and the oath he took from them on my behalf and how they promised him that they would not break faith with me nor gainsay my commandment; and ye saw how they did yesterday, whenas they came all together about me and would have slain me. Now I am minded to do with them somewhat, to wit, I have considered their fashion of yesterday and see that nought but exemplary chastisement will restrain them from the like of this; wherefore I charge you privily to put to death whom I shall point out to you, to the intent that, by slaying their leaders and chiefs, I may ward off evil and calamity from my realm; and the manner thereof shall be on this wise. To-morrow I will sit in this chair in this chamber and give them leave to enter, one by one, coming in at one door and going out at another; and do ye stand, all ten, before me and be attentive to my signs; and whoso enters singly, take him and drag him into yonder chamber and slay him and hide his body.' The slaves answered, 'We hearken to thy word and obey thy commandment.' Whereupon he gave them largesse and dismissed them.
On the morrow he summoned the slaves and bade set up the throne. Then he donned his royal robes and taking the book of the law (182) in his hands, posted the ten slaves before him and commanded to open the doors. So they opened the doors and the herald proclaimed aloud, saying, 'Whoso hath authority, let him come to the king's carpet!' (183) Whereupon up came the viziers and prefects and chamberlains and stood, each in his rank. Then the king bade admit them, one by one, and the first to enter was Shimas, after the wont of the chief vizier; but no sooner had he presented himself before the king than the ten slaves set upon him, ere he could be ware, and dragging him into the adjoining chamber, despatched him. On like wise did they with the rest of the viziers and doctors and notables, slaying them, one after another, till they made an end of them all. Then the king called the headsmen and bade them put to the sword all who remained of the folk of valour and prowess. So they fell on them and left none whom they knew for a man of mettle but they slew him, sparing only the dregs and refuse of the people. These latter they drove away and they returned each to his folk, whilst the king secluded himself with his pleasures and surrendered his soul to its lusts, ensuing tyranny and oppression and unright, till he outwent all the men of evil who had foregone him.
Now this king's realm was a mine of gold and silver and jacinths and jewels and the neighbouring kings envied him this empire and looked for calamity to betide him. Moreover, one of them [to wit, the King of Farther India] said in himself, 'Now have I gotten my desire of wresting the realm from the hand of yonder crackbrained boy, by reason of that which hath betided of his slaughter of the chiefs of his state and of all the men of valour and mettle that were in his dominions. Now is my occasion to snatch away that which is in his hand, seeing he hath no knowledge of war nor judgment thereto, nor is there any left to counsel him aright or succour him. Wherefore this very day will I open on him the door of mischief by writing him a letter wherein I will flout him and reproach him with that which he hath done and see what he will answer.'
So he wrote him a letter to the following effect: 'In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful! I have heard tell of that which thou hast done with thy viziers and doctors and men of war and that whereinto thou hast cast thyself of calamity, so that there is neither power nor strength left in thee to repel whoso shall assail thee, more by token that thou transgressest and orderest thyself tyrannously and profligately. Now God hath given me the mastery over thee and hath delivered thee into my hand; wherefore do thou give ear to my word and obey my commandment and build me an impregnable castle amiddleward the sea. If thou canst not do this, depart thy realm and begone with thy life; for I will send unto thee, from the farthest parts of Hind, twelve squadrons of horse, each twelve thousand fighting-men strong, who shall enter thy land and spoil thy goods and slay thy men and take thy women prisoners. Moreover, I will make my Vizier Bediya captain over them and bid him lay strait siege [to thy capital city] till he master it; and I have commanded the bearer of this letter that he tarry with thee but three days. So, if thou do my bidding, thou shalt be saved; else will I send unto thee that which I have said.'
Then he sealed the letter and gave it to a messenger, who journeyed with it till he came to Wird Khan's capital and delivered it to him. When the young king read it, his heart sank within him and his breast was straitened and he made sure of destruction, having none to whom he might resort for counsel or succour. So he rose and went in to his favourite, who, seeing him changed of colour, said to him, 'What ails thee, O king?' Quoth he, 'Today I am no king, but slave to the king.' And he opened the letter and read it to her, whereupon she fell to weeping and lamenting and tearing her clothes. Then said he to her, 'Hast thou aught of counsel or resource in this grievous state?' But she answered, 'Women have no resource in time of war, nor have they strength or judgment. It is men alone who have strength and judgment and resource in the like of this affair.''
When the king heard this, there befell him the utmost grief and repentance and remorse for that wherein he had transgressed against his viziers and officers and the nobles of his people and the chiefs of his state, and he would that he had died ere there came to him the like of this shameful news. Then he said to his women, 'Verily, there hath betided me from you that which befell the heathcock with the tortoises.' 'What was that?' asked they, and he answered, 'It is said that
The Heathcock and the Tortoises.
A number of tortoises dwelt once in a certain island, abounding in trees and fruits and streams, and it chanced, one day, that a heathcock passing over the island, was overcome with heat and weariness and stayed his flight there. Presently, looking about for a cool place, he espied the resort of the tortoises and lighted down therein. Now they were then abroad in quest of food and when they returned from their feeding-places to their dwelling, they found the heathcock there. His beauty pleased them and God made him fair in their eyes, so that they extolled their Creator and loved the heathcock with an exceeding love and rejoiced in him, saying one to another, "Assuredly this is of the goodliest of the birds." And they began to caress him and entreat him with kindness. When he saw that they looked on him with eyes of affection, he inclined to them and made friends with them and took up his abode with them, Eying away in the morning whither he would and returning at eventide to pass the night with them.
After awhile, the tortoises, seeing that his [daylong] absence from them desolated them and finding that they saw him not but by night, (for at break of day he still took flight in haste and they knew not what came of him, for all their love to him,) said to each other, "Indeed, we love this heathcock and he is become our friend and we cannot brook parting from him; so how shall we do to make him abide with us always? For he flies away at daybreak and is absent from us all day and we see him not save by night." Quoth one of them, "Be easy, O my sisters. I will bring him not to leave us for the twinkling of an eye." And the rest answered, saying, "An thou do this, we will all be thy slaves."
So, when the heathcock came back from his feeding-place and sat down amongst them, the wily tortoise drew near unto him and called down blessings on him, giving him joy of his safe return and saying, "O my lord, know that God hath vouchsafed thee our love and hath in like manner set in thy heart the love of us, so that thou art become to us a familiar friend and a comrade in this desert place. Now the goodliest of times for those who love each other is when they are in company and the sorest of afflictions for them is absence and separation. But thou leavest us at peep of day and returnest not to us till sundown, wherefore there betideth us sore desolation. Indeed this is exceeding grievous unto us and we abide in sore longing by reason thereof."
"Indeed," answered the bird, "I love you also and yearn for you yet more than you for me, nor is it easy for me to leave you; but I have no help for this, seeing that I am a bird with wings and may not abide with you always, because that is not of my nature. For a bird, being a winged creature, may not remain still, except it be for the sake of sleep at night; but, as soon as it is day, he flies away and seeks his food in what place soever pleases him." "True," answered the tortoise. "Nevertheless he who hath wings hath no repose at most seasons, for that the good he getteth is not a fourth part of the trouble that betideth him, and the best of all the things for which one striveth is ease of life and contentment. Now God hath appointed love and fellowship between us and thee and we fear for thee, lest some of thine enemies catch thee and thou perish and we be denied the sight of thy face." "Thou sayst sooth," rejoined the heathcock; "but how dost thou counsel me to do?" Quoth the tortoise, "My advice is that thou pluck out thy wing- feathers, wherewith thou speedest thy flight, and abide with us in peace, eating of our meat and drinking of our drink in this pasturage, that aboundeth in trees laden with ripe fruits, and thou and we, we will sojourn in this fruitful place and enjoy each other's company."
The heathcock inclined to her speech, seeking ease for himself, and plucked out his wing-feathers, one by one, in accordance with the tortoise's counsel; then he took up his abode with them and contented himself with the little ease and passing pleasure he enjoyed. Presently up came a. weasel and looking at the heathcock, saw that his wings were plucked so that he could not fly, whereat he was mightily rejoiced and said in himself, "Verily yonder heathcock is fat and scant of feather." So he went up to him and seized him, whereupon the heathcock called out to the tortoises for help; but, when they saw the weasel seize him, they drew apart from him and huddled together, choked with weeping for him, for they saw the beast torture him. Quoth the heathcock, "Is there aught but weeping with you?" And they answered, saying, "O our brother, we have neither strength nor power nor resource against a weasel." At this the heathcock was grieved and gave up hope of life; and he said to them, "The fault is not yours, but mine own, in that I hearkened to you and plucked out my wing-feathers, wherewith I used to fly. Indeed, I deserve death for having hearkened to you, and I blame you not in aught."
On like wise,' continued the king, 'I do not blame you, O women; but I blame and reproach myself for that I remembered not that ye were the cause of the transgression of our father Adam, by reason whereof he was cast out from Paradise, but forgot that ye are the root of all evil and hearkened to you, of my ignorance and folly and lack of sense and judgment, and slew my viziers and the governors of my state, who were my loyal counsellors in all things and my glory and my strength against whatsoever troubled me. Now find I not one to replace them and see none who shall stand me in their stead; and except God succour me with one of sound judgment, who shall guide me to that wherein is my deliverance, I am fallen into sheer perdition.' Then he arose and withdrew into his bedchamber, bemoaning his viziers and governors and saying, 'Would God those lions were with me, though but for an hour, so I might excuse myself unto them and look on them and make my moan to them of my case and that which hath betided me after them!' And he abode all that day sunken in the sea of troublous thought, eating not neither drinking.
When the night came, he arose and changing his raiment, donned old clothes and disguised himself and went forth at a venture to walk about the city, so haply he might hear some comfortable word. As he wandered about the streets, he chanced upon two boys of equal age, each about twelve years old, who sat talking under a wall: so he drew near them whereas he might hear and apprehend what they said, unseen of them, and heard one say to the other, 'O my brother, hear what my father told me yesternight of the calamity that hath betided him in the withering of his crops, before their time, by reason of the lack of rain and the great affliction that is fallen on this city.' Quoth the other, 'Knowst thou not the cause of this affliction?' 'Not I,' answered the first. 'I prithee, tell it me, if thou know it.' 'Yes,' rejoined the second; 'I know it and will tell it thee. Know that I have heard from one of my father's friends that our king put his viziers and ministers to death, without offence done of them, by reason of his love for women and inclination to them; for that his viziers forbade him from this, but he would not be forbidden and commanded to slay them, in obedience to his women. Thus he killed Shimas my father, who was his vizier and the vizier of his father before him and the chief of his council; but thou shalt see how God will do with him by reason of his sins against them and how He shall avenge them of him.' 'How so?' asked the first boy.
'Know,' replied his fellow, 'that the King of Farther India maketh light of our king and hath sent him a letter, rating him and saying to him, "Build me a castle amiddleward the sea, or I will send unto thee Bediya my vizier, with twelve squadrons of horse, each twelve thousand strong, to seize upon thy kingdom and slay thy men and take thee and thy women prisoners." And he hath given him three days' time to answer. Now thou must know, O my brother, that this King of Farther India is a masterful tyrant, a man of might and exceeding prowess, and in his realm are much people; wherefore, except our king make shift to fend him off from himself, he will fall into perdition, whilst the King of Hind will seize on our possessions and slay our men and make prize of our women." When the king heard this talk, his agitation redoubled and he inclined to the boys, saying, 'Surely, this boy is a wizard, in that he is acquainted with this thing; for the letter is with me and the secret also and none hath knowledge of this matter but myself. How then knoweth this boy of it? I will resort unto him and talk with him and I pray God that our deliverance may be at his hand.'
Then he approached the boy softly and said to him, 'O dear boy, what is this thou sayest of our king, that he did ill to the utterest in slaying his viziers and the chiefs of his state? Indeed, he sinned against himself and his people and thou art right in that which thou sayest. But tell me, O my son, whence knowest thou that the King of Farther India hath written him a letter, berating him and bespeaking him with the grievous speech whereof thou tellest?' 'O brother,' answered the boy, 'I know this from the sand (184) wherewith I tell the tale of night and day and from the saying of the ancients, "No mystery is hidden from God;" for the sons of Adam have in them a spiritual virtue which discovers to them hidden secrets.' 'True, O my son,' answered Wird Khan; 'but whence learnedly thou the [art of divination by] sand, and thou young of years?' Quoth the boy, 'My father taught it me;' and the king said, 'Is thy father alive or dead?' 'He is dead,' answered the boy.
Then said Wird Khan, 'Is there any resource or device for our king, whereby he may ward off this sore calamity from himself and his kingdom?' And the boy answered, 'It befits not that I speak with thee [of this]; but, if the king send for me and ask me how he shall do to baffle his enemy and win free of his snares, I will acquaint him with that wherein, by the power of God the Most High, shall be his deliverance.' 'But who shall tell the king of this,' asked Wird Khan, 'that he may send for thee?' Quoth the boy, 'If I hear that he seeketh men of experience and good counsel, I will go up with them to him and tell him that wherein shall be his welfare and the warding off of this affliction from him; but, if he neglect this pressing matter and busy himself with his pleasures among his women and I go to him of my own motion, purposing to acquaint him with the means of deliverance, he will assuredly give orders to slay me, even as he slew those his viziers, and my courtesy to him will be the cause of my destruction; wherefore the folk will think meanly of me and belittle my wit and I shall be of those of whom it is said, "He whose learning exceeds his wit perishes by his ignorance."'
When the king heard the boy's speech, he was assured of his sagacity and the excellence of his merit was manifest unto him. So he was certified that deliverance would betide him and his subjects at the boy's hands and said to him, 'Whence art thou and where is thy house?' 'This is the wall of our house,' answered he. The king took note of the place and leaving the boy, returned to his palace, rejoicing. There he changed his clothes and called for meat and drink, forbidding his women access to him. Then he ate and drank and returned thanks to God the Most High and besought Him of succour and deliverance. Moreover he craved His pardon and forgiveness for that which he had done with his counsellors of state and ministers and turned to Him with sincere repentance, imposing on himself prayer and fasting galore, by way of votive offering.
On the morrow, he called one of his chief officers and describing to him the boy's abiding-place, bade him go thither and bring him to his presence with all gentleness So the officer sought out the boy and said to him, 'The king bids thee to him, that good may betide thee from him and that he may ask thee a question; then shalt thou return in peace to thy dwelling.' 'What is the king's occasion with me?' asked the boy, and the officer said, 'My lord's occasion with thee is question and answer.' 'A thousand times hearkening and a thousand times obedience to the commandment of the king!' answered the boy and accompanied the officer to the palace. When he came into the presences he prostrated himself before God and saluting the king, called down blessings on him. Wird Khan returned his salutation and bade him sit. So he sat down and the king said to him, 'Knowst thou who walked with thee yesternight?' 'Yes,' answered the boy, and the king said, 'And where is he?' 'It is he who speaketh with me at this present,' replied the boy. 'Thou sayst sooth, O friend,' rejoined the king and bade set him a chair beside his own, whereon he made him sit and called for meat and drink.
Then they talked awhile and the king said, 'O vizier, (185) thou toldest me yesternight that thou hadst a device wherewith thou couldst fend off from us the malice of the King of Hind. What is this device and how shall we contrive to ward off his mischief from us? Tell me, that I may make thee chief of those who speak with me in the realm and choose thee to be my vizier and do according to thy judgment in all thou counsellest me and assign thee a splendid recompense.' 'O king,' answered the boy, 'keep thy recompense to thyself and seek counsel and policy of thy women, who counselled thee to slay my father Shimas and the rest of the viziers.' When the king heard this, he was confounded and sighed and said, 'O dear boy, was Shimas indeed thy father?' 'Yes,' answered the boy; 'Shimas was indeed my father and I am in truth his son.' Whereupon the king bowed his head, whilst the tears ran from his eyes, and he craved pardon of God.
Then said he, 'O boy, indeed I did this of my ignorance and by the evil counsel of the women and of the greatness of their malice; but I beseech thee to forgive me and I wilt set thee in thy father's stead and make thy rank higher than his. Moreover, if thou do away this retribution from us, I will encircle thy neck with a collar of gold and mount thee on the goodliest of steeds and bid the crier make proclamation before thee, saying, "This is the glorious boy, he who sitteth in the second seat after the king!" As for the women, I have it in mind to do vengeance on them at such time as God the Most High shall will it. But tell me now what thou hast with thee of counsel and contrivance, that my heart may be at ease.' Quoth the boy, 'Swear to me that thou wilt not gainsay me in that which I shall say to thee and that I shall be in safety from that which I fear.' And the king answered, 'This is the covenant of God between thee and me, that I will not go from thy word and that thou shalt be my chief counsellor and whatsoever thou biddest me, that will I do; and God the Most High is witness betwixt us of what I say.'
Therewith the boy's breast dilated and the field of speech was opened to him wide and he said, 'O king, my counsel to thee is that thou wait till the expiration of the delay appointed by thee for returning an answer to the courier of the King of Hind; and when he cometh to thee, seeking the answer, do thou put him off to another day. With this he will excuse himself to thee, on the score of his master having appointed him certain fixed days, and press thee for an answer; but do thou rebut him and put him off to another day, without specifying it. Then will he go forth from thee, angry, and betake himself into the midst of the city and speak openly among the folk, saying, "O people of the city, I am a courier of the King of Farther India, who is a king of great might and of determination such as softeneth iron. He sent me with a letter to the king of this city and limited unto me certain days, saying, 'An thou be not with me by the time appointed, my vengeance shall fall on thee.' Now, behold, I went in to the king of this city and gave him the letter, which when he had read, he sought of me a delay of three days, after which he should return me an answer thereto, and I agreed to this of courtesy and consideration for him. When the three days were past, I went to seek the answer of him, but he put me off to another day; and now I have no patience to wait longer; so I am about to return to my lord the King of Farther India and acquaint him with that which hath befallen me; and ye, O folk, are witnesses between me and him."
This will be reported to thee and do thou send for him and bespeak him gently and say to him, "O thou that strivest for thine own destruction, what moveth thee to blame us among our subjects? Verily, thou deservest present death at our hands; but the ancients say, 'Clemency is of the attributes of the noble.' Know that our delay in answering thy master's letter arose not from neglect on our part, but from our much business and lack of leisure to look into thine affair and write a reply to thy king." Then call for the letter and read it again and laugh immoderately and say to the courier, "Hast thou a letter other than this? If so, we will write thee an answer to that also." He will say, "I have none other than this letter;" but do thou repeat thy question to him a second and a third time, and he will reply, "I have none other at all." Then say to him, "Verily, this thy king lacketh wit in that he writeth us the like of this letter, seeking to arouse our anger against him, so that we shall go forth to him with our troops and invade his dominions and take his realm. But we will not punish him this time for the vileness of his breeding, [as shown] in this letter, for that he is scant of wit and weak of judgment, and it beseemeth our dignity that we first admonish him and warn him not to repeat the like of these extravagances; and if he again adventure himself and return to the like of this, he will merit present destruction. Indeed, methinks this king of thine must be an ignorant fool, taking no thought to the issue [of that he doth] and having no vizier of sense and good counsel, with whom he may advise. Were he a man of sense, he had taken counsel with a vizier, before sending us the like of this ridiculous letter. But he shall have an answer like unto his letter and overpassing it; for I will give it to one of the boys of the school to answer." Then send for me, and when I come, bid me read the letter and answer it.'
When the king heard the boy's speech, his breast expanded and he approved his counsel and his device pleased him. So he conferred largesse upon him and instating him in his father's once, sent him away, rejoicing. When the three days of delay were expired, that he had appointed unto the courier, the latter presented himself and going in to the king, demanded the answer; but he put him off to another day; whereupon he went to the end of the throne-room and spake unseemly, even as the boy had foresaid. Then he betook himself to the bazaar and said, 'Ho, people of this city, I came with a message from the King of Farther India to your king, and still he putteth me off from an answer. Now the term is past which my master limited unto me and your king hath no excuse, and ye are witnesses unto this.'
When this speech was reported to the king, he sent for the courier and said to him, 'O thou that seekest thine own destruction, art thou not the bearer of a letter from king to king, between whom are secrets, and how cometh it that thou goest forth among the folk and publishest kings' secrets to the common people? Verily, thou meritest punishment from us; but this we will forbear, for the sake of returning an answer by thee to this fool of a king of thine: and it befitteth not that any return him an answer but the least of the boys of the school.' Then he sent for the vizier's son, who carne and prostrating himself to God, offered up prayers for the king's abiding glory and long life; whereupon Wird Khan threw him the letter, saying, 'Read that letter and write me a reply hereto in haste.'
The boy took the letter and reading it, smiled; then he laughed aloud and said to the king, 'Didst thou send for me to answer this letter?' 'Yes,' answered Wird Khan, and the boy said, 'O king, methought thou hadst sent for me on some grave matter; indeed a lesser than I had availed to the answering of this letter; but it is thine to command, O puissant king.' Quoth the king, 'Write the answer forthright, on account of the courier, for that he is appointed a term and we have delayed him another day.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the boy and pulling out paper and inkhorn, wrote the following answer.
'In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate! Peace be upon him who hath gotten pardon and deliverance and the mercy of the Compassionate One! To proceed. O thou that pretendeth thyself a mighty king [and art but a king] in word and not in deed, we give thee to know that thy letter hath reached us and we have read it and have taken note of that which is therein of absurdities and rare extravagances, whereby we are certified of thine ignorance and ill-will unto us. Verily, thou hast put out thy hand to that whereunto thou availest not, and but that we have compassion on God's creatures and the people, we had not held back [our hand] from thee. As for thy messenger, he went forth to the bazaar and published the news of thy letter to great and small, whereby he merited punishment from us; but we spared him and remitted his offence, not of respect for thee, but of pity for him, seeing that he is excusable with thee.
As for that whereof thou makest mention in thy letter of the slaughter of my viziers and wise men and grandees, this is the truth and [this I did] for a reason that availed with me, and I slew not one man of learning but there are with me a thousand of his kind, wiser than he and more of sense and learning, nor is there with me a child but is filled with knowledge and wisdom, and I have, in the stead of each of the slain, of those who surpass in his kind, what is beyond count. Moreover, each of my troops con cope with a battalion of thine, whilst, as for treasure, I have a manufactory that makes every day a thousand pounds of silver, besides gold, and precious stones are with me as pebbles; and as for the people of my kingdom, I cannot set forth to thee their wealth and beauty and goodliness. How darest thou, therefore, presume upon us and say to us, "Build me a castle amiddleward the sea?" Verily, this is a marvellous thing, and doubtless it arises from the slenderness of thy wit; for, hadst thou aught of sense, thou hadst enquired of the beatings of the waves and the movements of the winds. But fend thou off therefrom the waves and the surges of the sea and still the winds, and we will build thee the castle.
As for thy pretension that thou wilt vanquish me, God forfend that the like of thee should lord it over us and conquer our realm! Nay, God the Most High hath given me the mastery over thee, for that thou hast transgressed against me and provoked me without due cause. Know, therefore, that thou hast merited chastisement from God and from me; but I fear God in respect of thee and thy subjects (186) and will not take horse against thee but after warning. Wherefore, if thou fear God, hasten to send me this year's tribute; else will I not leave to ride forth against thee with a thousand thousand and a hundred thousand fighting-men, all giants on elephants, and I will range them round about my vizier and bid him beleaguer thee three years, in place of the three days' delay thou appointedst to thy messenger, and I will make myself master of thy kingdom, except that I will slay none but thyself alone and make prisoners therefrom none but thy harem.'
Then the boy drew his own portrait in the margin of the letter and wrote thereunder the words: 'This answer was written by the least of the boys of the school;' after which he sealed it and handed it to the king. The latter gave it to the courier, who took it and kissing the king's hands, went forth from him, rendering thanks to God and the king for the latter's clemency to him and marvelling at the boy's intelligence. He arrived at the court of the king, his master, three days after the expiration of the term appointed to him, and found that he had called a meeting of his council, by reason of the failure of the courier to return at the appointed time. So he went in to the king and prostrating himself before him, gave him the letter. The king took it and questioned him of the cause of his tarrying and how it was with King Wird Khan. So he recounted to him all that he had seen with his eyes and heard with his ears; whereat the king's wit was confounded and he said, 'Out on thee! What tale is this thou tellest me of the like of this king?' 'O mighty king,' answered the courier, 'I am here before thee, (187) but open the letter and read it, and the truth of my speech will appear to thee.'
So the king opened the letter and read it and seeing the portrait of the boy who had written it, made sure of the loss of his kingdom and was perplexed concerning the issue of his affair. Then, turning to his viziers and grandees, he acquainted them with the case and read them the letter, whereat they were mightily affrighted and sought to calm the king's terror with words that were only from the tongue, whilst their hearts were torn with alarm and anxiety; but Bediya, the chief vizier, said, 'Know, O king, that there is no avail in that which my brother viziers have said, and it is my counsel that thou write this king a letter and excuse thyself to him therein, saying, "I love thee and loved thy father before thee and sent thee this letter by the courier only to prove thee and try thy constancy and see what was in thee of stoutness and thy proficiency in matters practical and theoretical and skill in enigmas and that wherewith thou art endowed of all perfections. Wherefore we pray God the Most High to bless thee in thy kingdom and strengthen the defences of thy [capital] city and add to thy dominion, since thou art mindful of thyself and accomplishest the needs of thy subjects." And send it to him by another courier.' 'By the Great God,' exclaimed the king, 'it is a wonder of wonders that this man should be a mighty king and prepared for war, after his slaughter of all the wise men of his kingdom and his counsellors and the captains of his host and that his realm should prosper after this and there should issue therefrom this vast strength! But the most wonderful of all is that the little ones of its schools should return the like of this answer for its king. Verily, of my ill-omened presumption, I have kindled this fire upon myself, and I know not how I shall quench it, save [by acting on] the advice of this my vizier.'
Accordingly he made ready a rich present, with slaves and attendants galore, and wrote the following letter [in answer to that of Wird Khan]. 'In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful! To proceed. O glorious King Wird Khan, son of my dear brother Jelyaad, may God have mercy on thee and continue thee [on life!] Thine answer to our letter hath reached us and we have read it and apprehended its meaning and see therein that which rejoiceth us, and this is the utmost of that which we sought of God for thee; wherefore we beseech Him to exalt thy dignity and stablish the pillars of thy state and give thee the victory over thy foes and those who purpose thee ill. Know, O king, that thy father was my brother and that there were between us in his lifetime pacts and covenants of friendship, and never had he of me nor I of him other than good; and when he was translated [to the mercy of God] and thou sattest upon the throne of his kingship, there betided us the utmost joy and contentment; but, when the news reached us of that which thou didst with thy viziers and the notables of thy state, we feared lest the report of thee should come to the ears of some king other than ourselves and he should presume against thee, for that we deemed thee neglectful of thine affairs and of the maintenance of thy defences and careless of the interests of thy kingdom; so we wrote unto thee what should arouse thee [from thy torpor]. But, when we saw that thou returnest us the like of this answer, our heart was set at ease for thee, may God give thee enjoyment of thy kingdom and stablish thee in thy dignity! And so peace be on thee.'
Then he despatched the letter and the present to Wird Khan with an escort of a hundred horse, who fared on till they came to his court and saluting him, presented him with the letter and the gifts. The king read the letter and accepted the presents, lodging the captain of the escort in a befitting place and entreating him with honour. So the news of this was bruited abroad among the people and the king rejoiced therein with an exceeding joy. Then he sent for the boy, the son of Shimas, and the captain of the hundred horse, and entreating the young vizier with honour, gave him the letter to read; whilst he himself upbraided the captain concerning the king's conduct, and the latter kissed his hand and made his excuses to him, offering up prayers for the continuance of his life and the eternity of his fortune. The king thanked him for his good wishes and bestowed upon him honours and largesse galore. Moreover, he gave his men what befitted them and made ready presents to send by them and bade the young vizier write an answer to their king's letter.
So the boy wrote an answer, wherein, after an elegant exordium, he touched briefly on the question of reconciliation and praised the good breeding of the envoy and of his men, and showed it to the king, who said to him, 'Read it, O dear boy, that we may know what is written therein.' So the boy read the letter in the presence of the hundred horse, and the king and all present marvelled at the excellence of its style and sense. Then the king sealed the letter and delivering it to the captain of the hundred horse, dismissed him with an escort of his own troops, to bring him to the frontier of his country. So the captain returned, confounded at that which he had seen of the boy's knowledge and sagacity and thanking God for the speedy accomplishment of his errand and the acceptance of [the proffered] peace, to the King of Farther India, to whom he delivered the presents and the letter, telling him what he had seen and heard, whereat the king was mightily rejoiced and returned thanks to God the Most High and honoured the envoy, lauding his care and zeal and advancing him in rank: and he was thenceforth in peace and tranquillity and all contentment.
As for King Wird Khan, he returned to the way of righteousness, abandoning his evil courses and turning to God with sincere repentance; and he altogether forswore women and devoted himself to the ordering of the affairs of his realm and the governance of his people in the fear of God. Moreover, he made the son of Shimas vizier in his father's room and the chief of his counsellors and keeper of his secrets and commanded to decorate his capital and the other cities of his kingdom seven days. At this the subjects rejoiced, glad in the prospect of justice and equity, and fear and alarm ceased from them and they were instant in prayer for the king and for the vizier who had done away this trouble from him and them.
Then said the king to the vizier, 'What is thy counsel for the proper ordering of the state and the prospering of the people and the furnishing of the realm anew with captains and counsellors as before?' 'O king of high estate,' answered the boy, 'in my judgment, it behoves, before all, that thou began by tearing out from thy heart the root of frowardness and leave thy debauchery and tyranny and devotion to women; for, if thou return to the root of transgression, the second backsliding will be worse than the first.' 'And what,' asked the king, 'is the root of frowardness that it behoves me to tear out from my heart?' 'O mighty king,' answered the vizier, little of years but great of wit, 'the root of frowardness is the ensuing the desire of women and inclining to them and following their counsel and policy; for the love of them troubles the soundest wit and corrupts the most upright nature, and manifest proofs bear witness to my saying, wherein, if thou meditate them and consider their actions and the consequences thereof with eyes intent, thou wilt find a loyal counsellor against thine own soul and wilt stand in no need of my advice.
Look then, thou occupy not thy heart with the thought of women and do away the trace of them from thy mind, for that God the Most High hath forbidden the excessive use of them by the mouth of His prophet Moses, so that quoth a certain wise king to his son, "O my son, when thou succeedest to the throne after me, spare to frequent women overmuch, lest thy heart be led astray and thy judgment corrupted; for that their much frequentation leadeth to love of them, and love of them to corruption of judgment." And the proof of this is what befell our lord Solomon, son of David (peace be upon them both!) whom God endowed with knowledge and wisdom and supreme dominion above all men, nor vouchsafed He to any of the kings of old time the like of that which He gave him; and women were the cause of his father's offending.
The examples of this are many, O king, and I do but make mention of Solomon to thee for that thou knowest that to none was given the like of the dominion wherewith he was invested, so that all the kings of the earth obeyed him. Know then, O king, that the love of women is the root of all evil and none of them hath any judgment: wherefore it behoveth a man to confine his use of them within the limits of necessity and not incline to them altogether, for that will cause him fall into corruption and perdition. If thou hearken to my rede, all thine affairs will prosper; but, if thou neglect it, thou wilt repent, whenas repentance will not avail thee.'
'Indeed,' answered the king, 'I have left my sometime inclination to women and have altogether renounced my infatuation for them; but how shall I do to punish them for that which they have done? For the slaying of thy father Shimas was of their malice and not of my own will, and I know not what ailed my reason that I fell in with their proposal to kill him.'
Then he cried out and groaned and lamented, saying, 'Alas for the loss of my vizier and his just judgment and wise ordinance and for the loss of his like of the viziers and notables of the state and of the goodliness of their apt and sagacious counsels!' 'O king,' said the young vizier, 'know that the fault is not with women alone, for that they are like unto a pleasing commodity, whereto the desires of the beholders incline. To whosoever desireth and buyeth, they sell it, but whoso buyeth not, none forceth him thereto; so that the fault is his who buyeth, especially if he know the harmfulness of the commodity. Now, I warn thee, as did my father before me, but thou hearkenedst not to his counsel.' 'O vizier,' answered the king, 'indeed thou hast fixed this fault upon me, even as thou hast said, and I have no excuse except the Divine ordinances.' 'O king,' rejoined the vizier, 'know that God hath created us and endowed us with ableness (188) and appointed to us will and choice; so, if we will, we do, and if we will, we do not. God commandeth us not to do harm, lest sin attach to us; wherefore it behoveth us to consider that which it is right to do, for that the Most High commandeth us nought but good in all cases and forbiddeth us only from evil; but what we do, we do of our free will, be it right or wrong.'
Quoth the king, 'Thou sayst truly, and indeed my fault arose from my surrendering myself to my lusts, albeit many a time my reason warned me from this and thy father Shimas often warned me likewise; but my lusts carried it over my reason. Hast thou then with thee aught that may [in the future] withhold me from committing this error and whereby my reason may be victorious over the lusts of my soul?' 'Yes,' answered the vizier. 'I can tell thee what will restrain thee from committing this error, and it is that thou put off the garment of ignorance and don that of understanding, disobeying thy passions and obeying thy Lord and reverting to the policy of the just king thy father, fulfilling thy duties to God the Most High and to thy people, applying thyself to the defence of thy faith and the promotion of thy subjects' welfare, governing thyself aright and forbearing the slaughter of thy people.
Look to the issues of things and sever thyself from tyranny and oppression and arrogance and lewdness, practising justice and equity and humility and obeying the commandments of God the Most High, applying thyself to gentle dealing with those of His creatures whom He hath committed to thy governance and being assiduous in fulfilling their prayers unto thee, in accordance with that which is incumbent on thee. If thou be constant in the practice of these virtues, may thy days be serene and may God of His mercy spare thee and make thee revered of all who look on thee; so shall thine energies be brought to nought, for God the Most High shall put their hosts to the rout, and thou shalt have acceptance with Him and be loved and reverenced of His creatures.'
'Verily,' said the king, 'thou hast quickened mine entrails and enlightened my heart with thy sweet speech and hast opened the eyes of mine understanding, after blindness; and I am resolved to do all thou hast set forth to me, with the help of God the Most High, leaving my former estate of lust and frowardness and bringing forth my soul from duresse into freedom and from fear into safety. It behoveth thee, then, to be joyful and contented, for that I, for all my greater age, am become to thee as a son, and thou to me as a dear father, for all thy tenderness of years, and it is grown incumbent on me to do my utmost endeavour in that thou commandest me.
Wherefore I thank the bounty of God the Most High and thy bounty for that He hath vouchsafed me, by thee, fair fortune and good guidance and just judgment to fend off my trouble and anxiety; and the deliverance of my people hath been brought about by means of the excellence of thy skill and the goodliness of thine ordinance. Henceforward, thou shalt be the governor of my kingdom and equal to myself in all but sitting upon the throne; and all that thou dost shall be law to me and none shall gainsay thy word, young in years though thou be, for that thou art old in wit and knowledge. So I thank God who hath vouchsafed thee to me, that thou mayst guide me out of the crooked paths of perdition into the way of righteousness.'
Quoth the vizier, 'O august king, know that no merit is due to me for giving thee loyal counsel; for that to succour thee by deed and word is of that which is incumbent on me, seeing that I am but a plant of thy bounty; nor I alone, but my father before me was overwhelmed with thy favours; so that we are both alike partakers in thy munificence, and how shall we not acknowledge this? Moreover thou, O king, art our shepherd and ruler and he who wards off our enemies from us and to whom is committed our protection and our guardian, instant in endeavour for our safety. Indeed, though we lavished our lives in thy service, yet should we not fulfil that which behoveth us of gratitude to thee; but we supplicate God the Most High, who hath set thee in dominion over us and made thee our ruler, and beseech Him to vouchsafe thee long life and success in all thine enterprises and not to try thee with afflictions in thy time, but bring thee to thy desire and make thee to be reverenced till the day of thy death and lengthen thine arms in beneficence and generosity, so thou mayst have commandment over every wise man and subdue every froward one and all men of wisdom and mettle be found with thee in thy realm and all the ignorant and faint-hearted be plucked out therefrom; and we pray Him to withhold from thy people scarcity and misfortune and sow among them love and good fellowship and cause them to enjoy of this world its prosperity and of the next its felicity, of His grace and bounty and hidden mercies. Amen. For He can all things and there is nought difficult unto Him, in whom all things have their goal and glace of returning.'
When the king heard the vizier's prayers he was mightily rejoiced thereat and inclined to him with his whole heart, saying, 'Henceforth, O vizier, thou art to me in the stead of brother and son and father, and nought but death shall sever me from thee. Thou shalt have the disposal of all that my hand possesses, and if I have no child to succeed me, thou shalt sit on my throne in my stead; for thou art the worthiest of all the people of my realm, and I will invest thee with my kingship and appoint thee my heir presumptive to inherit the kingdom after me, if it be the will of God the Most High, in the presence of the grandees of my state, and will them to witness thereof.'
Then he called his secretary and bade him write to all the notables of his kingdom, summoning them to his court, and caused proclamation to be made in his city unto all the townsfolk great and small, bidding all the amirs and governors and chamberlains and other officers and dignitaries, as well as the sages and doctors of the law, to his presence. Moreover he held a grand divan and made a banquet, never was its like, and bade all the folks high and low, thereto. So they all assembled and abode in eating and drinking and delight a month's space; after which the king clothed all his household and the poor of his kingdom and bestowed abundant largesse on the men of learning.
Then he chose out a number of the sages and wise men, by counsel of the son of Shimas, and caused them go in to him, bidding him choose out six of them, that he might make them viziers under his commandment. So he chose out six of the oldest of them in years and the most accomplished of them in understanding and knowledge and the speediest of memory and judgment, and presented them to the king, who clad them in the vizier's habit and said to them, 'Ye are become my viziers, under the commandment of this my chief vizier, the son of Shimas. Whatsoever he saith to you or biddeth you thereto, ye shall not in anywise depart from it, albeit he is the youngest of you in years; for he is the eldest of you in wit.'
Then he seated them upon chairs, adorned with gold, after the usage of viziers, and appointed unto them stipends and allowances, bidding them choose out such of the notables of the kingdom and officers of the troops present at the banquet as were most fit for the service of the state, that he might make them captains of tens and hundreds and thousands and appoint to them dignities and assign them provision, after the manner of grandees. This they did with all diligence and he bade them also handsel all who were present with largesse galore and dismiss them each to his country with honour and worship. Moreover he charged his governors rule the people with justice and enjoined them to be tenderly solicitous for rich and poor and bade succour them from the treasury, according to their several degrees. So the viziers wished him continuance of glory and long life, and he commanded to decorate the city three days, in gratitude to God the Most High for His mercies.
When the court was dissolved and all the people had departed, each to his own place, after their affairs had been set in order, the king summoned the son of Shimas and the other six viziers and taking them apart privily, said to them, 'Know, O viziers, that I have been a wanderer from the right way, drowned in ignorance, setting my face against admonition, a breaker of pacts and promises and a gainsayer of folk of good counsel; and the cause of all this was my befoolment by these women and the wiles with which they beset me and the seeming fairness of their speech, wherewith they beguiled me, and my acceptance of this, for that I deemed their words true and loyal counsel, by reason of the sweetness and softness thereof; but behold, they were deadly poison. And now I am certified that they sought but to ruin and destroy me, wherefore they deserve punishment and requital from me, for the sake of justice, that I may make them an admonition to all who will be admonished. But what deem ye advisedly of putting them to death?'
'O mighty king,' answered the young vizier, 'I have already told thee that women are not alone to blame, but that the fault is shared between them and the men who hearken to them; but they deserve punishment for two reasons: first, for the fulfilment of thy word, because thou art the supreme king; and secondly, by reason of their presumption against thee and their beguilement of thee and their intermeddling with that which concerns them not and whereof it befits them not to speak. Wherefore they have right well deserved death; yet let that which hath befallen them suffice them, and do thou henceforth reduce them to servants' estate. But it is thine to command in this and other than this.'
Some of the viziers seconded Ibn Shimas's advice; but one of them prostrated himself before the king and said to him, 'May God prolong the king's days! If thou be indeed resolved to put them to death, do with them as I shall say to thee.' 'And what is that?' asked Wird Khan. Quoth the vizier, 'It were best that thou bid some of thy female slaves carry the women who played thee false to the apartment, wherein befell the slaughter of thy viziers and sages, and imprison them there, and do thou assign to them a little meat and drink, enough to keep life in them [and no more]. Let them never be suffered to go forth of that place, and whenever one of them dies, let her abide among them, as she is, till they die all, even to the last of them. This is the least of their desert, for that they were the cause of this great wickedness, ay, and the origin of all the troubles and calamities that have befallen in our time; so shall there be verified in them the words of him who said, "He who diggeth a pit for his brother shall surely himself fall therein, though he go long in safety."'
The king accepted the vizier's counsel and sending for four stalwart female slaves, committed the offending women to them, bidding them carry them to the place of slaughter and imprison them there and allow them every day a little coarse food and a little troubled water. They did with them as he bade; wherefore the women mourned sore, repenting them of that which they had done and lamenting grievously. Thus God gave them their reward of abjection in this world and prepared for them torment in the world to come; nor did they cease to abide in that dark and noisome place, whilst every day one or other of them died, till they all perished, even to the last of them; and the report of this event was bruited abroad in all lands and countries. This is the end of the story of the king and his viziers and subjects, and praise be to God who causeth peoples to pass away and quickeneth the rotten bones, Him who [alone] is worthy to be glorified and magnified and hollowed for ever and ever!