THE TEN WAZIRS: OR THE HISTORY OF KING AZADBAKHT AND HIS SON. [FN#130]
There was once, of old days, a king of the kings, whose name was Azádbakht; his capital was hight Kunaym Madúd [FN#131] and his kingdom extended to the confines of Sístán [FN#132] and from the confines of Hindostan to the Indian Ocean. He had ten Wazirs, who ordered his kingship and his dominion, and he was possessed of judgment and exceeding wisdom. One day he went forth with certain of his guards to the chase and fell in with an Eunuch riding a mare and hending in hand the halter of a she-mule, which he led along. On the mules back was a domed litter of brocade purfled with gold and girded with an embroidered band set with pearls and gems, and about it was a company of Knights. When King Azadbakht saw this, he separated himself from his suite and, making for the horsemen and that mule, questioned them, saying, To whom belongeth this litter and what is therein? The Eunuch answered (for he knew not that the speaker was King Azadbakht), saying, This litter belongeth to Isfahand, Wazir to King Azadbakht, and therein is his daughter, whom he is minded to marry to the King hight Zád Sháh.
As the Eunuch was speaking with the king, behold, the maiden raised a corner of the curtain that shut in the litter, so she might look upon the speaker, and saw the king. When Azadbakht beheld her and noted her fashion and her loveliness (and indeed never did seer [FN#133] espy her like), his soul inclined to her and she took hold upon his heart and he was ravished by her sight. So he said to the Eunuch, Turn the mules head and return, for I am King Azadbakht and in very sooth I will marry her myself, inasmuch as Isfahand her sire is my Wazir and he will accept of this affair and it will not be hard to him. Answered the Eunuch, O king, Allah prolong thy continuance, have patience till I acquaint my lord her parent, and thou shalt wed her in the way of consent, for it befitteth thee not, neither is it seemly for thee, to seize her on this wise, seeing that it will be an affront to her father an if thou take her without his knowledge. Quoth Azadbakht, I have not patience to wait till thou repair to her sire and return, and no shame will betide him, if I marry her. And quoth the eunuch, O my lord, naught that in haste is done long endureth nor doth the heart rejoice therein; and indeed it behoveth thee not to take her on this unseemly wise. Whatsoever betideth thee, destroy not thyself with haste, for I know that her sires breast will be straitened by this affair and this that thou dost will not win thy wish. But the king said, Verily, Isfahand is my Mameluke and a slave of my slaves, and I reck not of her father, an he be fain or unfain. So saying, he drew the reins of the mule and carrying the damsel, whose name was Bahrjaur, [FN#134] to his house, married her. Meanwhile, the Eunuch betook himself, he and the knights, to her sire and said to him, O my lord, thou hast served the king a-many years service and thou hast not failed him a single day; and now he hath taken thy daughter without thy consent and permission. And he related to him what had passed and how the king had seized her by force. When Isfahand heard the eunuchs words, he was wroth with exceeding wrath and assembling many troops, said to them, Whenas the king was occupied with his women [FN#135] we took no reck of him; but now he putteth out his hand to our Harim; wherefore tis my rede that we look us out a place wherein we may have sanctuary. Then he wrote a letter to King Azadbakht, saying to him, I am a Mameluke of thy Mamelukes and a slave of thy slaves and my daughter at thy service is a hand-maid, and Almighty Allah prolong thy days and appoint thy times to be in joy and gladness! Indeed, I went ever waist-girded in thy service and in caring to conserve thy dominion and warding off from thee all thy foes; but now I abound yet more than erewhile in zeal and watchfulness, because I have taken this charge upon myself, since my daughter is become thy wife. And he despatched a courier to the king with the letter and a present. When the messenger came to King Azadbakht and he read the letter and the present was laid before him, he rejoiced with joy exceeding and occupied himself with eating and drinking, hour after hour. But the chief Wazir of his Wazirs came to him and said, O king, know that Isfahand the Wazir is thine enemy, for that his soul liketh not that which thou hast done with him, and this message he hath sent thee is a trick; so rejoice thou not therein, neither be thou misled by the sweets of his say and the softness of his speech. The king hearkened to his Wazirs speech, but presently made light of the matter and busied himself with that which he was about of eating and drinking, pleasuring and merrymaking. Meanwhile, lsfahand the Wazir wrote a letter and sent it to all the Emirs, acquainting them with that which had betided him from King Azadbakht and how he had forced his daughter, adding, And indeed he will do with you more than he hath done with me. When the letter reached the chiefs, [FN#136] they all assembled together to Isfahand and said to him, What was his affair? [FN#137] Accordingly he discovered to them the matter of his daughter and they all agreed, of one accord, to strive for the slaughter of the king; and, taking horse with their troops, they set out to seek him. Azadbakht knew naught till the noise of the revolt beset his capital city, when he said to his wife Bahrjaur, How shall we do? She answered, Thou knowest best and I am at thy commandment; so he bade fetch two swift horses and bestrode one himself, whilst his wife mounted the other. Then they took what they could of gold and went forth, flying through the night to the desert of Karmán; [FN#138] while Isfahand entered the city and made himself king. Now King Azadbakhts wife was big with child and the labour pains took her in the mountain; so they alighted at the foot, by a spring of water, and she bare a boy as he were the moon. Bahrjaur his mother pulled off a coat of gold-woven brocade and wrapped the child therein, and they passed the night in that place, she giving him the breast till morning. Then said the king to her, We are hampered by this child and cannot abide here nor can we carry him with us; so methinks we had better leave him in this stead and wend our ways, for Allah is able to send him one who shall take him and rear him. So they wept over him with exceeding sore weeping and left him beside the fountain, wrapped in that coat of brocade: then they laid at his head a thousand gold pieces in a bag and mounting their horses, fared forth and fled. Now, by the ordinance of the Most High Lord, a company of highway robbers fell upon a caravan hard by that mountain and despoiled them of what was with them of merchandise. Then they betook themselves to the highlands, so they might share their loot, and looking at the foot thereof, espied the coat of brocade: so they descended to see what it was, and behold, it was a boy wrapped therein and the gold laid at his head. They marvelled and said, Praised be Allah! By what misdeed cometh this child here? Thereupon they divided the money between them and the captain [FN#139] of the highwaymen took the boy and made him his son and fed him with sweet milk and dates, [FN#140] till he came to his house, when he appointed a nurse for rearing him. Meanwhile, King Azadbakht and his wife stayed not in their flight till they came to the court of the King of Fars, whose name was Kisra [FN#141]. When they presented themselves to him, he honoured them with all honour and entertained them with handsomest entertainment, and Azadbakht told him his tale from incept to conclusion. So he gave him a mighty power and wealth galore and he abode with him some days till he was rested, when he made ready with his host and setting out for his own dominions, waged war with Isfahand and falling in upon the capital, defeated the whilome Minister and slew him. Then he entered the city and sat down on the throne of his kingship; and whenas he was rested and his kingdom waxed peaceful for him, he despatched messengers to the mountain aforesaid in search of the child; but they returned and informed the king that they had not found him. As time ran on, the boy, the son of the king, grew up and fell to cutting the way [FN#142] with the highwaymen, and they used to carry him with them, whenever they went banditing. They sallied forth one day upon a caravan in the land of Sistan, and there were in that caravan strong men and valiant, and with them a mighty store of merchandise. Now they had heard that in that land banditti abounded: so they gathered themselves together and gat ready their weapons and sent out spies, who returned and gave them news of the plunderers. Accordingly, they prepared for battle, and when the robbers drew near the caravan, they fell upon them and the twain fought a sore fight. At last the caravan-folk overmastered the highwaymen by dint of numbers, and slew some of them, whilst the others fled. They also took the boy, the son of King Azadbakht, and seeing him as he were the moon, a model of beauty and loveliness, bright of face and engraced with grace, asked him, Who is thy father, and how camest thou with these banditti? And he answered, saying, I am the son of the Captain of the highwaymen. So they seized him and carried him to the capital of his sire, King Azadbakht. When they reached the city, the king heard of their coming and commanded that they should attend him with what befitted of their goods. Accordingly they presented themselves before him, and the boy with them, whom when the king saw, he asked them, To whom belongeth this boy? and they answered, O King, we were going on such a road, when there came out upon us a sort of robbers; so we fought them and beat them off and took this boy prisoner. Then we questioned him, saying, Who is thy sire? and he replied, I am the son of the robber-captain. Quoth the king, I would fain have this boy; and quoth the captain of the caravan, Allah maketh thee gift of him, O king of the age, and we all are thy slaves. Then the king (who was not aware that the boy was his son) dismissed the caravan and bade carry the lad into his palace, and he became as one of the pages, while his sire the king still knew not that he was his child. As the days rolled on, the king observed in him good breeding and understanding and handiness galore and he pleased him; so he committed his treasuries to his charge and shortened the Wazirs hand therefrom, commanding that naught should be taken forth save by leave of the youth. On this wise he abode a number of years and the king saw in him only good conduct and the habit of righteousness. Now the treasuries had been aforetime in the hands of the Wazirs to do with them whatso they would, and when they came under the youths hand, that of the Ministers was shortened from them, and he became dearer than a son to the king, who could not support being separated from him. When the Wazirs saw this, they were jealous of him and envied him and sought a device against him whereby they might oust him from the Kings eye, [FN#143] but found no means. At last, when Fate descended, [FN#144] it chanced that the youth one day of the days drank wine and became drunken and wandered from his right wits; so he fell to going round about within the kings palace and Destiny led him to the lodging of the women, in which there was a little sleeping chamber, where the king lay with his wife. Thither came the youth and entering the dormitory, found there a spread couch, to wit, a sleeping-place: so he cast himself on the bed, marvelling at the paintings that were in the chamber, which was lighted by one waxen taper. Presently he fell asleep and slumbered heavily till eventide, when there came a hand-maid, bringing with her as of wont all the dessert, eatables and drinkables, usually made ready for the king and his wife, and seeing the youth lying on his back (and none knowing of his case and he in his drunkenness unknowing where he was), thought that he was the king asleep on his couch; so she set the censing-vessel and laid the perfumes by the bedding, then shut the door and went her ways. Soon after this, the king arose from the wine-chamber and taking his wife by the hand, repaired with her to the chamber in which he slept. He opened the door and entered when, lo and behold! he saw the youth lying on the bed, whereupon he turned to his wife and said to her, What doth this youth here? This fellow cometh not hither save on thine account. Said she. I have no knowledge of him. Hereupon the youth awoke and seeing the king, sprang up and prostrated himself before him, and Azadbakht said to him, O vile of birth, [FN#145] O traitor of unworth, what hath driven thee to my dwelling? And he bade imprison him in one place and the Queen in another.
The First Day
Of the Uselessness of Endeavour Against Persistent Ill Fortune.
When the morning morrowed and the king sat on the throne of his kingship, he summoned his Grand Wazir, the Premier of all his Ministers, and said to him, How seest thou the deed this robber-youth hath done? [FN#146] He hath entered my Harim and lain down on my couch and I fear lest there be an object between him and the woman. What deemest thou of the affair? Said the Wazir, Allah prolong the kings continuance! What sawest thou in this youth? [FN#147] Is he not ignoble of birth, the son of thieves? Needs must a thief revert to his vile origin, and whoso reareth the serpents brood shall get of them naught but biting. As for the woman, she is not at fault; since from time ago until now, nothing appeared from her except good breeding and modest bearing; and at this present, an the king give me leave, I will go to her and question her, so I may discover to thee the affair. The king gave him leave for this and the Wazir went to the Queen and said to her, I am come to thee, on account of a grave shame, and I would fain have thee soothfast with me in speech and tell me how came the youth into the sleeping-chamber. Quoth she, I have no knowledge whatsoever of it, no, none at all, and sware to him a binding oath to that intent, whereby he knew that the woman had no inkling of the affair, nor was in fault and said to her, I will show thee a sleight, wherewith thou mayst acquit thyself and thy face be whitened before the king. Asked she, What is it? and he answered, When the king calleth for thee and questioneth thee of this, say thou to him, Yonder youth saw me in the boudoir-chamber and sent me a message, saying, I will give thee an hundred grains of gem for whose price money may not suffice, so thou wilt suffer me to enjoy thee. I laughed at him who bespake me with such proposal and rebuffed him; but he sent again to me, saying, An thou consent not thereto, I will come one of the nights, drunken, and enter and lie down in the sleeping-chamber, and the king will see me and slay me; so wilt thou be put to shame and thy face shall be blackened with him and thine honour dishonoured. Be this thy saying to the king, and I will fare to him forthright and repeat this to him. Quoth the Queen, And I also will say thus. Accordingly, the Minister returned to the king and said to him, Verily, this youth hath merited grievous pains and penalties after the abundance of thy bounty, and no kernel which is bitter can ever wax sweet; [FN#148] but, as for the woman, I am certified that there is no default in her. Thereupon he repeated to the king the story which he had taught the Queen, which when Azadbakht heard, he rent his raiment and bade the youth be brought. So they fetched him and set him before the king, who bade summon the Sworder, and the folk all fixed their eyes upon the youth, to the end that they might see what the Sovran should do with him. Then said Azadbakht to him (and his words were words of anger and the speech of the youth was reverent and well-bred), I bought thee with my money and looked for fidelity from thee, wherefore I chose thee over all my Grandees and Pages and made thee Keeper of my treasuries. Why, then, hast thou outraged mine honour and entered my house and played traitor with me and tookest thou no thought of all I have done thee of benefits? Replied the youth, O king, I did this not of my choice and freewill and I had no business in being there; but, of the lack of my luck, I was driven thither, for that Fate was contrary and fair Fortune failed me. Indeed, I had endeavoured with all endeavour that naught of foulness should come forth me and I kept watch and ward over myself, lest default foreshow in me; and none may withstand an ill chance, nor doth striving profit against adverse Destiny, as appeareth by the example of the merchant who was stricken with ill luck and his endeavour availed him naught and he fell by the badness of his fortune. The king asked, What is the story of the merchant and how was his luck changed upon him by the sorriness of his doom? Answered the youth, May Allah prolong the kings continuance! and began
The Story of the Merchant Who Lost his Luck. [FN#149]
There was once a merchant man, who prospered in trade, and at one time his every dirham won him fifty. Presently, his luck turned against him and he knew it not; so he said to himself, I have wealth galore, yet do I toil and travel from country to country; so better had I abide in my own land and rest myself in my own house from this travail and trouble and sell and buy at home. Then he made two parts of his money, and with one bought wheat in summer, saying, Whenas winter cometh, I shall sell it at a great profit. But, when the cold set in wheat fell to half the price for which he had purchased it, whereat he was concerned with sore chagrin and left it till the next year. However, the price then fell yet lower and one of his intimates said to him, Thou hast no luck in this wheat; so do thou sell it at whatsoever price. Said the merchant, Ah, long have I profited! so tis allowable that I lose this time. Allah is all-knowing! An it abide with me ten full years, I will not sell it save for a gaining bargain. [FN#150] Then he walled up in his anger the granary-door with clay, and by the ordinance of Allah Almighty, there came a great rain and descended from the terrace-roofs of the house wherein was the wheat so that the grain rotted; and the merchant had to pay the porters from his purse five hundred dirhams for them to carry it forth and cast it without the city, the smell of it having become fulsome. So his friend said to him, How often did I tell thee thou hadst no luck in wheat? But thou wouldst not give ear to my speech, and now it behoveth thee to go to the astrologer [FN#151] and question him of thine ascendant. Accordingly the trader betook himself to the astrologer and questioned him of his star, and astrophil said to him, Thine ascendant is adverse. Put not forth thy hand to any business, for thou wilt not prosper thereby. However, he paid no heed to the astrologers words and said in himself, If I do my business, I am not afraid of aught. Then he took the other half of his money, after he had spent the first in three years, and builded him a ship, which he loaded with a cargaison of whatso seemed good to him and all that was with him and embarked on the sea, so he might voyage questing gain. The ship remained in port some days, till he should be certified whither he would wend, and he said, I will ask the traders what this merchandise profiteth and in what land tis wanted and how much can it gain. They directed him to a far country, where his dirham should produce an hundredfold. So he set sail and made for the land in question; but, as he went, there blew on him a furious gale, and the ship foundered. The merchant saved himself on a plank and the wind cast him up, naked as he was, on the sea-shore, where stood a town hard by. He praised Allah and gave Him thanks for his preservation; then, seeing a great village nigh hand, he betook himself thither and saw, seated therein, a very old man, whom he acquainted with his case and that which had betided him. The Shaykh grieved for him with sore grieving, when he heard his tale and set food before him. He ate of it and the old man said to him, Tarry here with me, so I may make thee my overseer [FN#152] and factor over a farm I have here, and thou shalt have of me five dirhams a day. Answered the merchant, Allah make fair thy reward, and requite thee with His boons and bounties. So he abode in this employ, till he had sowed and reaped and threshed and winnowed, and all was clean in his hand and the Shaykh appointed neither agent nor inspector, but relied utterly upon him. Then the merchant bethought himself and said, I doubt me the owner of this grain will never give me my due; so the better rede were to take of it after the measure of my wage; and if he give me my right, I will return to him that I have taken. So he laid hands upon the grain, after the measure of that which fell to him, and hid it in a hiding place. Then he carried the rest and meted it out to the old man, who said to him Come, take thy wage, for which I conditioned with thee, and sell the grain and buy with the price clothes and what not else; and though thou abide with me ten years, yet shalt thou still have this hire and I will acquit it to thee on this wise. Quoth the merchant in himself, Indeed, I have done a foul deed by taking it without his permission. Then he went to fetch that which he had hidden of the grain, but found it not and returned, perplexed, sorrowful, to the Shaykh, who asked him, What aileth thee to be mournful? and he answered, Methought thou wouldst not pay me my due; so I took of the grain, after the measure of my hire; and now thou hast paid me all my right and I went to bring back to thee that which I had hidden from thee, but found it gone, for those who had come upon it have stolen it. The Shaykh was wroth, when he heard these words, and said to the merchant, There is no device against ill luck! I had given thee this but, of the sorriness of thy doom and thy fortune, thou hast done this deed, O oppressor of thine own self! Thou deemedst I would not fulfil to thee thy wage; but, by Allah, nevermore will I give thee aught. Then he drove him away from him. So the merchant went forth, woeful, grieving, weeping-eyed, and wandered along the sea-shore, till he came to a sort of duckers [FN#153] diving in the sea for pearls. They saw him weeping and wailing and said to him, What is thy case and what garreth thee shed tears? So he acquainted them with his history, from incept to conclusion, whereby the duckers knew him and asked him Art thou Such-an-one, son of Such-an-one? He answered Yes; whereupon they condoled with him and wept sore for him and said to him, Abide here till we dive upon thy luck this next time and whatso betideth us shall be between us and thee. [FN#154] Accordingly, they ducked and brought up ten oyster-shells, in each two great unions: whereat they marvelled and said to him,By Allah, thy luck hath re-appeared and thy good star is in the ascendant! Then the pearl-fishers gave him the ten pearls and said to him, Sell two of them and make them thy stock-in-trade: and hide the rest against the time of thy straitness. So he took them, joyful and contented, and applied himself to sewing eight of them in his gown, keeping the two others in his mouth; but a thief saw him and went and advertised his fellows of him; whereupon they gathered together upon him, and took his gown and departed from him. When they were gone away, he arose, saying, The two unions I have will suffice me, and made for the nearest city, where he brought out the pearls for sale. Now as Destiny would have it, a certain jeweller of the town had been robbed of ten unions, like those which were with the merchant; so, when he saw the two pearls in the brokers hand, he asked him, To whom do these belong? and the broker answered, To yonder man. The jeweller, seeing the merchant in pauper case and clad in tattered clothes, suspected him and said to him, Where be the other eight pearls? The merchant thought he asked him of those which were in the gown, whenas the man had purposed only to surprise him into confession, and replied, The thieves stole them from me. When the jeweller heard his reply, he was certified that it was the wight who had taken his good; so he laid hold of him and haling him before the Chief of Police, said to him, This is the man who stole my unions: I have found two of them upon him and he confesseth to the other eight. Now the Wali knew of the theft of the pearls; so he bade throw the merchant into jail. Accordingly they imprisoned him and whipped him, and he lay in trunk a whole year, till, by the ordinance of Allah Almighty, the Chief of Police arrested one of the divers aforesaid, and imprisoned him in the prison where the merchant was jailed. The ducker saw him and knowing him, questioned him of his case; whereupon he told them his tale, and that which had befallen him; and the diver marvelled at the lack of his luck. So, when he came forth of the prison, he acquainted the Sultan with the merchants case and told him that it was he who had given him the pearls. The Sultan bade bring him forth of the jail, and asked him of his story, whereupon he told him all that had befallen him, and the Sovran pitied him and assigned him a lodging in his own palace, together with pay and allowances for his support. Now the lodging in question adjoined the kings house, and whilst the merchant was rejoicing in this and saying, Verily, my luck hath returned, and I shall live in the shadow of this king the rest of my life, he espied an opening walled up with clay and stones. So he cleared the opening the better to see what was behind it, and behold, it was a window giving upon the lodging of the kings women. When he saw this, he was startled and affrighted and rising in haste, fetched clay and stopped it up again. But one of the eunuchs [FN#155] saw him, and suspecting him, repaired to the Sultan, and told him of this. So he came and seeing the stones pulled out, was wroth with the merchant and said to him, Be this my reward from thee, that thou seekest to unveil my Harim? Thereupon he bade pluck out his eyes; and they did as he commanded. The merchant took his eyes in his hand and said, How long, O star of ill-omen, wilt thou afflict me? First my wealth and now my life! And he bewailed himself, saying, Striving profiteth me naught against evil fortune. The Compassionate aided me not, and effort was worse than useless. [FN#156] On like wise, O king, continued the youth, whilst fortune was favourable to me, all that I did came to good; but now that it hath turned against me, everything turneth to mine ill. When the youth had made an end of his tale, the kings anger subsided a little, and he said, Return him to the prison, for the day draweth to an end, and to-morrow we will look into his affair, and punish him for his ill-deeds.
The Second Day.
Of Looking to the Ends of Affairs.
Whenit was the next day, the second of the kings Wazirs, whose name was Baharún, came in to him and said, Allah advance the king! This deed which yonder youth hath done is a grave matter, and a foul misdeed and a heinous against the household of the king. So Azadbakht bade fetch the youth, because of the Ministers speech; and when he came into the presence, said to him, Woe to thee, O youth! There is no help but that I do thee die by the dreadest of deaths, for indeed thou hast committed a grave crime, and I will make thee a warning to the folk. The youth replied, O king, hasten not, for the looking to the ends of affairs is a column of the kingdom, and a cause of continuance and assurance for the kingship. Whoso looketh not to the issues of actions, there befalleth him that which befel the merchant, and whoso looketh to the consequences of actions, there betideth him of joyance that which betideth the merchants son. The king asked, And what is the story of the merchant and his sons? and the youth answered, Hear, O king,
The Tale of the Merchant and his Sons. [FN#157]
There was once a merchant, who had abundant wealth, and a wife to boot. He set out one day on a business journey, leaving his wife big with child, and said to her, Albeit, I now leave thee, yet I will return before the birth of the babe, Inshallah! Then he farewelled her and setting out, ceased not faring from country to country till he came to the court of one of the kings and foregathered with him. Now this king needed one who should order his affairs and those of his kingdom and seeing the merchant wellbred and intelligent, he required him to abide at court and entreated him honourably. After some years, he sought his Sovrans leave to go to his own house, but the king would not consent to this; whereupon he said to him, O king, suffer me go and see my children and come again. So he granted him permission for this and, taking surety of him for his return, gave him a purse, wherein were a thousand gold dinars. Accordingly, the merchant embarked in a ship and set sail, intending for his mother-land. On such wise fared it with the trader; but as regards his wife, news had reached her that her husband had accepted service with King Such-an-one; so she arose and taking her two sons (for she had borne twins in his absence), set out seeking those parts. As Fate would have it, they happened upon an island, and her husband came thither that very night in the ship. So the woman said to her children, The ship cometh from the country where your father is: hie ye to the sea-shore, that ye may enquire of him. Accordingly, they repaired to the sea-shore and going up into the ship, fell to playing about it and busied themselves with their play till evening evened. Now the merchant their sire lay asleep in the ship, and the noisy disport of the boys troubled him; whereupon he rose to call out to them Silence and let the purse with the thousand dinars fall among the bales of merchandise. He sought for it and finding it not, buffeted his head and seized upon the boys, saying, None took the purse but you: ye were playing all about the bales, so ye might steal somewhat, and there was none here but you twain. Then he took his staff, and laying hold of the children, fell to beating them and flogging them, whilst they wept, and the crew came round about them saying, The boys of this island are all rogues and robbers. Then, of the greatness of the merchants anger, he swore an oath that, except they brought out the purse, he would drown them in the sea; so when by reason of their denial his oath demanded the deed, he took the two boys and binding them each to a bundle of reeds, cast them into the water. Presently, finding that they tarried from her, the mother of the two boys went searching for them, till she came to the ship and fell to saying,Who hath seen two boys of mine? Their fashion is so and so and their age thus and thus. When the crew heard her words, they said, This is the description of the two boys who were drowned in the sea but now. Their mother hearing this began calling on them and crying, Alas, my anguish for your loss, O my sons! Where was the eye of your father this day, that it might have seen you? Then one of the sailors asked her, Whose wife art thou? and she answered, I am the wife of Such-an-one the trader. I was on my way to him, and there hath befallen me this calamity. When the merchant heard her words, he knew her and rising to his feet, rent his raiment and beat his head and said to his wife, By Allah, I have destroyed my children with mine own hand! This is the end of whoso looketh not to the endings of affairs. This is his reward who taketh not time to reflect. Then he took to wailing and weeping over them, he and his wife, and he said to his shipmates, By Allah, I shall never enjoy my life, till I light upon news of them! And he began to go round about the sea, in quest of his sons, but found them not. Meanwhile, the wind carried the two children from the ship towards the land, and cast them up on the sea-shore. As for one of them, a company of the guards of the king of those parts found him and carried him to their lord, who marvelled at him with exceeding marvel and adopted him, giving out to the folk that he was his own son, whom he had hidden, [FN#158] of his love for him. So the folk rejoiced in him with joy exceeding, for their lords sake, and the king appointed him his heir-apparent and the inheritor of his kingdom. On this wise a number of years passed, till the king died and they enthroned the youth sovran in his stead, when he sat down on the seat of his kingship and his estate flourished and his affairs prospered with all regularity. Meanwhile, his father and mother had gone round about, in quest of him and his brother, all the islands of the sea, hoping that the tide might have cast them up, but found no trace of them; so they despaired of them and took up their abode in a certain of the islands. One day, the merchant, being in the market, saw a broker, and in his hand a boy he was crying for sale, and said in himself, I will buy yonder boy, so I may solace myself with him for my sons. [FN#159] So he bought him and bore him to his house; and, when his wife saw him, she cried out and said, By Allah, this is my son! Accordingly his father and mother rejoiced in him with exceeding joy and asked him of his brother; but he answered, The waves parted us and I knew not how it went with him. Therewith his father and mother consoled themselves with him and on this wise a number of years passed by. Now the merchant and his wife had homed them in a city of the land where their other son was king, and when the boy they had recovered grew up, his father assigned unto him merchandise, to the end that he might travel therewith. Upon this he fared forth and entered the city wherein his brother ruled and anon news reached the king that a merchant had come thither with merchandise befitting royalties; so he sent for him and the young trader obeyed the summons and going in to him, sat down before him. Neither of them knew the other; but blood moved between them [FN#160] and the king said to the merchant youth, I desire of thee that thou tarry with me and I will exalt thy station and give thee all that thou requirest and cravest. Accordingly, he abode with him awhile, never quitting him; and when he saw that he would not suffer him to depart from him, he sent to his father and mother and bade them remove thither to him. Hereat they resolved upon moving to that island, and their son still increased in honour with the king, albeit he knew not that he was his brother. Now it chanced one night that the king sallied forth without the city and drank and the wine got the mastery of him and he became drunken. So, of the youths fear for his safety, he said, I will keep watch myself over the king this night, seeing that he deserveth this from me, for that which he hath done with me of kindly deeds; and he arose forthright and baring his brand, stationed himself at the door of the kings pavilion. But one of the royal pages saw him standing there, with the drawn sword in his hand, and he was of those who envied him his favour with the king; therefore, he said to him. Why dost thou on this wise at this time and in the like of this place? Said the youth, I am keeping watch and ward over the king myself, in requital of his bounties to me. The page said no more to him; however, when it was morning, he acquainted a number of the kings servants with the matter, and they said, This is an opportunity for us. Come, let us assemble together and acquaint the king therewith, so the young merchant may lose regard with him [FN#161] and he rid us of him and we be at rest from him. So they assembled together and going in to the king, said to him, We have a warning wherewith we would warn thee. Quoth he, And what is your warning? and quoth they, This youth, the trader, whom thou hast taken into favour and whose rank thou hast exalted above the chiefest of thy lords, we saw yesterday bare his brand and design to fall upon thee, to the end that he might slay thee. Now when the king heard this, his colour changed and he said to them, Have ye proof of this? They rejoined, What proof wouldst thou have? An thou desirest this, feign thyself drunken again this night and lie down as if asleep, and privily watch him and thou wilt see with thine eyes all that we have mentioned to thee. Then they went to the youth and said to him, Know that the king thanketh thee for thy dealing yesternight and exceedeth in commendation of thy good deed; and they prompted him again to do the like. Accordingly, when the next night came, the king abode on wake, watching the youth; and as for the latter, he went to the door of the pavilion and unsheathing his scymitar, stood in the doorway. When the king saw him do thus, he was sore disquieted and bade seize him and said to him, Is this my reward from thee? I showed thee favour more than any else and thou wouldst do with me this abominable deed. Then arose two of the kings pages and said to him, O our lord, an thou order it, we will smite his neck. But the king said, Haste in killing is a vile thing, for tis a grave [FN#162] matter; the quick we can kill, but the killed we cannot quicken, and needs must we look to the end of affairs. The slaying of this youth will not escape us. [FN#163] Therewith he bade imprison him, whilst he himself went back to the city and, his duties done, fared forth to the chase. Then he returned to town and forgot the youth; so the pages went in to him and said to him, O king, an thou keep silence concerning yonder youth, who designed to slaughter thee, all thy servants will presume upon the kings majesty, and indeed the folk talk of this matter. Hereat the king waxed wroth and cried, Fetch him hither; and bade the headsman strike off his head. So they brought the youth and bound his eyes; and the sworder stood at his head and said to the king, By thy leave, O my lord, I will smite his neck. But the king cried, Stay, till I look into his affair. Needs must I put him to death and the dispatching of him will not escape me. Then he restored him to the prison and there he abode till it should be the kings will to do him die. Presently, his parents heard of the matter; whereupon his father arose and going up to the palace, wrote a letter and presented it to the king, who read it, and behold, therein was written, saying, Have ruth on me, so may Allah have ruth on thee, and hasten not in the slaughter of my son; for indeed I acted hastily in a certain affair and drowned his brother in the sea, and to this day I bemourn him. An thou must needs kill him, kill me in his stead. Therewith the old merchant, weeping bitterly, prostrated himself before the king, who said to him, Tell me thy tale. Said the merchant, O my lord, this youth had a brother and I in my haste cast the twain into the sea. And he related to him his story, first and last, whereupon the king cried with a mighty loud cry and casting himself down from the throne, embraced his father and brother and said to the merchant, By Allah, thou art my very father and this is my brother and thy wife is our mother. And they abode weeping, all three of them. Then the king acquainted his people with the matter and said to them, O folk, how deem ye of my looking to the consequences of action? and they all marvelled at his wisdom and foresight. Then he turned to his sire and said to him, Hadst thou looked to the issue of thine affair and made due delay in whatso thou didst, there had not betided thee this repentance and chagrin all this time. Thereupon he sent for his mother and they rejoiced one in other and lived all their days in joy and gladness. What then (continued the young treasurer), is more grievous than the lack of looking to the ends of things? Wherefore hasten thou not in the slaying of me, lest penitence betide thee and sore chagrin. When the king heard this, he said, Return him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair; for that deliberation in such is advisable and the slaughter of this youth shall not escape us.
The Third Day.
Of the Advantages of Patience. [FN#164]
When it was the third day, the third Wazir came in to the king and said to him, O king, delay not the matter of this youth, because his deed hath caused us fall into the mouths of folk, and it behoveth that thou slay him forthright, that the talk may be cut from us and it be not said, The king saw on his bed a man with his wife and spared him. The king was chagrined by these words and bade bring the youth. Accordingly, they fetched him in fetters, and indeed the kings anger was upstirred against him by the Ministers speech and he was troubled; so he said to him, O base of birth, thou hast dishonoured us and marred our mention, and needs must I do away thy life from the world. Quoth the youth, O king, make use of patience in all thine affairs, so wilt thou win to thy wish, for that Allah Almighty hath appointed the issue of long-suffering to be in abounding good, and indeed by patience Abú Sábir ascended from the pit and sat down upon the throne. Asked the king, Who was Abú Sábir, and what is his tale? and the youth answered, saying, Hear thou, O king,
The Story of Abu Sabir.
There was once a man, a village headman, [FN#165] Abú Sabír hight, and he had much black cattle and a buxom wife, who had borne him two sons. They abode in a certain hamlet and there used to come thither a lion and rend and devour Abu Sabirs herd, so that the most part thereof was wasted and his wife said to him one day, This lion hath wasted the greater part of our property. Arise, mount thy horse and take thy host and do thy best to kill him, so we may be at rest from him. But Abu Sabir said, Have patience, O woman, for the issue of patience is praised. This lion it is which transgresseth against us, and the transgressor, perforce must Almighty Allah destroy him. Indeed, tis our long-suffering that shall slay him, [FN#166] and he that doth evil needs must it recoil upon him. A few days after, the king went forth one morning to hunt and falling in with the lion, he and his host, gave chase to him and ceased not pursuit till they slew him. This news reached Abú Sábir who improved the occasion to his wife, Said I not to thee, O woman, that whoso doth evil, it shall recoil upon him? Haply an I sought to slay the lion myself, I had not prevailed against him, and this is the issue of patience. It befel, after this, that a man was slain in Abú Sábirs village; wherefore the Sultan bade plunder the village, and they spoiled the patient ones goods with the rest. Thereupon his wife said to him, All the kings officers know thee; so do thou prefer thy plaint to the sovran, that he may bid thy beasts to be restored to thee. But he said to her, O woman, said I not to thee that he who worketh wrong shall be wronged? Indeed, the king hath done evil, and right soon he shall suffer the issues of his deed, for whoso taketh the goods of the folk, needs must his goods be taken. A man of his neighbours heard his speech, and he was an envier of his; so he went to the Sultan and acquainted him therewith, whereupon the king sent and plundered all the rest of his goods and drave him forth from the village, and his wife and family with him. They went wandering in the waste grounds about the hamlet and his wife said to him, All that hath befallen us cometh of thy slowness in affairs and thy helplessness. But he said to her, Have patience, for the issue of patience is good. Then they walked on a little way, and thieves met them and despoiling them of whatso remained with them, stripped them of their raiment and took from them the two children; whereupon the woman wept and said to her husband, Hearkye, my good man, put away from thee this folly and up with us to follow the thieves, so, peradventure they may have compassion on us and restore the children to us. He replied, O woman, have patience, for he who doth evil shall be requited with evil and his frowardness shall revert upon him. Were I to follow them, belike one of them would take his sword and smite my neck and slay me; but have patience, for the issue of patience is praised. Then they fared on till they made a village [FN#167] in the land of Kirman, and by it a river of water; so the man said to his wife, Tarry thou here, whilst I enter the village and look us out a place wherein we may home ourselves. And he left her by the water and entered the village. Presently, up came a horseman in quest of water, wherewith to water his horse: he saw the woman and she was pleasing in his eyes; so quoth he to her, Arise, mount with me and I will take thee to wife and entreat thee kindly. Quoth she, Spare me, so may Allah spare thee! Indeed I have a husband. But he drew his dudgeon and said to her, An thou obey me not, I will smite thee and slay thee. When she saw his frowardness, she wrote on the ground in the sand with her finger, saying, O Abú Sábir, thou hast not ceased to be patient, till thy good is gone from thee and thy children and now thy wife, who was more precious in thy sight than everything and than all thy monies, and indeed thou abidest in thy sorrow the whole of thy life long, so thou mayest see what thy patience will profit thee. Then the horseman took her, and setting her behind him, went his way. As for Abú Sábir, when he returned, he saw not his wife but he read what was writ upon the ground, wherefore he wept and sat awhile sorrowing. Then said he to himself, O Abú Sábir, it behoveth thee to be patient, for haply there shall betide thee an affair yet sorer than this and more grievous; and he went forth a-following his face, [FN#168] like to one lovedistraught and passion-madded, till he came to a gang of labourers working upon the palace of the king, by way of forced labour. [FN#169] When the overseers saw him, they laid hold of him and said to him, Work thou with these folk at the palace of the king; else we will imprison thee for life. So he fell to working with them as a labourer and every day they gave him a bannock of bread. He wrought with them a months space, till it chanced that one of the labourers mounted a ladder and falling, brake his leg; whereupon he cried out and shed tears. Quoth Abú Sábir to him, Have patience and weep not; for in thine endurance thou shalt find ease. But the man said to him, How long shall I have patience? And he answered, saying, Long-suffering bringeth a man forth of the bottom of the pit and seateth him on the throne of the kingdom. It so fortuned that the king was seated at the lattice, hearkening to their talk, and Abú Sábirs words angered him for the moment; wherefore he bade bring him before him and they brought him forthright. Now there was in the kings palace an underground dungeon and therein a vast silo [FN#170] and a deep, into which the king caused cast Abú Sábir, saying to him, O little of wit, soon shall we see how thou wilt come forth of the pit to the throne of the kingdom. Then he used continuously to come and stand at the mouth of the pit and say, O little of wit, O Abú Sábir, [FN#171] I see thee not come forth of the pit and sit down on the kings throne! And he assigned him each day two bannocks of bread, whilst Abú Sábir kept silence and spake not, but patiently bore whatso betided him. Now the king had a brother, whom he had imprisoned in that pit of old time, and he had died there; but the folk of the realm deemed him still alive, and when his durance grew long, the courtiers of the king used to talk of this and of the tyranny of their liege Lord, and the bruit spread abroad that the sovran was a tyrant, so they fell upon him one day and slew him. Then they sought the silo and brought out therefrom Abú Sábir, deeming him the kings brother, for that he was the nearest of folk to him in favour and the likest, and he had been long in the pit. So they doubted not but that he was the Prince and said to him, Reign thou in thy brothers room, for we have slain him and thou art sovran in his stead. But Abú Sábir was silent and spoke not a word; [FN#172] and he knew that this was the result of his patience. Then he arose and sitting down on the kings throne, donned the royal dress and dispensed justice and equity, and affairs prospered; wherefore the lieges obeyed him and the subjects inclined to him and many were his soldiers. Now the king, who erst had plundered Abú Sábirs goods and driven him forth of his village, had an enemy; and the foe mounted horse against him and overcame him and captured his capital; wherefore he betook him to flight and came to Abú Sábirs city, craving support of him and seeking that he should succour him. He knew not that the king of the city was the headman whom he had spoiled; so he presented himself before him and made complaint to him; but Abú Sábir knew him and said to him, This is somewhat of the issue of patience. Allah the Most High hath given me power over thee. Then he commanded his guards to plunder the unjust king and his suite; so they spoiled them and stripping them of their clothes, put them forth of his country. When Abú Sábirs troops saw this, they marvelled and said, What be this deed the king doth? There cometh a king to him, craving protection, and he spoileth him! This is not the fashion of kings. But they dared not speak of this. Presently, news came to the king of highwaymen in his land; so he set out in quest of them and ceased not to follow after them, till he had seized on them all. and behold, they were the very thieves who had plundered him and his wife by the way and had carried off his children. Accordingly he bade bring them before him, and when they came into his presence, he questioned them, saying, Where are the two boys ye took on such a day? Said they, They are with us and we will present them to our lord the king for Mamelukes to serve him and give him wealth galore that we have gotten together and doff all we own and repent from lawlessness and fight in thy service. Abú Sábir, however, paid no heed to their words, and seized all their good and bade put them all to death. Furthermore. he took his two boys and rejoiced in them with exceeding joy, whereat the troops murmured among themselves, saying, Verily, this is a greater tyrant than his brother! There cometh to him a gang of thieves, and they seek to repent and proffer two boys by way of peace-offering, and he taketh the two lads and all their good and slayeth them! Indeed this be violent oppression. After this came the horseman, who had seized Abú Sábirs wife, and complained of her to the king that she would not give him possession of her person, and solemnly declared that she was his wife. The king bade bring her before him, that he might hear her plea and pronounce judgment upon her. So the horseman came with her before him, and when the king saw her, he knew her and taking her from her ravisher, bade put him to death. Then he became aware of the troops, that they murmured against him and spake of him as a tyrant; so he turned to his courtiers and ministers and said to them, As for me, by Allah of All-might, [FN#173] I am not the kings brother! Nay, I am but one whom the king imprisoned upon a word he heard from me and he used every day to come and taunt me therewith. Ye deem me the kings brother; but I am Abú Sabir and the Lord hath given me the kingship in virtue of my patience. As for the king who sought protection of me and I plundered him, twas he who first wronged me, for that he plundered me afore, time and drave me forth of my native land and banished me, without due cause; wherefore I requited him with that which he had done to me, in the way of lawful retribution. As for the highwaymen who proffered repentance, there was no repentance for them with me, because they began upon me with foul dealing and waylaid me by the road and despoiled me and seized my good and my sons, the two boys that I took of them, and those ye deemed Mamelukes are my very sons; so I avenged myself on the thieves of that which they did with me whilome and requited them with strict justice. As for the horseman whom I slew, this woman I took from him was my wife and he seized her by force, but Allah the Most High hath restored her to me; so this was my right, and my deed that I have done was righteous, albeit ye, judging by the externals of the matter, deemed that I had done this by way of tyranny. When the folk heard these words, they marvelled and fell prostrate before him; and they redoubled in esteem for him and exceeding affection and sued pardon of him, admiring that which Allah had done with him and how He had given him the kingship by reason of his longsuffering and his patience and how he had raised himself by his endurance from the bottom of the pit to the throne of the kingdom, what while Allah cast down the late king from the throne into the pit. [FN#174] Then Abú Sábir foregathered with his wife and said to her, How deemest thou of the fruit of patience and its sweetness and the fruit of haste and its bitterness? Verily, all that a man doth of good and evil, he shall assuredly encounter the same. On like wise, O king (continued the young treasurer), it befitteth thee to practice patience, whenever it is possible to thee, for that longsuffering is the wont of the noble, and it is the chiefest of their reliance, especially for kings. When the king heard this from the youth, his wrath subsided; so he bade return him to the prison, and the folk dispersed that day.
The Fourth Day.
Of the Ill Effects of Impatience.
When it was the fourth day, the fourth Wazir, whose name was Zúshád, [FN#175] made his appearance, and prostrating himself to his liege lord, said to him, O king, let not the talk of yonder youth delude thee, for that he is not a truth-teller. As long as he shall remain alive, the folk will not leave talking nor will thy heart cease to be occupied with him. Cried the king, By Allah, thou sayst sooth and I will cause fetch him this day and slay him between my hands. Then bade he bring the youth; so they fetched him in fetters and he said to him, Woe to thee! Thinkest thou to appease my heart with thy prate, whereby the days are spent in talk? I mean to do thee die this day and be quit of thee. Said the youth, O king, tis in thy power to put me out of the world whenso thou wilt, but haste is the wont of the ignoble and patience the sign of the noble. An thou do me to death, thou wilt repent, and when thou desire to bring me back to life, thou wilt not be able. Indeed, whoso acteth hastily in an affair, there befalleth him what befel Bihzád, son of the king. Quoth the king, And what is his tale? Replied the treasurer, O king, hear
The Story of Prince Bihzad. [FN#176]
There was once, of olden time, a king and he had a son Bihzad hight, there was not in his tide a fairer than he and he loved to fellow with the folk and to mix with the merchants and sit and talk with them. One day, as he was seated in an assembly, amongst a number of people, he heard them talking of his own beauty and loveliness, and saying, There be not in his time a fairer than he. But one of the company said, Indeed, the daughter of King Such-an-one is seemlier than he. When Bihzad heard this saying, his reason fled and his heart fluttered and he called the last speaker and said to him, Repeat to me that which thou saidst and tell me the truth concerning her whom thou avouchest to be goodlier than I and whose daughter she is. Quoth the man, She is the daughter of King Such-an-one; whereupon Bihzads heart clave to her and his colour changed. Presently the news reached his sire, who said to him, O my son, this maiden to whom thy heart cleaveth is at thy command and we have power over her; so wait till I demand her in wedlock for thee. But the Prince said, I will not wait. So the king hastened in the matter and sent to demand her of her sire, who required of him an hundred thousand dinars paid down to his daughters dowry. Quoth Bihzads father, So be it, and weighed out what was in his treasuries, and there remained to his charge but a little of the dower. [FN#177] So he said, Have patience, O my son, till we gather together the rest of the money and send to fetch her for thee, since now she is become thine. Therewith the Prince waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and cried, I will not have patience; so he took his sword and his lance [FN#178] and mounting his horse, went forth and fell to cutting the way. [FN#179] It chanced one day that he fell upon a company of folk who overcame him by dint of numbers and taking him prisoner, pinioned him and carried him to the lord of that land wherein he was a-highwaying. This king saw his semblance and loveliness and misdoubting of him, said, This be no robbers favour. Tell me truly, O youth, who thou art. Bihzad was ashamed to acquaint him with his condition and preferred death for himself; so he answered, I am naught but a thief and a bandit. Quoth the king, It behoveth us not to act hastily in the matter of this youth, but that we look into his affair, for that impatience gendereth penitence. So he imprisoned him in his palace and assigned him one to serve him. Meanwhile the news spread abroad that Bihzad, son of the sovran, was lost, whereupon his father sent letters in quest of him to all the kings including him with whom he was imprisoned. When the letter reached the latter, he praised Almighty Allah for that he had not anyways hastened in Bihzads affair and bidding them bring him before himself, said to him, Art thou minded to destroy thy life? Quoth Bihzad, I did this for fear of shame; and the king said, An thou fear shame, thou shouldst not practise haste in thy doings; knowest thou not that the fruit of impatience is repentance? Had we hasted, we also, like thee, had repented. Then he conferred on him a robe of honour and engaged to him for the completion of the dowry and sent to his father, giving him the glad tidings and comforting his heart with news of his sons safety; after which he said to Bihzad, Arise, O my son, and go to thy sire. Rejoined the Prince, O king, complete thy kindness to me by hastening my going-in to my wife; for, an I go back to my sire, the time will be long till he send a messenger and he return, promising me dispatch. The king laughed and marvelled at him and said to him, I fear for thee from this precipitancy, lest thou come to shame and win not thy wish. Then he gave him muchel of wealth and wrote him letters, commending him to the father of the Princess, and despatched him to them. When he drew near their country, the king came forth to meet him with the people of his realm and assigned him a fine lodging and bade hasten the going-in of his daughter to him, in compliance with the other kings letter. He also advised the Princes father of his sons coming and they busied themselves with the affair of the young lady. When it was the day of the brides going-in [FN#180] Bihzad, of his impetuosity and lack of patience, betook himself to the wall, which was between himself and her lodging and wherein was a hole pierced, and of his haste looked through it, so he might see his bride. But her mother espied him [FN#181] and this was grievous to her; so she took from one of the pages two red-hot iron spits and thrust them into the hole through which the Prince was looking. The spits ran into his eyes and put them out and he fell down fainting and the wedding-festival was changed to mourning and sore concern. See, then, O king (continued the youth), the issue of the Princes haste and lack of deliberation, for indeed his impatience bequeathed him long penitence and his joy turned to annoy; and on like wise was it with the woman who hastened to put out his eyes and delayed not to deliberate. All this was the doing of haste; wherefore it behoveth the king not to be hasty in putting me to death, for that I am under the hold of his hand, and whatso time thou desirest my slaughter, it shall not escape thee. When the king heard this his anger subsided and he said, Return him back to the prison till to-morrow, so we may look into his case.
The Fifth Day.
Of the Issues of Good and Evil Actions.
When it was the fifth day, the fifth Wazir, whose name was Jahrbaur, [FN#182] came in to the king and prostrating himself before him. said, O king, it behoveth thee, an thou see or hear one look on thy house, [FN#183] that thou pluck out his eyes. How then should it be with him whom thou sawest a-middlemost thy palace and on thy royal bed, and he suspected with thy Harim, and not of thy lineage or of thy kindred? So do thou away this shame by putting him to death. Indeed, we urge thee not to this, except for the assurance of thine empire and of our zeal for thy loyal counselling and of our affection to thee. How can it be lawful that this youth should live for a single hour? Therewith the king was filled with fury and cried, Bring him forthright. So they fetched the youth whom they set before him in fetters, and the king said to him, Woe to thee! Thou hast sinned a great sin and the time of thy survival hath been long; [FN#184] but needs must we put thee to death, because there is no case for us in thy life till we take it. Quoth the youth, Know O king, that I, by Allah, am guiltless, and by reason of this I hope for life, for that he who is innocent of all offence goeth not in fear of pains and penalties, neither greateneth his mourning and his concern; but whoso hath sinned, needs must his sin be expiated upon him, though his life be prolonged, and it shall overtake him, even as it overtook Dádbín the king and his Wazir. Asked Azadbakht,How was that? and the youth said,Hear, O king (whose days may Allah increase!),
The Story of King Dadbin [FN#185] and his Wazirs.
There was once a king in the land of Tabaristan, [FN#186] by name Dádbín, and he had two Wazirs, one called Zorkhan and the other Kárdán. [FN#187] The Minister Zorkhan had a daughter, there was not in her day a fairer than she nor yet a chaster or a more pious, for she was a faster, a prayer and an adorer of Allah the Almighty, and her name was Arwá. [FN#188] Now Dadbin, the king, heard tell of her praises; so his heart clave to her and he called the Wazir her sire and said to him, I desire of thee that thou marry me to thy daughter. Quoth Zorkhan, O my liegest lord, suffer me to consult her, and if she consent, I will marry thee with her. And the king, said, Haste thee with this. So the Minister went in to his daughter and said to her, O my daughter, the king seeketh thee of me and desireth to marry thee. She said. O my father, I desire not a husband, and if thou wilt marry me not but with a mate who shall be mine inferior in rank and I nobler than he, so he may not turn to other than myself nor lift his eyes upon me, [FN#189] and marry me not to one who is nobler than I, lest I be with him as a slave-girl and a serving-woman. Accordingly the Wazir returned to the king and acquainted him with that which his daughter had said, whenas he redoubled in desire and love-longing for her, and said to her sire, An thou marry me not to her of good grace, I will take her in thy despite and by force. The Minister again betook himself to his daughter and repeated to her the kings words, but she replied, I want no husband. So he returned to the king and told him what she said, and he was wroth and threatened him, whereupon the father took his daughter and fled with her. When this came to the kings knowledge, he despatched troops in pursuit of Zorkhan, to stop the road upon him, whilst he himself went out and overtaking the Wazir, smote him on the head with his mace [FN#190] and slew him. Then he took his daughter by force and returning to his dwelling-place, went in to her and married her. Arwa resigned herself with patience to that which betided her and committed her case to Allah Almighty; and indeed she was used to serve Him night and day with a goodly service in the house of King Dadbin her husband. It befel one day that the king had occasion to make a journey; so he called his second Wazir Kardan and said to him, I have a charge to commit to thy care, and it is yonder lady, my wife, the daughter of the Wazir Zorkhan, and I desire that thou keep her and guard her thy very self, because I have not in the world aught dearer than she. Quoth Kardan in his mind, Of a truth, the king honoureth me with an exceeding honour in entrusting me with this lady. And he answered, With love and all gladness. When the king had departed on his journey, Kardan said in himself, Needs must I look upon this lady whom the king loveth with all this love. So he hid himself in a place, that he might espy her, and saw her surpassing description; wherefor he was confounded at her and his wit was wildered and love gat the lordship of him, so that he sent to her, saying, Have pity on me, for indeed I perish for the love of thee. She sent back to him and replied, O Wazir, thou art in the place of faith and confidence, so do not thou betray thy trust, but make thine inward life like unto thine outward [FN#191] and occupy thyself with thy wife and that which is lawful to thee. As for this, tis mere lust and women are all of one and the same taste. [FN#192] And if thou wilt not be forbidden from this talk, I will make thee a byword and a reproach among folk. When the Minister heard her answer, he knew that she was chaste of soul and body; wherefore he repented with the utmost of repentance and feared for himself from the king and said, Needs must I devise a device whereby I may destroy her; else shall I be disgraced with the king. Now when the king returned from his journey, he questioned Kardan of the affairs of his kingdom, and the Wazir answered, All is right well, O king, save a vile matter, which I have espied here and with which I am ashamed to confront the sovran; but, if I hold my peace thereof, I fear lest other than I discover it and I shall have played traitor to the king in the matter of my warning and my trust. Quoth Dadbin, Speak, for to me thou art none other than a truth-teller, a trustworthy and a loyal counsellor in whatso thou sayest, undistrusted in aught. And the Minister said, O king, this woman to whose love thy heart cleaveth and of whose piety thou talkest and her fasting and her praying, I will plainly prove to thee that this is craft and guile. Hereat the king was troubled and said, What may be the matter? and the Wazir replied, I would have thee wot that some days after thy departure, one came to me and said to me, Come, O Wazir, and look. So I went to the door of the queens sleeping-chamber and behold, she was sitting with Abu al-Khayr, her fathers page, whom she favoureth, and she did with him what she did, and such is the manner of that which I saw and heard. When Dadbin heard this, he burnt with rage and said to one of his eunuchs, [FN#193] Go and slay her in her chamber. But the eunuch said to him, O king, Allah prolong thy life! Indeed, the killing of her may not be in this way neither at this time; but do thou bid one of thine Castratos take her up on a camel and carry her to one of the trackless wolds and cast her down there; so, if she be guilty, Allah shall cause her to perish, and if she be innocent, He will deliver her, and the king shall be free from default against her; for that this lady is dear to thee and thou slewest her father by reason of thy love for her. Quoth the king, By Allah, thou sayst sooth! Then he bade one of his eunuchs carry her on a camel to one of the far-off wilds and cut-off wolds and there leave her and wend his ways, and he forbade her torment to be prolonged. So he took her up and betaking himself with her to the desert, left her there without provaunt or water and returned, whereupon she made for one of the hills, and ranging stones before her in form of prayer-niche, stood praying. Now it chanced that a camel-driver, belonging to Kisrà [FN#194] the king, lost certain camels, and his lord threatened him, if he found them not, that he would slay him. Accordingly he set out and plunged into the wastes till he came to the place where the lady was, and seeing her standing at prayer utterly alone, waited till she had made an end of her orisons, when he went up to her and saluted her with the salam, saying, Who art thou? Quoth she, I am a hand-maid of the Almighty. He asked, What doest thou in this desolate place? and she answered, I serve Allah the Most High. When he saw her beauty and loveliness, he fell in love with her, and said to her, Harkye! Do thou take me to mate and I will be tender to thee and use thee with exceeding ruth, and I will further thee in obedience to Allah Almighty. But she answered, saying, I have no need of wedlock and I desire to abide here alone with my Lord and His worship; but an thou wouldst have ruth upon me and further me in the obedience of Allah the Most High, carry me to a place where there is water and thou wilt have done me a kindness. Thereupon he took her to a place wherein was running water and setting her down on the ground, left her and went his ways, marvelling at her. After he left her, he found his camels, by her blessing, and when he returned, King Kisra asked him, Hast thou found the camels? He answered Yes, and acquainted him with the affair of the damsel, and detailed to him her beauty and loveliness: whereupon the kings heart clave to her and he mounted with a few men and betook himself to that place, where he found the lady and was amazed at her, because he saw her surpassing the description wherewith the camel-driver had described her to him. So he accosted her and said to her, I am King Kisra, greatest of the kings. Wilt thou not have me to husband? Quoth she, What wilt thou do with me, O king, and I a woman abandoned in the waste? And quoth he, Needs must this be, and if thou wilt not consent to me, I will take up my abode here and devote myself to Allahs service and thy service, and with thee worship the Almighty. Then he bade set up for her a tent and another for himself, facing hers, so he might adore Allah with her, and fell to sending her food; and she said in herself, This is a king, and tis not lawful for me that I suffer him for my sake to forsake his lieges and his land. Presently she said to the servingwoman, who used to bring her the food, Speak the king that he return to his women, for he hath no need of me, and I desire to abide in this place, so I may worship therein Allah the Most High. The slave-girl returned to the king and told him this, whereupon he sent back to her, saying, I have no need of the kingship and I also desire to tarry here and worship Allah with thee in this waste. When she found this earnestness in him, she fell in with his wishes, and said, O king, I will consent to that which thou desirest and will be to thee a wife, but on condition that thou bring me Dadbin the king and his Wazir Kardan and his Chamberlain the chief Eunuch, and that they be present in thine assembly, so I may speak a word with them in thy presence, to the intent that thou mayst redouble in affection for me. Quoth Kisra, And what is thy want unto this? So she related to him her story from first to last, how she was the wife of Dadbin the king and how the Wazir Kardan had misspoken of her honour. When King Kisra heard this, he redoubled in love-longing for her and affection and said to her, Do whatso thou willest: then he let bring a litter [FN#195] and carrying her therein to his dwelling-place, entreated her with the utmost honour and espoused her. Presently he sent a great army to King Dadbin and fetching him and his Wazir Kardan and the Eunuch-chamberlain, caused bring them before him, they unknowing the while what he might purpose to do with them. Moreover, he caused set up for Arwa a pavilion [FN#196] in the courtyard of his palace, and she entered it and let down the curtain before herself. When the servants had set their seats and they had seated themselves, Arwa raised a corner of the curtain and said, O Kardan, rise to thy feet, for it befitteth not that thou sit in the like of this assembly, before this mighty King Kisra. When the Wazir heard these words, his heart fluttered and his joints were loosened and he rose to his feet of his fear. Then said she to him, By the virtue of Him who hath made thee stand up to judgment in this standing-stead, and thou abject and humiliated, I conjure thee speak the truth and say what egged thee on to lie against me and drive me from my home and from the land of my husband and made thee practise thus against a man and a Moslem so as to slay him. [FN#197] This is no place wherein lying availeth nor may artifice be herein. When the Wazir was ware that she was Arwa and heard her speech, he knew that it behoved him not to lie and that naught would avail him save truth; so he bowed his head groundwards and wept and said, Whoso doth evil, needs must he incur it, albe his day be prolonged. By Allah, I am he who hath sinned and transgressed, and naught prompted me unto this but fear and overmastering desire and the misery writ upon my brow. [FN#198] And indeed this woman is pure and chaste and free from all fault. When King Dadbin heard this, he beat his face and said to Kardan, his Wazir, Allah slay thee! [FN#199] Tis thou that hast parted me and my wife and wronged me! But Kisra the king said to him, Allah shall assuredly slay thee, because thou hastenedst and lookedst not into thine affair, and knewest not the guilty from the guiltless. Hadst thou wrought deliberately, the unright had been made manifest to thee from the right; so when this villain Wazir purposed thy ruin, where was thy judgment and whither went thy sight? Then he asked Arwa, What wilt thou that I do with them? and she answered, Accomplish on them the ordinance of Almighty Allah: [FN#200] let the slayer be slain and the transgressor transgressed against, even as he transgressed against us; yea, and to the well-doer weal shall be done even as he did unto us. So she gave her officers order concerning Dadbin and they smote him on the head with a mace and slew him, and she said, This is for the slaughter of my sire. Then she bade set the Wazir on a beast and bear him to the desert whither he had caused her to be borne, and leave him there without provaunt or water; and she said to him, An thou be guilty, thou shalt suffer the punishment of thy guilt and die in the desert of hunger and thirst; but an there be no guilt in thee, thou shalt be delivered, even as I was delivered. As for the Eunuch-chamberlain, who had counselled King Dadbin not to slay her, but to cause carry her to the desert, she bestowed on him a costly robe of honour and said to him, The like of thee it befitteth kings to hold in favour and promote to high place, for that thou spakest loyally and well, and a man is requited according to his deed. And Kisra the King made him Wali in a certain province of his empire. Know, therefore, O king (continued the youth), that whoso doeth good is requited with good, and he who is guiltless of sin and offence feareth not the issue of his affair. And I, O my liege lord, am free from guilt, wherefore I hope in Allah that He will show forth the truth to mine auspicious king, and vouchsafe me the victory over enemies and enviers. When the king heard this, his wrath subsided and he said, Return him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his case.
The Sixth Day.
Of Trust in Allah.
When it was the sixth day, the wrath of the Wazirs redoubled, because they had not won their will of the youth and they feared for their lives from the liege lord; so three of them went in to him and prostrating themselves between his hands, said to him, O king, indeed we are loyal counsellors to thy dignity and fondly solicitous for thy weal. Verily, thou persistest long in leaving this youth alive and we know not what is thine advantage therein. Every day findeth him yet on life and the talk of folk redoubleth suspicion on thee; so do thou do him dead, that the talk may be made an end of. When the king heard this speech, he said, By Allah, verily ye say sooth and speak rightly! Then he bade them bring the young treasurer and when he came into the presence said to him, How Iong shall I look into thy case, and find no helper for thee and see them athirst for thy blood? The youth answered, O king, I hope for succour only from Allah, not from created beings: an He aid me, none shall have power to harm me, and if He be with me and on my side, because of the truth, from whom shall I fear, because of untruth? Indeed, I have made my intent with Allah a pure intent and a sincere, and I have severed my expectation from the help of the creature; and whoso seeketh aid of Allah findeth of his desire that which Bakhtzamán found. Quoth the king, Who was Bakhtzaman and what is his story? and quoth the youth, Hear, O king,
The Story of King Bakhtzaman. [FN#201]
There was once a king of the kings whose name was Bakhtzaman, and he was a great eater and drinker and carouser. Now enemies of his made their appearance in certain parts of his realm which they coveted; and one of his friends said to him, O king, the foe intendeth for thee: be on thy guard against him. Quoth Bakhtzaman I reck not of him, for that I have weapons and wealth and warmen and am not afraid of aught. Then said his friends to him, Ask aid of Allah, O king, for He will help thee more than thy wealth and thy weapons and thy warriors. But he turned a deaf ear to the speech of his loyal counsellors, and presently the enemy came upon him and waged war upon him and got the victory over him and profited him naught his trust in other than Allah the Most High. So he fled from him and seeking one of the sovrans, said to him, I come to thee and lay hold upon thy skirts and take refuge with thee, so thou mayst help me against my foe. The king gave him money and men and a mighty many and Bakhtzaman said in himself, Now am I fortified with this force and needs must I conquer my foe with such combatants and overcome him; but he said not, With the aid of Allah Almighty. So his enemy met him and overcame him again and he was defeated and put to the rout and fled at random: his troops were dispersed from him and his money lost and the enemy pursued him. Thereupon he sought the sea and passing over to the other side, saw a great city and therein a mighty citadel. He asked its name and that of its owner, and they said to him, It belongeth to Khadídán [FN#202] the king. So he fared on till he came to the royal palace and concealing his condition, passed himself off for a horseman [FN#203] and sought service with King Khadidan, who attached him to his attendance and entreated him with honour; but his heart still clung to his mother-land and his home. Presently, it chanced that an enemy came out against King Khadidan; so he sent his troops to meet him and made Bakhtzaman head of the host. Then they went forth to the field and Khadidan also came forth and ranged his troops and levelled lance and sallied out in person and fought a sore fight and overcame his foe, who with his troops ignominiously fled. When the king and his army returned in triumph, Bakhtzaman said to him, Harkye, O king! This be a strange thing I see in thee that thou art compassed about with this mighty great army, yet dost thou apply thyself in person to battle and adventurest thy life. Quoth the king, Dost thou call thyself a knight and a learned wight and deemest that victory is in the many of men? Quoth Bakhtzaman, Such is indeed my belief. And Khadidan the king cried, By Allah, then, thou errest in this thy belief! presently adding, woe and again woe to him whose trust is in other than Allah! Indeed, this army is appointed only for phantasy and majesty, and victory is from Allah alone. I too, O Bakhtzaman, whilome believed that victory was in the number of men, [FN#204] and an enemy came out against me with eight hundred head, whilst I had eight hundred thousand. I trusted in the tale of my troops, whilst my foe trusted in Allah, so he defeated me and routed me and I was put to a shameful flight and hid myself in one of the mountains, where I met with a Religious who had withdrawn himself from the world. So I joined myself to him and complained to him of my case and acquainted him with all that had befallen me. Quoth the Recluse, Wottest thou why this befel thee and thou wast defeated? Quoth I, I know not; and he said. Because thou didst put thy trust in the multitude of thy warmen and reliedst not upon Allah the Most High. Hadst thou put thy trust in the Almighty and believed of Him that it is He alone who advantageth and endamageth thee, never had thy foe availed to cope with thee. Return unto Allah. So I returned to my right senses, and repented at the hands of that Religious, who said to me, Turn back with what remaineth to thee of troops and confront thy foes, for, if their intents be changed and turned away from Allah, thou wilt overcome them, een wert thou alone. When I heard the Solitarys words, I put my trust in Allah of All-Might; and, gathering together those who remained with me, fell upon mine enemies at unawares in the night. They deemed us many and fled with the shamefullest flight, whereupon I entered my city and repossessed myself of my place by the might of Almighty Allah, and now I fight not but trusting in His aid. When Bakhtzaman heard these words he awoke from his heedlessness and cried, Extolled be the perfection of God the Great! O king, this is my case and my story, nothing added and naught subtracted, for I am King Bakhtzaman and all this happened to me: wherefore I will seek the gate of Allahs mercy and repent unto Him. So he went forth to one of the mountains and worshipped Allah there awhile, till one night, as he slept, a personage appeared to him in a dream and said to him, O Bakhtzaman, Allah accepteth thy repentance and openeth on thee the door of succour and will aid thee against thy foe. When he was assured of this in the dream, he arose and turned back, intending for his own city; and when he drew near thereunto, he saw a company of the kings retainers, who said to him, Whence art thou? We see that thou art a foreigner and fear for thee from this king, for that every stranger who entereth this city, he destroyeth him, of his dread of King Bakhtzaman. Said Bakhtzaman, None shall prejudice him nor profit him save Allah the Most High. And they replied. Indeed, he hath a vast army and his heart is fortified in the multitude of his many. When King Bakhtzaman heard this, his mind was comforted and he said to himself, I place my trust in Allah. An He will, I shall overcome mine enemy by the might of the Lord of Omnipotence. So he said to the folk, Wot ye not who I am? and they said, No, by Allah. Cried he, I am King Bakhtzaman. When they heard this and knew that it was indeed he, they dismounted from their horses and kissed his stirrup, to do him honour, and said to him, O king, why thus risk thy life? Quoth he, Indeed, my life is a light matter to me and I set my trust in Almighty Allah, looking to Him for protection. And quoth they, May that suffice thee! presently adding, We will do with thee that which is in our power and whereof thou art worthy: hearten thy heart, for we will succour thee with our substance and our existence, and we are his chief officers and the most in favour with him of all folk. So we will take thee with us and cause the lieges follow after thee, because the inclination of the people, all of them, is theewards. Said he, Do whatso Allah Almighty enableth you to do. So they carried him into the city and hid him with them. Then they agreed with a company of the kings chief officers, who had aforetime been those of Bakhtzaman, and acquainted them with this; whereat they rejoiced with joy exceeding. Then they assembled together to Bakhtzaman, and made a covenant and handfast of fealty with him and fell upon the foe and slew him and seated King Bakhtzaman again on the throne of his kingship. And his affairs prospered and Allah amended his estate and restored to him His bounty, and he ruled his subjects justly and abode in the obedience of the Almighty. On this wise, O king (continued the young treasurer), he with whom Allah is and whose intent is pure, meeteth naught save good. As for me, I have no helper other than the Almighty, and I am content to submit myself to His ordinance, for that He knoweth the purity of my intent. With this the kings wrath subsided and he said, Return him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his case.
The Seventh Day.
When it was the seventh day, the seventh Wazir, whose name was Bihkamál, [FN#205] came in to the king and prostrating himself to him, said, O king, what doth thy long-suffering with this youth profit thee? Indeed the folk talk of thee and of him. Why, then, dost thou postpone the putting him to death? The Ministers words aroused the anger of the king, and he bade bring the youth. So they fetched him before him in fetters and Azadbakht said to him, Ho, woe to thee! By Allah, after this day there abideth no deliverance for thee from my hand, by reason that thou hast outraged mine honour, and there can be no forgiveness for thee The youth replied, O king, there is no great forgiveness save in case of a great default, for according as the offence is great in so much magnified is mercy; and it is no grace to the like of thee if he spare the like of me. Verily, Allah knoweth that there is no crime in me, and indeed He commandeth to clemency, and no clemency is greater than that which spareth from slaughter, for that thy pardon of him whom thou purposest to put to death is as the quickening of a dead man; and whoso doth evil shall find it before him, even as it was with King Bihkard. Asked the king, And what is the story of King Bihkard? And the youth answered, Hear, O king,
The Story of King Bihkard. [FN#206]
There was once a king named Bihkard, and he had mickle of wealth and many troops; but his deeds were evil and he would punish for a slight offence, and he never forgave any offender. He went forth one day to hunt and a certain of his pages shot a shaft, which lit on the kings ear and cut it off. Bihkard cried, Who shot that arrow? So the guards brought him in haste the misdemeanant, whose name was Yatrú, [FN#207] and he of his fear fell down on the ground in a fainting fit. Then quoth the king, Slay him; but Yatru said, O king, this which hath befallen was not of my choice nor of my knowledge; so do thou pardon me, in the hour of thy power over me, for that mercy is of the goodliest of deeds and belike it shall be in this world a provision and a good work for which thou shalt be repaid one of these days, and a treasure laid up to thine account with Allah in the world to come. Pardon me, therefore, and fend off evil from me, so shall Allah fend off from thee the like evil. When the king beard this, it pleased him and he pardoned the page, albeit he had never before pardoned any. Now this page was of the sons of the kings and had fled from his sire on account of a sin he had committed: then he went and took service with Bihkard the king, and there happened to him what happened. After a while, it chanced that a man recognised him and went and told his father, who sent him a letter, comforting his heart and mind and calling upon him to return to him. Accordingly he returned to his father, who came forth to meet him and rejoiced in him, and the Princes affairs were set right with his sire. Now it befel, one day of the days, that king Bihkard shipped him in a ship and put out to sea, so he might fish: but the wind blew on them and the craft sank. The king made the land upon a plank, unknown of any, and came forth, mother-naked, on one of the coasts; and it chanced that he landed in the country whereof the father of the page aforesaid was king. So he came in the night to the gate of the sovrans capital, and finding it shut, lodged him in a burying-place there. When the morning morrowed and the folk came forth of the city, behold, they found a man lately murthered and cast down in a corner of the burial ground, and seeing Bihkard there, doubted not but it was he who had slain him during the night; so they laid hands on him and carried him up to the king and said to him, This fellow hath slain a man. The king bade imprison him; whereupon they threw him in jail, and he fell to saying in himself, what while he was in the prison, All that hath befallen me is of the abundance of my sins and my tyranny, for, indeed, I have slain much people unrighteously and this is the requital of my deeds and that which I have wrought whilome of oppression. As he was thus pondering in himself, there came a bird and lighted down on the pinnacle of the prison, whereupon, of his passing eagerness in the chase, he took a stone and threw it at the bird. Now the kings son was playing in the exercise-ground with the ball and the bat, [FN#208] and the stone lit on his ear and cut it off, whereupon the Prince fell down in a fit. So they enquired who had thrown the stone and finding that it was Bihkard, took him and carried him before the kings son, who bade do him die. Accordingly, they cast the turband from his head and were about to fillet his eyes, when the Prince looked at him and seeing him cropped of an ear, said to him, But for thy villainies thine ear had not been cut off. Said Bihkard, Not so, by Allah! Nay, but the story of the loss of my ear is so and so, and I pardoned him who smote me with an arrow and cut off my ear. When the prince heard this, he looked in his face and knowing him, cried out and said, Art thou not Bihkard the king? Yes, replied he, and the Prince said to him, What ill chance threw thee here? Thereupon he told him all that had betided him and the folk wondered and extolled the perfection of the Almighty, crying Subhána llah!--laud to the Lord! Then the Prince rose to him and embraced him and kissed him and, entreating him with respect, seated him in a chair and bestowed on him a robe of honour; and he turned to his sire and said to him, This be the king who pardoned me and this be his ear which I cut off with a shaft; and indeed he deserveth my pardon by having pardoned me. Then said he to Bihkard, Verily, the issue of mercy hath been a provision for thee in such hour as this. And they entreated him with the utmost kindness and sent him back to his own country in all honour. Know, then, O king (continued the youth), that there is no goodlier quality than mercy and that all thou dost of clemency, thou shalt find before thee a treasure for thee treasured up. When the king heard this, his wrath subsided and he said, Return him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his case.
The Eighth Day.
Of Envy and Malice.
When it was the eighth day, the Wazirs all assembled and had speech together and said, How shall we do with this youth, who overcometh us with his much talk? Indeed, we fear lest he be saved and we fall into destruction. So, let us all go in to the king and unite our efforts to gain our cause, ere he appear without guilt and come forth and get the better of us. Accordingly they all went in to the king and prostrating themselves before him, said to him, O king, beware lest this youth ensorcell thee with his sorcery and beguile thee with his wiles. An thou heardest what we hear, thou wouldst not suffer him live; no, not a single day. Wherefore heed not his speech, for we are thy Ministers, who endeavour for thy permanence, and if thou hearken not to our word, to whose word wilt thou hearken? See, we are ten Wazirs who testify against this youth that he is guilty and entered not the kings sleeping chamber save with ill intent, so he might put the king to shame and outrage his honour; and if the king slay him not, let him banish him his realm, that the tongue of the folk may desist from him. When the king heard his Ministers words, he was wroth with exceeding wrath and bade bring the youth, and when he came in to the king, the Wazirs all cried out with one voice, saying, O Lack-wits, thinkest thou to save thyself from slaughter by guile and sleight, that thou wilest the king with thy talk and hopest pardon for the like of this mighty great crime thou hast committed? Then the king bade fetch the sworder, so he might smite his neck; whereupon each of the Wazirs fell to saying, I will slay him; and they sprang upon him. Quoth the youth, O king, consider and ponder the eagerness of these thy Ministers. Is this of envy or is it not? They would fain make severance between me and thee, so there may fall to them what they shall plunder, as aforetime. And the king said to him, Consider their witness against thee. The young man said, O king, how shall they testify of that which they saw not? [FN#209] This is but envy and despight; and thou, an thou slay me, wilt indeed regret me, and I fear lest there betide thee of repentance that which betided Aylán Sháh, by reason of the malice of his Wazirs. Asked Azadbakht, And what is his story? and the youth answered, Hear, O king,
The Story of Aylan Shah and Abu Tammam. [FN#210]
Whilome there was a merchant named Abu Tammám, and he was a clever man and a well-bred, quickwitted and truthful in all his affairs, and he was monied to boot. Now there was in his land a king as unjust as he was jealous, and Abu Tammam feared for his wealth from this king and said, I will remove hence to another place where I shall not be in dread. So he made for the city of Aylán Sháh and built himself a palace therein and transporting his wealth thither, took up his abode there. Presently, the news of him reached King Aylan Shah; so he sent to invite him to his presence and said to him, We know of thy coming to us and thine entering under our allegiance, and indeed we have heard of thine excellence and wit and generosity; so welcome to thee and fair welcome! The land is thy land and at thy command, and whatsoever need thou needest of us, tis already accomplished to thee; and it behoveth that thou be near our person and of our assembly. Abu Tammam prostrated himself before the king, and said to him, O king, I will serve thee with my monies and with my life, but do thou excuse me from nearness to thee, for that an I took office about thee, I should not be safe from enemies and enviers. Then he applied himself to the royal service with presents and largesses, and the king saw him to be intelligent, well-bred and of good counsel; so his heart inclined to him and he committed to him the ordinance of his affairs and the power to bind and to loose was in his hand. Now Aylan Shah had three Wazirs, in whose hands public affairs were wont to be and they had been accustomed not to quit the king night or day; but they became shut out from him by reason of Abu Tammam and the king was occupied with him to their exclusion. Herewith the Ministers took counsel together upon the matter and said, What is your rede we should do, seeing that the king is occupied from us with yonder man, and indeed he honoureth him with more honour than us? But now come, let us devise some device whereby we may alienate him from the king. So each of them spoke forth that which was in his mind, and one of them said, The king of the Turks hath a daughter, whose like there is not in the world, and whatso messenger goeth to demand her in marriage, him her father slaughtereth. Now our king hath no knowledge of this; so, come, let us foregather with him and bring up the mention of her: when his heart is taken with her, we will advise him to dispatch Abu Tammam to seek her hand in marriage; whereupon her father will slay him and we shall be quit of him and settle his affair once for all. Accordingly, they went in to the king one day (Abu Tammam being present among them), and mentioned the affair of the damsel, the daughter of the Turks king, and enlarged upon her charms, till the kings heart was taken with her and he said to them, We will send one to demand her to wife for us; but who shall be our messenger? Quoth the Wazirs, There is none fit for this business but Abu Tammam, by reason of his wit and good breeding; and the king said, Indeed, even as ye say, none is fitting for this affair save he. Then he turned to Abu Tammam and said to him, Wilt thou not go with my message and seek me in marriage the daughter of the Turks king? and he answered, To hear is to obey, O my Sovran! So they made ready his affair and the king conferred on him a robe of honour, and he took with him a present and a letter under the kings hand and setting out, fared on till he came to the capital city of Turkistan. When the king of the Turks knew of his coming, he despatched his officers to receive him and entreated him with honour and lodged him as befitted his rank. Then he guested him three days, after which time he summoned him to his presence and Abu Tammam went in to him; and, prostrating himself as beseemeth before kings, laid that present before him and gave him the letter. The king read the writ and said to Abu Tammam, We will do what behoveth in the matter; but, O Abu Tammam, needs must thou view my daughter and she view thee, and needs must thou hear her speech and she hear thine. So saying, he sent him to the lodging of the Princess, who had had notice of this; so that they had adorned her sitting-room with the costliest that might be of vessels of gold and silver and the like, and she seated herself on a chair of gold, clad in the richest of royal robes and ornaments. When Abu Tammam entered, he took thought and said, The wise declare that whoso governeth his sight shall suffer naught unright and he who guardeth his tongue shall hear naught of foul taunt, and he who keepeth watch over his hand, it shall be lengthened and not shortened. [FN#211] So he entered and seating himself on the floor, cast down his eyes and covered his hands and feet with his dress. [FN#212] Quoth the kings daughter to him, Raise thy head, O Abu Tammam, and look on me and speak with me. But he spake not neither raised his head, and she continued, They sent thee only to view me and talk with me, and yet behold thou sayest not a word; presently adding, Take of these union-pearls that be round thee and of these jewels and gold and silver. But he put not forth his hand to aught, and when she saw that he paid no heed to anything, she was angry and cried, They have messaged me with a messenger, blind, dumb, deaf. Then she sent to acquaint her father with this; whereupon the king called Abu Tammam to him and said to him, Thou camest not save to view my daughter: why, then, hast thou not looked upon her? Quoth Abu Tammam, I saw everything; and quoth the king, Why didst thou not take somewhat of that which thou sawest of jewels and the like? Indeed they were set out for thee. But he answered, It behoveth me not to put out my hand to aught that is not mine. When the king heard his speech, he gave him a sumptuous robe of honour and loved him muchly [FN#213] and said to him, Come, look at this well. So Abu Tammam went up to the pit-mouth and looked, and behold, it was full of heads of the sons of Adam, and the king said to him, These are the heads of envoys whom I slew, because I saw them without loyalty to their lords, and I was used, whenas I beheld an envoy without good manners, to say, He who sent him is worsemannered than he, because the messenger is the tongue of him who sendeth him and his breeding is of his masters breeding; and whoso is after this fashion, it befitteth not that he be akin to me. [FN#214] For this reason I used to put the envoys to death; but, as for thee, thou hast overcome us and won my daughter, of the excellence of thy manners; so hearten thy heart, for she is thy lords. Then he sent him back to King Aylan Shah with presents and rarities and a letter, saying, This that I have done is in honour of thee and of thine envoy. When Abu Tammam returned after accomplishing his mission and brought the presents and the letter, King Aylan Shah rejoiced in this and redoubled all his favours and showed him honour the highest. Some days after, the King of Turkistan sent his daughter and she went in to King Aylan Shah, who rejoiced in her with exceeding joy and Abu Tammams worth was exalted in the royal sight. When the Wazirs saw this, they redoubled in envy and despite and said, An we contrive us not a contrivance to rid us of this man, we shall die of rage. So they bethought them and agreed upon a device they should practise. Then they betook themselves to two boys, pages affected to the service of the king, who slept not but on their knees, [FN#215] and they lay at his head, for that they were his bed-chamber pages. So the Ministers gave them each a thousand dinars of gold, saying, We desire of you that ye do somewhat we require and take this gold as a provision against your time of need. Quoth the lads, What is it ye would have us do? and quoth the Wazirs, This Abu Tammam hath marred matters for us, and if his case abide in this way, he will remove us all from the kings favour; and what we want of you twain is that, when ye are alone with the king and he leaneth back, as he were asleep, one of you say to his fellow, Verily, the king hath taken Abu Tammam into high favour and hath advanced him to exalted rank, yet he is a transgressor against the kings honour and an accursed wight. Then let the other of you ask, And what is his transgression? and let the first answer, He outrageth the kings honour and saith, the King of Turkistan was used, when a messenger went to him to seek his daughter in marriage, to slay him; but me he spared, because she liked me, and by reason of this her sire sent her hither, for that she loved me. Then let the other say, Knowest thou this for truth? and let the first reply, By Allah, this is familiar to all the folk, but, of their fear of the king, they dare not divulge it to him; and as often as the king is absent a-hunting or a-wayfaring, Abu Tammam cometh to her and is private with her. Whereupon the boys answered, We will say this. Accordingly, one night, when they were alone with the king and he leant back, as he were asleep, they said these words and the king heard all and was like to die of fury and despite and said to himself, These are young boys, not come to years of discretion, and have no business with any; and unless they had heard these words from some one, they had not spoken thereof each with other. When it was morning wrath overmastered him, so that he stayed not neither deliberated, but summoned Abu Tammam and taking him apart, said to him, Whoso guardeth not the honour of his liege lord, [FN#216] what deserveth he? Said Abu Tammam, He deserveth that his lord guard not his honour. Aylan Shah continued, And whoso entereth the kings house and playeth traitor with him, what behoveth unto him? and Abu Tammam replied, He shall not be left alive. Whereupon the king spat in his face and said to him, Both these deeds hast thou done. Then he drew his poinard on him in haste and smiting him in the belly, slit it and Abu Tammam died forthright; whereupon the king dragged him along and cast him into a well that was in his palace. After he had slain him, he fell into repentance and mourning increased and chagrin waxed sore upon him, and he would acquaint none who questioned him with the cause, nor, of his love for his wife, did he tell her of this, and whenever she asked him wherefore he grieved, he answered her not. When the Wazirs knew of Abu Tammams death, they rejoiced with exceeding joy and knew that the kings sorrow arose from regret for him. As for Aylan Shah, after this he used to betake himself by night to the sleeping-chamber of the two boys and spy upon them, that he might hear what they said concerning his wife. As he stood one night privily at the door of their chamber, he saw them spread out the gold between their hands and play with it and heard one of them say, Woe to us! What doth this gold profit us? Indeed we cannot buy therewith any thing nor spend it upon ourselves. Nay, but we have sinned against Abu Tammam and done him dead unjustly. And said the other, Had we known that the king would slay him on the spot, we had not done what we did. When the king heard that, he could not contain himself, but rushed in upon them and said to them, Woe to you! What did ye? Tell me. And they cried, Amán, [FN#217] O king! He cried, An ye would have pardon from Allah and me, you are bound to tell me the truth, for nothing shall save you from me but soothfastness. Hereat they prostrated themselves before him and said, By Allah, O king, the Wazirs gave us this gold and taught us to lie against Abu Tammam, so thou mightest kill him, and what we said was their speech. When the king heard this, he plucked at his beard, till he was like to tear it up by the roots and bit upon his fingers, till he well nigh cut them in twain, for repentance and sorrow that he had wrought hastily and had not delayed with Abu Tammam, so he might consider his case. Then he sent for the Ministers and said to them, O villainous Wazirs, ye deemed that Allah was heedless of your deed, but right soon shall your wickedness revert upon you. Know ye not that whoso diggeth for his brother a pit shall himself fall into it? [FN#218] Take from me the punishment of this world and to-morrow ye shall receive the punishment of the next world and requital from Allah. Then he bade put them to death; so the headsman smote off their heads before the king, and he went in to his wife and acquainted her with whatso he had misdone to Abu Tammam; whereupon she grieved for him with mighty great grief and the king and his household ceased not weeping and repenting all their lives. Moreover, they brought Abu Tammam forth of the well and the king built him a dome [FN#219] in his palace and buried him therein. See, then, O auspicious king (continued the youth), what jealousy doth and injustice and how Allah caused the Wazirs malice to revert upon their own necks; and I trust in the Almighty that He will empower me over all who envy me my favour with the king and show forth the truth unto him. Indeed, I dread naught for my life from death; only I fear lest the king repent of my slaughter, for that I am guiltless of offence, and if I knew that I were guilty on any wise, my tongue would be dumb-struck. When the king heard this, he bowed his head groundwards in perplexity and confusion and said, Restore him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his case.
The Ninth Day.
Of Destiny or That Which is Written on the Forehead.
Now when it was the ninth day, the Wazirs met and said one to other, Verily, this youth baffleth us, for as often as the king is minded to kill him, he beguileth him and bewitcheth him with a story; so what be your rede we should do, that we may slay him and be at rest from him? Then they advised together and agreed that they should go to the kings wife. [FN#220] So they betook themselves to her and said to her, Thou art careless of this affair wherein thou art and this uncare shall not profit thee; whilst the king, occupied with eating and drinking and diversion, forgetteth that the folk beat upon tambourines and sing of thee and say, The wife of the king loveth the youth; and as long as he abideth alive the talk will increase and not diminish. Quoth she, By Allah, twas ye egged me on against him, and what shall I do now? and quoth they, Go thou in to the king and weep and say to him, Verily, the women come to me and inform me that I am dishonoured throughout the city, and what is thine advantage in the sparing of this youth? An thou wilt not slay him, slay me to the end that this talk may be cut off from us. So the woman arose and rending her raiment, went in to the king, in the presence of the Wazirs, and cast herself upon him, saying, O king, is my shame not upon thee or fearest thou not shame? Indeed, this is not the fashion of kings that their jealousy over their women should be such as this. [FN#221] Thou art heedless and all the folk of the realm prate of thee, men and women. Either slay him, that the talk may be cut off, or slay me, if thy soul will not consent to his slaughter. Thereupon the kings wrath waxed hot and he said to her, I have no pleasure in his continuance and needs must I slay him this very day. So return to thy palace and solace thy heart. Then he bade fetch the youth; whereupon they brought him before him and the Wazirs said, O base of base, fie upon thee! Thy life-term is at hand and earth hungereth for thy flesh, so it may make a meal of it. But he said to them, Death is not in your word or in your envy; nay, it is a destiny written upon the forehead: wherefore, if aught be writ upon my front, there is no help but it come to pass, and neither striving nor thought-taking nor precaution-seeking shall deliver me therefrom; even as happened to King Ibrahim and his son. Quoth the king, Who was King Ibrahim and who was his son? and quoth the youth Hear, O king,
The Story of King Ibrahim and his Son. [FN#222]
There was once a king of the kings, Sultan Ibrahim hight, to whom the sovrans abased themselves and did obedience; but he had no son and was straitened of breast because of that, fearing lest the kingship go forth of his hand. He ceased not to long for a son and to buy slave-girls and he with them, till one of them conceived, whereat he rejoiced with passing joy and grave great gifts and the largest largesse. When the girls months were complete and the time of her lying-in drew near, the king summoned the astrologers and they watched for the hour of child-bearing and raised their astrolabes and carefully noted the time. The hand-maid gave birth to a man-child, whereat the king rejoiced exceedingly, and the people congratulated one another with this glad news. Then the astrophils made their calculations and looked into his nativity and his ascendant, whereupon their colour changed and they were confounded. Quoth the king to them, Acquaint me with his horoscope and ye shall have assurance of pardon and have naught to fear. [FN#223] They replied, O king, this princely childs nativity denoteth that, in the seventh year of his age, there is fearful danger for him from a lion, which shall attempt to rend him: and if he be saved from the lion, there will betide a matter yet sorer and more grievous even than that. Asked the king, What is it? and they answered, We will not speak, except the king command us and give us assurance from fear. Quoth the king, Allah assure you! and quoth they, An he be saved from the lion, the kings destruction shall be at his hand. When the king heard this, his complexion changed and his breast was straitened; but he said to himself, I will be watchful and do my endeavour and suffer not the lion to eat him. It cannot be that he will kill me, and indeed The astrologers lied. [FN#224] Then he caused rear him among the wet-nurses and the noble matrons; [FN#225] but withal he ceased not to ponder the prediction of the astrophils and verily his life was troubled. So he betook himself to the top of a high mountain and hollowed there a deep excavation [FN#226] and made in it many dwelling-places and rooms and filled it with all that was needful of rations and raiment and what not else and laid in it pipe-conduits of water from the mountain and lodged the boy therein, with a nurse who should rear him. Moreover, at the first of each month he used to go to the mountain and stand at the mouth of the hollow and let down a rope he had with him and draw up the boy to him and strain him to his bosom and kiss him and play with him awhile, after which he would let him down again to his place and return; and he was wont to count the days till the seven years should pass by. Now when arrived the time of the Fate foreordered and the Fortune graven on the forehead and there remained for the boy but ten days till the seven years should be complete, there came to that mountain hunters chasing wild beasts and, seeing a lion, they attacked him. He fled from them and seeking refuge in the mountain, fell into the hollow in its midst. The nurse saw him forthwith and escaped from him into one of the chambers; upon which the lion made for the lad and seizing upon him, tare his shoulder, after which he sought the room wherein was the nurse and falling upon her, devoured her, whilst the boy lay in a swoon. Meanwhile, when the huntsmen saw that the lion had fallen into the pit, they came to the mouth and heard the shrieking of the boy and the woman; and after awhile the cries died away, whereby they knew that the lion had slain them. Presently, as they stood by the mouth of the excavation behold, the lion came scrambling up the sides and would have issued forth: but, as often as he showed his head, they pelted him with stones, till they beat him down and he fell; whereupon one of the hunters descended into the pit and despatched him and saw the boy wounded; after which he went to the chamber, where he found the woman dead, and indeed the lion had eaten his fill of her. Then he noted that which was therein of clothes and what not else, and notifying his mates, fell to passing the stuff up to them: lastly, he took up the boy and bringing him forth of the pit, carried him to their dwelling-place where they dressed his wounds. He grew up with them, but acquainted them not with his affair; and indeed, when they questioned him, he knew not what he should say, because they let him down into the pit when he was a little one. The hunters marvelled at his speech and loved him with exceeding love and one of them took him to son and abode rearing him by his side and training him in hunting and horseriding, till he reached the age of twelve and became a brave, going forth with the folk to the chase and to the cutting of the way. Now it chanced one day that they sallied forth to stop the road and fell in with a caravan during the night: but its stout fellows were on their guard; so they joined battle with the robbers and overcame them and slew them and the boy fell wounded and tarried cast down in that place till the morrow, when he opened his eyes and finding his comrades slain, lifted himself up and arose to walk the road. Presently, there met him a man, a treasure-seeker, and asked him, Whither away, O lad? So he told him what had betided him and the other said, Be of good heart, for that the tide of thy good fortune is come and Allah bringeth thee joy and gladness. I am one who am in quest of a hidden treasure, wherein is a mighty mickle of wealth. So come with me that thou mayst help me, and I will give thee monies with which thou shalt provide thyself all thy life long. Then he carried the youth to his dwelling and dressed his wounds and he tarried with him some days till he was rested; when the treasure-seeker took him and two beasts and all that he needed, and they fared on till they came to a towering highland. Here the man brought out a book and reading therein, dug in the crest of the mountain five cubits deep, whereupon there appeared to him a stone. He pulled it up and behold it was a trap-door covering the mouth of a pit. So he waited till the foul air [FN#227] was come forth from the midst of the pit, when he bound a rope about the lads middle and let him down bucket-wise to the bottom, and with him a lighted waxen taper. The boy looked and beheld, at the upper end of the pit, wealth abundant; so the treasure-seeker let down a rope and a basket and the boy fell to filling and the man to drawing up, till the fellow had got his sufficiency, when he loaded his beasts and ceased working, whilst the boy looked for him to let down the rope and draw him up; but he rolled a great stone to the mouth of the pit and went his ways. When the boy saw what the treasure-seeker had done with him, he relied upon Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) and abode perplexed concerning his case and said, How bitter be this death! for indeed the world was darkened on him and the pit was blinded to him. So he fell a-weeping and saying, I escaped the lion and the robbers and now is my death to be in this pit, where I shall die by slow degrees. And he abode perplexed and looked for nothing but death. But as he stood pondering, behold, he heard a sound of water rushing with a thunderous noise; so he arose and walked in the pit following the sound, till he came to a corner and heard the mighty coursing of water. Then he laid his ear to the sound of the current and hearing it rushing in great strength, said to himself, This is the flowing of a mighty watercourse and needs must I depart life in this place, be it to-day or to-morrow; so I will throw myself into the stream and not die a slow death in this pit. Thereupon he called up his courage and gathering up his skirts, cast himself into the water, and it bore him along with force exceeding and carrying him under the earth, stayed not till it brought him out into a deep Wady, adown which ran a great river, that welled up from under the ground. When he found himself on the face of earth, he abode dazed and a-swoon all that day; after which he came to himself and rising, fared on along that valley; and he ceased not his wayfare, praising Almighty Allah the while, till he came to an inhabited land and a great village in the reign of the king his sire. So he entered and foregathered with the villagers, who questioned him of his case; whereupon he told them his tale, and they admired how Allah had delivered him from all those dangers. Then he took up his abode with them and they loved him much. On this wise happened it to him; but as regards the king, his father, when he went to the pit, as was his wont, and called the nurse, she returned him no answer, whereat his breast was straitened and he let down a man who found the woman dead and the boy gone and acquainted therewith the king, who when he heard this, buffeted his head and wept with sore weeping and descended into the midst of the pit that he might see how the case stood. There he espied the nurse slain and the lion dead, but beheld not the boy; so he returned and acquainted the astrologers with the soothfastness of their saying, and they replied, O king, the lion hath eaten him; destiny hath been wroughten upon him and thou art delivered from his hand; for, had he been saved from the lion, we indeed, by Allah, had feared for thee from him, because the kings destruction would have been at his hand. So the king ceased to sorrow for this and the days passed by and the affair was forgotten. Meanwhile the boy grew up and abode with the people of the village, and when Allah willed the accomplishing of His commandment, which no endeavour availeth to avert, he went forth with a party of the villagers to cut the way. The folk complained to King Ibrahim his father, who sallied out with a company of his men and surrounded the highwaymen. Now that boy was with them, and he drew forth an arrow and launched it at them, and it smote the king and wounded him in a mortal place. So they carried him to his palace, after they had laid hands upon the youth and his comrades and brought them before the sovran, saying, What biddest us to do with them? Quoth he, I am presently in trouble for myself, so bring me the astrologers. Accordingly, they brought them before him and he said to them, Ye said to me Thy death shall be by slaying at the hand of thy son: how, then, befalleth it that I have got my death-hurt by yonder thieves? The astrologers marvelled and said to him, O king, tis not beyond the lore of the stars, together with the doom of Allah, that he who hath smitten thee should be thy son. When King Ibrahim heard this, he bade fetch the thieves and said to them, Tell me truly, which of you shot the shaft that wounded me. Said they, Twas this youth that is with us. Whereupon the king fell to considering him and said, O youth, acquaint me with thy case and tell me who was thy father and thou shalt have assurance of safety from Allah. The youth replied, O my lord, I know no father; as for me, my father lodged me in a pit, with a nurse to rear me, and one day, there fell in upon us a lion, which tare my shoulder, then left me and occupied himself with the nurse and rent her in pieces; and Allah vouchsafed me one who brought me forth the pit. Then he related to him all that had befallen him, first and last; which when King Ibrahim heard, he cried out and said, By Allah, this is my son! presently adding, Bare thy shoulder. So he uncovered it, and behold, it was scarred. Then the king assembled his lords and lieges and the astrologers and said to them, Know that what Allah hath writ upon the forehead, be it fair fortune or misfortune, none may efface, and all that is decreed to a man must perforce befal him. Indeed, this my care-taking and my endeavour profited me naught, for what weird Allah decreed for my son, he hath dreed and whatso He decreed to me I have endured. Nevertheless, I praise Allah and thank Him because this was at my sons hand, and not at the hand of another, and Alhamdolillah--laud to the Lord--for that the kingship is come to my son! And he strained the youth to his bosom and embraced him and kissed him, saying O my son, this matter was after such fashion, and of my watchfulness over thee from Fate, I lodged thee in that pit; but caretaking availed not. Then he took the crown of the kingship and set it on his sons head and caused the lieges and the people do homage to him and commended the subjects to his care and enjoined to him justice and equity. And he farewelled him that night and died and his son reigned in his stead. [FN#228] On like wise, O king (continued the young treasurer), tis with thee. If Allah have written aught on my forehead, needs must it befal me and my speech to the king shall not avail me; no, nor my illustrating it to him with instances, against the doom of Allah. And so it is with these Wazirs, for all their eagerness and endeavour for my destruction, this shall not profit them; because, if Allah determine to save me, He will give me the victory over them. When the king heard these words he became perplexed and said, Return him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair, for the day draweth to an end and I mean to do him dead in foulest sort, and to-morrow we will visit him with that which he meriteth.
The Tenth Day.
Of the Appointed Term, [FN#229] Which, if it be Advanced, may not be Deferred, and if it be Deferred, may not be Advanced.
When it was the tenth day (now this day was called Al-Mihrján [FN#230] and it was the day of the coming in of the folk, gentle and simple, to the king, so they might give him joy and salute him and go forth), the council of the Wazirs agreed that they should speak with a company of the city notables. So they said to them, When ye go in today to the king and salute him, do ye say to him, O king (to the Lord be the laud!), thou art praiseworthy of policy and procedure and just to all thy subjects; but respecting this youth whom thou hast favoured and who nevertheless hath reverted to his base origin and done this foul deed, what is thy purpose in his continuance? Indeed, thou hast prisoned him in thy palace, and every day thou hearest his palaver and thou knowest not what the folk say. And they answered, Hearing is obeying. Accordingly, when they entered with the folk and had prostrated themselves before the king and congratulated his majesty, he raised their several degrees. Now it was the custom of the folk to salute and go forth; but they took seat, and the king knew that they had a word they would fain address to him: so he turned to them (the Wazirs being also present) and said, Ask your need. Therefore they repeated to him all that the Ministers had taught them and the Wazirs also spoke with them; and Azadbakht said to them, O folk, I would have it known to you that there is no doubt with me concerning this your speech proceeding from love and loyal counsel to me, and ye ken that, were I inclined to kill half these folk, I could do them die and this would not be hard to me; so how shall I not slay this youth and he in my power and in the hending of my hand? Indeed, his crime is manifest and he hath incurred death penalty; and I have deferred it only by reason of the greatness of the offence; for, an I do this with him and my proof against him be strengthened, my heart is healed and the heart of my whole folk; and if I slay him not to-day, his slaying shall not escape me to-morrow. Then he bade fetch the youth who, when present between his hands, prostrated to him and blessed him; whereupon quoth the king, Woe to thee! How long shall the folk upbraid me on thine account and blame me for delaying thy death? Even the people of my city reproach me because of thee, so that I am grown a prating-stock amongst them, and indeed they come in to me and reproach me for not putting thee to death. How long shall I delay this? Verily, this very day I mean to shed thy blood and rid the folk of thy prattling. The youth replied, O king, an there have betided thee talk because of me, by Allah, and again by Allah the Great, those who have brought on thee this talk from the folk are none but these wicked Wazirs, who chatter with the crowd and tell them foul tales and ill things in the kings house, but I hope in the Most High that He will cause their malice to recoil upon their own heads. As for the kings menace of slaying me, I am in the grip of his hand; so let not the king occupy his mind with my slaughter, because I am like the sparrow in the grasp of the fowler; if he will, he cutteth his throat, and if he will, he letteth him go. As for the delaying of my death, tis not from the king, but from Him in whose hand is my life; for, by Allah, O king, an the Almighty willed my slaughter, thou couldst not postpone it; no, not for a single hour. And, indeed, man availeth not to fend off evil from himself, even as it was with the son of King Sulayman Shah, whose anxiety and carefulness for the winning of his wish in the matter of the new-born child availed him naught, for his last hour was deferred how many a time! and Allah saved him until he had accomplished his period and had fulfilled his life-term. Cried the king, Fie upon thee, how great is thy craft and thy talk! Tell me, what was their tale. And the youth said, Hear, O king,
The Story of King Sulayman Shah and his Niece. [FN#231]
There was once a king named Sulayman Sháh, who was goodly of policy and rede, and he had a brother who died and left a daughter; so Sulayman Shah reared her with the best of rearing and the girl became a model of reason and perfection, nor was there in her time a more beautiful than she. Now the king had two sons, one of whom he had appointed in his mind to wed her, while the other purposed to take her. The elder son's name was Bahluwán [FN#232] and that of the younger Malik Sháh [FN#233], and the girl was called Sháh Khátún. Now one day, King Sulayman Shah went in to his brother's daughter and kissing her head, said to her, "Thou art my daughter and dearer to me than a child, for the love of thy late father who hath found mercy; wherefore I purpose espousing thee to one of my sons and appointing him my heir apparent, so he may be king after me. Look, then, which thou wilt have of my sons, [FN#234] for that thou hast been reared with them and knowest them." The maiden arose and kissing his hand, said to him, "O my lord, I am thine hand-maid and thou art the ruler over me; so whatever liketh thee do that same, inasmuch as thy wish is higher and honourabler and holier than mine and if thou wouldst have me serve thee as a hand-maid for the rest of my life, 'twere fairer to me than any mate." The king commended her speech and conferred on her a robe of honour and gave her magnificent gifts; after which, his choice having fallen upon his younger son, Malik Shah, he wedded her with him and made him his heir apparent and bade the folk swear fealty to him. When this reached his brother Bahluwan and he was ware that his younger brother had by favour been preferred over him, his breast was straitened and the affair was sore to him and envy entered in to him and hate; but he hid this in his heart, whilst fire raged therein because of the damsel and the dominion. Meanwhile Shah Khatun went in bridal splendour to the king's son and conceived by him and bare a son, as he were the illuming moon. When Bahluwan saw this betide his brother, envy and jealousy overcame him; so he went in one night to his father's palace and coming to his brother's chamber, saw the nurse sleeping at the door, with the cradle before her and therein his brother's child asleep. Bahluwan stood by him and fell to looking upon his face, whose radiance was as that of the moon, and Satan insinuated himself into his heart, so that he bethought himself and said, "Why be not this babe mine? Verily, I am worthier of him than my brother; yea, and of the damsel and the dominion." Then the idea got the mastery of him and anger drave him, so that he took out a knife, and setting it to the child's gullet, cut his throat and would have severed his windpipe. So he left him for dead and entering his brother's chamber, saw him asleep, with the Princess by his side, and thought to slay her, but said to himself, "I will leave the girl-wife for myself." Then he went up to his brother and cutting his throat, parted head from body, after which he left him and went away. But now the world was straitened upon him and his life was a light matter to him and he sought the lodging of his sire Sulayman Shah, that he might slay him also, but could not get admission to him. So he went forth from the palace and hid himself in the city till the morrow, when he repaired to one of his father's fortalices and therein fortified himself. On this wise it was with him; but as regards the nurse, she presently awoke that she might give the child suck, and seeing the cradle running with blood, cried out; whereupon the sleepers started up and the king was aroused and making for the place, found the child with his throat cut and the bed running over with blood and his father dead with a slit weasand in his sleeping chamber. They examined the child and found life in him and his windpipe whole and they sewed up the place of the wound: then the king sought his son Bahluwan, but found him not and saw that he had fled; so he knew that it was he who had done this deed, and this was grievous to the king and to the people of his realm and to the lady Shah Khatun. Thereupon the king laid out his son Malik Shah and buried him and made him a mighty funeral and they mourned with passing sore mourning; after which he applied himself to rearing the infant. As for Bahluwan, when he fled and fortified himself, his power waxed amain and there remained for him but to make war upon his father, who had cast his fondness upon the child and used to rear him on his knees and supplicate Almighty Allah that he might live, so he might commit the command to him. When he came to five years of age, the king mounted him on horseback and the people of the city rejoiced in him and prayed for him length of life, that he might take vengeance for his father [FN#235] and heal his grandsire's heart. Meanwhile, Bahluwan the rebel [FN#236] addressed himself to pay court to Caesar, king of the Roum [FN#237] and crave aid of him in debelling his father, and he inclined unto him and gave him a numerous army. His sire the king hearing of this sent to Caesar, saying, "O glorious king of might illustrious, succour not an evil doer. This is my son and he hath done so and so and cut his brother's throat and that of his brother's son in the cradle." But he told not the king of the Roum that the child had recovered and was alive. When Caesar heard the truth of the matter, it was grievous to him as grievous could be, and he sent back to Sulayman Shah, saying, "An it be thy wish, O king, I will cut off his head and send it to thee." But he made answer, saying, "I care naught for him: soon and surely the reward of his deed and his crimes shall overtake him, if not to-day, then tomorrow." And from that date he continued to exchange letters and presents with Caesar. Now the king of the Roum heard tell of the widowed Princess [FN#238] and of the beauty and loveliness wherewith she was endowed, wherefore his heart clave to her and he sent to seek her in wedlock of Sulayman Shah, who could not refuse him. So he arose and going in to Shah Khatun, said to her, "O my daughter, the king of the Roum hath sent to me to seek thee in marriage. What sayst thou?" She wept and replied, "O king, how canst thou find it in thy heart to address me thus? As for me, abideth there husband for me, after the son of my uncle?" Rejoined the king, "O my daughter, 'tis indeed as thou sayest; but here let us look to the issues of affairs. I must now take compt of death, for that I am a man short in years and fear not save for thee and for thy little son; and indeed I have written to the king of the Roum and others of the kings and said, His uncle slew him, and said not that he had recovered and is living, but concealed his affair. Now the king of the Roum hath sent to demand thee in marriage, and this is no thing to be refused and fain would we have our back strengthened with him." [FN#239] And she was silent and spake not. So King Sulayman Shah made answer to Caesar with "Hearing and obeying." Then he arose and despatched her to him, and Caesar went in to her and found her passing the description wherewith they had described her; wherefore he loved her every day more and more and preferred her over all his women and his affection for Sulayman Shah was increased; but Shah Khatun's heart still clave to her child and she could say naught. As for Sulayman Shah's son, the rebel Bahluwan, when he saw that Shah Khatun had married the king of the Roum, this was grievous to him and he despaired of her. Meanwhile, his father Sulayman Shah watched over the child and cherished him and named him Malik Shah, after the name of his sire. When he reached the age of ten, he made the folk do homage to him and appointed him his heir apparent, and after some days, the old king's time for paying the debt of nature drew near and he died. Now a party of the troops had banded themselves together for Bahluwan; so they sent to him, and bringing him privily, went in to the little Malik Shah and seized him and seated his uncle Bahluwan on the throne of kingship. Then they proclaimed him king and did homage to him all, saying, "Verily, we desire thee and deliver to thee the throne of kingship; but we wish of thee that thou slay not thy brother's son, because we are still bounden by the oaths we sware to his sire and his grandsire and the covenants we made with them." So Bahluwan granted this to them and imprisoned the boy in an underground dungeon and straitened him. Presently, the grievous news reached his mother and this was to her a fresh grief; but she could not speak and committed her affair to Allah Almighty, for that she durst not name this to King Caesar her spouse, lest she should make her uncle King Sulayman Shah a liar. But as regards Bahluwan the Rebel, he abode king in his father's place and his affairs prospered, while young Malik Shah lay in the souterrain four full-told years, till his favour faded and his charms changed. When He (extolled and exalted be He!) willed to relieve him and to bring him forth of the prison, Bahluwan sat one day with his chief Officers and the Lords of his land and discoursed with them of the story of his sire, King Sulayman Shah and what was in his heart. Now there were present certain Wazirs, men of worth, and they said to him, "O king, verily Allah hath been bountiful to thee and hath brought thee to thy wish, so that thou art become king in thy father's place and hast won whatso thou wishedst. But, as for this youth, there is no guilt in him, because he, from the day of his coming into the world, hath seen neither ease nor pleasure, and indeed his favour is faded and his charms changed. What is his crime that he should merit such pains and penalties? Indeed, others than he were to blame, and hereto Allah hath given thee the victory over them, and there is no fault in this poor lad." Quoth Bahluwan, "Verily, 'tis as ye say; but I fear his machinations and am not safe from his mischief; haply the most part of the folk will incline unto him." They replied, "O king, what is this boy and what power hath he? An thou fear him, send him to one of the frontiers." And Bahluwan said, "Ye speak sooth; so we will send him as captain of war to reduce one of the outlying stations." Now over against the place in question was a host of enemies, hard of heart, and in this he designed the slaughter of the youth; so he bade bring him forth of the underground dungeon and caused him draw near to him and saw his case. Then he robed him, whereat the folk rejoiced, and bound for him the banners [FN#240] and, giving him a mighty many, despatched him to the quarter aforesaid, whither all who went or were slain or were taken. Accordingly Malik Shah fared thither with his force and when it was one of the days, behold, the enemy attacked them in the night; whereupon some of his men fled and the rest the enemy captured; and they seized Malik Shah also and cast him into a pit with a company of his men. His fellows mourned over his beauty and loveliness and there he abode a whole twelvemonth in evillest plight. Now at the beginning of every year it was the enemy's wont to bring forth their prisoners and cast them down from the top of the citadel to the bottom; so at the customed time they brought them forth and cast them down, and Malik Shah with them. However, he fell upon the other men and the ground touched him not, for his term was God-guarded. But those who were cast down there were slain upon the spot and their bodies ceased not to lie there till the wild beasts ate them and the winds scattered their bones. Malik Shah abode strown in his place and aswoon, all that day and that night, and when he revived and found himself safe and sound, he thanked Allah the Most High for his safety and rising, left the place. He gave not over walking, unknowing whither he went and dieting upon the leaves of the trees; and by day he hid himself where he might and fared on at hazard all his night; and thus he did for some days, till he came to a populous part and seeing folk there, accosted them. He acquainted them with his case, giving them to know that he had been prisoned in the fortress and that they had thrown him down, but Almighty Allah had saved him and brought him off alive. The people had ruth on him and gave him to eat and drink and he abode with them several days; then he questioned them of the way that led to the kingdom of his uncle Bahluwan, but told them not that he was his father's brother. So they showed him the road and he ceased not to go barefoot, till he drew near his uncle's capital, naked, anhungered, and indeed his limbs were lean and his colour changed. He sat down at the city gate, when behold, up came a company of King Bahluwan's chief officers, who were out a-hunting and wished to water their horses. They lighted down to rest and the youth accosted them, saying, "I would ask you of somewhat that ye may acquaint me therewith." Quoth they, "Ask what thou wilt;" and quoth he, "Is King Bahluwan well?" They derided him and replied, "What a fool art thou, O youth! Thou art a stranger and a beggar, and whence art thou that thou should'st question concerning the king?" [FN#241] Cried he, "In very sooth, he is my uncle;" whereat they marvelled and said, "'Twas one catch-question [FN#242] and now 'tis become two." Then said they to him, "O youth, it is as if thou wert Jinn-mad. Whence comest thou to claim kinship with the king? Indeed, we know not that he hath any kith and kin save a nephew, a brother's son, who was prisoned with him, and he despatched him to wage war upon the infidels, so that they slew him." Said Malik Shah, "I am he and they slew me not, but there befel me this and that." They knew him forthwith and rising to him, kissed his hands and rejoiced in him and said to him, "O our lord, thou art indeed a king and the son of a king, and we desire thee naught but good and we pray for thy continuance. Look how Allah hath rescued thee from this wicked uncle, who sent thee to a place whence none ever came off safe and sound, purposing not in this but thy destruction; and indeed thou fellest upon death from which Allah delivered thee. How, then, wilt thou return and cast thyself again into thine foeman's hand? By Allah, save thyself and return not to him this second time. Haply thou shalt abide upon the face of the earth till it please Almighty Allah to receive thee; but, an thou fall again into his hand, he will not suffer thee to live a single hour." The Prince thanked them and said to them, "Allah reward you with all weal, for indeed ye give me loyal counsel; but whither would ye have me wend?" Quoth they, "To the land of the Roum, the abiding place of thy mother." "But," quoth he, "My grandfather Sulayman Shah, when the king of the Roum wrote to him demanding my mother in marriage, hid my affair and secreted my secret; and she hath done the same, and I cannot make her a liar." Rejoined they, "Thou sayst sooth, but we desire thine advantage, and even wert thou to take service with the folk, 'twere a means of thy continuance." Then each and every of them brought out to him money and gave him a modicum and clad him and fed him and fared on with him the length of a parasang, till they brought him far from the city, and letting him know that he was safe, departed from him, whilst he journeyed till he came forth of his uncle's reign and entered the dominion of the Roum. Then he made a village and taking up his abode therein, applied himself to serving one there in earing and seeding and the like. As for his mother, Shah Khatun, great was her longing for her child and she thought of him ever and news of him was cut off from her, so her life was troubled and she foresware sleep and could not make mention of him before King Caesar her spouse. Now she had a Castrato who had come with her from the court of her uncle King Sulayman Shah, and he was intelligent, quick-witted, right-reded. So she took him apart one day and said to him, shedding tears the while, "Thou hast been my Eunuch from my childhood to this day; canst thou not therefore get me tidings of my son, seeing that I cannot speak of his matter?" He replied, "O my lady, this is an affair which thou hast concealed from the commencement, and were thy son here, 'twould not be possible for thee to entertain him, lest [FN#243] thine honour be smirched with the king; for they would never credit thee, since the news hath been bruited abroad that thy son was slain by his uncle." Quoth she, "The case is even as thou sayst and thou speaketh sooth; but, provided I know that my son is alive, let him be in these parts pasturing sheep and let me not sight him nor he sight me." He asked, "How shall we manage in this matter?" and she answered, "Here be my treasures and my wealth: take all thou wilt and bring me my son or else tidings of him." Then they devised a device between them, which was that they should feign some business in their own country, to wit that she had wealth there buried from the time of her husband, Malik Shah, and that none knew of it but this Eunuch who was with her, so it behoved him to go fetch it. Accordingly she acquainted the king her husband with that and sought his permit for the Eunuch to fare: and the king granted him leave of absence for the journey and charged him devise a device, lest he come to grief. The Castrato, therefore, disguised himself in merchant's habit and repairing to Bahluwan's city, began to make espial concerning the youth's case; whereupon they told him that he had been prisoned in a souterrain and that his uncle had released him and despatched him to such a place, where they had slain him. When the Eunuch heard this, the mishap was grievous to him and his breast was straitened and he knew not what to do. It chanced one day of the days that a certain of the horsemen, who had fallen in with the young Malik Shah by the water and clad him and given him spendingmoney, saw the Eunuch in the city, habited as a merchant, and recognising him, questioned him of his case and of the cause of his coming. Quoth he, "I came to sell merchandise;" and quoth the horseman, "I will tell thee somewhat, an thou canst keep it secret." Answered the Neutral, "That I can! What is it?" and the other said, "We met the king's son Malik Shah, I and sundry of the Arabs who were with me, and saw him by such a water and gave him spending-money and sent him towards the land of the Roum, near his mother, for that we feared for him lest his uncle Bahluwan slay him." Then he told him all that had passed between them, whereat the Eunuch's countenance changed and he said to the cavalier "Thou art safe!" The knight replied, "Thou also art safe though thou come in quest of him." And the Eunuch rejoined, saying, "Truly, that is my errand: there is no rest for his mother, lying down or rising up, and she hath sent me to seek news of him." Quoth the cavalier, "Go in safety, for he is in a quarter of the land of the Roum, even as I said to thee." The Castrato thanked him and blessed him and mounting, returned upon his road, following the trail, whilst the knight rode with him to a certain highway, when he said to him, "This is where we left him." Then he took leave of him and returned to his own city, whilst the Eunuch fared on along the road, enquiring in every village he entered of the youth, by the description which the rider had given him, and he ceased not thus to do till he came to the village wherein was young Malik Shah. So he entered, and dismounting, made enquiry after the Prince, but none gave him news of him; whereat he abode perplexed concerning his affair and made ready to depart. Accordingly he mounted his horse; but, as he passed through the village, he saw a cow bound with a rope and a youth asleep by her side, hending the halter in hand; so he looked at him and passed on and heeded him not in his heart; but presently he halted and said to himself, "An the youth whom I am questing have become the like of this sleeping youth whom I passed but now, how shall I know him? Alas, the length of my travail and travel! How shall I go about in search of a somebody I know not, one whom, if I saw him face to face I should not know?" So saying he turned back, musing anent that sleeping youth, and coming to him, he still sleeping, dismounted from his mare and sat down by his side. He fixed his eyes upon his face and considered him awhile and said in himself, "For aught I wot, this youth may be Malik Shah;" then he began hemming and saying, "Harkye, O youth!" Whereupon the sleeper awoke and sat up; and the Eunuch asked him, "Who be thy father in this village and where be thy dwelling?" The youth sighed and replied, "I am a stranger;" and quoth the Castrato, "From what land art thou and who is thy sire?" Quoth the other, "I am from such a land," and the Eunuch ceased not to question him and he to answer his queries, till he was certified of him and knew him. So he rose and embraced him and kissed him and wept over his case: he also told him that he was wandering about in search of him and informed him that he was come privily from the king, his mother's husband, and that his mother would be satisfied to weet that he was alive and well, though she saw him not. Then he re-entered the village and buying the Prince a horse, mounted him and they ceased not going till they came to the frontier of their own country, where there fell robbers upon them by the way and took all that was with them and pinioned them; after which they threw them in a pit hard by the road and went their ways and left them to die there; and indeed they had cast many folk into that pit and they had perished. The Eunuch fell a-weeping in the pit and the youth said to him, "What is this weeping and what shall it profit here?" Quoth the Castrato, "I weep not for fear of death, but of ruth for thee and the cursedness of thy case and because of thy mother's heart and for that which thou hast suffered of horrors and that thy death should be this ignoble death, after the endurance of all manner dire distresses." But the youth said, "That which hath betided me was writ to me and that which is written none hath power to efface; and if my life-term be advanced, none may defer it." [FN#244] Then the twain passed that night and the following day and the next night and the next day in the hollow, till they were weak with hunger and came nigh upon death and could but groan feebly. Now it fortuned by the decree of Almighty Allah and His destiny, that Caesar, king of the Greeks, the spouse of Malik Shah's mother Shah Khatun, went forth a-hunting that morning. He flushed a head of game, he and his company, and chased it, till they came up with it by that pit, whereupon one of them lighted down from his horse, to slaughter it, hard by the mouth of the hollow. He heard a sound of low moaning from the sole of the pit; whereat he arose and mounting his horse, waited till the troops were assembled. Then he acquainted the king with this and he bade one of his servants descend into the hollow: so the man climbed down and brought out the youth and the Eunuch in fainting condition. They cut their pinion-bonds and poured wine down their throats, till they came to themselves, when the king looked at the Eunuch and recognising him, said, "Harkye, Suchan-one!" The Castrato replied, "Yes, O my lord the king," and prostrated himself to him; whereat the king wondered with exceeding wonder and asked him, "How camest thou to this place and what hath befallen thee?" The Eunuch answered, "I went and took out the treasure and brought it thus far; but the evil eye was behind me and I unknowing. So the thieves took us alone here and seized the money and cast us into this pit that we might die the slow death of hunger, even as they had done with others; but Allah the Most High sent thee, in pity to us." The king marvelled, he and his, and praised the Lord for that he had come thither; after which he turned to the Castrato and said to him, "What is this youth thou hast with thee?" He replied, "O king, this is the son of a nurse who belonged to us and we left him when he was a little one. I saw him to-day and his mother said to me, ‘Take him with thee;' so this morning I brought him that he might be a servant to the king, for that he is an adroit youth and a clever." Then the king fared on, he and his company, and with them the Eunuch and the youth, who questioned his companion of Bahluwan and his dealing with his subjects, and he replied, saying, "As thy head liveth, O my lord the king, the folk are in sore annoy with him and not one of them wisheth a sight of him, be they high or low." When the king returned to his palace, he went in to his wife Shah Khatun and said to her, "I give thee the glad tidings of thine Eunuch's return;" and he told her what had betided and of the youth whom he had brought with him. When she heard this, her wits fled and she would have screamed, but her reason restrained her, and the king said to her, "What is this? Art thou overcome with grief for the loss of the monies or for that which hath befallen the Eunuch?" Said she, "Nay, as thy head liveth, O king, but women are weaklings." Then came the Castrato and going in to her, told her all that had happened to him and also acquainted her with her son's case and with that which he had suffered of distresses and how his uncle had exposed him to slaughter, and he had been taken prisoner and they had cast him into the pit and hurled him from the highmost of the citadel and how Allah had delivered him from these perils, all of them; and whilst he recounted to her all this, she wept. Then she asked him, "When the king saw him and questioned thee of him, what was it thou saidst him?" and he answered, "I said to him, ‘This is the son of a nurse who belonged to us. We left him a little one and he grew up; so I brought him, that he might be servant to the king.'" Cried she, "Thou didst well;" and she charged him to serve the Prince with faithful service. As for the king, he redoubled in kindness to the Castrato and appointed the youth a liberal allowance and he abode going in to and coming out of the king's house and standing in his service, and every day he waxed better with him. As for Shah Khatun, she used to station herself at watch for him at the windows and in the balconies and gaze upon him, and she frying on coals of fire on his account; yet could she not speak. In such condition she abode a long while and indeed yearning for him was killing her; so she stood and watched for him one day at the door of her chamber and straining him to her bosom, bussed him on the breast and kissed him on either cheek. At this moment, behold, out came the major-domo of the king's household and seeing her embracing the youth, started in amazement. Then he asked to whom that chamber belonged and was answered, "To Shah Khatun, wife of the king," whereupon he turned back, quaking as one smitten by a leven-bolt. The king saw him in a tremor and said to him, "Out on thee! what is the matter?" Said he, "O king, what matter can be more grievous than that which I see?" Asked the king, "What seest thou?" and the officer answered, "I see that the youth, who came with the Eunuch, was not brought with him save on account of Shah Khatun; for I passed but now by her chamber door, and she was standing, watching; and when the youth came up, she rose to him and clipped him and kissed him on his cheek." When the king heard this, he bowed his head amazed, perplexed, and sinking into a seat, clutched at his beard and shook it until he came nigh upon plucking it out. Then he arose forthright and laid hands on the youth and clapped him in jail. He also took the Eunuch and cast them both into a souterrain under his palace. After this he went in to Shah Khatun and said to her, "Brava, by Allah, O daughter of nobles. O thou whom kings sought to wed, for the purity of thy repute and the fairness of the fame of thee! How seemly is thy semblance! Now may Allah curse her whose inward contrarieth her outward, after the likeness of thy base favour, whose exterior is handsome and its interior fulsome, face fair and deeds foul! Verily, I mean to make of thee and of yonder ne'er-do-well an example among the lieges, for that thou sentest not thine Eunuch but of intent on his account, so that he took him and brought him into my palace and thou hast trampled [FN#245] my head with him; and this is none other than exceeding boldness; but thou shalt see what I will do with you all." So saying, he spat in her face and went out from her; whilst Shah Khatun said nothing, well knowing that, an she spoke at that time, he would not credit her speech. Then she humbled herself in supplication to Allah Almighty and said, "O God the Great, Thou knowest the things by secrecy ensealed and their outwards revealed and their inwards concealed! If an advanced life-term be appointed to me, let it not be deferred, and if a deferred one, let it not be advanced!" On this wise she passed some days, whilst the king fell into bewilderment and forsware meat and drink and sleep, and abode knowing not what he should do and saying to himself, "An I slay the Eunuch and the youth, my soul will not be solaced, for they are not to blame, seeing that she sent to fetch him, and my heart careth not to kill them all three. But I will not be hasty in doing them die, for that I fear repentance." Then he left them, so he might look into the affair. Now he had a nurse, a foster-mother, on whose knees he had been reared, and she was a woman of understanding and suspected him, yet dared not question him. So she went in to Shah Khatun and finding her in yet sadder plight than he, asked her what was to do; but she refused to answer. However, the nurse gave not over coaxing and questioning her, till she swore her to concealment. Accordingly, the old woman made oath that she would keep secret all that she should say to her, whereupon the Queen to her related her history, first and last, and told her that the youth was her son. With this the old woman prostrated herself before her and said to her, "This is a right easy matter." But the Queen replied, "By Allah, O my mother, I prefer my destruction and that of my son to defending myself by a plea which they will not believe; for they will say, ‘She pleadeth this only that she may fend off shame from herself.' And naught will profit me save long-suffering." The old woman was moved by her speech and her wisdom and said to her, "Indeed, O my daughter, 'tis as thou sayest, and I hope in Allah that He will show forth the truth. Have patience and I will presently go in to the king and hear his words and machinate somewhat in this matter, Inshallah!" Thereupon the ancient dame arose and going in to the king, found him with his head between his knees in sore pain of sorrow. She sat down by him awhile and bespake him with soft words and said to him, [FN#246] "Indeed, O my son, thou consumest my vitals, for that these many days thou hast not mounted horse, and thou grievest and I know not what aileth thee." He replied, "O my mother, all is due to yonder accursed, of whom I deemed so well and who hath done this and that." Then he related to her the whole story from beginning to end, and she cried to him, "This thy chagrin is on account of a no-better-than-she-should-be!" Quoth he, "I was but considering by what death I should slay them, so the folk may take warning and repent." And quoth she, "O my son, 'ware precipitance, for it gendereth repentance and the slaying of them shall not escape thee. When thou art assured of this affair, do whatso thou willest." He rejoined, "O my mother, there needeth no assurance anent him for whom she despatched her Eunuch and he fetched him." But she retorted, "There is a thing wherewith we will make her confess, [FN#247] and all that is in her heart shall be discovered to thee." Asked the king, "What is that?" and she answered, "I will bring thee the heart of a hoopoe, [FN#248] which, when she sleepeth, do thou lay upon her bosom and question her of everything thou wouldst know, and she will discover the same unto thee and show forth the truth to thee." The king rejoiced in this and said to his nurse, "Hasten thou and let none know of thee." So she arose and going in to the Queen, said to her, "I have done thy business and 'tis as follows. This night the king will come in to thee and do thou seem asleep; and if he ask thee of aught, do thou answer him, as if in thy sleep." The Queen thanked her and the old dame went away and fetching the bird's heart, gave it to the king. Hardly was the night come, when he went in to his wife and found her lying back, a-slumbering; so he sat down by her side and laying the hoopoe's heart on her breast, waited awhile, so he might be assured that she slept. Then said he to her, "Shah Khatun, [FN#249] Shah Khatun, is this my reward from thee?" Quoth she, "What offence have I committed?" and quoth he, "What offence can be greater than this? Thou sentest after yonder youth and broughtest him hither, on account of the lust of thy heart, so thou mightest do with him that for which thou lustedst." Said she, "I know not carnal desire. Verily, among thy pages are those who are comelier and seemlier than he; yet have I never desired one of them." He asked "Why, then, didst thou lay hold of him and kiss him?" And she answered, "This youth is my son and a piece of my liver; and of my longing and affection for him, I could not contain myself, but sprang upon him and kissed him." When the king heard this, he was dazed and amazed and said to her, "Hast thou a proof that this youth is thy son? Indeed, I have a letter from thine uncle King Sulayman Shah, informing me that his uncle Bahluwan cut his throat." Said she "Yes, he did indeed cut his throat, but severed not the wind-pipe; so my uncle sewed up the wound and reared him, for that his life-term was not come." When the king heard this, he said, "This proof sufficeth me," and rising forthright in the night, bade bring the youth and the Eunuch. Then he examined his stepson's throat with a candle and saw the scar where it had been cut from ear to ear, and indeed the place had healed up and it was like a thread stretched out. Thereupon the king fell down prostrate before Allah, who had delivered the Prince from all these perils and from the distresses he had suffered, and rejoiced with joy exceeding because he had delayed and had not made haste to slay him, in which case mighty sore repentance had betided him. [FN#250] "As for the youth," continued the young treasurer, "he was not saved but because his life-term was deferred, and in like manner, O king, 'tis with me: I too have a deferred term, which I shall attain, and a period which I shall accomplish, and I trust in Almighty Allah that He will give me the victory over these villain Wazirs." When the youth had made an end of his speech, the king said, "Restore him to the prison;" and when they had done this, he turned to the Ministers and said to them, "Yonder youth lengtheneth his tongue upon you, but I know your tenderness for the weal of mine empire and your loyal counsel to me; so be of good heart, for all that ye advise me I will do." They rejoiced when they heard these words, and each of them said his say. Then quoth the king, "I have not deferred his slaughter but to the intent that the talk might be prolonged and that words might abound, yet shall he now be slain without let or stay, and I desire that forthright ye set up for him a gibbet without the town and that the crier cry among the folk bidding them assemble and take him and carry him in procession to the gibbet, with the crier crying before him and saying, ‘This is the reward of him whom the king delighted to favour and who hath betrayed him!'" The Wazirs rejoiced when they heard this, and for their joy slept not that night; and they made proclamation in the city and set up the gallows.
The Eleventh Day.
Of the Speedy Relief of Allah.
When it was the eleventh day, the Wazirs repaired in early morning to the kings gate and said to him, O king, the folk are assembled from the portals of the palace to the gibbet, to the end they may see the kings order carried out on the youth. So Azadbakht bade fetch the prisoner and they brought him; whereupon the Ministers turned to him and said to him, O vile of birth, can any lust for life remain with thee and canst thou hope for deliverance after this day? Said he, O wicked Wazirs, shall a man of understanding renounce all esperance in Almighty Allah? Howsoever a man be oppressed, there cometh to him deliverance from the midst of distress and life from the midst of death, as in the case of the prisoner and how Allah delivered him. Asked the king, What is his story? and the youth answered, saying, O king, they tell
The Story of the Prisoner and How Allah Gave Him Relief. [FN#251]
There was once a king of the kings, who had a high palace, overlooking his prison, and he used to hear in the night one saying, O Ever-present Deliverer, O Thou whose deliverance is aye present, relieve Thou me! One day the king waxed wroth and said, Yonder fool looketh for relief from the pains and penalties of his crime. Then said he to his officers, Who is in yonder jail? and said they, Folk upon whom blood hath been found. [FN#252] Hearing this the king bade bring that man before him and said to him, O fool, O little of wit, how shalt thou be delivered from this prison, seeing that thy crime is mortal? Then he committed him to a company of his guards and said to them, Take this wight and crucify him within sight of the city. Now it was the night season. So the soldiers carried him without the city, thinking to crucify him, when behold, there came out upon them robbers and fell upon them with swords and other weapons. Thereat the guards left him whom they purposed to slay and fled whilst the man who was going to slaughter also took to flight and plunging deep into the desert, knew not whither he went before he found himself in a copse and there came out upon him a lion of terrible aspect, who snatched him up and cast him under him. Then he went up to a tree and uprooting it, covered the man therewithal and made off into the thicket, in quest of the lioness. [FN#253] As for the man, he committed his affair to Allah the Most High, relying upon Him for deliverance, and said to himself, What is this affair? Then he removed the leaves from himself and rising, saw great plenty of mens bones there, of those whom the lion had devoured. He looked again and behold, he saw a heap of gold lying alongside a purse-belt; [FN#254] whereat he marvelled and gathering up the gold in the breast of his gaberdine, went forth of the copse and fled at hap-hazard, turning neither to the right nor to the left, in his fear of the lion; nor did he cease flying till he came to a village and cast himself down, as he were dead. He lay there till the day appeared and he was rested from his travail, when he arose and burying the gold, entered the village. Thus Allah gave him relief and he got the gold. Then said the king, How long wilt thou beguile us, O youth, with thy prate? But now the hour of thy slaughter is come. So he bade crucify him upon the gibbet. But as they were about to hoist him up, lo and behold! the Captain of the thieves, who had found him and reared him, came up at that moment and asked, What be this assembly and the cause of the crowds here gathered together? They informed him that a page of the king had committed a mighty great crime and that he was about to do him die; so the Captain of the thieves pressed forward and looking upon the prisoner, knew him, whereupon he went up to him and strained him to his bosom and threw his arms round his neck, and fell to kissing him upon his mouth. [FN#255] Then said he, This is a boy I found under such a mountain, wrapped in a gown of brocade, and I reared him and he fell to cutting the way with us. One day, we set upon a caravan, but they put us to flight and wounded some of us and took the lad and ganged their gait. From that day to this I have gone round about the lands seeking him, but have not found news of him till now; and this is he. When the king heard this, he was assured that the youth was his very son; so he cried out at the top of his voice and casting himself upon him, embraced him and kissed him and shedding tears, said, Had I put thee to death, as was mine intent, I should have died of regret for thee. Then he cut his pinion-bonds and taking his crown from his head, set it on the head of his son, whereupon the people raised cries of joy, whilst the trumpets blared and the kettledrums beat and there befel a mighty great rejoicing. They decorated the city and it was a glorious day; even the birds stayed their flight in the welkin, for the greatness of the greeting and the clamour of the crying. The army and the folk carried the prince to the palace in splendid procession, and the news came to his mother Bahrjaur, who fared forth and threw herself upon him. Moreover, the king bade open the prison and bring forth all who were therein, and they held high festival seven days and seven nights and rejoiced with a mighty rejoicing. Thus it betided the youth; but as regards the Ministers, terror and silence, shame and affright fell upon them and they gave themselves up for lost. After this the king sat, with his son by his side and the Wazirs on their knees before him, and summoned his chief officers and the subjects of the city. Then the prince turned to the Ministers and said to them, See, O villain Wazirs, the work of Allah and his speedy relief. But they answered neer a syllable and the king said, It sufficeth me that there is nothing alive but rejoiceth with me this day, even to the birds in the sky, but ye, your breasts are straitened. Indeed, this is the greatest of hostility in you mewards, and had I hearkened to you, my regret had been prolonged and I had died miserably of sorrow. Quoth the prince, O my father, but for the fairness of thy thought and thy perspicacity and thy longanimity and deliberation in affairs, there had not betided thee this great joy. Hadst thou slain me in haste, repentance would have been sore on thee and longsome annoy, and on this wise whoso preferreth haste shall rue. Presently the king sent for the Captain of the robbers and bade indue him with a robe of honour, commanding that all who loved the king should doff their dresses and cast them upon him. [FN#256] So there fell robes of honour on him, till he was a-wearied with their weight, and Azadbakht invested him with the mastership of the police of his city. Then he bade set up other nine gibbets by the side of the first and said to his son, Thou art innocent, and yet these villain Wazirs strave for thy slaughter. Replied the prince, O my sire, I had no fault in their eyes but that I was a loyal counsellor to thee and still kept watch over thy wealth and withdrew their hands from thy hoards and treasuries; wherefore they were jealous and envied me and plotted against me and planned to slay me. Quoth the king, The time of retribution is at hand, O my son; but what be thy rede we should do with them in requital of that they did with thee? And indeed they have striven for thy slaughter and exposed thee to disgrace and smirched mine honour among the kings. Then he turned to the Wazirs and said to them, Woe to you! What liars ye are! And is aught of excuse left to you? Said they, O king, there remaineth no excuse for us and we are houghed [FN#257] by the deed we would have done to him. Indeed we planned evil to this youth and it hath reverted upon us, and we plotted mischief against him and it hath overtaken us; yea, we digged for him a pit and we ourselves have fallen into it. So the king bade hoist up the Wazirs upon the gibbets and crucify them there, because Allah is just and decreeth that which is due. Then Azadbakht and his wife and son abode in joyance and gladness, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and they died all; and extolled be the Living One, who dieth not, to whom be glory and whose mercy be upon us for ever and ever! Amen.