THE ANGEL OF DEATH AND THE KING OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.
There was a puissant despot among the Kings of the Banú Isráíl, who sat one day upon the throne of his kingship, when he saw come in to him, by the gate of the hall, a man of forbidding aspect and horrible presence. The King was affrighted at his sudden intrusion and his look terrified him; so he sprang up before him and said, "Who art thou, O man? Who gave thee leave to come in to me and who invited thee to enter my house?" Quoth the stranger, "Verily the Lord of the House sent me to thee, nor can any doorkeeper exclude me, nor need I leave to come in to Kings; for I reck not of a Sultan's majesty neither of the multitude of his guards. I am he from whom no tyrant is at rest, nor can any man escape from my grasp: I am the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies." Now when the King heard this a palsy crept over him [FN#459] and he fell on his face in a swoon; but presently coming to himself, he asked, "Art thou then the Angel of Death?"; and the stranger answered, "Yes." "I conjure thee, by Allah," quoth the King, "grant me one single day's respite, that I may pray pardon of my sins and ask absolution of my Lord and restore to their rightful owners the monies which are in my treasures, so I may not be burdened with the woe of a reckoning nor with the misery of punishment therefor." Replied the Angel, "Well-away! well-away! this may be in no way."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Four Hundred and Sixty-fourth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth the Death-messenger to the King, "Well-away, well-away! this may be in no way. How can I grant thee a reprieve when the days of thy life are counted and thy breaths numbered and thy moments fixed and written?" "Grant me an hour," asked the King; but the Angel answered saying, "The hour was in the account and hath sped, and thou unheeding aught; and hath fled, and thou taking no thought: and now thy breathings are accomplished, and there remaineth to thee but one breath." Quoth the King, "Who will be with me when I am transported to my tomb?" Quoth the Angel, "Naught will be with thee but thy works good or evil." "I have no works," said the King; and the Angel, "Doubtless thy long home will be in hell-fire and thy doom the wrath of the Almighty." Then he seized the soul of the King, and he fell off his throne and dropped on the earth dead. And there arose a mighty weeping and wailing and clamour of keening for him among the people of his court, and had they known that to which he went of the wrath of his Lord, their weeping for him had been sorer and their wailing louder and more abounding. And a story is told of