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 astrologer's 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 broker's 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 merchant's 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's Wazirs, whose name was Baharn, 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 Minister's 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 merchant's 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 Sovran's 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 merchant's 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 lord's 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 youth's 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's anger was upstirred against him by the Minister's 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 Ab Sbir ascended from the pit and sat down upon the throne." Asked the king, "Who was Ab Sbir, 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] Ab Sabr 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 Sabir's 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 Ab Sbir 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 Ab Sbir's village; wherefore the Sultan bade plunder the village, and they spoiled the patient one's goods with the rest. Thereupon his wife said to him, "All the king's 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 Ab Sbir, 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 Ab Sbir, 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 Ab Sbir, 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 month's 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 Ab Sbir 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 Ab Sbir's words angered him for the moment; wherefore he bade bring him before him and they brought him forthright. Now there was in the king's palace an underground dungeon and therein a vast silo[FN#170] and a deep, into which the king caused cast Ab Sbir, 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 Ab Sbir,[FN#171] I see thee not come forth of the pit and sit down on the king's throne!" And he assigned him each day two bannocks of bread, whilst Ab Sbir 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 Ab Sbir, deeming him the king's 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 brother's room, for we have slain him and thou art sovran in his stead." But Ab Sbir 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 king's 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 Ab Sbir's 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 Ab Sbir's 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 Ab Sbir 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 Ab Sbir's 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." Ab Sbir, 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 Ab Sbir's 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 king's 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 king's brother; but I am Ab 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 Ab Sbir 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 Zshd,[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 Bihzd, 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 Bihzad's 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 daughter's dowry. Quoth Bihzad's 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 robber's 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 Bihzad's 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 son's 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 king's letter. He also advised the Prince's father of his son's coming and they busied themselves with the affair of the young lady. When it was the day of the bride's 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 Prince's 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 Ddbn 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 Ddbn, and he had two Wazirs, one called Zorkhan and the other Krdn.[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 Arw.[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 king's 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 king's 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 queen's sleeping-chamber and behold, she was sitting with Abu al-Khayr, her father's 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 Kisr[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 king's 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 Allah's 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 Bakhtzamn 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 Khaddn[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, e'en wert thou alone.' When I heard the Solitary's 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 Allah's 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's 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 Bihkaml,[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 Minister's 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 king's ear and cut it off. Bihkard cried, "Who shot that arrow?" So the guards brought him in haste the misdemeanant, whose name was Yatr,[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 Prince's 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 sovran's 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 king's 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 king's 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 "Subhna '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 king's 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 Ayln Shh, 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 Tammm, 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 Ayln Shh 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's 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 master's 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 lord's." 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 Tammam's 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's 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 king's 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 Tammam's death, they rejoiced with exceeding joy and knew that the king's 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, "Amn,[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 king's 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 king's 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 girl's 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 child's nativity denoteth