that, in the seventh year of his age, there is fearful danger for him from a lion, which shall attempt to rend him: and if he be saved from the lion, there will betide a matter yet sorer and more grievous even than that." Asked the king, "What is it?" and they answered, "We will not speak, except the king command us and give us assurance from fear." Quoth the king, "Allah assure you!" and quoth they, "An he be saved from the lion, the king's destruction shall be at his hand." When the king heard this, his complexion changed and his breast was straitened; but he said to himself, "I will be watchful and do my endeavour and suffer not the lion to eat him. It cannot be that he will kill me, and indeed The astrologers lied.'"[FN#224] Then he caused rear him among the wet-nurses and the noble matrons;[FN#225] but withal he ceased not to ponder the prediction of the astrophils and verily his life was troubled. So he betook himself to the top of a high mountain and hollowed there a deep excavation[FN#226] and made in it many dwelling-places and rooms and filled it with all that was needful of rations and raiment and what not else and laid in it pipe-conduits of water from the mountain and lodged the boy therein, with a nurse who should rear him. Moreover, at the first of each month he used to go to the mountain and stand at the mouth of the hollow and let down a rope he had with him and draw up the boy to him and strain him to his bosom and kiss him and play with him awhile, after which he would let him down again to his place and return; and he was wont to count the days till the seven years should pass by. Now when arrived the time of the Fate foreordered and the Fortune graven on the forehead and there remained for the boy but ten days till the seven years should be complete, there came to that mountain hunters chasing wild beasts and, seeing a lion, they attacked him. He fled from them and seeking refuge in the mountain, fell into the hollow in its midst. The nurse saw him forthwith and escaped from him into one of the chambers; upon which the lion made for the lad and seizing upon him, tare his shoulder, after which he sought the room wherein was the nurse and falling upon her, devoured her, whilst the boy lay in a swoon. Meanwhile, when the huntsmen saw that the lion had fallen into the pit, they came to the mouth and heard the shrieking of the boy and the woman; and after awhile the cries died away, whereby they knew that the lion had slain them. Presently, as they stood by the mouth of the excavation behold, the lion came scrambling up the sides and would have issued forth: but, as often as he showed his head, they pelted him with stones, till they beat him down and he fell; whereupon one of the hunters descended into the pit and despatched him and saw the boy wounded; after which he went to the chamber, where he found the woman dead, and indeed the lion had eaten his fill of her. Then he noted that which was therein of clothes and what not else, and notifying his mates, fell to passing the stuff up to them: lastly, he took up the boy and bringing him forth of the pit, carried him to their dwelling-place where they dressed his wounds. He grew up with them, but acquainted them not with his affair; and indeed, when they questioned him, he knew not what he should say, because they let him down into the pit when he was a little one. The hunters marvelled at his speech and loved him with exceeding love and one of them took him to son and abode rearing him by his side and training him in hunting and horseriding, till he reached the age of twelve and became a brave, going forth with the folk to the chase and to the cutting of the way. Now it chanced one day that they sallied forth to stop the road and fell in with a caravan during the night: but its stout fellows were on their guard; so they joined battle with the robbers and overcame them and slew them and the boy fell wounded and tarried cast down in that place till the morrow, when he opened his eyes and finding his comrades slain, lifted himself up and arose to walk the road. Presently, there met him a man, a treasure-seeker, and asked him, "Whither away, O lad?" So he told him what had betided him and the other said, "Be of good heart, for that the tide of thy good fortune is come and Allah bringeth thee joy and gladness. I am one who am in quest of a hidden treasure, wherein is a mighty mickle of wealth. So come with me that thou mayst help me, and I will give thee monies with which thou shalt provide thyself all thy life long." Then he carried the youth to his dwelling and dressed his wounds and he tarried with him some days till he was rested; when the treasure-seeker took him and two beasts and all that he needed, and they fared on till they came to a towering highland. Here the man brought out a book and reading therein, dug in the crest of the mountain five cubits deep, whereupon there appeared to him a stone. He pulled it up and behold it was a trap-door covering the mouth of a pit. So he waited till the foul air[FN#227] was come forth from the midst of the pit, when he bound a rope about the lad's middle and let him down bucket-wise to the bottom, and with him a lighted waxen taper. The boy looked and beheld, at the upper end of the pit, wealth abundant; so the treasure-seeker let down a rope and a basket and the boy fell to filling and the man to drawing up, till the fellow had got his sufficiency, when he loaded his beasts and ceased working, whilst the boy looked for him to let down the rope and draw him up; but he rolled a great stone to the mouth of the pit and went his ways. When the boy saw what the treasure-seeker had done with him, he relied upon Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) and abode perplexed concerning his case and said, "How bitter be this death!" for indeed the world was darkened on him and the pit was blinded to him. So he fell a-weeping and saying, "I escaped the lion and the robbers and now is my death to be in this pit, where I shall die by slow degrees." And he abode perplexed and looked for nothing but death. But as he stood pondering, behold, he heard a sound of water rushing with a thunderous noise; so he arose and walked in the pit following the sound, till he came to a corner and heard the mighty coursing of water. Then he laid his ear to the sound of the current and hearing it rushing in great strength, said to himself, "This is the flowing of a mighty watercourse and needs must I depart life in this place, be it to-day or to-morrow; so I will throw myself into the stream and not die a slow death in this pit." Thereupon he called up his courage and gathering up his skirts, cast himself into the water, and it bore him along with force exceeding and carrying him under the earth, stayed not till it brought him out into a deep Wady, adown which ran a great river, that welled up from under the ground. When he found himself on the face of earth, he abode dazed and a-swoon all that day; after which he came to himself and rising, fared on along that valley; and he ceased not his wayfare, praising Almighty Allah the while, till he came to an inhabited land and a great village in the reign of the king his sire. So he entered and foregathered with the villagers, who questioned him of his case; whereupon he told them his tale, and they admired how Allah had delivered him from all those dangers. Then he took up his abode with them and they loved him much. On this wise happened it to him; but as regards the king, his father, when he went to the pit, as was his wont, and called the nurse, she returned him no answer, whereat his breast was straitened and he let down a man who found the woman dead and the boy gone and acquainted therewith the king, who when he heard this, buffeted his head and wept with sore weeping and descended into the midst of the pit that he might see how the case stood. There he espied the nurse slain and the lion dead, but beheld not the boy; so he returned and acquainted the astrologers with the soothfastness of their saying, and they replied, "O king, the lion hath eaten him; destiny hath been wroughten upon him and thou art delivered from his hand; for, had he been saved from the lion, we indeed, by Allah, had feared for thee from him, because the king's destruction would have been at his hand." So the king ceased to sorrow for this and the days passed by and the affair was forgotten. Meanwhile the boy grew up and abode with the people of the village, and when Allah willed the accomplishing of His commandment, which no endeavour availeth to avert, he went forth with a party of the villagers to cut the way. The folk complained to King Ibrahim his father, who sallied out with a company of his men and surrounded the highwaymen. Now that boy was with them, and he drew forth an arrow and launched it at them, and it smote the king and wounded him in a mortal place. So they carried him to his palace, after they had laid hands upon the youth and his comrades and brought them before the sovran, saying, "What biddest us to do with them?" Quoth he, "I am presently in trouble for myself, so bring me the astrologers." Accordingly, they brought them before him and he said to them, "Ye said to me Thy death shall be by slaying at the hand of thy son: how, then, befalleth it that I have got my death-hurt by yonder thieves?" The astrologers marvelled and said to him, "O king, 'tis not beyond the lore of the stars, together with the doom of Allah, that he who hath smitten thee should be thy son." When King Ibrahim heard this, he bade fetch the thieves and said to them, "Tell me truly, which of you shot the shaft that wounded me." Said they, "'Twas this youth that is with us." Whereupon the king fell to considering him and said, "O youth, acquaint me with thy case and tell me who was thy father and thou shalt have assurance of safety from Allah." The youth replied, "O my lord, I know no father; as for me, my father lodged me in a pit, with a nurse to rear me, and one day, there fell in upon us a lion, which tare my shoulder, then left me and occupied himself with the nurse and rent her in pieces; and Allah vouchsafed me one who brought me forth the pit." Then he related to him all that had befallen him, first and last; which when King Ibrahim heard, he cried out and said, "By Allah, this is my son!" presently adding, "Bare thy shoulder." So he uncovered it, and behold, it was scarred. Then the king assembled his lords and lieges and the astrologers and said to them, "Know that what Allah hath writ upon the forehead, be it fair fortune or misfortune, none may efface, and all that is decreed to a man must perforce befal him. Indeed, this my care-taking and my endeavour profited me naught, for what weird Allah decreed for my son, he hath dreed and whatso He decreed to me I have endured. Nevertheless, I praise Allah and thank Him because this was at my son's hand, and not at the hand of another, and Alhamdolillah—laud to the Lord—for that the kingship is come to my son!" And he strained the youth to his bosom and embraced him and kissed him, saying "O my son, this matter was after such fashion, and of my watchfulness over thee from Fate, I lodged thee in that pit; but caretaking availed not." Then he took the crown of the kingship and set it on his son's head and caused the lieges and the people do homage to him and commended the subjects to his care and enjoined to him justice and equity. And he farewelled him that night and died and his son reigned in his stead.[FN#228] "On like wise, O king" (continued the young treasurer), "'tis with thee. If Allah have written aught on my forehead, needs must it befal me and my speech to the king shall not avail me; no, nor my illustrating it to him with instances, against the doom of Allah. And so it is with these Wazirs, for all their eagerness and endeavour for my destruction, this shall not profit them; because, if Allah determine to save me, He will give me the victory over them." When the king heard these words he became perplexed and said, "Return him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair, for the day draweth to an end and I mean to do him dead in foulest sort, and to-morrow we will visit him with that which he meriteth."
The Tenth Day.
Of the Appointed Term,[FN#229] Which, if it be Advanced, may not be Deferred, and if it be Deferred, may not be Advanced.
When it was the tenth day (now this day was called Al-Mihrjn[FN#230] and it was the day of the coming in of the folk, gentle and simple, to the king, so they might give him joy and salute him and go forth), the council of the Wazirs agreed that they should speak with a company of the city notables. So they said to them, "When ye go in today to the king and salute him, do ye say to him, O king (to the Lord be the laud!), thou art praiseworthy of policy and procedure and just to all thy subjects; but respecting this youth whom thou hast favoured and who nevertheless hath reverted to his base origin and done this foul deed, what is thy purpose in his continuance? Indeed, thou hast prisoned him in thy palace, and every day thou hearest his palaver and thou knowest not what the folk say.'" And they answered, "Hearing is obeying." Accordingly, when they entered with the folk and had prostrated themselves before the king and congratulated his majesty, he raised their several degrees. Now it was the custom of the folk to salute and go forth; but they took seat, and the king knew that they had a word they would fain address to him: so he turned to them (the Wazirs being also present) and said, "Ask your need." Therefore they repeated to him all that the Ministers had taught them and the Wazirs also spoke with them; and Azadbakht said to them, "O folk, I would have it known to you that there is no doubt with me concerning this your speech proceeding from love and loyal counsel to me, and ye ken that, were I inclined to kill half these folk, I could do them die and this would not be hard to me; so how shall I not slay this youth and he in my power and in the hending of my hand? Indeed, his crime is manifest and he hath incurred death penalty; and I have deferred it only by reason of the greatness of the offence; for, an I do this with him and my proof against him be strengthened, my heart is healed and the heart of my whole folk; and if I slay him not to-day, his slaying shall not escape me to-morrow." Then he bade fetch the youth who, when present between his hands, prostrated to him and blessed him; whereupon quoth the king, "Woe to thee! How long shall the folk upbraid me on thine account and blame me for delaying thy death? Even the people of my city reproach me because of thee, so that I am grown a prating-stock amongst them, and indeed they come in to me and reproach me for not putting thee to death. How long shall I delay this? Verily, this very day I mean to shed thy blood and rid the folk of thy prattling." The youth replied, "O king, an there have betided thee talk because of me, by Allah, and again by Allah the Great, those who have brought on thee this talk from the folk are none but these wicked Wazirs, who chatter with the crowd and tell them foul tales and ill things in the king's house, but I hope in the Most High that He will cause their malice to recoil upon their own heads. As for the king's menace of slaying me, I am in the grip of his hand; so let not the king occupy his mind with my slaughter, because I am like the sparrow in the grasp of the fowler; if he will, he cutteth his throat, and if he will, he letteth him go. As for the delaying of my death, 'tis not from the king, but from Him in whose hand is my life; for, by Allah, O king, an the Almighty willed my slaughter, thou couldst not postpone it; no, not for a single hour. And, indeed, man availeth not to fend off evil from himself, even as it was with the son of King Sulayman Shah, whose anxiety and carefulness for the winning of his wish in the matter of the new-born child availed him naught, for his last hour was deferred how many a time! and Allah saved him until he had accomplished his period and had fulfilled his life-term." Cried the king, "Fie upon thee, how great is thy craft and thy talk! Tell me, what was their tale." And the youth said, "Hear, O king,
The Story of King Sulayman Shah and his Niece.[FN#231]
There was once a king named Sulayman Shh, who was goodly of policy and rede, and he had a brother who died and left a daughter; so Sulayman Shah reared her with the best of rearing and the girl became a model of reason and perfection, nor was there in her time a more beautiful than she. Now the king had two sons, one of whom he had appointed in his mind to wed her, while the other purposed to take her. The elder son's name was Bahluwn[FN#232] and that of the younger Malik Shh[FN#233], and the girl was called Shh Khtn. Now one day, King Sulayman Shah went in to his brother's daughter and kissing her head, said to her, "Thou art my daughter and dearer to me than a child, for the love of thy late father who hath found mercy; wherefore I purpose espousing thee to one of my sons and appointing him my heir apparent, so he may be king after me. Look, then, which thou wilt have of my sons,[FN#234] for that thou hast been reared with them and knowest them." The maiden arose and kissing his hand, said to him, "O my lord, I am thine hand-maid and thou art the ruler over me; so whatever liketh thee do that same, inasmuch as thy wish is higher and honourabler and holier than mine and if thou wouldst have me serve thee as a hand-maid for the rest of my life, 'twere fairer to me than any mate." The king commended her speech and conferred on her a robe of honour and gave her magnificent gifts; after which, his choice having fallen upon his younger son, Malik Shah, he wedded her with him and made him his heir apparent and bade the folk swear fealty to him. When this reached his brother Bahluwan and he was ware that his younger brother had by favour been preferred over him, his breast was straitened and the affair was sore to him and envy entered in to him and hate; but he hid this in his heart, whilst fire raged therein because of the damsel and the dominion. Meanwhile Shah Khatun went in bridal splendour to the king's son and conceived by him and bare a son, as he were the illuming moon. When Bahluwan saw this betide his brother, envy and jealousy overcame him; so he went in one night to his father's palace and coming to his brother's chamber, saw the nurse sleeping at the door, with the cradle before her and therein his brother's child asleep. Bahluwan stood by him and fell to looking upon his face, whose radiance was as that of the moon, and Satan insinuated himself into his heart, so that he bethought himself and said, "Why be not this babe mine? Verily, I am worthier of him than my brother; yea, and of the damsel and the dominion." Then the idea got the mastery of him and anger drave him, so that he took out a knife, and setting it to the child's gullet, cut his throat and would have severed his windpipe. So he left him for dead and entering his brother's chamber, saw him asleep, with the Princess by his side, and thought to slay her, but said to himself, "I will leave the girl-wife for myself." Then he went up to his brother and cutting his throat, parted head from body, after which he left him and went away. But now the world was straitened upon him and his life was a light matter to him and he sought the lodging of his sire Sulayman Shah, that he might slay him also, but could not get admission to him. So he went forth from the palace and hid himself in the city till the morrow, when he repaired to one of his father's fortalices and therein fortified himself. On this wise it was with him; but as regards the nurse, she presently awoke that she might give the child suck, and seeing the cradle running with blood, cried out; whereupon the sleepers started up and the king was aroused and making for the place, found the child with his throat cut and the bed running over with blood and his father dead with a slit weasand in his sleeping chamber. They examined the child and found life in him and his windpipe whole and they sewed up the place of the wound: then the king sought his son Bahluwan, but found him not and saw that he had fled; so he knew that it was he who had done this deed, and this was grievous to the king and to the people of his realm and to the lady Shah Khatun. Thereupon the king laid out his son Malik Shah and buried him and made him a mighty funeral and they mourned with passing sore mourning; after which he applied himself to rearing the infant. As for Bahluwan, when he fled and fortified himself, his power waxed amain and there remained for him but to make war upon his father, who had cast his fondness upon the child and used to rear him on his knees and supplicate Almighty Allah that he might live, so he might commit the command to him. When he came to five years of age, the king mounted him on horseback and the people of the city rejoiced in him and prayed for him length of life, that he might take vengeance for his father[FN#235] and heal his grandsire's heart. Meanwhile, Bahluwan the rebel[FN#236] addressed himself to pay court to Caesar, king of the Roum[FN#237] and crave aid of him in debelling his father, and he inclined unto him and gave him a numerous army. His sire the king hearing of this sent to Caesar, saying, "O glorious king of might illustrious, succour not an evil doer. This is my son and he hath done so and so and cut his brother's throat and that of his brother's son in the cradle." But he told not the king of the Roum that the child had recovered and was alive. When Caesar heard the truth of the matter, it was grievous to him as grievous could be, and he sent back to Sulayman Shah, saying, "An it be thy wish, O king, I will cut off his head and send it to thee." But he made answer, saying, "I care naught for him: soon and surely the reward of his deed and his crimes shall overtake him, if not to-day, then tomorrow." And from that date he continued to exchange letters and presents with Caesar. Now the king of the Roum heard tell of the widowed Princess[FN#238] and of the beauty and loveliness wherewith she was endowed, wherefore his heart clave to her and he sent to seek her in wedlock of Sulayman Shah, who could not refuse him. So he arose and going in to Shah Khatun, said to her, "O my daughter, the king of the Roum hath sent to me to seek thee in marriage. What sayst thou?" She wept and replied, "O king, how canst thou find it in thy heart to address me thus? As for me, abideth there husband for me, after the son of my uncle?" Rejoined the king, "O my daughter, 'tis indeed as thou sayest; but here let us look to the issues of affairs. I must now take compt of death, for that I am a man short in years and fear not save for thee and for thy little son; and indeed I have written to the king of the Roum and others of the kings and said, His uncle slew him, and said not that he had recovered and is living, but concealed his affair. Now the king of the Roum hath sent to demand thee in marriage, and this is no thing to be refused and fain would we have our back strengthened with him."[FN#239] And she was silent and spake not. So King Sulayman Shah made answer to Caesar with "Hearing and obeying." Then he arose and despatched her to him, and Caesar went in to her and found her passing the description wherewith they had described her; wherefore he loved her every day more and more and preferred her over all his women and his affection for Sulayman Shah was increased; but Shah Khatun's heart still clave to her child and she could say naught. As for Sulayman Shah's son, the rebel Bahluwan, when he saw that Shah Khatun had married the king of the Roum, this was grievous to him and he despaired of her. Meanwhile, his father Sulayman Shah watched over the child and cherished him and named him Malik Shah, after the name of his sire. When he reached the age of ten, he made the folk do homage to him and appointed him his heir apparent, and after some days, the old king's time for paying the debt of nature drew near and he died. Now a party of the troops had banded themselves together for Bahluwan; so they sent to him, and bringing him privily, went in to the little Malik Shah and seized him and seated his uncle Bahluwan on the throne of kingship. Then they proclaimed him king and did homage to him all, saying, "Verily, we desire thee and deliver to thee the throne of kingship; but we wish of thee that thou slay not thy brother's son, because we are still bounden by the oaths we sware to his sire and his grandsire and the covenants we made with them." So Bahluwan granted this to them and imprisoned the boy in an underground dungeon and straitened him. Presently, the grievous news reached his mother and this was to her a fresh grief; but she could not speak and committed her affair to Allah Almighty, for that she durst not name this to King Caesar her spouse, lest she should make her uncle King Sulayman Shah a liar. But as regards Bahluwan the Rebel, he abode king in his father's place and his affairs prospered, while young Malik Shah lay in the souterrain four full-told years, till his favour faded and his charms changed. When He (extolled and exalted be He!) willed to relieve him and to bring him forth of the prison, Bahluwan sat one day with his chief Officers and the Lords of his land and discoursed with them of the story of his sire, King Sulayman Shah and what was in his heart. Now there were present certain Wazirs, men of worth, and they said to him, "O king, verily Allah hath been bountiful to thee and hath brought thee to thy wish, so that thou art become king in thy father's place and hast won whatso thou wishedst. But, as for this youth, there is no guilt in him, because he, from the day of his coming into the world, hath seen neither ease nor pleasure, and indeed his favour is faded and his charms changed. What is his crime that he should merit such pains and penalties? Indeed, others than he were to blame, and hereto Allah hath given thee the victory over them, and there is no fault in this poor lad." Quoth Bahluwan, "Verily, 'tis as ye say; but I fear his machinations and am not safe from his mischief; haply the most part of the folk will incline unto him." They replied, "O king, what is this boy and what power hath he? An thou fear him, send him to one of the frontiers." And Bahluwan said, "Ye speak sooth; so we will send him as captain of war to reduce one of the outlying stations." Now over against the place in question was a host of enemies, hard of heart, and in this he designed the slaughter of the youth; so he bade bring him forth of the underground dungeon and caused him draw near to him and saw his case. Then he robed him, whereat the folk rejoiced, and bound for him the banners[FN#240] and, giving him a mighty many, despatched him to the quarter aforesaid, whither all who went or were slain or were taken. Accordingly Malik Shah fared thither with his force and when it was one of the days, behold, the enemy attacked them in the night; whereupon some of his men fled and the rest the enemy captured; and they seized Malik Shah also and cast him into a pit with a company of his men. His fellows mourned over his beauty and loveliness and there he abode a whole twelvemonth in evillest plight. Now at the beginning of every year it was the enemy's wont to bring forth their prisoners and cast them down from the top of the citadel to the bottom; so at the customed time they brought them forth and cast them down, and Malik Shah with them. However, he fell upon the other men and the ground touched him not, for his term was God-guarded. But those who were cast down there were slain upon the spot and their bodies ceased not to lie there till the wild beasts ate them and the winds scattered their bones. Malik Shah abode strown in his place and aswoon, all that day and that night, and when he revived and found himself safe and sound, he thanked Allah the Most High for his safety and rising, left the place. He gave not over walking, unknowing whither he went and dieting upon the leaves of the trees; and by day he hid himself where he might and fared on at hazard all his night; and thus he did for some days, till he came to a populous part and seeing folk there, accosted them. He acquainted them with his case, giving them to know that he had been prisoned in the fortress and that they had thrown him down, but Almighty Allah had saved him and brought him off alive. The people had ruth on him and gave him to eat and drink and he abode with them several days; then he questioned them of the way that led to the kingdom of his uncle Bahluwan, but told them not that he was his father's brother. So they showed him the road and he ceased not to go barefoot, till he drew near his uncle's capital, naked, anhungered, and indeed his limbs were lean and his colour changed. He sat down at the city gate, when behold, up came a company of King Bahluwan's chief officers, who were out a-hunting and wished to water their horses. They lighted down to rest and the youth accosted them, saying, "I would ask you of somewhat that ye may acquaint me therewith." Quoth they, "Ask what thou wilt;" and quoth he, "Is King Bahluwan well?" They derided him and replied, "What a fool art thou, O youth! Thou art a stranger and a beggar, and whence art thou that thou should'st question concerning the king?"[FN#241] Cried he, "In very sooth, he is my uncle;" whereat they marvelled and said, "'Twas one catch-question[FN#242] and now 'tis become two." Then said they to him, "O youth, it is as if thou wert Jinn-mad. Whence comest thou to claim kinship with the king? Indeed, we know not that he hath any kith and kin save a nephew, a brother's son, who was prisoned with him, and he despatched him to wage war upon the infidels, so that they slew him." Said Malik Shah, "I am he and they slew me not, but there befel me this and that." They knew him forthwith and rising to him, kissed his hands and rejoiced in him and said to him, "O our lord, thou art indeed a king and the son of a king, and we desire thee naught but good and we pray for thy continuance. Look how Allah hath rescued thee from this wicked uncle, who sent thee to a place whence none ever came off safe and sound, purposing not in this but thy destruction; and indeed thou fellest upon death from which Allah delivered thee. How, then, wilt thou return and cast thyself again into thine foeman's hand? By Allah, save thyself and return not to him this second time. Haply thou shalt abide upon the face of the earth till it please Almighty Allah to receive thee; but, an thou fall again into his hand, he will not suffer thee to live a single hour." The Prince thanked them and said to them, "Allah reward you with all weal, for indeed ye give me loyal counsel; but whither would ye have me wend?" Quoth they, "To the land of the Roum, the abiding place of thy mother." "But," quoth he, "My grandfather Sulayman Shah, when the king of the Roum wrote to him demanding my mother in marriage, hid my affair and secreted my secret; and she hath done the same, and I cannot make her a liar." Rejoined they, "Thou sayst sooth, but we desire thine advantage, and even wert thou to take service with the folk, 'twere a means of thy continuance." Then each and every of them brought out to him money and gave him a modicum and clad him and fed him and fared on with him the length of a parasang, till they brought him far from the city, and letting him know that he was safe, departed from him, whilst he journeyed till he came forth of his uncle's reign and entered the dominion of the Roum. Then he made a village and taking up his abode therein, applied himself to serving one there in earing and seeding and the like. As for his mother, Shah Khatun, great was her longing for her child and she thought of him ever and news of him was cut off from her, so her life was troubled and she foresware sleep and could not make mention of him before King Caesar her spouse. Now she had a Castrato who had come with her from the court of her uncle King Sulayman Shah, and he was intelligent, quick-witted, right-reded. So she took him apart one day and said to him, shedding tears the while, "Thou hast been my Eunuch from my childhood to this day; canst thou not therefore get me tidings of my son, seeing that I cannot speak of his matter?" He replied, "O my lady, this is an affair which thou hast concealed from the commencement, and were thy son here, 'twould not be possible for thee to entertain him, lest[FN#243] thine honour be smirched with the king; for they would never credit thee, since the news hath been bruited abroad that thy son was slain by his uncle." Quoth she, "The case is even as thou sayst and thou speaketh sooth; but, provided I know that my son is alive, let him be in these parts pasturing sheep and let me not sight him nor he sight me." He asked, "How shall we manage in this matter?" and she answered, "Here be my treasures and my wealth: take all thou wilt and bring me my son or else tidings of him." Then they devised a device between them, which was that they should feign some business in their own country, to wit that she had wealth there buried from the time of her husband, Malik Shah, and that none knew of it but this Eunuch who was with her, so it behoved him to go fetch it. Accordingly she acquainted the king her husband with that and sought his permit for the Eunuch to fare: and the king granted him leave of absence for the journey and charged him devise a device, lest he come to grief. The Castrato, therefore, disguised himself in merchant's habit and repairing to Bahluwan's city, began to make espial concerning the youth's case; whereupon they told him that he had been prisoned in a souterrain and that his uncle had released him and despatched him to such a place, where they had slain him. When the Eunuch heard this, the mishap was grievous to him and his breast was straitened and he knew not what to do. It chanced one day of the days that a certain of the horsemen, who had fallen in with the young Malik Shah by the water and clad him and given him spendingmoney, saw the Eunuch in the city, habited as a merchant, and recognising him, questioned him of his case and of the cause of his coming. Quoth he, "I came to sell merchandise;" and quoth the horseman, "I will tell thee somewhat, an thou canst keep it secret." Answered the Neutral, "That I can! What is it?" and the other said, "We met the king's son Malik Shah, I and sundry of the Arabs who were with me, and saw him by such a water and gave him spending-money and sent him towards the land of the Roum, near his mother, for that we feared for him lest his uncle Bahluwan slay him." Then he told him all that had passed between them, whereat the Eunuch's countenance changed and he said to the cavalier "Thou art safe!" The knight replied, "Thou also art safe though thou come in quest of him." And the Eunuch rejoined, saying, "Truly, that is my errand: there is no rest for his mother, lying down or rising up, and she hath sent me to seek news of him." Quoth the cavalier, "Go in safety, for he is in a quarter of the land of the Roum, even as I said to thee." The Castrato thanked him and blessed him and mounting, returned upon his road, following the trail, whilst the knight rode with him to a certain highway, when he said to him, "This is where we left him." Then he took leave of him and returned to his own city, whilst the Eunuch fared on along the road, enquiring in every village he entered of the youth, by the description which the rider had given him, and he ceased not thus to do till he came to the village wherein was young Malik Shah. So he entered, and dismounting, made enquiry after the Prince, but none gave him news of him; whereat he abode perplexed concerning his affair and made ready to depart. Accordingly he mounted his horse; but, as he passed through the village, he saw a cow bound with a rope and a youth asleep by her side, hending the halter in hand; so he looked at him and passed on and heeded him not in his heart; but presently he halted and said to himself, "An the youth whom I am questing have become the like of this sleeping youth whom I passed but now, how shall I know him? Alas, the length of my travail and travel! How shall I go about in search of a somebody I know not, one whom, if I saw him face to face I should not know?" So saying he turned back, musing anent that sleeping youth, and coming to him, he still sleeping, dismounted from his mare and sat down by his side. He fixed his eyes upon his face and considered him awhile and said in himself, "For aught I wot, this youth may be Malik Shah;" then he began hemming and saying, "Harkye, O youth!" Whereupon the sleeper awoke and sat up; and the Eunuch asked him, "Who be thy father in this village and where be thy dwelling?" The youth sighed and replied, "I am a stranger;" and quoth the Castrato, "From what land art thou and who is thy sire?" Quoth the other, "I am from such a land," and the Eunuch ceased not to question him and he to answer his queries, till he was certified of him and knew him. So he rose and embraced him and kissed him and wept over his case: he also told him that he was wandering about in search of him and informed him that he was come privily from the king, his mother's husband, and that his mother would be satisfied to weet that he was alive and well, though she saw him not. Then he re-entered the village and buying the Prince a horse, mounted him and they ceased not going till they came to the frontier of their own country, where there fell robbers upon them by the way and took all that was with them and pinioned them; after which they threw them in a pit hard by the road and went their ways and left them to die there; and indeed they had cast many folk into that pit and they had perished. The Eunuch fell a-weeping in the pit and the youth said to him, "What is this weeping and what shall it profit here?" Quoth the Castrato, "I weep not for fear of death, but of ruth for thee and the cursedness of thy case and because of thy mother's heart and for that which thou hast suffered of horrors and that thy death should be this ignoble death, after the endurance of all manner dire distresses." But the youth said, "That which hath betided me was writ to me and that which is written none hath power to efface; and if my life-term be advanced, none may defer it."[FN#244] Then the twain passed that night and the following day and the next night and the next day in the hollow, till they were weak with hunger and came nigh upon death and could but groan feebly. Now it fortuned by the decree of Almighty Allah and His destiny, that Caesar, king of the Greeks, the spouse of Malik Shah's mother Shah Khatun, went forth a-hunting that morning. He flushed a head of game, he and his company, and chased it, till they came up with it by that pit, whereupon one of them lighted down from his horse, to slaughter it, hard by the mouth of the hollow. He heard a sound of low moaning from the sole of the pit; whereat he arose and mounting his horse, waited till the troops were assembled. Then he acquainted the king with this and he bade one of his servants descend into the hollow: so the man climbed down and brought out the youth and the Eunuch in fainting condition. They cut their pinion-bonds and poured wine down their throats, till they came to themselves, when the king looked at the Eunuch and recognising him, said, "Harkye, Suchan-one!" The Castrato replied, "Yes, O my lord the king," and prostrated himself to him; whereat the king wondered with exceeding wonder and asked him, "How camest thou to this place and what hath befallen thee?" The Eunuch answered, "I went and took out the treasure and brought it thus far; but the evil eye was behind me and I unknowing. So the thieves took us alone here and seized the money and cast us into this pit that we might die the slow death of hunger, even as they had done with others; but Allah the Most High sent thee, in pity to us." The king marvelled, he and his, and praised the Lord for that he had come thither; after which he turned to the Castrato and said to him, "What is this youth thou hast with thee?" He replied, "O king, this is the son of a nurse who belonged to us and we left him when he was a little one. I saw him to-day and his mother said to me, Take him with thee;' so this morning I brought him that he might be a servant to the king, for that he is an adroit youth and a clever." Then the king fared on, he and his company, and with them the Eunuch and the youth, who questioned his companion of Bahluwan and his dealing with his subjects, and he replied, saying, "As thy head liveth, O my lord the king, the folk are in sore annoy with him and not one of them wisheth a sight of him, be they high or low." When the king returned to his palace, he went in to his wife Shah Khatun and said to her, "I give thee the glad tidings of thine Eunuch's return;" and he told her what had betided and of the youth whom he had brought with him. When she heard this, her wits fled and she would have screamed, but her reason restrained her, and the king said to her, "What is this? Art thou overcome with grief for the loss of the monies or for that which hath befallen the Eunuch?" Said she, "Nay, as thy head liveth, O king, but women are weaklings." Then came the Castrato and going in to her, told her all that had happened to him and also acquainted her with her son's case and with that which he had suffered of distresses and how his uncle had exposed him to slaughter, and he had been taken prisoner and they had cast him into the pit and hurled him from the highmost of the citadel and how Allah had delivered him from these perils, all of them; and whilst he recounted to her all this, she wept. Then she asked him, "When the king saw him and questioned thee of him, what was it thou saidst him?" and he answered, "I said to him, This is the son of a nurse who belonged to us. We left him a little one and he grew up; so I brought him, that he might be servant to the king.'" Cried she, "Thou didst well;" and she charged him to serve the Prince with faithful service. As for the king, he redoubled in kindness to the Castrato and appointed the youth a liberal allowance and he abode going in to and coming out of the king's house and standing in his service, and every day he waxed better with him. As for Shah Khatun, she used to station herself at watch for him at the windows and in the balconies and gaze upon him, and she frying on coals of fire on his account; yet could she not speak. In such condition she abode a long while and indeed yearning for him was killing her; so she stood and watched for him one day at the door of her chamber and straining him to her bosom, bussed him on the breast and kissed him on either cheek. At this moment, behold, out came the major-domo of the king's household and seeing her embracing the youth, started in amazement. Then he asked to whom that chamber belonged and was answered, "To Shah Khatun, wife of the king," whereupon he turned back, quaking as one smitten by a leven-bolt. The king saw him in a tremor and said to him, "Out on thee! what is the matter?" Said he, "O king, what matter can be more grievous than that which I see?" Asked the king, "What seest thou?" and the officer answered, "I see that the youth, who came with the Eunuch, was not brought with him save on account of Shah Khatun; for I passed but now by her chamber door, and she was standing, watching; and when the youth came up, she rose to him and clipped him and kissed him on his cheek." When the king heard this, he bowed his head amazed, perplexed, and sinking into a seat, clutched at his beard and shook it until he came nigh upon plucking it out. Then he arose forthright and laid hands on the youth and clapped him in jail. He also took the Eunuch and cast them both into a souterrain under his palace. After this he went in to Shah Khatun and said to her, "Brava, by Allah, O daughter of nobles. O thou whom kings sought to wed, for the purity of thy repute and the fairness of the fame of thee! How seemly is thy semblance! Now may Allah curse her whose inward contrarieth her outward, after the likeness of thy base favour, whose exterior is handsome and its interior fulsome, face fair and deeds foul! Verily, I mean to make of thee and of yonder ne'er-do-well an example among the lieges, for that thou sentest not thine Eunuch but of intent on his account, so that he took him and brought him into my palace and thou hast trampled[FN#245] my head with him; and this is none other than exceeding boldness; but thou shalt see what I will do with you all." So saying, he spat in her face and went out from her; whilst Shah Khatun said nothing, well knowing that, an she spoke at that time, he would not credit her speech. Then she humbled herself in supplication to Allah Almighty and said, "O God the Great, Thou knowest the things by secrecy ensealed and their outwards revealed and their inwards concealed! If an advanced life-term be appointed to me, let it not be deferred, and if a deferred one, let it not be advanced!" On this wise she passed some days, whilst the king fell into bewilderment and forsware meat and drink and sleep, and abode knowing not what he should do and saying to himself, "An I slay the Eunuch and the youth, my soul will not be solaced, for they are not to blame, seeing that she sent to fetch him, and my heart careth not to kill them all three. But I will not be hasty in doing them die, for that I fear repentance." Then he left them, so he might look into the affair. Now he had a nurse, a foster-mother, on whose knees he had been reared, and she was a woman of understanding and suspected him, yet dared not question him. So she went in to Shah Khatun and finding her in yet sadder plight than he, asked her what was to do; but she refused to answer. However, the nurse gave not over coaxing and questioning her, till she swore her to concealment. Accordingly, the old woman made oath that she would keep secret all that she should say to her, whereupon the Queen to her related her history, first and last, and told her that the youth was her son. With this the old woman prostrated herself before her and said to her, "This is a right easy matter." But the Queen replied, "By Allah, O my mother, I prefer my destruction and that of my son to defending myself by a plea which they will not believe; for they will say, She pleadeth this only that she may fend off shame from herself.' And naught will profit me save long-suffering." The old woman was moved by her speech and her wisdom and said to her, "Indeed, O my daughter, 'tis as thou sayest, and I hope in Allah that He will show forth the truth. Have patience and I will presently go in to the king and hear his words and machinate somewhat in this matter, Inshallah!" Thereupon the ancient dame arose and going in to the king, found him with his head between his knees in sore pain of sorrow. She sat down by him awhile and bespake him with soft words and said to him,[FN#246] "Indeed, O my son, thou consumest my vitals, for that these many days thou hast not mounted horse, and thou grievest and I know not what aileth thee." He replied, "O my mother, all is due to yonder accursed, of whom I deemed so well and who hath done this and that." Then he related to her the whole story from beginning to end, and she cried to him, "This thy chagrin is on account of a no-better-than-she-should-be!" Quoth he, "I was but considering by what death I should slay them, so the folk may take warning and repent." And quoth she, "O my son, 'ware precipitance, for it gendereth repentance and the slaying of them shall not escape thee. When thou art assured of this affair, do whatso thou willest." He rejoined, "O my mother, there needeth no assurance anent him for whom she despatched her Eunuch and he fetched him." But she retorted, "There is a thing wherewith we will make her confess,[FN#247] and all that is in her heart shall be discovered to thee." Asked the king, "What is that?" and she answered, "I will bring thee the heart of a hoopoe,[FN#248] which, when she sleepeth, do thou lay upon her bosom and question her of everything thou wouldst know, and she will discover the same unto thee and show forth the truth to thee." The king rejoiced in this and said to his nurse, "Hasten thou and let none know of thee." So she arose and going in to the Queen, said to her, "I have done thy business and 'tis as follows. This night the king will come in to thee and do thou seem asleep; and if he ask thee of aught, do thou answer him, as if in thy sleep." The Queen thanked her and the old dame went away and fetching the bird's heart, gave it to the king. Hardly was the night come, when he went in to his wife and found her lying back, a-slumbering; so he sat down by her side and laying the hoopoe's heart on her breast, waited awhile, so he might be assured that she slept. Then said he to her, "Shah Khatun,[FN#249] Shah Khatun, is this my reward from thee?" Quoth she, "What offence have I committed?" and quoth he, "What offence can be greater than this? Thou sentest after yonder youth and broughtest him hither, on account of the lust of thy heart, so thou mightest do with him that for which thou lustedst." Said she, "I know not carnal desire. Verily, among thy pages are those who are comelier and seemlier than he; yet have I never desired one of them." He asked "Why, then, didst thou lay hold of him and kiss him?" And she answered, "This youth is my son and a piece of my liver; and of my longing and affection for him, I could not contain myself, but sprang upon him and kissed him." When the king heard this, he was dazed and amazed and said to her, "Hast thou a proof that this youth is thy son? Indeed, I have a letter from thine uncle King Sulayman Shah, informing me that his uncle Bahluwan cut his throat." Said she "Yes, he did indeed cut his throat, but severed not the wind-pipe; so my uncle sewed up the wound and reared him, for that his life-term was not come." When the king heard this, he said, "This proof sufficeth me," and rising forthright in the night, bade bring the youth and the Eunuch. Then he examined his stepson's throat with a candle and saw the scar where it had been cut from ear to ear, and indeed the place had healed up and it was like a thread stretched out. Thereupon the king fell down prostrate before Allah, who had delivered the Prince from all these perils and from the distresses he had suffered, and rejoiced with joy exceeding because he had delayed and had not made haste to slay him, in which case mighty sore repentance had betided him.[FN#250] "As for the youth," continued the young treasurer, "he was not saved but because his life-term was deferred, and in like manner, O king, 'tis with me: I too have a deferred term, which I shall attain, and a period which I shall accomplish, and I trust in Almighty Allah that He will give me the victory over these villain Wazirs." When the youth had made an end of his speech, the king said, "Restore him to the prison;" and when they had done this, he turned to the Ministers and said to them, "Yonder youth lengtheneth his tongue upon you, but I know your tenderness for the weal of mine empire and your loyal counsel to me; so be of good heart, for all that ye advise me I will do." They rejoiced when they heard these words, and each of them said his say. Then quoth the king, "I have not deferred his slaughter but to the intent that the talk might be prolonged and that words might abound, yet shall he now be slain without let or stay, and I desire that forthright ye set up for him a gibbet without the town and that the crier cry among the folk bidding them assemble and take him and carry him in procession to the gibbet, with the crier crying before him and saying, This is the reward of him whom the king delighted to favour and who hath betrayed him!'" The Wazirs rejoiced when they heard this, and for their joy slept not that night; and they made proclamation in the city and set up the gallows.
The Eleventh Day.
Of the Speedy Relief of Allah.
When it was the eleventh day, the Wazirs repaired in early morning to the king's gate and said to him, "O king, the folk are assembled from the portals of the palace to the gibbet, to the end they may see the king's order carried out on the youth." So Azadbakht bade fetch the prisoner and they brought him; whereupon the Ministers turned to him and said to him, "O vile of birth, can any lust for life remain with thee and canst thou hope for deliverance after this day?" Said he, "O wicked Wazirs, shall a man of understanding renounce all esperance in Almighty Allah? Howsoever a man be oppressed, there cometh to him deliverance from the midst of distress and life from the midst of death, as in the case of the prisoner and how Allah delivered him." Asked the king, "What is his story?" and the youth answered, saying, "O king, they tell
The Story of the Prisoner and How Allah Gave Him Relief.[FN#251]
There was once a king of the kings, who had a high palace, overlooking his prison, and he used to hear in the night one saying, "O Ever-present Deliverer, O Thou whose deliverance is aye present, relieve Thou me!" One day the king waxed wroth and said, "Yonder fool looketh for relief from the pains and penalties of his crime." Then said he to his officers, "Who is in yonder jail?" and said they, "Folk upon whom blood hath been found."[FN#252] Hearing this the king bade bring that man before him and said to him, "O fool, O little of wit, how shalt thou be delivered from this prison, seeing that thy crime is mortal?" Then he committed him to a company of his guards and said to them, "Take this wight and crucify him within sight of the city." Now it was the night season. So the soldiers carried him without the city, thinking to crucify him, when behold, there came out upon them robbers and fell upon them with swords and other weapons. Thereat the guards left him whom they purposed to slay and fled whilst the man who was going to slaughter also took to flight and plunging deep into the desert, knew not whither he went before he found himself in a copse and there came out upon him a lion of terrible aspect, who snatched him up and cast him under him. Then he went up to a tree and uprooting it, covered the man therewithal and made off into the thicket, in quest of the lioness.[FN#253] As for the man, he committed his affair to Allah the Most High, relying upon Him for deliverance, and said to himself, "What is this affair?" Then he removed the leaves from himself and rising, saw great plenty of men's bones there, of those whom the lion had devoured. He looked again and behold, he saw a heap of gold lying alongside a purse-belt;[FN#254] whereat he marvelled and gathering up the gold in the breast of his gaberdine, went forth of the copse and fled at hap-hazard, turning neither to the right nor to the left, in his fear of the lion; nor did he cease flying till he came to a village and cast himself down, as he were dead. He lay there till the day appeared and he was rested from his travail, when he arose and burying the gold, entered the village. Thus Allah gave him relief and he got the gold. Then said the king, "How long wilt thou beguile us, O youth, with thy prate? But now the hour of thy slaughter is come." So he bade crucify him upon the gibbet. But as they were about to hoist him up, lo and behold! the Captain of the thieves, who had found him and reared him, came up at that moment and asked, "What be this assembly and the cause of the crowds here gathered together?" They informed him that a page of the king had committed a mighty great crime and that he was about to do him die; so the Captain of the thieves pressed forward and looking upon the prisoner, knew him, whereupon he went up to him and strained him to his bosom and threw his arms round his neck, and fell to kissing him upon his mouth.[FN#255] Then said he, "This is a boy I found under such a mountain, wrapped in a gown of brocade, and I reared him and he fell to cutting the way with us. One day, we set upon a caravan, but they put us to flight and wounded some of us and took the lad and ganged their gait. From that day to this I have gone round about the lands seeking him, but have not found news of him till now; and this is he." When the king heard this, he was assured that the youth was his very son; so he cried out at the top of his voice and casting himself upon him, embraced him and kissed him and shedding tears, said, "Had I put thee to death, as was mine intent, I should have died of regret for thee." Then he cut his pinion-bonds and taking his crown from his head, set it on the head of his son, whereupon the people raised cries of joy, whilst the trumpets blared and the kettledrums beat and there befel a mighty great rejoicing. They decorated the city and it was a glorious day; even the birds stayed their flight in the welkin, for the greatness of the greeting and the clamour of the crying. The army and the folk carried the prince to the palace in splendid procession, and the news came to his mother Bahrjaur, who fared forth and threw herself upon him. Moreover, the king bade open the prison and bring forth all who were therein, and they held high festival seven days and seven nights and rejoiced with a mighty rejoicing. Thus it betided the youth; but as regards the Ministers, terror and silence, shame and affright fell upon them and they gave themselves up for lost. After this the king sat, with his son by his side and the Wazirs on their knees before him, and summoned his chief officers and the subjects of the city. Then the prince turned to the Ministers and said to them, "See, O villain Wazirs, the work of Allah and his speedy relief." But they answered ne'er a syllable and the king said, "It sufficeth me that there is nothing alive but rejoiceth with me this day, even to the birds in the sky, but ye, your breasts are straitened. Indeed, this is the greatest of hostility in you mewards, and had I hearkened to you, my regret had been prolonged and I had died miserably of sorrow." Quoth the prince, "O my father, but for the fairness of thy thought and thy perspicacity and thy longanimity and deliberation in affairs, there had not betided thee this great joy. Hadst thou slain me in haste, repentance would have been sore on thee and longsome annoy, and on this wise whoso preferreth haste shall rue." Presently the king sent for the Captain of the robbers and bade indue him with a robe of honour, commanding that all who loved the king should doff their dresses and cast them upon him.[FN#256] So there fell robes of honour on him, till he was a-wearied with their weight, and Azadbakht invested him with the mastership of the police of his city. Then he bade set up other nine gibbets by the side of the first and said to his son, "Thou art innocent, and yet these villain Wazirs strave for thy slaughter." Replied the prince, "O my sire, I had no fault in their eyes but that I was a loyal counsellor to thee and still kept watch over thy wealth and withdrew their hands from thy hoards and treasuries; wherefore they were jealous and envied me and plotted against me and planned to slay me." Quoth the king, "The time of retribution is at hand, O my son; but what be thy rede we should do with them in requital of that they did with thee? And indeed they have striven for thy slaughter and exposed thee to disgrace and smirched mine honour among the kings." Then he turned to the Wazirs and said to them, "Woe to you! What liars ye are! And is aught of excuse left to you?" Said they, "O king, there remaineth no excuse for us and we are houghed[FN#257] by the deed we would have done to him. Indeed we planned evil to this youth and it hath reverted upon us, and we plotted mischief against him and it hath overtaken us; yea, we digged for him a pit and we ourselves have fallen into it." So the king bade hoist up the Wazirs upon the gibbets and crucify them there, because Allah is just and decreeth that which is due. Then Azadbakht and his wife and son abode in joyance and gladness, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and they died all; and extolled be the Living One, who dieth not, to whom be glory and whose mercy be upon us for ever and ever! Amen.
JA'AFAR BIN YAHYA AND ABD AL-MALIK BIN SALITH THE ABBASIDE[FN#258]
It is told of Ja'afar bin Yahy the Barmecide that he sat down one day to wine and, being minded to be private, sent for his boon-companions, with whom he was most familiar, and charged the chamberlain that he suffer none of the creatures of Almighty Allah to enter, save a man of his cup-mates, by name Abd al-Malik bin Slih, who was behindhand with them. Then they donned brightly-dyed dresses.[FN#259] for it was their wont, as often as they sat in the wine-sance, to endue raiment of red and yellow and green silk, and they sat down to drink, and the cups went round the lutes thrilled and shrilled. Now there was a man of the kinsfolk of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, by name Abd al-Malik bin Salih[FN#260] bin Ali bin Abdallah bin al-Abbas,[FN#261] who was great of gravity and sedateness, piety and propriety, and Al- Rashid used instantly to require that he should company him in converse and carouse and drink with him and had offered him to such end abounding wealth, but he never would. It fortuned that this Abd al-Malik bin Salih came to the door of Ja'afar bin Yahya, so he might bespeak him of certain requisitions of his, and the chamberlain, doubting not but he was the Abd al-Malik bin Salih aforesaid (whom Ja'afar had permitted him admit and that he should suffer none but him to enter), allowed him to go in to his master. Accordingly Abd al-Malik went in, garbed in black, with his Rusfiyah[FN#262] on his head. When Ja'afar saw him, his reason was like to depart for shame and he understood the case, to wit, that the chamberlain had been deceived by the likeness of the name; and Abd al-Malik also perceived how the matter stood and perplexity was manifest to him in Ja'afar's face. So he put on a cheery countenance and said, "No harm be upon you![FN#263] Bring us of these dyed clothes." Thereupon they brought him a dyed robe[FN#264] and he donned it and sat discoursing gaily with Ja'afar and jesting with him. Then said he, "Allow us to be a partaker in your pleasures, and give us to drink of your Nabz."[FN#265] So they brought him a silken robe and poured him out a pint, when he said, "We crave your indulgence, for we have no wont of this." Accordingly Ja'afar ordered a flagon of Nabz be set before him, that he might drink whatso he pleased. Then, having anointed himself with perfumes, he chatted and jested with them till Ja'afar's bosom broadened and his constraint ceased from him and his shame, and he rejoiced in this with joy exceeding and asked Abd al-Malik, "What is thine errand? Inform me thereof, for I cannot sufficiently acknowledge they courtesy." Answered the other, "I come (amend thee Allah!) on three requirements, of which I would have thee bespeak the Caliph; to wit, firstly, I have on me a debt to the amount of a thousand thousand dirhams,[FN#266] which I would have paid: secondly, I desire for my son the office of Wali or governor of a province,[FN#267] whereby his rank may be raised: and thirdly, I would fain have thee marry him to Al-'Aliyah, the daughter of the Commander of the Faithful, for that she is his cousin and he is a match for her." Ja'afar said, "Allah accomplisheth unto thee these three occasions. As for the money, it shall be carried to thy house this very hour: as for the government, I make thy son Viceroy of Egypt; and as for the marriage, I give him to mate Such-an-one, the daughter of our lord the Prince of True Believers, at a dowry of such and such a sum. So depart in the assurance of Allah Almighty." Accordingly Abd al-Malik went away much astonished at Ja'afar's boldness in undertaking such engagements. He fared straight for his house, whither he found that the money had preceded him, and in the morrow Ja'afar presented himself before Al-Rashid and acquainted him with what had passed, and that he had appointed Abd al-Malik's son Wali of Egypt[FN#268] and had promised him his daughter, Al-'Aliyah to wife. The Caliph was pleased to approve of this and he confirmed the appointment and the marriage. Then he sent for the young man and he went not forth of the palace of the Caliphate till Al- Rashid wrote him the patent of investiture with the government of Egypt; and he let bring the Kazis and the witnesses and drew up the contract of marriage.
AL-RASHID AND THE BARMECIDES[FN#269]
It is said that the most wondrous of matters which happened to Al-Rashid was this. his brother Al-Hd,[FN#270] when he succeeded to the Caliphate, enquired of a seal-ring of great price, which had belonged to his father Al-Mahdi,[FN#271] and it reached him that Al-Rashid had taken it. So he required it of him, but he refused to give it up, and Al-Hadi insisted upon him, yet he still denied the seal-ring of the Caliphate. Now this was on Tigris-bridge, and he threw the ring into the river.[FN#272] When Al-Hadi died and Al-Rashid succeeded to the Caliphate, he went in person to that very place with a seal-ring of lead, which he cast into the stream at the same stead, and bade the divers seek it. So the duckers did his bidding and brought up the first ring, and this was counted an omen of Al-Rashid's good fortune and of the continuance of his reign.[FN#273] When Al-Rashid come to the throne, he invested Ja'afar bin Yahy bin Khlid al- Barmaki[FN#274] with the Wazirate. Now Ja'afar was eminently noted for generosity and munificence, and the histories of him to this purport are renowned and have been documented. None of the Wazirs rose to the rank and favour whereto he attained with Al- Rashid, who was wont to call him brother[FN#275] and used to carry him with him into his house. The period of his Wazirate was nineteen[FN#276] years, and Yahya one day said to his son Ja'afar, "O my son, as long as thy reed trembleth,[FN#277] water it with kindness." Men differ concerning the reason of Ja'afar's slaughter, but the better opinion of it is follows. Al-Rashid could not bear to be parted from Ja'afar nor from his own sister 'Abbsah, daughter of Al-Mahdi, a single hour, and she was the loveliest woman of her day; so he said to Ja'afar, "I will marry thee to her, that it may be lawful to thee to look upon her, but thou shalt not touch her." After this time the twain used to be present in Al-Rashid's sitting chamber. Now the Caliph would get up bytimes and leave the chamber, and they being filled with wine as well as being young, Ja'afar would rise to her and know her carnally.[FN#278] She conceived by him and bare a handsome boy; and, fearing Al-Rashid, she dispatched the new-born child by one of her confidants to Meccah the Magnified (May Allah Almighty greaten it in honor and increase it in venerance and nobility and magnification!). the affair abode concealed till there befel a brabble between Abbasah and one of her hand-maidens whereupon the slave-girl discovered the affair of the child to Al-Rashid and acquainted him with its abiding-place. So, when the Caliph pilgrimaged, he sent one who brought him the boy and found the matter true, where he caused befel the Barmecides whatso befel.[FN#279]
IBN AL-SAMMAK AND AL-RASHID[FN#280]
It is related that Ibn al-Sammk[FN#281] went in one day to Al- Rashid, and the Caliph, being athirst, called for drink. So his cup was brought him, and when he took it, Ibn al-Sammak said to him, "Softly, O Prince of True Believers! An thou wert denied this draught, with how much wouldst thou buy it?" He replied, "With the half of my reign;" and Ibn al-Sammak said, "Drink and Allah make it grateful to thee!" Then, when he had drunken; he asked him, "An thou wert denied the issuing forth of the draught from thy body, with what wouldst thou buy its issue?" Answered Al-Rashid, "With the whole of my reign;" and Ibn al-Sammak said, "O Commander of the Faithful, verily, a realm that weighteth not in the balance against a draught of water or a voiding of urine is not worth the striving for." And Harun wept.
AL-MAAMUN AND ZUBAYDAH[FN#282]
It is said that Al-Maamn[FN#283] came one day upon Zubaydah, mother of Al-Amn,[FN#284] and saw her moving her lips and muttering somewhat he understood not; so he said to her, "O mother mine, art thou cursing me because I slew thy son and spoiled him of his realm?" Said she, "Not so, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful!" and quoth he, "What then was it thou saidest?" Quoth she, "Let the Prince of True Believers excuse me." But he was urgent with her, saying, "There is no help but that thou tell it." And she replied, "I said, Allah confound importunity!" He asked, "How so?" and she answered, "I played one day at chess with the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al- Rashid, and he imposed on me the condition of forfeits.[FN#285] He won and made me doff my dress and walk around the palace, stark naked; so I did this, and I felt incensed against him. Then we fell to playing and I won; whereat I made him go to the kitchen and lie with the foulest and fulsomest wench of the wenches thereof; but I found not a slave-girl fouler and filthier than they mother;[FN#286] so I so bade him tumble her. He did my bidding and she conceived by him of thee, and thus was I the cause of the slaying of my son and the spoiling of him of his realm." When Al-Maamn heard this, he turned away, saying, "Allah curse the importunate!" that is, himself, who had importuned her till she acquainted him with that affair.
AL-NU'UMAN AND THE ARAB OF THE BANU TAY[FN#287]
It is said that Al-Nu'umn[FN#288] had two boon-companions, one of whom was hight Ibn Sa'ad and the other Amr bin al-Malik, and he became one night drunken and bade bury them alive; so they buried him. When he arose on the morrow, he asked for them and was acquainted with their affair, whereupon he built over them a building and appointed to himself a day of ill-luck and a day of good fortune. If any met him on his unlucky day, he slew him and with his blood he washed that monument, which is a place well known in Kufah; and if any met him on this day of good fortune he enriched him. Now there accosted him once, on his day of ill- omen, an Arab of the Ban Tay[FN#289] and Al-Nu'uman would have done him dead; but the Arab said, "Allah quicken the king! I have two little girls and have made none guardian over them; wherefore, and the king see fit to grant me leave to go to them, I will give him the covenant of Allah[FN#290] that I will return to him, as soon as I shall have appointed unto them a guardian." Al-Nu'uman had ruth on him and said to him, "An a man will be surety for thee of those who are with us, I will let thee go, and if thou return not I will slay him." Now there was with Al- Nu'uman his Wazir Sharik bin Amru: so the T[FN#291] looked at him and said,
"Ho thou, Sharik, O Amru-son is there fro' Death repair? * O brother to men brotherless, brother to all in care! O brother of Al-Nu'uman an old man this day spare, * An old man slain and Allah deign fair meed for thee prepare!"
Quoth Sharik, "On me be his warranty, Allah assign the king!" So the T departed, after a term had been assigned him for his returning. Now when the appointed day arrived, Al-Nu'uman sent for Sharik and said to him, "Verily the high noon of this day is past;" and Sharik answered, "the king hath no procedure against me till it be eventide." Whenas evened the evening there appeared one afar off and Al-Nu'uman fell to looking upon him and on Sharik who said to him, "Thou hast no right over me till yonder person come, for haply he is my man." As he spake, up came the T in haste and Al-Nu'uman said, "By Allah, never saw I any more generous than you two! I know not which of you be the nobler, whether this one who became warrant for thee in death-risk or thou who returnest to thy slaughter." Then quoth he to Sharik, "What drave thee to become warrant for him, knowing the while it was death?" and quoth he, "I did this lest it be said, Generosity hath departed from Wazirs." Then Al-Nu'uman asked the T, "And thou, what prompted thee to return, knowing that therein was death and thine one destruction?" and the Arab answered, "I did this lest it be said, Fidelity hath departed from the folk; for such thing would be a shame to mine issue and to my tribe." And Al-Nu'uman cried, "By Allah, I will be the third of you, lest it be said, Mercy hath departed from the kings." So he pardoned him and bade abolish the day of ill-luck; whereupon the Arab began to say,
"A many urged me that I false my faith, * But I refused whatso the wights could plead; For I'm a man in whom Faith dwells for aye, * And every true man's word is pledge of deed."
Quoth Al-Nu'uman, "What prompted thee to keep faith, the case being as thou sayest?" Quoth he, "O king, it was my religion." Al-Nu'uman asked, "What is thy religion?" and he answered "The Nazarene!" The king said, "Expound it to me." So the T expounded it to him and Al-Nu'uman became a Christian.[FN#292]
FIRUZ AND HIS WIFE[FN#293]
They relate that a certain king sat one day on the terrace-roof of his palace, solacing himself with the view, and presently, his wandering glances espied, on a house-top over against his palace, a woman seer never saw her like. So he turned to those present and asked them, "To whom belongeth yonder house?" when they answered, "To thy servant Frz, and that is his spouse." So he went down (and indeed passion had made him drunken as with wine, and he was deeply in love of her), and calling Firuz, said to him, "Take this letter and go with it to such a city and bring me the reply." Firuz took the letter and going to his house, laid it under his head and passed that night; and when the morning morrowed, he farewelled his wife and fared for that city, unknowing what his sovran purposed against him. As for the king, he arose in haste after the husband had set out and repairing to the house of Firuz in disguise, knocked at the entrance. Quoth Firuz's wife, "Who's at the door?" and quoth he, saying, "I am the king, thy husband's master." So she opened and he entered and sat down, saying, "We are come to visit thee." She cried, "I seek refuge[FN#294] from this visitation, for indeed I deem not well of it;" but the king said, "O desire of hearts, I am thy husband's master and methinks thou knowest me not." She replied, "Nay, I know thee, O my lord and master, and I wot thy purpose and whatso thou wantest and that thou art my husband's lord. I understand what thou wishest, and indeed the poet hath forestalled thee in his saying of the verses referring to thy case,
'Now will I leave your water way untrod; * For many treading that same way I see: When fall the clustering flies upon the food, * I raise my hand whate'er my hunger be: And lions eke avoid the water way * When dogs to lap at fountain side are free.' "
Then said she, "O king, comest thou to a watering place whereat thy dog hath drunk and wilt thou drink thereof?" The king was abashed at her and at her words and fared forth from her but forgot his sandal in the house. Such was his case; but as regards Firuz, when he went forth from his house, he sought the letter, but found it not in pouch; so he returned home. Now his return fell in with the king's going forth and he came upon the sandal in his house, whereat his wit was wildered and he knew that the king had not sent him away save for a device of his own. However, he kept silence and spake not a word, but, taking the letter, went on his mission and accomplished it and returned to the king, who gave him an hundred dinars. So Firuz betook himself to the bazar and bought what beseemeth women of goodly gifts and returning to his wife, saluted her and gave her all he had purchased, and said to her, "Arise and hie thee to thy father's home." Asked she, "Wherefore?" and he answered, "Verily, the king hath been bountiful to me and I would have thee make this public, so thy father may joy in that which he seeth upon thee." She rejoined "With love and gladness," and arising forthwith, betook herself to the house of her father, who rejoiced in her coming and in that which he saw upon her; and she abode with him a month's space, and her husband made no mention of her. Then came her brother to him and said, "O Firuz, an thou wilt not acquaint me with the reason of thine anger against thy wife, come and plead with us before the king." Quoth he, "If ye will have me plead with you, I will e'en plead." So they went to the king and found the Kazi sitting with him; whereupon the damsel's brother began, "Allah assist our lord the Kazi! I let this man on hire a flower-garden, high-walled, with a well well-conditioned and trees fruit-laden; but he beat down its walls and ruined its well and ate its fruits, and now he desireth to return it to me." The Kazi turned to Firuz and asked him, "What sayest thou, O youth?" when he answered, "Indeed, I delivered him the garden in better case than it was before." So the Kazi said to the brother, "Hath he delivered to thee the garden, as he avoucheth?" And the pleader replied, "No; but I desire to question him of the reason of his returning it." Quoth the Kazi, "What sayest thou, O youth?" And quoth Firuz, "I returned it willy nilly, because I entered it one day and saw the trail of the lion; so I feared lest an I entered it again, the lion should devour me. Wherefore that which I did, I did of reverence to him and for fear of him." Now the king was leaning back upon the cushion, and when he heard the young man's words, he comprehended the purport thereof; so he sat up and said, "Return to thy flower-garden in all ease of heart; for, by Allah, never saw I the like of thy garth nor stronger of guard than its walls over its trees!" So Firuz returned to his wife, and the Kazi knew not the truth of the affair, no, nor any of those who were in that assembly, save the king and the husband and the wife's brother.
KING SHAH BAKHT AND HIS WAZIR AL-RAHWAN.[FN#295]
They relate that there was once, in days of yore and in bygone ages and times long gone before, a king of the kings of the time, Shah Bakht hight, who had troops and servants and guards in hosts and a Wazir called Al-Rahwn, who was learned, understanding, a loyal counsellor and a cheerful acceptor of the commandments of Almighty Allah, to whom belong Honour and Glory. The king committed to this Minister the affairs of his kingdom and his lieges and spake according to his word, and in this way he abode a long space of time. Now this Wazir had many foes, who envied his position and sought to do him harm, but thereunto found no way and the Lord, in His immemorial fore-knowledge and His fore-ordinance decreed that the king dreamt that the Minister Al-Rahwan gave him a fruit from off a tree and he ate it and died. So he awoke, startled and troubled, and when the Wazir had presented himself before him and had retired and the king was alone with those in whom he trusted, he related to them his vision and they advised him to send for the astrologers and interpreters and commended to him a Sage, whose skill and wisdom they attested. Accordingly the king bade him be brought and entreated him with honour and made him draw near to himself. Now there had been in private intercourse with that Sage a company of the Wazir's enemies, who besought him to slander the Minister to the king and counsel him to do him dead, in view of what they promised him of much wealth; and he made agreement with them on this and acquainted the king that the Minister would slay him within the coming month and bade him hasten to put him to death, else would he surely be killed. Presently, the Wazir entered and the king signed to him to clear the place. So he signed to those who were present to withdraw, and they withdrew; whereupon quoth the king to him, "How deemest thou, O Minister of loyal counsel in all manner of contrivance, concerning a vision I have seen in my sleep?" "What is it, O king?" asked the Wazir, and Shah Bakht related to him his dream, adding, "And indeed the Sage interpreted it to me and said to me, An thou do not the Wazir dead within a month, assuredly he will slay thee.' Now to put the like of thee to death, I am loath exceedingly, yet to leave thee on life do I sorely fear. How then dost thou advise me act in this affair?" The Wazir bowed his head earthwards awhile, then raised it and said, "Allah prosper the king! Verily, it availeth not to continue him on life of whom the king is afraid, and my counsel is that thou hasten to put me out of the world." When the king heard his speech and dove into the depths of his meaning, he turned to him and said, "'Tis grievous to me, O Wazir of good rede;" and he told him that the other sages had attested the wit and wisdom of the astrophil. Now hearing these words Al-Rahwan sighed and knew that the king went in fear of him; but he showed him fortitude and said to him, "Allah assain the sovran! My rede is that the king carry out his commandment and his decree be dight, for that needs must death be and 'tis fainer to me that I die oppressed, than that I die an oppressor. But, an the king judge proper to postpone the putting of me to death till the morrow and will pass this night with me and farewell me whenas the morning cometh, the king shall do whatso he willeth." Then he wept tell he wetted his gray hairs and the king was moved to ruth for him and granted him that which he craved and vouchsafed him a respite for that night.[FN#296]
The First Night of the Month.
When it was eventide, the king caused clear his sitting chamber and summoned the Wazir, who presented himself and making his obeisance to the king, kissed ground before him and related to him
The Tale of the Man of Khorasan, his Son and his Tutor.
There was once a man of Khorasan and he had a son, whose moral weal he ardently wished; but the young man sought to be alone and far from the eye of his father, so he might give himself up to pleasuring and pleasance. Accordingly he sought of his sire leave to make the pilgrimage to the Holy House of Allah and to visit the tomb of the Prophet (whom Allah save and assain!). Now between them and Meccah was a journey of five hundred parasangs; but his father could not contrary him, for that the Holy Law had made pilgrimage[FN#297] incumbent on him and because of that which he hoped for him of improvement. So he joined unto him a tutor, in whom he trusted, and gave him much money and took leave of him. The son set out with his governor on the holy pilgrimage,[FN#298] and abode on the like wise, spending freely and using not thrift. Also there was in his neighbourhood a poor man, who had a slave-girl of passing beauty and grace, and the youth conceived a desire for her and suffered sore cark and care for the love of her and her loveliness, so that he was like to perish for passion; and she also loved him with a love yet greater than his love for her. Accordingly, the damsel summoned an old woman who used to visit her and acquainted her with her case, saying, "An I foregather not with him, I shall die." The crone promised her that she would do her best to bring her to her desire; so she veiled herself and repairing to the young man, saluted him with the salam and acquainted him with the girl's case, saying, "Her master is a greedy wight; so do thou invite him and lure him with lucre, and he will sell thee the hand-maiden." Accordingly, he made a banquet, and standing in the man's way, invited him[FN#299] and brought him to his house, where they sat down and ate and drank and abode in talk. Presently, the young man said to the other, "I hear thou hast with thee a slave-girl, whom thou desirest to sell;" but he said, "By Allah, O my lord, I have no mind to sell her!" Quoth the youth, "I have heard that she cost thee a thousand dinars, and I will give thee six hundred over and above that sum;" and quoth the other, "I sell her to thee at that price." So they fetched notaries who wrote out the contract of sale, and the young man weighed to the girl's master half the purchase money, saying, "Let her be with thee till I complete to thee the rest of the price and take my hand-maid." The owner consented to this and took of him a written bond for the rest of the money, and the girl abode with her master, on deposit.[FN#300] As for the youth, he gave his governor a thousand dirhams and sent him to his sire, to fetch money from him, so he might pay the rest of the hand-maid's price, saying to him, "Be not long away." But the tutor said in his mind, "How shall I fare to his father and say to him, Thy son hath wasted thy money and made love with it?'[FN#301] With what eye shall I look on him and, indeed, I am he in whom he confided and to whom he hath entrusted his son? Verily, this were ill rede. Nay, I will fare on with this pilgrimage-caravan[FN#302] in despite of my fool of a youth; and when he is weary of waiting, he will demand back his money and return to his father, and I shall be quit of travail and trouble." So he went on with the pilgrimage caravan[FN#303] and took up his abode there.[FN#304] Meanwhile, the youth tarried expecting his tutor's return, but he returned not; wherefore concern and chagrin grew upon him because of his mistress, and his yearning for her redoubled and he was like to kill himself. She became aware of this and sent him a messenger, bidding him visit her. Accordingly he went to her, and she questioned him of the case; when he told her what was to do of the matter of his tutor, and she said to him, "With me is longing the like of that which is with thee, and I doubt me thy messenger hath perished or thy father hath slain him; but I will give thee all my jewellery and my dresses, and do thou sell them and weigh out the rest of my price, and we will go, I and thou, to thy sire." So she handed to him all she had and he sold it and paid the rest of her price; after which there remained to him for spending-money an hundred dirhams. These he spent and lay that night with the damsel in all delight of life, and his sprite was like to fly for joy: but when he arose in the morning, he sat weeping and the damsel said to him, "What causeth thee to weep?" Said he, "I know not an my father be dead, and he hath none other heir save myself; but how shall I get to him, seeing I own not a dirham?" Quoth she, "I have a bangle; sell it and buy seed-pearls with the price: then round them and fashion them into great unions[FN#305] and thereby thou shalt gain much money, with the which we may find our way to thy country." So he took the bangle and repairing to a goldsmith, said to him, "Break up this bracelet and sell it;" but he said, "The king seeketh a perfect bracelet: I will go to him and bring thee its price." Presently he bore the bangle to the Sultan and it pleased him greatly by reason of its goodly workmanship. Then he called an old woman, who was in his palace, and said to her, "Needs must I have the mistress of this bracelet though but for a single night, or I shall die;" and the old woman replied, "I will bring her to thee." Thereupon she donned a devotee's dress and betaking herself to the goldsmith, said to him, "To whom belongeth the bangle which is now with the king?" and said he, "It belongeth to a stranger, who hath bought him a slave-girl from this city and lodgeth with her in such a place." Upon this the old woman repaired to the young man's house and knocked at the door. The damsel opened to her and seeing her clad in devotee's garb,[FN#306] saluted her with the salam and asked her saying, "Haply thou hast some need of us?" Answered the old woman, "Yes, I desire a private place, where I can perform the Wuzu-ablution;" and quoth the girl, "Enter." So she entered and did her requirement and made the ablution and prayed:[FN#307] then she brought out a rosary and began to tell her beads thereon, and the damsel said to her, "Whence comest thou, O pilgrimess?"[FN#308] Said she, "From visiting the Idol of the Absent in such a church.[FN#309] There standeth up no woman before him,[FN#310] who hath a distant friend and discloseth to him her desire, but he acquainteth her with her case and giveth her news of her absent one." Said the damsel, "O pilgrimess, we have an absent one, and my lord's heart cleaveth to him and I desire to go question the Idol of him." Quoth the crone, "Do thou wait till to-morrow and ask leave of thy spouse, and I will come to thee and fare with thee in weal and welfare." Then she went away, and when the girl's master came, she sought his permission to go with the old trot, and he gave her leave. So the beldame came and took her and carried her to the king's door, she, unknowing whither she went. The damsel entered with her and beheld a goodly house and decorated apartments which were no idol's chamber. Then came the king and seeing her beauty and loveliness, went up to her to buss her; whereupon she fell down in a fainting fit and struck out with her hands and feet.[FN#311] When he saw this, he held aloof from her in ruth and left her; but the matter was grievous to her and she refused meat and drink, and as often as the king drew near to her, she fled from him in fear, so he swore by Allah that he would not approach her save with her consent and fell to presenting her with ornaments and raiment; but her aversion to him only increased. Meanwhile, the youth her master abode expecting her; but she returned not and his heart already tasted the bitter draught of separation; so he went forth at hap-hazard, distracted and knowing not what he should do, and began strewing dust upon his head and crying out, "The old woman hath taken her and gone away!" The little boys followed him with stones and pelted him, crying, "A madman! A madman!" Presently, the king's Chamberlain, who was a personage of years and worth, met him, and when he saw this youth, he forbade the boys and drave them away from him, after which he accosted him and asked him of his affair. So he told him his tale and the Chamberlain said to him, "Fear not! I will deliver thy slavegirl for thee; so calm thy concern." And he went on to speak him fair and comfort him, till he had firm reliance on his word. Then he carried him to his home and stripping him of his clothes, clad him in rags; after which he called an old woman, who was his housekeeper,[FN#312] and said to her, "Take this youth and bind on his neck yon iron chain and go round about with him in all the great thoroughfares of the city, and when thou hast done this, go up with him to the palace of the king." And he said to the youth, "In whatsoever stead thou seest the damsel, speak not a syllable, but acquaint me with her place and thou shalt owe her deliverance to none save to me." The youth thanked him and went with the old woman in such fashion as the Chamberlain bade him. She fared on with him till they entered the city, and walked all about it; after which she went up to the palace of the king and fell to saying, "O fortune's favourites, look on a youth whom the devils take twice in the day and pray to be preserved from such affliction!" And she ceased not to go round with him till she came to the eastern wing[FN#313] of the palace, whereupon the slave-girls hurried out to look upon him and when they saw him they were amazed at his beauty and loveliness and wept for him. Then they informed the damsel, who came forth and considered him and knew him not; but he knew her; so he drooped his head and shed tears. She was moved to pity for him and gave him somewhat and went back to her place, whilst the youth returned with the housekeeper to the Chamberlain and told him that she was in the king's mansion, whereat he was chagrined and said, "By Allah, I will assuredly devise a device for her and deliver her!" Whereupon the youth kissed his hands and feet. Then he turned to the old woman and bade her change her habit and her semblance. Now this ancient dame was sweet of speech and winsome of wit; so he gave her costly and delicious ottars and said to her, "Get thee to the king's slave-girls and sell them these essences and win thy way to the damsel and ask her if she desire her master or not." So the old woman went out and making her way to the palace, went in to the hand-maid and drew near her and recited these couplets,
"Allah preserve our Union-days and their delights. * Ah me! How sweet was life! how joys were ever new! May he not be who cursed us twain with parting day; * How many a bone he brake, how many a life he slew! He shed my faultless tear-floods and my sinless blood; * And beggaring me of love himself no richer grew."
When the damsel heard the old woman's verses, she wept till her clothes were drenched and drew near the speaker, who asked her, "Knowest thou such-an-one?" And she wept and answered, "He is my lord. Whence knowest thou him?" Rejoined the old woman, "O my lady, sawest thou not the madman who came hither yesterday with the old woman? He was thy lord," presently adding, "But this is no time for talk. When 'tis night, get thee to the top of the palace and wait on the terrace till thy lord come to thee and compass thy deliverance." Then she gave her what she would of perfumes and returning to the Chamberlain, acquainted him with whatso had passed, and he told the youth. Now as soon as it was evening, the Chamberlain bade bring two hackneys and great store of water and provaunt and a riding-camel and a fellow to show them the way. These he ambushed without the town whilst he and the young man, taking with them a long rope, made fast to a staple, went and stood below the palace. Whenas they came thither, they looked and behold, the damsel was standing on the terrace-roof, so they threw her the rope and the staple, which she made fast, and tucking up her sleeves above her wrists, slid down and landed with them. They carried her without the town, where they mounted, she and her lord, and fared on, with the guide in front,[FN#314] directing them on the way, and they ceased not faring night and day till they entered his father's house. The young man greeted his sire, who was gladdened in him, and to whom he related all that had befallen him, whereupon he rejoiced in his safety. As for the tutor, he wasted whatso was with him and returned to the city, where he saw the youth and excused himself. Then he questioned him of what had betided him and he told him, whereat he admired and returned to companionship with him; but the youth ceased to have regard for him and gave him nor solde nor ration as was his wont, neither discovered to him aught of his secrets. When the tutor saw that there was no profit from him he returned to the king, the ravisher of the slave-girl, and recounted to him what the Chamberlain had done and counselled him to slay that official and egged him on to recover the damsel, promising to give his friend a poison-draught and return. Accordingly the king sent for the Chamberlain and chid him for the deed he had done; whereat the king's servants incontinently fell upon the Chamberlain and put him to death. Meanwhile the tutor returned to the youth, who asked him of his absence, and he told him that he had been in the city of the king who had taken the slave-girl. When the youth heard this, he misdoubted of his governor and never again trusted him in anything but was always on his guard against him. Then the tutor without stay or delay caused prepare great store of sweetmeats and put in them deadly poison and presented them to the youth, who, when he saw those sweetmeats, said to himself, "This is an extraordinary thing of the tutor! Needs must there be in this sweetmeat some mischief, and I will make proof of his confectionery upon himself." Accordingly he got ready food and set amongst it a portion of the sweetmeat, and inviting the governor to his house placed the provaunt before him. He ate, and amongst the rest which they brought him, the poisoned sweetmeat; so while in the act of eating he died; whereby the youth knew that this was a plot against himself and said, Whoso seeketh his fortune by his own force[FN#315] attaineth a failure." "Nor," continued the Wazir, "is this, O king of the age, stranger than the story of the Druggist and his Wife and the Singer." When King Shah Bakht heard the tale of Al-Rahwan he gave him leave to withdraw to his own house and he tarried there the rest of the night and the next day till eventide evened.