The First Day.
OF THE USELESSNESS OF ENDEAVOUR AGAINST PERSISTENT ILL FORTUNE.
When the morning morrowed and the king sat on the throne of his kingship, he summoned the chief of his viziers and said to him, "What deemest thou of this that yonder robber-youth hath done? Behold, he hath entered my house and lain down on my bed and I fear lest there be an intrigue between him and the woman. How deemest thou of the affair?" "God prolong the king's continuance!" replied the vizier. "What sawest thou in this youth [to make thee trust in him]? Is he not vile of origin, the son of thieves? Needs must a thief revert to his vile origin, and whoso reareth the young of the serpent shall get of them nought but biting. As for the woman, she is not at fault; for, since [the] time [of her marriage with thee] till now, there hath appeared from her nought but good breeding and modesty; and now, if the king give me leave, I will go to her and question her, so I may discover to thee the affair."
The king gave him leave for this and the vizier betook himself to the queen and said to her, "I am come to thee, on account of a grave reproach, and I would have thee be truthful with me in speech and tell me how came the youth into the sleeping-chamber." Quoth she, "I have no knowledge whatsoever [of it]" and swore to him a solemn oath thereof, whereby he knew that she had no knowledge of the matter and that she was not at fault and said to her, "I will teach thee a device, where- with thou mayst acquit thyself and thy face be whitened before the king." "What is it?" asked she; and he answered, saying, "When the king calleth for thee and questioneth thee of this, say thou to him, 'Yonder youth saw me in the privy-chamber and sent me a message, saying, "I will give thee a hundred jewels, to whose price money may not avail, so thou wilt suffer me to foregather with thee." I laughed at him who bespoke me with these words and rebuffed him; but he sent again to me, saying, "An thou fall not in with my wishes, I will come one of the nights, drunken, and enter and lie down in the sleeping-chamber, and the king will see me and kill me; so wilt thou be put to shame and thy face will be blackened with him and thine honour abased."' Be this thy saying to the king, and I will presently go to him and repeat this to him." Quoth the queen, "And I also will say thus."
So the vizier returned to the king and said to him, "Verily, this youth hath merited grievous punishment, after abundance of bounty [bestowed on him], and it may not be that a bitter kernel should ever become sweet; but, as for the woman, I am certified that there is no fault in her." Then he repeated to the king the story which he had taught the queen, which when Azadbekht heard, he rent his clothes and bade fetch the youth. So they brought him and stationed him before the king, who let bring the headsman, and the folk all fixed their eyes upon the youth, so they might see what the king should do with him.
Then said Azadbekht to him (and indeed his words were [prompted] by anger and those of the youth by presence of mind and good breeding), "I bought thee with my money and looked for fidelity from thee, wherefore I chose thee over all my grandees and servants and made thee keeper of my treasuries. Why, then, hast thou outraged my honour and entered my house and played the traitor with me and tookest no thought unto that which I have done thee of benefits?" "O king," answered the youth, "I did this not of my choice and freewill and I had no [evil] intent in being there; but, of the littleness of my luck, I was driven thither, for that fate was contrary and fair fortune lacking. Indeed, I had striven with all endeavour that nought of foul should proceed from me and kept watch over myself, lest default appear in me; but none may avail to make head against ill fortune, nor doth endeavour profit in case of lack of luck, as appeareth by the example of the merchant who was stricken with ill luck and his endeavour profited him not and he succumbed to the badness of his fortune." "What is the story of the merchant," asked the king, "and how was his luck changed upon him by the sorriness of his fortune?" "May God prolong the king's continuance!" answered the youth.
Story of the Unlucky Merchant.
"There was once a man, a merchant, who was fortunate in trade, and at one time his [every] dirhem profited [him] fifty. Presently, his luck turned against him and he knew it not; so he said in himself, 'I have wealth galore, yet do I weary myself and go round about from country to country; I were better abide in my own country and rest myself in my house from this travail and affliction and sell and buy at home.' Then he made two parts of his money, with one whereof he bought wheat in summer, saying, 'When the winter cometh, I will sell it at a great profit.' But, when the winter came, wheat became at half the price for which he had bought it, whereat he was sore concerned and left it till the next year. However, next year, the price fell yet lower and one of his friends said to him, 'Thou hast no luck in this wheat; so do thou sell it at whatsoever price.' Quoth the merchant, 'This long while have I profited and it is allowable that I lose this time. God is all- knowing! If it abide [with me] half a score years, I will not sell it save at a profit.'
Then, in his anger, he walled up the door of the granary with clay, and by the ordinance of God the Most High, there came a great rain and descended from the roofs of the house wherein was the wheat [so that the latter rotted]; and needs must the merchant give the porters five hundred dirhems from his purse, so they should carry it forth and cast it without the city, for that the smell of it was noisome. So his friend said to him, 'How often did I tell thee thou hadst no luck in wheat? But thou wouldst not give ear to my speech, and now it behoveth thee to go to the astrologer and question him of thy star.' Accordingly the merchant betook himself to the astrologer and questioned him of his star, and the astrologer said to him, 'Thy star is unpropitious. Put not thy hand to any business, for thou wilt not prosper therein.' However, he paid no heed to the astrologer's words and said in himself, 'If I do my occasion,[FN#103] I am not afraid of aught.' Then he took the other part of his money, after he had spent therefrom three years, and built [therewith] a ship, which he loaded with all that seemed good to him and all that was with him and embarked on the sea, so he might travel.
The ship tarried with him some days, till he should be certified what he would do,[FN#104] and he said, 'I will enquire of the merchants what this merchandise profiteth and in what country it lacketh and how much is the gain thereon.' [So he questioned them and] they directed him to a far country, where his dirhem should profit a hundredfold. Accordingly, he set sail and steered for the land in question; but, as he went, there blew on him a tempestuous wind and the ship foundered. The merchant saved himself on a plank and the wind cast him up, naked as he was, on the sea-shore, hard by a town there. So he praised God and gave Him thanks for his preservation; then, seeing a great village hard by, he betook himself thither and saw, seated therein, a very old man, whom he acquainted with his case and that which had betided him. The old man grieved sore for him, when he heard his story, and set food before him. So he ate and the old man said to him, 'Abide here with me, so I may make thee my steward and factor over a farm I have here, and thou shall have of me five dirhems [FN#105] a day.' 'God make fair thy reward,' answered the merchant, 'and requite thee with benefits!'
So he abode in this employ, till he had sowed and reaped and threshed and winnowed, and all was sheer in his hand and the owner appointed neither inspector nor overseer, but relied altogether upon him. Then he bethought himself and said, 'I* misdoubt me the owner of this grain will not give me my due; so I were better take of it, after the measure of my hire; and if he give me my due, I will restore him that which I have taken.' So he took of the grain, after the measure of that which fell to him, and hid it in a privy place. Then he carried the rest to the old man and meted it out to him, and he said to him, 'Come, take [of the grain, after the measure of] thy hire, for which I agreed with thee, and sell it and buy with the price clothes and what not else; and though thou abide with me half a score years, yet shall thou still have this wage and I will acquit it to thee thus.' Quoth the merchant in himself, 'Indeed, I have done a foul thing in that I look it without his leave.'
Then he went to fetch that which he had hidden of the grain, but found it not and returned, perplexed and sorrowful, to the old man, who said to him, 'What aileth thee to be sorrowful?' And he answered, 'Methought thou wouldst not pay me my due; so I took of the grain, after the measure of my hire; and now thou hast paid me my due and I went to bring back to thee that which I had hidden from thee, but found it gone, for those who had happened upon it had stolen it.' The old man was wroth, when he heard this, and said to the merchant, 'There is no device [can cope] with ill luck! I had given thee this, but, of the sorriness of thy luck and thy fortune, thou hast done this deed, O oppressor of thine own self! Thou deemedst I would not acquit thee thy wage; but, by Allah, nevermore will I give thee aught.' And he drove him away from him.
So the merchant went forth, afflicted, sorrowful, weeping, [and wandered on along the sea-shore], till he came to a sort of divers diving in the sea for pearls. They saw him weeping and mourning and said to him, 'What is thy case and what maketh thee weep?' So he acquainted them with his history, from first to last, whereby they knew him and said to him, 'Art thou [such an one] son of such an one?' 'Yes,' answered he; whereupon they condoled with him and wept sore for him and said to him, 'Abide here till we dive for thy luck this next time and whatsoever betideth us shall be between us and thee.' Accordingly, they dived and brought up ten oysters, in each two great pearls; whereat they marvelled and said to him, 'By Allah, thy luck hath returned and thy good star is in the ascendant!' Then they gave him ten pearls and said to him, 'Sell two of them and make them thy capital [whereon to trade]; and hide the rest against the time of thy straitness.' So he took them, joyful and contented, and addressed himself to sew eight of them in his gown, keeping the two others in his mouth; but a thief saw him and went and advertised his mates of him; whereupon they gathered together upon him and took his gown and departed from him. When they were gone away, he arose, saying, 'These two pearls [in my mouth] will suffice me,' and made for the [nearest] city, where he brought out the pearls [and repairing to the jewel- market, gave them to the broker], that he might sell them.
Now, as destiny would have it, a certain jeweller of the town had been robbed of ten pearls, like unto those which were with the merchant; so, when he saw the two pearls in the broker's hand, he said to him, 'To whom do these pearls belong?' and the broker answered, 'To yonder man.' [The jeweller looked at the merchant and] seeing him in sorry case and clad in tattered clothes, misdoubted of him and said to him (purposing to surprise him into confession), 'Where are the other eight pearls?' The merchant thought he asked him of those which were in the gown and answered, 'The thieves stole them from me.' When the jeweller heard his reply, he doubted not but that it was he who had taken his good; so he laid hold of him and haling him before the chief of the police, said to him, 'This is the man who stole my pearls: I have found two of them upon him and he confesseth to the other eight.'
Now the magistrate knew of the theft of the pearls; so he bade clap the merchant in prison. Accordingly they imprisoned him and flogged him, and he abode in the prison a whole year, till, by the ordinance of God the Most High, the Master of Police arrested one of the divers aforesaid and imprisoned him in the prison where the merchant lay. He saw the latter and knowing him, questioned him of his case; whereupon he told them his story and that which had befallen him, and the diver marvelled at the sorriness of his luck. So, when he came forth of the prison, he acquainted the Sultan with the merchant's case and told him that it was he who had given him the pearls. The Sultan bade bring him forth of the prison and questioned him of his story, whereupon he told him all that had befallen him and the Sultan pitied him and assigned him a lodging in his own palace, together with an allowance for his living.
Now the lodging in question adjoined the king's house, and whilst the merchant was rejoicing in this and saying, 'Verily, my luck hath returned and I shall live in this king's shadow the rest of my life,' he espied an opening walled up with stones and clay. So he pulled out the stones and clearing away the earth from the opening, found that it was a window giving upon the lodging of the king's women. When he saw this, he was affrighted and rising in haste, fetched clay and stopped it up again. But one of the eunuchs saw him and misdoubting of him, repaired to the Sultan and told him of this. So he came and seeing the stones pulled out, was wroth with the merchant and said to him, 'Is this my recompense from thee, that thou seekest to violate my harem?' And he bade pluck out his eyes. So they did as he commanded and the merchant took his eyes in his hand and said, 'How long [wilt thou afflict me], O star of ill-omen? First my wealth and now my life!' And he bewailed himself, saying, 'Endeavour profiteth me nought against evil fortune. The Compassionate aided me not and endeavour was useless.'
On like wise, O king," continued the youth, "whilst fortune was favourable to me, all that I did came to good; but now that it is grown contrary to me, everything turneth against me."
When the youth had made an end of his story, the king's anger subsided a little and he said, "Restore him to the prison, for the day draweth to an end, and tomorrow we will took into his affair."
OF LOOKING TO THE ISSUES OF AFFAIRS.
When it was the second day, the second of the king's viziers, whose name was Beheroun, came in to him and said, "God advance the king! This that yonder youth hath done is a grave matter and a foul deed and a heinous against the household of the king." So Azadbekht bade fetch the youth, because of the saying of the vizier; and when he came into his presence, he said to him, "Out on thee, O youth! Needs must I slay thee by the worst of deaths, for indeed thou hast committed a grave crime, and I will make thee a warning to the folk." "O king," answered the youth, "hasten not, for the looking to the issues of affairs is a pillar of the realm and [a cause of] continuance and sure stablishment for the kingship. Whoso looketh not to the issues of affairs, there befalleth him that which befell the merchant, and whoso looketh to the issues of affairs, there betideth him of joyance that which betided the merchant's son." "And what is the story of the merchant and his son?" asked the king. "O king," answered the youth,
Story of the Merchant and His Sons.
"There was once a man, a merchant, who had a wife and abundant wealth. He set out one day on a journey with merchandise, leaving his wife big with child, and said to her, 'If it be the will of God the Most High, I will return before the birth of the child.' Then he took leave of her and setting out, journeyed from country to country till he came to the court of one of the kings and foregathered with him. Now this king was in need of one who should order his affairs and those of his kingdom and seeing the merchant well-bred and intelligent, he charged him abide with him and entreated him with honour and munificence. After awhile, he sought of the king leave to go to his own house, but the latter would not consent to this; whereupon he said to him, 'O king, suffer me go and see my children and come again.' So he gave him leave for this and took surety of him for his return. Moreover, he gave him a purse, wherein were a thousand gold dinars, and the merchant embarked in a ship and set sail, intending for his own country.
Meanwhile, news came to his wife that her husband had taken service with King Such-an-one; so she arose and taking her two sons, (for she had given birth to twin boys in his absence,) set out for those parts. As fate would have it, they happened upon an island and her husband came thither that very night in the ship. [When the woman heard of the coming of the ship], she said to her children, 'This ship cometh from the country where your father is; so go ye to the sea-shore, that ye may enquire of him.' So they repaired to the sea-shore and [going up into the ship], fell to playing about it and occupied themselves with their play till the evening.
Now the merchant their father lay asleep in the ship, and the crying of the boys troubled him; so he rose to call out to them [and silence them] and let the purse [with the thousand dinars therein] fall among the bales of merchandise. He sought for it and finding it not, buffeted his head and seized upon the boys, saying, 'None took the purse but you. Ye were playing about the bales, so ye might steal somewhat, and there was none here but you.' Then he took a staff and laying hold of the children, fell to beating them and flogging them, whilst they wept, and the sailors came round about them and said, 'The boys of this island are all thieves and robbers.' Then, of the greatness of the merchant's wrath, he swore that, if they brought not out the purse, he would drown them in the sea; so when [by reason of their denial] his oath became binding upon him, he took the two boys and lashing them [each] to a bundle of reeds, cast them into the sea.
Presently, the mother of the two boys, finding that they tarried from her, went searching for them, till she came to the ship and fell to saying, 'Who hath seen two boys of mine? Their fashion is thus and thus and their age thus and thus.' When they heard her words, they said, 'This is the description of the two boys who were drowned in the sea but now.' Their mother heard and fell to calling on them and saying, 'Alas, my anguish for your loss, O my sons! Where was the eye of your father this day, that it might have seen you?' Then one of the crew questioned her, saying, 'Whose wife art thou?' And she answered, 'I am the wife of such an one the merchant. I was on my way to him, and there hath befallen me this calamity.' When the merchant heard her speech, he knew her and rising to his feet, rent his clothes and buffeted his head and said to his wife, 'By Allah, I have destroyed my children with mine own hand! This is the end of whoso looketh not to the issues of affairs.' Then he fell a-wailing and weeping over them, he and his wife, and he said, 'By Allah, I shall have no ease of my life, till I light upon news of them!' And he betook himself to going round about the sea, in quest of them, but found them not.
Meanwhile, the wind carried the two children [out to sea and thence driving them] towards the land, cast them up on the sea-shore. As for one of them, a company of the guards of the king of those parts found him and carried him to their master, who marvelled at him with an exceeding wonderment and adopted him to his son, giving out to the folk that he was his [very] son, whom he had hidden,[FN#106] of his love for him. So the folk rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy, for the king's sake, and the latter appointed him his heir-apparent and the inheritor of his kingdom. On this wise, a number of years passed, till the king died and they crowned the youth king in his room. So he sat down on the throne of his kingship and his estate flourished and his affairs prospered.
Meanwhile, his father and mother had gone round about all the islands of the sea in quest of him and his brother, hoping that the sea might have cast them up, but found no trace of them; so they despaired of finding them and took up their abode in one of the islands. One day, the merchant, being in the market, saw a broker, and in his hand a boy he was calling for sale, and said in himself, 'I will buy yonder boy, so I may console myself with him for my sons.' So he bought him and carried him to his house; and when his wife saw him, she cried out and said, 'By Allah, this is my son!' So his father and mother rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and questioned him of his brother; but he answered, 'The sea parted us and I knew not what became of him.' Therewith his father and mother consoled themselves with him and on this wise a number of years passed.
Now the merchant and his wife had taken up their abode in a city in the land whereof their [other] son was king, and when the boy [whom they had found] grew up, his father assigned unto him merchandise, so he might travel therewith. So he set out and entered the city wherein his brother was king. News reached the latter that there was a merchant come thither with merchandise befitting kings. So he sent for him and the young merchant obeyed the summons and going in to him, sat down before him. Neither of them knew the other; but blood stirred between them and the king said to the young merchant, 'I desire of thee that thou abide with me and I will exalt thy station and give thee all that thou desirest and cravest.' So he abode with him awhile, quitting him not; and when he saw that he would not suffer him to depart from him, he sent to his father and mother and bade them remove thither to him. So they addressed them to remove to that island, and their son increased still in honour with the king, albeit he knew not that he was his brother.
It chanced one night that the king sallied forth without the city and drank and the wine got the mastery of him and he became drunken. So, of the youth's fearfulness for him, he said, 'I will keep watch myself over the king this night, seeing that he deserveth this from me, for that which he hath wrought with me of kindnesses.' So he arose forthright and drawing his sword, stationed himself at the door of the king's pavilion. Now one of the royal servants saw him standing there, with the drawn sword in his hand, and he was of those who envied him his favour with the king; so he said to him, 'Why dost thou on this wise at this season and in the like of this place?' Quoth the youth, 'I am keeping watch over the king myself, in requital of his bounties to me.'
The servant said no more to him, but, when it was morning, he acquainted a number of the king's servants with this and they said, 'This is an opportunity for us. Come let us assemble together and acquaint the king with this, so the young merchant may lose favour with him and he rid us of him and we be at rest from him.' So they assembled together and going in to the king, said to him, 'We have a warning we would give thee.' Quoth he, 'And what is your warning?' And they said, 'Yonder youth, the merchant, whom thou hast taken into favour and whose rank thou hast exalted above the chiefs of the people of thy household, we saw yesterday draw his sword and offer to fall upon thee, so he might slay thee.' When the king heard this, his colour changed and he said to them, 'Have ye proof of this?' Quoth they, 'What proof wouldst thou have? If thou desire this, feign thyself drunken again this night and lie down, as if asleep, and watch him, and thou wilt see with thine eyes all that we have named to thee.'
Then they went to the youth and said to him, 'Know that the king thanketh thee for thy dealing yesternight and exceedeth in [praise of] thy good deed;' and they prompted him to do the like again. So, when the next night came, the king abode on wake; watching the youth; and as for the latter, he went to the door of the pavilion and drawing his sword, stood in the doorway. When the king saw him do thus, he was sore disquieted and bade seize him and said to him, 'Is this my requital from thee? I showed thee favour more than any else and thou wouldst do with me this vile deed.' Then arose two of the king's servants and said to him, 'O our lord, if thou command it, we will strike off his head.' But the king said, 'Haste in slaying is a vile thing, for it[FN#107] is a grave matter; the quick we can slay, but the slain we cannot quicken, and needs must we look to the issue of affairs. The slaying of this [youth] will not escape us.'[FN#108] Therewith he bade imprison him, whilst he himself returned [to the city] and despatching his occasions, went forth to the chase.
Then he returned to the city and forgot the youth; so the servants went in to him and said to him, 'O king, if thou keep silence concerning yonder youth, who would have slain thee, all thy servants will presume upon thee, and indeed the folk talk of this matter.' With this the king waxed wroth and saying, 'Fetch him hither,' commanded the headsman to strike off his head. So they [brought the youth and] bound his eyes; and the headsman stood at his head and said to the king, 'By thy leave, O my lord, I will strike off his head.' But the king said, 'Stay, till I look into his affair. Needs must I put him to death and the slaying of him will not escape [me].' So he restored him to the prison and there he abode till it should be the king's will to put him to death.
Presently, his father and his mother heard of the matter; whereupon the former arose and going up to the place, wrote a letter and [presented it to the king, who] read it, and behold, therein was written, saying, 'Have pity on me, so may God have pity on thee, and hasten not in the slaughter [of my son]; for indeed I acted hastily in a certain affair and drowned his brother in the sea, and to this day I drink the cup of his anguish. If thou must needs kill him, kill me in his stead.' Therewith the old merchant prostrated himself before the king and wept; and the latter said to him, 'Tell me thy story.' 'O my lord,' answered the merchant, 'this youth had a brother and I [in my haste] cast them both into the sea.' And he related to him his story from first to last, whereupon the king cried out with an exceeding great cry and casting himself down from the throne, embraced his father and brother and said to the former, 'By Allah, thou art my very father and this is my brother and thy wife is our mother.' And they abode weeping, all three.
Then the king acquainted the people [of his court] with the matter and said to them,' O folk, how deem ye of my looking to the issues of affairs?' And they all marvelled at his wisdom and foresight. Then he turned to his father and said to him, 'Hadst thou looked to the issue of thine affair and dealt deliberately in that which thou didst, there had not betided thee this repentance and grief all this time.' Then he let bring his mother and they rejoiced in each other and lived all their days in joy and gladness. What then," continued the young treasurer, "is more grievous than the lack of looking to the issues of affairs? Wherefore hasten thou not in the slaying of me, lest repentance betide thee and sore concern."
When the king heard this, he said, "Restore him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair; for that deliberation in affairs is advisable and the slaughter of this [youth] shall not escape [us]."
The Third Day.
OF THE ADVANTAGES OF PATIENCE.
When it was the third day, the third vizier came in to the king and said to him, "O king, delay not the affair of this youth, for that his deed hath caused us fall into the mouths of the folk, and it behoveth that thou slay him presently, so the talk may be estopped from us and it be not said, 'The king saw on his bed a man with his wife and spared him.'"* The king was chagrined by this speech and bade bring the youth. So they brought him in shackles, and indeed the king's anger was roused against him by the speech of the vizier and he was troubled; so he said to him, "O base of origin, thou hast dishonoured us and marred our repute, and needs must I do away thy life from the world." Quoth the youth, "O king, make use of patience in all thine affairs, so wilt thou attain thy desire, for that God the Most High hath appointed the issue of patience [to be] in abounding good, and indeed by patience Abou Sabir ascended from the pit and sat down upon the throne." "Who was Abou Sabir," asked the king, "and what is his story?" And the youth answered, saying, "O king,
STORY OF ABOU SABIR.
There was once a man, a headman [of a village], by name Abou Sabir, and he had much cattle and a fair wife, who had borne him two sons. They abode in a certain village and there used to come thither a lion and devour Abou Sabir's cattle, so that the most part thereof was wasted and his wife said to him one day, 'This lion hath wasted the most part of our cattle. Arise, mount thy horse and take thy men and do thine endeavour to kill him, so we may be at rest from him.' But Abou Sabir said, 'Have patience, O woman, for the issue of patience is praised. This lion it is that transgresseth against us, and the transgressor, needs must Allah destroy him. Indeed, it is our patience that shall slay him, and he that doth evil, needs must it revert upon him.' A little after, the king went forth one day to hunt and falling in with the lion, he and his troops, gave chase to him and ceased not [to follow] after him till they slew him. This came to Abou Sabir's knowledge and he said to his wife, 'Said I not to thee, O woman, that whoso doth evil, it shall revert upon him? Belike, if I had sought to slay the lion myself, I had not availed against him, and this is the issue of patience.'
It befell, after this, that a man was slain in Abou Sabir's village; wherefore the Sultan caused plunder the village, and they plundered the headman's goods with the rest So his wife said to him, 'All the Sultan's officers know thee; so do thou prefer thy plaint to the king, that he may cause thy beasts to be restored to thee.' But he said to her, 'O woman, said I not to thee that he who doth evil shall suffer it? Indeed, the king hath done evil, and he shall suffer [the consequences of] his deed, for whoso taketh the goods of the folk, needs must his goods be taken.' A man of his neighbours heard his speech, and he was an envier of his; so he went to the Sultan and acquainted him therewith, whereupon he sent and plundered all [the rest of] his goods and drove him forth from the village, and his wife [and children] with him. So they went wandering in the desert and his wife said to him, 'All that hath befallen us cometh of thy slothfulness in affairs and thy default.' But he said to her, 'Have patience, for the issue of patience is good.'
Then they went on a little, and thieves met them and despoiling them of that which remained with them, stripped them of their raiment and took the children from them; whereupon the woman wept and said to her husband, 'O man, put away from thee this folly and arise, let us follow the thieves, so haply they may have compassion on us and restore the children to us.' 'O woman,' answered he, 'have patience, for he who doth evil shall be requited with evil and his wickedness shall revert upon him. Were I to follow them, most like one of them would take his sword and smite off my head and slay me; but have patience, for the issue of patience is praised.' Then they fared on till they drew near a village in the land of Kirman, and by it a river of water. So he said to his wife, 'Abide thou here, whilst I enter the village and look us out a place wherein we may take up our lodging.' And he left her by the water and entered the village.
Presently, up came a horseman in quest of water, so he might water his horse. He saw the woman and she was pleasing in his sight; so he said to her, 'Arise, mount with me and I will take thee to wife and entreat thee kindly.' Quoth she, 'Spare me, so may God spare thee! Indeed, I have a husband.' But he drew his sword and said to her, 'An thou obey me not, I will smite thee and kill thee.' When she saw his malice, she wrote on the ground in the sand with her finger, saying, 'O Abou Sabir, thou hast not ceased to be patient, till thy wealth is gone from thee and thy children and [now] thy wife, who was more precious in thy sight than everything and than all thy wealth, and indeed thou abidest in thy sorrow all thy life long, so thou mayst see what thy patience will profit thee.' Then the horseman took her, and setting her behind him, went his way.
As for Abou Sabir, when he returned, he saw not his wife and read what was written on the ground, wherefore he wept and sat [awhile] sorrowing. Then said he to himself, 'O Abou Sabir, it behoveth thee to be patient, for belike there shall betide [thee] an affair yet sorer than this and more grievous;' and he went forth wandering at a venture, like to the love-distraught, the madman, till he came to a sort of labourers working upon the palace of the king, by way of forced labour. When [the overseers] saw him, they laid hold of him and said to him, 'Work thou with these folk at the palace of the king; else will we imprison thee for life.' So he fell to working with them as a labourer and every day they gave him a cake of bread. He wrought with them a month's space, till it chanced that one of the labourers mounted a ladder and falling, broke his leg; whereupon he cried out and wept. Quoth Abou Sabir to him, 'Have patience and weep not; for thou shall find ease in thy patience.' But the man said to him, 'How long shall I have patience?' And he answered, saying, 'Patience bringeth a man forth of the bottom of the pit and seateth him on the throne of the kingdom.'
Now the king was seated at the lattice, hearkening to their talk, and Abou Sabir's words angered him; so he bade bring him before him and they brought him forthright. Now there was in the king's palace an underground dungeon and therein a vast deep pit, into which the king caused cast Abou Sabir, saying to him, 'O lackwit, now shall we see how thou wilt come forth of the pit to the throne of the kingdom.' Then he used to come and stand at the mouth of the pit and say, 'O lackwit, O Abou Sabir, I see thee not come forth of the pit and sit down on the king's throne!' And he assigned him each day two cakes of bread, whilst Abou Sabir held his peace and spoke not, but bore with patience that which betided him.
Now the king had a brother, whom he had imprisoned in that pit of old time, and he had died [there]; but the folk of the realm thought that he was alive, and when his [supposed] imprisonment grew long, the king's officers used to talk of this and of the tyranny of the king, and the report spread abroad that the king was a tyrant, wherefore they fell upon him one day and slew him. Then they sought the well and brought out Abou Sabir therefrom, deeming him the king's brother, for that he was the nearest of folk to him [in favour] and the likest, and he had been long in the prison. So they doubted not but that he was the prince in question and said to him, 'Reign thou in thy brother's room, for we have slain him and thou art king in his stead.' But Abou Sabir was silent and spoke not a word; and he knew that this was the issue of his patience. Then he arose and sitting down on the king's throne, donned the royal raiment and discovered justice and equity and the affairs [of the realm] prospered [in his hand]; wherefore the folk obeyed him and the people inclined to him and many were his troops.
Now the king, who had plundered Abou Sabir['s goods] and driven him forth of his village, had an enemy; and the latter took horse against him and overcame him and captured his [capital] city; wherefore he addressed himself to flight and came to Abou Sabir's city, craving protection of him and seeking that he should succour him. He knew not that the king of the city was the headman whom he had despoiled; so he presented himself before him and made complaint to him; but Abou Sabir knew him and said to him, 'This is somewhat of the issue of patience. God the Most High hath given me power over thee.' Then he bade his guards plunder the [unjust] king and his attendants; so they plundered them and stripping them of their clothes, put them forth of his country. When Abou Sabir's troops saw this, they marvelled and said, 'What is this deed that the king doth? There cometh a king to him, craving protection, and he despoileth him! This is not of the fashion of kings.' But they dared not [be]speak [him] of this.
After this, news came to the king of robbers in his land; so he set out in quest of them and ceased not to follow after them, till he seized on them all, and behold, they were the [very] thieves who had despoiled him [and his wife] by the way and taken his children. So he bade bring them before him, and when they came into his presence, he questioned them, saying, 'Where are the two boys ye took on such a day?' Quoth they, 'They are with us and we will present them to our lord the king for slaves to serve him and give him wealth galore that we have gotten together and divest ourselves of all that we possess and repent from sin and fight in thy service.' Abou Sabir, however, paid no heed to their speech, but took all their good and bade put them all to death. Moreover, he took the two boys and rejoiced in them with an exceeding joy, whereat the troops murmured among themselves, saying, 'Verily, this is a greater tyrant than his brother! There come to him a sort of robbers and seek to repent and proffer two boys [by way of peace-offering], and he taketh the two boys and all their good and slayeth them!'
After this came the horseman, who had taken Abou Sabir's wife, and complained of her to the king that she would not give him possession of herself, avouching that she was his wife. The king bade bring her before him, that he might hear her speech and pronounce judgment upon her. So the horseman came with her before him, and when the king saw her, he knew her and taking her from her ravisher, bade put the latter to death. Then he became aware of the troops, that they murmured against him and spoke of him as a tyrant; so he turned to his officers and viziers and said to them, 'As for me, by God the Great, I am not the king's brother! Nay, I am but one whom the king imprisoned upon a word he heard from me and used every day to taunt me therewith. Ye think that I am the king's brother; but I am Abou Sabir and God hath given me the kingship in virtue of my patience. As for the king who sought protection of me and I despoiled him, it was he who first wronged me, for that he despoiled me aforetime and drove me forth of my native land and banished me, without due [cause]; wherefore I requited him with that which he had done to me, in the way of lawful vengeance. As for the thieves who proffered repentance, there was no repentance for them with me, for that they began upon me with foul [dealing] and waylaid me by the road and despoiled me and took my good and my sons. Now these two boys, that I took of them and whom ye deemed slaves, are my very sons; so I avenged myself on the thieves of that which they did with me aforetime and requited them with equity. As for the horseman whom I slew, the woman I took from him was my wife and he took her by force, but God the Most High hath restored her [to me]; so this was my right, and my deed that I have done was just, albeit ye, [judging] by the outward of the matter, deemed that I had done this by way of tyranny.' When the folk heard this, they marvelled and fell prostrate before him; and they redoubled in esteem for him and exceeding affection and excused themselves to him, marvelling at that which God had done with him and how He had given him the kingship by reason of his longsuffering and his patience and how he had raised himself by his patience from the bottom of the pit to the throne of the kingdom, what while God cast down the [late] king from the throne into the pit.[FN#109] Then Abou Sabir foregathered with his wife and said to her, 'How deemest thou of the fruit of patience and its sweetness and the fruit of haste and its bitterness? Verily, all that a man doth of good and evil, he shall assuredly abide.' On like wise, O king," continued the young treasurer, "it behoveth thee to practise patience, whenas it is possible to thee, for that patience is of the fashion of the noble, and it is the chiefest of their reliance, especially for kings."
When the king heard this from the youth, his anger subsided; so he bade restore him to the prison, and the folk dispersed that day.
The Fourth Day.
OF THE ILL EFFECTS OF PRECIPITATION.
When it was the fourth day, the fourth vizier, whose name was Zoushad, made his appearance and prostrating himself to the king, said to him, "O king, suffer not the talk of yonder youth to delude thee, for that he is not a truth-teller. So long as he abideth on life, the folk will not give over talking nor will thy heart cease to be occupied with him." "By Allah," cried the king, "thou sayst sooth and I will cause fetch him this day and slay him before me." Then he commanded to bring the youth; so they brought him in shackles and he said to him, "Out on thee! Thinkest thou to appease my heart with thy prate, whereby the days are spent in talk? I mean to slay thee this day and be quit of thee." "O king," answered the youth, "it is in thy power to slay me whensoever thou wilt, but haste is of the fashion of the base and patience of that of the noble. If thou put me to death, thou wilt repent, and if thou desire to bring me back to life, thou wilt not be able thereunto. Indeed, whoso acteth hastily in an affair, there befalleth him what befell Bihzad, son of the king." Quoth the king, "And what is his story?" "O king," replied the young treasurer,
STORY OF PRINCE BIHZAD.
"There was once, of old time, a king and he had a son [named Bihzad], there was not in his day a goodlier than he and he loved to consort with the folk and to sit with the merchants and converse with them. One day, as he sat in an assembly, amongst a number of folk, he heard them talking of his own goodliness and grace and saying, 'There is not in his time a goodlier than he.' But one of the company said, 'Indeed, the daughter of King Such-an-one is handsomer than he.' When Bihzad heard this saying, his reason fled and his heart fluttered and he called the last speaker and said to him, 'Repeat to me that which thou saidst and tell me the truth concerning her whom thou avouchest to be handsomer than I and whose daughter she is.' Quoth the man, 'She is the daughter of King Such-an-one;' whereupon Bihzad's heart clave to her and his colour changed.
The news reached his father, who said to him, 'O my son, this damsel to whom thy heart cleaveth is at thy commandment and we have power over her; so wait till I demand her [in marriage] for thee.' But the prince said, 'I will not wait.' So his father hastened in the matter and sent to demand her of her father, who required of him a hundred thousand dinars to his daughter's dowry. Quoth Bihzad's father, 'So be it,' and paid down what was in his treasuries, and there remained to his charge but a little of the dower. So he said to his son, 'Have patience, O my son, till we gather together the rest of the money and send to fetch her to thee, for that she is become thine.' Therewith the prince waxed exceeding wroth and said, 'I will not have patience;' so he took his sword and his spear and mounting his horse, went forth and fell to stopping the way, [so haply that he might win what lacked of the dowry].
It chanced one day that he fell in upon a company of folk and they overcame him by dint of numbers and taking him prisoner, pinioned him and carried him to the lord of that country. The latter saw his fashion and grace and misdoubting of him, said, 'This is no robber's favour. Tell me truly, O youth, who thou art.' Bihzad thought shame to acquaint him with his condition and chose rather death for himself; so he answered, 'I am nought but a thief and a bandit.' Quoth the king, 'It behoveth us not to act hastily in the matter of this youth, but that we look into his affair, for that haste still engendereth repentance.' So he imprisoned him in his palace and assigned him one who should serve him.
Meanwhile, the news spread abroad that Bihzad, son of the king, was lost, whereupon his father sent letters in quest of him [to all the kings and amongst others to him with whom he was imprisoned]. When the letter reached the latter, he praised God the Most High for that he had not anydele hastened in Bihzad's affair and letting bring him before himself, said to him, 'Art thou minded to destroy thyself?' Quoth Bihzad, '[I did this] for fear of reproach;' and the king said, 'An thou fear reproach, thou shouldst not practise haste [in that thou dost]; knowest thou not that the fruit of haste is repentance? If we had hasted, we also, like unto thee, we had repented.'
Then he conferred on him a dress of honour and engaged to him for the completion of the dowry and sent to his father, giving him the glad news and comforting his heart with [the tidings of] his son's safety; after which he said to Bihzad, Arise, O my son, and go to thy father.' 'O king,' rejoined the prince, 'complete thy kindness to me by [hastening] my going-in to my wife; for, if I go back to my father, till he send a messenger and he return, promising me, the time will be long.' The king laughed and marvelled at him and said to him, 'I fear for thee from this haste, lest thou come to shame and attain not thy desire.' Then he gave him wealth galore and wrote him letters, commending him to the father of the princess, and despatched him to them. When he drew near their country, the king came forth to meet him with the people of his realm and assigned him a handsome lodging and bade hasten the going-in of his daughter to him, in compliance with the other king's letter. Moreover, he advised the prince's father [of his son's coming] and they busied themselves with the affair of the damsel.
When it was the day of the going-in,[FN#110] Bihzad, of his haste and lack of patience, betook himself to the wall, which was between himself and the princess's lodging and in which there was a hole pierced, and looked, so he might see his bride, of his haste. But the bride's mother saw him and this was grievous to her; so she took from one of the servants two red-hot iron spits and thrust them into the hole through which the prince was looking. The spits ran into his eyes and put them out and he fell down aswoon and joyance was changed and became mourning and sore concern. See, then, O king," continued the youth, "the issue of the prince's haste and lack of deliberation, for indeed his haste bequeathed him long repentance and his joy was changed to mourning; and on like wise was it with the woman who hastened to put out his eyes and deliberated not. All this was the doing of haste; wherefore it behoveth the king not to be hasty in putting me to death, for that I am under the grasp of his hand, and what time soever thou desirest my slaughter, it shall not escape [thee]."
When the king heard this, his anger subsided and he said, "Carry him back to prison till to-morrow, to we may look into his affair."
The Fifth Day
OF THE ISSUES OF GOOD AND EVIL ACTIONS.
When it was the fifth day, the fifth Vizier, whose name was Jehrbaur, came in to the king and prostrating himself before him, said, "O king, it behoveth thee, if thou see or hear that one look on thy house,[FN#111] that thou put out his eyes. How then should it be with him whom thou sawest midmost thy house and on thy very bed, and he suspected with thy harem, and not of thy lineage nor of thy kindred? Wherefore do thou away this reproach by putting him to death. Indeed, we do but urge thee unto this for the assurance of thine empire and of our zeal for thy loyal counselling and of our love to thee. How can it be lawful that this youth should live for a single hour?"
Therewith the king was filled with wrath and said, "Bring him forthright," So they brought the youth before him, shackled, and the king said to him, "Out on thee! Thou hast sinned a great sin and the time of thy life hath been long;[FN#112] but needs must we put thee to death, for that there is for us no ease in thy life after this," "O king," answered he, "know that I, by Allah, am guiltless, and by reason of this I hope for life, for that he who is guiltless of offence goeth not in fear of punishment neither maketh great his mourning and his concern; but whoso hath sinned, needs must his sin be expiated upon him, though his life be prolonged, and it shall overtake him, even as it overtook Dadbin the king and his vizier." "How was that?" asked Azadbekht, and the youth said,
STORY OF KING DADBIN AND HIS VIZIERS.
"There was once a king in the land of Teberistan, by name Dadbin, and he had two viziers, called one Zourkhan and the other Kardan. The Vizier Zourkhan had a daughter, there was not in her time a handsomer than she nor yet a chaster nor a more pious, for she was a faster, a prayer and a worshipper of God the Most High, and her name was Arwa. Now Dadbin heard tell of her charms; so his heart clave to her and he called the vizier [her father] and said to him, 'I desire of thee that thou marry me to thy daughter.' Quoth Zourkhan, 'Allow me to consult her, and if she consent, I will marry thee with her.' And the king said, 'Hasten unto this.'
So the vizier went in to his daughter and said to her, 'O my daughter, the king seeketh thee of me and desireth to marry thee.' 'O my father,' answered she 'I desire not a husband and if thou wilt marry me, marry me not but with one who shall be below me in rank and I nobler than he, so he may not turn to other than myself nor lift his eyes upon me, and marry me not to one who is nobler than I, lest I be with him as a slave-girl and a serving-woman.' So the vizier returned to the king and acquainted him with that which his daughter had said, whereat he redoubled in desire and love-liking for her and said to her father, 'An thou marry me not to her of good grace, I will take her by force in thy despite.' The vizier again betook himself to his daughter and repeated to her the king's words, but she replied, 'I desire not a husband.' So he returned to the king and told him what she said, and he was wroth and threatened the vizier, whereupon the latter took his daughter and fled with her.
When this came to the king's knowledge, he despatched troops in pursuit of Zourkhan, to stop the road upon him, whilst he himself went out and overtaking the vizier, smote him on the head with his mace and slew him. Then he took his daughter by force and returning to his dwelling-place, went in to her and married her. Arwa resigned herself with patience to that which betided her and committed her affair to God the Most High; and indeed she was used to serve Him day and night with a goodly service in the house of King Dabdin her husband.
It befell one day that the king had occasion to make a journey; so he called his Vizier Kardan and said to him, 'I have a trust to commit to thy care, and it is yonder damsel, my wife, the daughter of the Vizier [Zourkhan], and I desire that thou keep her and guard her thyself, for that there is not in the world aught dearer to me than she.' Quoth Kardan in himself, 'Of a truth, the king honoureth me with an exceeding honour [in entrusting me] with this damsel.' And he answered 'With all my heart.'
When the king had departed on his journey, the vizier said in himself, 'Needs must I look upon this damsel whom the king loveth with all this love.' So he hid himself in a place, that he might look upon her, and saw her overpassing description; wherefore he was confounded at her and his wit was dazed and love got the mastery of him, so that he said to her, saying, 'Have pity on me, for indeed I perish for the love of thee.' She sent back to him, saying, 'O vizier, thou art in the place of trust and confidence, so do not thou betray thy trust, but make thine inward like unto thine outward[FN#113] and occupy thyself with thy wife and that which is lawful to thee. As for this, it is lust and [women are all of] one taste.[FN#114] And if thou wilt not be forbidden from this talk, I will make thee a byword and a reproach among the folk.' When the vizier heard her answer, he knew that she was chaste of soul and body; wherefore he repented with the utmost of repentance and feared for himself from the king and said, 'Needs must I contrive a device wherewithal I may destroy her; else shall I be disgraced with the king.'
When the king returned from his journey, he questioned his vizier of the affairs of his kingdom and the latter answered, 'All is well, O king, save a vile matter, which I have discovered here and wherewith I am ashamed to confront the king; but, if I hold my peace thereof, I fear lest other than I discover it and I [be deemed to] have played traitor to the king in the matter of my [duty of] loyal warning and my trust.' Quoth Dabdin, 'Speak, for thou art none other than a truth-teller, a trusty one, a loyal counsellor in that which thou sayest, undistrusted in aught.' And the vizier said, 'O king, this woman to whose love thy heart cleaveth and of whose piety thou talkest and her fasting and praying, I will make plain to thee that this is craft and guile.' At this, the king was troubled and said, 'What is to do?' 'Know,' answered the vizier, 'that some days after thy departure, one came to me and said to me, "Come, O vizier, and look." So I went to the door of the [queen's] sleeping-chamber and beheld her sitting with Aboulkhair, her father's servant, whom she favoureth, and she did with him what she did, and this is the manner of that which I saw and heard.'
When Dabdin heard this, he burnt with rage and said to one of his eunuchs,[FN#115] 'Go and slay her in her chamber.' But the eunuch said to him, 'O king, may God prolong thy continuance! Indeed, the killing of her may not be at this time; but do thou bid one of thine eunuchs take her up on a camel and carry her to one of the trackless deserts and cast her down there; so, if she be at fault, God shall cause her to perish, and if she be innocent, He will deliver her, and the king shall be free from sin against her, for that this damsel is dear to thee and thou slewest her father by reason of thy love for her.' Quoth the king, 'By Allah, thou sayst sooth!' Then he bade one of his eunuchs carry her on a camel to one of the far-off deserts and there leave her and go away, and he forbade [him] to prolong her torment. So he took her up and betaking himself with her to the desert, left her there without victual or water and returned, whereupon she made for one of the [sand-]hills and ranging stones before her [in the form of a prayer-niche], stood praying.
Now it chanced that a camel-driver, belonging to Kisra the king, lost certain camels and the king threatened him, if he found them not, that he would slay him. So he set out and plunged into the deserts till he came to the place where the damsel was and seeing her standing praying, waited till she had made an end of her prayer, when he went up to her and saluted her, saying, 'Who art thou?' Quoth she, 'I am a handmaid of God.' 'What dost thou in this desolate place?' asked he, and she said, 'I serve God the Most High.' When he saw her beauty and grace, he said to her, 'Harkye! Do thou take me to husband and I will be tenderly solicitous over thee and use thee with exceeding compassion and I will further thee in obedience to God the Most High.' But she answered, saying, 'I have no need of marriage and I desire to abide here [alone] with my Lord and His service; but, if thou wouldst deal compassionately with me and further me in the obedience of God the Most High, carry me to a place where there is water and thou wilt have done me a kindness.'
So he carried her to a place wherein was running water and setting her down on the ground, left her and went away, marvelling at her. After he left her, he found his camels, by her blessing, and when he returned, King Kisra asked him, 'Hast thou found the camels?' ['Yes,' answered he] and acquainted him with the affair of the damsel and set out to him her beauty and grace; whereupon the king's heart clave to her and he mounted with a few men and betook himself to that place, where he found the damsel and was amazed at her, for that he saw her overpassing the description wherewith the camel-driver had described her to him. So he accosted her and said to her, 'I am King Kisra, greatest of the kings. Wilt thou not have me to husband?' Quoth she, 'What wilt thou do with me, O king, and I a woman abandoned in the desert?' And he answered, saying, 'Needs must this be, and if thou wilt not consent to me, I will take up my sojourn here and devote myself to God's service and thine and worship Him with thee.'
Then he bade set up for her a tent and another for himself, facing hers, so he might worship God with her, and fell to sending her food; and she said in herself, 'This is a king and it is not lawful for me that I suffer him forsake his subjects and his kingdom for my sake. So she said to the serving-woman, who used to bring her the food, 'Speak to the king, so he may return to his women, for he hath no need of me and I desire to abide in this place, so I may worship God the Most High therein.' The slave-girl returned to the king and told him this, whereupon he sent back to her, saying, 'I have no need of the kingship and I also desire to abide here and worship God with thee in this desert.' When she found this earnestness in him, she consented to his wishes and said, 'O king, I will consent unto thee in that which thou desirest and will be to thee a wife, but on condition that thou bring me Dadbin the king and his Vizier Kardan and his chamberlain[FN#116] and that they be present in thine assembly, so I may speak a word with them in thy presence, to the intent that thou mayest redouble in affection for me.' Quoth Kisra, 'And what is thine occasion unto this?' So she related to him her story from first to last, how she was the wife of Dadbin the king and how the latter's vizier had miscalled her honour.
When King Kisra heard this, he redoubled in loveliking for her and affection and said to her, 'Do what thou wilt.' So he let bring a litter and carrying her therein to his dwelling-place, married her and entreated her with the utmost honour. Then he sent a great army to King Dadbin and fetching him and his vizier and the chamberlain, caused bring them before him, unknowing what he purposed with them. Moreover, he caused set up for Arwa a pavilion in the courtyard of his palace and she entered therein and let down the curtain before herself. When the servants had set their seats and they had seated themselves, Arwa raised a corner of the curtain and said, 'O Kardan, rise to thy feet, for it befitteth not that thou sit in the like of this assembly, before this mighty King Kisra.' When the vizier heard these words, his heart quaked and his joints were loosened and of his fear, he rose to his feet. Then said she to him, 'By the virtue of Him who hath made thee stand in this place of standing [up to judgment], and thou abject and humiliated, I conjure thee speak the truth and say what prompted thee to lie against me and cause me go forth from my house and from the hand of my husband and made thee practise thus against a man,[FN#117] a true believer, and slay him. This is no place wherein leasing availeth nor may prevarication be therein.'
When the vizier was ware that she was Arwa and heard her speech, he knew that it behoved him not to lie and that nought would avail him but truth-speaking; so he bowed [his head] to the ground and wept and said, 'Whoso doth evil, needs must he abide it, though his day be prolonged. By Allah, I am he who hath sinned and transgressed, and nought prompted me unto this but fear and overmastering desire and the affliction written upon my forehead;[FN#118] and indeed this woman is pure and chaste and free from all fault.' When King Dadbin heard this, he buffeted his face and said to his vizier, 'God slay thee! It is thou that hast parted me and my wife and wronged me!' But Kisra the king said to him, 'God shall surely slay thee, for that thou hastenedst and lookedst not into thine affair and knewest not the guilty from the guiltless. Hadst thou wrought deliberately, the false had been made manifest to thee from the true; so where was thy judgment and thy sight?"
Then said he to Arwa, "What wilt thou that I do with them?" And she answered, saying, "Accomplish on them the ordinance of God the Most High;[FN#119] the slayer shall be slain and the transgressor transgressed against, even as he transgressed against us; yea, and the well-doer, good shall be done unto him, even as he did unto us." So she gave [her officers] commandment concerning Dadbin and they smote him on the head with a mace and slew him, and she said, "This is for the slaughter of my father." Then she bade set the vizier on a beast [and carry him] to the desert whither he had caused carry her [and leave him there without victual or water]; and she said to him, "An thou be guilty, thou shalt abide [the punishment of] thy guilt and perish of hunger and thirst in the desert; but, if there be no guilt in thee, thou shalt be delivered, even as I was delivered."
As for the eunuch, the chamberlain, who had counselled King Dadbin [not to slay her, but] to [cause] carry her to the desert [and there abandon her], she bestowed on him a sumptuous dress of honour and said to him, "The like of thee it behoveth kings to hold in favour and set in high place, for that thou spokest loyally and well, and a man is still requited according to his deed." And Kisra the king invested him with the governance of one of the provinces of his empire. Know, therefore, O king," continued the youth, "that whoso doth good is requited therewith and he who is guiltless of sin and reproach feareth not the issue of his affair. And I, O king, am free from guilt, wherefore I trust in God that He will show forth the truth and vouchsafe me the victory over enemies and enviers."
When the king heard this, his wrath subsided and he said, "Carry him back to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair."
The Sixth Day
OF TRUST IN GOD.
When it was the sixth day, the viziers' wrath redoubled, for that they had not compassed their desire of the youth and they feared for themselves from the king; so three of them went in to him and prostrating themselves before him, said to him, "O king, indeed we are loyal counsellors to thy dignity and tenderly solicitous for thee. Verily, thou persistest long in sparing this youth alive and we know not what is thine advantage therein. Every day findeth him yet on life and the talk redoubleth suspicions on thee; so do thou put him to death, that the talk may be made an end of." When the king heard this speech, he said, "By Allah, indeed, ye say sooth and speak rightly!" Then he let bring the young treasurer and said to him, "How long shall I look into thine affair and find no helper for thee and see them all athirst for thy blood?"
"O king," answered the youth, "I hope for succour only from God, not from created beings: if He aid me, none can avail to harm me, and if He be with me and on my side, because of the truth, who is it I shall fear, because of falsehood? Indeed, I have made my intent with God a pure and sincere intent and have severed my expectation from the help of the creature; and whoso seeketh help [of God] findeth of his desire that which Bekhtzeman found." Quoth the king, "Who was Bekhtzeman and what is his story?" "O king," replied the youth,
STORY OF KING BEKHTZEMAN.
"There was once a king of the kings, whose name was Bekhtzeman, and he was a great eater and drinker and carouser. Now enemies of his made their appearance in certain parts of his realm and threatened him; and one of his friends said to him, 'O king, the enemy maketh for thee: be on thy guard against him.' Quoth Bekhtzeman, 'I reck not of him, for that I have arms and wealth and men and am not afraid of aught.' Then said his friends to him, 'Seek aid of God, O king, for He will help thee more than thy wealth and thine arms and thy men.' But he paid no heed to the speech of his loyal counsellors, and presently the enemy came upon him and waged war upon him and got the victory over him and his trust in other than God the Most High profited him nought. So he fled from before him and seeking one of the kings, said to him, 'I come to thee and lay hold upon thy skirts and take refuge with thee, so thou mayst help me against mine enemy.'
The king gave him money and men and troops galore and Bekhtzeman said in himself, 'Now am I fortified with this army and needs must I conquer my enemy therewith and overcome him;' but he said not, 'With the aid of God the Most High.' So his enemy met him and overcame him again and he was defeated and put to the rout and fled at a venture. His troops were dispersed from him and his money lost and the enemy followed after him. So he sought the sea and passing over to the other side, saw a great city and therein a mighty citadel. He asked the name of the city and to whom it belonged and they said to him, 'It belongeth to Khedidan the king.' So he fared on till he came to the king's palace aud concealing his condition, passed himself off for a horseman[FN#120] and sought service with King Khedidan, who attached him to his household and entreated him with honour; but his heart still clave to his country and his home.
Presently, it chanced that an enemy attacked King Khedidan; so he sent out his troops to him and made Bekhtzeman head of the army. Then they went forth to the field and Khedidan also came forth and ranged his troops and took the spear and sallied out in person and fought a sore battle and overcame his enemy, who fled, he and his troops, ignominiously. When the king and his army returned in triumph, Bekhtzeman said to him, 'Harkye, O king! Meseemeth this is a strange thing of thee that thou art compassed about with this vast army, yet dost thou apply thyself in person to battle and adventurest thyself.' Quoth the king, 'Dost thou call thyself a cavalier and a man of learning and deemest that victory is in abundance of troops?' 'Ay,' answered Bekhtzeman; 'that is indeed my belief.' And Khedidan said, 'By Allah, then, thou errest in this thy belief! Woe and again woe to him whose trust is in other than God! Indeed, this army is appointed only for adornment and majesty, and victory is from God alone. I too, O Bekhtzeman, believed aforetime that victory was in the multitude of men, and an enemy came out against me with eight hundred men, whilst I had eight hundred thousand. I trusted in the number of my troops, whilst mine enemy trusted in God; so he defeated me and routed me and I was put to a shameful flight and hid myself in one of the mountains, where I met with a recluse, [who had] withdrawn [himself from the world]. So I joined myself to him and complained to him of my case and acquainted him with all that had befallen me. Quoth he, "Knowest thou why this befell thee and thou wast defeated?" "I know not," answered I, and he said, "Because thou puttest thy trust in the multitude of thy troops and reliedst not upon God the Most High. Hadst thou put thy trust in God and believed in Him that it is He [alone] who advantageth and endamageth thee, thine enemy had not availed to cope with thee. Return unto God." So I returned to myself and repented at the hands of the solitary, who said to me, "Turn back with what remaineth to thee of troops and confront thine enemies, for, if their intents be changed from God, thou wilt overcome them, wert thou alone." When I heard these words, I put my trust in God the Most High, and gathering together those who remained with me, fell upon mine enemies at unawares in the night. They deemed us many and fled on the shamefullest wise, whereupon I entered my city and repossessed myself of my place by the might of God the Most High, and now I fight not but [trusting] in His aid.'
When Bekhtzeman heard this, he awoke from his heedlessness and said, 'Extolled be the perfection of God the Great! O king, this is my case and my story, nothing added and nought diminished, for I am King Bekhtzeman and all this happened to me; wherefore I will seek the gate of God['s mercy] and repent unto Him.' So he went forth to one of the mountains and there worshipped God awhile, till one night, as he slept, one appeared to him in a dream and said to him, 'O Bekhtzeman, God accepteth thy repentance and openeth on thee [the gate of succour] and will further thee against thine enemy.' When he was certified of this in the dream, he arose and turned back, intending for his own city; and when he drew near thereunto, he saw a company of the king's retainers, who said to him, 'Whence art thou? We see that thou art a stranger and fear for thee from this king, for that every stranger who enters this city, he destroys him, of his fear of King Bekhtzeman.' Quoth Bekhtzeman, 'None shall hurt him nor advantage him save God the Most High.' And they answered, saying, 'Indeed, he hath a vast army and his heart is fortified in the multitude of his troops.'
When King Bekhtzeman heard this, his heart was comforted and he said in himself, 'I put my trust in God. If He will, I shall overcome mine enemy by the might of God the Most High.' So he said to the folk, ' Know ye not who I am?' and they answered, ' No, by Allah.' Quoth he, 'I am King Bekhtzeman.' When they heard this and knew that it was indeed he, they dismounted from their horses and kissed his stirrup, to do him honour, and said to him, 'O king, why hast thou thus adventured thyself?' Quoth he, 'Indeed, my life is a light matter to me and I put my trust in God the Most High, looking to Him for protection.' And they answered him, saying, 'May this suffice thee! We will do with thee that which is in our power and whereof thou art worthy: comfort thy heart, for we will succour thee with our goods and our lives, and we are his chief officers and the most in favour with him of all folk. So we will take thee with us and cause the folk follow after thee, for that the inclination of the people, all of them, is to thee.' Quoth he, 'Do that unto which God the Most High enableth you.'
So they carried him into the city and hid him with them. Moreover, they agreed with a company of the king's chief officers, who had aforetime been those of Bekhtzeman, and acquainted them with this; whereat they rejoiced with an exceeding joy. Then they assembled together to Bekhtzeman and made a covenant and handfast [of fealty] with him and fell upon the enemy at unawares and slew him and seated King Bekhtzeman again on the throne of his kingship. And his affairs prospered and God amended his estate and restored His bounty to him, and he ruled his subjects justly and abode in the obedience of the Most High. On this wise, O king," continued the young treasurer, "he with whom God is and whose intent is pure, meeteth nought but good. As for me, I have no helper other than God, and I am content to submit myself to His ordinance, for that He knoweth the purity of my intent."
With this the king's wrath subsided and he said, "Restore him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair."
The Seventh Day.
When it was the seventh day, the seventh vizier, whose name was Bihkemal, came in to the king and prostrating himself to him, said, "O king, what doth thy long-suffering with this youth advantage thee? Indeed the folk talk of thee and of him. Why, then, dost thou postpone the putting him to death?" The vizier's words aroused the king's anger and he bade bring the youth. So they brought him before him, shackled, and Azadbekht said to him, "Out on thee! By Allah, after this day there abideth no deliverance for thee from my hand, for that thou hast outraged mine honour, and there can be no forgiveness for thee."
"O king," answered the youth, "there is no great forgiveness save in case of a great crime, for according as the offence is great, in so much is forgiveness magnified and it is no dishonour to the like of thee if he spare the like of me. Verily, Allah knoweth that there is no fault in me, and indeed He commandeth unto clemency, and no clemency is greater than that which spareth from slaughter, for that thy forgiveness of him whom thou purposest to put to death is as the quickening of a dead man; and whoso doth evil shall find it before him, even as it was with King Bihkerd." "And what is the story of King Bihkerd?" asked the king. "O king," answered the youth,
STORY OF KING BIHKERD.
"There was once a king named Bihkerd aed he had wealth galore and many troops; but his deeds were evil and he would punish for a slight offence and never forgave. He went forth one day to hunt and one of his servants shot an arrow, which lit on the king's ear and cut it off. Quoth Bihkerd, 'Who shot that arrow?' So the guards brought him in haste the offender, whose name was Yetrou, and he of his fear fell down on the ground in a swoon. Then said the king, 'Put him to death;' but Yetrou said, 'O King, this that hath befallen was not of my choice nor of my knowledge; so do thou pardon me, in the hour of thy power over me, for that clemency is of the goodliest of things and belike it shall be [in this world] a provision and a good work [for which thou shall be requited] one of these days, and a treasure [laid up to thine account] with God in the world to come. Pardon me, therefore, and fend off evil from me, so shall God fend off from thee evil the like thereof.' When the king heard this, it pleased him and he pardoned the servant, albeit he had never before pardoned any.
Now this servant was of the sons of the kings and had fled from his father, on account of an offence he had committed. Then he went and took service with King Bihkerd and there happened to him what happened. After awhile, it chanced that a man recognized him and went and told his father, who sent him a letter, comforting his heart and mind and [beseeching him] to return to him. So he returned to his father, who came forth to meet him and rejoiced in him, and the prince's affairs were set right with him.
It befell, one day of the days, that King Bihkerd embarked in a ship and put out to sea, so he might fish; but the wind blew on them and the ship foundered. The king won ashore on a plank, unknown of any, and came forth, naked, on one of the coasts; and it chanced that he landed in the country whereof the father of the youth aforesaid, [his sometime servant], was king. So he came in the night to the gate of the latter's city and [finding it shut], took up his lodging [for the night] in a burying-place there.
When the morning morrowed and the folk came forth of the city, they found a murdered man cast down in a corner of the burial-ground and seeing Bihkerd there, doubted not but it was he who had slain him; so they laid hands on him and carried him up to the king and said to him, 'This fellow hath slain a man.' The king bade imprison him; [so they clapped him in prison] and he fell a-saying in himself, what while he was in the prison, 'All that hath befallen me is of the abundance of my sins and my tyranny, for, indeed, I have slain much people unrighteously and this is the requital of my deeds and that which I have wrought aforetime of oppression.' As he was thus pondering in himself, there came a bird and lighted down on the coign of the prison, whereupon, of his much eagerness in the chase, he took a stone and cast it at the bird.
Now the king's son was playing in the exercise-ground with the ball and the mall, and the stone lit on his ear and cut it off, whereupon the prince fell down in a swoon. So they enquired who had thrown the stone and [finding that it was Bihkerd,] took him and carried him before the prince, who bade put him to death. Accordingly, they cast the turban from his head and were about to bind his eyes, when the prince looked at him and seeing him cropped of an ear, said to him, 'Except thou wert a lewd fellow, thine ear had not been cut off.' 'Not so, by Allah!' answered Bihkerd. 'Nay, but the story [of the loss] of my ear is thus and thus, and I pardoned him who smote me with an arrow and cut off my ear.' When the prince heard this, he looked in his face and knowing him, cried out and said, 'Art thou not Bihkerd the king?' 'Yes,' answered he, and the prince said to him 'What bringeth thee here?' So he told him all that had betided him and the folk marvelled and extolled the perfection of God the Most High.
Then the prince rose to him and embraced him and kissed him and entreated him with honour. Moreover, he seated him in a chair and bestowed on him a dress of honour; and he turned to his father and said to him, 'This is the king who pardoned me and this is his ear that I cut off with an arrow; and indeed he deserveth pardon from me, for that he pardoned me.' Then said he to Bihkerd, 'Verily, the issue of clemency hath been a provision for thee [in thine hour of need].' And they entreated him with the utmost kindness and sent him back to his own country in all honour and worship Know, then, O King," continued the youth, "that there is no goodlier thing than clemency and that all thou dost thereof, thou shalt find before thee, a treasure laid up for thee."
When the king heard this, his wrath subsided and he said, "Carry him back to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair."
The Eighth Day.
OF ENVY AND MALICE.
When it was the eighth day, the viziers all assembled and took counsel together and said, "How shall we do with this youth, who baffleth us with his much talk? Indeed, we fear lest he be saved and we fall [into perdition]. Wherefore, let us all go in to the king and unite our efforts to overcome him, ere he appear without guilt and come forth and get the better of us." So they all went in to the king and prostrating themselves before him, said to him, "O king, have a care lest this youth beguile thee with his sorcery and bewitch thee with his craft. If thou heardest what we hear, thou wouldst not suffer him live, no, not one day. So pay thou no heed to his speech, for we are thy viziers, [who endeavour for] thy continuance, and if thou hearken not to our word, to whose word wilt thou hearken? See, we are ten viziers who testify against this youth that he is guilty and entered not the king's sleeping-chamber but with evil intent, so he might put the king to shame and outrage his honour; and if the king slay him not, let him banish him his realm, so the tongue of the folk may desist from him."
When the king heard his viziers' words, he was exceeding wroth and bade bring the youth, and when he came in to the king, the viziers all cried out with one voice, saying, "O scant o' grace, thinkest thou to save thyself from slaughter by craft and guile, that thou beguilest the king with thy talk and hopest pardon for the like of this great crime which thou hast committed?" Then the king bade fetch the headsman, so he might smite off his head; whereupon each of the viziers fell a-saying, "I will slay him;" and they sprang upon him. Quote the youth, "O king, consider and ponder these men's eagerness. Is this of envy or no? They would fain make severance between thee and me, so there may fall to them what they shall plunder, as aforetime." And the king said to him, "Consider their testimony against thee." "O king," answered the young man, "how shall they testify of that which they saw not? This is but envy and rancour; and thou, if thou slay me, thou wilt regret me, and I fear lest there betide thee of repentance that which betided Ilan Shah, by reason of the malice of his viziers." "And what is his story?" asked Azadbekht. "O king," replied the youth,
STORY OF ILAN SHAH AND ABOU TEMAM.
"There was once a merchant named Abou Temam, and he was a man of understanding and good breeding, quick-witted and truthful in all his affairs, and he had wealth galore. Now there was in his land an unjust king and a jealous, and Abou Temam feared for his wealth from this king and said, 'I will remove hence to another place where I shall not be in fear.' So he made for the city of Ilan Shah and built himself a palace therein and transporting his wealth thither, took up his abode there. Presently, the news of him reached King Ilan Shah; so he sent to bid him to his presence and said to him, 'We know of thy coming to us and thine entry under our allegiance, and indeed we have heard of thine excellence and wit and generosity; so welcome to thee and fair welcome! The land is thy land and at thy commandment, and whatsoever occasion thou hast unto us, it is [already] accomplished unto thee; and it behoveth that thou be near our person and of our assembly.' Abou Temam prostrated himself to the king and said to him, 'O king, I will serve thee with my wealth and my life, but do thou excuse me from nearness unto thee, for that, [if I took service about thy person], I should not be safe from enemies and enviers.' Then he addressed himself to serve the king with presents and largesses, and the king saw him to be intelligent, well-bred and of good counsel; so he committed to him the ordinance of his affairs and in his hand was the power to bind and loose.
Now Ilan Shah had three viziers, in whose hands the affairs [of the kingdom] were [aforetime] and they had been used to leave not the king night nor day; but they became shut out from him by reason of Abou Temam and the king was occupied with him to their exclusion. So they took counsel together upon the matter and said, 'What counsel ye we should do, seeing that the king is occupied from us with yonder man, and indeed he honoureth him more than us? But now come, let us cast about for a device, whereby we may remove him from the king.' So each of them spoke forth that which was in his mind, and one of them said, 'The king of the Turks hath a daughter, whose like there is not in the world, and whatsoever messenger goeth to demand her in marriage, her father slayeth him. Now our king hath no knowledge of this; so, come, let us foregather with him and bring up the talk of her. When his heart is taken with her, we will counsel him to despatch Abou Temam to seek her hand in marriage; whereupon her father will slay him and we shall be quit of him, for we have had enough of his affair."
Accordingly, they all went in to the king one day (and Abou Temam was present among them,) and mentioned the affair of the damsel, the king's daughter of the Turks, and enlarged upon her charms, till the king's heart was taken with her and he said to them, 'We will send one to demand her in marriage for us; but who shall be our messenger?' Quoth the viziers, 'There is none for this business but Abou Temam, by reason of his wit and good breeding;' and the king said, 'Indeed, even as ye say, none is fitting for this affair but he.' Then he turned to Abou Temam and said to him, 'Wilt thou not go with my message and seek me [in marriage] the king's daughter of the Turks?' and he answered, 'Hearkening and obedience, O king.'
So they made ready his affair and the king conferred on him a dress of honour, and he took with him a present and a letter under the king's hand and setting out, fared on till he came to the [capital] city of Turkestan. When the king of the Turks knew of his coming, he despatched his officers to receive him and entreated him with honour and lodged him as befitted his rank. Then he entertained him three days, after which he summoned him to his presence and Abou Temam went in to him and prostrating himself before him, as beseemeth unto kings, laid the present before him and gave him the letter.
The king read the letter and said to Abou Temam, "We will do what behoveth in the matter; but, O Abou Temam, needs must thou see my daughter and she thee, and needs must thou hear her speech and she thine.' So saying, he sent him to the lodging of the princess, who had had notice of this; so that they had adorned her sitting-chamber with the costliest that might be of utensils of gold and silver and the like, and she seated herself on a throne of gold, clad in the most sumptuous of royal robes and ornaments. When Abou Temam entered, he bethought himself and said, 'The wise say, he who restraineth his sight shall suffer no evil and he who guardeth his tongue shall hear nought of foul, and he who keepeth watch over his hand, it shall be prolonged and not curtailed.'[FN#121] So he entered and seating himself on the ground, [cast down his eyes and] covered his hands and feet with his dress.[FN#122] Quoth the king's daughter to him, 'Lift thy head, O Abou Temam, and look on me and speak with me.' But he spoke not neither raised his head, and she continued, 'They sent thee but that thou mightest look on me and speak with me, and behold, thou speakest not at all. Take of these pearls that be around thee and of these jewels and gold and silver. But he put not forth his hand unto aught, and when she saw that he paid no heed to anything, she was angry and said, 'They have sent me a messenger, blind, dumb and deaf.'
Then she sent to acquaint her father with this; whereupon the king called Abou Temam to him and said to him, 'Thou camest not but to see my daughter. Why, then, hast thou not looked upon her?' Quoth Abou Temam, 'I saw everything.' And the king said, 'Why didst thou not take somewhat of that which thou sawest of jewels and the like? For they were set for thee.' But he answered, 'It behoveth me not to put out my hand to aught that is not mine.' When the king heard his speech, he gave him a sumptuous dress of honour and loved him exceedingly and said to him, 'Come, look at this pit.' So Abou Temam went up [to the mouth of the pit] and looked, and behold, it was full of heads of men; and the king said to him, 'These are the heads of ambassadors, whom I slew, for that I saw them without loyalty to their masters, and I was used, whenas I saw an ambassador without breeding, [FN#123] to say, "He who sent him is less of breeding than he, for that the messenger is the tongue of him who sendeth him and his breeding is of his master's breeding; and whoso is on this wise, it befitteth not that he be akin to me."[FN#124] So, because of this, I used to put the messengers to death; but, as for thee, thou hast overcome us and won my daughter, of the excellence of thy breeding; so be of good heart, for she is thy master's.' Then he sent him back to king Ilan Shah with presents and rarities and a letter, saying, 'This that I have done is in honour of thee and of thine ambassador.'
When Abou Temam returned with [news of] the accomplishment of his errand and brought the presents and the letter, King Ilan Shah rejoiced in this and redoubled in showing him honour and made much of him. Some days thereafterward, the king of Turkestan sent his daughter and she went in to King Ilan Shah, who rejoiced in her with an exceeding joy and Abou Temam's worth was exalted in his sight. When the viziers saw this, they redoubled in envy and despite and said, 'An we contrive us not a device to rid us of this man, we shall perish of rage.' So they bethought them [and agreed upon] a device they should practise.
Then they betook themselves to two boys affected to the [special] service of the king, who slept not but on their knee,[FN#125] and they lay at his head, for that they were his pages of the chamber, and gave them each a thousand dinars of gold, saying, 'We desire of you that ye do somewhat for us and take this gold as a provision against your occasion.' Quoth the boys, 'What is it ye would have us do?' And the viziers answered, 'This Abou Temam hath marred our affairs for us, and if his case abide on this wise, he will estrange us all from the king's favour; and what we desire of you is that, when ye are alone with the king and he leaneth back, as he were asleep, one of you say to his fellow, "Verily, the king hath taken Abou Temam into his especial favour and hath advanced him to high rank with him, yet is he a transgressor against the king's honour and an accursed one." Then let the other of you ask, "And what is his transgression?" And the first make answer, "He outrageth the king's honour and saith, 'The King of Turkestan was used, whenas one went to him to seek his daughter in marriage, to slay him; but me he spared, for that she took a liking to me, and by reason of this he sent her hither, because she loved me.'" Then let his fellow say, "Knowest thou this for truth?" And the other reply, "By Allah, this is well known unto all the folk, but, of their fear of the king, they dare not bespeak him thereof; and as often as the king is absent a-hunting or on a journey, Abou Temam comes to her and is private with her."' And the boys answered, 'We will say this.'
Accordingly, one night, when they were alone with the king and he leant back, as he were asleep, they said these words and the king heard it all and was like to die of rage and said in himself, 'These are young boys, not come to years of discretion, and have no intrigue with any; and except they had heard these words from some one, they had not spoken with each other thereof.' When it was morning, wrath overmastered him, so that he stayed not neither deliberated, but summoned Abou Temam and taking him apart, said to him, 'Whoso guardeth not his lord's honour,[FN#126] what behoveth unto him?' Quoth Abou Temam, 'It behoveth that his lord guard not his honour.' 'And whoso entereth the king's house and playeth the traitor with him,' continued the king, 'what behoveth unto him?' And Abou Temam answered, 'He shall not be left on life.' Whereupon the king spat in his face and said to him, 'Both these things hast thou done.' Then he drew his dagger on him in haste and smiting him in the belly, slit it and he died forthright; whereupon the king dragged him to a well that was in his palace and cast him therein.
After he had slain him, he fell into repentance and mourning and chagrin waxed upon him, and none, who questioned him, would he acquaint with the cause thereof, nor, of his love for his wife, did he tell her of this, and whenas she asked him of [the cause of] his grief, he answered her not. When the viziers knew of Abou Temam's death, they rejoiced with an exceeding joy and knew that the king's grief arose from regret for him. As for Ilan Shah, he used, after this, to betake himself by night to the sleeping-chamber of the two boys and spy upon them, so he might hear what they said concerning his wife. As he stood one night privily at the door of their chamber, he saw them spread out the gold before them and play with it and heard one of them say, 'Out on us! What doth this gold profit us? For that we cannot buy aught therewith neither spend it upon ourselves. Nay, but we have sinned against Abou Temam and done him to death unjustly.' And the other answered, 'Had we known that the king would presently kill him, we had not done what we did.'
When the king heard this, he could not contain himself, but rushed in upon them and said to them, 'Out on you! What did ye? Tell me.' And they said, 'Pardon, O king.' Quoth he, 'An ye would have pardon from God and me, it behoveth you to tell me the truth, for nothing shall save you from me but truth-speaking.' So they prostrated themselves before him and said, 'By Allah, O king, the viziers gave us this gold and taught us to lie against Abou Teman, so thou mightest put him to death, and what we said was their words.' When the king heard this, he plucked at his beard, till he was like to tear it up by the roots and bit upon his fingers, till he well-nigh sundered them in twain, for repentance and sorrow that he had wrought hastily and had not delayed with Abou Temam, so he might look into his affair.
Then he sent for the viziers and said to them, 'O wicked viziers, ye thought that God was heedless of your deed, but your wickedness shall revert upon you. Know ye not that whoso diggeth a pit for his brother shall fall into it? Take from me the punishment of this world and to-morrow ye shall get the punishment of the world to come and requital from God.' Then he bade put them to death; so [the headsman] smote off their heads before the king, and he went in to his wife and acquainted her with that wherein he had transgressed against Abou Temam; whereupon she grieved for him with an exceeding grief and the king and the people of his household left not weeping and repenting all their lives. Moreover, they brought Abou Temam forth of the well and the king built him a dome[FN#127] in his palace and buried him therein.
See, then, O august king," continued the youth, "what envy doth and injustice and how God caused the viziers' malice revert upon their own necks; and I trust in God that He will succour me against all who envy me my favour with the king and show forth the truth unto him. Indeed, I fear not for my life from death; only I fear lest the king repent of my slaughter, for that I am guiltless of offence, and if I knew that I were guilty of aught, my tongue would be mute."
When the king heard this, he bowed [his head] in perplexity and confusion and said, "Carry him back to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair."
The Ninth Day
OF DESTINY OR THAT WHICH IS WRITTEN ON THE FOREHEAD.
When it was the ninth day, the viziers [foregathered and] said, one to another, "Verily, this youth baffleth us, for as often as the king is minded to put him to death, he beguileth him and ensorcelleth him with a story; so what deem ye we should do, that we may slay him and be at rest from him?" Then they took counsel together and were of accord that they should go to the king's wife [and prompt her to urge the king to slaughter the youth. So they betook themselves to her] and said to her, "Thou art heedless of this affair wherein thou art and this heedlessness will not profit thee; whilst the king is occupied with eating and drinking and diversion and forgetteth that the folk beat upon tabrets and sing of thee and say, 'The king's wife loveth the youth;' and what while he abideth on life, the talk will increase and not diminish." Quoth she, "By Allah, it was ye set me on against him, and what shall I do [now]?" And they answered, "Do thou go in to the king and weep and say to him, 'Verily, the women come to me and tell me that I am become a byword in the city, and what is thine advantage in the sparing of this youth? If thou wilt not slay him, slay me, so this talk may be estopped from us.'"
So she arose and tearing her clothes, went in to the king, in the presence of the viziers, and cast herself upon him, saying, "O king, falleth my shame not upon thee and fearest thou not reproach? Indeed, this is not of the behoof of kings that their jealousy over their women should be thus [laggard]. Thou art heedless and all the folk of the realm prate of thee, men and women. So either slay him, that the talk may be cut off, or slay me, if thy soul will not consent to his slaughter." Thereupon the king's wrath waxed hot and he said to her, "I have no pleasure in his continuance [on life] and needs must I slay him this day. So return to thy house and comfort thy heart."
Then he bade fetch the youth; so they brought him before him and the viziers said, "O base of origin, out on thee! Thy term is at hand and the earth hungereth for thy body, so it may devour it." But he answered them, saying, "Death is not in your word nor in your envy; nay, it is an ordinance written upon the forehead; wherefore, if aught be written upon my forehead, needs must it come to pass, and neither endeavour nor thought-taking nor precaution will deliver me therefrom; [but it will surely happen] even as happened to King Ibrahim and his son." Quoth the king, "Who was King Ibrahim and who was his son?" And the youth said, "O king,