STORY OF KING IBRAHIM AND HIS SON.
There was once a king of the kings, by name Ibrahim, to whom the kings abased themselves and did obedience; but he had no son and was straitened of breast because of this, fearing lest the kingship go forth of his hand. He ceased not vehemently to desire a son and to buy slave-girls and lie with them, till one of them conceived, whereat he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and gave gifts and largesse galore. When the girl's months were accomplished and the season of her delivery drew near, the king summoned the astrologers and they watched for the hour of her child-bearing and raised astrolabes [towards the sun] and took strait note of the time. The damsel gave birth to a male child, whereat the king rejoiced with an exceeding joy, and the people heartened each other with the glad news of this.
Then the astrologers made their calculations and looked into his nativity and his ascendant, whereupon their colour changed and they were confounded. Quoth the king to them, 'Acquaint me with his horoscope and ye shall have assurance and fear ye not of aught' 'O king,' answered they, 'this child's nativity denotes that, in the seventh year of his age, there is to be feared for him from a lion, which will attack him; and if he be saved from the lion, there will betide an affair yet sorer and more grievous.' 'What is that?' asked the king; and they said, 'We will not speak, except the king command us thereto and give us assurance from [that which we] fear.' Quoth the king, 'God assure you!' And they said, 'If he be saved from the lion, the king's destruction will be at his hand.' When the king heard this, his colour changed and his breast was straitened; but he said in himself, 'I will be watchful and do my endeavour and suffer not the lion to eat him. It cannot be that he will kill me, and indeed the astrologers lied.'
Then he caused rear him among the nurses and matrons; but withal he ceased not to ponder the saying of the astrologers and indeed his life was troubled. So he betook himself to the top of a high mountain and dug there a deep pit and made in it many dwelling-places and closets and filled it with all that was needful of victual and raiment and what not else and made in it conduits of water from the mountain and lodged the boy therein, with a nurse who should rear him. Moreover, at the first of each month he used to go to the mountain and stand at the mouth of the pit and let down a rope he had with him and draw up the boy to him and strain him to his bosom and kiss him and play with him awhile, after which he would let him down again into the pit to his place and return; and he used to count the days till the seven years should pass by.
When came the time [of the accomplishment] of the foreordered fate and the fortune graven on the forehead and there abode for the boy but ten days till the seven years should be complete, there came to the mountain hunters hunting wild beasts and seeing a lion, gave chase to him. He fled from them and seeking refuge in the mountain, fell into the pit in its midst. The nurse saw him forthright and fled from him into one of the closets; whereupon the lion made for the boy and seizing upon him, tore his shoulder, after which he sought the closet wherein was the nurse and falling upon her, devoured her, whilst the boy abode cast down in a swoon. Meanwhile, when the hunters saw that the lion had fallen into the pit, they came to the mouth thereof and heard the shrieking of the boy and the woman; and after awhile the cries ceased, whereby they knew that the lion had made an end of them.
Presently, as they stood by the mouth of the pit, the lion came scrambling up the sides and would have issued forth; but, as often as he showed his head, they pelted him with stones, till they beat him down and he fell; whereupon one of the hunters descended into the pit and despatched him and saw the boy wounded; after which he went to the cabinet, where he found the woman dead, and indeed the lion had eaten his fill of her. Then he noted that which was therein of clothes and what not else, and advising his fellows thereof, fell to passing the stuff up to them. Moreover, he took up the boy and bringing him forth of the pit, carried him to their dwelling-place, where they dressed his wounds and he grew up with them, but acquainted them not with his affair; and indeed, when they questioned him, he knew not what he should say, for that he was little, when they let him down into the pit. The hunters marvelled at his speech and loved him with an exceeding love and one of them took him to son and abode rearing him with him [and instructing him] in hunting and riding on horseback, till he attained the age of twelve and became a champion, going forth with the folk to the chase and to the stopping of the way.
It chanced one day that they sallied forth to stop the way and fell in upon a caravan in the night; but the people of the caravan were on their guard; so they joined battle with the robbers and overcame them and slew them and the boy fell wounded and abode cast down in that place till the morrow, when he opened his eyes and finding his comrades slain, lifted himself up and rose to walk in the way. Presently, there met him a man, a treasure-seeker, and said to him, 'Whither goest thou, O youth?' So he told him what had betided him and the other said, 'Be of good heart, for that [the season of] thy fair fortune is come and God bringeth thee joy and solace. I am one who am in quest of a hidden treasure, wherein is vast wealth. So come with me, that thou mayst help me, and I will give thee wealth, wherewith thou shalt provide thyself thy life long.' Then he carried the youth to his dwelling and dressed his wound, and he abode with him some days, till he was rested; when he took him and two beasts and all that he needed, and they fared on till they came to a precipitous mountain.
Here the treasure-seeker brought out a book and reading therein, dug in the crest of the mountain five cubits deep, whereupon there appeared to him a stone. He pulled it up and behold, it was a trap-door covering the mouth of a pit. So he waited till the [foul] air was come forth from the midst of the pit, when he bound a rope about the boy's middle and let him down to the bottom, and with him a lighted flambeau. The boy looked and beheld, at the upper end of the pit, wealth galore; so the treasure-seeker let down a rope and a basket and the boy fell to filling and the man to drawing up, till the latter had gotten his sufficiency, when he loaded his beasts and did his occasion, whilst the boy looked for him to let down to him the rope and draw him up; but he rolled a great stone to the mouth of the pit and went away.
When the boy saw what the treasure-seeker had done with him he committed his affair to God (extolled be His perfection and exalted be He!) and abode perplexed concerning his case and said, 'How bitter is this death!' For that indeed the world was darkened on him and the pit was blinded to him. So he fell a-weeping and saying, 'I was delivered from the lion and the thieves and now is my death [appointed to be] in this pit, where I shall die lingeringly.' And he abode confounded and looked for nothing but death. As he pondered [his affair], behold, he heard a sound of water running with a mighty noise; so he arose and walked in the pit, following after the sound, till he came to a corner and heard the mighty running of water. So he laid his ear to the sound of the current and hearing it a great strength, said in himself, 'This is the running of a mighty water and needs must I die in this place, be it to-day or to-morrow; so I will cast myself into the water and not die a lingering death in this pit.'
Then he braced up his courage and gathering his skirts about him, threw himself into the water, and it bore him along with an exceeding might and carrying him under the earth, stayed not till it brought him out into a deep valley, wherethrough ran a great river, that welled up from under the earth. When he found himself on the surface of the earth, he abode perplexed and dazed all that day; after which he came to himself and rising, fared on along the valley, till he came to an inhabited land and a great village in the dominions of the king his father. So he entered the village and foregathered with its inhabitants, who questioned him of his case; whereupon he related to them his history and they marvelled at him, how God had delivered him from all this. Then he took up his abode with them and they loved him exceedingly.
To return to the king his father. When he went to the pit, as of his wont, and called the nurse, she returned him no answer, whereat his breast was straitened and he let down a man who [found the nurse dead and the boy gone and] acquainted the king therewith; which when he heard, he buffeted his head and wept passing sore and descended into the midst of the pit, so he might see how the case stood. There he found the nurse slain and the lion dead, but saw not the boy; so he [returned and] acquainted the astrologers with the verification of their words, and they said, 'O king, the lion hath eaten him; destiny hath been accomplished upon him and thou art delivered from his hand; for, had he been saved from the lion, by Allah, we had feared for thee from him, for that the king's destruction should have been at his hand.' So the king left [sorrowing for] this and the days passed by and the affair was forgotten.
Meanwhile, the boy [grew up and] abode with the people of the village, and when God willed the accomplishment of His ordinance, the which endeavour availeth not to avert, he went forth with a company of the villagers, to stop the way. The folk complained of them to the king, who sallied out with a company of his men and surrounded the highwaymen and the boy with them, whereupon the latter drew forth an arrow and launched it at them, and it smote the king in his vitals and wounded him. So they carried him to his house, after they had laid hands upon the youth and his companions and brought them before the king, saying, 'What biddest thou that we do with them?' Quoth he, 'I am presently in concern for myself; so bring me the astrologers.' Accordingly, they brought them before him and He said to them, 'Ye told me that my death should be by slaying at the hand of my son: how, then, befalleth it that I have gotten my death-wound on this wise of yonder thieves?' The astrologers marvelled and said to him, 'O king, it is not impossible to the lore of the stars, together with the fore-ordinance of God, that he who hath smitten thee should be thy son.'
When Ibrahim heard this, he let fetch the thieves and said to them, 'Tell me truly, which of you shot the arrow that wounded me.' Quoth they, 'It was this youth that is with us.' Whereupon the king fell to looking upon him and said to him, 'O youth, acquaint me with thy case and tell me who was thy father and thou shalt have assurance from God.' 'O my lord,' answered the youth, 'I know no father; as for me, my father lodged me in a pit [when I was little], with a nurse to rear me, and one day, there fell in upon us a lion, which tore my shoulder, then left me and occupied himself with the nurse and rent her in pieces; and God vouchsafed me one who brought me forth of the pit.' Then he related to him all that had befallen him, first and last; which when Ibrahim heard, he cried out and said, 'By Allah, this is my very son!' And he said to him, 'Uncover thy shoulder.' So he uncovered it and behold, it was scarred.
Then the king assembled his nobles and commons and the astrologers and said to them, 'Know that what God hath graven upon the forehead, be it fair fortune or calamity, none may avail to efface, and all that is decreed unto a man he must needs abide. Indeed, this my caretaking and my endeavour profited me nought, for that which God decreed unto my son, he hath abidden and that which He decreed unto me hath betided me. Nevertheless, I praise God and thank Him for that this was at my son's hand and not at the hand of another, and praised be He for that the kingship is come to my son!' And he strained the youth to his breast and embraced him and kissed him, saying, 'O my son, this matter was on such a wise, and of my care and watchfulness over thee from destiny, I lodged thee in that pit; but caretaking availed not.' Then he took the crown of the kingship and set it on his son's head and caused the folk and the people swear fealty to him and commended the subjects to his care and enjoined him to justice and equity. And he took leave of him that night and died and his son reigned in his stead.
On like wise, O king," continued the young treasurer, "is it with thee. If God have written aught on my forehead, needs must it befall me and my speech to the king shall not profit me, no, nor my adducing to him of [illustrative] instances, against the fore-ordinance of God. So with these viziers, for all their eagerness and endeavour for my destruction, this shall not profit them; for, if God [be minded to] save me, He will give me the victory over them."
When the king heard these words, he abode in perplexity and said, "Restore him to the prison till the morrow, so we may look into his affair, for the day draweth to an end and I mean to put him to death on exemplary wise, and [to-morrow] we will do with him that which he meriteth."
The Tenth Day.
OF THE APPOINTED TERM,[FN#128] WHICH, IF IT BE ADVANCED, MAY NOT BE DEFERRED AND IF IT BE DEFERRED, MAY NOT BE ADVANCED.
When it was the tenth day, (now this day was called El Mihrjan[FN#129] and it was the day of the coming in of the folk, gentle and simple, to the king, so they might give him joy and salute him and go forth), the counsel of the viziers fell of accord that they should speak with a company of the notables of the city [and urge them to demand of the king that he should presently put the youth to death]. So they said to them, "When ye go in to-day to the king and salute him, do ye say to him, 'O king, (to God be the praise!) thou art praiseworthy of policy and governance, just to all thy subjects; but this youth, to whom thou hast been bountiful, yet hath he reverted to his base origin and wrought this foul deed, what is thy purpose in his continuance [on life]? Indeed, thou hast prisoned him in thy house, and every day thou hearest his speech and thou knowest not what the folk say.'" And they answered with "Hearkening and obedience."
So, when they entered with the folk and had prostrated themselves before the king and given him joy and he had raised their rank, [they sat down]. Now it was the custom of the folk to salute and go forth, so, when they sat down, the king knew that they had a word that they would fain say. So he turned to them and said, "Ask your need." And the viziers also were present. Accordingly, they bespoke him with all that these latter had taught them and the viziers also spoke with them; and Azadbekht said to them, "O folk, I know that this your speech, there is no doubt of it, proceedeth from love and loyal counsel to me, and ye know that, were I minded to slay half these folk, I could avail to put them to death and this would not be difficult to me; so how shall I not slay this youth and he in my power and under the grip of my hand? Indeed, his crime is manifest and he hath incurred pain of death and I have only deferred his slaughter by reason of the greatness of the offence; for, if I do this with him and my proof against him be strengthened, my heart is healed and the heart of the folk; and if I slay him not to-day, his slaughter shall not escape me to-morrow."
Then he bade fetch the youth and when he was present before him, he prostrated himself to him and prayed for him; whereupon quoth the king to him, "Out on thee! How long shall the folk upbraid me on thine account and blame me for delaying thy slaughter? Even the people of my city blame me because of thee, so that I am grown a talking-stock among them, and indeed they come in to me and upbraid me [and urge me] to put thee to death. How long shall I delay this? Indeed, this very day I mean to shed thy blood and rid the folk of thy prate."
"O king," answered the youth, "if there have betided thee talk because of me, by Allah, by Allah the Great, those who have brought on thee this talk from the folk are these wicked viziers, who devise with the folk and tell them foul things and evil concerning the king's house; but I trust in God that He will cause their malice to revert upon their heads. As for the king's menace of me with slaughter, I am in the grasp of his hand; so let not the king occupy his mind with my slaughter, for that I am like unto the sparrow in the hand of the fowler; if he will, he slaughtereth him, and if he will, he looseth him. As for the delaying of my slaughter, it [proceedeth] not [from] the king, but from Him in whose hand is my life; for, by Allah, O king, if God willed my slaughter, thou couldst not avail to postpone it, no, not for a single hour. Indeed, man availeth not to fend off evil from himself, even as it was with the son of King Suleiman Shah, whose anxiety and carefulness for the accomplishment of his desire of the new-born child [availed him nothing], for his last hour was deferred how many a time! and God saved him until he had accomplished his [foreordained] period and had fulfilled [the destined term of] his life."
"Out on thee!" exclaimed the king. "How great is thy craft and thy talk! Tell me, what was their story." And the youth said, "O king,
STORY OF KING SULEIMAN SHAH AND HIS SONS.
There was once a king named Suleiman Shah, who was goodly of polity and judgment, and he had a brother who died and left a daughter. So Suleiman Shah reared her on the goodliest wise and the girl grew up, endowed with reason and perfection, nor was there in her time a fairer than she. Now the king had two sons, one of whom he had appointed in himself that he would marry her withal, and the other purposed in himself that he would take her. The elder son's name was Belehwan and that of the younger Melik Shah, and the girl was called Shah Khatoun.
One day, King Suleiman Shah went in to his brother's daughter and kissing her head, said to her, 'Thou art my daughter and dearer to me than a child, for the love of thy father deceased; wherefore I am minded to marry thee to one of my sons and appoint him my heir apparent, so he may be king after me. Look, then, which thou wilt have of my sons, for that thou hast been reared with them and knowest them.' The damsel arose and kissing his hand, said to him, 'O my lord, I am thine handmaid and thou art the ruler over me; so whatsoever pleaseth thee, do, for that thy wish is higher and more honourable and nobler [than mine] and if thou wouldst have me serve thee, [as a handmaid], the rest of my life, it were liefer to me than any [husband].'
The king approved her speech and bestowed on her a dress of honour and gave her magnificent gifts; after which, for that his choice had fallen upon his younger son, Melik Shah, he married her with him and made him his heir apparent and caused the folk swear fealty to him. When this came to the knowledge of his brother Belehwan and he was ware that his younger brother had been preferred over him, his breast was straitened and the affair was grievous to him and envy entered into him and rancour; but he concealed this in his heart, whilst fire raged therein because of the damsel and the kingship.
Meanwhile Shah Khatoun went in to the king's son and conceived by him and bore a son, as he were the resplendent moon. When Belehwan saw this that had betided his brother, jealousy and envy overcame him; so he went in one night to his father's house and coming to his brother's lodging, saw the nurse sleeping at the chamber-door, with the cradle before her and therein his brother's child asleep. Belehwan stood by him and fell to looking upon his face, the radiance whereof was as that of the moon, and Satan insinuated himself into his heart, so that he bethought himself and said, 'Why is not this child mine? Indeed, I am worthier of him than my brother, [yea], and of the damsel and the kingship.' Then envy got the better of him and anger spurred him, so that he took out a knife and setting it to the child's gullet, cut his throat and would have severed his windpipe.
So he left him for dead and entering his brother's chamber, saw him asleep, with the damsel by his side, and thought to slay her, but said in himself, 'I will leave the damsel for myself.' Then he went up to his brother and cutting his throat, severed his head from his body, after which he left him and went away. Therewithal the world was straitened upon him and his life was a light matter to him and he sought his father Suleiman Shah's lodging, that he might slay him, but could not win to him. So he went forth from the palace and hid himself in the city till the morrow, when he repaired to one of his father's strengths and fortified himself therein.
Meanwhile, the nurse awoke, that she might give the child suck, and seeing the bed running with blood, cried out; whereupon the sleepers and the king awoke and making for the place, found the child with his throat cut and the cradle running over with blood and his father slain and dead in his sleeping chamber. So they examined the child and found life in him and his windpipe whole and sewed up the place of the wound. Then the king sought his son Belehwan, but found him not and saw that he had fled; whereby he knew that it was he who had done this deed, and this was grievous to the king and to the people of his realm and to the lady Shah Katoun. So the king laid out his son Melik Shah and buried him and made him a mighty funeral and they mourned passing sore; after which he addressed himself to the rearing of the infant
As for Belehwan, when he fled and fortified himself, his power waxed amain and there remained for him but to make war upon his father, who had cast his affection upon the child and used to rear him on his knees and supplicate God the Most High that he might live, so he might commit the commandment to him. When he came to five years of age, the king mounted him on horseback and the people of the city rejoiced in him and invoked on him length of life, so he might take his father's leavings[FN#130] and [heal] the heart of his grandfather.
Meanwhile, Belehwan the froward addressed himself to pay court to Caesar, King of the Greeks,[FN#131] and seek help of him in making war upon his father, and he inclined unto him and gave him a numerous army. His father the king heard of this and sent to Caesar, saying, 'O king of illustrious might, succour not an evil-doer. This is my son and he hath done thus and thus and cut his brother's throat and that of his brother's son in the cradle.' But he told not the King of the Greeks that the child [had recovered and] was alive. When Caesar heard [the truth] of the matter, it was grievous to him and he sent back to Suleiman Shah, saying, 'If it be thy will, O king, I will cut off his head and send it to thee.' But he made answer, saying, 'I reck not of him: the reward of his deed and his crimes shall surely overtake him, if not to-day, then to-morrow.' And from that day he continued to correspond with Caesar and to exchange letters and presents with him.
Now the king of the Greeks heard tell of the damsel[FN#132] and of the beauty and grace wherewith she was gifted, wherefore his heart clave to her and he sent to seek her in marriage of Suleiman Shah, who could not refuse him. So he arose and going in to Shah Khatoun, said to her, 'O my daughter, the king of the Greeks hath sent to me to seek thee in marriage. What sayst thou?' She wept and answered, saying, 'O king, how canst thou find it in thy heart to bespeak me thus? Abideth there husband for me, after the son of my uncle?' 'O my daughter,' rejoined the king, 'it is indeed as thou sayest; but let us look to the issues of affairs. Needs must I take account of death, for that I am an old man and fear not but for thee and for thy little son; and indeed I have written to the king of the Greeks and others of the kings and said, "His uncle slew him," and said not that he [hath recovered and] is living, but concealed his affair. Now hath the king of the Greeks sent to demand thee in marriage, and this is no thing to be refused and fain would we have our back strengthened with him."[FN#133] And she was silent and spoke not.
So King Suleiman Shah made answer unto Caesar with 'Hearkening and obedience.' Then he arose and despatched her to him, and Cassar went in to her and found her overpassing the description wherewithal they had described her to him; wherefore he loved her with an exceeding love and preferred her over all his women and his love for Suleiman Shah was magnified; but Shah Khatoun's heart still clave to her son and she could say nought. As for Suleiman Shah's rebellious son, Belehwan, when he saw that Shah Khatoun had married the king of the Greeks, this was grievous to him and he despaired of her. Meanwhile, his father Suleiman Shah kept strait watch over the child and cherished him and named him Melik Shah, after the name of his father. When he reached the age of ten, he made the folk swear fealty to him and appointed him his heir apparent, and after some days, [the hour of] the old king's admission [to the mercy of God] drew near and he died.
Now a party of the troops had banded themselves together for Belehwan; so they sent to him and bringing him privily, went in to the little Melik Shah and seized him and seated his uncle Belehwan on the throne of the kingship. Then they proclaimed him king and did homage to him all, saying, 'Verily, we desire thee and deliver to thee the throne of the kingship; but we wish of thee that thou slay not thy brother's son, for that on our consciences are the oaths we swore to his father and grandfather and the covenants we made with them.' So Belehwan granted them this and imprisoned the boy in an underground dungeon and straitened him. Presently, the heavy news reached his mother and this was grievous to her; but she could not speak and committed her affair to God the Most High, daring not name this to King Caesar her husband, lest she should make her uncle King Suleiman Shah a liar.
So Belehwan the froward abode king in his father's room and his affairs prospered, what while the young Melik Shah lay in the underground dungeon four full-told years, till his charms faded and his favour changed. When God (extolled be His perfection and exalted be He!) willed to relieve him and bring him forth of the prison, Belehwan sat one day with his chief officers and the grandees of his state and discoursed with them of the story of King Suleiman Shah and what was in his heart. Now there were present certain viziers, men of worth, and they said to him, 'O king, verily God hath been bountiful unto thee and hath brought thee to thy wish, so that thou art become king in thy father's stead and hast gotten thee that which thou soughtest. But, as for this boy, there is no guilt in him, for that, from the day of his coming into the world, he hath seen neither ease nor joyance, and indeed his favour is faded and his charms changed [with long prison]. What is his offence that he should merit this punishment? Indeed, it is others than he who were to blame, and God hath given thee the victory over them, and there is no fault in this poor wight.' Quoth Belehwan, 'Indeed, it is as ye say; but I am fearful of his craft and am not assured from his mischief; belike the most part of the folk will incline unto him.' 'O king,' answered they, 'what is this boy and what power hath he? If thou fear him, send him to one of the frontiers.' And Belehwan said, 'Ye say sooth: we will send him to be captain over such an one of the marches.'
Now over against the place in question was a host of enemies, hard of heart, and in this he purposed the youth's slaughter. So he bade bring him forth of the underground dungeon and caused him draw near to him and saw his case. Then he bestowed on him a dress of honour and the folk rejoiced in this. Moreover, he tied him an ensign[FN#134] and giving him a numerous army, despatched him to the region aforesaid, whither all who went were still slain or made prisoners. So Melik Shah betook himself thither with his army and when it was one of the days, behold, the enemy fell in upon them in the night; whereupon some of his men fled and the rest the enemy took; and they took Melik Shah also and cast him into an underground dungeon, with a company of his men. There he abode a whole year in evil plight, whilst his fellows mourned over his beauty and grace.
Now it was the enemy's wont, at every year's end, to bring forth their prisoners and cast them down from the top of the citadel to the bottom. So they brought them forth, at the end of the year, and cast them down, and Melik Shah with them. However, he fell upon the [other] men and the earth touched him not, for his term was [God-]guarded. Now those that were cast down there were slain and their bodies ceased not to lie there till the wild beasts ate them and the winds dispersed them. Melik Shah abode cast down in his place, aswoon, all that day and night, and when he recovered and found himself whole, he thanked God the Most High for his safety [and rising, fared on at a venture]. He gave not over walking, unknowing whither he went and feeding upon the leaves of the trees; and by day he hid himself whereas he might and fared on all his night at hazard; and thus he did some days, till he came to an inhabited land and seeing folk there, accosted them and acquainted them with his case, giving them to know that he had been imprisoned in the fortress and that they had cast him down, but God the Most High had delivered him and brought him off alive.
The folk took compassion on him and gave him to eat and drink and he abode with them awhile. Then he questioned them of the way that led to the kingdom of his uncle Belehwan, but told them not that he was his uncle. So they taught him the way and he ceased not to go barefoot, till he drew near his uncle's capital, and he naked and hungry, and indeed his body was wasted and his colour changed. He sat down at the gate of the city, and presently up came a company of King Belehwan's chief officers, who were out a-hunting and wished to water their horses. So they lighted down to rest and the youth accosted them, saying, 'I will ask you of somewhat, wherewith do ye acquaint me.' Quoth they, 'Ask what thou wilt.' And he said, 'Is King Belehwan well?' They laughed at him and answered, 'What a fool art thou, O youth! Thou art a stranger and a beggar, and what concern hast thou with the king's health?' Quoth he, 'Indeed, he is my uncle;' whereat they marvelled and said, 'It was one question[FN#135] and now it is become two.' Then said they to him, 'O youth, it is as thou wert mad. Whence pretendest thou to kinship with the king? Indeed, we know not that he hath aught of kinsfolk, except a brother's son, who was prisoned with him, and he despatched him to wage war upon the infidels, so that they slew him.' 'I am he,' answered Melik Shah, 'and they slew me not, but there betided me this and that.'
They knew him forthright and rising to him, kissed his hands and rejoiced in him and said to him, 'O our lord, in good sooth, thou art a king and the son of a king, and we desire thee nought but good and beseech [God to grant] thee continuance. Consider how God hath rescued thee from this thy wicked uncle, who sent thee to a place whence none came ever off alive, purposing not in this but thy destruction; and indeed thou fellest into [peril of] death and God delivered thee therefrom. So how wilt thou return and cast thyself again into thine enemy's hand? By Allah, save thyself and return not to him again. Belike thou shall abide upon the face of the earth till it please God the Most High [to vouchsafe thee relief]; but, if thou fall again into his hand, he will not suffer thee live a single hour.'
The prince thanked them and said to them, 'God requite you with all good, for indeed ye give me loyal counsel; but whither would ye have me go?' Quoth they, 'Get thee to the land of the Greeks, the abiding-place of thy mother.' And he said, 'My grandfather Suleiman Shah, when the King of the Greeks wrote to him, demanding my mother in marriage, concealed my affair and hid my secret; [and she hath done the like,] and I cannot make her a liar.' 'Thou sayst sooth,' rejoined they; 'but we desire thine advantage, and even if thou tookest service with the folk, it were a means of thy continuance [on life].' Then each of them brought out to him money and gave to him and clad him and fed him and fared on with him a parasang's distance till they brought him far from the city, and giving him to know that he was safe, departed from him, whilst he fared on till he came forth of the dominions of his uncle and entered those [of the king] of the Greeks. Then he entered a village and taking up his abode therein, betook himself to serving one there in ploughing and sowing and the like.
As for his mother, Shah Khatoun, great was her longing for her son and she [still] thought of him and news of him was cut off from her, wherefore her life was troubled and she forswore sleep and could not make mention of him before King Caesar her husband. Now she had an eunuch who had come with her from the court of her uncle King Suleiman Shah, and he was intelligent, quickwitted, a man of good counsel. So she took him apart one day and said to him, 'Thou hast been my servant from my childhood to this day; canst thou not therefore avail to get me news of my son, for that I cannot speak of his matter?' 'O my lady,' answered he, 'this is an affair that thou hast concealed from the first, and were thy son here, it would not be possible for thee to harbour him, lest thine honour fall into suspicion with the king; for they would never credit thee, since the news hath been spread abroad that thy son was slain by his uncle.' Quoth she, 'The case is even as thou sayst and thou speakest truly; but, provided I know that my son is alive, let him be in these parts pasturing sheep and let me not see him nor he me.' And he said to her, 'How shall we contrive in this affair?' 'Here are my treasures and my wealth,' answered she. 'Take all thou wilt and bring me my son or else news of him.'
Then they agreed upon a device between them, to wit, that they should feign an occasion in their own country, under pretext that she had there wealth buried from the time of her husband Melik Shah and that none knew of it but this eunuch who was with her, wherefore it behoved that he should go and fetch it. So she acquainted the king her husband with this and sought of him leave for the eunuch to go: and the king granted him permission for the journey and charged him cast about for a device, lest any get wind of him. Accordingly, the eunuch disguised himself as a merchant and repairing to Belehwan's city, began to enquire concerning the youth's case; whereupon they told him that he had been prisoned in an underground dungeon and that his uncle had released him and dispatched him to such a place, where they had slain him. When the eunuch heard this, it was grievous to him and his breast was straitened and he knew not what he should do.
It chanced one day that one of the horsemen, who had fallen in with the young Melik Shah by the water and clad him and given him spending-money, saw the eunuch in the city, disguised as a merchant, and recognizing him, questioned him of his case and of [the reason of] his coming. Quoth he, 'I come to sell merchandise.' And the horseman said, 'I will tell thee somewhat, if thou canst keep it secret.' 'It is well,' answered the eunuch; 'what is it?' And the other said, 'We met the king's son Melik Shah, I and certain of the Arabs who were with me, and saw him by such a water and gave him spending-money and sent him towards the land of the Greeks, near his mother, for that we feared for him, lest his uncle Belehwan should kill him.' Then he told him all that had passed between them, whereupon the eunuch's countenance changed and he said to the cavalier, 'Assurance!' 'Thou shalt have assurance,' answered the other, 'though thou come in quest of him.' And the eunuch rejoined, saying, 'Truly, that is my errand, for there abideth no repose for his mother, lying down or rising up, and she hath sent me to seek news of him.' Quoth the cavalier, 'Go in safety, for he is in a [certain] part of the land of the Greeks, even as I said to thee.'
The eunuch thanked him and blessed him and mounting, returned upon his way, following the trace, whilst the cavalier rode with him to a certain road, when he said to him, 'This is where we left him.' Then he took leave of him and returned to his own city, whilst the eunuch fared on along the road, enquiring of the youth in every village he entered by the description which the cavalier had given him, and he ceased not to do thus till he came to the village where the young Melik Shah was. So he entered and lighting down therein, made enquiry after the prince, but none gave him news of him; whereat he abode perplexed concerning his affair and addressed himself to depart. Accordingly he mounted his horse [and set out homeward]; but, as he passed through the village, he saw a cow bound with a rope and a youth asleep by her side, with the end of the halter in his hand; so he looked at him and passed on and took no heed of him in his heart; but presently he stopped and said in himself; 'If he of whom I am in quest be come to the like [of the condition] of yonder sleeping youth, by whom I passed but now, how shall I know him? Alas, the length of my travail and weariness! How shall I go about in quest of a wight whom I know not and whom, if I saw him face to face, I should not know?'
Then he turned back, pondering upon that sleeping youth, and coming to him, as he slept, lighted down from his horse and sat down by him. He fixed his eyes upon his face and considered him awhile and said in himself, 'For aught I know, this youth may be Melik Shah.' And he fell a-hemming and saying, 'Harkye, O youth!' Whereupon the sleeper awoke and sat up; and the eunuch said to him, 'Who is thy father in this village and where is thy dwelling?' The youth sighed and answered, 'I am a stranger;' and the eunuch said, 'From what land art thou and who is thy father?' Quoth the other, 'I am from such a land,' and the eunuch ceased not to question him and he to answer him, till he was certified of him and knew him. So he rose and embraced him and kissed him and wept over his case. Moreover, he told him that he was going about in quest of him and informed him that he was come privily from the king his mother's husband and that his mother would be content [to know] that he was alive and well, though she saw him not.
Then he re-entered the village and buying the prince a horse, mounted him thereon and they ceased not going, till they came to the frontier of their own country, where there fell robbers upon them by the way and took all that was with them and pinioned them; after which they cast them into a pit hard by the road and went away and left them to die there, and indeed they had cast many folk into that pit and they had died.
The eunuch fell a-weeping in the pit and the youth said to him, 'What is this weeping and what shall it profit here?' Quoth the eunuch, 'I weep not for fear of death, but of pity for thee and the sorriness of thy case and because of thy mother's heart and for that which thou hast suffered of horrors and that thy death should be this abject death, after the endurance of all manner stresses.' But the youth said, 'That which hath betided me was forewrit to me and that which is written none hath power to efface; and if my term be advanced, none may avail to defer it.'[FN#136] Then they passed that night and the following day and the next night and the next day [in the pit], till they were weak with hunger and came near upon death and could but groan feebly.
Now it befell, by the ordinance of God the Most High and His providence, that Caesar, king of the Greeks, the husband of Melik Shah's mother Shah Khatoun, [went forth to the chase that day]. He started a head of game, he and his company, and chased it, till they came up with it by that pit, whereupon one of them lighted down from his horse, to slaughter it, hard by the mouth of the pit. He heard a sound of low moaning from the bottom of the pit} so he arose and mounting his horse, waited till the troops were assembled. Then he acquainted the king with this and he bade one of his servants [descend into the pit]. So the man descended and brought out the youth [and the eunuch], aswoon.
They cut their bonds and poured wine into their gullets, till they came to themselves, when the king looked at the eunuch and recognizing him, said, 'Harkye, such an one!' 'Yes, O my lord the king,' replied the man and prostrated himself to him; whereat the king marvelled with an exceeding wonder and said to him, 'How earnest thou to this place and what hath befallen thee?" Quoth the eunuch, 'I went and took out the treasure and brought it hither; but the [evil] eye was behind me and I unknowing. So the thieves took us alone here and seized the money and cast us into this pit, so we might die of hunger, even as they had done with other than we; but God the Most High sent thee, in pity to us.'
The king marvelled, he and his company, and praised God the Most High for that he had come thither; after which he turned to the eunuch and said to him, 'What is this youth thou hast with thee?' 'O king,' answered he, 'this is the son of a nurse who belonged to us and we left him little. I saw him to-day and his mother said to me, 'Take him with thee.' So I brought him with me, that he might be a servant to the king, for that he is an adroit and quickwitted youth.' Then the king fared on, he and his company, and the eunuch and the youth with them, what while he questioned the former of Belehwan and his dealing with his subjects, and he answered, saying, 'As thy head liveth, O king, the folk with him are in sore straits and not one of them desireth to look on him, gentle or simple.'
[When the king returned to his palace,] he went in to his wife Shah Khatoun and said to her, 'I give thee the glad news of thine eunuch's return.' And he told her what had betided and of the youth whom he had brought with him. When she heard this, her wits fled and she would have cried out, but her reason restrained her, and the king said to her, 'What is this? Art thou overcome with grief for [the loss of] the treasure or [for that which hath befallen] the eunuch?' 'Nay, as thy head liveth, O king!' answered she. 'But women are fainthearted.' Then came the servant and going in to her, told her all that had befallen him and acquainted her with her son's case also and with that which he had suffered of stresses and how his uncle had exposed him to slaughter and he had been taken prisoner and they had cast him into the pit and hurled him from the top of the citadel and how God had delivered him from these perils, all of them; and he went on to tell her [all that had betided him], whilst she wept.
Then said she to him, 'When the king saw him and questioned thee of him, what saidst thou to him?' And he answered, 'I said to him, "This is the son of a nurse who belonged to us. We left him little and he grew up; so I brought him, that he might be servant to the king,"' Quoth she, 'Thou didst well.' And she charged him to be instant in the service of the prince. As for the king, he redoubled in kindness to the eunuch and appointed the youth a liberal allowance and he abode going in to the king's house and coming out therefrom and standing in his service, and every day he grew in favour with him; whilst, as for Shah Khatoun, she used to stand a-watch for him at the windows and balconies and gaze upon him, and she on coals of fire on his account, yet could she not speak.
On this wise she abode a great while and indeed yearning for him came nigh to slay her; so she stood and watched for him one day at the door of her chamber and straining him to her bosom, kissed him on the cheek and breast. At this moment, out came the master of the king's household and seeing her embracing the youth, abode amazed. Then he asked to whom that chamber belonged and was answered, 'To Shah Khatoun, wife of the king,' whereupon he turned back, trembling as [one smitten by] a thunderbolt. The king saw him quaking and said to him, 'Out on thee! what is the matter?' 'O king,' answered he, 'what matter is graver than that which I see?' 'What seest thou?' asked the king and the officer said, 'I see that yonder youth, who came with the eunuch, he brought not with him but on account of Shah Khatoun; for that I passed but now by her chamber door, and she was standing, watching; [and when the youth came up,] she rose to him and clipped him and kissed him on his cheek.'
When the king heard this, he bowed [his head] in amazement and perplexity and sinking into a seat, clutched at his beard and shook it, till he came nigh to pluck it out. Then he arose forthright and laid hands on the youth and clapped him in prison. Moreover, he took the eunuch also and cast them both into an underground dungeon in his house, after which he went in to Shah Khatoun and said to her, 'Thou hast done well, by Allah, O daughter of nobles, O thou whom kings sought in marriage, for the excellence of thy repute and the goodliness of the reports of thee! How fair is thy semblance! May God curse her whose inward is the contrary of her outward, after the likeness of thy base favour, whose outward is comely and its inward foul, fair face and foul deeds! Verily, I mean to make of thee and of yonder good-for-nought an example among the folk, for that thou sentest not thine eunuch but of intent on his account, so that he took him and brought him into my house and thou hast trampled my head with him; and this is none other than exceeding hardihood; but thou shall see what I will do with you.'
So saying, he spat in her face and went out from her; whilst Shah Khatoun made him no answer, knowing that, if she spoke at that time, he would not credit her speech. Then she humbled herself in supplication to God the Most High and said, 'O God the Great, Thou knowest the hidden things and the outward parts and the inward' If an advanced term[FN#137] be [appointed] to me, let it not be deferred, and if a deferred one, let it not be advanced!' On this wise she passed some days, whilst the king fell into perplexity and forswore meat and drink and sleep and abode knowing not what he should do and saying [in himself], 'If I kill the eunuch and the youth, my soul will not be solaced, for they are not to blame, seeing that she sent to fetch him, and my heart will not suffer me to slay them all three. But I will not be hasty in putting them to death, for that I fear repentance.' Then he left them, so he might look into the affair.
Now he had a nurse, a foster-mother, on whose knees he had been reared, and she was a woman of understanding and misdoubted of him, but dared not accost him [with questions]. So she went in to Shah Khatoun and finding her in yet sorrier plight than he, asked her what was to do; but she refused to answer. However, the nurse gave not over coaxing and questioning her, till she exacted of her an oath of secrecy. So the old woman swore to her that she would keep secret all that she should say to her, whereupon the queen related to her her history from first to last and told her that the youth was her son. With this the old woman prostrated herself before her and said to her, 'This is an easy matter.' But the queen answered, saying, 'By Allah, O my mother, I choose my destruction and that of my son rather than defend myself by avouching a thing whereof they will not credit me; for they will say, "She avoucheth this, but that she may fend off reproach from herself" And nought will avail me but patience.' The old woman was moved by her speech and her intelligence and said to her, 'Indeed, O my daughter, it is as thou sayst, and I hope in God that He will show forth the truth. Have patience and I will presently go in to the king and hear what he saith and contrive somewhat in this matter, if it be the will of God the Most High.'
Then she arose and going in to the king, found him with his head between his knees, and he lamenting. So she sat down by him awhile and bespoke him with soft words and said to him, 'Indeed, O my son, thou consumest mine entrails, for that these [many] days thou hast not mounted to horse, and thou lamentest and I know not what aileth thee.' 'O my mother,' answered he, '[this my chagrin] is due to yonder accursed woman, of whom I still deemed well and who hath done thus and thus.' Then he related to her the whole story from first to last, and she said to him, 'This thy concern is on account of a worthless woman.' Quoth he, 'I was but considering by what death I should slay them, so the folk may [be admonished by their fate and] repent.' And she said, 'O my son, beware of haste, for it engendereth repentance and the slaying of them will not escape [thee]. When thou art assured of this affair, do what thou wilt.' 'O my mother,' rejoined he; 'there needeth no assurance concerning him for whom she despatched her eunuch and he fetched him.'
But she said, 'There is a thing wherewith we will make her confess, and all that is in her heart shall be discovered to thee.' 'What is that?' asked the king, and she answered, 'I will bring thee a hoopoe's heart,[FN#138] which, when she sleepeth, do thou lay upon her heart and question her of all thou wilt, and she will discover this unto thee and show forth the truth to thee." The king rejoiced in this and said to his nurse, 'Hasten and let none know of thee.' So she arose and going in to the queen, said to her, 'I have done thine occasion and it is on this wise. This night the king will come in to thee and do thou feign thyself asleep; and if he ask thee of aught, do thou answer him, as if in thy sleep.' The queen thanked her and the old woman went away and fetching the hoopoe's heart, gave it to the king.
Hardly was the night come, when he went in to his wife and found her lying back, [apparently] asleep; so he sat down by her side and laying the hoopoe's heart on her breast, waited awhile, so he might be certified that she slept. Then said he to her, 'Shah Khatoun, Shah Khatoun, is this my recompense from thee?' Quoth she, 'What offence have I committed?' And he, 'What offence can be greater than this? Thou sentest after yonder youth and broughtest him hither, on account of the desire of thy heart, so thou mightest do with him that for which thou lustedst.' 'I know not desire,' answered she. 'Verily, among thy servants are those who are comelier and handsomer than he; yet have I never desired one of them.' 'Why, then,' asked he, 'didst thou lay hold of him and kiss him!' And she said, 'This is my son and a piece of my heart; and of my longing and love for him, I could not contain myself, but sprang upon him and kissed him.' When the king heard this, he was perplexed and amazed and said to her, 'Hast thou a proof that this youth is thy son? Indeed, I have a letter from thine uncle King Suleiman Shah, [wherein he giveth me to know] that his unck Belehwan cut his throat.' 'Yes,' answered she, 'he did indeed cut his throat, but severed not the windpipe; so my uncle sewed up the wound and reared him, [and he lived,] for that his hour was not come.'
When the king heard this, he said, 'This proof sufficeth me,' and rising forthright in the night, let bring the youth and the eunuch. Then he examined the former's throat with a candle and saw [the scar where] it [had been] cut from ear to ear, and indeed the place had healed up and it was like unto a stretched-out thread. Therewithal the king fell down prostrate to God, [in thanksgiving to Him] for that He had delivered the prince from all these perils and from the stresses that he had undergone, and rejoiced with an exceeding joy for that he had wrought deliberately and had not made haste to slay him, in which case sore repentance had betided him. As for the youth," continued the young treasurer, "he was not saved but because his term was deferred, and on like wise, O king, is it with me; I too have a deferred term, which I shall attain, and a period which I shall accomplish, and I trust in God the Most High that He will give me the victory over these wicked viziers."
When the youth had made an end of his speech, the king said, "Carry him back to the prison;" and when they had done this, he turned to the viziers and said to them, "Yonder youth looseth his tongue upon you, but I know your affectionate solicitude for the welfare of my empire and your loyal counsel to me; so be of good heart, for all that ye counsel me I will do." When they heard tnese words, they rejoiced and each of them said his say Then said the king, "I have not deferred his slaughter but to the intent that the talk might be prolonged and that words might abound, and I desire [now] that ye sit up for him a gibbet without the town and make proclamation among the folk that they assemble and take him and carry him in procession to the gibbet, with the crier crying before him and saying, 'This is the recompense of him whom the king delighted to favour and who hath betrayed him!'" The viziers rejoiced, when they heard this, and slept not that night, of their joy; and they made proclamation in the city and set up the gibbet.
The Eleventh Day.
OF THE SPEEDY RELIEF OF GOD.
When it was the eleventh day, the viziers betook them early in the morning to the king's gate and said to him, "O king, the folk are assembled from the king's gate to the gibbet, so they may see [the execution of] the king's commandment on the youth." So the king bade fetch the prisoner and they brought him; whereupon the viziers turned to him and said to him, "O vile of origin, doth any hope of life remain with thee and lookest thou still for deliverance after this day?" "O wicked viziers," answered he, "shall a man of understanding renounce hope in God the Most High? Indeed, howsoever a man be oppressed, there cometh to him deliverance from the midst of stress and life from the midst of death, [as is shown by the case of] the prisoner and how God delivered him." "What is his story?" asked the king; and the youth answered, saying, "O king, they tell that
STORY OF THE PRISONER AND HOW GOD GAVE HIM RELIEF.
There was once a king of the kings, who had a high palace, overlooking a prison of his, and he used to hear in the night one saying, 'O Ever-present Deliverer, O Thou whose relief is nigh, relieve Thou me!' One day the king waxed wroth and said, "Yonder fool looketh for relief from [the consequences of] his crime. 'Then said he to his officers, 'Who is in yonder prison?' And they answered, 'Folk upon whom blood hath been found.'[FN#139] So the king bade bring the man in question before him and said to him, 'O fool, little of wit, how shall thou be delivered from this prison, seeing that thine offence is great?' Then he committed him to a company of his guards and said to them, 'Take this fellow and crucify him without the city.'
Now it was the night-season. So the soldiers carried him without the city, thinking to crucify him, when, behold, there came out upon them thieves and fell in on them with swords and [other] weapons. Thereupon the guards left him whom they purposed to put to death [and took to flight], whilst the man who was going to slaughter fled forth at a venture and plunging into the desert, knew not whither he went before he found himself in a thicket and there came out upon him a lion of frightful aspect, which snatched him up and set him under him. Then he went up to a tree and tearing it up by the roots, covered the man therewith and made off into the thicket, in quest of the lioness.
As for the man, he committed his affair to God the Most High, relying upon Him for deliverance, and said in himself, 'What is this affair?' Then he did away the leaves from himself and rising, saw great plenty of men's bones there, of those whom the lion had devoured. He looked again and saw a heap of gold lying alongside a girdle;[FN#140] whereat he marvelled and gathering up the gold in his skirts, went forth of the thicket and fled in affright at hazard, turning neither to the right nor to the left, in his fear of the lion; till he came to a village and cast himself down, as he were dead. He lay there till the day appeared and he was rested from his fatigue, when he arose and burying the gold, entered the village. Thus God gave him relief and he came by the gold."
Then said the king, "How long wilt thou beguile us with thy prate, O youth? But now the hour of thy slaughter is come." And he bade crucify him upon the gibbet. [So they carried him to the place of execution] and were about to hoist him up [upon the cross,] when, behold, the captain of the thieves, who had found him and reared him,[FN#141] came up at that moment and asked what was that assembly and [the cause of] the crowds gathered there. They told him that a servant of the king had committed a great crime and that he was about to put him to death. So the captain of the thieves pressed forward and looking upon the prisoner, knew him, whereupon he went up to him and embraced him and clipped him and fell to kissing him upon his mouth. Then said he, "This is a boy whom I found under such a mountain, wrapped in a gown of brocade, and I reared him and he fell to stopping the way with us. One day, we set upon a caravan, but they put us to flight and wounded some of us and took the boy and went their way. From that day to this I have gone round about the lands in quest of him, but have not lighted on news of him [till now;] and this is he."
When the king heard this, he was certified that the youth was his very son; so he cried out at the top of his voice and casting himself upon him, embraced him and wept and said, "Had I put thee to death, as was my intent, I should have died of regret for thee." Then he cut his bonds and taking his crown from his head, set it on that of his son, whereupon the people raised cries of joy, whilst the trumpets sounded and the drums beat and there befell a great rejoicing. They decorated the city and it was a glorious day; the very birds stayed their flight in the air, for the greatness of the clamour and the noise of the crying. The army and the folk carried the prince [to the palace] in magnificent procession, and the news came to his mother Behrjaur, who came forth and threw herself upon him. Moreover, the king bade open the prison and bring forth all who were therein, and they held high festival seven days and seven nights and rejoiced with a mighty rejoicing; whilst terror and silence and confusion and affright fell upon the viziers and they gave themselves up for lost.
After this the king sat, with his son by his side and the viziers sitting before him, and summoned his chief officers and the folk of the city. Then the prince turned to the viziers and said to them, "See, O wicked viziers, that which God hath done and the speedy [coming of] relief." But they answered not a word and the king said, "It sufficeth me that there is nothing alive but rejoiceth with me this day, even to the birds in the sky, but ye, your breasts are straitened. Indeed, this is the greatest of ill-will in you to me, and had I hearkened to you, my regret had been prolonged and I had died miserably of grief." "O my father," quoth the prince, "but for the fairness of thy thought and thy judgment and thy longanimity and deliberation in affairs, there had not bedded thee this great joyance. Hadst thou slain me in haste, repentance would have been sore on thee and long grief, and on this wise doth he who ensueth haste repent."
Then the king sent for the captain of the thieves and bestowed on him a dress of honour,[FN#142] commanding that all who loved the king should put off [their raiment and cast it] upon him.[FN#143] So there fell dresses of honour [and other presents] on him, till he was wearied with their much plenty, and Azadbekht invested him with the mastership of the police of his city. Then he bade set up other nine gibbets beside the first and said to his son, "Thou art guiltless, and yet these wicked viziers endeavoured for thy slaughter." "O my father," answered the prince, "I had no fault [in their eyes] but that I was a loyal counsellor to thee and still kept watch over thy good and withheld their hands from thy treasuries; wherefore they were jealous and envied me and plotted against me and sought to slay me," Quoth the king, "The time [of retribution] is at hand, O my son; but what deemest thou we should do with them in requital of that which they did with thee? For that they have endeavoured for thy slaughter and exposed thee to public ignominy and soiled my honour among the kings."
Then he turned to the viziers and said to them, "Out on ye! What liars ye are! What excuse is left you?" "O king," answered they, "there abideth no excuse for us and our sin hath fallen upon us and broken us in pieces. Indeed we purposed evil to this youth and it hath reverted upon us, and we plotted mischief against him and it hath overtaken us; yea, we digged a pit for him and have fallen ourselves therein." So the king bade hoist up the viziers upon the gibbets and crucify them there, for that God is just and ordaineth that which is right. Then Azadbekht and his wife and son abode in joyance and contentment, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and they died all; and extolled be the perfection of the [Ever-]Living One, who dieth not, to whom be glory and whose mercy be upon us for ever and ever! Amen.
JAAFER BEN YEHYA AND ABDULMEILIK BEN SALIH THE ABBASIDE.[FN#144]
It is told of Jaafer ben Yehya the Barmecide that he sat down one day to drink and being minded to be private (with his friends), sent for his boon-companions, in whom he delighted, and charged the chamberlain[FN#145] that he should suffer none of the creatures of God the Most High to enter, save a man of his boon-companions, by name Abdulmelik ben Salih,[FN#146] who was behindhand with them. Then they donned coloured clothes,[FN#147] for that it was their wont, whenas they sat in the wine-chamber, to don raiment of red and yellow and green silk, and sat down to drink, and the cups went round and the lutes pulsed.
Now there was a man of the kinsfolk of the Khalif [Haroun er Reshid], by name Abdulmelik ben Salih ben Ali ben Abdallah ben el Abbas,[FN#148] who was great of gravity and piety and decorousness, and Er Reshid was used instantly to require of him that he should keep him company in his carousals and drink with him and had proffered him, to this end, riches galore, but he still refused. It chanced that this Abdulmelik es Salih came to the door of Jaafer ben Yehya, that he might bespeak him of certain occasions of his, and the chamberlain, doubting not but he was the Abdulmelik ben Salih aforesaid, whom Jaafer had charged him admit and that he should suffer none but him to enter, allowed him to go in to his master.
When Jaafer saw him, his reason was like to depart for shame and he knew that the chamberlain had been deceived by the likeness of the name; and Abdulmelik also perceived how the case stood and confusion was manifest to him in Jaafer's face. So he put on a cheerful favour and said, "No harm be upon you![FN#149] Bring us of these dyed clothes." So they brought him a dyed gown[FN#150] and he put it on and sat discoursing cheerily with Jaafer and jesting with him. Then said he, "Give us to drink of your wine." So they poured him out a pint and he said, "Be ye indulgent with us, for we have no wont of this." Then he chatted and jested with them till Jaafer's breast dilated and his constraint ceased from him and his shamefastness, and he rejoiced in this with an exceeding joy and said to Abdulmelik, "What is thine errand?" Quoth the other, "I come (may God amend thee!) on three occasions, whereof I would have thee bespeak the Khalif; to wit, firstly, I have on me a debt to the amount of a thousand thousand dirhems,[FN#151] which I would have discharged; secondly, I desire for my son the office of governor of a province, whereby his rank may be raised; and thirdly, I would fain have thee marry him to a daughter of the Khalif, for that she is his cousin and he is a match for her." And Jaafer said, "God accomplished! unto thee these three occasions. As for the money, it shall presently be carried to thy house; as for the government, I make thy son viceroy of Egypt; and as for the marriage, I give him to wife such an one, the daughter of our Lord the Commander of the Faithful, at a dowry of such and such a sum. So depart in the assurance of God the Most High."
So Abdulmelik went away to his house, whither he found that the money had foregone him, and on the morrow Jaafer presented himself before the Khalif and acquainted him with what had passed and that he had appointed Abdulmelik's son governor of Egypt and had promised him his daughter in marriage. Er Reshid approved of this and confirmed the appointment and the marriage. [Then he sent for the young man] and he went not forth of the palace of the Khalif till he wrote him the patent [of investiture with the government] of Egypt; and he let bring the Cadis and the witnesses and drew up the contract of marriage.
ER RESHID AND THE BARMECIDES.[FN#152]
It is said that the most extraordinary of that which happened to Er Reshid was as follows: His brother El Hadi,[FN#153] when he succeeded to the Khalifate, enquired of a seal-ring of great price, that had belonged to his father El Mehdi,[FN#154] and it came to his knowledge that Er Reshid had taken it. So he required it of the latter, who refused to give it up, and El Hadi insisted upon him, but he still denied the seal-ring of the Khalifate. Now this was on the bridge [over the Tigris], and he threw the ring into the river. When El Hadi died and Er Reshid succeeded to the Khalifate, he came in person to that bridge, with a seal-ring of lead, which he threw into the river at the same place, and bade the divers seek it. So they did [his bidding] and brought up the first ring, and this was reckoned [an omen] of Er Reshid's good fortune and [a presage of] the continuance of his reign.[FN#155]
When Er Reshid came to the throne, he invested Jaafer ben Yehya ben Khalid el Bermeki[FN#156] with the vizierate. Now Jaafer was eminently distinguished for generosity and munificence, and the stories of him to this effect are renowned and are written in the books. None of the viziers attained to the rank and favour which he enjoyed with Er Reshid, who was wont to call him brother[FN#157] and used to carry him with him into his house. The period of his vizierate was nineteen years,[FN#158] and Yehya one day said to his son Jaafer, "O my son, what time thy reed trembleth, water it with kindness."[FN#159] Opinions differ concerning the reason of Jaafer's slaughter, but the better is as follows. Er Reshid could not brook to be parted from Jaafer nor from his [own] sister Abbaseh, daughter of El Mehdi, a single hour, and she was the loveliest woman of her time; so he said to Jaafer, "I will marry thee to her, that it may be lawful to thee to look upon her, but thou shalt not touch her." [Accordingly, they were married] and they used both to be present in Er Reshid's sitting chamber. Now the Khalif would rise bytimes [and go forth] from the chamber, and they being both young and filled with wine, Jaafer would rise to her and swive her. She conceived by him and bore a handsome boy and fearing Er Reshid, despatched the newborn child by one of her confidants to Mecca the Holy, may God the Most High advance it in honour and increase it in venerance and nobility and magnification! The affair abode concealed till there befell despite between Abbaseh and one of her slave-girls, whereupon the latter discovered the affair of the child to Er Reshid and acquainted him with its abiding-place. So, when the Khalif made the pilgrimage, he despatched one who brought him the boy and found the affair true, wherefore he caused befall the Barmecides that which befell.[FN#160]
IBN ES SEMMAK AND ER RESHID.[FN#161]
It is related that Ibn es Semmak[FN#162] went in one day to Er Reshid and the Khalif, being athirst, called for drink. So his cup was brought him, and when he took it, Ibn es Semmak said to him, "Softly, O Commander of the Faithful! If thou wert denied this draught, with what wouldst thou buy it?" "With the half of my kingdom," answered the Khalif; and Ibn es Semmak said, "Drink and God prosper it to thee!" Then, when he had drunken, he said to him, "If thou wert denied the going forth of the draught from thy body, with what wouldst thou buy its issue?" "With the whole of my kingdom," answered Er Reshid: and Ibn es Semmak said, "O Commander of the Faithful, verily, a kingdom that weigheth not in the balance against a draught [of water] or a voiding of urine is not worth the striving for." And Haroun wept.
EL MAMOUN AND ZUBEIDEH[FN#163]
It is said that El Mamoun[FN#164] came one day upon Zubeideh, mother of El Amin,[FN#165] and saw her moving her lips and muttering somewhat he understood not; so he said to her, "O mother mine, dost thou imprecate [curses] upon me, for that I slew thy son and despoiled him of his kingdom?" "Not so, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful!" answered she, and he said, "What then saidst thou?" Quoth she, "Let the Commander of the Faithful excuse me." But he was instant with her, saying, "Needs must thou tell it." And she replied, "I said, 'God confound importunity!'" "How so?" asked the Khalif, and she said, "I played one day at chess with the Commander of the Faithful [Haroun er Reshid] and he imposed on me the condition of commandment and acceptance.[FN#166] He beat me and bade me put off my clothes and go round about the palace, naked; so I did this, and I incensed against him. Then we fell again to playing and I beat him; so I bade him go to the kitchen and swive the foulest and sorriest wench of the wenches thereof. [I went to the kitchen] and found not a slave-girl fouler and filthier than thy mother;[FN#167] so I bade him swive her. He did as I bade him and she became with child by him of thee, and thus was I [by my unlucky insistance] the cause of the slaying of my son and the despoiling him of his kingdom." When El Mamoun heard this, he turned away, saying, "God curse the importunate!" to wit, himself, who had importuned her till she acquainted him with that matter.
EN NUMAN AND THE ARAB OF THE BENOU TAI.[FN#168]
It is said that En Numan[FN#169] had two boon-companions, one of whom was called Ibn Saad and the other Amrou ben el Melik, and he became one night drunken and bade bury them alive; so they buried them. When he arose on the morrow, he enquired for them and was acquainted with their case, whereupon he built over them a monument and appointed to himself a day of ill-luck and a day of good-luck. If any met him on his day of ill-omen, he slew him and with his blood he washed the monument aforesaid, the which is a place well known in Cufa; and if any met him on his day of grace, he enriched him.
Now there accosted him once, on his day of ill-omen, an Arab of the Benou Tai,[FN#170] and En Numan would have put him to death; but the Arab said, "God quicken the king! I have two little girls and have made none guardian over them; so, if the king see fit to grant me leave to go to them, I will give him the covenant of God[FN#171] that I will return to him, whenas I have appointed them a guardian." En Numan had compassion on him and said to him, "If a man will be surety for thee of those who are with us, [I will let thee go], and if thou return not, I will put him to death." Now there was with En Numan his vizier Sherik ben Amrou; so the Tai[FN#172] looked at him and said,
Sherik ben Amrou, what device avails the hand of death to stay? O brother of the brotherless, brother of all th' afflicted, say. Brother of En Numan, with thee lies an old man's anguish to allay, A graybeard slain, may God make fair his deeds upon the Reckoning-Day! Quoth Sherik, "On me be his warranty, may God assain the king!" So the Tai departed, after a term had been assigned him for his coming.
When the appointed day arrived, En Numan sent for Sherik and said to him, "Verily the first part of this day is past." And Sherik answered, "The king hath no recourse against me till it be eventide." When it evened, there appeared one afar off and En Numan fell to looking upon him and on Sherik, and the latter said to him, "Thou hast no right over me till yonder fellow come, for belike he is my man." As he spoke, up came the Tai in haste and En Numan said "By Allah, never saw I [any] more generous than you two! I know not whether of you is the more generous, this one who became warrant for thee in [danger of] death or thou who returnest unto slaughter." Then said he to Sherik, "What prompted thee to become warrant for him, knowing that it was death?" And he said, "[I did this] lest it be said, 'Generosity hath departed from viziers.'" Then said En Numan to the Tai, "And thou, what prompted thee to return, knowing that therein was death and thine own destruction?" Quoth the Arab, "[I did this] lest it be said, 'Fidelity hath departed from the folk.'" And En Numan said, "By Allah, I will be the third of you,[FN#173] lest it be said, 'Clemency hath departed from kings.'" So he pardoned him and bade abolish the day of ill-omen; whereupon the Arab recited the following verses:
Full many a man incited me to infidelity, But I refused, for all the talk wherewith they set on me. I am a man in whom good faith's a natural attribute; The deeds of every upright man should with his speech agree.
Quoth En Numan, "What prompted thee to keep faith, the case being as thou sayest?" "O king," answered the Arab, "it was my religion." And En Numan said, "What is thy religion?" "The Christian," replied the other. Quoth the king, "Expound it unto me." [So the Tai expounded it to him] and En Numan became a Christian.[FN#174]
FIROUZ AND HIS WIFE[FN#175]
A certain king sat one day on the roof of his palace, diverting himself with looking about him, and presently, chancing to look aside, he espied, on [the roof of] a house over against his palace, a woman, never saw his eyes her like. So he turned to those who were present and said to them, "To whom belongeth yonder house?" "To thy servant Firouz," answered they, "and that is his wife." So he went down, (and indeed love had made him drunken and he was passionately enamoured of her), and calling Firouz, said to him, "Take this letter and go with it to such a city and bring me the answer." Firouz took the letter and going to his house, laid it under his head and passed that night. When the morning morrowed, he took leave of his wife and set out for the city in question, unknowing what the king purposed against him.
As for the king, he arose in haste and disguising himself, repaired to the house of Firouz and knocked at the door. Quoth Firouz's wife, "Who is at the door?" And he answered, saying, "I am the king, thy husband's master." So she opened the door and he entered and sat down, saying, "We are come to visit thee." Quoth she, "I seek refuge [with God] from this visitation, for indeed I deem not well thereof." And the king said, "O desire of hearts, I am thy husband's master and methinks thou knowest me not." "Nay," answered she, "I know thee, O my lord and master, and I know thy purpose and that which thou seekest and that thou art my husband's lord. I understand what thou wishest, and indeed the poet hath forestalled thee in his saying of the following verses, in reference to thy case:
Your water I'll leave without drinking, for there Too many already have drunken whilere. When the flies light on food, from the platter my hand I raise, though my spirit should long for the fare; And whenas the dogs at a fountain have lapped, The lions to drink of the water forbear."
Then said she, "O king, comest thou to a [watering-]place whereat thy dog hath drunken and wilt thou drink thereof?" The king was abashed at her and at her words and went out from her, but forgot his sandal in the house.
As for Firouz, when he went forth from his house, he sought the letter, but found it not; so he returned home. Now his return fell in with the king's going forth and he found the latter's sandal in his house, whereat his wit was dazed and he knew that the king had not sent him away but for a purpose of his own. However, he held his peace and spoke not a word, but, taking the letter, went on his errand and accomplished it and returned to the king, who gave him a hundred dinars. So Firouz betook himself to the market and bought what beseemeth women of goodly gifts and returning to his wife, saluted her and gave her all that he had brought and said to her, "Arise [go] to thy father's house." "Wherefore?" asked she, and he said, "Verily, the king hath been bountiful to me and I would have thee show forth this, so thy father may rejoice in that which he seeth upon thee." "With all my heart," answered she and arising forthright, betook herself to the house of her father, who rejoiced in her coming and in that which he saw upon her; and she abode with him a month's space, and her husband made no mention of her.
Then came her brother to him and said, "O Firouz, an thou wilt not acquaint me with the reason of thine anger against thy wife, come and plead with us before the king." Quoth he, "If ye will have me plead with you, I will do so." So they went to the king and found the cadi sitting with him; whereupon quoth the damsel's brother, "God assist our lord the cadi! I let this man on hire a high-walled garden, with a well in good case and trees laden with fruit; but he beat down its walls and ruined its well and ate its fruits, and now he desireth to return it to me." The cadi turned to Firouz and said to him, "What sayst thou, O youth?" And he answered, "Indeed, I delivered him the garden in the goodliest of case." So the cadi said to the brother, "Hath he delivered thee the garden, as he saith?" And the other replied, "No; but I desire to question him of the reason of his returning it." Quoth the cadi, "What sayst thou, O youth?" And Firouz answered, "I returned it in my own despite, for that I entered it one day and saw the track of the lion; wherefore I feared lest, if I entered it again, the lion should devour me. So that which I did, I did of reverence to him and for fear of him."
Now the king was leaning back upon the cushion, when he heard the man's words, he knew the purport thereof; so he sat up and said, "Return to thy garden in all assurance and ease of heart; for, by Allah, never saw I the like of thy garden nor stouter of ward than its walls over its trees!" So Firouz returned to his wife, and the cadi knew not the truth of the affair, no, nor any of those who were in that assembly, save the king and the husband and the damsel's brother.[FN#176]
KING SHAH BEKHT AND HIS VIZIER ER REHWAN.[FN#177]
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a king of the kings of the time, by name Shah Bekht, who had troops and servants and guards galore and a vizier called Er Rehwan, who was wise, understanding, a man of good counsel and a cheerful acceptor of the commandments of God the Most High, to whom belong might and majesty. The king committed to him the affairs of his kingdom and his subjects and said according to his word, and on this wise he abode a long space of time.
Now this vizier had many enemies, who envied him his high place and still sought to do him hurt, but found no way thereunto, and God, in His fore-knowledge and His fore-ordinance from time immemorial, decreed that the king dreamt that the Vizier Er Rehwan gave him a fruit from off a tree and he ate it and died. So he awoke, affrighted and troubled, and when the vizier had presented himself before him [and withdrawn] and the king was alone with those in whom he trusted, he related to them his dream and they counselled him to send for the astrologers and interpreters [of dreams] and commended to him a sage, for whose skill and wisdom they vouched. So the king sent for him and entreated him with honour and made him draw near to himself. Now there had been private with the sage in question a company of the vizier's enemies, who besought him to slander the vizier to the king and counsel him to put him to death, in consideration of that which they promised him of wealth galore; and he agreed with them of this and told the king that the vizier would slay him in the course of the [ensuing] month and bade him hasten to put him to death, else would he surely slay him.
Presently, the vizier entered and the king signed to him to cause avoid the place. So he signed to those who were present to withdraw, and they departed; whereupon quoth the king to him, "How deemest thou, O excellent vizier, O loyal counsellor in all manner of governance, of a vision I have seen in my sleep?" "What is it, O king?" asked the vizier, and Shah Bekht related to him his dream, adding, "And indeed the sage interpreted it to me and said to me, 'An thou put not the vizier to death within a month, he will slay thee.' Now I am exceeding both to put the like of thee to death, yet do I fear to leave thee on life. What then dost thou counsel me that I should do in this matter?" The vizier bowed his head awhile, then raised it and said, "God prosper the king! Verily, it skills not to continue him on life of whom the king is afraid, and my counsel is that thou make haste to put me to death."
When the king heard his speech, he turned to him and said, "It is grievous to me, O vizier of good counsel." And he told him that the [other] sages testified [to the correctness of their fellow's interpretation of the dream]; whereupon Er Rehwan sighed and knew that the king went in fear of him; but he showed him fortitude and said to him, "God assain the king! My counsel is that the king accomplish his commandment and execute his ordinance, for that needs must death be and it is liefer to me that I die, oppressed, than that I die, an oppressor. But, if the king see fit to defer the putting of me to death till the morrow and will pass this night with me and take leave of me, when the morrow cometh, the king shall do what he will."
Then he wept till he wet his gray hairs and the king was moved to compassion for him and granted him that which he sought and vouchsafed him that night's respite.
The First Night of the Month
When it was eventide, the king caused avoid his sitting chamber and summoned the vizier, who presented himself and making his obeisance to the king, kissed the earth before him and bespoke him as follows:
STORY OF THE MAN OF KHORASSAN, HIS SON AND HIS GOVERNOR.
"There was once a man of Khorassan and he had a son, whose improvement he ardently desired; but the young man sought to be alone and to remove himself from his father's eye, so he might give himself up to pleasance and delight. So he sought of his father [leave to make] the pilgrimage to the Holy House of God and to visit the tomb of the Prophet (whom God bless and keep!). Now between them and Mecca was a journey of five hundred parasangs; but his father could not gainsay him, for that the law of God made this[FN#178] incumbent on him and because of that which he hoped for him of improvement [therefrom]. So he joined unto him a governor, in whom he trusted, and gave him much money and took leave of him. The son set out on the holy pilgrimage[FN#179] with the governor and abode on that wise, spending freely and using not thrift.
Now there was in his neighbourhood a poor man, who had a slave-girl of surpassing beauty and loveliness, and the youth became enamoured of her and suffered grief and concern for the love of her and her loveliness, so that he was like to perish for passion; and she also loved him with a love yet greater than his love for her. So she called an old woman who used to visit her and acquainted her with her case, saying, 'An I foregather not with him, I shall die.' The old woman promised her that she would do her endeavour to bring her to her desire; so she veiled herself and repairing to the young man, saluted him and acquainted him with the girl's case, saying, 'Her master is a covetous man; so do thou invite him [to thy lodging] and tempt him with money, and he will sell thee the damsel.'
Accordingly, he made a banquet, and stationing himself in the man's way, invited him and carried him to his house, where they sat down and ate and drank and abode in discourse. Presently, the young man said to the other, 'I hear that thou hast with thee a slave-girl, whom thou desirest to sell.' And he answered, saying, 'By Allah, O my lord, I have no mind to sell her!' Quoth the youth, 'I hear that she cost thee a thousand dinars, and I will give thee six hundred, to boot.' And the other said, 'I sell her to thee [at that price].' So they fetched notaries, who drew up the contract of sale, and the young man counted out to the girl's master half the purchase money, saying, 'Let her be with thee till I complete to thee the rest of the price and take my slave-girl.' The other consented to this and took of him a bond for the rest of the money, and the girl abode with her master, on deposit.
As for the youth, he gave his governor a thousand dirhems and despatched him to his father, to fetch money from him, so he might pay the rest of the girl's price, saying to him, 'Be not [long] absent.' But the governor said in himself, 'How shall I go to his father and say to him, "Thy son hath wasted thy money and wantoned it away"?[FN#180] With what eye shall I look on him, and indeed, I am he in whom he confided and to whom he hath entrusted his son? Indeed, this were ill seen. Nay, I will fare on to the pilgrimage[FN#181] [with the caravan of pilgrims], in despite of this fool of a youth; and when he is weary [of waiting], he will demand back the money [he hath already paid] and return to his father, and I shall be quit of travail and reproach.' So he went on with the caravan to the pilgrimage[FN#182] and took up his abode there.
Meanwhile, the youth abode expecting his governor's return, but he returned not; wherefore concern and chagrin waxed upon him, because of his mistress, and his longing for her redoubled and he was like to slay himself. She became aware of this and sent him a messenger, bidding him to her. So he went to her and she questioned him of the case; whereupon he told her what was to do of the matter of his governor, and she said to him, 'With me is longing the like of that which is with thee, and I misdoubt me thy messenger hath perished or thy father hath slain him; but I will give thee all my trinkets and my clothes, and do thou sell them and pay the rest of my price, and we will go, I and thou, to thy father.'
So she gave him all that she possessed and he sold it and paid the rest of her price; after which there remained to him a hundred dirhems. These he spent and lay that night with the damsel in all delight of life, and his soul was like to fly for joy; but when he arose in the morning, he sat weeping and the damsel said to him, 'What aileth thee to weep?' And he said, 'I know not if my father be dead, and he hath none other heir but myself; and how shall I win to him, seeing I have not a dirhem?' Quoth she, 'I have a bracelet; do thou sell it and buy small pearls with the price. Then bray them and fashion them into great pearls, and thereon thou shalt gain much money, wherewith we may make our way to thy country.' So he took the bracelet and repairing to a goldsmith, said to him, 'Break up this bracelet and sell it.' But he said, 'The king seeketh a good[FN#183] bracelet; I will go to him and bring thee the price thereof.' So he carried the bracelet to the Sultan and it pleased him greatly, by reason of the goodliness of its workmanship. Then he called an old woman, who was in his palace, and said to her, 'Needs must I have the mistress of this bracelet, though but for a single night, or I shall die.' And the old woman answered, 'I will bring her to thee.'
So she donned a devotee's habit and betaking herself to the goldsmith, said to him, 'To whom belongeth the bracelet that is in the king's hand?' Quoth he, 'It belongeth to a man, a stranger, who hath bought him a slave-girl from this city and lodgeth with her in such a place.' So the old woman repaired to the young man's house and knocked at the door. The damsel opened to her and seeing her clad in devotee's apparel,[FN#184] saluted her and said to her, ' Belike thou hast an occasion with us?' 'Yes,' answered the old woman; 'I desire privacy and ablution.'[FN#185] Quoth the girl, 'Enter.' So she entered and did her occasion and made the ablution and prayed. Then she brought out a rosary and began to tell her beads thereon, and the damsel said to her, 'Whence comest thou, O pilgrim?'[FN#186] Quoth she '[I come] from [visiting] the Idol[FN#187] of the Absent in such a church.[FN#188] There standeth up no woman [to prayer] before him, who hath an absent friend and discovereth to him her need, but he acquainteth her with her case and giveth her tidings of her absent one.' 'O pilgrim,' said the damsel, 'we have an absent one, and my lord's heart cleaveth to him and I desire to go to the idol and question him of him.' Quoth the old woman, '[Wait] till to-morrow and ask leave of thy husband, and I will come to thee and go with thee in weal.'
Then she went away, and when the girl's master came, she sought his leave to go with the old woman and he granted her leave. So the beldam took her and carried her to the king's door. The damsel entered with her, unknowing whither she went, and beheld a goodly house and chambers adorned [with gold and colours] that were no idol's chambers. Then came the king and seeing her beauty and grace, went up to her, to kiss her; whereupon she fell down in a fit and strove with her hands and feet. When he saw this, he was solicitous for her and held aloof from her and left her; but the thing was grievous to her and she refused meat and drink, and as often as the king drew near her, she fled from him in affright, wherefore he swore by Allah that he would not approach her, save with her consent, and fell to guerdoning her with trinkets and raiment, but she only redoubled in aversion to him.
Meanwhile, the youth her master abode expecting her; but she returned not and his heart forbode him of the draught [of separation]; so he went forth at hazard, distraught and knowing not what he should do, and fell to strewing dust upon his head and crying out, 'The old woman hath taken her and gone away!' The boys followed him with stones and pelted him, saying, 'A madman! A madman!' Presently, the king's chamberlain, who was a man of age and worth, met him, and when he saw his youth, he forbade the boys and drove there away from him, after which he accosted him and questioned him of his case. So he told him how it was with him and the chamberlain said to him, 'Fear not: all shall yet be well with thee. I will deliver thy slave-girl for thee: so calm thy trouble.' And he went on to speak him fair and comfort him, till he put faith in his speech.
Then he carried him to his house and stripping him of his clothes, clad him in rags; after which he called an old woman, who was his stewardess, and said to her. 'Take this youth and clap on his neck this iron chain and go round about with him in all the thoroughfares of the city; and when thou hast made an end of this, go up with him to the palace of the king.' And he said to the youth, 'In whatsoever place thou seest the damsel, speak not a syllable, but acquaint me with her place and thou shall owe her deliverance to none but me.' The youth thanked him and went with the old woman on such wise as the chamberlain bade him. She fared on with him till they entered the city [and made the round thereof]; after which she went up to the palace of the king and fell to saying, 'O people of affluence, look on a youth whom the devils take twice in the day and pray for preservation from [a like] affliction!' And she ceased not to go round about with him till she came to the eastern wing[FN#189] of the palace, whereupon the slave-girls came out to look upon him and when they saw him they were amazed at his beauty and grace and wept for him.
Then they told the damsel, who came forth and looked upon him and knew him not. But he knew her; so he bowed his head and wept. She was moved to compassion for him and gave him somewhat and returned to her place, whilst the youth returned with the stewardess to the chamberlain and told him that she was in the king's house, whereat he was chagrined and said, 'By Allah, I will assuredly contrive a device for her and deliver her!' Whereupon the youth kissed his hands and feet. Then he turned to the old woman and bade her change her apparel and her favour. Now this old woman was goodly of speech and nimble of wit; so he gave her costly and delicious perfumes and said to her, 'Get thee to the king's slave girls and sell them these [perfumes] and make thy way to the damsel and question her if she desire her master or not.' So the old woman went out and making her way to the palace, went in to the damsel and drew near her and recited the following verses:
God keep the days of love-delight! How dearly sweet they were! How joyous and how solaceful was life in them whilere! Would he were not who sundered us upon the parting day! How many a body hath he slain, how many a bone laid bare? Sans fault of mine, my blood and tears he shed and beggared me Of him I love, yet for himself gained nought thereby whate'er.
When the damsel heard these verses, she wept till her clothes were drenched and drew near the old woman, who said to her, 'Knowest thou such an one?' And wept and said, 'He is my lord. Whence knowest thou him?' 'O my lady,' answered the old woman, 'sawst thou not the madman who came hither yesterday with the old woman? He was thy lord. But this is no time for talk. When it is night, get thee to the top of the palace [and wait] on the roof till thy lord come to thee and contrive for thy deliverance.' Then she gave her what she would of perfumes and returning to the chamberlain, acquainted him with that which had passed, and he told the youth.
When it was eventide, the chamberlain let bring two horses and great store of water and victual and a saddle-camel and a man to show them the way. These he hid without the town, whilst he and the young man took with them a long rope, made fast to a staple, and repaired to the palace. When they came thither, they looked and beheld the damsel standing on the roof. So they threw her the rope and the staple; whereupon she [made the latter fast to the parapet and] wrapping her sleeves about her hands, slid down [the rope] and landed with them. They carried her without the town, where they mounted, she and her lord, and fared on, whilst the guide forewent them, directing them in the way, and they gave not over going night and day till they entered his father's house. The young man saluted his father, who rejoiced in him, and he related to him all that had befallen him, whereupon he rejoiced in his safety.
As for the governor, he wasted all that was with him and returned to the city, where he saw the youth and excused himself to him. Then he questioned him of what had befallen him and he told him, whereat he marvelled and returned to companionship with him; but the youth ceased to have regard for him and gave him not stipends, as of his [former] wont, neither discovered to him aught of his secrets. When the governor saw that there was no profit for him with the young Khorassani, he returned to the king, the ravisher of the damsel, and told him what the chamberlain had done and counselled him to slay the latter and incited him to recover the damsel, [promising] to give his friend to drink of poison and return. So the king sent for the chamberlain and upbraided him; whereupon he fell upon him and slew him and the king's servants fell upon the chamberlain and slew him.