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Burton: The King and His Wazir's Wife

[Go back to The Craft and Malice of Woman]

There was once a King of the Kings, a potent man and a proud, who was devoted to the love of women and one day being in the privacy of his palace, he espied a beautiful woman on the terraceroof of her house and could not contain himself from falling consumedly in love with her. He asked his folk to whom the house and the damsel belonged and they said, "This is the dwelling of the Wazir such an one and she is his wife." So he called the Minister in question and despatched him on an errand to a distant part of the kingdom, where he was to collect information and to return; but, as soon as he obeyed and was gone, the King contrived by a trick to gain access to his house and his spouse. When the Wazir's wife saw him, she knew him and springing up, kissed his hands and feet and welcomed him. Then she stood afar off, busying herself in his service, and said to him, "O our lord, what is the cause of thy gracious coming? Such an honour is not for the like of me." Quoth he, "The cause of it is that love of thee and desire thee-wards have moved me to this. Whereupon she kissed ground before him a second time and said, "By Allah, O our lord, indeed I am not worthy to be the handmaid of one of the King's servants; whence then have I the great good fortune to be in such high honour and favour with thee?" Then the King put out his hand to her intending to enjoy her person, when she said, "This thing shall not escape us; but take patience, O my King, and abide with thy handmaid all this day, that she may make ready for thee somewhat to eat and drink." So the King sat down on his Minister's couch and she went in haste and brought him a book wherein he might read, whilst she made ready the food. He took the book and, beginning to read, found therein moral instances and exhortations, such as restrained him from adultery and broke his courage to commit sin and crime. After awhile, she returned and set before him some ninety dishes of different kinds of colours, and he ate a mouthful of each and found that, while the number was many, the taste of them was one. At this, he marvelled with exceeding marvel and said to her, "O damsel, I see these meats to be manifold and various, but the taste of them is simple and the same." "Allah prosper the King!" replied she, "this is a parable I have set for thee, that thou mayst be admonished thereby." He asked, "And what is its meaning?"; and she answered, "Allah amend the case of our lord the King!; in thy palace are ninety concubines of various colours, but their taste is one." When the King heard this, he was ashamed and rising hastily, went out, without offering her any affront and returned to his palace; but, in his haste and confusion, he forgot his signet-ring and left it under the cushion where he had been sitting and albeit he remembered it he was ashamed to send for it. Now hardly had he reached home when the Wazir returned and, presenting himself before the King, kissed the ground and made his report to him of the state of the province in question. Then he repaired to his own house and sat down on his couch and chancing to put his hand under the cushion, behold, he found the King's seal-ring. So he knew it and taking the matter to heart, held aloof in great grief from his wife for a whole year, not going in unto her nor even speaking to her, whilst she knew not the reason of his anger. --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir held aloof from his wife, whilst she knew not the cause of his wrath. At last, being weary of the longsome neglect, she sent for her sire and told him the case; whereupon quoth he, "I will complain of him to the King, at some time when he is in the presence." So, one day, he went in to the King and, finding the Wazir and the Kazi of the army before him, complained thus saying, "Almighty Allah amend the King's case! I had a fair flower-garden, which I planted with mine own hand and thereon spent my substance till it bare fruit; and its fruitage was ripe for plucking, when I gave it to this thy Wazir, who ate of it what seemed good to him, then deserted it and watered it not, so that its bloom wilted and withered and its sheen departed and its state changed." Then said the Wazir, "O my King, this man saith sooth. I did indeed care for and guard the garden and kept it in good condition and ate thereof, till one day I went thither and I saw the trail of the lion there, wherefore I feared for my life and withdrew from the garden." The King understood him that the trail of the lion meant his own seal-ring, which he had forgotten in the woman's house; so he said, "Return, O Wazir, to thy flower-garden and fear nothing, for the lion came not near it. It hath reached me that he went thither; but, by the honour of my fathers and forefathers, he offered it no hurt." "Hearkening and obedience," answered the Minister and, returning home sent for his wife and made his peace with her and thenceforth put faith in her chastity. "This I tell thee, O King (continued the Wazir), for no other purpose save to let thee know how great is their craft and how precipitancy bequeatheth repentance. And I have also heard the following...

[Go to The Confectioner, His Wife and the Parrot]

Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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