[Go back to The Shepherd and the Thief]
On the morrow the viziers and officers of state and heads of the people assembled and taking each his arms, repaired to the palace of the king, so they might break in upon him and slay him and make another king in his stead. When they came to the door, they required the doorkeeper to open to them; but he refused, whereupon they sent to fetch fire, wherewith to burn down the doors and enter. The doorkeeper, hearing what was toward amongst them, went in to the king in haste and told him that the folk were gathered together at the gate. 'And,' quoth he, 'they required me to open to them, but I refused and they have sent to fetch fire to burn down the doors withal, so they may come in to thee and slay thee. What dost thou bid me do?' Quoth the king in himself, 'Verily, I am fallen into sheer perdition.'
Then he sent for the favourite and said to her, 'Indeed, Shimas never told me aught but I found it true, and now the folk are come, great and small, purposing to slay me and thee; and for that the doorkeeper would not open to them, they have sent to fetch fire, to burn the doors withal: so will the house be burnt and we therein. What dost thou counsel me to do?' 'Let not thine affair affright thee,' answered she; 'no harm shall betide thee. This is a time in which crackbrains rise against their kings.' 'But what,' asked he, 'dost thou counsel me and how shall I do in this matter?' Quoth she, 'My advice is that thou bind thy head with a fillet and feign thyself sick: then send for the vizier Shimas, who will come and see the case wherein thou art; and do thou say to him, "Verily I purposed to go forth to the folk this day; but this sickness hindered me. So go thou out to them and acquaint them with my case and tell them that to-morrow I will without fail come forth to them and do their occasions and look into their affairs, so they may be reassured and their anger may subside." Then do thou summon ten of thy father's stoutest slaves, men of strength and prowess, to whom thou canst entrust thyself, giving ear to thy word and obedient to thy commandment, keeping thy secret and devoted to thy love, and bid them on the morrow stand at thy head nor suffer any of the folk to enter, save one by one; and all who enter do thou bid them put to death. If they agree with thee upon this, do thou to-morrow set up thy throne in the audience-chamber and open thy doors.
When the folk see that thou hast opened thy doors, their minds will be set at ease and they will come to thee with a whole heart, [thinking no evil], and seek admission to thee. Then do thou bid admit them, one by one, even as I said to thee, and do thy will with them; but it behoveth thee begin by putting Shimas, their chief and leader, to death; for he is the Grand Vizier and head of the matter. So slay him first and after put all the rest to death, one after another, and spare none whom thou knowest to have broken his covenant with thee; and on like wise slay all whose violence thou fearest. lf thou deal thus with them, there will be left them no power to make head against thee; so shalt thou be altogether at rest from them and shalt enjoy thy kingship in peace and do what thou wilt; and know that there is no device that will advantage thee more than this.' 'Verily,' said the king, 'this thy counsel is just and that which thou biddest me well-advised, and I will assuredly do as thou sayest.'
So he called for a fillet and bound his head therewith and feigned sickness. Then he sent for Shimas and said to him, 'O Shimas, thou knowest that I love thee and hearken to thy counsel and thou art to me as brother and father both in one. Moreover, thou knowest that I do all thou biddest me and indeed thou badest me go forth to the folk and sit to judge between them. Now I was certified that this was loyal counsel on thy part and purposed to go forth to them yesterday; but this sickness betided me and I cannot sit up. I hear that the folk are incensed at my failure to come forth to them and are minded of their malice to do with me that which is not seemly, for that they know not what aileth me. So go thou forth to them and acquaint them with my case and excuse me to them, for I am obedient to their bidding and will do according to their desire; wherefore do thou order this affair and engage thyself to them for me of this, for that thou hast been a loyal counsellor to me and to my father before me, and it is of thy wont to make peace between the folk. To- morrow, if it be the will of God the Most High, I will without fail come forth to them, and peradventure my sickness will cease from me this night, by the blessing of the purity of my intent and the good I purpose them in my heart.'
Shimas prostrated himself to God and called down blessings on the king and kissed his hand, rejoicing. Then he went forth to the folk and told them what he had heard from the king and forbade them from that which they had a mind to do, acquainting them with the king's excuse for his absence and that he had promised to come forth to them on the morrow and deal with them according to their wishes; whereupon they dispersed and returned to their houses.
Meanwhile the king sent for ten slaves of gigantic stature, men of stout heart and great prowess, whom he had chosen from amongst his father's body-guards, and said to them, 'Ye know the favour and esteem in which my father held you and all the bounties and honours he bestowed on you, and I will advance you to yet higher rank with me than this. Now I will tell you the reason thereof and ye are under God's safeguard from me. But [first] I will ask you of somewhat wherein if ye do my bidding, obeying me in that which I shall command you and keeping my secret from all men, ye shall have of me largesse and favour overplaying your desire.'
The slaves answered him with one voice, saying, 'All that thou biddest us, O our lord, will we do, nor will we anywise depart from thy commandment, for thou art our lord and master.' 'God be good to you!' said the king. 'Now will I tell you why I have chosen you out for increase of honour with me. Ye know how generously my father dealt with the people of his dominions and the oath he took from them on my behalf and how they promised him that they would not break faith with me nor gainsay my commandment; and ye saw how they did yesterday, whenas they came all together about me and would have slain me. Now I am minded to do with them somewhat, to wit, I have considered their fashion of yesterday and see that nought but exemplary chastisement will restrain them from the like of this; wherefore I charge you privily to put to death whom I shall point out to you, to the intent that, by slaying their leaders and chiefs, I may ward off evil and calamity from my realm; and the manner thereof shall be on this wise. To-morrow I will sit in this chair in this chamber and give them leave to enter, one by one, coming in at one door and going out at another; and do ye stand, all ten, before me and be attentive to my signs; and whoso enters singly, take him and drag him into yonder chamber and slay him and hide his body.' The slaves answered, 'We hearken to thy word and obey thy commandment.' Whereupon he gave them largesse and dismissed them.
On the morrow he summoned the slaves and bade set up the throne. Then he donned his royal robes and taking the book of the law in his hands, posted the ten slaves before him and commanded to open the doors. So they opened the doors and the herald proclaimed aloud, saying, 'Whoso hath authority, let him come to the king's carpet!' Whereupon up came the viziers and prefects and chamberlains and stood, each in his rank. Then the king bade admit them, one by one, and the first to enter was Shimas, after the wont of the chief vizier; but no sooner had he presented himself before the king than the ten slaves set upon him, ere he could be ware, and dragging him into the adjoining chamber, despatched him. On like wise did they with the rest of the viziers and doctors and notables, slaying them, one after another, till they made an end of them all. Then the king called the headsmen and bade them put to the sword all who remained of the folk of valour and prowess. So they fell on them and left none whom they knew for a man of mettle but they slew him, sparing only the dregs and refuse of the people. These latter they drove away and they returned each to his folk, whilst the king secluded himself with his pleasures and surrendered his soul to its lusts, ensuing tyranny and oppression and unright, till he outwent all the men of evil who had foregone him.
Now this king's realm was a mine of gold and silver and jacinths and jewels and the neighbouring kings envied him this empire and looked for calamity to betide him. Moreover, one of them [to wit, the King of Farther India] said in himself, 'Now have I gotten my desire of wresting the realm from the hand of yonder crackbrained boy, by reason of that which hath betided of his slaughter of the chiefs of his state and of all the men of valour and mettle that were in his dominions. Now is my occasion to snatch away that which is in his hand, seeing he hath no knowledge of war nor judgment thereto, nor is there any left to counsel him aright or succour him. Wherefore this very day will I open on him the door of mischief by writing him a letter wherein I will flout him and reproach him with that which he hath done and see what he will answer.'
So he wrote him a letter to the following effect: 'In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful! I have heard tell of that which thou hast done with thy viziers and doctors and men of war and that whereinto thou hast cast thyself of calamity, so that there is neither power nor strength left in thee to repel whoso shall assail thee, more by token that thou transgressest and orderest thyself tyrannously and profligately. Now God hath given me the mastery over thee and hath delivered thee into my hand; wherefore do thou give ear to my word and obey my commandment and build me an impregnable castle amiddleward the sea. If thou canst not do this, depart thy realm and begone with thy life; for I will send unto thee, from the farthest parts of Hind, twelve squadrons of horse, each twelve thousand fighting-men strong, who shall enter thy land and spoil thy goods and slay thy men and take thy women prisoners. Moreover, I will make my Vizier Bediya captain over them and bid him lay strait siege [to thy capital city] till he master it; and I have commanded the bearer of this letter that he tarry with thee but three days. So, if thou do my bidding, thou shalt be saved; else will I send unto thee that which I have said.'
Then he sealed the letter and gave it to a messenger, who journeyed with it till he came to Wird Khan's capital and delivered it to him. When the young king read it, his heart sank within him and his breast was straitened and he made sure of destruction, having none to whom he might resort for counsel or succour. So he rose and went in to his favourite, who, seeing him changed of colour, said to him, 'What ails thee, O king?' Quoth he, 'Today I am no king, but slave to the king.' And he opened the letter and read it to her, whereupon she fell to weeping and lamenting and tearing her clothes. Then said he to her, 'Hast thou aught of counsel or resource in this grievous state?' But she answered, 'Women have no resource in time of war, nor have they strength or judgment. It is men alone who have strength and judgment and resource in the like of this affair.''
When the king heard this, there befell him the utmost grief and repentance and remorse for that wherein he had transgressed against his viziers and officers and the nobles of his people and the chiefs of his state, and he would that he had died ere there came to him the like of this shameful news. Then he said to his women, 'Verily, there hath betided me from you that which befell the heathcock with the tortoises.' 'What was that?' asked they, and he answered, 'It is said that...
[Go to The Heathcock and the Tortoises]
Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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