[Go back to The Heathcock and the Tortoises]
On like wise,' continued the king, 'I do not blame you, O women; but I blame and reproach myself for that I remembered not that ye were the cause of the transgression of our father Adam, by reason whereof he was cast out from Paradise, but forgot that ye are the root of all evil and hearkened to you, of my ignorance and folly and lack of sense and judgment, and slew my viziers and the governors of my state, who were my loyal counsellors in all things and my glory and my strength against whatsoever troubled me. Now find I not one to replace them and see none who shall stand me in their stead; and except God succour me with one of sound judgment, who shall guide me to that wherein is my deliverance, I am fallen into sheer perdition.' Then he arose and withdrew into his bedchamber, bemoaning his viziers and governors and saying, 'Would God those lions were with me, though but for an hour, so I might excuse myself unto them and look on them and make my moan to them of my case and that which hath betided me after them!' And he abode all that day sunken in the sea of troublous thought, eating not neither drinking.
When the night came, he arose and changing his raiment, donned old clothes and disguised himself and went forth at a venture to walk about the city, so haply he might hear some comfortable word. As he wandered about the streets, he chanced upon two boys of equal age, each about twelve years old, who sat talking under a wall: so he drew near them whereas he might hear and apprehend what they said, unseen of them, and heard one say to the other, 'O my brother, hear what my father told me yesternight of the calamity that hath betided him in the withering of his crops, before their time, by reason of the lack of rain and the great affliction that is fallen on this city.' Quoth the other, 'Knowst thou not the cause of this affliction?' 'Not I,' answered the first. 'I prithee, tell it me, if thou know it.' 'Yes,' rejoined the second; 'I know it and will tell it thee. Know that I have heard from one of my father's friends that our king put his viziers and ministers to death, without offence done of them, by reason of his love for women and inclination to them; for that his viziers forbade him from this, but he would not be forbidden and commanded to slay them, in obedience to his women. Thus he killed Shimas my father, who was his vizier and the vizier of his father before him and the chief of his council; but thou shalt see how God will do with him by reason of his sins against them and how He shall avenge them of him.' 'How so?' asked the first boy.
'Know,' replied his fellow, 'that the King of Farther India maketh light of our king and hath sent him a letter, rating him and saying to him, "Build me a castle amiddleward the sea, or I will send unto thee Bediya my vizier, with twelve squadrons of horse, each twelve thousand strong, to seize upon thy kingdom and slay thy men and take thee and thy women prisoners." And he hath given him three days' time to answer. Now thou must know, O my brother, that this King of Farther India is a masterful tyrant, a man of might and exceeding prowess, and in his realm are much people; wherefore, except our king make shift to fend him off from himself, he will fall into perdition, whilst the King of Hind will seize on our possessions and slay our men and make prize of our women." When the king heard this talk, his agitation redoubled and he inclined to the boys, saying, 'Surely, this boy is a wizard, in that he is acquainted with this thing; for the letter is with me and the secret also and none hath knowledge of this matter but myself. How then knoweth this boy of it? I will resort unto him and talk with him and I pray God that our deliverance may be at his hand.'
Then he approached the boy softly and said to him, 'O dear boy, what is this thou sayest of our king, that he did ill to the utterest in slaying his viziers and the chiefs of his state? Indeed, he sinned against himself and his people and thou art right in that which thou sayest. But tell me, O my son, whence knowest thou that the King of Farther India hath written him a letter, berating him and bespeaking him with the grievous speech whereof thou tellest?' 'O brother,' answered the boy, 'I know this from the sand wherewith I tell the tale of night and day and from the saying of the ancients, "No mystery is hidden from God;" for the sons of Adam have in them a spiritual virtue which discovers to them hidden secrets.' 'True, O my son,' answered Wird Khan; 'but whence learnedly thou the [art of divination by] sand, and thou young of years?' Quoth the boy, 'My father taught it me;' and the king said, 'Is thy father alive or dead?' 'He is dead,' answered the boy.
Then said Wird Khan, 'Is there any resource or device for our king, whereby he may ward off this sore calamity from himself and his kingdom?' And the boy answered, 'It befits not that I speak with thee [of this]; but, if the king send for me and ask me how he shall do to baffle his enemy and win free of his snares, I will acquaint him with that wherein, by the power of God the Most High, shall be his deliverance.' 'But who shall tell the king of this,' asked Wird Khan, 'that he may send for thee?' Quoth the boy, 'If I hear that he seeketh men of experience and good counsel, I will go up with them to him and tell him that wherein shall be his welfare and the warding off of this affliction from him; but, if he neglect this pressing matter and busy himself with his pleasures among his women and I go to him of my own motion, purposing to acquaint him with the means of deliverance, he will assuredly give orders to slay me, even as he slew those his viziers, and my courtesy to him will be the cause of my destruction; wherefore the folk will think meanly of me and belittle my wit and I shall be of those of whom it is said, "He whose learning exceeds his wit perishes by his ignorance."'
When the king heard the boy's speech, he was assured of his sagacity and the excellence of his merit was manifest unto him. So he was certified that deliverance would betide him and his subjects at the boy's hands and said to him, 'Whence art thou and where is thy house?' 'This is the wall of our house,' answered he. The king took note of the place and leaving the boy, returned to his palace, rejoicing. There he changed his clothes and called for meat and drink, forbidding his women access to him. Then he ate and drank and returned thanks to God the Most High and besought Him of succour and deliverance. Moreover he craved His pardon and forgiveness for that which he had done with his counsellors of state and ministers and turned to Him with sincere repentance, imposing on himself prayer and fasting galore, by way of votive offering.
On the morrow, he called one of his chief officers and describing to him the boy's abiding-place, bade him go thither and bring him to his presence with all gentleness So the officer sought out the boy and said to him, 'The king bids thee to him, that good may betide thee from him and that he may ask thee a question; then shalt thou return in peace to thy dwelling.' 'What is the king's occasion with me?' asked the boy, and the officer said, 'My lord's occasion with thee is question and answer.' 'A thousand times hearkening and a thousand times obedience to the commandment of the king!' answered the boy and accompanied the officer to the palace. When he came into the presences he prostrated himself before God and saluting the king, called down blessings on him. Wird Khan returned his salutation and bade him sit. So he sat down and the king said to him, 'Knowst thou who walked with thee yesternight?' 'Yes,' answered the boy, and the king said, 'And where is he?' 'It is he who speaketh with me at this present,' replied the boy. 'Thou sayst sooth, O friend,' rejoined the king and bade set him a chair beside his own, whereon he made him sit and called for meat and drink.
Then they talked awhile and the king said, 'O vizier, thou toldest me yesternight that thou hadst a device wherewith thou couldst fend off from us the malice of the King of Hind. What is this device and how shall we contrive to ward off his mischief from us? Tell me, that I may make thee chief of those who speak with me in the realm and choose thee to be my vizier and do according to thy judgment in all thou counsellest me and assign thee a splendid recompense.' 'O king,' answered the boy, 'keep thy recompense to thyself and seek counsel and policy of thy women, who counselled thee to slay my father Shimas and the rest of the viziers.' When the king heard this, he was confounded and sighed and said, 'O dear boy, was Shimas indeed thy father?' 'Yes,' answered the boy; 'Shimas was indeed my father and I am in truth his son.' Whereupon the king bowed his head, whilst the tears ran from his eyes, and he craved pardon of God.
Then said he, 'O boy, indeed I did this of my ignorance and by the evil counsel of the women and of the greatness of their malice; but I beseech thee to forgive me and I wilt set thee in thy father's stead and make thy rank higher than his. Moreover, if thou do away this retribution from us, I will encircle thy neck with a collar of gold and mount thee on the goodliest of steeds and bid the crier make proclamation before thee, saying, "This is the glorious boy, he who sitteth in the second seat after the king!" As for the women, I have it in mind to do vengeance on them at such time as God the Most High shall will it. But tell me now what thou hast with thee of counsel and contrivance, that my heart may be at ease.' Quoth the boy, 'Swear to me that thou wilt not gainsay me in that which I shall say to thee and that I shall be in safety from that which I fear.' And the king answered, 'This is the covenant of God between thee and me, that I will not go from thy word and that thou shalt be my chief counsellor and whatsoever thou biddest me, that will I do; and God the Most High is witness betwixt us of what I say.'
Therewith the boy's breast dilated and the field of speech was opened to him wide and he said, 'O king, my counsel to thee is that thou wait till the expiration of the delay appointed by thee for returning an answer to the courier of the King of Hind; and when he cometh to thee, seeking the answer, do thou put him off to another day. With this he will excuse himself to thee, on the score of his master having appointed him certain fixed days, and press thee for an answer; but do thou rebut him and put him off to another day, without specifying it. Then will he go forth from thee, angry, and betake himself into the midst of the city and speak openly among the folk, saying, "O people of the city, I am a courier of the King of Farther India, who is a king of great might and of determination such as softeneth iron. He sent me with a letter to the king of this city and limited unto me certain days, saying, 'An thou be not with me by the time appointed, my vengeance shall fall on thee.' Now, behold, I went in to the king of this city and gave him the letter, which when he had read, he sought of me a delay of three days, after which he should return me an answer thereto, and I agreed to this of courtesy and consideration for him. When the three days were past, I went to seek the answer of him, but he put me off to another day; and now I have no patience to wait longer; so I am about to return to my lord the King of Farther India and acquaint him with that which hath befallen me; and ye, O folk, are witnesses between me and him."
This will be reported to thee and do thou send for him and bespeak him gently and say to him, "O thou that strivest for thine own destruction, what moveth thee to blame us among our subjects? Verily, thou deservest present death at our hands; but the ancients say, 'Clemency is of the attributes of the noble.' Know that our delay in answering thy master's letter arose not from neglect on our part, but from our much business and lack of leisure to look into thine affair and write a reply to thy king." Then call for the letter and read it again and laugh immoderately and say to the courier, "Hast thou a letter other than this? If so, we will write thee an answer to that also." He will say, "I have none other than this letter;" but do thou repeat thy question to him a second and a third time, and he will reply, "I have none other at all." Then say to him, "Verily, this thy king lacketh wit in that he writeth us the like of this letter, seeking to arouse our anger against him, so that we shall go forth to him with our troops and invade his dominions and take his realm. But we will not punish him this time for the vileness of his breeding, [as shown] in this letter, for that he is scant of wit and weak of judgment, and it beseemeth our dignity that we first admonish him and warn him not to repeat the like of these extravagances; and if he again adventure himself and return to the like of this, he will merit present destruction. Indeed, methinks this king of thine must be an ignorant fool, taking no thought to the issue [of that he doth] and having no vizier of sense and good counsel, with whom he may advise. Were he a man of sense, he had taken counsel with a vizier, before sending us the like of this ridiculous letter. But he shall have an answer like unto his letter and overpassing it; for I will give it to one of the boys of the school to answer." Then send for me, and when I come, bid me read the letter and answer it.'
When the king heard the boy's speech, his breast expanded and he approved his counsel and his device pleased him. So he conferred largesse upon him and instating him in his father's once, sent him away, rejoicing. When the three days of delay were expired, that he had appointed unto the courier, the latter presented himself and going in to the king, demanded the answer; but he put him off to another day; whereupon he went to the end of the throne-room and spake unseemly, even as the boy had foresaid. Then he betook himself to the bazaar and said, 'Ho, people of this city, I came with a message from the King of Farther India to your king, and still he putteth me off from an answer. Now the term is past which my master limited unto me and your king hath no excuse, and ye are witnesses unto this.'
When this speech was reported to the king, he sent for the courier and said to him, 'O thou that seekest thine own destruction, art thou not the bearer of a letter from king to king, between whom are secrets, and how cometh it that thou goest forth among the folk and publishest kings' secrets to the common people? Verily, thou meritest punishment from us; but this we will forbear, for the sake of returning an answer by thee to this fool of a king of thine: and it befitteth not that any return him an answer but the least of the boys of the school.' Then he sent for the vizier's son, who carne and prostrating himself to God, offered up prayers for the king's abiding glory and long life; whereupon Wird Khan threw him the letter, saying, 'Read that letter and write me a reply hereto in haste.'
The boy took the letter and reading it, smiled; then he laughed aloud and said to the king, 'Didst thou send for me to answer this letter?' 'Yes,' answered Wird Khan, and the boy said, 'O king, methought thou hadst sent for me on some grave matter; indeed a lesser than I had availed to the answering of this letter; but it is thine to command, O puissant king.' Quoth the king, 'Write the answer forthright, on account of the courier, for that he is appointed a term and we have delayed him another day.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the boy and pulling out paper and inkhorn, wrote the following answer.
'In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate! Peace be upon him who hath gotten pardon and deliverance and the mercy of the Compassionate One! To proceed. O thou that pretendeth thyself a mighty king [and art but a king] in word and not in deed, we give thee to know that thy letter hath reached us and we have read it and have taken note of that which is therein of absurdities and rare extravagances, whereby we are certified of thine ignorance and ill-will unto us. Verily, thou hast put out thy hand to that whereunto thou availest not, and but that we have compassion on God's creatures and the people, we had not held back [our hand] from thee. As for thy messenger, he went forth to the bazaar and published the news of thy letter to great and small, whereby he merited punishment from us; but we spared him and remitted his offence, not of respect for thee, but of pity for him, seeing that he is excusable with thee.
As for that whereof thou makest mention in thy letter of the slaughter of my viziers and wise men and grandees, this is the truth and [this I did] for a reason that availed with me, and I slew not one man of learning but there are with me a thousand of his kind, wiser than he and more of sense and learning, nor is there with me a child but is filled with knowledge and wisdom, and I have, in the stead of each of the slain, of those who surpass in his kind, what is beyond count. Moreover, each of my troops con cope with a battalion of thine, whilst, as for treasure, I have a manufactory that makes every day a thousand pounds of silver, besides gold, and precious stones are with me as pebbles; and as for the people of my kingdom, I cannot set forth to thee their wealth and beauty and goodliness. How darest thou, therefore, presume upon us and say to us, "Build me a castle amiddleward the sea?" Verily, this is a marvellous thing, and doubtless it arises from the slenderness of thy wit; for, hadst thou aught of sense, thou hadst enquired of the beatings of the waves and the movements of the winds. But fend thou off therefrom the waves and the surges of the sea and still the winds, and we will build thee the castle.
As for thy pretension that thou wilt vanquish me, God forfend that the like of thee should lord it over us and conquer our realm! Nay, God the Most High hath given me the mastery over thee, for that thou hast transgressed against me and provoked me without due cause. Know, therefore, that thou hast merited chastisement from God and from me; but I fear God in respect of thee and thy subjects and will not take horse against thee but after warning. Wherefore, if thou fear God, hasten to send me this year's tribute; else will I not leave to ride forth against thee with a thousand thousand and a hundred thousand fighting-men, all giants on elephants, and I will range them round about my vizier and bid him beleaguer thee three years, in place of the three days' delay thou appointedst to thy messenger, and I will make myself master of thy kingdom, except that I will slay none but thyself alone and make prisoners therefrom none but thy harem.'
Then the boy drew his own portrait in the margin of the letter and wrote thereunder the words: 'This answer was written by the least of the boys of the school;' after which he sealed it and handed it to the king. The latter gave it to the courier, who took it and kissing the king's hands, went forth from him, rendering thanks to God and the king for the latter's clemency to him and marvelling at the boy's intelligence. He arrived at the court of the king, his master, three days after the expiration of the term appointed to him, and found that he had called a meeting of his council, by reason of the failure of the courier to return at the appointed time. So he went in to the king and prostrating himself before him, gave him the letter. The king took it and questioned him of the cause of his tarrying and how it was with King Wird Khan. So he recounted to him all that he had seen with his eyes and heard with his ears; whereat the king's wit was confounded and he said, 'Out on thee! What tale is this thou tellest me of the like of this king?' 'O mighty king,' answered the courier, 'I am here before thee, but open the letter and read it, and the truth of my speech will appear to thee.'
So the king opened the letter and read it and seeing the portrait of the boy who had written it, made sure of the loss of his kingdom and was perplexed concerning the issue of his affair. Then, turning to his viziers and grandees, he acquainted them with the case and read them the letter, whereat they were mightily affrighted and sought to calm the king's terror with words that were only from the tongue, whilst their hearts were torn with alarm and anxiety; but Bediya, the chief vizier, said, 'Know, O king, that there is no avail in that which my brother viziers have said, and it is my counsel that thou write this king a letter and excuse thyself to him therein, saying, "I love thee and loved thy father before thee and sent thee this letter by the courier only to prove thee and try thy constancy and see what was in thee of stoutness and thy proficiency in matters practical and theoretical and skill in enigmas and that wherewith thou art endowed of all perfections. Wherefore we pray God the Most High to bless thee in thy kingdom and strengthen the defences of thy [capital] city and add to thy dominion, since thou art mindful of thyself and accomplishest the needs of thy subjects." And send it to him by another courier.' 'By the Great God,' exclaimed the king, 'it is a wonder of wonders that this man should be a mighty king and prepared for war, after his slaughter of all the wise men of his kingdom and his counsellors and the captains of his host and that his realm should prosper after this and there should issue therefrom this vast strength! But the most wonderful of all is that the little ones of its schools should return the like of this answer for its king. Verily, of my ill-omened presumption, I have kindled this fire upon myself, and I know not how I shall quench it, save [by acting on] the advice of this my vizier.'
Accordingly he made ready a rich present, with slaves and attendants galore, and wrote the following letter [in answer to that of Wird Khan]. 'In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful! To proceed. O glorious King Wird Khan, son of my dear brother Jelyaad, may God have mercy on thee and continue thee [on life!] Thine answer to our letter hath reached us and we have read it and apprehended its meaning and see therein that which rejoiceth us, and this is the utmost of that which we sought of God for thee; wherefore we beseech Him to exalt thy dignity and stablish the pillars of thy state and give thee the victory over thy foes and those who purpose thee ill. Know, O king, that thy father was my brother and that there were between us in his lifetime pacts and covenants of friendship, and never had he of me nor I of him other than good; and when he was translated [to the mercy of God] and thou sattest upon the throne of his kingship, there betided us the utmost joy and contentment; but, when the news reached us of that which thou didst with thy viziers and the notables of thy state, we feared lest the report of thee should come to the ears of some king other than ourselves and he should presume against thee, for that we deemed thee neglectful of thine affairs and of the maintenance of thy defences and careless of the interests of thy kingdom; so we wrote unto thee what should arouse thee [from thy torpor]. But, when we saw that thou returnest us the like of this answer, our heart was set at ease for thee, may God give thee enjoyment of thy kingdom and stablish thee in thy dignity! And so peace be on thee.'
Then he despatched the letter and the present to Wird Khan with an escort of a hundred horse, who fared on till they came to his court and saluting him, presented him with the letter and the gifts. The king read the letter and accepted the presents, lodging the captain of the escort in a befitting place and entreating him with honour. So the news of this was bruited abroad among the people and the king rejoiced therein with an exceeding joy. Then he sent for the boy, the son of Shimas, and the captain of the hundred horse, and entreating the young vizier with honour, gave him the letter to read; whilst he himself upbraided the captain concerning the king's conduct, and the latter kissed his hand and made his excuses to him, offering up prayers for the continuance of his life and the eternity of his fortune. The king thanked him for his good wishes and bestowed upon him honours and largesse galore. Moreover, he gave his men what befitted them and made ready presents to send by them and bade the young vizier write an answer to their king's letter.
So the boy wrote an answer, wherein, after an elegant exordium, he touched briefly on the question of reconciliation and praised the good breeding of the envoy and of his men, and showed it to the king, who said to him, 'Read it, O dear boy, that we may know what is written therein.' So the boy read the letter in the presence of the hundred horse, and the king and all present marvelled at the excellence of its style and sense. Then the king sealed the letter and delivering it to the captain of the hundred horse, dismissed him with an escort of his own troops, to bring him to the frontier of his country. So the captain returned, confounded at that which he had seen of the boy's knowledge and sagacity and thanking God for the speedy accomplishment of his errand and the acceptance of [the proffered] peace, to the King of Farther India, to whom he delivered the presents and the letter, telling him what he had seen and heard, whereat the king was mightily rejoiced and returned thanks to God the Most High and honoured the envoy, lauding his care and zeal and advancing him in rank: and he was thenceforth in peace and tranquillity and all contentment.
As for King Wird Khan, he returned to the way of righteousness, abandoning his evil courses and turning to God with sincere repentance; and he altogether forswore women and devoted himself to the ordering of the affairs of his realm and the governance of his people in the fear of God. Moreover, he made the son of Shimas vizier in his father's room and the chief of his counsellors and keeper of his secrets and commanded to decorate his capital and the other cities of his kingdom seven days. At this the subjects rejoiced, glad in the prospect of justice and equity, and fear and alarm ceased from them and they were instant in prayer for the king and for the vizier who had done away this trouble from him and them.
Then said the king to the vizier, 'What is thy counsel for the proper ordering of the state and the prospering of the people and the furnishing of the realm anew with captains and counsellors as before?' 'O king of high estate,' answered the boy, 'in my judgment, it behoves, before all, that thou began by tearing out from thy heart the root of frowardness and leave thy debauchery and tyranny and devotion to women; for, if thou return to the root of transgression, the second backsliding will be worse than the first.' 'And what,' asked the king, 'is the root of frowardness that it behoves me to tear out from my heart?' 'O mighty king,' answered the vizier, little of years but great of wit, 'the root of frowardness is the ensuing the desire of women and inclining to them and following their counsel and policy; for the love of them troubles the soundest wit and corrupts the most upright nature, and manifest proofs bear witness to my saying, wherein, if thou meditate them and consider their actions and the consequences thereof with eyes intent, thou wilt find a loyal counsellor against thine own soul and wilt stand in no need of my advice.
Look then, thou occupy not thy heart with the thought of women and do away the trace of them from thy mind, for that God the Most High hath forbidden the excessive use of them by the mouth of His prophet Moses, so that quoth a certain wise king to his son, "O my son, when thou succeedest to the throne after me, spare to frequent women overmuch, lest thy heart be led astray and thy judgment corrupted; for that their much frequentation leadeth to love of them, and love of them to corruption of judgment." And the proof of this is what befell our lord Solomon, son of David (peace be upon them both!) whom God endowed with knowledge and wisdom and supreme dominion above all men, nor vouchsafed He to any of the kings of old time the like of that which He gave him; and women were the cause of his father's offending.
The examples of this are many, O king, and I do but make mention of Solomon to thee for that thou knowest that to none was given the like of the dominion wherewith he was invested, so that all the kings of the earth obeyed him. Know then, O king, that the love of women is the root of all evil and none of them hath any judgment: wherefore it behoveth a man to confine his use of them within the limits of necessity and not incline to them altogether, for that will cause him fall into corruption and perdition. If thou hearken to my rede, all thine affairs will prosper; but, if thou neglect it, thou wilt repent, whenas repentance will not avail thee.'
'Indeed,' answered the king, 'I have left my sometime inclination to women and have altogether renounced my infatuation for them; but how shall I do to punish them for that which they have done? For the slaying of thy father Shimas was of their malice and not of my own will, and I know not what ailed my reason that I fell in with their proposal to kill him.'
Then he cried out and groaned and lamented, saying, 'Alas for the loss of my vizier and his just judgment and wise ordinance and for the loss of his like of the viziers and notables of the state and of the goodliness of their apt and sagacious counsels!' 'O king,' said the young vizier, 'know that the fault is not with women alone, for that they are like unto a pleasing commodity, whereto the desires of the beholders incline. To whosoever desireth and buyeth, they sell it, but whoso buyeth not, none forceth him thereto; so that the fault is his who buyeth, especially if he know the harmfulness of the commodity. Now, I warn thee, as did my father before me, but thou hearkenedst not to his counsel.' 'O vizier,' answered the king, 'indeed thou hast fixed this fault upon me, even as thou hast said, and I have no excuse except the Divine ordinances.' 'O king,' rejoined the vizier, 'know that God hath created us and endowed us with ableness and appointed to us will and choice; so, if we will, we do, and if we will, we do not. God commandeth us not to do harm, lest sin attach to us; wherefore it behoveth us to consider that which it is right to do, for that the Most High commandeth us nought but good in all cases and forbiddeth us only from evil; but what we do, we do of our free will, be it right or wrong.'
Quoth the king, 'Thou sayst truly, and indeed my fault arose from my surrendering myself to my lusts, albeit many a time my reason warned me from this and thy father Shimas often warned me likewise; but my lusts carried it over my reason. Hast thou then with thee aught that may [in the future] withhold me from committing this error and whereby my reason may be victorious over the lusts of my soul?' 'Yes,' answered the vizier. 'I can tell thee what will restrain thee from committing this error, and it is that thou put off the garment of ignorance and don that of understanding, disobeying thy passions and obeying thy Lord and reverting to the policy of the just king thy father, fulfilling thy duties to God the Most High and to thy people, applying thyself to the defence of thy faith and the promotion of thy subjects' welfare, governing thyself aright and forbearing the slaughter of thy people.
Look to the issues of things and sever thyself from tyranny and oppression and arrogance and lewdness, practising justice and equity and humility and obeying the commandments of God the Most High, applying thyself to gentle dealing with those of His creatures whom He hath committed to thy governance and being assiduous in fulfilling their prayers unto thee, in accordance with that which is incumbent on thee. If thou be constant in the practice of these virtues, may thy days be serene and may God of His mercy spare thee and make thee revered of all who look on thee; so shall thine energies be brought to nought, for God the Most High shall put their hosts to the rout, and thou shalt have acceptance with Him and be loved and reverenced of His creatures.'
'Verily,' said the king, 'thou hast quickened mine entrails and enlightened my heart with thy sweet speech and hast opened the eyes of mine understanding, after blindness; and I am resolved to do all thou hast set forth to me, with the help of God the Most High, leaving my former estate of lust and frowardness and bringing forth my soul from duresse into freedom and from fear into safety. It behoveth thee, then, to be joyful and contented, for that I, for all my greater age, am become to thee as a son, and thou to me as a dear father, for all thy tenderness of years, and it is grown incumbent on me to do my utmost endeavour in that thou commandest me.
Wherefore I thank the bounty of God the Most High and thy bounty for that He hath vouchsafed me, by thee, fair fortune and good guidance and just judgment to fend off my trouble and anxiety; and the deliverance of my people hath been brought about by means of the excellence of thy skill and the goodliness of thine ordinance. Henceforward, thou shalt be the governor of my kingdom and equal to myself in all but sitting upon the throne; and all that thou dost shall be law to me and none shall gainsay thy word, young in years though thou be, for that thou art old in wit and knowledge. So I thank God who hath vouchsafed thee to me, that thou mayst guide me out of the crooked paths of perdition into the way of righteousness.'
Quoth the vizier, 'O august king, know that no merit is due to me for giving thee loyal counsel; for that to succour thee by deed and word is of that which is incumbent on me, seeing that I am but a plant of thy bounty; nor I alone, but my father before me was overwhelmed with thy favours; so that we are both alike partakers in thy munificence, and how shall we not acknowledge this? Moreover thou, O king, art our shepherd and ruler and he who wards off our enemies from us and to whom is committed our protection and our guardian, instant in endeavour for our safety. Indeed, though we lavished our lives in thy service, yet should we not fulfil that which behoveth us of gratitude to thee; but we supplicate God the Most High, who hath set thee in dominion over us and made thee our ruler, and beseech Him to vouchsafe thee long life and success in all thine enterprises and not to try thee with afflictions in thy time, but bring thee to thy desire and make thee to be reverenced till the day of thy death and lengthen thine arms in beneficence and generosity, so thou mayst have commandment over every wise man and subdue every froward one and all men of wisdom and mettle be found with thee in thy realm and all the ignorant and faint-hearted be plucked out therefrom; and we pray Him to withhold from thy people scarcity and misfortune and sow among them love and good fellowship and cause them to enjoy of this world its prosperity and of the next its felicity, of His grace and bounty and hidden mercies. Amen. For He can all things and there is nought difficult unto Him, in whom all things have their goal and glace of returning.'
When the king heard the vizier's prayers he was mightily rejoiced thereat and inclined to him with his whole heart, saying, 'Henceforth, O vizier, thou art to me in the stead of brother and son and father, and nought but death shall sever me from thee. Thou shalt have the disposal of all that my hand possesses, and if I have no child to succeed me, thou shalt sit on my throne in my stead; for thou art the worthiest of all the people of my realm, and I will invest thee with my kingship and appoint thee my heir presumptive to inherit the kingdom after me, if it be the will of God the Most High, in the presence of the grandees of my state, and will them to witness thereof.'
Then he called his secretary and bade him write to all the notables of his kingdom, summoning them to his court, and caused proclamation to be made in his city unto all the townsfolk great and small, bidding all the amirs and governors and chamberlains and other officers and dignitaries, as well as the sages and doctors of the law, to his presence. Moreover he held a grand divan and made a banquet, never was its like, and bade all the folks high and low, thereto. So they all assembled and abode in eating and drinking and delight a month's space; after which the king clothed all his household and the poor of his kingdom and bestowed abundant largesse on the men of learning.
Then he chose out a number of the sages and wise men, by counsel of the son of Shimas, and caused them go in to him, bidding him choose out six of them, that he might make them viziers under his commandment. So he chose out six of the oldest of them in years and the most accomplished of them in understanding and knowledge and the speediest of memory and judgment, and presented them to the king, who clad them in the vizier's habit and said to them, 'Ye are become my viziers, under the commandment of this my chief vizier, the son of Shimas. Whatsoever he saith to you or biddeth you thereto, ye shall not in anywise depart from it, albeit he is the youngest of you in years; for he is the eldest of you in wit.'
Then he seated them upon chairs, adorned with gold, after the usage of viziers, and appointed unto them stipends and allowances, bidding them choose out such of the notables of the kingdom and officers of the troops present at the banquet as were most fit for the service of the state, that he might make them captains of tens and hundreds and thousands and appoint to them dignities and assign them provision, after the manner of grandees. This they did with all diligence and he bade them also handsel all who were present with largesse galore and dismiss them each to his country with honour and worship. Moreover he charged his governors rule the people with justice and enjoined them to be tenderly solicitous for rich and poor and bade succour them from the treasury, according to their several degrees. So the viziers wished him continuance of glory and long life, and he commanded to decorate the city three days, in gratitude to God the Most High for His mercies.
When the court was dissolved and all the people had departed, each to his own place, after their affairs had been set in order, the king summoned the son of Shimas and the other six viziers and taking them apart privily, said to them, 'Know, O viziers, that I have been a wanderer from the right way, drowned in ignorance, setting my face against admonition, a breaker of pacts and promises and a gainsayer of folk of good counsel; and the cause of all this was my befoolment by these women and the wiles with which they beset me and the seeming fairness of their speech, wherewith they beguiled me, and my acceptance of this, for that I deemed their words true and loyal counsel, by reason of the sweetness and softness thereof; but behold, they were deadly poison. And now I am certified that they sought but to ruin and destroy me, wherefore they deserve punishment and requital from me, for the sake of justice, that I may make them an admonition to all who will be admonished. But what deem ye advisedly of putting them to death?'
'O mighty king,' answered the young vizier, 'I have already told thee that women are not alone to blame, but that the fault is shared between them and the men who hearken to them; but they deserve punishment for two reasons: first, for the fulfilment of thy word, because thou art the supreme king; and secondly, by reason of their presumption against thee and their beguilement of thee and their intermeddling with that which concerns them not and whereof it befits them not to speak. Wherefore they have right well deserved death; yet let that which hath befallen them suffice them, and do thou henceforth reduce them to servants' estate. But it is thine to command in this and other than this.'
Some of the viziers seconded Ibn Shimas's advice; but one of them prostrated himself before the king and said to him, 'May God prolong the king's days! If thou be indeed resolved to put them to death, do with them as I shall say to thee.' 'And what is that?' asked Wird Khan. Quoth the vizier, 'It were best that thou bid some of thy female slaves carry the women who played thee false to the apartment, wherein befell the slaughter of thy viziers and sages, and imprison them there, and do thou assign to them a little meat and drink, enough to keep life in them [and no more]. Let them never be suffered to go forth of that place, and whenever one of them dies, let her abide among them, as she is, till they die all, even to the last of them. This is the least of their desert, for that they were the cause of this great wickedness, ay, and the origin of all the troubles and calamities that have befallen in our time; so shall there be verified in them the words of him who said, "He who diggeth a pit for his brother shall surely himself fall therein, though he go long in safety."'
The king accepted the vizier's counsel and sending for four stalwart female slaves, committed the offending women to them, bidding them carry them to the place of slaughter and imprison them there and allow them every day a little coarse food and a little troubled water. They did with them as he bade; wherefore the women mourned sore, repenting them of that which they had done and lamenting grievously. Thus God gave them their reward of abjection in this world and prepared for them torment in the world to come; nor did they cease to abide in that dark and noisome place, whilst every day one or other of them died, till they all perished, even to the last of them; and the report of this event was bruited abroad in all lands and countries. This is the end of the story of the king and his viziers and subjects, and praise be to God who causeth peoples to pass away and quickeneth the rotten bones, Him who [alone] is worthy to be glorified and magnified and hollowed for ever and ever!
[Go to Aboukir the Dyer and Abousir the Barber]
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