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Payne: The Malice of Women

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There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a rich and powerful king, who ruled over many men of war and vassals, and he had grown old without being blessed with a son. At last, when he began to despair of male issue, he sought the intercession of the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve!) with the Most High and implored Him, by the glory of His saints and prophets and martyrs and others of the Faithful that were dear to Him, to grant him a son, to be the solace of his eyes and inherit the kingdom after him. Then he rose forthright and withdrawing to his sitting-chamber, sent for the daughter of his uncle and lay with her. By God's grace, she conceived by him, and when the months of her pregnancy were accomplished, she bore a male child, whose face was as the round of the moon on its fourteenth night. When the boy reached the age of five, he was committed to the charge of a sage of the sages, a very learned man, by name Es Sindibad, who taught him science and polite letters, till, by the time he was ten years old, there was none of his time could vie with him in knowledge and good breeding and understanding. Then his father delivered him to a company of Arabian cavaliers, who instructed him in horsemanship and martial exercises, till he became proficient therein and came and went in the listed field and excelled all his peers and all the folk of his day.

One day, his governor, being engaged in observing the stars, drew the youth's horoscope and discovered that, if he spoke one word during the seven following days, he would be a dead man. So he went in straightway to the old King and informed him of this, and he said, 'What shall we do, O sage?' 'O King,' answered the other, 'it is my counsel that he be kept in a place of pleasance, where he may divert himself with hearing music, until the seven days be past.' So the King sent for the fairest of his favourites and committed the prince to her, saying, 'Take thy lord into the palace with thee and let him not leave thee till after seven days.' The damsel accordingly took the prince by the hand and carried him to the palace in question, which was compassed about by a running stream, whose banks were planted with all manner fruit-trees and sweet-scented flowers. Moreover, in this palace were forty apartments and in every apartment ten slave-girls, each skilled in some instrument of music, so that, when she played, the palace danced to her melodious strains; and here the prince passed one night.

Now he was handsome and graceful beyond description, and when the King's favourite looked at him, love gat hold upon her heart and she was ravished with him. So she went up to him and offered herself to him, but he made her no answer; whereupon, being confounded by his beauty, she cried out to him and required him of himself and importuned him. Moreover, she threw herself upon him and strained him to her bosom, kissing him and saying, 'O king's son, grant me thy favours and I will set thee in thy father's stead; yea, I will give him to drink of poison, so he may die and thou enjoy his wealth and kingship.' When the prince heard this, he was sore enraged against her and said to her [by signs], 'O accursed one, so it please God the Most High, I will assuredly requite thee this thy deed, whenas I can speak; for I will go out to my father and tell him, and he will kill thee.' So saying, he arose, in a rage, and went out from her; whereat she feared for herself. So she buffeted her face and rent her clothes and tore her hair and uncovered her head, then went in to the King and threw herself at his feet, weeping and lamenting. When he saw her in this plight, he was sore concerned and said to her, 'What ails thee, O damsel? How is it with thy lord [my son]? Is he not well?' 'O King,' answered she, 'this thy son, whom thy counsellors avouch to be dumb, required me of myself and I repelled him, whereupon he did with me as thou seest and would have slain me; so I fled from him, nor will I ever again return to him nor to the palace.'

When the King heard this, he was beyond measure wroth and calling his Viziers, bade them put the prince to death. However, they said to each other, 'If we do the King's commandment, he will surely repent of having ordered his son's death, for he is passing dear to him and came to him after he had despaired of an heir; and he will turn on us and blame us, saying, "Why did ye not dissuade me from slaying my son?"' So they took counsel together, to turn him from his purpose, and the chief Vizier said, 'I will warrant you from his mischief this day.' Then he went in to the King and prostrating himself before him, craved leave to speak. The King gave him leave, and he said, 'O King, though thou hadst a thousand sons, yet were it no light matter to thee to put one of them to death, on the report of a woman, speak she truth or falsehood; and belike this is a lie and a trick of her against thy son; for indeed, O King, I have heard tell great plenty of stories of the craft and perfidy of women.' Quoth the King, 'Tell me somewhat of that which hath come to thy knowledge thereof.' And the Vizier answered, saying, 'It hath reached me, O King, that...

[Go to The King and His Vizier's Wife]

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

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