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Payne: The King and His Vizier's Wife

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There was once a king, who was given to the love of women, and one day, being alone in his palace, he espied a beautiful woman on the roof of her house and could not contain himself from falling in love with her. He asked [his servants] to whom the house belonged and they said, "To thy vizier such an one." So he called the vizier in question and despatched him on an errand to a distant part of the kingdom; then, as soon as he was gone, he made an excuse to gain access to his house. When the vizier'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 visit? Such an honour is not for the like of me." Quoth he, "Love of thee and desire to thee hath moved me to this." Whereupon she kissed the earth before him a second time and said, "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 favour with thee?" Then the king put out his hand to her, but she said. "This thing shall not escape us; but take patience, O king, and abide with me all this day, that I may make ready for thee somewhat of victual." So the king sat down on his vizier's couch and the lady 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 intent to commit sin.

After awhile, she returned and set before him a collation of ninety dishes of different kinds and colours, and he ate a spoonful of each and found that the taste of them was one. At this, he marvelled exceedingly and said to the lady, "O damsel, I see these meats to be many [and various of hue], but the taste of them is one." "God prosper the king!" replied she. "This is a parable I have set for thee, that thou mayst be admonished thereby." "And what is its meaning?" asked he. "May God amend the case of our lord the king!" answered she. "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 and returned to his palace, without offering her any affront; but, in his haste and confusion, he forgot his signet-ring and left it under the cushion where he had been sitting.

Presently the vizier returned and presenting himself before the king, kissed the earth 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, found the king's seal-ring. So he looked at it and knew it and taking the matter to heart, held aloof from his wife nor spoke with her for a whole year, while she knew not the reason of his anger. At last, being weary of estrangement, she sent for her father and told him the case, whereupon quoth he, "I will complain of him to the king, some day when he is in presence."

So, one day, he went in to the king and finding the vizier and the cadi of the army before him, made his complaint in the following words. "May God the Most High amend the king's case! I had a fair garden, which I planted with my own hand and spent my substance thereon, till it bore fruit and its fruit was ripe, when I gave it to this thy vizier, who ate of it what seemed good to him, then forsook it and watered it not, so that its flowers withered and its beauty departed and it became waste." Then said the vizier, "O king, what this man says is true. I did indeed care for the garden and ate thereof, till, one day, going thither, I saw the track of the lion there, wherefore I feared him and withdrew from the garden." The king understood the parable and knew that, by the track of the lion, he meant his own seal-ring, which he had forgotten in his house; so he said, "Return to thy garden, O vizier, and fear nothing, for the lion came not near it. It hath been told me that he went thither, but by the honour of my fathers and forefathers, he offered it no hurt." "I hear and obey," answered the vizier, and returning home, made his peace with his wife and thenceforth put faith in her chastity.

And I have heard also, O King,' continued the Vizier, 'that...

[Go to The Merchant's Wife and the Parrot]

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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