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A certain vizier, though perfectly loyal and of the strictest integrity, having been falsely accused by his enemies, was, without due examination of the charges brought against him, thrown into prison, where, by orders from the sultan, he was confined to a gloomy dungeon, and allowed only bread and water for his daily food. In this wretched abode he lay for seven years, at the expiration of which, the sultan his master, who was in the habit of walking about the city in disguise to amuse himself, chanced to pass by the house of his injured minister, dressed as a dervish. To his surprise he saw it open, and a crowd of domestics busy in cleaning the apartments, and preparing for the reception of the owner, who, they said, had commanded them by a messenger from the prison to put things in order, as he should that day be restored to the sultan's favour, and return home. The sultan, who, so far from intending to release the unfortunate vizier, had almost erased the remembrance of him from his mind, was astonished at the report of the domestics, but thought his long confinement might possibly have disturbed the brain of his prisoner, who in his madness might have fancied his deliverance to be at hand. He resolved however to go and visit the prison disguised as he was, and see the vizier. Having purchased a quantity of bread and cakes, he proceeded to the gaol, and requested, under pretence of fulfilling a vow he had made to feed the prisoners, to be admitted, and allowed to distribute his charity among them. The gaoler granted his request, and permitted him to visit the different cells. At length he came to that of the vizier, who was employed earnestly at his devotions, which on the entrance of the supposed dervish he suspended, and inquired his business. "I come," said he, "for though unknown to you I have always prayed for your welfare, to congratulate you on your approaching deliverance, which I understand you have announced to your domestics, but fear without foundation, not having heard of any orders for the purpose from the sultan." "That may be true, charitable dervish," said the vizier, "but depend upon it before night I shall be released and restored to office." "I wish it may be so," replied the sultan; "but upon what ground do you build an expectation, the gratification of which appears to me so improbable?" "Be seated, good dervish, and I will tell you," rejoined the vizier, and began as follows: "Know then, my friend, experience has convinced me that the height of prosperity is always quickly succeeded by adverse fortune, and the depth of affliction by sudden relief. When I was in office, beloved by the people for my lenient administration, and distinguished by the sultan, whose honour and advantage were the constant objects of my care, and for whose welfare I have never ceased to pray even in this gloomy dungeon, I was one evening taking the air upon the river in a splendid barge with some favourite companions. As we were drinking coffee, the cup I held in my hand, which was made of a single emerald of immense value, and which I highly prized, slipped from it and fell into the water; upon which I ordered the barge to be stopped, and sent for a diver, to whom I promised an ample reward should he recover the cup. He undressed, and desired me to point out the place at which it fell; when I, having in my hand a rich diamond ring, heedlessly, in a fit of absence, threw it into that part of the river. While I was exclaiming against my own stupidity, the diver made a plunge towards where I had cast the ring, and in less than two minutes reappeared with the coffee-cup in his hand, when to my great surprise within it I found also my ring. I rewarded him liberally, and was exulting in the recovery of my jewels, when it suddenly struck my mind, that such unusual good fortune must speedily be followed by some disaster. This reflection made me melancholy, and I returned home with a foreboding sadness, nor without cause, for that very night my enemies accused me falsely of treason to the sultan, who believed the charge, and next morning I was hurried to this gloomy cell, where I have now remained seven years with only bread and water for my support. God, however, has given me resignation to his decrees, and this day an accident occurred which makes me confident of release before night, and restoration to the sultan's favour, which, as I have always done, I will endeavour to deserve. You must know, venerable dervish, that this morning I felt an unconquerable longing to taste a bit of flesh, and earnestly entreated my keeper, giving him at the same time a piece of gold, to indulge my wish. The man, softened by the present, brought me a stew, on which I prepared to make a delicious meal; but while, according to custom before eating, I was performing my ablutions, guess my mortification, when a huge rat running from his hole leaped into the dish which was placed upon the floor. I was near fainting with agony at the sight, and could not refrain from tears; but at length recovering from the poignancy of disappointment, the rays of comfort darted upon my mind, and I reflected that as disgrace and imprisonment had instantaneously followed the fortunate recovery of my cup and ring, so this mortification, a greater than which could not have happened, would be immediately succeeded by returning prosperity. In this conviction I prevailed on the gaoler to order my domestics to make ready my house and expect my return."
The disguised sultan, who, while the vizier was speaking, felt every word impress him more and more with the conviction of his innocence, had much difficulty to support his assumed character; but not choosing his visit to the prison should be known at present, he restrained his feelings, and when the minister had finished took his leave, saying, he hoped his presage would be fulfilled. He then returned undiscovered to the palace, and entering his cabinet, resumed his usual habit; after which he issued orders for the release of the vizier, sending him a robe of honour and splendid attendants to escort him to court, at the same time condemning to confiscation and imprisonment his malicious accusers. On his arrival, the sultan received the vizier with the most gracious distinction; and having presented him with the canopy of state, the seal and the inkstand set with rich jewels, the insignia of office, conducted him to a private chamber, where falling upon his neck he embraced him, and requesting him to forget past oppression, informed him of his disguised visit to the prison; after which he dismissed him to his own palace.
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Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.
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