“In the palace of the world there was a king and he had three sons. One day this king laid his head on the pillow of death and called those sons to his side, and spake privately with them. He said, ‘In such and such a corner of the palace I have hidden a vase full of pearls and jewels and diverse gems; when I am dead do ye wash me well and bury me, then go and take that vase from its place and divides its contents.’ The king lay for three days, and on the fourth day he drained the wine of death and set forth for the abiding home. When the princes had buried their father according to his injunctions, they came together and went and beheld that in the place of those jewels the winds blew. Now the princes began to dispute, and they said, ‘Our father told this to us three in private, this trick has been played by one of us.’ And the three of them went to the cadi, and told their complaint. The cadi listened and then said to them, ‘Come, I will tell you a story, and after that I will settle your dispute.
“‘Once, in a certain city, a youth and a girl loved each other, and that girl was betrothed to another youth. When the lover was alone with that girl he said, “O my life, now thou comest to me and I am happy with thee; to-morrow when thou art the bride of thy betrothed, how will be my plight?” The girl said, “My master, do not grieve; that night when I am bride, until I have come to thee and seen thee, I will not give the bridegroom his desire.” And they made a pact to that end. Brief, when the bridal night arrived, the girl and the youth went apart; and when all the people were dispersed and the place was clear of others, the girl told the bridegroom of the pact between her and the stricken lover, and besought leave to fulfil it. Whenever the bridegroom heard these words from the bride he said, “Go, fulfil thy plight and come again in 402 safety.” So the bride went forth, but while on the road she met a robber. The robber looked at her attentively, and saw that she was a beautiful girl like the moon of fourteen nights; never in his life had he seen such a girl, and upon her was endless gold, and she was covered with diverse jewels such as cannot be described. Thereupon the bridle of choice slipped from the robber’s hands; and as the hungry wolf springs upon the sheep, so did the robber spring upon that girl. Straightway the girl began to sigh, and the robber felt pity and questioned her.
“‘So the bride related to the robber her story from its beginning to its end, whereupon the robber exclaimed, “That is no common generosity! nor shall I do any hurt or evil thing to her.” Then said he to the girl, “Come, I will take thee to thy lover.” And he took her and led to her lover’s door and said, “Now go in and be with thy lover.” Then the girl knocked at the door, and that youth, who lay sighing, heard the knocking and went with haste and said, “Who is that?” The girl answered, “Open the door; lo, I have kept my plight, nor have I broken it, I am come to thee.” The youth opened the door and came to the girl and said, “O my life, my mistress, welcome, and fair welcome! how hast thou done it?” She replied, “The folk assembled and gave me to the bridegroom, then all dispersed and each went his way. And I explained my case to the bridegroom and he gave me leave. While on the road I met a robber, and that robber wished to stretch for his hand to me, but I wept and told him of my plight with thee, and he had pity and brought me to the door and left me, and has gone away.”
“‘When the youth heard these things from the girl he said, “Since the bridegroom is thus generous, and has given thee leave to fulfil thy plight with me, and sent thee to me, there were not generosity in me did I stretch forth my hand to thee and deal treacherously; from this day be thou my sister; go, return to they husband.” And he sent her off. When the girl went out she saw that robber standing by the door; and he walked in front of her, and conducted her to the bridegroom’s door. And the girl went in, and the robber departed to his own affairs. While the bridegroom was marvelling the bride entered, and the bridegroom leaped up and took the bride’s 403 hands in his, and they sat upon the bed. And the bridegroom turned and asked her news of the bride; and she told all her adventures from their beginning to their end.’ Then quoth the cadi, ‘O my sons, which of those showed manliness and generosity in this matter?’ The eldest youth said, ‘The bridegroom, who, while she was his lawful bride, and when he had spent thus much upon her, gave the girl leave. What excellent generosity did he display!’ The middle youth said, ‘The generosity was that lover’s, who. while there was so much love between them, had patience and sent her back. What excellent generosity: can there be greater than this!’ Then asked he of the youngest boy, ‘O you, what say you!’ Quoth he, ‘O ye, what say ye? when one hunting in the night met thus a fair beauty, a torment of the world, a fresh rose; above all, laden with these many jewels, and yet coveted her not but took her to her place. What excellent patience, what excellent generosity!’ When the cadi heard these words of the youngest boy he said, ‘O prince, the jewels are with thee; for the lover praised the lover; and the trustful, the trustful; and the robber, the robber.’ The prince was unable to deny it, and he took the jewels from his breast and laid them before the cadi.
“Now, O king, I have told this story for that thou mayst know that in that I am true I would aid my king; and that the vezirs, in that they are traitors, would aid the traitor prince. And they are forty men, each one of them a wonder of the world, while as for me, I am but one and a woman, lacking in understanding: the rest the king know.” When the king heard these enticing and beguiling words of the lady he said, “Grieve not, to-morrow will I kill him.”
When it was morning the king sat upon his throne and thus commanded the executioner, “Smite off the head of that traitor youth.” Whereupon the ninth vezir came forward and said, “O king of the world, beware, slay not thy son on the woman’s word, and be not heedless of the import of this verse which God most high hath spoken in his Word: ‘And the stiflers of wrath, and the pardoners of men; and God loveth the beneficent:’21 that is they are his peculiar servants. And the holy Apostle (peace on him!) hath said, ‘Whoso bridleth his 404 anger, he having power to avenge — God will call him on the resurrection day over the heads of the creatures that he may give him to choose from the houris which he pleaseth:’ that is he shall surely enter Paradise. Let one pardon him who has wronged him and forgive his servants their misdeeds, that God most high may pardon him and be beneficent to him; even as saith the Apostle (peace on him!) ‘The proclaimer shall proclaim on the resurrection day: — Where are they whose reward is (incumbent) upon God; none shall rise save him who hath forgiven.’ Mayhap the king has not heard the story of Hārūn-er-Reshīd22 and the slave girl.” The king said, “Tell on, let us hear.” Quoth the vezir:
21 Koran, iii. 128.
22 The celebrated Caliph of Bagdad, and hero of so many of the stories in the “Thousand and One Knights.”
“Once the Caliph Hārūn-er-Reshīd sat upon his throne of estate; and the people of the city of Bagdad were late in coming to salute him. Therefore was the caliph exceeding wroth, and he thus commanded the chamberlains, ‘Whoso comes now do ye turn off and cast into prison.’ And they seized and cast into prison all of the grandees of the city who came. For three days the caliph went not out, neither spake with anyone; but sat full of fury: who could have dared to address a word to him?
“While in this state he desired to eat, and he ordered one of the slave girls to bring food. She brought it before him, but while laying down the dish, she was careless and spilt some part of it over the caliph. Forthwith the caliph rose in wrath and was about to hew the girl in pieces, when she said, ‘O caliph, god most high saith in his glorious Word, “And the stiflers of wrath.” ’23 Straightway the caliph’s wrath was calmed. Again saith the slave girl, ‘ “And the pardoners of men.” ’23 Quoth the caliph, ‘I have forgiven the crimes of all the criminals who may be in prison.’ Again said the slave girl, ‘ “And God loveth the beneficent.” ’23 Quoth the caliph, ‘God be witness that I have with my own wealth freed thee and as many unfreed male and female slaves as I have, and that this day I have for the love of God given the half of all my wealth to the poor in alms.’ After that he let 405 bring into his presence all the prisoners who were in the jail and begged absolution of them; and as he has attained to the import of that noble verse, he put on each of them a robe of honor, and devoted himself to justice and equity. And now whoso mentions him doth add, ‘The mercy of God on him!’24
“O king, I have told this story, for that I have seen this day that thy wrath was great. I would that thou pardon the prince and grant him his life and so do a meritorious deed; and in this matter, beyond doubt and beyond uncertainty, thou shalt become deserving of the mercy and paradise of God most high.” And he kissed the ground and begged for the prince. When the king heard this story from the vezir he sent the youth to the prison and mounted for the chase.
That day he found no game and returned in wrath to the palace. Again the lady rose to greet him and they sat down. After the repast the lady began to speak of the youth. The king said, “Look, my mistress, now all is over, and my prince is still upon thy tongue; to-day too one of my vezirs begged for him and I sent him to the prison.” The lady saw that the king was vexed and said, “My king, be kind, be not vexed with me; for I know that soon no good will befall thee from that youth, for he is very covetous of wealth and kingship, and the covetous is ever balked. I saw him without understanding and without discretion; he knows neither his words nor himself; he is even as the sons of that king who took the metaphorical words of their father as literal, and at length lost what wealth was in their hands. Mayhap my king has not heard that story.” The king said, “Tell on, let us hear.” Quoth the lady:
23 Koran, iii. 128.
24 D’Herbelot relates the same story in his “Bibliothèque Orientale,” but substitutes Hasan son of ‘Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, for Harun-er-Reshid.
“There was in the palace of the world a great king, and he had three sons. One day the king laid his head upon the pillow of death and called his sons before him and said, ‘O my sons, my life has reached it send; I have counsel to give you, which when I am dead do ye observe.’ His sons replied, ‘On our heads be it; speak, father.’ To his eldest son he said, 406 ‘Build thou a house in every city.’ And to his middle son, ‘Marry thou every night.’ And to his youngest son, ‘Whenever thou eatest, eat honey and butter.’ The king lived not long after giving these injunctions, but die. The eldest son fell to building a house in every city; the middle son married a wife every night, and on the morrow gave her her dower and sent her to her father’s house; and the youngest son, whenever he ate, mixed honey and butter and ate it. A long time passed on this wise; we may say that though the middle and the youngest sons spent money, they at least had pleasure for it; but that bewildered and senseless eldest son spent this much money, and if the buildings her raised were fit for habitation, still they pointed to folly.
“One day a wise man asked them, ‘Why do ye thus?’ The princes answered, ‘By God, our father thus enjoined us.’ The wise man said, ‘Your father’s injunctions were not thus, but ye have not understood his riddles. And there is a tale suitable to this your plight, I will tell it you; afterward I will teach you your father’s riddles.’ The princes said, ‘Pray do so.’ Quoth the wise man, ‘Once there was a king who always exacted tribute from the infidels. One day those infidels assembled their monks and said, “Let us find some trick which the king will be unable to understand, that thereby we may escape from this tribute: now do ye each think of some plan.” Thereupon they dispersed and went away. After a time a monk came to the infidel who was their chief and said, “I shall go to them and put to them a question, and if they can answer it we will give them tribute.”
“So the unbelieving king gave that monk a little money and sent him. One day he entered the realms of Islam, and the event was reported to the king, who said, “Our learned men of the faith will surely answer an infidel without the faith; let him come.” They brought him into the presence of the king; and the king straightway assembled his doctors and pious men and grandees. Then the king said, “O monk, now what is thy questions; speak, let us see?” The monk first opened the five fingers of his hand and held the palm opposite to the folk, then he let the five fingers droop downward, and said, “What means that? know ye?” And all the doctors were silent and began to ponder, and they reflected, saying, “What 407 riddles can these riddles be? There is no such thing in the Commentaries or the Traditions.”
“ ‘Now there was there a learned wanderer, and forthwith he came forward and asked leave of the king that he might answer. The king gladly gave leave; then that wanderer came forward and said to the monk, “What is thy question? what need for the doctors? poor I can answer.” Then the monk came forward and opened his hand and held it so before the dervish; straightway the dervish closed his fist and held it opposite the monk. Then the monk let his five fingers droop downward; the dervish opened his fist and held his five fingers upward.
“ ‘When the monks saw these signs of the dervish, he said, “that is the answer,” and gave up the money he had brought. But the king knew not what these riddles meant, and he took the dervish apart and asked him. The dervish replied, “When he opened his fingers and held his hand so to me, it meant, ‘now I strike thee so on the face;’ so I showed him my fist, which meant, ‘I strike thy throat with my fist;’ he turned and let his fingers droop downward, which meant, ‘thou dost so, then I strike lower and seize thy throat with my hand;’ and my raising my fingers upwards meant, ‘if thou seekest to seize my throat, I too shall grasp thy throat from underneath;’ so we fought with one another by signs.” Then the king called the monk and said, “Thou madest signs with the dervish, but what meant these signs?” The monk replied, “I held my five fingers opposite him, that meant, ‘the five times ye do worship, is it right?’ The dervish presented his fist, which meant, ‘it is right.’ Then I held my fingers downward, which meant, ‘why does the rain come down from heaven?’ The dervish held his fingers upwards, which meant, ‘the rain falls down from heaven that the grass may spring up from the earth.’ Now such are the answers to those question sin our books.” Then he returned to his country.
“ ‘And the king knew that the dervish had not understood the monk’s riddles; but the king was well pleased for that he had done what was suitable; and he bestowed on the dervish a portion of the money which the monk had left. O princes, ye have no understood your father’s riddles, and ye have wasted your wealth in vain.’ The princes said, ‘What meant our father’s 408 riddles?’ He replied, ‘Firstly, when he said, “Build thou a house in every city,” he meant, “gain thou a friend in every city, so that when thou goest to a city the house of the friend thou hast gained may be thing.” Secondly, when he said, “Embrace thou a virgin whenever thou embracest,” he meant, “be moderate in thy pleasures that thou mayst enjoy them more.” Thirdly, when he said, “Whenever thou eatest, eat honey and butter,” he meant, “never when thou eatest, eat to repletion; but eat so that if it be but dry bread thou eatest, it will be to thee as honey and butter.” ’ When the princes heard the words of the wise dervish they knew that their father’s signs to them were so, and not that which they had done; and they left off doing those things.
“Now, O king, I have told this story for that with youths is no discretion, but in them ignorance and heedlessness abound. Though thou through understanding have compassion on him, yet will he have none on thee; it will be even as when one day Saint Bestām25 say a mangy dog, and through pity took it and laid it in a place and tended it many days till it became well, whereon it bit his foot. Bāyezīd said, ‘O dog, this is the return for the kindness I did thee — that thou bitest me.’ God most high gave speech to that dog, and it said, ‘O Bāyezīd, is not the proverb well known, “A man acts as a man; a dog, as a dog?”?’ Methinks, O king, that in that youth must be an evil veins: for if kindness be to kindness, never so long as he lived could that unworthy one have cast on me an envious glance; above all, never could he have sought to slay my king, his father, the source of his being. I, where am I? Take warning.” And she incited the king with very many evil words, so that he was afraid and said, “Grieve not, to-morrow will I slay him.” And that night was grievous to the king.
Scarce was it morning and had the sun shown forth the riddle of the whiteness of dawn, like as that dervish showed to the king’s sons the riddles of their father, and illumined the world with light, ere the king sat upon his throne and caused the youth to be brought and ordered the executioner, “Smith off his head.” Then the tenth vezir came forward and said, “O king of the world, every king desires that whithersoever 409 he go he may triumph and conquer; and that the earth be subject to his hand; and that whoso comes to his gate hoping, may find that which he seeks; and that the heart of none be vexed. When in the country of a king despairing hearts are many, that host of despairing hearts gathers together and utterly destroys another gay host. Thus it becomes the greatness and glory of kings, that when they see a beast under a heavy load they have compassion on that beast; even as it was when an ass came, dragging itself along, to the chain of the justice of Nūshīrvān the Just.26
“Straightway the king caused it to be brought into his presence, and he saw it to be a lean and worn black ass, whose back was broken with bearing loads. When the king saw that animal in such plight his heart bled, and he laid his hand on the beast’s face and wept full bitterly and said, ‘See ye how this poor creature has been oppressed in my kingdom?’ And he called for a physician and said to him, ‘Go, tend the wounds of this beast, and give it abundance to eat, and wrap round it a good horse-cloth that it be at ease.’ Now, it is incumbent on kings that they have compassion on the unhappy and the weak, and pity them, and believe not plotters and liars, nor trust their evil wicked words; and such folk are very many. Mayhap my king has not heard the story of the king’s son of Egypt and the crafty woman.” The king said, “Relate it, let us hear.” Quoth the vezir:
25 Bāyezīd of Bestām was a famous saint who, according to Ibn-Khallikān, died in 261 or 264 (A.D. 875 or 878).
26 One of the most famous kings of pre-Islamitic Persia, he reigned from A.D. 531 to 579.
“In the city of Cairo there was a king and he had two sons. One day he reflected on the doings of the cruel sphere and saw how the world was without constancy and remained not to king nor yet to beggar, but trod all under foot. At length he bethought him how it would not endure for himself either; and he took his younger son and made him apprentice to a master tailor, and said, ‘After all, a trade is needful for a man; and they have said that the least knowledge of a trade is better than a hundred thousand sequins.’ So in a short while the prince became a tailor such that there was not in the city of Cairo one who could ply his scissors and needle. One day 410 the king passed to the abiding home, and his elder son became king. His brother the tailor, fearing for his head, fled and went to the Ka‘ba.27
“While making the circumambulation,28 his foot struck against something heard, he looked and saw a girdle and took it up and bound it round his loins, and continued the circumambulation. After a while he saw a khoja who had a stone in either hand and who was beating his breast with these stones and crying, ‘Ah woe! alas! I had hidden in that girdle all the wealth I have gained from my youth; whatever Moslem has found it, let him give it me for the love of god and the honor of the Ka‘ba, and the half of it shall be lawful for him as his mother’s milk.’
“When the prince saw and heard him he knew that that girdle was his, and he said in his heart, ‘What has this much wealth and the kingdom of my father done for me? and what should this do for me? I shall not let this poor man weep; I shall give it to him.’ And he went round and came before the khoja and said, ‘O khoja, I have found that girdle of thing; lo, it is round my loins.’ The khoja clung fast to the prince, and the prince said, ‘What reward wilt thou give me? lo, the girdle is round my loins.’ Then the khoja took the prince and brought him to his own tent; and the prince loosed the girdle from his loins and laid it before the khoja, and the khoja took it and clasped it to his heart. Then he brake the seal and poured out what was in it; and the prince saw it to be full of precious stones.
“The khoja divided these stones into three heaps and said, ‘O youth, wilt thou take one heap with my good-will, or two without it?’ The prince replied, ‘Give me one heap with thy good-will.’ Then the khoja divided one of those heaps into two and said, ‘Which of them wilt thou take with my goodwill?’ Again the prince made choice of a heap. At length the khoja said, ‘Youth, wouldest thou have these remaining jewels, or wouldest thou that we go and that I pray for thee under the Golden Spout?’29 The prince answered, ‘Wealth perishes, but prayers endure; do thou bless me, I have relinquished all these riches.’ And they went, and he held up his 411 hands and said to the prince, ‘Say thou, “Amen.” ’ So the youth raised up his hands and the khoja began to pray. He repeated many prayers in himself, and the prince said, ‘Amen.’ The khoja drew his hands down his face and said, ‘O youth, I have prayed much for thee; now go, and may thy end be good.’
“The prince went away; but after a little he thought to himself, ‘If I go now to Cairo my brother will kill me, let me go along with this khoja to Bagdad.’ So he went back to the khoja and said, ‘O khoja, I would go with thee to Bagdad; take me that I may serve thee on the road.’ So the khoja took him; and the prince was in the khoja’s service, and they entered Bagdad and lighted at the khoja’s dwelling. For some days the prince abode there, then he said to the khoja, ‘I may not stay here thus idling; I have a trade, I am a master tailor, if thou hast any tailor friend, pray take me to him that he may give me some work to do.’
“Now the khoja had a tailor friend, and he straightway took the prince and brought him to the shop of that tailor and commended him to him, and the tailor consented. Then the prince sat down and his master cut out cloth for a robe and gave it to him; now the prince had check mated the Cairo tailors, where then were those of Bagdad? The prince sewed that robe and returned it, and the master took it and looked at it and saw that it was a beautiful robe, made so that in all his life he had not seen the like of it, and he said, ‘A thousand times well-done, youth.’ This news spread among the masters, and they all came to that shop and saw it and admired; and this prince became very famous in that country. The work in that master’s shop was now increased tenfold, and customers in like measure. One day the khoja had a quarrel with his wife, and in the greatness of his heat the words of the triple divorce passed his lips.
“Then he repented and would have got back his wife, and his wife also was willing. They sought a legal decision, but the muftī said, ‘It may not be without an intermediary.’30 The khoja bethought him whom he could get for intermediary when the prince came into his mind, and he said to himself, ‘That stranger youth is he; I shall make him intermediary.’ So he 412 married the woman to the prince. When it was evening he took him and put him into a dark house with the lady; but the lady made shift to light a candle, and as soon as she saw the prince she fell in love with him with all her heart. And the prince as soon as he saw her fell in love with her with all his heart. Then these two moons came together, and, after making merry, the lady showed the prince sumptuous stuffs, and countless gold, and precious stones, such as the tale and number of them cannot be written, and she said, ‘O my life, all this wealth is mine, it is my inheritance from my mother and my father, and all the wealth too that that khoja has is mine; it thou will not dismiss me to-morrow, but accept me as thy legal wife, all this wealth is thine.’
“The prince consented to this proposal, and the woman said, ‘O youth, when the khoja comes to-morrow he will say, “Come, let us go to the cadi;” say thou, “Why should we go to the cadi?” If he say, “Divorce the woman,” do thou reply, “By God, it were shame in us to take a wife and then divorce her.” And he will be unable to find any answer thereto.’ The prince was glad and accepted the lady’s advice. When it was morning the khoja came and knocked at the door, and the prince went forth and kissed the khoja’s hand. The khoja said, ‘Come, let us go to the cadi;’ the prince answered, ‘Why should we go to the cadi?’ Quoth the khoja, ‘Divorce the woman.’ The prince replied, ‘By God, it were mighty shame in us to divorce the woman; I will not divorce her.’ The khoja exclaimed, ‘Ah youth, what word is that? I trusted thee, thinking thee an upright youth, why speakest thou thus?’
“The prince answered, ‘Is not this which I have said the commandment of God and the word of the Apostle?’ The khoja looked and saw that there was no help; he wished to go to the cadi, but the folk said to him, ‘Khoja, now that woman is his, she is pleased with him and he is pleased with her, they cannot be divorced by force.’ The khoja was filled with grief and said, ‘He shall not be questioned concerning what he doth;’31 and he ceased from trying.
“He fell ill from his rage and became bedridden; then he called the prince and said to him, ‘Hast thou any knowledge 413 of what I prayed for thee under the Golden Spout?’ The prince replied, ‘I know naught of it.’ The khoja said, ‘Although I would have prayed otherwise, this came upon my tongue: “My God, apportion to this youth my wealth, my sustenance, and my wife.” O youth, would I had not taken from thee yon girdle! O youth, my wife was my existence, now that too is become thing. Now let these sitting her be witnesses that when I am dead all that I possess belongs to thee.’ Three days afterward he died; he perished through grief for that scheming woman; and the prince become possessor of his wealth.
“O king, I have told this story for that thou mayst know that fidelity comes not from woman, and their love is not to be trusted. When they cannot help it, they are obedient to their husbands, and, fearing the rod of the law, they wrap their feet in their skirts and sit quiet, otherwise, they would ruin the world with craft and trickery. Now, O king, act not on the woman’s word.” From seven places he performed the salutation due to kings, and begged for the prince’s life. The king heard his story from the vezir, and that day, too, he sent his son to the prison, and went himself to the chase.
When it was evening, the king returned from the chase and came to the palace, and the lady rose to greet him, and they sat down. After the repast, the lady brought about an opportunity, and began upon the youth. The king said, “To-day such an one of my vezirs made intercession for him, and I have sent him to the prison.” Quoth the lady, “These vezirs are all of them traitors to thee, and they are schemers and plotters. Each of them says words concerning me which if he heard, no true man would bear; a man’s wife is equal to his life. All the people marvel at thee, and say thou hast no sense of honor. But these vezirs have bewitched thee. Thy lies, too, are many; every night thou sayest, ‘I will kill this youth;’ then thou killest him not, and falsifiest thy words. O king, through truth is one acceptable both to God and man. O king, no good will come from a youth like this; it were better such a son did not remain after thee than that he did remain. Mayhap my king has not heard the story of a certain merchant.” The king said, “Tell on, let us hear.” Quoth the lady:
27 The Cubical (House), i. e., the Sacred Temple of Mecca.
28 One of the ceremonies performed by the pilgrims at Mecca.
29 For a description of it see Captain Burton’s “Pilgrimage,” vol. iii, p. 164.
30 Such as is required by the Mahometan law in case of a triple divorce.
31 Koran, xxi. 23.414
“There was of old time a great merchant, and he had two sons. One day the merchant laid his head on the pillow of death, and he called his sons before him, and brought together some wise persons, and said, ‘Moslems, if it please God most high, these boys will live for many years; reckon at the rate of a hundred years from to-day, and allow to each of them a daily grant of a thousand aspres, and whatever the sum may amount to, that sum will I give them, that after me they may stand in need of no one till they die, but pass their lives in ease in this transient world.’ Then they reckoned up, and he gave them much money; and a few days afterward he passed to the abiding home.
“The sons buried their father, and then began to waste that money. Their father’s friends gave them much advice, but they would not accept it. One of them would enter the shop of a confectioner and buy up all the sweetmeats that were therein, and load porters with them, and take them to the square of the city, and cry out, ‘This is spoil!’ and the folk would scramble for them, and he would laugh. And his business was ever thus. The other youth would buy wine and meat, and enter a ship with some flattering buffoons, and eat and drink and made merry; and when he was drunk he would mix up gold and silver coins before him, and throw them by handfuls into the sea, and their flashing into the water pleased him, and he would laugh. And his business likewise was ever thus. By reason of these follies, the wealth of both of them came to an end in little time, in such wise that they were penniless, so that they sat by the way and begged.
“At length the merchants, their father’s friends, came together, and went to the king and said, ‘The sons of such and such a merchant are fallen a prey to a plight like this; if they be not disgraced now, to-morrow will our sons also act like them. Do thou now put them to death, for the love of God, that they may be an example, and that others may not act as they.’ Then the king commanded that they bring them both into his presence, and the king said to them, ‘O unhappy ones, what plight is this plight in which ye are? Where is the headman?’ And he ordered them to be killed. They said, ‘O king, 415 be not wroth at our having fallen into this plight, and kill us not; our father is the cause of our being thus, for he commended us not to God most high, but he commended us to money; and the end of the child who is commended to money is thus.’ Their words seemed good to the king, and he said, ‘By God, had ye not answered thus, I had cleft ye in twain.’ And then he bestowed on each of them a village.
“Now, O king, I have related this story for that among youths there is nor shame nor honor, neither is there zeal for friend or foe. Beware and beware, be not negligent, ere the youth kill thee do thou kill him, else thou shalt perish.” When the king heard this story from the lady he said, “On the morrow will I kill him.”
When it was morning, and the darkness of night, like the wealth of that merchant, was scattered. The king sat upon his throne and commanded the executioner, saying, “Smite off the youth’s head.” Then the eleventh vezir came forward and said, “O king of the world, hurry not in this affair, and whatsoever thou doest, do according to the command of God and the word of the Apostle; and the holy Apostle hath said that when the resurrection is near, knowledge will vanish and ignorance will increase and the spilling of blood will be oft. O king, leave not the Law, and spill not blood unjustly on thine own account, and pity the innocent; for they have said that whoso taketh a fallen one by the hand to raise him shall be happy; but whoso, having the power, raiseth him not shall himself burn in the fire of regret. Mayhap the king has not heard the story of a certain king and a vezir’s son.” The king said, “Tell on, let us hear.” Quoth the vezir:
“Of old time there was a king, and that king had a sage vezir. God most high had given that vezir a son; and the people of the world were bewildered at the beauty of that boy. And the king loved him so that he could not endure to be a moment without seeing him, and he never parted from him. So his parents yearned for the boy, but what avail? they had needs have patience through fear of the king. One day, the king while drunk entered the palace and saw this boy playing 416 with another page, and thereupon was he wroth and he commanded the executioner, ‘Smite off the head of this degenerate boy.’ And they dragged the boy out. Thereupon word was sent to the vezir, and he came straightway, and crying, ‘My life! my son! went up to the headsman and said, ‘O headsman, now is the king drunk and senseless and he knows not the word he says; if thou kill the boy to-night, to-morrow the king will not spare thee; but will kill thee likewise.’ The headsman said, ‘How should we do? he said to me, “Quick, smite off his head and bring it.” ’
“The vezir answered, ‘Go to the prison and smite off the head of some man meriting death, and bring it; at this time the king has not his senses and will believe it.’ And he gave the headsman much gold. The headsman took the sequins and was glad, and went forthwith to the prison and smote off the head of a robber and brought it to the king. The king was pleased and gave the headsman a robe of honor. And the vezir took the boy and brought him to his own house and hid him there. When it was morning and the king’s senses returned, he asked for the boy, and they said, ‘This night thou didst command the executioner that he smote off the boy’s head.’ As soon as the king heard this he fell senseless and his understanding forsook him. After a while his understanding returned and he sat beating his knees and he fell a-weeping. Then the vezir feigning not to know, came before the king and said, ‘O king, what plight is this?’ Quoth the king, ‘O vezir, where is that source of my life? where is that spring of my soul?’ The vezir said, ‘O king, whom meanest thou?’ The king replied, ‘Thy son, who was the joy of my heart.’ And he cried and wept beyond control, and the vezir rent his collar and wailed and lamented.
“For two months the one business of the king was sighing and crying; during the nights he would not sleep till dawn for weeping, and he would say, ‘My God, shall I never behold his face? mayhap I shall behold it at the resurrection. To me henceforth life is not beseeming.’ Mad words like these would he utter. And he ceased from eating and drinking, and retired from the throne and sought a private house and wept ever, and it wanted little but he died. When the vezir saw this, he one day decked out the boy like a flower and took 417 him and went to the private place where the king dwelt. He left the boy at the door and went in himself and saw that the king had bowed his head in adoration and was praying to god and weeping and thus saying, ‘My God, henceforth is life unlawful for me, do thou in thy mercy take my soul;’ and he was lamenting, recalling the darling fashions of the boy.
“The vezir heard this wail of the king and said, ‘O king, how thou weepest! thou hast forsaken manhood, and art become a by-word in the world.’ The king replied, ‘Henceforth advice profits me not; lo, begone.’ Quoth the vezir, ‘O king, if God most high took pity on thee and brought the boy to life, wouldst thou forgive his fault? and what wouldst thou give to him who brought thee news thereof? The king said, ‘O would that it could be so! all the wealth that I have in my treasury would I give to him who brought me news thereof, and my kingdom would I give to the boy; and I should be content to look from time to time on the boy’s face.’ Then the vezir beckoned to the boy and he came in, and went and kissed the king’s hand. As soon as the king saw the boy his senses forsook him, and the vezir sprinkled rose-water on the king’s face and withdrew. When the king’s senses returned he saw the boy beside him and he though that his soul had gone and returned.
“When it was morning the vezir came before the king, and the king said, ‘As thou hast brought the boy to me whole, go, all that is in my treasury is thing.’ The vezir answered, ‘O king of the world, rather is the wealth which is in my treasury thing; we are both of us the meanest of the king’s slaves. May God (glorified and exalted be he!) grant fortune to our king and long life! We too shall live in thy felicity.’ The king was glad at the words of his vezir, and bestowed many towns and villages on the son of the vezir, and offered up many sacrifices, and gave away much alms.
“O king, I have told this story for that he king may take profit and not do a deed without reflection, that he be not afterward repentant, like that king, and suffer not bitter regret and remorse. That king suffered so great regret and remorse for a vezir’s son, and yet this one is the darling of thine own heart. The rest the king knows. Beware, O king, slay not the prince on a woman’s word.” And he kissed the ground and made intercession 418 for the prince for that day. So the king sent the youth to the prison and went himself to the chase.
“When it was evening the king returned from the chase and came to the palace, and the lady rose to greet him, and they sat down. After the repast the lady commenced to speak about the youth. The king said, “To-day too such an one of my vezirs made intercession for him and I sent him to the prison.” The lady said, “O king, three things are the signs of folly; the first is to put off to-day’s business till to-morrow, the second is to speak words foolishly, and the third is to act upon senseless words. O king, whatsoever thy vezirs say, that thou believest straightway and actest upon. Satan is of a surety entered into these thy vezirs and into thy boy; in whose heart soever he plants the love of office or of wealth, him in the end does he leave without the faith. Mayhap the king has not heard the story of the King and the Weaver.” The king said, “Relate it, let us hear.” Quoth the lady:
“Of old time there was a great king. One day a man came before him and said, ‘My king, I shall weave a turban such that one born in wedlock will see it, while the bastard will see it not.’ The king marvelled and ordered that that weaver should weave that turban; and the weaver received an allowance from the king and tarried a long while. One day he folded up this side and that side of a paper and brought it and laid it before the king and said, ‘O king, I have woven that turban.’ So the king opened the paper and saw that there was nothing; and all the vezirs and nobles who stood there looked on the paper and saw nothing. Then the king said in his heart, ‘Dost thou see? I am then a bastard;’ and he was sad. And he thought, ‘Now, the remedy is this, that I say it is a goodly turban and admire it, else will I be put to shame before the folk.’ And he said, ‘Blessed be God! O master, it is a goodly turban, I like it much.’
“Then that weaver said, ‘O king, let them bring a cap that I may wind the turban for the king.’ They brought a cap and the weaver youth laid the paper before him and moved his hands as though the wound the turban, and he put 419 it on the king’s head. All the nobles who were standing there said, ‘Blessed be it! O king, how fair, how beautiful a turban!’ and they applauded it much. Then the king rose and went with two vezirs into a private room and said, ’O vezirs, I am then a bastard; I see not the turban.’ Quoth the vezirs, ‘O king, we too see it not.’ At length they knew of a surety that the turban had no existence, and that that weaver had thus played a trick for the sake of the money.
“O king, thou too sayest, ‘On the morrow will I kill him; I will do this and I will do that;’ and yet there is nothing. O king, I had that dream this night, there is no doubt that it is as I have interpreted. O king, if the king’s life and throne go, who knows what they will do to hapless me?’ And she began to weep. when the king saw the lady thus weeping his heart was pained and he said, “On the morrow I will indeed refuse the words of whichsoever of my vezirs makes intercession for him, and I will indeed kill the youth; for, according to the dream thou hast hand, this is no light affair.”
When it was morning the king came and sat upon his throne, and he caused the youth to be brought and commanded the executioner, “Smite off his head.” Whereupon the thirteenth vezir came forward and sought to make intercession, but the king was wroth and said, “Be silent, speak not.” Thereupon the vezir drew a paper from his breast and said, “for God’s sake read this paper, then thou wilt know.” Then the king looked at the paper and saw that there was written thereon, “O king, yesterday I looked at the astrolabe; for forty days is the prince’s ruling star in every evil aspect, such that the prince may even lose his head.” Then all the forty vezirs came forward at once and said, “O king, for the love of God and the honor of Muhammed Mustafa, for the forty days have patience and slay not the prince; thereafter it is certain that this affair will be made clear, and when its origin is known much each one receive his due.” The said the vezir, “There is a story suitable to this; if the king grant leave I will tell it.” The king said, “Tell on, let us hear.” Quoth the vezir: