She pursued: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir Shimas concluded with saying, “And they shall accomplish upon thee whatso they desire of thy destruction; so shalt thou fare as fared the Jackals with the Wolf.” Asked the King, “How was that?” and the Wazir answered, “They tell the following tale of
A pack of Jackals155 went out one day to seek food, and as they prowled about in quest of this, behold, they happened upon a dead camel and said in themselves, “Verily we have found wherewithal we may live a great while; but we fear lest one of us oppress the other and the strong bear down the weak with his strength and so the puny of us perish. Wherefore it behoveth us seek one who shall judge between us and appoint unto each his part, so the force full may not lord it over the feeble.” As they consulted together on such subject, suddenly up came a Wolf, and one of the Jackals said to the others, “Right is your rede; let us make this Wolf judge between us, for he is the strongest of beasts and his father was Sultan over us aforetime; so we hope in Allah that he will do justice between us.” Accordingly they accosted the Wolf and acquainting him with what they had resolved concerning him said, “We make thee judge between us, so thou mayst allot unto each of us his day’s meat, after the measure of his need, lest the strong of us bear down the weak and some of us destroy other of us.” The Wolf accepted the governance of their affairs and allotted to each of them what sufficed him that day; but on the morrow he said in his mind, “An I divide this camel amongst these weaklings, no part thereof will come to me, save the pittance they will assign to me, and if I eat it alone, they can do me no harm, seeing that they are a prey to me and to the people of my house. Who, then, is the one to hinder me from taking it all for myself? Surely, ’tis Allah who hath bestowed it on me by way of provision without any obligation to any of them. It were best that I keep it for myself, and henceforth I will give them naught.” Accordingly, next morning when the Jackals came to him, as was their wont, and sought of him their food, saying, “O Abu Sirhán,156 give us our day’s provender,157” he answered saying, “I have nothing left to give you.” Whereupon they went away in the sorriest plight, saying, “Verily, Allah hath cast us into grievous trouble with this foul traitor, who regardeth not Allah nor feareth Him; but we have neither stratagem nor strength on our side.” Moreover one of them said, “Haply ’twas but stress of hunger that moved him to this, so let him eat his fill to-day, and to-morrow we will go to him again.” Accordingly, on the morrow, they again betook themselves to the Wolf and said to him, “O Father of Foray, we gave thee authority over us, that thou mightest apportion unto each of us his day’s meat and do the weak justice against the strong of us, and that, when this provaunt is finished, thou shouldst do thine endeavour to get us other and so we be always under thy watch and ward. Now hunger is hard upon us, for that we have not eaten these two days; so do thou give us our day’s ration and thou shalt be free to dispose of all that remaineth as thou wilt.” But the Wolf returned them no answer and redoubled in his hardness of heart and when they strave to turn him from his purpose he would not be turned. Then said one of the Jackals to the rest, “Nothing will serve us but that we go to the Lion and cast ourselves on his protection and assign unto him the camel. If he vouchsafe us aught thereof, ’twill be of his favour, and if not, he is worthier of it than this scurvy rascal.” So they betook themselves to the Lion and acquainted him with that which had betided them from the Wolf, saying, “We are thy slaves and come to thee imploring thy protection, so thou mayst deliver us from this Wolf, and we will be thy thralls.” When the Lion heard their story, he was jealous for Almighty Allah158 and went with them in quest of the Wolf who, seeing him approach addressed himself to flight; but the Lion ran after him and seizing him, rent him in pieces and restored their prey to the Jackals. “This showeth,” added Shimas, “that it fitteth no King to neglect the affairs of his subjects; wherefore do thou hearken to my rede and give credit to the words which I say to thee.” Quoth the King, “I will hearken to thee and to-morrow, Inshallah, I will go forth to them.” Accordingly Shimas went from him and returning to the folk, told them that the King had accepted his advice and promised to come out unto them on the morrow. But, when the favourite heard this saying reported of Shimas and was certified that needs must the King go forth to his subjects, she betook herself to him in haste and said to him, “How great is my wonder at thy submissiveness and thine obedience to thy slaves! Knowest thou not that these Wazirs are thy thralls? Why then dost thou exalt them to this highmost pitch of importance that they imagine them it was they gave thee this kingship and advanced thee to this rank and that it is they who confer favours on thee, albeit they have no power to do thee the least damage? Indeed, ’tis not thou who owest submission to them; but on the contrary they owe it to thee, and it is their duty to carry out thine orders. How cometh it then, that thou art so mightily Frighted at them? It is said, ‘Unless thy heart be like iron, thou art not fit to be a Sovran.’ But thy mildness hath deluded these men, so that they presume upon thee and cast off their allegiance, although it behoveth that they be constrained unto thy obedience and enforced to thy submission. therefore an thou hasten to accept their words and leave them as they now are and vouchsafe to them the least thing against thy will, they will weigh heavily upon thee and require other concessions of thee, and this will become their habit. But, an thou hearken to me, thou wilt not advance any one of them to power neither wilt thou accept his word nor encourage him to presume upon thee, else wilt thou fare with them as did the Shepherd with the Rogue.” Asked the King, “How was that?” and she answered, “They relate this adventure of
155 For Ta’lab (Sa’lab) see supra, p. 48. In Morocco it is undoubtedly the red or common fox which, however, is not gregarious as in the text.
156 See vol. iii. 146.
157 Arab. “Muunah” which in Morocco applies to the provisions furnished gratis by the unfortunate village-people to travellers who have a passport from the Sultan. its root is Maun =supplying necessaries. “The name is supposed to have its origin in that of Manna the miraculous provision bestowed by the bounty of Heaven on the Israelites while wandering in the deserts of Arabia.” Such is the marvellous information we find in p. 40, “Morocco and the Moors” by John Drummond Hay (Murray, 1861)
158 i.e. He resolved to do them justice and win a reward from Heaven.
There was once a Shepherd, who fed a flock of sheep in the wold and kept over them strait watch. One night, there came to him a Rogue thinking to steal some of his charges and, finding him assiduous in guarding them, sleeping not by night nor neglecting them by day, prowled about him all the livelong night, but could plunder nothing from him. So, when he was weary of striving, he betook himself to another part of the waste and trapping a lion, skinned him and stuffed his hide with bruised straw160, after which he set it up on a high place in the desert, where the Shepherd might see it and be assured thereof. Then he accosted the Shepherd and said to him, “Yonder lion hath sent me to demand his supper of these sheep.” The Shepherd asked, “Where is the lion?” and the Rogue answered, “Lift thine eyes; there he standeth.” So the Shepherd raised his eyes and, seeing the semblance, deemed it a very lion and was much Frighted;—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She resumed: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Shepherd saw the semblance of the lion, he deemed it a very lion and was Frighted with the sorest fright, trembling for dread so he said to the thief, “O my brother take what thou wilt, I will not gainsay thee.” Accordingly the Rogue took what he would of the sheep and redoubled in greed by reason of the excess of the Shepherd’s fear. Accordingly, every little while, he would hie to him and terrify him, saying, “The lion hath need of this and requireth that, and his intent is to do thus and thus,” and take his sufficiency of the sheep; and he stinted not to do thus with him, till he had wasted the most part of his flock. “This, O King,” added the favourite, “I tell thee only that thou suffer not the Grandees of thy realm to be deluded by thy mildness and easiness of temper and presume on thee; and, in right rede, their death were better than that they deal thus with thee.” Quoth the King, “I accept this thy counsel and will not hearken to their admonition neither will I go out unto them.” On the morrow the Wazirs and Officers of State and heads of the people assembled; and, taking each with him his weapon, repaired to the palace of the King, so they might break in upon him and slay him and seat another in his stead. When they came to the door, they required the doorkeeper to open to them; but he refused, whereupon they sent to fetch fire, wherewith to burn down the doors and enter. The doorkeeper, hearing what they said went in to the King in haste and told him that the folk were gathered together at the gate, adding, “They required me to open to them, but I refused; and they have sent to fetch fire to burn down the doors withal, so they may come into thee and slay thee. What dost thou bid me do?” Quoth the King in himself, “Verily, I am fallen into uttermost perdition.” Then he sent for the favourite; and, as soon as she came, said to her, “Indeed, Shimas never told me aught but I found it true, and now great and small are coming purposing to slay me and thee; and because the doorkeeper would not open to them, they have sent to fetch fire, to burn the doors withal; so will the house be burnt and we therein. What dost thou counsel me to do?” She replied, “No harm shall betide thee, nor let thine affair affright thee. This is a time when the simple rise against their Kings.” Quoth he, “What dost thou counsel me to do and how shall I act in this affair?” Quoth she, “My rede is that thou fillet thy head and feign thyself sick; then send for the Wazir Shimas, who will come and see the plight wherein thou art; and do thou say to him, ‘Verily I purposed to go forth to the folk this day; but this malady hindered me. So go thou out to them and acquaint them with my condition and tell them that to-morrow I will fare forth without fail to them and do their need and look into their affairs, so they may be reassured and their rage may subside.’ Then do thou summon ten of thy father’s slaves, stalwart men of strength and prowess, to whom thou canst entrust thyself, hearing to thy hest and complying with thy commandment, surely keeping thy secret and fief to thy love; and charge them on the morrow to stand at thy head and bid them suffer none of the folk to enter, save one by one; and all who enter do thou say, ‘Seize them and do them die.’ An they agree with thee upon this, to-morrow set up thy throne in the Divan161 and open thy doors. When the folk see that thou hast opened to them, their minds will be set at ease and they will come to thee with a whole heart and seek admission to thee. Then do thou admit them, one after one, even as I said to thee and work with them thy will, but it behoveth thee begin by slaying Shimas, their chief and leader, for he is the Grand Wazir and head of the matter. Therefore do him die first and after put all the rest to death, one after other, and spare none whom thou knowest to have broken with thee his covenant; and in like way slaughter all whose violence thou fearest. An thou deal thus with them, there will be left them no power to make head against thee; so shalt thou be at rest from them with full repose, and shalt enjoy thy kingship in peace and do whatso thou wilt, and know that there is no device that will profit thee more than this.” Quoth the King, “Verily, this thy counsel is just and that which thou biddest me is to the point and I will assuredly do as thou directest.” So he called for a fillet and bound his head therewith and shammed sickness. Then he sent for the Grand Wazir and said to him, “O Shimas, thou knowest that I love thee and hearken to the counsel of thee and thou art to me as brother and father both in one; also thou knowest that I do all thou biddest me and indeed thou badest me go forth to the lieges and sit to judge between them. Now I was assured that this was right rede on thy part, and purposed to go forth to them yesterday; but this sickness assailed me and I cannot sit up. It hath reached me that the folk are incensed at my failure to come forth to them and are minded of their mischief to do with me that which is unmeet for that they know not what ailment aileth me. So go thou forth to them and acquaint them with my case and the condition I am in, and excuse me to them, for I am obedient to their bidding and will do as they desire; wherefore order this affair and engage thyself for me herefor, even as thou hast been a loyal counsellor to me and to my sire before me, and it is of thy wont to make peace between the people. To-morrow, Inshallah, I will without fail come forth to them, and peradventure my sickness will cease from me this night, by the blessing of the purest intent and the good I purpose them in my heart.” So Shimas prostrated himself to Allah and called down blessings on the King and kissed his hand, rejoicing at this. Then he went forth to the folk and told them what he had heard from the King and forbade them from that which they had a mind to do, acquainting them with what excused the King for his absence and informing them that he had promised to come forth to them on the morrow and deal with them according to their desires; whereupon they dispersed and tried them to their houses.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
161 A fanciful origin of “Díván” (here an audience-chamber) which may mean demons (plural of Dív) is attributed to a King of Persia. He gave a series of difficult documents and accounts to his scribes and surprised at the quickness and cleverness with which they were ordered exclaimed, “These men be Divs!” Hence a host of secondary meanings as a book of Odes with distichs rhymed in alphabetical order and so forth.
She said: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Shimas went from the presence to the ringleaders of the commons and said to them, “To-morrow the Sovran will come forth to you and will deal with you as ye desire.” So they tried them to their homes. On such wise fared it with them; but as regards the Monarch, he summoned ten slaves of gigantic stature,162 men of hard heart and prow of prowess, whom he had chosen from amongst his father’s body guard, and said to them, “Ye know the favour, esteem and high rank ye held with my sire and all the bounties, benefits and honours he bestowed on you, and I will advance you to yet higher dignity with me than this. Now I will tell you the reason thereof and ye are under safeguard of Allah from me. But first I will ask you somewhat, wherein if ye do my desire, obeying me in that which I shall bid you and conceal my secret from all men, ye shall have of me largesse and favour surpassing expectation. But above all things obedience!” The ten thralls answered him with one mouth and in sequent words, saying, “Whatso thou biddest us, O our liege, that we will do, nor will we depart in aught from thy commandment, for thou art our lord and master.” Quoth the King, “Allah allot you weal! Now will I tell you the reason why I have chosen you out for increase of honour with me. Ye know how liberally my father dealt with the folk of his realm and the oath he took from them on behalf of me and how they promised him that they would break faith with me nor gainsay the bidding of me; and ye saw how they did yesterday, whenas they gathered all together about me and would have slain me. Now I am minded to do with them somewhat; and ’tis this, for that I have considered their action of yesterday and see that naught will restrain them from its like save exemplary chastisement; wherefore I perforce charge you privily to do to death whom I shall point out to you, to the intent that I may ward off mischief and calamity from my realm by slaying their leaders and Chiefs; and the manner thereof shall be on this wise. To-morrow I will sit on this seat in this chamber and give them admission to me one by one, coming in at one door and going out at another; and do ye, all ten, stand before me and be attentive to my signs; and whoso entereth singly, take him and drag him into yonder chamber and kill him and hide his corpse.” The slaves answered, “We hearken to thy hest and obey thy order.” Whereupon he gave them gifts and dismissed them for the night. On the morrow he summoned the thralls and bade set up the royal seat; then he donned his kingly robes and taking the Book of law-cases163 in his hands, posted the ten slaves before him and commanded to open the doors. So they opened the doors and the herald proclaimed aloud, saying, “Whoso hath authority, let him come to the King’s carpet164!” Whereupon up came the Wazirs and Prefects and Chamberlains and stood, each in his rank. Then the King bade admit them, one after one, and the first to enter was Shimas, according to the custom of the Grand Wazir; but no sooner had he presented himself before the King, and ere he could beware, the ten slaves get about him, and dragging him into the adjoining chamber, despatched him. On likewise did they with the rest of the Wazirs and Olema and Notables, slaying them, one after other, till they made a clean finish.165 Then the King called the headsmen and bade them ply sword upon all who remained of the folk of velour and stowre; so they fell on them and left none whom they knew for a man of mettle but they slew him, sparing only the proletaires and the refuse of the people. These they drove away and they returned each to his folk, whilst the King secluded himself with his pleasures and surrendered his soul to its lusts, working tyranny, oppression and violence, till he outraced all the men of evil who had forerun him.166 Now this King’s dominion was a mine of gold and silver and jacinths and jewels and the neighbouring rulers, one and all, envied him this empire and looked for calamity to betide him. Moreover, one of them, the King of Outer Hind, said in himself, “I have gotten my desire of wresting the realm from the hand of yonder silly lad, by reason of that which hath betided of his slaughter of the Chiefs of his State and of all men of velour and mettle that were in his country. This is my occasion to snatch away that which is in his hand, seeing he is young in years and hath no knowledge of war nor judgment thereto, nor is there any left to counsel him aright or succour him. Wherefore this very day will I open on him the door of mischief by writing him a writ wherein I will flyte him and reproach him with that which he hath done and see what he will reply.” So he indited him a letter to the following effect,
“In the name of Allah the Compassionating, the Compassionate!
I have heard tell of that which thou hast done with thy Wazirs and Olema and men of valiancy
and that whereinto thou hast cast thyself of calamity
so that there is neither power nor strength left in thee to repel whoso shall assail thee,
more by token that thou transgressest and orderest thyself
tyrannously and profligately
Now Allah hath assuredly given me
the conquering of thee and the mastery over thee and into my hand
hath delivered thee; wherefore do thou give ear to my word and
obey the commandment of me and build me an impregnable castle
amiddlemost the sea
An thou cannot do this, depart thy realm and with thy life go flee
for I will send unto thee, from the farthest ends of Hind, twelve hordes167 of horse, each
twelve thousand fighting men strong, who shall enter thy land and
spoil thy goods and slay thy men and carry thy women into
Moreover, I will make my Wazir, Badi’a captain over
them and bid him lay strait siege to thy capital till the master
and I have bidden the bearer of this letter that he tarry with thee but days three
So, an thou do my demand, thou shalt be saved; else will I send that which I have said unto
thee.” Then he sealed the scroll and gave it to a messenger, who
journeyed with it till he came to the capital of Wird Khan and
delivered it to him. When the King read it, his strength failed
him, his breast waxed strait and he made sure of destruction,
having none to whom he might resort for aid or advice. Presently
he rose and went in to his favourite wife who, seeing him changed
of colour, said to him, “What mattereth thee, O King?” Quoth he,
“This day I am no King but slave to the King.” And he opened the
letter and read it to her, whereupon she fell to weeping and
wailing and rending her raiment. Then he asked her, “Hast thou
aught of rede or resource in this grievous strait?”; but she
answered, “Women have no resource in time of war, nor have women
any strength or aught of counsel. ’Tis men alone who in like of
this affair have force and discourse and resource.” When the King
heard her words, there befel him the utmost regret and repentance
and remorse for that he had transgressed against his Wazirs and
Officers and Lords of his land,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn
of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
162 In both cases the word “Jabábirah” is used, the plur. of Jabbár, the potent, especially applied to the Kings of the Canaanites and giants like the mythical Og of Bashan. So the Heb. Jabbúrah is a title of the Queens of Judah.
163 Arab. “Kitáb al-Kazá”= the Book of Judgments, such as the Kazi would use when deciding cases in dispute, by legal precedents and the Rasm or custom of the country.
164 i.e. sit before the King as referee, etc.
165 This massacre of refractory chiefs is one of the grand moyens of Eastern state-craft, and it is almost always successful because circumstances require it; popular opinion approves of it and it is planned and carried out with discretion and secrecy. The two familiar instances in our century are the massacre of the Mamelukes by Mohammed Ali Pasha the Great and of the turbulent chiefs of the Omani Arabs by our ancient ally Sayyid Sa’íd, miscalled the “Imám of Maskat.”
166 The metaphor (Sabaka) is from horse-racing, the Arabs being, I have said, a horsey people.
167 Arab. “Kurdús” = A body of horse.
She continued: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when King Wird Khan heard the words of his favourite wife there befel him the utmost regret and repentance for having transgressed against and slain his Wazirs and the chiefs of his state, and he would that he had died ere there came to him the like of these shameful tidings. Then he said to his women, “Verily, there hath betided me from you that which befel the Francolin and the Tortoises.” Asked they, “What was that?”; and he answered, Men tell this tale of
It is said that sundry Tortoises dwelt once in a certain island abounding in trees and fruiterers and rills, and it fortuned, one day, that a Francolin, passing over the island, was overcome with the fiery heat and fatigue and being in grievous suffering stayed his flight therein. Presently, looking about for a cool place, he espied the resort of the Tortoises and alighted down near their home. Now they were then abroad foraging for food, and when they returned from their feeding places to their dwelling, they found the Francolin there. His beauty pleased them and Allah made him lovely in their eyes, so that they exclaimed “Subhána ‘lláh,” extolling their Creator and loved the Francolin with exceeding love and rejoiced in him, saying one to other, “Forsure this is of the goodliest of the birds;” and all began to caress him and entreat him with kindness. When he saw that they looked on him with eyes of affection, he inclined to them and companioned with them and took up his abode with them, flying away in the morning whither he would and returning at eventide to pass the night by side of them. On this wise he continued a long while until the Tortoises, seeing that his daily absence from them desolated them and finding that they never saw him save by night (for at dawn he still took flight in haste and they knew not what came of him, for all that their love grew to him), said each to other, “Indeed, we love this Francolin and he is become our true friend and we cannot bear parting from him, so how shall we devise some device tending to make him abide with us always? For he flieth away at dawn and is absent from us all day and we see him not save by night.” Quoth one of them, “Be easy, O my sisters; I will bring him not to leave us for the turn of an eye?” and quoth the rest, saying, “An thou do this, we will all be thy thralls.” So, when the Francolin came back from his feeding place and sat down amongst them, that wily Tortoise drew near unto him and called down blessings on him, giving him joy of his safe return and saying, “O my lord, know that Allah hath vouch-safed thee our love and hath in like manner set in thy heart the love of us, whereby thou art become to us a familiar friend and a comrade in this desert. Now the goodliest of times for those who love one another is when they are united and the sorest of calamities for them are absence and severance. But thou departest from us at peep of day and returnest not to us till sundown, wherefore there betideth us extreme desolation. Indeed this is exceeding grievous to us and we abide in sore longing for such reason.” The Francolin replied, “Indeed, I love you also and yearn for you yet more than you can yearn for me, nor is it easy for me to leave you; but my hand hath no help for this, seeing that I am a fowl with wings and may not wone with you always, because that is not of my nature. For a bird, being a winged creature, may not remain still, save it be for the sake of sleep o’ nights; but, as soon as it is day, he flieth away and seeketh his morning-meal in what place soever pleaseth him.” Answered the Tortoise, “Sooth thou speakest! Nevertheless he who hath wings hath no repose at most seasons, for that the good he getteth is not a fourth part of what ill betideth him, and the highmost aims of the creature are repose and ease of life. Now Allah hath bred between us and thee love and fellowship and we fear for thee, lest some of thine enemies catch thee and thou perish and we be denied the sight of thy countenance.” Rejoined the Francolin, “True! But what rede hast thou or resource for my case?” Quoth the Tortoise, “My advice is that thou pluck out thy wing-feathers, wherewith thou speedest thy flight, and tarry with us in tranquillity, eating of our meat and drinking of our drink in this pasturage, that aboundeth in trees rife with fruits yellow-ripe and we will sojourn, we and thou, in this fruitful stead and enjoy the company of one another.” The Francolin inclined to her speech, seeking ease for himself, and plucked out his wing-feathers, one by one, in accordance with the rede approved of by the Tortoise; then he took up his abode with them and contented himself with the little ease and transient pleasure he enjoyed. Presently up came a Weasel168 and glancing at the Francolin, saw that his wings were plucked, so that he could not fly, whereat he rejoiced with joy exceeding and said to himself, “Verily yonder Francolin is fat of flesh and scant of feather.” So he went up to him and seized him, whereupon the Francolin called out to the Tortoises for help; but when they saw the Weasel rend him, they drew apart from him and huddled together, choked with weeping for him, for they witnessed how the beast tortured him. Quoth the Francolin, “Is there aught with you but weeping?”; and quoth they, “O our brother, we have neither force nor resource nor any course against a Weasel.” At this the Francolin was grieved and cutting off all his hopes of life said to them, “The fault is not yours, but mine own fault, in that I hearkened to you and plucked out my wing-feathers wherewith I used to fly. Indeed I deserve destruction for having obeyed you, and I blame you not in aught.” “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 the Garden of Eden, and for that I forgot ye are the root of all evil and hearkened to you, in mine ignorance, lack of sense and weakness of judgment, and slew my Wazirs and the Governors of my State, who were my loyal advisers in all mine actions and my glory and my strength against whatsoever troubled me. But at this time find I not one to replace them nor see I any who shall stand me in their stead, and I fall into utter perdition.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
168 Arab. “Ibn ‘Irs.” See vol. iii. 147.
She pursued: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the King blamed himself saying, “’Twas I that hearkened to you in mine ignorance and slew my Wazirs so that now I find none to stand in their stead, and unless Allah succour me with one of sound judgment, who shall guide me to that wherein is my deliverance, I am fallen into utter perdition.” Then he arose and withdrew into his bedchamber, bemoaning his Wazirs and wise men and saying, “Would Heaven those lions were with me at this time, though but for an hour; so I might excuse myself unto them and look on them and bemoan to them my case and the travail that hath betided me after them!” And he abode all his day sunken in the sea of cark and care neither eating nor drinking. But as soon as the night fell dark, 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 from any some word of comfort. As he wandered about the main streets, behold, he chanced upon two boys who had sought a retired seat by a wall and he observed that they were equal in age, or about twelve years old. As they talked together he drew near them whereas he might hear and apprehend what they said, unseen of them, and heard one say to the other, “Listen, O my brother, to what my sire told me yesternight of the calamity which hath betided him in the withering of his crops before their time, by reason of the rarity of rain and the sore sorrow that is fallen on this city.” Quoth the other, “Wottest thou not the cause of this affliction?”; and quoth the first, “No! and, if thou ken it pray tell it me.” Rejoined the other, “Yes, I wot it and will tell it thee. Know that I have heard from one of my father’s friends that our King slew his Wazirs and Grandees, not for aught of offence done of them, but only by reason of his love for women and inclination to them; for that his Ministers forbade him from this, but he would not be forbidden and commanded to do them die in obedience to his wives. Thus he slew Shimas my sire, who was his Wazir and the Wazir of his father before him and the chief of his council; but right soon thou shalt see how Allah will do with him by reason of his sins against them and how He shall avenge them of him.” The other boy asked, “What can Allah do now that they are dead?”; and his fellow answered, “Know that the King of Outer Hind169 maketh light of our monarch, and hath sent him a letter berating him and saying to him, ‘Build me a castle amiddlemost the sea, or I will send unto thee Badi’a my Wazir, with twelve hordes of horse, each twelve thousand strong, to seize upon thy kingdom and slay thy men and carry thee and thy women into captivity.’ And he hath given him three days’ time to answer after the receipt of that missive. Now thou must know, O my brother, that this King of Outer Hind is a masterful tyrant, a man of might and prowess in fight, and in his realm are much people; so unless our King made shift to fend him off from himself, he will fall into perdition, whilst the King of Hind, after slaying our Sovran, will seize on our possessions and massacre our men and make prize of our women.” When the King heard this their talk, his agitation increased and he inclined to the boys, saying, “Surely, this boy is a wizard, in that he is acquainted with this thing without learning it from me; for the letter is in my keeping and the secret also and none hath knowledge of such matter but myself. How then knoweth this boy of it? I will resort to him and talk with him and I pray Allah that our deliverance may be at his hand.” Hereupon the King approached the boy softly and said to him, “O thou dear boy, what is this thou sayest of our King, that he did ill of the evilest in slaying his Wazirs and the Chiefs of his State? Indeed he sinned against himself and his subjects and thou art right in that which thou sayest. But tell me, O my son, whence knowest thou that the King of Outer Hind hath written him a letter, berating him and bespeaking him with the grievous speech whereof thou tellest?” The boy replied, “O brother, I know this from the sand170 wherewith I take compt of night and day and from the saying of the ancients, ‘No mystery from Allah is hidden; for the sons of Adam have in them a spiritual virtue which discovereth to them the darkest secrets.’” Answered Wird Khan, “True, O my son, but whence learnedest thou geomancy and thou young of years?” Quoth the boy, “My father taught it me;” and quoth the King, “Is thy father alive or dead?” “He is dead,” replied the boy. Then Wird Khan asked, “Is there any resource or device for our King, whereby to ward off from himself and his kingdom this sore calamity?” And the boy answered, saying, “It befitteth not that I speak with thee of this; but, an the King send for me and ask me how he shall do to baffle his foe and get free of his snares, I will acquaint him with that wherein, by the power of Allah Almighty, shall be his salvation.” Rejoined Wird Khan, “But who shall tell the King of this that he may send for thee and invite thee to him?” The boy retorted, “I hear that he seeketh men of experience and good counsel, so 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, an he neglect the pressing matter and busy himself with his love-liesse among his women and I go to him of my own accord designing to acquaint him with the means of deliverance, he will assuredly give orders to slay me, even as he slew those his Wazirs, and my courtesy to him will be the cause of my destruction. Wherefore the folk will think slightly of me and belittle my wit and I shall be of those of whom it is said, ‘He whose science excelleth his sense perisheth by his ignorance.’” When the King heard the boy’s words, he was assured of his sagacity, and the excellence of his merit was manifest and he was certified that deliverance would betide him and his subjects at the boy’s hands. So presently he resumed the colloquy and asked him, “Whence art thou and where is thy home?”; and the boy answered, “This is the wall of our house.” The King took note of the place and farewelling the boy, returned to his palace in high spirits. there he changed his clothes and called for meat and wine, forbidding his women from him; and he ate and drank and returned thanks to Allah the Most High and besought Him of succour and deliverance, and he craved His pardon and forgiveness for that which he had done with his Wazirs and Olema and turned to Him with sincere repentance, imposing on himself many a prayer and long fasting, by way of discipline-vow. On the morrow, he called one of his confidential eunuchs and, describing to him the boy’s home, bade him repair thither and bring him to his presence with all gentleness. Accordingly the slave sought out the boy and said to him, “The King summoneth thee, that good may betide thee from him and that he may ask thee a question; then shalt thou return safe and sound to thy dwelling.” Asked the boy, “What is the King’s need of me that he biddeth me to him on this wise?”, and the eunuch answered, “My lord’s occasion with thee is question and answer.” “A thousand times hearkening and a thousand times obeying the commandment of the King!” replied the boy and accompanied the slave to the palace. When he came into the presence, he prostrated himself before Allah and after salaming, called down blessings on the King who returned his salutation and bade him be seated.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
169 Arab. “Al Hind-al-Aksá.” The Sanskrit Sindhu (lands on the Indus River) became in Zend “Hendu” and hence in Arabic Sind and Hind, which latter I wish we had preserved instead of the classical “India” or the poetical “Ind.”
170 i.e. by geomancy: see vol. iii. 269 for a note on Al–Raml. The passage is not in the Mac. Edit.
She resumed: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the boy appeared before the King and saluted him with the salam, Wird Khan returned his salutation and bade him be seated. So he sat down and the King asked him, “Knowest thou who talked with thee yesternight?” Answered the boy, “Yes,” and the King said, “And where is he?” “’Tis he who speaketh with me at this present,” said the boy. Rejoined the King, “Thou sayst sooth, O friend,” 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, “Ho, thou the Wazir,171 in our talk yesternight thou toldest me that thou hadst a device whereby thou couldst defend us from the malice of the King of Hind. What is this contrivance and how shall we manoeuvre 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 Grand Wazir and do according to thy judgment in all thou counsellest me and assign thee a splendid honorarium.” Answered the boy, “O King, keep thy honorarium to thyself and seek counsel and policy of thy women, who directed thee to slay my father Shimas and the rest of the Wazirs.” When the King heard this, he was ashamed and sighed and said, “O thou dear boy, was Shimas indeed thy sire?” The boy replied, “Shimas was indeed my sire, 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 Allah. Then said he, “O boy, indeed I did this of my ignorance and by the evil counsel of the women, for ‘Great indeed is their malice’172; but I beseech thee to forgive me and I will set thee in thy father’s stead and make thy rank higher than his rank. Moreover, an thou do away from us this retribution sent down from Heaven, I will deck 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 lief173 boy, the Wazir who sitteth in the second seat after the King!’ And touching what thou sayest of the women, I have it in mind to do vengeance on them at such time as Almighty Allah shall will it. But tell me now what thou hast with thee of counsel and contrivance, that my heart may be content.” Quoth the boy, “Swear to me an oath that thou wilt not gainsay me in whatso I shall say to thee and that I from that which I fear shall be safe,” and quoth the King, “This is the covenant of Allah between me and thee, 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 the Almighty Lord is witness betwixt us twain whatso I say.” therewith the boy’s breast waxed broad and the field of speech was opened to him wide and he said, “O King, my rede to thee is that thou await the expiration of the delay appointed to thee for answering the courier of the King of Hind, and when he cometh before thee seeking the reply, do thou put him off to another day. With this he will excuse himself to thee, on the ground of his master having appointed him certain fixed days, and importune for an answer; but do thou rebut him and defer him to another day, without specifying what day it be. Then will he go forth from thee an angered 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 Outer Hind, who is a monarch of great puissance and of determination such as softeneth iron. He sent me with a letter to the King of this city appointing to 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 missive, which when he had read, he sought of me a delay of three days, after which he would return me an answer to the letter, and I agreed to this of courtesy and consideration for him. When the three days were past, I went to seek the reply of him, but he delayed me to another day; and now I have no patience to wait longer; so I am about to return to my lord, the King of Outer Hind, and acquaint him with that which hath befallen me; and ye, O folk, are witnesses between me and him.’ All this will be reported to thee and do thou send for him and speak him gently and say to him, ‘O thou who seekest thine own ruin, what hath moved 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 nobility.’ Know that our delay in answering arose not from helplessness 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 scroll and read it again and laugh loud and long 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 time and a third time, and he will reply, ‘I have none other at all.’ Then say to him, ‘Verily, this thy King is utterly witless in that he writeth us the like of this writ seeking to arouse our wrath against him, so that we shall go forth to him with our forces and domineer over his dominions and capture his kingdom. But we will not punish him this time for his unmannerly manners as shown in this letter, because he is wanting in wit and feeble of foresight, and it beseemeth our dignity that we first warn him not to repeat the like of these childish extravagances, and if he risk his life by returning to the like of this, he will deserve speedy destruction. Indeed, methinks this King of thine who sent thee on such errand must be an ignorant fool, taking no thought to the issue of things and having no Wazir of sense and good counsel, with whom he may advise. Were he a man of mind, he had taken counsel with a Wazir, ere sending us the like of this laughable letter. But he shall have a reply similar to his script and surpassing it, for I will give it to one of the boys of the school to answer.’ Then send for me and, when I come to the presence, bid me read the letter and reply thereto.” When the King heard the boy’s speech, his breast broadened and he approved his proposal and his device delighted him. So he conferred gifts upon him and installing him in his father’s office, sent him away rejoicing. And as soon as expired the three days of delay which he had appointed, the courier 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 carpet-room174 and spake with unseemly speech, even as the boy had fore said. Then he betook himself to the bazar and cried, “Ho, people of this city, I am a courier of the King of Outer Hind and came with a message to your monarch who still putteth me off from a reply. Now the term is past which my master limited to me and your King hath no excuse, and ye are witnesses unto this.” When these words reached the King, he sent for that courier and said to him, “O thou that seeketh thine own ruin, 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 vulgar? Verily, thou meritest retribution from us, but this we will forbare, for the sake of returning an answer by thee to this fool of a King of thine; and it befitteth not that any return to him reply but the least of the boys of the school.” Then he sent for the Wazir’s son, who came and prostrating himself before Allah, offered up prayers for the King’s lasting glory and long life; whereupon Wird Khan threw him the letter, saying, “Read that letter and write me an acknowledgment thereof in haste.” The boy took the letter and read it, smiled; then he laughed; then he laughed aloud and asked the King, “Didst thou send for me to answer this letter?” “Yes,” answered Wird Khan, and the boy said, “O King, me thought thou hadst sent for me on some grave occasion; indeed, a lesser than I had answered this letter but ’tis thine to command, O puissant potentate.” Quoth the King, “Write the reply forthright, on account of the courier, for that he is appointed a term and we have delayed him another day.” Quoth the boy, “With the readiest hearkening and obedience,” and pulling out paper and inkcase175 wrote as follows:—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
171 This address gave the boy Wazirial rank. In many parts of Europe, England included, if the Sovereign address a subject with a title not belonging to him, it is a disputed point if the latter can or cannot claim it.
172 Koran, chapter of Joseph xii. 28, spoken by Potiphar after Joseph’s innocence had been proved by a witness in Potiphar’s house or according to the Talmud (Sepher Hádjascher) by an infant in the cradle. The texts should have printed this as a quotation (with vowel points).
173 Arab. “Al-‘Azíz,” alluding to Joseph the Patriarch entitled in Egypt “Azíz al-Misr”= Magnifico of Misraim (Koran xii. 54). It is generally believed that Ismail Pasha, whose unwise deposition has caused the English Government such a host of troubles and load of obloquy, aspired to be named “‘Azíz” by the Porte; but was compelled to be satisfied with Khadív (vulg. written Khedive, and pronounced even “Kédivé”), a Persian title, which simply means prince or Rajah, as Khadív-i-Hind.
174 i.e. The Throne room.
175 For the “Dawát” or wooden inkcase containing reeds see vol. v. 239 and viii. 178. I may remark that its origin is the Egyptian “Pes,” of which there is a specimen in the British Museum inscribed, “Amásis the good god and Lord of the two Lands.”
She said: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the boy took the letter and read it, he forthright pulled out inkcase and paper and wrote as follows:—“In the name of Allah the Compassionating, the Compassionate! Peace be upon him who hath gotten pardon and deliverance and the mercy of the Merciful! But after, O thou who pretendest 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 peregrine extravagances, whereby we are certified of thine ignorance and ill-will to us. Verily, thou hast put out thy hand to that whereunto thou canst never reach and, but that we have compassion on Allah’s creatures and the lieges, we had not held back from thee. As for thy messenger, he went forth to the market streets and published the news of thy letter to great and small, whereby he merited retaliation from us, but we spared him and remitted his offence, of pity for him, seeing that he is excusable with thee and not for aught of respect to thyself. As for that whereof thou makest mention in thy letter of the slaying of my Wazirs and Olema and Grandees, this is the truth and this I did for a reason that arose with me, and I slew not one man of learning but there are with me a thousand of his kind, wiser than he and cleverer and wittier; nor is there with me a child but is filled with knowledge, and I have, in the stead of each of the slain, of those who surpass in his kind, what is beyond count. Each man of my troops also can cope with an horde of thine, whilst, as for monies I have a manufactory that maketh every day a thousand pounds of silver, besides gold, and precious stones are with me as pebbles; and as for the people of my possessions I cannot set forth to thee their goodliness and abundance of means. How darest thou, therefore, presume upon us and say to us, ‘Build me a castle amiddlemost the main’? Verily, this is a marvellous thing, and doubtless it ariseth from the slightness of thy wit, for hadst thou aught of sense, thou hadst enquired of the beatings of the billows and the waftings of the winds. But wall it off from the waves and the surges of the sea and still the winds, and we will build thee the castle. Now as for thy pretension that thou wilt vanquish me, Allah forfend that such thing should befal, and the like of thee should lord it over us and conquer our realm! Nay, the Almighty hath given me the victory over thee, for that thou hast transgressed against me and rebelled without due cause. Know, therefore, that thou hast merited retribution from the Lord and from me; but I fear Allah in respect of thee and thy subjects176 and will not take horse against thee except after warning. Wherefore, an thou also fear Allah, hasten to send me this year’s tribute, else will I not turn from my design to ride forth against thee with a thousand thousand177 and an hundred thousand fighting men, all furious giants on elephants, and I will range them round about my Wazir and bid him besiege thee three years, in lieu of the three days’ delay thou appointedst to thy messenger, and I will make myself master of thy dominion, except that I will slay none save thyself alone and take captive therefrom none but thy Harim.” 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 this he sealed it and handed it to the King, who gave it to the courier, and the man, after taking it and kissing the King’s hands went forth from him thanking Allah and the Sovran for his royal clemency to him and marvelling at the boy’s intelligence. He arrived at the court of the King, his master, on the third day 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 time appointed. 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 told him all he had seen with his own eyes and heard with his own 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?” Answered the courier, “O mighty monarch, here am I in thy presence,178 but open the letter and read it, and the truth of my speech will be manifest to thee.” So the King opened the letter and read it and seeing the semblance of the boy who had written it, made sure of the loss of his kingdom and was perplexed anent the end of his affair. Then, turning to his Wazirs and Grandees, he acquainted them with what had occurred and read to them the letter, whereat they were affrighted with the sorest affright and sought to soothe the King’s terror with words that were only from the tongue, whilst their hearts were torn piecemeal with palpitations of alarm. But Badi’a (the Chief Wazir) presently said, “Know, O King, that there is no profit in that which my brother Wazirs have proffered, and it is my rede that thou write this King a writ and excuse thyself to him therein, saying, ‘I love thee and loved thy father before thee and sent thee not this letter by the courier except only to prove thee and try thy constancy and see what was in thee of valiancy and thy proficiency in matters of practick and theorick and skill in enigmas and that wherewith thou art endowed of all perfections, So we pray Almighty Allah to bless thee in thy kingdom and strengthen the defences of thy capital and add to thy dominion, since thou art mindful of thyself and managest to accomplish every need of thy subjects’. And send it to him by another courier.” Exclaimed the King, “By Allah of All-might! ’tis a marvel of marvels that this man should be a mighty King and ready 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 be populous and prosper after this and there should issue therefrom this prodigious power! But the marvelousest of all is that the little ones of its schools should return the like of this answer for its King. Verily, of the vileness of my greed I have kindled this fire upon myself and lieges, and I know not how I shall quench it, save by taking the advice of this my Wazir.” Accordingly he get ready a costly present, with eunuchs and slaves manifold, and wrote the following reply, “In the name of Allah the Compassionating, the Compassionate! To proceed: O Glorious King Wird Khan, son of my dear brother, Jali’ad, may the Lord have mercy on thee and continue thee! Thine answer to our letter hath reached us and we have read it and apprehended its contents and see therein that which gladdeneth us and this is the utmost of that which we sought of Allah for thee; so 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 frowardness. Know, O King, that thy father was my brother and that there were between us in his lifetime pacts and covenants, and never saw he from me aught save weal, nor ever saw I from him other than good; and when he deceased and thou tookest seat upon the throne of his kingship, there betided us the utmost joy and gladness; but, when the news reached us of that which thou didst with thy Wazirs 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 negligent of thine affairs and of the maintenance of thy defences and neglectful of the interests of thy kingdom; so we let write unto thee what should arouse thy spirit. But, when we saw that thou returnedest us the like of this reply, our heart was set at ease for thee, may Allah give thee enjoyment179 of thy kingdom and stablish thee in thy dignity! And so peace be with thee.” Then he despatched the letter and the presents to Wird Khan with an escort of an hundred horse,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
176 i.e. I am governed by the fear of Allah in my dealings to thee and thy subjects.
177 Arabic has no single word for million although the Maroccans have adopted “Milyún” from the Spaniards (see p. 100 of the Rudimentos del Árabe vulgar que se habla en el imperio de Marruccos por El P. Fr. Josč de Lerchundi, Madrid 1872): This lack of the higher numerals, the reverse of the Hindu languages, makes Arabic “arithmology” very primitive and almost as cumbrous as the Chinese.
178 i.e. I am thy slave to slay or to pardon.
179 Arab. ‘‘Matta’aka ’llah’’=Allah permit thee to enjoy, from the root mate’, whence cometh the Maroccan Matá‘i=my, mine, which answers to Bitá‘i in Egypt.
She continued: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the monarch of Outer Hind, after making ready his presents, despatched them to King Wird Khan with an escort of an hundred horse, who fared on till they came to his court and saluting him, presented letter and gifts. The King read the writ and lodged the leader of the escort in a befitting place, entreating him with honour and accepting the presents he presented. So the news of this was bruited abroad among the folk and the King rejoiced therein with joy exceeding. Then he sent for the boy, the son of Shimas, and the Captain of the hundred horse and, entreating the young Wazir with honour, gave him the letter to read, whilst he himself blamed the King’s conduct to the Captain who kissed his hands and made his excuses to him, offering up prayers for the continuance of his life and the permanence of his prosperity. The King thanked him for this and bestowed upon him honours and largesse and gave to all his men what befitted them and made ready presents to send by them and bade the boy Wazir indite an answer to their King’s letter. So the boy wrote a reply, wherein, after an address180 beautiful exceedingly, he touched briefly on the question of reconciliation and praised the good breeding of the envoy and of his mounted men, and showed it when duly finished, to the King who said to him, “Read it, O thou dear boy, that we may know what is written181 therein.” So the boy read the letter in the presence of the hundred horse, and the King and all present marvelled at its ordinance of style and sense. Then the King sealed the letter and delivering it to the Captain of the hundred horse, dismissed him with some of his own troops, to escort him as far as the frontier of his country. The Captain returned, confounded in mind at that which he had seen of the boy’s knowledge and thanking Allah for the speedy accomplishment of his errand and the acceptance of peace, to the King of Outer Hind. Then going in to the presence, he delivered the presents and handed to him the letter, telling him what he had seen and heard, whereat the King rejoiced with joy exceeding and rendered lauds to his Lord the Most High and honoured the Captain commending his care and zeal and advancing him in rank. And from that hour he woned in peace and tranquillity and all happiness. As for King Wird Khan, he returned to the paths of righteousness, abandoning his evil ways and repenting to Allah with sincere penitence; and he gave up womanising altogether and applied himself wholly to the ordering of the affairs of his realm and the governance of his people in the fear of Allah. Furthermore, he made the son of Shimas, Wazir in his father’s stead, and the chief after himself in his realm and keeper of his secrets and bade decorate his capital for seven days and likewise the other cities of his kingdom. At this the subjects rejoiced and fear and alarm ceased from them and they were glad in the prospect of justice and equity and instant in prayer for the King and for the Minister who from him and them had done away this trouble. Then said the King to the Wazir, “What is thy rede for the assuring of the state and the prospering of the people and the return of the realm to its aforetime state as regards Captains and Councillors?” Answered the boy, “O King of high estate, in my judgment it behoveth before all, that thou begin by rending out from thy heart the root of wickedness and leave thy debauchery and tyranny and addiction to women; for, an thou return to the root of transgression, the second backsliding will be worse than the first.” The King asked, “And what is the root of sinfulness that it behoveth me to root out from my heart?”; and was answered by the Wazir, little of years but great of wit, “O King the root of wickedness is subjection to the desire of women and inclining to them and following their counsel and contrivance, for the love of them changeth the soundest wit and corrupteth the most upright nature, and manifest proofs bear witness to my saying, wherein an thou meditate them and follow their actions and consequences with eyes intent, thou wilt find a loyal counsellor against thy own soul and wilt stand in no need whatever of my rede. Look, then, thou occupy not thy heart with the thought of womankind and do away the trace of them from thy mind, for that Allah the Most High hath forbidden 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 kingdom after me, frequent not women overmuch, lest thy heart be led astray and thy judgment be corrupted, for that overmuch commerce with them leadeth to love of them, and love of them to corruption of judgment’. And the proof of this is what befel our Lord Solomon, son of David, (peace be upon the twain of them!) whom Allah specially endowed with knowledge and wisdom and supreme dominion, nor vouchsafed He to any one of the Kings his predecessors 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 such dominion as that with which 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 use them according to his need and not incline to them with utter inclination for that will cast him into corruption and perdition. An thou hearken to my words, all thine affairs will prosper; but, an thou neglect them thou wilt repent, whenas repentance will not profit thee.” Answered the King, ‘Verily, I have left my whilome inclination to women.’—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
180 Arab. “Khitáb” = the exordium of a letter preceding its business-matter and in which the writer displays all his art. It ends with “Ammá ba’d,” lit.=but after, equivalent to our “To proceed.” This “Khitáb” is mostly skipped over by modern statesmen who will say, “Now after the nonsense let us come to the sense”; but their secretaries carefully weigh every word of it, and strongly resent all shortcomings.
181 Strongly suggesting that the King had forgotten how to read and write. So not a few of the Amirs of Sind were analphabetic and seemed rather proud of it: “a Baloch cannot write, but he always carries a signet-ring.” I heard of an old English lady of the past generation in Northern Africa who openly declared “A Warrington shall never learn to read or write.”
She pursued: It hath reached me, O mighty monarch, that King Wird Khan said to his Wazir, “Indeed, I have left my whilome inclination to women and have altogether renounced my infatuation for them, but how shall I do to punish them in retaliation of their misdeeds? For the slaying of thy sire Shimas was of their malice and not of my own will, and I know not what ailed my reason that I consented with their proposal to slay him “ Then he cried, “Ah me!” and groaned and lamented, saying “Well-away and alas for the loss of my Wazir and his just judgment and admirable administration and for the loss of his like of the Wazirs and Heads of the State and of the goodliness of their apt counsels and sagacious!” “O King,” quoth the boy-minister, “Know that the fault is not with women alone, for that they are like unto a pleasing stock in trade, whereto the lusts of the lookers-on incline. To whosoever lusteth and buyeth, they sell it, but whoso buyeth not, none forceth him to buy; so that the fault is of him who buyeth, especially if he know the harmfulness of that merchandise. Now, I warn thee, as did my sire before me, but thou acceptedest not to his counsel.” Answered the King, “O Wazir, indeed I have fixed this fault upon myself, even as thou hast said, and I have no excuse except divine foreordainment.” Rejoined the Wazir, “O King, know that Almighty Allah hath created us and endowed us with capability and appointed to us free will and choice; so, if we will, we do, and if we will, we do not. The Lord commanded us not to do harm, lest sin attach to us; wherefore it befitteth us to take compt of whatso is right to do, for that the Almighty biddeth us naught but good in all cases and forbiddeth us only from evil; but what we do, we do of our own design, be it fair or faulty.” Quoth the King, “Thou sayest sooth, and indeed my fault arose from my surrendering myself to my lusts, albeit often and often my better self warned me from this, and thy sire Shimas also warned me often and often, but my lust overcame my wits. Hast thou then with thee aught that may withhold me from again committing this error and whereby my reason may be victorious over the desires of my soul?” Quoth the Wazir, “Yes, I can tell thee what will restrain thee from relapsing into this fault, and it is that thou doff the garment of ignorance and don that of understanding, and disobey thy passions and obey thy Lord and revert to the policy of the just King thy sire, and fulfil thy duties to Allah the Most High and to thy people and apply thyself to the defence of thy faith and the promotion of thy subjects’ welfare and rule thyself aright and forbear the slaughter of thy people; and look to the end of things and sever thyself from tyranny and oppression and arrogance and lewdness, and practice justice, equity and humility and bow before the bidding of the Almighty and apply thyself to gentle dealing with those of His creatures over whom He set thee and be assiduous as it besitteth thee in fulfilling their prayers unto thee. An thou be constant herein may thy days be serene and may Allah of His mercy pardon thee, and make thee loved and feared of all who look on thee; so shall thy foes be brought to naught, for the Omnipotent shall rout their hosts and thou shalt have acceptance with Him and of His creatures be dreaded and to them endeared.” Quoth the King, “Indeed thou hast quickened my vitals and illumined my heart with thy sweet speech and hast opened the eyes of my clear seeing after blindness; and I am resolved to do whatso thou hast set forth to me, with the help of the Almighty leaving my former case of lust and sinfulness and bringing forth my soul from durance vile to deliverance and from fear to safety. So it behoveth thee to be joyful hereat and contented, for that I am become to thee as a son, maugre my more of age, an thou to me as a dear father, despite thy tenderness of years, and it hath become incumbent on me to do mine utmost endeavour in all thou commandest me. Wherefore I thank the bounty of Allah and thy bounty because He hath vouchsafed me, by thee, fair fortune and goodly guidance and just judgment to ward off my cark and care; and the security of my lieges hath been brought about by thy hand, through the excellence of thy knowledge and the goodliness of thy contrivance. And thou, from this hour, shalt be the counsellor of my kingdom and equal to myself in all but sitting upon the throne, and whatso thou dost shall be law to me and none shall disobey thy word, young in years though thou be, for that thou art old in wit and knowledge. So I thank Allah who deigned grant thee to me, that thou mayst guide me into the way of salvation and out of the crooked paths of perdition.” Quoth the Wazir, “O auspicious King, know that no merit is due to me for giving thee loyal counsel; for that to succour thee by deed and word is one of the things which is incumbent on me, seeing that I am but a plant of thy bounty, and not I alone, but one before me was overwhelmed with thy beneficence, so that we are both alike partakers in thy honours and favours, and how shall we not acknowledge this? Moreover thou, O King, art our shepherd and ruler and he who wardeth off from us our foes, and to whom are committed our protection and our guardian, constant in endeavour for our safety. Indeed, though we lavished our lives in thy service yet should we not fulfil that which is incumbent on us of gratitude to thee; but we supplicate Allah Almighty, who hath set thee over us and made thee our ruler, and beseech Him vouchsafe thee long life and success in all thine enterprises and not to make trial of 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 generosity, so thou mayst have command over every wise man and subdue every wicked man and all the wise and brave be found with thee in thy realm and all the ignorant and cowardly be plucked out from thy reign; and we pray Him to withhold from thy people scarcity and calamity and sow among them the seed of love and friendship and cause them to enjoy of this world its prosperity and of the next felicity, of His grace and bounty and hidden mercies. Amen!182 For He is over all things Omnipotent and there is naught difficult unto Him, to Him all things tend.” When the King heard the Wazir’s prayer, he was mightily rejoiced and inclined to him with his whole heart, saying, “Know, O Wazir, thou art to me in lieu of brother and son and father, and naught but death shall divide me from thee. All that my hand possesseth thou shalt have the disposal of 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 folk of my realm, and I will invest thee with my Kingship in the presence of the Grandees of my state and appoint thee my heir apparent to inherit the kingdom after me, Inshallah!”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
182 Arab. “Ámin,” of which the Heb. form is Amen from the root Amn=stability, constancy. In both tongues it is a particle of affirmation or consent=it is true! So be it! The Hebrew has also “Amanah”=verily, truly.
She resumed: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that King Wird Khan said to the son of Shimas the whilome Wazir, “Presently I will name thee my successor and make thee my heir apparent, and I will call the Grandees of mine Empire to witness thereto.” Then he summoned his Secretary and bade him write to all the Lords of his land, convoking them at his Court, and caused proclamation to be made in his city to all the townsfolk great and small, bidding every one of the Emirs and Governors and Chamberlains and other officers and dignitaries to his presence as well as the Olema and Literati learned in the law. He held to boot a grand Divan and made a banquet, never was its like seen anywhere and thereto he bade all the folk, high and low. So they assembled and abode in merry making, eating and drinking a month’s space, after which the King clothed the whole of his household and the poor of his Kingdom and bestowed on the men of knowledge abundant largesse. Then he chose out a number of the Olema and wise men who were known to the son of Shimas and caused them go in to him, bidding him choose out of them six that he might make them Wazirs under commandment of the boy. Accordingly he selected six of the oldest of them in years and the best in wits and fullest of lore and the quickest of memory and judgment and presented them to the King, who clad them in Wazirial habit saying, “Ye are become my Ministers, under the commandment of this my Grand Wazir, the son of Shimas. Whatsoever he saith to you or biddeth you to do, ye shall never and in no wise depart from it, albeit he is the youngest of you in years, for he is the eldest of you in intellect and intelligence.” Then he seated them upon chairs, adorned with gold after the usage of Wazirs, and appointed to 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 aptest for the service of the state, that he might make them Captains of tens and Captains of hundreds and Captains of thousands and appoint to them dignities and stipends and assign them provision, after the manner of Grandees. This they did with entire diligence and he bade them also handsel all who were present with large gifts and dismiss them each to his country with honour and renown; he also charged his governors to rule the people with justice and enjoined them to be tender to the poor as well as to the rich and bade succour them from the treasury, according to their several degrees. So the Wazirs wished him permanence of glory and continuance of life, and he commanded to decorate the city three days, in gratitude to Allah Almighty for mercies vouchsafed to him. Such was the case with the King and his Wazir, Ibn Shimas, in the ordinance of his kingdom through his Emirs and Governors; but as regards the favourite women, wives, concubines and others who, by their malice and perfidy, had brought about the slaughter of the Wazirs and had well nigh ruined the realm, as soon as 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 his boy-Minister, the son of Shimas, and the other six Wazirs and taking them apart privily, said to them, “Know, O Wazirs that I have been a wanderer from the right way, drowned in ignorance, opposed to admonition, a breaker of facts and promises and a gainsayer of good counsellors; and the cause of all this was my being fooled by these women and the wiles whereby they beset me and the glozing lure of their speech, whereby they seduced me to sin and my acceptance of this, for that I deemed the words of them true and loyal counsel, by reason of their sweetness and softness; but lo, and behold! they were deadly poison. And now I am certified that they sought but to ruin and destroy me, wherefore they deserve punishment and retribution from me, for justice sake, that I may make them a warning to whoso will be warned. And what say your just judgments anent doing them to die?” Answered the boy Wazir, “O mighty King, 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. However, they deserve punishment and requital for two reasons: firstly for the fulfilment of thy word, because thou art the supreme King; and secondly, by reason of their presumption against thee and their seducing thee and their meddling with that which concerneth them not and whereof it befitteth them not even 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 in other than this.” Then one of the Wazirs seconded the counsel of Ibn Shimas; but another of them prostrated himself before the King and said to him, “Allah prolong the King’s life! An thou be indeed resolved to do with them that which shall cause their death, do with them as I shall say to thee.” Asked Wird Khan, “And what is that?”; and the Wazir answered, “’Twere best that thou bid some of thy female slaves carry the women who played thee false to the apartment, wherein befel the slaughter of thy Wazirs and wise men and imprison them there; and bid that they be provided with a little meat and drink, enough to keep life in their bodies. 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, because they were the cause of this great avail, ay, and the origin of all the troubles and calamities that have befallen in our time; so shall there be verified in them the saying of the Sayer, ‘Whoso diggeth his brother a pit shall surely himself fall into it, albeit of long safety he have benefit.’” The King accepted the Wazir’s counsel and sending for four stalwart female slaves, committed the offending women to them, bidding them bear them into 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 with sore mourning, repenting them of that which they had done and lamenting with grievous lamentation. Thus Allah 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 murky and noisome place, whilst every day one or other of them died, till they all perished, even to the last of them;183 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 Wazirs and subjects, and praise be to Allah who causeth peoples to pass away, and quickeneth the bones that rot in decay; Him who alone is worthy to be glorified and magnified alway and hallowed for ever and aye! And amongst the tales they tell is one of
183 To us this seems a case of “hard lines” for the unhappy women; but Easterns then believed and still believe in the divinity which cloth hedge in a King, in his reigning by the “grace of God,” and in his being the Viceregent of Allah upon earth; briefly in the old faith of loyalty which great and successful republics are fast making obsolete in the West and nowhere faster than in England.
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