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Makota Radja-Radja, or The Crown of Kings

Translated by Aristide Marre and C. C. Starkweather

LEGEND OF THE MALAY ARCHIPELAGO

Kings who are of the true faith, who have wisdom and follow justice, cause men worthy of their confidence to travel through their kingdom, to serve as their eyes and ears, and to make reports on the state and condition of their subjects, so that, knowing the cause, they may examine for themselves the conduct of the servants of God. But there are kings who do not rest contented with the report of their servants, and go themselves by night to see the condition and hear the complaints of subjects. Then they make by day a thorough examination of the matters thus come to their knowledge, in order to regulate them with justice and equity.

A story will illustrate this. Zeyd Ibries Selam tells what follows: The prince of the believers, the Caliph Omar (may God be satisfied with him!), judged the servants of God with equity during the day, and after pronouncing his judgments he went out of the city on the side toward the cemetery called Bakia-el-Gharkada. There he cut stone to gain money enough for the maintenance of his house, and when night had come he went through the city to know the good and evil of the servants of God. One night, says Zeyd Ibries Selam, “I accompanied the prince of the believers, Omar. When he was outside of Medina, he perceived a fire in an out-of-the-way place, and turned his steps thither. Scarcely had he arrived when he heard a woman with three children, and the latter were crying. The woman said: 'O God the most high, I beseech thee, make Omar suffer what I am suffering now. He sleeps satiated with food, while I and my children are starving.' The prince of the believers, Omar, hearing these words, went to the woman, and with a salutation said, 'May I approach?'

“The woman answered, 'If it be by way of goodness, come.'

“He approached her and questioned her about her situation.

“The woman said: 'I come from a far place; and as it was dark when I arrived here, I could not enter the city. So I stopped at this place. My children and I are suffering from hunger and we cannot sleep.'

“The Caliph inquired, 'What is there in this kettle?'

“The woman answered: 'Nothing but water. I put it in the kettle so that the children should imagine that I was cooking rice—perhaps, then, they would go to sleep and stop crying so loudly.'

“As soon as Omar had heard these words he returned promptly to the city of Medina. Arriving at a shop where they sold flour, he bought some and put it into a sack. In another shop he bought some meat. Then lifting the sack to his shoulders he carried it out of the city. I said to him:

“'O prince of the believers, give me this sack, that I may carry it for you.'

“'If you bear the weight of this sack,' said his glorious Majesty to me, 'who will bear the weight of my fault, and who will clear me from the prayer of this woman in the affliction of her heart when she complained to the Lord of my negligence?'

“Omar, having said these words, continued to walk in tears until he had come near the woman and her children. Then he gave her the flour and the meat, and they ate till their hunger was appeased. The woman with a satisfied heart cried:

“'May God the most high hear my prayer and render you benefits, since you are so full of compassion for the servants of God and are so much better than Omar.'

“The Caliph said to her, 'O woman, blame not Omar, for he knew not how you fared.'“

There was once a king in the country of Syria named Malik-es-Saleh, very pious and just, and continually preoccupied with the state of his subjects. They say that every night he went to the mosque, cemeteries, and other solitary places, in search of strangers, fakirs, and poor people who had neither home nor family. One night, arriving near a mosque, he heard the voice of a man inside the edifice. He entered and saw a fakir there. He could not see him distinctly, because he was covered with a mat. But he heard him, and this is what he said: “O Lord, if on the judgment-day thou shalt give a place in heaven to kings who are forgetful of the fakirs and the poor, then, O Lord, grant that I may not enter there.”

Malik-es-Saleh, hearing these words, shed tears. He placed a piece of stuff before the fakir with 100 tahil of silver, and said to him:

“O fakir, I have learned from the glorious prophet (may peace be with him!) that fakirs become kings in heaven, after a life of self-sacrifice on earth. Since I am King in this perishable world, I come to you with the weakness of my nature and baseness of my being. I ask you to be at peace with me, and to show yourself compassionate to me when the moment of your glory in heaven shall have arrived.”

When the Sultan Zayad sat upon the royal throne of Ikak, the country was infested with malefactors, brigands, robbers, assassins, and the like. The compounds were destroyed, the houses pillaged, and the people killed. The inhabitants could not sleep a single night in quiet, nor pass a single day in safety at home. A crowd of people came with their complaints to the Sultan Zayad, saying:

“The compounds are destroyed, the houses are pillaged, and the men are killed.” All throughout Irak one heard nothing but reports of this kind.

One Friday the Sultan went to the mosque to pray. He then shut all the doors and said to the people in the mosque: “O servants of God now present in this mosque, know that a duty is imposed upon me. I must protect my subjects, for I shall have to give an account of my actions on the day of judgment. There are now in this country large numbers of malefactors, and many of my people have been ruined by them. It is my duty to repress these disorders. So, then, listen to what I have to say, and repeat it to those who are not present. I swear to you that all who shall, three days from now, leave his house after the hour of evening prayer, shall be put to death.”

When the three days had passed and the fourth night arrived, Sultan Zayad mounted his horse and traversed the city with an escort of cavaliers. Outside of the city he came to a place and saw a man standing under a tree in the middle of a flock of sheep and goats. He said to him, “Who are you?”

The man said: “I come from a far-off village, and I am bringing sheep and goats to the city to sell them, and with their price to buy what I can for my wife and children. When arrived at this place I was so tired that I could not enter the city, and was obliged to stay here, with the intention of entering at daybreak and selling my sheep and goats.”

Sultan Zayad, having heard this response, said: “Your words are true, but what can I do? If I do not put you to death to-morrow, when the news spreads, they will say Sultan Zayad is not faithful to his word. They will regard me with disdain, and no one will obey my orders. And the wicked ones will commit violent acts upon the good ones, and my country will be ruined. Heaven is better for you than this world.” So he had him put to death and ordered that they should take his head.

During that same night all that he met were killed and beheaded. They say that in the course of that first day 500 persons were put to death. At dawn he had all these heads exposed on the highways, and published this proclamation:

“Whosoever shall not obey the commands of Sultan Zayad shall suffer the same fate.”

When the people of the country saw these heads exposed at all sides on the earth, they were frightened, and a respectful fear of Sultan Zayad filled all hearts.

The second night Sultan Zayad went out again from the city, and that night 500 persons were killed.

The third night he remained out of the city till morning, but he did not meet a soul.

The following Friday Sultan Zayad went to the mosque, said his prayers, and declared: “O servants of God, let no one after to-day shut the door of his house nor his shop. I take upon myself the charge of replacing those of your goods which shall be destroyed or stolen.”

They all obeyed his orders, for they feared him greatly. Their doors remained opened for several nights, and they never suffered the slightest loss. But after a while a man complained to the Sultan, saying, “Last night someone stole from me 400 tahil.”

The Sultan said: “Can you swear to it?”

The man swore to the facts, and the Sultan had 400 tahil counted out to him in place of those he had lost. The following Friday, after prayers, forbidding anyone to leave the mosque, the Sultan said: “O servants of the Lord, know that 400 tahil have been stolen from the shop of a certain man. Unless you denounce the robber, not one of you shall escape, but to-day shall all of you be put to death.”

Now, as he had rigorously commanded attendance at Friday's prayer service, the whole town had come to the mosque. They were seized with fright, for they knew that the Sultan kept his word, and they denounced the robber. The latter gave back the 400 tahil and received his punishment.

A long time afterward the Sultan Zayad asked, “At what place in my kingdom do they fear robbers most of all?”

“In the Valley of the Beni Ardou, in the country of Bassrah, for there they are numerous.”

Sultan Zayad one day had the highways and paths of the valley strewn with gold and silver, precious stones, and stuffs of great price. All these things lay there a long time and not one was taken. Then the Sultan ordered them to take up these riches and give them to the fakirs and the poor. Then he rendered thanks unto God that he had thus securely established his law among his subjects.

Now it was in the times when Nouchirvau governed with justice and equity, protecting his subjects and causing his kingdom to prosper. One day he asked the grandees of his court, “Are there in my kingdom any places deserted and without inhabitants?”

The grandees who were there answered, “O king of the world, we know not in all your Majesty's realm a place which is not inhabited.”

Nouchirvau kept silence, and for many days did not leave the palace. He summoned to his private chamber a learned doctor named Bouzor Djambour, and said to him:

“I desire to know with certainty if all parts of my realm are peopled, or if there is any which is not. How can I be sure of this?”

“To have your Majesty's desire fully satisfied you have only to abstain from leaving the palace.”

Saying this, Bouzor Djambour took leave of the King and went to the audience-chamber of the King. He spoke to those assembled there as follows: “O ministers, generals, and all present, know that his Majesty is ill. Now, in order to cure him you must find for me a little bit of earth from a place in ruins and uninhabited. Those who are faithful servants of the King will not hesitate to accomplish immediately this act of devotion in his service, and to start at once in search of the remedy I have named.”

These words were scarcely uttered when men were sent out to search the towns and villages and find some earth from a place in ruins and uninhabited. They found only one house in ruins, and the governor of the town said as follows about it: “A merchant once established in this dwelling. He died and left much wealth. As none of his heirs came forward, we closed the doors with stones and mortar, waiting for them to arrive. So the house has fallen to ruin.”

Then the people took a little earth from beneath the house and took it to the King, telling him what had happened. Then the King called an assembly and said:

“Know all that my illness proceeded only from my fear that there might be in my kingdom a house in ruins. Now that it has been shown to me that there exists in my whole realm not a single place in ruins, but that the country is well populated, my malady is cured, seeing that my kingdom is in a perfect condition.”

In the time of Nouchirvau a man sold his compound to another man. The buyer of this property, while engaged in making repairs, found in the earth many jars filled with gold which someone had buried there. He went immediately to the one who sold him the premises and told him the news. The seller said:

“That gold is not mine, for I did not put it in the ground. I sold you the compound; the discovery that you have made is yours.”

The buyer replied: “I bought the premises alone, I did not buy gold; so it is yours.” As each refused to take the treasure, they went to the King Nouchirvau and recounted the affair to him, saying, “This gold should be the property of the King.” But King Nouchirvau would not take the gold. He asked the two men if they had children. They replied, “Yes, my lord, we have each a child, a boy and a girl.”

“Well,” said the King, “marry the girl to the boy, and give them the gold you found.”

In ancient times a King of China fell ill and as a result of his malady he lost his hearing. He wept in sorrow over this affliction and grew very thin and pale. His ministers came one day and asked him to tell them in writing his condition. He answered: “I am not ill, but so weakened by my inquietude and distress that I can no longer hear the words of my subjects when they come to make their complaints. I know not how to act not to be guilty of negligence in the government of my kingdom.”

The ministers then said: “If the ears of your Majesty do not hear, our ears shall replace those of the King, and we can carry to his Majesty the complaints and regrets of his subjects. Why, then, should his Majesty be so much disturbed over the weakening of his physical forces?”

The King of China answered: “At the day of judgment it is I, and not my ministers, who will have to render account of the affairs of my subjects. I must therefore myself examine into their complaints and troubles. I am sure that the burden of ruling would be lighter for me if I could have tranquillity of spirit. But my eyes can see, although my ears are deaf.”

And he commanded them to publish this edict: “All who are victims of injustice must reduce their complaints to writing, and bring them to the King so that he may look into their troubles.”

They tell also the following story: There was formerly in the city of Ispahan, a king whose power and glory had filled him with pride. He commanded his ministers to build him a palace in a certain place. The ministers, with the architects, ordered the slaves to level the ground so as to form a vast esplanade and cause to disappear all the houses of the neighborhood. Among these houses, they say, there was one belonging to an old woman who was very poor and without a family to help her. In spite of her great age, she went to work as well as she could, in different places, but could scarcely exist on her earnings. Her house near the site selected for the new palace was old and in a tumble-down condition. They tell that one day having gone a long distance to find work she fell ill and remained a long time without being able to return to her house. Then the architects who were building the palace said, “We must not let this hovel remain standing so near the King's palace.” So they razed the hut and levelled the earth, and finished the palace with all sorts of embellishments. The King, taking possession, gave a grand house-warming festival.

Now on this very day it so happened that the old woman returned home. Arriving she could find no traces of her house, and was stupefied. In one hand she held a stick, in the other some dry wood for her fire. On her back she bore a package of rice and herbs for cooking. She was fatigued with a long journey and faint with hunger. When she saw that her house had disappeared she knew not what to do nor where to go. She burst into tears. The servants of the King drove her away, and as she went, she fell and spilled her rice and herbs and fell down in the mud. In this state of indescribable desolation she exclaimed, “O Lord, avenge me on these tyrants!”

The old woman had hardly ceased speaking when the voice of some unseen being was heard above her saying, “O woman, fly quickly from this spot, for the anger of God is advancing upon the King.” In horror she got up and fled in all haste. Again she heard the voice saying, “O woman, look behind you at the palace.” She looked behind her and saw the palace, the King, and all his ministers and servants engulfed in the bowels of the earth by the will of God. And to this day that place vomits fire and smoke as a mark and a warning.

In the Kitab Tarykh it is told that in ancient times under the kings of Persia named Moah, who followed the rules of justice, men were happy. But after these kings, Izdegherd-ibn-Chahryar reigned over Persia. By his harsh tyranny he destroyed the high reputation of the kings of Persia and wretchedly closed a series of reigns lasting 4,000 years and noted all over the world for justice and equity. Under the rule of this miserable tyrant countless numbers of men perished and a great many prosperous and famous cities were devastated. All the better classes of citizens were plunged into the most frightful distress and the most lamentable desolation, and it would be impossible to tell how great and wide-spread was the mourning. Now while all were groaning in affliction the King made merry.

One day in his presumptuous pride he assembled his ministers and his generals to show his royal power and his domination over the people. He was seated on his throne, surrounded by a crowd of courtiers, when suddenly a beautiful horse crossing the city at a gallop went straight into the palace of the King, among the ministers and the grandees. They all admired the beautiful horse, the like of which none had ever seen. Nobody dared to seize him as he pranced from right to left. Suddenly the horse approached the throne and laid down at the feet of the King. The King patted and stroked him, and the horse never moved. Then the wicked King began to laugh and said: “O my ministers, you see how far my greatness goes. It is only at my throne that this wonderful horse has stopped. I will mount and ride him on the esplanade.” The King ordered a saddle brought, and was placing it on the horse with his own hands, when he received such a kick over the heart that he was immediately killed. Then the wonderful horse vanished, and no one saw where it went. The people all rejoiced and said, “Of a truth, this mysterious horse was one of the angels of God sent to exterminate a tyrant.”

It was in the time of this King, and by his tyranny, that the kingdom of the sovereign of Persia was ruled and fell into the hands of another people. King Khochtacab, the most celebrated of all the kings of his time, by his power, greatness, and magnificence, had raised in rank a man named Rassat Rouchin, a name which in Persia signifies “sincere and brilliant.” Influenced by this fine name, the King forgot all prudence, and without any proof of his capacity he raised this man to power and made him minister, turning over to him the care of the most important affairs in his kingdom and giving him all his confidence. His ostensible conduct was irreproachable, and his acts had for everybody the appearance of honesty and truth. One day the minister Rassat Rouchin said to the King: “The people, on account of our leniency and goodness, are forgetting their duty, and are showing no more deference nor respect We must inspire them with fear, or affairs will not prosper.”

The King in his blind confidence responded, “Do whatever you think is right.” As soon as the minister had come from the palace of the King he addressed a proclamation to the towns and villages in which he said: “His Majesty is irritated with his subjects. You must all come with presents to appease his anger.” From all sides arrived princes and ministers and grandees of the realm, with precious and magnificent objects. Seized with fear they sought counsel of the minister Rassat Rouchin.

“How,” said they, “dare we present ourselves before his Majesty in his present state of anger against us?”

Then the minister responded: “If the instant of death is not yet come for you, I will try to save you. I tremble to admit you to the King. But what can I do? On account of the critical situation I will go alone before the King and present your case.” So every day he conducted them only as far as the door of the King. There they were told of the fines to which they had been condemned. He took in this way what they had, and sent them home.

This sort of thing continued for a long while until the means of the people were exhausted and the treasury became absolutely empty. The King, always full of confidence in the uprightness of the minister, was in complete ignorance of all this. But at that time there was a king who was an enemy of King Khochtacab. When he learned that the subjects of the latter were suffering cruelly from the oppression of his minister and that his generals were weakened by hunger, he took heart and invaded the kingdom. Then King Khochtacab commanded that his treasury should be opened, and that they should take out all the wealth to gratify the army, gain the hearts of the generals, and defray the expenses of the war. But he found that there was nothing left in the treasury. The army, weakened, was incapable of resisting. The King, shut up in his fort, found it impossible to attack the enemy, and they ravaged and despoiled the kingdom.

The King, having been considered so great, was cruelly wounded by shame at his defeat. He knew not which way to turn his steps. His soul was profoundly troubled. One day, when he had gone forth from the city, wandering at random through plain and forest, he saw a shepherd's hut in the distance, at the door of which were two dogs hanging by the neck. Seeing the King, the shepherd approached and led him to his hovel and served him with the best food he could afford. But the King said:

“I shall not eat until you have told me why you have hanged these two dogs at your cabin-door.”

The shepherd responded: “O king of the world, I hanged these two dogs because they betrayed my flock. As my flock was wasting away, I hid one day to see what took place. The wolf came and the dogs played with him and let him carry off sheep and goats. So I hanged the two dogs as faithless traitors.”

The King returned to the city and thought over this singular story. “It is a lesson for me,” he said, “a revelation. It is impossible not to see that my subjects are the flock and I am the shepherd, while my minister has acted like the shepherd's dogs, and the enemy who has my kingdom is the wolf. I must examine into the conduct of my minister and see with what fidelity he has served me.”

When he had returned to the palace he called his secretaries and bade them bring the registers in which the accounts of the kingdom were kept. When these registers were opened he saw that they mentioned only the name of the minister Rassat Rouchin, and included such statements as: “Intercession of Rassat Rouchin in favor of princes so and so, ministers such and such, and grandees this and that, who ask pardon for their faults. Rassat Rouchin took their treasures and granted them grace.” There was nothing else in the registers. When the King saw this he said:

  “Who rests his faith upon a name goes often without bread,
   While he who faithless proves for bread shall lose his soul instead.”

These words the King had engraved in letters of gold and fastened to the gate. And at this gate he had the false minister hanged as the dogs were hanged at the cabin-door.

A King of Persia, in a fit of anger against his wife for a certain fault which she had committed, commanded his prime minister to put her to death, together with her nursing infant. The minister, on account of the furious anger of the King, did not dare to plead the Queen's cause, but took her to his mother's house. The minister found another woman who had been condemned to death and had her executed, telling the King that it was the Queen who was beheaded. The King's child grew and nourished until he had become a handsome young man. But the King grew more and more morose and melancholy, and shut himself up in the palace. The minister, noticing this continual sadness of the King, said:

“O king of the world, what has come over the heart of your Majesty? Pray tell me the cause of your sorrow.”

And the King said: “O minister, how should I not be sad and disturbed? Here I am getting old and I have no son to cause my name to live and protect my kingdom. That is the cause of my sorrow and unhappiness.”

When the minister heard these words he said, “O king of the world, your sorrow shall not long endure, for you have a son, capable of preserving and protecting your kingdom. This son of yours has intelligence, education, natural gifts, and great personal beauty, and is of most excellent character.”

The King said, “Where is this son of whose existence I have been unaware?”

The minister answered, “Your Majesty is not aware of his existence, but I know that he is very much alive.” The minister then related how he had spared the lives of the Queen and her child. The King was transported with joy, and cried, “Happy the king who has such a minister!”

The minister bowed low and said, “When shall your son, the prince, present himself?”

The King answered: “Go seek forty young men of his age, build, figure, and complexion. Have them all dressed alike. Bring these forty young men with my son to a certain place in the plain. Await me there, but tell not this secret to a soul. When I have arrived at the spot then cause these forty young men to present themselves before me. If my son is among them I shall most certainly recognize him.”

The minister took leave of the King, and with a heart filled with joy set about doing what the King had ordered. When the King had arrived at the spot chosen his minister advanced, followed by forty-one youths, all dressed alike. As soon as the King had seen them he recognized his son and called him to his side. Then he went back to the city with him and all the grandees. The next day he invited the latter to a great festival, and gave to each of them a splendid present. He turned over his kingdom to his son, taking care to place him and his government under the tutelage of the good minister who had saved his wife and brought him up. Then the King went into a religious retreat, and as long as he lived occupied himself in the service of God.

The Sultan Alexander, called the Two-Horned, at the beginning of his reign sent an ambassador to King Darius, who was then at the zenith of his greatness. On his return, this ambassador made his report to King Alexander. The latter read it, but had doubts over a certain word therein contained. He questioned his ambassador about the word, saying, “Did you hear that exact word from the mouth of King Darius?”

The ambassador replied, “I heard it with my own ears.”

King Alexander, not being able to believe it, wrote a second letter, mentioning this word, and despatched to King Darius another ambassador, charged to deliver it. When King Darius, reading the letter of King Alexander, came to this special word, he took a knife and cut it out, then wrote a letter to King Alexander, in which he said: “The sincerity of the soul of the King is the foundation of his realm and his greatness. His words, therefore, should be faithfully transmitted and reproduced by his ambassador. I have cut out of your letter a certain word, because it was never pronounced by me. And if your former ambassador were only here I would cut out his lying tongue even as I have cut out the word from your letter.”

When this answer of King Darius's was borne to King Alexander he read it and summoned before him the faithless ambassador. “Why,” said he, “were you willing, with a word, to cause the loss of many men and countries?”

“Because they showed me little deference and did not treat me well.”

King Alexander said: “Foolish man! And you thought that we sent you to look after your own personal interests, and neglect those of the nation?” He commanded that his tongue should be torn out, and made a proclamation, saying, “This is the fate of traitors who falsely report the words of kings.”

In the Kitab Tarykh the following is recounted: The Sultan Homayoun sent an ambassador to the King of Khorassan. When this ambassador, on his arrival in the country, had delivered the letter of the Sultan to the King, the latter asked:

“How does your King conduct himself regarding his subjects? How does he govern them?”

“The rule of conduct and the mode of government used by my King,” answered the ambassador, “are to make himself loved by all his subjects.”

The King asked, “Of what nature is the affection of your King for his subjects?”

“That of a mother and father for their children and grandchildren.”

“In hard and calamitous times, how does your King conduct himself?”

“He shows that he cares not for riches, for the door of his treasury is always open.”

“In the daily receptions how does your King behave?”

“The receptions of my King resemble the gardens of Paradise refreshed by sweet breezes and scented with the balmy breath of sweetly smelling plants or like a sea filled with pearls and corals.”

The King asked again, “And in council how speaks your King?”

The ambassador answered, “All those who hear my King in council become wise if they lack wisdom, and brave if they lack courage.”

The King of Khorassan was enchanted with the answers of the ambassador, loaded him with presents, and said to him: “The spirit and judgment of your King are reflected in the person of his ambassador. They should all be like you.” And he addressed in answer to the Sultan a letter filled with compliments and felicitations.

In the Kitab Tarykh it is related that the Sultan Mahmoud was fond of his servant Ayaz on account of the excellence of his wit and judgment. The other servants of the Sultan were jealous of Ayaz, and murmured against him. One day the ministers and grandees were in the presence of the Sultan Mahmoud, and Ayaz was standing respectfully before him. Someone brought a cucumber as a present to the Sultan. The Sultan sliced it and ate a morsel. He found it very bitter, but gave no sign of this. He handed a piece of it to Ayaz, saying, “Eat some of this cucumber and tell me how it tastes, so that the others present may eat some of it also, and tell us if they ever ate anything like it.” Ayaz saluted, and ate of the cucumber with an appearance of pleasure.

“It is very good.”

The King made the others eat of it. They found that it was bitter, and were angry with Ayaz, and asked how he dare to lie in such a manner.

“It is true,” said the Sultan; “how could you say it was good?”

Ayaz answered with respect: “May the Lord bless the king of the world! How many favors have you given me! How many sweet and savory dainties! How, then, could I make a wry face over one bitter morsel? I ought, on the contrary, to declare that the bitterness of this mouthful is completely annulled by the delicious sweetness of the others, so that your Majesty shall continue to bestow dainties upon me as before.”

A certain king, vain of his royal power, had a servant who was very pious and a true believer, very punctilious in the practice of his religious duties. The King distinguished him above all the others as one in whom he could trust on account of the integrity of his heart. He had given him this order: “Go not far away from here, day or night. Keep close watch, and neglect not my service.” The servant, after finishing his religious duties, took his post, where the King from time to time sent for him. But the King had need of him, and he was not to be found. They sent to look for him, but in vain, and the King grew very angry with him. Finally the servant arrived and prostrated himself before the King. The latter, full of wrath, demanded:

“Why are you late? Why don't you pay attention to my orders?” And he commanded that the man be punished, to make him more attentive to the King's service.

But the servant replied, “If I am late, it is only on account of the great embarrassment in which I find myself placed.”

“What embarrassment? Tell me.”

The servant, bowing low, spoke as follows: “My embarrassment comes from the fact that I have two masters to serve. The first is the true Master, he who created the universe and the children of Adam, whose punishments are very severe. The second is only the servant of the former, and not the true master. I am obliged to attend to the service of the true Master before the service of the second. That is the embarrassment in which I find myself.”

When the King heard these words he shed abundant tears, and said: “From this day forth you are free. Follow the service of the Lord, and do not forget to pray for me.”

The servants of the King should love their King more than they love their own life, their mother, their father, their children, their grandchildren, their family, their riches, and all that belongs to them. In a word, for them the person of their King should be above all, so that one may call them true servants of the King, and that in all truth they may be termed his favorites. They tell the story that one day the Sultan Mahmoud Ghazi (may grace be upon him!) was seated on his throne, surrounded by his ministers and his officers, among whom was Ayaz. The Sultan said to his treasurer:

“Go to the treasure-chamber. Take to a certain place gold, silver, precious stones, and other objects of great value. For we are going there to amuse ourselves, and present these treasures to those who shall accompany us.”

One day the Sultan started to go and amuse himself at that place, and as soon as the news spread abroad, a great number of people followed him there. When he arrived he halted at a spot level, clean, and well lighted, and said to his treasurer:

“Expose my treasures here, in this place, so that all those who are happy shall obtain a present according to their degree of happiness, and that one may know who are those who have the most luck and those who have the least.”

All hearing these words quickly approached, pressing forward, with their eyes wide open and their looks fixed on the treasurer, praying him to exhibit the presents at the designated place. At this very moment the Sultan spurred his horse to a gallop and rode from their presence. When he was far away and out of their sight, he stopped and looked behind him. There he saw Ayaz, the only one who had followed him. The others, preoccupied with getting their share of the treasures, never suspected that the Sultan had gone and was already far away from them. The Sultan, halting a moment, returned to the city.

On their side, the ministers and the grandees, having taken possession of the most precious objects, returned joyfully to their homes. On the way they compared notes with each other about their shares of the treasure. One said, “I had the best luck”; and another, “No, I had the best.” And all, whoever they were, said the same thing, for all except Ayaz had their share of the King's presents. So they said among themselves, “It is clear that the one who has no luck is Ayaz.”

Some jealous ones added: “In truth, Master Ayaz has no luck at all. By his lack of intelligence and good judgment he has had none of the Sultan's presents.”

Ayaz heard all these remarks, but kept silence. Some days later, the Sultan came out of his palace and sat upon the throne. All the grandees came into his presence. Ayaz was standing before him. The Sultan asked:

“Who among you had no luck?”

The ministers answered: “It is Ayaz! He did not get a single one of your Majesty's many presents. It is clear that he has no luck, for he left all those precious objects and came back with empty hands.”

The Sultan said: “O Ayaz, are our presents without value in your eyes, that you disdain them? I don't know why you took nothing that was within your grasp. You would have prevented them from saying that you have no luck. What was your motive in doing a thing that has the approbation of nobody?”

Ayaz responded: “May the days and prosperity of the King increase! May the presents never tarnish that he has given to his servants. As for me, I have more luck than those who received the presents of your Majesty.”

The Sultan said, “O Ayaz, prove to me the truth of your words.”

Ayaz responded: “If they found some part in the largesses which were given them, I found the author himself of those great gifts. If they found gold, I found the master of the gold. If others found silver, I found the master of silver. If others found precious stones, I found the master of precious stones. If others yet found some pearls, I found the ocean of pearls. Who, therefore, O king of the world, among all those who vaunt themselves as having luck, has more than I have?”

The Sultan replied: “O Ayaz, tell me what is the meaning of your words. Where is all that which you say you found?”

Ayaz responded: “May the most high protect the person of the king of the world, more precious to me than all those objects of price! In whatever place may be his august person, there I am, and I thus obtain all that my heart desires. When I am with your Majesty, and your Majesty is with me, what do I lack? Who, then, has more luck than I have?”

One day the Sultan Alexander was plunged in sadness, and kept himself shut up in his palace. The wise Aristotle came before him, and seeing him absorbed in sad thoughts, asked him:

“Why is the Sultan so sad and what keeps him from going out of his palace?”

The Sultan Alexander answered: “I am grieving at the thought of the smallness of this world, and of all the troubles I am giving myself and others for the sake of reigning over a world that is so little worth. It is the vanity of my works that renders me sad.”

Aristotle replied: “The reflection of the Sultan is just, for what, in truth, is the world? Certainly it has not enough importance by itself that the Sultan should occupy himself with a vain kingdom. But the government of this world is a mark of the sublime and eternal kingdom of the other world, and this kingdom the Sultan can obtain by governing this present world with justice. Your Majesty must therefore give all his cares to the government of this world, to obtain finally in the other world a kingdom of which the greatness is beyond measure and the duration is eternal.”

The Sultan Alexander heard with pleasure the words of his wise counsellor.

Two qualities are essential to kings, generosity and magnanimity. When a minister remarks, in his king, sentiments unworthy of his rank, he should warn him of the fact, and should turn him from unworthy actions. They tell that a king, having made a gift of 500 dirhems, his minister said to him: “I have heard from the mouth of wise men that it is not permitted to kings to make a present of less than 1,000 dirhems!”

One day Haroun-er-Raschid made a gift of 500 tahil. His minister, named Yahya, made by signs and by gestures every effort to prevent him from doing this. When all those who had been present were gone, Haroun-er- Raschid said:

“O Yahya! what were you trying to do with all your signs?”

The latter replied: “O prince of true believers! I was trying to say that kings should never let it be seen that they are capable of making presents of less than 1,000 dirhems.”

One day King Mamoun-er-Raschid heard his minister, named Abbas, say to a servant, “Go to the bazaar and buy something with this half-tahil.”

Mamoun-er-Raschid was angry with him and said: “You are capable of dividing a tahil in two! That is not proper in a minister; you are not worthy of the name,” and he forthwith deposed him from office.

In the Kitab Sifat-el-Molouk it is related that the King Chabour, giving his last instructions to his son, said as follows: “O my son! whenever you make a present to anyone, do not bestow it with your own hands. Do not even examine or have brought into your own presence the gifts that you make. Whenever you give a present, see that it be at least the equivalent of the revenue of a town in value, so that it will enrich the recipients, and make them and their children and grandchildren free from adversity. Furthermore, my child, beware all your life of giving yourself up to operations of commerce in your kingdom. For this kind of affairs is unworthy a king who has greatness of character, prosperity, and birth.”

King Harmuz received one day a letter from his minister in which he said: “Many merchants being in town with a great quantity of jewels, pearls, hyacinths, rubies, diamonds, and other precious stones, I bought all they had for your Majesty, paying 200,000 tahil. Immediately afterward there arrived some merchants from another country who wanted to buy these and offered me a profit of 200,000 tahil. If the King consents I will sell the jewels, and later buy others.”

King Harmuz wrote to his minister the following response: “What are 200,000 tahil? What are 400,000 tahil, profit included? Is that worth talking about and making so much ado? If you are going into the operations of commerce who will look after the government? If you buy and sell, what will become of the merchants? It is evident that you would destroy thus our good renown, and that you are the enemy of the merchants of our kingdom, for your designs would ruin them. Your sentiments are unworthy a minister.” And for this he removed him from office.

In the Kitab Sifat-el-Houkama it is said: “There is a great diversity of inclinations among men. Everyone has his own propensity. One is borne naturally toward riches, another toward patience and resignation, another toward study and good works. And in this world the humors of men are so varied that they all differ in nature. Among this infinite variety of dispositions of soul, that which best suits kings and ministers is greatness of character, for that quality is the ornament of royalty.

“One day the minister of the Sultan Haroun-er-Raschid was returning from the council of state to his house when he was approached by a beggar who said: 'O Yahya! misery brings me to you. I pray you give me something.'

“When Yahya had arrived at his house he made the beggar sit down at the door, and calling an attendant said to him: 'Every day give this man 1,000 dinars, and for his food give him his part in the provisions consumed in your house.'

“They say that for a month the beggar came every day and sat at Yahya's door, and received the sum of 1,000 dinars. When he had received them at the end of the month, 30,000 dinars, the beggar went away. When informed of his departure, Yahya said: 'By the Lord! if he had not gone away, and had come to my door for the rest of his life, I should have given him the same daily ration.'“

In the Kitab Tarykh the following is told: “There was once upon a time a Persian king named Khrosrou, remarkable among all the kings of Persia for his power, his greatness of character, his goodness, and the purity of his morals. His wife, named Chirine, was of a rare beauty, and no one at that time could be compared to her, for she possessed all the virtues. Khrosrou passionately loved Chirine, and among the books, famous in the world, which speak of loving couples, there is one called 'Khrosrou and Chirine.' One day Khrosrou was seated in the palace with his wife Chirine, when a fisherman brought in a fine fish as a present to Khrosrou. The latter ordered them to give him a present of 4,000 dirhems.

“'You are wrong,' said Chirine.

“'And why?' asked the King.

“'If, in the future, you made one of your servants a present of 4,000 dirhems he will not fail to say forthwith, “I am considered as the equal of a fisherman.” If your present is less than 4,000 dirhems, then necessarily he will say, “I am considered as being less than a fisherman,” and your actions will sadden his heart.'“

“Khrosrou said: 'Your observation is just. But I have spoken, and I cannot reverse what I have said, for it is shameful for a king to fail in keeping his word.'

“Chirine replied, 'Never mind, I know a way, and no one can say that you broke your promise.'

“'What is this way?' asked Khrosrou.

“Chirine answered: 'Put this question to the fisherman, “Is this a fresh-water or a salt-water fish?”

“'If he answers, “It is a fresh-water fish,” say, “I want a salt-water one,” and the contrary. Then he will go away and you will be released from your foolish promise.'“

“Khrosrou, who by love of Chirine could not help hearing her advice and following it, put the question to the fisherman. But the latter, suspecting a trap, said, 'It is both.' King Khrosrou began to laugh, and gave him 4,000 dirhems in addition.

“The fisherman, having received his 8,000 dirhems, put them in a sack and went away. On the journey, a dirhem fell to the ground, and the fisherman, lowering his sack, began to search for the dirhem that had fallen. When he found it, he placed it with the others and took up his march again.

“Khrosrou and Chirine had both been witnesses of his action. Chirine said to Khrosrou: 'Behold the baseness and the lack of judgment of the fisherman. He wearied himself to hunt for one dirhem when he had a sack full of them. Recall him and do him shame.'

“Khrosrou, who from his love for Chirine was incapable of resisting her words, and always obeyed them, recalled the fisherman and said to him: 'Of a truth, you have a low soul, and possess neither judgment nor dignity. What! One of your 8,000 dirhems was lost and you deferred your journey until you had found it? That shows the baseness of your soul and your lack of judgment.'

“The fisherman made obeisance and answered: 'May the prosperity of the king of the world increase! I sought not the dirhem on account of its money value, but only on account of the greatness and importance of the words engraved upon the coin. On one of its sides is written the name of God most high. On the other side is written the name of the King. Had I not found the dirhem, and had left it on the ground, then people passing would have trodden upon it, and the two names inscribed upon it, and which ought to be glorified by all men, would have been despised and disgraced, and I would have been the accomplice of all the passers-by who trod upon it. That is why I took the trouble to find the dirhem.'

“Khrosrou was pleased with this answer and gave him still another 4,000 dirhems. The fisherman, filled with joy, took his 12,000 dirhems and returned to his home.”

A man had committed a serious offence against King Haroun-er-Raschid. Condemned to death, he succeeded in escaping. But he had a brother. The King summoned the latter and said to him: “Find your brother so that I may kill him. If you do not find him I will kill you in his place.” This man not finding his brother, the King Haroun-er-Raschid ordered one of his servants to bring him to be killed. But this servant said: “O prince of believers! if the one who received the command to put this man to death brings him for that purpose and at the same time a messenger comes from your Majesty with an order not to kill him, ought he not to release him?”

King Haroun-er-Raschid answered, “He certainly ought to release him, on account of my orders.”

“O prince of believers,” answered the servant, “the Koran says, 'He who has a burden shall not bear another's.'“

Then the King said: “Set the man free, for this must cover his case, and means that the innocent should not perish for the guilty.”

They tell that, a pundit appearing one day before the Sultan Ismail Samani, King of the country of Khorassan, the Sultan received him with great distinction, and at his departure saluted him most respectfully and escorted him to the door, taking seven steps behind him.

The next night he dreamed that the glorious prophet (with whom be peace!) spoke thus to him: “O Ismail, because you honored one of my pundits, I will pray God that after you seven of your children and grandchildren shall become great and glorious kings.” They say that for many years the kingdom of Khorassan flourished under the paternal government of the successors of this Sultan.

The Sultan Abdallah Tlahir, as soon as he had taken possession of the throne of Khorassan, received the homage of a large number of his subjects. At the end of several days he asked, “Is there anyone of distinction in the country who has not come to present himself before me?” They told him, “There are two persons that have not come, one named Ahmed Arab, and the other named Mahomet Islam. But these two men never present themselves before kings and ministers.”

The Sultan replied, “Since they will not come to find kings and ministers, I must go to them.” So one day the Sultan repaired to the house of Ahmed Arab. The latter, immediately arising, remained standing a long time facing the Sultan. Then regarding him fixedly he said to him: “O Sultan, I had heard tell of your beauty, and I now see that they spoke the truth. Make not of that body the embers of hell.” Saying this he returned to his prayers. The Sultan Abdallah Tlahir went away from the sheik's house weeping.

He then betook himself to the house of Mahomet Islam. At the news that the Sultan was coming to see him, the sheik shut the door of his house, saying: “I ought not to see him. I ought not to speak to him.”

The Sultan departed in tears and said: “Friday, when the sheik goes to the mosque I will go to him.”

When Friday came he was on horseback, surrounded by soldiers, awaiting the arrival of the sheik. As soon as he perceived him, he dismounted, approached him on foot, and saluted him. The sheik asked: “Who are you? What do you want of me?”

The Sultan answered: “It is I, Abdallah Tlahir. I have come to see the sheik.”

The latter, turning away his face, said to the Sultan, “What connection is there between you and me?”

The Sultan fell at the feet of the sheik, in tears, in the middle of the highway, and, invoking God the most high, spoke as follows, “O Lord, forgive my faults, on account of the many virtues of this faithful sheik.” And he was forgiven and became a good man.

The imam El-Chafei (may mercy be with him!), going from the city of Jerusalem to the country of Egypt, halted in a town called Ramla. One of the inhabitants of this town took him into his house and entertained him with many attentions. The companions of the imam El-Chafei perceived that he felt a certain inquietude, but none of them knew the reason for it. The more the master of the house showered his attentions and civilities, the more disturbed the imam seemed to be. Finally at the moment when the imam was mounting his horse to continue his journey, the master of the house arrived and put a writing into his hands. On reading this, the imam lost his worried air, and, giving orders to pay the man thirty dinars, he went on his way rejoicing. One of his companions asked him:

“Why were you so disturbed? What did the writing say? And why did you show so much joy in reading it?”

The imam El-Chafei answered: “When our host took us to his house I noticed that his face lacked the characteristic signs of honesty. But as he treated us so well I began to think perhaps I was mistaken in judging him. But when I read the writing he handed me I saw it was as follows: 'While the imam has been here I have spent on him ten dinars. He ought therefore to pay me back twenty.' So then I knew that I had made no error in reading his character, and was pleased at my skill.”

The story is told that one day as the prophet Solomon was seated on his royal throne, surrounded by men, spirits, and birds, two women came before him, each claiming possession of a child. These two women kept saying, “It is my child,” but neither could give proof. All their arguments amounting to nothing, the prophet Solomon commanded that the child should be cut in two, and that each woman should take half. When the executioner advanced, drawing his sword, one of the women bursting into sobs cried out in anguish: “O Prophet Solomon, don't kill the child. Give it to this woman, it is all I ask!”

As the murder of the child never drew a tear nor a movement of anxiety from the other woman, Solomon commanded them to give it to the woman who had wept, because her tears proved her to be the true mother, and that the child belonged to her, and not to the other woman. Thus did King Solomon show his wisdom in judging character.

O you who are magnificent! listen, I pray you, and hear to what degree of sublimity generosity is lifted. In the Kitab Adab-is-Selathin it is said that two qualities were given by God in all their perfection to two men—justice to Sultan Nouchirvau, King of Persia, and generosity to a subject of an Arab sultan named Hatim-Thai. The author of that work says that in the time of Hatim-Thai there were three kings celebrated throughout the whole world, and rivals in showing the perfection of generosity—the King of Roum, the King of Syria, and the King of Yemen. But as none of them was as famous as Hatim-Thai, they became jealous of him and united in hostility toward him. They said: “We are the kings of vast countries, and shall we suffer a simple subject of an Arab sultan to be counted as more generous than we are?” And each of these kings thought to try Hatim-Thai and destroy him.

The first of the three who attempted the undertaking was the King of Roum. This King said to one of his ministers: “O minister, I hear tell that there is among the Arabs a man named Hatim-Thai, and that he is reputed the most generous man in the world. I am displeased that my name is not as noted for generosity as his. I want to make a proof and see if his fame is true or false. I have heard that Hatim-Thai possesses a horse which he loves as he does his own soul. Well, we will ask him to give us this beloved horse.”

The minister sent an envoy, with suitable presents and a letter to give to Hatim-Thai. He arrived in a great storm of wind and rain which permitted no one to attend to his affairs abroad. It was already night, and Hatim-Thai had made no preparations to receive a guest, but he received the stranger with the marks of the highest respect and greatest cordiality.

“What need brings you here to-night?” he asked.

“Nothing but to visit you,” replied the envoy, and he never mentioned that evening his mission from the King of Roum.

As there was nothing in the house to eat, Hatim-Thai killed his favorite horse and served it for his guest's supper. As soon as it was day, the envoy presented the gifts and the letter from the King of Roum. When he read the passage in the letter where the King asked for the horse which had just been killed, Hatim-Thai turned pale and could not say a word. The envoy, observing him in this state, imagined that he regretted the gift of his horse, and said:

“O Hatim-Thai, if it is not with pleasure that you give your horse to my master, think no more about it, and let me return to my country.”

Hatim-Thai answered: “O envoy of the King of Roum! if I had a thousand horses like that one I should give them all without a moment's hesitation. But last night I asked you the motive which brought you hither, and you said it was merely to visit me. So I killed the horse for your food, and that is why I am afflicted with sorrow at my lack of foresight.” He sent the envoy back home with many other horses as a gift.

The envoy told the whole story and the King of Roum said: “The renown of Hatim-Thai is deserved; he is the most generous of men.” He made an alliance of friendship with him, and the fame of Hatim-Thai grew apace.

The second one who tested Hatim-Thai's generosity was the King of Syria. He said: “How can Hatim-Thai, who lives in the woods and the plains, occupied in pasturing goats, camels, and horses, be more generous than so great a King as I? I will put him to the proof. I will ask rich presents that he cannot give, and he will be shamed and humiliated before kings and peoples.”

So the King of Syria sent an envoy to Hatim-Thai to ask for 100 red camels with long manes, black eyes, and very tall. Camels of this sort are hard to find, only kings having four or five. When the envoy had arrived he told Hatim-Thai what the King of Syria asked of him. Hatim-Thai was full of joy hearing the words of the envoy, and hastened to regale him bountifully with food and drink. Then he searched among his camels, but found none such as the King of Syria desired. He ordered search to be made among the peoples of his nation, Arabs and Bedouins, offering a large price. By the will of God a Bedouin succeeded in finding 100, and Hatim-Thai asked only the delay of one month in payment. The envoy returned home with the red camels and many other presents. Seeing them, the King of Syria was struck with astonishment and cried: “Behold, we wished only to test Hatim-Thai, and now he has gone into debt to satisfy our desire. Yes, truly he is the most generous man in the world.”

He commanded them to send back to Hatim-Thai the 100 red camels loaded with magnificent presents. As soon as they arrived, Hatim-Thai summoned the owner and gave him the camels with all their burden of riches, without keeping anything for himself. When the envoy, returning home again, recounted all these things, the King of Syria marvelled and exclaimed: “No one can equal Hatim-Thai. He is generosity itself, in all its perfection.”

The third king, that is, the King of Yemen, was very generous, and wanted no one to rival him in this particular. So when he heard of the fame of Hatim-Thai for generosity, he was vexed and full of sorrow. He said: “How can that poor Hatim equal in generosity a great king like me? I give alms to the poor, I feed them, and every day I give them clothing. How is it possible that anyone can dare to mention the name of Hatim-Thai in my presence as the most generous of men?”

Now, at that time an ambassador of the King of Maghreb arrived at the Court of the King of Yemen, who spoke of the wonderful generosity of Hatim-Thai. He felt as if his heart was burning, but did not let his grief appear, and said to himself:

“Everybody repeats the praises of Hatim, one after another, without knowing exactly who he is, of what birth, and what are the means which permit him thus to give hospitality. I shall cause him to perish.”

The King of Yemen summoned a Bedouin, a bandit celebrated for his ferocity, without pity for the life of a man. The Bedouin arrived, and the King gave him gold, silver, and clothing. “O Bedouin,” he said to him, “if you will perform an affair for us, we will give you whatever you ask.”

The Bedouin answered: “O my lord, king of the world, what is your Majesty's will?”

The King of Yemen replied: “There is a man named Hatim-Thai, of the tribe of Thai, on the confines of Syria. Go to this country, and employ all the tricks you can to kill him. When you have killed him bring me his head. If you succeed in doing as I wish, whatever you ask, it shall be given you.”

These words of the King filled with joy the Bedouin's heart. He said to himself: “Here is a good piece of work. For an old tattered cloak I will kill a man. Why then should I hesitate a moment for a superb cloak of scarlet?”

Taking leave of the King, the Bedouin set out promptly and went toward Syria in search of Hatim-Thai. After a while he arrived at a village near to Syria, and there he met a young man of a rare beauty. His face bore the marks of virtue, his language was full of sweetness and affability, his soul was righteous, and his heart compassionate. He asked the Bedouin where he was going. The latter answered, “I am from the country of Yemen, and am going to Syria.”

The young man replied: “O my brother! I wish you would do me the favor to rest for a day and a night in my house, and I will do the best to entertain you. After that you shall go on your journey when you wish.”

The Bedouin heard these words with pleasure, and went into the young man's house. There he was treated magnificently and regaled so lavishly that he thought he had never seen and eaten so much. He slept peacefully all night. At dawn he said farewell, eager to gain the end of his journey. The young man said to him: “O my brother, if it is possible, stay two or three days longer, I beg you, so that by my hospitality I may show all the sincere affection that my heart feels for you.”

The Bedouin replied: “O my brother, truly would I remain some time longer here, had I not a most important and delicate mission to fulfil. It is impossible for me to stay and enjoy myself here, while I have not yet accomplished my errand.”

The young man answered: “O my brother, what is this difficult and delicate affair which prevents you from staying here? If you will tell me, doubtless I shall find some means of coming to your aid, and lightening the burden which weighs so heavily upon your heart. But, now, what can I do since you tell me nothing?”

Hearing these words, the Bedouin kept silence. He said to himself: “This affair is not easy to execute. It might be of use for me to have a prudent and discreet companion to confer with him about it. Perhaps I should do well to talk of it to this young man and ask his advice.”

And nevertheless he dared not yet trust his secret, and his perplexity was written on his countenance. He could not utter a single word, and remained very anxious.

The young man observing the state of the Bedouin said to him: “O servant of God, your embarrassment is evident; you fear to open your heart to me. God alone, in truth, knows the secrets of his servants. But, in your present situation, it may be that I can be of some benefit to you.”

The Bedouin, hearing these words of the young man, said to him: “O my loyal friend, know then that I am an Arab-Bedouin of the country of Yemen; that of all the Bedouins of Arabia there is not one so wicked nor so great a thief as I, and that my fame as a bandit is celebrated throughout all Yemen. The King, having resolved upon a wicked deed, ordered his minister to find a man capable of performing it. As I had the reputation of being the greatest bandit of the country of Yemen, I was summoned to the presence of the King. As soon as his Majesty saw me he loaded me with presents and said: 'If you do as I wish I will give you many more presents of gold and silver and other magnificent things.' I replied, 'O my lord, king of the world, what is this affair?' 'You must go and kill a man named Hatim-Thai, who lives on the confines of Syria.' To this I replied: 'O my lord, king of the world, I am only a Bedouin, a poor robber, wandering in the forests and the plains. For drink I have but the brackish water of the marshes. For food I have only rats and locusts.' On account of my wretchedness, I obeyed the wishes of the King, and promised to execute this affair. But here I am, in a very embarrassing situation, for I do not know this Hatim-Thai, and I don't even know where his tribe is, the Ben-Thai.”

The young man, hearing these words, began to laugh, and said: “O my brother, be not disturbed. I know this Hatim-Thai, and I will show him to you.” These words rejoiced the Bedouin. The young man continued: “O my brother, know that the tribe of Ben-Thai inhabit this village, and that the man named Hatim-Thai is himself in this tribe. If you will follow exactly what I indicate to you, you will certainly accomplish your mission.”

The Bedouin answered: “O my brother, I place my life in your hands. What must be done?”

The young man answered: “O my brother, there is a place where Hatim-Thai goes for recreation. It is an extremely deserted place, which no one ever visits. When he gets there he eats, drinks, and then he sleeps, his head covered with a cloth, and his horse tied near by. You will arrive at that moment, you will promptly execute the wish of the King, you will jump upon the horse and dash away from this place and go wherever you like.”

The young man went then to show the place to the Bedouin, and giving him a poniard with two edges well sharpened, he said: “O my brother, to-morrow Hatim-Thai will come to this spot. Forget nothing that you have to do.”

All the instruction of the young man were followed by the Bedouin. Early in the morning Hatim-Thai repaired to the designated place. He ate, he drank, and when he had finished his repast he tied his horse near by. Then, covering his head with a cloth, he fell fast asleep. At this very moment the wicked Bedouin arrived. By the will of God, just as he was about to assassinate the young man, a thought came into his heart. “Hatim-Thai is celebrated throughout the whole world for his generosity and his benevolence. Before I kill him, while he is still alive, I want to see his face.” And he raised the cloth that covered his head. At the sight of the countenance of the sleeping young man he fell at his feet and covered them with kisses, saying: “O my friend! What have you done? You ought not to act thus!”

Hearing these words of the Bedouin, the young man said: “What could I do? For the one called Hatim-Thai is I. The head that the King of Yemen wants is mine. What other means could I employ?” He conducted the Bedouin to his house, regaled him again, and gave him all he needed.

Then the Bedouin took leave and returned to his country. As soon as he arrived in Yemen, he went before the King and recounted all the circumstances relative to Hatim-Thai.

Having heard the story the King shed tears, and said: “Of a truth, Hatim-Thai is liberal, benevolent, and noble, brave and generous.” Afterward the King of Yemen made a friendship with Hatim-Thai that lasted as long as his life.

When the Sultan Yakoub invaded Khorassan and besieged the capital, the Sultan Mahomet, shut up in the city, made such a strong resistance that for a long time it was impossible to capture the place. But his ministers betrayed him by sending to Sultan Yakoub letters which showed how it might be taken. One only of these ministers, named Ibrahim Hadjib, abstained from sending any traitorous letters, and remained faithful to his master. After a while the city was taken and Sultan Yakoub ascended the throne. Then all the most important people of the country came to pay homage to him. The ministers who had betrayed the former Sultan were conspicuous in their demonstrations of joy. The Sultan Yakoub gave a pleasant reception to those who came, and made them suitable gifts.

After this he asked, “Who has not come to present himself before me on this day of rejoicing?”

The ministers immediately answered, “Ibrahim Hadjib is the only one who has not come to present his congratulations.”

Then the Sultan asked, “Why has he not done so? Is he ill?”

“No,” they answered, “he is not ill.”

The Sultan summoned Ibrahim Hadjib, and the latter came into the royal presence. The Sultan, observing on his countenance evident marks of care and sorrow, spoke thus to him: “Ibrahim Hadjib, are you the minister in whom the Sultan Mahomet placed his confidence?” He replied in the affirmative.

“From what motive, Ibrahim Hadjib, did you keep silence, and send me no word of advice while the ministers of Sultan Mahomet, now here, sent many letters to show me how to capture the city? Why did you refrain from appearing before me at court to-day, at the same time with the ministers and grandees? Why, now that you are here, are you the only one to wear a sad and mournful appearance and a long face, while all the others show their joy? To all these questions you must truthfully respond. And if you speak not the truth you shall be put to death.”

“If the Sultan wishes to hear the language of truth and will not be vexed by it, I will reply to each of his questions. To the first question, why I sent no letter betraying my King, I will say: Know, Sultan, that the Sultan Mahomet was the King of this country; that he gave me many presents and had full confidence in me, thinking that in the moment of danger I would be his companion and his counsellor. How could I, then, betray him? I knew you not, and had received no benefits from you. Would it have been just for me to send you letters and cause the fall of one who had been so bountiful to me?”

“Your words are just and true,” said the Sultan Yakoub.

Ibrahim Hadjib continued: “As to the question why I abstained from presenting myself at court to-day, and why I wore so sorrowful a face, I answer: Know that I could not present myself before the Sultan, because he was the enemy of my master and benefactor, and brought about the ruin of my lord. That is why I wore a sad face in your presence. Beside, the children and grandchildren of my lord are plunged in grief and anxiety, and how could I be happy in your presence, like these hypocrites, who are very different elsewhere? I have told the truth.”

When the Sultan Yakoub had heard these words of Ibrahim Hadjib, he cried: “God be praised! Up to this time I have heard tell of ministers, I have seen many kinds, but never have I seen nor heard of a minister like this one. Now, only for the first time have I seen a true minister and listened to the words of truth.” The Sultan Yakoub loaded Ibrahim Hadjib with favors, made him prime minister, and gave him the name of father. As for the other ministers, he caused them to perish, with their whole families. Then he published this proclamation:

“Behold the fate of those who are faithless to their promises and commit treason toward their King, for they cannot be counted as men.”

 
 
 

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