THERE lived in ancient days a powerful and mighty sultan, who was a wise sovereign, just to his subjects, bountiful to his dependants, and beloved by the whole empire; but he was become gray-bearded and stricken in years, and there had not been allotted to him a son, who might preserve his memory, and inherit the kingdom after him. On this account uneasiness as­sailed him, and such depression of spirits, that he secluded himself from society, and passed whole days in his private apartments.

At length his subjects began to murmur concerning him.* Some said he was dead; others, that an accident had befallen him. On a certain day his queen entered his chamber, and found him thoughtful, reclining his head towards the earth, like one plunged in sorrow.

She approached, and, kissing his hand, said: “For­tune has not persecuted thee, nor have the evils of chance reached thee. God has bestowed upon thee enjoyments, and given thee every delight. What, then, is the cause that I find thee so pensive?”

He replied: “Alas! my years are advanced, my age is drawing to its end, and my kingdom will pass to another family; for I am not blessed with a son, with whom my eyes might be delighted, and who might succeed me in my dominions. On this account extreme sorrow has overcome me.”

The queen said: “God will remove thy grief and thy sorrow. The same thoughts which afflicted thy heart have afflicted mine, and what had invaded thy mind was invading mine, when, lo! drowsiness over­came me, and I fell asleep. I dreamt, and saw in my vision a phantom, which revealed to me, saying: ‘If the sultan shall be blessed with a son by almighty God, he will with difficulty be preserved from death at a certain period. After that, prosperity will attend him. But if a daughter is born, her father will not love her; and if she lives, she will occasion the ruin of his kingdom. He must not, however, think of a child by any other woman than thyself, and thou shalt be the cause of his having one when the moon and the sign Gemini shall be in conjunction.’ I now awoke from sleep, and became thoughtful, reflecting on what I had heard in my vision.”

When the sultan heard these words, he said to her: “By God's permission, all will be well;” and the queen did not fail to comfort him until his gloom had passed away. He now quitted his retirement, sat upon the throne of his kingdom, summoned his nobles and his subjects, and entreated their prayers, that God would bless him with a son; when they prayed, and God accepted their prayers.

The night being arrived in which the moon and Gemini entered into conjunction, the queen became pregnant. She informed the sultan of her condition, and he rejoiced with exceeding great joy, and did not refrain, until she had borne her months, and brought forth a son, beautiful as the full moon. Then the sultan made rejoicings from evening till morning, gave alms, and released the prisoners. The infant was suckled nearly two years, when the mother returned to the mercy of God, and they lamented over her with great mourning.

The child did not cease to remain on the bosoms of the nurses and female attendants until he had com­pleted his second year, when his father entrusted him to tutors, that they might teach him what was necessary for princes to acquire.* The eighth year of his age passed over, but he had learnt nothing, for every book was to him too difficult. When the tutors represented this to the sultan, he was enraged against his son, and commanded him to be put to death, saying: “This is a disgraceful child, from whom there can no advantage arise.”

There was at the court a man of wisdom, learning, and penetration, deeply versed in every science.* When he found that the sultan intended to kill his son, he advanced, and kissing the ground before him, said: “O sovereign, be not grieved on account of thy son. Entrust him to me, and I will teach him what­ever is necessary in two years.* I will not deceive you, but instruct him in the sciences, philosophy, and princely accomplishments.”—The sultan exclaimed: “How canst thou make him learn, when every book has been too difficult for him, and his tutors have been wearied out?”—The sage replied: “I pledge myself to do it; and if I do not perfect him in what I have men­tioned, act by me as thou shalt think proper.”

Upon this the sultan delivered his son to the sage, who took him to his house, prepared for him a chamber, and wrote upon the walls in yellow and white what he wished him to learn. Then he carried to him what was necessary for him of carpets, food, and utensils, and left him alone in the apartment. He did not permit any person to visit him but himself. Every third day the tutor entered, that he might teach him what was necessary from those books, the contents of which he had written on the walls, and depict for him fresh lessons; after which he placed round him provisions, locked the door upon him, and departed.

Now it came to pass that the boy, when his mind was at a loss for amusement, studied the lessons written on the walls, which he learnt in a short time. When the tutor found his sense and under­standing on every point equal to what was necessary for him, he took him from the apartment, and in­structed him in horsemanship and archery; after which he sent to his father, and informed him that his son had learnt whatever was becoming his condi­tion in one year.

The sultan rejoiced exceedingly, and informed his vazīrs of it, who were in number seven. Then he wished to examine his son, and commanded the tutor to bring him with him, in order that he might question him. The tutor consulted the horoscope of the youth, and foresaw that if he should speak before there should pass over his head seven days and nights, there would occur to him imminent danger of death. Upon this the sage addressed the prince, saying: “I have in­spected thy nativity, and if from this time thou speakest before seven days are expired, great hazard of life will befall thee.”—The prince replied: “What can ensure my safety?”—The tutor answered: “Repair to thy father, but when he speaketh to thee, utter not a word.”—The youth exclaimed: “I swear by God, that if thou hadst commanded me that I should not breathe, I would have obeyed thee, on account of what thou hast done for me of kindness and favour.” The tutor replied: “Go, and speak not, though they beat thee with scourges, for thou wilt recover of thy wounds, there will be in store for thee great glory, and thou shalt rule the kingdom after thy father.” Then the prince said: “Remember thy speech to my father before thou lookedst at my nativity.” The tutor replied: “What must be must be; further conversation will not profit. Nothing will occur but felicity to thee, whatever may become of me. Be firm, and trust in God; for whoever trusteth in God is secure.”

The prince departed, and repaired to his father, when the vazīrs, with the nobles, officers of state, and the men of science met him on his way. They placed before him an herb, that he might describe its genus and properties; but he did not speak. They importuned him to answer, but he would not utter a word.

Upon this the sultan was affected with grief, and sent for the tutor to punish him; when some of the assembly said, the sage had deserted his house in the night; some, that he had taken poison; and others contradicted this last assertion. There was much disputation among them, but still the prince would not speak.* At length the assembly broke up, and there remained only the prince and his father.

The sultan had a concubine, of beautiful person and very young, with the love of whom he was doatingly fascinated. She now entered, and saw the prince sitting near his father, like an affrighted fawn. She approached near, and said to the sultan: “I per­ceive thee, my lord, overcome with affliction;” when he related to her the conduct of his son. She replied: “I desire that thou wouldst commit him to my charge, for perhaps he will be affable to me and speak, and I shall discover the cause of his silence.”*

He replied: “Take him with thee.” Upon which she led him by the hand, conducted him to her chamber, caressed him, and explained to him her wishes, clasped him to her bosom, and attemped to kiss him; but he rejected her advances. She exclaimed: “I am a young damsel, and thou a young man; I will be thine, and thou shalt be mine. Thy father is become super­annuated, must soon depart this life, when thou wilt govern the kingdom after him, and shalt espouse me; but if thou wilt not comply with my desires, I will effect thy destruction. Choose, then, one or the other—happiness or death.”*

When the prince heard this, he was exceedingly enraged against her, and thought within himself: “I will speedily repay thee for thy crimes, when after seven days I shall be able to speak.”* The artful damsel, when she perceived his anger, hastened to contrive his ruin. She beat her cheeks, tore her garments, dishevelled her hair, and went before the sultan in that manner. He said: “What can have happened to thee?”—She exclaimed: “He, whom thou seest, hath done this, even thy own son, who has plotted the destruction of thy life, and feigned himself dumb. When I entered with him into my chamber, he declared to me his love; and when I refused him, he said: ‘I cannot live without thee, and if thou dost not comply with my desires, I will kill thee, and murder my father.’”*

When the sultan heard these words, his wrath was violent against his son, and he gave orders to have him put to death. He sent for his vazīrs; but the tutor had informed them of the circumstances, and why the prince was prevented from speaking for seven days. Upon this the vazīrs assembled together, and consulted, saying: “The sultan intends to put his son to death, but there may not be in him any fault, so that when he is dead, our master may repent, when repentance will not avail.”—Then the prime vazīr said: “Let us each take charge of him for a day during the seven days, till the whole are expired, and I will be responsible for you all at the conclusion of that period.”

The First Vazīr having contrived thus, he repaired to the sultan, kissed the ground, and said: “O sultan, if there were to thee a thousand sons, far be it from thee the death of one of them! Alas, then, when thou hast one only, with whom thou wast blessed after much anxiety and expectation, that thou shouldst command his execution upon the bare assertion of a woman! God only knoweth whether she hath spoken truly or accused him falsely; for there are among the sex women artfully malicious.”