Story of the Sultan and the Vazir's Wife.

IT has been related to me, my lord, that there was a certain sultan much addicted to the love of women, of violent passions. Being one day upon the terrace of his palace, he saw a lady upon the platform of her house, beautiful and elegant; his soul desired her, and he was told that she was the wife of his vazīr. Upon this he sent for the minister, and despatched him on a distant expedition, with orders not to return till he had executed his commission. The vazīr attended to his sovereign's commands, and departed.

When the sultan knew of his departure, he was im­patient to see the lady, and repaired to her house. She received him standing, and kissed the ground before him; but she was virtuous, and had no inclina­tion to immodesty. She then said: “Why, O my lord, is this auspicious visit?” He replied: “From the excess of my love and passion for thee.” Upon which she kissed the ground, and said: “It is not befitting that I should be thy partner; my heart has never aspired to such an honour.”

Then the sultan extended his hands upon her, and tempted her; when she cried: “My lord, this must never be.” Observing that he was enraged at her refusal, she dissembled, and said: “Wait, O my lord, until I have prepared a supper, which when thou hast partaken of, I shall be honoured with thy commands.”

She then seated the sultan upon the sofa of her husband, and brought him a book from which the vazīr was used to read to her. In it were written admonitions and warnings against adultery, and com­mands to his wife not to admit any one within doors without his orders. On the perusal of it, the sultan's mind was diverted from the pursuit of his guilty passion.

At length the lady placed a supper before him, con­sisting of ninety and nine dishes; when the sultan ate a mouthful from every dish. Each was of a different colour, but all of the same sort of food. Then he said to her: “How is this?”—She replied: “My lord, I have set a parable before thee. In thy palace are ninety and nine concubines, of different stature and complexion; who, however, form but one kind of food.”

The sultan was confounded, and did not importune her. Rising up, he went to perform his ablutions, but left his ring under a cushion of the sofa; and on his return to the palace, forgot to take it with him.*

When the vazīr returned from his journey, and had visited the sultan, he repaired to his own house, and sat down upon the sofa; and, behold! under the cushion he discovered the sultan's ring, which he knew. Becoming jealous of his wife, he was enraged against her, and secluded himself from her for a whole year; during which he did not go near, nor even inquire after her. When the coolness of her husband became intolerable, the lady complained to her father, and informed him of his neglect of her for a whole year; upon which the father repaired to the sultan, when the vazīr was present, and said:

“May God preserve the sultan! I had an elegant garden, which was formed by my own hand, and I watered it until it was the season of its fruits. Then I presented it to thy vazīr, and he ate of its produc­tions until he was satiated, when he deserted and neglected it; and it was spoiled, and reptiles over-ran it;—its flowers were injured, and its condition was changed.”

The sultan said to the vazīr: “How sayest thou?” The vazīr replied: “He speaketh the truth in what he hath related. But one day, when I entered the garden, I saw the track of a lion in it; my mind was alarmed, and I refrained from visiting it.”

On hearing this parable, the sultan understood it, recollected that he had forgotten his ring in the house of the vazīr, and knew that by it was meant the track of the lion. He then said: “It is true, O vazīr, that the lion did enter without the consent of the owner's wife; but the lion did not compel her to commit evil. She is a virtuous woman, and of chaste desires.”

Then the vazīr said: “To hear is to obey;” and he was now convinced that the sultan had not compelled her to dishonour. He returned to his wife, who related to him all that had passed; and he relied upon her truth, her honour, and her fidelity.

“Had she been vicious,” continued the Damsel, “she would have complied with the sultan, when he disclosed his wishes; but know, my lord, that men are more deceitful than women.” [17]

Next morning the sultan commanded the execution of his son; when the Second Vazīr entered, and, kissing the ground, said: “Be not rash in executing thy son. Thou wast not blessed with him till after despairing of issue, and could scarcely credit his existence. He may yet prove to thee the preserver of thy kingdom, and a guardian of thy memory. Be patient, then, my lord, until he shall find a proper opportunity to speak for himself. If thou puttest him to death, thou wilt repent when repentance will not avail. I have heard, O sultan, much of the female sex, of their arts and their stratagems, especially in the