WHEN the next morning came, the Ninth Vizier appeared before the King and said, that his extraordinary forbearance and lenity in respect to Bakhtyār had given occasion to much scandal; as every criminal, however heinous his offence, began to think that he might escape punishment by amusing the King with idle stories.

The King, on hearing this, sent to the prison for Bakhtyār, and desired the executioner to attend. When the unfortunate young man came before the King, he requested a respite only of two days, in the course of which he hoped his innocence might be proved; “although,” said he, “I know that the malice of one's enemies is a flame from which it is almost impossible to escape: as appears from the story of Abū Temām, who, on the strength of a false accusa­tion, was put to death by the King, and his innocence acknowledged when too late.”

“Who was that Abū Temām?” demanded the King, “and what were those malicious accusations which prevailed against him?”


ABŪ TEMĀM (said Bakhtyār) was a very wealthy man, who resided in a city, the King of which was so tyrannical and unjust, that whatever money any one possessed above five direms he seized on for his own use. Abū Temām was so disgusted and terrified by the oppressions and cruelties of this King, that he never enjoyed one meal in peace or comfort, until he had collected all his property together and con­trived to escape from that place. After some time he settled in the capital of another King, a city adorned with gardens, and well supplied with running streams. This King was a man of upright and virtuous prin­ciples, renowned for hospitality and kindness to strangers. In this capital Abū Temām purchased a magnificent mansion, in which he sumptuously enter­tained the people of the city, presenting each of them, at his departure, with a handsome dress suited to his rank. The inhabitants were delighted with his gener­osity, and his hospitality was daily celebrated by the strangers who resorted to his house. He also ex­pended considerable sums in the erection of bridges, caravanseries, and mosques. At last the fame of his liberality and munificence reached the King, who sent to him two servants with a very flattering message and an invitation to court. This Abū Temām thank­fully accepted; and having prepared the necessary presents for the King, he hastened to the palace, where he kissed the ground of obedience and was graciously received.

In a short time he became so great a favourite that the King would not permit him to be one day absent, and heaped on him so many favours that he was next in power to his royal master; and his advice was fol­lowed in all matters of importance.

But this King had ten viziers, who conceived a mortal hatred against Abū Temām, and said, one to another: “He has robbed us of all dignity and power, and we must devise some means whereby we may banish him from this country.” The chief vizier proposed that, as the King was a very passionate admirer of beauty, and the Princess of Turkestān one of the loveliest creatures of the age, they should so praise her charms before him as to induce him to send Abū Temām to ask her in marriage; and as it was the custom of the King of Turkestān to send all ambassadors who came on that errand to his daughter, who always caused their heads to be cut off, so the destruction of Abū Temām would be certain.

This advice all the other viziers approved of; and, having proceeded to the palace, they took an oppor­tunity of talking on various subjects, until the King of Turkestān was mentioned, when the chief vizier began to celebrate the charms of the lovely Princess.

When the King heard the extravagant praises of her beauty, he became enamoured, and declared his in­tention of despatching an ambassador to the court of Turkestān, and demanding the Princess in marriage. The viziers immediately said, that no person was so properly qualified for such an embassy as Abū Temām. The King accordingly sent for him, and, addressing him as his father and friend, informed him that he had now occasion for his assistance in the accomplish­ment of a matter on which his heart was bent. Abū Temām desired to know what his Majesty's commands might be, and declared himself ready to obey them. The King having communicated his design, all the necessary preparations were made, and Abū Temām set out on his journey to the court of Turkestān. In the meantime the viziers congratulated one another on the success of their stratagem.

When the King of Turkestān heard of Abū Temām's arrival, he sent proper officers to receive and compli­ment him, and on the following day gave him a public audience; and when the palace was cleared of the crowd, and Abū Temām had an opportunity of speak­ing with the King in private, he disclosed the object of his mission, and demanded the Princess for his master. The King acknowledged himself highly honoured by the proposal of such an alliance, and said: “I fear that my daughter is not qualified for so exalted a station as you offer; but if you will visit her in the harem, and converse with her, you may form an opinion of her beauty and accomplishments; and if you approve of her, preparations for the marriage shall be made without delay.”

Abū Temām thanked his Majesty for this readiness in complying with his demands; but said that he could not think of profaning the beauty of her who was destined for his sovereign by gazing on her, or of allowing his ears to hear the forbidden sounds of her voice;—besides, his King never entertained a doubt on the subject of her charms and qualifications: the daughter of such a monarch must be worthy of any King, but he was not sent to make any inquiry as to her merits, but to demand her in marriage.

The King of Turkestān, on hearing this reply, em­braced Abū Temām, and said: “Within this hour I meditated thy destruction; for of all the ambassadors who have hitherto come to solicit my daughter, I have tried the wisdom and talents, and have judged by them of the Kings who employed them, and finding them deficient, I have caused their heads to be cut off.” On saying this, he took from under his robe a key, with which he opened a lock, and going into another part of the palace, he exhibited to Abū Temām the heads of four hundred ambassadors.

After this the King directed the necessary prepara­tions for the departure of his daughter, and invested Abū Temām with a splendid robe of honour, who, when ten days had elapsed, embarked in a ship with the Princess, her damsels, and other attendants. The news of his arrival with the fair Princess of Turkestān being announced, the King, his master, was delighted, and the viziers, his mortal enemies, were confounded at the failure of their stratagems. The King, accom­panied by all the people, great and small, went two stages to meet Abū Temām and the Princess, and, having led her into the city, after three days cele­brated their marriage by the most sumptuous feasts and rejoicings, and bestowed a thousand thanks on Abū Temām, who every day became a greater favourite.

The ten viziers, finding, in consequence of this, their own importance and dignity gradually reduced, con­sulted one with another, saying: “All that we have hitherto done only tends to the exaltation of Abū Temām; we must devise some other means of dis­gracing him in the King's esteem, and procuring his banishment from this country.”

After this they concerted together, and at length resolved to bribe two boys, whose office was to rub the King's feet every night after he lay down on his bed; and they accordingly instructed these boys to take an opportunity, when the King should close his eyes, of saying that Abū Temām had been ungrateful for the favours bestowed on him; that he had violated the harem, and aspired to the Queen's affections, and had boasted that she would not have come from Turkestān had she not been enamoured of himself. This lesson the viziers taught the boys, giving them a thousand dīnars, and promising five hundred more.

When it was night the boys were employed as usual in their office of rubbing the King's feet; and when they perceived his eyes to be closed, they began to repeat all that the viziers had taught them to say con­cerning Abū Temām.

The King, hearing this, started up, and dismissing the boys, sent immediately for Abū Temām, and said to him: “A certain matter has occurred, on the sub­ject of which I must consult you; and I expect that you will relieve my mind by answering the question that I shall ask.”—Abū Temām declared himself ready to obey.—“What, then,” demanded the King, “does that servant merit, who, in return for various favours, ungratefully attempts to violate the harem of his sovereign?”—“Such a servant,” answered Abū Temām, “should be punished with death: his blood should expiate his offence.” When Abū Temām had said this, the King drew his scimitar, and cut off his head, and ordered his body to be cast into a pit.

For some days he gave not audience to any person, and the viziers began to exult in the success of their stratagem; but the King was melancholy, and loved to sit alone, and was constantly thinking of the un­fortunate Abū Temām.

It happened, however, that one day the two boys who had been bribed by the viziers were engaged in a dispute one with the other on the division of the money, each claiming for himself the larger share. In the course of their dispute they mentioned the innocence of Abū Temām, and the bribe which they had received for defaming him in the King's hearing.

All this conversation the King overheard; and trembling with vexation, rage, and sorrow, he com­pelled the boys to relate all the circumstances of the affair; in consequence of which the ten viziers were immediately seized and put to death, and their houses levelled with the ground; after which the King passed his time in fruitless lamentation for the loss of Abū Temām.

“Thus,” said Bakhtyār, “does unrelenting malice persecute unto destruction; but if the King had not been so hasty in killing Abū Temām, he would have spared himself all his subsequent sorrow.”

The King, affected by this observation, resolved to indulge Bakhtyār with another day, and accordingly sent him back to prison.