Story of the Treacherous Vazír.

IN ancient times there was a king of Basra who was very kind-hearted and liberal. He had a good vazír, worthy of his confidence, who assiduously attended to all his duties and was very faithful; but death overtook him, and the king, who was for some time undecided what to do, ultimately appointed in his place a man of great ambition, who secretly enter­tained a design of usurping the throne; and being in want of an accomplice he bribed a eunuch to introduce him to one of the ladies of the haram. But when he had become accustomed to the pleasures which awaited him in the fond embraces of love, he thought that it would be dangerous to carry out his purpose very hastily, so he drew the lady into his secret, and now neglected the eunuch who had assisted him thus far and who consequently made a vow to avenge himself on the ungrateful vazír.

One night the king had a very unpleasant dream: a scorpion crawled from his sleeve into his shoe, and when he attempted to take it out it bit him. In the morning the sultan related his dream to some of his courtiers, and as they could offer no satisfactory explanation of it he said: “You are only groping in the dark, and we must wait till a skilful interpreter can be found.”

The eunuch, who had heard the attendants con­versing on the subject and thought this a favourable opportunity to revenge himself on the vazír, said that he was able to interpret the dream; and on being brought before the king spake as follows: “The interpretation is, that one of your majesty's highest officials has withdrawn his head from the circle of obedience: by means of a eunuch he has gained admission into the royal haram, which he visits every night, and carries on a love-intrigue with one of the ladies; and moreover he entertains the most wicked design, at a fitting opportunity, of depriving your majesty of life (which God forbid!) and usurping the throne himself;—and there is a high degree of probability that the official is no other than the vazír.” On hearing this the king was wroth, but concealed his feelings, so that he should not compromise his dignity, and exclaimed: “Base wretch! there is nothing to warrant such a suspicion, unless, perhaps, some spite which you harbour against the vazír, and in consequence of which you malign him;” and he ordered the eunuch to be instantly put to death. But the king, though inclined to give some credit to the eunuch's story, could hardly believe that a man such as his vazír, whom he had raised from a low position and made a sharer in the government of the kingdom, could be so ungrateful as to covet his throne and purpose depriving him of life.

During the past night the vazír had as usual visited his paramour, and they had then agreed to murder the king on the following night, but they wot not of what was in store for them. The king, who had been rendered uneasy by the revelation of the eunuch, entered his private apartments in the evening, and then secretly despatched a confidential servant to see whether the vazír was in his own house. When the messenger returned with the information that the vazír was not at home, the king had no longer any doubts, and knew that if the vazír had entered the haram he must have done so from the water-side. He quietly summoned all the watchmen and said to them: “Last night I dreamt that thieves entered the haram, and I am very uneasy; therefore I command you to kill any person either entering or issuing from it.” After the sentries had returned to their posts the king himself went into the haram, and, accom­panied by some trusty eunuchs, rushed into the room where he supposed the vazír and the lady slept, and there discovering another guilty couple he slew them, and the former escaped.* While a eunuch ran after the vazír and his paramour, the king went out to see whether all the sentries were at their posts; and as soon as they perceived him they stabbed him to death, according to his own order. Meanwhile the eunuch pursued the vazír, who also went out by the water-side, was also mistaken in the darkness for a robber, and met the same fate as his master. Then the other eunuchs who were in search of the vazír, and were not aware of the king's order, also issued by the same door and were all killed by the guards; so that in the morning when the dead bodies were counted they amounted to forty. On discovering the body of the king the people greatly deplored the misfortune, and, considering that he with all his atten­dants had been killed in consequence of a conspiracy, they laid hold of the watchmen and put them to death, after which the kingdom fell into a state of anarchy.

The vazír added that this narrative exemplified how one individual may become the cause of the death of many, and that from the misfortunes which followed Nassar's exploits it plainly appeared that he was also one of the number of those ill-fated wretches, and that the misadventures of Shoayb of Baghdád likewise supported his statement. Quoth the king: “How is that?” whereupon the vazír related the