The Thousand and One Nights, Vol. I
To proceed:—The lives of former generations are a lesson to posterity; that a man may review the remarkable events2 which have happened to others, and be
admonished; and may consider the history of people of preceding ages, and of all that hath befallen them, and be restrained. Extolled be the perfection of Him who hath thus ordained the history of former generations to be a lesson to those which follow. Such are the Tales of a Thousand and One Nights, with their romantic stories and their fables.
It is related (but God alone is all-knowing,3 as well as all-wise, and almighty, and all-bountiful,) that there was, in ancient times, a King4 of the countries of India and China, possessing numerous troops, and guards, and servants, and domestic dependents: and he had two sons; one of whom was a man of mature age; and the other, a youth. Both of these princes were brave horsemen; but especially the elder, who inherited the kingdom of his father; and governed his subjects with such justice that the inhabitants of his country and whole empire loved him. He was called King Shahriyár:5 his younger brother was named Sháh-Zemán,6 and was King of Samarḳand.7 The administration of their governments was conducted with rectitude, each of them ruling over his subjects with justice during a period of twenty years with the utmost enjoyment and happiness. After this period, the elder King felt a strong desire to see his brother, and ordered his Wezeer8 to repair to him and bring him.
Having taken the advice of the Wezeer on this subject,9 he immediately gave orders to prepare handsome presents, such as horses adorned with gold and costly jewels, and memlooks, and beautiful virgins, and expensive stuffs.10 He then wrote a letter to his brother, expressive of his great desire to see him;11 and having sealed it, and given it to the Wezeer, together with the presents above mentioned, he ordered the minister to strain his nerves, and tuck up his skirts, and use all expedition in returning. The Wezeer answered, without delay, I hear and obey; and forthwith prepared for the journey: he packed his baggage, removed the burdens, and made ready all his provisions within three days; and on the fourth day, he took leave of the King Shahriyár, and went forth towards the deserts and wastes. He proceeded night and day; and each of the kings under the authority of King Shahriyár by whose residence he passed came forth to meet him,12 with costly presents, and gifts of gold and silver, and entertained him three days;13 after which, on the fourth day, he accompanied him one day’s journey, and took leave of him. Thus he continued on his way until he drew near to the city of Samarḳand, when he sent forward a messenger to inform King Sháh-Zemán of3 his approach. The messenger entered the city, inquired the way to the
palace, and, introducing himself to the King, kissed the ground before him,14 and acquainted him with the approach of his brother’s Wezeer; upon which Sháh-Zemán ordered the chief officers of his court, and the great men of his kingdom, to go forth a day’s journey to meet him; and they did so; and when they met him, they welcomed him, and walked by his stirrups until they returned to the city. The Wezeer then presented himself before the King Sháh-Zemán, greeted him with a prayer for the divine assistance in his favour, kissed the ground before him, and informed him of his brother’s desire to see him; after which he handed to him the letter. The King took it, read it, and understood its contents;15 and answered by expressing his readiness to obey the commands of his brother. But, said he (addressing the Wezeer), I will not go until I have entertained thee three days. Accordingly, he lodged him in a palace befitting his rank, accommodated his troops in tents, and appointed them all things requisite in the way of food and drink: and so they remained three days. On the fourth day, he equipped himself for4 the journey, made ready his baggage, and
collected together costly presents suitable to his brother’s dignity.
These preparations being completed, he sent forth his tents and camels and mules and servants and guards, appointed his Wezeer to be governor of the country during his absence, and set out towards his brother’s dominions. At midnight,16 however, he remembered that he had left in his palace an article which he should have brought with him; and having returned to the palace to fetch it, he there beheld his wife sleeping in his bed, and attended by a male negro slave, who had fallen asleep by her side. On beholding this scene, the world became black before his eyes; and he said within himself, If this is the case when I have not departed from the city, what will be the conduct of this vile woman while I am sojourning with my brother? He then drew his sword, and slew them both in the bed: after which he immediately returned, gave orders for departure, and journeyed to his brother’s capital.