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    8- The Vizier that was Punished

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    Chapter 9
    Previous Chapter
    There was a king who had a son that loved hunting. He allowed him
    to pursue that diversion often; but gave orders to his grand
    vizier always to attend him.

    One hunting day, the huntsman having roused a deer, the prince,
    who thought the vizier followed him, pursued the game so far, and
    with so much earnestness, that he separated himself from the
    company. Perceiving he had lost his way he stopped, and
    endeavoured to return to the vizier; but not knowing the country
    he wandered farther.

    Whilst he was thus riding about, he met on his way a handsome
    lady, who wept bitterly. He stopped his horse, and enquired who
    she was, how she came to be alone in that place, and what she
    wanted. "I am," replied she, "the daughter of an Indian king. As
    I was taking the air on horseback, in the country, I grew sleepy,
    and fell from my horse, who is run away, and I know not what is
    become of him." The young prince taking compassion on her,
    requested her to get up behind him, which she willingly did.

    As they were passing by the ruins of a house, the lady expressed
    a desire to alight. The prince stopped, and having put her down,
    dismounted himself, and went near the building, leading his horse
    after him. But you may judge how much he was surprised, when he
    heard the pretended lady utter these words: "Be glad, my
    children, I bring you a young man for your repast;" and other
    voices, which answered immediately, "Where is he, for we are very

    The prince heard enough to convince him of his danger. He
    perceived that the lady, who called herself the daughter of an
    Indian king, was one of those savage demons, called Gholes, who
    live in desolated places, and employ a thousand wiles to surprise
    passengers, whom they afterwards devour. The prince instantly
    remounted his horse, and luckily escaped.

    The pretended princess appeared that very moment, and perceiving
    she had missed her prey, exclaimed, "Fear nothing, prince: Who
    are you? Whom do you seek?" "I have lost my way," replied he,
    "and am endeavouring to find it." "If you have lost your way,"
    said she, "recommend yourself to God, he will deliver you out of
    your perplexity."

    After the counterfeit Indian princess had bidden the young prince
    recommend himself to God, he could not believe she spoke
    sincerely, but thought herself sure of him; and therefore lifting
    up his hands to heaven, said, "Almighty Lord, cast shine eyes
    upon me, and deliver me from this enemy." After this prayer, the
    ghole entered the ruins again, and the prince rode off with all
    possible haste. He happily found his way, and arrived safe at the
    court of his father, to whom he gave a particular account of the
    danger he had been in through the vizier's neglect: upon which
    the king, being incensed against that minister, ordered him to be
    immediately strangled.

    "Sir," continued the Grecian king's vizier, "to return to the
    physician Douban, if you do not take care, the confidence you put
    in him will be fatal to you; I am very well assured that he is a
    spy sent by your enemies to attempt your majesty's life. He has
    cured you, you will say: but alas! who can assure you of that? He
    has perhaps cured you only in appearance, and not radically; who
    knows but the medicine he has given you, may in time have
    pernicious effects?"

    The Grecian king was not able to discover the wicked design of
    his vizier, nor had he firmness enough to persist in his first
    opinion. This discourse staggered him: "Vizier," said he, "thou
    art in the right; he may be come on purpose to take away my life,
    which he may easily do by the smell of his drugs."

    When the vizier found the king in such a temper as he wished,
    "Sir," said he, "the surest and speediest method you can take to
    secure your life, is to send immediately for the physician
    Douban, and order his head to be struck off." "In truth," said
    the king, "I believe that is the way we must take to frustrate
    his design." When he had spoken thus, he called for one of his
    officers, and ordered him to go for the physician; who, knowing
    nothing of the king's purpose, came to the palace in haste.

    "Knowest thou," said the king, when he saw him, "why I sent for
    thee?" "No, Sir," answered he; "I wait till your majesty be
    pleased to inform me." "I sent for thee," replied the king, "to
    rid myself of thee, by taking away thy life."

    No man can express the surprise of the physician, when he heard
    the sentence of death pronounced against him. "Sir," said he,
    "why would your majesty take my life? What crime have I
    committed?" "I am informed," replied the king, "that you came to
    my court only to attempt my life; but to prevent you, I will be
    sure of yours. Give the blow," said he to the executioner, who
    was present, "and deliver me from a perfidious wretch, who came
    hither on purpose to assassinate me."

    When the physician heard this cruel order, he readily judged that
    the honours and presents he had received from the king had
    procured him enemies, and that the weak prince was imposed on. He
    repented that he had cured him of his leprosy; but it was now too
    late. "Is it thus," asked the physician, "that you reward me for
    curing you?" The king would not hearken to him, but a second time
    ordered the executioner to strike the fatal blow. The physician
    then had recourse to his prayers; "Alas, Sir," cried he, "prolong
    my days, and God will prolong yours; do not put me to death, lest
    God treat you in the same manner."

    The fisherman broke off his discourse here, to apply it to the
    genie. "Well, genie," said he, "you see that what passed betwixt
    the Grecian king and his physician Douban is acted just now by

    The Grecian king, continued he, instead of having regard to the
    prayers of the physician, who begged him to spare his life,
    cruelly replied, "No, no; I must of necessity cut you off,
    otherwise you may assassinate with as much art as you cured me."
    The physician, without bewailing himself for being so ill
    rewarded by the king, prepared for death. The executioner tied
    his hands, and was going to draw his cimeter.

    The courtiers who were present, being moved with compassion,
    begged the king to pardon him, assuring his majesty that he was
    not guilty of the crime laid to his charge, and that they would
    answer for his innocence: but the king was inflexible.

    The physician being on his knees, his eyes tied up, and ready to
    receive the fatal blow, addressed himself once more to the king:
    "Sir," said he, "since your majesty will not revoke the sentence
    of death, I beg, at least, that you would give me leave to return
    to my house, to give orders about my burial, to bid farewell to
    my family, to give alms, and to bequeath my books to those who
    are capable of making good use of them. I have one particularly I
    would present to your majesty; it is a very precious book, and
    worthy of being laid up carefully in your treasury." "What is
    it," demanded the king, "that makes it so valuable?" "Sir,"
    replied the physician, "it possesses many singular and curious
    properties; of which the chief is, that if your majesty will give
    yourself the trouble to open it at the sixth leaf, and read the
    third line of the left page, my head, after being cut off, will
    answer all the questions you ask it." The king being curious,
    deferred his death till next day, and sent him home under a
    strong guard.

    The physician, during that time, put his affairs in order; and
    the report being spread, that an unheard of prodigy was to happen
    after his death, the viziers, emirs, officers of the guard, and,
    in a word, the whole court, repaired next day to the hall of
    audience, that they might be witnesses of it.

    The physician Douban was brought in, and advancing to the foot of
    the throne, with a book in his hand, he called for a basin, and
    laid upon it the cover in which the book was wrapped; then
    presenting the book to the king, "Take this," said he, "and after
    my head is cut off, order that it be put into the basin upon that
    cover; as soon as it is placed there, the blood will stop; then
    open the book, and my head will answer your questions. But permit
    me once more to implore your majesty's clemency; for God's sake
    grant my request, I protest to you that I am innocent." "Your
    prayers," answered the king, "are in vain; and were it for
    nothing but to hear your head speak after your death, it is my
    will you should die." As he said this, he took the book out of
    the physician's hand, and ordered the executioner to do his duty.

    The head was so dexterously cut off that it fell into the basin,
    and was no sooner laid upon the cover of the book than the blood
    stopped; then to the great surprise of the king, and all the
    spectators, its eyes, and said, "Sir, will your majesty be
    pleased to open the book?" The king proceeded to do so; but
    finding that the leaves adhered to each other, that he might turn
    them with more ease, he put his finger to his mouth, and wetted
    it with spittle. He did thus till he came to the sixth leaf, and
    finding no writing on the place where he was desired to look for
    it, "Physician," said he, "there is nothing written." "Turn over
    some more leaves," replied the head. The king went on, putting
    always his finger to his mouth, until the poison with which each
    leaf was imbued, coming to have its effect, the prince found
    himself suddenly taken with an extraordinary fit, his eye-sight
    failed, and he fell down at the foot of the throne in violent

    When the physician Douban, or rather his head, saw that the
    poison had taken effect, and that the king had but a few moments
    to live; "Tyrant," it cried, "now you see how princes are
    treated, who, abusing their authority, cut off innocent men: God
    punishes soon or late their injustice and cruelty." Scarcely had
    the head spoken these words, when the king fell down dead, and
    the head itself lost what life it had.

    As soon as the fisherman had concluded the history of the Greek
    king and his physician Douban, he made the application to the
    genie, whom he still kept shut up in the vessel. "If the Grecian
    king," said he, "had suffered the physician to live, God would
    have continued his life also; but he rejected his most humble
    prayers, and the case is the same with thee, O genie! Could I
    have prevailed with thee to grant me the favour I supplicated, I
    should now take pity on thee; but since, notwithstanding the
    extreme obligation thou west under to me, for having set thee at
    liberty, thou didst persist in thy design to kill me, I am
    obliged, in my turn, to be equally hard-hearted to thee."

    "My good friend fisherman," replied the genie, "I conjure thee
    once more, not to be guilty of such cruelty; consider, that it is
    not good to avenge one's self, and that on the other hand, it is
    commendable to do good for evil; do not treat me as Imama
    formerly treated Ateca." "And what did Imama to Ateca?" enquired
    the fisherman. "Ho!" says the genie, "if you have a mind to be
    informed, open the vessel: do you think that I can be in an
    humour to relate stories in so strait a prison? I will tell you
    as many as you please, when you have let me out." "No," said the
    fisherman, "I will not let thee out; it is in vain to talk of it;
    I am just going to throw thee into the bottom of the sea." "Hear
    me one word more," cried the genie; "I promise to do thee no
    hurt; nay, far from that, I will shew thee a way to become
    exceedingly rich."

    The hope of delivering himself from poverty, prevailed with the
    fisherman. "I could listen to thee," said he, "were there any
    credit to be given to thy word; swear to me by the great name of
    God, that you will faithfully perform what you promise, and I
    will open the vessel; I do not believe you will dare to break
    such an oath."

    The genie swore to him, upon which the fisherman immediately took
    off the covering of the vessel. At that instant the smoke
    ascended, and the genie having resumed his form, the first thing
    he did was to kick the vessel into the sea. This action alarmed
    the fisherman. "Genie," said he, "will not you keep the oath you
    just now made? And must I say to you, as the physician Douban
    said to the Grecian king, suffer me to live, and God will prolong
    your days."

    The genie laughed at the fisherman's fear, and answered, "No,
    fisherman, be not afraid, I only did it to divert myself, and to
    see if thou wouldst be alarmed at it: but to convince thee that I
    am in earnest, take thy nets and follow me." As he spoke these
    words, he walked before the fisherman, who having taken up his
    nets, followed him, but with some distrust. They passed by the
    town, and came to the top of a mountain, from whence they
    descended into a vast plain, which brought them to a lake, that
    lay betwixt four hills.

    When they reached the side of the lake, the genie said to the
    fisherman, "Cast in thy nets, and catch fish; "the fisherman did
    not doubt of taking some, because he saw a great number in the
    water; but he was extremely surprised, when he found they were of
    four colours, that is to say, white, red, blue, and yellow. He
    threw in his nets, and brought out one of each colour. Having
    never seen the like before, he could not but admire them, and
    judging that he might get a considerable sum for them, he was
    very joyful. "Carry those fish," said the genie to him, "and
    present them to thy sultan; he will give thee more money for
    them. Thou mayest come every day to fish in this lake; but I give
    thee warning not to throw in thy nets above once a day, otherwise
    thou wilt repent." Having spoken thus, he struck his foot upon
    the ground, which opened, and after it had swallowed him up
    closed again.

    The fisherman being resolved to follow the genie's advice,
    forbore casting in his nets a second time; and returned to the
    town very well satisfied; and making a thousand reflections upon
    his adventure. He went immediately to the sultan's palace, to
    offer his fish.

    The sultan was much surprised, when he saw the four fish which
    the fisherman presented. He took them up one after another, and
    viewed them with attention; and after having admired them a long
    time, "Take those fish," said he to his vizier, "and carry them
    to the cook, whom the emperor of the Greeks has sent me. I cannot
    imagine but that they must be as good as they are beautiful."

    The vizier, carried them as he was directed, and delivering them
    to the cook, said, "Here are four fish just brought to the
    sultan; he orders you to dress them:" he then returned to the
    sultan his master, who ordered him to give the fisherman four
    hundred pieces of gold of the coin of that country, which he did

    The fisherman, who had never seen so much money, could scarcely
    believe his good fortune, but thought the whole must be a dream,
    until he found it otherwise, by being able to provide necessaries
    for his family with the produce of his fish.

    As soon as the sultan's cook had gutted the fish, she put them
    upon the fire in a frying-pan, with oil, and when she thought
    them fried enough on one side, she turned them upon the other;
    but, O monstrous prodigy! scarcely were they turned, when the
    wall of the kitchen divided, and a young lady of wonderful beauty
    entered from the opening. She was clad in flowered satin, after
    the Egyptian manner, with pendants in her ears, a necklace of
    large pearls, and bracelets of gold set with rubies, with a rod
    in her hand. She moved towards the frying-pan, to the great
    amazement of the cook, who continued fixed by the sight, and
    striking one of the fish with the end of the rod, said, "Fish,
    fish, are you in duty?" The fish having answered nothing, she
    repeated these words, and then the four fish lifted up their
    heads, and replied, "Yes, yes: if you reckon, we reckon; if you
    pay your debts, we pay ours; if you fly, we overcome, and are
    content." As soon as they had finished these words, the lady
    overturned the frying-pan, and returned into the open part of the
    wall, which closed immediately, and became as it was before.

    The cook was greatly frightened at what had happened, and coming
    a little to herself, went to take up the fish that had fallen on
    the hearth, but found them blacker than coal, and not fit to be
    carried to the sultan. This grievously troubled her, and she fell
    to weeping most bitterly. "Alas!" said she, "what will become of
    me? If I tell the sultan what I have seen, I am sure he will not
    believe me, but will be enraged against me."

    While she was thus bewailing herself, the grand vizier entered,
    and asked her if the fish were ready? She told him all that had
    occurred, which we may easily imagine astonished him; but without
    speaking a word of it to the sultan, he invented an excuse that
    satisfied him, and sending immediately for the fisherman, bid him
    bring four more such fish, for a misfortune had befallen the
    others, so that they were not fit to be carried to the sultan.
    The fisherman, without saying any thing of what the genie had
    told him, in order to excuse himself from bringing them that day,
    told the vizier, he had a great way to go for them, but would
    certainly bring them on the morrow.

    Accordingly the fisherman went away by night, and coming to the
    lake, threw in his nets betimes next morning, took four fish like
    the former, and brought them to the vizier, at the hour
    appointed. The minister took them himself, carried them to the
    kitchen, and shutting himself up with the cook, she gutted them,
    and put them on the fire, as she had done the four others the day
    before. When they were fried on one side, and she had turned them
    upon the other, the kitchen wall again opened, and the same lady
    came in with the rod in her hand, struck one of the fish, spoke
    to it as before, and all four gave her the same answer.

    After the four fish had answered the young lady, she overturned
    the frying-pan with her rod, and retired into the wall. The grand
    vizier, being witness to what had passed: "This is too wonderful
    and extraordinary," said he, "to be concealed from the sultan; I
    will inform him of this prodigy."

    The sultan, being much surprised, sent immediately for the
    fisherman, and said to him, "Friend, cannot you bring me four
    more such fish?" The fisherman replied, "If your majesty will be
    pleased to allow me three days, I will do it." Having obtained
    his time, he went to the lake immediately, and at the first
    throwing in of his net, he caught four fish, and brought them
    directly to the sultan; who was so much the more rejoiced, as he
    did not expect them so soon, and ordered him four hundred pieces
    of gold. As soon as the sultan had the fish, he ordered them to
    be carried into his closet, with all that was necessary for
    frying them; and having shut himself up with the vizier, the
    minister gutted them, put them into the pan, and when they were
    fried on one side, turned them upon the other; then the wall of
    the closet opened, but instead of the young lady, there came out
    a black, in the habit of a slave, and of a gigantic stature, with
    a great green staff in his hand. He advanced towards the pan, and
    touching one of the fish with his staff, said with a terrible
    voice, "Fish, are you in your duty?" At these words, the fish
    raised up their heads, and answered, "Yes, yes; we are: if you
    reckon, we reckon; if you pay your debts, we pay ours; if you
    fly, we overcome, and are content."

    The fish had no sooner finished these words, than the black threw
    the pan into the middle of the closet, and reduced the fish to a
    coal. Having done this, he retired fiercely, and entering again
    into the aperture, it closed, and the wall appeared just as it
    did before.

    "After what I have seen," said the sultan to the vizier, "it will
    not be possible for me to be easy: these fish, without doubt,
    signify something extraordinary." He sent for the fisherman, and
    when he came, said to him, "Fisherman, the fish you have brought
    us, make me very uneasy; where did you catch them?" "Sir,"
    answered he, "I fished for them in a lake situated betwixt four
    hills, beyond the mountain that we see from hence." "Knowst thou
    not that lake?" said the sultan to the vizier. "No," replied the
    vizier. "I never so much as heard of it, although I have for
    sixty years hunted beyond that mountain." The sultan asked the
    fisherman, how far the lake might be from the palace? The
    fisherman answered, it was not above three hours journey; upon
    this assurance, the sultan commanded all his court to take horse,
    and the fisherman served them for a guide. They all ascended the
    mountain, and at the foot of it they saw, to their great
    surprise, a vast plain, that nobody had observed till then, and
    at last they came to the lake, which they found to be situated
    betwixt four hills as the fisherman had described. The water was
    so transparent, that they observed all the fish to be like those
    which the fisherman had brought to the palace.

    The sultan stood upon the bank of the lake, and after beholding
    the fish with admiration, demanded of his courtiers, if it were
    possible they had never seen this lake, which was within so short
    a distance of the town. They all answered, that they had never so
    much as heard of it.

    "Since you all agree that you never heard of it, and as I am no
    less astonished than you are, at this novelty, I am resolved not
    to return to my palace till I learn how this lake came here, and
    why all the fish in it are of four colours." Having spoken thus,
    he ordered his court to encamp; and immediately his pavilion and
    the tents of his household were planted upon the banks of the

    When night came, the sultan retired under his pavilion, and spoke
    to the grand vizier. thus: "Vizier, my mind is uneasy: this lake
    transported hither; the black that appeared to us in my closet,
    and the fish that we heard speak; all these things so much excite
    my curiosity, that I cannot resist my impatient desire to have it
    satisfied. To this end, I am resolved to withdraw alone from the
    camp, and I order you to keep my absence secret: stay in my
    pavilion, and to-morrow morning, when the emirs and courtiers
    come to attend my levee, send them away, and tell them, that I am
    somewhat indisposed, and wish to be alone; and the following days
    tell them the same thing, till I return."

    The grand vizier. endeavoured to divert the sultan from this
    design; he represented to him the danger to which he might be
    exposed, and that all his labour might perhaps be in vain: but it
    was to no purpose; the sultan was resolved. He put on a suit fit
    for walking, and took his cimeter; and as soon as he found that
    all was quiet in the camp, went out alone, and passed over one of
    the hills without much difficulty; he found the descent still
    more easy, and when he came to the plain, walked on till the sun
    arose, and then he saw before him, at a considerable distance, a
    vast building. He rejoiced at the sight, in hopes of receiving
    there the information he sought. When he drew near, he found it
    was a magnificent palace, or rather a strong castle, of black
    polished marble, and covered with fine steel, as smooth as glass.
    Being highly pleased that he had so speedily met with something
    worthy his curiosity, he stopped before the front of the castle,
    and considered it with attention.

    He then advanced towards the gate, which had two leaves, one of
    them open; though he might immediately have entered, yet he
    thought it best to knock. This he did at first softly, and waited
    for some time; but seeing no one, and supposing he had not been
    heard, he knocked harder the second time, and after that he
    knocked again and again, but no one yet appearing, he was
    exceedingly surprised; for he could not think that a castle in
    such repair was without inhabitants. "If there be no one in it,"
    said he to himself, "I have nothing to fear; and if it be
    inhabited, I have wherewith to defend myself."

    At last he entered, and when he came within the porch, he cried,
    "Is there no one here to receive a stranger, who comes in for
    some refreshment as he passes by?" He repeated the same words two
    or three times; but though he spoke very loud, he was not
    answered. The silence increased his astonishment: he came into a
    spacious court, and looked on every side for inhabitants, but
    discovered none.

    The sultan entered the grand halls, which were hung with silk
    tapestry, the alcoves and sofas were covered with stuffs of
    Mecca, and the porches with the richest stuffs of India, mixed
    with gold and silver. He came afterwards into a superb saloon, in
    the middle of which was a fountain, with a lion of massy gold at
    each angle: water issued from the mouths of the four lions; and
    as it fell, formed diamonds and pearls, resembling a jet d'eau,
    which springing from the middle of the fountain, rose nearly to
    the top of a cupola painted in Arabesque.

    The castle, on three sides, was encompassed by a garden, with
    parterres of flowers, shrubbery, and whatever could concur to
    embellish it; and to complete the beauty of the place, an
    infinite number of birds filled the air with their harmonious
    notes, and always remained there, nets being spread over the
    garden, and fastened to the palace to confine them. The sultan
    walked from apartment to apartment, where he found every thing
    rich and magnificent. Being tired with walking, he sat down in a
    verandah or arcade closet, which had a view over the garden,
    reflecting what he had already seen, and then beheld: when
    suddenly he heard the voice of one complaining, in lamentable
    tones. He listened with attention, and heard distinctly these
    words: "O fortune! thou who wouldst not suffer me longer to enjoy
    a happy lot, forbear to persecute me, and by a speedy death put
    an end to my sorrows. Alas! is it possible that I am still alive,
    after so many torments as I have suffered!"

    The sultan rose up, advanced toward the place whence he heard the
    voice; and coming to the door of a great hall, opened it, and saw
    a handsome young man, richly habited, seated upon a throne raised
    a little above the ground. Melancholy was painted on his
    countenance. The sultan drew near, and saluted him; the young man
    returned his salutation by an inclination of his head, not being
    able to rise, at the same time saying, "My lord, I should rise to
    receive you; but am hindered by sad necessity, and therefore hope
    you will not be offended." "My lord," replied the sultan, "I am
    much obliged to you for having so good an opinion of me: as to
    the reason of your not rising, whatever your apology be, I
    heartily accept it. Being drawn hither by your complaints, and
    afflicted by your grief, I come to offer you my help; would to
    God that it lay in my power to ease you of your trouble! I would
    do my utmost to effect it. I flatter myself that you will relate
    to me the history of your misfortunes; but inform me first of the
    meaning of the lake near the palace, where the fish are of four
    colours? whose this castle is? how you came to be here? and why
    you are alone?"

    Instead of answering these questions, the young man began to weep
    bitterly. "How inconstant is
    fortune!" cried he; "she takes pleasure to pull down those she
    had raised. Where are they who enjoy quietly the happiness which
    they hold of her, and whose day is always clear and serene?"

    The sultan, moved with compassion to see him in such a condition,
    prayed him to relate the cause of his excessive grief. "Alas! my
    lord," replied the young man, "how is it possible but I should
    grieve, and my eyes be inexhaustible fountains of tears?" At
    these words, lifting up his robe, he shewed the sultan that he
    was a man only from the head to the girdle, and that the other
    half of his body was black marble.

    The sultan was much surprised, when he saw the deplorable
    condition of the young man. "That which you shew me," said he,
    "while it fills me with horror, excites my curiosity, so that I
    am impatient to hear your history, which, no doubt, must be
    extraordinary, and I am persuaded that the lake and the fish make
    some part of it; therefore I conjure you to relate it. You will
    find some comfort in so doing, since it is certain, that the
    unfortunate find relief in making known their distress." "I will
    not refuse your request," replied the young man, "though I cannot
    comply without renewing my grief. But I give you notice before
    hand, to prepare your ears, your mind, and even your eyes, for
    things which surpass all that the imagination can conceive."
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