Story From Arabian Nights - The Good And The Wicked

The Good And The Wicked

In a certain city lived a merchant named Abu Tammam. He was honest and witty. His wealth increased as people who traded with him trusted him. He became very popular because his speech was sweet and he was wise. The king of the country grew extremely jealous of his prosperity and popularity. Abu Tammam found it unsafe to live there. The neighboring country was ruled by a young and good-natured king named Alyan Shah. Abu Tammam went over to the city that was King Alyan Shah's capital. King Alyan Shah soon heard of Abu Tammam and of his wit and wealth. He wanted to see him. Abu Tammam went to his court with a variety of gifts. In no time he charmed the king with his conduct and speech. "Why don't you give me your company regularly?" asked the king. "My lord, better I serve you from some distance. It is not always safe to be very close to a king, for that makes others jealous," said Abu Tammam.

But the king took Abu Tammam's reluctance lightly. He summoned him to his court now and then and bestowed great favors to him. For every problem, the king now consulted Abu Tammam and not his three viziers. This made the three viziers quite jealous of Abu Tammam. They could not bear with the changing situation. "What to do with this fellow? He seems to have bewitched the king!" one of the viziers said when the three met privately. "There is a fine way to get rid of him. The king of Turkey has a daughter who has become legendary for her beauty. Many kings have sent emissaries proposing to marry her. But no emissary has come back. Probably they are killed by the Turkish king. Our king is a bachelor. Let us speak to him about the princess and let us advise him to send Abu Tammam to the Turkish court as his emissary," said another vizier. All the three agreed that this was an excellent scheme. They kept singing about the beauty and the virtues of the Turkish princess before their young master. At last King Alyan Shah felt inspired to seek the princess's hand in marriage. "Who will go as my emissary?" he asked the viziers. "My lord, all will depend on the impression the emissary will make on the Turkish king's mind. You should send one who is most accomplished at speech and etiquette," said one of the viziers. "Right, my lord, and I believe Abu Tammam would be the best man for this," said another. Abu Tammam was sent to the Turkish court. The Turkish king received him cordially. "Meet my daughter," he said. 

Accordingly Abu Tammam was sent into the inner apartment of the palace. The princess was ready to receive him. After greeting her Abu Tammam sat down on the floor, without raising his head to look at her for a second time. After a little while, the princess said, "Here are some gifts for you." She pointed at a tray on which there were several precious jewels. Abu Tammam once looked at them but never touched any of them. The princess rose to retire. Abu Tammam also stood up and bowed to her. When he met the king again, the king said, "My daughter complains of your being blind, deaf, and dumb!" "My lord, my king sent me here to put forth the marriage proposal, not to look at the princess. To keep looking at her would have been immodest on my part. I listened to her all right, but whatever I had to say, I had said to you," said Abu Tammam. "Why did you refuse to receive the gifts?" asked the king. "My lord, to receive gifts before knowing whether our proposal has been accepted or not would not have been proper on my part," replied Abu Tammam.

The king's face beamed with happiness. He said, "My friend, the emissaries of all the other kings used to forget their mission once they were before my daughter. They used to gaze at her shamelessly and talk to her glibly and pick up the gifts greedily. See what has happened to them." The king led Abu Tammam to a window and removed the screen. Through it, Abu Tammam could see a hall in which the previous emissaries sat or lay as prisoners. The king said again, "I've heard much about Alyan Shah. I shall be happy to give my daughter in marriage to him I hope, you have no objection in receiving the gifts now!" The king sent Abu Tammam back to his master rewarding him with many a gift. The marriage was performed before long. The imprisoned emissaries were granted liberty on that occasion. The three viziers lost their peace and sleep thinking of how to destroy King Alyan Shah's affection for Abu Tammam. They conspired and took two young servants of the king into confidence. These two servants used to massage the king's feet at night. They were given a bagful of gold and were taught what they should do. At night the two boys sat massaging the king's feet. The king was not asleep, but they pretended to think that the king was asleep. "Have you heard about that cunning fellow's bragging?" asked one. "Which cunning fellow?" asked the other. "There is only one cunning fellow and he is Abu Tammam. Everybody but the king knows his nature," said the first. "What is he bragging about?" asked the second.

"He says that the Turkish princess agreed to marry our king because of him! He claims that the princess was so very charmed by him that she could not have lived far from him!" replied the first boy. "Like everybody else I also knew that Abu Tammam was wicked, but I did not know that he was so wicked!" commented the second. In the morning the first thing the king did was to throw Abu Tammam into a dungeon. A few days passed. One night the king heard a brawl. Two fellows were quarreling. The shouts were coming from the quarters meant for the palace servants. He tiptoed in that direction and saw those two boys coming to blows. "I must have more than half of the gold because I made the greater part of the talking," claimed one. The other was not willing to give in. The king called out for his bodyguards and had the two boys arrested. Fearing for their lives, the two boys confessed that they had spoken lies about Abu Tammam. They also could not hide who gave them the gold and tutored them to speak like that. The king at once set Abu Tammam free and apologized to him. "My lord, had I not said that it was unsafe to be too close to you?" Abu Tammam reminded the king with a smile. The king punished the three jealous viziers and made Abu Tammam his sole vizier.

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