This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
THERE was, in El-Basrah, a certain King, who loved the poor and indigent, and regarded his subjects with benevolence; he bestowed of his wealth upon him who believed in Mohammad (God bless and save him!) and was such as one of the poets who have written of him hath thus described:
He used his lances as pens; and the hearts of his enemies, as paper; their blood being his ink, And hence, I imagine, our forefathers applied to the lance the term Khattiyeh.
The name of this King was Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni; and he had two Wezirs; one of whom was named El-Mo'in the son of Sawi; and the other, El-Fadl the son of Khakan. El-Fadl the son of Khakan was the most generous of the people of his age, upright in conduct, so that all hearts agreed in loving him, and the wise complied with his counsel, and all the people supplicated for him length of life: for he was a person of auspicious aspect, a preventer of evil and mischief: but the Wezir El-Mo'in the son of Sawi hated others, and loved not good; he was a man of inauspicious aspect; and in the same degree that the people loved Fadl-ed-Din the son of Khakan, so did they abhor El-Mo'in the son of Sawi in accordance with the decree of the Almighty.
Now the King Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zenyi was sitting one day upon his throne, surrounded by the officers of his court, and he called to his Wezir El-Fadl the son of Khakan, and said to him, I desire a female slave unsurpassed in beauty by any in her age, of perfect loveliness and exquisite symmetry, and endowed with all praiseworthy qualities.-Such as this, replied his courtiers, is not to be found for less than ten thousand pieces of gold. And the Sultan thereupon called out to the treasurer, saying, Carry ten thousand pieces of gold to the house of El-Fadl the son of Khakan. So the treasurer did as he commanded, and the Wezir departed, after the Sultan had ordered him to repair every day to the market, and to commission the brokers to procure what he had described, and had commanded also that no female slave of a greater price than one thousand pieces of gold should be sold without having been shewn to the Wezir.
The brokers, therefore, sold no female slave without shewing her to him, and he complied with the King's command, and thus he continued to do for a considerable time, no slave pleasing him: but on a certain day, one of the brokers came to the mansion of the Wezir El-Fadl, and found that he had mounted to repair to the palace of the King; and he laid hold upon his stirrup, and repeated these two verses:
O thou who hast reanimated what was rotten in the state! Thou art the Wezir ever aided in Heaven. Thou hast revived the noble qualities that were extinct among men'.
May thy conduct never cease to be approved by God!
He then said, O my master, the female slave for the procuring of whom the noble mandate was issued hath arrived. The Wezir replied, Bring her hither to me. So the man returned, and, after a short absence, came again, accompanied by a damsel of elegant stature, high-bosomed, with black eyelashes, and smooth cheek, and slender waist, and large hips, clad in the handsomest apparel; the moisture of her lips was sweeter than syrup; her figure put to shame the branches of the Oriental willow; and her speech was more soft than the zephyr passing over the flowers of the garden; as one of her describers hath thus expressed:
Her skin is like silk, and her speech is soft, neither redundant nor deficient:
Her eyes, God said to them. Be,-and they were, affecting men's hearts with the potency of wine. May my love for her grow more warm each night, and cease not mntil the day of judgment!
The locks on her brow are dark as night, while her forehead shines like the gleam of morning.
When the Wezir beheld her, she pleased him extremely, and he looked towards the broker, and said to him, What is the price of this damsel ? The broker answered, The price bidden for her hath amounted to ten thousand pieces of gold, and her owner hath sworn that this sum doth not equal the cost of the chickens which she hath eaten, nor the cost of the dresses which she hath bestowed upon her teachers; for she hath learnt writing and grammar and lexicology, and the interpretation of the Kur'an, and the fundamentals of law and religion, and medicine, and the computation of the calendar, and the art of playing upon musical instruments. The Wezir then said, Bring to me her master:-and the broker immediately brought him; and lo, he was a foreigner, who had lived so long that time had reduced him to bones and skin, as the poet hath said:
How hath time made me to tremble! For time is powerful and severe.
I used to walk without being weary; but now I am weary and do not walk.
And the Wezir said to him, Art thou content to receive for this damsel ten thousand pieces of gold from the Sultan Mohammad the son of Suleyman Ez-Zeyni? The foreigner answered, As she is for the Sultan, it is incumbent on me to give her as a present to him, without price. So the Wezir, upon this, ordered that the money should be brought, and then weighed the pieces of gold for the foreigner; after which, the slave-broker ^ddressed the Wezir, and said, With the permission of our lord the Wezir, I will speak.-Impart what thou hast to say, replied the Wezir.-It is my opinion then, said the broker, that thou shouldst not take up this damsel to the Sultan to-day; for she hath just arrived from her journey, and the change of air hath affected her, and the journey hath fatigued her; but rather let her remain with thee in thy palace ten days, that she may take rest, and her beauty will improve: then cause her to be taken into the bath, and attire her in clothes of the handsomest description, and go up with her to the Sultan: so shalt thou experience more abundant good-fortune. And the Wezir considered the advice of the slave-broker, and approved it He therefore took her into his palace, and gave her a private apartment to herself, allotting her every day what she required of food and drink and other supplies, and she continued a while in this state of enjoyment.