The Arabian Nights Entertainments
Noureddin and the Fair Persian
Balsora was the capital of a kingdom long tributary to the caliph. During the time
of the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid the king of Balsora, who was his cousin, was
called Zinebi. Not thinking one vizir enough for the administration of his estates
he had two, named Khacan and Saouy.
Khacan was kind, generous, and liberal, and took pleasure in obliging, as far as
in him lay, those who had business with him. Throughout the entire kingdom
there was no one who did not esteem and praise him as he deserved.
Saouy was quite a different character, and repelled everyone with whom he
came in contact; he was always gloomy, and, in spite of his great riches, so
miserly that he denied himself even the necessaries of life. What made him
particularly detested was the great aversion he had to Khacan, of whom he never
ceased to speak evil to the king.
One day, while the king amused himself talking with his two vizirs and other
members of the council, the conversation turned on female slaves. While some
declared that it sufficed for a slave to be beautiful, others, and Khacan was
among the number, maintained that beauty alone was not enough, but that it
must be accompanied by wit, wisdom, modesty, and, if possible, knowledge.
The king not only declared himself to be of this opinion, but charged Khacan to
procure him a slave who should fulfil all these conditions. Saouy, who had been
of the opposite side, and was jealous of the honour done to Khacan, said, "Sire, it
will be very difficult to find a slave as accomplished as your Majesty desires, and,
if she is to be found, she will be cheap if she cost less than 10,000 gold pieces."
"Saouy," answered the king, "you seem to find that a very great sum. For you it
may be so, but not for me."
And forthwith he ordered his grand treasurer, who was present, to send 10,000
gold pieces to Khacan for the purchase of the slave.