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- « Your Majesty is our lawful Shah and governor," said the vizier.
, I ask again,” said Asbeaz, «I ask you to swear by my beard, which you see is scanty and white, as well as by your own, which is thick and black, that you do not lie and that I am what you really tell me I am. »
Who am I,» said the vizier, « that I should not swear whatever it pleaseth your Majesty to order? I swear by your Majesty's sacred beard, and by my own, you are our lawful King and governor.”
«I tell you what, friend,” said Azbeaz, after a long pause, * you have eaten a lie! It was but two days ago that I was a shoemaker in the bazaar, Azbeaz by name- 2-can I have become a King ? what words are these ? »
« Destiny ordaineth all things for the best in this world, said the grand vizier. Allah, who could quicken where there was no life, can also make of his living creatures whatsoever it pleaseth him; your Majesty can no more make your sacred person a shoemaker's, than before it could have made itself a Shah.'»
« It is hard work to believe all this,” said Azbeaz, «but we will see; », and then in louder words he exclaimed, « well, what am I to do ? »
l'pon which the chief of the law, the elder of elders, was brought forward, bearing the sword of state, which, according to the old forms, was to be buckled on the royal person by his hands, and said, having made his lowest obeisance, « In the name of Allah I come. »
. This may all be very well,” said Azbeaz, « as long as no one says no—but where is the other King? He may not like all this-1'll not be a King as long as I have not got his consent; bring him here and let us sce. There is no reason, because he beat me unjustly, that I should owe him a grudge— I'm all for fair play. It is theirs to obey. Perhaps I may do the like. »
Upon this there was a general search made for the late King: he was sought for throughout the palace, in all the courts and apartments of the harem, throughout the city, but nowhere was he to be found. It was suggested that he might have been carried off by the miraculous iron army, and such was the rumour throughout the city. One, indeed, swore that he had seen him in the iron litter; but, whatever was his fate, true it is that he was no where to be found, and when this intelligence ' was reported to Azbéaz, he no longer made any difficulties, but submitted to go through all the ceremony of installation.
At a fortunate moment, selected by the astrologers, the sword of state was buckled round the waist of the future King by the elder of elders, and when this important event was achieved, loud were the congratulations of the assembly, but more particularly so were the words of the King's flatterer, who, totally unacquainted with the character of the new monarch, exerted every faculty of his brain to invent new strains of adulation. Having made himself quite sure that he was secure from the re-appearance of the late Shah. he broke out as follows:
Oh wonderful ! oh astonishing! oh marvellous! see the good fortune that has been'vouchsafed to our nation ; in one day, as Allah is great, in one small moment , have its destinies changed from darkness to light, from the beating of the winter tempest to the dawn of delightful spring, from the pestilence of a charnel-house to the fragrance of a rose-garden. When our necks were all bared to the sharp-cutting scimitar, when cruelty and desolation stalked through men's houses, and life was as uncertain as the whirlwind on the plain, suddenly we are freed from such disasters ; joy, peace, and security are brought to us, in the person of our shadow of the Almighty--of our centre of perfection-of our firmament of happy constellations. Ohl. wonderful! oh astonishing! oh marvellous! See our blessed King--see his glorious person -see his benign countenance. He is, indeed, a King; not the oppressor of his people--not a cruel tyrant-not an ayaricious extortioner. No! he lives but to do good-see him when he walks. Bah! bah! bah! what grace! hear him when he speaks! oh wonderful! what eloquence!»
Here Azbeaz, who had listened with curiosity, heightened by the smile on his countenance, exclaimed:
What dirt is that fellow eating? In the name of the prophet what is he speaking about? is he mad? If you are talking about me, oh little man, let me tell you, that I don't stand having my beard laughed at more than other men; that I call things by their proper names; I call a 'dog a dog, and you-a fool. It is bad enough to be a King, bnt I won't be called names into the bargain. »
This strange speech, so totally unlike any speech that had ever been uttered by 'an eastern monarch, struck all those who heard it with unbounded astonishment, In a court where no word of truth was ever spoken, where deceit was taught as a science, where men by dint of experience learned the value of every false assertion, almost with the same certainty as if the real truth was spoken at once, to hear it announced by the sovereign himself that things were to be called by their right names, and that he already felt it a burthen to be a King, were facts scarcely credible.
The flatterer learned tbat his occupation was gone, and all who lived by deceit concluded that they must begin the difficult labour of becoming honest men.
As soon as every preparation had been made for the ceremony of showing himself to the people, Azbeaz, with the sword of state hanging upon his thigh, was taken to the open chamber, situated over the principal gate of the palace, looking into the great maidan or public square, and there, supported by the grand vizier and the elder of elders standing on either side, he was presented to the wondering multitude.
The astonishment of the citizens upon perceiving Azbear's well-known face and person was so great, that they could scarcely bring themselves to go through the necessary forms of prostration and acclamation.
There was one among the crowd who gazed more ardently than the rest at that face, which still showed its prominent teeth, and bore its wonted smile, and who trembled as he gazed, and that individual was his brother Sakalchok.
Indignation, envy, hatred, contempt, fear and apprehension, and a stricken conscience all assailed the heart of this wretched man by turns. He was incredulous to the very last that it could be his brother, and was constantly exclaiming to himself, it is impossible! it cannot be, » until he was driven out of his uncertainty by the words which he heard repeated around him in the crowd.
« In truth, men say right," said one; «it is Azbeaz; there he is with his beard, little and white ; wonderful luck was he born with! »
«Who ever heard of a shoemaker King!. said another; I shall be a Shah next, who am a tinker. »
« I suppose, now that he is King, he won't pay me for the wax he bought of me as a shoemaker, » remarked chandler.
« If he has got a heart," said a shoemaker, « he will do something for those of his own trade, and lower the price of leather,
So many observations did Sakalchok hear, that he could no longer live in the illusion that this man was not his brother.
He then bethought himself what line of conduct to pursue, whether to implore forgiveness, make restitution, and beg for the continuance of his appointment as court jeweller, with hope of further advancement, or wait the tide of events, and deliver himself over to the decrees of destiny. He finished by doing nothing, but returned to his home a prey to all the torments of uncertainty.
On the way, he met the five old men, who sat squatted together in a corner of the bazaar, gloomily consulting upon their probable fate, seeing that they must have incurred Azbeaz's displeasure by the indignities they had put upon him. As soon as they perceived Sakalchok, they all exclaimed, • welcome, welcome---may fortune attend you, your brother is King, may your shadow never be less ; give us your advice; the King, you know, is our enemy, we have made him eat dirt; what shall we do to conciliate him ? »
« What do I know ? , said Sakalchok, in no humour to answer such unreasonable enquiries. Let every man trim his own beard. *'He said no more and walked on; the five old men had no time to take offence, but they remained perfectly silent, each wrapt up in his own apprehensions ; and, perhaps, already feeling a certain tingling on the soles of their feet, a sensation well known to those who have once tasted bastinado.
In the mean while, the ceremony of presenting the King to his people having been performed, was as usual brought to a conclusion by the solemn promulgation of the Khotbeh by the principal crier of the court, who, with a sonorous voice and most emphatic manner, pronounced the new Shah's titles. He was called the Asylum of the Universe, the Common Centre to which the whole world bows, the King of Kings, the descendant from Kings, and the origin of Kings.
Azbeaz listened with patience to the end, when, calling the crier to appear before him, he said : « Man! do you know what abomination you have been eating? Who told you that I am a descendant of Kings? What words are these? Why without rhyme or reason will you tell lies ? I am the son of Mustapha the tanner, who was the son of a barber, who was the son of a bear-leader. You 'll please to say so for the future, and then lies will no longer arise from the bottom of your throat to make my face blush, and then men will learn that Kings are no more than other 'men, of the same flesh and blood, all going to the same place, some to good and some to evil. »
Words cannot express the astonishment that took place in the minds of all present when they heard this extraordinary speech. Are we alive, or do we dream ? Here is a King such as no one ever saw or heard of. He tells no lies himself, and will not allow others to do so. Another King would have cut off heads had any one dared to hint that his father was a tanner—this one seems to glory in it. Truth of itself is enough to make him noble. Let us see how he will comport himself this day next, year. »
Azbeaz’s principal care, as soon as he had disposed of the ceremony of his installation, was to deposit his wonder-working key in a secure place. Accordingly he directed his steps