The Two Kings

There were once two kings, a just and an unjust; and this one had a land abounding in trees and fruits and herbs; but he let no merchant pass without robbing him of his monies and his merchandise, and the traders endured this with patience, by reason of their profit from the fatness of the earth in the means of life and its pleasantness, more by token that it was renowned for its richness in precious stones and gems.

Now the just king, who loved jewels, heard of this land and sent one of his subjects thither; and it being told to the unjust king that a merchant was come to his kingdom with much money to buy jewels withal, he sent for him to the presence and said to him: ‘Who are you and from where do you come and who brought you here thither and why have you come?’

The merchant responded: ‘I am of such and such a region, and the king of that land gave me money and bade me buy therewith jewels from this country; so I obeyed his bidding and came’. Cried the unjust king, ‘Out with you! Don’t you know my fashion of dealing with the people of my realm and how each day I take their money? Why then do you come to my country? And furthermore, you have already stayed here since such a time!’

Answered the trader, ‘The money is not mine, not a penny of it; nay, ‘tis a trust in my hands, till I bring its equivalent to its owner’. But the king said, ‘I will not let you take your livelihood of my land so now you have to give me all your money or else you shall die!”

So the man said in himself, ‘I am fallen between two kings, and I know that the oppression of this ruler embraces all who abide in his dominions: and if I satisfy him not, I shall lose both life and money (whereof is no doubt) and shall fail of my errand; whilst, on the other hand, if I give him all the gold, it will most assuredly prove my ruin with its owner, the other king: wherefore no device will serve me but that I give this one a trifling part thereof and content him therewith and avert from myself and from the money perdition. Thus shall I get my livelihood of the fatness of this land, till I buy that which I desire of jewels; and, after satisfying the tyrant with gifts, I will take my portion of the profit and return to the owner of the money with his need, trusting in his justice and indulgence, and unfearing that he will punish me for that which this unjust king takes of the treasure, especially if it be but a little’.

Then the trader called down blessings on the tyrant and said to him, ‘O, king! I will ransom myself and this specie with a small portion thereof, from the time of my entering thy country to that of my going forth therefrom’. The king agreed to this and left him at peace for a year, till he brought all manner jewels with the rest of the money and returned therewith to his master, to whom he made his excuses, confessing to having saved himself from the unjust king as before related.

The just king accepted his excuse and praised him for his wise device and set him on his right hand in his divan and appointed him in his kingdom an abiding inheritance and a happy life-tide.