The Perfidious Vizier
A king of former times had an only son, whom he contracted in marriage to the daughter of another king. But the damsel, who was endowed with great beauty, had a cousin who had sought her in marriage, and had been rejected; wherefore he sent great presents to the vizier of the king just mentioned, requesting him to employ some stratagem by which to destroy his master’s son, or to induce him to relinquish the damsel. The vizier consented. Then the father of the damsel sent to the king’s son, inviting him to come and introduce himself to his daughter, to take her as his wife; and the father of the young man sent him with the treacherous vizier, attended by a thousand horsemen, and provided with rich presents. When they were proceeding over the desert, the vizier remembered that there was near unto them a spring of water called Ez-zahra, and that whosoever drank of it, if he were a man, became a woman. He therefore ordered the troops to alight near it, and induced the prince to go thither with him. When they arrived at the spring, the king’s son dismounted from his courser, and washed his hands, and drank; and lo! he became a woman; whereupon he cried out and wept until he fainted. The vizier asked him what had befallen him, so the young man informed him; and on hearing his words, the vizier affected to be grieved for him, and wept. The king’s son then sent the vizier back to his father to inform him of this event, determining not to proceed nor to return until his affliction should be removed from him, or until he should die.
He remained by the fountain during a period of three days and nights, neither eating nor drinking, and on the fourth night there came to him a horseman with a crown upon his head, appearing like one of the sons of the kings. This horseman said to him, “Who brought you, O young man, unto this place?” So the young man told him his story; and when the horseman heard it, he pitied him, and said to him, “The vizier of thy father is the person who hath thrown thee into this calamity; for no one of mankind knoweth of this spring excepting one man.