"The Riddles of the Sphinx." What really happened to Ahikar. His return.
AND when the king of Egypt had made sure that Haiqâr was slain, he arose straightway and wrote a letter to king Sennacherib, reminding him in it 'of the peace and the health and the might and the honour which we wish specially for thee, my beloved brother, king Sennacherib.
2 I have been desiring to build a castle between the heaven and the earth, and I want thee to send me a wise, clever man from thyself to build it for me, and to answer me all my questions, and that I may have the taxes and the custom duties of Assyria for three years.'
3 Then he sealed the letter and sent it to Sennacherib.
4 He took it and read it and gave it to his viziers and to the nobles of his kingdom, and they were perplexed and ashamed, and he was wroth with a great wrath, and was puzzled about how he should act.
5 Then he assembled the old men and the learned men and the wise men and the philosophers, and the diviners and the astrologers, and every one who was in his country, and read them the letter and said to them, 'Who amongst you will go to Pharaoh king of Egypt and answer him his questions?'
6 And they said to him, 'O our lord the king! know thou that there is none in thy kingdom who is acquainted with these questions except Haiqâr, thy vizier and secretary.
7 But as for us, we have no skill in this, unless it be Nadan, his sister's son, for he taught him all his wisdom and learning and knowledge. Call him to thee, perchance he may untie this hard knot.'
8 Then the king called Nadan and said to him, 'Look at this letter and understand what is in it.' And when Nadan read it, he said, 'O my lord! who is able to build a castle between the heaven and the earth?'
9 And when the king heard the speech of Nadan he sorrowed with a great and sore sorrow, and stepped down from his throne and sat in the ashes, and began to weep and wail over Haiqâr.
10 Saying, 'O my grief! O Haiqâr, who didst know the secrets and the riddles! woe is me for thee, O Haiqâr! O teacher of my country and ruler of my kingdom, where shall I find thy like? O Haiqâr, O teacher of my country, where shall I turn for thee? woe is me for thee! how did I destroy thee! and I listened to the talk of a stupid, ignorant boy without knowledge, without religion, without manliness.
11 Ah! and again Ah for myself! who can give thee to me
just for once, or bring me word that Haiqâr is alive? and I would give him the half of my kingdom.
12 Whence is this to me? Ah, Haiqâr! that I might see thee just for once, that I might take my fill of gazing at thee, and delighting in thee.
13 Ah! O my grief for thee to all time! O Haiqâr, how have I killed thee! and I tarried not in thy case till I had seen the end of the matter.'
14 And the king went on weeping night and day. Now when the swordsman saw the wrath of the king and his sorrow for Haiqâr, his heart was softened towards him,, and he approached into his presence and said to him:
15 'O my lord! command thy servants to cut off my head.' Then said the king to him: 'Woe to thee, Abu Samîk, what is thy fault?'
16 And the swordsman said unto him, 'O my master! every slave who acts contrary to the word of his master is killed, and I have acted contrary to thy command.'
17 Then the king said unto him. 'Woe unto thee, O Abu Samîk, in what hast thou acted contrary to my command?'
18 And the swordsman said unto him, 'O my lord! thou didst command me to kill Haiqâr, and I knew that thou wouldst repent thee concerning him, and that he had been wronged, and I hid him in a certain place, and I killed one of his slaves, and he is now safe in the cistern, and if thou command me I will bring him to thee.'
19 And the king said unto him. 'Woe to thee, O Abu Samîk! thou hast mocked me and I am thy lord.'
20 And the swordsman said unto him, 'Nay, but by the life of thy head, O my lord! Haiqâr is safe and alive.'
21 And when the king heard that saying, he felt sure of the matter, and his head swam, and he fainted from joy, and he commanded them to bring Haiqâr.
22 And he said to the swordsman, 'O trusty servant! if thy speech be true, I would fain enrich thee, and exalt thy dignity above that of all thy friends.'
23 And the swordsman went along rejoicing till he came to Haiqâr's house. And he opened the door of the hiding-place, and went down and found Haiqâr sitting, praising God, and thanking Him.
24 And he shouted to him, saying, 'O Haiqâr, I bring the greatest of joy, and happiness, and delight!'
25 And Haiqâr said to him, 'What is the news, O Abu Samîk?' And he told him all about Pharaoh from the beginning to the end. Then he took him and went to the king.
26 And when the king looked at him, he saw him in a state of want, and that his hair had grown long like the wild beasts' and his nails like the claws of an eagle, and that his body was dirty with dust, and the colour of his face had changed and faded and was now like ashes.
27 And when the king saw him he sorrowed over him and rose at once and embraced him and kissed him, and wept over him and said: 'Praise be to God! who hath brought thee back to me.'
28 Then he consoled him and comforted him. And he stripped off his robe, and put it on the swordsman, and was very gracious to him, and gave him great wealth, and made Haiqâr rest.
29 Then said Haiqâr to the king, 'Let my lord the king live for ever! These be the deeds of the children of the world. I have reared me a palm-tree that I might lean on it, and it bent sideways, and threw me down.
30 But, O my Lord! since I have appeared fore thee, let not care oppress thee! And the king said to him: 'Blessed be God, who showed thee mercy, and knew that thou wast wronged, and saved thee and delivered thee from being slain.
31 But go to the warm bath, and shave thy head, and cut thy nails, and change thy clothes, and amuse thyself for the space of forty days, that thou mayst do good to thyself and improve thy condition and the colour of thy face may come back to thee.'
32 Then the king stripped off his costly robe, and put it on Haiqâr, and Haiqâr thanked God and did obeisance to the king, and departed to his dwelling glad and happy, praising the Most High God.
33 And the people of his household rejoiced with him, and his friends and every one who heard that he was alive rejoiced also.