The marriage was solemnized the same day, and the rejoicings for it were universal all over the empire of China. Nor was Marzavan forgotten: the king immediately gave him an honourable post in his court, and a promise of further advancement; and held continual feastings for several months, to show his joy.
THE LOSS OF THE TALISMAN.
Soon after his marriage Prince Camaralzaman dreamt one night that he saw his father Schahzaman on his death-bed, and heard him speak thus to his attendants: 'My son, my son, whom I so tenderly loved, has abandoned me.' He awoke with a great sigh, which aroused the princess, who asked him the cause of it. Next morning the princess went to her own father, and finding him alone kissed his hand and thus addressed herself to him: 'Sir, I have a favour to beg of your majesty; it is that you will give me leave to go with the prince my husband to see King Schahzaman, my father-in-law.'
'Daughter,' replied the king, 'though I shall be very sorry to part with you for so long a time, your resolution is worthy of you: go, child, I give you leave, but on condition that you stay no longer than a year in King Schahzaman's court.'
The princess communicated the King of China's consent to Prince Camaralzaman, who was transported with joy to hear it.
The King of China gave orders for preparations to be made for the journey; and when all things were ready, he accompanied the prince and princess several days' journey on their way. They parted at length with great weeping on all sides: the king embraced them, and having desired the prince to be kind to his daughter, and to love her always, he left them to proceed on their journey, and, to divert his thoughts, hunted all the way home.
Prince Camaralzaman and the Princess Badoura travelled for about a month, and at last came to a meadow of great extent, planted with tall trees, forming an agreeable shade. The day being unusually hot, Camaralzaman thought it best to encamp there. They alighted in one of the finest spots, and the prince ordered his servants to pitch their tents, and went himself to give directions. The princess, weary with the fatigue of the journey, bade her women untie her girdle, which they laid down by her, and when she fell asleep, her attendants left her by herself.
Prince Camaralzaman having seen all things in order came to the tent where the princess was sleeping; he entered, and sat down without making any noise, intending to take a nap himself; but observing the princess's girdle lying by her, he took it up, and looked at the diamonds and rubies one by one. In doing this, he saw a little purse hanging to it, sewed neatly on to the stuff, and tied fast with a ribbon; he felt it, and found there was something solid inside it. Desirous to know what it was, he opened the purse, and took out a cornelian, engraven with unknown figures and characters. 'This cornelian,' said the prince to himself, 'must be something very valuable, or my princess would not carry it with so much care.' It was Badoura's talisman, which the Queen of China had given her daughter as a charm, to keep her, as she said, from any harm as long as she had it about her.
The prince, the better to look at the talisman, took it out to the light, the tent being dark; and while he was holding it up in his hand, a bird darted down from the air and snatched it away from him.
Imagine the concern and grief of Prince Camaralzaman when he saw the bird fly away with the talisman. He was more troubled at it than words can express, and cursed his unseasonable curiosity, by which his dear princess had lost a treasure that was so precious and so much valued by her.
The bird having got her prize settled on the ground not far off, with the talisman in her mouth. The prince drew near, in hopes she would drop it; but, as he approached, the bird took wing, and settled again on the ground further off. Camaralzaman followed, and the bird, having swallowed the talisman, took a further flight: the prince still followed; the further she flew, the more eager he grew in pursuing her. Thus the bird drew him along from hill to valley, and valley to hill all day, every step leading him further away from the field where he had left his camp and the Princess Badoura; and instead of perching at night on a bush where he might probably have taken her, she roosted on a high tree, safe from pursuit. The prince, vexed to the heart for taking so much pains to no purpose, thought of returning to the camp; 'but,' said he to himself, 'which way shall I return? Shall I go down the hills and valleys which I passed over? Shall I wander in darkness? and will my strength bear me out? How dare I appear before my princess without her talisman?' Overwhelmed with such thoughts, and tired with the pursuit, he lay down under a tree, where he passed the night.
He awoke the next morning before the bird had left the tree, and, as soon as he saw her on the wing, followed her again that whole day, with no better success, eating nothing but herbs and fruits all the way. He did the same for ten days together, pursuing the bird, and keeping his eye upon her from morning to night, always lying under the tree where she roosted. On the eleventh day the bird continued flying, and came near a great city. When the bird came to the walls, she flew over them and the prince saw no more of her; so he despaired of ever recovering the Princess Badoura's talisman.
Camaralzaman, whose grief was beyond expression, went into the city, which was built by the seaside, and had a fine port; he walked up and down the streets without knowing where he was, or where to stop. At last he came to the port, in as great uncertainty as ever what he should do. Walking along the river-side, he perceived the gate of a garden open, and an old gardener at work. The good man looked up and saw that he was a stranger and a Mussulman, so he asked him to come in, and to shut the door after him.
Camaralzaman entered, and, as the gardener bade him shut the door, demanded of the gardener why he was so cautious.
'Because,' replied the old man, 'I see you are a stranger newly arrived, and a Mussulman, and this city is inhabited for the most part by idolaters, who have a mortal aversion to us Mussulmans, and treat those few of us that are here with great barbarity. I suppose you did not know this, and it is a miracle that you have escaped as you have thus far, these idolaters being very apt to fall upon the Mussulmans that are strangers, or to draw them into a snare, unless those strangers know how to beware of them.'
Camaralzaman thanked the honest gardener for his advice, and the safety he offered him in his house: he would have said more, but the good man interrupted him, saying, 'You are weary, and must want to refresh yourself. Come in and rest.' He conducted him into his little hut, and after the prince had eaten heartily of what he set before him, he requested him to relate how he came there.
Camaralzaman complied with his request, and when he had ended his story, he asked him which was the nearest way to the king his father's territories; 'for it is in vain,' said he, 'for me to think of finding my princess where I left her, after wandering eleven days from the spot. Ah!' continued he, 'how do I know she is alive?' and so saying, he burst into tears.
The gardener replied that there was no possibility of his going thither by land, the roads were so difficult and the journey so long; besides, he must necessarily pass through the countries of so many barbarous nations that he would never reach his father's. It was a year's journey from the city where he was to any country inhabited only by Mussulmans; the quickest passage for him would be to go to the Isle of Ebony, whence he might easily transport himself to the Isles of the Children of Khaledan: a ship sailed from the port every year to Ebony, and he might take that opportunity of returning to those islands. 'The ship departed,' said the gardener, 'but a few days ago: if you had come a little sooner you might have taken your passage in it. If you will wait the year round until it makes the voyage again, and will stay with me in my house, such as it is, you will be as welcome to it as to your own.'
Prince Camaralzaman was glad he had met with such a place of refuge, in a place where he had no acquaintances. He accepted the offer, and lived with the gardener till the time came that the ship was to sail to the Isle of Ebony. He spent his time in working all day in the garden, and all night in sighs, tears and complaints, thinking of his dear Princess Badoura.
We must leave him in this place, to return to the princess, whom we left asleep in her tent.
The princess slept a long time, and, when she awoke, wondered that Prince Camaralzaman was not with her; she called her women, and asked them if they knew where he was. They told her they saw him enter the tent, but did not see him go out again. While they were talking to her, she took up her girdle, found the little purse open, and the talisman gone. She did not doubt but that Camaralzaman had taken it to see what it was, and that he would bring it back with him. She waited for him impatiently till night, and could not imagine what made him stay away from her so long.
When it was quite dark, and she could hear no news of him, she fell into violent grief; she cursed the talisman, and the man that made it. She could not imagine how her talisman should have caused the prince's separation from her: she did not however lose her judgment, and came to a courageous decision as to what she should do.
She only and her women knew of the prince's being gone; for his men were asleep in their tents. The princess, fearing they would betray her if they had any knowledge of it, moderated her grief, and forbade her women to say or do anything that might create the least suspicion. She then laid aside her robe, and put on one of Prince Camaralzaman's, being so like him that next day, when she came out, his men took her for him.
She commanded them to pack up their baggage and begin their march; and when all things were ready, she ordered one of her women to go into her litter, she herself mounting on horseback, and riding by her side.
They travelled for several months by land and sea; the princess continuing, the journey under the name of Camaralzaman. They took the Isle of Ebony on their way to the Isles of the Children of Khaledan. They went to the capital of the Isle of Ebony, where a king reigned whose name was Armanos. The persons who first landed gave out that the ship carried Prince Camaralzaman, who was returning from a long voyage and was driven in there by a storm, and the news of his arrival was presently carried to the court.
King Armanos, accompanied by most of his courtiers, went immediately to meet the prince, and met the princess just as she was landing, and going to the lodging that had been taken for her. He received her as the son of a king who was his friend, and conducted her to the palace, where an apartment was prepared for her and all her attendants, though she would fain have excused herself, and have lodged in a private house. He showed her all possible honour, and entertained her for three days with extraordinary magnificence. At the end of this time, King Armanos, understanding that the princess, whom he still took for Prince Camaralzaman, talked of going on board again to proceed on her voyage, charmed with the air and qualities of such an accomplished prince as he took her to be, seized an opportunity when she was alone, and spoke to her in this manner: 'You see, prince, that I am old, and cannot hope to live long; and, to my great mortification, I have not a son to whom I may leave my crown. Heaven has only blest me with one daughter, the Princess Haiatalnefous whose beauty cannot be better matched than with a prince of your rank and accomplishments. Instead of going home, stay and marry her from my hand, with my crown, which I resign in your favour. It is time for me to rest, and nothing could be a greater pleasure to me in my retirement than to see my people ruled by so worthy a successor to my throne.'
The King of the Isle of Ebony's generous offer to bestow his only daughter in marriage, and with her his kingdom, on the Princess Badoura, put her into unexpected perplexity. She thought it would not become a princess of her rank to undeceive the king, and to own that she was not Prince Camaralzaman, but his wife, when she had assured him that she was he himself, whose part she had hitherto acted so well. She was also afraid refuse the honour he offered her, lest, as he was much bent upon the marriage, his kindness might turn to aversion and hatred, and he might attempt something even against her life. Besides, she was not sure whether she might not find Prince Camaralzaman in the court of King Schahzaman his father.
These considerations, added to the prospect of obtaining a kingdom for the prince her husband, in case she found him again, determined her to accept the proposal of King Armanos, and marry his daughter; so after having stood silent for some minutes, she with blushes, which the king took for a sign of modesty, answered, 'Sir, I am infinitely obliged to your majesty for your good opinion of me, for the honour you do me, and the great favour you offer me, which I cannot pretend to merit, and dare not refuse.
'But, sir,' continued she, 'I cannot accept this great alliance on any other condition than that your majesty will assist me with your counsel, and that I do nothing without first having your approbation.'
The marriage treaty being thus concluded and agreed on, the ceremony was put off till next day. In the mean time Princess Badoura gave notice to her officers, who still took her for Prince Camaralzaman, of what she was going to do so that they might not be surprised at it, assuring them that the Princess Badoura consented. She talked also to her women, and charged them to continue to keep the secret.
The King of the Isle of Ebony, rejoicing that he had got a son-in- law so much to his satisfaction, next morning summoned his council, and acquainted them with his design of marrying his daughter to Prince Camaralzaman, whom he introduced to them; and having made him sit down by his side, told them he resigned the crown to the prince, and required them to acknowledge him for king, and swear fealty to him. Having said this, he descended from his throne, and the Princess Badoura, by his order, ascended it. As soon as the council broke up, the new king was proclaimed through the city, rejoicings were appointed for several days, and couriers despatched all over the kingdom to see the same ceremonies observed with the same demonstrations of joy.
As soon as they were alone, the Princess Badoura told the Princess Haiatalnefous the secret, and begged her to keep it, which she promised faithfully to do.
'Princess,' said Haiatalnefous, 'your fortune is indeed strange, that a marriage, so happy as yours was, should be shortened by so unaccountable an accident. Pray heaven you may meet with your husband again soon, and be sure that I will religiously keep the secret committed to me. It will be to me the greatest pleasure in the world to be the only person in the great kingdom of the Isle of Ebony who knows what and who you are, while you go on governing the people as happily as you have begun. I only ask of you at present to be your friend.' Then the two princesses tenderly embraced each other, and after a thousand expressions of mutual friendship lay down to rest.
While these things were taking place in the court of the Isle of Ebony, Prince Camaralzaman stayed in the city of idolaters with the gardener, who had offered him his house till the ship sailed.
One morning when the prince was up early, and, as he used to do, was preparing to work in the garden, the gardener prevented him, saying, 'This day is a great festival among the idolaters, and because they abstain from all work themselves, so as to spend the time in their assemblies and public rejoicings, they will not let the Mussulmans work. Their shows are worth seeing. You will have nothing to do to-day: I leave you here. As the time approaches in which the ship is accustomed to sail for the Isle of Ebony, I will go and see some of my friends, and secure you a passage in it.' The gardener put on his best clothes, and went out.
When Prince Camaralzaman was alone, instead of going out to take part in the public joy of the city, the solitude he was in brought to his mind, with more than usual violence, the loss of his dear princess. He walked up and down the garden sighing and groaning, till the noise which two birds made on a neighbouring tree tempted him to lift up his head, and stop to see what was the matter.
Camaralzaman was surprised to behold a furious battle between these two birds, fighting one another with their beaks. In a very little while one of them fell down dead at the foot of a tree; the bird that was victorious took wing again, and flew away.
In an instant, two other large birds, that had seen the fight at a distance, came from the other side of the garden, and pitched on the ground one at the feet and the other at the head of the dead bird: they looked at it some time, shaking their heads in token of grief; after which they dug a grave with their talons, and buried it.
When they had filled up the grave with the earth they flew away, and returned in a few minutes, bringing with them the bird that had committed the murder, the one holding one of its wings in its beak, and the other one of its legs; the criminal all the while crying out in a doleful manner, and struggling to escape. They carried it to the grave of the bird which it had lately sacrificed to its rage, and there sacrificed it in just revenge for the murder it had committed. They killed the murderer with their beaks. They then opened it, tore out the entrails, left the body on the spot unburied, and flew away.
Camaralzaman remained in great astonishment all the time that he stood beholding this sight. He drew near the tree, and casting his eyes on the scattered entrails of the bird that was last killed, he spied something red hanging out of its body. He took it up, and found it was his beloved Princess Badoura's talisman, which had cost him so much pain and sorrow and so many sighs since the bird snatched it out of his hand. 'Ah, cruel monster!' said he to himself, still looking at the bird, 'thou tookest delight in doing mischief, so I have the less reason to complain of that which thou didst to me: but the greater it was, the more do I wish well to those that revenged my quarrel on thee, in punishing thee for the murder of one of their own kind.'
It is impossible to express Prince Camaralzaman's joy: 'Dear princess,' continued he to himself, 'this happy minute, which restores to me a treasure so precious to thee, is without doubt a presage of our meeting again, perhaps even sooner than I think.'
So saying, he kissed the talisman, wrapped it up in a ribbon, and tied it carefully about his arm. Till now he had been almost every night a stranger to rest, his trouble always keeping him awake, but the next night he slept soundly: he rose somewhat later the next morning than he was accustomed to do, put on his working clothes, and went to the gardener for orders. The good man bade him root up an old tree which bore no fruit.
Camaralzaman took an axe, and began his work. In cutting off a branch of the root, he found that his axe struck against something that resisted the blow and made a great noise. He removed the earth, and discovered a broad plate of brass, under which was a staircase of ten steps. He went down, and at the bottom saw a cavity about six yards square, with fifty brass urns placed in order around it, each with a cover over it. He opened them all, one after another, and there was not one of them which was not full of gold-dust. He came out of the cave, rejoicing that he had found such a vast treasure: he put the brass plate over the staircase, and rooted up the tree against the gardener's return.
The gardener had learned the day before that the ship which was bound for the Isle of Ebony would sail in a few days, but the exact time was not yet fixed. His friend promised to let him know the day, if he called upon him on the morrow; and while Camaralzaman was rooting up the tree, he went to get his answer. He returned with a joyful countenance, by which the prince guessed that he brought him good news. 'Son,' said the old man (so he always called him, on account of the difference of age between him and the prince), 'be joyful, and prepare to embark in three days, for the ship will then certainly set sail: I have arranged with the captain for your passage.'
'In my present situation,' replied Camaralzaman, 'you could not bring me more agreeable news; and in return, I have also tidings that will be as welcome to you; come along with me, and you shall see what good fortune heaven has in store for you.'
The prince led the gardener to the place where he had rooted up the tree, made him go down into the cave, and when he was there showed him what a treasure he had discovered, and thanked Providence for rewarding his virtue, and the labour he had done for so many years.
'What do you mean?' replied the gardener: 'do you imagine I will take these riches as mine? They are yours: I have no right to them. For fourscore years, since my father's death, I have done nothing but dig in this garden, and could not discover this treasure, which is a sign that it was destined for you, since you have been permitted to find it. It suits a prince like you, rather than me: I have one foot in the grave, and am in no want of anything. Providence has bestowed it upon you, just when you are returning to that country which will one day be your own, where you will make a good use of it.'
Prince Camaralzaman would not be outdone in generosity by the gardener. They had a long dispute about it. At last the prince solemnly protested that he would have none of it, unless the gardener would divide it with him and take half. The good man, to please the prince, consented; so they parted it between them, and each had twenty-five urns.
Having thus divided it, 'Son,' said the gardener to the prince, 'it is not enough that you have got this treasure; we must now contrive how to carry it so privately on board the ship that nobody may know anything of the matter, otherwise you will run the risk of losing it. There are no olives in the Isle of Ebony, and those that are exported hence are wanted there; you know I have plenty of them; take what you will; fill fifty pots, half with the gold dust, and half with olives, and I will get them carried to the ship when you embark.'
Camaralzaman followed this good advice, and spent the rest of the day in packing up the gold and the olives in the fifty pots, and fearing lest the talisman, which he wore on his arm, might be lost again, he carefully put it into one of the pots, marking it with a particular mark, to distinguish it from the rest. When they were all ready to be shipped, the prince retired with the gardener, and talking together, he related to him the battle of the birds, and how he had found the Princess Badoura's talisman again. The gardener was equally surprised and joyful to hear it for his sake.
Whether the old man was quite worn out with age, or had exhausted himself too much that day, he had a very bad night; he grew worse the next day, and on the third day, when the prince was to embark, was so ill that it was plain he was near his end. As soon as day broke, the captain of the ship came in person with several seamen to the gardener's; they knocked at the garden-door, and Camaralzaman opened it to them. They asked him where the passenger was that was to go with him. The prince answered, 'I am he; the gardener who arranged with you for my passage is ill, and cannot be spoken with: come in, and let your men carry those pots of olives and my baggage aboard. I will only take leave of the gardener, and follow you.'
The seamen took up the pots and the baggage, and the captain bade the prince make haste, for the wind being fair they were waiting for nothing but him.
When the captain and his men were gone, Camaralzaman went to the gardener, to take leave of him, and thank him for all his good offices: but he found him in the agonies of death, and had scarcely time to bid him rehearse the articles of his faith, which all good Mussulmans do before they die, when the gardener expired in his presence.
The prince being under the necessity of embarking immediately hastened to pay the last duty to the deceased. He washed his body, buried him in his own garden (for the Mahometans had no cemetery in the city of the idolaters, where they were only tolerated), and as he had nobody to assist him it was almost evening before he had put him in the ground. As soon as he had done it he ran to the water- side, carrying with him the key of the garden, intending, if he had time, to give it to the landlord; otherwise to deposit it in some trusty person's hand before a witness, that he might leave it when he was gone. When he came to the port, he was told the ship had sailed several hours before he came and was already out of sight. It had waited three hours for him, and the wind standing fair, the captain dared not stay any longer.
It is easy to imagine that Prince Camaralzaman was exceedingly grieved to be forced to stay longer in a country where he neither had nor wished to have any acquaintance: to think that he must wait another twelvemonth for the opportunity he had lost. But the greatest affliction of all was his having let go the Princess Badoura's talisman, which he now gave over for lost. The only course that was left for him to take was to return to the garden to rent it of the landlord, and to continue to cultivate it by himself, deploring his misery and misfortunes. He hired a boy to help him to do some part of the drudgery; and that he might not lose the other half of the treasure, which came to him by the death of the gardener, who died without heirs, he put the gold-dust into fifty other pots, which he filled up with olives, to be ready against the time of the ship's return.
While Prince Camaralzaman began another year of labour, sorrow and impatience, the ship, having a fair wind, continued her voyage to the Isle of Ebony, and happily arrived at the capital.
The palace being by the sea-side, the new king, or rather the Princess Badoura, espying the ship as she was entering the port, with all her flags flying, asked what vessel it was; she was told that it came annually from the city of the idolaters, and was generally richly laden.
The princess, who always had Prince Camaralzaman in her mind amidst the glories which surrounded her, imagined that the prince might be on board, and resolved to go down to the ship and meet him. Under presence of inquiring what merchandise was on board, and having the first sight of the goods, and choosing the most valuable, she commanded a horse to be brought, which she mounted, and rode to the port, accompanied by several officers in waiting, and arrived at the port just as the captain came ashore. She ordered him to be brought before her, and asked whence he came, how long he had been on his voyage, and what good or bad fortune he had met with: if he had any stranger of quality on board, and particularly with what his ship was laden.
The captain gave a satisfactory answer to all her demands; and as to passengers, assured her that there were none but merchants in his ship, who were used to come every year and bring rich stuffs from several parts of the world to trade with, the finest linens painted and plain, diamonds, musk, ambergris, camphor, civet, spices, drugs, olives, and many other articles.
The Princess Badoura loved olives extremely: when she heard the captain speak of them, she said, 'Land them, I will take them off your hands: as to the other goods, tell the merchants to bring them to me, and let me see them before they dispose of them, or show them to any one else.'
The captain, taking her for the King of the Isle of Ebony, replied, 'Sire, there are fifty great pots of olives, but they belong to a merchant whom I was forced to leave behind. I gave him notice myself that I was waiting for him, and waited a long time; but as he did not come, and the wind was good, I was afraid of losing it, and so set sail.'
The princess answered, 'No matter; bring them ashore; we will make a bargain for them.'
The captain sent his boat aboard, and in a little time it returned with the pots of olives. The princess demanded how much the fifty pots might be worth in the Isle of Ebony. 'Sir,' said the captain, 'the merchant is very poor, and your majesty will do him a singular favour if you give him a thousand pieces of silver.'
'To satisfy him,' replied the princess, 'and because you tell me he is poor, I will order you a thousand pieces of gold for him, which do you take care to give him.' The money was accordingly, paid, and the pots carried to the palace in her presence.
Night was drawing on when the princess withdrew into the inner palace, and went to the Princess Haiatalnefous' apartment, ordering the fifty pots of olives to be brought thither. She opened one, to let the Princess Haiatalnefous taste them, and poured them into a dish. Great was her astonishment when she found the olives mingled with gold-dust. 'What can this mean?' said she, 'it is wonderful beyond comprehension.' Her curiosity increasing, she ordered Haiatalnefous' women to open and empty all the pots in her presence; and her wonder was still greater, when she saw that the olives in all of them were mixed with gold-dust; but when she saw her talisman drop out of that into which the prince had put it, she was so surprised that she fainted away. The Princess Haiatalnefous and her women restored the Princess Badoura by throwing cold water on her face. When she recovered her senses, she took the talisman and kissed it again and again; but not being willing that the Princess Haiatalnefous's women, who were ignorant of her disguise, should hear what she said, she dismissed them.
'Princess,' said she to Haiatalnefous, as soon as they were gone, 'you, who have heard my story, surely guessed that it was at the sight of the talisman that I fainted. This is the talisman, the fatal cause of my losing my dear husband Prince Camaralzaman; but as it was that which caused our separation, so I foresee it will be the means of our meeting again soon.'
The next day, as soon as it was light, she sent for the captain of the ship; and when he came she spoke to him thus: 'I want to know something more of the merchant to whom the olives belong, that I bought of you yesterday. I think you told me you had left him behind you in the city of the idolaters: can you tell me what he is doing there?'
'Yes, sire,' replied the captain, 'I can speak on my own knowledge. I arranged for his passage with a very old gardener, who told me I should find him in his garden, where he worked under him. He showed me the place, and for that reason I told your majesty he was poor. I went there to call him. I told him what haste I was in, spoke to him myself in the garden, and cannot be mistaken in the man.'
'If what you say is true,' replied the Princess Badoura, 'you must set sail this very day for the city of idolaters, and fetch me that gardener's man, who is my debtor; else I will not only confiscate all your goods and those of your merchants, but your and their lives shall answer for his. I have ordered my seal to be put on the warehouses where they are, which shall not be taken off till you bring me that man. This is all I have to say to you; go, and do as I command you.'
The captain could make no reply to this order, the disobeying of which would be a very great loss to him and his merchants. He told them about it, and they hastened him away as fast as they could after he had laid in a stock of provisions and fresh water for his voyage. They were so diligent, that he set sail the same day. He had a prosperous voyage to the city of the idolaters, where he arrived in the night. When he was as near to the city as he thought convenient, he would not cast anchor, but let the ship ride off the shore; and going into his boat, with six of his stoutest seamen, he landed a little way off the port, whence he went directly to Camaralzaman's garden.
Though it was about midnight when he arrived there, the prince was not asleep. His separation from the fair Princess of China his wife afflicted him as usual. He cursed the minute in which his curiosity tempted him to touch the fatal girdle.
Thus did he pass those hours which are devoted to rest, when he heard somebody knock at the garden door. He ran hastily to it, half-dressed as he was; but he had no sooner opened it, than the captain and his seamen took hold of him, and carried him by force on board the boat, and so to the ship, and as soon as he was safely lodged, they set sail immediately, and made the best of their way to the Isle of Ebony.
Hitherto Camaralzaman, the captain, and his men had not said a word to one another; at last the prince broke silence, and asked the captain, whom he recognized, why they had taken him away by force? The captain in his turn demanded of the prince whether he was not a debtor of the King of Ebony?
'I the King of Ebony's debtor!' replied Camaralzaman in amazement; 'I do not know him, I never had anything to do with him in my life, and never set foot in his kingdom.'
The captain answered, 'You should know that better than I; you will talk to him yourself in a little while: till then, stay here and have patience.'
Though it was night when he cast anchor in the port, the captain landed immediately, and taking Prince Camaralzaman with him hastened to the palace, where he demanded to be introduced to the king.
The Princess Badoura had withdrawn into the inner palace; however, as soon as she had heard of the captain's return and Camaralzaman's arrival, she came out to speak to him. As soon as she set her eyes on the prince, for whom she had shed so many tears, she knew him in his gardener's clothes. As for the prince, who trembled in the presence of a king, as he thought her, to whom he was to answer for an imaginary debt, it did not enter into his head that the person whom he so earnestly desired to see stood before him. If the princess had followed the dictates of her inclination, she would have run to him and embraced him, but she put a constraint on herself, believing that it was for the interest of both that she should act the part of a king a little longer before she made herself known. She contented herself for the present with putting him into the hands of an officer, who was then in waiting, with a charge to take care of him till the next day.
When the Princess Badoura had provided for Prince Camaralzaman, she turned to the captain, whom she was now to reward for the important service he had done her. She commanded another officer to go immediately and take the seal off the warehouse where his and his merchants' goods were, and gave him a rich diamond, worth much more than the expense of both his voyages. She bade him besides keep the thousand pieces of gold she had given him for the pots of olives, telling him she would make up the account with the merchant herself.
This done, she retired to the Princess of the Isle of Ebony's apartment, to whom she communicated her joy, praying her to keep the secret still. She told her how she intended to manage to reveal herself to Prince Camaralzaman, and to give him the kingdom.
The Princess of the Isle of Ebony was so far from betraying her, that she rejoiced and entered fully into the plan.
The next morning the Princess of China ordered Prince Camaralzaman to be apparelled in the robes of an emir or governor of a province. She commanded him to be introduced into the council, where his fine person and majestic air drew all the eyes of the lords there present upon him.
The Princess Badoura herself was charmed to see him again, as handsome as she had often seen him, and her pleasure inspired her to speak the more warmly in his praise. When she addressed herself to the council, having ordered the prince to take his seat among the emirs, she spoke to them thus: 'My lords, this emir whom I have advanced to the same dignity with you is not unworthy the place assigned him. I have known enough of him in my travels to answer for him, and I can assure you he will make his merit known to all of you.'
Camaralzaman was extremely amazed to hear the King of the Isle of Ebony, whom he was far from taking for a woman, much less for his dear princess, name him, and declare that he knew him, while he thought himself certain that he had never seen him before in his life. He was much more surprised when he heard him praise him so excessively. Those praises, however, did not disconcert him, though he received them with such modesty as showed that he did not grow vain. He prostrated himself before the throne of the king, and rising again, 'Sire,' said he, 'I want words to express my gratitude to your majesty for the honour you have done me: I shall do all in my power to render myself worthy of your royal favour.'
From the council-board the prince was conducted to a palace, which the Princess Badoura had ordered to be fitted up for him; where he found officers and domestics ready to obey his commands, a stable full of fine horses, and everything suitable to the rank of an emir. Then the steward of his household brought him a strong box full of gold for his expenses.
The less he understood whence came his great good fortune, the more he admired it, but never once imagined that he owed it to the Princess of China.
Two or three days after, the Princess Badoura, that he might be nearer to her, and in a more distinguished post, made him high treasurer, which office had lately become vacant. He behaved himself in his new charge with so much integrity, yet obliging everybody, that he not only gained the friendship of the great but also the affections of the people, by his uprightness and bounty.
Camaralzaman would have been the happiest man in the world, if he had had his princess with him. In the midst of his good fortune he never ceased lamenting her, and grieved that he could hear no tidings of her, especially in a country where she must necessarily have come on her way to his father's court after their separation. He would have suspected something had the Princess Badoura still gone by the name of Camaralzaman, but on her accession to the throne she changed it, and took that of Armanos, in honour of the old king her father-in-law. She was now known only by the name of the young King Armanos. There were very few courtiers who knew that she had ever been called Camaralzaman, which name she assumed when she arrived at the court of the Isle of Ebony, nor had Camaralzaman so much acquaintance with any of them yet as to learn more of her history.
The princess fearing he might do so in time, and desiring that he should owe the discovery to herself only, resolved to put an end to her own torment and his; for she had observed that as often as she discoursed with him about the affairs of his office, he fetched such deep sighs as could be addressed to nobody but her. She herself also lived under such constraint that she could endure it no longer.
The Princess Badoura had no sooner made this decision with the Princess Haiatalnefous, than she took Prince Camaralzaman aside, saying, 'I must talk with you about an affair, Camaralzaman, which requires much consideration, and on which I want your advice. Come hither in the evening, and leave word at home that you will not return; I will take care to provide you a bed.'
Camaralzaman came punctually to the palace at the hour appointed by the princess; she took him with her into the inner apartment, and having told the chief chamberlain, who was preparing to follow her, that she had no occasion for his service, and that he should only keep the door shut, she took him into a different apartment.
When the prince and princess entered the chamber she shut the door, and, taking the talisman out of a little box, gave it to Camaralzaman, saying, 'It is not long since an astrologer presented me with this talisman; you being skilful in all things, may perhaps tell me its use.'
Camaralzaman took the talisman, and drew near a lamp to look at it. As soon as he recollected it, with an astonishment which gave the princess great pleasure, 'Sire,' said he to the princess, 'your majesty asked me what this talisman is good for. Alas! it is only good to kill me with grief and despair, if I do not quickly find the most charming and lovely princess in the world to whom it belonged, whose loss it occasioned by a strange adventure, the very recital of which will move your majesty to pity such an unfortunate husband and lover, if you would have patience to hear it.'
'You shall tell me that another time,' replied the princess; 'I am very glad to tell you I know something of it already; stay here a little, and I will return to you in a moment.'
At these words she went into her dressing-room, put off her royal turban, and in a few minutes dressed herself like a woman; and having the girdle round her which she wore on the day of their separation, she entered the chamber.
Prince Camaralzaman immediately knew his dear princess, ran to her, and tenderly embraced her, crying out, 'How much I am obliged to the king, who has so agreeably surprised me!'
'Do not expect to see the king any more,' replied the princess, embracing him in her turn, with tears in her eyes; 'you see him in me: sit down, and I will explain this enigma to you.'
They sat down, and the princess told the prince the resolution she came to, in the field where they encamped the last time they were together, as soon as she perceived that she waited for him to no purpose; how she went through with it till she arrived at the Isle of Ebony, where she had been obliged to marry the Princess Haiatalnefous, and accept the crown which King Armanos offered her as a condition of the marriage: how the princess, whose merit she highly extolled, had kept the secret, and how she found the talisman in the pots of olives mingled with the gold dust, and how the finding it was the cause of her sending for him to the city of the idolaters.
The Princess Badoura and Prince Camaralzaman rose next morning as soon as it was light, but the princess would no more put on her royal robes as king; she dressed herself in the dress of a woman, and then sent the chief chamberlain to King Armanos, her father-in- law to desire he would be so good as to come to her apartment.
When the king entered the chamber, he was amazed to see there a lady who was unknown to him, and the high treasurer with her, who was not permitted to come within the inner palace. He sat down and asked where the king was.
The princess answered, 'Yesterday I was king, sir, and to-day I am the Princess of China, wife of the true Prince Camaralzaman, the true son of King Schahzaman. If your majesty will have the patience to hear both our stories, I hope you will not condemn me for putting an innocent deceit upon you.' The king bade her go on, and heard her discourse from the beginning to the end with astonishment. The princess on finishing it said to him, 'Sir, in our religion men may have several wives; if your majesty will consent to give your daughter the Princess Haiatalnefous in marriage to Prince Camaralzaman, I will with all my heart yield up to her the rank and quality of queen, which of right belongs to her, and content myself with the second place. If this precedence was not her due, I would, however, give it her, after she has kept my secret so generously.'
King Armanos listened to the princess with astonishment, and when she had done, turned to Prince Camaralzaman, saying, 'Son, since the Princess Badoura your wife, whom I have all along thought to be my son-in-law, through a deceit of which I cannot complain, assures me that she is willing, I have nothing more to do but to ask you if you are willing to marry my daughter and accept the crown, which the Princess Badoura would deservedly wear as long as she lived, if she did not quit it out of love to you.'
'Sir,' replied Prince Camaralzaman, 'though I desire nothing so earnestly as to see the king my father, yet the obligation I am under to your majesty and the Princess Haiatalnefous are so weighty, I can refuse her nothing.' Camaralzaman was proclaimed king, and married the same day with all possible demonstrations of joy.
Not long afterwards they all resumed the long interrupted journey to the Isles of the Children of Khaledan, where they were fortunate enough to find the old King Schahzaman still alive and overjoyed to see his son once more; and after several months' rejoicing, King Camaralzaman and the two queens returned to the Island of Ebony, where they lived in great happiness for the remainder of their lives.
THE STORY OF ZOBEIDE TOLD BY HERSELF
The following story is one of the strangest that ever was heard. Two black dogs long dwelt with me in my house, and were very affectionately disposed towards me. These two black dogs and myself were sisters, and I shall acquaint you by what strange accident they came to be metamorphosed. After our father's death, the estate that he left was equally divided among us. My two sisters and myself stayed with our mother, who was still alive, and when she died she left each of us a thousand sequins. As soon as we received our portions, the two elder (for I am the youngest), being married, followed their husbands and left me alone. Some time after, my eldest sister's husband sold all that he had, and with that money and my sister's portion they both went into Africa, where her husband, by riotous living, spent all; and finding himself reduced to poverty, he found a pretext for divorcing my sister, and sent her away.
She returned to this city, and, having suffered incredible hardships by the way, came to me in so lamentable a condition that it would have moved the hardest heart to compassion. I received her with all the tenderness she could expect, and on my inquiring into the cause of her sad condition, she told me with tears how inhumanly her husband had dealt with her. I was so much concerned at her misfortune that it drew tears from my eyes: I clothed her with my own apparel, and spoke to her thus: 'Sister, you are the elder, and I esteem you as my mother: during your absence, God has blessed the portion that fell to my share, and the employment I follow of feeding and bringing up silk-worms. Assure yourself that there is nothing I have but is at your service, and as much at your disposal as my own.'
We lived very comfortably together for some months; and one day as we were discoursing together about our third sister, and wondering we heard no news of her, she came home in as bad a condition as the elder; her husband had treated her after the same manner: and I received her likewise with the same affection as I had done the other.
Some time after, my two sisters, on the ground that they would not be an expense to me, told me they intended to marry again. I answered them, that if their putting me to expense was all the reason they might lay those thoughts aside, and be very welcome to stay with me; for what I had would be sufficient to maintain us all three in a manner suitable to our condition. 'But,' said I, 'I rather believe you have a mind to marry again. If you do, I am sure it will very much surprise me: after the experience you have had of the small satisfaction there is in marriage, is it possible you dare venture a second time? You know how rare it is to meet with a husband that is a really honest man. Believe what I say, and let us live together as comfortably as we can.' All my persuasion was in vain; they were resolved to marry, and so they did. But after some months were past they came back again, and begged my pardon a thousand times for not following my advice. 'You are our youngest sister,' said they, 'and much wiser than we; but if you will vouchsafe to receive us once more into your house and account us your slaves, we shall never commit such a fault again.' My answer was, 'Dear sisters, I have not altered my mind with respect to you since we last parted from one another; come again and take part of what I have.' Upon this I embraced them again, and we lived together as we did formerly.
We continued thus a whole year in perfect love and tranquillity; and seeing that God had increased my small stock, I projected a voyage by sea, to hazard somewhat by trade. To this end I went with my two sisters to Balsora, where I bought a ship ready fitted for sea, and laded her with such merchandise as I brought from Bagdad. We set sail with a fair wind, and soon cleared the Persian gulf; and when we got into the ocean we steered our course to the Indies, and on the twentieth day saw land. It was a very high mountain, at the foot of which we saw a great town, and having a fresh wind we soon reached the harbour, where we cast anchor.
I had not patience to stay till my sisters were ready to go with me, but went ashore in the boat by myself; and, making directly for the gate of the town, I saw there a great number of men on guard, some sitting and others standing, with sticks in their hands; and they had all such dreadful countenances that it frightened me; but perceiving they had no motion, not so much as with their eyes, I took courage, and went nearer, and then found they were all turned into stone. I entered the town and passed through the several streets, wherein men stood everywhere in various attitudes, but all motionless and petrified. On that side where the merchants lived I found most of the shops shut, and in such as were open I likewise found the people petrified. I looked up to the chimneys, but saw no smoke; which made me conjecture that the inhabitants both within and without were all turned into stone.
Being come into a vast square in the heart of the city, I perceived a great gate covered with plates of gold, the two doors of which stood open, and a curtain of silk stuff seemed to be drawn before it; I also saw a lamp hanging over the gate. After I had well considered, I made no doubt but that it was the palace of the prince who reigned over that country; and being very much astonished that I had not met with one living creature, I went thither in hopes to find some one. I entered the gate, and was still more surprised when I saw none but the guards in the porches, all petrified, some standing, some sitting, and some lying.
I crossed over a large court where I saw a stately building just before me, the windows of which were enclosed with gates of massive gold: I supposed it to be the queen's apartment, and went into a large hall, where there stood several black chamberlains turned into stone. I went from thence into a room richly hung and furnished, where I perceived a lady. I knew it to be the queen by the crown of gold that hung over her head, and a necklace of pearls about her neck, each of them as big as a nut; I went up close to her to view it, and never beheld a finer sight.
I stood some time and admired the riches and magnificence of the room; but above all, the footcloth, the cushions and the sofas, which were all lined with Indian stuff or gold, with pictures of men and beasts in silver admirably executed.
I went out of the chamber where the petrified queen was, and passed through several other apartments richly furnished, and at last came into a vast room, where was a throne of massive gold, raised several steps above the floor and enriched with large emeralds, and a bed upon the throne of rich stuff embroidered with pearls. What surprised me more than all the rest was a sparkling light which came from above the bed. Being curious to know from whence it came, I mounted the steps, and lifting up my head, I saw a diamond, as big as the egg of an ostrich, lying upon a low stool; it was so pure that I could not find the least blemish in it, and it sparkled so brightly that I could not endure the lustre of it when I saw it by daylight.
On each side of the bed's head there stood a lighted torch, but for what use I could not comprehend; however, it made me imagine that there was some living creature in this place, for I could not believe that these torches continued thus burning of themselves.
The doors being all open, or but half shut, I surveyed some other apartments that were as fine as those I had already seen. I looked into the offices and store-rooms, which were full of infinite riches, and I was so much taken with the sight of all the wonderful things that I forgot myself; and did not think of my ship or my sisters; my whole design was to satisfy my curiosity. Meantime night came on, which put me in mind that it was time to retire. I was for returning by the way I came in, but I could not find it; I lost myself among the apartments; and finding I was come back again to that large room where the throne, the couch, the large diamond, and the torches stood, I resolved to take my night's lodging there, and to depart the next morning betimes, to get aboard my ship. I laid myself down upon the couch, not without some dread of being alone in a desolate place; and this fear hindered my sleep.
About midnight I heard a voice like that of a man reading the Koran, after the same manner and in the same tone as we read in our mosques. Being extremely glad to hear it, I got up immediately, and, taking a torch in my hand to light me, I passed from one chamber to another on that side where the voice came from: I came to a door, where I stood still, nowise doubting that it came from thence. I set down my torch upon the ground, and looking through a window I found it to be an oratory. In short, it had, as we have in our mosques, a niche that shows where we must turn to say our prayers; there were also lamps hung up, and two candlesticks with large tapers of white wax burning.
I saw a little carpet laid down, like those we have to kneel upon when we say our prayers, and a comely young man sat upon this carpet, reading with great devotion the Koran, which lay before him upon a desk. At the sight of this I was transported with wonder. I wondered how it came to pass that he should be the only living creature in a town where all the people were turned into stones, and I did not doubt but that there was something in it very extraordinary.
The door being only half shut, I opened it and went in, and standing upright before the niche, I said this prayer aloud: 'Praise be to God, who has favoured us with a happy voyage, and may He be graciously pleased to protect us in the same manner until we arrive again in our own country. Hear me, O Lord, and grant my request.'
The young man cast his eyes upon me, and said, 'My good lady, pray let me know who you are, and what has brought you to this desolate city; and, in return, I will tell you who I am, what happened to me, why the inhabitants of this city are reduced to that state you see them in, and why I alone am safe and sound in the midst of such a terrible disaster.'
I told him in few words from whence I came, what made me undertake the voyage, and how I had safely arrived at the port after twenty days' sailing; and when I had done I prayed him to fulfil his promise, and told him how much I was struck by the frightful desolation which I had seen in all places as I came along.
'My dear lady,' said the young man, 'have patience for a moment.' At these words he shut the Koran, put it into a rich case, and laid it in the niche. I took that opportunity of observing him, and perceived so much good-nature and beauty in him that I felt strange emotion. He made me sit down by him; and before he began his discourse I could not forbear saying to him, 'Sir, I can scarcely have patience to wait for an account of all those wonderful things that I have seen since the first time I came into your city; and my curiosity cannot be satisfied too soon: therefore pray, sir, let me know by what miracle you alone are left alive among so many persons that have died in so strange a manner.'
'Madam,' said the young man, 'you have given me to understand that you have a knowledge of the true God by the prayer you have just now addressed to Him. I will acquaint you with the most remarkable effect of His greatness and power. You must know that this city was the metropolis of a mighty kingdom, over which the king, my father, did reign. He, his whole court, the inhabitants of the city, and all his other subjects were magi, worshippers of fire, and of Nardoun, the ancient king of the giants, who rebelled against God.
'And though I had an idolatrous father and mother, I had the good fortune in my youth to have a governess who was a good Mussulman; I learned the Koran by heart, and understood the explanation of it perfectly. "Dear prince," would she oftentimes say, "there is but one true God; take heed that you do not acknowledge and adore any other." She taught me to read Arabic, and the book she gave me to practice upon was the Koran. As soon as I was capable of understanding it, she explained to me all the heads of this excellent book, and infused piety into my mind, unknown to my father or anybody else. She happened to die, but not before she had instructed me in all that was necessary to convince me of the truth of the Mussulman religion. After her death I persisted with constancy in this belief; and I abhor the false god Nardoun, and the adoration of fire.
'It is about three years and some months ago that a thundering voice was heard, all of a sudden, so distinctly, through the whole city that nobody could miss hearing it. The words were these: "Inhabitants, abandon the worship of Nardoun, and of fire, and worship the only God that shows mercy."
'This voice was heard for three years successively, but nobody was converted: so on the last day of the year, at four o'clock in the morning, all the inhabitants were changed in an instant into stone, every one in the same condition and posture they happened to be then in. The king, my father, had the same fate, for he was metamorphosed into a black stone, as he is to be seen in this palace; and the queen, my mother, had the like destiny.
'I am the only person that did not suffer under that heavy judgment, and ever since I have continued to serve God with more fervency than before. I am persuaded, dear lady, that He has sent you hither for my comfort, for which I render Him infinite thanks; for I must own that this solitary life is very unpleasant.'
'Prince,' said I, 'there is no doubt that Providence hath brought me into your port to present you with an opportunity of withdrawing from this dismal place. The ship that I came in may in some measure persuade you that I am in some esteem at Bagdad, where I have also left a considerable estate; and I dare engage to promise you sanctuary there, until the mighty Commander of the Faithful, who is vice-regent to our Prophet, whom you acknowledge, shows you the honour that is due to your merit. This renowned prince lives at Bagdad, and as soon as he is informed of your arrival in his capital, you will find that it is not vain to implore his assistance. It is impossible you can stay any longer in a city where all the objects you see must renew your grief: my vessel is at your service, where you may absolutely command as you think fit.' He accepted the offer, and we discoursed the remaining part of the night about our sailing.
As soon as it was day we left the palace, and came aboard my ship, where we found my sisters, the captain, and the slaves, all very much troubled at my absence. After I had presented my sisters to the prince, I told them what had hindered my return to the vessel the day before, how I had met with the young prince, his story, and the cause of the desolation of so fine a city.
The seamen were taken up several days in unlading the merchandise I had brought with me, and embarking instead all the precious things in the palace, jewels, gold and money. We left the furniture and goods, which consisted of an infinite quantity of plate, etc., because our vessel could not carry it, for it would have required several vessels more to carry all the riches to Bagdad that we might have chosen to take with us.
After we had laden the vessel with what we thought fit, we took such provisions and water aboard as were necessary for our voyage (for we had still a great deal of those provisions left that we had taken in at Balsora): at last we set sail with a wind as favourable as we could wish.
The young prince, my sisters and myself enjoyed ourselves for some time very agreeably; but alas! this good understanding did not last long, for my sisters grew jealous of the friendship between the prince and me, and maliciously asked me one day what we should do with him when we came to Bagdad. I perceived immediately why they put this question to me; therefore, resolving to put it off with a jest, I answered them, 'I will take him for my husband'; and upon that, turning myself to the prince, 'Sir,' said I, 'I humbly beg of you to give your consent; for as soon as we come to Bagdad I design to do you all the service that is in my power and to resign myself wholly to your commands.'
The prince answered, 'I know not, madam, whether you be in jest or no; but for my own part I seriously declare, before these ladies your sisters, that from this moment I heartily accept your offer, as my lady and mistress. Nor will I pretend to have any power over your actions.' At these words my sisters changed colour, and I could perceive afterwards that they did not love me as formerly.
We had come into the Persian Gulf, not far from Balsora, where I hoped, considering the fair wind, we might arrive the day following; but in the night, when I was asleep, my sisters watched their time and threw me overboard. They did the same to the prince, who was drowned. I swam for some minutes in the water; but by good fortune, or rather miracle, I soon felt ground. I went towards a black place, that, so far as I could discern in the dark, seemed to be land, and actually was a flat on the coast. When day came, I found it to be a desert island, lying about twenty miles from Balsora. I soon dried my clothes in the sun; and as I walked along I found several sorts of fruit, and likewise fresh water, which gave me some hope of preserving my life.
I laid myself down in the shade and soon after I saw a winged serpent, very large and long, coming towards me, wriggling to the right and to the left, and hanging out his tongue, which made me think he was ill. I arose, and saw a larger serpent following him, holding him by the tail, and endeavouring to devour him. I had compassion on him, and instead of flying away, I had the boldness and courage to take up a stone that by chance lay by me, and threw it with all my strength at the great serpent, whom I hit on the head, and killed him. The other, finding himself at liberty, took to his wings and flew away. I looked a long while after him in the air, as an extraordinary thing; but he flew out of sight, and I lay down again in another place in the shade, and fell asleep.
When I awoke, judge how surprised I was to see by me a black woman, of lively and agreeable looks, who held, tied together in her hand, two dogs of the same colour. I sat up and asked her who she was. 'I am,' said she, 'the serpent whom you delivered not long since from my mortal enemy. I knew not how to acknowledge the great kindness you did me, but by doing what I have done. I knew the treachery of your sisters, and, to revenge you on them, as soon as I was set at liberty by your generous assistance I called several of my companions together, fairies like myself. We have carried into your storehouses at Bagdad all your lading that was in your vessel, and afterwards sunk it.
'These two black dogs are your sisters, whom I have transformed into this shape. But this punishment is not sufficient; for I will have you treat them after such a manner as I shall direct.'
At those words the fairy took me fast under one of her arms, and the two dogs in the other, and carried me to my house in Bagdad, where I found in my storehouses all the riches which were laden on board my vessel. Before she left me she delivered the two dogs, and told me, 'If you will not be changed into a dog as they are, I order you to give each of your sisters every night a hundred lashes with a rod, for the punishment of the crime they have committed against your person and the young prince whom they drowned.' I was forced to promise that I would obey her order. For many months I whipped them every night, though with regret. I gave evidence by my tears with how much sorrow and reluctance I must perform this cruel duty.
Now the fairy had left with me a bundle of hair, saying withal that her presence would one day be of use to me; and then, if I only burnt two tufts of this hair, she would be with me in a moment, though she were beyond Mount Caucasus.
Desirous at length to see the fairy and beg her to restore the two black dogs, my sisters, to their proper shape, I caused fire one day to be brought in, and threw the whole bundle of hair into it. The house began to shake at that very instant, and the fairy appeared in the form of a lady very richly dressed.
I besought her, with every form of entreaty I could employ, to restore my sisters to their natural shape, and to release me from the cruel duty that I had always unwillingly performed.
The fairy at length consented, and desired a bowl of water to be brought; she pronounced over it some words which I did not understand, and then sprinkled the water upon the dogs. They immediately became two ladies of surprising beauty, and I recognised in them the sisters to whose human form I had so long been a stranger. They soon after married the sons of kings, and lived happily for the rest of their lives.
THE STORY OF THE KING'S SON.
I was scarcely past my infancy when the king my father perceived that I was endowed with a great deal of sense, and spared nothing in improving it; he employed all the men in his dominions that excelled in science and art to be constantly about me. No sooner was I able to read and write than I learned the Koran from the beginning to the end by heart; that admirable book which contains the foundation, the precepts, and the rules of our religion; and that I might be thoroughly instructed in it, I read the works of the most approved authors, by whose commentaries it had been explained. I added to this study that of all the traditions collected from the mouth of our Prophet by the great men that were contemporary with him. I was not satisfied with the knowledge of all that had any relation to our religion, but made also a particular search into our histories. I made myself perfect in polite learning, in the works of poets, and in versification. I applied myself to geography, chronology, and to speak our Arabic tongue in its purity. But one thing which I was fond of and succeeded in to a special degree was to form the characters of our written language, wherein I surpassed all the writing masters of our kingdom that had acquired the greatest reputation.
Fame did me more honour than I deserved, for she not only spread the renown of my talents through all the dominions of the king my father, but carried it as far as the Indian court, whose potent monarch, desirous to see me, sent an ambassador with rich presents to demand me of my father, who was extremely glad of this embassy for several reasons; he was persuaded that nothing could be more commendable in a prince of my age than to travel and visit foreign courts, and he was very glad to gain the friendship of the Indian sultan. I departed with the ambassador, but with no great retinue, because of the length and difficulty of the journey.
When we had travelled about a month, we discovered at a distance a great cloud of dust, and under that we very soon saw fifty horsemen, well armed, that were robbers, coming towards us at full gallop.
As we had ten horses laden with baggage and presents that I was to carry to the Indian sultan from the king my father, and my retinue was but small, these robbers came boldly up to us. Not being in a position to make any resistance, we told them that we were ambassadors belonging to the Sultan of the Indies, and hoped they would attempt nothing contrary to that respect which is due to him, thinking by this means to save our equipage and our lives.
But the robbers most insolently replied, 'For what reason would you have us show any respect to the sultan your master? We are none of his subjects, nor are we upon his territories.'
Having spoken thus, they surrounded and fell upon us. I defended myself as long as I could, but finding myself wounded, and seeing the ambassador with his servants and mine lying on the ground, I made use of what strength was yet remaining in my horse, who was also very much wounded, separated myself from the crowd, and rode away as fast as he could carry me; but he happened all of a sudden to give way under me, through weariness and loss of blood, and fell down dead. I got rid of him in a trice, and finding that I was not pursued, it made me judge that the robbers were not willing to quit the booty they had got.
Here you see me alone, wounded, destitute of help, and in a strange country: I durst not betake myself to the high road, lest I might fall again into the hands of these robbers. When I had bound up my wound, which was not dangerous, I walked on for the rest of the day, and arrived at the foot of a mountain, where I perceived a passage into a cave: I went in, and stayed there that night with little satisfaction, after I had eaten some fruits that I gathered by the way.
I continued my journey for several days without finding any place of abode; but after a month's time, I came to a large town, well inhabited, and situated so advantageously, as it was surrounded with several rivers, that it enjoyed perpetual spring.
The pleasant objects which then presented themselves to my eyes afforded me joy, and suspended for a time the sorrow with which I was overwhelmed to find myself in such a condition. My face, hands and feet were black and sunburnt; and, owing to my long journey, my shoes and stockings were quite worn out, so that I was forced to walk bare-footed, and, besides, my clothes were all in rags. I entered into the town to learn where I was, and addressed myself to a tailor that was at work in his shop; who, perceiving by my air that I was a person of more note than my outward appearance bespoke me to be, made me sit down by him, and asked me who I was, from whence I came, and what had brought me thither? I did not conceal anything that had befallen me.
The tailor listened with attention to my words; but after I had done speaking, instead of giving me any consolation, he augmented my sorrow.
'Take heed,' said he, 'how you discover to any person what you have now declared to me; for the prince of this country is the greatest enemy that the king your father has, and he will certainly do you some mischief when he comes to hear of your being in this city.'
I made no doubt of the tailor's sincerity, when he named the prince, and returned him thanks for his good advice: and as he believed I could not but be hungry, he ordered something to be brought for me to eat, and offered me at the same time a lodging in his house, which I accepted. Some days after, finding me pretty well recovered from the fatigue I had endured by a long and tedious journey, and reflecting that most princes of our religion applied themselves to some art or calling that might be serviceable to them upon occasion, he asked me if I had learnt anything whereby I might get a livelihood, and not be burdensome to any one? I told him that I understood the laws, both divine and human; that I was a grammarian and poet; and, above all, that I understood writing perfectly.
'By all this,' said he, 'you will not be able, in this country, to purchase yourself one morsel of bread; nothing is of less use here than those sciences: but if you will be advised by me,' said he, 'dress yourself in a labourer's frock; and since you appear to be strong and of a good constitution, you shall go into the next forest and cut fire-wood, which you may bring to the market to be sold; and I can assure you it will turn to such good account that you may live by it, without dependence upon any man: and by this means you will be in a condition to wait for the favourable moment when Heaven shall think fit to dispel those clouds of misfortune that thwart your happiness, and oblige you to conceal your birth. I will take care to supply you with a rope and a hatchet.'
The fear of being known, and the necessity I was under of getting a livelihood, made me agree to this proposal, notwithstanding all the hardships that attended it. The day following the tailor bought me a rope, a hatchet, and a short coat, and recommended me to some poor people who gained their bread after the same manner, that they might take me into their company. They conducted me to the wood, and the first day I brought in as much upon my head as earned me half a piece of gold, which is the money of that country; for though the wood is not far distant from the town, yet it was very scarce there, for few or none would be at the trouble to go and cut it. I gained a good sum of money in a short time, and repaid my tailor what he had advanced for me.
I continued this way of living for a whole year; and one day, when by chance I had gone farther into the wood than usual, I happened to light on a very pleasant place, where I began to cut down wood; and in pulling up the root of a tree, I espied an iron ring, fastened to a trap-door of the same metal. I took away the earth that covered it, and having lifted it up, saw stairs, down which I went, with my axe in my hand.
When I came to the bottom of the stairs, I found myself in a large palace, which put me into great consternation, because of a great light which appeared as clear in it as if it had been above ground in the open air. I went forward along a gallery supported by pillars of jasper, the base and capitals of massy gold; but seeing a lady of a noble and free air and extremely beautiful coming towards me, my eyes were taken off from beholding any other object but her alone.
Being desirous to spare the lady the trouble of coming to me, I made haste to meet her; and as I was saluting her with a low bow, she asked me, 'What are you, a man or a genie?'
'A man, madam,' said I: 'I have no correspondence with genies.'
'By what adventure,' said she, fetching a deep sigh, 'are you come hither? I have lived here these twenty-five years, and never saw any man but yourself during that time.'
Her great beauty, and the sweetness and civility wherewith she received me, emboldened me to say to her, 'Madam, before I have the honour to satisfy your curiosity, give me leave to tell you that I am infinitely pleased with this unexpected meeting, which offers me an occasion of consolation in the midst of my affliction; and perhaps it may give me an opportunity to make you also more happy than you are.' I gave her a true account by what strange accident she saw me, the son of a king, in such a condition as I then presented to her eyes; and how fortune directed that I should discover the entrance into that magnificent prison where I had found her according to appearances in an unpleasant situation.
'Alas! prince,' said she, sighing once more, 'you have just cause to believe this rich and pompous prison cannot be otherwise than a most wearisome abode; the most charming place in the world being no way delightful when we are detained there contrary to our will. You have heard of the great Epitimarus, King of the Isle of Ebony, so called from that precious wood, which it produces in abundance: I am the princess his daughter.
'The king, my father, had chosen for me a husband, a prince that was my cousin; but in the midst of the rejoicing at the court, before I was given to my husband, a genie took me away. I fainted at the same moment, and lost my senses; and when I came to myself again, I found myself in this place. I was for a long time inconsolable, but time and necessity have accustomed me to the genie. Twenty-five years, as I told you before, I have continued in this place; where, I must confess, I have everything that I can wish for necessary to life, and also everything that can satisfy a princess fond of dress and fashions.
'Every ten days,' continued the princess, 'the genie comes hither to see me. Meanwhile, if I have occasion for him by day or night, as soon as I touch a talisman which is at the entrance into my chamber, the genie appears. It is now the fourth day since he was here, and I do not expect him before the end of six more; so, if you please, you may stay five days and keep me company, and I will endeavour to entertain you according to your rank and merit.'
I thought myself too fortunate in having obtained so great a favour without asking it to refuse so obliging an offer. The princess made me go into a bath, which was the most sumptuous that could be imagined; and when I came forth, instead of my own clothes, I found another very costly suit, which I did not esteem so much for its richness as because it made me look worthy to be in her company. We sat down on a sofa covered with rich tapestry, with cushions to lean upon of the rarest Indian brocade; and soon after she covered a table with several dishes of delicate meats. We ate together, and passed the remaining part of the day with much satisfaction.
The next day, as she contrived every means to please me, she brought in, at dinner, a bottle of old wine, the most excellent that ever was tasted; and out of complaisance she drank some part of it with me. When my head grew hot with the agreeable liquor, 'Fair princess,' said I, 'you have been too long thus buried alive: follow me, and enjoy the real day, from which you have been deprived so many years, and abandon this false light that you have here.'
'Prince,' replied she, with a smile, 'stop this discourse; if out of ten days you will grant me nine, and resign the last to the genie, the fairest day that ever was would be nothing in my esteem.'
'Princess,' said I, 'it is the fear of the genie that makes you speak thus; for my part, I value him so little that I will break his talisman in pieces. Let him come, I will expect him; and how brave or redoubtable soever he be, I will make him feel the weight of my arm: I swear, solemnly that I will extirpate all the genies in the world, and him first.' The princess, who knew the consequences, conjured me not to touch the talisman; 'for that would be a means,' said she, 'to ruin both you and me: I know what belongs to genies better than you.' The fumes of the wine did not suffer me to hearken to her reasons; but I gave the talisman a kick with my foot, and broke it in several pieces.
The talisman was no sooner broken, than the palace began to shake, and was ready to fall with a hideous noise like thunder, accompanied with flashes of lightning and a great darkness. This terrible noise in a moment dispelled the fumes of my wine, and made me sensible, but too late, of the folly I had committed. 'Princess,' cried I, 'what means all this?'
She answered in a fright, and without any concern for her own misfortune, 'Alas! you are undone, if you do not escape immediately.'
I followed her advice, and my fears were so great that I forgot my hatchet and cords. I had scarcely got to the stairs by which I came down, when the enchanted palace opened, and made a passage for the genie: he asked the princess, in great anger, 'What has happened to you, and why did you call me?'
'A qualm,' said the princess, 'made me fetch this bottle which you see here, out of which I drank twice or thrice, and by mischance made a false step, and fell upon the talisman, which is broken, and that is all.'
At this answer the furious genie told her, 'You are a false woman, and a liar: how came that axe and those cords there?'
'I never saw them till this moment,' said the princess. 'Your coming in such an impetuous manner has, it may be, forced them up in some place as you came along, and so brought them hither without your knowing it.'
The genie made no other answer but reproaches and blows of which I heard the noise. I could not endure to hear the pitiful cries and shouts of the princess, so cruelly abused; I had already laid off the suit she made me put on, and taken my own, which I had laid on the stairs the day before, when I came out of the bath; I made haste upstairs, distracted with sorrow and compassion, as I had been the cause of so great a misfortune. For by sacrificing the fairest princess on earth to the barbarity of a merciless genie, I was become the most criminal and ungrateful of mankind. 'It is true,' said I, 'she has been a prisoner these twenty-five years; but, liberty excepted, she wanted nothing that could make her happy. My folly has put an end to her happiness, and brought upon her the cruelty of an unmerciful monster.' I let down the trap- door, covered it again with earth, and returned to the city with a burden of wood, which I bound up without knowing what I did, so great was my trouble and sorrow.
My landlord, the tailor, was very much rejoiced to see me. 'Your absence,' said he, 'has disquieted me very much, because you had entrusted me with the secret of your birth, and I knew not what to think; I was afraid somebody had discovered you: God be thanked for your return.' I thanked him for his zeal and affection, but not a word durst I say of what had passed, nor the reason why I came back without my hatchet and cords.
I retired to my chamber, where I reproached myself a thousand times for my excessive imprudence. 'Nothing,' said I, 'could have paralleled the princess's good fortune and mine had I forborne to break the talisman.'
While I was thus giving myself over to melancholy thoughts, the tailor came in. 'An old man,' said he, 'whom I do not know, brings me here your hatchet and cords, which he found in his way, as he tells me, and understood from your comrades that you lodge here; come out and speak to him, for he will deliver them to none but yourself.'
At this discourse I changed colour, and began to tremble. While the tailor was asking me the reason, my chamber door opened, and the old man appeared to us with my hatchet and cords. This was the genie, the ravisher of the fair princess of the Isle of Ebony, who had thus disguised himself, after he had treated her with the utmost barbarity. 'I am a genie,' said he, 'son of the daughter of Eblis, prince of genies. Is not this your hatchet, and are not these your cords?'
After the genie had put the question to me, he gave me no time to answer, nor was it in my power, so much had his terrible aspect disordered me. He grasped me by the middle, dragged me out of the chamber, and mounting into the air, carried me up to the skies with such swiftness that I was unable to take notice of the way he carried me. He descended again in like manner to the earth, which on a sudden he caused to open with a stroke of his foot, and so sank down at once, where I found myself in the enchanted palace, before the fair princess of the Isle of Ebony. But alas, what a spectacle was there! I saw what pierced me to the heart; this poor princess was weltering in her blood upon the ground, more dead than alive, with her cheeks bathed in tears.
'Perfidious wretch,' said the genie to her; pointing at me, 'who is this?'
She cast her languishing eyes upon me, and answered mournfully, 'I do not know him; I never saw him till this moment.'
'What!' said the genie, 'he is the cause of thy being in the condition thou art justly in, and yet darest thou say thou dost not know him?'
'If I do not know him,' said the princess, 'would you have me tell a lie on purpose to ruin him?'
'Oh then,' continued the genie, pulling out a scimitar, and presenting it to the princess, 'if you never saw him before, take the scimitar and cut off his head.'
'Alas!' replied the princess, 'my strength is so far spent that I cannot lift up my arm, and if I could, how should I have the heart to take away the life of an innocent man?'
'This refusal,' said the genie to the princess, 'sufficiently informs me of your crime.' Upon which, turning to me, 'And thou,' said he, 'dost thou not know her?'
I should have been the most ungrateful wretch, and the most perfidious of all mankind, if I had not shown myself as faithful to the princess as she was to me who had been the cause of her misfortunes; therefore I answered the genie, 'How should I know her?'
'If it be so,' said he, 'take the scimitar and cut off her head: on this condition I will set thee at liberty, for then I shall be convinced that thou didst never see her till this very moment, as thou sayest.'
'With all my heart,' replied I, and took the scimitar in my hand.
But I did it only to demonstrate by my behaviour, as much as possible, that as she had shown her resolution to sacrifice her life for my sake, I would not refuse to sacrifice mine for hers. The princess, notwithstanding her pain and suffering, understood my meaning, which she signified by an obliging look. Upon this I stepped back, and threw the scimitar on the ground. 'I should for ever,' said I to the genie, 'be hateful to all mankind were I to be so base as to murder a lady like this, who is ready to give up the ghost: do with me what you please, since I am in your power; I cannot obey your barbarous commands.'
'I see,' said the genie, 'that you both outbrave me, but both of you shall know, by the treatment I give you, what I am capable of doing.' At these words the monster took up the scimitar and cut off one of her hands, which left her only so much life as to give me a token with the other that she bid me adieu for ever, the sight of which threw me into a fit. When I was come to myself again, I expostulated with the genie as to why he made me languish in expectation of death. 'Strike,' cried I, 'for I am ready to receive the mortal blow, and expect it as the greatest favour you can show me.' But instead of agreeing to that, 'Look you,' said he, 'how genies treat their wives whom they suspect: she has received you here, and were I certain that she had put any further affront upon me, I would put you to death this minute: but I will be content to transform you into a dog, ape, lion, or bird. Take your choice of any of these; I will leave it to yourself.'
These words gave me some hope to mollify him. 'Oh genie,' said I, 'moderate your passion, and since you will not take away my life, give it me generously; I shall always remember you, if you pardon me, as one of the best men in the world.'
'All that I can do for you,' said he, 'is, not to take your life: do not flatter yourself that I will send you back safe and sound; I must let you feel what I am able to do by my enchantments.' So saying, he laid violent hands on me, and carried me across the vault of the subterranean palace, which opened to give him passage. Then he flew up with me so high that the earth seemed to be only a little white cloud; from thence he came down like lightning, and alighted upon the ridge of a mountain.
There he took up a handful of earth, and pronounced, or rather muttered, some words which I did not understand, and threw it upon me. 'Quit the shape of a man,' said he to me, 'and take on you that of an ape.' He vanished immediately, and left me alone, transformed into an ape, overwhelmed with sorrow in a strange country, and not knowing whether I was near or far from my father's dominions.
I went down from the top of the mountain and came into a plain, which took me a month's time to travel through, and then I came to the seaside. It happened to be then a great calm, and I espied a vessel about half a league from the shore. Unwilling to lose this good opportunity, I broke off a large branch from a tree, which I carried with me to the seaside, and set myself astride upon it, with a stick in each hand to serve me for oars.
I launched out in this posture, and advanced near the ship. When I was near enough to be known, the seamen and passengers that were upon the deck thought it an extraordinary sight, and all of them looked upon me with great astonishment. In the meantime I got aboard, and laying hold of a rope, I jumped upon the deck, but having lost my speech, I found myself in great perplexity; and indeed the risk I ran then was nothing less than when I was at the mercy of the genie.
The merchants, being both superstitious and scrupulous, believed I should occasion some mischief to their voyage if they received me; 'therefore,' said one, 'I will knock him down with a handspike'; said another, 'I will shoot an arrow through him'; said a third, 'Let us throw him into the sea.' Some of them would not have failed to do so, if I had not got to that side where the captain was. I threw myself at his feet, and took him by the coat in a begging posture. This action, together with the tears which he saw gush from my eyes, moved his compassion; so that he took me under his protection, threatening to be revenged on him that would do me the least hurt; and he himself made very much of me, while I on my part, though I had no power to speak, showed all possible signs of gratitude by my gestures.
The wind that succeeded the calm was gentle and favourable, and did not change for fifty days, but brought us safe to the port of a fine city, well peopled, and of great trade, the capital of a powerful State, where we came to anchor.
Our vessel was speedily surrounded with an infinite number of boats full of people, who came to congratulate their friends upon their safe arrival, or to inquire for those they had left behind them in the country from whence they came, or out of curiosity to see a ship that came from a far country.
Amongst the rest, some officers came on board, desiring to speak with the merchants in the name of the sultan. The merchants appearing, one of the officers told them, 'The sultan, our master, hath commanded us to acquaint you that he is glad of your safe arrival, and prays you to take the trouble, every one of you, to write some lines upon this roll of paper. You must know that we had a prime vizier who, besides having a great capacity to manage affairs, understood writing to the highest perfection. This minister is lately dead, at which the sultan is very much troubled; and since he can never behold his writing without admiration, he has made a solemn vow not to give the place to any man but to him who can write as well as he did. Many people have presented their writings, but, so far, nobody in all this empire has been judged worthy to supply the vizier's place.'