Produce by Wendy Crockett and JC Byers
Fairy Tales from the Arabian Nights. First Series.
Edited by E. Dixon
The text of the present selection from the Arabian Nights is that of Galland, 1821, slightly abridged and edited. The edition is designed virginibus puerisque.
E. DIXON. Cambridge, Xmas, 1893.
The King of Persia and the Princess of the Sea Prince Beder and the Princess Giauhara (A Sequel to the Foregoing) The Three Princes and Princess Nouronnihar Prince Ahmed and the Fairy (A Sequel to the Foregoing) Prince Camaralzaman and the Princess of China The Loss of the Talisman (A Sequel to the Foregoing) The Story of Zobeide The Story of the King's Son The First Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor The Second Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor The Third Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor The Fourth Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor The Fifth Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor The Sixth Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor
THE KING OF PERSIA AND THE PRINCESS OF THE SEA.
There once was a king of Persia, who at the beginning of his reign had distinguished himself by many glorious and successful conquests, and had afterwards enjoyed such profound peace and tranquillity as rendered him the happiest of monarchs. His only occasion for regret was that he had no heir to succeed him in the kingdom after his death. One day, according to the custom of his royal predecessors during their residence in the capital, he held an assembly of his courtiers, at which all the ambassadors and strangers of renown at his court were present. Among these there appeared a merchant from a far-distant country, who sent a message to the king craving an audience, as he wished to speak to him about a very important matter. The king gave orders for the merchant to be instantly admitted; and when the assembly was over, and all the rest of the company had retired, the king inquired what was the business which had brought him to the palace.
'Sire,' replied the merchant, 'I have with me, and beg your majesty to behold, the most beautiful and charming slave it would be possible to find if you searched every corner of the earth; if you will but see her, you will surely wish to make her your wife.'
The fair slave was, by the king's commands, immediately brought in, and no sooner had the king beheld a lady whose beauty and grace surpassed anything he had ever imagined, than he fell passionately in love with her, and determined to marry her at once. This was done.
So the king caused the fair slave to be lodged in the next finest apartment to his own, and gave particular orders to the matrons and the women-slaves appointed to attend her, that they should dress her in the richest robe they could find, and carry her the finest pearl necklaces, the brightest diamonds, and other the richest precious stones, that she might choose those she liked best.
The King of Persia's capital was situated in an island; and his palace, which was very magnificent, was built upon the sea-shore; his window looked towards the sea; and the fair slave's, which was pretty near it, had also the same prospect, and it was the more pleasant on account of the sea's beating almost against the foot of the wall.
At the end of three days the fair slave, magnificently dressed, was alone in her chamber, sitting upon a sofa, and leaning against one of the windows that faced the sea, when the king, being informed that he might visit her, came in. The slave hearing somebody walk in the room, immediately turned her head to see who it was. She knew him to be the king; but without showing the least surprise, or so much as rising from her seat to salute or receive him, she turned back to the window again as if he had been the most insignificant person in the world.
The King of Persia was extremely surprised to see a slave of so beauteous a form so very ignorant of the world. He attributed this to the narrowness of her education, and the little care that had been taken to instruct her in the first rules of civility. He went to her at the window, where, notwithstanding the coldness and indifference with which she had just now received him, she suffered herself to be admired, kissed and embraced as much as he pleased, but answered him not a word.
'My dearest life,' said the king, 'you neither answer, nor by any visible token give me the least reason to believe that you are listening to me. Why will you still keep to this obstinate silence, which chills me? Do you mourn for your country, your friends, or your relations? Alas! is not the King of Persia, who loves and adores you, capable of comforting, and making you amends for the loss of everything in the world?'
But the fair slave continued her astonishing reserve; and keeping her eyes still fixed upon the ground, would neither look at him nor utter a word; but after they had dined together in absolute silence, the king went to the women whom he had assigned to the fair slave as her attendants, and asked them if they had ever heard her speak.
One of them presently made answer, 'Sire, we have neither seen her open her lips, nor heard her speak any more than your majesty has just now; we have rendered her our services; we have combed and dressed her hair, put on her clothes, and waited upon her in her chamber; but she has never opened her lips, so much as to say, That is well, or, I like this. We have often asked, Madam, do you want anything? Is there anything you wish for? Do but ask and command us: but we have never been able to draw a word from her. We cannot tell whether her silence proceeds from pride, sorrow, stupidity, or dumbness; and this is all we can inform your majesty.'
The King of Persia was more astonished at hearing this than he was before: however, believing the slave might have some reason for sorrow, he endeavoured to divert and amuse her, but all in vain. For a whole year she never afforded him the pleasure of a single word.
At length, one day there were great rejoicings in the capital, because to the king and his silent slave-queen there was born a son and heir to the kingdom. Once more the king endeavoured to get a word from his wife. 'My queen,' he said, 'I cannot divine what your thoughts are; but, for my own part, nothing would be wanting to complete my happiness and crown my joy but that you should speak to me one single word, for something within me tells me you are not dumb: and I beseech, I conjure you, to break through this long silence, and speak but one word to me; and after that I care not how soon I die.'
At this discourse the fair slave, who, according to her usual custom, had hearkened to the king with downcast eyes, and had given him cause to believe not only that she was dumb, but that she had never laughed in her life, began to smile a little. The King of Persia perceived it with a surprise that made him break forth into an exclamation of joy; and no longer doubting but that she was going to speak, he waited for that happy moment with an eagerness and attention that cannot easily be expressed.
At last the fair slave, breaking her long-kept silence, thus addressed herself to the king: 'Sire,' said she, 'I have so many things to say to your majesty, that, having once broken silence, I know not where to begin. However, in the first place, I think myself in duty bound to thank you for all the favours and honours you have been pleased to confer upon me, and to implore Heaven to bless and prosper you, to prevent the wicked designs of your enemies, and not to suffer you to die after hearing me speak, but to grant you a long life. Had it never been my fortune to have borne a child, I was resolved (I beg your majesty to pardon the sincerity of my intention) never to have loved you, as well as to have kept an eternal silence; but now I love you as I ought to do.'
The King of Persia, ravished to hear the fair slave speak, embraced her tenderly. 'Shining light of my eyes,' said he, 'it is impossible for me to receive a greater joy than what you have now given me.'
The King of Persia, in the transport of his joy, said no more to the fair slave. He left her, but in such a manner as made her perceive that his intention was speedily to return: and being willing that his joy should be made public, he sent in all haste for the grand vizier. As soon as he came, he ordered him to distribute a thousand pieces of gold among the holy men of his religion, who had made vows of poverty; as also among the hospitals and the poor, by way of returning thanks to Heaven: and his will was obeyed by the direction of that minister.
After the King of Persia had given this order, he returned to the fair slave again. 'Madam,' said he, 'pardon me for leaving you so abruptly, but I hope you will indulge me with some conversation, since I am desirous to know several things of great consequence. Tell me, my dearest soul, what were the powerful reasons that induced you to persist in that obstinate silence for a whole year together, though you saw me, heard me talk to you, and ate and drank with me every day.'
To satisfy the King of Persia's curiosity, 'Think,' replied the queen, 'whether or no to be a slave, far from my own country, without any hopes of ever seeing it again,—to have a heart torn with grief at being separated for ever from my mother, my brother, my friends, and my acquaintance,—are not these sufficient reasons for my keeping a silence your majesty has thought so strange and unaccountable? The love of our native country is as natural to us as that of our parents; and the loss of liberty is insupportable to every one who is not wholly destitute of common sense, and knows how to set a value on it.'
'Madam,' replied the king, 'I am convinced of the truth of what you say; but till this moment I was of opinion that a person beautiful like yourself, whom her evil destiny had condemned to be a slave, ought to think herself very happy in meeting with a king for her master.'
'Sire,' replied the fair slave, 'whatever the slave is, there is no king on earth who can tyrannise over her will. But when this very slave is in nothing inferior to the king that bought her, your majesty shall then judge yourself of her misery, and her sorrow, and to what desperate attempts the anguish of despair may drive her.'
The King of Persia, in great astonishment, said 'Madam, can it be possible that you are of royal blood? Explain the whole secret to me, I beseech you, and no longer increase my impatience. Let me instantly know who are your parents, your brothers, your sisters, and your relations; but, above all, what your name is.'
'Sire,' said the fair slave, 'my name is Gulnare, Rose of the Sea; and my father, who is now dead, was one of the most potent monarchs of the ocean. When he died, he left his kingdom to a brother of mine, named Saleh, and to the queen, my mother, who is also a princess, the daughter of another powerful monarch of the sea. We enjoyed a profound peace and tranquillity through the whole kingdom, till a neighbouring prince, envious of our happiness, invaded our dominions with a mighty army; and penetrating as far as our capital, made himself master of it; and we had but just time enough to save ourselves in an impenetrable and inaccessible place, with a few trusty officers who did not forsake us in our distress.
'In this retreat my brother contrived all manner of ways to drive the unjust invader from our dominions. One day "Sister," said he, "I may fail in the attempt I intend to make to recover my kingdom; and I shall be less concerned for my own disgrace than for what may possibly happen to you. To prevent it, and to secure you from all accident, I would fain see you married first: but in the miserable condition of our affairs at present, I see no probability of matching you to any of the princes of the sea; and therefore I should be very glad if you would think of marrying some of the princes of the earth I am ready to contribute all that lies in my power towards it; and I am certain there is not one of them, however powerful, but would be proud of sharing his crown with you."
'At this discourse of my brother's, I fell into a violent passion. "Brother," said I, "you know that I am descended, as well as you, by both father's and mother's side, from the kings and queens of the sea, without any mixture of alliance with those of the earth; therefore I do not intend to marry below myself, any more than they did. The condition to which we are reduced shall never oblige me to alter my resolution; and if you perish in the execution of your design, I am prepared to fall with you, rather than to follow the advice I so little expected from you."
'My brother, who was still earnest for the marriage, however improper for me, endeavoured to make me believe that there were kings of the earth who were nowise inferior to those of the sea. This put me into a more violent passion, which occasioned him to say several bitter words that stung me to the quick. He left me as much dissatisfied with myself as he could possibly be with me; and in this peevish mood I gave a spring from the bottom of the sea up to the island of the moon.
'Notwithstanding the violent displeasure that made me cast myself upon that island, I lived content in retirement. But in spite of all my precautions, a person of distinction, attended by his servants, surprised me sleeping, and carried me to his own house, and wished me to marry him. When he saw that fair means would not prevail upon me, he attempted to make use of force; but I soon made him repent of his insolence. So at last he resolved to sell me; which he did to that very merchant who brought me hither and sold me to your majesty. This man was a very prudent, courteous, humane person, and during the whole of the long journey, never gave me the least reason to complain.
'As for your majesty,' continued Queen Gulnare, 'if you had not shown me all the respect you have hitherto paid, and given me such undeniable marks of your affection that I could no longer doubt of it, I hesitate not to tell you plainly that I should not have remained with you. I would have thrown myself into the sea out of this very window, and I would have gone in search of my mother, my brother, and the rest of my relations; and, therefore, I hope you will no longer look upon me as a slave, but as a princess worthy of your alliance.'
After this manner Queen Gulnare discovered herself to the King of Persia, and finished her story. 'My charming, my adorable queen,' cried he, 'what wonders have I heard! I must ask a thousand questions concerning those strange and unheard-of things which you have related to me. I beseech you to tell me more about the kingdom and people of the sea, who are altogether unknown to me. I have heard much talk, indeed, of the inhabitants of the sea, but I always looked upon it as nothing but a tale or fable; but, by what you have told me, I am convinced there is nothing more true; and I have a very good proof of it in your own person, who are one of them, and are pleased to condescend to be my wife; which is an honour no other inhabitant on the earth can boast of besides myself. There is one thing yet which puzzles me; therefore I must beg the favour of you to explain it; that is, I cannot comprehend how it is possible for you to live or move in the water without being drowned. There are very few amongst us who have the art of staying under water; and they would surely perish, if, after a certain time, they did not come up again.'
'Sire,' replied Queen Gulnare, 'I shall with pleasure satisfy the King of Persia. We can walk at the bottom of the sea with as much ease as you can upon land; and we can breathe in the water as you do in the air; so that instead of suffocating us, as it does you, it absolutely contributes to the preservation of our lives. What is yet more remarkable is, that it never wets our clothes; so that when we have a mind to visit the earth, we have no occasion to dry them. Our common language is the same as that of the writing engraved upon the seal of the great prophet Solomon, the son of David.
'I must not forget to tell you, further, that the water does not in the least hinder us from seeing in the sea; for we can open our eyes without any inconvenience; and as we have quick, piercing sight, we can discern any object as clearly in the deepest part of the sea as upon land. We have also there a succession of day and night; the moon affords us her light, and even the planets and the stars appear visible to us. I have already spoken of our kingdoms; but as the sea is much more spacious than the earth, so there are a greater number of them, and of greater extent. They are divided into provinces; and in each province there are several great cities, well peopled. In short, there are an infinite number of nations, differing in manners and customs, just as upon the earth.
'The palaces of the kings and princes are very sumptuous and magnificent. Some of them are of marble of various colours; others of rock-crystal, with which the sea abounds, mother of pearl, coral, and of other materials more valuable; gold, silver, and all sorts of precious stones are more plentiful there than on earth. I say nothing of the pearls, since the largest that ever were seen upon earth would not be valued amongst us; and none but the very lowest rank of citizens would wear them.
'As we can transport ourselves whither we please in the twinkling of an eye, we have no occasion for any carriages or riding-horses; not but what the king has his stables, and his stud of sea-horses; but they are seldom made use of, except upon public feasts or rejoicing days. Some, after they have trained them, take delight in riding them, and show their skill and dexterity in races; others put them to chariots of mother-of-pearl, adorned with an infinite number of shells of all sorts, of the brightest colours. These chariots are open; and in the middle there is a throne upon which the king sits, and shows himself to his subjects. The horses are trained up to draw by themselves; so that there is no occasion for a charioteer to guide them. I pass over a thousand other curious particulars relating to these marine countries, which would be very entertaining to your majesty; but you must permit me to defer it to a future leisure, to speak of something of much greater consequence. I should like to send for my mother and my cousins, and at the same time to desire the king my brother's company, to whom I have a great desire to be reconciled. They will be very glad to see me again, after I have related my story to them, and when they understand I am wife to the mighty king of Persia. I beseech your majesty to give me leave to send for them: I am sure they will be happy to pay their respects to you; and I venture to say you will be extremely pleased to see them.'
'Madam,' replied the King of Persia, 'you are mistress; do whatever you please; I will endeavour to receive them with all the honours they deserve. But I would fain know how you would acquaint them with what you desire, and when they will arrive, that I may give orders to make preparation for their reception, and go myself in person to meet them.'
'Sire,' replied the Queen Gulnare, 'there is no need of these ceremonies; they will be here in a moment; and if your Majesty will but look through the lattice, you shall see the manner of their arrival.'
Queen Gulnare then ordered one of her women to bring her a brazier with a little fire. After that she bade her retire, and shut the door. When she was alone, she took a piece of aloes out of a box, and put it into the brazier. As soon as she saw the smoke rise, she repeated some words unknown to the King of Persia, who from a recess observe with great attention all that she did. She had no sooner ended, than the sea began to be disturbed. At length the sea opened at some distance; and presently there rose out of it a tall, handsome young man, with moustaches of a sea-green colour; a little behind him, a lady, advanced in years, but of a majestic air, attended by five young ladies, nowise inferior in beauty to the Queen Gulnare.
Queen Gulnare immediately went to one of the windows, and saw the king her brother, the queen her mother, and the rest of her relations, who at the same time perceived her also. The company came forward, borne, as it were, upon the surface of the waves. When they came to the edge, they nimbly, one after another, sprang up to the window, from whence Queen Gulnare had retired to make room for them. King Saleh, the queen her mother, and the rest of her relations, embraced her tenderly, with tears in their eyes, on their first entrance.
After Queen Gulnare had received them with all imaginable honour, and made them sit down upon a sofa, the queen her mother addressed herself to her: 'Daughter,' said she, 'I am overjoyed to see you again after so long an absence; and I am confident that your brother and your relations are no less so. Your leaving us without acquainting anybody with it involved us in inexpressible concern; and it is impossible to tell you how many tears we have shed upon that account. We know of no other reason that could induce you to take such a surprising step, but what your brother told us of the conversation that passed between him and you. The advice he gave you seemed to him at that time very advantageous for settling you handsomely in the world, and very suitable to the then posture of our affairs. If you had not approved of his proposal, you ought not to have been so much alarmed; and, give me leave to tell you, you took the thing in a quite different light from what you ought to have done. But no more of this; we and you ought now to bury it for ever in oblivion: give us an account of all that has happened to you since we saw you last, and of your present situation; but especially let us know if you are satisfied.'
Queen Gulnare immediately threw herself at her mother's feet; and after rising and kissing her hand, 'I own,' said she, 'I have been guilty of a very great fault, and I am indebted to your goodness for the pardon which you are pleased to grant me.' She then related the whole of what had befallen her since she quitted the sea.
As soon as she had acquainted them with her having been sold to the King of Persia, in whose palace she was at present; 'Sister,' said the king her brother, 'you now have it in your power to free yourself. Rise, and return with us into my kingdom, that I have reconquered from the proud usurper who had made himself master of it.'
The King of Persia, who heard these words from the recess where he was concealed, was in the utmost alarm. 'Ah!' said he to himself, 'I am ruined; and if my queen, my Gulnare, hearkens to this advice, and leaves me, I shall surely die.' But Queen Gulnare soon put him out of his fears.
'Brother,' said she, smiling, 'I can scarce forbear being angry with you for advising me to break the engagement I have made with the most puissant and most renowned monarch in the world. I do not speak here of an engagement between a slave and her master; it would be easy to return the ten thousand pieces of gold that I cost him; but I speak now of a contract between a wife and a husband, and a wife who has not the least reason to complain. He is a religious, wise, and temperate king. I am his wife, and he has declared me Queen of Persia, to share with him in his councils. Besides, I have a child, the little Prince Beder. I hope then neither my mother, nor you, nor any of my cousins, will disapprove of the resolution or the alliance I have made, which will be an equal honour to the kings of the sea and the earth. Excuse me for giving you the trouble of coming hither from the bottom of the deep, to communicate it to you, and for the pleasure of seeing you after so long a separation.'
'Sister,' replied King Saleh, 'the proposal I made you of going back with us into my kingdom was only to let you see how much we all love you, and how much I in particular honour you, and that nothing in the world is so dear to me as your happiness.'
The queen confirmed what her son had just spoken, and addressing herself to Queen Gulnare, said, 'I am very glad to hear you are pleased; and I have nothing else to add to what your brother has just said to you. I should have been the first to have condemned you, if you had not expressed all the gratitude you owe to a monarch that loves you so passionately, and has done such great things for you.'
When the King of Persia, who was still in the recess, heard this he began to love her more than ever, and resolved to express his gratitude in every possible way.
Presently Queen Gulnare clapped her hands, and in came some of her slaves, whom she had ordered to bring in a meal: as soon as it was served up, she invited the queen her mother, the king her brother, and her cousins, to sit down and take part of it. They began to reflect, that without asking leave, they had got into the palace of a mighty king, who had never seen nor heard of them, and that it would be a great piece of rudeness to eat at his table without him. This reflection raised a blush in their faces; in their emotion their eyes glowed like fire, and they breathed flames at their mouths and nostrils.
This unexpected sight put the King of Persia, who was totally ignorant of the cause of it, into a dreadful consternation. Queen Gulnare suspecting this, and understanding the intention of her relations, rose from her seat, and told them she would be back in a moment. She went directly to the recess, and recovered the King of Persia from his surprise.
'Sir,' said she, 'give me leave to assure you of the sincere friendship that the queen my mother and the king my brother are pleased to honour you with: they earnestly desire to see you, and tell you so themselves: I intended to have some conversation with them by ordering a banquet for them, before I introduced them to your majesty, but they are very impatient to pay their respects to you: and therefore I desire your majesty would be pleased to walk in, and honour them with your presence.'
'Madam,' said the King of Persia, 'I should be very glad to salute persons that have the honour to be so nearly related to you, but I am afraid of the flames that they breathe at their mouths and nostrils.'
'Sir,' replied the queen, laughing, 'you need not in the least be afraid of those flames, which are nothing but a sign of their unwillingness to eat in your palace, without your honouring them with your presence, and eating with them.'
The King of Persia, encouraged by these words, rose up, and came out into the room with his Queen Gulnare. She presented him to the queen her mother, to the king her brother, and to her other relations, who instantly threw themselves at his feet, with their faces to the ground. The King of Persia ran to them, and lifting them up, embraced them one after another. After they were all seated, King Saleh began: 'Sir,' said he to the King of Persia, 'we are at a loss for words to express our joy to think that the queen my sister should have the happiness of falling under the protection of so powerful a monarch. We can assure you she is not unworthy of the high rank you have been pleased to raise her to; and we have always had so much love and tenderness for her, that we could never think of parting with her to any of the puissant princes of the sea, who often demanded her in marriage before she came of age. Heaven has reserved her for you, Sir, and we have no better way of returning thanks to it for the favour it has done her, than by beseeching it to grant your majesty a long and happy life with her, and to crown you with prosperity and satisfaction.'
'Certainly,' replied the King of Persia, 'I cannot sufficiently thank either the queen her mother, or you, Prince, or your whole family, for the generosity with which you have consented to receive me into an alliance so glorious to me as yours.' So saying, he invited them to take part of the luncheon, and he and his queen sat down at the table with them. After it was over, the King of Persia conversed with them till it was very late; and when they thought it time to retire, he waited upon them himself to the several rooms he had ordered to be prepared for them.
Next day, as the King of Persia, Queen Gulnare, the queen her mother, King Saleh her brother, and the princesses their relations, were discoursing together in her majesty's room, the nurse came in with the young Prince Beder in her arms. King Saleh no sooner saw him, than he ran to embrace him; and taking him in his arms, fell to kissing and caressing him with the greatest demonstration of tenderness. He took several turns with him about the room, dancing and tossing him about, when all of a sudden, through a transport of joy, the window being open, he sprang out, and plunged with him into the sea.
The King of Persia, who expected no such sight, set up a hideous cry, verily believing that he should either see the dear prince his son no more, or else that he should see him drowned; and he nearly died of grief and affliction. 'Sir,' said Queen Gulnare (with a quiet and undisturbed countenance, the better to comfort him), 'let your majesty fear nothing; the young prince is my son as well as yours, and I do not love him less than you do. You see I am not alarmed; neither in truth ought I to be so. He runs no risk, and you will soon see the king his uncle appear with him again, and bring him back safe and sound. For he will have the same advantage his uncle and I have, of living equally in the sea and upon the land.' The queen his mother and the princesses his relations confirmed the same thing; yet all they said had no effect on the king's fright, from which he could not recover till he saw Prince Beder appear again before him.
The sea at length became troubled, when immediately King Saleh arose with the young prince in his arms, and holding him up in the air, he re-entered at the same window he went out at. The King of Persia being overjoyed to see Prince Beder again, and astonished that he was as calm as before he lost sight of him, King Saleh said, 'Sir, was not your majesty in a great fright, when you first saw me plunge into the sea with the prince my nephew?'
'Alas! Prince,' answered the King of Persia, 'I cannot express my concern. I thought him lost from that very moment, and you now restore life to me by bringing him again.'
'I thought as much,' replied King Saleh, 'though you had not the least reason to apprehend any danger; for, before I plunged into the sea with him I pronounced over him certain mysterious words, which were engraven on the seal of the great Solomon, the son of David. We do the same to all those children that are born in the regions at the bottom of the sea, by virtue of which they receive the same privileges that we have over those people who inhabit the earth. From what your majesty has observed, you may easily see what advantage your son Prince Beder has acquired by his birth, for as long as he lives, and as often as he pleases, he will be at liberty to plunge into the sea, and traverse the vast empires it contains in its bosom.'
Having so spoken, King Saleh, who had restored Prince Beder to his nurse's arms, opened a box he had fetched from his palace in the little time he had disappeared. It was filled with three hundred diamonds, as large as pigeons' eggs, a like number of rubies of extraordinary size, as many emerald wands, each half a foot long, and thirty strings or necklaces of pearl, consisting each of ten feet. 'Sir,' said he to the King of Persia, presenting him with this box, 'when I was first summoned by the queen my sister, I knew not what part of the earth she was in, or that she had the honour to be married to so great a monarch. This made us come empty handed. As we cannot express how much we have been obliged to your majesty, I beg you to accept this small token of gratitude, in acknowledgment of the many particular favours you have been pleased to show her.'
It is impossible to express how greatly the King of Persia was surprised at the sight of so much riches, enclosed in so little compass. 'What! Prince,' cried he, 'do you call so inestimable a present a small token of your gratitude? I declare once more, you have never been in the least obliged to me, neither the queen your mother nor you. Madam,' continued he, turning to Gulnare, 'the king your brother has put me into the greatest confusion; and I would beg of him to permit me to refuse his present, were I not afraid of disobliging him; do you therefore endeavour to obtain his leave that I may be excused accepting it.'
'Sir,' replied King Saleh, 'I am not at all surprised that your majesty thinks this present so extraordinary. I know you are not accustomed upon earth to see precious stones of this quality and quantity: but if you knew, as I do, the mines whence these jewels were taken, and that it is in my power to form a treasure greater than those of all the kings of the earth, you would wonder we should have the boldness to make you a present of so small a value. I beseech you, therefore, not to regard it in that light, but on account of the sincere friendship which obliges us to offer it to you not to give us the mortification of refusing it.' This obliged the King of Persia to accept the present, for which he returned many thanks both to King Saleh and the queen his mother.
A few days after, King Saleh gave the King of Persia to understand that the queen his mother, the princesses his relations and himself, could have no greater pleasure than to spend their whole lives at his court; but that having been so long absent from their own kingdom, where their presence was absolutely necessary, they begged of him not to take it ill if they took leave of him and Queen Gulnare. The King of Persia assured them he was very sorry that it was not in his power to return their visit in their own dominions; but he added, 'As I am verily persuaded you will not forget Queen Gulnare, but come and see her now and then, I hope I shall have the honour to see you again more than once.'
Many tears were shed on both sides upon their separation. King Saleh departed first; but the queen his mother, and the princesses his relations, were fain to force themselves in a manner from the embraces of Queen Gulnare, who could not prevail upon herself to let them go. This royal company were no sooner out of sight than the King of Persia said to Queen Gulnare, 'Madam, I should have looked with suspicion upon the person that had pretended to pass those off upon me for true wonders, of which I myself have been an eye-witness from the time I have been honoured with your illustrious family at my court. But I cannot refuse to believe my own eyes; and shall remember it as long as I live, and never cease to bless Heaven for sending you to me, instead of to any other prince.'
PRINCE BEDER AND THE PRINCESS GIAUHARA.
Young Prince Beder was brought up and educated in the palace under the care of the King and Queen of Persia. He gave them great pleasure as he advanced in years by his agreeable manners, and by the justness of whatever he said; King Saleh his uncle, the queen his grandmother, and the princesses his relations, came from time to time to see him. He was easily taught to read and write, and was instructed in all the sciences that became a prince of his rank.
When he arrived at the age of fifteen he was very wise and prudent. The king, who had almost from his cradle discovered in him these virtues so necessary for a monarch, and who moreover began to perceive the infirmities of old age coming upon himself every day, would not wait till death gave him possession of the throne, but purposed to resign it to him. He had no great difficulty to make his council consent to it; and the people heard this with so much the more joy, because they considered Prince Beder worthy to govern them. They saw that he treated all mankind with that goodness which invited them to approach him; that he heard favourably all who had anything to say to him; that he answered everybody with a goodness that was peculiar to him; and that he refused nobody anything that had the least appearance of justice.
The day for the ceremony was appointed. In the midst of the whole assembly, which was larger than usual, the King of Persia, then sitting on his throne, came down from it, took the crown from off his head, put it on that of Prince Beder, and having seated him in his place, kissed his hand, as a token that he resigned his authority to him. After which he took his place among the crowd of viziers and emirs below the throne.
Hereupon the viziers, emirs, and other principal officers, came immediately and threw themselves at the new king's feet, taking each the oath of fidelity according to their rank. Then the grand vizier made a report of various important matters, on which the young king gave judgment with admirable prudence and sagacity that surprised all the council. He next turned out several governors convicted of mal-administration, and put others in their place, with wonderful and just discernment. He at length left the council, accompanied by the late king his father, and went to see his mother, Queen Gulnare. The queen no sooner saw him coming with his crown upon his head, than she ran to him, and embraced him with tenderness, wishing him a long and prosperous reign.
The first year of his reign King Beder acquitted himself of all his royal functions with great care. Above all, he took care to inform himself of the state of his affairs, and all that might in any way contribute towards the happiness of his people. Next year, having left the administration to his council, under the direction of the old king his father, he went out of his capital, under pretext of diverting himself with hunting; but his real intention was to visit all the provinces of his kingdom, that he might reform all abuses there, establish good order and discipline everywhere, and take from all ill-minded princes, his neighbours, any opportunities of attempting any thing against the security and tranquillity of his subjects, by showing himself on his frontiers.
It required no less than a whole year for this young king to carry out his plans. Soon after his return, the old king his father fell so dangerously ill that he knew at once he should never recover. He waited for his last moment with great tranquillity, and his only care was to recommend the ministers and other lords of his son's court to remain faithful to him: and there was not one but willingly renewed his oath as freely as at first. He died, at length, to the great grief of King Beder and Queen Gulnare, who caused his corpse to be borne to a stately mausoleum, worthy of his rank and dignity.
The funeral ended, King Beder found no difficulty in complying with that ancient custom in Persia to mourn for the dead a whole month, and not to be seen by anybody during all that time. He would have mourned the death of his father his whole life, had it been right for a great prince thus to abandon himself to grief. During this interval the queen, mother to Queen Gulnare, and King Saleh, together with the princesses their relations, arrived at the Persian court, and shared their affliction, before they offered any consolation.
When the month was expired, the king could not refuse admittance to the grand vizier and the other lords of his court, who besought him to lay aside his mourning, to show himself to his subjects, and take upon him the administration of affairs as before.
He showed such great reluctance at their request, that the grand vizier was forced to take upon himself to say to him; 'Sir, neither our tears nor yours are capable of restoring life to the good king your father, though we should lament him all our days. He has undergone the common law of all men, which subjects them to pay the indispensable tribute of death. Yet we cannot say absolutely that he is dead, since we see him in your sacred person. He did not himself doubt, when he was dying, but that he should revive in you, and to your majesty it belongs to show that he was not deceived.'
King Beder could no longer oppose such pressing entreaties: he laid aside his mourning; and after he had resumed the royal habit and ornaments, he began to provide for the necessities of his kingdom and subjects with the same care as before his father's death. He acquitted himself with universal approbation: and as he was exact in maintaining the ordinances of his predecessor, the people did not feel they had changed their sovereign.
King Saleh, who had returned to his dominions in the sea with the queen his mother and the princesses, no sooner saw that King Beder had resumed the government, at the end of the month than he came alone to visit him; and King Beder and Queen Gulnare were overjoyed to see him.
One evening when they rose from table, they talked of various matters. King Saleh began with the praises of the king his nephew, and expressed to the queen his sister how glad he was to see him govern so prudently, all of which had acquired him great reputation, not among his neighbours only, but more remote princes. King Beder, who could not bear to hear himself so well spoken of, and not being willing, through good manners, to interrupt the king his uncle, turned on one side to sleep, leaning his head against a cushion that was behind him.
'Sister,' said King Saleh, 'I wonder you have not thought of marrying him ere this: if I mistake not, he is in his twentieth year; and, at that age, no prince like him ought to be suffered to be without a wife. I will think of a wife for him myself, since you will not, and marry him to some princess of our lower world that may be worthy of him.'
'Brother,' replied Queen Gulnare, 'I have never thought of it to this very moment, and I am glad you have spoken of it to me. I like your proposing one of our princesses; and I desire you to name one so beautiful and accomplished that the king my son may be obliged to love her.'
'I know one that will suit,' replied King Saleh, softly; 'but I see many difficulties to be surmounted, not on the lady's part, as I hope, but on that of her father. I need only mention to you the Princess Giauhara, daughter of the king of Samandal.'
'What?' replied Queen Gulnare, 'is not the Princess Giauhara yet married? I remember to have seen her before I left your palace; she was then about eighteen months old, and surprisingly beautiful, and must needs be the wonder of the world. The few years she is older than the king my son ought not to prevent us from doing our utmost to bring it about. Let me but know the difficulties that are to be surmounted, and we will surmount them.'
'Sister,' replied King Saleh, 'the greatest difficulty is, that the King of Samandal is insupportably vain, looking upon all others as his inferiors: it is not likely we shall easily get him to enter into this alliance. For my part, I will go to him in person, and demand of him the princess his daughter; and, in case he refuses her, we will address ourselves elsewhere, where we shall be more favourably heard. For this reason, as you may perceive,' added he, 'it is as well for the king my nephew not to know anything of our design, lest he should fall in love with the Princess Giauhara, till we have got the consent of the King of Samandal, in case, after all, we should not be able to obtain her for him.' They discoursed a little longer upon this point, and, before they parted, agreed that King Saleh should forthwith return to his own dominions, and demand the Princess Giauhara of the King of Samandal her father, for the King of Persia his nephew.
Now King Beder had heard what they said, and he immediately fell in love with the Princess Giauhara without having even seen her, and he lay awake thinking all night. Next day King Saleh took leave of Queen Gulnare and the king his nephew. The young king, who knew the king his uncle would not have departed so soon but to go and promote his happiness without loss of time, changed colour when he heard him mention his departure. He resolved to desire his uncle to bring the princess away with him: but only asked him to stay with him one day more, that they might hunt together. The day for hunting was fixed, and King Beder had many opportunities of being alone with his uncle, but he had not the courage to open his mouth. In the heat of the chase, when King Saleh was separated from him, and not one of his officers and attendants was near, he alighted near a rivulet; and having tied his horse to a tree, which, with several others growing along the banks, afforded a very pleasing shade, he laid himself down on the grass. He remained a good while absorbed in thought, without speaking a word.
King Saleh, in the meantime, missing the king his nephew, began to be much concerned to know what had become of him. He therefore left his company to go in search of him, and at length perceived him at a distance. He had observed the day before, and more plainly that day, that he was not so lively as he used to be; and that if he was asked a question, he either answered not at all, or nothing to the purpose. As soon as King Saleh saw him lying in that disconsolate posture, he immediately guessed he had heard what passed between him and Queen Gulnare. He hereupon alighted at some distance from him, and having tied his horse to a tree, came upon him so softly, that he heard him say to himself:
'Amiable princess of the kingdom of Samandal, I would this moment go and offer you my heart, if I knew where to find you.'
King Saleh would hear no more; he advanced immediately, and showed himself to King Beder. 'From what I see, nephew,' said he, 'you heard what the queen your mother and I said the other day of the Princess Giauhara. It was not our intention you should have known anything, and we thought you were asleep.'
'My dear uncle,' replied King Beder, 'I heard every word, but was ashamed to disclose to you my weakness. I beseech you to pity me, and not wait to procure me the consent of the divine Giauhara till you have gained the consent of the King of Samandal that I may marry his daughter.'
These words of the King of Persia greatly embarrassed King Saleh. He represented to him how difficult it was, and that he could not well do it without carrying him along with him; which might be of dangerous consequence, since his presence was so absolutely necessary in his kingdom. He begged him to wait. But these reasons were not sufficient to satisfy the King of Persia.
'Cruel Uncle,' said he, 'I find you do not love me so much as you pretended, and that you had rather see me die than grant the first request I ever made you.'
'I am ready to convince your majesty,' replied King Saleh, 'that I would do anything to serve you; but as for carrying you along with me, I cannot do that till I have spoken to the queen your mother. What would she say of you and me? If she consents, I am ready to do all you would have me, and I will join my entreaties to yours.'
'If you do really love me,' replied the King of Persia impatiently, 'as you would have me believe you do, you must return to your kingdom immediately, and carry me along with you.'
King Saleh, finding himself obliged to yield to his nephew, drew from his finger a ring, on which were engraven the same mysterious names that were upon Solomon's seal, that had wrought so many wonders by their virtue. 'Here, take this ring,' said he, 'put it upon your finger, and fear neither the waters of the sea, nor their depth.'
The King of Persia took the ring, and when he had put it on his finger, King Saleh said to him, 'Do as I do.' At the same time they both mounted lightly up into the air, and made towards the sea which was not far distant, whereinto they both plunged.
The sea-king was not long in getting to his palace with the King of Persia, whom he immediately carried to the queen's apartment, and presented him to her. The King of Persia kissed the queen his grandmother's hands, and she embraced him with great joy. 'I do not ask you how you are,' said she to him; 'I see you are very well, and I am rejoiced at it; but I desire to know how is my daughter, your mother, Queen Gulnare?'
The King of Persia told her the queen his mother was in perfect health. Then the queen presented him to the princesses; and while he was in conversation with them, she left him, and went with King Saleh, who told her how the King of Persia was fallen in love with the Princess Giauhara, and that he had brought him along with him, without being able to hinder it.
Although King Saleh was, to do him justice, perfectly innocent, yet the queen could hardly forgive his indiscretion in mentioning the Princess Giauhara before him. 'Your imprudence is not to be forgiven,' said she to him: 'can you think that the King of Samandal, whose character is so well known, will have greater consideration for you than the many other kings he has refused his daughter to with such evident contempt? Would you have him send you away with the same confusion?'
'Madam,' replied King Saleh, 'I have already told you it was contrary to my intention that the king, my nephew, should hear what I related of the Princess Giauhara to the queen my sister. The fault is committed; I will therefore do all that I can to remedy it. I hope, madam, you will approve of my resolution to go myself and wait upon the King of Samandal, with a rich present of precious stones, and demand of him the princess, his daughter, for the King of Persia, your grandson. I have some reason to believe he will not refuse me, but will be pleased at an alliance with one of the greatest potentates of the earth.'
'It were to have been wished,' replied the queen, 'that we had not been under a necessity of making this demand, since the success of our attempt is not so certain as we could desire; but since my grandson's peace and content depend upon it, I freely give my consent. But, above all, I charge you, since you well know the temper of the King of Samandal, that you take care to speak to him with due respect, and in a manner that cannot possibly offend him.'
The queen prepared the present herself, composed of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and strings of pearl; all of which she put into a very neat and very rich box. Next morning, King Saleh took leave of her majesty and the King of Persia, and departed with a chosen and small troop of officers and other attendants. He soon arrived at the kingdom and the palace of the King of Samandal, who rose from his throne as soon as he perceived him; and King Saleh, forgetting his character for some moments, though knowing whom he had to deal with, prostrated himself at his feet, wishing him the accomplishment of all his desires. The King of Samandal immediately stooped to raise him up, and after he had placed him on his left hand, he told him he was welcome, and asked him if there was anything he could do to serve him.
'Sir,' answered King Saleh, 'though I should have no other motive than that of paying my respects to the most potent, most prudent, and most valiant prince in the world, feeble would be my expressions how much I honour your majesty.' Having, spoken these words, he took the box of jewels from one of his servants and having opened it, presented it to the king, imploring him to accept it for his sake.
'Prince,' replied the King of Samandal, 'you would not make me such a present unless you had a request to propose. If there be anything in my power, you may freely command it, and I shall feel the greatest pleasure in granting it. Speak, and tell me frankly wherein I can serve you.'
'I must own,' replied King Saleh, 'I have a boon to ask of your majesty; and I shall take care to ask nothing but what is in your power to grant. The thing depends so absolutely on yourself, that it would be to no purpose to ask it of any other. I ask it then with all possible earnestness, and I beg of you not to refuse it me.'
'If it be so,' replied the King of Samandal, 'you have nothing to do but acquaint me what it is, and you shall see after what manner I can oblige when it is in my power.'
'Sir,' said King Saleh, 'after the confidence your majesty has been pleased to encourage me to put in your goodwill, I will not dissemble any longer. I came to beg of you to honour our house with your alliance by the marriage of your honourable daughter the Princess Giauhara, and to strengthen the good understanding that has so long subsisted between our two crowns.'
At these words the King of Samandal burst out laughing falling back in his throne against a cushion that supported him, and with an imperious and scornful air, said to King Saleh: 'King Saleh, I have always hitherto thought you a prince of great sense; but what you say convinces me how much I was mistaken. Tell me, I beseech you, where was your discretion, when you imagined to yourself so great an absurdity as you have just now proposed to me? Could you conceive a thought only of aspiring in marriage to a princess, the daughter of so great and powerful a king as I am? You ought to have considered better beforehand the great distance between us, and not run the risk of losing in a moment the esteem I always had for your person.'
King Saleh was extremely nettled at this affronting, answer, and had much ado to restrain his resentment; however, he replied, with all possible moderation, 'God reward your majesty as you deserve! I have the honour to inform you, I do not demand the princess your daughter in marriage for myself; had I done so your majesty and the princess ought to have been so far from being offended, that you should have thought it an honour done to both. Your majesty well knows I am one of the kings of the sea as well as yourself; that the kings, my ancestors, yield not in antiquity to any other royal families; and that the kingdom I inherit from them is no less potent and flourishing than it has ever been. If your majesty had not interrupted me, you had soon understood that the favour I ask of you was not for myself, but for the young King of Persia, my nephew, whose power and grandeur, no less than his personal good qualities, cannot be unknown to you. Everybody acknowledges the Princess Giauhara to be the most beautiful person in the world: but it is no less true that the young King of Persia, my nephew, is the best and most accomplished prince on the land. Thus the favour that is asked being likely to redound both to the honour of your majesty and the princess your daughter, you ought not to doubt that your consent to an alliance so equal will be unanimously approved in all the kingdoms of the sea. The princess is worthy of the King of Persia, and the King of Persia is no less worthy of her. No king or prince in the world can dispute her with him.'
The King of Samandal would not have let King Saleh go on so long after this rate, had not the rage he put him in deprived him of all power of speech. It was some time before he could find his tongue, so much was he transported with passion. At length, however, he broke into outrageous language, unworthy of a great king. 'Dog!' cried he, 'dare you talk to me after this manner, and so much as mention my daughter's name in my presence? Can you think the son of your sister Gulnare worthy to come in competition with my daughter? Who are you? Who was your father? Who is your sister? And who your nephew? Was not his father a dog, and a son of a dog, like you? Guards, seize the insolent wretch, and cut off his head.'
The few officers that were about the King of Samandal were immediately going to obey his orders, when King Saleh, who was nimble and vigorous, got from them before they could draw their sabres; and having reached the palace gate, he there found a thousand men of his relations and friends, well armed and equipped, who had just arrived. The queen his mother having considered the small number of attendants he took with him, and, moreover, foreseeing the bad reception he would probably have from the King of Samandal, had sent these troops to protect and defend him in case of danger, ordering them to make haste. Those of his relations who were at the head of this troop had reason to rejoice at their seasonable arrival, when they beheld him and his attendants come running in great disorder and pursued. 'Sir,' cried his friends, the moment he joined them, 'what is the matter? We are ready to revenge you: you need only command us.'
King Saleh related his case to them in as few words as he could, and putting himself at the head of a large troop, he, while some seized on the gates, re-entered the palace as before. The few officers and guards who had pursued him being soon dispersed, he re-entered the King of Samandal's apartment, who, being abandoned by his attendants, was soon seized. King Saleh left sufficient guards to secure his person, and then went from apartment to apartment, in search of the Princess Giauhara. But that princess, on the first alarm, had, together with her women, sprung up to the surface of the sea, and escaped to a desert island.
While this was passing in the palace of the King of Samandal, those of King Saleh's attendants who had fled at the first menaces of that king put the queen mother into terrible consternation upon relating the danger her son was in. King Beder, who was by at that time, was the more concerned, in that he looked upon himself as the principal author of all the mischief: therefore, not caring to abide in the queen's presence any longer, he darted up from the bottom of the sea; and, not knowing how to find his way to the kingdom of Persia, he happened to light on the island where the Princess Giauhara had taken refuge.
The prince, not a little disturbed in mind, went and seated himself under the shade of a large tree. Whilst he was endeavouring to recover himself, he heard somebody talking, but was too far off to understand what was said. He arose and advanced softly towards the place whence the sound came, where, among the branches, he perceived a most beautiful lady. 'Doubtless,' said he, within himself, stopping and considering her with great attention, 'this must be the Princess Giauhara, whom fear has obliged to abandon her father's palace.' This said, he came forward, and approached the princess with profound reverence. 'Madam,' said he, 'a greater happiness could not have befallen me than this opportunity to offer you my most humble services. I beseech you, therefore, madam, to accept them, it being impossible that a lady in this solitude should not want assistance.'
'True, my lord,' replied Giauhara very sorrowfully, 'it is not a little extraordinary for a lady of my rank to be in this situation. I am a princess, daughter of the King of Samandal, and my name is Giauhara. I was in my father's palace, when all of a sudden I heard a dreadful noise: news was immediately brought me that King Saleh, I know not for what reason, had forced his way into the palace, seized the king my father, and murdered all the guards that made any resistance. I had only time to save myself, and escaped hither from his violence.'
At these words of the princess, King Beder began to be concerned that he had quitted his grandmother so hastily, without staying to hear from her an explanation of the news that had been brought her. But he was, on the other hand, overjoyed to find that the king, his uncle, had rendered himself master of the King of Samandal's person, not doubting but that he would consent to give up the princess for his liberty. 'Adorable princess,' continued he, 'your concern is most just, but it is easy to put an end both to that and to your father's captivity. You will agree with me when I tell you that I am Beder, King of Persia, and King Saleh is my uncle; I assure you, madam, he has no design to seize upon the king your father's dominions; his only intent is to obtain his consent that I may have the honour and happiness of being his son-in-law. I had already given my heart to you, and now, far from repenting of what I have done, I beg of you to be assured that I will love you as long as I live. Permit me, then, beauteous princess! to have the honour to go and present you to the king my uncle; and the king your father shall no sooner have consented to our marriage, than King Saleh will leave him sovereign of his dominions as before.'
This declaration of King Beder did not produce the effect he expected. When the princess heard from his own mouth that he had been the occasion of the ill-treatment her father had suffered, of the grief and fright she had endured, and especially the necessity she was reduced to of flying her country, she looked upon him as an enemy with whom she ought to have nothing whatever to do.
King Beder, believing himself arrived at the very pinnacle of happiness, stretched forth his hand, and taking that of the princess' stooped down to kiss it, when she, pushing him back, said, 'Wretch, quit that form of a man, and take that of a white bird, with a red bill and feet.' Upon her pronouncing these words, King Beder was immediately changed into a bird of that sort, to his great surprise and mortification. 'Take him,' said she to one of her women, 'and carry him to the Dry Island.' This island was only one frightful rock, where there was not a drop of water to be had.
The waiting-woman took the bird, and in executing her princess's orders had compassion on King Beder's destiny. 'It would be a great pity,' said she to herself, 'to let a prince, so worthy to live, die of hunger and thirst. The princess, so good and gentle, will, it may be, repent of this cruel order when she comes to herself: it were better that I carried him to a place where he may die a natural death.' She accordingly carried him to a well-frequented island, and left him in a charming plain, planted with all sorts of fruit trees, and watered by several rivulets.
Let us return to King Saleh. After he had sought a good while for the Princess Giauhara, and ordered others to seek for her, to no purpose, he caused the King of Samandal to be shut up in his own palace, under a strong guard; and having given the necessary orders for governing the kingdom in his absence, he returned to give the queen his mother an account of what he had done. The first thing he asked upon his arrival was of the whereabouts of the king his nephew, and he learned with great surprise and vexation that he had disappeared.
'News being brought me,' said the queen, 'of the danger you were in at the palace of the King of Samandal, whilst I was giving orders to send other troops to avenge you, he disappeared. He must have been frightened at hearing of your being in so great danger, and did not think himself in sufficient safety with us.'
This news exceedingly afflicted King Saleh, who now repented of his being so easily wrought upon by King Beder as to carry him away with him without his mother's consent. Whilst he was in this suspense about his nephew, he left his kingdom under the administration of his mother, and went to govern that of the King of Samandal, whom he continued to keep under great vigilance, though with all due respect to his rank.
The same day that King Saleh returned to the kingdom of Samandal, Queen Gulnare, mother to King Beder, arrived at the court of the queen her mother. The princess was not at all surprised to find her son did not return the same day he set out, it being not uncommon for him to go further than he proposed in the heat of the chase; but when she saw that he returned neither the next day, nor the day after, she began to be alarmed. This alarm was increased when the officers, who had accompanied the king, and were obliged to return after they had for a long time sought in vain for both him and his uncle, came and told her majesty they must of necessity have come to some harm, or be together in some place which they could not guess, since they could hear no tidings of them. Their horses, indeed, they had found, but as for their persons, they knew not where to look for them. The queen, hearing this, had resolved to dissemble and conceal her affliction, bidding the officers to search once more with their utmost diligence; but in the mean time, saying nothing to anybody, she plunged into the sea, to satisfy herself as to the suspicion she had that King Saleh must have carried away his nephew along with him.
This great queen would have been more affectionately received by the queen her mother, had she not, upon first sight of her, guessed the occasion of her coming. 'Daughter,' said she, 'I plainly perceive you are not come hither to visit me; you come to inquire after the king your son; and the only news I can tell you will augment both your grief and mine. I no sooner saw him arrive in our territories, than I rejoiced; yet, when I came to understand he had come away without your knowledge, I began to share with you the concern you must needs feel.' Then she related to her with what zeal King Saleh went to demand the Princess Giauhara in marriage for King Beder, and what had happened, till her son disappeared. 'I have sent diligently after him,' added she, 'and the king my son, who is but just gone to govern the kingdom of Samandal, has done all that lay in his power. All our endeavours have hitherto proved unsuccessful, but we must hope nevertheless to see him again, perhaps when we least expect it.'
Queen Gulnare was not satisfied with this hope; she looked upon the king her dear son as lost, and lamented him bitterly, laying all the blame upon the king his uncle. The queen her mother made her consider the necessity of not yielding too much to her grief. 'The king your brother,' said she, 'ought not, it is true, to have talked to you so imprudently about that marriage, nor ever have consented to carry away the king my grandson, without acquainting you first; yet, since it is not certain that the King of Persia is absolutely lost, you ought to neglect nothing to preserve his kingdom for him: lose, then, no more time, but return to your capital; your presence there will be necessary, and it will not be hard for you to preserve the public peace, by causing it to be published that the King of Persia was gone to visit his grandmother.'
Queen Gulnare yielded. She took leave of the queen her mother, and was back in the palace of the capital of Persia before she had been missed. She immediately despatched persons to recall the officers she had sent after the king, and to tell them she knew where his majesty was, and that they should soon see him again. She also governed with the prime minister and council as quietly as if the king had been present.
To return to King Beder, whom the Princess Giauhara's waiting-woman had carried and left in the island before mentioned; that monarch was not a little surprised when he found himself alone, and under the form of a bird. He felt yet more unhappy that he knew not where he was, nor in what part of the world the kingdom of Persia lay. He was forced to remain where he was, and live upon such food as birds of his kind were wont to eat, and to pass the night on a tree.
A few days after, a peasant that was skilled in taking birds with nets chanced to come to the place where he was; when perceiving so fine a bird, the like of which he had never seen before, he began greatly to rejoice. He employed all his art to catch him, and at length succeeded. Overjoyed at so great a prize, which he looked upon as of more worth than all the other birds, because so rare, he shut it up in a cage, and carried it to the city. As soon as he was come into the market, a citizen stops him, and asked him how much he wanted for that bird.
Instead of answering, the peasant asked the citizen what he would do with him in case he should buy him? 'What wouldst thou have me to do with him,' answered the citizen, 'but roast and eat him?'
'If that be the case,' replied the peasant, 'I suppose you would think me very well paid if you gave me the smallest piece of silver for him. I set a much higher value upon him, and you should not have him for a piece of gold. Although I am advanced in years, I never saw such a bird in my life. I intend to make a present of him to the king; he will know the value of him better than you.'
Without staying any longer in the market, the peasant went directly to the palace, and placed himself exactly before the king's apartment. His majesty, being at a window where he could see all that passed in the court, no sooner cast his eyes on this beautiful bird, than he sent an officer to buy it for him. The officer, going to the peasant, asked him how much he wanted for that bird. 'If it be for his majesty,' answered the peasant, 'I humbly beg of him to accept it of me as a present, and I desire you to carry it to him.' The officer took the bird to the king, who found it so great a rarity that he ordered the same officer to take ten pieces of gold, and carry them to the peasant, who departed very well satisfied. The king ordered the bird to be put into a magnificent cage, and gave it seed and water in rich vessels.
His majesty being then ready to go hunting, had not time to consider the bird, therefore had it brought to him as soon as he came back. The officer brought the cage, and the king, that he might better see the bird, took it out himself, and perched it upon his hand. Looking earnestly at it, he asked the officer if he had seen it eat. 'Sir,' replied the officer, 'your majesty may observe the vessel with his food is still full, and he has not touched any of it.' Then the king ordered him meat of various sorts, that he might take what he liked best.
The table being spread, and dinner served up just as the king had given these orders, the bird, flapping his wings, hopped off the king's hand, and flew on to the table, where he began to peck the bread and victuals, sometimes on one plate, and sometimes on another. The king was so surprised, that he immediately sent the officer to desire the queen to come and see this wonder. The officer related it to her majesty, and she came forthwith: but she no sooner saw the bird, than she covered her face with her veil, and would have retired. The king, surprised at her proceeding, asked the reason of it.
'Sir,' answered the queen, 'your majesty will no longer be surprised when you understand that this bird is not, as you take it, a bird, but a man.'
'Madam,' said the king, more astonished than before, 'you are making fun of me; you shall never persuade me that a bird can be a man.'
'Sir,' replied the queen, 'far be it from me to make fun of your majesty; nothing is more certain than what I have had the honour to tell you. I can assure your majesty it is the King of Persia, named Beder, son of the celebrated Gulnare, princess of one of the largest kingdoms of the sea, nephew of Saleh, king of that kingdom, and grandson of Queen Farasche, mother of Gulnare and Saleh; and it was the Princess Giauhara, daughter of the King of Samandal, who thus metamorphosed him into a bird.' That the king might no longer doubt of what she affirmed, she told him the whole story, how and for what reason the Princess Giauhara, had thus revenged herself for the ill-treatment of King Saleh towards the king of Samandal, her father.
The king had less difficulty in believing this assertion of the queen in that he knew her to be a skilful magician, one of the greatest in the world. And as she knew everything which took place, he was always by her means timely informed of the designs of the kings his neighbours against him, and prevented them. His majesty had compassion on the King of Persia, and earnestly besought his queen to break the enchantment, that he might return to his own form.
The queen consented to it with great willingness. 'Sir,' said she to the king, 'be pleased to take the bird into your room, and I will show you a king worthy of the consideration you have for him.' The bird, which had ceased eating, and attended to what the king and queen said, would not give his majesty the trouble to take him, but hopped into the room before him; and the queen came in soon after, with a vessel full of water in her hand. She pronounced over the vessel some words unknown to the king, till the water began to boil, when she took some of it in her hand, and, sprinkling a little upon the bird, said, 'By virtue of these holy and mysterious words I have just pronounced, quit that form of a bird, and reassume that which thou hast received from thy Creator.'
The words were scarcely out of the queen's mouth, when, instead of a bird, the king saw a young prince. King Beder immediately fell on his knees, and thanked God for the favour that had been bestowed upon him. Then he took the king's hand, who helped him up, and kissed it in token of gratitude; but the king embraced him with great joy. He would then have made his acknowledgments to the queen, but she had already retired to her apartment. The king made him sit at the table with him, and, after dinner was over, prayed him to relate how the Princess Giauhara could have had the inhumanity to transform into a bird so amiable a prince as he was; and the King of Persia immediately told him. When he had done, the king, provoked at the proceeding of the princess, could not help blaming her. 'It was commendable,' said he, 'in the Princess of Samandal to feel hurt at the king her father's ill-treatment; but to carry her vengeance so far, and especially against a prince who was not guilty, was what she will never be able to justify herself for. But let us have done with this discourse, and tell me, I beseech you, in what I can further serve you.'
'Sir,' answered King Beder, 'my obligation to your majesty is so great, that I ought to remain with you all my life to testify my gratitude; but since your majesty sets no limits to your generosity, I entreat you to grant me one of your ships to transport me to Persia, where I fear my absence, which has been but too long, may have occasioned some disorder, and that the queen my mother, from whom I concealed my departure, may be dead of grief, under the uncertainty whether I am alive or dead.'
The king granted what he desired with the best grace imaginable, and immediately gave orders for equipping one of his largest ships, and the best sailor in his numerous fleet. The ship was soon furnished with all its crew, provisions, and ammunition; and as soon as the wind became fair, King Beder embarked, after having taken leave of the king, and thanked him for all his favours.
The ship sailed before the wind for ten days; on the eleventh day the wind changed, and becoming very violent, there followed a furious tempest. The ship was not only driven out of its course, but so violently tossed, that all its masts went by the board; and driving along at the pleasure of the wind, it at length struck against a rock and split open.
The greater part of the people were instantly drowned. Some few were saved by swimming, and others by getting on pieces of the wreck. King Beder was among the latter, and, after having been tossed about for some time by the waves and currents, he at length perceived himself near the shore, and not far from a city that seemed large. He exerted his remaining strength to reach the land, and was at length fortunate to come so near as to be able to touch the ground with his feet. He immediately abandoned his piece of wood, which had been of so great service to him; but when he came near the shore he was greatly surprised to see horses, camels, mules, asses, oxen, cows, bulls, and other animals crowding to the shore to oppose his landing. He had the utmost difficulty to conquer their obstinacy and force his way; but at length he succeeded, and sheltered himself among the rocks till he had recovered his breath, and dried his clothes in the sun.
When the prince advanced to enter the city, he met with the same opposition from these animals, who seemed to want to make him understand that it was dangerous to proceed.
King Beder, however, got into the city soon after, and saw many fair and spacious streets, but was surprised to find no man there. This made him think it was not without cause that so many animals had opposed his passage. Going forward, nevertheless, he observed several shops open, which gave him reason to believe the place was not so destitute of inhabitants as he imagined. He approached one of these shops, where several sorts of fruits were exposed to sale, and saluted very courteously an old man that was sitting there.
The old man, who was busy about something, lifted up his head, and seeing a youth who had an appearance of grandeur, started, and asked him whence he came, and what business had brought him there. King Beder satisfied him in a few words; and the old man further asked him if he had met anybody on the road. 'You are the first person I have seen,' answered the king; 'and I cannot comprehend how so fine and large a city comes to be without inhabitants.'
'Come in, sir; stay no longer upon the threshold,' replied the old man, 'or peradventure some misfortune may happen to you. I will satisfy your curiosity at leisure, and give you the reason why it is necessary you should take this precaution.'
King Beder would not be bidden twice: he entered the shop, and sat down by the old man. The latter knew he must want food, therefore immediately presented him with what was necessary to recover his strength; and although King Beder was very anxious to know why he had taken the precaution to make him enter the shop, the old man nevertheless would not tell him anything till he had done eating, for fear the sad things he had to relate might take away his appetite. At last he said to him, 'You have great reason to thank God you got hither without any misfortune.'
'Alas! why?' replied king Beder, very much surprised and alarmed.
'Because,' answered he, 'this city is called the City of Enchantments, and is governed not by a king, but by a queen, who is a notorious and dangerous sorceress. You will be convinced of this,' added he, 'when you know that these horses, mules, and other animals that you have seen are so many men, like you and me, whom she has transformed by her diabolical art. And when young men like you enter the city, she has persons stationed to stop and bring them, either by fair means or force, before her. She receives them in the most obliging manner; she caresses them, regales them, and lodges them magnificently. But she does not suffer them long to enjoy this happiness. There is not one of them whom she has not transformed into some animal or bird at the end of forty days. You told me all these animals opposed your landing and entering, the city. This was the only way they could make you comprehend the danger you were going to expose yourself to, and they did all in their power to save you.'
This account exceedingly afflicted the young King of Persia. 'Alas!' cried he, 'to what extremities has my ill-fortune reduced me! I am hardly freed from one enchantment, which I look back upon with horror, but I find myself exposed to another much more terrible.' This gave him occasion to relate his story to the old man more at length, and to acquaint him with his birth, quality, his falling in love with the Princess of Samandal, and her cruelty in changing him into a bird the very moment he had seen her and declared his love to her.
When the prince came to speak of his good fortune in finding a queen who broke the enchantment, the old man, to encourage him, said, 'Notwithstanding all I told you of the magic queen, that ought not to give you the least disquiet, since I am generally beloved throughout the city, and am not unknown to the queen herself, who has much respect for me; therefore it was singularly fortunate that you addressed yourself to me rather than elsewhere. You are secure in my house, where I advise you to continue, if you think fit; and provided you do not stray from hence, I dare assure you you will have no just cause to complain; so that you are under no sort of constraint whatsoever.'
King Beder thanked the old man for his kind reception, and the protection he was pleased so readily to afford him. He sat down at the entrance of the shop, where he no sooner appeared than his youth and handsome looks drew the eyes of all that passed that way. Many stopped and complimented the old man on his having acquired so fine a slave, as they imagined the king to be; and they were the more surprised, because they could not comprehend how so beautiful a youth could escape the queen's knowledge. 'Believe not,' said the old man, 'that this is a slave; you all know that I am not rich enough. He is my nephew, son of a brother of mine that is dead; and as I had no children of my own, I sent for him to keep me company.'
They congratulated his good fortune in having so fine a young man for his relation; but could not help telling him they feared the queen would take him from him. 'You know her well,' said they, 'and you cannot be ignorant of the danger to which you are exposed, after all the examples you have seen. How grieved would you be if she should serve him as she has done so many others that we know of!'
'I am obliged to you,' replied the old man, 'for your good will towards me, and I heartily thank you for your care; but I shall never entertain the least thought that the queen will do me any injury, after all the kindness she has professed for me. In case she happens to hear of this young man, and speaks to me about him, I doubt not she will cease to think of him, so soon as she comes to know he is my nephew.'
The old man was exceedingly glad to hear the commendations they bestowed on the young King of Persia. He became as fond of him as if he had been his own son. They had lived about a month together, when, King Beder sitting at the shop-door, after his ordinary manner, Queen Labe (so was this magic queen named) happened to come by with great pomp. The young king no sooner perceived the guards coming before her, than he arose, and, going into the shop, asked the old man what all that show meant. 'The queen is coming by,' answered he, 'but stand still and fear nothing.'
The queen's guards, clothed in purple uniform, and well armed and mounted, marched in four files, with their sabres drawn, to the number of a thousand, and every one of their officers, as they passed by the shop, saluted the old man: then followed a like number habited in brocaded silk, and better mounted, whose officers did the old man the like honour. Next came as many young ladies on foot, equally beautiful, richly dressed, and set off with precious stones. They marched gravely, with half pikes in their hands; and in the midst of them appeared Queen Labe, on a horse glittering with diamonds, with a golden saddle, and a harness of inestimable value. All the young ladies saluted the old man as they passed by him; and the queen, struck with the good mien of King Beder, stopped as soon as she came before the shop. 'Abdallah' (so was the old man named), said she to him, 'tell me, I beseech thee, does that beautiful and charming slave belong to thee? and is it long that thou hast been in possession of him?'
Abdallah, before he answered the queen, threw himself on the ground, and rising again, said, 'Madam, it is my nephew, son of a brother I had, who has not long been dead. Having no children, I look upon him as my son, and sent for him to come and comfort me, intending to leave him what I have when I die.'
Queen Labe, who had never yet seen any one to compare with King Beder, thought immediately of getting the old man to abandon him to her. 'Father,' quoth she, 'will you not oblige me so far as to make me a present of this young man? Do not refuse me, I conjure you; and I swear by the fire and the light, I will make him so great and powerful that no individual in the world ever arrived at such good fortune. Although my purpose were to do evil to all mankind, yet he shall be the sole exception. I trust you will grant me what I desire, more on the account of the friendship I know you have for me, than for the esteem you know I always had, and shall ever have for you.'
'Madam,' replied the good Abdallah, 'I am infinitely obliged to your majesty for all your kindness, and the honours you propose to do my nephew. He is not worthy to approach so great a queen, and I humbly beseech your majesty to excuse him.'
'Abdallah,' replied the queen, 'I all along flattered myself you loved me; and I could never have thought you would have given me so evident a token of your slighting my request. But I here swear once more by the fire and light, and even by whatsoever is most sacred in my religion, that I will pass on no farther till I have conquered your obstinacy. I understand very well what raises your apprehensions; but I promise you shall never have any occasion to repent having obliged me in so sensible a manner.'
Old Abdallah was exceedingly grieved, both on his own account and King Beder's, for being in a manner forced to obey the queen. 'Madam,' replied he, 'I would not willingly have your majesty entertain an ill opinion of the respect I have for you, and my zeal always to do whatever I can to oblige you. I put entire confidence in your royal word, and I do not in the least doubt but you will keep it. I only beg of your majesty to delay doing this great honour to my nephew till you shall again pass this way.'
'That shall be to-morrow,' said the queen, who inclined her head, as a token of being pleased, and so went forward towards her palace.
When Queen Labe and all her attendants were out of sight, the good Abdallah said to King Beder, 'Son, (for so he was wont to call him, for fear of some time or other betraying him when he spoke of him in public), 'it has not been in my power, as you may have observed, to refuse the queen what she demanded of me with so great earnestness, for fear I might force her to employ her magic both against you and myself openly or secretly, and treat you, as much from resentment to you as to me, with more signal cruelty than all those she has had in her power before. But I have some reason to believe she will treat you well, as she promised, on account of that particular esteem she professes for me. This you may have seen by the respect shown, and the honours paid me by all her court. She would be a fiendish creature indeed, if she should deceive me; but she shall not deceive me unrevenged, for I know how to be even with her.'
These assurances, which appeared very doubtful, were not sufficient to raise King Beder's spirits. 'After all you have told me of this queen's wickedness,' replied he, 'you cannot wonder if I am somewhat fearful to approach her: I might, it may be, make little of all you could tell me of her, did I not know by experience what it is to be at the mercy of a sorceress. The condition I was in, through the enchantment of the Princess Giauhara, and from whence I was delivered only to enter almost immediately into another, has made me look upon such a fate with horror.
'Son,' replied old Abdallah, 'do not afflict yourself; for though I must own there is no great faith to be put in the promises and oaths of so perfidious a queen, yet I must withal tell you that her power extends not to me. She knows it well herself; and that is the reason, and no other, that she pays me such great respect. I can quickly hinder her from doing you the least harm, if she should be perfidious enough to attempt it. You may depend upon me; and, provided you follow exactly the advice I shall give you before I hand you over to her, she shall have no more power over you than she has over me.'
The magic queen did not fail to pass by the old man's shop the next day, with the same pomp as the day before, and Abdallah waited for her with great respect. 'Father,' cried she, stopping just before him, 'you may judge of my impatience to have your nephew with me, by my punctual coming to put you in mind of your promise. I know you are a man of your word, and I cannot think you will break it with me.'
Abdallah, who fell on his face as soon as he saw the queen approaching, rose up when she had done speaking; and as he wanted nobody to hear what he had a mind to say to her, he advanced with great respect as far as her horse's head, and then said softly, 'Powerful queen! I am persuaded your majesty will not be offended at my seeming unwillingness to trust my nephew with you yesterday, since you cannot be ignorant of the reasons I had for it; but I implore you to lay aside the secrets of that art which you possess in so wonderful a degree. I regard my nephew as my own son; and your majesty would reduce me to despair if you should deal with him as you have done with others.'
'I promise you I will not,' replied the queen; 'and I once more repeat the oath I made yesterday, that neither you nor your nephew shall have any cause to be offended with me. I see plainly,' added she, 'you are not yet well enough acquainted with me; you never saw me yet but through a veil; but as I find your nephew worthy of my friendship, I will show you I am not in any way unworthy of his.' With that she threw off her veil and showed King Beder, who came near her with Abdallah, incomparable beauty.
But King Beder was little charmed. 'It is not enough,' said he within himself, 'to be beautiful; one's actions ought to correspond.'
Whilst King Beder was making these reflections, with his eyes fixed on Queen Labe, the old man turned towards him, and taking him by the arm, presented him to her majesty. 'Here he is, madam,' said he, 'and I beg of your majesty once more to remember he is my nephew, and to let him come and see me sometimes.' The queen promised he should; and to give a further mark of her gratitude, she caused a bag of a thousand pieces of gold to be given him. He excused himself at first from receiving them, but she insisted absolutely upon it, and he could not refuse her. She had caused a horse to be brought (as richly harnessed as her own) for the King of Persia.
When King Beder was mounted, he would have taken his place behind the queen, but she would not suffer him, and made him ride on her left hand. She looked at Abdallah, and after having made him an inclination with her head, she set forward on her march.
Instead of observing a satisfaction in the people's faces at the sight of their sovereign, King Beder took notice that they looked at her with contempt, and even cursed her. 'The sorceress,' said some, 'has got a new subject to exercise her wickedness upon: will Heaven never deliver the world from her tyranny?' 'Poor stranger!' cried out others, 'thou art much deceived if thou thinkest thine happiness will last long. It is only to render thy fall most terrible that thou art raised so high.' This talk gave King Beder to understand that Abdallah had told him nothing but the truth of Queen Labe: but as it now depended no longer on himself to escape the mischief, he committed himself to divine Providence and the will of Heaven respecting his fate.
The magic queen arrived at her palace; she alighted, and giving her hand to King Beder, entered with him, accompanied by her women and the officers. She herself showed him all her apartments, where there was nothing to be seen but massy gold, precious stones, and furniture of wonderful magnificence. Then she led him out into a balcony, from whence he observed a garden of surprising beauty. King Beder commended all he saw, but so that he might not be discovered to be any other than old Abdallah's nephew. They discoursed of indifferent matters, till the queen was informed that dinner was upon the table.
The queen and King Beder arose, and sat down at the table, which was of massy gold, and the dishes of the same metal. They began to eat, but drank hardly at all till the dessert came, when the queen caused a cup to be filled for her with excellent wine. She took it and drank to King Beder's health; and then, without putting it out of her hand, caused it to be filled again, and presented it to him. King Beder received it with profound respect, and by a very low bow signified to her majesty that he in return drank to her health.
At the same time ten of Queen Labe's women entered with musical instruments, with which they made an agreeable concert. At length both began so to be heated with wine, that King Beder forgot he had to do with a magic queen, and looked upon her only as the most beautiful queen he ever saw.
Next morning the women who had served the king presented him with fine linen and a magnificent robe. The queen likewise, who was more splendidly dressed than the day before, came to receive him, and they went together to her apartments, where they had a good repast brought them, and spent the remainder of the day in walking in the garden, and in various other amusements.
Queen Labe treated King Beder after this manner for forty days, as she had been accustomed to do to all the others. The fortieth night she arose without making any noise and came into his room; but he was awake, and perceiving she had some design upon him, watched all her motions. She opened a chest, from whence she took a little box full of a certain yellow powder; taking some of the powder, she laid a train of it across the chamber, and it immediately flowed in a rivulet of water, to the great astonishment of King Beder. He trembled with fear, but still pretended to sleep, that the sorceress might not discover he was awake.
Queen Labe next took up some of the water in a vessel, and poured it into a basin, where there was flour, with which she made a paste, and kneaded it for a long time: then she mixed with it certain drugs, which she took from different boxes, and made a cake, which she put into a covered baking-pan. As she had taken care first of all to make a good fire, she took some of the coals, and set the pan upon them; and while the cake was baking, she put up the vessels and boxes in their places again; and on her pronouncing certain words, the rivulet, which ran along the end of the room, appeared no more. When the cake was baked, she took it off the coals, and carried it into her room, without the least suspicion that he had seen anything of what she had done.
King Beder, whom the pleasures and amusements of a court had made forget his good host Abdallah, began now to think of him again, and believed he had more than ordinary occasion for his advice, after all he had seen the queen do that night. As soon as he was up, therefore, he expressed a great desire to go and see his uncle, and begged her majesty to permit him. 'What! my dear Beder,' cried the queen, 'are you then already tired, I will not say with living in so superb a palace as mine is, where you must find so many pleasures, but with the company of a queen who is so fond of you as I am?'