To all this the prince replied only by sighs and tears. He made an effort to get up, and calling his servants, went himself to his wardrobe, and having caused several bundles of rich furniture and plate to be packed up, he ordered them to be carried to the jeweller's house.
The jeweller would fain have declined this kind offer; but although he represented that Schemselnihar had already made him more than sufficient amends for what he had lost, the prince would be obeyed. The jeweller was therefore obliged to make all possible acknowledgments, and protested how much he was confounded at his highness's liberality. He would then have taken his leave, but the prince desired him to stay, and they passed good part of the night in conversation.
Next morning the jeweller waited again on the prince, who made him sit down by him. "You know," said he, "there is an end proposed in all things: that which the lover proposes, is to enjoy the beloved object in spite of all opposition. If once he loses that hope, he must not think to live. Such is my hard case; for twice when I have been at the very point of fulfilling my desires, I have suddenly been torn from her I loved in the most cruell manner imaginable. It remains for me only to think of death, and I had sought it, but that our holy religion forbids suicide; but I need not anticipate it; I need not wait long." Here he stopped, and vented his passion in groans, sighs, sobs, and tears, which flowed abundantly.
The jeweller, who knew no better way of diverting him from his despair than by bringing Schemselnihar into his mind, and giving him some shadow of hope, told him, he feared the confidant might be come from her lady, and therefore it would not be proper to stay any longer from home. "I will let you go," said the prince, "but conjure you, that if you see her, you recommend to her to assure Schemselnihar, that if I die, as I expect to do shortly, I shall love her to the last moment, even in the grave."
The jeweller returned home, and waited in expectation of seeing the confidant, who came some hours after, but all in tears, and in great affliction. The jeweller alarmed, asked her what was the matter? She answered, that Schemselnihar, the prince, herself, and he, were all ruined. "Hear the sad news," said she, "as it was told me just upon my entering the palace after I had left you
"Schemselnihar had for some fault chastised one of the slaves you saw with her when you met in your other house. The slave, enraged at the ill treatment, ran immediately away, and finding the gate open, went out; so that we have just reason to believe she has discovered all to an eunuch of the guard, who gave her protection.
"But this is not all; the other slave her companion has fled too, and has taken refuge in the caliph's palace. So that we may well fear she has borne her part in this discovery: for just as I came away, the caliph had sent twenty of his eunuchs for Schemselnihar, who have carried her to the palace. I just found means to come and tell you this. I know not what has passed, yet I fear no good; but above all, I recommend to you to keep the secret inviolate."
The confidant added to what she had related before to the jeweller, that it was proper he should go immediately and acquaint the prince with the whole affair, that he might be prepared for every event, and keep faithful to the common cause. She went away in haste, without staying for any answer.
What answer could the jeweller have made in the condition he was in? He stood motionless as if thunderstruck. He found, however, that there was no time to be lost, and immediately went to give the prince information. He addressed him with an air, that sufficiently shewed the bad news he brought. "Prince," said he, "arm yourself with courage and patience, and prepare to receive the most terrible shock that ever you had to encounter."
"Tell me in a few words," replied the prince, "what is the matter, without keeping me in suspense; I am, if necessary, prepared to die."
Then the jeweller repeated all that he had learnt from the confidant. "You see," continued he, "your destruction is inevitable. Rise, save yourself by flight, for the time is precious. You, of all men, must not expose yourself to the anger of the caliph, and, less than any, confess in the midst of torture."
At these words the prince was ready to expire through grief, affliction, and fear. However, he recovered himself, and asked the jeweller what resolution he would advise him to take in this conjuncture, every moment of which ought to be employed. The jeweller told him, he thought nothing remained, but that he should immediately take horse, and hasten away towards Anbar, that he might get thither before day. "Take what servants and swift horses you think necessary," continued he, "and suffer me to escape with you."
The prince, seeing nothing more to be done, immediately gave orders to prepare such an equipage as would be least troublesome; took money and jewels, and having taken leave of his mother, departed with the jeweller and such servants as he had chosen.
They travelled all night without stopping, till at length, both their horses and themselves being spent with so long a journey, they halted to rest themselves.
They had hardly alighted before they found themselves surrounded and assaulted by a band of robbers. They defended their lives for some time courageously; but at length the prince's servants being all killed, both he and the jeweller were obliged to yield at discretion. The robbers, however, spared their dives, but after they had seized the horses and baggage, they took away their clothes and left them naked.
When the thieves were gone, the prince said to the jeweller, "What think you of our adventure and condition? Had I not better have tarried in Bagdad, and awaited my death?" "Prince," replied the jeweller, "it is the decree of Heaven that we should thus suffer. It has pleased God to add affliction to affliction. and we must not murmur, but receive his chastisements with submission. Let us stay no longer here, but seek for some retreat where we may perhaps be relieved."
"Let me die," said the prince; "for what signifies it whether I die here or elsewhere. Perhaps while we are talking, Schemselnihar is no more, and why should I endeavour to live after she is dead!" The jeweller, by his entreaty, at length prevailed on him, and they had not gone far before they came to a mosque, which was open; they entered it, and passed there the remainder of the night.
At day-break a man came into the mosque. When he had ended his prayer, as he turned about to go away, he perceived the prince and jeweller, who were sitting in a corner. He came up to them, and after having saluted them with a great deal of civility, said, "I perceive you are strangers."
The jeweller answered, "You are not deceived. We have been robbed to-night in coming from Bagdad, as you may see, and have retired hither for shelter, but we know not to whom to apply." "If you think fit to accompany me to my house," answered the man, "I will give you all the assistance in my power."
Upon this obliging offer, the jeweller turned to the prince, and whispered, "This man, as you perceive, sir, does not know us, and we have reason to fear that somebody else may come who does. We cannot, I think, refuse his offer." "Do as you please," said the prince; "I am willing to be guided by your discretion."
The man observing the prince and jeweller consulting together, and thinking they made some difficulty to accept his offer, asked them if they were resolved what to do? The jeweller answered "We are ready to follow you; all we hesitate about is that we are ashamed to appear thus naked."
Fortunately the man had it in his power to cover them sufficiently till they could get to his house. As soon as they had entered, he brought a very handsome suit for each of them. As he thought they must be hungry, and might wish to be alone, he had several dishes brought to them by a slave; but they ate little, especially the prince who was so dejected and dispirited, that he gave the jeweller cause to fear he would die. Their host visited them several times in the course of the day, and in the evening, as he knew they wanted rest, he left them early. But he was no sooner in bed, than the jeweller was forced to call him again to assist at the death of the prince of Persia. He found him breathe short, and with difficulty, which gave him reason to fear he had but few minutes to live. Coming near him, the prince said, "It is all over, and I am glad you are witness of my last words. I quit life with a great deal of satisfaction; I need not tell you the reason, for you know it already. All my concern is, that I cannot die in the arms of my dear mother, who has always loved me tenderly, and for whom I had a reciprocal affection. Let her know how much I was concerned at this, and request her in my name to have my body removed to Bagdad, that she may have an opportunity to bedew my tomb with her tears, and assist my departed soul with her prayers." He then took notice of the master of the house, and thanked him for his kindness in taking him in; and after desiring him to let his body rest with him till it should be conveyed to Bagdad, he expired.
The day after the prince's death, the jeweller took the opportunity of a numerous caravan that was going to Bagdad, and arrived there in safety. He first went home to change his clothes, and then hastened to the prince's palace, where every body was alarmed at not seeing the prince with him. He desired them to acquaint the prince's mother that he wished to speak with her, and it was not long before he was introduced to her in a hall, with several of her women about her. "Madam," said he to her, with an air that sufficiently denoted the ill news he brought, "God preserve you, and shower down upon you the choicest of his blessings. You cannot be ignorant that he alone disposes of us at his pleasure."
The princess would not permit him to proceed, but exclaimed, "Alas! you bring me the news of my son's death?" She and her women at the same time wept and sobbed loudly. At length she checked her sighs and groans, and begged of him to continue without concealing from her the least circumstance of such a melancholy separation. He satisfied her, and when he had done, she farther demanded of him, if her son the prince had not given him in charge something more particular in his last moments? He assured her his last words were, that it was to him the most afflicting circumstance that he must die so far distant from his dear mother, and that the only thing he wished was, that she would have his corpse transported to Bagdad. Accordingly early next morning the princess set out with her women and great part of her slaves, to bring her son's body to her own palace.
When the jeweller, whom she had detained, had seen her depart, he returned home very sad and melancholy, at the reflection that so accomplished and amiable a prince was thus cut off in the flower of his age.
As he walked towards his house, dejected and musing, he saw a woman standing before him. He recognized her to be Schemselnihar's confidant. At the sight of her, his tears began to flow afresh but he said nothing to her; and going into his own house, she followed him.
They sat down; when the jeweller beginning the conversation, asked the confidant, with a deep sigh, if she had heard of the death of the prince of Persia, and if it was on his account that she grieved. "Alas!" answered she, "What! is that charming prince then dead? He has not lived long after his dear Schemselnihar. Beauteous souls," continued she, "in whatsoever place ye now are, ye must be happy that your loves will no more be interrupted. Your bodies were an obstacle to your wishes; but Heaven has delivered you from them; ye may now form the closest union."
The jeweller, who had heard nothing of Schemselnihar's death, and had not reflected that the confidant was in mourning, suffered fresh grief at this intelligence. "Is Schemselnihar then dead?" cried he. "She is," replied the confidant, weeping afresh, "and it is for her I wear these weeds. The circumstances of her death were extraordinary," continued she, "and deserve to be known to you: but before I give you an account of them, I beg you to acquaint me with those of the prince of Persia, whom, with my dearest friend and mistress, I shall lament as long as I live."
The jeweller then gave the confidant the information she desired; and after he had told her all, even to the departure of the prince's mother to bring her son's body to Bagdad, she began and said, "You have not forgotten that I told you the caliph had sent for Schemselnihar to his palace. He had, as we had every reason to believe, been informed of the amour betwixt her and the prince by the two slaves, whom he had examined apart. You may imagine, he would be exceedingly enraged at Schemselnihar's conduct, and give striking proofs of his jealousy and of his impending vengeance against the prince. But this was by no means the case. He pitied Schemselnihar, and in some measure blamed himself for what had happened, in giving her so much freedom to walk about the city without being attended by his eunuchs. This is the only conclusion that could be drawn from his extraordinary behavior towards her, as you will hear.
"He received her with an open countenance; and when he observed that the melancholy which oppressed her did not lessen her beauty (for she appeared thus before him without surprise or fear), with a goodness worthy himself, he said Schemselnihar, I cannot bear your appearing before me thus with an air which gives me infinite pain. You must needs be sensible how much I have always loved you, and be convinced of the sincerity of my passion by the continued demonstrations I have given of it. I can never change my mind, for I love you more than ever. You have enemies, Schemselnihar,' proceeded he, and those enemies have insinuated things against your conduct, but all they have said against you has not made the least impression upon me. Shake off then this melancholy, and prepare to entertain me this night with some amusing conversation, after your accustomed manner.' He said many other obliging things to her, and then desired her to step into a magnificent apartment near her own, and wait for him.
"The afflicted Schemselnihar was very sensible of the caliph's kindness; but the more she thought herself obliged to him, the more she was concerned that she was so far removed, perhaps for ever, from her prince, without whom she could not live.
"This interview between the caliph and Schemselnihar," continued the confidant, "took place whilst I was come to speak to you, and I learned the particulars of it from my companions who were present. But I had no sooner left you," proceeded she, "than I went to my dear mistress again, and was eye-witness to what happened in the evening. I found her in the apartment I told you of; and as she though I came from you, she drew near me, and whispering me, said, I am much obliged to you for the service you have done me, but I feel it will be the last.' She said no more; but I was not in a place proper to offer any thing to comfort her.
"The caliph was introduced at night with the sound of instruments which her women played upon, and the collation was immediately served up. He took his mistress by the hand, and made her sit down with him on the sofa; she put such a force upon herself to please him, that she expired a few minutes after. In short, she was hardly set down, when she fell backwards. The caliph believed she had only fainted, and so we all thought; but she never recovered, and in this manner we lost her.
"The caliph did her the honour to weep over her, not being able to refrain from tears; and before he left the room ordered all the musical instruments to be broken; this was immediately done. I stayed with her corpse all night, and next morning washed and dressed her for her funeral, bathing her with my tears. The caliph had her interred in a magnificent tomb he had erected for her in her lifetime, in a place she had desired to be buried in. Now since you tell me," said she, "the prince of Persia's body is to be brought to Bagdad, I will use my best endeavours that he shall be interred in the same tomb."
The jeweller was much surprised at this resolution of the confidant, and said, "Certainly you do not consider that the caliph will never suffer this?" "You think the thing impossible," replied she; "it is not. You will alter your opinion when I tell you that the caliph has given liberty to all her slaves, with a pension to each for their support. He has committed to me the care and keeping of my mistress's tomb, and allotted me an annual income for that purpose, and for my maintenance. Besides, the caliph, who was not ignorant of the amour between Schemselnihar and the prince, as I have already told you, without being offended, will not be sorry if after her death he be buried with her." To all this the jeweller had not a word to say. He earnestly entreated the confidant to conduct him to her mistress's tomb, that he might say his prayers over her. When he came in sight of it, he was not a little surprised to find a vast concourse of people of both sexes, who were come thither from all parts of Bagdad. As he could not come near the tomb, he said his prayers at a distance; and then going to the confidant, who was waiting hard by, said to her, "I am now so far from thinking that what you proposed cannot be put in execution, that you and I need only publish abroad what we know of the amour of this unfortunate couple, and how the prince died much about the same time with his mistress. Before his corpse arrives, all Bagdad will concur to desire that two such faithful lovers, whom nothing could divide in affection whilst they lived, should not be separated when dead." It happened as he said; for as soon as it was known that the corpse was within a day's journey of the city, an infinite number of people went above twenty miles to meet it, and afterwards walked before it till it came to the city gate; where the confidant, waiting for that purpose, presented herself before the prince's mother, and begged of her in the name of the whole city, who earnestly desired it, that she would be pleased to consent that the bodies of the two lovers, who had but one heart whilst they lived, from the time their mutual passion commenced, might be buried in the same tomb. The princess immediately consented; and the corpse of the prince, instead of being deposited in his own burying-place, was laid by Schemselnihar's side, after it had been carried along in procession at the head of an infinite number of people of all ranks. From that time all the inhabitants of Bagdad, and even strangers from all parts of the world where the Mahummedan religion prevails have held that tomb in the highest veneration, and pay their devotions at it.
The Story of the Loves of Kummir Al Zummaun, Prince of the Isles of the Children of Khaledan, and of Badoura, Princess of China.
About twenty days' sail from the coast of Persia, there are islands in the main ocean called the Islands of the Children of Khaledan. These islands are divided into four great provinces, which have all of them very flourishing and populous cities, forming together a powerful kingdom. It was formerly governed by a king named Shaw Zummaun, who had four lawful wives, all daughters of kings, and sixty concubines.
Shaw Zummaun thought himself the most happy monarch of the world, on account of his peaceful and prosperous reign. One thing only disturbed his happiness; which was, that he was advanced in years, and had no children, though he had so many wives. He knew not to what to attribute this barrenness; and what increased his affliction was, that he was likely to leave his kingdom without a successor. He dissembled his discontent, and this dissimulation only heightened his uneasiness. At length he broke silence; and one day after he had complained bitterly of his misfortune to his grand vizier, he asked him if he knew any remedy for it?
That wise minister replied, "If what your majesty requires of me had depended on the ordinary rules of human wisdom, you had soon had an answer to your satisfaction; but my experience and knowledge fall far short of your question. It is to God only that we can apply in cases of this kind. In the midst of our prosperities, which often tempt us to forget him, he is pleased to mortify us in some instance, that we may address our thoughts to him, acknowledge his omnipotence, and ask of him what we ought to expect from him alone. Your majesty has subjects," proceeded he "who make a profession of honouring and serving God, and suffering great hardships for his sake; to them I would advise you to have recourse, and engage them, by alms, to join their prayers with yours. Perhaps some one among them may be so pure and pleasing to God as to obtain a hearing for your prayers."
Shaw Zummaun approved this advice, and thanked his vizier. He immediately caused alms to be given to every community of these holy men in his dominions: and having sent for the superiors, declared to them his intention, and desired them to acquaint their devout men with it.
The king obtained of Heaven what he requested, for in nine months' time he had a son by one of his wives. To express his gratitude to Heaven, he sent fresh alms to the communities of devotees, and the prince's birth-day was celebrated not only in his capital, but throughout his dominions, for a whole week. The prince was brought to him as soon as born, and he found him so beautiful that he gave him the name of Kummir al Zummaun, or Moon of the Age.
He was brought up with all imaginable care; and when he had arrived at a proper age, his father appointed him an experienced governor and able preceptors. These persons, distinguished by their capacity, found in him a ready wit capable of receiving all the instructions that were proper to be given him, as well in relation to morals as other knowledge which a prince ought to possess. As he grew up, he learned all his exercises, and acquitted himself with such grace and wonderful address, as to charm all that saw him, and particularly the sultan his father.
When he had attained the age of fifteen, the sultan, who tenderly loved him, and gave him every day new marks of his affection, proposed to afford a still higher demonstration by resigning his throne to him, and he accordingly acquainted his grand vizier with his intentions. "I fear," said he, "lest my son should lose in the inactivity of youth those advantages which nature and my education have give him; therefore, since I am advanced in age, and ought to think of retirement I propose to resign the government to him, and pass the remainder of my days in the satisfaction of seeing him reign. I have borne the fatigue of a crown till I am weary of it, and think it is now proper for me to retire."
The grand vizier declined offering all the reasons he could have alleged to dissuade the sultan from such a proceeding; on the contrary, he appeared to acquiesce with him in his opinion. "Sir," replied he, "the prince is yet but young, and it would not, in my humble opinion, be advisable to burden him with the weight of a crown so soon. Your majesty fears, with great reason, his youth may be corrupted by indolence: but to avoid this danger, do not you think it would be proper to marry him? Marriage forms attachment, and prevents dissipation. Your majesty might then admit him of your council, where he would learn by degrees the art of reigning; and so be prepared to receive your authority, whenever by your own experience you shall think him qualified."
Shaw Zummaun approved the advice of his prime minister; and summoned the prince to appear before him, at the same time that he dismissed the grand vizier.
The prince, who had been accustomed to see his father only at certain times without being sent for, was a little startled at this summons; when, therefore, he came into his presence, he saluted him with great respect, and stood with his eyes fixed on the ground.
The sultan perceiving his constraint, addressed him with great mildness, "Do you know, son, for what reason I have sent for you?" The prince modestly replied, "God alone knows the heart: I shall hear it from your majesty with pleasure." "I sent for you," resumed the sultan, "to inform you that it is my intention to provide a proper marriage for you: what do you think of my design?"
The prince heard this with great uneasiness: he was greatly agitated, and knew not what answer to make. After a few moments silence, he replied, "Sir, I beseech you to pardon me if I seem surprised at the declaration you have made. I did not expect such proposals at my present age. I know not whether I could prevail on myself to marry, on account of the trouble incident to a married life, and the many treacheries of women, which I have read of. I may not be always of the same mind, yet I conceive it will require time to determine on what your majesty requires of me."
The prince's answer extremely afflicted his father. He was not a little grieved to discover his aversion to marriage; yet would not charge him with disobedience, nor exert his paternal authority. He contented himself with telling him, he would not force his inclinations, but give him time to consider of the proposal; and reflect, that a prince destined to govern a great kingdom ought to take some care to leave a successor; and that in giving himself that satisfaction he communicated it to his father, who would be glad to see himself revive in his son and his issue.
Shaw Zummaun said no more to the prince but admitted him into his council, and gave him every reason to be satisfied. At the end of the year he took him aside, and said to him; "My son, have you thoroughly considered what I proposed to you last year about marrying? Will you still refuse me that pleasure I expect from your obedience, and suffer me to die without affording me that satisfaction?"
The prince seemed less disconcerted than before; and was not long answering his father to this effect: "Sir, I have not neglected to consider of your proposal; but after the maturest reflection find myself more confirmed in my resolution to continue in a state of celibacy. The infinite mischief which women have caused in the world, and which are on record in our histories, and the accounts I daily hear to their disadvantage, are the motives which powerfully influence me against having any thing to do with them; so that I hope your majesty will pardon me if I presume to tell you, it will be in vain to solicit me any further upon this subject." As soon as he had thus spoken, he quitted the sultan abruptly without waiting his answer.
Any monarch but Shaw Zummaun would have been angry at such freedom in a son, and would have made him repent; but he loved him, and preferred gentle methods before he proceeded to compulsion. He communicated this new cause of discontent to his prime minister. "I have followed your advice," said he, "but Kummir al Zummaun is farther than ever from complying with my desires. He delivered his determination in such free terms, that it required all my reason and moderation to keep my temper. Fathers who so earnestly desire children as I did this son are fools, who seek to deprive themselves of that rest which it is in their own power to enjoy without control. Tell me, I beseech you, how I shall reclaim a disposition so rebellious to my will?"
"Sir," answered the grand vizier, "patience brings many things about that before seemed impracticable; but it may be this affair is of a nature not likely to succeed that way. Your majesty will have no cause to reproach yourself for precipitation, if you would give the prince another year to consider your proposal. If in this interval he return to his duty, you will have the greater satisfaction, as you will have employed only paternal love to induce him; and if he still continue averse when this is expired, your majesty may in full council observe, that it is highly necessary for the good of the state that he should marry; and it is not likely he will refuse to comply before so grave an assembly, which you honour with your presence."
The sultan, who so anxiously desired to see his son married, thought this long delay an age; however, though with much difficulty, he yielded to his grand vizier's reasons, which he could not disapprove.
After the grand vizier was gone, the sultan went to the apartment of the mother of prince Kummir al Zummaun, to whom he had often expressed his desire to see the prince married. When he had told her, with much concern, how his son had a second time refused to comply with his wishes, and the indulgence which, by the advice of his grand vizier, he was inclined to shew him; he said, "I know he has more confidence in you than he has in me, and will be more likely to attend to your advice. I therefore desire you would take an opportunity to talk to him seriously, and urge upon him, that if he persists in his obstinacy, he will oblige me to have recourse to measures which would be disagreeable to me, and which would give him cause to repent having disobeyed me."
Fatima, for so was the lady called, told the prince the first time she saw him, that she had been informed of his second refusal to marry; and how much chagrin his resolution had occasioned his father. "Madam," replied the prince, "I beseech you not to renew my grief upon that head. I fear, under my present uneasiness, something may escape me, which may not be consistent with the respect I owe you." Fatima judged from this answer that this was not a proper time to speak to him, and therefore deferred what she had to say to another opportunity.
Some considerable time after, Fatima thought she had found a more favourable season, which gave her hopes of being heard upon that subject. "Son," said she, "I beg of you, if it be not disagreeable, to tell me what reason you have for your great aversion to marriage? If it be the wickedness of some women, nothing can be more unreasonable and weak. I will not undertake the defence of those that are bad; there are a great number of them undoubtedly; but it would be the height of injustice on their account to condemn all the sex. Alas! my son, you have in your books read of many bad women, who have occasioned great mischief, and I will not excuse them: but you do not consider how many monarchs, sultans, and other princes there have been in the world, whose tyrannies, barbarities, and cruelties astonish those that read of them, as well as myself. Now, for one wicked woman, you will meet with a thousand tyrants and barbarians; and what torment do you think must a good woman undergo, who is matched with any of these wretches?"
"Madam," replied the prince, "I doubt not there are a great number of wise, virtuous, good, affable, and well-behaved women in the world; would to God they all resembled you! But what deters me is, the hazardous choice a man is obliged to make, and oftentimes one has not the liberty of following his inclination.
"Let us suppose then, madam," continued he, "that I had a mind to marry, as the sultan my father so earnestly desires; what wife, think you, would he be likely to provide for me? Probably a princess whom he would demand of some neighbouring prince, and who would think it an honour done him to send her. Handsome or ugly, she must be taken; nay, suppose no other princess excelled her in beauty, who can be certain that her temper would be good; that she would be affable, complaisant, easy, obliging, and the like? That her conversation would generally turn on solid subjects, and not on dress, fashions, ornaments, and a thousand such fooleries, which would disgust any man of sense? In a word, that she would not be haughty, proud, arrogant, impertinent, scornful, and waste an estate in frivolous expenses, such as gay clothes, jewels, toys, and foolish mistaken magnificence?
"You see, madam," continued he, "by one single article, how many reasons a man may have to be disgusted at marriage. Let this princess be ever so perfect, accomplished, and irreproachable in her conduct, I have yet a great many more reasons not to alter my opinion and resolution."
"What, son," exclaimed Fatima; "have you then more reasons after those you have already alleged? I do not doubt of being able to answer them, and stop your mouth with a word." "You may proceed, madam," returned the prince, "and perhaps I may find a reply to your answer."
"I mean, son," said Fatima, "that it is easy for a prince, who has had the misfortune to marry such a wife as you describe, to get rid of her, and take care that she may not ruin the state." "Ah, madam," replied the prince, "but you do not consider what a mortification it would be to a person of my quality to be obliged to come to such an extremity. Would it not have been more for his honour and quiet that he had never run such a risk?"
"But, son," said Fatima once more, "as you take the case, I apprehend you have a mind to be the last king of your race, who have reigned so long and gloriously over the isles of the children of Khaledan?"
"Madam," replied the prince, "for myself I do not desire to survive the king my father; and if I should die before him, it would be no great matter of wonder, since so many children have died before their parents. But it is always glorious to a race of kings, that it should end with a prince worthy to be so, as I should endeavour to make myself like my predecessors, and like the first of our race."
From that time Fatima had frequent conferences with her son the prince on the same subject; and she omitted no opportunity or argument to endeavour to root out his aversion to the fair sex; but he eluded all her reasonings by such arguments as she could not well answer, and continued unaltered.
The year expired, and, to the great regret of the sultan, prince Kummir al Zummaun gave not the least proof of having changed his sentiments. One day, therefore, when there was a great council held, the prime vizier, the other viziers, the principal officers of the crown, and the generals of the army being present, the sultan thus addressed the prince: "My son, it is now a long while since I expressed to you my earnest desire to see you married, and I imagined you would have had more complaisance for a father, who required nothing unreasonable of you, than to oppose him so long. But after such a resistance on your part, which has almost worn out my patience, I have thought fit to propose the same thing once more to you in the presence of my council. It is not merely to oblige a parent that you ought to have acceded to my wish, the well-being of my dominions requires your compliance, and this assembly join with me in expecting it: declare yourself, then; that your answer may regulate my proceedings."
The prince answered with so little reserve, or rather with so much warmth, that the sultan, enraged to see himself thwarted by him in full council, exclaimed, "How, unnatural son! have you the insolence to talk thus to your father and sultan?" He ordered the guards to take him away, and carry him to an old tower that had been long unoccupied; where he was shut up, with only a bed, a little furniture, some books, and one slave to attend him.
Kummir al Zummaun, thus deprived of liberty, was nevertheless pleased that he had the freedom to converse with his books, which made him regard his confinement with indifference. In the evening he bathed and said his prayers; and after having read some chapters in the Koraun, with the same tranquillity of mind as if he had been in the sultan's palace, he undressed himself and went to bed, leaving his lamp burning by him while he slept.
In this tower was a well, which served in the daytime for a retreat to a certain fairy, named Maimoune, daughter of Damriat, king or head of a legion of genies. It was about midnight when Maimoune sprung lightly to the mouth of the well, to wander about the world after her wonted custom, where her curiosity led her. She was surprised to see a light in the prince's chamber. She entered, and without stopping at the slave who lay at the door, approached the bed.
The prince had but half covered his face with the bed-clothes, which Maimoune lifted up, and perceived the finest young man she had ever seen in her rambles through the world. "What beauty, or rather what prodigy of beauty," said she within herself, "must this youth appear, when the eyes, concealed by such well-formed eyelids, shall be open? What crime can he have committed, that a man of his high rank can deserve to be treated thus rigorously?" for she had already heard his story, and could hardly believe it.
She could not forbear admiring the prince, till at length having kissed him gently on both cheeks, and in the middle of the forehead, without waking him, she laid the bed-clothes in the order they were in before, and took her flight into the air. As she was ascending into the middle region, she heard a great flapping of wings, towards which she directed her course; and when she approached, she knew it was a genie who made the noise, but it was one of those that are rebellious against God. As for Maimoune, she belonged to that class whom the great Solomon had compelled to acknowledge him.
This genie, whose name was Danhasch, and son of Schamhourasch, knew Maimoune, and was seized with fear, being sensible how much power she had over him by her submission to the Almighty. He would fain have avoided her, but she was so near him, he must either fight or yield. He therefore broke silence first.
"Brave Maimoune," said he, in the tone of a suppliant, "swear to me in the name of the great God, that you will not hurt me; and I swear also on my part not to do you any harm."
"Cursed genie," replied Maimoune, "what hurt canst thou do me? I fear thee not; but I will grant thee this favour; I will swear not to do thee any harm. Tell me then, wandering spirit, whence thou comest, what thou hast seen, and what thou hast done this night?" "Fair lady," answered Danhasch, "you meet me in a good time to hear something very wonderful."
Danhasch, the genie rebellious against God, proceeded and said to Maimoune, "Since you desire, I will inform you that I have come from the utmost limits of China, which comprise the remotest islands of this hemisphere. . . . . But, charming Maimoune," said Danhasch, who trembled with fear at the sight of this fairy, so that he could hardly speak, "promise me at least you will forgive me, and let me proceed after I have satisfied your request."
"Go on, cursed spirit," replied Maimoune; "go on, and fear nothing. Dost thou think I am as perfidious as thyself, and capable of breaking the solemn oath I have made? Be sure you relate nothing but what is true, or I shall clip thy wings, and treat thee as thou deserves"
Danhasch, a little encouraged by the words of Maimoune, said, "My dear lady, I will tell you nothing but what is strictly true, if you will but have the goodness to hear me. The country of China, from whence I come, is one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of the earth, on which depend the remotest islands of this hemisphere, as I have already told you. The king of this country is at present Gaiour, who has an only daughter, the finest woman that ever was seen in the world since it has been a world. Neither you nor I, neither your class nor mine, nor all our respective genies, have expressions forcible enough, nor eloquence sufficient to convey an adequate description of her charms. Her hair is brown, and of such length as to trail on the ground; and so thick, that when she has fastened it in buckles on her head, it may be fitly compared to one of those fine clusters of grapes whose fruit is so very large. Her forehead is as smooth as the best polished mirror, and admirably formed. Her eyes are black, sparkling, and full of fire. Her nose is neither too long nor too short, and her mouth small and of a vermilion colour. Her teeth are like two rows of pearls, and surpass the finest in whiteness. When she moves her tongue to speak, she utters a sweet and most agreeable voice; and expresses herself in such terms, as sufficiently indicate the vivacity of her wit. The whitest alabaster is not fairer than her neck. In a word, by this imperfect sketch, you may guess there is no beauty likely to exceed her in the world.
"Any one that did not know the king, the father of this incomparable princess, would be apt to imagine, from the great respect and kindness he shews her, that he was enamoured with her. Never did a lover more for the most beloved mistress than he has been seen to do for her. The most violent jealousy never suggested such measures as his care has led him to adopt, to keep her from every one but the man who is to marry her: and that the retreat in which he has resolved to place her may not seem irksome, he has built for her seven palaces, the most extraordinary and magnificent that ever were known.
"The first palace is of rock crystal, the second of brass, the third of fine steel, the fourth of another kind of brass more valuable than the former and also than steel, the fifth of touchstone, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of massive gold. He has furnished these palaces most sumptuously, each in a manner corresponding to the materials of the structure. He has embellished the gardens with parterres of grass and flowers, intermixed with pieces of water, water-works, jets d'eau, canals, cascades, and several great groves of trees, where the eye is lost in the perspective, and where the sun never enters, and all differently arranged. King Gaiour, in a word, has shewn that his paternal love has led him to spare no expense.
"Upon the fame of this incomparable princess's beauty, the most powerful neighbouring kings have sent ambassadors to solicit her in marriage. The king of China received them all in the same obliging manner; but as he resolved not to marry his daughter without her consent, and she did not like any of the parties, the ambassadors were forced to return as they came, as to the subject of their embassy; they were perfectly satisfied with the great honours and civilities they had received.
"Sir,' said the princess to the king her father, you have an inclination to see me married, and think to oblige me by it; but where shall I find such stately palaces and delicious gardens as are furnished me by your majesty? Through your good pleasure I am under no constraint, and have the same honours shewn to me as are paid to yourself. These are advantages I cannot expect to find any where else, whoever may be my husband; men love to be masters, and I have no inclination to be commanded.'
"After several other embassies on the same occasion, there arrived one from a king more opulent and powerful than any of the preceding. This prince the king of China recommended to his daughter for her husband, urging many forcible arguments to shew how much it would be to her advantage to accept him, but she entreated her father to excuse her compliance for the reasons she had before urged. He pressed her; but instead of consenting, she lost all the respect due to the king her father: Sir,' said she, in anger, talk to me no more of this or any other match, unless you would have me plunge this dagger in my bosom, to deliver myself from your importunities'
"The king, greatly enraged, said, Daughter, you are mad, and I must treat you accordingly.' In a word, he had her shut up in a single apartment of one of his palaces, and allowed her only ten old women to wait upon her, and keep her company, the chief of whom had been her nurse That the kings his neighbours, who had sent embassies to him on her account, might not think any more of her, he despatched envoys to them severally, to let them know how averse his daughter was to marriage; and as he did not doubt but she was really mad, he charged them to make known in every court, that if there were any physician that would undertake to cure her, he should, if he succeeded, have her for his pains.
"Fair Maimoune," continued Danhasch, "all that I have told you is true; and I have gone every day regularly to contemplate this incomparable beauty, to whom I would be sorry to do the least harm, notwithstanding my natural inclination to mischief. Come and see her, I conjure you; it would be well worth your while. When you have seen from your own observation that I am no liar, I am persuaded you will think yourself obliged to me for the sight of a princess unequalled in beauty."
Instead of answering Danhasch, Maimoune burst out into violent laughter, which lasted for some time; and Danhasch, not knowing what might be the occasion of it, was astonished beyond measure. When she had done laughing, she exclaimed, "Good, good, very good! You would have me then believe all you have told me? I thought you designed to tell me something surprising and extraordinary, and you have been talking all this while of a mad woman. Fie, fie! what would you say, cursed genie, if you had seen the beautiful prince from whom I am just come, and whom I love as he deserves. I am confident you would soon give up the contest, and not pretend to compare your choice with mine."
"Agreeable Maimoune," replied Danhasch, "may I presume to ask who this prince you speak of is?" "Know," answered Maimoune, "the same thing has happened to him as to your princess. The king his father would have married him against his will; but after much importunity, he frankly told him he would have nothing to do with a wife. For this reason he is at this moment imprisoned in an old tower where I reside."
"I will not absolutely contradict you," replied Danhasch; "but, my pretty lady, you must give me leave to be of opinion, till I have seen your prince, that no mortal upon earth can equal my princess in beauty." "Hold thy tongue, cursed sprite," replied Maimoune. "I tell thee once more thou art wrong." "I will not contend with you," said Danhasch, "but the way to be convinced, whether what I say be true or false, is to accept of my proposal to go and see my princess, and after that I will go with you to your prince."
"There is no need I should be at so much trouble," replied Maimoune; "there is another way to satisfy us both; and that is, for you to bring your princess, and place her at my prince's bed- side: by this means it will be easy for us to compare them together, and determine the dispute."
Danhasch consented, and determined to set out immediately for China. But Maimoune drew him aside, and told him, she must first shew him the tower whither he was to bring the princess. They flew together to the tower, and when Maimoune had strewn it to Danhasch, she cried, "Go fetch your princess, and do it quickly, you will find me here."
Danhasch left Maimoune, and flew towards China, whence he soon returned with incredible speed, bringing the fair princess along with him asleep. Maimoune received him, and introduced him into the chamber of Kummir al Zummaun, where they placed the princess by the prince's side.
When the prince and princess were thus laid together, there arose a sharp contest between the genie and the fairy about the preference of their beauty. They were some time admiring and comparing them without speaking; at length Danhasch said to Maimoune, "You see, and I have already told you, my princess was handsomer than your prince; now, I hope, you are convinced."
"How! convinced!" replied Maimoune; "I am not convinced, and you must be blind, if you cannot see that my prince excels in the comparison. That the princess is fair, I do not deny; but if you compare them together without prejudice, you will soon see the difference."
"How much soever I may compare them," returned Danhasch, "I shall never change my opinion. I saw at first sight what I now behold, and time will not make me see differently: however, this shall not hinder my yielding to you, charming Maimoune, if you desire it." "What! have you yield to me as a favour! I scorn it," said Maimoune, "I would not receive a favour at the hand of such a wicked genie. I will refer the matter to an umpire, and if you do not consent, I shall win by your refusal."
Danhasch, who was ready to have shewn a different kind of complaisance, no sooner gave his consent, than Maimoune stamped with her foot. The earth opened, and out came a hideous, hump- backed, squinting, and lame genie, with six horns upon his head, and claws on his hands and feet. As soon as he was come out, and the earth had closed, perceiving Maimoune, he threw himself at her feet, and then rising on one knee, inquired her commands.
"Rise, Caschcasch," said Maimoune, "I brought you hither to determine a difference between me and this cursed Danhasch. Look on that bed, and tell me without partiality who is the handsomer of those two that lie there asleep, the young man or the young lady."
Caschcasch looked on the prince and princess with great attention, admiration, and surprise; and after he had considered them a good while, without being able to determine, he turned to Maimoune, and said, "Madam, I must confess I should deceive you, and betray myself, if I pretended to say one was handsomer than the other. The more I examine them, the more clearly it appears to me each possesses, in a sovereign degree, the beauty of which both partake. Neither of them appears to have the least defect, to yield to the other the palm of superiority; but if there be any difference, the best way to determine it is, to awaken them one after the other, and to agree that the person who shall express most love for the other by ardour, eagerness, and passion, shall be deemed to have in some respect less beauty."
This proposal of Caschcasch's pleased both Maimoune and Danhasch. Maimoune then changed herself into a flea, and leaping on the prince's neck, stung him so smartly, that he awoke, and put up his hand to the place; but Maimoune skipped away, and resumed her pristine form, which, like those of the two genies, was invisible, the better to observe what he would do.
In drawing back his hand, the prince chanced to let it fall on that of the princess of China. He opened his eyes, and was exceedingly surprised to find lying by him a lady of the greatest beauty. He raised his head, and leaned on his elbow, the better to observe her. Her blooming youth and incomparable beauty fired him in a moment with a flame of which he had never yet been sensible, and from which he had hitherto guarded himself with the greatest attention.
Love seized on his heart in the most lively manner, and he exclaimed, "What beauty! what charms! my heart! my soul!" As he spoke he kissed her forehead, her cheeks, and her mouth with so little caution, that he would have awakened her, had she not slept sounder than ordinary, through the enchantment of Danhasch.
"How!" said the prince, "do you not awake at these testimonies of love?" He was going to awake her, but suddenly refrained. "Is not this she," said he, "that the sultan my father would have had me marry? He was in the wrong not to let me see her sooner. I should not have offended him by my disobedience and passionate language to him in public, and he would have spared himself the confusion which I have occasioned him."
The prince began to repent sincerely of the fault he had committed, and was once more on the point of awaking the princess of China. "It may be," said he, "that the sultan my father has a mind to surprise me; and has sent this young lady to try if I had really that aversion to marriage which I pretended. Who knows but he has brought her himself, and is hidden behind the hangings, to observe me, and make me ashamed of my dissimulation? The second fault would be greater than the first. At all events, I will content myself with this ring, as a remembrance of her."
He then gently drew off a ring which the princess had on her finger, and immediately replaced it with one of his own. After this he fell into a more profound sleep than before, through the enchantment of the genies.
Danhasch now transformed himself into a flea in his turn, and bit the princess so rudely on the lip, that she awoke, started up, and on opening her eyes, was not a little surprised to see a man lying by her side. From surprise she proceeded to admiration, and from admiration to a transport of joy, at beholding so beautiful and lovely a youth.
"What!" cried she, "is it you the king my father has designed me for a husband? Would that I had known it, for then I should not have displeased him, nor been deprived of a husband whom I cannot forbear loving. Wake then, awake!"
So saying, she took the prince by the arm, and shook him so violently, that he would have awaked, had not Maimoune increased his sleep by her enchantment. She shook him several times, and finding he did not awake, exclaimed, "What is come to thee? what jealous rival, envying thy happiness and mine, has had recourse to magic to throw thee into this unconquerable drowsiness when thou shouldst be most awake?" Tired at length with her fruitless endeavours to awaken the prince; "Since," said she, "I find it is not in my power to awake thee, I will no longer disturb thy repose, but wait our next meeting." After having kissed his cheek, she lay down and fell asleep by enchantment.
Maimoune now cried out to Danhasch, "Ah, cursed genie, art thou not now convinced how much thy princess is inferior to my prince? Another time believe me when I assert any thing." Then turning to Caschcasch, "As for you," said she, "I thank you for your trouble; take the princess, in conjunction with Danhasch, and convey her back again to her bed, from whence he has taken her." Danhasch and Caschcasch did as they were commanded, and Maimoune retired to her well.
Kummir al Zummaun on waking next morning, looked if the lady whom he had seen the night before were by him. When he found she was gone, he cried out, "I thought indeed this was a trick the king my father designed to play me. I am glad I was aware of it." He then awaked the slave, who was still asleep, and after he had washed and said his prayers, took a book and read some time.
After these usual exercises, he called the slave, and said to him, "Come hither, and be sure you do not tell me a lie. How came the lady hither who lay with me to-night, and who brought her?"
"My lord," answered the slave with great astonishment, "I know not what lady your highness speaks of." "I speak," said the prince, "of her who came, or rather was brought hither, and lay with me to-night." "My lord," replied the slave, "I swear I know of no such lady; and how should she come in without my knowledge, since I lay at the door?"
"You are a lying knave," replied the prince, "and in the plot to vex and provoke me." He then gave him a box on the ear, which knocked him down; and after having stamped upon him for some time, he tied the well-rope under his arms, and plunged him several times into the water, neck and heels. "I will drown thee," cried he, "if thou dost not tell me directly who this lady was, and who brought her."
The slave, perplexed and half dead, said within himself, "The prince must have lost his senses through grief, and I shall not escape if I do not tell him a falsehood. My lord," cried he, in a suppliant tone, "I beseech your highness to spare my life, and I will tell you the truth."
The prince drew the slave up, and pressed him to tell him. As soon as he was out of the well, "My lord," said he, trembling, "your highness must perceive it is impossible for me to satisfy you in my present condition; I beg you to give me leave first to go and change my clothes." "I permit you, but do it quickly," said the prince; "and be sure you conceal nothing."
The slave went out, and having locked the door upon the prince, ran to the palace just as he was. The king was at that time in discourse with his prime vizier, to whom he had just related the grief in which he had passed the night on account of his son's disobedience and opposition to his will.
The minister endeavoured to comfort his master, by telling him, the prince himself had given him cause for his severity. "Sir," said he, "your majesty need not repent of having treated your son in this manner. Have but patience to let him continue a while in prison, and assure yourself his heat will abate, and he will submit to all you require."
The grand vizier had but just done speaking when the slave came in, and cast himself at the feet of the sovereign. "My lord," said he, "I am sorry to be the messenger of ill news to your majesty, which I know must occasion you fresh affliction. The prince is distracted; he raves of a lady having lain with him all night, and his treatment of me, as you may see, too plainly proves the state of his mind." Then he proceeded to relate the particulars of what the prince had said, and the violence with which he had been treated.
The king, who did not expect to hear any thing of this afflicting kind, said to the prime minister, "This is a melancholy turn, very different from the hopes you gave me: go immediately and examine the condition of my son."
The grand vizier obeyed; and coming into the prince's chamber, found him sitting on his bed with a book in his hand, which he was reading.
After mutual salutations, the vizier said, "My lord, I wish that a slave of yours were punished for coming to alarm the king your father by news that he has brought him."
"What is it," demanded the prince, "that could give my father so much uneasiness?"
"Prince," answered the vizier, "God forbid that the intelligence he has conveyed to your father concerning you should be true; indeed, I find it to be false, by the calm temper in which I observe you, and which I pray you to continue."
"It may be," replied the prince, "he did not make himself well understood; but since you are come, who ought to know something of the matter, permit me to ask you who that lady was that lay with me last night?"
The grand vizier was thunderstruck at this question; he recovered himself and said, "My lord, be not surprised at my astonishment at your question. Is it possible, that a lady or any other person should penetrate by night into this place without entering at the door, and walking over the body of your slave? I beseech you, recollect yourself, and you will find it is only a dream which has made this impression on you."
"I give no ear to what you say," replied the prince, raising his voice. "I must know from you absolutely what is become of the lady; and if you hesitate, I am in a place where I shall soon be able to force you to obey me."
At this stern language, the grand vizier began to feel more alarmed than before, and to think how he could extricate himself. He endeavoured to pacify the prince, and begged of him, in the most humble and guarded manner, to tell him if he had seen this lady.
"Yes, yes," answered the prince, "I have seen her, and am very well satisfied you sent her here to tempt me. She played the part in which you had instructed her admirably well. She pretended to be asleep, and I had no sooner fallen into a slumber, than she arose and left me. You know all this; for I doubt not she has been to make her report to you."
"My lord," replied the vizier, "I swear to you nothing of this kind has been acted; neither your father nor I sent this lady you speak of; permit me therefore once more to suggest to your highness, that you have only seen this lady in a dream."
"Do you come to affront and contradict me," said the prince in a rage, "and to tell me to my face, that what I have told you is a dream?" At the same time he took him by the beard, and loaded him with blows, as long as he could stand.
The grand vizier endured with respectful patience all the violence of the prince's indignation, and could not help saying within himself, "Now am I in as bad a condition as the slave, and shall think myself happy, if I can, like him, escape from any further danger." In the midst of repeated blows, he cried out but for a moment's audience, which the prince, after he had nearly tired himself with beating him, consented to give him.
"I own, my prince," said the grand vizier dissembling, "there is something in what your highness suspects; but you cannot be ignorant of the necessity a minister is under to obey his royal master's commands: yet, if you will but be pleased to set me at liberty, I will go and tell him any thing on your behalf that you shall think fit to require." "Go then," said the prince, "and tell him from me, if he pleases, I will marry the lady he sent me, or, rather, that was brought to me last night. Do this immediately, and bring me a speedy answer." The grand vizier made a profound reverence and went away, not thinking himself altogether safe till he had got out of the tower, and had closed the door on the prince.
He came and presented himself before Shaw Zummaun, with a countenance that sufficiently shewed he had been ill used, and which the king could not behold without concern. "Well," said the king, "in what condition did you find my son?" "Sir," answered the vizier, "what the slave reported to your majesty is but too true." He then began to relate his interview with the prince, how he flew into a passion upon his endeavouring to persuade him it was impossible the lady he spoke of should have been introduced; the ill treatment he had received from him; how he had used him, and by what means he had made his escape.
The king, the more concerned as he loved the prince with excessive tenderness, resolved to find out the truth, and therefore proposed to go himself and see his son in the tower, accompanied by the grand vizier.
The prince received his father in the tower, where he was confined, with great respect. The king put several questions to him, which he answered calmly. The king every now and then looked on the grand vizier, as intimating he did not find his son had lost his wits, but rather thought he had lost his.
The king at length spoke of the lady to the prince. "My son," said he, "I desire you to tell me what lady it was who lay with you last night."
"Sir," answered the prince, "I beg of your majesty not to give me more vexation on that head, but rather to oblige me by letting me have her in marriage; whatever aversion I may hitherto have discovered for women, this young lady has charmed me to that degree, that I cannot help confessing my weakness. I am ready to receive her at your majesty's hands, with the deepest gratitude."
Shaw Zummaun was surprised at this answer of the prince, so remote, as he thought, from the good sense he had strewn before. "My son," said he, "you fill me with the greatest astonishment by what you say: I swear to you I know nothing of the lady you mention; and if any such has come to you, it was without my knowledge or privily. But how could she get into this tower without my consent? For whatever my grand vizier told you, it was only to appease your anger, it must therefore be a mere dream; and I beg of you not to believe otherwise, but recover your senses."
"Sir," replied the prince, "I should be for ever unworthy of your majesty's favour, if I did not give entire credit to what you are pleased to say but I humbly beseech you at the same time to give a patient hearing to what I shall relate, and then to judge whether what I have the honour to tell you be a dream or not."
The prince then related to his father how he had been awaked, exaggerating the beauty and charms of the lady he found by his side, the instantaneous love he conceived for her, and the pains he took to awaken her without effect. Shewing the king the ring he had taken from her finger he added, "After this, I hope you will be convinced that I have not lost my senses, as you have been almost made to believe."
Shaw Zummaun was so perfectly convinced of the truth of what his son had been telling him, that he could make no reply, remaining astonished for some time, and not being able to utter a syllable.
The prince took advantage of this opportunity, and said, "The passion I have conceived for this charming lady, whose lovely image I bear continually in my mind, is so ardent, that I cannot resist it. I entreat you therefore to have compassion, and procure me the happiness of being united to her."
"Son," replied the king, "after what I have just heard, and what I see by the ring on your finger, I cannot doubt but that your passion is real, and that you have seen this lady, who is the object of it. Would to God I knew who she was. I would instantly comply with your wishes, and should be the happiest father in the world! But where shall I seek her? How came she here, and by what conveyance, without my consent? Why did she come to sleep with you only to display her beauty, to kindle a flame of love while she slept, and then leave you while you were in a slumber? These things, I must confess, I do not understand; and if heaven do not favour us in our perplexity, I fear we must both go down to the grave together." As he spoke, he took the prince by the hand, and said, "Come then, my son, let us go and grieve together; you with hopeless love, and I with seeing your affliction, without being able to afford you relief."
Shaw Zummaun then led his son out of the tower, and conveyed him to the palace, where he had no sooner arrived, than in despair at loving an unknown object he fell sick, and took to his bed; the king shut himself up with him, without attending to the affairs of his kingdom for many days.
The prime minister, who was the only person that had admittance, at length informed him, that the whole court, and even the people, began to murmur at not seeing him, and that he did not administer justice every day as he was wont to do; adding, he knew not what disorder it might occasion. "I humbly beg your majesty, therefore," proceeded he, "to pay some attention. I am sensible your majesty's company is a great comfort to the prince, and that his tends to relieve your grief; but you must not run the risk of letting all be lost. Permit me to propose to your majesty, to remove with the prince to the castle near the port, where you may give audience to your subjects twice a week only. During these absences the prince will be so agreeably amused with the beauty, prospect, and good air of the place, that he will bear them with the less uneasiness."
The king approved this proposal: he removed thither with the prince; and, excepting when he gave audience, never left him, but passed all his time endeavouring to comfort him by sharing his distress.
Whilst matters passed thus in the capital of Shaw Zummaun, the two genies, Danhasch and Caschcasch, had carried the princess of China back to the palace where the king her father had confined her, and laid her in her bed as before.
When she awoke next morning, and found that prince Kummir al Zummaun was not by her, she cried out in such a manner to her women, that she soon brought them to her bed. Her nurse, who arrived first, desired to be informed if any thing disagreeable had happened to her.
"Tell me," said the princess, "what is become of the young man that has passed the night with me, and whom I love with all my soul?" "Madam," replied the nurse, "we cannot understand your highness, unless you will be pleased to explain yourself."
"A young man, the handsomest and most amiable," said the princess, "slept with me last night, whom, with all my caresses, I could not awake; I ask you where he is?"'
"Madam,"answered the nurse, "your highness asks us these questions in jest. I beseech you to rise." "I am in earnest," said the princess, "and I must know where this young man is." "Madam," insisted the nurse, "you were alone when you went to bed last night; and how any man could come to you without our knowledge we cannot imagine, for we all lay about the door of your chamber, which was locked, and I had the key in my pocket."
At this the princess lost all patience,and taking her nurse by the hair of her head, and giving her two or three sound cuffs, cried, "You shall tell me where this young man is, you old sorceress, or I will put you to death."
The nurse struggled to get from her, and at last succeeded. She went immediately with tears in her eyes, and her face all bloody, to complain to the queen, who was not a little surprised to see her in this condition, and asked who had misused her.
"Madam," began the nurse, "you see how the princess has treated me; she had certainly murdered me, if I had not had the good fortune to escape out of her hands." She then related what had been the cause of all that violent passion in the princess. The queen was surprised at her account, and could not guess how she came to be so infatuated as to take that for a reality which could be no other than a dream. "Your majesty must conclude from all this," continued the nurse, "that the princess is out of her senses. You will think so yourself if you will go and see her."
The queen's affection for the princess deeply interested her in what she heard; she ordered the nurse to follow her; and they immediately went together to the princess's palace.
The queen of China sat down by her daughter's bed-side on her arrival in her apartment, and after she had informed herself about her health began to ask her what had made her so angry with her nurse, as to treat her in the manner she had done. "Daughter," said she, "this is not right, and a great princess like you should not suffer herself to be so transported by passion,"
"Madam," replied the princess, "I plainly perceive your majesty is come to mock me; but I declare I will never let you rest till you consent to my marrying the young man who lay with me last night. You must know where he is, and therefore I beg of your majesty to let him come to me again."
"Daughter," answered the queen, "you surprise me; I do not understand your meaning." The princess now forgot all respect for the queen; "Madam," replied she, "the king my father and you have persecuted me about marrying, when I had no inclination; I now have an inclination, and I will have this young man I told you of for my husband, or I will destroy myself."
The queen endeavoured to calm the princess by conciliatory language: "Daughter," said she, "you know well you are guarded in this apartment, how then could any man come to you?" But instead of attending to her, the princess interrupted her, by such extravagancies as obliged the queen to leave her, and retire in great affliction, to inform the king of all that had passed.
When the king had heard the account, he wished likewise to be satisfied in person, and coming to his daughter's apartment, asked her, if what he had been told was true? "Sir," replied the princess, "let us talk no more of that; I only beseech your majesty to grant me the favour, that I may marry the young man I lay with last night."
"What! daughter," said the king, "has any one lain with you last night?" "How, sir," replied the princess, without giving him time to go on, "do you ask me if any one lay with me last night? Your majesty knows that but too well. He was the most beautiful youth the sun ever saw: I ask him of you for my husband; I entreat you do not refuse me. But that your majesty may not longer doubt whether I have seen this young man, whether he has lain with me, whether I have caressed him, or whether I did not my utmost to awake him without succeeding, see, if you please, this ring." She then reached forth her hand, and shewed the king a man's ring on her finger. The king was perplexed what to think. He had confined his daughter as mad, he began now to think her more insane than ever. Without saying any thing more to her, lest she might do violence to herself or somebody about her, he had her chained, and confined more closely than before, allowing her only the nurse to wait on her, with a good guard at the door.
The king, exceedingly concerned at this indisposition of his daughter, sought all possible means to effect her cure. He assembled his council, and after having acquainted them with her condition "If any of you," said he, "is capable of undertaking to restore her to health, and succeed, I will give her to him in marriage, and make him heir to my dominions."
The desire of obtaining a handsome young princess, and the hopes of one day governing so great a kingdom as that of China, had a powerful effect on an emir, already advanced in years, who was present at this council. As he was well skilled in magic, he offered the king to recover his daughter, and flattered himself with success. "I consent to the trial," said the king; "but I forgot to tell you one condition, and that is, that if you do not succeed, you shall lose your head. It would not be reasonable you should have so great a reward, and yet run no risk: and what I say to you," continued the king, "I say to all others who shall come after you, that they may consider beforehand what they undertake."
The emir accepted the condition, and the king conducted him to the princess's place of confinement. She covered her face as soon as she saw them enter, and exclaimed, "Your majesty surprises me, in bringing with you a man whom I do not know, and by whom my religion forbids me to let myself be seen." "Daughter," replied the king, "you need not be scandalized, it is only one of my emirs who is come to demand you in marriage." "It is not, I perceive, the person that you have already given me, and whose faith is plighted by the ring I wear," replied the princess; "be not offended that I will never marry any other."
The emir expected the princess would have said or done some extravagant thing, and was not a little disappointed when he heard her talk so calmly and rationally; for he then concluded that her disease was nothing but a violent and deep-rooted passion. He therefore threw himself at his majesty's feet, and said, "After what I have heard and observed, sir, it will be to no purpose for me to think of curing the princess, since I have no remedies proper for her malady; for which reason I humbly submit my life to your majesty's pleasure." The king, enraged at his incapacity, and the trouble he had given him, caused him to be immediately beheaded.
Some days after, unwilling to have it said that he had neglected his daughter's cure, the king put forth a proclamation in his capital, importing, that if there were any physician, astrologer, or magician who would undertake to restore the princess to her senses, he needed only to offer himself, and he should be employed, on condition of losing his head if he failed. He had the same published in the other principal cities and towns of his dominions, and in the courts of the princes his neighbours.
The first that presented himself was an astrologer and magician, whom the king caused to be conducted to the princess's prison by an eunuch. The astrologer drew forth, out of a bag he carried under his arm, an astrolabe, a small sphere, a chafing-dish, several sorts of drugs proper for fumigations, a brass pot, with many other articles, and desired he might have a fire.
The princess demanded what all these preparations were for. "Madam," answered the eunuch, "they are to exorcise the evil spirit that possesses you, to shut him up in this pot, and throw him into the sea."
"Foolish astrologer," replied the princess, "I have no occasion for any of your preparations, but am in my perfect senses, and you alone are mad. If your art can bring him I love to me, I shall be obliged to you; otherwise you may go about your business, for I have nothing to do with you." "Madam," said the astrologer, "if your case be so, I shall desist from all endeavours, believing the king your father only can remove your disorder:" so putting up his trinkets again, he marched away, much concerned that he had so easily undertaken to cure an imaginary malady.
The eunuch conducted the astrologer to the king, whom the astrologer thus addressed: "According to what your majesty published in your proclamation, and what you were pleased to confirm to me yourself, I thought the princess was insane, and depended on being able to recover her by the secrets I have long been acquainted with; but I soon found she had no other disease but that of love, over which my art has no power: your majesty alone is the physician who can cure her, by giving her in marriage the person whom she desires."
The king was much enraged at the astrologer, and had his head instantly cut off. A hundred and fifty astrologers, physicians, and magicians, came on this account, who all underwent the same fate; and their heads were set upon poles on every gate of the city.
The princess of China's nurse had a son whose name was Marzavan, who had been foster-brother to the princess, and brought up with her, The friendship was so great during their childhood, and all the time they had been together, that as they grew up, even some time after their separation, they treated each other as brother and sister.
Marzavan, among other studies, had from his youth been much addicted to judicial astrology, geomancy, and the like secret arts, wherein he became exceedingly skilful. Not satisfied with what he had learned from masters, he travelled, and there was hardly any person of note in any science or art, but he sought him in the most remote cities, to obtain information, so great was his thirst after knowledge.
After several years' absence in foreign parts, he returned to the capital of his native country, where, seeing so many heads on the gate by which he entered, he was exceedingly surprised, and demanded for what reason they had been placed there; but he more particularly inquired after the princess his foster-sister. As he could not receive an answer to one inquiry without the other, he heard at length a general account of what had happened, and waited for further particulars till he could see his mother, the princess's nurse.
Although the nurse, the mother of Marzavan, was much employed about the princess, yet she no sooner heard her son was returned, than she found time to come out, embrace him, and converse with him a little. Having told him, with tears in her eyes, the unhappy condition of the princess, and for what reason the king her father had confined her; her son desired to know if she could not procure him a private view of her royal mistress, without the king's knowledge. After some pause, she told him she could give him no answer for the present; but if he would meet her the next day at the same hour, she would inform him.
The nurse knowing none could approach the princess but herself; without leave of the eunuch, who commanded the guard at the gate, addressed: herself to him, and said, "You know I have brought up and suckled the princess, and you may likewise have heard that I had a daughter whom I brought up along with her. This daughter has been since married, yet the princess still does her the honour to love her, and wishes to see her, without any person's observing her enter or depart."
The nurse was proceeding, but the eunuch interrupted her and exclaimed, "Say no more, I will with pleasure do any thing to oblige the princess; go and fetch your daughter, or send for her about midnight,and the gate shall be open for you."
As soon as it was dark, the nurse went to Marzavan, and having dressed him so well in women's clothes, that nobody could suspect he was a man, carried him along with her; and the eunuch believing it was her daughter, admitted them.
The nurse, before she presented Marzavan, went to the princess, and said, "Madam, this is not a woman I have brought to you, it is my son Marzavan in disguise, newly arrived from his travels; having a great desire to kiss your hand, I hope your highness will vouchsafe him that honour."
"What! my brother Marzavan," exclaimed the princess, with great joy; "approach, and take off that veil; for it is not unreasonable that a brother and a sister should see each other without covering their faces."
Marzavan saluted her with profound respect, while, without giving him time to speak, she continued, "I rejoice to see you returned in good health, after so many years' absence, and without sending any account of your welfare, even to your good mother."
"Madam," replied Marzavan, "I am infinitely obliged to your goodness. I hoped to have heard a better account of your health than has been given me, and which I lament to find confirmed by your appearance. It gives me pleasure, however, to have come so seasonably to bring your highness that remedy which your situation requires. Should I reap no other benefit from my studies and travels, I should think myself amply recompensed."
Having thus spoken, Marzavan drew out of his pocket a book and some other things, which from the account he had had from his mother of the princess's distemper, he thought he might want. The princess, observing these preparations, exclaimed, "What! brother, are you one of those who believe me mad? Undeceive yourself, and hear me."
The princess then related to Marzavan all the particulars of her story, without omitting the least circumstance, even to the ring which was exchanged for hers, and which she shewed him. "I have not concealed the least incident from you," continued she; "there is something in this business which I cannot comprehend, and which has given occasion for some persons to think me mad. But no one will attend to the rest, which is literally as I have stated."
After the princess had concluded, Marzavan, filled with wonder and astonishment, remained for some time with his eyes fixed on the ground, without speaking a word; but at length he lifted up his head, and said, "If it be as your highness says, and which I do not in the least doubt, I do not despair of being able to procure you the gratification of your wishes. But I must first entreat your highness to arm yourself with patience, till I have travelled over kingdoms which I have not yet visited, and when you hear of my return, be assured the object of your desire is not far distant." Having thus spoken, Marzavan took leave of the princess, and set out the next morning on his intended travels.
He journeyed from city to city, from province to province, and from island to island; and in every place he visited, he could hear of nothing but the princess Badoura (which was the princess of China's name) and her history.
About four months after, our traveller arrived at Torf, a sea- port town, large and populous, where the theme was changed; he no more heard of the princess Badoura, but all the talk was of prince Kummir al Zummaun, who was sick, and whose history greatly resembled hers. Marzavan was extremely delighted on hearing this, and informed himself where the prince was to be found. There were two ways to it; one, by land and sea; the other, by sea only, which was the shortest.
Marzavan chose the latter; and embarking on board a merchant ship, arrived safely in sight of Shaw Zummaun's capital; but just before it entered the port, the ship struck upon a rock, by the unskilfulness of the pilot, and foundered: it went down in sight of the castle, where at that time were the king and his grand vizier.
Marzavan, who could swim well, immediately upon the ship's sinking cast himself into the sea, and got safe on shore under the castle, where he was soon relieved by the grand vizier's order. After he had changed his clothes, and been well treated, he was introduced to the grand vizier, who lead sent for him.
Marzavan being a young man of good address, the minister received him with great politeness; and was induced, from the just and pertinent answers he returned to the questions put to him, to regard him with great esteem. Finding by degrees that he possessed great variety and extent of information, he said to him, "From what I can understand, I perceive you are no common man; you have travelled much: would to God you had discovered some remedy for a malady which has been long a source of great affliction at this court."
Marzavan replied, if he knew what malady it was, he might perhaps find a remedy applicable to it.
The grand vizier then related to him the story of prince Kummir al Zummaun. He concealed nothing relating to his birth, which had been so earnestly desired, his education, the wish of the king his father to see him early married, his resistance and extraordinary aversion from marriage, his disobeying his father in full council, his imprisonment, his extravagancies in prison, which were afterwards changed into a violent passion for some unknown lady, who, he pretended, had exchanged a ring with him, though, for his part, he verily believed there was no such person in the world.
Marzavan gave great attention to all the grand vizier said, and was infinitely rejoiced to find that, by means of his shipwreck, he had so fortunately lighted on the person he was seeking. He saw no reason to doubt that the prince was the man whom the princess of China so ardently loved, and that this princess was equally the object of his passion. Without explaining himself farther to the vizier, he desired to see the prince, that he might be better able to judge of his disorder and its cure. "Follow me," said the grand vizier, "and you will find the king with him, who has already desired I should introduce you."
On entering the prince's chamber, the first thing Marzavan observed was the prince upon his bed languishing, and with his eyes shut. Notwithstanding his condition, and regardless of the presence of the king his father, who was sitting by him, he could not avoid exclaiming, "Heavens! was there ever a greater resemblance?" He meant to the princess of China; for it seems the princess and the prince were much alike.
This exclamation of Marzavan excited the prince's curiosity; he opened his eyes and looked at him. Marzavan, who had a ready wit, seized that opportunity, and made his compliment in extempore verse; but in such a disguised manner, that neither the king nor the grand vizier under stood his meaning. He represented so exactly what had happened to him with the princess of China, that the prince had no reason to doubt he knew her, and could give him tidings of her. His countenance immediately brightened up with joy.
After Marzavan had finished his compliment in verse, which surprised Kummir al Zummaun so agreeably, the prince took the liberty of making a sign to the king his father, to give his place to Marzavan, and allow him to sit by him.
The king, overjoyed at this alteration, which inspired him with hopes of his son's speedy recovery, quitted his place, and taking Marzavan by the hand, led him to it, obliging him to sit. He then demanded of him who he was, and whence he had come? And upon Marzavan's answering he was a subject of China, and came from that kingdom, the king exclaimed, "Heaven grant you may be able to recover my son from this profound melancholy; I shall be eternally obliged to you, and all the world shall see how handsomely I will reward you." Having said thus, he left the prince to converse at full liberty with the stranger, whilst he went and rejoiced with the grand vizier on this happy incident.
Marzavan leaning down to the prince, addressed him in a low voice: "Prince, it is time you should cease to grieve. The lady, for whom you suffer, is the princess Badoura, daughter of Gaiour, king of China. This I can assure your highness from what she has told me of her adventure, and what I have learned of yours. She has suffered no less on your account than you have on hers." Here he related all that he knew of the princess's story, from the night of their extraordinary interview.
He omitted not to acquaint him how the king had treated those who had failed in their endeavours to cure the princess of her indisposition. "But your highness is the only person," added he, "that can cure her effectually, and you may present yourself without fear. However, before you undertake so long a voyage, I would have you perfectly recovered, and then we will take what measures may be necessary. Think then immediately of the recovery of your health."
This account had a marvellous effect on the prince. The hopes of speedily fulfilling his desires so much relieved him, that he felt he had strength sufficient to rise, and begged permission of his father to dress himself, with such an air as gave him incredible pleasure.
Shaw Zummaun, without inquiring into the means he had used to produce this wonderful effect, could not refrain from embracing Marzavan, and soon after went out of the prince's chamber with the grand vizier, to publish the agreeable tidings. He ordered public rejoicings for several days together, gave great largesses to his officers and the people, and alms to the poor, and caused the prisoners to be set at liberty throughout his kingdom The joy was soon general in the capital, and in every part of his dominions.
Kummir al Zummaun, though extremely weakened by almost continual privation of sleep and long abstinence, soon recovered his health. When he found himself in a condition to undertake the voyage, he took Marzavan aside, and said, "Dear Marzavan, it is now time to perform the promise you have made me. My impatience to behold the charming princess, and to relieve her of the torments she is now suffering on my account, is such, that if we do not shortly depart, I shall relapse into my former indisposition. One thing still afflicts me," continued he, "and that is the difficulty I shall find, from his tender affection for me, to obtain my father's permission to travel into a distant country. You observe he scarcely allows me to be a moment out of his sight."