Amgiad waited for his brother till evening with impatience; as two, three, or four of the clock in the morning arrived, and Assad did not return, he was in despair. He spent the night in extreme uneasiness; and as soon as it was day went to the city, where he was surprised to see but very few Mussulmauns. He accosted the first he met, and asked him the name of the place. He was told it was the city of the Magicians, so called from the great number of magicians, who adored the fire; and that it contained but few Mussulmauns. Amgiad then demanded how far it was to the isle of Ebene? He was answered, four months' voyage by sea, and a year's journey by land. The man he talked to left him hastily, having satisfied him as to these two questions.
Amgiad, who had been but six weeks coming from the isle of Ebene with his brother Assad, could not comprehend how they had reached this city in so short a time, unless it was by enchantment, or that the way across the mountain was a much shorter one, but not frequented because of its difficulty.
Going farther into the town, he stopped at a tailor's shop, whom he knew to be a Mussulmaun by his dress. Having saluted him, he sat down, and told him the occasion of the trouble he was in.
When prince Amgiad had done talking, the tailor replied, "If your brother has fallen into the hands of some magicians, depend upon it you will never see him more. He is lost past all recovery; and I advise you to comfort yourself as well as you can, and to beware of falling into the same misfortune: to which end, if you will take my advice, you shall stay at my house, and I will tell you all the tricks of these magicians, that you may take care of yourself, when you go out." Amgiad, afflicted for the loss of his brother, accepted the tailor's offer and thanked him a thousand times for his kindness to him.
The Story of the Prince Amgiad and a Lady of the City of the Magicians.
For a whole month prince Amgiad never went out of the tailor's house without being accompanied by his host. At last he ventured to go alone to the bath. As he was returning home, he met a lady on the way. Seeing a handsome young man, she lifted up her veil, asked him with a smiling air, and bewitching look, whither he was going? Amgiad was overpowered by her charms, and replied, "Madam, I am going to my own house, or, if you please, I will go to yours."
"My lord," resumed the lady, with a smile, "ladies of my quality never take men to their houses, they always accompany them to theirs."
Amgiad was much perplexed by this unexpected reply. He durst not venture to take her home to his landlord's house, lest he should give him offence, and thereby lose his protection, of which he had so much need, in a city which required him to be always on his guard. He knew so little of the town, that he could not tell where to convey her, and he could not make up his mind to suffer the adventure to go unimproved. In this uncertainty, he determined to throw himself upon chance; and without making any answer, went on, and the lady followed him. Amgiad led her from street to street, from square to square, till they were both weary with walking. At last they entered a street, at the end of which was a closed gateway leading to a handsome mansion. On each side of the gateway was a bench. Amgiad sat down on one of them, as if to take breath: and the lady, more weary than he, seated herself on the other.
When she had taken her seat, she asked him, whether that was his house? "You see it, madam," said Amgiad. "Why do you not open the gate then," demanded the lady; "what do you wait for?" "Fair lady," answered Amgiad, "I have not the key; I left it with my slave, when I sent him on an errand, and he cannot be come back yet: besides, I ordered him afterwards to provide something good for dinner; so that I am afraid we shall wait a long time for him."
The prince, meeting with so many obstacles to the satisfying of his passion, began to repent of having proceeded so far, and contrived this answer, in hopes that the lady would take the hint, would leave him out of resentment, and seek elsewhere for a lover; but he was mistaken.
"This is a most impertinent slave," said the lady, "to make us wait so long. I will chastise him myself as he deserves, if you do not, when he comes back. It is not decent that I should sit here alone with a man." Saying this, she arose, and took up a stone to break the lock, which was only of wood, and weak, according to the fashion of the country.
Amgiad gave himself over for a lost man, when he saw the door forced open. He paused to consider whether he should go into the house or make off as fast as he could, to avoid the danger which he believed was inevitable; and he was going to fly when the lady returned.
Seeing he did not enter, she asked, "Why do not you come into your house?" The prince answered, "I am looking to see if my slave is coming, fearing we have nothing ready." "Come in, come in," resumed she, we had better wait for him within doors than without."
Amgiad, much against his will, followed her into the house. Passing through a spacious court, neatly paved, they ascended by several steps into a grand vestibule, which led to a large open hall very well furnished, where he and the lady found a table ready spread with all sorts of delicacies, another heaped with fruit, and a sideboard covered with bottles of wine.
When Amgiad beheld these preparations, he gave himself up for lost. "Unfortunate Amgiad," said he to himself, "thou wilt soon follow thy dear brother Assad."
The lady, on the contrary, transported at the sight, exclaimed, "How, my lord, did you fear there was nothing ready? You see your slave has done more than you expected. But, if I am not mistaken, these preparations were made for some other lady, and not for me: no matter, let her come, I promise you I will not be jealous; I only beg the favour of you to permit me to wait on her and you."
Amgiad, greatly as he was troubled at this accident, could not help laughing at the lady's pleasantry. "Madam," said he, thinking of something else that tormented his mind, "there is nothing in what you imagine; this is my common dinner, and no extraordinary preparation, I assure you." As he could not bring himself to sit down at a. table which was not provided for him, he would have taken his seat on a sofa, but the lady would not permit him. "Come, sir," said she, "you must be hungry after bathing, let us eat and enjoy ourselves."
Amgiad was forced to comply: they both sat down, and began to regale themselves. After having taken a little, the lady took a bottle and glass, poured out some wine, and when she had drunk herself, filled another glass, and gave it to Amgiad, who pledged her. The more the prince reflected on this adventure, the more he was amazed that the master of the house did not appear; and that a mansion, so rich and well provided, should be left without a servant. "It will be fortunate," said he to himself, "if the master of the house do not return till I am got clear of this intrigue." While he was occupied with these thoughts, and others more troublesome, she ate and drank heartily, and obliged him to do the same. Just as they were proceeding to the dessert, the master of the house arrived.
It happened to be Bahader, master of the horse to the king of the magicians. This mansion belonged to him, but he commonly resided in another; and seldom came to this, unless to regale himself with two or three chosen friends He always sent provisions from his other house on such occasions, and had done so this day by some of his servants, who were just gone when the lady and Amgiad entered.
Bahader came as he used to do, in disguise, and without attendants, and a little before the time appointed for the assembling of his friends. He was not a little surprised to find the door broken open; he entered, making no noise, and hearing some persons talking and making merry in the hall, he stole along under the wall, and put his head half way within the door to see who they were.
Perceiving a young man and a young lady eating at his table the victuals that had been provided for his friends and himself, and that there was no great harm done, he resolved to divert himself with the adventure.
The lady's back was a little turned towards him, and she did not see the master of the horse, but Amgiad perceived him immediately. The glass was at the time in his hand, and he was going to drink; he changed colour at the sight of Bahader, who made a sign to him not to say a word, but to come and speak to him.
Amgiad drank and rose: "Where are you going?" inquired the lady. The prince answered, "Pray, madam, stay here a little; I shall return directly." Bahader waited for him in the vestibule, and led him into the court to talk to him without being overheard by the lady.
When Bahader and Amgiad were in the court, Bahader demanded of the prince, how the lady came into his house? and why they broke open his door? "My lord," replied Amgiad, "you may very reasonably think me guilty of a very unwarrantable action: but if you will have patience to hear me, I hope I shall convince you of my innocence." He then related, in a few words, what had happened, without disguising any part of the truth; and to shew him that he was not capable of committing such an action as to break into a house, told him he was a prince, and informed him of the reason of his coming to the city of the magicians.
Bahader, who was a good man, was pleased with an opportunity of obliging one of Amgiad's rank: for by his air, his actions, and his well-turned conversation, he did not in the least doubt the truth of what he had asserted. "Prince," said Bahader, "I am glad I can oblige you in so pleasent an adventure. Far from disturbing the feast, it will gratify me to contribute to your satisfaction in any thing. Before I say any more on this subject, I must inform you my name is Bahader; I am master of the horse to the king of the magicians; I commonly reside in another house, which I have in the city, and come here sometimes to have the more liberty with my friends. You have made this lady believe you have a slave, though you have none; I will personate that slave, and that this may not make you uneasy, and to prevent your excuses, I repeat again, that I will positively have it to be so; you will soon know my reason. Go to your place, and continue to divert yourself. When I return again, and come to you in a slave's habit, chide me for staying so long, do not be afraid even to strike me. I will wait upon you while you are at table till night; you shall sleep here, and so shall the lady, and to-morrow morning you may send her home with honour. I shall afterwards endeavour to do you more important services: go, and lose no time." Amgiad would have made him an answer, but the master of the horse would not suffer him, forcing him to return to the lady. He had scarcely reentered the hall before Bahader's friends, whom he had invited, arrived. Bahader excused himself for not entertaining them that day, telling them they would approve of his reason when they should be informed of it, which they should be in due time. When they were gone, he went and dressed himself in a slave's habit.
Prince Amgiad returned to the lady much pleased at finding the house belonged to a man of quality, who had received him so courteously. When he sat down again, he said, "Madam, I beg a thousand pardons for my rudeness. I was vexed that my slave should tarry so long; the rascal shall pay for it when he comes: I will teach him to make me wait so for him."
"Let not that trouble you," said the lady. "The evil is his; if he is guilty of any faults, let him pay for it: but do not let us think of him, we will enjoy ourselves without him."
They continued at the table with the more pleasure, as Amgiad was under no apprehensions of the consequence of the lady's indiscretion in breaking open the door. The prince was now as merry as the lady: they said a thousand pleasant things, and drank more than they ate, till Bahader arrived in his disguise.
Bahader entered like a slave who feared his master's displeasure for staying out when he had company with him. He fell down at his feet and kissed the ground, to implore his clemency; and when he had done, stood behind him with his hands across, waiting his commands.
"Sirrah," said Amgiad, with a fierce tone, and angry look, "where have you been? What have you been doing, that you came no sooner?"
"My lord," replied Bahader, "I ask your pardon; I was executing your orders, and did not think you would return home so early."
"You are a rascal," said Amgiad, "and I will break your bones, to teach you to lie, and disappoint me." He then rose up, took a stick, and gave him two or three slight blows; after which he sat down again.
The lady was not satisfied with this chastisement. She also rose, took the stick, and fell upon Bahader so unmercifully, that the tears came into his eyes. Amgiad, offended to the last degree at the freedom she took, and that she should use one of the king's chief officers so ill, called out to her in vain to forbear. "Let me alone," said she "I will give him enough, and teach him to be absent so long another time." She continued beating him with great fury, till Amgiad rose from the table, and forced the stick out of her hand which she did not relinquish without much struggling. When she found she could beat Bahader no longer, she sat down, railed at and cursed him.
Bahader wiped his eyes, and stood up to fill out wine When he saw they had done eating and drinking, he took away the cloth, cleared the hall, put every thing in its place; and night coming on, lighted up the lamps. Every time he came in, or went out, the lady muttered, threatened him, and gave him abusive language, to Amgiad's great regret, who would have hindered her, but could not. When it was time for them to retire to bed, Bahader prepared one for them on the sofa, and withdrew into a chamber, where he laid himself down, and soon fell asleep, having been fatigued with his beating. Amgiad and the lady entertained one another for some time afterwards. The lady before she went to bed having occasion to go to another part of the house, passing through the vestibule, heard Bahader snore, and having seen a sabre hanging up in the hall, turned back, and said to Amgiad, "My lord, as you love me, do one thing for me." "In what can I serve you?" asked the prince. "Oblige me so far as to take down this sabre and cut off your slave's head." Amgiad was astonished at such a proposal from a lady, and made no doubt but it was the wine she had drunk that induced her to make it. "Madam," said he, "let us suffer him to rest, he is not worthy of your farther notice: I have beaten him, and you have beaten him: that ought to be sufficient; besides, I am in other respects well satisfied with him."
"That shall not satisfy me," replied the lady, in a violent passion; "the rascal shall die, if not by your hands, by mine." As she spoke, she took down the sabre from the place where it hung, drew it out of the scabbard, and prepared to execute her wicked design.
Amgiad met her in the vestibule, saying, "You shall be satisfied, madam, since you will have it so; but I should be sorry that any one besides myself should kill my slave." When she had given him the sabre, "Come, follow me," said he; "make no noise, lest we should awaken him." They went into Bahader's chamber, where Amgiad, instead of striking him, aimed his blow at the lady, and cut off her head, which fell upon Bahader.
Bahader was awakened by the head of the lady falling upon him. He was amazed to see Amgiad standing by him with a bloody sabre, and the body of the lady lying headless on the ground. The prince told him what had passed, and said, "I had no other way to prevent this furious woman from killing you, but to take away her life." "My lord," replied Bahader, full of gratitude, "persons of your rank and generosity are incapable of doing such a wicked action: as she desired of you. You are my deliverer, and I cannot sufficiently thank you." After having embraced him, to evince the sense he entertained of his obligations to him, he said, "We must carry this corpse out before it is quite day; leave it to me, I will do it." Amgiad would not consent to this, saying, "He would carry it away himself, since he had struck the blow." Bahader replied, "You are a stranger in this city, and cannot do it so well as one who is acquainted with the place. I must do it, if for no other reason, yet for the safety of both of us, to prevent our being questioned about her death. Remain you here, and if I do not return before day, you may be sure the watch has seized me; and for fear of the worst, I will by writing give this house and furniture for your habitation."
When he had written, signed, and delivered the paper to prince Amgiad, he put the lady's body in a bag, head and all; laid it on his shoulder, and went out with it from one street to another, taking the way to the sea-side. He had not proceeded far before he met one of the judges of the city, who was going the rounds in person. Bahader was stopped by the judge's followers, who, opening the bag, found the body of a murdered lady, bundled up with the head. The judge, who knew the master of the horse notwithstanding his disguise, took him home to his house, and not daring to put him to death without telling the king, on account of his rank, carried him to court as soon as it was day. When the king had been informed by the judge of the crime Bahader had, as he believed from the circumstances, committed, he addressed himself to the master of the horse as follows: "It is thus then that thou murderess my subjects, to rob them, and then wouldst throw their dead bodies into the sea, to hide thy villainy? Let us get rid of him; execute him immediately."
Innocent as Bahader was, he received sentence of death with resignation, and said not a word in his justification. The judge carried him to his house, and while the pale was preparing, sent a crier to publish throughout the city, that at noon the master of the horse was to be impaled for a murder.
Prince Amgiad, who had in vain expected Bahader's return, was struck with consternation when he heard the crier publish the approaching execution of the master of the horse. "If," said he to himself, "any one ought to die for the murder of such a wicked woman, it is I, and not Bahader; I will never suffer an innocent man to be punished for the guilty." Without deliberating, he then hastened to the place of execution, whither the people were running from all parts.
When Amgiad saw the judge bringing Bahader to the pale, he went up to him, and said, "I am come to assure you, that the master of the horse, whom you are leading to execution, is wholly innocent of the lady's death; I alone am guilty of the crime, if it be one, to have killed a detestable woman, who would have murdered Bahader." He then related to him how it had happened.
The prince having informed the judge of the manner in which he had met her coming from the bath; how she had occasioned his going into the master of the horse's pleasure-house, and all that had passed to the moment in which he was forced to cut off her head, to save Bahader's life; the judge ordered execution to be stopped, and conducted Amgiad to the king, taking the master of the horse with them.
The king wished to hear the story from Amgiad himself; and the prince, the better to prove his own innocence and that of the master of the horse, embraced the opportunity to discover who he was, and what had driven him and his brother Assad to that city, with all the accidents that had befallen them, from their departure from the Isle of Ebene.
The prince having finished his account, the king said to him, "I rejoice that I have by this means been made acquainted with you; I not only give you your own life, and that of my master of the horse, whom I commend for his kindness to you, but I restore him to his office; and as for you, prince, I declare you my grand vizier, to make amends for your father's unjust usage, though it is also excusable, and I permit you to employ all the authority with which I now invest you to find out prince Assad."
Amgiad having thanked the king for the honour he had done him, on taking possession of his office of grand vizier used every possible means to find out the prince his brother. He ordered the common criers to promise a great reward to any who should discover him, or give any tidings of him. He sent men up and down the country to the same purpose; but in vain.
Assad in the meanwhile continued in the dungeon in chains; Bostama and Cavama, the cunning old conjuror's daughters, treating him daily with the same cruelty and inhumanity as at first.
The solemn festival of the adorers of fire approached; and a ship was fitted out for the fiery mountain as usual: the captain's name was Behram, a great bigot to his religion. He loaded it with proper merchandize; and when it was ready to sail, put Assad in a chest, which was half full of goods, a few crevices being left between the boards to give him air.
Before the ship sailed, the grand vizier Amgiad, who had been told that the adorers of fire used to sacrifice a Mussulmaun every year on the fiery mountain, suspecting that Assad might have fallen into their hands, and be designed for a victim, resolved to search the ship in person. He ordered all the passengers and seamen to be brought upon deck, and commanded his men to search all over the ship, which they did, but Assad could not be found, he was so well concealed.
When the grand vizier had done searching the vessel, she sailed. As soon as Behram was got out to sea, he ordered prince Assad to be taken out of the chest, and fettered, to secure him, lest he should throw himself into the sea in despair since he knew he was going to be sacrificed.
The wind was very favourable for a few days, after which there arose a furious storm. The vessel was driven out of her course, so that neither Behram nor his pilot knew where they were. They were afraid of being wrecked on the rocks, for in the violence of the storm they discovered land, and a dangerous shoal before them. Behram perceived that he was driven into the port and capital of queen Margiana, which occasioned him great mortification.
This queen Margiana was a devout professor of the Mahummedan faith, and a mortal enemy to the adorers of fire. She had banished all of them out of her dominions, and would not suffer their ships to touch at her ports.
It was no longer in the power of Behram to avoid putting into the harbour, for he had no alternative but to be dashed to pieces against the frightful rocks that lay off the shore. In this extremity he held a council with his pilot and seamen. "My lads," said he, "you see to what a necessity we are reduced. We must choose one of two things; either to resolve to be swallowed up by the waves, or put into queen Margiana's port, whose hatred to all persons of our religion you well know. She will certainly seize our vessel and put us all to death, without mercy. I see but one way to escape her, which is, to take off the fetters from the Mussulmaun we have aboard, and dress him like a slave. When queen Margiana commands me to come before her, and asks what trade I follow, I will tell her I deal in slaves; that I have sold all I had, but one, whom I keep to be my clerk, because he can read and write. She will by this means see him, and he being handsome, and of her own religion, will have pity on him. No doubt she will then ask to buy him of me, and on this account will let us stay in the port till the weather is fair. If any of you have any thing else to propose that will be preferable, I am ready to attend to it." The pilot and seamen applauded his judgment, and agreed to follow his advice.
Behram commanded prince Assad's chains to be taken off, and had him neatly habited like a slave, as became one who was to pass for his clerk before the queen of the country. They had scarcely time to do this, before the ship drove into the port, and dropped anchor.
Queen Margiana's palace was so near the sea, that her garden extended down to the shore. She saw the ship anchor, and sent to the captain to come to her, and the sooner to satisfy her curiosity waited for him in her garden.
Behram landed with prince Assad, whom he required to confirm what he had said of his being a slave, and his clerk. When he was introduced to the queen, he threw himself at her feet, and informed her of the necessity he was under to put into her port: that he dealt in slaves, and had sold all he had but one, who was Assad, whom he kept for his clerk.
The queen was taken with Assad from the moment she first saw him, and was extremely glad to hear that he was a slave; resolving to buy him, cost what he would. She asked Assad what was his name.
"Great queen," he replied, with tears in his eyes, "does your majesty ask what my name was formerly, or what it is now?" The queen answered, "Have you two names then?" "Alas! I have," said Assad: "I was once called Assad (most happy); and now my name is Motar" (devoted to be sacrificed).
Margiana not being able to comprehend the meaning of his answer, interpreted it to refer to his condition of a slave. "Since you are clerk to the captain," said she, "no doubt you can write well; let me see your hand."
Behram had furnished Assad with pen, ink, and paper, as a token of his office, that the queen might take him for what he designed she should.
The prince stepped a little aside, and wrote as follows, suitable to his wretched circumstances:
"The blind man avoids the ditch into which the clear-sighted falls. Fools advance themselves to honours, by discourses which signify nothing, while men of sense and eloquence live in poverty and contempt. The Mussulmaun with all his riches is miserable. The infidel triumphs. We cannot hope things will be otherwise. The Almighty has decreed it shall be so."
Assad presented the paper to queen Margiana, who admired alike the moral of the sentences, and the goodness of the writing. She needed no more to have her heart inflamed, and to feel a sincere concern for his misfortunes. She had no sooner read the lines, than she addressed herself to Behram, saying, "Do which you will, either sell me this slave, or make me a present of him; perhaps it will turn most to your account to do the latter."
Behram answered insolently, that he could neither give nor sell him; that he wanted his slave, and would keep him.
Queen Margiana, provoked at his rudeness, would not talk to him any more on the subject. She took the prince by the arm, and turned him before her to the palace, sending Behram word, that if he stayed the night in her port, she would confiscate his goods, and burn his ship. He was therefore forced to return to his vessel, and prepare to put to sea again, notwithstanding the tempest had not yet subsided.
Queen Margiana, on entering her palace, commanded supper to be got ready; and while it was providing, she ordered Assad to be brought into her apartment, where she bade him sit down. Assad would have excused himself: "It becomes not a slave," said he, "to presume to this honour."
"To a slave! "replied the queen: "you were so a moment ago; henceforward you are no more a slave. Sit down near me, and tell me the story of your life; for by what you wrote, and the insolence of that slave-merchant, I guess there is something extraordinary in your history."
Prince Assad obeyed her; and sitting down, began thus: "Mighty queen, your majesty is not mistaken, in thinking there is something extraordinary in the story of my life: it is indeed more so than you can imagine. The ills, the incredible torments I have suffered, and the death to which I was devoted, and from which I am delivered by your royal generosity, will shew the greatness of my obligation to you, never to be forgotten. But before I enter into particulars of my miseries, which will strike horror into the hearts of all that hear them, I must trace the origin of them to its source."
This preamble increased queen Margiana's curiosity. The prince then told her of his royal birth; of his brother Amgiad, and their mutual friendship; of their mothers' criminal passion, the cause of all their sufferings; of the king his father's rage; how miraculously their lives were saved; how he had lost his brother; how he had been long imprisoned and tortured, and was devoted to be sacrificed on the fiery mountain.
When Assad had finished his recital' the queen was more than ever enraged at the adorers of fire. "Prince," said she, "though I have always had an aversion to the adorers of fire, yet hitherto I have had some humanity for them: but after their barbarous usage of you, and their execrable design to sacrifice you, I will henceforth wage perpetual war against them."
She was proceeding, but supper being served in, she made prince Assad sit down at table with her, being charmed with his beauty and eloquence, and touched with a passion which she hoped soon to have an opportunity of making known to him "Prince," said she, "we must make you amends for so many fasts and wretched meals, to which the pitiless adorers of fire made you submit; you must want nourishment after such sufferings." With conversation of this kind she helped him at supper; and ordered him to drink a good deal of wine to recover his spirits; by which means he drank more than he could well bear.
The cloth being taken away, Assad having occasion to go out, took an opportunity when the queen did not observe him. He descended into the court, and seeing the garden-door open, went into it. Being tempted by the pleasantness of the place, he walked there for some time. At last he came to a fountain, where he washed his face and hands to refresh himself, and lying down on the turf by the fountain, fell asleep.
Behram, to prevent the queen from executing her threats, had weighed anchor, vexed at the loss of Assad, by which he was disappointed of a most acceptable sacrifice. He comforted himself as well as he could, with the thoughts that the storm was over, and that a land breeze favoured his getting off the coast. As soon as he was towed out of the port by the help of his boat, before it was hoisted up into the ship again, "Stop, my lads," said he to the seamen, "do not come on board yet; I will give you some casks to fill with water, and wait for you." Behram had observed, while he was talking to the queen in the garden, that there was a fountain at the end of it, near the port. "Go," said he, "land before the palace-garden; the wall is not above breast high, you may easily get over; there is a basin in the middle of the garden, where you may fill all your barrels, and hand them aboard without difficulty."
The sailors went ashore at the place he directed them to, and laying their casks on their shoulders easily got over the wall.
As they approached the basin, they perceived a man sleeping on the grass, and knew him to be Assad. They immediately divided themselves; and while some of the crew filled their barrels with as little noise as possible, others surrounded Assad, and watched to seize him if he should awake.
He slept on undisturbed, giving them time to fill all their casks; which they afterwards handed over the wall to others of the crew who waited to carry them aboard.
They next seized Assad, and conveyed him away, without giving him time to recollect himself. They got him over the wall into their boat with the casks, and rowed to the ship. When they drew near her they cried out for joy, "Captain, sound your trumpets, beat your drums, we have brought you your slave."
Behram, who could not imagine how the seamen could find and take him again, and did not see Assad in the boat, it being night, waited their arrival with impatience, to ask what they meant; but when he saw him, he could not contain himself for joy. He commanded him to be chained, without staying to inquire how they came by him; and having hoisted the boat on board, set sail for the fiery mountain. In the meanwhile queen Margiana was in alarm. She was not at first apprehensive when she found prince Assad was gone out, because she did not doubt but he would soon return When some time had passed without his appearing, she began to be uneasy, and commanded her women to look for him. They sought for him in every direction, and at night renewed their search by torch-light, but all to no purpose.
Queen Margiana was so impatient and alarmed, that she went herself with lights, and finding the garden-door open, entered, and walked all over it with her women to seek for him. Passing by the fountain and basin, she espied a slipper, which she took up, and knew it to be prince Assad's, her women also recognized it to be his. This circumstance, together with the water being spilt about the edge of the basin, induced her to believe that Behram had carried him off. She sent immediately to see if he was still in the port; and hearing he had sailed a little before it was dark, that he lay-to some time off the shore, while he sent his boat for water from the fountain, she sent word to the commander of ten ships of war, which lay always ready in the harbour, to sail on the shortest notice, that she would embark herself next morning as soon as it was day. The commander lost no time, ordered the captains, seamen and soldiers aboard, and was ready to sail at the time appointed. She embarked, and when the squadron was at sea, told the commander her intention. "Make all the sail you can," said she, "and chase the merchantman that sailed last night out of this port. If you capture it, I assign it to you as your property; but if you fail, your life shall answer."
The ten ships chased Behram's vessel two whole days without seeing her. The third day in the morning they discovered her, and at noon had so surrounded her, that she could not escape.
As soon as Behram espied the ten ships of war, he made sure it was queen Margiana's squadron in pursuit of him; and upon that he ordered Assad to be bastinadoed, which he had done every day. He was much perplexed what to do, when he found he was surrounded. To keep Assad, was to declare himself guilty; to kill him was as dangerous, for he feared some marks of the murder might be seen. He therefore commanded him to be unfettered and brought from the bottom of the hold where he lay. When he came before him, "It is thou," said he, "that art the cause of my being pursued;" and so saying, he flung him into the sea.
Prince Assad being an expert swimmer, made such good use of his feet and hands, that he reached the shore in safety. The first thing he did after he had landed, was to thank God who had delivered him from so great a danger, and once more rescued him out of the hands of the adorers of fire. He then stripped himself, and wringing the water out of his clothes, spread them on a rock, where, by the heat of the sun, and of the rock, they soon dried. After this he lay down to rest himself, deploring his miserable condition, not knowing in what country he was nor which way to direct his course. He dressed himself again and walked on, keeping as near the sea-side as he could. At last he entered a kind of path, which he followed, and travelled on ten days through an uninhabited country, living on herbs, plants, and wild fruits. At last he approached a city, which he recognized to be that of the magicians, where he had been so ill used and where his brother Amgiad was grand vizier.
He rejoiced to discover where he was, but resolved not to approach any of the adorers of fire, and to converse only with Moosulmauns, for he remembered he had seen some the first time he entered the town. It being late, and knowing the shops were already shut, and few people in the streets, he resolved to remain in a burying ground near the city, where there were several tombs built in the form of mausoleums. He found the door of one of them open, which he entered, designing to pass the night there.
We must now return to Behram's ship, which, after he had thrown prince Assad overboard, was soon surrounded on all sides by queen Margiana's squadron. The ship in which queen Margiana was in person first came up with him, and Behram, being in no condition of defence against so many, furled his sails as a mark of his submission.
The queen herself boarded his ship, and demanded where the clerk was, whom he had the boldness to take or cause to be taken out of her palace. Behram replied, "O queen! I swear by your majesty, he is not in my ship; you will, by searching, be convinced of my innocence."
Margiana ordered the ship to be searched as narrowly as possible, but she could not find the man, whom she so much wished to recover, as well on account of her love for him, as of the generosity for which she was distinguished. She once resolved to kill Behram with her own hand, but refrained, and contented herself with seizing his ship and cargo, and turning him and his men on shore in their boat.
Behram and his seamen arrived at the city of the magicians the same night as Assad, and stopped at the same burying-ground, the city gates being shut, intending to stay in some tomb till the next day, when they should be opened again.
To Assad's misfortune, Behram came to that in which the prince was sleeping with his head wrapped up in his habit, and entered it. Assad awoke at the noise of his footsteps, and demanded who was there.
Behram immediately recognized him. "Hah, hah," said he, "thou art the man who has ruined me for ever; thou hast escaped being sacrificed this year, but depend on it thou shalt not be so fortunate the next." Saying this, he flew upon him, clapped his handkerchief into his mouth to prevent his making a noise, and with the assistance of his seamen bound him.
The next morning as soon as the city gates were open, Behram and his men easily carried Assad through streets, where no one was yet stirring, to the old man's house, where he had been so inhumanly treated. As soon as he was brought in, he was again thrown into the same dungeon. Behram acquainted the old man with the unfortunate circumstances of his return, and the ill success of his voyage. The old savage, upon this, commanded his two daughters Bostama and Cavama to treat him, if possible, more cruelly than before.
Assad was overwhelmed with terror at seeing himself again in the hands of persecutors from whom he had suffered so much, and expected the repetition of the torments from which he hoped that he had been delivered. He was lamenting the severity of his fate, when Bostama entered with a stick in her hand, a loaf and a pitcher of water. He trembled at the sight of this unmerciful wretch, and at the very thoughts of the sufferings he was to endure for another year, at the conclusion of which he was to die the most horrible death.
Bostama treated prince Assad as inhumanly as she had done during his first confinement. But his cries, lamentations, and earnest entreaties to her to spare him, joined with his tears, were so affecting, that she could not help shedding tears. "My lord," said she, covering his shoulders again, "I ask a thousand pardons for my inhuman treatment of you formerly, and for making you once more feel its effect. Till now I was afraid of disobeying a father, who is unjustly enraged against you, and resolved on your destruction, but at last I abhor this barbarity. Be comforted, your evil days are over. I will endeavour by better treatment to make amends for all my crimes, of the enormity of which you will find I am duly sensible. You have hitherto regarded me as an infidel; henceforth believe me one of your own religion; having been taught it by a slave, I hope your lessons will complete my conversion. To convince you of my sincerity, I first beg pardon of the true God for all my sins, in dealing so cruelly by you, and I trust he will put it in my power to set you entirely at liberty."
This address afforded the prince much comfort. He thanked the Almighty for the change wrought in her heart, He also thanked her for her favourable disposition towards him, and omitted no arguments which he thought would have any effect in confirming her conversion to the Moosulmaun religion. He afterwards related to her the whole story of his life to that time. When he was fully assured of her good intentions respecting him, he asked her how she could continue to keep her sister Cavama in ignorance of them; and prevent her treating him as barbarously as she used to do? "Let not that trouble you," replied Bostama; "I know how to order matters so that she shall never come near you."
She accordingly every day prevented her sister's coming down into the dungeon, where she often visited the prince. Instead of carrying him bread and water, she now brought him the best wine and the choicest victuals she could procure, which were prepared by her twelve Mahommedan slaves. She ate with him herself from time to time, and did all in her power to alleviate his misfortunes.
A few days afterwards, Bostama, as she stood at her father's door, observed the public crier making proclamation, but she could not hear what it was about, being too far off. As he was proceeding in the direction of her father's house, she went in, and holding the door half open, perceived that he went before the grand vizier Amgiad, brother to Assad; who was accompanied by several officers, and other attendants.
The crier, a few steps from the house, repeated the proclamation with a loud voice, as follows: "The most excellent and illustrious grand vizier is come in person to seek for his dear brother, from whom he was separated about a year ago. He is a young man of such an appearance; if any one has him in keeping, or knows where he is, his excellency commands that they bring him forth, or give him notice where to find him, promising a great reward to the person that shall give the information. If any one conceal him, and he be hereafter found, his excellency declares' he shall be punished with death, together with his wife, children, and all his family, and his house to be razed to the ground.
Bostama, as soon as she had heard this, shut the door as fast as she could, and ran to Assad in the dungeon. "Prince," said she, with joy, "your troubles are at an end; follow me immediately. She had taken off his fetters the day he was brought in, and the prince followed her into the street, where she cried, "There he is, there he is!"
The grand vizier, who was not far from the house, returned. Assad knew him to be his brother, ran to him, and embraced him. Amgiad, who immediately recollected him, returned his embrace with all possible tenderness; made him mount one of his officers' horses, who alighted for that purpose; and conducted him in triumph to the palace, where he presented him to the king, by whom he was advanced to the post of a vizier.
Bostama not wishing to return to her father's house, which was the next day razed to the ground, was sent to the queen's apartments.
The old man her father, Behram, and all their families were brought before the king, who condemned them to be beheaded. They threw themselves at his feet, and implored his mercy. "There is no mercy for you to expect," said the king, "unless you renounce the adoration of fire, and profess the Mahummedan religion."
They accepted the condition, and were pardoned at the intercession of Assad, in consideration of Bostama's friendship; for whose sake Cavama's life, and the lives of the rest of their families were saved.
Amgiad, in consideration of Behram turning Mussulmaun, and to compensate for the loss which he had suffered before he deserved his favour, made him one of his principal officers, and lodged him in his house. Behram, being informed of Amgiad and his brother Assad's story, proposed to his benefactor, to fit out a vessel to convey them to their father's court: "For," said he, "the king must certainly have heard of your innocence, and impatiently desire to see you: otherwise we can easily inform him of the truth before we land, and if he is still in the same mind, you can but return."
The two brothers accepted the proposal, communicated it to the king of the city of the magicians, who approved of it; and commanded a ship to be equipped. Behram undertook the employment cheerfully, and soon got in readiness to sail. The two princes, when they understood the ship was ready, waited upon the king to take leave. While they were making their compliments, and thanking the king for his favours, they were interrupted by a great tumult in the city: and presently an officer came to give them notice that a numerous army was advancing against the city, nobody knowing who they were, or whence they had come.
The king being alarmed at the intelligence, Amgiad addressed him thus: "Sir, though I have just resigned into your majesty's hands the dignity of your first minister, with which you were pleased to honour me, I am ready to do you all the service in my power. I desire therefore that you would be pleased to let me go and see who this enemy is, that comes to attack you in your capital, without having first declared war."
The king desired him to do so. Amgiad departed immediately, with a very small retinue, to see what enemy approached, and what was the reason of their coming.
It was not long before prince Amgiad descried the army, which appeared very formidable, and which approached nearer and nearer. The advanced guards received him favourably, and conducted him to a princess, who stopped, and commanded her army to halt, while she talked with the prince; who, bowing profoundly to her, demanded if she came as a friend or an enemy: if as an enemy, what cause of complaint she had against the king his master?
"I come as a friend," replied the princess, "and have no cause of complaint against the king of the city of the magicians. His territories and mine are so situated, that it is almost impossible for us to have any dispute. I only come to require a slave named Assad, to be delivered up to me. He was carried away by one Behram, a captain of a ship belonging to this city, the most insolent man in the world. I hope your king will do me justice, when he knows I am Margiana."
The prince answered, "Mighty queen, the slave whom you take so much pains to seek is my brother: I lost him, and have found him again. Come, and I will deliver him up to you myself; and will do myself the honour to tell you the rest of the story: the king my master will rejoice to see you."
The queen ordered her army to pitch their tents, and encamp where they were; and accompanied prince Amgiad to the city and palace, where he presented her to the king; who received her in a manner becoming her dignity. Assad, who was present, and knew her as soon as he saw her, also paid his respects to her. She appeared greatly rejoiced to see him. While they were thus engaged, tidings came, that an army more powerful than the former approached on the other side of the city.
The king of the magicians was more terrified than before, understanding the second army was more numerous than the first, for he saw this by the clouds of dust they raised, which hid the face of the heavens. "Amgiad," cried he, "what shall we do now? a new army comes to destroy us." Amgiad guessed what the king meant; he mounted on horseback again, and galloped towards the second army. He demanded of the advanced guards to speak with their general, and they conducted him to their king. When he drew near him, he alighted, prostrated himself to the ground, and asked what he required of the king his master.
The monarch replied, "I am Gaiour, king of China; my desire to learn tidings of a daughter, whose name is Badoura, whom I married to Kummir al Zummaun, son of Shaw Zummaun, king of the isles of the children of Khaledan, obliged me to leave my dominions. I suffered that prince to go to see his father, on condition that he came back in a year with my daughter; from that time I have heard nothing of them. Your king will lay an infinite obligation on an afflicted father, by telling him if he knows what is become of them."
Prince Amgiad, perceiving by his discourse that the king was his grandfather, kissed his hand with tenderness, and answered him thus: "I hope your majesty will pardon my freedom, when you know that I only pay my duty to my grandfather. I am the son of Kummir al Zummaun, king of the isle of Ebene, and of queen Badoura, for whom you are thus troubled; and I doubt not but they are both in good health in their kingdom."
The king of China, overjoyed to see his grandson, tenderly embraced him. Such a meeting, so happy and unexpected, drew tears from both. The king inquiring on what occasion he had come into a strange country, the prince told him all that had happened to him and his brother Assad. When he had finished his relation, "My son," replied the king of China, "it is not just that such innocent princes as you are should be longer ill used. Comfort yourself, I will carry you and your brother home, and make your peace. Return, and acquaint your brother with my arrival."
While the king of China encamped in the place where prince Amgiad met him, the prince returned to inform the king of the magicians, who waited for him impatiently, how he had succeeded.
The king was astonished that so mighty a king as that of China should undertake such a long and troublesome journey, out of a desire to see his daughter. He gave orders to make preparations for his reception, and went forth to meet him.
While these things were transacting, a great dust was seen on another side of the town; and suddenly news was brought of the arrival of a third army, which obliged the king to stop, and to desire prince Amgiad once more to see who they were, and on what account they came.
Amgiad went accordingly, and prince Assad accompanied him. They found it was Kummir al Zummaun their father's army, with whom he was coming to seek for them. He was so grieved for the loss of his sons, that at last emir Jehaun-dar declared that he had saved their lives, which made him resolve to seek for them wherever he was likely to find them.
The afflicted father embraced the two princes with tears of joy, which put an end to those he had a long time shed for grief. The princes had no sooner told him the king of China, his father-in- law, was arrived, than, accompanied by them and a small party, he rode to wait upon him in his camp. They had not gone far, before they saw a fourth army advancing in good order, which seemed to come from Persia.
Kummir al Zummaun desired the two princes to go and see what army it was, and he would in the meanwhile wait for them. They departed immediately, and coming up to it, were presented to the king to whom the army belonged; and, after having saluted him with due reverence, they demanded on what design he approached so near the king of the magicians' capital. The grand vizier, who was present, answered in the name of the king his master, "The monarch to whom you speak is Shaw Zummaun, king of the isles of the children of Khaledan, who has a longtime travelled, thus attended, to seek his son, who left his dominions many years ago: if you know any thing of him, you cannot oblige him more than by communicating to him all the information in your power."
The princes only replied, that they would shortly bring him an answer, and galloping back as fast as they could, told Kummir al Zummaun that the king his father was approaching with his army.
Wonder, surprise, joy, and grief, had such an effect on Kummir al Zummaun, that he fainted as soon as he heard he was so near. Prince Amgiad and prince Assad, by their assiduities, at length brought him to himself; and when he had recovered his strength, he went to his father's tent, and threw himself at his feet.
Never was there a more affecting interview. Shaw Zummaun gently upbraided his son with unkindness in so cruelly leaving him; and Kummir al Zummaun discovered a hearty sorrow for the fault which love had urged him to commit.
The three kings, and queen Margiana, stayed three days at the court of the king of the magicians, who treated them magnificently. These three days were rendered more remarkable by prince Assad's marriage with queen Margiana, and prince Amgiad with Bostama, for the service she had done his brother Assad.
At length the three kings, and queen Margiana, with her husband Assad, returned to their respective kingdoms. As for Amgiad, the king of the magicians had such an affection for him, he could not part with him; and being very old, he resigned his crown to him. Amgiad, when he had the supreme authority, did his utmost to exterminate the worship of fire, and establish the Mahummedan religion throughout his dominions.
THE STORY OF NOOR AD DEEN AND THE FAIR PERSIAN.
The city of Bussorah was for many years the capital of a kingdom tributary to the caliphs of Arabia. The king who governed it in the days of the caliph Haroon al Rusheed was named Zinebi, who not thinking it proper to commit the administration of his affairs to a single vizier, made choice of two, Khacan and Saouy.
Khacan was of a sweet, generous, and affable temper, and took pleasure in obliging, to the utmost of his power, those with whom he had any business to transact, without violating the justice which it became him to dispense to all. He was therefore universally respected, at court, in the city, and throughout the whole kingdom; and the praises he so highly deserved were the general theme.
Saouy was of a very different character: he was always sullen and morose, and disgusted every body, without regard to their rank or quality. Instead of commanding respect by the liberal distribution of his immense wealth, he was so perfect a miser as to deny himself the necessaries of life. In short, nobody could endure him; and nothing good was said of him. But what rendered him most hateful to the people, was his implacable aversion to Khacan. He was always putting the worst construction on the actions of that worthy minister, and endeavouring as much as possible to prejudice him with the king.
One day after council, the king of Bussorah amused himself with his two viziers and some other members. The conversation turned upon the female slaves that are daily bought and sold, and who hold nearly the same rank as the lawful wives. Some were of opinion, that personal beauty in slaves so purchased was of itself sufficient to render them proper substitutes for wives, which, often on account of alliance or interest in families, men are obliged to marry, though they are not always possessed of any perfection, either of mind or body.
Others maintained, and amongst the rest Khacan, that personal charms were by no means the only qualifications to be desired in a slave; but that they ought to be accompanied with a great share of wit, a cultivated understanding, modesty, and, if possible, every agreeable accomplishment. The reason they gave was, that nothing could be more gratifying to persons on whom the management of important affairs devolved, than, after having spent the day in fatiguing employment, to have a companion in their retirement, whose conversation would be not only pleasing, but useful and instructive: for, in short, continued they, there is but little difference between brutes and those men who keep a slave only to look at, and to gratify a passion that we have in common with them.
The king entirely concurred in this opinion, and accordingly ordered Khacan to buy him a slave, of perfect beauty, mistress of all the qualifications they had enumerated, and possessed, above all things, of an enlightened understanding.
Saouy, jealous of the honour the king had done Khacan, and differing widely with him in opinion, said, "Sire, it will be very difficult to find a slave so accomplished as your majesty requires; and should such a one be discovered, which I scarcely believe possible, she will be cheap at ten thousand pieces of gold." "Saouy," replied the king, "I perceive plainly you think the sum too great; it may be so for you, though not for me." Then turning to his high treasurer, he ordered him to send the ten thousand pieces of gold to the vizier's house.
Khacan, as soon as he had returned home, sent for all the brokers who used to deal in women-slaves, and strictly charged them, that, if ever they met with one who answered the description he gave them, they should immediately apprise him. The brokers, partly to oblige the vizier, and partly for their own interest, promised to use their utmost endeavours to procure for him one that would accord with his wishes. Scarcely a day passed but they brought him a slave for his inspection, but he always discovered in each something defective.
One day, early in the morning, as Khacan was mounting his horse to go to court, a broker came to him, and, taking hold of the stirrup with great eagerness, told him a Persian merchant had arrived very late the day before, who had a slave to sell, so surprisingly beautiful that she excelled all the women his eyes had ever beheld; "And for wit and knowledge," added he, "the merchant engages she shall match the most acute and learned persons of the age."
Khacan, overjoyed at this intelligence, which promised him a favourable opportunity for making his court, ordered him to bring the slave to his palace against his return, and departed.
The broker failed not to be at the vizier's at the appointed hour; and Khacan, finding the lovely slave so much beyond his expectation, immediately gave her the name of the fair Persian. As he had himself much wit and learning, he soon perceived by her conversation, that it was in vain to search further for a slave that surpassed her in any of the qualifications required by the king; and therefore he asked the broker at what sum the Persian merchant valued her.
"Sir," replied the broker, "he is a man of few words in bargaining, and he tells me, that the very lowest price he will take for her is ten thousand pieces of gold: he has also sworn to me, that, without reckoning his care and pains from the time of his first taking her under his charge, he has laid out nearly that sum on her education in masters to improve her form and cultivate her mind, besides what she has cost him in clothes and maintenance. As he always thought her fit for a king, he has from her infancy, when he first bought her, been sparing of nothing that might contribute towards advancing her to that high distinction. She plays upon all kinds of instruments to perfection; she sings, dances, writes better than the most celebrated authors, makes verses, and there is scarcely any book but she has read; so that there never was a slave so accomplished heard of before."
The vizier Khacan, who could estimate the merits of the fair Persian better than the broker, who only reported what he had heard from the merchant, was unwilling to defer the bargain to a future opportunity, and therefore sent one of his servants to look for the merchant, where the broker told him he was to be found.
As soon as the Persian merchant arrived, "It is not for myself, but for the king," said the vizier Khacan, "that I buy your slave; but, nevertheless, you must let him have her at a more reasonable price than you have set upon her."
"Sir," replied the merchant, "I should do myself unspeakable honour in offering her as a present to his majesty, if it became a person in my situation to make him one of such inestimable value. I ask no more than her education and accomplishments have cost me; and all I have to say is, that I believe his majesty will be extremely pleased with the purchase."
The vizier Khacan would stand no longer bargaining with the merchant, but paid him the money immediately. "Sir," said he to the vizier, upon taking his leave of him, "since the slave is designed for the king's use, give me leave to tell you, that being extremely fatigued with our long journey, you see her at present under great disadvantage. Though she has not her equal in the world for beauty, yet if you please to keep her at your own house for a fortnight, she will appear quite another creature. You may then present her to the king with honour and credit; for which I hope you will think yourself much obliged to me. The sun, you perceive, has a little injured her complexion; but after two or three times bathing, and when you have dressed her as you think proper, she will be so changed, that she will appear infinitely more charming."
Khacan was pleased with the instructions the merchant gave him, and resolved to abide by them. He assigned the fair Persian a particular apartment near his lady's, whom he desired to invite her to an entertainment, and thenceforth to treat her as a person designed for the king: he also provided for her several suits of the richest clothes that could be had, and would become her best. Before he took his leave of the fair Persian, he said "Your happiness, madam, cannot be greater than what I am about to procure for you; you shall judge for yourself; it is for the king I have purchased you; and I hope he will be even more pleased with possessing you than I am in having discharged the commission with which his majesty has honoured me. I think it, however, my duty to warn you that I have a son, who, though he does not want wit, is yet young, insinuating, and forward; and to caution you how you suffer him to come near you." The fair Persian thanked him for his advice; and after she had given him assurance of her intention to follow it, he withdrew.
Noor ad Deen, for so the vizier's son was named, had free access to the apartment of his mother, with whom he usually ate his meals. He was young, handsome in person, agreeable in manners, and firm in his temper; and having great readiness of wit, and fluency of language, was perfect master of the art of persuasion. He saw the fair Persian; and from their first interview, though he knew his father had bought her purposely for the king, and had so informed him, yet he never used the least endeavour to check the violence of his passion. In short, he resigned himself wholly to the power of her charms, by which his heart was at first captivated; and, from his first conversation with her, resolved to use his utmost endeavours to keep her from the king.
The fair Persian, on her part, had no dislike to Noor ad Deen. "The vizier," said she to herself, "has done me honour in purchasing me for the king; but I should have thought myself very happy if he had designed me only for his own son."
Noor ad Deen was not remiss in improving the advantage he enjoyed of seeing and conversing with a beauty of whom he was so passionately enamoured; for he would never leave her till obliged by his mother. "My son," she would say, "it is not proper for a young man like you to be always in the women's apartments; go, mind your studies, and endeavour to qualify yourself to succeed to the honours of your father."
The fair Persian not having bathed for a considerable time on account of the length of her journey, the vizier's lady, five or six days after she was purchased, ordered the bath in her own house to be got ready purposely for her. She sent her to it accompanied by many other women-slaves, who were charged by the vizier's lady to be as attentive to her as to herself, and, after bathing, to put her on a very rich suit of clothes that she had provided for her. She was the more careful in order to ingratiate herself with her husband, by letting him see how much she interested herself in every thing that contributed to his pleasure.
As soon as she came out of the bath, the fair Persian, a thousand times more beautiful than she had appeared to Khacan when he bought her, went to visit his lady, who at first hardly knew her. The fair Persian gracefully kissed her hand, and said, "Madam, I know not how you like me in this dress you have been pleased to order for me; but your women, who tell me it becomes me so extremely well they should scarcely know me, certainly flatter me. From you alone I expect to hear the truth; but, if what they say be really so, I am indebted to you, madam, for the advantage it has given me."
"Oh! my daughter," cried the vizier's lady, transported with joy, "you have no reason to believe my women have flattered you; I am better skilled in beauty than they; and, setting aside your dress, which becomes you admirably well, your beauty is so much improved by the bath, that I hardly knew you myself. If I thought the bath was warm enough, I would take my turn; for I am now of an age to require its frequent use." "Madam," replied the fair Persian, "I have nothing to say to the undeserved civilities you have been pleased to shew me. As for the bath, it is in fine order; and if you design to go in, you have no time to lose, as your women can inform you."
The vizier's lady, considering that she had not bathed for some days, was desirous to avail herself of that opportunity; and accordingly acquainted her women with her intention, who immediately prepared all things necessary for the occasion. The fair Persian withdrew to her apartment; and the vizier's lady, before she went to bathe, ordered two little female slaves to stay with her, with a strict charge that if Noor ad Deen came, they should not give him admittance.
While the vizier's lady was bathing, and the fair slave was alone in her apartment, Noor ad Deen came in, and not finding his mother in her chamber, went directly towards the fair Persian's, and found the two little slaves in the antechamber. He asked them where his mother was? They told him in the bath. "Where is the fair Persian, then?" demanded Noor ad Deen. "In her chamber," answered the slaves; "but we have positive orders from your mother not to admit you."
The entrance into the fair Persian's chamber being only covered with a piece of tapestry, Noor ad Deen went to lift it up, in order to enter, but was opposed by the two slaves, who placed themselves before it, to stop his passage. He presently caught them both by the arms, and, thrusting them out of the antechamber, locked the door upon them. They immediately ran with loud lamentations to the bath, and with tears in their eyes, told their lady, that Noor ad Deen, having driven them away by force, had gone into the fair Persian's chamber.
The vizier's lady received the account of her son's presumption with the greatest concern. She immediately left the bath, and dressing herself with all possible speed, came directly to the fair Persian's chamber; but before she could get thither, Noor ad Deen had gone away.
The fair Persian was extremely surprised to see the vizier's lady enter her chamber in tears, and in the utmost confusion. "Madam," said she, "may I presume to ask you the occasion of your concern; and what accident has happened in the bath, to make you leave it so soon?"
"What!" cried the vizier's lady, "can you so calmly ask that. question, after my son has been with you alone in your chamber? Can there happen a greater misfortune to him or me?"
"I beseech you, madam," replied the fair slave, "what prejudice can this action of Noor ad Deen's do to you or him?"
"How," returned the vizier's lady, "did not my husband tell you that you were designed for the king, and sufficiently caution you to beware of our son?"
"I have not forgotten that, madam," replied the fair Persian; "but your son came to tell me the vizier his father had changed his purpose, and instead of reserving me for the king, as he first designed, had made him a present of my person. I easily believed him; for, oh! think how a slave as I am, accustomed from my infant years to the laws of servitude, could or ought to resist him! I must own I did it with the less reluctance, on account of the affection for him, which the freedom of our conversation and daily intercourse has excited in my heart. I could without regret resign the hope of ever being the king's, and think myself perfectly happy in spending my whole life with Noor ad Deen."
At this discourse of the fair Persian's, the vizier's lady exclaimed, "Would to God that what you say were true! I should hear it with joy; but, believe me, Noor ad Deen has deceived you; for it is impossible his father should ever make him such a present. Ah! wretched youth, how miserable has he made me! and more especially his father, by the dismal consequences we must all expect to share with him! Neither my prayers nor tears will be able to prevail, or obtain a pardon for him; for as soon as his father hears of his violence to you, he will inevitably sacrifice him to his resentment." At these words she wept bitterly; and the slaves, who were as much alarmed for Noor ad Deen as herself, joined in her tears.
Shortly after the vizier Khacan entered; and being surprised to find his lady and her slaves all in tears, and the fair Persian very melancholy asked the reason; but instead of answering him his wife and the slaves continued weeping and lamenting. This astonished him still more; at last, addressing himself to his wife, "I command you," said he, "to let me know the reason of your tears, and to tell me the whole truth."
The disconsolate lady could no longer refuse to satisfy her husband. "Sir," said she, "first promise not to use me unkindly on account of what I shall inform you, since I assure you, that what has happened has not been occasioned by any fault of mine." Without waiting for his answer, she then proceeded, "whilst I was bathing with my women, your son seizing that fatal opportunity to ruin us both, came hither, and made the fair Persian believe, that instead of reserving her for the king, you had given her to him as a present. I will not say what he did after such a wicked falsehood, but shall leave you to judge. This is the cause of my affliction, on your account, and his, for whom I want confidence to implore your pardon."
It is impossible to express the vizier Khacan's distraction at this account of the insolence of his son. "Ah!" cried he, beating his breast, and tearing his beard, "miserable son! unworthy of life! hast thou at last thrown thy father from the highest pinnacle of happiness into a misfortune that must inevitably involve thee also in his ruin? neither will the king be satisfied with thy blood or mine, to avenge the affront offered to his royal person."
His lady endeavoured to comfort him. "Afflict yourself no more," said she; "I shall easily raise, with part of my jewels, ten thousand pieces of gold, and you may buy another slave, more beautiful and more worthy of the king."
"Ah!" replied the vizier, "could you think me capable of being so extremely afflicted at losing ten thousand pieces of gold? It is not that loss, nor the loss of all I am worth, for that I should not feel; but the forfeiting my honour, more precious than all the riches in the world, that distresses me." "However," replied the lady, "a loss that can be repaired by money cannot be so very great."
"How!" exclaimed the vizier; "do you not know that Saouy is my mortal enemy; and as soon as this affair comes to his knowledge, do you think he will not exult over me before the king? Your majesty,' will he not say to him, is always talking of Khacan's zeal and affection for your service; but see what a proof he has lately given of his claim to the regard you have hitherto shewn him. He has received ten thousand pieces of gold to buy a slave; and, to do him justice, he has most honourably acquitted himself of that commission, by purchasing the most beautiful that ever eyes beheld; but, instead of bringing her to your majesty, he has thought it better to make a present of her to his son. "Here, my son," said he, "take this slave, since thou art more worthy of her than the king."' Then, with his usual malice, will he not go on, His son has her now entirely in his possession, and every day revels in her arms, without the least disturbance. This, sir, is the exact truth, that I have done myself the honour of acquainting you with; and if your majesty questions my veracity, you may easily satisfy yourself.' Do you not plainly see," continued the vizier, "how, upon such a malicious insinuation as this, I am every moment liable to have my house forced by the king's guards, and the fair Persian taken from me, besides a thousand other misfortunes that will unavoidably follow?" "Sir," replied the vizier's lady to her husband, "I am sensible the malice of Saouy is very great, and that, if he have but the least intimation of this affair, he will certainly give it a turn very disadvantageous to your interest; but how is it possible that he or any one else should know what has been privately transacted in your family? Suppose it comes to the king's ears, and he should ask you about it; cannot you say, that upon a strict examination you did not deem the slave so fit for his majesty's use as you had at first thought her; that the merchant has cheated you; that, indeed, she has considerable beauty, but is by no means so accomplished as she had been represented. The king will certainly believe what you say, and Saouy be vexed to the soul, to see all his malicious design of ruining you disappointed. Take courage then, and, if you will follow my advice, send for all the brokers, tell them you do not like the fair Persian, and order them to be as expeditious as possible in procuring for you another slave."
As this advice appeared rational to the vizier Khacan, and as his passion began to cool, he resolved to abide by it, but his indignation against his son remained as violent as ever.
Noor ad Deen did not make his appearance during the whole of that day, and not daring to hide himself among his young companions, lest his father should search for him in their houses, he went a little way out of town, and took sanctuary in a garden, where he had never been before, and where he was totally unknown. He did not return home till it was very late, when he knew his father was in bed; and then his mother's women, opening the door very softly; admitted him without any noise. He quitted the house again next morning before his father was stirring; and this plan he pursued for a whole month, to his great mortification. Indeed, the women never flattered him, but told him plainly, his father's anger was not at all diminished, and that he protested if he came into his sight he would certainly kill him.
The vizier's lady learnt from her women that Noor ad Deen slept every night in the house, but she could not summon resolution to supplicate her husband for his pardon. At last, however, she ventured. One day she said to him, "I have hitherto been silent, sir, not daring to take the liberty of talking to you about your son; but now give me leave to ask what you design to do with him? It is impossible for a son to have acted more criminally towards a father than he has done, in depriving you of the honour and gratification of presenting to the king a slave so accomplished as the fair Persian. This I acknowledge; but, after all, are you resolved to destroy him, and, instead of a light evil no more to be thought of, to draw upon yourself a far greater than perhaps you at present apprehend? Are you not afraid that the malicious world, which inquires after the reason of your son's absconding, may find out the true cause, which you are so desirous of concealing? Should that happen, you would justly fall into a misfortune, which it is so much your interest to avoid."
"Madam," returned the vizier, "there is much reason in what you have urged; but I cannot think of pardoning our son, till I have mortified him as he deserves." "He will be sufficiently mortified," replied the lady, "if you will only do what has just suggested itself to my mind. Your son comes home every night after you have retired; he sleeps here, and steals out every morning before you are stirring. Wait for his coming in to-night, make as if you designed to kill him, upon which I will run to his assistance, and when he finds he owes his life entirely to my prayers and entreaties, you may oblige him to take the fair Persian on what condition you please. He loves her, and I am well satisfied the fair slave has no aversion for him."
Khacan readily consented to this stratagem. Accordingly, when Noor ad Deen came at the usual hour, before the door was opened, he placed himself behind it: as soon as he entered, he rushed suddenly upon him, and got him down under his feet. Noor ad Deen, lifting up his head, saw his father with a dagger in his hand, ready to stab him.
At that instant his mother arrived, and catching hold of the vizier's arm, cried, "Sir, what are you doing?" "Let me alone," replied the vizier, "that I may kill this base, unworthy son." "You shall kill me first," returned the mother; "never will I suffer you to imbue your hands in your own blood." Noor ad Deen improved this moment. "My father," cried he with tears in his eyes, "I implore your clemency and compassion; nor must you deny me pardon, since I ask it in his name before whom we must all appear at the last day."
Khacan suffered the dagger to be taken out of his hand; and as soon as Noor ad Deen was released, he threw himself at his father's feet and kissed them, to shew how sincerely he repented of having offended him. "Son," said the vizier, "return thanks to your mother, since it is for her sake I pardon you. I propose also to give you the fair Persian, on condition that you will bind yourself by an oath not to regard her any longer as a slave, but as your wife; that you will not sell her, nor ever be divorced from her. As she possesses an excellent understanding, and abundantly more wit and prudence than yourself, I doubt not but that she will be able to moderate those rash sallies of youth, which are otherwise so likely to effect your ruin."
Noor ad Deen, who little expected such indulgent treatment, returned his father a thousand thanks, and the fair Persian and he were well pleased with being united to each other.
The vizier Khacan, without waiting for the king's inquiries about the success of the commission he had given him, took particular care to mention the subject often, representing to his majesty the many difficulties he met, and how fearful he was of not acquitting himself to his majesty's satisfaction. In short, he managed the business with so much address, that the king insensibly forgot it. Though Saouy had gained some intimation of the transaction, yet Khacan was so much in the king's favour, that he was afraid to divulge what he had heard.
This delicate affair had now been kept rather more than a year with greater secrecy than the vizier at first expected, when being one day in the bath, and some important business obliging him to leave it, warm as he was, the air, which was then cold, struck to his breast, caused a defluxion to fall upon his lungs, which threw him into a violent fever, and confined him to his bed. His illness increasing every day, and perceiving he had not long to live, he thus addressed himself to his son, who never quitted him during the whole of his illness: "My son," said he, "I know not whether I have well employed the riches heaven has blessed me with, but you see they are not able to save me from the hands of death. The last thing I desire of you with my dying breath is, that you would be mindful of the promise you made me concerning the fair Persian, and in this assurance I shall die content."
These were the vizier Khacan's last words. He expired a few moments after, and left his family, the court, and the whole city, in great affliction, The king lamented him as a wise, zealous, and faithful minister; and the people bewailed him as their protector and benefactor.. Never was there a funeral in Bussorah solemnized with greater pomp and magnificence. The viziers, emirs, and in general all the grandees of the court, strove for the honour of bearing his coffin, one after another, upon their shoulders, to the place of burial; and both rich and poor accompanied him, dissolved in tears.
Noor ad Deen exhibited all the demonstrations of a sorrow proportioned to the loss he had sustained, and long refrained from seeing any company. At last he admitted of a visit from an intimate acquaintance. His friend endeavoured to comfort him; and finding him inclined to hear reason, told him, that having paid what was due to the memory of his father, and fully satisfied all that decency required of him, it was now high time to appear again in the world, to converse with his friends, and maintain a character suitable to his birth and talents. "For," continued he, "though we should sin against the laws both of nature and society, and be thought insensible, if on the death of our fathers we neglected to pay them the duties which filial love imposes upon us; yet having performed these, and put it out of the power of any to reproach us for our conduct, it behoves us to return to the world, and our customary occupations. Dry up your tears then, and reassume that wonted air of gaiety which has always inspired with joy those who have had the honour of your friendship."
This advice seemed too reasonable to be rejected, and had Noor ad Deen strictly abided by it, he would certainly have avoided all the misfortunes that afterwards befell him. He entertained his friend honourably; and when he took his leave, desired him to come again the next day, and bring with him three or four friends of their acquaintance. By this means he insensibly fell into the society of about ten young men nearly of his own age, with whom he spent his time in continual feasting and entertainments; and scarcely a day passed but he made every one of them some considerable present.
The fair Persian, who never approved of his extravagant way of living, often spoke her mind freely. "I question not," said she, "but the vizier your father has left you an ample fortune: but great as it may be, be not displeased with your slave for telling you, that at this rate of living you will quickly see an end of it. We may sometimes indeed treat our friends, and be merry with them; but to make a daily practice of it, is certainly the high road to ruin and destruction: for your own honour and reputation, you would do better to follow the footsteps of your deceased father, that in time you may rise to that dignity by which he acquired so much glory and renown."
Noor ad Deen hearkened to the fair Persian with a smile: and when she had done, "My charmer," said he, with the same air of gaiety, "say no more of that; let us talk of nothing but mirth and pleasure. In my father's lifetime I was always under restraint; and I am now resolved to enjoy the liberty I so much sighed for before his death. It will be time enough for me hereafter to think of leading the sober, regular life you talk of; and a man of my age ought to taste the pleasures of youth."
What contributed still more to the ruin of Noor ad Deen's fortune, was his unwillingness to reckon with his steward; for whenever he brought in his accounts, he still sent him away without examining them: "Go, go," said he, "I trust wholly to your honesty; only take care to provide good entertainments for my friends."
"You are the master, sir," replied he, "and I but the steward; however, you would do well to think upon the proverb, He that spends much, and has but little, must at last insensibly be reduced to poverty.' You are not contented with keeping an extravagant table, but you must lavish away your estate with both hands: and were your coffers as large as mountains, they would not be sufficient to maintain you." "Begone," replied Noor ad Deen, "I want not your grave lessons; only take care to provide good eating and drinking, and trouble your head no farther about the rest."
In the meantime, Noor ad Deen's friends were constant guests at his table, and never failed to take advantage of the easiness of his temper. They praised and flattered him, extolling his most indifferent actions; but, above all, they took particular care to commend whatever belonged to him; and in this they found their account. "Sir," said one of them, "I came the other day by your estate that lies in such a place; nothing can be so magnificent or so handsomely furnished as your house; and the garden belonging to it is a paradise upon earth." "I am very glad it pleases you," replied Noor ad Deen: "bring me pen, ink, and paper; without more words, it is at your service; I make you a present of it." No sooner had others commended one of his houses, baths, or public buildings erected for the use of strangers, the yearly revenue of which was very considerable, than he immediately gave them away. The fair Persian could not forbear stating to him how much injury he did himself; but, instead of paying any regard to her remonstrances, he continued his extravagances, and the first opportunity that offered, squandered away the little he had left.
In short, Noor ad Deen did nothing for a whole year but feast and make merry, wasting and consuming, with the utmost prodigality, the great wealth that his predecessors, and the good vizier his father, had with so much pains and care acquired and preserved.
The year was but just expired, when a person one day knocked at the door of the hall, where he and his friends were at dinner together by themselves, having sent away the slaves, that they might enjoy the greater liberty.
One of his friends offered to rise; but Noor ad Deen stepping before him, opened the door himself. It was the steward; and Noor ad Deen, going a little out of the hall to know his business, left the door half open.
The friend that offered to rise from his seat, seeing it was the steward, and being curious to know what he had to say, placed himself between the hangings and the door, where he plainly overheard the steward's discourse to his master. "Sir," said he, "I ask a thousand pardons for coming to disturb you in the height of your pleasure; but what I have to say is of such importance, that I thought myself bound in duty to acquaint you with it. I am come, sir, to make up my last accounts, and to tell you, that what I all along foresaw, and have often warned you of, is at last come to pass. I have not the smallest piece left of all the sums I have received from you for your expenses; the other funds you assigned me are all exhausted. The farmers, and those that owe you rent, have made it so plainly appear to me, that you have assigned over to others what they held of you, that it is impossible for me to get any more from them on your account. Here are my books; if you please, examine them; and if you wish I should continue useful to you, assign me other funds, or else give me leave to quit your service." Noor ad Deen was so astonished at his statement, that he gave him no answer.
The friend who had been listening all this while, and had heard every syllable of what the steward said, immediately came in, and told the company what he had overheard. "It is your business, gentlemen," said he, "to make your use of this caution; for my part, I declare to you, this is the last visit I design ever to make Noor ad Deen." "Nay," replied they, "if matters go thus, we have as little business here as you; and for the future shall take care not to trouble him with our company."
Noor ad Deen returned presently after; notwithstanding all his efforts to appear gay to his guests, he could not so dissemble his concern, but they plainly perceived the truth of what they had heard. He was scarcely sat down in his place, when one of his friends arose: "Sir," said he, "I am sorry I cannot have the honour of keeping you company any longer; and therefore I hope you will excuse my rudeness in leaving you so soon." "What urgent affair," demanded Noor ad Deen, "obliges you to be going so soon?" "My wife, sir," he replied, "is brought to bed to-day; and upon such an occasion, you know a husband's company is always necessary." So making a very low bow, he went away. A minute afterwards a second took his leave, with another excuse. The rest did the same, one after another, till at last not one of the ten friends that had hitherto kept Noor ad Deen company remained.
As soon as they were gone, Noor ad Deen, little suspecting the resolution they had formed never to see him again, went directly to the fair Persian's apartment; to whom he related all the steward had told him, and seemed extremely concerned at the ill state of his affairs. "Sir," said the fair Persian, "allow me to say, you would never take my advice, but always managed your concerns after your own way, and now you see the fatal consequences. I find I was not mistaken, when I presaged to what a miserable condition you would bring yourself at last: but what afflicts me the more is, that at present you do not see the worst of your misfortunes. Whenever I presumed freely to remonstrate with you, Let us be merry,' you replied, and improve the time that Fortune offers us; perhaps she will not always be so prodigal of her favours:' but was I to blame in telling you, that we are ourselves the makers of our own fortunes by a prudent management of them? You would not hearken to me; and I was forced, however reluctantly, to let you go on."
"I must own," replied Noor ad Deen, "I was extremely in the wrong in not following the advice which with such admirable prudence you gave me. It is true, I have spent my estate; but do you not consider, it is among a chosen set of friends, whom I have long known, and who, I am persuaded, have more generosity and gratitude than to abandon me in distress?" "Sir," replied the fair Persian, "if you have nothing but the gratitude of your friends to depend on, your case is desperate; for, believe me, that hope is ill-grounded, and you will tell me so yourself in time."
To this Noor ad Deen replied, "Charming Persian, I have a better opinion of my friends' generosity: to-morrow I design to visit them all, before the usual time of their coming hither; and you shall see me return with a round sum that they will assist me with. I am resolved to alter my way of living, and, with the money they lend me, to set up in some business."
Next morning, Noor ad Deen visited his ten friends, who lived in the same street. He knocked at the first door, where one of the richest of them resided. A slave came to the door: but before he would open it, asked who was there. "Tell your master," said he to the slave, "it is Noor ad Deen, the late vizier Khacan's son." The slave opened the door, and shewed him into a hall, where he left him, in order to inform his master, who was in an inner room, that Noor ad Deen was come to wait on him, "Noor ad Deen!" cried he, in a disdainful tone, loud enough for him to hear: "go tell him I am not at home; and whenever he may come again, be sure you give him the same answer." The slave returned, and told Noor ad Deen he thought his master was within, but was mistaken.
Noor ad Deen came away in the greatest confusion. "Ah! base, ungrateful wretch!" cried he, "to treat me so to-day after the vows and protestations of friendship that he made me yesterday." He went to another door, but that friend ordered his slave also to say he was gone out. He had the same answer at the third; and, in short, all the rest denied themselves, though every one was at home.
Noor ad Deen now began in earnest to reflect with himself, and see the folly of relying upon the protestations of attachment that his false friends had solemnly made him in the time of his prosperity, when he could treat them sumptuously, and load them with favours. "It is true," said he to himself, "that a fortunate man, as I was, may be compared to a tree laden with fruit, which, as long as there is any on its boughs, people will be crowding round, and gathering; but as soon as it is stripped of all, they immediately leave it, and go to another." He smothered his passion as much as possible while he was abroad; but no sooner was he got home than he gave a loose to his affliction, and discovered it to the fair Persian.
The fair Persian seeing him so extremely concerned, guessed he had not found his friends so ready to assist him as he expected. "Well, sir," said she, "are you now convinced of the truth of what I told you?" "Ah!" cried he, "thou hast been too true a prophetess; for not one of them would know me, see me, or speak to me. Who could ever have believed, that persons so highly obliged to me, and on whom I have spent my estate, could have used me so ungratefully? I am distracted; and I fear shall commit some action unworthy myself, in the deplorable and desperate condition I am reduced to, unless you assist me with your prudent advice." "Sir," replied the fair Persian, "I see no other way of supporting yourself in your misfortunes, but selling off your slaves and furniture, and living on the money they produce, till heaven points out some other means to deliver you from your present misery."
Noor ad Deen was loth to resort to this expedient; but what could he do in the necessitous circumstances to which he was reduced? He first sold off his slaves, those unprofitable mouths, which would have been a greater expense to him than in his present condition he could bear. He lived on the money for some time; and when it was spent, ordered his goods to be carried into the market-place, where they were sold for half their value, though there were among them several articles that had cost immense sums. Upon the produce of these he lived a considerable time; but this supply failing at last, he had nothing left by which he could raise any more money, of which he informed the fair Persian in the most sorrowful expressions.
Noor ad Deen little expected the answer this prudent woman made him. "Sir," said she, "I am your slave; and the late vizier your father gave ten thousand pieces of gold for me. I know I am a little sunk in value since that time; but I believe I shall sell for pretty near that sum. Let me entreat you then instantly to carry me to the market, and expose me to sale; and with the money that you get for me, which will be very considerable, you may turn merchant in some city where you are not known, and by that means find a way of living, if not in splendour, yet with happiness and content."
"Lovely and adorable Persian!" cried Noor ad Deen, "is it possible you can entertain such a thought? Have I given you such slender proofs of my love, that you should think me capable of so base an action? But suppose me so vile a wretch, could I do it without being guilty of perjury, after the oath I have taken to my late father never to sell you? I would sooner die than break it, and part with you, whom I love infinitely beyond myself; though, by the unreasonable proposal you have made me, you shew me that your love is by no means reciprocal."