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Scott: The Princes Amgiad and Assad

[Go back to The Loves of Kummir Al Zummaun, Prince of the Isles of the Children of Khaledan, and of Badoura, Princess of China]

The two princes were brought up with great care; and, when they were old enough, had the same governor, the same instructors in the arts and sciences, and the same master for each exercise. The affection which from their infancy they conceived for each other occasioned an uniformity of manners and inclination, which increased it. When they were of an age to have separate households, they loved one another so tenderly, that they begged the king to let them live together. He consented, and they had the same domestics, the same equipages, the same apartment, and the same table. Kummir al Zummaun had formed so good an opinion of their capacity and integrity, that he made no scruple of admitting them into his council at the age of eighteen, and letting them, by turns, preside there, while he took the diversion of hunting, or amused himself with his queens at his houses of pleasure.

The princes being equally handsome, the two queens loved them with incredible tenderness; but the princess Badoura had a greater kindness for prince Assad, queen Haiatalnefous's son, than for her own; and queen Haiatalnefous loved Amgiad, the princess Badoura's son, better than her own son Assad.

The two queens thought at first this inclination was nothing but a regard which proceeded from an excess of their own friendship for each other, which they still preserved: but as the two princes advanced in years, that friendship grew into a violent love, when they appeared in their eyes to possess graces that blinded their reason. They knew how criminal their passion was, and did all they could to resist it; but the familiar intercourse with them, and the habit of admiring, praising, and caressing them from their infancy, which they could not restrain when they grew up, inflamed their desires to such a height as to overcome their reason and virtue. It was their and the princes' ill- fortune, that the latter being used to be so treated by them, had not the least suspicion of their infamous passion.

The two queens had not concealed from each other this passion, but had not the boldness to declare it to the princes they loved; they at last resolved to do it by a letter, and to execute their wicked design, availed themselves of the king's absence, when he was gone on a hunting party for three or four days.

Prince Amgiad presided at the council on the day of his father's departure, and administered justice till two or three o'clock in the afternoon. As he returned to the palace from the council- chamber, an eunuch took him aside, and gave him a letter from queen Haiatalnefous. Amgiad took it, and read it with horror. "Traitor," said he, to the eunuch. as soon as he had perused it through, "is this the fidelity thou owest thy master and thy king?" At these words he drew his sabre and cut off his head.

Having done this in a transport of anger he ran to the princess Badoura his mother, shewed her the letter, told her the contents of it, and from whom it came. Instead of hearkening to him, she fell into a passion, and said, "Son, it is all a calumny and imposture; queen Haiatalnefous is a very discreet princess, and you are very bold to talk to me against her." The prince, enraged at his mother, exclaimed, "You are both equally wicked, and were it not for the respect I owe my father, this day should have been the last of Haiatalnefous's life."

Queen Badoura might have imagined by the example of her son Amgiad, that prince Assad, who was not less virtuous, would not receive more favourably a declaration of love, similar to that which had been made to his brother. Yet that did not hinder her persisting in her abominable design; she, the next day, wrote him a letter, which she entrusted to an old woman who had access to the palace, to convey to him.

The old woman watched her opportunity to put it into his hands as he was coming from the council-chamber, where he presided that day in his turn. The prince took it, and reading it, fell into such a rage, that, without giving himself time to finish it, he drew his sabre and punished the old woman as she deserved. He ran immediately to the apartment of his mother queen Haiatalnefous, with the letter in his hand: he would have shewn it to her, but she did not give him time, crying out, "I know what you mean; you are as impertinent as your brother Amgiad: be gone, and never come into my presence again."

Assad stood as one thunder-struck at these words, so little expected. He was so enraged, that he had like to have given fatal demonstrations of his anger; but he contained himself, and withdrew without making any reply, fearing if he stayed he might say something unworthy the greatness of his soul. Amgiad had not mentioned to him the letter which he had received the preceding day; and finding by what his mother had said to him that she was altogether as criminal as queen Haiatalnefous, he went to his brother, to chide him for not communicating the hated secret to him, and to mingle his own sorrow with his.

The two queens, rendered desperate by finding in the two princes such virtue as should have made them look inwardly on themselves, renounced all sentiments of nature and of mothers and conspired together to destroy them. They made their women believe the two princes had attempted their virtue: they counterfeited the matter to the life by their tears, cries, and curses; and lay in the same bed, as if the resistance they pretended to have made had reduced them almost to death's-door.

When Kummir al Zummaun returned to the palace from hunting, he was much surprised to find them in bed together, in tears, acting despondency so well, that he was touched with compassion. He asked them with earnestness what had happened to them.

At this question, the dissembling queens wept and sobbed more bitterly than before; and after he had pressed them again and again to tell him, queen Badoura at last answered him: "Sir, our grief is so well founded, that we ought not to see the light of the sun, or live a day, after the violence that has been offered us by the unparalleled brutality of the princes your sons. They formed a horrid design, encouraged by your absence, and had the boldness and insolence to attempt our honour. Your majesty will excuse us from saying any more; you may guess the rest by our affliction."

The king sent for the two princes, and would have killed them both with his own hand, had not old king Armanos his father-in- law, who was present, held his hand: "Son," said he, "what are you going to do? Will you stain your hands and your palace with your own blood? There are other ways of punishing them, if they are really guilty." He endeavoured thus to appease him, and desired him to examine whether they did indeed commit the crime of which they were accused.

It was no difficult matter for Kummir al Zummaun to restrain himself so far as not to butcher his own children. He ordered them to be put under arrest, and sent for an emir called Jehaun- dar, whom he commanded to conduct them out of the city, and put them to death, at a great distance, and in what place he pleased, but not to see him again, unless he brought their clothes with him, as a token of his having executed his orders.

Jehaun-dar travelled with them all night, and early next morning made them alight, telling them, with tears in his eyes, the commands he had received. "Believe me, princes," said he, "it is a trying duty imposed on me by your father, to execute this cruel order: would to heaven I could avoid it!" The princes replied, "Do your duty; we know well you are not the cause of our death, and forgive you with all our hearts."

They then embraced, and bade each other a last adieu with so much tenderness, that it was a long time before they could leave one another's arms. Prince Assad was the first who prepared himself for the fatal stroke. "Begin with me," said he "that I may not have the affliction to see my dear brother Amgiad die." To this Amgiad objected; and Jehaun-dar could not, without weeping more than before, be witness of this dispute between them; which shewed how perfect and sincere was their affection.

At last they determined the contest, by desiring Jehaun-dar to tie them together, and put them in the most convenient posture for him to give them the fatal stroke at one blow. "Do not refuse the comfort of dying together to two unfortunate brothers, who from their birth have shared every thing, even their innocence," said the generous princes.

Jehaun-dar granted their request; he tied them to each other, breast to breast; and when he had placed them so that he thought he might strike the blow with more certainty, asked them if they had any thing to command him before they died.

"We have only one thing to desire of you," replied the princes, "which is, to assure the king our father on your return, that we are innocent; but that we do not charge him with our deaths, knowing he is not well informed of the truth of the crime of which we are accused."

Jehaun-dar promised to do what they desired and drew his sabre, when his horse, being tied to a tree just by, started at the sight of the sabre, which glittered against the sun, broke his bridle, and ran away into the country.

He was a very valuable horse, and so richly caparisoned, that the emir could not bear the loss of him. This accident so vexed him, that instead of beheading the two princes, he threw away his sabre, and ran after his horse.

The horse galloped on before him, and led him several miles into a wood. Jehaun-dar followed him, and the horse's neighing roused a lion that was asleep. The lion started up, and instead of running after the horse, made directly towards Jehaun-dar, who thought no more of his horse, but how to save his life. He ran into the thickest of the wood, the lion keeping him in view, pursuing him among the trees. In this extremity he said to himself, "Heaven had not punished me in this manner, but to shew the innocence of the princes whom I was commanded to put to death; and now, to my misfortune, I have not my sabre to defend myself."

While Jehaun-dar was gone, the two princes were seized with a violent thirst, occasioned by the fear of death, notwithstanding their noble resolution to submit to the king their father's cruel order.

Prince Amgiad told the prince his brother there was a spring not far off. "Ah! brother," said Assad, "we have so little time to live, what need have we to quench our thirst? We can bear it a few minutes longer."

Amgiad taking no notice of his brother's remonstrance, unbound himself, and the prince his brother. They went to the spring, and having refreshed themselves, heard the roaring of the lion. They also heard Jehaun-dar's dreadful cries in the wood, which he and the horse had entered. Amgiad took up the sabre which lay on the ground, saying to Assad, "Come, brother, let us go and save the unfortunate Jehaun-dar; perhaps we may arrive soon enough to deliver him from the danger to which he is now exposed."

The two princes ran to the wood, and entered it just as the lion was going to fall on Jehaun-dar. The beast seeing prince Amgiad advancing towards him with a sabre in his hand, left his prey, and rushed towards him with great fury. The prince met him intrepidly, and gave him a blow so forcibly and dexterously, that it felled him to the ground.

When Jehaun-dar saw that he owed his life to the two princes, he threw himself at their feet, and thanked them for the obligation, in words which sufficiently testified his gratitude. "Princes," said he, rising up and kissing their hands, with tears in his eyes, "God forbid that ever I should attempt any thing against your lives, after you have so kindly and bravely saved mine. It shall never he said, that the emir Jehaun-dar was guilty of such ingratitude."

"The service we have done you," answered the princes, "ought not to prevent you from executing the orders you have received: let us first catch your horse, and then return to the place where you left us."--They were at no great trouble to take the horse, whose mettle was abated with running. When they had restored him to Jehaun-dar, and were come near the fountain, they begged of him to do as their father had commanded; but all to no purpose. "I only take the liberty to desire," said Jehaun-dar, "and I pray you not to deny me, that you will divide my clothes between you, and give me yours; and go to such a distance, that the king your father may never hear of you more."

The princes were forced to comply with his request. Each of them gave him his clothes, and covered themselves with what he could spare them of his. He also gave them all the money he had about him, and took his leave of them.

After the emir Jehaun-dar had parted from the princes, he passed through the wood where Amgiad had killed the lion, in whose blood he dipped their clothes: which having done, he proceeded on his way to the capital of the isle of Ebene.

On his arrival there, Kummir al Zummaun inquired if he had done as commanded? Jehaun-dar replied, "Behold, sir, the proofs of my obedience;" giving him at the same time the princes' clothes.

"How did they bear their punishment?" Jehaun-dar answered, "With wonderful constancy and resignation to the decrees of heaven, which shewed how sincerely they made profession of their religion: but particularly with great respect towards your majesty, and an inconceivable submission to the sentence of death. ‘We die innocent,' said they; ‘but we do not murmur: we take our death from the hand of heaven, and forgive our father; for we know he has not been rightly informed of the truth.'"

Kummir al Zummaun was sensibly touched at Jehaun-dar's relation. A thought occurred to him to search the princes' pockets; he began with prince Amgiad's where he found a letter open, which he read. He no sooner recognized the hand-writing than he was chilled with horror. He then, trembling, put his hand into that of Assad, and finding there queen Badoura's letter, his horror was so great, that he fainted.

Never was grief equal to Kummir all Zummaun's, when he recovered from his fit: "Barbarous father," cried he, "what hast thou done? Thou hast murdered thy own children, thy innocent children! Did not their wisdom, their modesty, their obedience, their submission to thy will in all things, their virtue, all plead in their behalf? Blind and insensible father! dost thou deserve to live after the execrable crime thou hast committed? I have brought this abomination on my own head; and heaven chastises me for not persevering in that aversion to women with which I was born. And, oh ye detestable wives! I will not, no, I will not, as ye deserve, wash off the guilt of your sins with your blood; ye are unworthy of my rage: but I will never see you more!"

Kummir al Zummaun was a man of too much religion to break his vow: he commanded the two queens to be lodged in separate apartments that very day, where they were kept under strong guards, and he never saw them again as long as he lived.

While the king of the isle of Ebene was afflicting himself for the loss of his sons, of whose death he thought he had been the author by his too rashly condemning them, the royal youths wandered through deserts, endeavouring to avoid all places that were inhabited, and shun every human creature. They lived on herbs and wild fruits, and drank only rain-water, which they found in the crevices of the rocks. They slept and watched by turns at night, for fear of wild beasts.

When they had travelled about a month, they came to the foot of a frightful mountain of black stones, and to all appearance inaccessible. They at last espied a kind of path, but so narrow and difficult that they durst not venture to follow it: this obliged them to go along by the foot of the mountain, in hopes of finding a more easy way to reach the summit, but could discover nothing like a path, so they were forced to return to that which they had neglected. They still thought it would be in vain for them to attempt it. They deliberated for a long time what they should do, and at last, encouraging one another, resolved to ascend.

The more they advanced the higher and steeper the mountain appeared, which made them think several times of giving over their enterprise. When the one was weary, the other stopped, and they took breath together; sometimes they were both so tired, that they wanted strength to proceed: then despairing of being able to reach the top they thought they must lie down and die of fatigue and weariness. A few minutes after, when they found they recovered strength, they animated each other and went on.

Notwithstanding all their endeavours, their courage and perseverance, they could not reach the summit that day; night came on, and prince Assad was so spent, that he stopped and said to Amgiad, "Brother, I can go no farther, I am just dying." "Let us rest ourselves," replied prince Amgiad, "as long as you will, and have a good heart: it is but a little way to the top, and the moon befriends us."

They rested about half an hour, and then Assad making a new effort, they ascended what remained of the way to the summit, where they both at last arrived, and lay down. Amgiad rose first, and advancing, saw a tree at a little distance. He went to it, and found it was a pomegranate, with large fruit upon it, and he perceived there was a spring at its foot: he ran to his brother Assad to tell him the good news, and conduct him to the tree by the fountain side. Here they refreshed themselves by eating each a pomegranate, after which they fell asleep.

When they awoke the next morning, "Come, brother," said Amgiad to Assad, "let us go on; I see the mountain is easier to be travelled over on this side than the other, all our way now is down hill." But Assad was so tired with the preceding day's exertions, that he wanted three days' repose to recover himself.

They spent these days as they had done many before, in conversing on their mothers' inordinate passion, which had reduced them to such a deplorable state: but, said they, "Since heaven has so visibly declared itself in our favour, we ought to bear our misfortunes with patience, and comfort ourselves with hopes that we shall see an end of them."

After having rested three days, the two brothers continued their travels. As the mountain on that side was composed of several shelves of extensive flat, they were five days in descending before they came into the plain. They then discovered a large city, at which they rejoiced: "Brother," said Amgiad to Assad, "are not you of my opinion that you should stay in some place out of the city, where I may find you again, while I go and inform myself what country we are in, and when I come back I will bring provisions with me? It may not be safe for us to go there together."

"Brother," replied Assad, "your plan is both safe and prudent, and I approve of what you say but if one of us must part from the other on that account, I will not suffer it shall be you; you must allow me to go; for what shall I suffer, if any accident should befall you?"

"But, brother," answered Amgiad, "the very accident you fear would befall me, I have as much reason to fear would happen to you: I entreat you to let me go, and do you remain here patiently." "I will never consent to this," said Assad; "if any ill happen to me, it will be some comfort to think you are safe." Amgiad was forced to submit, and Assad going towards the city, he stayed under the trees at the foot of the mountain.

Prince Assad took the purse of money which Amgiad had in charge, and went forwards towards the city. He had not proceeded far in the first street, before he met with a reverend old man with a cane in his hand. He was neatly dressed, and the prince took him for a man of note in the place, who would not put a trick upon him, so he accosted him thus: "Pray, my lord, which is the way to the market-place?" The old man looked at prince Assad smiling; "Child," said he, "it is plain you are a stranger, or you would not have asked that question."

"Yes, my lord, I am a stranger," replied Assad. The old man answered, "You are welcome then; our country will be honoured by the presence of so handsome a young man as you are: tell me what business you have at the market-place."

"My lord," replied Assad, "it is near two months since my brother and I set out from our own country: we have not ceased travelling, and we arrived here but to-day; my brother, tired with such a long journey, stays at the foot of the mountain, and I am come to buy some provisions for him and myself."

"Son," said the old man, "you could not have come in a better time, and I am glad of it for your and your brother's sake. I made a feast today for some friends of mine: come along with me; you shall eat as much as you please; and when you have done, I will give you enough to last your brother and yourself several days. Do not spend your money, when there is no occasion; travellers are always in want of it: while you are eating I will give you an account of our city, which no one can do better than myself, who have borne all the honourable offices in it. It is well for you that you happen to light upon me; for I must tell you, all our citizens cannot so well assist and inform you. I can assure you some of them are very wicked. Come, you shall see the difference between a real honest man, as I am, and such as boast of being so, and are not."

"I am infinitely obliged to you," replied Assad, "for your kindness; I put myself entirely into your hands, and am ready to go with you where you please."

The old man, as he walked along by his side, laughed inwardly, to think he had got the prince in his clutches; and all the way, lest he should perceive his dissimulation, talked of various subjects, to preserve the favourable opinion Assad had of him. Among other things, he said, "It must be confessed you were very fortunate to have spoken to me, rather than to any one else: I thank God I met with you; you will know why, when you come to my house."

At length they arrived at the residence of the old man, who introduced Assad into a hall, where there were forty such old fellows as himself, who made a circle round a flaming fire, which they were adoring. The prince was not less struck with horror at the sight of so many men mistakenly worshipping the creature for the Creator, than he was with fear at finding himself betrayed into so abominable a place.

While the prince stood motionless with astonishment, the old cheat saluted the forty gray-headed men. "Devout adorers of fire," said he to them, "this is a happy day for us; where is Gazban? call him."

He spake these words aloud, when a negro who waited at the lower end of the hall immediately came up to him. This black was Gazban, who, as soon as he saw the disconsolate Assad, imagined for what purpose he was called. He rushed upon him immediately, threw him down, and bound his hands with wonderful activity. When he had done, "Carry him down," said the old man, "and fail not to order my daughters, Bostama and Cavama, to give him every day a severe bastinado, with only a loaf morning and night for his subsistence; this is enough to keep him alive till the next ship departs for the blue sea and the fiery mountain, where he shall be offered up an acceptable sacrifice to our divinity."

As soon as the old man had given the cruel order, Gazban hurried prince Assad under the hall, through several doors, till they came to a dungeon, down to which led twenty steps; there he left him in chains of prodigious weight and bigness, fastened to his feet. When he had done, he went to give the old man's daughters notice: but their father had before sent for them, and given them their instructions himself: "Daughters," said he to them, "go down and give the Mussulmaun I just now brought in the bastinado: do not spare him; you cannot better shew your zeal for the worship of the fire."

Bostama and Cavama, who were bred up in their hatred to the faithful, received this order with joy. They descended into the dungeon that instant, stripped Assad, and bastinadoed him unmercifully, till the blood issued out of his wounds and he was almost dead. After this cruel treatment, they put a loaf of bread and a pot of water by him, and retired.

Assad did not come to himself again for a long time; when he revived, he burst out into a flood of tears, deploring his misery. His comfort however was, that this misfortune had not happened to his brother.

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.

[Go to The Prince Amgiad and a Lady of the City of Magicians]

Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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