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Persia was an empire of such vast extent, that its ancient monarchs, not without reason, assumed the haughty title of King of kings. For not to mention those subdued by their arms, there were kingdoms and provinces whose kings were not only tributary, but also in as great subjection as governors in other nations are to the monarchs.
One of these kings, who in the beginning of his reign had signalized himself by many glorious and successful conquests, enjoyed so profound a peace and tranquillity, as rendered him the happiest of princes. The only point in which he thought himself unfortunate was, that amongst all his wives, not one had brought him a son; and being now far advanced in years, he was desirous of an heir. He had above a hundred ladies, all lodged in separate apartments, with women-slaves to wait upon and eunuchs to guard them; yet, notwithstanding all his endeavours to please their taste, and anticipate their wishes, there was not one that answered his expectation. He had women frequently brought him from the most remote countries; and if they pleased him, he not only gave the merchants their full price, but loaded them with honours and benedictions, in hopes that at last he might be so happy as to meet with one by whom he might have a son. There was scarcely an act of charity but he performed, to prevail with heaven. He gave immense sums to the poor, besides large donations to the religious; building for their use many noble colleges richly endowed, in hopes of obtaining by their prayers what he so earnestly desired.
One day, according to the custom of his royal predecessors, during their residence in their capital, he held an assembly of his courtiers, at which all the ambassadors and strangers of quality about the court were present; and where they not only entertained one another with news and politics, but also by conversing on the sciences, history, poetry, literature, and whatever else was capable of diverting the mind. On that day a eunuch came to acquaint him with the arrival of a certain merchant from a distant country, who, having brought a slave with him, desired leave to shew her to his majesty. "Give him admittance instantly," said the king, "and after the assembly is over I will talk with him." The merchant was introduced, and seated in a convenient place, from whence he might easily have a full view of the king, and hear him talk familiarly to those that stood near his person. The king observed this rule to all strangers, in order that by degrees they might grow acquainted with him; so that, when they saw with what freedom and civility he addressed himself to all, they might be encouraged to talk to him in the same manner, without being abashed at the pomp and splendour of his appearance, which was enough to deprive those of their power of speech who were not used to it. He treated the ambassadors also after the same manner. He ate with them, and during the repast asked them several questions concerning their health, their journey, and the peculiarities of their country. After they had been thus encouraged, he gave them audience.
When the assembly was over, and all the company had retired, the merchant, who was the only person left, fell prostrate before the king's throne, with his face to the earth, wishing his majesty an accomplishment of all his desires As soon as he arose, the king asked him if the report of his having brought a slave for him was true, and whether she were handsome.
"Sire," replied the merchant, "I doubt not but your majesty has many very beautiful women, since you search every corner of the earth for them; but I may boldly affirm, without overvaluing my merchandise, that you never yet saw a woman that could stand in competition with her for shape and beauty, agreeable qualifications, and all the perfections that she is mistress of." "Where is she?" demanded the king; "bring her to me instantly." "Sire," replied the merchant, "I have delivered her into the hands of one of your chief eunuchs; and your majesty may send for her at your pleasure."
The fair slave was immediately brought in; and no sooner had the king cast his eyes on her, but he was charmed with her beautiful and easy shape. He went directly into a closet, and was followed by the merchant and a few eunuchs. The fair slave wore, over her face, a red satin veil striped with gold; and when the merchant had taken it off, the king of Persia beheld a female that surpassed in beauty, not only his present ladies, but all that he had ever had before. He immediately fell passionately in love with her, and desired the merchant to name his price.
"Sire," said he, "I gave a thousand pieces of gold to the person of whom I bought her; and in my three years' journey to your court, I reckon I have spent as much more: but I shall forbear setting any price to so great a monarch; and therefore, if your majesty likes her, I humbly beg you would accept of her as a present." "I am highly obliged to you," replied the king; "but it is never my custom to treat merchants, who come hither for my pleasure, in so ungenerous a manner; I am going to order thee ten thousand pieces of gold; will that be sufficient?" "Sire," answered the merchant, "I should have esteemed myself happy in your majesty's acceptance of her; yet I dare not refuse so generous an offer. I will not fail to publish your liberality in my own country, and in every place through which I may pass." The money was paid; and before he departed, the king made him put on a rich suit of cloth of gold.
The king caused the fair slave to be lodged in the apartment next his own, and gave particular orders to the matrons, and the female slaves appointed to attend her, that after bathing they should dress her in the richest habit they could find, and carry her the finest pearl necklaces, the brightest diamonds, and other richest precious stones, that she might choose those she liked best.
The officious matrons, whose only care was to please the king, were astonished at her beauty; and being good judges, they told his majesty, that if he would allow them but three days, they would engage to make her so much handsomer than she was at present, that he would scarcely know her again. The king could hardly prevail with himself to delay so long the pleasure of seeing her, but at last he consented.
The king of Persia's capital was situated in an island; and his palace, which was very magnificent, was built on the shore: his apartment looked on the water; the fair slave's, which was near it, had also the same prospect, and was the more agreeable, on account of the sea's beating almost against the walls.
At the three days' end, the fair slave, magnificently dressed, was alone in her chamber, sitting on a sofa, and leaning against one of the windows that faced the sea, when the king, being informed that he might visit her, came in. The slave, hearing somebody walk in the room with an air quite different from that of the female slaves, who had hitherto attended her, immediately turned her head about to see who it was. She knew him to be the king, but without discovering the least surprise, or so much as rising from her seat to salute or receive him, as if he had been the most indifferent person in the world, she put herself in the same posture again.
The king of Persia was extremely surprised to see a slave of so beauteous a form so ignorant of the world. He attributed this to the narrowness of her education, and the little care that had been taken to instruct her in the first rules of civility. He went to her at the window, where, notwithstanding the coldness and indifference with which she had received him, she suffered herself to be admired, caressed, and embraced, as much as he pleased.
In the midst of these amorous embraces and tender endearments, the king paused awhile, to gaze upon, or rather to devour her with his eyes. "My lovely fair one! my charmer!" exclaimed he; "whence came you, and where do those happy parents live who brought into the world so surprising a masterpiece of nature? How do I love thee, and shall always continue to do. Never did I feel for a woman what I now feel for you; and though I have seen, and every day behold a vast number of beauties, yet never did my eyes contemplate so many charms in one person--charms which have so transported me, that I shall entirely devote myself to you. My dearest life," continued he, "you neither answer, nor by any visible token give me the least reason to believe that you are sensible of the demonstrations I have given you of the ardour of my passion; neither will you turn your eyes on me, to afford mine the pleasure of meeting them, and to convince you that it is impossible to love in a higher degree than I do you. Why will you still preserve this obstinate silence, which chills me, and whence proceeds the seriousness, or rather sorrow, that torments me to the soul? Do you mourn for your country, your friends or your relations? Alas! Is not the king of Persia, who loves and adores you, capable of comforting you, and making you amends for every loss?"
Notwithstanding all the protestations of love the king of Persia made the fair slave, and all he could say to induce her to speak to him, she remained unaltered; and keeping her eyes still fixed upon the ground, would neither look at him, nor utter a word.
The king of Persia, delighted with the purchase he had made of a slave that pleased him so well, pressed her no farther, in hopes that by treating her kindly he might prevail upon her to change her behaviour. He clapped his hands; and the women who waited in an outward room entered: he commanded them to bring in supper. When it was arranged, "My love," said he to the slave, "come hither and sup with me." She rose from her seat; and being seated opposite the king, his majesty helped her, before he began eating himself; and did so of every dish during supper. The slave ate as well as the king, but still with downcast eyes, and without speaking a word; though he often asked her how she liked the entertainment, and whether it was dressed according to her taste.
The king, willing to change the conversation, asked her what her name was, how she liked the clothes and the jewels she had on, what she thought of her apartment and the rich furniture, and whether the prospect of the sea was not very agreeable? But to all these questions she made no reply; so that the king was at a loss what to think of her silence. He imagined at first, that she might perhaps be dumb: "But then," said he to himself, "can it be possible that heaven should forge a creature so beautiful, so perfect, and so accomplished, and at the same time with so great an imperfection? Were it however so, I could not love her with less passion than I do." When the king of Persia rose, he washed his hands on one side, while the fair slave washed hers on the other. He took that opportunity to ask the woman who held the basin and napkin, if ever they had heard her speak. One of them replied, "Sire, we have neither seen her open her lips, nor heard her speak any more than your majesty has; we have rendered her our services in the bath; we have dressed her head, put on her clothes, and waited upon her in her chamber; but she has never opened her lips, so much as to say, that is well, or I like this. We have often asked her, "Madam, do you want anything? Is there anything you wish for? Do but ask, and command us," but we have never been able to draw a word from her. We cannot tell whether her sorrow proceeds from pride, sorrow, stupidity, or dumbness."
The king was more astonished at hearing this than he had been before: however, believing the slave might have some cause of sorrow, he was willing to endeavour to divert and amuse her. Accordingly he appointed a very splendid assembly, which all the ladies of the court attended; and those who were skilful in playing upon musical instruments performed their parts, while others sung or danced, or did both together: they played at all sorts of games, which much diverted the king. The fair slave was the only person who took no pleasure in these attempts to amuse her; she never moved from her place, but remained with her eyes fixed on the ground with so much indifference, that all the ladies were not less surprised than the king. After the assembly was over, every one retired to her apartment; and the king was left alone with the fair slave.
The next morning the king of Persia rose more pleased than he had been with all the women he had seen before, and more enamoured with the fair slave than ever. Indeed, he soon made it appear, by resolving henceforth to attach himself to her alone; and performed his resolution. On the same day he dismissed all his other women, giving every one of them their jewels, and other valuables, besides a considerable fortune, with free leave to marry whom they thought fit; and only kept the matrons and a few other elderly women to wait upon the fair slave. However, for a whole year together, she never afforded him the pleasure of one single word; yet the king continued his assiduities to please her, and to give her the most signal proofs of sincere love.
After the expiration of the year, the king sitting one day by his mistress, protested to her that his love, instead of being diminished, grew every day more violent. "My queen," said he, "I cannot divine what your thoughts are; but nothing is more true, and I swear to you, that having the happiness of possessing you, there remains nothing for me to desire. I esteem my kingdom, great as it is, less than an atom, when I have the pleasure of beholding you, and of telling you a thousand times that I adore you. I desire not that my words alone should oblige you to believe me. Surely you can no longer doubt of my devotion to you after the sacrifice which I have made to your beauty of so many women, whom I before kept in my palace. You may remember it is about a year since I sent them all away; and I as little repent of it now, as I did the moment of their departure; and I never shall repent. Nothing would be wanting to complete my happiness and crown my joy, would you but speak one single word to me, by which I might be assured that you thought yourself at all obliged. But how can you speak to me if you are dumb? and alas! I feel but too apprehensive that this is the case. How can I doubt, since you still torment me with silence, after having for a whole year in vain supplicated you to speak? If it is possible for me to obtain of you that consolation, may heaven at least grant me the blessing of a son by you, to succeed me. I every day find myself growing old, and I begin already to want one to assist me in bearing the weight of my crown. Still I cannot conceal the desire I have of hearing you speak; for something within me tells me you are not dumb: and I beseech, I conjure you, dear madam, to break through this long silence, and speak but one word to me; after that I care not how soon I die."
At this discourse the fair slave, who, according to her usual custom, had hearkened to the king with downcast eyes, and had given him cause to believe not only that she was dumb, but that she had never laughed, began to smile. The king of Persia perceived it with a surprise that made him break forth into an exclamation of joy; and no longer doubting but that she was going to speak, he waited for that happy moment with an eagerness and attention that cannot easily be expressed
At last the fair slave thus addressed herself to the king: "Sire, I have so many things to say to your majesty, that, having once broken silence, I know not where to begin. However, in the first place, I think myself bound to thank you for all the favours and honours you have been pleased to confer upon me, and to implore heaven to bless and prosper you, to prevent the wicked designs of your enemies, and not suffer you to die after hearing me speak, but to grant you a long life. After this, sire, I cannot give you greater satisfaction than by acquainting you that I am with child; and I wish, as you do, it may be a son. Had it never been my fortune to be pregnant, I was resolved (I beg your majesty to pardon the sincerity of my intention) never to have loved you, and to have kept an eternal silence; but now I love you as I ought to do."
The king of Persia, ravished to hear the fair slave not only speak, but tell him tidings in which he was so nearly concerned, embraced her tenderly. "Staining light of my eyes," said he, "it is impossible for me to receive greater delight than you have now given me: you have spoken to me, and you have declared your being with child, which I did not expect. After these two occasions of joy I am transported out of myself."
The king of Persia, in the transport of his feelings, said no more to the fair slave. He left her, but in such a manner as made her perceive his intention was speedily to return: and being willing that the occasion of his joys should be made public, he declared it to his officers, and sent for the grand vizier. As soon as he came, he ordered him to distribute a thousand pieces of gold among the holy men of his religion, who made vows of poverty; as also among the hospitals and the poor, by way of returning thanks to heaven: and his will was obeyed by the direction of that minister.
After the king of Persia had given this order, he returned to the fair slave again. "Madam," said he, "pardon me for leaving you so abruptly, since you have been the occasion of it; but I hope you will indulge me with some conversation, since I am desirous to know of you several things of much greater consequence. Tell me, my dearest soul, what were the powerful reasons that induced you to persist in that obstinate silence for a whole year together, though every day you saw me, heard me talk to you, ate and drank with me, and every night slept with me? I shall pass by your not speaking; but how you could carry yourself so as that I could never discover whether you were sensible of what I said to you or no, I confess, surpasses my understanding; and I cannot yet comprehend how you could contain yourself so long; therefore I must conclude the occasion of it to be very extraordinary."
"To satisfy the king of Persia's curiosity," replied the lady, "think whether or no to be a slave, far from my own country, without any hopes of ever seeing it again, to have a heart torn with grief, at being separated forever from my mother, my brother, my friends, and my acquaintance, are not these sufficient reasons for the silence your majesty has thought so strange and unaccountable?
The love of our native country is as natural to us as that of our parents; and the loss of liberty is insupportable to everyone who is not wholly destitute of common sense, and knows how to set a value on it. The body indeed may be enslaved, and under the subjection of a master, who has the power and authority in his hands; the will can never be conquered, but remains free and unconfined, depending on itself alone, as your majesty has found in my case; and it is a wonder that I have not followed the example of many unfortunate wretches, whom the loss of liberty has reduced to the melancholy resolution of procuring their own deaths in a thousand ways, by a liberty which cannot be taken from them."
"Madam," replied the king, "I am convinced of the truth of what you say; but till this moment I was of opinion, that a person beautiful, of good understanding, like yourself, whom her evil destiny had condemned to be a slave, ought to think herself very happy in meeting with a king for her master."
"Sire," replied the lady, "whatever the slave be, as I have already observed to your majesty, there is no king on earth can tyrannize over her will. When indeed you speak of a slave mistress of charms sufficient to captivate a monarch, and induce him to love her; if she be of a rank infinitely below him, I am of your opinion, she ought to think herself happy in her misfortunes: still what happiness can it be, when she considers herself only as a slave, torn from a parent's arms, and perhaps from those of a lover, her passion for whom death only can extinguish; but when this very slave is in nothing inferior to the king who has purchased her, your majesty shall judge yourself of the rigour of her destiny, her misery and her sorrow, and to what desperate attempts the anguish of despair may drive her."
The king of Persia, astonished at this discourse, "Madam," said he, "can it be possible that you are of royal blood, as by your words you seem to intimate? Explain the whole secret to me, I beseech you, and no longer augment my impatience. Let me instantly know who are the happy parents of so great a prodigy of beauty; who are your brothers, your sisters, and your relations; but, above all, tell me your name?"
"Sire," said the fair slave, "my name is Gulnare of the Sea: and my father, who is dead, was one of the most potent monarchs of the ocean. When he died, he left his kingdom to a brother of mine, named Saleh, and to the queen, my mother, who is also a princess, the daughter of another puissant monarch of the sea. We enjoyed profound peace and tranquillity through the whole kingdom, till a neighbouring prince, envious of our happiness, invaded our dominions with a mighty army; and penetrating as far as our capital, made himself master of it; and we had but just time to save ourselves in an impenetrable and inaccessible place, with a few trusty officers, who did not forsake us in our distress.
"In this retreat my brother was not negligent in contriving means to drive the unjust invaders from our dominions. One day taking me into his closet, 'Sister,' said he, 'the events of the smallest undertakings are always dubious. For my own part, I may fail in the attempt I design to make to recover my kingdom; and I shall be less concerned for my own disgrace than what may possibly happen to you. To secure you from all accident, I would fain see you married. But in the present miserable condition of our affairs, I see no probability of matching you to any of the princes of the sea; and therefore I should be glad if you would concur in my opinion, and think of marrying one of the princes of the earth. I am ready to contribute all that lies in my power towards accomplishing this; and am certain there is not one of them, however powerful, but, considering your beauty, would be proud of sharing his crown with you.'
"At this discourse of my brother's, I fell into a violent passion. 'Brother,' said I, 'you know that I am descended, as well as you, from the kings and queens of the sea, without any mixture of alliance with those of the earth; therefore I do not design to marry below myself, and I have taken an oath to that effect. The condition to which we are reduced shall never oblige me to alter my resolution; and if you perish in the execution of your design, I am prepared to fall with you, rather than follow the advice I so little expected from you.'
"My brother, who was still earnest for my marriage, however improper for me, endeavoured to make me believe that there were kings of the earth who were no ways inferior to those of the sea. This put me into a more violent passion, which occasioned him to say several bitter reflecting things, that nettled me to the quick. He left me, as much dissatisfied with myself as he could possibly be with me; and in this peevish mood I gave a spring from the bottom of the sea up to the Island of the Moon.
"Notwithstanding the violent discontent that made me cast myself upon that island, I lived content in retirement. But in spite of all my precautions, a person of distinction, attended by his servants, surprised me sleeping, and carried me to his own house. He expressed much love to me, and omitted nothing which he thought might induce me to return his passion. When he saw that fair means would not prevail upon me, he attempted to use force: but I soon made him repent of his insolence. He resolved to sell me, which he did to the merchant who brought me hither, and sold me to your majesty. He was a prudent, courteous, humane man; and during the whole of the long journey, never gave me the least reason to complain.
"As for your majesty," continued the princess Gulnare, "if you had not shown me all the respect you have hitherto done (for which I am extremely obliged to your goodness), and given me such undeniable marks of your affection, that I can no longer doubt of it; if you had not immediately sent away your women; I hesitate not to tell you, that I should not have remained with you. I would have thrown myself into the sea out of this window, where you accosted me when you first came into this apartment; and have gone in search of my mother, my brother, and the rest of my relations. I should have persisted in that design, and would have put it in execution, if after a certain time I had found myself deceived in the hopes of being with child; but in the condition I am in, all I could say to my mother or my brother would never convince them that I have been a slave to a king like your majesty. They would never believe it, but would for ever upbraid me with the crime I have voluntarily committed against my honour. However, sire, be it a prince or princess that I may bring into the world, it will be a pledge to engage me never to be parted from your majesty; and therefore I hope you will no longer regard me as a slave, but as a princess worthy your alliance."
In this manner the Princess Gulnare discovered herself to the king of Persia, and finished her story. "My charming, my adorable princess," cried he, "what wonders have I heard! and what ample matter for my curiosity, to ask a thousand questions concerning those strange and unheard of things which you have related! But first, I ought to thank you for your goodness and patience in making trial of the truth and constancy of my passion. I thought it impossible for me to love you more than I did; but since I know you to be a princess, I love you a thousand times more. Princess! did I say, madam? you are no longer so; but you are my queen, the queen of Persia; and by that title you shall soon be proclaimed throughout the whole kingdom. To-morrow the ceremony shall be performed in my capital with a pomp and magnificence never yet beheld; which will plainly shew that you are my queen and my lawful wife. This should long ago have been done, had you sooner convinced me of my error: for from the first moment of my seeing you, I have been of the same opinion as now, to love you always, and never to place my affections on any other.
"But that I may satisfy myself, and pay you all the respect that is your due, I beseech you, madam, to inform me more particularly of the kingdom and people of the sea, who are altogether unknown to me. I have heard much talk, indeed, of the inhabitants of the sea, but I always looked upon such accounts merely as tales or fables; by what you have told me, I am convinced there is nothing more true; and I have a proof of it in your own person, who are one of them, and are pleased to condescend to be my wife; which is an honour no other inhabitant on the earth can boast. There is one point however which yet perplexes me; therefore I must beg the favour of you to explain it; that is, I cannot comprehend how it is possible for you to live or move in water without being drowned. There are few amongst us who have the art of staying under water; and they would surely perish, if, after a certain time, according to their activity and strength, they did not come up again."
"Sire," replied the Queen Gulnare, "I shall with pleasure satisfy the king of Persia. We can walk at the bottom of the sea with as much ease as you can upon land; and we can breathe in the water as you do in the air; so that instead of suffocating us, as it does you, it absolutely contributes to the preservation of our lives. What is yet more remarkable is, that it never wets our clothes; so that when we wish to visit the earth, we have no occasion to dry them. Our language is the same with that of the writing engraved upon the seal of the great prophet Solomon the son of David.
"I must not forget to inform you further, that the water does not in the least hinder us from seeing: for we can open our eyes without any inconvenience: and as we have quick, piercing sight, we can discern any objects as clearly in the deepest part of the sea as upon land. We have also there a succession of day and night; the moon affords us her light; and even the planets and the stars appear visible to us. I have already spoken of our kingdoms; but as the sea is much more spacious than the earth, so there are a great number of them, and of great extent. They are divided into provinces; and in each province are several great cities well peopled. In short there is an infinite number of nations differing in manners and customs, as they do on the earth.
"The palaces of the kings and princes are sumptuous and magnificent. Some of them are constructed of marble of various colours; others of rock-crystal, with which the sea abounds, mother of pearl, coral, and of other materials more valuable; gold, silver, and all sorts of precious stones are more plentiful there than on earth. I say nothing of the pearls, since the largest that ever were seen upon earth would not be valued amongst us; and none but the very lowest rank of citizens would wear them.
"As we have a marvellous and incredible agility to transport ourselves whither we please in the twinkling of an eye, we have no occasion for carriages or horses; not but the king has his stables and his stud of sea horses; but they are seldom used, except upon public feasts or rejoicing days. Some, after they have trained them, take delight in riding and shewing their skill and dexterity in races; others put them to chariots of mother of pearl, adorned with an infinite number of shells of all sorts, of the liveliest colours. These chariots are open; and in the middle is a throne on which the king sits, and shows himself to the public view of his subjects. The horses are trained to draw by themselves; so that there is no occasion for a charioteer to guide them. I pass over a thousand other curious particulars relating to these submarine countries, which would be very entertaining to your majesty; but you must permit me to defer them to a future opportunity, to speak of something of much greater consequence, which is, that the method of delivering, and the way of managing the women of the sea in their lying-in, is very different from those of the women of the earth; and I am afraid to trust myself in the hands of the midwives of this country: therefore, since my safe delivery equally concerns us both, with your majesty's permission, I think it proper, for greater security, to send for my mother and my cousins, to assist at my labour; at the same time to desire the king my brother's company, to whom I have a great desire to be reconciled. They will be glad to see me again, when they understand I am wife to the mighty king of Persia. I beseech your majesty to give me leave to send for them. I am sure they will be happy to pay their respects to you; and I venture to say you will be pleased to see them."
"Madam," replied the king of Persia, "you are mistress; do whatever you please; I will endeavour to receive them with all the honours they deserve. But I would fain know how you will acquaint them with what you desire, and when they will arrive, that I may give orders to make preparation for their reception, and go myself in person to meet them." "Sire," replied the Queen Gulnare, "there is no need of these ceremonies; they will be here in a moment; and if your majesty will but step into the closet, and look through the lattice, you shall see the manner of their arrival."
As soon as the king of Persia was in the closet, Queen Gulnare ordered one of her women to bring her a fire-pan with a little fire. After that she bade her retire, and shut the door. When she was alone, she took a piece of aloes-wood out of a box, and put it into the fire-pan. As soon as she saw the smoke rise, she repeated some words unknown to the king of Persia, who observed with great attention all that she did. She had no sooner ended, than the sea began to be disturbed. The closet the king was in was so contrived, that looking through the lattice on the same side with the windows that faced the sea, he could plainly perceive it.
At length the sea opened at some distance; and presently there arose out of it a tall, handsome young man, with whiskers of a sea-green colour; a little behind him, a lady, advanced in years, but of a majestic air, attended by five young ladies, nothing inferior in beauty to the Queen Gulnare.
Queen Gulnare immediately came to one of the windows, and saw the king her brother, the queen her mother, and the rest of her relations, who at the same time perceived her also. The company advanced, supported, as it were, upon the waves. When they came to the edge, they nimbly, one after another, sprung in at the window. King Saleh, the queen her mother, and the rest of her relations, embraced her tenderly on their first entrance, with tears in their eyes.
After Queen Gulnare had received them with all imaginable honour, and made them sit down upon a sofa, the queen her mother addressed herself to her: "Daughter," said she, "I am overjoyed to see you again after so long an absence; and I am confident that your brother and your relations are no less so. Your leaving us without acquainting any one with your intention, involved us in inexpressible concern; and it is impossible to tell you how many tears we have shed on your account. We know of no reason that could induce you to take such a resolution, but what your brother related to us respecting the conversation that passed between him and you. The advice he gave you seemed to him at that time advantageous for settling you in the world, and suitable to the then posture of our affairs. If you had not approved of his proposal, you ought not to have been so much alarmed; and give me leave to tell you, you took his advice in a different light from what you ought to have done. But no more of this; it serves only to renew the occasion of our sorrow and complaint, which we and you ought to bury forever in oblivion; give us now an account of all that has happened to you since we saw you last, and of your present situation, but especially let us know if you are married."
Gulnare immediately threw herself at her mother's feet, and kissing her hand, "Madam," said she, "I own I have been guilty of a fault, and I am indebted to your goodness for the pardon which you are pleased to grant me. What I am going to say, in obedience to your commands, will soon convince you, that it is often in vain for us to have an aversion for certain measures; I have myself experienced that the only thing I had an abhorrence to, is that to which my destiny has led me." She then related the whole of what had befallen her since she quitted the sea for the earth. As scon as she had concluded, and acquainted them with her having been sold to the king of Persia, in whose palace she was at present; "Sister," said the king her brother, "you have been wrong to suffer so many indignities, but you can properly blame nobody but yourself; you have it in your power now to free yourself, and I cannot but admire your patience, that you could endure so long a slavery. Rise, and return with us into my kingdom, which I have reconquered from the proud usurper who had made himself master of it."
The king of Persia, who heard these words from the closet where he stood, was in the utmost alarm; "Ah!" said he to himself, "I am ruined, and if my queen, my Gulnare, hearken to this advice, and leave me, I shall surely die, for it is impossible for me to live without her." Queen Gulnare soon put him out of his fears.
"Brother," said she smiling, "what I have just heard gives me a greater proof than ever of the sincerity of your affection; I could not brook your proposing to me a match with a prince of the earth: now I can scarcely forbear being angry with you for advising me to break the engagement I have made with the most puissant and most renowned monarch in the world. I do not speak here of an engagement between a slave and her master; it would be easy to return the ten thousand pieces of gold he gave for me; but I speak now of a contract between a wife and a husband--and a wife who has not the least reason to complain. He is a religious, wise, and temperate king, and has given me the most essential demonstrations of his love. What can be a greater proof of the sincerity of his passion, than sending away all his women (of which he had a great number) immediately upon my arrival, and confining himself to me alone? I am now his wife, and he has lately declared me queen of Persia, to share with him in his councils; besides, I am pregnant, and if heaven permit me to give him a son, that will be another motive to engage my affections to him the more."
"So that, brother," continued the queen Gulnare, "instead of following your advice, you see I have all the reason in the world, not only to love the king of Persia as passionately as he loves me, but also to live and die with him, more out of gratitude than duty. I hope then neither my mother, nor you, nor any of my cousins, will disapprove of the resolution or the alliance I have made, which will do equal honour to the kings of the sea and earth. Excuse me for giving you the trouble of coming hither from the bottom of the deep, to communicate it to you; and to enjoy the pleasure of seeing you after so long a separation."
"Sister," replied King Saleh, "the proposal I made you of going back with us into my kingdom, upon the recital of your adventures (which I could not hear without concern), was only to let you see how much we all love you, and how much I in particular honour you, and that nothing is so dear to me as your happiness. Upon the same account then, for my own part, I cannot condemn a resolution so reasonable and so worthy of yourself, after what you have told us of the king of Persia your husband, and the great obligations you owe him; and I am persuaded that the queen our mother will be of the same opinion."
The queen confirmed what her son had spoken, and addressing herself to Gulnare, said, "I am glad to hear you are pleased; and I have nothing to add to what your brother has said. I should have been the first to condemn you, had you not expressed all the gratitude you owe to a monarch. that loves you so passionately."
As the king of Persia had been extremely concerned under the apprehension of losing his beloved queen, so now he was transported with joy at her resolution never to forsake him; and having no room to doubt of her love after so open a declaration, he resolved to evince his gratitude in every possible way.
While the king was indulging incredible pleasure, Queen Gulnare clapped her hands, and immediately some of her slaves entered, whom she had ordered to bring in a collation: as soon as it was served up, she invited the queen her mother, the king her brother, and her cousins to partake. They began to reflect that they were in the palace of a mighty king, who had never seen or heard of them, and that it would be rudeness to eat at his table without him. This reflection raised a blush in their faces, and in their emotion, their eyes glowing like fire, they breathed flames at their mouths and nostrils.
This unexpected sight put the king of Persia, who was totally ignorant of the cause of it, into a dreadful consternation. Queen Gulnare, suspecting this, and understanding the intention of her relations, rose from her seat, and told them she would be back in a moment. She went directly to the closet, and by her presence recovered the king of Persia from his surprise; "Sir," said she, "I doubt not but that your majesty is well pleased with the acknowledgment I have made of the many favours for which I am indebted to you. I might have complied with the wishes of my relations, and gone back with them into their dominions; but I am not capable of such ingratitude, for which I should have been the first to condemn myself." "Ah! my queen,"cried the king of Persia, "speak no more of your obligations to me; you have none; I am under so many to you, that I shall never be able to repay them. I never thought it possible you could have loved me so tenderly as you do, and as you have made appear to me in the most endearing manner." "Ah! sir," replied Gulnare "could I do less? I fear I have not done enough, considering all the honours that your majesty has heaped upon me; and it is impossible for me to remain insensible of your love, after so many convincing proofs as you have given me."
"But, sir," continued Gulnare, "let us drop this subject, and give me leave to assure you of the sincere friendship the queen my mother and the king my brother are pleased to honour you with; they earnestly desire to see you, and tell you so themselves: I intended to have had some conversation with them by ordering a banquet for them, before I introduced them to your majesty; but they are impatient to pay their respects to you; and therefore I beseech your majesty to be pleased to honour them with your presence."
"Madam," said the king of Persia, "I should be glad to salute persons who have the honour to be so nearly related to you, but I am afraid of the flames they breathe at their mouths and nostrils." "Sir," replied the queen laughing, "you need not in the least fear those flames, which are nothing but a sign of their unwillingness to eat in your palace, without your honouring them with your presence, and eating with them."
The king of Persia, encouraged by these words, rose and went into the apartment with his Queen Gulnare She presented him to the queen her mother, to the king her brother, and to her other relations; who instantly threw themselves at his feet, with their faces to the ground. The king of Persia ran to them, and lifting them up, embraced them one after another. After they were all seated, King Saleh began: "Sir;" said he to the king of Persia, "we are at a loss for words to express our joy, to think that the queen my sister, in her disgrace, should have the happiness of falling under the protection of so powerful a monarch. We can assure you, she is not unworthy of the high rank to which you have been pleased to raise her; and we have always had so much love and tenderness for her, that we could never think or parting with her to any of the puissant princes of the sea, who have often demanded her in marriage before she came of age. Heaven has reserved her for you, and we have no better way of testifying our gratitude for the favour it has done her, than beseeching it to grant your majesty a long and happy life with her, and to crown you with prosperity and satisfaction.
"Certainly," replied the king of Persia, "heaven reserved her for me, as you observe. I love her with so tender and ardent a passion, that I am satisfied I never loved any woman till I saw her. I cannot sufficiently thank either the queen her mother or you, prince, or your whole family, for the generosity with which you have consented to receive me into an alliance so glorious to me as yours." So saying he invited them to take part of the collation, and he and his queen sat down with them. After the collation, the king of Persia conversed with them till it was very late; and when they thought it convenient to retire, he waited upon them himself to the several apartments he had ordered to be prepared for them.
The king of Persia treated his illustrious guests with continual feasts; in which he omitted nothing that might shew his grandeur and magnificence, and insensibly prevailed with them to stay with him till the queen was brought to bed. When the time of her lying-in drew near, he gave particular orders that nothing should be wanting proper for such an occasion. At length she was brought to bed of a son, to the great joy of the queen her mother, who assisted at the labour, and presented him to the king.
The king of Persia received this present with a joy easier to be imagined than expressed. The young prince being of a beautiful countenance, he thought no name so proper for him as that of Beder, which in the Arabian language signifies the Full Moon. To return thanks to heaven, he was very liberal in his alms to the poor, caused the prison doors to be set open, and gave all his slaves of both sexes their liberty. He distributed vast sums among the ministers and holy men of his religion. He also gave large donations to his courtiers, besides a considerable sum that was thrown amongst the people; and by proclamation, ordered rejoicings to be kept for several days through the whole city.
One day, after the queen was recovered, as the king of Persia, Gulnare, the queen her mother, King Saleh her brother, and the princesses their relations, were discoursing together in her majesty's bed-chamber, the nurse came in with the young prince Beder in her arms. King Saleh as soon as he saw him, ran to embrace him, and taking him in his arms, kissed and caressed him with the greatest demonstrations of tenderness. He took several turns with him about the room, dancing and tossing him about, when all of a sudden, through a transport of joy, the window being open, he sprung out, and plunged with him into the sea.
The king of Persia, who expected no such sight, believing he should either see the prince his son no more, or else that he should see him drowned, was overwhelmed in affliction. "Sir," said queen Gulnare (with a quiet and undisturbed countenance, the better to comfort him), "let your majesty fear nothing; the young prince is my son as well as yours, and I do not love him less than yourself. You see I am not alarmed; neither in truth ought I to be. He runs no risk, and you will soon see the king his uncle appear with him again, and bring him back safe. Although he be born of your blood, he is equally of mine, and will have the same advantage his uncle and I possess, of living equally in the sea, and upon the land." The queen his mother and the princesses his relations affirmed the same thing; yet all they said had no effect on the king, who could not recover from his alarm till he again saw prince Beder.
The sea at length became troubled, when immediately King Saleh arose with the young prince in his arms, and holding him up in the air, reentered at the window from which he had leaped. The king of Persia being overjoyed to see Prince Beder again, and astonished that he was as calm as before he lost sight of him; King Saleh said, "Sir, was not your majesty in alarm, when you first saw me plunge into the sea with the prince my nephew?" "Alas prince," answered the king of Persia, "I cannot express my concern. I thought him lost from that very moment, and you now restore life to me by bringing him again." "I thought as much," replied King Saleh, "though you had not the least reason to apprehend danger; for before I plunged into the sea, I pronounced over him certain mysterious words, which were engraved on the seal of the great Solomon the son of David. We practise the like in relation to all those children that are born in the regions at the bottom of the sea, by virtue whereof they receive the same privileges as we have over those people who inhabit the earth. From what your majesty has observed, you may easily see what advantage your son Prince Beder has acquired by his birth on the part of his mother Gulnare my sister: for as long as he lives, and as often as he pleases, he will be at liberty to plunge into the sea, and traverse the vast empires it contains in its bosom."
Having so spoken, King Saleh, who had restored Prince Beder to his nurse's arms, opened a box he had fetched from his palace in the little time he had disappeared, which was filled with three hundred diamonds, as large as pigeons' eggs; a like number of rubies of extraordinary size; as many emerald wands, each half a foot long, and thirty strings or necklaces of pearl consisting each of ten feet. "Sir," said he to the king of Persia, presenting him with this box, "when I was first summoned by the queen my sister, I knew not what part of the earth she was in, or that she had the honour to be married to so great a monarch. This made us come without a present. As we cannot express how much we have been obliged to your majesty, I beg you to accept this small token of gratitude in acknowledgment of the many favours you have been pleased to shew her, wherein we take equal interest."
It is impossible to express how greatly the king of Persia was surprised at the sight of so much riches, enclosed in so little compass. "What! prince," cried he, "do you call so inestimable a present a small token of your gratitude, when you never have been indebted to me? I declare once more you have never been in the least obliged to me, neither the queen your mother nor you. I esteem myself but too happy in the consent you have given to the alliance I have contracted with you. Madam," continued he, turning to Gulnare, "the king your brother has put me into the greatest confusion; and I would beg of him to permit me to refuse his present, were I not afraid of disobliging him: do you therefore endeavour to obtain his leave that I may be excused accepting it."
"Sir," replied King Saleh, "I am not at all surprised that your majesty thinks this present so extraordinary. I know you are not accustomed upon earth to see precious stones of this quality and number: but if you knew, as I do, the mines whence these jewels were taken, and that it is in my power to form a treasure greater than those of all the kings of the earth, you would wonder we should have the boldness to make you so small a present. I beseech you therefore not to regard its trifling value, but consider the sincere friendship which obliges us to offer it to you, and not give us the mortification of refusing it." These engaging expressions obliged the king of Persia to accept the present, for which he returned many thanks both to King Saleh and the queen his mother.
A few days after, King Saleh gave the king of Persia to understand, that the queen his mother, the princesses his relations, and himself, could have no greater pleasure than to spend their whole lives at his court; but that having been so long absent from their own kingdom, where their presence was absolutely necessary, they begged of him to excuse them if they took leave of him and Queen Gulnare. The king of Persia assured them, he was sorry it was not in his power to return their visit in their own dominions; but added, "As I am persuaded you will not forget Gulnare, I hope I shall have the honour to see you again more than once."
Many tears were shed on both sides upon their separation. King Saleh departed first; but the queen his mother and the princesses his relations were obliged to force themselves from the embraces of Gulnare, who could not prevail with herself to let them go. This royal company were no sooner out of sight, than the king of Persia said to Gulnare, "Madam, I should have looked upon the person who had pretended to pass those upon me for true wonders, of which I myself have been eye-witness from the time I have been honoured with your illustrious family at my court, as one who would have abused my credulity. But I cannot refuse to believe my senses; and shall remember them while I live, and never cease to bless heaven for directing you to me, in preference to any other prince."
Beder was brought up and educated in the palace under the care of the king and queen of Persia, who both saw him grow and increase in beauty to their great satisfaction. He gave them yet greater pleasure as he advanced in years, by his continual sprightliness, his agreeable manners, and the justness and vivacity of his wit; and this satisfaction was the more sensible, because King Saleh his uncle, the queen his grandmother, and the princesses his relations, came from time to time to partake of it.
He was easily taught to read and write, and was instructed with the same facility in all the sciences that became a prince of his rank.
When he arrived at the age of fifteen, he acquitted himself in all his exercises with infinitely better address and grace than his masters. He was withal wise and prudent. The king, who had almost from his cradle discovered in him virtues so necessary for a monarch, and who moreover began to perceive the infirmities of old age coming upon himself every day, would not stay till death gave him possession of his throne, but purposed to resign it to him. He had no great difficulty to make his council consent to this arrangement: and the people heard his resolution with so much the more joy, as they conceived Prince Beder worthy to govern them. In a word, as the king had not for a long time appeared in public, they had the opportunity of observing that he had not that disdainful, proud, and distant air, which most princes have, who look upon all below them with scorn and contempt. They saw, on the contrary, that he treated all mankind with that goodness which invited them to approach him; that he heard favourably all who had anything to say to him; that he answered everybody with a goodness that was peculiar to him; and that he refused nobody any thing that had the least appearance of justice.
The day for the ceremony was appointed, when in the midst of the whole assembly, which was then more numerous than ordinary, the king of Persia came down from his throne, took the crown from his head, put it on that of Prince Beder, and having seated him in his place, kissed his hand as a token that he resigned his authority to him. After which he took his place among the crowd of viziers and emirs below the throne.
Hereupon the viziers, emirs, and other principal officers, came immediately and threw themselves at the new king's feet, taking each the oath of fidelity according to their rank. Then the grand vizier made a report of divers important matters, on which the young king gave judgment with that admirable prudence and sagacity that surprised all the council. He next turned out several governors convicted of mal-administration, and put others in their room, with such wonderful and just discernment, as exalted the acclamations of every body, which were so much the more honourable, as flattery had no share in them. He at length left the council, accompanied by his father, and went to wait on his mother Queen Gulnare at her apartment. The queen no sooner saw him coming with his crown upon his head, than she ran to him and embraced him with tenderness, wishing him a long and prosperous reign.
The first year of his reign King Beder acquitted himself of all his royal functions with great assiduity. Above all, he took care to inform himself of the state of his affairs, and all that might any way contribute towards the happiness of his people. Next year, having left the administration to his council, under the direction of his father, he left his capital, under pretence of diverting himself with hunting; but his real intention was to visit all the provinces of his kingdom, that he might reform abuses, establish good order, and deprive all ill-minded princes, his neighbours, of any opportunities of attempting anything against the security and tranquillity of his subjects, by shewing himself on his frontiers.
It required no less than a whole year for the young monarch to execute a design so worthy of him. Soon after his return, the old king his father fell so dangerously ill, that he knew at once he should never recover. He waited for his last moment with great tranquillity, and his only care was to recommend to the ministers and other lords of his son's court, to persevere in the fidelity they had sworn to him: and there was not one but willingly renewed his oath as freely as at first. He died at length, to the great grief of King Beder and Queen Gulnare, who caused his corpse to be borne to a stately mausoleum, worthy of his rank and dignity.
The funeral obsequies ended, King Beder found no difficulty to comply with that ancient custom in Persia to mourn for the dead a whole month and not to be seen by anybody during that time. He had mourned the death of his father his whole life, had he yielded to his excessive affliction, and had it been right for a great prince thus to abandon himself to sorrow. During this interval the Queen Gulnare's mother, and King Saleh, together with the princesses their relations, arrived at the Persian court to condole with their relations.
When the month was expired, the king could not refuse admittance to the grand vizier and the other lords of his court, who besought him to lay aside his mourning, to shew himself to his subjects, and take upon him the administration of affairs as before.
He shewed so much reluctance to comply with their request, that the grand vizier was forced to take upon himself to say; "Sir, it were needless to represent to your majesty, that it belongs only to women to persist in perpetual mourning. We doubt not but you are fully convinced of this, and that it is not your intention to follow their example. Neither our tears nor yours are capable of restoring life to the good king your father, though we should lament him all our days. He has submitted to the common law of all men, which subjects them to pay the indispensable tribute of death. Yet we cannot say absolutely that he is dead, since we see in him your sacred person. He did not himself doubt, when he was dying, but he should revive in you, and to your majesty it belongs to show that he was not deceived." King Beder could no longer oppose such pressing instances; he laid aside his mourning; and after he had resumed the royal habit and ornaments, began to provide for the necessities of his kingdom and subjects with the same assiduity as before his father's death. He acquitted himself with universal approbation: and as he was exact in maintaining the ordinances of his predecessor, the people did not perceive they had changed their sovereign.
King Saleh, who was returned to his dominions in the sea with the queen his mother and the princesses, no sooner saw that King Beder had resumed the government, but he at the end of the year came alone to visit him; and King Beder and Queen Gulnare were overjoyed to see him. One evening, talking of various matters, King Saleh fell insensibly on the praises of the king his nephew, and expressed to the queen his sister how glad he was to see him govern so prudently, as to acquire such high reputation, not only among his neighbours, but more remote princes. King Beder, who could not bear to hear himself so well spoken of, and not being willing, through good manners, to interrupt the king his uncle, turned on one side, and feigned to be asleep, leaning his head against a cushion that was behind him.
From these commendations, which regarded only the conduct and genius of Beder, King Saleh came to speak of the perfections of his person, which he extolled as prodigies, having nothing equal to them upon earth, or in all the kingdoms under the waters, with which he was acquainted.
"Sister," said he, "I wonder you have not thought of marrying him: if I mistake not, he is in his twentieth year; and, at that age, no prince ought to be suffered to be without a wife. I will think of a match for him myself, since you will not, and marry him to some princess of our lower world that may be worthy of him."
"Brother," replied queen Gulnare, "you call to my attention what I must own has never occurred to me. As he discovered no inclination for marriage, I never thought of mentioning it to him. I like your proposal of one of our princesses; and I desire you to name one so beautiful and accomplished that the king my son may be obliged to love her."
"I know one," replied king Saleh, softly; "but before I tell you who she is, let us see if the king my nephew be asleep, and I will tell you afterwards why it is necessary we should take that precaution." Queen Gulnare turned about and looked at her son, and thought she had no reason to doubt but he was in a profound sleep. King Beder, nevertheless, far from sleeping, redoubled his attention, unwilling to lose any thing the king his uncle said with so much secrecy. "There is no necessity for your speaking so low," said the queen to the king her brother; "you may speak out with freedom, without fear of being heard."
"It is by no means proper," replied King Saleh, "that the king my nephew should as yet have any knowledge of what I am going to say. Love, you know, sometimes enters at the ear, and it is not necessary he should thus conceive a passion for the lady I am about to name. Indeed I see many difficulties to be surmounted, not on the lady's part, as I hope, but on that of her father. I need only mention to you the princess Jehaun-ara, daughter of the king of Samandal."
"How! brother," replied Queen Gulnare, "is not the princess yet married? I remember to have seen her before I left your palace; she was then about eighteen months old, surprisingly beautiful, and must needs be the wonder of the world, if her charms have increased with her years. The few years she is older than the king my son ought not to prevent us from doing our utmost to effect the match. Let me but know the difficulties in the way, and we will surmount them."
"Sister," replied King Saleh, "the greatest difficulty is, that the king of Samandal is insupportably vain, looking upon all others as his inferiors: it is not likely we shall easily get him to enter into this alliance. I will however go to him in person, and demand of him the princess his daughter; and, in case he refuses her, we will address ourselves elsewhere, where we shall be more favourably heard. For this reason, as you may perceive," added he, "it is as well for the king my nephew not to know any thing of our design, till we have the consent of the king of Samandal." They discoursed a little longer upon this point and, before they parted, agreed that King Saleh should forthwith return to his own dominions, and demand the princess for the king of Persia his nephew.
This done, Queen Gulnare and King Saleh, who believed King Beder asleep, agreed to awake him before they retired; and he dissembled so well that he seemed to awake from a profound sleep. He had heard every word, and the character they gave of the princess had inflamed his heart with a new passion. He had conceived such an idea of her beauty, that the desire of possessing her made him pass the night very uneasy without closing his eyes.
Next day King Saleh proposed taking leave of Gulnare and the king his nephew. The young king, who knew his uncle would not have de- parted so soon but to go and promote without loss of time his happiness, changed colour when he heard him mention his departure. His passion was become so violent, it would not suffer him to wait so long for the sight of his mistress as would be required to accomplish the marriage. He more than once resolved to desire his uncle to bring her away with him: but as he did not wish to let the queen his mother understand he knew anything of what had passed, he desired him only to stay with him one day more, that they might hunt together, intending to take that opportunity to discover his mind to him.
The day for hunting was fixed, and King Beder had many opportunities of being alone with his uncle; but he had not courage to acquaint him with his design.
In the heat of the chase, when King Saleh was separated from him, and not one of his officers or attendants was near him, he alighted by a rivulet; and having tied his horse to a tree, which, with several others growing along the banks, afforded a very pleasing shade, he laid himself on the grass, and gave free course to his tears, which flowed in great abundance, accompanied with many sighs.
He remained a good while in this condition, absorbed in thought, without speaking a word. King Saleh, in the meantime, missing the king his nephew, began to be much concerned to know what was become of him; but could meet no one who could give any tidings of him. He therefore left his company to seek for him, and at length perceived him at a distance. He had observed the day before, and more plainly that day, that he was not so lively as he used to be; and that, if he was asked a question, he either answered not at all, or nothing to the purpose; but never in the least suspected the cause. As soon as he saw him dying in that disconsolate posture, he immediately guessed he had not only heard what had passed between him and Queen Gulnare, but was become passionately in love. He alighted at some distance from him, and having tied his horse to a tree, came upon him so softly, that he heard him pronounce the following words:
"Amiable princess of the kingdom of Samandal, I have no doubt had but an imperfect sketch of your incomparable beauty; I hold you to be still more beautiful in preference to all the princesses in the world, and to excel them as much as the sun does the moon and stars. I would this moment go and offer you my heart, if I knew where to find you; it belongs to you, and no princess shall be possessor of it but yourself!"
King Saleh would hear no more; he advanced immediately, and discovered himself to Beder. "From what I see, nephew," said he, "you heard what the queen your mother and I said the other day of the princess Jehaun-ara. It was not our intention you should have known any thing respecting her, and we thought you were asleep." "My dear uncle," replied King Beder, "I heard every word, and have sufficiently experienced the effect you foretold; which it was not in your power to prevent. I detained you on purpose to acquaint you with my love before your departure; but the shame of disclosing my weakness, if it be any to love a princess so worthy of my affection, sealed up my mouth. I beseech you then, by the friendship you profess for a prince who has the honour to be so nearly allied to you, that you would pity me, and not wait to procure me the consent of the divine Jehaun-ara, till you have gained that of the king of Samandal that I may marry his daughter, unless you had rather see me die with love, before I behold her."
These words of the king of Persia greatly embarrassed King Saleh. He represented to him how difficult it was to give him the satisfaction he desired, and that he could not do it without carrying him along with him; which might be of dangerous consequence, since his presence was so absolutely necessary in his kingdom. He conjured him, therefore, to moderate his passion, till such time as he had put things into a train to satisfy him, assuring him he would use his utmost diligence, and would come to acquaint him in a few days. But these reasons were not sufficient to satisfy the king of Persia. "Cruel uncle," said he. "I find you do not love me so much as you pretended, and that you had rather see me die than grant the first request I ever made."
"I am ready to convince your majesty," replied King Saleh, "that I would do any thing to serve you; but as for carrying you along with me, I cannot do that till I have spoken to the queen your mother. What would she say of you and me? If she consents, I am ready to do all you would have me, and will join my entreaties to yours." "You cannot be ignorant," replied the king of Persia, "that the queen my mother would never willingly part with me; and therefore this excuse does but farther convince me of your unkindness. If you really love me, as you would have me believe, you must return to your kingdom immediately, and take me with you."
King Saleh, finding himself obliged to yield to his nephew's importunity, drew from his finger a ring, on which were engraved the same mysterious names of God that were upon Solomon's seal, which had wrought so many wonders by their virtue. "Here, take this ring," said he, "put it on your finger, and fear neither the waters of the sea, nor their depth." The king of Persia took the ring, and when he had put it on his finger, King Saleh said to him, "Do as I do." At the same time they both mounted lightly up into the air, and made towards the sea, which was not far distant, and they both plunged into it.
The sea-king was not long in arriving at his palace, with the king of Persia, whom he immediately carried to the queen's apartments, and presented to her. The king of Persia kissed the queen his grandmother's hands, and she embraced him with great demonstrations of joy. "I do not ask you how you do," said she, "I see you are very well, and am rejoiced at it; but I desire to know how my daughter your mother Queen Gulnare does." The king of Persia took great care not to let her know that he had come away with out taking leave of her; on the contrary he told her, the queen his mother was in perfect health, and had enjoined him to pay her duty to her. The queen then presented him to the princesses; and while he was in conversation with them, she left him, and went with King Saleh into a closet, who told her how the king of Persia was fallen in love with the Princess Jehaun-ara, upon the bare relation of her beauty, and contrary to his intention; that he had, against his own wishes, brought him along with him, and that he was going to concert measures to procure the princess for him in marriage.
Although King Saleh was, to do him justice, perfectly innocent of the king of Persia's passion, yet the queen could hardly forgive his indiscretion in mentioning the princess Jehaun- ara before him, "Your imprudence is not to be forgiven," said she; "can you think that the king of Samandal, whose character is so well known, will have greater consideration for you, than the many other kings to whom he has refused his daughter, with such evident contempt? Would you have him send you away with the same confusion?
"Madam," replied King Saleh, "I have already told you it was contrary to my intention that the king my nephew heard what I related of the beauty of the princess to the queen my sister. The fault is committed, and we must consider what a violent passion he has for this princess, and that he will die with grief and affliction, if we do not speedily obtain her for him. For my part, I shall omit nothing that can contribute to effect their union: since I was, though innocently, the cause of the malady, I will do all I can to remedy it. I hope, madam, you will approve of my resolution, to go myself and wait on the king of Samandal, with a rich present of precious stones, and demand the princess his daughter of him for the king of Persia. I have some reason to believe he will not refuse, but will be pleased with an alliance with one of the greatest potentates of the earth."
"It were to have been wished," replied the queen, "that we had not been under a necessity of making this demand, since the success of our attempt is not so certain as we could desire; but since my grandson's peace and content depend upon it, I freely give my consent. But, above all, I charge you, since you well know the humour of the king of Samandal, that you take care to speak to him with due respect, and in a manner that cannot possibly offend him."
The queen prepared the present herself, composing it of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and strings of pearl, all which she put into a rich box. Next morning King Saleh took leave of her majesty and the king of Persia, and departed with a chosen and small troop of officers, and attendants. He soon arrived at the kingdom, and the palace of the king of Samandal, who delayed not to give him audience. He rose from his throne as soon as he perceived him; and King Saleh, forgetting his character for some moments, knowing whom he had to deal with, prostrated himself at his feet, wishing him the accomplishment of all his desires. The king of Samandal stooped to raise him, and after he had placed him on his left hand, told him he was welcome, and asked him if there was any thing he could do to serve him.
"Sir," answered King Saleh, "though I should have no other motive than that of paying my respects to the most potent, most prudent, and most valiant prince in the world, feeble would be my language to express how much I honour your majesty. Could you penetrate into my inmost soul, you would be convinced of the great veneration I have for you, and of my ardent desire to testify my attachment." Having spoke these words, he took the box of jewels from one of his servants, and having opened it, presented it to the king, imploring him to accept of it for his sake.
"Prince," replied the king of Samandal, "you would not make me such a present unless you had a request proportionable to it to propose. If there be any thing in my power to grant, you may freely command me, and I shall feel the greatest pleasure in complying with your wishes. Speak, and tell me frankly, wherein I can serve you?"
"I must own ingenuously," replied King Saleh, "I have a boon to ask of your majesty; and I shall take care to ask nothing but what is in your power to bestow. The thing depends so absolutely on yourself, that it would be to no purpose to ask it of any one else. I ask it then with all possible earnestness, and I beg of you not to refuse me." "If it be so," replied the king of Samandal, "you have nothing to do but acquaint me what it is, and you shall see after what manner I can oblige when it is in my power."
"Sir," said King Saleh, "after the confidence with which your majesty has been pleased to inspire me, I will not dissemble any longer, that I came to beg of you to honour our house with your alliance by the marriage of your daughter, and to strengthen the good understanding that has so long subsisted between our two crowns."
At these words the king of Samandal burst into a loud laugh, falling back in his throne against a cushion that supported him, and with an imperious and scornful air, said, "King Saleh, I have always hitherto thought you a prince of great wisdom, and prudence; but what you say convinces me I was mistaken. Tell me, I beseech you, where was your wit or discretion, when you formed to yourself such a chimera as you have proposed to me? Could you conceive a thought of aspiring in marriage to a princess, the daughter of so powerful a monarch as myself? You ought to have considered the great distance between us, and not run the risk of losing in a moment the esteem I always had for you."
King Saleh was hurt at this affronting answer, and could scarcely restrain his resentment; however he replied with all possible moderation, "God reward your majesty as you deserve! I have the honour to inform you, I do not demand the princess your daughter in marriage for myself; had I done even that, your majesty and the princess, so far from being offended, should have thought it an honour done to both. Your majesty well knows I am one of the kings of the sea as well as yourself; that my ancestors yield not in antiquity to any royal house; and that the kingdom I inherit is no less potent and flourishing than your own. If your majesty had not interrupted me, you had soon understood that the favour I asked was not for myself, but for the young king of Persia my nephew, whose power and grandeur, no less than his personal good qualities, cannot be unknown to you. Everybody acknowledges the Princess Jehaun-ara to be the most beautiful under ocean: but it is no less true, that the king of Persia is the handsomest and most accomplished prince on earth. Thus the favour that is asked being likely to redound to the honour both of your majesty and the princess your daughter, you ought not to doubt that your consent to an alliance so equal will be unanimously approved in all the kingdoms of the sea. The princess is worthy of the king of Persia, and the king of Persia is no less worthy of her."
The king of Samandal had not permitted King Saleh to speak so long, but that rage deprived him of all power of speech. At length, however, he broke out into outrageous and insulting expressions, unworthy of a great king. "Dog," cried he, "dare you talk to me after this manner, and so much as mention my daughter's name in my presence Can you think the son of your sister Gulnare worthy to come in competition with my daughter? Who are you? Who was your father? Who is your sister? And who your nephew? Was not his father a dog, and the son of a dog, like you? Guards, seize the insolent wretch, and strike off his head."
The few officers who were about the king of Samandal were immediately going to obey his orders, when King Saleh, who was in the flower of his age, nimble and vigorous, got from them, before they could draw their sabres; and having reached the palace-gate, found there a thousand men of his relations and friends, well armed and equipped, who were just arrived. The queen his mother having considered the small number of attendants he had taken with him, and foreseeing the reception he would probably meet from the king of Samandal, had sent these troops to protect and defend him in case of danger, ordering them to make haste. Those of his relations who were at the head of this troop had reason to rejoice at their seasonable arrival, when they beheld him and his attendants running in great disorder, and pursued. "Sire," cried his friends, the moment he joined them, "who has insulted you? We are ready to revenge you: you need only command us." King Saleh related his case to them in few words, and putting himself at the head of a troop, while some seized the gates, he re-entered the palace. The few officers and guards who had pursued him, being soon dispersed, he forced the king of Samandal's apartment, who, being abandoned by his attendants, was soon seized. King Saleh left sufficient guards to secure his person, and then went from apartment to apartment, to search after the Princess Jehaun-ara. But she, on the first alarm, had, together with her women, sprung up to the surface of the sea, and escaped to a desert island.
While this passed in the palace of the king of Samandal, those of King Saleh's attendants who had fled at the first menaces of that king, put the queen mother into terrible consternation, on relating the danger of her son. King Beder, who was present at the time, was the more concerned, as he looked upon himself as the principal author of the mischief that might ensue: therefore, not caring to abide the queen's presence any longer, whilst she was giving the orders necessary at that conjuncture, he darted up from the bottom of the sea; and not knowing how to find his way to the kingdom of Persia, happened to land on the island where the Princess Jehaun-ara had saved herself.
The prince, not a little disturbed in mind, seated himself under the shade of a large tree, surrounded by others. Whilst he was endeavouring to recover himself, he heard somebody talking, but was too far off to understand what was said. He arose, and advanced softly towards the place whence the sound proceeded, where, among the branches, he perceived a beauty that dazzled him. "Doubtless," said he, within himself, stopping and considering her with great attention, "this must be the princess Jehaun-ara, whom fear has obliged to abandon her father's palace; or if it be not, she no less deserves my love." This said, he came forward, and discovering himself, approached the princess with profound reverence. "Madam," said he, "I can never sufficiently thank Heaven for the favour it has done me in presenting to my eyes so much beauty. A greater happiness could not have befallen me than this opportunity to offer you my services. I beseech you, therefore, madam, to accept them, it being impossible that a lady in this solitude should not want assistance."
"True, my lord," replied Jehaun-ara, sorrowfully; "it is not a little extraordinary for a lady of my quality to be in this situation. I am a princess, daughter of the king of Samandal, and my name is Jehaun-ara. I was at ease in my father's palace, in my apartment, when suddenly I heard a dreadful noise: news was immediately brought me, that king Saleh, I know not for what reason, had forced the palace, seized the king my father, and murdered all the guards who made any resistance. I had only time to save myself, and escape hither from his violence."
At these words King Beder began to be concerned that he had quitted his grandmother so hastily, without staying to hear from her an explanation of the news that had been brought. But he was, on the other hand, overjoyed to find that the king his uncle had rendered himself master of the king of Samandal's person, not doubting but he would consent to give up the princess for his liberty. "Adorable princess," continued he, "your concern is most just, but it
is easy to put an end both to that and your father's captivity. You will agree with me, when I shall tell you that I am Beder, king of Persia, and King Saleh is my uncle: I assure you, madam, he has no design to seize the king your father's dominions; his only intention is to obtain your father's consent, that I may have the honour and happiness of being his son-in- law. I had already given my heart to you, upon the bare relation of your beauty and charms; and now, far from repenting, I beg of you to accept it, and to be assured that I will love you as long as I live. I dare flatter myself you will not refuse this favour, but be ready to acknowledge that a king, who quitted his dominions purely on your account, deserves some acknowledgment. Permit me then, beauteous princess! to have the honour to present you to the king my uncle; and the king your father shall no sooner have consented to our marriage, than King Saleh will leave him sovereign of his dominions as before."
This declaration of King Beder did not produce the effect he expected. It is true, the princess no sooner saw him, than his person, air, and the grace wherewith he accosted her, led her to regard him as one who would not have been disagreeable to her; but when she heard that he had been the occasion of all the ill treatment her father had suffered, of the grief and fright she had endured, and especially the necessity she was reduced to of flying her country; she looked upon him as an enemy with whom she ought to have no connection. Whatever inclination she might have to agree to the marriage which he desired, she determined never to consent, reflecting that one of the reasons her father might have against this match might be, that King Beder was son of a king of the earth.
She would not, however, let King Beder know her resentment; but sought an occasion to deliver herself dexterously out of his hands; and seeming in the meantime to have a great kindness for him, "Are you then," said she, with all possible civility, "son of the Queen Gulnare, so famous for her wit and beauty? I am glad of it, and rejoice that you are the son of so worthy a mother. The king my father was much in the wrong so strongly to oppose our union: had he but seen you, he must have consented to make us happy." Saying so, she reached forth her hand to him as a token of friendship.
King Beder, believing himself arrived at the very pinnacle of happiness, held forth his hand, and taking that of the princess, stooped down to kiss it, when she, pushing him back, and spitting in his face for want of water to throw at him, said, "Wretch, quit the form of a man, and take that of a white bird, with a red bill and feet." Upon her pronouncing these words, King Beder was immediately changed into a bird of that description, to his great surprise and mortification. "Take him," said she to one of her women, "and carry him to the Dry Island." This island was only one frightful rock, where not a drop of water was to be had.
The waiting-woman took the bird, but in executing her princess's orders, had compassion on King Beder's misfortune. "It would be great pity," said she to herself, "to let a prince so worthy to live die of hunger and thirst. The princess, who is good and gentle, will, it may be, repent of this cruel order, when she comes to herself; it were better that I carried him to a place where he may die a natural death." She accordingly carried him to a well-frequented island, and left him in a charming plain, planted with all sorts of fruit- trees, and watered by divers rivulets.
Let us return to King Saleh. After he had sought for the princess Jehaun-ara to no purpose, he caused the king of Samandal to be shut up in his own palace, under a strong guard; and having given the necessary orders for governing the kingdom in his absence, returned to give the queen his mother an account of what he had done. The first question he asked on his arrival was, "Where was the king his nephew?" and he learned with great surprise and vexation that he could not be found. "News being brought me," said the queen, "of the danger you were in at the palace of the king of Samandal, whilst I was giving orders to send you other troops to avenge you, he disappeared. He must have been alarmed at hearing of your being in such great danger, and did not think himself in sufficient security with us."
This news exceedingly afflicted King Saleh, who now repented being so easily wrought upon by King Beder as to carry him away with him without his mother's consent. He sent everywhere to seek for him, but could hear no tidings of him; and instead of the joy he felt at having carried on so far the marriage, which he looked upon as his own work, his grief for this accident was more mortifying. Whilst he was under this suspense about his nephew, he left his kingdom under the administration of his mother, and went to govern that of the king of Samandal, whom he continued to keep with great vigilance, though with all due respect to his character.
The same day that King Saleh returned to the kingdom of Samandal, Queen Gulnare arrived at the court of the queen her mother. The princess was not at all surprised to find her son did not return the same day he set out: it being not uncommon for him to go farther than he proposed in the heat of the chase; but when she saw he neither returned the next day, nor the day after, she began to be alarmed, as may easily be imagined from her affection for him. This alarm was augmented, when the officers, who had accompanied the king, and were obliged to return after they had for a long time sought in vain both for him and his uncle, came and told her majesty they must of necessity have come to some harm, or must be together in some place which they could not guess; since, notwithstanding all the diligence they had used, they could hear no tidings of them. Their horses indeed they had found, but as for their persons, they knew not where to look for them. The queen hearing this, had resolved to dissemble and conceal her affliction, bidding the officers to search once more with their utmost diligence; but in the meantime she plunged into the sea, to satisfy herself as to the suspicion she had entertained that king Saleh must have carried his nephew with him.
This great queen would have been more affectionately received by her mother, had she not, on first seeing her, guessed the occasion of her coming. "Daughter," said she, "I plainly perceive you are not come hither to visit me; you come to inquire after the king your son; and the only news I can tell you will augment both your grief and mine. I no sooner saw him arrive in our territories, than I rejoiced; yet when I came to understand he had come away without your knowledge, I began to participate with you the concern you must needs suffer." Then she related to her with what zeal King Saleh went to demand the Princess Jehaun-ara in marriage for King Beder, and what had happened, till her son disappeared. "I have sought diligently after him," added she, "and the king my son, who is but just gone to govern the kingdom of Samandal, has done all that lay in his power. All our endeavours have hitherto proved unsuccessful, but we must hope nevertheless to see him again, perhaps when we least expect it."
Queen Gulnare was not satisfied with this hope: she looked upon the king her son as lost, and lamented him bitterly, laying all the blame on the king his uncle. The queen her mother made her consider the necessity of not yielding too much to grief. "The king your brother," said she, "ought not, it is true, to have talked to you so inconsiderately about that marriage, nor ever have consented to carry away the king my grandson, without acquainting you; yet, since it is not certain that the king of Persia is absolutely lost, you ought to neglect nothing to preserve his kingdom for him: lose then no more time, but return to your capital; your presence there will be necessary, and it will not be difficult for you to preserve the public peace, by causing it to be published, that the king of Persia was gone to visit his grandmother."
This was sufficient to oblige Queen Gulnare to yield. She took leave of the queen her mother, and returned to the palace of the capital of Persia before she had been missed. She immediately despatched persons to recall the officers she had sent after the king, to tell them that she knew where his majesty was, and that they should soon see him again. She also caused the same report to be spread throughout the city, and governed, in concert with the prime minister and council, with the same tranquillity as if the king had been present.
To return to King Beder, whom the Princess Jehaun-ara's waiting-woman had left in the island before mentioned; that monarch was not a little surprised when he found himself alone, and under the form of a bird. He esteemed himself yet more unhappy, in that he knew not where he was, or in what part of the world the kingdom of Persia lay. But if he had known, and had tried the force of his wings, to hazard the traversing so many extensive watery regions, and had reached it, what could he have gained, but the mortification to continue still in the same form, and not to be accounted even a man, much less acknowledged king of Persia? He was forced to remain where he was, live upon such food as birds of his kind were wont to have, and to pass the night on a tree.
A few days afterwards, a peasant, skilled in taking birds with nets, chanced to come to the place where he was; when perceiving so fine a bird, the like of which he had never seen, though he had followed that employment for a long while, he began greatly to rejoice. He employed all his art to ensnare him; and at length succeeded and took him. Overjoyed at so great a prize, which he looked upon to be of more worth than all the other birds he commonly took, he shut it up in a cage, and carried it to the city. As soon as he was come into the market, a citizen stops him, and asked how much he would have for his bird?
Instead of answering, the peasant demanded of the citizen what he would do with him in case he should buy him? "What wouldst thou have me to do with him," answered the citizen, "but roast and eat him?" "If that be the case," replied the peasant, "I suppose you would think me very well paid, if you should give me the smallest piece of silver for him. I set a much higher value upon him, and you should not have him for a piece of gold. Although I am advanced in years, I never saw such a bird in my life. I intend to make a present of him to the king; he will know its value better than you."
Without staying any longer in the market, the peasant went directly to the palace, and placed himself exactly before the king's apartment. His majesty, being at a window where he could see all that passed in the court, no sooner cast his eyes on this beautiful bird, than he sent an officer of his eunuchs to buy it for him. The officer going to the peasant, demanded of him how much he would have for the bird? "If it be for his majesty," answered the. peasant, "I humbly beg of him to accept it of me as a present, and I desire you to carry it to him." The officer took the bird to the king, who found it so great a rarity, that he ordered the same officer to take ten pieces of gold, and carry them to the peasant, who departed very well satisfied. The king ordered the bird to be put into a magnificent cage, and gave it corn and water in rich vessels.
The king being then ready to mount on horseback to go a hunting, had not time to consider the bird, therefore had it brought to him as soon as he returned. The officer brought the cage, and the king, that he might the better view the bird, took it out himself; and perched it upon his hand. Looking earnestly upon it, he demanded of the officer, if he had seen it eat. "Sir," replied the officer, "your majesty may observe the vessel with his food is still full, and I have not observed that he has touched any of it." Then the king ordered him meat of divers sorts, that he might take what he liked best.
The table being spread, and dinner served up just as the king had given these orders, as soon as the dishes were placed, the bird, clapping his wings, leaped off the king's hand, flew upon the table, where he began to peck the bread and victuals, sometimes on one plate and sometimes on another. The king was so surprised that he immediately sent the officer of the eunuchs to desire the queen to come and see this wonder. The officer related it to her majesty, and she came forthwith; but she no sooner saw the bird, than she covered her face with her veil, and would have retired. The king, surprised at her proceeding, as there was none present in the chamber but the eunuchs and the women who attended her, asked the reason of her conduct.
"Sir," answered the queen, "your majesty will no longer be surprised, when you understand, that this is not as you suppose a bird, but a man." "Madam," said the king, more astonished than before, "you mean to banter me; but you shall never persuade me that a bird can be a man." "Sir," replied the queen, "far be it from me to banter your majesty; nothing is more certain than what I have had the honour to tell you. I can assure your majesty, it is the king of Persia, named Beder, son of the celebrated Gulnare, princess of one of the largest kingdoms of the sea, nephew of Saleh, king of that kingdom, and grandson of Queen Farasche, mother of Gulnare and Saleh; and it was the Princess Jehaun-ara, daughter of the king of Samandal, who thus metamorphosed him into a bird." That the king might no longer doubt of what she affirmed, she told him the whole story, and stated that the Princess Jehaun-ara had thus revenged herself for the ill treatment which King Saleh had used towards the king of Samandal her father.
The king had the less difficulty to believe this assertion of the queen, as he knew her to be a skilful magician. And as she knew everything which passed in every part of the world, he was always by her means timely informed of the designs of the kings his neighbours against him, and prevented them. His majesty had compassion on the king of Persia, and earnestly besought his queen to break the enchantment, that he might return to his own form.
The queen consented with great willingness. "Sir," said she to the king, "be pleased to take the bird into your closet, and I will shew you a king worthy of the consideration you have for him." The bird, which had ceased eating, and attended to what the king and queen said, would not give his majesty the trouble to take him, but hopped into the closet before him; and the queen came in soon after, with a vessel full of water in her hand. She pronounced over the vessel some words unknown to the king, till the water began to boil; when she took some of it in her hand, and sprinkling a little upon the bird, said, "By virtue of those holy and mysterious words I have just pronounced, and in the name of the Creator of heaven and earth, who raises the dead, and supports the universe, quit the form of a bird, and re-assume that received from thy Creator."
The words were scarcely out of the queen's mouth, when, instead of a bird, the king saw a young prince of good shape, air, and mien. King Beder immediately fell on his knees, and thanked God for the favour that had been bestowed upon him. He then took the king's hand, who helped him up, and kissed it in token of gratitude; but the king embraced him with great joy, and testified to him the satisfaction he had to see him. He would then have made his acknowledgments to the queen, but she was already retired to her apartment. The king made him sit at the table with him, and prayed him to relate how the Princess Jehaun-ara could have the inhumanity to transform into a bird so amiable a prince; and the king of Persia immediately satisfied him. When he had ended, the king, provoked at the proceeding of the princess, could not help blaming her. "It was commendable," said he, "in the princess of Samandal not to be insensible of the king her father's ill treatment; but to carry her vengeance so far, and especially against a prince who was not culpable, was what she could never be able to ,justify herself for. But let us have done with this subject, and tell me, I beseech you, in what I can farther serve you."
"Sir," answered King Beder, "my obligation to your majesty is so great, that I ought to remain with you all my life to testify my gratitude; but since your majesty sets no limits to your generosity, I entreat you to grant me one of your ships to transport me to Persia, where I fear my absence, which has been but too long, may have occasioned some disorder, and that the queen my mother, from whom I concealed my departure, may be distracted under the uncertainty whether I am alive or dead."
The king readily granted what he desired, and immediately gave orders for equipping one of his largest ships, and the best sailors in his numerous fleet. The ship was soon furnished with all its complement of men, provisions, and ammunition; and as soon as the wind became fair, King Beder embarked, after having taken leave of the king, and thanked him for all his favours.
The ship sailed before the wind for ten days together, but on the eleventh the wind changed, and there followed a furious tempest. The ship was not only driven out of its course, but so violently tossed, that all its masts were brought by the board; and driving along at the pleasure of the wind, it at length struck against a rock and bulged.
The greatest part of the people were instantly drowned. Some few were saved by swimming, and others by getting on pieces of the wreck. King Beder was among the latter, when, after having been tossed about for some time by the waves and torrents, under great uncertainty of his fate, he at length perceived himself near the shore, and not far from a city that seemed of great extent. He exerted his remaining strength to reach the land, and was at length so fortunate as to be able to touch the ground with his feet. He immediately abandoned his piece of wood, which had been of such great service to him; but when he came pretty near the shore, was greatly surprised to see horses, camels, mules, asses, oxen, cows, bulls, and other animals crowding to the shore, and putting themselves in a posture to oppose his landing. He had the utmost difficulty to conquer their obstinacy and force his way, but at length he succeeded, and sheltered himself among the rocks till he had recovered his breath, and dried his clothes in the sun.
When the prince advanced to enter the city, he met with the same opposition from these animals, who seemed to intend to make him forego his design, and give him to understand it was dangerous to proceed.
King Beder, however, entered the city, and saw many fair and spacious streets, but was surprised to find no human beings. This made him think it was not without cause that so many animals had opposed his passage. Going forward, nevertheless, he observed divers shops open, which gave him reason to believe the place was not so destitute of inhabitants as he imagined. He approached one of these shops, where several sorts of fruits were exposed for sale, and saluted very courteously an old man who was sitting within.
The old man, who was busy about something, lifted up his head, and seeing a youth who had an appearance of grandeur in his air, started, asked him whence he came, and what business had brought him there? King Beder satisfied him in a few words; and the old man farther asked him if he had met anybody on the road? "You are the first person I have seen," answered the king, "and I cannot comprehend how so fine and large a city comes to be without inhabitants." "Come in, sir; stay no longer upon the threshold," replied the old man, "or peradventure some misfortune may happen to you. I will satisfy your curiosity at leisure, and give you a reason why it is necessary you should take this precaution."
King Beder entered the shop, and sat down by the old man. The latter, who had received from him an account of his misfortunes, knew he must want nourishment, therefore immediately presented him what was necessary to recover his strength; and although King Beder was very earnest to know why he had taken the precaution to make him enter the shop, he would nevertheless not be prevailed upon to tell him anything till he had done eating, for fear the sad things he had to relate might spoil his appetite. When he found he ate no longer, he said to him, "You have great reason to thank God that you got hither without any accident." "Alas! why?" demanded King Beder, much surprised and alarmed.
"Because," answered he, "this city is the City of Enchantments, and is governed by a queen, who is not only one of the finest of her sex, but likewise a notorious and dangerous sorceress. You will be convinced of this," added he, "when you know that these horses, mules, and other animals which you have seen, are so many men, like ourselves, whom she has transformed by her diabolical art. And when young men, like you, enter the city, she has persons planted to stop and bring them, either by fair means or force, before her. She receives them in the most obliging manner; caresses them, regales them, lodges them magnificently, and gives them so many reasons to believe that she loves them, that she never fails of success. But she does not suffer them long to enjoy this happiness. There is not one of them but she has transformed into some animal or bird at the end of forty days. You told me all these animals presented themselves to oppose your landing, and hinder you entering the city. This was the only way in which they could make you comprehend the danger you were going to expose yourself to, and they did all in their power to prevent you."
This account exceedingly afflicted the young king of Persia: "Alas!" cried he, "to what extremities has my ill fortune reduced me! I am hardly freed from one enchantment, which I look back upon with horror, but I find myself exposed to another much more terrible." This gave him occasion to relate his story to the old man more at length, and to acquaint him of his birth, quality, his passion for the princess of Samandal, .and her cruelty in changing him into a bird the very moment he had seen her and declared his love to her.
When the prince came to speak of his good fortune in finding a queen who broke the enchantment, the old man to encourage him said, "Notwithstanding all I have told you of the magic queen is true, that ought not to give you the least disquiet, since I am generally beloved throughout the city, and am not unknown to the queen herself, who has much respect for me; therefore it was your peculiar good fortune which led you to address yourself to me rather than to anyone else. You are secure in my house, where I advise you to continue, if you think fit; and, provided you .do not stray from hence, I dare assure you, you will have no just cause to complain of my insincerity."
King Beder thanked the old man for his kind reception, and the protection he was pleased so readily to afford him. He sat down at the entrance of the shop, where he no sooner appeared, but his youth and good person attracted the eyes of all who passed that way. Many stopped and complimented the old man on his having acquired so fine a slave, as they imagined the king to be; and they were the more surprised as they could not comprehend how so beautiful a youth could escape the queen's knowledge. "Believe not," said the old man, "this is a slave: you all know that I am not rich enough nor of rank to have one of this consequence. He is my nephew, son of a brother of mine who is dead; and as I had no children of my own, I sent for him to keep me company." They congratulated his good fortune in having so fine a young man for his relation; but could not help telling him they feared the queen would take him from him. "You know her well," said they to him, "and you cannot be ignorant of the danger to which you are exposed, after all the examples you have seen. How grieved would you be if she should serve him as she has done so many others whom we knew."
"I am obliged to you," replied the old man, "for your good will towards me, and I heartily thank you for the care you seem to take of my interest; but I shall never entertain the least thought that the queen will do me any injury, after all the kindness she has professed for me. In case she happens to hear of this young man, and speaks to me about him, I doubt not she will cease to think of him, as soon as she comes to know he is my nephew."
The old man was exceedingly glad to hear the commendations they bestowed on the young king of Persia. He was as much affected with them as if he had been his own son, and he conceived a kindness for him, which augmented every day during the stay he made with him.
They had lived about a month together, when, as King Beder was sitting at the shop-door, after his ordinary manner, Queen Labe (so was this magic queen named) happened to come by with great pomp. The young king no sooner perceived the guards advancing before her, than he arose, and going into the shop, asked the old man what all that show meant. "The queen is coming by," answered he, "but stand still and fear nothing."
The queen's guards, clothed in purple uniform, and well armed and mounted, marched to the number of a thousand in four files, with their sabres drawn, and every one of their officers, as they passed by the shop, saluted the old man. Then followed a like number of eunuchs, habited in brocaded silk, and better mounted, whose officers did the old man the like honour. Next came as many young ladies on foot, equally beautiful, richly dressed, and ornamented with precious stones. They marched gravely, with half pikes in their hands; and in the midst of them appeared Queen Labe, on a horse glittering with diamonds, with a golden saddle, and a housing of inestimable value. All the young ladies saluted the old man as they passed him; and the queen, struck with the good mien of King Beder, stopped as soon as she came before the shop. "Abdallah," (so was the old man named) said she to him, "tell me, I beseech thee, does that beautiful and charming slave belong to thee? and hast thou long been in possession of him?"
Abdallah, before he answered the queen, threw himself on the ground, and rising again, said, "Madam, he is my nephew, son of a brother, who has not long been dead. Having no children, I look upon him as my son, and sent for him to come and comfort me, intending to leave him what I have when I die."
Queen Labe, who had never yet seen any one to compare with King Beder, began to conceive a passion for him, and thought immediately of getting the old man to abandon him to her. "Father," said she, "will you not oblige me so far as to make me a present of this young man? Do not refuse me, I conjure you; and I swear by the fire and the light, I will make him so great and powerful, that no individual in the world ever arrived at such good fortune. Although my purpose be to do evil to all mankind, he shall be an exception. I trust you will grant me what I desire, more on account of the friendship I am assured you have for me, than for the esteem you know I always had, and shall ever have for you."
"Madam," replied the good Abdallah, "I am infinitely obliged to your majesty for all the kind- ness you have for me, and the honours you propose to do my nephew. He is not worthy to approach so great a queen, and I humbly beseech your majesty to excuse him."
"Abdallah," replied the queen, "I all along flattered myself you loved me, and I could never have thought you would have shewn me so much disrespect as to slight my request. But I here swear once more by the fire and light, and even by whatsoever is most sacred in my religion, that I will pass on no farther till I have conquered your obstinacy. I understand well what raises your apprehensions; but I promise, you shall never have any occasion to repent having obliged me in so sensible a manner."
Old Abdallah was exceeding grieved, both on his own account and King Beder's, at being in a manner forced to obey the queen. "Madam," replied he, "I would not willingly have your majesty entertain an ill opinion of the respect I have for you, and my zeal always to contribute whatever I can to oblige you. I put entire confidence in your royal word, and I do not in the least doubt you will keep it. I only beg of your majesty, to delay doing this great honour to my nephew till you shall again pass this way." "That shall be to-morrow," said the queen; who inclined her head, as a token of her being pleased, and so went forward towards her palace.
When queen Labe and all her attendants were out of sight, the good Abdallah said to King Beder, "Son" (for so he was wont to call him, for fear of some time or other discovering him when he spoke of him in public), "it has not been in my power, as you may have observed, to refuse the queen what she demanded of me with so much earnestness, to the end I might not force her to employ her magic against both you and myself openly or secretly, and treat you as much from resentment to you as to me with more signal cruelty than all those she has had in her power, as I have already told you. But I have some reason to believe she will use you well, as she promised me, on account of that particular esteem she professes for me. This you may have seen by the respect shewn, and the honours paid, me by all her court. She would be a vile creature indeed, if she should deceive me; but she shall not deceive me unpunished, for I know how to revenge myself."
These assurances, which appeared very doubtful, were not sufficient to support King Beder's spirits. "After all you have told me of this queen's wickedness," replied he, "you cannot wonder if I am somewhat fearful to approach her: I should, it may be, slight all you could tell me of her, and suffer myself to be dazzled by the lustre of grandeur that surrounds her, did I not know by experience what it is to be at the mercy of a sorceress. The condition I was in, through the enchantment of the Princess Jehaun-ara, and from which I was delivered only to fall almost immediately into the power of another, has made me look upon such a fate with horror." His tears hindered him from going on, and sufficiently shewed with what repugnance he beheld himself under the fatal necessity of being delivered to queen Labe.
"Son," replied old Abdallah, "do not afflict yourself; for though I must own, there is no great stress to be laid upon the promises and oaths of so perfidious a queen, yet I must withal acquaint you, her power extends not to me. She knows this full well; and that is the reason, and no other, why she pays me so much respect. I can quickly hinder her from doing you the least harm, if she should be perfidious enough to attempt it. You may depend upon me, and, provided you follow exactly the advice I shall give you, before I abandon you to her, she shall have no more power over you than she has over myself."
The magic queen did not fail to pass by the old man's shop the next day, with the same pomp as the preceding, and Abdallah waited for her with great respect. "Father," cried she, "you may judge of my impatience to have your nephew with me, by my punctually coming to remind you of your promise. I know you are a man of your word, and I cannot think you will break it with me."
Abdallah, who fell on his face as soon as he saw the queen approaching, rose up when she had done speaking; and as he would have no one hear what he had to say to her, he advanced with great respect as far as her horse's head, and then said softly, "Puissant queen! I am persuaded your majesty will not be offended at my seeming unwillingness to trust my nephew with you yesterday, since you cannot be ignorant of the reasons I had for it; but I conjure you to lay aside the secrets of that art which you possess in so wonderful a degree. I regard my nephew as my own son; and your majesty would reduce me to despair, if you should deal with him as you have done with others."
"I promise you I will not," replied the queen; "and I once more repeat the oath I made yesterday, that neither you nor your nephew shall have any cause to be offended at me. I see plainly," added she, "you are not yet well enough acquainted with me; you never saw me yet but through my veil; but as I find your nephew deserving of my friendship, I will shew you I am not any ways unworthy of his." With that she threw off her veil, and discovered to King Beder, who came near her with Abdallah, an incomparable beauty. But King Beder was little charmed: "It is not enough," said he within himself, "to be beautiful; one's actions ought to correspond in regularity with one's features."
Whilst King Beder was making these reflections with his eyes fixed on queen Labe, the old man turned towards him, and taking him by the arm, presented him to her: "Madam," said he, "I beg of your majesty once more to remember he is my nephew, and to let him come and see me sometimes." The queen promised he should; and to give a further mark of her gratitude, she caused a bag of a thousand pieces of gold to be given him. He excused himself at first from receiving them, but she insisted absolutely upon it, and he could not refuse. She had caused a horse to be brought as richly caparisoned as her own, for the king of Persia. Whilst he was mounting, "I forgot," said the queen to Abdallah, "to ask you your nephew's name; pray how is he called?" He answering his name was Beder (the full moon), her majesty replied, "Surely your ancestors were mistaken, they ought to have given you the name of Shems (the sun)."
When King Beder was mounted, he would have taken his station behind the queen, but she would not suffer him, and made him ride on her left hand. She looked at Abdallah, and after having made him an inclination with her head, departed.
Instead of observing a satisfaction in the people's faces, at the sight of their sovereign, King Beder took notice that they looked at her with contempt, and even cursed her. "The sorceress," said some, "has got a new subject to exercise her wickedness upon; will heaven never deliver the world from her tyranny?" "Poor stranger!" exclaimed others, "thou art much deceived, if thou thinkest thy happiness will last long. It is only to render thy fall more terrible, that thou art raised so high." These exclamations gave King Beder to understand Abdallah had told him nothing but the truth of Queen Labe; but as it now depended no longer on himself to escape the mischief, he committed himself to the will of heaven.
The magic queen arrived at her palace, immediately alighted, and giving her hand to King Beder, entered with him, accompanied by her women and the officers of her eunuchs. She herself shewed him all her apartments, where there was nothing to be seen but massive gold, precious stones, and furniture of wonderful magnificence. When she had carried him into her closet, she led him out into a balcony, from whence he observed a garden of surprising beauty. King Beder commended all he saw, but nevertheless so that he might not be discovered to be any other than old Abdallah's nephew. They discoursed of indifferent matters, till the queen was informed that dinner was served.
The queen and King Beder arose, and went to place themselves at the table, which was of massive gold, and the dishes of the same metal. They began to eat, but drank hardly at all till the dessert came, when the queen caused a cup to be filled for her with excellent wine. She took it and drank to King Beder's health; then without putting it out of her hand, caused it to be filled again, and presented it to him. King Beder received it with profound respect, and by a very low bow signified to her majesty that he in return drank to her health.
At the same time, ten of Queen Labe's women entered with musical instruments, with which and their voices they made an agreeable concert, while they continued drinking till late at night. At length both began so to be heated with wine; that King Beder insensibly forgot he had to do with a magic queen, and looked upon her only as the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. As soon as the queen perceived she had wrought him to the pitch she desired, she made a sign to her eunuchs and women to retire.
Next morning the queen and King Beder went to the bath; the women who had served the king there, presented him with fine linen and a magnificent habit. The queen likewise, who was more splendidly dressed than the day before, came to receive him, and they went together to her apartments, where they had a repast brought them, and spent the remainder of the day in walking in the garden and in various other amusements.
Queen Labe treated King Beder after this manner for forty days, as she had been accustomed to do all her lovers. The fortieth night, as they were in bed together, she, believing he was really asleep, arose without making any noise; but he was awake, and perceiving she had some design upon him watched all her motions. Being up, she opened a chest, from whence she took a little box full of a yellow powder; taking some of the powder, she Iaid a train of it across the chamber, and it immediately flowed in a rivulet of water, to the great astonishment of King Beder. He trembled with fear, but still pretended to sleep.
Queen Labe next took up some of the water in a vessel, poured it into a basin that contained some flour; with which she made a paste, and kneaded it for a long time: then she mixed with it certain drugs which she took from different boxes, and made a cake, which she put into a covered baking-pan. As she had taken care first of all to make a good fire, she took some of the coals, and set the pan upon them; and while the cake was baking, she put up the vessels and boxes in their places again; and on her pronouncing certain words, the rivulet disappeared. When the cake was baked, she took it off the coals, carried it into her closet, and afterwards returned to King Beder, who dissembled so well, that she had not the least suspicion of his having seen what she had done.
King Beder, whom the pleasures and amusements of a court had made to forget his good host Abdallah, began now to think of him again, and believed he had more than ordinary occasion for his advice, after all he had seen the queen do that night. As soon as he was up, therefore, he expressed a great desire to go and see his uncle, and begged of her majesty to permit him. "What! my dear Beder," cried the queen, "are you then already tired, I will not say with living in so superb a palace as mine is, where you must find so many pleasures, but with the company of a queen, who loves you so passionately as I do, and has given you so many marks of affection?"
"Great queen!" answered king Beder, "how can I be tired of so many favours and graces as your majesty perpetually heaps upon me? So far from it, I desire this permission, madam, purely to go and give my uncle an account of the mighty obligations I have to your majesty. I must own, likewise, that my uncle loving me so tenderly, as I well know he does, having been absent from him now forty days, I would not give him reason to think, that I consent to remain longer without seeing him." "Go," said the queen, "you have my consent; but you will not be long before you return, if you consider I cannot possibly live without you." This said, she ordered him a horse richly caparisoned, and he departed.
Old Abdallah was overjoyed to see king Beder. Without regard to his quality, he embraced him tenderly, and King Beder returned his embrace, that nobody might doubt but that he was his nephew. As soon as they were sat down, "well," said Abdallah to the king, "and how have you passed your time with that abominable sorceress"
"Hitherto," answered King Beder, "I must needs own she has been extraordinarily kind to me, and has done all she could to persuade me that she loves me faithfully; but I observed something last night, which gives me just reason to suspect that all her kindness was but dissimulation. Whilst she thought me asleep, although I was really awake, she stole from me with a great deal of precaution, which made me suspect her intention, and therefore I resolved to watch her, still feigning myself asleep." He then related to Abdallah in what manner he had seen her make the cake; and then added, "Hitherto," said he, "I must needs confess, I had almost forgotten, not only you, but all the advice you gave me concerning the wickedness of this queen; but this last action of hers gives me reason to fear she intends to observe none of her promises or solemn oaths .to you. I thought of you immediately, and I esteem myself happy that I have obtained permission to come to you."
"You are not mistaken," replied old Abdallah with a smile, which showed he did not himself believe she would have acted otherwise; "nothing is capable of obliging a perfidious woman to amend. But fear nothing. I know how to make the mischief she intends you fall upon herself. You are alarmed in time; and you could not have done better than to have recourse to me. It is her ordinary practice to keep her lovers only forty days; and after that time, instead of seeding them home, to turn them into animals, to stock her forests and parks; but I thought of measures yesterday to prevent her doing you the same harm. The earth has borne this monster long enough, and it is now high time she should be treated as she deserves."
So saying, Abdallah put two cakes into king Beder's hands, bidding him keep them to be used as he should direct. "You told me," continued he, "the sorceress made a cake last night; it was for you to eat; but do not touch it. Nevertheless, do not refuse to receive it, when she offers it you; but instead of tasting it, break off part of one of the two I shall give you, unobserved, and eat that. As soon as she thinks you have swallowed it, she will not fail to attempt transforming you into some animal, but she shall not succeed; when she sees that she has failed, she will immediately turn her proceeding into pleasantry, as if what she had done was only out of joke to frighten you; but she will conceal a mortal grief in her heart, and think she has omitted something in the composition of her cake. As for the other cake, you shall make a present of it to her, and press her to eat it; which she will not refuse to do, were it only to convince you she does not mistrust you, though she has given you so much reason to mistrust her. When she has eaten of it, take a little water in the hollow of your hand, and throwing it in her face, say, "Quit that form you now wear, and take that of such or such animal," as you shall think fit; which done, come to me with the animal, and I will tell you what you shall do afterwards."
King Beder expressed to Abdallah, in the warmest terms, his great obligations to him, for his endeavours to defend him from the power of a pestilent sorceress; and after some further conversation took his leave of him, and returned to the palace. Upon his arrival, he understood that the queen waited for him with great impatience in the garden. He went to her, and she no sooner perceived him, than she came in great haste to meet him. "My dear Beder!" exclaimed she, "it is said, with a great deal of reason, that nothing more forcibly shews the excess of love than absence from the object beloved. I have had no quiet since I saw you, and it seems ages since I have been separated from you. If you had stayed ever so little longer, I was preparing to come and fetch you once more to my arms."
"Madam," replied king Beder, "I can assure your majesty, I was no less impatient to rejoin you; but I could not refuse to stay with an uncle who loves me, and had not seen me for so long a time. He would have kept me still longer, but I tore myself away from him, to come where love calls me. Of all the collations he prepared for me, I have only brought away this cake, which I desire your majesty to accept." King Beder, having wrapped up one of the two cakes in a handkerchief, took it out, and presented it to the queen, saying, "I beg your majesty to accept of it."
"I do accept it with all my heart," replied the queen, receiving it, "and will eat it with pleasure for yours and your good uncle's sake; but before I taste of it, I desire you will, for my sake, eat a piece of this, which I have made for you during your absence." "Fair queen," answered king Beder, receiving it with great respect, "such hands as your majesty's can never make anything but what is excellent, and I cannot sufficiently acknowledge the favour you do me."
King Beder then artfully substituted in the place of the queen's cake the other which old Abdallah had given him, and having broken off a piece, he put it in his mouth, and cried, while he was eating, "Ah! queen, I never tasted anything so excellent in my life." They being near a cascade, the sorceress seeing him swallow one bit of the cake, and ready to eat another, took a little water in the palm of her hand, and throwing it in the king's face, said, "Wretch! quit that form ofa man, and take that of a vile horse, blind and lame."
These words not having the desired effect, the sorceress was strangely surprised to find King Beder still in the same form, and that he only started for fear. Her cheeks reddened; and as she saw that she had missed her aim, "Dear Beder," cried she, "this is nothing; recover yourself. I did not intend you any harm; I only did it to see what you would say. I should be the most miserable and most execrable of women, should I attempt so black a deed; not only on account of all the oaths I have sworn, but also of the many testimonies of love I have given you."
"Puissant queen," replied King Beder, "persuaded as I am, that what your majesty did was only to divert yourself, I could not help being surprised. What could hinder me from being a little moved at the pronouncing of so strange a transformation? But, madam," continued he, "let us drop this discourse; and since I have eaten of your cake, would you do me the favour to taste mine?"
Queen Labe, who could not better justify herself than by showing this mark of confidence in the king of Persia, broke off a piece of his cake and ate it. She had no sooner swallowed it than she appeared much troubled, and remained as it were motionless. King Beder lost no time, but took water out of the same basin, and throwing it in her face, cried, "Abominable sorceress ! quit the form of woman, and be turned instantly into a mare."
The same moment, Queen Labe was transformed into a very beautiful mare; and her confusion was so great to find herself in that condition, that she shed tears in great abundance. She bowed her head to the feet of King Beder, thinking to move him to compassion; but though he could have been so moved, it was absolutely out of his power to repair the mischief he had done. He led her into the stable belonging to the palace, and put her into the hands of a groom, to bridle and saddle; but of all the bridles which the groom tried upon her, not one would fit. This made him cause two horses to be saddled, one for the groom and the other for himself; and the groom led the mare after him to old Abdallah's.
Abdallah seeing at a distance King Beder coming with the mare, doubted not but he had done what he had advised him. "Cursed sorceress!" said he immediately to himself in a transport of joy, "heaven has at length punished thee as thou deservest." King Beder alighted at Abdallah's door and entered with him into the shop, embracing and thanking him for all the signal services he had done him. He related to him the whole matter, with all its circumstances, and moreover told him, he could find no bridle fit for the mare. Abdallah bridled the mare himself, and as soon as King Beder had sent back the groom with the two horses, he said to him, "My lord, you have no reason to stay any longer in this city: mount the mare, and return to your kingdom. I have but one thing more to recommend to you; and that is, if you should ever happen to part with the mare, be sure not to give up the bridle." King Beder promised to remember this; and having taken leave of the good old man, he departed.
The young king of Persia had no sooner got out of the city, than he began to reflect with joy on his deliverance, and that he had the sorceress in his power, who had given him so much cause to tremble. Three days after he arrived at a great city, where, entering the suburbs, he met a venerable old man, walking towards a pleasure- house. "Sir," said the old man, stopping him, "may I presume to ask from what part of the world you come?" The king halted to satisfy him, and as they were conversing together, an old woman came up; who, stopping likewise, wept and sighed heavily at the sight of the mare.
King Beder and the old man left off discoursing, to look at the old woman, whom the king asked, what cause she had to be so much afflicted? "Alas ! sir," replied she, "it is because your mare resembles so perfectly one my son had, and which I still mourn the loss of on his account, and should think yours were the same, did I not know she was dead. Sell her to me, I beseech you; I will give you more than she is worth and thank you too.'
"Good woman," replied King Beder, "I am heartily sorry I cannot comply with your request: my mare is not to be sold." "Alas! sir," continued the old woman, "do not refuse me this favour for the love of God. My son and I shall certainly die with grief, if you do not grant it." "Good mother," replied the king, "I would grant it with all my heart, if I were disposed to part with so good a beast; but if I were so disposed, I believe you would hardly give a thousand pieces of gold for her, and I could not sell her for less." "Why should I not give so much?" replied the old woman: "if that be the lowest price, you need only say you will take it, and I will fetch you the money."
King Beder, seeing the old woman so poorly dressed, could not imagine she could find such a sum; and said, to try her, "Go, fetch me the money, and the mare is yours." The old woman immediately unloosed a purse she carried fastened to her girdle, and desiring him to alight, bade him tell over the money, and in case he found it came short of the sum demanded, she said her house was not far off; and she could quickly fetch the rest.
The surprise of King Beder, at the sight of the purse, was not small. "Good woman," said he, "do you not perceive I have bantered you all this while? I assure you my mare is not to be sold."
The old man, who had been witness to all that had passed, now began to speak. "Son," said he to King Beder, "it is necessary you should know one thing, which I find you are ignorant of; and that is, that in this city it is not permitted to any one to tell a lie, on any account whatsoever, on pain of death. You cannot refuse taking this good woman's money, and delivering your mare, when she gives you the sum according to the agreement; and this you had better do without any noise, than expose yourself to what may ensue."
King Beder, mortified to find himself thus trapped by his rash proffer, alighted with great regret. The old woman stood ready to seize the reins, immediately unbridled the mare, and taking some water in her hand, from a stream that ran in the middle of the street, threw it in the mare's face, uttering these words, "Daughter, quit that strange shape, and re-assume thy own." The transformation was effected in a moment, and king Beder, who swooned as soon as he saw Queen Labe appear, would have fallen to the ground, if the old man had not hindered him.
The old woman, who was the mother of queen Labe, and had instructed her in all her magic secrets, had no sooner embraced her daughter, than to shew her fury, she in an instant by whistling, caused to rise a genie of a gigantic form and stature. This genie immediately took King Beder on one shoulder, and the old woman with the magic queen on the other, and transported them in a few minutes to the palace of Queen Labe in the City of Enchantments.
The magic queen immediately fell upon King Beder, reproaching him violently. "Is it thus," said she, "ungrateful wretch! that thy unworthy uncle and thou repay me for all the kindnesses I have done you? I shall soon make you both feel what you deserve." She said no more, but taking water in her hand, threw it in his face with these words, "Quit the form of man, and take that of an owl." These words were soon followed by the effect, and immediately she commanded one of her women to shut up the owl in a cage, and give him neither meat nor drink.
The woman took the cage, but without regarding what the queen had ordered, gave him both meat and drink; and being old Abdallah's friend, sent him word privately how the queen had treated his nephew, and apprised him of her design to destroy both him and King Beder, that he might take measures to prevent her intentions, and secure himself.
Abdallah knew no common means would do with Queen Labe: he therefore whistled in a peculiar manner, and there immediately arose a giant, with four wings, who presenting himself before him, asked what he would have?" Lightning," said Abdallah to him (for so was the genie called), "I command you to preserve the life of King Beder, son of Queen Gulnare. Go to the palace of the magic queen, and transport immediately to the capital of Persia the compassionate woman who has the cage in custody, to the end she may inform Queen Gulnare of the danger the king her son is in, and the occasion he has for her assistance. Take care not to frighten her when you come before her, and acquaint her from me what she ought to do."
Lightning immediately disappeared, and in an instant reached the palace of the magic queen. He instructed the woman, lifted her up into the air, and transported her to the capital of Persia, where he placed her on the terrace of Gulnare's palace. She descended into her apartment, and there found Queen Gulnare and Queen Farasche her mother lamenting their mutual misfortunes. She made them a profound reverence, and by the relation she gave them, they soon understood the great need King Beder had of their assistance.
Queen Gulnare was so overjoyed at the news, that rising from her seat, she went and embraced the good woman, telling her how much she was obliged to her for the service she had done her. Then going immediately out, she commanded the trumpets to sound, and the drums to beat, to acquaint the city, that the king of Persia would suddenly return safe to his kingdom. She then went, and found King Saleh her brother, whom Farasche had caused to come speedily thither by a certain fumigation. "Brother," said she to him, "the king your nephew, my dear son, is in the City of Enchantments, under the power of Queen Labe. Both you and I must go to deliver him, for there is no time to be lost."
King Saleh forthwith assembled a puissant body of his marine troops, who soon rose out of the sea. He also called to his assistance the genii his allies, who appeared with a much more numerous army than his own. As soon as the two armies were joined, he put himself at the head of them, with Queen Farasche, Queen Gulnare, and the princesses, who would all have their share in this enterprize. They then ascended into the air, and soon poured down on the palace and City of Enchantments, where the magic queen, her mother, and all the adorers of fire, were destroyed in an instant.
Queen Gulnare had ordered the woman who brought the account of queen Labe's transforming and imprisoning her son, to follow her close, and bade her, in the confusion, go and seize the cage, and bring it to her. This order was executed as she wished, and queen Gulnare was no sooner in possession of the cage, than she opened it, and took out the owl, saying, as she sprinkled a little water upon him, "My dear son, quit that strange form, and resume thy natural one of a man."
In a moment Queen Gulnare, instead of the hideous owl, beheld King Beder her son. She immediately embraced him with an excess of joy, her tears supplying more forcibly the place of words. She could not let him go; and Queen Farasche was obliged to force him from her in her turn. After her, he was likewise embraced by the king his uncle and his relations.
Queen Gulnare's first care was to look out for old Abdallah, to whom she had been obliged for the recovery of the king of Persia; and who being brought to her, she said to him, "My obligations to you have been so great, that there is nothing within my power but I would freely do for you, as a token of my acknowledgment. Do but inform me in what I can serve you." "Great queen," replied Abdallah, "if the lady whom I sent to your majesty will but consent to the marriage I offer her, and the king of Persia will give me leave to reside at his court, I will spend the remainder of my days in his service." The queen then turned to the lady who was present, and finding by her modest shame that she was not averse to the match proposed, she caused them to join hands, and the king of Persia and she took care of their fortune.
This marriage occasioned the king of Persia to speak thus to the queen: "Madam," said he, "I am heartily glad of this match which your majesty has just made. There remains one more, which I desire you to think of." Queen Gulnare did not at first comprehend what marriage he meant; but after a little considering, she said, "Of yours, you mean, son. I consent to it with all my heart." Then turning, and looking at her brother's sea attendants, and the genii who were still present, "Go," said she, "and traverse both sea and land, to seek the most lovely and amiable princess, worthy of the king my son, and when you have found her, come and tell us."
"Madam," replied king Beder, "it is to no purpose for them to take all that trouble. You have no doubt heard that I have already given my heart to the princess of Samandal upon the bare relation of her beauty. I have seen her, and do not repent of the present I then made her. In a word, neither earth nor sea, in my opinion, can furnish a princess like her. It is true upon my declaring my love, she treated me in a way that would have extinguished any flame less strong than mine. But I hold her excused; she could not treat me with less rigour, after your imprisoning the king her father, of which I was the innocent cause. But the king of Samandal may, perhaps, have changed his resolution; and his daughter the princess may consent to love me, when she sees her father has agreed to it."
"Son," replied queen Gulnare, "if only the Princess Jehaun-ara can make you happy, it is not my design to oppose you. The king your uncle need only have the king of Samandal brought, and we shall see whether he be still of the same untractable temper."
Strictly as the king of Samandal had been kept during his captivity by King Saleh's orders, yet he always had great respect shewn him. King Saleh caused a chafing-dish of coals to be brought, into which he threw a certain composition, uttering at the same time some mysterious words. As soon as the smoke began to arise, the palace shook, and immediately the king of Samandal, with King Saleh's officers, appeared. The king of Persia cast himself at the king of Samandal's feet, and, kneeling, said, "It is no longer King Saleh that demands of your majesty the honour of your alliance for the king of Persia; it is the king of Persia himself that humbly begs that boon; and I persuade myself your majesty will not persist in being the cause of the death of a king, who can no longer live if he does not share life with the amiable Princess Jehaun-ara."
The king of Samandal did not long suffer the king of Persia to remain at his feet. He embraced him, and obliging him to rise, said, "I shall be sorry to have contributed in the least to the death of a monarch who is so worthy to live. If it be true that so precious a life cannot be preserved without the possession of my daughter, live, sir, she is yours. She has always been obedient to my will, and I cannot think she will now oppose it." Speaking these words, he ordered one of his officers, whom King Saleh had permitted to attend him, to go for the princess, and bring her to him immediately.
The princess continued where the king of Persia had left her. The officer perceived her, and brought her soon with her women. The king of Samandal embraced her, and said, "Daughter, I have provided a husband for you; it is the king of Persia, the most accomplished monarch at present in the universe. The preference he has given you over all other princesses obliges us both to express our gratitude."
"Sir," replied the princess Jehaun-ara, "your majesty well knows I never have presumed to disobey your will: I shall always be ready to obey you; and I hope the king of Persia will forget my ill treatment of him, and consider it was duty, not inclination, that forced me to it."
The nuptials were celebrated in the palace of the City of Enchantments, with the greatest solemnity, as all the lovers of the magic queen, who had resumed their pristine forms as soon as she ceased to live, assisted at them, and came to return their thanks to the king of Persia, Queen Gulnare, and King Saleh. They were all sons of kings, princes, or persons of high rank.
King Saleh conducted the king of Samandal to his dominions, and put him again in possession of his throne. The king of Persia, at the height of his wishes, returned to his capital with Queen Gulnare, Queen Farasche, and the princesses; the Queen Farasche and the princesses continued there till King Saleh came to reconduct them to his kingdom under the waves of the sea.
[Go to Prince Zeyn Alasnam and the Sultan of the Genii]
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