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There was in a certain island a great city called Deryabar, governed by a potent, magnificent, and virtuous sultan, who had no children, which was the only blessing wanting to make him happy. He continually addressed his prayers to heaven, but heaven only partially granted his requests, for the queen his wife, after a long expectation, brought forth a daughter.
I am the unfortunate princess; my father was rather grieved than pleased at my birth; but he submitted to the will of God, and caused me to be educated with all possible care, being resolved, since he had no son, to teach me the art of ruling, that I might supply his place after his death.
One day when he was taking the diversion of hunting, he espied a wild ass, which he chased, lost his company, and was carried away so far by his eagerness as to ride on till night. He then alighted, and sat down at the entrance of a wood, in which the ass had sheltered. No sooner was the day shut in than he discovered among the trees a light, which made him conclude that he was not far from some village; he rejoiced at this, hoping that he might pass the night there, and find some person to send to his followers and acquaint them where he was; accordingly he rose and walked towards the light, which served to guide him.
He soon found he had been deceived, the light being no other than a fire blazing in a hut; however, he drew near, and, with amazement, beheld a black man, or rather a giant, sitting on a sofa. Before the monster was a great pitcher of wine, and he was roasting an ox he had newly killed. Sometimes he drank out of the pitcher, and sometimes cut slices off the ox and greedily devoured them. But what most attracted my father's attention was a beautiful woman whom he saw in the hut. She seemed overwhelmed with grief; her hands were bound, and at her feet was a little child about two or three years old, who, as if he was sensible of his mother's misfortunes, wept without ceasing, and rent the air with his cries.
My father, moved with this pitiable object, thought at first to enter the hut and attack the giant; but considering how unequal the combat would be, he stopped, and resolved, since he had not strength enough to prevail by open force, to use art. In the mean time, the giant having emptied the pitcher, and devoured above half the ox, turned to the woman and said, "Beautiful princess, why do you oblige me by your obstinacy to treat you with severity? It is in your own power to be happy. You need only resolve to love, and be true to me, and I shall treat you with more mildness." "Thou hideous satyr," answered the lady, "never expect that time should wear away my abhorrence of thee. Thou wilt ever be a monster in my eyes." To these words she added so many reproaches, that the giant grew enraged. "This is too much," cried he, in a furious tone; "my love despised is turned into rage. Your hatred has at last excited mine; I find it triumphs over my desires, and that I now wish your death more ardently than your enjoyment." Having spoken these words, he took the wretched lady by the hair, held her up with one hand in the air, and drawing his scimitar with the other, was just going to strike off her head, when the sultan my father let fly an arrow which pierced the giant's breast, so that he staggered, and dropped down dead.
My father entered the hut, unbound the lady's hands, inquired who she was, and how she came thither. "My lord," said she, "there are along the sea-coast some families of Saracens, who live under a prince who is my husband; this giant you have killed was one of his principal officers. The wretch fell desperately in love with me, but took care to conceal his passion, till he could put in execution the design he had formed of forcing me from home. Fortune oftener favours wicked designs than virtuous resolutions. The giant one day surprised me and my child in a by-place. He seized us both, and to disappoint the search he well knew my husband would cause to be made for me, removed from the country inhabited by those Saracens, and brought us into this wood, where he has kept me some days. Deplorable as my condition is, it is still a great satisfaction to me to think that the giant, though so brutal, never used force to obtain what I always refused to his entreaties. Not but that he has a hundred times threatened that he would have recourse to the worst of extremities, in case he could not otherwise prevail upon me; and I must confess to you, that awhile ago, when I provoked his anger by my words, I was less concerned for my life than for my honour.
"This, my lord," said the prince of the Saracens' wife, "is the faithful account of my misfortunes, and I question not but you will think me worthy of your compassion, and that you will not repent having so generously relieved me." "Madam," answered my father, "be assured your troubles have affected me, and I will do all in my power to make you happy. To-morrow, as soon as day appears, we will quit this wood, and endeavour to fall into the road which leads to the great city of Deryabar, of which I am sovereign; and if you think fit, you shall be lodged in my palace, till the prince your husband comes to claim you."
The Saracen lady accepted the offer, and the next day followed the sultan my father, who found all his retinue upon the skirts of the wood, they having spent the night in searching for him, and being very uneasy because they could not find him. They were no less rejoiced to meet with, than amazed to see him with a lady, whose beauty surprised them. He told them how he had found her, and the risk he had run in approaching the hut, where he must certainly have lost his life had the giant discovered him. One of his servants took up the lady behind him, and another carried the child.
Thus they arrived at the palace of my father, who assigned the beautiful Saracen lady an apartment, and caused her child to be carefully educated. The lady was not insensible of the sultan's goodness to her, and expressed as much gratitude as he could desire. She had at first appeared very uneasy and impatient that her husband did not claim her; but by degrees she lost that uneasiness. The respect my father paid her dispelled her impatience; and I am of opinion she would at last have blamed fortune more for restoring her to her kindred, than she did for removing her from them.
In the mean time the lady's son grew up; he was very handsome, and not wanting ability, found means to please the sultan my father, who conceived a great friendship for him. All the courtiers perceived it, and guessed that the young man might in the end be my husband. In this idea, and looking on him already as heir to the crown, they made their court to him, and every one endeavoured to gain his favour. He soon saw into their designs, grew conceited of himself, and forgetting the distance there was between our conditions, flattered himself with the hopes that my father was fond enough of him, to prefer him before all the princes in the world. He went farther; for the sultan not offering me to him as soon as he could have wished, he had the boldness to ask me of him. Whatever punishment his insolence deserved, my father was satisfied with telling him he had other thoughts in relation to me, and shewed him no further resentment. The youth was incensed at this refusal; he resented the contempt, as if he had asked some maid of ordinary extraction, or as if his birth had been equal to mine. Nor did he stop here, but resolved to be revenged on the sultan, and with unparalleled ingratitude conspired against him. In short, he murdered him, and caused himself to be proclaimed sovereign of Deryabar. The first thing he did after the murder of my father was to come into my apartment, at the head of a party of the conspirators. His design was either to take my life or oblige me to marry him. The grand vizier, however, who had been always loyal to his master, while the usurper was butchering my father, came to carry me away from the palace, and secured me in a friend's house, till a vessel he had provided was ready to sail. I then left the island, attended only by a governess and that generous minister, who chose rather to follow his master's daughter, and share her misfortunes, than to submit to a tyrant.
The grand vizier designed to carry me to the courts of the neighbouring sultans, to implore their assistance, and excite them to revenge my father's death; but heaven did not concur in a resolution we thought so just. When we had been but a few days at sea, there arose such a furious storm, that, in spite of all the mariners' art, our vessel, carried away by the violence of the winds and waves, was dashed in pieces against a rock. I will not spend time in describing our shipwreck. I can but faintly represent to you how my governess, the grand vizier, and all that attended me, were swallowed up by the sea. The dread I was seized with did not permit me to observe all the horror of our condition. I lost my senses; and whether I was thrown upon the coast upon any part of the wreck, or whether heaven, which reserved me for other misfortunes, wrought a miracle for my deliverance, I found myself on shore when my senses returned.
Misfortunes very often make us forget our duty. Instead of returning thanks to God for so singular a favour shewn me, I only lifted up my eyes to heaven, to complain because I had been preserved. I was so far from bewailing the vizier and my governess, that I envied their fate, and dreadful imaginations by degrees prevailing over my reason, I resolved to cast myself into the sea; I was on the point of doing so, when I heard behind me a great noise of men and horses. I looked about to see what it might be, and espied several armed horsemen, among whom was one mounted on an Arabian horse. He had on a garment embroidered with silver, a girdle set with precious stones, and a crown of gold on his head. Though his habit had not convinced me that he was chief of the company, I should have judged it by the air of grandeur which appeared in his person. He was a young man extraordinarily well shaped, and perfectly beautiful. Surprised to see a young lady alone in that place, he sent some of his officers to ask who I was. I answered only by weeping. The shore being covered with the wreck of our ship, they concluded that I was certainly some person who had escaped from the vessel. This conjecture, and my inconsolable condition, excited the curiosity of the officers, who began to ask me a thousand questions, with assurances, that their master was a generous prince, and that I should receive protection at his court.
The sultan, impatient to know who I was, grew weary of waiting the return of his officers, and drew near to me. He gazed on me very earnestly, and observing that I did not cease weeping and afflicting myself, without being able to return an answer to their questions, he forbad them troubling me any more; and directing his discourse to me, "Madam," said he, "I conjure you to moderate your excessive affliction. Though heaven in its dispensations has laid this calamity upon you, it does not behove you to despair. I beseech you shew more resolution. Fortune, which has hitherto persecuted you, is inconstant, and may soon change. I dare assure you, that, if your misfortunes are capable of receiving any relief, you shall find it in my dominions. My palace is at your service. You shall live with the queen my mother, who will endeavour by her kindness to ease your affliction. I know not yet who you are; but I find I already take an interest in your welfare."
I thanked the young sultan for his goodness to me, accepted his obliging offers; and to convince him that I was not unworthy of them, told him my condition. I described to him the insolence of the young Saracen, and found it was enough to recount my misfortunes, to excite compassion in him and all his officers, who heard me. When I had done speaking, the prince began again, assuring me that he was deeply concerned at my misfortunes. He then conducted me to his palace, and presented me to the queen his mother, to whom I was obliged again to repeat my misfortunes and to renew my tears. The queen seemed very sensible of my trouble, and conceived extreme affection for me. On the other hand, the sultan her son fell desperately in love with me, and soon offered me his person and his crown. I was so taken up with the thoughts of my calamities, that the prince, though so lovely a person, did not make so great an impression on me as he might have done at another time. However, gratitude prevailing, I did not refuse to make him happy, and our nuptials were concluded with all imaginable splendour.
While the people were taken up with the celebration of their sovereign's nuptials, a neighbouring prince, his enemy, made a descent by night on the island with a great number of troops. That formidable enemy was the king of Zanguebar. He surprised and cut to pieces my husband's subjects. He was very near taking us both. We escaped very narrowly, for he had already entered the palace with some of his followers, but we found means to slip away, and to get to the seacoast, where we threw ourselves into a fishing boat which we had the good fortune to meet with. Two days we were driven about by the winds, without knowing what would become of us. The third day we espied a vessel making towards us under sail. We rejoiced at first, believing it had been a merchant ship which might take us aboard; but what was our consternation, when, as it drew near, we saw ten or twelve armed pirates appear on the deck. Having boarded, five or six of them leaped into our boat, seized us, bound the prince, and conveyed us into their ship, where they immediately took off my veil. My youth and features touched them, and they all declared how much they were charmed at the sight of me. Instead of casting lots, each of them claimed the preference, and me as his right. The dispute grew warm, they came to blows, and fought like madmen. The deck was soon covered with dead bodies, and they were all killed but one, who being left sole possessor of me, said, "You are mine. I will carry you to Grand Cairo, to deliver you to a friend of mine, to whom I have promised a beautiful slave. But who," added he, looking upon the sultan my husband, "is that man? What relation does he bear to you? Are you allied by blood or love?" "Sir," answered I, "he is my husband." "If so," replied the pirate, "in pity I must rid myself of him: it would be too great an affliction to him to see you in my friend's arms." Having spoken these words, he took up the unhappy prince, who was bound, and threw him into the sea, notwithstanding all my endeavours to prevent him.
I shrieked in a dreadful manner at the sight of what he had done, and had certainly cast myself headlong into the sea, but that the pirate held me. He saw my design, and therefore bound me with cords to the main-mast, then hoisting sail, made towards the land, and got ashore. He unbound me and led me to a little town, where he bought camels, tents, and slaves, and then set out for Grand Cairo, designing, as he still said, to present me to his friend, according to his promise.
We had been several days upon the road, when, as we were crossing this plain yesterday, we descried the black who inhabited this castle. At a distance we took him for a tower, and when near us, could scarcely believe him to be a man. He drew his huge scimitar, and summoned the pirate to yield himself prisoner, with all his slaves, and the lady he was conducting. The pirate was daring; and being seconded by his slaves, who promised to stand by him, he attacked the black. The combat lasted a considerable time; but at length the pirate fell under his enemy's deadly blows, as did all his slaves, who chose rather to die than forsake him. The black then conducted me to the castle, whither he also brought the pirate's body, which he devoured that night. After his inhuman repast, perceiving that I ceased not weeping, he said to me, "Young lady, prepare to love me, rather than continue thus to afflict yourself. Make a virtue of necessity, and comply. I will give you till to-morrow to consider. Let me then find you comforted for all your misfortunes, and overjoyed at having been reserved for me." Having spoken these words, he conducted me to a chamber, and withdrew to his own, after locking up the castle gates. He opened them this morning, and presently locked them after him again, to pursue some travellers he perceived at a distance; but it is likely they made their escape, since he was returning alone, and without any booty, when you attacked him.
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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