[Go back to Aboulhassen Ali Ebn Becar, and Schemselnihar, Favourite of Caliph Maroon Al Rusheed]
About twenty days' sail from the coast of Persia, there are islands in the main ocean called the Islands of the Children of Khaledan. These islands are divided into four great provinces, which have all of them very flourishing and populous cities, forming together a powerful kingdom. It was formerly governed by a king named Shaw Zummaun, who had four lawful wives, all daughters of kings, and sixty concubines.
Shaw Zummaun thought himself the most happy monarch of the world, on account of his peaceful and prosperous reign. One thing only disturbed his happiness; which was, that he was advanced in years, and had no children, though he had so many wives. He knew not to what to attribute this barrenness; and what increased his affliction was, that he was likely to leave his kingdom without a successor. He dissembled his discontent, and this dissimulation only heightened his uneasiness. At length he broke silence; and one day after he had complained bitterly of his misfortune to his grand vizier, he asked him if he knew any remedy for it?
That wise minister replied, "If what your majesty requires of me had depended on the ordinary rules of human wisdom, you had soon had an answer to your satisfaction; but my experience and knowledge fall far short of your question. It is to God only that we can apply in cases of this kind. In the midst of our prosperities, which often tempt us to forget him, he is pleased to mortify us in some instance, that we may address our thoughts to him, acknowledge his omnipotence, and ask of him what we ought to expect from him alone. Your majesty has subjects," proceeded he "who make a profession of honouring and serving God, and suffering great hardships for his sake; to them I would advise you to have recourse, and engage them, by alms, to join their prayers with yours. Perhaps some one among them may be so pure and pleasing to God as to obtain a hearing for your prayers."
Shaw Zummaun approved this advice, and thanked his vizier. He immediately caused alms to be given to every community of these holy men in his dominions: and having sent for the superiors, declared to them his intention, and desired them to acquaint their devout men with it.
The king obtained of Heaven what he requested, for in nine months' time he had a son by one of his wives. To express his gratitude to Heaven, he sent fresh alms to the communities of devotees, and the prince's birth-day was celebrated not only in his capital, but throughout his dominions, for a whole week. The prince was brought to him as soon as born, and he found him so beautiful that he gave him the name of Kummir al Zummaun, or Moon of the Age.
He was brought up with all imaginable care; and when he had arrived at a proper age, his father appointed him an experienced governor and able preceptors. These persons, distinguished by their capacity, found in him a ready wit capable of receiving all the instructions that were proper to be given him, as well in relation to morals as other knowledge which a prince ought to possess. As he grew up, he learned all his exercises, and acquitted himself with such grace and wonderful address, as to charm all that saw him, and particularly the sultan his father.
When he had attained the age of fifteen, the sultan, who tenderly loved him, and gave him every day new marks of his affection, proposed to afford a still higher demonstration by resigning his throne to him, and he accordingly acquainted his grand vizier with his intentions. "I fear," said he, "lest my son should lose in the inactivity of youth those advantages which nature and my education have give him; therefore, since I am advanced in age, and ought to think of retirement I propose to resign the government to him, and pass the remainder of my days in the satisfaction of seeing him reign. I have borne the fatigue of a crown till I am weary of it, and think it is now proper for me to retire."
The grand vizier declined offering all the reasons he could have alleged to dissuade the sultan from such a proceeding; on the contrary, he appeared to acquiesce with him in his opinion. "Sir," replied he, "the prince is yet but young, and it would not, in my humble opinion, be advisable to burden him with the weight of a crown so soon. Your majesty fears, with great reason, his youth may be corrupted by indolence: but to avoid this danger, do not you think it would be proper to marry him? Marriage forms attachment, and prevents dissipation. Your majesty might then admit him of your council, where he would learn by degrees the art of reigning; and so be prepared to receive your authority, whenever by your own experience you shall think him qualified."
Shaw Zummaun approved the advice of his prime minister; and summoned the prince to appear before him, at the same time that he dismissed the grand vizier.
The prince, who had been accustomed to see his father only at certain times without being sent for, was a little startled at this summons; when, therefore, he came into his presence, he saluted him with great respect, and stood with his eyes fixed on the ground.
The sultan perceiving his constraint, addressed him with great mildness, "Do you know, son, for what reason I have sent for you?" The prince modestly replied, "God alone knows the heart: I shall hear it from your majesty with pleasure." "I sent for you," resumed the sultan, "to inform you that it is my intention to provide a proper marriage for you: what do you think of my design?"
The prince heard this with great uneasiness: he was greatly agitated, and knew not what answer to make. After a few moments silence, he replied, "Sir, I beseech you to pardon me if I seem surprised at the declaration you have made. I did not expect such proposals at my present age. I know not whether I could prevail on myself to marry, on account of the trouble incident to a married life, and the many treacheries of women, which I have read of. I may not be always of the same mind, yet I conceive it will require time to determine on what your majesty requires of me."
The prince's answer extremely afflicted his father. He was not a little grieved to discover his aversion to marriage; yet would not charge him with disobedience, nor exert his paternal authority. He contented himself with telling him, he would not force his inclinations, but give him time to consider of the proposal; and reflect, that a prince destined to govern a great kingdom ought to take some care to leave a successor; and that in giving himself that satisfaction he communicated it to his father, who would be glad to see himself revive in his son and his issue.
Shaw Zummaun said no more to the prince but admitted him into his council, and gave him every reason to be satisfied. At the end of the year he took him aside, and said to him; "My son, have you thoroughly considered what I proposed to you last year about marrying? Will you still refuse me that pleasure I expect from your obedience, and suffer me to die without affording me that satisfaction?"
The prince seemed less disconcerted than before; and was not long answering his father to this effect: "Sir, I have not neglected to consider of your proposal; but after the maturest reflection find myself more confirmed in my resolution to continue in a state of celibacy. The infinite mischief which women have caused in the world, and which are on record in our histories, and the accounts I daily hear to their disadvantage, are the motives which powerfully influence me against having any thing to do with them; so that I hope your majesty will pardon me if I presume to tell you, it will be in vain to solicit me any further upon this subject." As soon as he had thus spoken, he quitted the sultan abruptly without waiting his answer.
Any monarch but Shaw Zummaun would have been angry at such freedom in a son, and would have made him repent; but he loved him, and preferred gentle methods before he proceeded to compulsion. He communicated this new cause of discontent to his prime minister. "I have followed your advice," said he, "but Kummir al Zummaun is farther than ever from complying with my desires. He delivered his determination in such free terms, that it required all my reason and moderation to keep my temper. Fathers who so earnestly desire children as I did this son are fools, who seek to deprive themselves of that rest which it is in their own power to enjoy without control. Tell me, I beseech you, how I shall reclaim a disposition so rebellious to my will?"
"Sir," answered the grand vizier, "patience brings many things about that before seemed impracticable; but it may be this affair is of a nature not likely to succeed that way. Your majesty will have no cause to reproach yourself for precipitation, if you would give the prince another year to consider your proposal. If in this interval he return to his duty, you will have the greater satisfaction, as you will have employed only paternal love to induce him; and if he still continue averse when this is expired, your majesty may in full council observe, that it is highly necessary for the good of the state that he should marry; and it is not likely he will refuse to comply before so grave an assembly, which you honour with your presence."
The sultan, who so anxiously desired to see his son married, thought this long delay an age; however, though with much difficulty, he yielded to his grand vizier's reasons, which he could not disapprove.
After the grand vizier was gone, the sultan went to the apartment of the mother of prince Kummir al Zummaun, to whom he had often expressed his desire to see the prince married. When he had told her, with much concern, how his son had a second time refused to comply with his wishes, and the indulgence which, by the advice of his grand vizier, he was inclined to shew him; he said, "I know he has more confidence in you than he has in me, and will be more likely to attend to your advice. I therefore desire you would take an opportunity to talk to him seriously, and urge upon him, that if he persists in his obstinacy, he will oblige me to have recourse to measures which would be disagreeable to me, and which would give him cause to repent having disobeyed me."
Fatima, for so was the lady called, told the prince the first time she saw him, that she had been informed of his second refusal to marry; and how much chagrin his resolution had occasioned his father. "Madam," replied the prince, "I beseech you not to renew my grief upon that head. I fear, under my present uneasiness, something may escape me, which may not be consistent with the respect I owe you." Fatima judged from this answer that this was not a proper time to speak to him, and therefore deferred what she had to say to another opportunity.
Some considerable time after, Fatima thought she had found a more favourable season, which gave her hopes of being heard upon that subject. "Son," said she, "I beg of you, if it be not disagreeable, to tell me what reason you have for your great aversion to marriage? If it be the wickedness of some women, nothing can be more unreasonable and weak. I will not undertake the defence of those that are bad; there are a great number of them undoubtedly; but it would be the height of injustice on their account to condemn all the sex. Alas! my son, you have in your books read of many bad women, who have occasioned great mischief, and I will not excuse them: but you do not consider how many monarchs, sultans, and other princes there have been in the world, whose tyrannies, barbarities, and cruelties astonish those that read of them, as well as myself. Now, for one wicked woman, you will meet with a thousand tyrants and barbarians; and what torment do you think must a good woman undergo, who is matched with any of these wretches?"
"Madam," replied the prince, "I doubt not there are a great number of wise, virtuous, good, affable, and well-behaved women in the world; would to God they all resembled you! But what deters me is, the hazardous choice a man is obliged to make, and oftentimes one has not the liberty of following his inclination.
"Let us suppose then, madam," continued he, "that I had a mind to marry, as the sultan my father so earnestly desires; what wife, think you, would he be likely to provide for me? Probably a princess whom he would demand of some neighbouring prince, and who would think it an honour done him to send her. Handsome or ugly, she must be taken; nay, suppose no other princess excelled her in beauty, who can be certain that her temper would be good; that she would be affable, complaisant, easy, obliging, and the like? That her conversation would generally turn on solid subjects, and not on dress, fashions, ornaments, and a thousand such fooleries, which would disgust any man of sense? In a word, that she would not be haughty, proud, arrogant, impertinent, scornful, and waste an estate in frivolous expenses, such as gay clothes, jewels, toys, and foolish mistaken magnificence?
"You see, madam," continued he, "by one single article, how many reasons a man may have to be disgusted at marriage. Let this princess be ever so perfect, accomplished, and irreproachable in her conduct, I have yet a great many more reasons not to alter my opinion and resolution."
"What, son," exclaimed Fatima; "have you then more reasons after those you have already alleged? I do not doubt of being able to answer them, and stop your mouth with a word." "You may proceed, madam," returned the prince, "and perhaps I may find a reply to your answer."
"I mean, son," said Fatima, "that it is easy for a prince, who has had the misfortune to marry such a wife as you describe, to get rid of her, and take care that she may not ruin the state." "Ah, madam," replied the prince, "but you do not consider what a mortification it would be to a person of my quality to be obliged to come to such an extremity. Would it not have been more for his honour and quiet that he had never run such a risk?"
"But, son," said Fatima once more, "as you take the case, I apprehend you have a mind to be the last king of your race, who have reigned so long and gloriously over the isles of the children of Khaledan?"
"Madam," replied the prince, "for myself I do not desire to survive the king my father; and if I should die before him, it would be no great matter of wonder, since so many children have died before their parents. But it is always glorious to a race of kings, that it should end with a prince worthy to be so, as I should endeavour to make myself like my predecessors, and like the first of our race."
From that time Fatima had frequent conferences with her son the prince on the same subject; and she omitted no opportunity or argument to endeavour to root out his aversion to the fair sex; but he eluded all her reasonings by such arguments as she could not well answer, and continued unaltered.
The year expired, and, to the great regret of the sultan, prince Kummir al Zummaun gave not the least proof of having changed his sentiments. One day, therefore, when there was a great council held, the prime vizier, the other viziers, the principal officers of the crown, and the generals of the army being present, the sultan thus addressed the prince: "My son, it is now a long while since I expressed to you my earnest desire to see you married, and I imagined you would have had more complaisance for a father, who required nothing unreasonable of you, than to oppose him so long. But after such a resistance on your part, which has almost worn out my patience, I have thought fit to propose the same thing once more to you in the presence of my council. It is not merely to oblige a parent that you ought to have acceded to my wish, the well-being of my dominions requires your compliance, and this assembly join with me in expecting it: declare yourself, then; that your answer may regulate my proceedings."
The prince answered with so little reserve, or rather with so much warmth, that the sultan, enraged to see himself thwarted by him in full council, exclaimed, "How, unnatural son! have you the insolence to talk thus to your father and sultan?" He ordered the guards to take him away, and carry him to an old tower that had been long unoccupied; where he was shut up, with only a bed, a little furniture, some books, and one slave to attend him.
Kummir al Zummaun, thus deprived of liberty, was nevertheless pleased that he had the freedom to converse with his books, which made him regard his confinement with indifference. In the evening he bathed and said his prayers; and after having read some chapters in the Koraun, with the same tranquillity of mind as if he had been in the sultan's palace, he undressed himself and went to bed, leaving his lamp burning by him while he slept.
In this tower was a well, which served in the daytime for a retreat to a certain fairy, named Maimoune, daughter of Damriat, king or head of a legion of genies. It was about midnight when Maimoune sprung lightly to the mouth of the well, to wander about the world after her wonted custom, where her curiosity led her. She was surprised to see a light in the prince's chamber. She entered, and without stopping at the slave who lay at the door, approached the bed.
The prince had but half covered his face with the bed-clothes, which Maimoune lifted up, and perceived the finest young man she had ever seen in her rambles through the world. "What beauty, or rather what prodigy of beauty," said she within herself, "must this youth appear, when the eyes, concealed by such well-formed eyelids, shall be open? What crime can he have committed, that a man of his high rank can deserve to be treated thus rigorously?" for she had already heard his story, and could hardly believe it.
She could not forbear admiring the prince, till at length having kissed him gently on both cheeks, and in the middle of the forehead, without waking him, she laid the bed-clothes in the order they were in before, and took her flight into the air. As she was ascending into the middle region, she heard a great flapping of wings, towards which she directed her course; and when she approached, she knew it was a genie who made the noise, but it was one of those that are rebellious against God. As for Maimoune, she belonged to that class whom the great Solomon had compelled to acknowledge him.
This genie, whose name was Danhasch, and son of Schamhourasch, knew Maimoune, and was seized with fear, being sensible how much power she had over him by her submission to the Almighty. He would fain have avoided her, but she was so near him, he must either fight or yield. He therefore broke silence first.
"Brave Maimoune," said he, in the tone of a suppliant, "swear to me in the name of the great God, that you will not hurt me; and I swear also on my part not to do you any harm."
"Cursed genie," replied Maimoune, "what hurt canst thou do me? I fear thee not; but I will grant thee this favour; I will swear not to do thee any harm. Tell me then, wandering spirit, whence thou comest, what thou hast seen, and what thou hast done this night?" "Fair lady," answered Danhasch, "you meet me in a good time to hear something very wonderful."
Danhasch, the genie rebellious against God, proceeded and said to Maimoune, "Since you desire, I will inform you that I have come from the utmost limits of China, which comprise the remotest islands of this hemisphere. . . . . But, charming Maimoune," said Danhasch, who trembled with fear at the sight of this fairy, so that he could hardly speak, "promise me at least you will forgive me, and let me proceed after I have satisfied your request."
"Go on, cursed spirit," replied Maimoune; "go on, and fear nothing. Dost thou think I am as perfidious as thyself, and capable of breaking the solemn oath I have made? Be sure you relate nothing but what is true, or I shall clip thy wings, and treat thee as thou deserves"
Danhasch, a little encouraged by the words of Maimoune, said, "My dear lady, I will tell you nothing but what is strictly true, if you will but have the goodness to hear me. The country of China, from whence I come, is one of the largest and most powerful kingdoms of the earth, on which depend the remotest islands of this hemisphere, as I have already told you. The king of this country is at present Gaiour, who has an only daughter, the finest woman that ever was seen in the world since it has been a world. Neither you nor I, neither your class nor mine, nor all our respective genies, have expressions forcible enough, nor eloquence sufficient to convey an adequate description of her charms. Her hair is brown, and of such length as to trail on the ground; and so thick, that when she has fastened it in buckles on her head, it may be fitly compared to one of those fine clusters of grapes whose fruit is so very large. Her forehead is as smooth as the best polished mirror, and admirably formed. Her eyes are black, sparkling, and full of fire. Her nose is neither too long nor too short, and her mouth small and of a vermilion colour. Her teeth are like two rows of pearls, and surpass the finest in whiteness. When she moves her tongue to speak, she utters a sweet and most agreeable voice; and expresses herself in such terms, as sufficiently indicate the vivacity of her wit. The whitest alabaster is not fairer than her neck. In a word, by this imperfect sketch, you may guess there is no beauty likely to exceed her in the world.
"Any one that did not know the king, the father of this incomparable princess, would be apt to imagine, from the great respect and kindness he shews her, that he was enamoured with her. Never did a lover more for the most beloved mistress than he has been seen to do for her. The most violent jealousy never suggested such measures as his care has led him to adopt, to keep her from every one but the man who is to marry her: and that the retreat in which he has resolved to place her may not seem irksome, he has built for her seven palaces, the most extraordinary and magnificent that ever were known.
"The first palace is of rock crystal, the second of brass, the third of fine steel, the fourth of another kind of brass more valuable than the former and also than steel, the fifth of touchstone, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of massive gold. He has furnished these palaces most sumptuously, each in a manner corresponding to the materials of the structure. He has embellished the gardens with parterres of grass and flowers, intermixed with pieces of water, water-works, jets d'eau, canals, cascades, and several great groves of trees, where the eye is lost in the perspective, and where the sun never enters, and all differently arranged. King Gaiour, in a word, has shewn that his paternal love has led him to spare no expense.
"Upon the fame of this incomparable princess's beauty, the most powerful neighbouring kings have sent ambassadors to solicit her in marriage. The king of China received them all in the same obliging manner; but as he resolved not to marry his daughter without her consent, and she did not like any of the parties, the ambassadors were forced to return as they came, as to the subject of their embassy; they were perfectly satisfied with the great honours and civilities they had received.
"‘Sir,' said the princess to the king her father, ‘ you have an inclination to see me married, and think to oblige me by it; but where shall I find such stately palaces and delicious gardens as are furnished me by your majesty? Through your good pleasure I am under no constraint, and have the same honours shewn to me as are paid to yourself. These are advantages I cannot expect to find any where else, whoever may be my husband; men love to be masters, and I have no inclination to be commanded.'
"After several other embassies on the same occasion, there arrived one from a king more opulent and powerful than any of the preceding. This prince the king of China recommended to his daughter for her husband, urging many forcible arguments to shew how much it would be to her advantage to accept him, but she entreated her father to excuse her compliance for the reasons she had before urged. He pressed her; but instead of consenting, she lost all the respect due to the king her father: ‘ Sir,' said she, in anger, ‘talk to me no more of this or any other match, unless you would have me plunge this dagger in my bosom, to deliver myself from your importunities'
"The king, greatly enraged, said, ‘Daughter, you are mad, and I must treat you accordingly.' In a word, he had her shut up in a single apartment of one of his palaces, and allowed her only ten old women to wait upon her, and keep her company, the chief of whom had been her nurse That the kings his neighbours, who had sent embassies to him on her account, might not think any more of her, he despatched envoys to them severally, to let them know how averse his daughter was to marriage; and as he did not doubt but she was really mad, he charged them to make known in every court, that if there were any physician that would undertake to cure her, he should, if he succeeded, have her for his pains.
"Fair Maimoune," continued Danhasch, "all that I have told you is true; and I have gone every day regularly to contemplate this incomparable beauty, to whom I would be sorry to do the least harm, notwithstanding my natural inclination to mischief. Come and see her, I conjure you; it would be well worth your while. When you have seen from your own observation that I am no liar, I am persuaded you will think yourself obliged to me for the sight of a princess unequalled in beauty."
Instead of answering Danhasch, Maimoune burst out into violent laughter, which lasted for some time; and Danhasch, not knowing what might be the occasion of it, was astonished beyond measure. When she had done laughing, she exclaimed, "Good, good, very good! You would have me then believe all you have told me? I thought you designed to tell me something surprising and extraordinary, and you have been talking all this while of a mad woman. Fie, fie! what would you say, cursed genie, if you had seen the beautiful prince from whom I am just come, and whom I love as he deserves. I am confident you would soon give up the contest, and not pretend to compare your choice with mine."
"Agreeable Maimoune," replied Danhasch, "may I presume to ask who this prince you speak of is?" "Know," answered Maimoune, "the same thing has happened to him as to your princess. The king his father would have married him against his will; but after much importunity, he frankly told him he would have nothing to do with a wife. For this reason he is at this moment imprisoned in an old tower where I reside."
"I will not absolutely contradict you," replied Danhasch; "but, my pretty lady, you must give me leave to be of opinion, till I have seen your prince, that no mortal upon earth can equal my princess in beauty." "Hold thy tongue, cursed sprite," replied Maimoune. "I tell thee once more thou art wrong." "I will not contend with you," said Danhasch, "but the way to be convinced, whether what I say be true or false, is to accept of my proposal to go and see my princess, and after that I will go with you to your prince."
"There is no need I should be at so much trouble," replied Maimoune; "there is another way to satisfy us both; and that is, for you to bring your princess, and place her at my prince's bed- side: by this means it will be easy for us to compare them together, and determine the dispute."
Danhasch consented, and determined to set out immediately for China. But Maimoune drew him aside, and told him, she must first shew him the tower whither he was to bring the princess. They flew together to the tower, and when Maimoune had strewn it to Danhasch, she cried, "Go fetch your princess, and do it quickly, you will find me here."
Danhasch left Maimoune, and flew towards China, whence he soon returned with incredible speed, bringing the fair princess along with him asleep. Maimoune received him, and introduced him into the chamber of Kummir al Zummaun, where they placed the princess by the prince's side.
When the prince and princess were thus laid together, there arose a sharp contest between the genie and the fairy about the preference of their beauty. They were some time admiring and comparing them without speaking; at length Danhasch said to Maimoune, "You see, and I have already told you, my princess was handsomer than your prince; now, I hope, you are convinced."
"How! convinced!" replied Maimoune; "I am not convinced, and you must be blind, if you cannot see that my prince excels in the comparison. That the princess is fair, I do not deny; but if you compare them together without prejudice, you will soon see the difference."
"How much soever I may compare them," returned Danhasch, "I shall never change my opinion. I saw at first sight what I now behold, and time will not make me see differently: however, this shall not hinder my yielding to you, charming Maimoune, if you desire it." "What! have you yield to me as a favour! I scorn it," said Maimoune, "I would not receive a favour at the hand of such a wicked genie. I will refer the matter to an umpire, and if you do not consent, I shall win by your refusal."
Danhasch, who was ready to have shewn a different kind of complaisance, no sooner gave his consent, than Maimoune stamped with her foot. The earth opened, and out came a hideous, hump- backed, squinting, and lame genie, with six horns upon his head, and claws on his hands and feet. As soon as he was come out, and the earth had closed, perceiving Maimoune, he threw himself at her feet, and then rising on one knee, inquired her commands.
"Rise, Caschcasch," said Maimoune, "I brought you hither to determine a difference between me and this cursed Danhasch. Look on that bed, and tell me without partiality who is the handsomer of those two that lie there asleep, the young man or the young lady."
Caschcasch looked on the prince and princess with great attention, admiration, and surprise; and after he had considered them a good while, without being able to determine, he turned to Maimoune, and said, "Madam, I must confess I should deceive you, and betray myself, if I pretended to say one was handsomer than the other. The more I examine them, the more clearly it appears to me each possesses, in a sovereign degree, the beauty of which both partake. Neither of them appears to have the least defect, to yield to the other the palm of superiority; but if there be any difference, the best way to determine it is, to awaken them one after the other, and to agree that the person who shall express most love for the other by ardour, eagerness, and passion, shall be deemed to have in some respect less beauty."
This proposal of Caschcasch's pleased both Maimoune and Danhasch. Maimoune then changed herself into a flea, and leaping on the prince's neck, stung him so smartly, that he awoke, and put up his hand to the place; but Maimoune skipped away, and resumed her pristine form, which, like those of the two genies, was invisible, the better to observe what he would do.
In drawing back his hand, the prince chanced to let it fall on that of the princess of China. He opened his eyes, and was exceedingly surprised to find lying by him a lady of the greatest beauty. He raised his head, and leaned on his elbow, the better to observe her. Her blooming youth and incomparable beauty fired him in a moment with a flame of which he had never yet been sensible, and from which he had hitherto guarded himself with the greatest attention.
Love seized on his heart in the most lively manner, and he exclaimed, "What beauty! what charms! my heart! my soul!" As he spoke he kissed her forehead, her cheeks, and her mouth with so little caution, that he would have awakened her, had she not slept sounder than ordinary, through the enchantment of Danhasch.
"How!" said the prince, "do you not awake at these testimonies of love?" He was going to awake her, but suddenly refrained. "Is not this she," said he, "that the sultan my father would have had me marry? He was in the wrong not to let me see her sooner. I should not have offended him by my disobedience and passionate language to him in public, and he would have spared himself the confusion which I have occasioned him."
The prince began to repent sincerely of the fault he had committed, and was once more on the point of awaking the princess of China. "It may be," said he, "that the sultan my father has a mind to surprise me; and has sent this young lady to try if I had really that aversion to marriage which I pretended. Who knows but he has brought her himself, and is hidden behind the hangings, to observe me, and make me ashamed of my dissimulation? The second fault would be greater than the first. At all events, I will content myself with this ring, as a remembrance of her."
He then gently drew off a ring which the princess had on her finger, and immediately replaced it with one of his own. After this he fell into a more profound sleep than before, through the enchantment of the genies.
Danhasch now transformed himself into a flea in his turn, and bit the princess so rudely on the lip, that she awoke, started up, and on opening her eyes, was not a little surprised to see a man lying by her side. From surprise she proceeded to admiration, and from admiration to a transport of joy, at beholding so beautiful and lovely a youth.
"What!" cried she, "is it you the king my father has designed me for a husband? Would that I had known it, for then I should not have displeased him, nor been deprived of a husband whom I cannot forbear loving. Wake then, awake!"
So saying, she took the prince by the arm, and shook him so violently, that he would have awaked, had not Maimoune increased his sleep by her enchantment. She shook him several times, and finding he did not awake, exclaimed, "What is come to thee? what jealous rival, envying thy happiness and mine, has had recourse to magic to throw thee into this unconquerable drowsiness when thou shouldst be most awake?" Tired at length with her fruitless endeavours to awaken the prince; "Since," said she, "I find it is not in my power to awake thee, I will no longer disturb thy repose, but wait our next meeting." After having kissed his cheek, she lay down and fell asleep by enchantment.
Maimoune now cried out to Danhasch, "Ah, cursed genie, art thou not now convinced how much thy princess is inferior to my prince? Another time believe me when I assert any thing." Then turning to Caschcasch, "As for you," said she, "I thank you for your trouble; take the princess, in conjunction with Danhasch, and convey her back again to her bed, from whence he has taken her." Danhasch and Caschcasch did as they were commanded, and Maimoune retired to her well.
Kummir al Zummaun on waking next morning, looked if the lady whom he had seen the night before were by him. When he found she was gone, he cried out, "I thought indeed this was a trick the king my father designed to play me. I am glad I was aware of it." He then awaked the slave, who was still asleep, and after he had washed and said his prayers, took a book and read some time.
After these usual exercises, he called the slave, and said to him, "Come hither, and be sure you do not tell me a lie. How came the lady hither who lay with me to-night, and who brought her?"
"My lord," answered the slave with great astonishment, "I know not what lady your highness speaks of." "I speak," said the prince, "of her who came, or rather was brought hither, and lay with me to-night." "My lord," replied the slave, "I swear I know of no such lady; and how should she come in without my knowledge, since I lay at the door?"
"You are a lying knave," replied the prince, "and in the plot to vex and provoke me." He then gave him a box on the ear, which knocked him down; and after having stamped upon him for some time, he tied the well-rope under his arms, and plunged him several times into the water, neck and heels. "I will drown thee," cried he, "if thou dost not tell me directly who this lady was, and who brought her."
The slave, perplexed and half dead, said within himself, "The prince must have lost his senses through grief, and I shall not escape if I do not tell him a falsehood. My lord," cried he, in a suppliant tone, "I beseech your highness to spare my life, and I will tell you the truth."
The prince drew the slave up, and pressed him to tell him. As soon as he was out of the well, "My lord," said he, trembling, "your highness must perceive it is impossible for me to satisfy you in my present condition; I beg you to give me leave first to go and change my clothes." "I permit you, but do it quickly," said the prince; "and be sure you conceal nothing."
The slave went out, and having locked the door upon the prince, ran to the palace just as he was. The king was at that time in discourse with his prime vizier, to whom he had just related the grief in which he had passed the night on account of his son's disobedience and opposition to his will.
The minister endeavoured to comfort his master, by telling him, the prince himself had given him cause for his severity. "Sir," said he, "your majesty need not repent of having treated your son in this manner. Have but patience to let him continue a while in prison, and assure yourself his heat will abate, and he will submit to all you require."
The grand vizier had but just done speaking when the slave came in, and cast himself at the feet of the sovereign. "My lord," said he, "I am sorry to be the messenger of ill news to your majesty, which I know must occasion you fresh affliction. The prince is distracted; he raves of a lady having lain with him all night, and his treatment of me, as you may see, too plainly proves the state of his mind." Then he proceeded to relate the particulars of what the prince had said, and the violence with which he had been treated.
The king, who did not expect to hear any thing of this afflicting kind, said to the prime minister, "This is a melancholy turn, very different from the hopes you gave me: go immediately and examine the condition of my son."
The grand vizier obeyed; and coming into the prince's chamber, found him sitting on his bed with a book in his hand, which he was reading.
After mutual salutations, the vizier said, "My lord, I wish that a slave of yours were punished for coming to alarm the king your father by news that he has brought him."
"What is it," demanded the prince, "that could give my father so much uneasiness?"
"Prince," answered the vizier, "God forbid that the intelligence he has conveyed to your father concerning you should be true; indeed, I find it to be false, by the calm temper in which I observe you, and which I pray you to continue."
"It may be," replied the prince, "he did not make himself well understood; but since you are come, who ought to know something of the matter, permit me to ask you who that lady was that lay with me last night?"
The grand vizier was thunderstruck at this question; he recovered himself and said, "My lord, be not surprised at my astonishment at your question. Is it possible, that a lady or any other person should penetrate by night into this place without entering at the door, and walking over the body of your slave? I beseech you, recollect yourself, and you will find it is only a dream which has made this impression on you."
"I give no ear to what you say," replied the prince, raising his voice. "I must know from you absolutely what is become of the lady; and if you hesitate, I am in a place where I shall soon be able to force you to obey me."
At this stern language, the grand vizier began to feel more alarmed than before, and to think how he could extricate himself. He endeavoured to pacify the prince, and begged of him, in the most humble and guarded manner, to tell him if he had seen this lady.
"Yes, yes," answered the prince, "I have seen her, and am very well satisfied you sent her here to tempt me. She played the part in which you had instructed her admirably well. She pretended to be asleep, and I had no sooner fallen into a slumber, than she arose and left me. You know all this; for I doubt not she has been to make her report to you."
"My lord," replied the vizier, "I swear to you nothing of this kind has been acted; neither your father nor I sent this lady you speak of; permit me therefore once more to suggest to your highness, that you have only seen this lady in a dream."
"Do you come to affront and contradict me," said the prince in a rage, "and to tell me to my face, that what I have told you is a dream?" At the same time he took him by the beard, and loaded him with blows, as long as he could stand.
The grand vizier endured with respectful patience all the violence of the prince's indignation, and could not help saying within himself, "Now am I in as bad a condition as the slave, and shall think myself happy, if I can, like him, escape from any further danger." In the midst of repeated blows, he cried out but for a moment's audience, which the prince, after he had nearly tired himself with beating him, consented to give him.
"I own, my prince," said the grand vizier dissembling, "there is something in what your highness suspects; but you cannot be ignorant of the necessity a minister is under to obey his royal master's commands: yet, if you will but be pleased to set me at liberty, I will go and tell him any thing on your behalf that you shall think fit to require." "Go then," said the prince, "and tell him from me, if he pleases, I will marry the lady he sent me, or, rather, that was brought to me last night. Do this immediately, and bring me a speedy answer." The grand vizier made a profound reverence and went away, not thinking himself altogether safe till he had got out of the tower, and had closed the door on the prince.
He came and presented himself before Shaw Zummaun, with a countenance that sufficiently shewed he had been ill used, and which the king could not behold without concern. "Well," said the king, "in what condition did you find my son?" "Sir," answered the vizier, "what the slave reported to your majesty is but too true." He then began to relate his interview with the prince, how he flew into a passion upon his endeavouring to persuade him it was impossible the lady he spoke of should have been introduced; the ill treatment he had received from him; how he had used him, and by what means he had made his escape.
The king, the more concerned as he loved the prince with excessive tenderness, resolved to find out the truth, and therefore proposed to go himself and see his son in the tower, accompanied by the grand vizier.
The prince received his father in the tower, where he was confined, with great respect. The king put several questions to him, which he answered calmly. The king every now and then looked on the grand vizier, as intimating he did not find his son had lost his wits, but rather thought he had lost his.
The king at length spoke of the lady to the prince. "My son," said he, "I desire you to tell me what lady it was who lay with you last night."
"Sir," answered the prince, "I beg of your majesty not to give me more vexation on that head, but rather to oblige me by letting me have her in marriage; whatever aversion I may hitherto have discovered for women, this young lady has charmed me to that degree, that I cannot help confessing my weakness. I am ready to receive her at your majesty's hands, with the deepest gratitude."
Shaw Zummaun was surprised at this answer of the prince, so remote, as he thought, from the good sense he had strewn before. "My son," said he, "you fill me with the greatest astonishment by what you say: I swear to you I know nothing of the lady you mention; and if any such has come to you, it was without my knowledge or privily. But how could she get into this tower without my consent? For whatever my grand vizier told you, it was only to appease your anger, it must therefore be a mere dream; and I beg of you not to believe otherwise, but recover your senses."
"Sir," replied the prince, "I should be for ever unworthy of your majesty's favour, if I did not give entire credit to what you are pleased to say but I humbly beseech you at the same time to give a patient hearing to what I shall relate, and then to judge whether what I have the honour to tell you be a dream or not."
The prince then related to his father how he had been awaked, exaggerating the beauty and charms of the lady he found by his side, the instantaneous love he conceived for her, and the pains he took to awaken her without effect. Shewing the king the ring he had taken from her finger he added, "After this, I hope you will be convinced that I have not lost my senses, as you have been almost made to believe."
Shaw Zummaun was so perfectly convinced of the truth of what his son had been telling him, that he could make no reply, remaining astonished for some time, and not being able to utter a syllable.
The prince took advantage of this opportunity, and said, "The passion I have conceived for this charming lady, whose lovely image I bear continually in my mind, is so ardent, that I cannot resist it. I entreat you therefore to have compassion, and procure me the happiness of being united to her."
"Son," replied the king, "after what I have just heard, and what I see by the ring on your finger, I cannot doubt but that your passion is real, and that you have seen this lady, who is the object of it. Would to God I knew who she was. I would instantly comply with your wishes, and should be the happiest father in the world! But where shall I seek her? How came she here, and by what conveyance, without my consent? Why did she come to sleep with you only to display her beauty, to kindle a flame of love while she slept, and then leave you while you were in a slumber? These things, I must confess, I do not understand; and if heaven do not favour us in our perplexity, I fear we must both go down to the grave together." As he spoke, he took the prince by the hand, and said, "Come then, my son, let us go and grieve together; you with hopeless love, and I with seeing your affliction, without being able to afford you relief."
Shaw Zummaun then led his son out of the tower, and conveyed him to the palace, where he had no sooner arrived, than in despair at loving an unknown object he fell sick, and took to his bed; the king shut himself up with him, without attending to the affairs of his kingdom for many days.
The prime minister, who was the only person that had admittance, at length informed him, that the whole court, and even the people, began to murmur at not seeing him, and that he did not administer justice every day as he was wont to do; adding, he knew not what disorder it might occasion. "I humbly beg your majesty, therefore," proceeded he, "to pay some attention. I am sensible your majesty's company is a great comfort to the prince, and that his tends to relieve your grief; but you must not run the risk of letting all be lost. Permit me to propose to your majesty, to remove with the prince to the castle near the port, where you may give audience to your subjects twice a week only. During these absences the prince will be so agreeably amused with the beauty, prospect, and good air of the place, that he will bear them with the less uneasiness."
The king approved this proposal: he removed thither with the prince; and, excepting when he gave audience, never left him, but passed all his time endeavouring to comfort him by sharing his distress.
Whilst matters passed thus in the capital of Shaw Zummaun, the two genies, Danhasch and Caschcasch, had carried the princess of China back to the palace where the king her father had confined her, and laid her in her bed as before.
When she awoke next morning, and found that prince Kummir al Zummaun was not by her, she cried out in such a manner to her women, that she soon brought them to her bed. Her nurse, who arrived first, desired to be informed if any thing disagreeable had happened to her.
"Tell me," said the princess, "what is become of the young man that has passed the night with me, and whom I love with all my soul?" "Madam," replied the nurse, "we cannot understand your highness, unless you will be pleased to explain yourself."
"A young man, the handsomest and most amiable," said the princess, "slept with me last night, whom, with all my caresses, I could not awake; I ask you where he is?"'
"Madam,"answered the nurse, "your highness asks us these questions in jest. I beseech you to rise." "I am in earnest," said the princess, "and I must know where this young man is." "Madam," insisted the nurse, "you were alone when you went to bed last night; and how any man could come to you without our knowledge we cannot imagine, for we all lay about the door of your chamber, which was locked, and I had the key in my pocket."
At this the princess lost all patience,and taking her nurse by the hair of her head, and giving her two or three sound cuffs, cried, "You shall tell me where this young man is, you old sorceress, or I will put you to death."
The nurse struggled to get from her, and at last succeeded. She went immediately with tears in her eyes, and her face all bloody, to complain to the queen, who was not a little surprised to see her in this condition, and asked who had misused her.
"Madam," began the nurse, "you see how the princess has treated me; she had certainly murdered me, if I had not had the good fortune to escape out of her hands." She then related what had been the cause of all that violent passion in the princess. The queen was surprised at her account, and could not guess how she came to be so infatuated as to take that for a reality which could be no other than a dream. "Your majesty must conclude from all this," continued the nurse, "that the princess is out of her senses. You will think so yourself if you will go and see her."
The queen's affection for the princess deeply interested her in what she heard; she ordered the nurse to follow her; and they immediately went together to the princess's palace.
The queen of China sat down by her daughter's bed-side on her arrival in her apartment, and after she had informed herself about her health began to ask her what had made her so angry with her nurse, as to treat her in the manner she had done. "Daughter," said she, "this is not right, and a great princess like you should not suffer herself to be so transported by passion,"
"Madam," replied the princess, "I plainly perceive your majesty is come to mock me; but I declare I will never let you rest till you consent to my marrying the young man who lay with me last night. You must know where he is, and therefore I beg of your majesty to let him come to me again."
"Daughter," answered the queen, "you surprise me; I do not understand your meaning." The princess now forgot all respect for the queen; "Madam," replied she, "the king my father and you have persecuted me about marrying, when I had no inclination; I now have an inclination, and I will have this young man I told you of for my husband, or I will destroy myself."
The queen endeavoured to calm the princess by conciliatory language: "Daughter," said she, "you know well you are guarded in this apartment, how then could any man come to you?" But instead of attending to her, the princess interrupted her, by such extravagancies as obliged the queen to leave her, and retire in great affliction, to inform the king of all that had passed.
When the king had heard the account, he wished likewise to be satisfied in person, and coming to his daughter's apartment, asked her, if what he had been told was true? "Sir," replied the princess, "let us talk no more of that; I only beseech your majesty to grant me the favour, that I may marry the young man I lay with last night."
"What! daughter," said the king, "has any one lain with you last night?" "How, sir," replied the princess, without giving him time to go on, "do you ask me if any one lay with me last night? Your majesty knows that but too well. He was the most beautiful youth the sun ever saw: I ask him of you for my husband; I entreat you do not refuse me. But that your majesty may not longer doubt whether I have seen this young man, whether he has lain with me, whether I have caressed him, or whether I did not my utmost to awake him without succeeding, see, if you please, this ring." She then reached forth her hand, and shewed the king a man's ring on her finger. The king was perplexed what to think. He had confined his daughter as mad, he began now to think her more insane than ever. Without saying any thing more to her, lest she might do violence to herself or somebody about her, he had her chained, and confined more closely than before, allowing her only the nurse to wait on her, with a good guard at the door.
The king, exceedingly concerned at this indisposition of his daughter, sought all possible means to effect her cure. He assembled his council, and after having acquainted them with her condition "If any of you," said he, "is capable of undertaking to restore her to health, and succeed, I will give her to him in marriage, and make him heir to my dominions."
The desire of obtaining a handsome young princess, and the hopes of one day governing so great a kingdom as that of China, had a powerful effect on an emir, already advanced in years, who was present at this council. As he was well skilled in magic, he offered the king to recover his daughter, and flattered himself with success. "I consent to the trial," said the king; "but I forgot to tell you one condition, and that is, that if you do not succeed, you shall lose your head. It would not be reasonable you should have so great a reward, and yet run no risk: and what I say to you," continued the king, "I say to all others who shall come after you, that they may consider beforehand what they undertake."
The emir accepted the condition, and the king conducted him to the princess's place of confinement. She covered her face as soon as she saw them enter, and exclaimed, "Your majesty surprises me, in bringing with you a man whom I do not know, and by whom my religion forbids me to let myself be seen." "Daughter," replied the king, "you need not be scandalized, it is only one of my emirs who is come to demand you in marriage." "It is not, I perceive, the person that you have already given me, and whose faith is plighted by the ring I wear," replied the princess; "be not offended that I will never marry any other."
The emir expected the princess would have said or done some extravagant thing, and was not a little disappointed when he heard her talk so calmly and rationally; for he then concluded that her disease was nothing but a violent and deep-rooted passion. He therefore threw himself at his majesty's feet, and said, "After what I have heard and observed, sir, it will be to no purpose for me to think of curing the princess, since I have no remedies proper for her malady; for which reason I humbly submit my life to your majesty's pleasure." The king, enraged at his incapacity, and the trouble he had given him, caused him to be immediately beheaded.
Some days after, unwilling to have it said that he had neglected his daughter's cure, the king put forth a proclamation in his capital, importing, that if there were any physician, astrologer, or magician who would undertake to restore the princess to her senses, he needed only to offer himself, and he should be employed, on condition of losing his head if he failed. He had the same published in the other principal cities and towns of his dominions, and in the courts of the princes his neighbours.
The first that presented himself was an astrologer and magician, whom the king caused to be conducted to the princess's prison by an eunuch. The astrologer drew forth, out of a bag he carried under his arm, an astrolabe, a small sphere, a chafing-dish, several sorts of drugs proper for fumigations, a brass pot, with many other articles, and desired he might have a fire.
The princess demanded what all these preparations were for. "Madam," answered the eunuch, "they are to exorcise the evil spirit that possesses you, to shut him up in this pot, and throw him into the sea."
"Foolish astrologer," replied the princess, "I have no occasion for any of your preparations, but am in my perfect senses, and you alone are mad. If your art can bring him I love to me, I shall be obliged to you; otherwise you may go about your business, for I have nothing to do with you." "Madam," said the astrologer, "if your case be so, I shall desist from all endeavours, believing the king your father only can remove your disorder:" so putting up his trinkets again, he marched away, much concerned that he had so easily undertaken to cure an imaginary malady.
The eunuch conducted the astrologer to the king, whom the astrologer thus addressed: "According to what your majesty published in your proclamation, and what you were pleased to confirm to me yourself, I thought the princess was insane, and depended on being able to recover her by the secrets I have long been acquainted with; but I soon found she had no other disease but that of love, over which my art has no power: your majesty alone is the physician who can cure her, by giving her in marriage the person whom she desires."
The king was much enraged at the astrologer, and had his head instantly cut off. A hundred and fifty astrologers, physicians, and magicians, came on this account, who all underwent the same fate; and their heads were set upon poles on every gate of the city.
The princess of China's nurse had a son whose name was Marzavan, who had been foster-brother to the princess, and brought up with her, The friendship was so great during their childhood, and all the time they had been together, that as they grew up, even some time after their separation, they treated each other as brother and sister.
Marzavan, among other studies, had from his youth been much addicted to judicial astrology, geomancy, and the like secret arts, wherein he became exceedingly skilful. Not satisfied with what he had learned from masters, he travelled, and there was hardly any person of note in any science or art, but he sought him in the most remote cities, to obtain information, so great was his thirst after knowledge.
After several years' absence in foreign parts, he returned to the capital of his native country, where, seeing so many heads on the gate by which he entered, he was exceedingly surprised, and demanded for what reason they had been placed there; but he more particularly inquired after the princess his foster-sister. As he could not receive an answer to one inquiry without the other, he heard at length a general account of what had happened, and waited for further particulars till he could see his mother, the princess's nurse.
Although the nurse, the mother of Marzavan, was much employed about the princess, yet she no sooner heard her son was returned, than she found time to come out, embrace him, and converse with him a little. Having told him, with tears in her eyes, the unhappy condition of the princess, and for what reason the king her father had confined her; her son desired to know if she could not procure him a private view of her royal mistress, without the king's knowledge. After some pause, she told him she could give him no answer for the present; but if he would meet her the next day at the same hour, she would inform him.
The nurse knowing none could approach the princess but herself; without leave of the eunuch, who commanded the guard at the gate, addressed: herself to him, and said, "You know I have brought up and suckled the princess, and you may likewise have heard that I had a daughter whom I brought up along with her. This daughter has been since married, yet the princess still does her the honour to love her, and wishes to see her, without any person's observing her enter or depart."
The nurse was proceeding, but the eunuch interrupted her and exclaimed, "Say no more, I will with pleasure do any thing to oblige the princess; go and fetch your daughter, or send for her about midnight,and the gate shall be open for you."
As soon as it was dark, the nurse went to Marzavan, and having dressed him so well in women's clothes, that nobody could suspect he was a man, carried him along with her; and the eunuch believing it was her daughter, admitted them.
The nurse, before she presented Marzavan, went to the princess, and said, "Madam, this is not a woman I have brought to you, it is my son Marzavan in disguise, newly arrived from his travels; having a great desire to kiss your hand, I hope your highness will vouchsafe him that honour."
"What! my brother Marzavan," exclaimed the princess, with great joy; "approach, and take off that veil; for it is not unreasonable that a brother and a sister should see each other without covering their faces."
Marzavan saluted her with profound respect, while, without giving him time to speak, she continued, "I rejoice to see you returned in good health, after so many years' absence, and without sending any account of your welfare, even to your good mother."
"Madam," replied Marzavan, "I am infinitely obliged to your goodness. I hoped to have heard a better account of your health than has been given me, and which I lament to find confirmed by your appearance. It gives me pleasure, however, to have come so seasonably to bring your highness that remedy which your situation requires. Should I reap no other benefit from my studies and travels, I should think myself amply recompensed."
Having thus spoken, Marzavan drew out of his pocket a book and some other things, which from the account he had had from his mother of the princess's distemper, he thought he might want. The princess, observing these preparations, exclaimed, "What! brother, are you one of those who believe me mad? Undeceive yourself, and hear me."
The princess then related to Marzavan all the particulars of her story, without omitting the least circumstance, even to the ring which was exchanged for hers, and which she shewed him. "I have not concealed the least incident from you," continued she; "there is something in this business which I cannot comprehend, and which has given occasion for some persons to think me mad. But no one will attend to the rest, which is literally as I have stated."
After the princess had concluded, Marzavan, filled with wonder and astonishment, remained for some time with his eyes fixed on the ground, without speaking a word; but at length he lifted up his head, and said, "If it be as your highness says, and which I do not in the least doubt, I do not despair of being able to procure you the gratification of your wishes. But I must first entreat your highness to arm yourself with patience, till I have travelled over kingdoms which I have not yet visited, and when you hear of my return, be assured the object of your desire is not far distant." Having thus spoken, Marzavan took leave of the princess, and set out the next morning on his intended travels.
He journeyed from city to city, from province to province, and from island to island; and in every place he visited, he could hear of nothing but the princess Badoura (which was the princess of China's name) and her history.
About four months after, our traveller arrived at Torf, a sea- port town, large and populous, where the theme was changed; he no more heard of the princess Badoura, but all the talk was of prince Kummir al Zummaun, who was sick, and whose history greatly resembled hers. Marzavan was extremely delighted on hearing this, and informed himself where the prince was to be found. There were two ways to it; one, by land and sea; the other, by sea only, which was the shortest.
Marzavan chose the latter; and embarking on board a merchant ship, arrived safely in sight of Shaw Zummaun's capital; but just before it entered the port, the ship struck upon a rock, by the unskilfulness of the pilot, and foundered: it went down in sight of the castle, where at that time were the king and his grand vizier.
Marzavan, who could swim well, immediately upon the ship's sinking cast himself into the sea, and got safe on shore under the castle, where he was soon relieved by the grand vizier's order. After he had changed his clothes, and been well treated, he was introduced to the grand vizier, who lead sent for him.
Marzavan being a young man of good address, the minister received him with great politeness; and was induced, from the just and pertinent answers he returned to the questions put to him, to regard him with great esteem. Finding by degrees that he possessed great variety and extent of information, he said to him, "From what I can understand, I perceive you are no common man; you have travelled much: would to God you had discovered some remedy for a malady which has been long a source of great affliction at this court."
Marzavan replied, if he knew what malady it was, he might perhaps find a remedy applicable to it.
The grand vizier then related to him the story of prince Kummir al Zummaun. He concealed nothing relating to his birth, which had been so earnestly desired, his education, the wish of the king his father to see him early married, his resistance and extraordinary aversion from marriage, his disobeying his father in full council, his imprisonment, his extravagancies in prison, which were afterwards changed into a violent passion for some unknown lady, who, he pretended, had exchanged a ring with him, though, for his part, he verily believed there was no such person in the world.
Marzavan gave great attention to all the grand vizier said, and was infinitely rejoiced to find that, by means of his shipwreck, he had so fortunately lighted on the person he was seeking. He saw no reason to doubt that the prince was the man whom the princess of China so ardently loved, and that this princess was equally the object of his passion. Without explaining himself farther to the vizier, he desired to see the prince, that he might be better able to judge of his disorder and its cure. "Follow me," said the grand vizier, "and you will find the king with him, who has already desired I should introduce you."
On entering the prince's chamber, the first thing Marzavan observed was the prince upon his bed languishing, and with his eyes shut. Notwithstanding his condition, and regardless of the presence of the king his father, who was sitting by him, he could not avoid exclaiming, "Heavens! was there ever a greater resemblance?" He meant to the princess of China; for it seems the princess and the prince were much alike.
This exclamation of Marzavan excited the prince's curiosity; he opened his eyes and looked at him. Marzavan, who had a ready wit, seized that opportunity, and made his compliment in extempore verse; but in such a disguised manner, that neither the king nor the grand vizier under stood his meaning. He represented so exactly what had happened to him with the princess of China, that the prince had no reason to doubt he knew her, and could give him tidings of her. His countenance immediately brightened up with joy.
After Marzavan had finished his compliment in verse, which surprised Kummir al Zummaun so agreeably, the prince took the liberty of making a sign to the king his father, to give his place to Marzavan, and allow him to sit by him.
The king, overjoyed at this alteration, which inspired him with hopes of his son's speedy recovery, quitted his place, and taking Marzavan by the hand, led him to it, obliging him to sit. He then demanded of him who he was, and whence he had come? And upon Marzavan's answering he was a subject of China, and came from that kingdom, the king exclaimed, "Heaven grant you may be able to recover my son from this profound melancholy; I shall be eternally obliged to you, and all the world shall see how handsomely I will reward you." Having said thus, he left the prince to converse at full liberty with the stranger, whilst he went and rejoiced with the grand vizier on this happy incident.
Marzavan leaning down to the prince, addressed him in a low voice: "Prince, it is time you should cease to grieve. The lady, for whom you suffer, is the princess Badoura, daughter of Gaiour, king of China. This I can assure your highness from what she has told me of her adventure, and what I have learned of yours. She has suffered no less on your account than you have on hers." Here he related all that he knew of the princess's story, from the night of their extraordinary interview.
He omitted not to acquaint him how the king had treated those who had failed in their endeavours to cure the princess of her indisposition. "But your highness is the only person," added he, "that can cure her effectually, and you may present yourself without fear. However, before you undertake so long a voyage, I would have you perfectly recovered, and then we will take what measures may be necessary. Think then immediately of the recovery of your health."
This account had a marvellous effect on the prince. The hopes of speedily fulfilling his desires so much relieved him, that he felt he had strength sufficient to rise, and begged permission of his father to dress himself, with such an air as gave him incredible pleasure.
Shaw Zummaun, without inquiring into the means he had used to produce this wonderful effect, could not refrain from embracing Marzavan, and soon after went out of the prince's chamber with the grand vizier, to publish the agreeable tidings. He ordered public rejoicings for several days together, gave great largesses to his officers and the people, and alms to the poor, and caused the prisoners to be set at liberty throughout his kingdom The joy was soon general in the capital, and in every part of his dominions.
Kummir al Zummaun, though extremely weakened by almost continual privation of sleep and long abstinence, soon recovered his health. When he found himself in a condition to undertake the voyage, he took Marzavan aside, and said, "Dear Marzavan, it is now time to perform the promise you have made me. My impatience to behold the charming princess, and to relieve her of the torments she is now suffering on my account, is such, that if we do not shortly depart, I shall relapse into my former indisposition. One thing still afflicts me," continued he, "and that is the difficulty I shall find, from his tender affection for me, to obtain my father's permission to travel into a distant country. You observe he scarcely allows me to be a moment out of his sight."
At these words the prince wept. Marzavan then replied, "I foresaw this difficulty, and I will take care it shall not obstruct us. My principal design in this voyage was to cure the princess of China of her malady, and this on account of the mutual affection which we have borne to each other from our birth, as well as from the zeal and affection I otherwise owe her. I should therefore be wanting in my duty to her, if I did not use my best endeavours to effect her cure and yours. This is then the mode I have devised to obtain the king your father's consent. You have not stirred abroad for some time, therefore request his permission to go upon a hunting party with me. He will no doubt comply. When you have obtained his leave, obtain two fleet coursers for each of us to be got ready, one to mount, the other to change, and leave the rest to me."
The following day the prince did as he had been instructed. He acquainted the king he was desirous of taking the air, and, if he pleased, would go and hunt for two or three days with Marzavan. The king gave his consent, but wished him not to be absent more than one night, since too much exercise at first might impair his health and a longer absence would make him uneasy. He then ordered him to choose the best horses in the royal stable, and took particular care that nothing should be wanting for his accommodation. When all was ready, he embraced the prince, and having recommended to Marzavan to be careful of him, he let him go. Kummir al Zummaun and Marzavan were soon mounted, when, to amuse the two grooms who led the spare horses, they made as if they were going to hunt, and under this pretence got as far from the city and out of the high road as was possible. When night began to approach, they alighted at a caravanserai or inn, where they supped, and slept till about midnight; when Marzavan awakened the prince, and desired his highness to let him have his dress, and to take another for himself, which was brought in his baggage. Thus equipped, they mounted the fresh horses, and after Marzavan had taken one of the grooms' horses by the bridle, they left the caravanserai.
At day-break they found themselves in a forest, where four roads met. Here Marzavan, desiring the prince to wait for him a little, went into the wood. He then cut the throat of the groom's horse, and after having torn the suit which the prince had taken off, and besmeared it with blood, threw it into the highway.
The prince inquired his reason for what he had done. He replied, he was sure that when the king his father found he did not return, and should learn that he had departed without the grooms, he would suspect something wrong, and immediately send in quest of them. "they who may come this way, finding this bloody habit, will conclude you are devoured by wild beasts, and that I have escaped to avoid the king's anger. The king, concluding you are dead, will stop further pursuit, and we may have leisure to continue our journey without fear of being followed." "I must confess," continued Marzavan, "it is a violent way of proceeding, to alarm a fond father with the death of his son, but his joy will be the greater when he shall hear you are alive and happy." "Breve Marzavan," replied the prince, "I cannot but approve such an ingenious stratagem, or sufficiently admire your conduct: you place me under fresh obligations to you."
The prince and Marzavan being well provided for their expenses, continued their journey both by land and sea, and found no other obstacle but the length of the time which it necessarily took up. They arrived at length at the capital of China, where Marzavan, instead of going to his house, carried the prince to a public inn. They remained there incognito three days, to rest themselves after the fatigue of the voyage; during which time Marzavan caused an astrologer's habit to be made for the prince. The three days being expired, they went together to the bath, where the prince put on his astrologer's dress: from thence Marzavan conducted him to the neighbourhood of the king of China's palace, where he left him, to go and inform his mother of his arrival.
Kummir al Zummaun, instructed by Marzavan what he was to do, came next morning to the gate of the king's palace, and cried aloud, "I am an astrologer, and am come to cure the illustrious princess Badoura, daughter of the most high and mighty monarch Gaiour king of China, on the conditions proposed by his majesty, to marry her if I succeed, or else to lose my life for my fruitless and presumptuous attempt."
Besides the guards and porters at the gate, this incident drew together a great number of people about the prince. There had no physician, astrologer, or magician appeared for a long time on this account, being deterred by the many tragical examples of ill success that appeared before; it was therefore thought there remained no more of these professions in the world, or none so mad as those that had already forfeited their lives.
The prince's appearance, his noble air, and blooming youth, made every one who saw him pity him. "What mean you, sir," said some that were nearest to him, "thus to expose a life of such promising expectations to certain death? Cannot the heads you see on all the gates of this city deter you from such an undertaking? In the name of God consider what you do! abandon this rash attempt, and depart."
The prince continued firm, notwithstanding all these remonstrances; and as he saw no one coming to introduce him, he repeated the same cry with a boldness that made every body tremble. They all then exclaimed, "Let him alone, he is resolved to die; God have mercy on his youth and his soul!"" He then proceeded to cry a third time in the same manner, when the grand vizier came in person, and introduced him to the king of China.
As soon as the prince came into the presence, he bowed and kissed the ground. The king, who, among all that had hitherto presumptuously exposed their lives on this occasion, had not before seen one worthy of his attention, felt real compassion for Kummir al Zummaun, on account of the danger to which he exposed himself. "Young man," said he, "I can hardly believe that at this age you can have acquired experience enough to dare attempt the cure of my daughter. I wish you may succeed, and would give her to you in marriage with all my heart, and with the greatest joy, more willingly than I should have done to others that have offered themselves before you; but I must declare to you at the same time, though with great concern, that if you fail, notwithstanding your noble appearance and your youth, you must lose your head."
"Sir," replied the prince, "I have infinite obligations to your majesty for the honour you design me, and the great goodness you shew to a stranger; but I desire your majesty to believe I would not have come from so remote a country as I have done, the name of which perhaps may be unknown in your dominions, if I had not been certain of the cure I propose. What would not the world say of my fickleness, if, after such great fatigues and so many dangers as I have undergone in the pursuit, I should abandon this generous enterprise? Even your majesty would lose that esteem you have conceived for me. If I perish, I shall die with the satisfaction of not having forfeited your good opinion. I beseech your majesty therefore to keep me no longer from displaying the certainty of my art, by the proof I am ready to afford."
The king now commanded the eunuch, who had the custody of the princess, to introduce Kummir al Zummaun into her apartment: but before he would let him go, reminded him once more that he was at liberty to renounce his design; but the prince paid no regard to this, and with astonishing resolution and eagerness followed the eunuch.
When they had entered a long gallery, at the end of which was the princess's apartment, the prince, who saw himself so near the objets of his wishes, who had occasioned him so many tears, pushed on, and got before the eunuch.
The eunuch redoubling his pace, with difficulty got up to him, "Wither so fast?"" cried he, taking him by the arm; "you cannot get in without me; and it should seem you have a great desire for death, thus to run to it headlong. Not one of all those many astrologers and magicians I have introduced before made such haste as yourself, to a place whence I fear you will come but too soon."
"Friend," replied the prince, looking earnestly on the eunuch, and continuing his pace, "this was because none of the astrologers you speak of were so confident in their art as I am: they were certain indeed they should die, if they did not succeed, .but they had no certainty of their success. On this account they had reason to tremble on approaching this spot, where I am sure to find my happiness." He had just spoken these words when he reached the door. The eunuch opened it, and introduced him into a great hall, whence was an entrance into the princess's apartment, divided from it only by a piece of tapestry.
The prince stopped before he entered, speaking more softly to the eunuch for fear of being heard by the princess. "To convince you," said he; "there is neither presumption, nor whim, nor youthful conceit in my undertaking, I leave it to your choice whether I shall cure the princess in her presence, or where we are, without going any farther, or seeing her?"
The eunuch was amazed to hear the prince talk to him with such confidence: he left off jeering, and said seriously to him, "It is no matter where it is done, provided it be effected: cure her how you will, if you succeed you will gain immortal honour, not only in this court, but over all the world."
The prince replied, "It will be best then to cure her without seeing her, that you may be witness of my skill; notwithstanding my impatience to see a princess of her rank, who is to be my wife, yet out of respect to you, I will deprive myself of that pleasure for a little while." Being furnished with every thing proper for an astrologer to carry about him, he took pen, ink, and paper our of his pocket, and wrote the following billet to the princess.
"The impassioned Kummir al Zummaun cannot recite the inexpressible pain he has endured since that fatal night in which your charms deprived him of the liberty which he had resolved to preserve. He only tells you that he devoted his heart to you in your charming slumbers; those obstinate slumbers which hindered him from beholding the brightness of your piercing eyes, notwithstanding all his endeavours to oblige you to open them. He presumed to present you with his ring as a token of his passion; and to take yours in exchange, which he encloses. If you condescend to return his as a reciprocal pledge of love, he will esteem himself the happiest of mankind. If not, the sentence of death, which your refusal must draw upon him, will be received with resignation, since he will perish on account of his love for you."
When the prince had finished his billet, he folded it up, and enclosed in it the princess's ring. "There, friend," said he to the eunuch, "carry this to your mistress; if it does not cure her as soon as she reads it, and sees what it contains, I give you leave to tell every body, that I am the most ignorant and impudent astrologer that ever existed."
The eunuch entering the princess of China's apartment, gave her the packet, saying, "The boldest astrologer that ever lived is arrived here, and pretends, that on reading this letter and seeing what it encloses, you will be cured; I wish he may prove neither a liar nor an impostor."
The princess Badoura took the billet, and opened it with indifference: but when she saw the ring, she had not patience to read it through: she rose hastily, broke the chain that held her, ran to the door and opened it. They immediately recognized each other, tenderly embraced, and without being able to speak for excess of joy, looked at one another, wondering how they met again after their first interview. The princess's nurse, who ran to the door with her, made them come into her apartment, where the princess Badoura gave the prince her ring, saying, "Take it, I cannot keep it without restoring yours; which I will never part with; neither can it be in better hands."
The eunuch went immediately to inform the king of China of what had happened: "Sir," said he, "all the astrologers and doctors who have hitherto pretended to cure the princess were fools compared with the present. He made use neither of schemes nor conjurations, of perfumes, nor any thing else, but cured her without seeing her." The monarch was agreeably surprised at this intelligence, and going to the princess's apartment, he embraced her, and afterwards the prince, and taking his hand joined it to the princess's, saying, "Happy stranger, whoever you are, I will keep my word, and give you my daughter for your wife; though, by what I see in you, it is impossible for me to believe you are really what you pretend, and would have me take you to be."
Kummir al Zummaun thanked the king in the most humble expressions, that he might the better shew his gratitude. "As for my condition," said he, "I must own I am not an astrologer, as your majesty has guessed; I only put on the habit of one, that I might succeed the more easily in my ambition to be allied to the most potent monarch in the world. I was born a prince, and the son of a king and of a queen; my name is Kummir al Zummaun; my father is Shaw Zummaun, who now reigns over the islands that are well known by the name of the Islands of the Children of Khaledan." He then related to him his history, and how wonderful had been the origin of his love; that the princess's was altogether as marvellous; and that both were confirmed by the exchange of the two rings.
When the prince had done speaking, the king said to him, "This history is so extraordinary, it deserves to be known to posterity; I will take care it shall; and the original being deposited in my royal archives, I will spread copies of it abroad, that my own kingdoms and the kingdoms around me may know it."
The marriage was solemnized the same day, and the rejoicings were universal all over the empire of China. Nor was Marzavan forgotten: the king gave him an honourable post in his court, and a promise of further advancement.
The prince and princess enjoyed the fulness of their wishes in the sweets of marriage; and the king kept continual feastings for several months, to manifest his joy on the occasion.
In the midst of these pleasures Kummir al Zummaun dreamt one night that he saw his father on his bed at the point of death, and heard him thus address his attendants: "My son, to whom I gave birth; my son, whom I so tenderly loved whom I bred with so much fondness, so much care, has abandoned me, and is himself the cause of my death." He awoke with a profound sigh, which alarmed the princess, who asked him the cause.
"Alas! my love," replied the prince, "perhaps at the very moment while I am speaking, the king my father is no more." He then acquainted her with his melancholy dream, which occasioned him so much uneasiness. The princess, who studied to please him in every thing, went to her father the next day, kissed his hand, and thus addressed him: "I have a favour to beg of your majesty, and I beseech you not to deny me; but that you may not believe I ask it at the solicitation of the prince my husband, I assure you beforehand he knows nothing of my request: it is, that you will grant me your permission to go with him and visit his father."
"Daughter," replied the king, "though I shall be sorry to part with you for so long a time as a journey to a place so distant will require, yet I cannot disapprove of your resolution; it is worthy of yourself: go, child, I give you leave, but on condition that you stay no longer than a year in Shaw Zummaun's court. I hope the king will agree to this, that we shall alternately see, he his son and his daughter-in-law, and I my daughter and my son- in-law."
The princess communicated the king of China's consent to her husband, who was transported to receive it, and returned her thanks for this new token of her love.
The king of China gave orders for preparations to be made for their departure; and when all things were ready, he accompanied the prince and princess several days' journey on their way; they parted at length with much affliction on both sides: the king embraced them; and having desired the prince to be kind to his daughter, and to love her always with the same tenderness he now did, he left them to proceed, and to divert himself, hunted as he returned to his capital.
When the prince and princess had recovered from their grief, they comforted themselves with considering how glad Shaw Zummaun would be to see them, and how they should rejoice to see the king.
After travelling about a month, they one day entered a plain of great extent, planted at convenient distances with tall trees, forming an agreeable shade. The day being unusually hot, the prince thought it best to encamp there, and proposed it to Badoura, who, having the same wish, the more readily consented. They alighted in one of the finest spots; a tent was presently set up; the princess, rising from the shade under which she had sat down, entered it. The prince then ordered his attendants to pitch their tents, and went himself to give directions. The princess, weary with the fatigues of the journey, bade her women untie her girdle, which they laid down by her; and she falling asleep, they left her alone.
Kummir al Zummaun having seen all things in order, came to the tent where the princess was sleeping: he entered, and sat down without making any noise, intending to repose himself; but observing the princess's girdle lying by her, he took it up, and looked at the diamonds and rubies one by one. In viewing it he observed a little purse hanging to it, sewed neatly on the stuff, and tied fast with a riband; he felt it, and found it contained something solid. Desirous to know what it was, he opened the purse, and took out a cornelian, engraven with unknown figures and characters. "This cornelian," said the prince to himself, "must be something very valuable, or my princess would not carry it with so much care." It was Badoura's talisman, which the queen of China had given her daughter as a charm, that would keep her, as she said, from any harm as long as she had it about her.
The prince, the better to look at the talisman, took it out to the light, the tent being dark; and while he was holding it up in his hand, a bird darted down from the air and snatched it away from him.
One will easily conceive the concern and grief of the prince, when he saw the bird fly away with the talisman. He was more troubled than words can express, and cursed his unseasonable curiosity, by which his dear princess had lost a treasure, that was so precious, and so valued by her.
The bird having got its prize, settled on the ground not far off, with the talisman in its mouth. The prince drew near it, hoping it would drop it; but as he approached, the bird took wing, and settled again on the ground further off. Kummir al Zummaun followed, and the bird took a further flight: the prince being very dexterous at a mark, thought to kill it with a stone, and still pursued; the further it flew, the more eager he grew in pursuing, keeping it always in view. Thus the bird drew him along from hill to valley, and valley to hill, all the day, every step leading him out of the way from the plain where he had left his camp and the princess Badoura: and instead of perching at night on a bush, where he might probably have taken it, roosted on a high tree, safe from his pursuit. The prince, vexed to the heart at having taken so much pains to no purpose, thought of returning; "But," said he to himself, "which way shall I return? Shall I go down the hills and valleys which I have passed overt' Shall I wander in darkness? and will my strength bear me out? How shall I dare appear before my princess without her talisman?" Overwhelmed with such thoughts, and tired with the pursuit, sleep came upon him, and he lay down under a tree, where he passed the night.
He awoke the next morning before the bird had left the tree, and as soon as he saw it on the wing, followed it again the whole of that day, with no better success than he had done the last, eating nothing but herbs and fruits as he went. He did the same for ten days together, pursuing the bird, and keeping it in view from morning to night, lying always under the tree where it roosted. On the eleventh day, the bird continued flying, and Kummir al Zummaun pursuing it, came near a great city. When the bird had reached the walls, it flew over them, and the prince saw no more of it; so that he despaired of ever recovering the princess Badoura's talisman.
The prince, whose grief was beyond expression, went into the city, which was built on the seaside, and had a fine port; he walked up and down the streets without knowing where he was, or where to stop. At last he came to the port, in as great uncertainty as ever what he should do. Walking along the shore, he perceived the gate of a garden open, and an old gardener at work in it; the good man looking up, saw he was a stranger and a Moosulmaun, and asked him to come in, and shut the door after him.
Kummir al Zummaun entered, and demanded of the gardener why he was so cautious? "Because," replied the old man, "I see you are a stranger newly arrived; and this city is inhabited for the most part by idolaters, who have a mortal aversion to us Moosulmauns, and treat a few of us that are here with great barbarity. I suppose you did not know this, and it is a miracle that you have escaped as you have thus far: these idolaters being very apt to fall upon strangers, or draw them into a snare. I bless God, who has brought you into a place of safety."
Kummir al Zummaun thanked the honest gardener for his advice, and the security he offered him in his house; he would have said more, but the good man interrupted him, saying, "Let us leave complimenting; you are weary, and must want to refresh yourself. Come in, and rest." He conducted him into his little hut; and after the prince had eaten heartily of what he set before him, with a cordiality that charmed him, he requested him to relate how he had come there.
The prince complied; and when he had finished his story, without concealing any part of it, asked him which was the nearest route to his father's territories; saying, "It is in vain for me to think of finding my princess where I left her, after wandering eleven days from the spot by so extraordinary an adventure. Ah!" continued he, "how do I know she is alive?" and saying this, he burst into tears. The gardener replied, "There was no possibility of his going thither by land, the ways were so difficult, and the journey so long; besides, there was no accommodation for his subsistence; or, if there were, he must necessarily pass through the countries of so many barbarous nations, that he would never reach his father's. It was a year's journey from the city where he then was to any country inhabited only by Moosulmauns; that the quickest passage for him would be to go to the isle of Ebene, whence he might easily transport himself to the isles of the children of Khaledan; that a ship sailed from the port every year to Ebene, and he might take that opportunity of returning to those islands. "The ship departed," said he, "but a few days ago; if you had come a little sooner, you might have taken your passage in it. You must wait till it makes the voyage again, and if you will stay with me and accept of my house, such as it is, you shall be as welcome to it as to your own."
The prince was glad he had met with such an asylum, in a place where he had no acquaintance. He accepted the offer, and lived with the gardener till the time arrived that the ship was to sail to the isle of Ebene. He spent the interval in working by day in the garden, and passing the night in sighs, tears, and complaints, thinking of his dear princess Badoura. We must leave him in this place, to return to the princess, whom we left asleep in her tent.
The princess slept a long time, and when she awoke, wondered that the prince was not with her; she called her women, and asked if they knew where he was. They told her they saw him enter the tent, but did not see him go out. While they were talking to her, she took up her girdle, found her little purse open, and that the talisman was gone. She did not doubt but that the prince had taken it to see what it was, and that he would bring it back with him. She waited for him impatiently till night, and could not imagine what made him stay away from her so long.
When it was quite dark, and she could hear no tidings of him, she fell into violent grief: she cursed the talisman, and him that made it; and, had not she been restrained by duty, would have cursed the queen her mother, who had given her such a fatal present. She was the more troubled, because she could not imagine how her talisman should have caused the prince's separation from her; she did not however lose her judgment, and came to a courageous resolution, not common with persons of her sex.
Only herself and her women knew of the prince's absence; for his men were reposing or asleep in their tents. The princess, fearing they would betray her, if they had any knowledge of this circumstance, moderated her grief, and forbade her women to say or do any thing that might create the least suspicion. She then laid aside her own habit, and put on one of Kummir al Zummaun's. She was so much like him, that the next day, when she came abroad, the male attendants took her for the prince.
She commanded them to pack up their baggage and begin their march; and when all things were ready, she ordered one of her women to go into her litter, she herself mounting on horseback, and riding by her side.
She travelled several months by land and sea; the princess continuing the journey under the name of Kummir al Zummaun. They touched at Ebene in their way to the isles of the children of Khaledan, and went to the capital of the island, where a king reigned, whose name was Armanos. The persons who first landed, giving out that the ship carried prince Kummir al Zummaun, who was returning from a long voyage, and was forced in by a storm, the news of his arrival was soon carried to court.
King Armanos, accompanied by his courtiers' went immediately to wait on the prince, and met the princess just as she was landing, and going to the palace that had been prepared for her. He received her as the son of a king, who was his friend, and with whom he always kept up a good understanding: he conducted her to the palace, where an apartment was prepared for her and all her attendants; though she would fain have excused herself. He shewed her all possible honour, and entertained her three days together with extraordinary magnificence. At the end of this time king Armanos understanding that the princess intended proceeding on her voyage, charmed with the air and qualities of such an accomplished prince, as he supposed her, took an opportunity when she was alone, and spoke to her in this manner: "You see, prince, that I am old, and to my great mortification have not a son to whom I may leave my crown. Heaven has only blest me with one daughter, whose beauty cannot be better matched than with a prince of your rank and accomplishments. Instead of going home, stay and accept my crown, which I will resign in your favour. It is time for me to rest, and nothing could be a greater pleasure to me in my retirement, than to see my people ruled by so worthy a successor to my throne."
The king's offer to bestow his only daughter in marriage, and with her his kingdom, on the princess Badoura, put her into unexpected perplexity. She thought it would not become a princess of her rank to undeceive the king, and to own that she was not prince Kummir al Zummaun, whose part she had hitherto acted so well. She was also afraid to decline the honour he offered her, lest, being so much bent upon the conclusion of the marriage, his kindness might turn to aversion, and he might attempt something even against her life.
These considerations, added to the prospect of obtaining a kingdom for the prince her husband, in case she found him again, determined her to accept the proposal of king Armanos, and marry his daughter. After having stood silent for some minutes, she with blushes, which the king took for a sign of modesty, answered, "I am infinitely obliged to your majesty for your good opinion of me, for the honour you do me, and the great favour you offer, which I cannot pretend to merit, and dare not refuse."
"But," continued she, "I cannot accept this great alliance on any other condition, than that your majesty will assist me with your counsels, and that I do nothing without having first obtained your approbation."
The marriage treaty being thus concluded, the ceremony was put off till the next day. In the mean time princess Badoura gave notice to her officers, who still took her for their prince, of what she was about to do, that they might not be surprised, assuring them the princess Badoura consented. She talked also to her women, and charged them to continue to keep the secret she had entrusted to them.
The king of the isle of Ebene, rejoicing that he had found a son- in-law so much to his satisfaction, next morning summoned his council, and acquainted them with his design of marrying his daughter to prince Kummir al Zummaun, whom he introduced to them, and told them he resigned the crown to him, and required them to acknowledge him for their king, and swear fealty to him. Having said this, he descended from his throne, and the princess Badoura, by his order, ascended it. As soon as the council broke up, the new king was proclaimed through the city, rejoicings were appointed for several days, and couriers despatched over all the kingdom, to see the same ceremonies observed with the usual demonstrations of joy.
At night there were extraordinary feastings at the palace, and the princess Haiatalnefous was conducted to the princess Badoura, whom every body took for a man, dressed like a royal bride: the wedding was solemnized with the utmost splendour: they were left together, and retired to bed. In the morning, while the princess Badoura went to receive the compliments of the nobility in the hall of audience, where they congratulated her on her marriage and accession to the throne, king Armanos and his queen went to the apartment of their daughter to inquire after her health. Instead of answering, she held down her head, and by her looks they saw plainly enough that she was disappointed.
King Armanos, to comfort the princess Haiatalnefous, bade her not be troubled. "Prince Kummir al Zummaun," said he, "when he landed here might think only of going to his father's court. Though we have engaged him to stay by arguments, with which he ought to be well satisfied, yet it is probable he grieves at being so suddenly deprived of the hopes of seeing either his father or any of his family. You must wait till those first emotions of filial love are over; he will then conduct himself towards you as a good husband ought to do."
The princess Badoura, under the name and character of Kummir al Zummaun, the king of Ebene, spent the whole day in receiving the compliments of the courtiers and the nobility of the. kingdom who were in and about the city, and in reviewing the regular troops of her household; and entered on the administration of affairs with so much dignity and judgment, that she gained the general applause of all who were witnesses of her conduct.
It was evening before she returned to queen Haiatalnefous's apartment, and she perceived by the reception she gave her, that the bride was not at all pleased with the preceding night. She endeavoured to dissipate her grief by a long conversation, in which she employed all the wit she had (and she possessed a good share), to persuade her she loved her entirely. She then gave her time to go to bed, and while she was undressing she went to her devotions; her prayers were so long, that queen Haiatalnefous was asleep before they were ended. She then left off, and lay down softly by the new queen, without waking her, and was as much afflicted at being forced to act a part which did not belong to her, as in the loss of her dear Kummir al Zummaun, for whom she: ceased not to sigh. She rose as soon as it was day, before Haiatalnefous was awake; and, being dressed in her royal robes as king, went to council.
King Armanos, as he had done the day before, came early to visit the queen his daughter, whom he found in tears; he wanted nothing more to be informed of the cause of her trouble. Provoked at the contempt, as he thought, put upon his daughter, of which he could not imagine the reason: "Daughter," said he, "have patience for another night. I raised your husband to the throne, and can pull him down again, and drive him thence with shame, unless he shews you proper regard. His treatment of you has provoked me so much, I cannot tell to what my resentment may transport me; the affront is as great to me as to you."
It was late again before the princess Badoura came to queen Haiatalnefous. She talked to her as she had done the night before, and after the same manner went to her devotions, desiring the queen to go to bed. But Haiatalnefous would not be so served; she held her back, and obliged her to sit down. "Tell me, I beseech you," said she, "what can you dislike in a princess of my youth and beauty, who not only loves but adores you, and thinks herself the happiest of women in having so amiable a prince for her husband. Any body but me would be not merely offended but shocked by the slight, or rather the unpardonable affront you have put upon me, and abandon you to your evil destiny. However, though I did not love you so well as I do, yet out of pure good- nature and humanity, which makes me pity the misfortunes of persons for whom I am less concerned, I cannot forbear telling you, that the king my father is enraged against you for your behaviour towards me, and to-morrow will make you feel the weight of his just anger, if you continue to neglect me as you have hitherto done. Do not therefore drive to despair a princess, who, notwithstanding all your ill usage, cannot help loving you."
This address embarrassed the princess Badoura inexpressibly. She did not doubt the truth of what Haiatalnefous had said. King Armanos's coldness to her the day before had given her but too much reason to see he was highly dissatisfied with her. The only way to justify her conduit was, to communicate her sex to the princess Haiatalnefous. But though she had foreseen she should be under a necessity of making such a discovery to her, yet her uncertainty as to the manner in which she would receive it, made her tremble; but, considering that if Kummir al Zummaun was alive, he must necessarily touch at the isle of Ebene in his way to his father's kingdom, she ought to preserve herself for his sake; and that it was impossible to do this, if she did not let the princess Haiatalnefous know who and what she was, she resolved to venture the experiment.
The princess Badoura stood as one who had been struck dumb, and Haiatalnefous being impatient to hear what she could say, was about to speak to her again, when she prevented her by these words: "Lovely and too charming princess! I own I have been in the wrong, and I condemn myself for it; but I hope you will pardon me, and keep the secret I am going to reveal to you for my justification."
She then opened her bosom, and proceeded thus: "See, princess, if a woman like yourself does not deserve to be forgiven. I believe you will be so generous, at least when you know my story, and the afflicting circumstance that forced me to act the part I have done."
The princess Badoura having discovered her sex to the princess of the isle of Ebene, she again prayed her to keep the secret, and to pretend to be satisfied with her as a husband, till the prince's arrival, which she hoped would be in a little time.
"Princess," replied Haiatalnefous, "your fortune is indeed strange, that a marriage, so happy as yours, should be shortened by so unaccountable an accident, after a passion so reciprocal and full of wonders. Pray heaven you may soon meet with your husband again, and assure yourself I will keep religiously the secret committed to me. It will be to me the greatest pleasure in the world to be the only person in the great kingdom of the isle of Ebene who knows what and who you are, while you go on governing the people as happily as you have begun. I only ask of you at present to be your friend." Then the two princesses tenderly embraced each other, and after a thousand expressions of mutual friendship lay down to rest.
The two princesses having decided on a way to make belief that the marriage had been consummated: queen Haiatalnefous's women were deceived themselves next morning, and it deceived Armanos, his queen, and the whole court. From this time the princess Badoura rose in the king's esteem and affection, governing the kingdom peaceably and prosperously.
While things passed as already mentioned in the court of the isle of Ebene, prince Kummir al Zummaun remained in the city of idolaters with the gardener, who had offered him his house for a retreat till the ship should sail to convey him away.
One morning early, when the prince was as usual preparing to work in the garden, the gardener prevented him, saying, "This day is a great festival among the idolaters, and because they abstain from all work themselves, to spend the time in their assemblies and public rejoicings, they will not let the Moosulmauns labour; who, to gain their favour, generally attend their shows, which are worth seeing. You will therefore have nothing to do to-day: I leave you here. As the time approaches, at which it is usual for the ship to sail for the isle of Ebene, I will call on some of my friends to know when it will depart, and secure you a passage." The gardener put on his best apparel, and went out.
When the prince was alone, instead of going out to share in the public joy of the city, his solitude brought to his mind, with more than usual violence, the loss of his dear princess. He walked up and down the garden sighing and lamenting, till the noise which two birds made on a neighbouring tree led him to lift up his head, to see what was the matter.
Kummir al Zummaun was surprised to observe that the birds were fighting furiously: in a very little while, one of them fell down dead at the foot of the tree; the victorious bird took wing again, and flew away.
In an instant, two other large birds, that had beheld the battle at a distance, came from the other side of the garden, and pitched on the ground, one at the feet, and the other at the head of the dead bird: they looked at it for some time, shaking their heads in token of grief; after which they dug a grave with their talons, and buried it.
When they had filled up the grave with the earth they had turned up, they flew away, but returned in a few minutes, bringing with them the bird that had committed the murder, one holding one of its wings in its beak, and the other one of its legs; the criminal all the while crying out in a doleful manner, and struggling to escape. They carried it to the grave of the bird which it had lately sacrificed to its rage, and there killed it in just revenge for the murder it had committed. They opened its belly, tore out the entrails, left the body on the spot unburied, and flew away.
The prince had remained in astonishment all the time that he stood beholding this singular spectacle. He now drew near the tree where this scene had passed, and casting his eyes on the scattered entrails of the bird that had been last killed, spied something red hanging out of the stomach. He took it up, and found it was his beloved princess Badoura's talisman, which had cost him so much pain and sorrow, and so many sighs, since the bird had snatched it out of his hand. "Ah, cruel!" said he to himself; still looking on the bird, "thou took'st delight in doing mischief, so I have the less reason to complain of that which thou didst to me: but the greater it was, the more do I wish well to those that revenged my quarrel, punishing thee for the murder of one of their own kind."
It is impossible to express the prince's joy: "Dear princess," continued he to himself, "this happy minute, which restores to me a treasure so precious to thee, is, without doubt, a presage of our meeting again, and perhaps sooner than I think of. Thank heaven who sent me this good fortune, and gives me hope of the greatest felicity that my heart can desire."
Saying this, he kissed the talisman, wrapped it up in a riband, and tied it carefully about his arm. He had been almost every night a stranger to rest, the recollection of his misfortunes keeping him awake, but this night he enjoyed calm repose: he rose somewhat later the next morning than he used to do, and went to the gardener for orders. The good man bade him root up an old tree which bore no fruit.
Kummir al Zummaun took an axe and began his work. In cutting off a branch of the root, he found his axe struck against something that resisted the blow. He removed the earth, and discovered a broad plate of brass, under which was a staircase of ten steps. He went down, and at the bottom saw a cavity about six yards square with fifty brass urns placed in order, each with a cover over it. He opened them all, one after another, and found they were all of them full of gold-dust. He came out of the cave, rejoicing that he had found such a vast treasure, put the brass plate on the staircase, and had the tree rooted up by the gardener's return.
The gardener had ascertained that the ship which was bound for the isle of Ebene, would sail in a few days, but the exact time was not yet fixed. His friend promised to let him know the day, if he called upon him on the morrow; and while the prince was rooting up the tree, he went to have his answer. He returned with a joyful countenance, by which the prince guessed he brought him good news. "Son," said the old man (so he always called him on account of the difference of years between him and the prince) "be joyful, and prepare to embark in three days; the ship will then certainly sail; I have agreed with the captain for your passage."
"In my present situation," replied Kummir al Zummaun, "you could not bring me more agreeable intelligence; and in return, I have also tidings that will be as welcome to you: come along with me, and you shall see what good fortune heaven has in store for you."
The prince led the gardener to the place where he had rooted up the tree, made him go down into the cave, shewed him what a treasure he had discovered, thanking Providence for rewarding his virtue, and the pains he had been at for so many years. "What do you mean?" replied the gardener: "do you imagine I will take these riches as mine? The property is yours: I have no right to it. For fourscore years, since my father's death, I have done nothing but dig in this garden, and could not discover this treasure, which is a sign it was destined for you, since God has permitted you to find it. It is better suited to a prince like you than to me; I have one foot in the grave, and am in no want of any thing. Providence has bestowed it upon you, just when you are returning to that country, which will one day be your own, where you will make good use of it."
Kummir al Zummaun would not be surpassed in generosity by the gardener. They disputed for some time. At last the prince solemnly protested, that he would have none of it, unless the gardener would divide it with him. The good man, to please the prince, consented; so they shared it between them, and each had twenty-five urns.
"Having thus divided it, son," said the gardener to the prince, "it is not enough that you have got this treasure; we must now contrive to carry it privately aboard, otherwise you will run the risk of losing it. There are no olives in the isle of Ebene, those that are exported hence are a good commodity there: you know I have plenty of them, take what you will; fill fifty pots, half with the gold-dust and half with olives, and I will get them carried to the ship when you embark."
The prince followed this advice, and spent the rest of the day in packing up the gold and the olives in the fifty pots, and fearing the talisman, which he wore on his arm, might be lost again, he carefully put it into one of the pots, with a particular mark to distinguish it from the rest. When they were all ready to be shipped, night coming on, the prince retired with the gardener, and related to him the battle of the birds, with the circumstance by which he had found the talisman. The gardener was equally surprised and joyful to hear it on his account. Whether the old man was quite worn out with age, or had exhausted himself too much that day, the gardener had a very bad night; he grew worse the next day, and on the third day, when the prince was to embark, was so ill, that it was plain he was near his end. As soon as day broke, the captain of the ship came with several seamen to the gardener's; they knocked at the garden-door, which the prince opened to them. They asked him for the passenger who was to go with them. The prince answered, "I am he; the gardener who agreed with you for my passage is sick, and cannot be spoken with; come in, and let your men carry those pots of olives and my baggage aboard for me; I will only take leave of the gardener, and follow you."
The seamen took the pots and the baggage, and the captain bade the prince make haste, the wind being fair.
When the captain and his men were gone, Kummir al Zummaun went to the gardener to take his leave of him, and thanked him for all his good offices; but found him in the agonies of death, and had scarcely time to bid him rehearse the articles of his faith, which all good Moosulmauns do before they die, before the gardener expired.
The prince being under the necessity of embarking immediately, hastened to pay the last duty to the deceased. He washed his body, buried him in his own garden, and having nobody to assist him, it was almost evening before he had put him into the ground. As soon as he had done, he ran to the water-side, carrying with him the key of the garden, designing, if he had time, to give it to the landlord; otherwise to deposit it in some trusty person's hand before a witness, that he might have it after he was gone. When he reached the port, he was told the ship had sailed several hours, and was already out of sight. It had waited three hours for him, and the wind standing fair, the captain durst not stay longer.
It is easy to imagine that Kummir al Zummaun was exceedingly grieved at being forced to remain longer in a country where he neither had, nor wished to have, any acquaintance; to think that he must wait another year for the opportunity he had lost. But the greatest affliction of all was, his having parted with the princess Badoura's talisman, which he now considered lost. The only course left him was to return to the garden from whence he had come, to rent it of the landlord and continue to cultivate it by himself, deploring his misery and misfortunes. He hired a boy to assist him to do some part of the drudgery: that he might not lose the other half of the treasure which came to him by the death of the gardener, who died without heirs, he put the gold- dust into fifty other jars, which he filled up with olives, to be ready against the ship's return.
While the prince was beginning another year of labour, sorrow, and impatience, the ship having a fair wind, continued her voyage to the isle of Ebene, and happily arrived at the capital.
The palace being by the sea side, the new king, or rather the princess Badoura, espying the ship as she was entering into the port, with all her flags, asked what vessel it was: she was answered, that it came annually from the city of the idolaters, and was generally richly laden.
The princess, who always had Kummir al Zummaun in her mind, imagined that the prince might be aboard; and resolved to visit the ship and meet him, without discovering herself; but to observe him, and take proper measures for their making themselves mutually known. Under pretence of inquiring what merchandize was on board, and having the first sight of the goods, she commanded a horse to be brought, which she mounted, accompanied by several officers in waiting, and arrived at the port, just as the captain came ashore. She ordered him to be brought before her, asked whence he had come, how long he had been on his voyage, and what good or bad fortune he had met with: if he had no stranger of quality aboard, and particularly with what his ship was laden.
The captain gave a satisfactory answer to all her demands; and as to passengers, assured her there were none but merchants in his ship, who used to come every year, and bring rich stuffs from several parts of the world to trade with, the finest linens painted and plain, diamonds, musk, ambergris, camphire, civet, spices, drugs, olives, and many other articles.
The princess Badoura loved olives extremely when she heard the captain speak of them, "Land them," said she, "I will take them off your hands; as to the other goods, tell the merchants to bring them to me, and let me see them before they dispose of, or shew them to any one."
The captain taking her for the king of the isle of Ebene, replied, "Sire, there are fifty great jars of olives, but they belong to a merchant whom I was forced to leave behind. I gave him notice myself that I stayed for him, and waited a long time, but he not coming, and the wind offering, I was afraid of losing the opportunity, and so set sail." The princess answered, "No matter, bring them ashore; we will nevertheless make a bargain for them."
The captain sent the boat, which in a little time returned with the olives. The princess demanded how much the fifty jars might be worth in the isle of Ebene? "Sir," replied the captain, "the merchant is very poor, and your majesty will do him a singular favour if you give him one thousand pieces of silver."
"To satisfy him," said the princess, "and because you tell me he is poor, I will order you one thousand pieces of gold for him, which do you take care to give him." The money was accordingly paid, and the jars carried to the palace.
Night drawing on the princess withdrew into the inner palace, and went to the princess Haiatalnefous's apartment, ordering the olives to be brought thither. She opened one jar to let the princess Haiatalnefous taste them, and poured them into a dish. Great was her astonishment, when she found the olives were mingled with gold-dust. "What can this mean!" said she, "It is wonderful beyond comprehension." Her curiosity increasing from so extraordinary an adventure, she ordered Haiatalnefous's women to open and empty all the jars in her presence; and her wonder was still greater, when she saw that the olives in all of them were mixed with gold-dust; but when she saw her talisman drop out, she was so surprised that she fainted away. Haiatalnefous and her women brought the princess to herself, by throwing cold water in her face. When she recovered, she took the talisman, and kissed it again and again; but not being willing that the princess Haiatalnefous's women, who were ignorant of her disguise, should hear what she said, and it growing late, she dismissed them. "Princess," said she to Haiatalnefous, as soon as they were gone, "you who have heard my story, doubtless, guessed it was at the sight of the talisman that I fainted. This is that talisman, and the fatal cause of my dosing my husband; but as it was that which caused our separation, so I foresee it will be the means of our meeting."
The next day, as soon as it was light, she sent for the captain of the ship; and when he came, spoke to him thus: "I want to know something more of the merchant to whom the olives belong, that I bought of you yesterday. I think you told me you left him behind in the city of the idolaters; can you tell me what is his employment there?"
"Yes," replied the captain, "I can speak from my own knowledge. I agreed for his passage with a very old gardener, who told me I should find him in his garden, where he worked under him. He shewed me the place, and for that reason I told your majesty he was poor. I went thither to call him. I told him what haste I was in, spoke to him myself in the garden, and cannot be mistaken in the man."
"If what you say is true," replied the princess, "you must set sail this very day for the city of idolaters, and bring me that gardener's man, who is my debtor; else I will not only confiscate all your goods and those of your merchants, but your life and theirs shall answer for his. I have ordered my seal to be put on the warehouses where their goods are deposited, which shall not be taken off till your return: this is all I have to say to you; go and do as I command you."
The captain could make no reply to this order, the disobeying of which must have proved of such loss to him and his merchants. He acquainted them with it; and they hastened him away as fast as they could, after he had laid in a stock of provisions and fresh water for his voyage.
They were so diligent, that he set sail the same day. He had a prosperous voyage to the city of the idolaters, where he arrived in the night. When he was got as near the city as he thought convenient, he would not cast anchor, but lay to off shore; and going into his boat, with six of his stoutest seamen, landed a little way off the port, whence he went directly to the garden of Kummir al Zummaun.
Though it was about midnight when he came there, the prince was not asleep. His separation from the fair princess of China his wife afflicted him as usual. He cursed the minute in which his curiosity tempted him to touch the fatal girdle.
Thus was he passing those hours which are devoted to rest, when he heard somebody knock at the garden-door: he ran hastily to it; but he had no sooner opened it than the captain and his seamen took hold of him, and carried him to the boat, and so on ship- board. As soon as he was safely lodged, they set sail, and made the best of their way to the isle of Ebene.
Hitherto Kummir al Zummaun, the captain, and his men, had not said a word to one another; at last the prince asked the captain, whom he knew again, why they had taken him away by force? The captain in his turn demanded of the prince, whether he was not a debtor of the king of Ebene? "I the king of Ebene's debtor!" replied the prince in amazement; "I do not know him, and have never set foot in his kingdom." The captain answered, "You should know that better than I; you will talk to him yourself in a little while; till then stay here and have patience."
The captain was not long on his voyage back to the isle of Ebene. Though it was night when he cast anchor in the port, he landed immediately, and taking his prisoner with him, hastened to the palace, where he demanded to be introduced to the king.
The princess Badoura had withdrawn into the inner palace, but as soon as she heard of the captain's return, she came out to speak to him. Immediately as she cast her eyes on the prince, for whom she had shed so many tears, she recognized him in his gardener's habit. As for the prince, who trembled in the presence of a king, as he thought her, to whom he was to answer for an imaginary debt, it could not enter into his thoughts, that the person whom he so earnestly desired to see stood before him. If the princess had followed the dictates of her inclination, she would have run to him, and, by embracing, discovered herself to him; but she put a constraint on herself, believing that it was for the interest of both that she should act the king a little longer before she made herself known. She contented herself for the present to put him into the hands of an officer, who was then in waiting, charging him to take care of him, and use him well, till the next day.
When the princess Badoura had provided for Kummir al Zummaun, she turned to the captain, whom she was now to reward for the important service he had done her. She commanded another officer to go immediately to take the seal off the warehouse which contained his goods, and gave him a rich diamond, worth much more than the expense he had been at in both his voyages. She also bade him keep the thousand pieces of gold she had given for the olives, telling him she would make up the account with the merchant whom he had brought with him.
This done, she returned to the princess of the isle of Ebene's apartment, to whom she communicated her joy, praying her to keep the secret still. She told how she intended to manage the discovering of herself to Kummir al Zumrnaun, and resignation of the kingdom to him; adding, there was so vast a distance between a gardener, as he would appear to the public, and a great prince, that it might be dangerous to raise him at once from the lowest condition of the people to the highest honour, however justice might require it should be done. The princess of the isle of Ebene was so far from betraying her, that she rejoiced with her, and entered into the design.
The next morning the princess of China ordered Kummir al Zummaun to be conducted early to the bath, and then to be appareled in the robes of an emir or governor of a province. She commanded him to be introduced into the council, where his fine person and majestic air drew upon him the eyes of all the lords present.
The princess Badoura herself was charmed to see him look as lovely as ever, and her pleasure inspired her to speak the more warmly in his praise. When she spoke to the council, having ordered the prince to take his seat among the emirs, she addressed them thus: "My lords, Kummir al Zummaun, whom I have advanced to the same dignity with yourselves, is not unworthy of the place assigned him. I have known enough of him in my travels to answer for him, and I can assure you he will make his merit known to all of you, as well by his velour, as by a thousand other brilliant qualities, and the extent of his genius."
The prince was extremely amazed to hear the king of the isle of Ebene, whom he was far from taking for a woman, much less for his dear princess, name him, and declare that he knew him, while he thought himself certain he had never seen him before. He was much more surprised when he heard him praise him so highly. Those praises however from the mouth of majesty did not disconcert him, though he received them with such modesty, as shewed that he deserved them. He prostrated himself before the throne of the king, and rising again, said, "Sire, I want words to express my gratitude to your majesty for the honour you have done me; I shall do all in my power to render myself worthy of your royal favour."
From the council-board the prince was conducted to a palace, which the princess Badoura had ordered to be fitted up for him; where he found officers and domestics ready to obey his commands, a stable full of fine horses, and every thing suitable to the quality of an emir. When he was in his closet, the steward of his household brought him a strong box full of gold for his expenses.
The less he could conceive whence his happiness proceeded, the more he wondered, but he never once imagined that he owed it to the princess of China.
Two or three days after, the princess Badoura, that he might be nearer her person and in a more distinguished post, made him high treasurer, which office had lately become vacant. He conducted himself in his new charge with so much integrity, yet obliging every body, that he not only gained the friendship of the great, but also the affections of the people, by his uprightness and bounty.
Kummir al Zummaun had been the happiest man in the world, to see himself in so high favour with a foreign king as he conceived, and increasing in the esteem of all his subjects, if he had had his princess with him. In the midst of his good fortune he never ceased lamenting her, and grieved that he could hear no tidings of her, especially in a country which she must necessarily have visited in her way to his father's court after their separation. He would have mistrusted something, had the princess still gone by the name of Kummir al Zummaun, which she took with his habit; but on her accession to the throne, she had changed it, and taken that of Armanos, in honour of the old king her father-in-law.
The princess desiring that her husband should owe the discovery of her to herself alone, resolved to put an end to her own torments and his; for she had observed, that as often as she discoursed with him about the affairs of office, he heaved such deep sighs, as could be addressed to nobody but her. While she herself lived in such a constraint, that she could endure it no longer.
The princess Badoura had no sooner formed her resolution in concert with the princess Haiatalnefous, than she the same day took Kummir al Zummaun aside, saying, "I must talk with you about an affair which requires much consideration, and on which I want your advice. As I do not see how it can be done so conveniently as in the night, come hither in the evening, and leave word at home not to be waited for; I will take care to provide you a lodging."
Kummir al Zummaun came punctually to the palace at the hour appointed by the princess; she took him with her into the inner apartment, and having told the chief eunuch, who prepared to follow her, that she had no occasion for his service, conducted him into a different apartment from that of the princess Haiatalnefous, where she used to sleep.
When the prince and princess entered the chamber, she shut the door, and taking the talisman out of a little box, gave it to Kummir al Zummaun, saying, "It is not long since an astrologer presented me with this talisman; you being skilful in all things, may perhaps tell me its use."
Kummir al Zummaun took the talisman, and drew near a lamp to view it. As soon as he recollected it, with an astonishment which gave the princess great pleasure, "Sire," said he to the prince, "your majesty asked me the use of this talisman. Alas! its only purpose is to kill me with grief and despair, if I do not quickly find the most charming and lovely princess in the world to whom it belonged, whose loss it occasioned me by a strange adventure, the recital of which will move your majesty to pity such an unfortunate husband and lover as I am."
"You shall tell me the particulars another time," replied the princess; "I know something of them already: remain here a little, and I will soon return to you."
At these words she went into her closet, put off her royal turban, and in a few minutes dressed herself in her female attire; and having the girdle round her, which she had on the day of their separation, re-entered the chamber.
Kummir al Zummaun immediately recognized his dear princess, ran to her, and tenderly embraced her, exclaiming, "How much am I obliged to the king who has so agreeably surprised me!" "Do not expect to see the king any more," replied the princess, embracing him in her turn, with tears in her eyes: "you see him in me; sit down, and I will explain this enigma to you."
They seated themselves, and the princess related the plan she had formed in the plain where they were encamped the last time they were together, as soon as she perceived she waited for him to no purpose; how she went through with it till she arrived at the isle of Ebene, where she had been obliged to marry the princess Haiatalnefous, and accept of the crown, which king Armanos offered her as a condition of the marriage: how the princess, whose merit she highly extolled, had obliged her to make declaration of her sex: and how she found the talisman in the pots of olives mingled with the gold-dust, which she had bought, and how this circumstance had proved the cause of her sending for him from the city of the idolaters.
When she had concluded her adventure, she obliged the prince to tell her by what means the talisman had occasioned their separation. He satisfied her inquiries; after which, it growing late, they retired to rest.
The princess Badoura and Kummir al Zummaun rose next morning as soon as it was light, but the princess would no more put on her royal robes as king; she dressed herself in her female attire, and then sent the chief eunuch to king Armanos, her father-in- law, to desire he would oblige her by coming to her apartment.
When the king entered the chamber, he was amazed at seeing a lady who was unknown to him, and the high treasurer with her, who was not by etiquette permitted to come within the inner palace. He sat down, and asked where the king was.
The princess answered, "Yesterday I was king, but to-day I am only princess of China, wife to the true prince Kummir al Zummaun. If your majesty will have patience to hear our adventures, I hope you will not condemn me for putting an innocent deceit upon you." The king bade her go on, and heard her narrative from beginning to end with astonishment. The princess on finishing said to him, "Sir, though women do not easily comply with the liberty assumed by men to have several wives; yet if your majesty will consent to give your daughter the princess Haiatalnefous in marriage to the prince, I will with all my heart yield up to her the rank and quality of queen, which of right belongs to her, and content myself with the second place. If this precedence were not her due, I would resign it to her, after the obligation I have to her for keeping my secret so generously. If your majesty refer it to her consent, I am sure of that, having already consulted her; and I will pass my word that she will be very well satisfied."
King Armanos listened to the princess with astonishment, and when she had done, turned to Kummir al Zummaun, saying, "Son, since the princess Badoura your wife, whom I have all along thought to be my son-in-law, through a deceit of which I cannot complain, assures me, that she will divide your bed with my daughter; I would know if you are willing to marry her, and accept of the crown, which the princess Badoura would deservedly wear, if she did not quit it out of love to you." "Sir," replied Kummir al Zummaun, "though I desire nothing so earnestly as to see the king my father, yet the obligations I have to your majesty and the princess Haiatalnefous are so weighty, I can refuse her nothing." The prince was then proclaimed king, and married the same day with all possible demonstrations of joy; and had every reason to be well pleased with the princess Haiatalnefous's beauty, wit, and love for him.
The two queens lived together afterwards on the same friendly terms and in the same cordiality as they had done before, both being contented with Kummir al Zummaun's equal carriage towards them.
The next year each brought him a son at the same time, and the births of the two princes were celebrated with extraordinary rejoicings: the first, whom the princess Badoura was delivered of, was named Amgiad (most illustrious); and the other, born of queen Haiatalnefous, Assad (most virtuous).
[Go to The Princes Amgiad and Assad]
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