Young Prince Beder was brought up and educated in the palace under the care of the King and Queen of Persia. He gave them great pleasure as he advanced in years by his agreeable manners, and by the justness of whatever he said; King Saleh his uncle, the queen his grandmother, and the princesses his relations, came from time to time to see him. He was easily taught to read and write, and was instructed in all the sciences that became a prince of his rank.
When he arrived at the age of fifteen he was very wise and prudent. The king, who had almost from his cradle discovered in him these virtues so necessary for a monarch, and who moreover began to perceive the infirmities of old age coming upon himself every day, would not wait till death gave him possession of the throne, but purposed to resign it to him. He had no great difficulty to make his council consent to it; and the people heard this with so much the more joy, because they considered Prince Beder worthy to govern them. They saw that he treated all mankind with that goodness which invited them to approach him; that he heard favourably all who had anything to say to him; that he answered everybody with a goodness that was peculiar to him; and that he refused nobody anything that had the least appearance of justice.
The day for the ceremony was appointed. In the midst of the whole assembly, which was larger than usual, the King of Persia, then sitting on his throne, came down from it, took the crown from off his head, put it on that of Prince Beder, and having seated him in his place, kissed his hand, as a token that he resigned his authority to him. After which he took his place among the crowd of viziers and emirs below the throne.
Hereupon the viziers, emirs, and other principal officers, came immediately and threw themselves at the new king’s feet, taking each the oath of fidelity according to their rank. Then the grand vizier made a report of various important matters, on which the young king gave judgment with admirable prudence and sagacity that surprised all the council. He next turned out several governors convicted of mal-administration, and put others in their place, with wonderful and just discernment. He at length left the council, accompanied by the late king his father, and went to see his mother, Queen Gulnare. The queen no sooner saw him coming with his crown upon his head, than she ran to him, and embraced him with tenderness, wishing him a long and prosperous reign.
The first year of his reign King Beder acquitted himself of all his royal functions with great care. Above all, he took care to inform himself of the state of his affairs, and all that might in any way contribute towards the happiness of his people. Next year, having left the administration to his council, under the direction of the old king his father, he went out of his capital, under pretext of diverting himself with hunting; but his real intention was to visit all the provinces of his kingdom, that he might reform all abuses there, establish good order and discipline everywhere, and take from all ill-minded princes, his neighbours, any opportunities of attempting any thing against the security and tranquillity of his subjects, by showing himself on his frontiers.
It required no less than a whole year for this young king to carry out his plans. Soon after his return, the old king his father fell so dangerously ill that he knew at once he should never recover. He waited for his last moment with great tranquillity, and his only care was to recommend the ministers and other lords of his son’s court to remain faithful to him: and there was not one but willingly renewed his oath as freely as at first. He died, at length, to the great grief of King Beder and Queen Gulnare, who caused his corpse to be borne to a stately mausoleum, worthy of his rank and dignity.
The funeral ended, King Beder found no difficulty in complying with that ancient custom in Persia to mourn for the dead a whole month, and not to be seen by anybody during all that time. He would have mourned the death of his father his whole life, had it been right for a great prince thus to abandon himself to grief. During this interval the queen, mother to Queen Gulnare, and King Saleh, together with the princesses their relations, arrived at the Persian court, and shared their affliction, before they offered any consolation.
When the month was expired, the king could not refuse admittance to the grand vizier and the other lords of his court, who besought him to lay aside his mourning, to show himself to his subjects, and take upon him the administration of affairs as before.
He showed such great reluctance at their request, that the grand vizier was forced to take upon himself to say to him; ‘Sir, neither our tears nor yours are capable of restoring life to the good king your father, though we should lament him all our days. He has undergone the common law of all men, which subjects them to pay the indispensable tribute of death. Yet we cannot say absolutely that he is dead, since we see him in your sacred person. He did not himself doubt, when he was dying, but that he should revive in you, and to your majesty it belongs to show that he was not deceived.’
King Beder could no longer oppose such pressing entreaties: he laid aside his mourning; and after he had resumed the royal habit and ornaments, he began to provide for the necessities of his kingdom and subjects with the same care as before his father’s death. He acquitted himself with universal approbation: and as he was exact in maintaining the ordinances of his predecessor, the people did not feel they had changed their sovereign.
King Saleh, who had returned to his dominions in the sea with the queen his mother and the princesses, no sooner saw that King Beder had resumed the government, at the end of the month than he came alone to visit him; and King Beder and Queen Gulnare were overjoyed to see him.
One evening when they rose from table, they talked of various matters. King Saleh began with the praises of the king his nephew, and expressed to the queen his sister how glad he was to see him govern so prudently, all of which had acquired him great reputation, not among his neighbours only, but more remote princes. King Beder, who could not bear to hear himself so well spoken of, and not being willing, through good manners, to interrupt the king his uncle, turned on one side to sleep, leaning his head against a cushion that was behind him.
‘Sister,’ said King Saleh, ‘I wonder you have not thought of marrying him ere this: if I mistake not, he is in his twentieth year; and, at that age, no prince like him ought to be suffered to be without a wife. I will think of a wife for him myself, since you will not, and marry him to some princess of our lower world that may be worthy of him.’
‘Brother,’ replied Queen Gulnare, ‘I have never thought of it to this very moment, and I am glad you have spoken of it to me. I like your proposing one of our princesses; and I desire you to name one so beautiful and accomplished that the king my son may be obliged to love her.’
‘I know one that will suit,’ replied King Saleh, softly; ‘but I see many difficulties to be surmounted, not on the lady’s part, as I hope, but on that of her father. I need only mention to you the Princess Giauhara, daughter of the king of Samandal.’
‘What?’ replied Queen Gulnare, ‘is not the Princess Giauhara yet married? I remember to have seen her before I left your palace; she was then about eighteen months old, and surprisingly beautiful, and must needs be the wonder of the world. The few years she is older than the king my son ought not to prevent us from doing our utmost to bring it about. Let me but know the difficulties that are to be surmounted, and we will surmount them.’
‘Sister,’ replied King Saleh, ‘the greatest difficulty is, that the King of Samandal is insupportably vain, looking upon all others as his inferiors: it is not likely we shall easily get him to enter into this alliance. For my part, I will go to him in person, and demand of him the princess his daughter; and, in case he refuses her, we will address ourselves elsewhere, where we shall be more favourably heard. For this reason, as you may perceive,’ added he, ‘it is as well for the king my nephew not to know anything of our design, lest he should fall in love with the Princess Giauhara, till we have got the consent of the King of Samandal, in case, after all, we should not be able to obtain her for him.’ They discoursed a little longer upon this point, and, before they parted, agreed that King Saleh should forthwith return to his own dominions, and demand the Princess Giauhara of the King of Samandal her father, for the King of Persia his nephew.
Now King Beder had heard what they said, and he immediately fell in love with the Princess Giauhara without having even seen her, and he lay awake thinking all night. Next day King Saleh took leave of Queen Gulnare and the king his nephew. The young king, who knew the king his uncle would not have departed so soon but to go and promote his happiness without loss of time, changed colour when he heard him mention his departure. He resolved to desire his uncle to bring the princess away with him: but only asked him to stay with him one day more, that they might hunt together. The day for hunting was fixed, and King Beder had many opportunities of being alone with his uncle, but he had not the courage to open his mouth. In the heat of the chase, when King Saleh was separated from him, and not one of his officers and attendants was near, he alighted near a rivulet; and having tied his horse to a tree, which, with several others growing along the banks, afforded a very pleasing shade, he laid himself down on the grass. He remained a good while absorbed in thought, without speaking a word.
King Saleh, in the meantime, missing the king his nephew, began to be much concerned to know what had become of him. He therefore left his company to go in search of him, and at length perceived him at a distance. He had observed the day before, and more plainly that day, that he was not so lively as he used to be; and that if he was asked a question, he either answered not at all, or nothing to the purpose. As soon as King Saleh saw him lying in that disconsolate posture, he immediately guessed he had heard what passed between him and Queen Gulnare. He hereupon alighted at some distance from him, and having tied his horse to a tree, came upon him so softly, that he heard him say to himself:
‘Amiable princess of the kingdom of Samandal, I would this moment go and offer you my heart, if I knew where to find you.’
King Saleh would hear no more; he advanced immediately, and showed himself to King Beder. ‘From what I see, nephew,’ said he, ‘you heard what the queen your mother and I said the other day of the Princess Giauhara. It was not our intention you should have known anything, and we thought you were asleep.’
‘My dear uncle,’ replied King Beder, ‘I heard every word, but was ashamed to disclose to you my weakness. I beseech you to pity me, and not wait to procure me the consent of the divine Giauhara till you have gained the consent of the King of Samandal that I may marry his daughter.’
These words of the King of Persia greatly embarrassed King Saleh. He represented to him how difficult it was, and that he could not well do it without carrying him along with him; which might be of dangerous consequence, since his presence was so absolutely necessary in his kingdom. He begged him to wait. But these reasons were not sufficient to satisfy the King of Persia.
‘Cruel Uncle,’ said he, ‘I find you do not love me so much as you pretended, and that you had rather see me die than grant the first request I ever made you.’
‘I am ready to convince your majesty,’ replied King Saleh, ‘that I would do anything to serve you; but as for carrying you along with me, I cannot do that till I have spoken to the queen your mother. What would she say of you and me? If she consents, I am ready to do all you would have me, and I will join my entreaties to yours.’
‘If you do really love me,’ replied the King of Persia impatiently, ‘as you would have me believe you do, you must return to your kingdom immediately, and carry me along with you.’
King Saleh, finding himself obliged to yield to his nephew, drew from his finger a ring, on which were engraven the same mysterious names that were upon Solomon’s seal, that had wrought so many wonders by their virtue. ‘Here, take this ring,’ said he, ‘put it upon your finger, and fear neither the waters of the sea, nor their depth.’
The King of Persia took the ring, and when he had put it on his finger, King Saleh said to him, ‘Do as I do.’ At the same time they both mounted lightly up into the air, and made towards the sea which was not far distant, whereinto they both plunged.
The sea-king was not long in getting to his palace with the King of Persia, whom he immediately carried to the queen’s apartment, and presented him to her. The King of Persia kissed the queen his grandmother’s hands, and she embraced him with great joy. ‘I do not ask you how you are,’ said she to him; ‘I see you are very well, and I am rejoiced at it; but I desire to know how is my daughter, your mother, Queen Gulnare?’
The King of Persia told her the queen his mother was in perfect health. Then the queen presented him to the princesses; and while he was in conversation with them, she left him, and went with King Saleh, who told her how the King of Persia was fallen in love with the Princess Giauhara, and that he had brought him along with him, without being able to hinder it.
Although King Saleh was, to do him justice, perfectly innocent, yet the queen could hardly forgive his indiscretion in mentioning the Princess Giauhara before him. ‘Your imprudence is not to be forgiven,’ said she to him: ‘can you think that the King of Samandal, whose character is so well known, will have greater consideration for you than the many other kings he has refused his daughter to with such evident contempt? Would you have him send you away with the same confusion?’
‘Madam,’ replied King Saleh, ‘I have already told you it was contrary to my intention that the king, my nephew, should hear what I related of the Princess Giauhara to the queen my sister. The fault is committed; I will therefore do all that I can to remedy it. I hope, madam, you will approve of my resolution to go myself and wait upon the King of Samandal, with a rich present of precious stones, and demand of him the princess, his daughter, for the King of Persia, your grandson. I have some reason to believe he will not refuse me, but will be pleased at an alliance with one of the greatest potentates of the earth.’
‘It were to have been wished,’ replied the queen, ‘that we had not been under a necessity of making this demand, since the success of our attempt is not so certain as we could desire; but since my grandson’s peace and content depend upon it, I freely give my consent. But, above all, I charge you, since you well know the temper of the King of Samandal, that you take care to speak to him with due respect, and in a manner that cannot possibly offend him.’
The queen prepared the present herself, composed of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and strings of pearl; all of which she put into a very neat and very rich box. Next morning, King Saleh took leave of her majesty and the King of Persia, and departed with a chosen and small troop of officers and other attendants. He soon arrived at the kingdom and the palace of the King of Samandal, who rose from his throne as soon as he perceived him; and King Saleh, forgetting his character for some moments, though knowing whom he had to deal with, prostrated himself at his feet, wishing him the accomplishment of all his desires. The King of Samandal immediately stooped to raise him up, and after he had placed him on his left hand, he told him he was welcome, and asked him if there was anything he could do to serve him.
‘Sir,’ answered King Saleh, ‘though I should have no other motive than that of paying my respects to the most potent, most prudent, and most valiant prince in the world, feeble would be my expressions how much I honour your majesty.’ Having, spoken these words, he took the box of jewels from one of his servants and having opened it, presented it to the king, imploring him to accept it for his sake.
‘Prince,’ replied the King of Samandal, ‘you would not make me such a present unless you had a request to propose. If there be anything in my power, you may freely command it, and I shall feel the greatest pleasure in granting it. Speak, and tell me frankly wherein I can serve you.’
‘I must own,’ replied King Saleh, ‘I have a boon to ask of your majesty; and I shall take care to ask nothing but what is in your power to grant. The thing depends so absolutely on yourself, that it would be to no purpose to ask it of any other. I ask it then with all possible earnestness, and I beg of you not to refuse it me.’
‘If it be so,’ replied the King of Samandal, ‘you have nothing to do but acquaint me what it is, and you shall see after what manner I can oblige when it is in my power.’
‘Sir,’ said King Saleh, ‘after the confidence your majesty has been pleased to encourage me to put in your goodwill, I will not dissemble any longer. I came to beg of you to honour our house with your alliance by the marriage of your honourable daughter the Princess Giauhara, and to strengthen the good understanding that has so long subsisted between our two crowns.’
At these words the King of Samandal burst out laughing falling back in his throne against a cushion that supported him, and with an imperious and scornful air, said to King Saleh: ‘King Saleh, I have always hitherto thought you a prince of great sense; but what you say convinces me how much I was mistaken. Tell me, I beseech you, where was your discretion, when you imagined to yourself so great an absurdity as you have just now proposed to me? Could you conceive a thought only of aspiring in marriage to a princess, the daughter of so great and powerful a king as I am? You ought to have considered better beforehand the great distance between us, and not run the risk of losing in a moment the esteem I always had for your person.’
King Saleh was extremely nettled at this affronting, answer, and had much ado to restrain his resentment; however, he replied, with all possible moderation, ‘God reward your majesty as you deserve! I have the honour to inform you, I do not demand the princess your daughter in marriage for myself; had I done so your majesty and the princess ought to have been so far from being offended, that you should have thought it an honour done to both. Your majesty well knows I am one of the kings of the sea as well as yourself; that the kings, my ancestors, yield not in antiquity to any other royal families; and that the kingdom I inherit from them is no less potent and flourishing than it has ever been. If your majesty had not interrupted me, you had soon understood that the favour I ask of you was not for myself, but for the young King of Persia, my nephew, whose power and grandeur, no less than his personal good qualities, cannot be unknown to you. Everybody acknowledges the Princess Giauhara to be the most beautiful person in the world: but it is no less true that the young King of Persia, my nephew, is the best and most accomplished prince on the land. Thus the favour that is asked being likely to redound both to the honour of your majesty and the princess your daughter, you ought not to doubt that your consent to an alliance so equal will be unanimously approved in all the kingdoms of the sea. The princess is worthy of the King of Persia, and the King of Persia is no less worthy of her. No king or prince in the world can dispute her with him.’
The King of Samandal would not have let King Saleh go on so long after this rate, had not the rage he put him in deprived him of all power of speech. It was some time before he could find his tongue, so much was he transported with passion. At length, however, he broke into outrageous language, unworthy of a great king. ‘Dog!’ cried he, ‘dare you talk to me after this manner, and so much as mention my daughter’s name in my presence? Can you think the son of your sister Gulnare worthy to come in competition with my daughter? Who are you? Who was your father? Who is your sister? And who your nephew? Was not his father a dog, and a son of a dog, like you? Guards, seize the insolent wretch, and cut off his head.’
The few officers that were about the King of Samandal were immediately going to obey his orders, when King Saleh, who was nimble and vigorous, got from them before they could draw their sabres; and having reached the palace gate, he there found a thousand men of his relations and friends, well armed and equipped, who had just arrived. The queen his mother having considered the small number of attendants he took with him, and, moreover, foreseeing the bad reception he would probably have from the King of Samandal, had sent these troops to protect and defend him in case of danger, ordering them to make haste. Those of his relations who were at the head of this troop had reason to rejoice at their seasonable arrival, when they beheld him and his attendants come running in great disorder and pursued. ‘Sir,’ cried his friends, the moment he joined them, ‘what is the matter? We are ready to revenge you: you need only command us.’
King Saleh related his case to them in as few words as he could, and putting himself at the head of a large troop, he, while some seized on the gates, re-entered the palace as before. The few officers and guards who had pursued him being soon dispersed, he re-entered the King of Samandal’s apartment, who, being abandoned by his attendants, was soon seized. King Saleh left sufficient guards to secure his person, and then went from apartment to apartment, in search of the Princess Giauhara. But that princess, on the first alarm, had, together with her women, sprung up to the surface of the sea, and escaped to a desert island.
While this was passing in the palace of the King of Samandal, those of King Saleh’s attendants who had fled at the first menaces of that king put the queen mother into terrible consternation upon relating the danger her son was in. King Beder, who was by at that time, was the more concerned, in that he looked upon himself as the principal author of all the mischief: therefore, not caring to abide in the queen’s presence any longer, he darted up from the bottom of the sea; and, not knowing how to find his way to the kingdom of Persia, he happened to light on the island where the Princess Giauhara had taken refuge.
The prince, not a little disturbed in mind, went and seated himself under the shade of a large tree. Whilst he was endeavouring to recover himself, he heard somebody talking, but was too far off to understand what was said. He arose and advanced softly towards the place whence the sound came, where, among the branches, he perceived a most beautiful lady. ‘Doubtless,’ said he, within himself, stopping and considering her with great attention, ‘this must be the Princess Giauhara, whom fear has obliged to abandon her father’s palace.’ This said, he came forward, and approached the princess with profound reverence. ‘Madam,’ said he, ‘a greater happiness could not have befallen me than this opportunity to offer you my most humble services. I beseech you, therefore, madam, to accept them, it being impossible that a lady in this solitude should not want assistance.’
‘True, my lord,’ replied Giauhara very sorrowfully, ‘it is not a little extraordinary for a lady of my rank to be in this situation. I am a princess, daughter of the King of Samandal, and my name is Giauhara. I was in my father’s palace, when all of a sudden I heard a dreadful noise: news was immediately brought me that King Saleh, I know not for what reason, had forced his way into the palace, seized the king my father, and murdered all the guards that made any resistance. I had only time to save myself, and escaped hither from his violence.’
At these words of the princess, King Beder began to be concerned that he had quitted his grandmother so hastily, without staying to hear from her an explanation of the news that had been brought her. But he was, on the other hand, overjoyed to find that the king, his uncle, had rendered himself master of the King of Samandal’s person, not doubting but that he would consent to give up the princess for his liberty. ‘Adorable princess,’ continued he, ‘your concern is most just, but it is easy to put an end both to that and to your father’s captivity. You will agree with me when I tell you that I am Beder, King of Persia, and King Saleh is my uncle; I assure you, madam, he has no design to seize upon the king your father’s dominions; his only intent is to obtain his consent that I may have the honour and happiness of being his son-in-law. I had already given my heart to you, and now, far from repenting of what I have done, I beg of you to be assured that I will love you as long as I live. Permit me, then, beauteous princess! to have the honour to go and present you to the king my uncle; and the king your father shall no sooner have consented to our marriage, than King Saleh will leave him sovereign of his dominions as before.’
This declaration of King Beder did not produce the effect he expected. When the princess heard from his own mouth that he had been the occasion of the ill-treatment her father had suffered, of the grief and fright she had endured, and especially the necessity she was reduced to of flying her country, she looked upon him as an enemy with whom she ought to have nothing whatever to do.
King Beder, believing himself arrived at the very pinnacle of happiness, stretched forth his hand, and taking that of the princess’ stooped down to kiss it, when she, pushing him back, said, ‘Wretch, quit that form of a man, and take that of a white bird, with a red bill and feet.’ Upon her pronouncing these words, King Beder was immediately changed into a bird of that sort, to his great surprise and mortification. ‘Take him,’ said she to one of her women, ‘and carry him to the Dry Island.’ This island was only one frightful rock, where there was not a drop of water to be had.
The waiting-woman took the bird, and in executing her princess’s orders had compassion on King Beder’s destiny. ‘It would be a great pity,’ said she to herself, ‘to let a prince, so worthy to live, die of hunger and thirst. The princess, so good and gentle, will, it may be, repent of this cruel order when she comes to herself: it were better that I carried him to a place where he may die a natural death.’ She accordingly carried him to a well-frequented island, and left him in a charming plain, planted with all sorts of fruit trees, and watered by several rivulets.
Let us return to King Saleh. After he had sought a good while for the Princess Giauhara, and ordered others to seek for her, to no purpose, he caused the King of Samandal to be shut up in his own palace, under a strong guard; and having given the necessary orders for governing the kingdom in his absence, he returned to give the queen his mother an account of what he had done. The first thing he asked upon his arrival was of the whereabouts of the king his nephew, and he learned with great surprise and vexation that he had disappeared.
‘News being brought me,’ said the queen, ‘of the danger you were in at the palace of the King of Samandal, whilst I was giving orders to send other troops to avenge you, he disappeared. He must have been frightened at hearing of your being in so great danger, and did not think himself in sufficient safety with us.’
This news exceedingly afflicted King Saleh, who now repented of his being so easily wrought upon by King Beder as to carry him away with him without his mother’s consent. Whilst he was in this suspense about his nephew, he left his kingdom under the administration of his mother, and went to govern that of the King of Samandal, whom he continued to keep under great vigilance, though with all due respect to his rank.
The same day that King Saleh returned to the kingdom of Samandal, Queen Gulnare, mother to King Beder, arrived at the court of the queen her mother. The princess was not at all surprised to find her son did not return the same day he set out, it being not uncommon for him to go further than he proposed in the heat of the chase; but when she saw that he returned neither the next day, nor the day after, she began to be alarmed. This alarm was increased when the officers, who had accompanied the king, and were obliged to return after they had for a long time sought in vain for both him and his uncle, came and told her majesty they must of necessity have come to some harm, or be together in some place which they could not guess, since they could hear no tidings of them. Their horses, indeed, they had found, but as for their persons, they knew not where to look for them. The queen, hearing this, had resolved to dissemble and conceal her affliction, bidding the officers to search once more with their utmost diligence; but in the mean time, saying nothing to anybody, she plunged into the sea, to satisfy herself as to the suspicion she had that King Saleh must have carried away his nephew along with him.
This great queen would have been more affectionately received by the queen her mother, had she not, upon first sight of her, guessed the occasion of her coming. ‘Daughter,’ said she, ‘I plainly perceive you are not come hither to visit me; you come to inquire after the king your son; and the only news I can tell you will augment both your grief and mine. I no sooner saw him arrive in our territories, than I rejoiced; yet, when I came to understand he had come away without your knowledge, I began to share with you the concern you must needs feel.’ Then she related to her with what zeal King Saleh went to demand the Princess Giauhara in marriage for King Beder, and what had happened, till her son disappeared. ‘I have sent diligently after him,’ added she, ‘and the king my son, who is but just gone to govern the kingdom of Samandal, has done all that lay in his power. All our endeavours have hitherto proved unsuccessful, but we must hope nevertheless to see him again, perhaps when we least expect it.’
Queen Gulnare was not satisfied with this hope; she looked upon the king her dear son as lost, and lamented him bitterly, laying all the blame upon the king his uncle. The queen her mother made her consider the necessity of not yielding too much to her grief. ‘The king your brother,’ said she, ‘ought not, it is true, to have talked to you so imprudently about that marriage, nor ever have consented to carry away the king my grandson, without acquainting you first; yet, since it is not certain that the King of Persia is absolutely lost, you ought to neglect nothing to preserve his kingdom for him: lose, then, no more time, but return to your capital; your presence there will be necessary, and it will not be hard for you to preserve the public peace, by causing it to be published that the King of Persia was gone to visit his grandmother.’
Queen Gulnare yielded. She took leave of the queen her mother, and was back in the palace of the capital of Persia before she had been missed. She immediately despatched persons to recall the officers she had sent after the king, and to tell them she knew where his majesty was, and that they should soon see him again. She also governed with the prime minister and council as quietly as if the king had been present.
To return to King Beder, whom the Princess Giauhara’s waiting-woman had carried and left in the island before mentioned; that monarch was not a little surprised when he found himself alone, and under the form of a bird. He felt yet more unhappy that he knew not where he was, nor in what part of the world the kingdom of Persia lay. He was forced to remain where he was, and live upon such food as birds of his kind were wont to eat, and to pass the night on a tree.
A few days after, a peasant that was skilled in taking birds with nets chanced to come to the place where he was; when perceiving so fine a bird, the like of which he had never seen before, he began greatly to rejoice. He employed all his art to catch him, and at length succeeded. Overjoyed at so great a prize, which he looked upon as of more worth than all the other birds, because so rare, he shut it up in a cage, and carried it to the city. As soon as he was come into the market, a citizen stops him, and asked him how much he wanted for that bird.
Instead of answering, the peasant asked the citizen what he would do with him in case he should buy him? ‘What wouldst thou have me to do with him,’ answered the citizen, ‘but roast and eat him?’
‘If that be the case,’ replied the peasant, ‘I suppose you would think me very well paid if you gave me the smallest piece of silver for him. I set a much higher value upon him, and you should not have him for a piece of gold. Although I am advanced in years, I never saw such a bird in my life. I intend to make a present of him to the king; he will know the value of him better than you.’
Without staying any longer in the market, the peasant went directly to the palace, and placed himself exactly before the king’s apartment. His majesty, being at a window where he could see all that passed in the court, no sooner cast his eyes on this beautiful bird, than he sent an officer to buy it for him. The officer, going to the peasant, asked him how much he wanted for that bird. ‘If it be for his majesty,’ answered the peasant, ‘I humbly beg of him to accept it of me as a present, and I desire you to carry it to him.’ The officer took the bird to the king, who found it so great a rarity that he ordered the same officer to take ten pieces of gold, and carry them to the peasant, who departed very well satisfied. The king ordered the bird to be put into a magnificent cage, and gave it seed and water in rich vessels.
His majesty being then ready to go hunting, had not time to consider the bird, therefore had it brought to him as soon as he came back. The officer brought the cage, and the king, that he might better see the bird, took it out himself, and perched it upon his hand. Looking earnestly at it, he asked the officer if he had seen it eat. ‘Sir,’ replied the officer, ‘your majesty may observe the vessel with his food is still full, and he has not touched any of it.’ Then the king ordered him meat of various sorts, that he might take what he liked best.
The table being spread, and dinner served up just as the king had given these orders, the bird, flapping his wings, hopped off the king’s hand, and flew on to the table, where he began to peck the bread and victuals, sometimes on one plate, and sometimes on another. The king was so surprised, that he immediately sent the officer to desire the queen to come and see this wonder. The officer related it to her majesty, and she came forthwith: but she no sooner saw the bird, than she covered her face with her veil, and would have retired. The king, surprised at her proceeding, asked the reason of it.
‘Sir,’ answered the queen, ‘your majesty will no longer be surprised when you understand that this bird is not, as you take it, a bird, but a man.’
‘Madam,’ said the king, more astonished than before, ‘you are making fun of me; you shall never persuade me that a bird can be a man.’
‘Sir,’ replied the queen, ‘far be it from me to make fun of your majesty; nothing is more certain than what I have had the honour to tell you. I can assure your majesty it is the King of Persia, named Beder, son of the celebrated Gulnare, princess of one of the largest kingdoms of the sea, nephew of Saleh, king of that kingdom, and grandson of Queen Farasche, mother of Gulnare and Saleh; and it was the Princess Giauhara, daughter of the King of Samandal, who thus metamorphosed him into a bird.’ That the king might no longer doubt of what she affirmed, she told him the whole story, how and for what reason the Princess Giauhara, had thus revenged herself for the ill-treatment of King Saleh towards the king of Samandal, her father.
The king had less difficulty in believing this assertion of the queen in that he knew her to be a skilful magician, one of the greatest in the world. And as she knew everything which took place, he was always by her means timely informed of the designs of the kings his neighbours against him, and prevented them. His majesty had compassion on the King of Persia, and earnestly besought his queen to break the enchantment, that he might return to his own form.
The queen consented to it with great willingness. ‘Sir,’ said she to the king, ‘be pleased to take the bird into your room, and I will show you a king worthy of the consideration you have for him.’ The bird, which had ceased eating, and attended to what the king and queen said, would not give his majesty the trouble to take him, but hopped into the room before him; and the queen came in soon after, with a vessel full of water in her hand. She pronounced over the vessel some words unknown to the king, till the water began to boil, when she took some of it in her hand, and, sprinkling a little upon the bird, said, ‘By virtue of these holy and mysterious words I have just pronounced, quit that form of a bird, and reassume that which thou hast received from thy Creator.’
The words were scarcely out of the queen’s mouth, when, instead of a bird, the king saw a young prince. King Beder immediately fell on his knees, and thanked God for the favour that had been bestowed upon him. Then he took the king’s hand, who helped him up, and kissed it in token of gratitude; but the king embraced him with great joy. He would then have made his acknowledgments to the queen, but she had already retired to her apartment. The king made him sit at the table with him, and, after dinner was over, prayed him to relate how the Princess Giauhara could have had the inhumanity to transform into a bird so amiable a prince as he was; and the King of Persia immediately told him. When he had done, the king, provoked at the proceeding of the princess, could not help blaming her. ‘It was commendable,’ said he, ‘in the Princess of Samandal to feel hurt at the king her father’s ill-treatment; but to carry her vengeance so far, and especially against a prince who was not guilty, was what she will never be able to justify herself for. But let us have done with this discourse, and tell me, I beseech you, in what I can further serve you.’
‘Sir,’ answered King Beder, ‘my obligation to your majesty is so great, that I ought to remain with you all my life to testify my gratitude; but since your majesty sets no limits to your generosity, I entreat you to grant me one of your ships to transport me to Persia, where I fear my absence, which has been but too long, may have occasioned some disorder, and that the queen my mother, from whom I concealed my departure, may be dead of grief, under the uncertainty whether I am alive or dead.’
The king granted what he desired with the best grace imaginable, and immediately gave orders for equipping one of his largest ships, and the best sailor in his numerous fleet. The ship was soon furnished with all its crew, provisions, and ammunition; and as soon as the wind became fair, King Beder embarked, after having taken leave of the king, and thanked him for all his favours.
The ship sailed before the wind for ten days; on the eleventh day the wind changed, and becoming very violent, there followed a furious tempest. The ship was not only driven out of its course, but so violently tossed, that all its masts went by the board; and driving along at the pleasure of the wind, it at length struck against a rock and split open.
The greater part of the people were instantly drowned. Some few were saved by swimming, and others by getting on pieces of the wreck. King Beder was among the latter, and, after having been tossed about for some time by the waves and currents, he at length perceived himself near the shore, and not far from a city that seemed large. He exerted his remaining strength to reach the land, and was at length fortunate to come so near as to be able to touch the ground with his feet. He immediately abandoned his piece of wood, which had been of so great service to him; but when he came near the shore he was greatly surprised to see horses, camels, mules, asses, oxen, cows, bulls, and other animals crowding to the shore to oppose his landing. He had the utmost difficulty to conquer their obstinacy and force his way; but at length he succeeded, and sheltered himself among the rocks till he had recovered his breath, and dried his clothes in the sun.
When the prince advanced to enter the city, he met with the same opposition from these animals, who seemed to want to make him understand that it was dangerous to proceed.
King Beder, however, got into the city soon after, and saw many fair and spacious streets, but was surprised to find no man there. This made him think it was not without cause that so many animals had opposed his passage. Going forward, nevertheless, he observed several shops open, which gave him reason to believe the place was not so destitute of inhabitants as he imagined. He approached one of these shops, where several sorts of fruits were exposed to sale, and saluted very courteously an old man that was sitting there.
The old man, who was busy about something, lifted up his head, and seeing a youth who had an appearance of grandeur, started, and asked him whence he came, and what business had brought him there. King Beder satisfied him in a few words; and the old man further asked him if he had met anybody on the road. ‘You are the first person I have seen,’ answered the king; ‘and I cannot comprehend how so fine and large a city comes to be without inhabitants.’
‘Come in, sir; stay no longer upon the threshold,’ replied the old man, ‘or peradventure some misfortune may happen to you. I will satisfy your curiosity at leisure, and give you the reason why it is necessary you should take this precaution.’
King Beder would not be bidden twice: he entered the shop, and sat down by the old man. The latter knew he must want food, therefore immediately presented him with what was necessary to recover his strength; and although King Beder was very anxious to know why he had taken the precaution to make him enter the shop, the old man nevertheless would not tell him anything till he had done eating, for fear the sad things he had to relate might take away his appetite. At last he said to him, ‘You have great reason to thank God you got hither without any misfortune.’
‘Alas! why?’ replied king Beder, very much surprised and alarmed.
‘Because,’ answered he, ‘this city is called the City of Enchantments, and is governed not by a king, but by a queen, who is a notorious and dangerous sorceress. You will be convinced of this,’ added he, ‘when you know that these horses, mules, and other animals that you have seen are so many men, like you and me, whom she has transformed by her diabolical art. And when young men like you enter the city, she has persons stationed to stop and bring them, either by fair means or force, before her. She receives them in the most obliging manner; she caresses them, regales them, and lodges them magnificently. But she does not suffer them long to enjoy this happiness. There is not one of them whom she has not transformed into some animal or bird at the end of forty days. You told me all these animals opposed your landing and entering, the city. This was the only way they could make you comprehend the danger you were going to expose yourself to, and they did all in their power to save you.’
This account exceedingly afflicted the young King of Persia. ‘Alas!’ cried he, ‘to what extremities has my ill-fortune reduced me! I am hardly freed from one enchantment, which I look back upon with horror, but I find myself exposed to another much more terrible.’ This gave him occasion to relate his story to the old man more at length, and to acquaint him with his birth, quality, his falling in love with the Princess of Samandal, and her cruelty in changing him into a bird the very moment he had seen her and declared his love to her.
When the prince came to speak of his good fortune in finding a queen who broke the enchantment, the old man, to encourage him, said, ‘Notwithstanding all I told you of the magic queen, that ought not to give you the least disquiet, since I am generally beloved throughout the city, and am not unknown to the queen herself, who has much respect for me; therefore it was singularly fortunate that you addressed yourself to me rather than elsewhere. You are secure in my house, where I advise you to continue, if you think fit; and provided you do not stray from hence, I dare assure you you will have no just cause to complain; so that you are under no sort of constraint whatsoever.’
King Beder thanked the old man for his kind reception, and the protection he was pleased so readily to afford him. He sat down at the entrance of the shop, where he no sooner appeared than his youth and handsome looks drew the eyes of all that passed that way. Many stopped and complimented the old man on his having acquired so fine a slave, as they imagined the king to be; and they were the more surprised, because they could not comprehend how so beautiful a youth could escape the queen’s knowledge. ‘Believe not,’ said the old man, ‘that this is a slave; you all know that I am not rich enough. He is my nephew, son of a brother of mine that is dead; and as I had no children of my own, I sent for him to keep me company.’
They congratulated his good fortune in having so fine a young man for his relation; but could not help telling him they feared the queen would take him from him. ‘You know her well,’ said they, ‘and you cannot be ignorant of the danger to which you are exposed, after all the examples you have seen. How grieved would you be if she should serve him as she has done so many others that we know of!’
‘I am obliged to you,’ replied the old man, ‘for your good will towards me, and I heartily thank you for your care; but I shall never entertain the least thought that the queen will do me any injury, after all the kindness she has professed for me. In case she happens to hear of this young man, and speaks to me about him, I doubt not she will cease to think of him, so soon as she comes to know he is my nephew.’
The old man was exceedingly glad to hear the commendations they bestowed on the young King of Persia. He became as fond of him as if he had been his own son. They had lived about a month together, when, King Beder sitting at the shop-door, after his ordinary manner, Queen Labe (so was this magic queen named) happened to come by with great pomp. The young king no sooner perceived the guards coming before her, than he arose, and, going into the shop, asked the old man what all that show meant. ‘The queen is coming by,’ answered he, ‘but stand still and fear nothing.’
The queen’s guards, clothed in purple uniform, and well armed and mounted, marched in four files, with their sabres drawn, to the number of a thousand, and every one of their officers, as they passed by the shop, saluted the old man: then followed a like number habited in brocaded silk, and better mounted, whose officers did the old man the like honour. Next came as many young ladies on foot, equally beautiful, richly dressed, and set off with precious stones. They marched gravely, with half pikes in their hands; and in the midst of them appeared Queen Labe, on a horse glittering with diamonds, with a golden saddle, and a harness of inestimable value. All the young ladies saluted the old man as they passed by him; and the queen, struck with the good mien of King Beder, stopped as soon as she came before the shop. ‘Abdallah’ (so was the old man named), said she to him, ‘tell me, I beseech thee, does that beautiful and charming slave belong to thee? and is it long that thou hast been in possession of him?’
Abdallah, before he answered the queen, threw himself on the ground, and rising again, said, ‘Madam, it is my nephew, son of a brother I had, who has not long been dead. Having no children, I look upon him as my son, and sent for him to come and comfort me, intending to leave him what I have when I die.’
Queen Labe, who had never yet seen any one to compare with King Beder, thought immediately of getting the old man to abandon him to her. ‘Father,’ quoth she, ‘will you not oblige me so far as to make me a present of this young man? Do not refuse me, I conjure you; and I swear by the fire and the light, I will make him so great and powerful that no individual in the world ever arrived at such good fortune. Although my purpose were to do evil to all mankind, yet he shall be the sole exception. I trust you will grant me what I desire, more on the account of the friendship I know you have for me, than for the esteem you know I always had, and shall ever have for you.’
‘Madam,’ replied the good Abdallah, ‘I am infinitely obliged to your majesty for all your kindness, and the honours you propose to do my nephew. He is not worthy to approach so great a queen, and I humbly beseech your majesty to excuse him.’
‘Abdallah,’ replied the queen, ‘I all along flattered myself you loved me; and I could never have thought you would have given me so evident a token of your slighting my request. But I here swear once more by the fire and light, and even by whatsoever is most sacred in my religion, that I will pass on no farther till I have conquered your obstinacy. I understand very well what raises your apprehensions; but I promise you shall never have any occasion to repent having obliged me in so sensible a manner.’
Old Abdallah was exceedingly grieved, both on his own account and King Beder’s, for being in a manner forced to obey the queen. ‘Madam,’ replied he, ‘I would not willingly have your majesty entertain an ill opinion of the respect I have for you, and my zeal always to do whatever I can to oblige you. I put entire confidence in your royal word, and I do not in the least doubt but you will keep it. I only beg of your majesty to delay doing this great honour to my nephew till you shall again pass this way.’
‘That shall be to-morrow,’ said the queen, who inclined her head, as a token of being pleased, and so went forward towards her palace.
When Queen Labe and all her attendants were out of sight, the good Abdallah said to King Beder, ‘Son, (for so he was wont to call him, for fear of some time or other betraying him when he spoke of him in public), ‘it has not been in my power, as you may have observed, to refuse the queen what she demanded of me with so great earnestness, for fear I might force her to employ her magic both against you and myself openly or secretly, and treat you, as much from resentment to you as to me, with more signal cruelty than all those she has had in her power before. But I have some reason to believe she will treat you well, as she promised, on account of that particular esteem she professes for me. This you may have seen by the respect shown, and the honours paid me by all her court. She would be a fiendish creature indeed, if she should deceive me; but she shall not deceive me unrevenged, for I know how to be even with her.’
These assurances, which appeared very doubtful, were not sufficient to raise King Beder’s spirits. ‘After all you have told me of this queen’s wickedness,’ replied he, ‘you cannot wonder if I am somewhat fearful to approach her: I might, it may be, make little of all you could tell me of her, did I not know by experience what it is to be at the mercy of a sorceress. The condition I was in, through the enchantment of the Princess Giauhara, and from whence I was delivered only to enter almost immediately into another, has made me look upon such a fate with horror.
‘Son,’ replied old Abdallah, ‘do not afflict yourself; for though I must own there is no great faith to be put in the promises and oaths of so perfidious a queen, yet I must withal tell you that her power extends not to me. She knows it well herself; and that is the reason, and no other, that she pays me such great respect. I can quickly hinder her from doing you the least harm, if she should be perfidious enough to attempt it. You may depend upon me; and, provided you follow exactly the advice I shall give you before I hand you over to her, she shall have no more power over you than she has over me.’
The magic queen did not fail to pass by the old man’s shop the next day, with the same pomp as the day before, and Abdallah waited for her with great respect. ‘Father,’ cried she, stopping just before him, ‘you may judge of my impatience to have your nephew with me, by my punctual coming to put you in mind of your promise. I know you are a man of your word, and I cannot think you will break it with me.’
Abdallah, who fell on his face as soon as he saw the queen approaching, rose up when she had done speaking; and as he wanted nobody to hear what he had a mind to say to her, he advanced with great respect as far as her horse’s head, and then said softly, ‘Powerful queen! I am persuaded your majesty will not be offended at my seeming unwillingness to trust my nephew with you yesterday, since you cannot be ignorant of the reasons I had for it; but I implore you to lay aside the secrets of that art which you possess in so wonderful a degree. I regard my nephew as my own son; and your majesty would reduce me to despair if you should deal with him as you have done with others.’
‘I promise you I will not,’ replied the queen; ‘and I once more repeat the oath I made yesterday, that neither you nor your nephew shall have any cause to be offended with me. I see plainly,’ added she, ‘you are not yet well enough acquainted with me; you never saw me yet but through a veil; but as I find your nephew worthy of my friendship, I will show you I am not in any way unworthy of his.’ With that she threw off her veil and showed King Beder, who came near her with Abdallah, incomparable beauty.
But King Beder was little charmed. ‘It is not enough,’ said he within himself, ‘to be beautiful; one’s actions ought to correspond.’
Whilst King Beder was making these reflections, with his eyes fixed on Queen Labe, the old man turned towards him, and taking him by the arm, presented him to her majesty. ‘Here he is, madam,’ said he, ‘and I beg of your majesty once more to remember he is my nephew, and to let him come and see me sometimes.’ The queen promised he should; and to give a further mark of her gratitude, she caused a bag of a thousand pieces of gold to be given him. He excused himself at first from receiving them, but she insisted absolutely upon it, and he could not refuse her. She had caused a horse to be brought (as richly harnessed as her own) for the King of Persia.
When King Beder was mounted, he would have taken his place behind the queen, but she would not suffer him, and made him ride on her left hand. She looked at Abdallah, and after having made him an inclination with her head, she set forward on her march.
Instead of observing a satisfaction in the people’s faces at the sight of their sovereign, King Beder took notice that they looked at her with contempt, and even cursed her. ‘The sorceress,’ said some, ‘has got a new subject to exercise her wickedness upon: will Heaven never deliver the world from her tyranny?’ ‘Poor stranger!’ cried out others, ‘thou art much deceived if thou thinkest thine happiness will last long. It is only to render thy fall most terrible that thou art raised so high.’ This talk gave King Beder to understand that Abdallah had told him nothing but the truth of Queen Labe: but as it now depended no longer on himself to escape the mischief, he committed himself to divine Providence and the will of Heaven respecting his fate.
The magic queen arrived at her palace; she alighted, and giving her hand to King Beder, entered with him, accompanied by her women and the officers. She herself showed him all her apartments, where there was nothing to be seen but massy gold, precious stones, and furniture of wonderful magnificence. Then she led him out into a balcony, from whence he observed a garden of surprising beauty. King Beder commended all he saw, but so that he might not be discovered to be any other than old Abdallah’s nephew. They discoursed of indifferent matters, till the queen was informed that dinner was upon the table.
The queen and King Beder arose, and sat down at the table, which was of massy gold, and the dishes of the same metal. They began to eat, but drank hardly at all till the dessert came, when the queen caused a cup to be filled for her with excellent wine. She took it and drank to King Beder’s health; and then, without putting it out of her hand, caused it to be filled again, and presented it to him. King Beder received it with profound respect, and by a very low bow signified to her majesty that he in return drank to her health.
At the same time ten of Queen Labe’s women entered with musical instruments, with which they made an agreeable concert. At length both began so to be heated with wine, that King Beder forgot he had to do with a magic queen, and looked upon her only as the most beautiful queen he ever saw.
Next morning the women who had served the king presented him with fine linen and a magnificent robe. The queen likewise, who was more splendidly dressed than the day before, came to receive him, and they went together to her apartments, where they had a good repast brought them, and spent the remainder of the day in walking in the garden, and in various other amusements.
Queen Labe treated King Beder after this manner for forty days, as she had been accustomed to do to all the others. The fortieth night she arose without making any noise and came into his room; but he was awake, and perceiving she had some design upon him, watched all her motions. She opened a chest, from whence she took a little box full of a certain yellow powder; taking some of the powder, she laid a train of it across the chamber, and it immediately flowed in a rivulet of water, to the great astonishment of King Beder. He trembled with fear, but still pretended to sleep, that the sorceress might not discover he was awake.
Queen Labe next took up some of the water in a vessel, and poured it into a basin, where there was flour, with which she made a paste, and kneaded it for a long time: then she mixed with it certain drugs, which she took from different boxes, and made a cake, which she put into a covered baking-pan. As she had taken care first of all to make a good fire, she took some of the coals, and set the pan upon them; and while the cake was baking, she put up the vessels and boxes in their places again; and on her pronouncing certain words, the rivulet, which ran along the end of the room, appeared no more. When the cake was baked, she took it off the coals, and carried it into her room, without the least suspicion that he had seen anything of what she had done.
King Beder, whom the pleasures and amusements of a court had made forget his good host Abdallah, began now to think of him again, and believed he had more than ordinary occasion for his advice, after all he had seen the queen do that night. As soon as he was up, therefore, he expressed a great desire to go and see his uncle, and begged her majesty to permit him. ‘What! my dear Beder,’ cried the queen, ‘are you then already tired, I will not say with living in so superb a palace as mine is, where you must find so many pleasures, but with the company of a queen who is so fond of you as I am?’
‘Great queen!’ answered King Beder, ‘how can I be tired of so many favours and graces as your majesty perpetually heaps upon me? I must own, however, it is partly for this reason, that, my uncle loving me so tenderly, as I well know he does, and I having been absent from him now forty days, without once seeing him, I would not give him reason to think that I consent to remain longer without seeing him.’
‘Go,’ said the queen, ‘you have my consent; but do not be long before you return.’ This said, she ordered him a horse richly caparisoned, and he departed.
Old Abdallah was overjoyed to see King Beder; he embraced him tenderly, and King Beder did the same. As soon as they had sat down, ‘Well,’ said Abdallah to the king, ‘how have you been, and how have you passed your time with that infidel sorceress?’
‘Hitherto,’ answered King Beder, ‘I must needs own she has been extraordinarily kind to me, but I observed something last night which gives me just reason to suspect that all her kindness hitherto is but dissimulation.’ He related to Abdallah how and after what manner he had seen her make the cake; and then added, ‘Hitherto, I must needs confess I had almost forgotten, not only you, but all the advice you gave me concerning the wickedness of this queen; but this last action of hers gives me reason to fear she does not intend to observe any of her promises or solemn oaths to you. I thought of you immediately, and I esteem myself happy in that I have obtained permission to come to you.’
‘You are not mistaken,’ replied old Abdallah with a smile, which showed he did not himself believe she would have acted otherwise, ‘nothing is capable of obliging a treacherous person to amend. But fear nothing. I know the way to make the mischief she intends for you fall upon herself. You are alarmed in time; and you could not have done better than to have recourse to me. It is her ordinary practice to keep her lovers only forty days, and after that time, instead of sending them home, to turn them into animals, to stock her forests and parks; but I thought of measures yesterday to prevent her doing you the same harm. The earth has borne this monster long enough, and it is now high time she should be treated as she deserves.’
So saying, Abdallah put two cakes into King Beder’s hands, bidding him keep them to make use of as he should direct. ‘You told me,’ continued he, ‘the sorceress made a cake last night; it was for you to eat, depend upon it; but take great care you do not touch it. Nevertheless, do not refuse to receive it when she offers it you; but instead of tasting it, break off part of one of the two I shall give you, unobserved, and eat that. As soon as she thinks you have swallowed it, she will not fail to attempt transforming you into some animal, but she will not succeed; when she sees that she will immediately turn the thing into a joke, as if what she had done was only to frighten you. But she will conceal a mortal grief in her heart, and think she omitted something in the composition of her cake. As for the other cake, you shall make a present of it to her and press her to eat it; which she will not refuse to do, were it only to convince you she does not mistrust you, though she has given you so much reason to mistrust her. When she has eaten of it, take a little water in the hollow of your hand, and throwing it in her face, say, “Quit that form you now wear, and take that of such and such an animal” as you think fit; which done, come to me with the animal, and I will tell you what you shall do afterwards.’
King Beder thanked Abdallah in the most expressive terms, and took his leave of him and returned to the palace. Upon his arrival, he understood that the queen waited for him with great impatience in the garden. He went to her, and she no sooner perceived him, than she came in great haste to meet him. ‘My dear Beder!’ said she, ‘it seems ages since I have been separated from you. If you had stayed ever so little longer, I was preparing to come and fetch you.’
‘Madam,’ replied King Beder, ‘I can assure your majesty I was no less impatient to rejoin you; but I could not refuse to stay a little longer with an uncle that loves me, and had not seen me for so long a time. He would have kept me still longer, but I tore myself away from him, to come where love calls me. Of all he prepared for me, I have only brought away this cake, which I desire your majesty to accept.’ King Beder had wrapped up one of the two cakes in a handkerchief very neatly, took it out, and presented it to the queen, saying, ‘I beg your majesty to accept it.’
‘I do accept it with all my heart,’ replied the queen, ‘and will eat it with pleasure for your and your good uncle’s sake; but before I taste it, I desire you for my sake to eat a piece of this, which I have made for you during your absence.’
‘Fair queen,’ answered King Beder, receiving it with great respect,
I cannot sufficiently acknowledge the favour you do me.’
King Beder then artfully substituted in the place of the queen’s cake the other which old Abdallah had given him, and having broken off a piece, he put it in his mouth, and cried, while he was eating, ‘Ah! queen, I never tasted anything so charming in my life.’
Being near a cascade, as the sorceress saw him swallow one bit of the cake, and ready to eat another, she took a little water in the palm of her hand, throwing it in the king’s face, said, ‘Wretch! quit that form of a man, and take that of a vile horse, blind and lame.’
These words not having the desired effect, the sorceress was strangely surprised to find King Beder still in the same form, and that he only started for fear. Her cheeks reddened; and as she saw that she had missed her aim, ‘Dear Beder,’ cried she, ‘this is nothing; recover yourself. I did not intend you any harm; I only did it to see what you would say.’
‘Powerful queen,’ replied King Beder, ‘persuaded as I am that what your majesty did was only to divert yourself, yet I could not help being surprised. But, madam,’ continued he, ‘let us drop this, and since I have eaten your cake, would you do me the favour to taste mine?’
Queen Labe, who could not better justify herself than by showing this mark of confidence in the King of Persia, broke off a piece of his cake, and ate it. She had no sooner swallowed it than she appeared much troubled, and remained as it were motionless. King Beder lost no time, but took water out of the same basin, and throwing it in her face, cried, ‘Abominable sorceress! quit that form of a woman, and be turned instantly into a mare.’
The same instant Queen Labe was transformed into a very beautiful mare; and her confusion was so great to find herself in that condition, that she shed tears in great abundance, which perhaps no mare before had ever been known to do. She bowed her head to the feet of King Beder, thinking to move him to compassion; but though he could have been so moved, it was absolutely out of his power to repair the mischief he had done. He led her into the stable belonging to the palace, and put her into the hands of a groom, to bridle and saddle; but of all the bridles which the groom tried upon her, not one would fit her. This made him cause two horses to be saddled, one for the groom, and the other for himself; and the groom led the mare after him to old Abdallah’s.
Abdallah, seeing at a distance King Beder coming with the mare, doubted not but he had done what he advised him. ‘Hateful sorceress!’ said he immediately to himself in a transport of joy, ‘Heaven has at length punished thee as thou deservest.’ King Beder alighted at Abdallah’s door, and entered the shop, embracing and thanking him for all the signal services he had done him. He related to him the whole matter, and told him that he could find no bridle fit for the mare. Abdallah, who had one for every horse, bridled the mare himself, and as soon as King Beder had sent back the groom with the two horses, he said to him, ‘My lord, you have no reason to stay any longer in this city: mount the mare, and return to your kingdom. I have but one thing more to recommend to you; and that is, if you should ever happen to part with the mare, be sure not to give up the bridle.’ King Beder promised to remember it; and having taken leave of the good old man, he departed.
The young King of Persia no sooner got out of the city, than he began to reflect with joy on the deliverance he had had, and that he had the sorceress in his power, who had given him so much cause to tremble. Three days after he arrived at a great city, where, entering the suburbs, he met a venerable old man. ‘Sir,’ said the old man, stopping him, ‘may I presume to ask from what part of the world you come?’ The king stopped to tell him, and as they were discoursing together, an old woman came up; who, stopping likewise, wept and sighed bitterly at the sight of the mare.
King Beder and the old man left off discoursing, to look at the old woman, whom the king asked what cause she had to lament so much, ‘Alas! sir,’ replied she, ‘it is because your mare resembles so perfectly one my son had, which I still mourn the loss of on his account. I should think yours were the same, did I not know she was dead. Sell her to me, I beseech you: I will give you more than she is worth, and thank you too.’
‘Good woman,’ replied King Beder, ‘I am heartily sorry I cannot comply with your request: my mare is not to be sold.’
‘Alas! sir,’ continued the old woman, ‘do not refuse me this favour. My son and I will certainly die with grief if you do not grant it.’
‘Good mother,’ replied the king, ‘I would grant it with all my heart, if I was disposed to part with so good a beast; but if I were so disposed, I believe you would hardly give a thousand pieces of gold for her, and I could not sell her for less.’
‘Why should I not give so much?’ replied the old woman: ‘if that be the lowest price, you need only say you will take it, and I will fetch you the money.’
King Beder, seeing the old woman so poorly dressed, could not imagine she could find the money; therefore to try her, he said, ‘Go, fetch me the money, and the mare is yours.’ The old woman immediately unloosed a purse she had fastened to her girdle, and desiring him to alight, bade him tell over the money, and in case he found it came short of the sum demanded, she said her house was not far off, and she could quickly fetch the rest.
The surprise of King Beder, at the sight of this purse, was not small. ‘Good woman,’ said he, ‘do you not perceive I have been bantering you all this while? I assure you my mare is not to be sold.’
The old man, who had been witness to all that was said, now began to speak. ‘Son,’ quoth he to King Beder, ‘it is necessary you should know one thing, which I find you are ignorant of; and that is, that in this city it is not permitted to any one to tell a lie, on any account whatsoever, on pain of death. You cannot refuse taking this good woman’s money, and delivering your mare, when she gives you the sum according to the agreement; and this you had better do without any noise, than expose yourself to what may happen.’
King Beder, sorely afflicted to find himself thus trapped by his rash offer, alighted with great regret. The old woman stood ready to seize the bridle, and immediately unbridled the mare, and taking some water in her hand, from a stream that ran in the middle of the street, she threw it in the mare’s face, uttering these words, ‘Daughter, quit that strange shape, and re-assume thine own.’ The transformation was effected in a moment, and King Beder, who swooned as soon as he saw Queen Labe appear, would have fallen to the ground, if the old man had not caught him.
The old woman, who was mother to Queen Labe, and had instructed her in all her magic secrets, had no sooner embraced her daughter, than to show her fury, she whistled. Immediately rose a genie of gigantic form and stature. This genie took King Beder on one shoulder, and the old woman with the magic queen on the other, and transported them in a few minutes to the palace of Queen Labe in the City of Enchantments.
The magic queen immediately fell upon King Beder, ‘Is it thus, ungrateful wretch,’ said she, ‘that thou and thy unworthy uncle repay me for all the kindnesses I have done for you? I shall soon make you both feel what you deserve.’ She said no more, but taking water in her hand, threw it in his face with these words, ‘Come out of that shape, and take that of a vile owl.’ These words were followed by the effect, and immediately she commanded one of her women to shut up the owl in a cage, and give him neither meat nor drink.
The woman took the cage, and without regarding what the queen ordered, gave him both meat and drink; and being old Abdallah’s friend, she sent him word privately how the queen had treated his nephew, and of her design to destroy both him and King Beder, that he might give orders to prevent it and save himself.
Abdallah knew no common measures would do with Queen Labe: he therefore did but whistle after a certain manner, and there immediately arose a vast giant, with four wings, who, presenting himself before him, asked what he wanted. ‘Lightning,’ said Abdallah to him (for so was the genie called), ‘I command you to preserve the life of King Beder, son of Queen Gulnare. Go to the palace of the magic queen, and transport immediately to the capital of Persia the compassionate woman who has the cage in custody, so that she may inform Queen Gulnare of the danger the king her son is in, and the occasion he has for her assistance. Take care not to frighten her when you come before her and tell her from me what she ought to do.’
Lightning immediately disappeared, and got in an instant to the palace of the magic queen. He instructed the woman, lifted her up into the air, and transported her to the capital of Persia, where he placed her on the terrace near the apartment where Queen Gulnare was. She went downstairs to the apartment, and she there found Queen Gulnare and Queen Farasche her mother lamenting their misfortunes. She made them a profound obeisance and they soon understood the great need that King Beder was in of their assistance.
Queen Gulnare was so overjoyed at the news, that rising from her seat, she went and embraced the good woman, telling her how much she was obliged to her for the service she had done.
Then immediately going out, she commanded the trumpets to sound, and the drums to beat, to acquaint the city that the King of Persia would suddenly return safe to his kingdom. She then went again, and found King Saleh her brother, whom Queen Farasche had caused to come speedily thither by a certain fumigation. ‘Brother,’ said she to him, ‘the king your nephew, my dear son, is in the City of Enchantments, under the power of Queen Labe. Both you and I must go to deliver him, for there is no time to be lost.’
King Saleh forthwith assembled a powerful body of his marine troops, who soon rose out of the sea. He also called to his assistance the genies, his allies, who appeared with a much more numerous army than his own. As soon as the two armies were joined, he put himself at the head of them, with Queen Farasche, Queen Gulnare, and the princesses. They then lifted themselves up into the air, and soon poured down on the palace and City of Enchantments, where the magic queen, her mother, and all the adorers of fire, were destroyed in an instant.
Queen Gulnare had ordered the woman who brought her the news of Queen Labe’s transforming and imprisoning her son to follow her closely, and bade her go, and in the confusion, seize the cage, and bring it to her. This order was executed as she wished, and Queen Gulnare was no sooner in possession of the cage than she opened it and took out the owl, saying, as she sprinkled a little water upon him, ‘My dear son, quit that strange form, and resume thy natural one of a man.’
In a moment Queen Gulnare no more saw the hideous owl, but King Beder her son. She immediately embraced him with an excess of joy. She could not find in her heart to let him go; and Queen Farasche was obliged to force him from her in her turn. After her, he was likewise embraced by the king his uncle and his relations.
Queen Gulnare’s first care was to look out for old Abdallah, to whom she had been indebted for the recovery of the King of Persia. When he was brought to her, she said, ‘My obligations to you, sir, have been so great, that there is nothing in my power that I would not freely do for you, as a token of my acknowledgment. Do but tell me in what I can serve you.’
‘Great queen,’ replied Abdallah, ‘if the lady whom I sent to your majesty will but consent to the marriage I offer her, and the King of Persia will give me leave to reside at his court, I will spend the remainder of my days in his service.’
Then the queen turned to the lady, who was present, and finding that she was not averse to the match proposed, she caused them to join hands, and the King of Persia and she took care of their welfare.
This marriage occasioned the King of Persia to speak thus to the queen: ‘Madam,’ said he, ‘I am heartily glad of this match which your majesty has just made. There remains one more, which I desire you to think of.’
Queen Gulnare did not at first comprehend what marriage he meant; but after a little considering, she said, ‘Of yours, you mean, son? I consent to it with all my heart.’ Then turning, and looking on her brother’s sea attendants, and the genies who were still present, ‘Go,’ said she, ‘and traverse both sea and land, to find out the most lovely and amiable princess, worthy of the king my son, and come and tell us.’
‘Madam,’ replied King Beder, ‘it is to no purpose for them to take all that pains. You have no doubt heard that I have already given my heart to the Princess of Samandal. I have seen her, and do not repent of the present I then made her. In a word, neither earth nor sea, in my opinion, can furnish a princess like her. It is true that she treated me in a way that would have extinguished any affection less strong than mine. But I hold her excused; she could not treat me with less rigour, after I had had the king her father imprisoned. But it may be the King of Samandal has changed his mind; and his daughter the princess may consent to love me when she sees her father has agreed to it.’
‘Son,’ replied Queen Gulnare, ‘if only the Princess Giauhara can make you happy, it is not my design to oppose you. The king your uncle need only have the King of Samandal brought, and we shall soon see whether he be still of the same untractable temper.’
Strictly as the King of Samandal had been kept during his captivity by King Saleh’s orders, yet he always had great respect shown him, and was become very familiar with the officers who guarded him. King Saleh caused a chafing-dish of coals to be brought, into which he threw a certain composition, uttering at the same time some mysterious words. As soon as the smoke began to arise, the palace shook, and immediately the King of Samandal, with King Saleh’s officers, appeared. The King of Persia cast himself at the King of Samandal’s feet, and kneeling said, ‘It is no longer King Saleh that demands of your majesty the honour of your alliance for the King of Persia; it is the King of Persia himself that humbly begs that boon; and I am sure your majesty will not persist in being the cause of the death of a king who can no longer live if he does not share life with the amiable Princess Giauhara.’
The King of Samandal did not long suffer the King of Persia to remain at his feet. He embraced him and obliging him to rise, said, ‘I should be very sorry to have contributed in the least to the death of a monarch who is so worthy to live. If it be true that so precious a life cannot be preserved without my daughter, live, sir,’ said he, ‘she is yours. She has always been obedient to my will, and I cannot think she will now oppose it.’ Speaking these words, he ordered one of his officers, whom King Saleh had permitted to be about him, to go and look for the Princess Giauhara, and bring her to him immediately.
The princess had remained where the King of Persia had left her. The officer soon perceived her, and brought her with her women. The King of Samandal embraced her, and said, ‘Daughter, I have provided a husband for you; it is the King of Persia you see there, the most accomplished monarch at present in the universe. The preference he has given you over all other Princesses obliges us both to express our gratitude.’
‘Sir,’ replied the Princess Giauhara, ‘your majesty well knows I never have presumed to disobey your will in anything; I shall always be ready to obey you; and I hope the King of Persia will forget my ill-treatment of him, and consider it was duty, not inclination, that forced me to it.’
The wedding was celebrated in the palace of the City of Enchantments, with the greater solemnity in that all the lovers of the magic queen, who resumed their original forms as soon as ever that queen ceased to live, came to return their thanks to the King of Persia, Queen Gulnare, and King Saleh. They were all sons of kings or princes, or persons of high rank.
King Saleh at length conducted the King of Samandal to his dominions, and put him in possession of them. The King of Persia returned to his capital with Queen Gulnare, Queen Farasche, and the princesses; and Queen Farasche and the princesses continued there till King Saleh came to reconduct them to his kingdom under the waves of the sea.
Fairy Tales from the Arabian Nights.
Edited by E. Dixon
The text of the present selection from the Arabian Nights is that of Galland, 1821, slightly abridged and edited. The edition is designed virginibus puerisque.