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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Complete - 100/272 -
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."
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