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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Complete - 110/272 -
unfortunate husband and lover as I am."
"You shall tell me the particulars another time," replied the princess; "I know something of them already: remain here a little, and I will soon return to you."
At these words she went into her closet, put off her royal turban, and in a few minutes dressed herself in her female attire; and having the girdle round her, which she had on the day of their separation, re-entered the chamber.
Kummir al Zummaun immediately recognized his dear princess, ran to her, and tenderly embraced her, exclaiming, "How much am I obliged to the king who has so agreeably surprised me!" "Do not expect to see the king any more," replied the princess, embracing him in her turn, with tears in her eyes: "you see him in me; sit down, and I will explain this enigma to you."
They seated themselves, and the princess related the plan she had formed in the plain where they were encamped the last time they were together, as soon as she perceived she waited for him to no purpose; how she went through with it till she arrived at the isle of Ebene, where she had been obliged to marry the princess Haiatalnefous, and accept of the crown, which king Armanos offered her as a condition of the marriage: how the princess, whose merit she highly extolled, had obliged her to make declaration of her sex: and how she found the talisman in the pots of olives mingled with the gold-dust, which she had bought, and how this circumstance had proved the cause of her sending for him from the city of the idolaters.
When she had concluded her adventure, she obliged the prince to tell her by what means the talisman had occasioned their separation. He satisfied her inquiries; after which, it growing late, they retired to rest.
The princess Badoura and Kummir al Zummaun rose next morning as soon as it was light, but the princess would no more put on her royal robes as king; she dressed herself in her female attire, and then sent the chief eunuch to king Armanos, her father-in- law, to desire he would oblige her by coming to her apartment.
When the king entered the chamber, he was amazed at seeing a lady who was unknown to him, and the high treasurer with her, who was not by etiquette permitted to come within the inner palace. He sat down, and asked where the king was.
The princess answered, "Yesterday I was king, but to-day I am only princess of China, wife to the true prince Kummir al Zummaun. If your majesty will have patience to hear our adventures, I hope you will not condemn me for putting an innocent deceit upon you." The king bade her go on, and heard her narrative from beginning to end with astonishment. The princess on finishing said to him, "Sir, though women do not easily comply with the liberty assumed by men to have several wives; yet if your majesty will consent to give your daughter the princess Haiatalnefous in marriage to the prince, I will with all my heart yield up to her the rank and quality of queen, which of right belongs to her, and content myself with the second place. If this precedence were not her due, I would resign it to her, after the obligation I have to her for keeping my secret so generously. If your majesty refer it to her consent, I am sure of that, having already consulted her; and I will pass my word that she will be very well satisfied."
King Armanos listened to the princess with astonishment, and when she had done, turned to Kummir al Zummaun, saying, "Son, since the princess Badoura your wife, whom I have all along thought to be my son-in-law, through a deceit of which I cannot complain, assures me, that she will divide your bed with my daughter; I would know if you are willing to marry her, and accept of the crown, which the princess Badoura would deservedly wear, if she did not quit it out of love to you." "Sir," replied Kummir al Zummaun, "though I desire nothing so earnestly as to see the king my father, yet the obligations I have to your majesty and the princess Haiatalnefous are so weighty, I can refuse her nothing." The prince was then proclaimed king, and married the same day with all possible demonstrations of joy; and had every reason to be well pleased with the princess Haiatalnefous's beauty, wit, and love for him.
The two queens lived together afterwards on the same friendly terms and in the same cordiality as they had done before, both being contented with Kummir al Zummaun's equal carriage towards them.
The next year each brought him a son at the same time, and the births of the two princes were celebrated with extraordinary rejoicings: the first, whom the princess Badoura was delivered of, was named Amgiad (most illustrious); and the other, born of queen Haiatalnefous, Assad (most virtuous).
The Story of the Princes Amgiad and Assad.
The two princes were brought up with great care; and, when they were old enough, had the same governor, the same instructors in the arts and sciences, and the same master for each exercise. The affection which from their infancy they conceived for each other occasioned an uniformity of manners and inclination, which increased it. When they were of an age to have separate households, they loved one another so tenderly, that they begged the king to let them live together. He consented, and they had the same domestics, the same equipages, the same apartment, and the same table. Kummir al Zummaun had formed so good an opinion of their capacity and integrity, that he made no scruple of admitting them into his council at the age of eighteen, and letting them, by turns, preside there, while he took the diversion of hunting, or amused himself with his queens at his houses of pleasure.
The princes being equally handsome, the two queens loved them with incredible tenderness; but the princess Badoura had a greater kindness for prince Assad, queen Haiatalnefous's son, than for her own; and queen Haiatalnefous loved Amgiad, the princess Badoura's son, better than her own son Assad.
The two queens thought at first this inclination was nothing but a regard which proceeded from an excess of their own friendship for each other, which they still preserved: but as the two princes advanced in years, that friendship grew into a violent love, when they appeared in their eyes to possess graces that blinded their reason. They knew how criminal their passion was, and did all they could to resist it; but the familiar intercourse with them, and the habit of admiring, praising, and caressing them from their infancy, which they could not restrain when they grew up, inflamed their desires to such a height as to overcome their reason and virtue. It was their and the princes' ill- fortune, that the latter being used to be so treated by them, had not the least suspicion of their infamous passion.
The two queens had not concealed from each other this passion, but had not the boldness to declare it to the princes they loved; they at last resolved to do it by a letter, and to execute their wicked design, availed themselves of the king's absence, when he was gone on a hunting party for three or four days.
Prince Amgiad presided at the council on the day of his father's departure, and administered justice till two or three o'clock in the afternoon. As he returned to the palace from the council- chamber, an eunuch took him aside, and gave him a letter from queen Haiatalnefous. Amgiad took it, and read it with horror. "Traitor," said he, to the eunuch. as soon as he had perused it through, "is this the fidelity thou owest thy master and thy king?" At these words he drew his sabre and cut off his head.
Having done this in a transport of anger he ran to the princess Badoura his mother, shewed her the letter, told her the contents of it, and from whom it came. Instead of hearkening to him, she fell into a passion, and said, "Son, it is all a calumny and imposture; queen Haiatalnefous is a very discreet princess, and you are very bold to talk to me against her." The prince, enraged at his mother, exclaimed, "You are both equally wicked, and were it not for the respect I owe my father, this day should have been the last of Haiatalnefous's life."
Queen Badoura might have imagined by the example of her son Amgiad, that prince Assad, who was not less virtuous, would not receive more favourably a declaration of love, similar to that which had been made to his brother. Yet that did not hinder her persisting in her abominable design; she, the next day, wrote him a letter, which she entrusted to an old woman who had access to the palace, to convey to him.
The old woman watched her opportunity to put it into his hands as he was coming from the council-chamber, where he presided that day in his turn. The prince took it, and reading it, fell into such a rage, that, without giving himself time to finish it, he drew his sabre and punished the old woman as she deserved. He ran immediately to the apartment of his mother queen Haiatalnefous, with the letter in his hand: he would have shewn it to her, but she did not give him time, crying out, "I know what you mean; you are as impertinent as your brother Amgiad: be gone, and never come into my presence again."
Assad stood as one thunder-struck at these words, so little expected. He was so enraged, that he had like to have given fatal demonstrations of his anger; but he contained himself, and withdrew without making any reply, fearing if he stayed he might say something unworthy the greatness of his soul. Amgiad had not mentioned to him the letter which he had received the preceding day; and finding by what his mother had said to him that she was altogether as criminal as queen Haiatalnefous, he went to his brother, to chide him for not communicating the hated secret to him, and to mingle his own sorrow with his.
The two queens, rendered desperate by finding in the two princes such virtue as should have made them look inwardly on themselves, renounced all sentiments of nature and of mothers and conspired together to destroy them. They made their women believe the two princes had attempted their virtue: they counterfeited the matter to the life by their tears, cries, and curses; and lay in the same bed, as if the resistance they pretended to have made had
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