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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Complete - 272/272 -


felicity. The sultan was unbounded in his favour towards them, and would often pass whole evenings in their company in friendly conversation, which generally turned upon the vicissitudes of life, and the goodness of Providence in relieving the sufferings of the faithful, by divine interposition, at the very instant when ready to sink under them and overwhelmed with calamity. "I myself," said the sultan, "am an example of the protection of heaven, as you, my friends, will learn from my adventures." He then began as follows.

The Sultan's Story of Himself.

Though now seated on a throne, I was not born to such exalted rank, but am the son of a rich merchant in a country far distant from this which I now govern. My father brought me up to his own profession; and by instruction and example encouraged me to be virtuous, diligent, and honest. Soon after I had attained to the age of manhood death snatched away this valuable parent, who in his last moments gave me instructions for my future conduct; but particularly requested that nothing might ever prevail upon me to take an oath, though ever so just or necessary to my concerns. I assured him it would not: soon after which he breathed his last, leaving me, my mother, and sister in sincere grief for his loss. After the funeral I examined his property, and found myself in possession of a vast sum of money, besides an ample stock in trade, two-thirds of which I immediately paid to my mother and sister, who retired to a house which they purchased for themselves. Many weeks had not elapsed when a merchant set up a claim on my father's estate for a sum of money equal to nearly the whole that I possessed: I asked him for his bond, but he had none, yet swore solemnly to the justice of his demand. I had no doubt of the falsity of his oath, but as I had promised never to swear, I could not disprove it by mine, and therefore was obliged to pay the money, which I did entirely from my own share, not choosing to distress my mother and sister by lessening theirs. After this, other unjust demands were preferred, and I paid them, rather than falsify my promise to my father, though by so doing I became reduced to the most abject poverty, as still I would not trouble my mother. At length I resolved to quit my native city, and seek for subsistence in a distant country as clerk to a merchant, or in any other way that might offer. I accordingly set out alone, and had travelled some days, when in passing over a sandy desert I met a venerable looking personage dressed in white, who kindly accosting me, inquired the object of my journey: upon which I related my story. The old man blessed me, highly praised the steadfastness of my adherence to the promise I had made to a dying father; and said, "My son, be not dismayed, thy virtuous conduct has been approved by our holy prophet, who has interceded for thee at the throne of bounty: follow me, and reap the reward of thy sufferings." I did as he desired; and we, after some time, reached this city, which was then wholly depopulated, and even this palace in a state of decay. On our entrance my venerable guide bade me welcome, saying, "Here heaven has decreed thee to reign, and thou wilt soon become a powerful sultan." He then conducted me to the palace, and we descended from one of the apartments into a vault, where to my astonishment I beheld vast heaps of gold and silver ingots, large bags of coins of the same metals, and several rich chests filled with jewels of inestimable value, of all which he saluted me master. I was overcome with astonishment; but said, "Of what use is all this wealth in a depopulated city? and how can I be a sultan without subjects?" The old man smiled, and said, "Have patience, my son; this evening a numerous caravan will arrive here composed of emigrants, who are in search of a settlement, and they will elect thee their sovereign." His words proved true; the caravan arrived, when the old man invited them to inhabit the city; his offer was gladly accepted, and by his direction they declared me their sultan. My protector remained with me a whole year, during which he gave me instructions how to govern, and I became what I am. Heaven has prospered my endeavours to do good: the fame of my liberality, justice, and clemency soon spread abroad; the city was soon filled by industrious inhabitants, who repaired the decayed buildings, and erected new ones. The country round became well cultivated, and our port was filled with vessels from every quarter. I shortly after sent for my family, for I had left behind me a wife and two sons; and you may guess from your own joy at meeting after long separation what must have been mine on such an occasion. My venerable patron, at the expiration of the year, one day thus addressed me: "My son, as my mission is completed I must now leave you; but be not alarmed, for provided thou continuest to act as thou hast begun, we shall meet again. Know that I am the prophet Khizzer, and was sent by heaven to protect thee. Mayest thou deserve its blessings!" Having said this he embraced me in his arms, and then vanished, how I know not, from my sight. For some time I continued rapt in astonishment and wonder, which at length gave place to reverential awe and gratitude to heaven; by degrees I recovered myself, and bowed down with fervent devotion. I have endeavoured to follow the admonitions of my holy adviser. It is unnecessary to say more; you see my state and the happiness I enjoy.

CONCLUSION.

The sultan of the Indies could not but admire the prodigious and inexhaustible memory of the sultaness his wife, who had entertained him so many nights with such a variety of interesting stories.

A thousand and one nights had passed away in these innocent amusements, which contributed so much towards removing the sultan's unhappy prejudice against the fidelity of women. His temper was softened. He was convinced of the merit and great wisdom of the sultaness Scheherazade. He remembered with what courage she had offered to be his wife, without fearing the death to which she knew she exposed herself, as so many sultanesses had suffered within her knowledge.

These considerations, and the many other good qualities he knew her to possess, induced him at last to forgive her. "I see, lovely Scheherazade," said he, "that you can never be at a loss for these little stories, which have so long diverted me. You have appeased my anger. I freely renounce the law I had imposed on myself. I restore your sex to my favourable opinion, and will have you to be regarded as the deliverer of the many damsels I had resolved to sacrifice to my unjust resentment."

The sultaness cast herself at his feet, and embraced them tenderly with all the marks of the most lively and perfect gratitude.

The grand vizier was the first who learned this agreeable intelligence from the sultan's own mouth. It was instantly carried to the city, towns, and provinces; and gained the sultan, and the lovely Scheherazade his consort, universal applause, and the blessings of all the people of the extensive empire of the Indies.

End of Volume 4.


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