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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 114/114 -

Khacan, as soon as he came home, sent for all the courtiers who dealt in women-slaves, and strictly charged them, that if they met with a slave who answered the description he gave, they should acquaint him. The courtiers, partly to oblige the vizier, and partly for their own interest, promised to use their utmost endeavours to find one to his liking. Accordingly, seldom a day passed but they brought him one, yet he always found some fault or other with her.

One day, as Khacan was getting on horseback, early in the morning, to go to court, a courtier came to him, and, with a great deal of eagerness, catching hold of the stirrup, told him there was a Persian merchant arrived very late the day before, who had a slave to sell, so surprisingly beautiful, that she excelled all women that his eyes had ever beheld; and, as for parts and learning, added he, the merchant engages she shall cope with the finest wits and the most knowing persons of the age.

Khacan, overjoyed at this news, which made him hope for a favourable reception at court, ordered him to bring the slave to the palace against his coming back, and so pursued his journey. The courtier did not fail to be at the vizier's at the appointed hour; and Khacan, finding the lovely slave so much beyond his expectation, immediately gave her the name of the Fair Persian. As he had an infinite deal of wit and learning, he soon perceived, by her conversation, that it was in vain to search any further for a slave that surpassed her in any of those qualifications required by the king, and therefore he asked the courtier at what rate the Persian merchant valued her.

Sir, replied the courtier, he is a man of few words in bargaining, and tells me, that the very lowest price he seeks for her is ten thousand pieces of gold: he has also sworn to me, that, without reckoning his pains and trouble from the time of his first taking care of her, he has laid out pretty nearly that sum upon her education, in masters to instruct and teach her, besides clothes and maintenance; and as he always thought her fit for a king, so from her infancy, in which he bought her, he has not been sparing in any thing that might contribute towards advancing her to that high honour. She plays upon all sorts of instruments to perfection; she dances, sings, writes better than the most celebrated authors, understands poetry, and, in short, there are few books but what she has read: so that there never was a slave of so great capacity.

The vizier Khacan, who understood the merit of the fair Persian better than the courtier, who only reported what he had heard from the merchant, was unwilling to put off the bargain till another time; and therefore he sent one of his servants to look after the merchant where the courtier told him he was to be found. As soon as the Persian merchant came, It is not for myself, but for the king, said the vizier Khacan, that I buy your slave; you must, however, let him have her at a more reasonable price than what you have already set upon her.

Sir, replied the merchant, I should do myself an unspeakable honour in offering her as a present to his majesty, were I able to make him one of so inestimable a value. I ask little more than what her education and maintenance have cost me; and all I have to say is, that I believe his majesty will be greatly pleased with the purchase.

The vizier Khacan would stand no longer bargaining with the merchant, but paid down the money immediately. Sir, said he to the vizier, upon taking his leave, since the slave is designed for the king's use, give me leave to tell you, that, being extremely fatigued with our long journey, you see her at a great disadvantage; and though, as to beauty, she has not her equal in the world, yet if you please to keep her at your own house a fortnight, and strive a little to please and humour her, she will appear quite another creature: after that you may present her to the king with abundance of honour and credit, for which, I doubt not, you will think yourself much obliged to me. The sun, you see, has a little tarnished her complexion; but, after two or three times bathing and dressing her according to the fashion of your country, she will appear to your eyes infinitely more charming than at present.

Khacan was mightily pleased with the advice the merchant gave, and was resolved to follow it. Accordingly the fair Persian was lodged in a particular apartment near his lady, whom he desired to invite to an entertainment, and thenceforth to treat her as a mistress designed for the king: he also entreated his lady to get the richest clothes for her that could possibly be had, and especially those that became her best. Before he took his leave of the fair Persian, Your happiness, madam, said he, cannot be greater than what I am about to procure for you, since it is for the king himself I have bought you; and I hope he will be better pleased with the enjoyment of you than I am in discharging the trust his majesty has laid upon me: however, I think it my duty to warn you of my son, who, though he has a tolerable share of wit, yet is a young, wanton, forward youth; and therefore have a care how you suffer him to come near you. The fair Persian thanked him for his good advice; and, on her giving him an assurance of her intention to follow it, he withdrew.

End of Volume First.

The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 114/114

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