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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 2/114 -
I have read, by order of my Lord Chancellor, this manuscript, and find nothing in it that should hinder its being printed.
Paris, October 4. 1706.
Arabian Nights Entertainments.
The chronicles of the Susanians, the ancient kings of Persia, who extended their empire into the Indies, over all the islands thereunto belonging, a great way beyond the Ganges, and as far as China, acquaint us, that there was formerly a king of that potent family, the most excellent prince of his time; he was as much beloved by his subjects for his wisdom and prudence, as he was dreaded by his neighbours because of his valour, and his warlike and well-disciplined troops. He had two sons; the eldest Schahriar, the worthy heir of his father, and endowed with all his virtues. The youngest, Schahzenan, was likewise a prince of incomparable merit.
After a long and glorious reign, the king died; and Schahriar mounted his throne. Schahzenan being excluded from all share of the government by the laws of the empire, and obliged to live a private life, was so far from envying the happiness of his brother, that he made it his whole business to please him, and effected it without much difficulty. Schahriar, who had naturally a great affection for that prince, was so charmed with his complaisance, that, out of an excess of friendship, he would needs divide his dominions with him, and gave him the kingdom of Great Tartary: Schahzenan went immediately and took possession of it, and fixed the seat of his government at Samarcande, the metropolis of the country,
After they had been separated ten years, Schahriar, having a passionate desire to see his brother, resolved to send an embassador to invite him to his court. He made choice of his prime vizier for the embassy, sent him to Tartary with a retinue answerable to his dignity, and he made all possible haste to Samarcande. When he came near the city, Schahzenan had notice of it, and went to meet him with the principal lords of his court; who, to put the more honour on the sultan's minister, appeared in magnificent apparel. The king of Tartary received the embassador with the greatest demonstrations of joy, and immediately asked him concerning the welfare of the sultan, his brother. The vizier, having acquainted him that he was in health, gave him an account of his embassy. Schahzenan was so much affected with it, that he answered thus:--"Sage vizier, the sultan, my brother, does me too much honour; he could propose nothing in the world more acceptable; I long as passionately to see him as he does to see me. Time has been no more able to diminish my friendship than his. My kingdom is in peace, and I desire no more than ten days to get myself ready to go with you; so that there is no necessity of your entering the city for so short a time; I pray you to pitch your tents here, and I will order provisions in abundance for yourself and company."
The vizier did accordingly; and as soon as the king returned, he sent him a prodigious quantity of provisions of all sorts, with presents of great value.
In the mean while, Schahzenan made ready for his journey, took orders about his most important affairs, appointed a council to govern in his absence, and named a minister, of whose wisdom he had sufficient experience, and in whom he had entire confidence, to be their president. At the end of ten days, his equipage being ready, he took his leave of the queen, his wife, and went out of town in the evening with his retinue, pitching his royal pavilion near the vizier's tent, and discoursed with that embassador till midnight. But willing once more to embrace the queen, whom he loved entirely, he returned alone to his palace, and went straight to her majesty's apartment; who, not expecting his return, had taken one of the meanest officers of the household to her bed, where they lay both fast asleep, having been in bed a considerable while.
The king entered without any noise and pleased himself to think how he should surprise his wife, who, he thought, loved him as entirely as he did her; but how strange was his surprise, when, by the light of the flambeaus, which burn all night in the apartments of those eastern princes, he saw a man in her arms! He stood immovable for a time, not knowing how to believe his own eyes; but finding it was not to be doubted, How! says he to himself, I am scarce out of my palace, and but just under the walls of Samarcande, and dare they put such an outrage upon me? All! perfidious wretches, your crime shall not go unpunished. As king, I am to punish wickednesses committed in my dominions; and, as an enraged husband, I must sacrifice you to my just resentment. In a word, this unfortunate prince, giving way to his rage, drew his scimitar, and, approaching the bed, killed them both with one blow, turning their sleep into death, and afterwards taking them up, threw them out of a window into the ditch that surrounded the palace.
Having avenged himself thus, he went out of town privately as he came into it; and returning to his pavilion, without saying one word of what had happened, he ordered the tents to be struck, and to make ready for his journey. This was speedily done, and before day he began his march, with kettle-drums and other instruments of music, that filled every one with joy, except the king, who was so much troubled at the disloyalty of his wife, that he was seized with extreme melancholy, which preyed upon him during his whole journey.
When he drew near the capital of the Indies, the sultan Schahriar, and all his court, came out to meet him; the princes were overjoyed fo see one another; and alighting, after mutual embraces, and other marks of affection and respect, they mounted again, and entered the city, with the acclamations of vast multitudes of people. The sultan conducted his brother to the palace he had provided for him, which had a communication with his own by means of a garden; and was so much the more magnificent, for it was set apart as a banqueting-house for public entertainment, and other diversions of the court, and the splendour of it had been lately augmented by new furniture.
Schahriar immediately left the king of Tartary, that he might give him time to bathe himself, and to change his apparel; and as soon as he had done, he came to him again, and they sat down together upon a sofa or alcove. The courtiers kept a distance, out of respect; and those two princes entertained one another suitably to their friendship, their nearness of blood, and the long separation that had been betwixt them. The time of supper being come, they ate together; after which they renewed their conversation, which continued till Schahriar, perceiving it was very late, left his brother to his rest.
The unfortunate Schahzenan went to bed; and though the conversation of his brother had suspended his grief for some time, it returned upon him with more violence; so that, instead of taking his necessary rest, he tormented himself with cruel reflections. All the circumstances of his wife's disloyalty represented themselves afresh to his imagination in so lively a manner, that he was like one beside himself. In a word, not being able to sleep, he got up, and giving himself over to afflicting thoughts, they made such an impression upon his countenance, that the sultan could not but take notice of it, and said thus to himself: "What can be the matter with the king of Tartary, that he is so melancholy; has he any cause to complain of his reception? No, surely; I have received him as a brother whom I love, so that I can charge myself with no omission in that respect. Perhaps it grieves him to be at such a distance from his dominions, or from the queen, his wife: Alas! if that be the matter, I must forthwith give him the presents I designed for him, that he may return to Samarcande when he pleases.' Accordingly, next day Schahriar sent him a part of those presents, being the greatest rarities and the richest things that the Indies could afford. At the same time he endeavoured to divert his brother every day by new objects of pleasure, and the finest treats, which, instead of giving the king of Tartary any ease, did only increase his sorrow.
One day, Schahriar having appointed a great hunting-match, about two days journey from his capital, in a place that abounded with deer, Schahzenan prayed him to excuse him, for his health would not allow him to bear him company. The sultan, unwilling to put any constraint upon him, left him at his liberty, and went a hunting with his nobles. The king of Tartary, being thus left alone, shut himself up in his apartment, and sat down at a window that looked into the garden. That delicious place, and the sweet harmony of an infinite number of birds, which chose it for a place of retreat, must certainly have diverted him, had he been capable of taking pleasure in any thing; but, being perpetually tormented with the fatal remembrance of his queen's infamous conduct, his eyes were not so often fixed upon the garden, as lifted up to heaven to bewail his misfortune.
Whilst he was thus swallowed up with grief, an object presented itself to his view, which quickly turned all his thoughts another way. A secret gate of the sultan's palace opened all of a sudden, and there came out at it twenty women, in the midst of whom marched the sultaness, who was easily distinguished from the rest by her majestic air. This princess, thinking that the king of Tartary was gone a hunting with his brother the sultan, came up with her retinue near the windows of his apartment; for the prince had placed himself so that he could see all that passed in the garden without being perceived himself. He observed that the persons who accompanied the sultaness threw off their veils and long robes, that they might be at more freedom; but was wonderfully surprised when he saw ten of them to be blacks, and that each of them took his mistress. The sultaness, on her part, was not long without her gallant. She clapped her hands, and called out Masoud, Masoud, and immediately a black came down from a tree, and ran to her in all haste.
Modesty will not allow, nor is it necessary to relate, what
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