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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 4/114 -


but quick voice to come down to her; she would take no denial. They made signs to her that they were afraid of the genie, and would fain have been excused. Upon which she ordered them to come down, and, if they did not make haste, threatened to awake the giant, and bid him kill them.

These words did so much intimidate the princes, that they began to come down with all possible precaution, lest they should awake the genie. When they came down, the lady took them by the hand, and going a little farther with them under the trees, made a very urgent proposal to them. At first they rejected it, but she obliged them to accept it by her threats. Having obtained what she desired, she perceived that each of them had a ring on his finger, which she demanded of them. As soon as she received them, she went and took a box out of the bundle, where her toilet was, pulled out a string of other rings of all sorts, which she showed them, and asked them if they knew what those jewels meant? No, say they, we hope you will be pleased to tell us. They are, replies she, the rings of all the men to whom I have granted my favour; There are full fourscore and eighteen of them, which I keep in token to remember them; and asked yours for the same reason, to make up my hundred. So that, continues she, I have had a hundred gallants already, notwithstanding the vigilance of this wicked genie, that never leaves me. He is much the nearer for locking me up in this glass box, and hiding me in the bottom of the sea; I find a way to cheat him for all his care. You may see by this, that when a woman has formed a project, there is no husband or gallant that can hinder her from putting it in execution. Men had better not put their wives under such restraint, if they have a mind they should be chaste. Having spoken thus to them, she put their rings upon the same string with the rest, and, sitting down by the monster as before, laid his head again upon her lap, and made a sign for the princes to be gone.

They returned immediately by the same way they came; and when they were out of sight of the lady and the genie, Schahriar says to Schahzenan, Well, brother, what do you think of this adventure? has not the genie a very faithful mistress? And do not you agree that there is no wickedness equal to that of women? Yes, brother, answers the king of Great Tartary; and you must. agree that the monster is more unfortunate, and has more reason to complain, than we. Therefore, since we have found what we sought for, let us return to our dominions, and let not this hinder us to marry again. For my part, I know a method by which I think I shall keep inviolable the faith that any woman shall plight to me. I shall say no more of it at present, but you will hear of it in a little time, and I am sure you will follow my example. The sultan agreed with his brother; and, continuing their journey, they arrived in the camp the third night after they left it.

The news of the sultan's return being spread, the courtiers came betimes in the morning before his pavilion to wait on him. He ordered them to enter, received them with a more pleasant air than formerly, and gave each of them a gratification; after which he told them he would go no further, ordered them to take horse, and returned speedily to his palace.

As soon as he arrived, he ran to the sultaness's apartment, commanded her to be bound before him, and delivered her to his grand vizier, with an order to strangle her; which was accordingly executed by that minister, without inquiring into her crime. The enraged prince did not stop here; he cut off the heads of all the sultaness's ladies with his own hand. After this rigorous punishment, being persuaded that no woman was chaste, he resolved, in order to prevent the disloyalty of such as he should afterwards marry, to wed one every night, and have her strangled next morning. Having imposed this cruel law upon himself, he swore that he would observe it immediately after the departure of the king of Tartary, who speedily took leave of him, and, being loaded with magnificent presents, set forward on his journey.

Schahzenan being gone, Schahriar ordered his grand vizier to bring him the daughter of one of his generals. The vizier obeyed; the sultan lay with her, and, putting her next morning into his hands in order to be strangled, commanded him to get another next night. Whatever reluctance the vizier had to put such orders in execution, as he owed blind obedience to the sultan his master, he was forced to submit. He brought him then the daughter of a subaltern, whom he also cut off the next day. After her, he brought a citizen's daughter; and, in a word, there was every day a maid married, and a wife murdered.

The rumour of this unparalleled barbarity occasioned a general consternation in the city, where there was nothing but crying and lamentation. Here a father in tears, and inconsolable for the loss of his daughter; and there tender mothers, dreading lest theirs should have the same fate, making the air to resound beforehand with their groans; so that, instead of the commendations and blessings which the sultan had hitherto received from his subjects, their mouths were now filled with imprecations against him.

The grand vizier, who, as has been already said, was the executioner of this horrid injustice against his will, had two daughters, the eldest called Scheherazade, and the youngest Dinarzade: the latter was a lady of very great merit; but the elder had courage, wit, and penetration, infinitely above her sex; she had read abundance, and had such a prodigious memory that she never forgot any thing. She had successfully applied herself to philosophy, physic, history, and the liberal arts, and for verse exceeded, the best poets of her times; besides this, she was a perfect beauty, and all her fine qualifications were crowned by solid virtue.

The vizier passionately loved a daughter so worthy of his tender affection; and one day, as they were discoursing together, she says to him, Father, I have one favour to beg of you, and must humbly pray you to grant it me. I will not refuse it, answered he, provided it be just and reasonable. For the justice of it, says she, there can be no question, and you may judge of it by the motive which obliges me to demand it of you. I have a design to stop the course of that barbarity which the sultan exercises upon the families of this city. I would dispel those unjust fears which so many mothers have of losing their daughters in such a fatal manner. Your design, daughter, replies the vizier, is very commendable; but the disease you would remedy seems to be incurable; how do you pretend to effect it? Father, says Scheherazade, since by your means the sultan makes every day a new marriage, I conjure you, by the tender affection you bear to me, to procure me the honour of his bed. The vizier could not hear this without horror. O heavens! replies he, in a passion, have you lost your senses, daughter, that you make such a dangerous request to me? You know the sultan has sworn by his soul that he will never lie above one night with the same woman, and to order her to be killed the next morning; and would you that I should propose you to him? Pray consider well to what your indiscreet zeal will expose you. Yes, dear father, replies the virtuous daughter, I know the risk I run; but that does not frighten me. If I perish, my death will be glorious; and if I succeed, I shall do my country an important piece of service. No, no, says the vizier, whatever you can represent to engage me to let you throw yourself into that horrible danger, do not you think that ever I will agree to it. When the sultan shall order me to strike my poignard into your heart, alas! I must obey him; and what a dismal employment is that for a father? Ah! if you do not fear death, yet at least be afraid of occasioning me the mortal grief of seeing my hand stained with your blood. Once more, father, says Scheherazade, grant me the favour I beg. Your stubbornness, replies the vizier, will make me angry; why will you run headlong to your ruin? They that do not foresee the end of a dangerous enterprise can never bring it to a happy issue. I am afraid the same thing will happen to you that happened to the ass, which was well, and could not keep itself so. What misfortune befel the ass? replies Scheherazade. I will tell you, says the vizier, if you will hear me.

Fable.

The Ox, the Ass, and the Labourer.

A very rich merchant had several country-houses, where he had abundance of cattle of all sorts. He went with his wife and family to one of those estates, in order to improve it himself. He had the gift of understanding the language of beasts, but with this condition, that he should interpret it to nobody on pain of death; and this hindered him from communicating to others what he had learned by means of this gift.

He had in the same stall an ox and an ass; and one day as he sat near them, and diverted himself to see his children play about, him, he heard the ox say to the ass, Sprightly, O how happy do I think you, when I consider the ease you enjoy, and the little labour that is required of you! you are carefully rubbed down and washed; you have well-dressed corn, and fresh clean water. Your greatest business is to carry the merchant, our master, when he has any little journey to make; and, were it not for that, you would be perfectly idle. I am treated in a quite different manner, and my condition is as unfortunate as yours is pleasant. It is scarce day-light when I am fastened to a plough, and there they make me work till night, to till up the ground, which fatigues me so, that sometimes my strength fails me. Besides, the labourer, who is always behind me, beats me continually. By drawing the plough my tail is all flead; and, in short, after having laboured from morning till night, when I am brought in, they give me nothing to eat but sorry dry beans, not so much as cleaned from sand, or other things as pernicious; and, to heighten my misery, when I have filled my belly with such ordinary stuff, I am forced to lie all night in my own dung; so that you see I have reason to envy your lot.

The ass did not interrupt the ox, till he had said all that he had a mind to say; but, when he had made an end, answered, They that call you a foolish beast do not lie; you are too simple, you let them carry you whither they please, and show no manner of resolution. In the mean time, what advantage do you reap by all the indignities you suffer? You kill yourself for the ease, pleasure, and profit of those that give you no thanks for so doing. But they would not treat you so, if you had as much courage as strength.


The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 4/114

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