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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 2 - 40/66 -
that her disease was nothing but a violent and deep-rooted passion. He therefore threw himself at his majesty's feet, and said, "After what I have heard and observed, sir, it will be to no purpose for me to think of curing the princess, since I have no remedies proper for her malady; for which reason I humbly submit my life to your majesty's pleasure." The king, enraged at his incapacity, and the trouble he had given him, caused him to be immediately beheaded.
Some days after, unwilling to have it said that he had neglected his daughter's cure, the king put forth a proclamation in his capital, importing, that if there were any physician, astrologer, or magician who would undertake to restore the princess to her senses, he needed only to offer himself, and he should be employed, on condition of losing his head if he failed. He had the same published in the other principal cities and towns of his dominions, and in the courts of the princes his neighbours.
The first that presented himself was an astrologer and magician, whom the king caused to be conducted to the princess's prison by an eunuch. The astrologer drew forth, out of a bag he carried under his arm, an astrolabe, a small sphere, a chafing-dish, several sorts of drugs proper for fumigations, a brass pot, with many other articles, and desired he might have a fire.
The princess demanded what all these preparations were for. "Madam," answered the eunuch, "they are to exorcise the evil spirit that possesses you, to shut him up in this pot, and throw him into the sea."
"Foolish astrologer," replied the princess, "I have no occasion for any of your preparations, but am in my perfect senses, and you alone are mad. If your art can bring him I love to me, I shall be obliged to you; otherwise you may go about your business, for I have nothing to do with you." "Madam," said the astrologer, "if your case be so, I shall desist from all endeavours, believing the king your father only can remove your disorder:" so putting up his trinkets again, he marched away, much concerned that he had so easily undertaken to cure an imaginary malady.
The eunuch conducted the astrologer to the king, whom the astrologer thus addressed: "According to what your majesty published in your proclamation, and what you were pleased to confirm to me yourself, I thought the princess was insane, and depended on being able to recover her by the secrets I have long been acquainted with; but I soon found she had no other disease but that of love, over which my art has no power: your majesty alone is the physician who can cure her, by giving her in marriage the person whom she desires."
The king was much enraged at the astrologer, and had his head instantly cut off. A hundred and fifty astrologers, physicians, and magicians, came on this account, who all underwent the same fate; and their heads were set upon poles on every gate of the city.
The princess of China's nurse had a son whose name was Marzavan, who had been foster-brother to the princess, and brought up with her, The friendship was so great during their childhood, and all the time they had been together, that as they grew up, even some time after their separation, they treated each other as brother and sister.
Marzavan, among other studies, had from his youth been much addicted to judicial astrology, geomancy, and the like secret arts, wherein he became exceedingly skilful. Not satisfied with what he had learned from masters, he travelled, and there was hardly any person of note in any science or art, but he sought him in the most remote cities, to obtain information, so great was his thirst after knowledge.
After several years' absence in foreign parts, he returned to the capital of his native country, where, seeing so many heads on the gate by which he entered, he was exceedingly surprised, and demanded for what reason they had been placed there; but he more particularly inquired after the princess his foster-sister. As he could not receive an answer to one inquiry without the other, he heard at length a general account of what had happened, and waited for further particulars till he could see his mother, the princess's nurse.
Although the nurse, the mother of Marzavan, was much employed about the princess, yet she no sooner heard her son was returned, than she found time to come out, embrace him, and converse with him a little. Having told him, with tears in her eyes, the unhappy condition of the princess, and for what reason the king her father had confined her; her son desired to know if she could not procure him a private view of her royal mistress, without the king's knowledge. After some pause, she told him she could give him no answer for the present; but if he would meet her the next day at the same hour, she would inform him.
The nurse knowing none could approach the princess but herself; without leave of the eunuch, who commanded the guard at the gate, addressed: herself to him, and said, "You know I have brought up and suckled the princess, and you may likewise have heard that I had a daughter whom I brought up along with her. This daughter has been since married, yet the princess still does her the honour to love her, and wishes to see her, without any person's observing her enter or depart."
The nurse was proceeding, but the eunuch interrupted her and exclaimed, "Say no more, I will with pleasure do any thing to oblige the princess; go and fetch your daughter, or send for her about midnight,and the gate shall be open for you."
As soon as it was dark, the nurse went to Marzavan, and having dressed him so well in women's clothes, that nobody could suspect he was a man, carried him along with her; and the eunuch believing it was her daughter, admitted them.
The nurse, before she presented Marzavan, went to the princess, and said, "Madam, this is not a woman I have brought to you, it is my son Marzavan in disguise, newly arrived from his travels; having a great desire to kiss your hand, I hope your highness will vouchsafe him that honour."
"What! my brother Marzavan," exclaimed the princess, with great joy; "approach, and take off that veil; for it is not unreasonable that a brother and a sister should see each other without covering their faces."
Marzavan saluted her with profound respect, while, without giving him time to speak, she continued, "I rejoice to see you returned in good health, after so many years' absence, and without sending any account of your welfare, even to your good mother."
"Madam," replied Marzavan, "I am infinitely obliged to your goodness. I hoped to have heard a better account of your health than has been given me, and which I lament to find confirmed by your appearance. It gives me pleasure, however, to have come so seasonably to bring your highness that remedy which your situation requires. Should I reap no other benefit from my studies and travels, I should think myself amply recompensed."
Having thus spoken, Marzavan drew out of his pocket a book and some other things, which from the account he had had from his mother of the princess's distemper, he thought he might want. The princess, observing these preparations, exclaimed, "What! brother, are you one of those who believe me mad? Undeceive yourself, and hear me."
The princess then related to Marzavan all the particulars of her story, without omitting the least circumstance, even to the ring which was exchanged for hers, and which she shewed him. "I have not concealed the least incident from you," continued she; "there is something in this business which I cannot comprehend, and which has given occasion for some persons to think me mad. But no one will attend to the rest, which is literally as I have stated."
After the princess had concluded, Marzavan, filled with wonder and astonishment, remained for some time with his eyes fixed on the ground, without speaking a word; but at length he lifted up his head, and said, "If it be as your highness says, and which I do not in the least doubt, I do not despair of being able to procure you the gratification of your wishes. But I must first entreat your highness to arm yourself with patience, till I have travelled over kingdoms which I have not yet visited, and when you hear of my return, be assured the object of your desire is not far distant." Having thus spoken, Marzavan took leave of the princess, and set out the next morning on his intended travels.
He journeyed from city to city, from province to province, and from island to island; and in every place he visited, he could hear of nothing but the princess Badoura (which was the princess of China's name) and her history.
About four months after, our traveller arrived at Torf, a sea- port town, large and populous, where the theme was changed; he no more heard of the princess Badoura, but all the talk was of prince Kummir al Zummaun, who was sick, and whose history greatly resembled hers. Marzavan was extremely delighted on hearing this, and informed himself where the prince was to be found. There were two ways to it; one, by land and sea; the other, by sea only, which was the shortest.
Marzavan chose the latter; and embarking on board a merchant ship, arrived safely in sight of Shaw Zummaun's capital; but just before it entered the port, the ship struck upon a rock, by the unskilfulness of the pilot, and foundered: it went down in sight of the castle, where at that time were the king and his grand vizier.
Marzavan, who could swim well, immediately upon the ship's sinking cast himself into the sea, and got safe on shore under the castle, where he was soon relieved by the grand vizier's order. After he had changed his clothes, and been well treated, he was introduced to the grand vizier, who lead sent for him.
Marzavan being a young man of good address, the minister received him with great politeness; and was induced, from the just and pertinent answers he returned to the questions put to him, to regard him with great esteem. Finding by degrees that he possessed great variety and extent of information, he said to him, "From what I can understand, I perceive you are no common man; you have travelled much: would to God you had discovered some remedy for a malady which has been long a source of great affliction at this court."
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