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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 2 - 50/66 -
subjects, to preserve the favourable opinion Assad had of him. Among other things, he said, "It must be confessed you were very fortunate to have spoken to me, rather than to any one else: I thank God I met with you; you will know why, when you come to my house."
At length they arrived at the residence of the old man, who introduced Assad into a hall, where there were forty such old fellows as himself, who made a circle round a flaming fire, which they were adoring. The prince was not less struck with horror at the sight of so many men mistakenly worshipping the creature for the Creator, than he was with fear at finding himself betrayed into so abominable a place.
While the prince stood motionless with astonishment, the old cheat saluted the forty gray-headed men. "Devout adorers of fire," said he to them, "this is a happy day for us; where is Gazban? call him."
He spake these words aloud, when a negro who waited at the lower end of the hall immediately came up to him. This black was Gazban, who, as soon as he saw the disconsolate Assad, imagined for what purpose he was called. He rushed upon him immediately, threw him down, and bound his hands with wonderful activity. When he had done, "Carry him down," said the old man, "and fail not to order my daughters, Bostama and Cavama, to give him every day a severe bastinado, with only a loaf morning and night for his subsistence; this is enough to keep him alive till the next ship departs for the blue sea and the fiery mountain, where he shall be offered up an acceptable sacrifice to our divinity."
As soon as the old man had given the cruel order, Gazban hurried prince Assad under the hall, through several doors, till they came to a dungeon, down to which led twenty steps; there he left him in chains of prodigious weight and bigness, fastened to his feet. When he had done, he went to give the old man's daughters notice: but their father had before sent for them, and given them their instructions himself: "Daughters," said he to them, "go down and give the Mussulmaun I just now brought in the bastinado: do not spare him; you cannot better shew your zeal for the worship of the fire."
Bostama and Cavama, who were bred up in their hatred to the faithful, received this order with joy. They descended into the dungeon that instant, stripped Assad, and bastinadoed him unmercifully, till the blood issued out of his wounds and he was almost dead. After this cruel treatment, they put a loaf of bread and a pot of water by him, and retired.
Assad did not come to himself again for a long time; when he revived, he burst out into a flood of tears, deploring his misery. His comfort however was, that this misfortune had not happened to his brother.
Amgiad waited for his brother till evening with impatience; as two, three, or four of the clock in the morning arrived, and Assad did not return, he was in despair. He spent the night in extreme uneasiness; and as soon as it was day went to the city, where he was surprised to see but very few Mussulmauns. He accosted the first he met, and asked him the name of the place. He was told it was the city of the Magicians, so called from the great number of magicians, who adored the fire; and that it contained but few Mussulmauns. Amgiad then demanded how far it was to the isle of Ebene? He was answered, four months' voyage by sea, and a year's journey by land. The man he talked to left him hastily, having satisfied him as to these two questions.
Amgiad, who had been but six weeks coming from the isle of Ebene with his brother Assad, could not comprehend how they had reached this city in so short a time, unless it was by enchantment, or that the way across the mountain was a much shorter one, but not frequented because of its difficulty.
Going farther into the town, he stopped at a tailor's shop, whom he knew to be a Mussulmaun by his dress. Having saluted him, he sat down, and told him the occasion of the trouble he was in.
When prince Amgiad had done talking, the tailor replied, "If your brother has fallen into the hands of some magicians, depend upon it you will never see him more. He is lost past all recovery; and I advise you to comfort yourself as well as you can, and to beware of falling into the same misfortune: to which end, if you will take my advice, you shall stay at my house, and I will tell you all the tricks of these magicians, that you may take care of yourself, when you go out." Amgiad, afflicted for the loss of his brother, accepted the tailor's offer and thanked him a thousand times for his kindness to him.
The Story of the Prince Amgiad and a Lady of the City of the Magicians.
For a whole month prince Amgiad never went out of the tailor's house without being accompanied by his host. At last he ventured to go alone to the bath. As he was returning home, he met a lady on the way. Seeing a handsome young man, she lifted up her veil, asked him with a smiling air, and bewitching look, whither he was going? Amgiad was overpowered by her charms, and replied, "Madam, I am going to my own house, or, if you please, I will go to yours."
"My lord," resumed the lady, with a smile, "ladies of my quality never take men to their houses, they always accompany them to theirs."
Amgiad was much perplexed by this unexpected reply. He durst not venture to take her home to his landlord's house, lest he should give him offence, and thereby lose his protection, of which he had so much need, in a city which required him to be always on his guard. He knew so little of the town, that he could not tell where to convey her, and he could not make up his mind to suffer the adventure to go unimproved. In this uncertainty, he determined to throw himself upon chance; and without making any answer, went on, and the lady followed him. Amgiad led her from street to street, from square to square, till they were both weary with walking. At last they entered a street, at the end of which was a closed gateway leading to a handsome mansion. On each side of the gateway was a bench. Amgiad sat down on one of them, as if to take breath: and the lady, more weary than he, seated herself on the other.
When she had taken her seat, she asked him, whether that was his house? "You see it, madam," said Amgiad. "Why do you not open the gate then," demanded the lady; "what do you wait for?" "Fair lady," answered Amgiad, "I have not the key; I left it with my slave, when I sent him on an errand, and he cannot be come back yet: besides, I ordered him afterwards to provide something good for dinner; so that I am afraid we shall wait a long time for him."
The prince, meeting with so many obstacles to the satisfying of his passion, began to repent of having proceeded so far, and contrived this answer, in hopes that the lady would take the hint, would leave him out of resentment, and seek elsewhere for a lover; but he was mistaken.
"This is a most impertinent slave," said the lady, "to make us wait so long. I will chastise him myself as he deserves, if you do not, when he comes back. It is not decent that I should sit here alone with a man." Saying this, she arose, and took up a stone to break the lock, which was only of wood, and weak, according to the fashion of the country.
Amgiad gave himself over for a lost man, when he saw the door forced open. He paused to consider whether he should go into the house or make off as fast as he could, to avoid the danger which he believed was inevitable; and he was going to fly when the lady returned.
Seeing he did not enter, she asked, "Why do not you come into your house?" The prince answered, "I am looking to see if my slave is coming, fearing we have nothing ready." "Come in, come in," resumed she, we had better wait for him within doors than without."
Amgiad, much against his will, followed her into the house. Passing through a spacious court, neatly paved, they ascended by several steps into a grand vestibule, which led to a large open hall very well furnished, where he and the lady found a table ready spread with all sorts of delicacies, another heaped with fruit, and a sideboard covered with bottles of wine.
When Amgiad beheld these preparations, he gave himself up for lost. "Unfortunate Amgiad," said he to himself, "thou wilt soon follow thy dear brother Assad."
The lady, on the contrary, transported at the sight, exclaimed, "How, my lord, did you fear there was nothing ready? You see your slave has done more than you expected. But, if I am not mistaken, these preparations were made for some other lady, and not for me: no matter, let her come, I promise you I will not be jealous; I only beg the favour of you to permit me to wait on her and you."
Amgiad, greatly as he was troubled at this accident, could not help laughing at the lady's pleasantry. "Madam," said he, thinking of something else that tormented his mind, "there is nothing in what you imagine; this is my common dinner, and no extraordinary preparation, I assure you." As he could not bring himself to sit down at a. table which was not provided for him, he would have taken his seat on a sofa, but the lady would not permit him. "Come, sir," said she, "you must be hungry after bathing, let us eat and enjoy ourselves."
Amgiad was forced to comply: they both sat down, and began to regale themselves. After having taken a little, the lady took a bottle and glass, poured out some wine, and when she had drunk herself, filled another glass, and gave it to Amgiad, who pledged her. The more the prince reflected on this adventure, the more he was amazed that the master of the house did not appear; and that a mansion, so rich and well provided, should be left without a servant. "It will be fortunate," said he to himself, "if the master of the house do not return till I am got clear of this intrigue." While he was occupied with these thoughts, and others more troublesome, she ate and drank heartily, and obliged him to do the same. Just as they were proceeding to the dessert, the master of the house arrived.
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