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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 3 - 3/74 -


destiny had condemned to be a slave, ought to think herself very happy in meeting with a king for her master."

"Sire," replied the lady, "whatever the slave be, as I have already observed to your majesty, there is no king on earth can tyrannize over her will. When indeed you speak of a slave mistress of charms sufficient to captivate a monarch, and induce him to love her; if she be of a rank infinitely below him, I am of your opinion, she ought to think herself happy in her misfortunes: still what happiness can it be, when she considers herself only as a slave, torn from a parent's arms, and perhaps from those of a lover, her passion for whom death only can extinguish; but when this very slave is in nothing inferior to the king who has purchased her, your majesty shall judge yourself of the rigour of her destiny, her misery and her sorrow, and to what desperate attempts the anguish of despair may drive her."

The king of Persia, astonished at this discourse, "Madam," said he, "can it be possible that you are of royal blood, as by your words you seem to intimate? Explain the whole secret to me, I beseech you, and no longer augment my impatience. Let me instantly know who are the happy parents of so great a prodigy of beauty; who are your brothers, your sisters, and your relations; but, above all, tell me your name?"

"Sire," said the fair slave, "my name is Gulnare of the Sea: and my father, who is dead, was one of the most potent monarchs of the ocean. When he died, he left his kingdom to a brother of mine, named Saleh, and to the queen, my mother, who is also a princess, the daughter of another puissant monarch of the sea. We enjoyed profound peace and tranquillity through the whole kingdom, till a neighbouring prince, envious of our happiness, invaded our dominions with a mighty army; and penetrating as far as our capital, made himself master of it; and we had but just time to save ourselves in an impenetrable and inaccessible place, with a few trusty officers, who did not forsake us in our distress.

"In this retreat my brother was not negligent in contriving means to drive the unjust invaders from our dominions. One day taking me into his closet, 'Sister,' said he, 'the events of the smallest undertakings are always dubious. For my own part, I may fail in the attempt I design to make to recover my kingdom; and I shall be less concerned for my own disgrace than what may possibly happen to you. To secure you from all accident, I would fain see you married. But in the present miserable condition of our affairs, I see no probability of matching you to any of the princes of the sea; and therefore I should be glad if you would concur in my opinion, and think of marrying one of the princes of the earth. I am ready to contribute all that lies in my power towards accomplishing this; and am certain there is not one of them, however powerful, but, considering your beauty, would be proud of sharing his crown with you.'

"At this discourse of my brother's, I fell into a violent passion. 'Brother,' said I, 'you know that I am descended, as well as you, from the kings and queens of the sea, without any mixture of alliance with those of the earth; therefore I do not design to marry below myself, and I have taken an oath to that effect. The condition to which we are reduced shall never oblige me to alter my resolution; and if you perish in the execution of your design, I am prepared to fall with you, rather than follow the advice I so little expected from you.'

"My brother, who was still earnest for my marriage, however improper for me, endeavoured to make me believe that there were kings of the earth who were no ways inferior to those of the sea. This put me into a more violent passion, which occasioned him to say several bitter reflecting things, that nettled me to the quick. He left me, as much dissatisfied with myself as he could possibly be with me; and in this peevish mood I gave a spring from the bottom of the sea up to the Island of the Moon.

"Notwithstanding the violent discontent that made me cast myself upon that island, I lived content in retirement. But in spite of all my precautions, a person of distinction, attended by his servants, surprised me sleeping, and carried me to his own house. He expressed much love to me, and omitted nothing which he thought might induce me to return his passion. When he saw that fair means would not prevail upon me, he attempted to use force: but I soon made him repent of his insolence. He resolved to sell me, which he did to the merchant who brought me hither, and sold me to your majesty. He was a prudent, courteous, humane man; and during the whole of the long journey, never gave me the least reason to complain.

"As for your majesty," continued the princess Gulnare, "if you had not shown me all the respect you have hitherto done (for which I am extremely obliged to your goodness), and given me such undeniable marks of your affection, that I can no longer doubt of it; if you had not immediately sent away your women; I hesitate not to tell you, that I should not have remained with you. I would have thrown myself into the sea out of this window, where you accosted me when you first came into this apartment; and have gone in search of my mother, my brother, and the rest of my relations. I should have persisted in that design, and would have put it in execution, if after a certain time I had found myself deceived in the hopes of being with child; but in the condition I am in, all I could say to my mother or my brother would never convince them that I have been a slave to a king like your majesty. They would never believe it, but would for ever upbraid me with the crime I have voluntarily committed against my honour. However, sire, be it a prince or princess that I may bring into the world, it will be a pledge to engage me never to be parted from your majesty; and therefore I hope you will no longer regard me as a slave, but as a princess worthy your alliance."

In this manner the Princess Gulnare discovered herself to the king of Persia, and finished her story. "My charming, my adorable princess," cried he, "what wonders have I heard! and what ample matter for my curiosity, to ask a thousand questions concerning those strange and unheard of things which you have related! But first, I ought to thank you for your goodness and patience in making trial of the truth and constancy of my passion. I thought it impossible for me to love you more than I did; but since I know you to be a princess, I love you a thousand times more. Princess! did I say, madam? you are no longer so; but you are my queen, the queen of Persia; and by that title you shall soon be proclaimed throughout the whole kingdom. To-morrow the ceremony shall be performed in my capital with a pomp and magnificence never yet beheld; which will plainly shew that you are my queen and my lawful wife. This should long ago have been done, had you sooner convinced me of my error: for from the first moment of my seeing you, I have been of the same opinion as now, to love you always, and never to place my affections on any other.

"But that I may satisfy myself, and pay you all the respect that is your due, I beseech you, madam, to inform me more particularly of the kingdom and people of the sea, who are altogether unknown to me. I have heard much talk, indeed, of the inhabitants of the sea, but I always looked upon such accounts merely as tales or fables; by what you have told me, I am convinced there is nothing more true; and I have a proof of it in your own person, who are one of them, and are pleased to condescend to be my wife; which is an honour no other inhabitant on the earth can boast. There is one point however which yet perplexes me; therefore I must beg the favour of you to explain it; that is, I cannot comprehend how it is possible for you to live or move in water without being drowned. There are few amongst us who have the art of staying under water; and they would surely perish, if, after a certain time, according to their activity and strength, they did not come up again."

"Sire," replied the Queen Gulnare, "I shall with pleasure satisfy the king of Persia. We can walk at the bottom of the sea with as much ease as you can upon land; and we can breathe in the water as you do in the air; so that instead of suffocating us, as it does you, it absolutely contributes to the preservation of our lives. What is yet more remarkable is, that it never wets our clothes; so that when we wish to visit the earth, we have no occasion to dry them. Our language is the same with that of the writing engraved upon the seal of the great prophet Solomon the son of David.

"I must not forget to inform you further, that the water does not in the least hinder us from seeing: for we can open our eyes without any inconvenience: and as we have quick, piercing sight, we can discern any objects as clearly in the deepest part of the sea as upon land. We have also there a succession of day and night; the moon affords us her light; and even the planets and the stars appear visible to us. I have already spoken of our kingdoms; but as the sea is much more spacious than the earth, so there are a great number of them, and of great extent. They are divided into provinces; and in each province are several great cities well peopled. In short there is an infinite number of nations differing in manners and customs, as they do on the earth.

"The palaces of the kings and princes are sumptuous and magnificent. Some of them are constructed of marble of various colours; others of rock-crystal, with which the sea abounds, mother of pearl, coral, and of other materials more valuable; gold, silver, and all sorts of precious stones are more plentiful there than on earth. I say nothing of the pearls, since the largest that ever were seen upon earth would not be valued amongst us; and none but the very lowest rank of citizens would wear them.

"As we have a marvellous and incredible agility to transport ourselves whither we please in the twinkling of an eye, we have no occasion for carriages or horses; not but the king has his stables and his stud of sea horses; but they are seldom used, except upon public feasts or rejoicing days. Some, after they have trained them, take delight in riding and shewing their skill and dexterity in races; others put them to chariots of mother of pearl, adorned with an infinite number of shells of all sorts, of the liveliest colours. These chariots are open; and in the middle is a throne on which the king sits, and shows himself to the public view of his subjects. The horses are trained to draw by themselves; so that there is no occasion for a charioteer to guide them. I pass over a thousand other curious particulars relating to these submarine countries, which would be very entertaining to your majesty; but you must permit me to defer them to a future opportunity, to speak of something of much greater consequence, which is, that the method of delivering, and the way of managing the women of the sea in their lying-in, is very different from those of the women of the earth; and I am afraid to trust myself in the hands of the midwives of this country: therefore, since my safe delivery equally concerns us both, with your majesty's permission, I think it proper, for


The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 3 - 3/74

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