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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 3 - 4/74 -
greater security, to send for my mother and my cousins, to assist at my labour; at the same time to desire the king my brother's company, to whom I have a great desire to be reconciled. They will be glad to see me again, when they understand I am wife to the mighty king of Persia. I beseech your majesty to give me leave to send for them. I am sure they will be happy to pay their respects to you; and I venture to say you will be pleased to see them."
"Madam," replied the king of Persia, "you are mistress; do whatever you please; I will endeavour to receive them with all the honours they deserve. But I would fain know how you will acquaint them with what you desire, and when they will arrive, that I may give orders to make preparation for their reception, and go myself in person to meet them." "Sire," replied the Queen Gulnare, "there is no need of these ceremonies; they will be here in a moment; and if your majesty will but step into the closet, and look through the lattice, you shall see the manner of their arrival."
As soon as the king of Persia was in the closet, Queen Gulnare ordered one of her women to bring her a fire-pan with a little fire. After that she bade her retire, and shut the door. When she was alone, she took a piece of aloes-wood out of a box, and put it into the fire-pan. As soon as she saw the smoke rise, she repeated some words unknown to the king of Persia, who observed with great attention all that she did. She had no sooner ended, than the sea began to be disturbed. The closet the king was in was so contrived, that looking through the lattice on the same side with the windows that faced the sea, he could plainly perceive it.
At length the sea opened at some distance; and presently there arose out of it a tall, handsome young man, with whiskers of a sea-green colour; a little behind him, a lady, advanced in years, but of a majestic air, attended by five young ladies, nothing inferior in beauty to the Queen Gulnare.
Queen Gulnare immediately came to one of the windows, and saw the king her brother, the queen her mother, and the rest of her relations, who at the same time perceived her also. The company advanced, supported, as it were, upon the waves. When they came to the edge, they nimbly, one after another, sprung in at the window. King Saleh, the queen her mother, and the rest of her relations, embraced her tenderly on their first entrance, with tears in their eyes.
After Queen Gulnare had received them with all imaginable honour, and made them sit down upon a sofa, the queen her mother addressed herself to her: "Daughter," said she, "I am overjoyed to see you again after so long an absence; and I am confident that your brother and your relations are no less so. Your leaving us without acquainting any one with your intention, involved us in inexpressible concern; and it is impossible to tell you how many tears we have shed on your account. We know of no reason that could induce you to take such a resolution, but what your brother related to us respecting the conversation that passed between him and you. The advice he gave you seemed to him at that time advantageous for settling you in the world, and suitable to the then posture of our affairs. If you had not approved of his proposal, you ought not to have been so much alarmed; and give me leave to tell you, you took his advice in a different light from what you ought to have done. But no more of this; it serves only to renew the occasion of our sorrow and complaint, which we and you ought to bury forever in oblivion; give us now an account of all that has happened to you since we saw you last, and of your present situation, but especially let us know if you are married."
Gulnare immediately threw herself at her mother's feet, and kissing her hand, "Madam," said she, "I own I have been guilty of a fault, and I am indebted to your goodness for the pardon which you are pleased to grant me. What I am going to say, in obedience to your commands, will soon convince you, that it is often in vain for us to have an aversion for certain measures; I have myself experienced that the only thing I had an abhorrence to, is that to which my destiny has led me." She then related the whole of what had befallen her since she quitted the sea for the earth. As scon as she had concluded, and acquainted them with her having been sold to the king of Persia, in whose palace she was at present; "Sister," said the king her brother, "you have been wrong to suffer so many indignities, but you can properly blame nobody but yourself; you have it in your power now to free yourself, and I cannot but admire your patience, that you could endure so long a slavery. Rise, and return with us into my kingdom, which I have reconquered from the proud usurper who had made himself master of it."
The king of Persia, who heard these words from the closet where he stood, was in the utmost alarm; "Ah!" said he to himself, "I am ruined, and if my queen, my Gulnare, hearken to this advice, and leave me, I shall surely die, for it is impossible for me to live without her." Queen Gulnare soon put him out of his fears.
"Brother," said she smiling, "what I have just heard gives me a greater proof than ever of the sincerity of your affection; I could not brook your proposing to me a match with a prince of the earth: now I can scarcely forbear being angry with you for advising me to break the engagement I have made with the most puissant and most renowned monarch in the world. I do not speak here of an engagement between a slave and her master; it would be easy to return the ten thousand pieces of gold he gave for me; but I speak now of a contract between a wife and a husband--and a wife who has not the least reason to complain. He is a religious, wise, and temperate king, and has given me the most essential demonstrations of his love. What can be a greater proof of the sincerity of his passion, than sending away all his women (of which he had a great number) immediately upon my arrival, and confining himself to me alone? I am now his wife, and he has lately declared me queen of Persia, to share with him in his councils; besides, I am pregnant, and if heaven permit me to give him a son, that will be another motive to engage my affections to him the more."
"So that, brother," continued the queen Gulnare, "instead of following your advice, you see I have all the reason in the world, not only to love the king of Persia as passionately as he loves me, but also to live and die with him, more out of gratitude than duty. I hope then neither my mother, nor you, nor any of my cousins, will disapprove of the resolution or the alliance I have made, which will do equal honour to the kings of the sea and earth. Excuse me for giving you the trouble of coming hither from the bottom of the deep, to communicate it to you; and to enjoy the pleasure of seeing you after so long a separation."
"Sister," replied King Saleh, "the proposal I made you of going back with us into my kingdom, upon the recital of your adventures (which I could not hear without concern), was only to let you see how much we all love you, and how much I in particular honour you, and that nothing is so dear to me as your happiness. Upon the same account then, for my own part, I cannot condemn a resolution so reasonable and so worthy of yourself, after what you have told us of the king of Persia your husband, and the great obligations you owe him; and I am persuaded that the queen our mother will be of the same opinion."
The queen confirmed what her son had spoken, and addressing herself to Gulnare, said, "I am glad to hear you are pleased; and I have nothing to add to what your brother has said. I should have been the first to condemn you, had you not expressed all the gratitude you owe to a monarch. that loves you so passionately."
As the king of Persia had been extremely concerned under the apprehension of losing his beloved queen, so now he was transported with joy at her resolution never to forsake him; and having no room to doubt of her love after so open a declaration, he resolved to evince his gratitude in every possible way.
While the king was indulging incredible pleasure, Queen Gulnare clapped her hands, and immediately some of her slaves entered, whom she had ordered to bring in a collation: as soon as it was served up, she invited the queen her mother, the king her brother, and her cousins to partake. They began to reflect that they were in the palace of a mighty king, who had never seen or heard of them, and that it would be rudeness to eat at his table without him. This reflection raised a blush in their faces, and in their emotion, their eyes glowing like fire, they breathed flames at their mouths and nostrils.
This unexpected sight put the king of Persia, who was totally ignorant of the cause of it, into a dreadful consternation. Queen Gulnare, suspecting this, and understanding the intention of her relations, rose from her seat, and told them she would be back in a moment. She went directly to the closet, and by her presence recovered the king of Persia from his surprise; "Sir," said she, "I doubt not but that your majesty is well pleased with the acknowledgment I have made of the many favours for which I am indebted to you. I might have complied with the wishes of my relations, and gone back with them into their dominions; but I am not capable of such ingratitude, for which I should have been the first to condemn myself." "Ah! my queen,"cried the king of Persia, "speak no more of your obligations to me; you have none; I am under so many to you, that I shall never be able to repay them. I never thought it possible you could have loved me so tenderly as you do, and as you have made appear to me in the most endearing manner." "Ah! sir," replied Gulnare "could I do less? I fear I have not done enough, considering all the honours that your majesty has heaped upon me; and it is impossible for me to remain insensible of your love, after so many convincing proofs as you have given me."
"But, sir," continued Gulnare, "let us drop this subject, and give me leave to assure you of the sincere friendship the queen my mother and the king my brother are pleased to honour you with; they earnestly desire to see you, and tell you so themselves: I intended to have had some conversation with them by ordering a banquet for them, before I introduced them to your majesty; but they are impatient to pay their respects to you; and therefore I beseech your majesty to be pleased to honour them with your presence."
"Madam," said the king of Persia, "I should be glad to salute persons who have the honour to be so nearly related to you, but I am afraid of the flames they breathe at their mouths and nostrils." "Sir," replied the queen laughing, "you need not in the least fear those flames, which are nothing but a sign of their unwillingness to eat in your palace, without your honouring them with your presence, and eating with them."
The king of Persia, encouraged by these words, rose and went into
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