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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 3 - 6/74 -
with that goodness which invited them to approach him; that he heard favourably all who had anything to say to him; that he answered everybody with a goodness that was peculiar to him; and that he refused nobody any thing that had the least appearance of justice.
The day for the ceremony was appointed, when in the midst of the whole assembly, which was then more numerous than ordinary, the king of Persia came down from his throne, took the crown from his head, put it on that of Prince Beder, and having seated him in his place, kissed his hand as a token that he resigned his authority to him. After which he took his place among the crowd of viziers and emirs below the throne.
Hereupon the viziers, emirs, and other principal officers, came immediately and threw themselves at the new king's feet, taking each the oath of fidelity according to their rank. Then the grand vizier made a report of divers important matters, on which the young king gave judgment with that admirable prudence and sagacity that surprised all the council. He next turned out several governors convicted of mal-administration, and put others in their room, with such wonderful and just discernment, as exalted the acclamations of every body, which were so much the more honourable, as flattery had no share in them. He at length left the council, accompanied by his father, and went to wait on his mother Queen Gulnare at her apartment. The queen no sooner saw him coming with his crown upon his head, than she ran to him and embraced him with tenderness, wishing him a long and prosperous reign.
The first year of his reign King Beder acquitted himself of all his royal functions with great assiduity. Above all, he took care to inform himself of the state of his affairs, and all that might any way contribute towards the happiness of his people. Next year, having left the administration to his council, under the direction of his father, he left his capital, under pretence of diverting himself with hunting; but his real intention was to visit all the provinces of his kingdom, that he might reform abuses, establish good order, and deprive all ill-minded princes, his neighbours, of any opportunities of attempting anything against the security and tranquillity of his subjects, by shewing himself on his frontiers.
It required no less than a whole year for the young monarch to execute a design so worthy of him. Soon after his return, the old king his father fell so dangerously ill, that he knew at once he should never recover. He waited for his last moment with great tranquillity, and his only care was to recommend to the ministers and other lords of his son's court, to persevere in the fidelity they had sworn to him: and there was not one but willingly renewed his oath as freely as at first. He died at length, to the great grief of King Beder and Queen Gulnare, who caused his corpse to be borne to a stately mausoleum, worthy of his rank and dignity.
The funeral obsequies ended, King Beder found no difficulty to comply with that ancient custom in Persia to mourn for the dead a whole month and not to be seen by anybody during that time. He had mourned the death of his father his whole life, had he yielded to his excessive affliction, and had it been right for a great prince thus to abandon himself to sorrow. During this interval the Queen Gulnare's mother, and King Saleh, together with the princesses their relations, arrived at the Persian court to condole with their relations.
When the month was expired, the king could not refuse admittance to the grand vizier and the other lords of his court, who besought him to lay aside his mourning, to shew himself to his subjects, and take upon him the administration of affairs as before.
He shewed so much reluctance to comply with their request, that the grand vizier was forced to take upon himself to say; "Sir, it were needless to represent to your majesty, that it belongs only to women to persist in perpetual mourning. We doubt not but you are fully convinced of this, and that it is not your intention to follow their example. Neither our tears nor yours are capable of restoring life to the good king your father, though we should lament him all our days. He has submitted to the common law of all men, which subjects them to pay the indispensable tribute of death. Yet we cannot say absolutely that he is dead, since we see in him your sacred person. He did not himself doubt, when he was dying, but he should revive in you, and to your majesty it belongs to show that he was not deceived."
King Beder could no longer oppose such pressing instances; he laid aside his mourning; and after he had resumed the royal habit and ornaments, began to provide for the necessities of his kingdom and subjects with the same assiduity as before his father's death. He acquitted himself with universal approbation: and as he was exact in maintaining the ordinances of his predecessor, the people did not perceive they had changed their sovereign.
King Saleh, who was returned to his dominions in the sea with the queen his mother and the princesses, no sooner saw that King Beder had resumed the government, but he at the end of the year came alone to visit him; and King Beder and Queen Gulnare were overjoyed to see him. One evening, talking of various matters, King Saleh fell insensibly on the praises of the king his nephew, and expressed to the queen his sister how glad he was to see him govern so prudently, as to acquire such high reputation, not only among his neighbours, but more remote princes. King Beder, who could not bear to hear himself so well spoken of, and not being willing, through good manners, to interrupt the king his uncle, turned on one side, and feigned to be asleep, leaning his head against a cushion that was behind him.
From these commendations, which regarded only the conduct and genius of Beder, King Saleh came to speak of the perfections of his person, which he extolled as prodigies, having nothing equal to them upon earth, or in all the kingdoms under the waters, with which he was acquainted.
"Sister," said he, "I wonder you have not thought of marrying him: if I mistake not, he is in his twentieth year; and, at that age, no prince ought to be suffered to be without a wife. I will think of a match for him myself, since you will not, and marry him to some princess of our lower world that may be worthy of him."
"Brother," replied queen Gulnare, "you call to my attention what I must own has never occurred to me. As he discovered no inclination for marriage, I never thought of mentioning it to him. I like your proposal of one of our princesses; and I desire you to name one so beautiful and accomplished that the king my son may be obliged to love her."
"I know one," replied king Saleh, softly; "but before I tell you who she is, let us see if the king my nephew be asleep, and I will tell you afterwards why it is necessary we should take that precaution." Queen Gulnare turned about and looked at her son, and thought she had no reason to doubt but he was in a profound sleep. King Beder, nevertheless, far from sleeping, redoubled his attention, unwilling to lose any thing the king his uncle said with so much secrecy. "There is no necessity for your speaking so low," said the queen to the king her brother; "you may speak out with freedom, without fear of being heard."
"It is by no means proper," replied King Saleh, "that the king my nephew should as yet have any knowledge of what I am going to say. Love, you know, sometimes enters at the ear, and it is not necessary he should thus conceive a passion for the lady I am about to name. Indeed I see many difficulties to be surmounted, not on the lady's part, as I hope, but on that of her father. I need only mention to you the princess Jehaun-ara, daughter of the king of Samandal."
"How! brother," replied Queen Gulnare, "is not the princess yet married? I remember to have seen her before I left your palace; she was then about eighteen months old, surprisingly beautiful, and must needs be the wonder of the world, if her charms have increased with her years. The few years she is older than the king my son ought not to prevent us from doing our utmost to effect the match. Let me but know the difficulties in the way, and we will surmount them."
"Sister," replied King Saleh, "the greatest difficulty is, that the king of Samandal is insupportably vain, looking upon all others as his inferiors: it is not likely we shall easily get him to enter into this alliance. I will however go to him in person, and demand of him the princess his daughter; and, in case he refuses her, we will address ourselves elsewhere, where we shall be more favourably heard. For this reason, as you may perceive," added he, "it is as well for the king my nephew not to know any thing of our design, till we have the consent of the king of Samandal." They discoursed a little longer upon this point and, before they parted, agreed that King Saleh should forthwith return to his own dominions, and demand the princess for the king of Persia his nephew.
This done, Queen Gulnare and King Saleh, who believed King Beder asleep, agreed to awake him before they retired; and he dissembled so well that he seemed to awake from a profound sleep. He had heard every word, and the character they gave of the princess had inflamed his heart with a new passion. He had conceived such an idea of her beauty, that the desire of possessing her made him pass the night very uneasy without closing his eyes.
Next day King Saleh proposed taking leave of Gulnare and the king his nephew. The young king, who knew his uncle would not have de- parted so soon but to go and promote without loss of time his happiness, changed colour when he heard him mention his departure. His passion was become so violent, it would not suffer him to wait so long for the sight of his mistress as would be required to accomplish the marriage. He more than once resolved to desire his uncle to bring her away with him: but as he did not wish to let the queen his mother understand he knew anything of what had passed, he desired him only to stay with him one day more, that they might hunt together, intending to take that opportunity to discover his mind to him.
The day for hunting was fixed, and King Beder had many opportunities of being alone with his uncle; but he had not courage to acquaint him with his design.
In the heat of the chase, when King Saleh was separated from him, and not one of his officers or attendants was near him, he alighted by a rivulet; and having tied his horse to a tree,
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