The Arabian Nights Entertainments by Andrew Lang - HTML preview

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tailor, the doctor, the purveyor, and the merchant, who bore the dead hunchback

on their shoulders.

When the procession reached the palace the chief of police prostrated himself at

the feet of the Sultan, and related all that he knew of the matter. The Sultan was

so much struck by the circumstances that he ordered his private historian to write

down an exact account of what had passed, so that in the years to come the

miraculous escape of the four men who had thought themselves murderers might

never be forgotten.

The Sultan asked everybody concerned in the hunchback's affair to tell him their

stories. Among others was a prating barber, whose tale of one of his brothers

follows.

Story of the Barber's Fifth Brother

As long as our father lived Alnaschar was very idle. Instead of working for his

bread he was not ashamed to ask for it every evening, and to support himself

next day on what he had received the night before. When our father died, worn

out by age, he only left seven hundred silver drachmas to be divided amongst us,

which made one hundred for each son. Alnaschar, who had never possessed so

much money in his life, was quite puzzled to know what to do with it. After

reflecting upon the matter for some time he decided to lay it out on glasses,

bottles, and things of that sort, which he would buy from a wholesale merchant.

Having bought his stock he next proceeded to look out for a small shop in a good

position, where he sat down at the open door, his wares being piled up in an

uncovered basket in front of him, waiting for a customer among the passers-by.

In this attitude he remained seated, his eyes fixed on the basket, but his thoughts

far away. Unknown to himself he began to talk out loud, and a tailor, whose shop

was next door to his, heard quite plainly what he was saying.

"This basket," said Alnaschar to himself, "has cost me a hundred drachmas-- all

that I possess in the world. Now in selling the contents piece by piece I shal turn

two hundred, and these hundreds I shall again lay out in glass, which will

produce four hundred. By this means I shall in course of time make four

thousand drachmas, which will easily double themselves. When I have got ten

thousand I will give up the glass trade and become a jeweller, and devote all my

time to trading in pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones. At last, having all

the wealth that heart can desire, I will buy a beautiful country house, with horses

and slaves, and then I will lead a merry life and entertain my friends. At my feasts

I will send for musicians and dancers from the neighbouring town to amuse my

guests. In spite of my riches I shall not, however, give up trade till I have

amassed a capital of a hundred thousand drachmas, when, having become a

man of much consideration, I shall request the hand of the grand-vizir's daughter,

taking care to inform the worthy father that I have heard favourable reports of her

beauty and wit, and that I will pay down on our wedding day 3 thousand gold

pieces. Should the vizir refuse my proposal, which after all is hardly to be

expected, I will seize him by the beard and drag him to my house."

When I shall have married his daughter I will give her ten of the best eunuchs

that can be found for her service. Then I shall put on my most gorgeous robes,

and mounted on a horse with a saddle of fine gold, and its trappings blazing with

diamonds, followed by a train of slaves, I shall present myself at the house of the

grand-vizir, the people casting down their eyes and bowing low as I pass along.

At the foot of the grand-vizir's staircase I shall dismount, and while my servants

stand in a row to right and left I shall ascend the stairs, at the head of which the

grand-vizir will be waiting to receive me. He will then embrace me as his son-in-law, and giving me his seat will place himself below me. This being done (as I

have every reason to expect), two of my servants will enter, each bearing a purse

containing a thousand pieces of gold. One of these I shall present to him saying,

"Here are the thousand gold pieces that I offered for your daughter's hand, and

here," I shall continue, holding out the second purse, "are another thousand to

show you that I am a man who is better than his word." After hearing of such

generosity the world will talk of nothing else.

I shall return home with the same pomp as I set out, and my wife will send an

officer to compliment me on my visit to her father, and I shall confer on the officer

the honour of a rich dress and a handsome gift. Should she send one to me I

shall refuse it and dismiss the bearer. I shall never allow my wife to leave her

rooms on any pretext whatever without my permission, and my visits to her will

be marked by all the ceremony calculated to inspire respect. No establishment

will be better ordered than mine, and I shall take care always to be dressed in a

manner suitable to my position. In the evening, when we retire to our apartments,

I shall sit in the place of honour, where I shall assume a grand demeanour and

speak little, gazing straight before me, and when my wife, lovely as the full moon,

stands humbly in front of my chair I shall pretend not to see her. Then her women

will say to me, "Respected lord and master, your wife and slave is before you

waiting to be noticed. She is mortified that you never deign to look her way; she

is tired of standing so long. Beg her, we pray you, to be seated." Of course I shall

give no signs of even hearing this speech, which will vex them mightily. They will

throw themselves at my feet with lamentations, and at length I will raise my head

and throw a careless glance at her, then I shall go back to my former attitude.

The women will think that I am displeased at my wife's dress and will lead her

away to put on a finer one, and I on my side shall replace the one I am wearing

with another yet more splendid. They will then return to the charge, but this time

it will take much longer before they persuade me even to look at my wife. It is as

well to begin on my wedding-day as I mean to go on for the rest of our lives.

The next day she will complain to her mother of the way she has been treated,

which will fill my heart with joy. Her mother will come to seek me, and, kissing my

hands with respect, will say, "My lord" (for she could not dare to risk my anger by

using the familiar title of "son-in-law"), "My lord, do not, I implore you, refuse to

look upon my daughter or to approach her. She only lives to please you, and

loves you with all her soul." But I shall pay no more heed to my mother-in-law's

words than I did to those of the women. Again she will beseech me to listen to

her entreaties, throwing herself this time at my feet, but al to no purpose. Then,

putting a glass of wine into my wife's hand, she will say to her, "There, present

that to him yourself, he cannot have the cruelty to reject anything offered by so

beautiful a hand," and my wife will take it and offer it to me tremblingly with tears

in her eyes, but I shall look in the other direction. This will cause her to weep still

more, and she will hold out the glass crying, "Adorable husband, never shall I

cease my prayers till you have done me the favour to drink." Sick of her

importunities, these words will goad me to fury. I shall dart an angry look at her

and give her a sharp blow on the cheek, at the same time giving her a kick so

violent that she will stagger across the room and fall on to the sofa.

"My brother," pursued the barber, "was so much absorbed in his dreams that he

actually did give a kick with his foot, which unluckily hit the basket of glass. It fell

into the street and was instantly broken into a thousand pieces."

His neighbour the tailor, who had been listening to his visions, broke into a loud

fit of laughter as he saw this sight.

"Wretched man!" he cried, "you ought to die of shame at behaving so to a young

wife who has done nothing to you. You must be a brute for her tears and prayers

not to touch your heart. If I were the grand-vizir I would order you a hundred

blows from a bullock whip, and would have you led round the town accompanied

by a herald who should proclaim your crimes."

The accident, so fatal to all his profits, had restored my brother to his senses,

and seeing that the mischief had been caused by his own insufferable pride, he

rent his clothes and tore his hair, and lamented himself so loudly that the

passers-by stopped to listen. It was a Friday, so these were more numerous than

usual. Some pitied Alnaschar, others only laughed at him, but the vanity which

had gone to his head had disappeared with his basket of glass, and he was

loudly bewailing his folly when a lady, evidently a person of consideration, rode

by on a mule. She stopped and inquired what was the matter, and why the man

wept. They told her that he was a poor man who had laid out all his money on

this basket of glass, which was now broken. On hearing the cause of these loud

wails the lady turned to her attendant and said to him, "Give him whatever you

have got with you." The man obeyed, and placed in my brother's hands a purse

containing five hundred pieces of gold. Alnaschar almost died of joy on receiving

it. He blessed the lady a thousand times, and, shutting up his shop where he had

no longer anything to do, he returned home.

He was still absorbed in contemplating his good fortune, when a knock came to

his door, and on opening it he found an old woman standing outside.

"My son," she said, "I have a favour to ask of you. It is the hour of prayer and I

have not yet washed myself. Let me, I beg you, enter your house, and give me

water."

My brother, although the old woman was a stranger to him, did not hesitate to do

as she wished. He gave her a vessel of water and then went back to his place

and his thoughts, and with his mind busy over his last adventure, he put his gold

into a long and narrow purse, which he could easily carry in his belt. During this

time the old woman was busy over her prayers, and when she had finished she

came and prostrated herself twice before my brother, and then rising called down

endless blessings on his head. Observing her shabby clothes, my brother

thought that her gratitude was in reality a hint that he should give her some

money to buy some new ones, so he held out two pieces of gold. The old woman

started back in surprise as if she had received an insult. "Good heavens!" she

exclaimed, "what is the meaning of this? Is it possible that you take me, my lord,

for one of those miserable creatures who force their way into houses to beg for

alms? Take back your money. I am thankful to say I do not need it, for I belong to

a beautiful lady who is very rich and gives me everything I want."

My brother was not clever enough to detect that the old woman had merely

refused the two pieces of money he had offered her in order to get more, but he

inquired if she could procure him the pleasure of seeing this lady.

"Willingly," she replied; "and she will be charmed to marry you, and to make you

the master of all her wealth. So pick up your money and follow me."

Delighted at the thought that he had found so easily both a fortune and a

beautiful wife, my brother asked no more questions, but concealing his purse,

with the money the lady had given him, in the folds of his dress, he set out

joyfully with his guide.

They walked for some distance till the old woman stopped at a large house,

where she knocked. The door was opened by a young Greek slave, and the old

woman led my brother across a well-paved court into a well-furnished hall. Here

she left him to inform her mistress of his presence, and as the day was hot he

flung himself on a pile of cushions and took off his heavy turban. In a few minutes

there entered a lady, and my brother perceived at the first glance that she was

even more beautiful and more richly dressed than he had expected. He rose from

his seat, but the lady signed to him to sit down again and placed herself beside

him. After the usual compliments had passed between them she said, "We are

not comfortable here, let us go into another room," and passing into a smaller

chamber, apparently communicating with no other, she continued to talk to him

for some time. Then rising hastily she left him, saying, "Stay where you are, I will

come back in a moment."

He waited as he was told, but instead of the lady there entered a huge black

slave with a sword in his hand. Approaching my brother with an angry

countenance he exclaimed, "What business have you here?" His voice and

manner were so terrific that Alnaschar had not strength to reply, and allowed his

gold to be taken from him, and even sabre cuts to be inflicted on him without

making any resistance. As soon as he was let go, he sank on the ground

powerless to move, though he still had possession of his senses. Thinking he

was dead, the black ordered the Greek slave to bring him some salt, and

between them they rubbed it into his wounds, thus giving him acute agony,

though he had the presence of mind to give no sign of life. They then left him,

and their place was taken by the old woman, who dragged him to a trapdoor and

threw him down into a vault filled with the bodies of murdered men.

At first the violence of his fall caused him to lose consciousness, but luckily the

salt which had been rubbed into his wounds had by its smarting preserved his

life, and little by little he regained his strength. At the end of two days he lifted the

trapdoor during the night and hid himself in the courtyard till daybreak, when he

saw the old woman leave the house in search of more prey. Luckily she did not

observe him, and when she was out of sight he stole from this nest of assassins

and took refuge in my house.

I dressed his wounds and tended him carefully, and when a month had passed

he was as well as ever. His one thought was how to be revenged on that wicked

old hag, and for this purpose he had a purse made large enough to contain five

hundred gold pieces, but filled it instead with bits of glass. This he tied round him

with his sash, and, disguising himself as an old woman, he took a sabre, which

he hid under his dress.

One morning as he was hobbling through the streets he met his old enemy

prowling to see if she could find anyone to decoy. He went up to her and,

imitating the voice of a woman, he said, "Do you happen to have a pair of scales

you could lend me? I have just come from Persia and have brought with me five

hundred gold pieces, and I am anxious to see if they are the proper weight."

"Good woman," replied the old hag, "you could not have asked anyone better. My

son is a money-changer, and if you will follow me he will weigh them for you

himself. Only we must be quick or he will have gone to his shop." So saying she

led the way to the same house as before, and the door was opened by the same

Greek slave.

Again my brother was left in the hall, and the pretended son appeared under the

form of the black slave. "Miserable crone," he said to my brother, "get up and

come with me," and turned to lead the way to the place of murder. Alnaschar

rose too, and drawing the sabre from under his dress dealt the black such a blow

on his neck that his head was severed from his body. My brother picked up the

head with one hand, and seizing the body with the other dragged it to the vault,

when he threw it in and sent the head after it. The Greek slave, supposing that all

had passed as usual, shortly arrived with the basin of salt, but when she beheld

Alnaschar with the sabre in his hand she let the basin fall and turned to fly. My

brother, however, was too quick for her, and in another instant her head was

rolling from her shoulders. The noise brought the old woman running to see what

was the matter, and he seized her before she had time to escape. "Wretch!" he

cried, "do you know me?"

"Who are you, my lord?" she replied trembling all over. "I have never seen you

before."

"I am he whose house you entered to offer your hypocritical prayers. Don't you

remember now?"

She flung herself on her knees to implore mercy, but he cut her in four pieces.

There remained only the lady, who was quite ignorant of all that was taking place

around her. He sought her through the house, and when at last he found her, she

nearly fainted with terror at the sight of him. She begged hard for life, which he

was generous enough to give her, but he bade her to tell him how she had got

into partnership with the abominable creatures he had just put to death.

"I was once," replied she, "the wife of an honest merchant, and that old woman,

whose wickedness I did not know, used occasionally to visit me. "Madam," she

said to me one day, "we have a grand wedding at our house to-day. If you would

do us the honour to be present, I am sure you would enjoy yourself." I allowed

myself to be persuaded, put on my richest dress, and took a purse with a

hundred pieces of gold. Once inside the doors I was kept by force by that

dreadful black, and it is now three years that I have been here, to my great grief."

"That horrible black must have amassed great wealth, remarked my brother.

"Such wealth," returned she, "that if you succeed in carrying it all away it will

make you rich for ever. Come and let us see how much there is."

She led Alnaschar into a chamber filled with coffers packed with gold, which he

gazed at with an admiration he was powerless to conceal. "Go," she said, "and

bring men to carry them away."

My brother did not wait to be told twice, and hurried out into the streets, where he

soon collected ten men. They all came back to the house, but what was his

surprise to find the door open, and the room with the chests of gold quite empty.

The lady had been cleverer than himself, and had made the best use of her time.

However, he tried to console himself by removing all the beautiful furniture, which

more than made up for the five hundred gold pieces he had lost.

Unluckily, on leaving the house, he forgot to lock the door, and the neighbours,

finding the place empty, informed the police, who next morning arrested

Alnaschar as a thief. My brother tried to bribe them to let him off, but far from

listening to him they tied his hands, and forced him to walk between them to the

presence of the judge. When they had explained to the official the cause of

complaint, he asked Alnaschar where he had obtained all the furniture that he

had taken to his house the day before.

"Sir," replied Alnaschar, "I am ready to tell you the whole story, but give, I pray

you, your word, that I shall run no risk of punishment."

"That I promise," said the judge. So my brother began at the beginning and

related all his adventures, and how he had avenged himself on those who had

betrayed him. As to the furniture, he entreated the judge at least to allow him to

keep part to make up for the five hundred pieces of gold which had been stolen

from him.

The judge, however, would say nothing about this, and lost no time in sending

men to fetch away all that Alnaschar had taken from the house. When everything

had been moved and placed under his roof he ordered my brother to leave the

town and never more to enter it on peril of his life, fearing that if he returned he

might seek justice from the Caliph. Alnaschar obeyed, and was on his way to a

neighbouring city when he fell in with a band of robbers, who stripped him of his

clothes and left him naked by the roadside. Hearing of his plight, I hurried after

him to console him for his misfortunes, and to dress him in my best robe. I then

brought him back disguised, under cover of night, to my house, where I have

since given him all the care I bestow on my other brothers.

The Story of the Barber's Sixth

Brother

There now remains for me to relate to you the story of my sixth brother, whose

name was Schacabac. Like the rest of us, he inherited a hundred silver

drachmas from our father, which he thought was a large fortune, but through ill-luck, he soon lost it all, and was driven to beg. As he had a smooth tongue and

good manners, he really did very well in his new profession, and he devoted

himself specially to making friends with the servants in big houses, so as to gain

access to their masters.

One day he was passing a splendid mansion, with a crowd of servants lounging

in the courtyard. He thought that from the appearance of the house it might yield

him a rich harvest, so he entered and inquired to whom it belonged.

"My good man, where do you come from?" replied the servant. "Can't you see for

yourself that it can belong to nobody but a Barmecide?" for the Barmecides were

famed for their liberality and generosity. My brother, hearing this, asked the

porters, of whom there were several, if they would give him alms. They did not

refuse, but told him politely to go in, and speak to the master himself.

My brother thanked them for their courtesy and entered the building, which was

so large that it took him some time to reach the apartments of the Barmecide. At

last, in a room richly decorated with paintings, he saw an old man with a long

white beard, sitting on a sofa, who received him with such kindness that my

brother was emboldened to make his petition.

"My lord," he said, "you behold in me a poor man who only lives by the help of

persons as rich and as generous as you."

Before he could proceed further, he was stopped by the astonishment shown by

the Barmecide. "Is it possible," he cried, "that while I am in Bagdad, a man like

you should be starving? That is a state of things that must at once be put an end

to! Never shall it be said that I have abandoned you, and I am sure that you, on

your part, will never abandon me."

"My lord," answered my brother, "I swear that I have not broken my fast this

whole day."

"What, you are dying of hunger?" exclaimed the Barmecide. "Here, slave; bring

water, that we may wash our hands before meat!" No slave appeared, but my

brother remarked that the Barmecide did not fail to rub his hands as if the water

had been poured over them.

Then he said to my brother, "Why don't you wash your hands too?" and

Schacabac, supposing that it was a joke on the part of the Barmecide (though he

could see none himself), drew near, and imitated his motion.

When the Barmecide had done rubbing his hands, he raised his voice, and cried,

"Set food before us at once, we are very hungry." No food was brought, but the

Barmecide pretended to help himself from a dish, and carry a morsel to his

mouth, saying as he did so, "Eat, my friend, eat, I entreat. Help yourself as freely

as if you were at home! For a starving man, you seem to have a very small

appetite."

"Excuse me, my lord," replied Schacabac, imitating his gestures as before, "I

really am not losing time, and I do full justice to the repast."

"How do you like this bread?" asked the Barmecide. "I find it particularly good

myself."

"Oh, my lord," answered my brother, who beheld neither meat nor bread, "never

have I tasted anything so delicious."

"Eat as much as you want," said the Barmecide. "I bought the woman who

makes it for five hundred pieces of gold, so that I might never be without it."

After ordering a variety of dishes (which never came) to be placed on the table,

and discussing the merits of each one, the Barmecide declared that having dined

so well, they would now proceed to take their wine. To this my brother at first

objected, declaring that it was forbidden; but on the Barmecide insisting that it

was out of the question that he should drink by himself, he consented to take a

little. The Barmecide, however, pretended to fill their glasses so often, that my

brother feigned that the wine had gone into his head, and struck the Barmecide

such a blow on the head, that he fell to the ground. Indeed, he raised his hand to

strike him a second time, when the Barmecide cried out that he was mad, upon

which my brother controlled himself, and apologised and protested that it was all

the fault of the wine he had drunk. At this the Barmecide, instead of being angry,

began to laugh, and embraced him heartily. "I have long been seeking," he

exclaimed, "a man of your description, and henceforth my house shall be yours.

You have had the good grace to fall in with my humour, and to pretend to eat and

to drink when nothing was there. Now you shall be rewarded by a really good

supper."

Then he clapped his hands, and all the dishes were brought that they had tasted

in imagination before and during the repast, slaves sang and played on various

instruments. All the while Schacabac was treated by the Barmecide as a familiar

friend, and dressed in a garment out of his own wardrobe.

Twenty years passed by, and my brother was still living with the Barmecide,

looking after his house, and managing his affairs. At the end of that time his

generous benefactor died without heirs, so all his possessions went to the prince.

They even despoiled my brother of those that rightly belonged to him, and he,

now as poor as he had ever been in his life, decided to cast in his lot with a

caravan of pilgrims who were on their way to Mecca. Unluckily, the caravan was

attacked and pillaged by the Bedouins, and the pilgrims were taken prisoners. My

brother became the slave of a man who beat him daily, hoping to drive him to

offer a ransom, although, as Schacabac pointed out, it was quite useless trouble,

as his relations were as poor as himself. At length the Bedouin grew tired of

tormenting, and sent him on a camel to the top of a high barren mountain, where

he left him to take his chance. A passing caravan, on its way to Bagdad, told me

where he was to be found, and I hurried to his rescue, and brought him in a

deplorable condition back to the town.

"This,"--continued the barber,--"is the tale I related to the Caliph, who, when I had

finished, burst into fits of laughter.

"Well were you called `the Silent,'" said he; "no name was ever better deserved.

But for reasons of my own, which it is not necessary to mention, I desire you to

leave the town, and never to come back."

"I had of course no choice but to obey, and travelled about for several years until

I heard of the death of the Caliph, when I hastily returned to Bagdad, only to find

that all my brothers were dead. It was at this time that I rendered to the young

cripple the important service of which you have heard, and for which, as you

know, he showed such profound ingratitude, that he preferred rather to leave

Bagdad than to run the risk of seeing me. I sought him long from place to place,

but it was only to-day, when I expected it least, that I came across him, as much

irritated with me as ever"-- So saying the tailor went on to relate the story of the

lame man and the barber, which has already been told.

"When the barber," he continued, "had finished his tale, we came to the

conclusion that the young man had been right, when he had accused him of

being a great chatter-box. However, we wished to keep him with us, and share

our feast, and we remained at table till the hour of afternoon prayer. Then the

company broke up, and I went back to work in my shop.

"It was during this interval that the little hunchback, half drunk already, presented

himself before me, singing and playing on his drum. I took him home, to amuse

my wife, and she invited him to supper. While eating some fish, a bone got into

his throat, and in spite of all we could do, he died shortly. It was all so sudden

that we lost our heads, and in order to divert suspicion from ourselves, we carried

the body to the house of a Jewish physician. He placed it in the chamber of the

purveyor, and the purveyor propped it up in the street, where it was thought to

have been killed by the merchant.

"This, Sire, is the story which I was obliged to tell to satisfy your highness. It is

now for you to say if we deserve mercy or punishment; life or death?"

The Sultan of Kashgar listened with an air of pleasure which filled the tailor and

his friends with hope. "I must confess," he exclaimed, "that I am much more

interested in the stories of the barber and his brothers, and of the lame man, than

in that of my own jester. But before I allow you all four to return to your own

homes, and have the corpse of the hunchback properly buried, I should like to

see this barber who has earned your pardon. And as he is in this town, let an

usher go with you at once in search of him."

The usher and the tailor soon returned, bringing with them an old man who must

have been at least ninety years of age. "O Silent One," said the Sultan, "I am told

that you know many strange stories. Will you tell some of them to me?"

"Never mind my stories for the present," replied the barber, "but will your

Highness graciously be pleased to explain why this Jew, this Christian, and this

Mussulman, as well as this dead body, are all here?"

"What business is that of yours?" asked the Sultan with a smile; but seeing that

the barber had some reasons for his question, he commanded that the tale of the

hunch-back should be told him.

"It is certainly most surprising," cried he, when he had heard it all, "but I should

like to examine the body." He then knelt down, and took the head on his knees,

looking at it attentively. Suddenly he burst into such loud laughter that he fell right

backwards, and when he had recovered himself enough to speak, he turned to

the Sultan. "The man is no more dead than I am," he said; "watch me." As he

spoke he drew a small case of medicines from his pocket and rubbed the neck of

the hunchback with some ointment made of balsam. Next he opened the dead

man's mouth, and by the help of a pair of pincers drew the bone from his throat.

At this the hunch-back sneezed, stretched himself and opened his eyes.

The Sultan and all those who saw this operation did not know which to admire

most, the constitution of the hunchback who had apparently been dead for a

whole night and most of one day, or the skill of the barber, whom everyone now

began to look upon as a great man. His Highness desired that the history of the

hunchback should be written down, and placed in the archives beside that of the

barber, so that they might be associated in people's minds to the end of time.

And he did not stop there; for in order to wipe out the memory of what they had

undergone, he commanded that the tailor, the doctor, the purveyor and the

merchant, should each be clothed in his presence with a robe from his own

wardrobe before they returned home. As for the barber, he bestowed on him a

large pension, and kept him near his own person.

The Adventures of Prince

Camaralzaman and the Princess

Badoura

Some twenty days' sail from the coast of Persia lies the isle of the children of

Khaledan. The island is divided into several provinces, in each of which are large

flourishing towns, and the whole forms an important kingdom. It was governed in

former days by a king named Schahzaman, who, with good right, considered

himself one of the most peaceful, prosperous, and fortunate monarchs on the

earth. In fact, he had but one grievance, which was that none of his four wives

had given him an heir.

This distressed him so greatly that one day he confided his grief to the grand-vizir, who, being a wise counsellor, said: "Such matters are indeed beyond

human aid. Allah alone can grant your desire, and I should advise you, sire, to

send large gifts to those holy men who spend their lives in prayer, and to beg for

their intercessions. Who knows whether their petitions may not be answered!"

The king took his vizir's advice, and the result of so many prayers for an heir to

the throne was that a son was born to him the following year.

Schahzaman sent noble gifts as thank offerings to all the mosques and religious

houses, and great rejoicings were celebrated in honour of the birth of the little

prince, who was so beautiful that he was named Camaralzaman, or "Moon of the

Century."

Prince Camaralzaman was brought up with extreme care by an excellent

governor and all the cleverest teachers, and he did such credit to them that when

he was grown up, a more charming and accomplished young man was not to be

found. Whilst he was still a youth the king, his father, who loved him dearly, had

some thoughts of abdicating in his favour. As usual he talked over his plans with

his grand-vizir, who, though he did not approve the idea, would not state al his

objections.

"Sire," he replied, "the prince is still very young for the cares of state. Your

Majesty fears his growing idle and careless, and doubtless you are right. But how

would it be if he were first to marry? This would attach him to his home, and your

Majesty might give him a share in your counsels, so that he might gradually learn

how to wear a crown, which you can give up to him whenever you find him

capable of wearing it."

The vizir's advice once more struck the king as being good, and he sent for his

son, who lost no time in obeying the summons, and standing respectfully with

downcast eyes before the king asked for his commands.

"I have sent for you," said the king, "to say that I wish you to marry. What do you

think about it?"

The prince was so much overcome by these words that he remained silent for

some time. At length he said: "Sire, I beg you to pardon me if I am unable to reply

as you might wish. I certainly did not expect such a proposal as I am still so

young, and I confess that the idea of marrying is very distasteful to me. Possibly I

may not always be in this mind, but I certainly feel that it will require some time to

induce me to take the step which your Majesty desires."

This answer greatly distressed the king, who was sincerely grieved by his

objection to marriage. However he would not have recourse to extreme

measures, so he said: "I do not wish to force you; I will give you time to reflect,

but remember that such a step is necessary, for a prince such as you who will

some day be called to rule over a great kingdom."

From this time Prince Camaralzaman was admitted to the royal council, and the

king showed him every mark of favour.

At the end of a year the king took his son aside, and said: "Well, my son, have

you changed your mind on the subject of marriage, or do you still refuse to obey

my wish?"

The prince was less surprised but no less firm than on the former occasion, and

begged his father not to press the subject, adding that it was quite useless to

urge him any longer.

This answer much distressed the king, who again confided his trouble to his vizir.

"I have followed your advice," he said; "but Camaralzaman declines to marry,

and is more obstinate than ever."

"Sire," replied the vizir, "much is gained by patience, and your Majesty might

regret any violence. Why not wait another year and then inform the Prince in the

midst of the assembled council that the good of the state demands his marriage?

He cannot possibly refuse again before so distinguished an assemblage, and in

our immediate presence."

The Sultan ardently desired to see his son married at once, but he yielded to the

vizir's arguments and decided to wait. He then visited the prince's mother, and

after telling her of his disappointment and of the further respite he had given his

son, he added: "I know that Camaralzaman confides more in you than he does in

me. Pray speak very seriously to him on this subject, and make him realize that

he will most seriously displease me if he remains obstinate, and that he will

certainly regret the measures I shall be obliged to take to enforce my will."

So the first time the Sultana Fatima saw her son she told him she had heard of

his refusal to marry, adding how distressed she felt that he should have vexed

his father so much. She asked what reasons he could have for his objections to

obey.

"Madam," replied the prince, "I make no doubt that there are as many good,

virtuous, sweet, and amiable women as there are others very much the reverse.

Would that all were like you! But what revolts me is the idea of marrying a woman

without knowing anything at all about her. My father will ask the hand of the

daughter of some neighbouring sovereign, who will give his consent to our union.

Be she fair or frightful, clever or stupid, good or bad, I must marry her, and am

left no choice in the matter. How am I to know that she will not be proud,

passionate, contemptuous, and recklessly extravagant, or that her disposition will

in any way suit mine?"

"But, my son," urged Fatima, "you surely do not wish to be the last of a race

which has reigned so long and so gloriously over this kingdom?"

"Madam," said the prince, "I have no wish to survive the king, my father, but

should I do so I will try to reign in such a manner as may be considered worthy of

my predecessors."

These and similar conversations proved to the Sultan how useless it was to

argue with his son, and the year elapsed without bringing any change in the

prince's ideas.

At length a day came when the Sultan summoned him before the council, and

there informed him that not only his own wishes but the good of the empire

demanded his marriage, and desired him to give his answer before the

assembled ministers.

At this Camaralzaman grew so angry and spoke with so much heat that the king,

naturally irritated at being opposed by his son in full council, ordered the prince to

be arrested and locked up in an old tower, where he had nothing but a very little