Arabs — Folklore
Folklore — Arab countries
The Arabian Nights, Volume 3 (of 4)
Drawn by R. Westall R.A. Engraved by Chas. Heath.
BY R. WESTALL, R.A.
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
Printed for Rodwell & Martin; and the other Proprietors.
PRINTED FOR C. AND J. RIVINGTON; J. BOOKER; LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, AND CO.; BALDWIN, CRADOCK, AND JOY; RODWELL AND MARTIN; G. B. WHITTAKER; SIMPKIN AND MARSHALL; AND HURST, ROBINSON, AND CO.
PRINTED BY THOMAS DAVIDSON, WHITEFRIARS.
- The Story of Noureddin and the Fair Persian 1
- The Story of Beder, prince of Persia, and Giahaure, princess of Samarcand 70
- The Story of Ganem, son to Abou Ayoub, and known by the surname of Love’s Slave 155
- The Story of Prince Zeyn Alasnam, and the king of the Genii 212
- The Story of Codadad and his Brothers 233
- The Story of the princess of Deryabar 243
- The Story of the Sleeper awakened 269
THE STORY OF
NOUREDDIN AND THE FAIR PERSIAN.
Balsora was for many years the capital of a kingdom tributary to the caliphs of Arabia. The king who governed it in the days of caliph Haroun Alraschid was named Zinchi. They were both cousins, the sons of two brothers. Zinchi not thinking it proper to commit the administration of his affairs to one single vizier, made choice of two, Khacan and Saouy.
Khacan was of a sweet, generous, and affable temper, and took a wonderful pride in obliging those with whom he had any concern, to the utmost of his power, without the least hinderance or prejudice to justice, whenever it was demanded of him; so that he was universally respected both at court, in the city, and throughout the whole kingdom; and every body’s mouth was full of the praises he so highly deserved.
Saouy was of a quite different character: he was always sullen and morose, and treated every body after a disrespectful manner, without any regard to their rank or quality; instead of making himself beloved and admired for his riches, he was so perfect a miser, as to deny himself the necessaries of life. In short, nobody could endure him; and if ever any thing was said of him, to be sure it was something of ill. But what increased the people’s hatred against him the more was his implacable aversion for Khacan; always interpreting in the worst sense the actions of that worthy minister, and endeavouring to do him all the ill offices imaginable with the king.
One day, after council, the king of Balsora diverted himself with his two viziers, and some other members of the council: they fell into discourse about the women slaves, that with us are daily bought and sold, and are almost reckoned in the same rank with our wives. Some were of opinion, that it was enough if the slave that one bought was beautiful and well shaped, to make us amends for the wives, which, very often, upon the account of alliance or interest in families, we are forced to marry, who are not always the greatest beauties, nor mistresses of any perfection, either of mind or body. Others maintained, and amongst the rest Khacan, that neither beauty, nor a thousand other charming perfections of the body, were the only things to be coveted in a mistress; but they ought to be accompanied with a great deal of wit, prudence, modesty, and agreeableness; and, if possible, abundance of sense and penetration. The reason they gave for it was, that nothing in the world could be more agreeable to persons on whom the management of important affairs depend, than, after having spent the day in that fatiguing employment, to have a companion in their retirement whose conversation is not only agreeable, but useful and diverting; for, in short, continued they, there is but little difference between brutes and those men who keep a mistress only to look upon her, and gratify a passion that we have in common with them.
The king was entirely of their opinion who spoke last, and he quickly gave some demonstration of it, by ordering Khacan to buy him a slave, one that was a perfect beauty, mistress of all those qualifications they had just mentioned, and especially very ingenious.
Saouy, jealous of the honour the king had done Khacan, and vexed at his being of a contrary opinion, Sir, says he, it will be very difficult to find a slave so accomplished as to answer your majesty’s demand; and, should they light upon such a one, (as I scarce believe they will,) she will be a cheap bargain at ten thousand pieces of gold. Saouy, replied the king, I perceive plainly you think it too great a sum: it may be so for you, though not for me. Then turning to the chief treasurer, he ordered him to send the ten thousand pieces of gold to the vizier’s house.
Khacan, as soon as he came home, sent for all the courtiers who used to deal in women slaves, and strictly charged them, that, if ever they met with a slave that answered the description he gave them, they should come and acquaint him with it. The courtiers, partly to oblige the vizier, and partly for their own interest, promised to use their utmost endeavours to find out one to his liking. Accordingly there was scarce a day past but they brought him one, yet he always found some fault or other with them.
One day as Khacan was getting on horseback very early in the morning to go to court, a courtier came to him, and, with a great deal of eagerness, catching hold of the stirrup, told him there was a Persian merchant arrived very late the day before, who had a slave to sell so surprisingly beautiful, that she excelled all women that his eyes ever beheld; and, as for her parts and learning, the merchant engaged she could cope with the finest wits and the most knowing persons of the age.
Khacan, overjoyed at this news, which made him hope for a favourable reception at court, ordered him to bring the slave to his palace against his coming back, and so continued his journey.
The courtier failed not of being at the vizier’s at the appointed hour; and Khacan, finding the lovely slave so much beyond his expectation, immediately gave her the name of the Fair Persian. As she had an infinite deal of wit and learning, he soon perceived by her conversation that it was in vain to search any farther for a slave that surpassed her in any of those qualifications required by the king, and therefore he asked the courtier at what rate the Persian merchant valued her.
Sir, replied the courtier, he is a man of few words in bargaining, and he tells me, that the very lowest rate he can part with her at, is ten thousand pieces of gold: he has also sworn to me, that without reckoning his pains and trouble from the time of his first taking care of her, he has laid out pretty near the sum upon her education, on masters to instruct and teach her, besides clothes and maintenance; and, as he always thought her fit for a king, so from her very infancy, in which he bought her, he has not been sparing in any thing that might contribute towards advancing her to that high honour. She plays on all sorts of instruments to perfection, she dances, sings, writes better than the most celebrated authors, understands poetry; and, in short, there is scarce any book but what she has read; so that there never was a slave of so vast a capacity heard of before.
The vizier Khacan, who understood the merit of the Fair Persian better than the courtier, that only reported what he had heard from the merchant, was unwilling to drive off the bargain to another time; and therefore he sent one of his servants to look after the merchant, where the courtier told him he was to be found.
As soon as the Persian merchant came, It is not for myself, but the king, says the vizier Khacan, that I buy your slave; but, however, you must let him have her at a more reasonable price than what you have already set upon her.
Sir, replied the merchant, I should do myself an unspeakable honour in offering her as a present to his majesty, were I able to make him one of so inestimable a value. I barely ask no more than what her education and breeding up has cost me; and all I have to say is, that I believe his majesty will be extremely pleased with the purchase.
The vizier Khacan would stand no longer bargaining with the merchant, but paid him the money down immediately. Sir, says he to the vizier, upon taking his leave of him, since the slave is designed for the king’s use, give me leave to tell you, that being extremely fatigued with our long journey together, you see her at a great disadvantage; and though she has not her equal in the world for beauty, yet if you please to keep her at your own house but for a fortnight, and strive a little to please and humour her, she will appear quite another creature: after that, you may present her to the king with abundance of honour and credit; for which, I doubt not but you will think yourself much obliged to me. The sun, you see, has a little tarnished her complexion; but after two or three times bathing, and when you have dressed her according to the fashion of your country, she will appear to your eyes infinitely more charming than now.
Khacan was mightily pleased with the advice the merchant gave him, and was resolved to follow it. Accordingly the Fair Persian was lodged in a particular apartment near his lady’s, whom he desired to invite her to an entertainment, and henceforth to treat her as a mistress designed for the king: he also entreated his lady to get the richest clothes for her that possibly could be had, and especially those that became her best. Before he took his leave of the Fair Persian, he says, Your happiness, madam, cannot be greater than what I am about to procure for you, since it is for the king himself I have bought you; and I hope he will be better pleased with the enjoyment of you, than I am in discharging the trust his majesty has laid upon me: however, I think it my duty to warn you of my son, who, though he has a tolerable share of wit, yet is a young, wanton, forward youth; and therefore have a care how you suffer him to come near you. The Fair Persian thanked him for his good advice; and after she had given him an assurance of her intention to follow it, he withdrew.
Noureddin, for so the vizier’s son was named, had all the liberty imaginable in his mother’s apartment, with whom he usually ate: he was very genteel, young, agreeable, and bold; and being master of abundance of wit and readiness of expression, he had the art of persuading people to whatever he pleased. He saw the Fair Persian; and from their first interview, though he knew his father had bought her purposely for the king, and he himself had declared the same, yet he never used the least endeavour to put a stop to the violence of his passion. In short, he resigned himself wholly to the power of her charms, by which his heart was at first conquered: and being ravished with her conversation, he was resolved to employ his utmost endeavours to get her from the king.
On the other hand, the Fair Persian had no dislike to Noureddin. The vizier, says she to herself, has done me a particular honour in buying me for the king of Balsora; but I should have thought myself very happy if he had designed me only for his son.
Noureddin was not backward in making use of the advantage of seeing, entertaining, and conversing with a beauty he was so passionately in love with; for he would never leave her until his mother forced him to do it. My son, she would say, it is not proper for a young man, as you are, to be always amongst the ladies; go mind your studies, that in time you may be worthy to succeed your father in his high posts and honours.
It being a great while since the Fair Persian had bathed, on account of her late fatiguing journey, the vizier’s lady, five or six days after she was bought, ordered a private bath in her own house to be got ready purposely for her. She had a great many women slaves to wait upon her, who were charged by the vizier’s lady, to be as careful of her as of her own person, and, after bathing, to put on her a very rich suit of clothes that she had provided for her; and all this pains and care was taken purely to ingratiate herself the more into her husband’s affection, by letting him see how much she concerned herself in every thing that contributed to his pleasure.
As soon as she came out of the bath, the Fair Persian, a thousand times more beautiful than ever she appeared to Khacan when he bought her, went to make a visit to his lady, who at first sight hardly knew her. After having saluted her in a very graceful manner, Madam, says she, I know not how you like me in this dress you have been pleased to order for me; but your women, who tell me it becomes me so extremely well they should scarce know me, are such gross flatterers, that it is from you alone I expect to hear the truth: but, however, if what they say be really so, it is to you entirely, madam, that I owe the advantage it has given me.
Oh! my daughter, cries the vizier’s lady, quite transported with joy, you have no reason in the world to believe my women have flattered you: I am better skilled in beauty than they are; and, setting aside your dress, which becomes you admirably well, you appear so much handsomer than you did before your bathing, that I hardly knew you myself: if I thought the bath was yet hot enough, I would willingly take my turn, for I am now of an age that requires frequent use of it. Madam, replies the Fair Persian, I have nothing to say to the undeserved civilities you have been pleased to show me; but, as for the bath, it is wonderfully fine; and if you design to go in, you must be quick, for there is no time to be lost, as your women can inform you as well as I.
The vizier’s lady, considering that she had not bathed for some days past, was willing to make use of that opportunity; and accordingly she acquainted her women with her intention, who immediately prepared all things necessary on such an occasion. The Fair Persian withdrew to her apartment; and the vizier’s lady, before she went to bathe, ordered two little slaves to stay with her, with a strict charge, that if Noureddin came they should not give him admittance.
While the vizier’s lady was bathing, and the fair slave alone in her apartment, in came Noureddin, and not finding his mother in her chamber, went directly to the Fair Persian’s, where he found the two little slaves in the antechamber: he asked them where his mother was. They told him, in the bath. Where is the Fair Persian, then? replied Noureddin. In her chamber, answered the slaves; but we have positive orders from your mother not to let you go in.
The entrance into the Fair Persian’s chamber being only covered with a piece of tapestry, Noureddin went to lift it up in order to go in, but was opposed by the two slaves, who clapped themselves just before it on purpose to stop his passage: he presently caught hold of both their arms, and thrusting them out of the antechamber, locked the door upon them. Away they immediately ran with a great outcry to the bath, and with weeping eyes told their lady that Noureddin, having driven them away by force, had got into the Fair Persian’s chamber.
The vizier’s lady received the astonishing news of her son’s presumption with the greatest concern that could be: she immediately left off bathing, and dressing herself with all possible speed, came directly to the Fair Persian’s chamber; but before she could get thither, Noureddin was fairly marched off.
The Fair Persian was extremely surprised to see the vizier’s lady enter her chamber all in tears, and in the utmost confusion imaginable: Madam, says she to her, may I presume to ask you the occasion of your concern; and what accident has happened in the bath, that makes you leave it so soon?
What! cries the vizier’s lady, can you so calmly ask that question, after your entertaining my son Noureddin alone in your chamber? or can there happen a greater misfortune either to him or me?
I beseech you, madam, says the fair slave, what injury can this action of Noureddin’s do either to you or him?
How! replied the vizier’s lady, did not my husband tell you that you were designed for the king, and sufficiently caution you to have a care of Noureddin?
I have not forgot it, madam, replied the Fair Persian; but your son came to tell me the vizier his father had changed his mind, and, instead of reserving me for the king, as he first designed, has made him a present of my person. I easily believed him, madam; for oh! think how a slave as I am, accustomed from my infant years to the bonds of servitude, could have the heart and power to resist him! I must own I did it with the less unwillingness on account of a violent passion for him, which the freedom of conversation, and seeing one another daily, has raised in my soul. I could freely lose the hopes of ever being the king’s, and think myself the happiest of creatures in spending my whole life with Noureddin.
At this discourse of the Fair Persian’s, Would to God, cries the vizier’s lady, that what you say were true! for then I should have no reason to be concerned: but, believe me, Noureddin is an impostor, and you are deceived; for it is impossible his father should ever make him the present you spoke of. Ah! wretched youth, how miserable hast thou made me, but more thy father, by the dismal consequences we must all expect to share with him! Neither my prayers nor tears will be able to prevail, or obtain a pardon for him; but, as soon as his father hears of his violence to you, he will inevitably sacrifice him to his just resentment. At the end of these words she fell a-weeping bitterly; and the slaves, who had as tender a regard for Noureddin as herself, bore her company.
A little after this, in came the vizier Khacan; and being mightily surprised to find his lady and her slaves all in tears, and the Fair Persian very melancholy, asked the reason of it; but they, instead of answering him, kept on weeping and making hideous lamentations. He was more astonished at this than he was before; at last, addressing himself to his wife, I command you, says he, to let me know the occasion of your tears, and to tell me the whole truth of the matter.
The poor disconsolate lady being forced to satisfy her husband, Sir, says she, you shall first promise not to use me unkindly upon the discovery of what you are desirous to know, since I tell you beforehand that what has happened has not been occasioned by any fault of mine. While I was bathing with my women, continued she, your son, laying hold of that fatal opportunity to ruin us both, came hither, and made the Fair Persian believe that, instead of reserving her for the king, as you once designed, you had given her to him as a present: I do not say he has done this out of any ill design, but shall leave you to judge of it yourself. It is upon your account, and his, for whom I want confidence to implore your pardon, that I am so extremely concerned.
It is impossible to express the vizier Khacan’s distraction upon the hearing of the insolence of his son Noureddin: Ah! cried he, beating his breast, and tearing his beard, Miserable son! unworthy of life! hast thou at last thrown thy father from the highest pinnacle of happiness into a misfortune that must inevitably involve thee also in its ruin? Neither will the king be satisfied with thy blood nor mine, but will revenge himself after a more severe manner for the affront offered to his royal person.
His lady used her utmost endeavours to comfort and assuage his sorrow. Concern yourself no more about the matter, my dear, said she; I will sell part of my jewels for ten thousand pieces of gold, with which you may buy another slave, handsomer, and more agreeable to the king’s fancy than this.