Matured Stories

Arabian night (+16) – [Episode 1 – 21]

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Arabian night (+16)

Arabian night (+16)


In the
chronicles of the ancient dynasty of the
Sassanidae, who reigned for about four
hundred years, from Persia to the borders
of China, beyond the great river Ganges
itself, we read the praises of one of the
kings of this race, who was said to be the
best monarch of his time. His subjects
loved him, and his neighbors feared him,
and when he died he left his kingdom in
a more prosperous and powerful
condition than any king had done before
him.
The two sons who survived him loved
each other tenderly, and it was a real
grief to the elder, Schahriar, that the laws
of the empire forbade him to share his
dominions with his brother Schahzeman.
Indeed, after ten years, during which this
state of things had not ceased to trouble
him, Schahriar cut off the country of
Great Tartary from the Persian Empire
and made his brother king.
Now the Sultan Schahriar had a wife
whom he loved more than all the world,
and his greatest happiness was to
surround her with splendour, and to give
her the finest dresses and the most
beautiful jewels. It was therefore with the
deepest shame and sorrow that he
accidentally discovered, after several
years, that she had deceived him
completely, and her whole conduct
turned out to have been so bad, that he
felt himself obliged to carry out the law
of the land, and order the grand-vizir to
put her to death. The blow was so heavy
that his mind almost gave way, and he
declared that he was quite sure that at
bottom all women were as wicked as the
sultana, if you could only find them out,
and that the fewer the world contained
the better. So every evening he married a
fresh wife and had her strangled the
following morning before the grand-vizir,
whose duty it was to provide these
unhappy brides for the Sultan. The poor
man fulfilled his task with reluctance, but
there was no escape, and every day saw a
girl married and a wife dead.
This behaviour caused the greatest horror
in the town, where nothing was heard
but cries and lamentations. In one house
was a father weeping for the loss of his
daughter, in another perhaps a mother
trembling for the fate of her child; and
instead of the blessings that had formerly
been heaped on the Sultan’s head, the air
was now full of curses.
The grand-vizir himself was the father of
two daughters, of whom the elder was
called Scheherazade, and the younger
Dinarzade. Dinarzade had no particular
gifts to distinguish her from other girls,
but her sister was clever and courageous
in the highest degree. Her father had
given her the best masters in philosophy,
medicine, history and the fine arts, and
besides all this, her beauty excelled that
of any girl in the kingdom of Persia.
One day, when the grand-vizir was
talking to his eldest daughter, who was
his delight and pride, Scheherazade said
to him, “Father, I have a favour to ask of
you. Will you grant it to me?”
“I can refuse you nothing,” replied he,
“that is just and reasonable.”
“Then listen,” said Scheherazade. “I am
determined to stop this barbarous
practice of the Sultan’s, and to deliver
the girls and mothers from the awful fate
that hangs over them.”
“It would be an excellent thing to do,”
returned the grand-vizir, “but how do
you propose to accomplish it?”
“My father,” answered Scheherazade, “it
is you who have to provide the Sultan
daily with a fresh wife, and I implore you,
by all the affection you bear me, to allow
the honour to fall upon me.”
“Have you lost your senses?” cried the
grand-vizir, starting back in horror.
“What has put such a thing into your
head? You ought to know by this time
what it means to be the sultan’s bride!”
“Yes, my father, I know it well,” replied
she, “and I am not afraid to think of it. If
I fail, my death will be a glorious one,
and if I succeed I shall have done a great
service to my country.”
“It is of no use,” said the grand-vizir, “I
shall never consent. If the Sultan was to
order me to plunge a dagger in your
heart, I should have to obey. What a task
for a father! Ah, if you do not fear death,
fear at any rate the anguish you would
cause me.”
“Once again, my father,” said
Scheherazade, “will you grant me what I
ask?”
“What, are you still so obstinate?”
exclaimed the grand-vizir. “Why are you
so resolved upon your own ruin?”
But the maiden absolutely refused to
attend to her father’s words, and at
length, in despair, the grand-vizir was
obliged to give way, and went sadly to
the palace to tell the Sultan that the
following evening he would bring him
Scheherazade.
The Sultan received this news with the
greatest astonishment.
“How have you made up your mind,” he
asked, “to sacrifice your own daughter to
me?”
“Sire,” answered the grand-vizir, “it is
her own wish. Even the sad fate that
awaits her could not hold her back.”
“Let there be no mistake, vizir,” said the
Sultan. “Remember you will have to take
her life yourself. If you refuse, I swear
that your head shall pay forfeit.”
“Sire,” returned the vizir. “Whatever the
cost, I will obey you. Though a father, I
am also your subject.” So the Sultan told
the grand-vizir he might bring his
daughter as soon as he liked.
The vizir took back this news to
Scheherazade, who received it as if it had
been the most pleasant thing in the
world. She thanked her father warmly for
yielding to her wishes, and, seeing him
still bowed down with grief, told him that
she hoped he would never repent having
allowed her to marry the Sultan. Then
she went to prepare herself for the
marriage, and begged that her sister
Dinarzade should be sent for to speak to
her.
When they were alone, Scheherazade
addressed her thus:
“My dear sister; I want your help in a
very important affair. My father is going
to take me to the palace to celebrate my
marriage with the Sultan. When his
Highness receives me, I shall beg him, as
a last favour, to let you sleep in our
chamber, so that I may have your
company during the last night I am alive.
If, as I hope, he grants me my wish, be
sure that you wake me an hour before
the dawn, and speak to me in these
words: “My sister, if you are not asleep, I
beg you, before the sun rises, to tell me
one of your charming stories.” Then I
shall begin, and I hope by this means to
deliver the people from the terror that
reigns over them.” Dinarzade replied that
she would do with pleasure what her
sister wished.
When the usual hour arrived the grand-
vizir conducted Scheherazade to the
palace, and left her alone with the Sultan,
who bade her raise her veil and was
amazed at her beauty. But seeing her eyes
full of tears, he asked what was the
matter. “Sire,” replied Scheherazade, “I
have a sister who loves me as tenderly as
I love her. Grant me the favour of
allowing her to sleep this night in the
same room, as it is the last we shall be
together.” Schahriar consented to
Scheherazade’s petition and Dinarzade
was sent for.
An hour before daybreak Dinarzade
awoke, and exclaimed, as she had
promised, “My dear sister, if you are not
asleep, tell me I pray you, before the sun
rises, one of your charming stories. It is
the last time that I shall have the
pleasure of hearing you.”
Scheherazade did not answer her sister,
but turned to the Sultan. “Will your
highness permit me to do as my sister
asks?” said she.
“Willingly,” he answered. So
Scheherazade began.

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