Matured Stories

Arabian night (+16) – Episode 11

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The Story of the
First Kalendar, Son of a King
March 27, 2009 by Editor
In order, madam, to explain how I came
to lose my right eye, and to wear the
dress of a kalendar, you must first know
that I am the son of a king. My father’s
only brother reigned over the
neighbouring country, and had two
children, a daughter and a son, who were
of the same age as myself.
As I grew up, and was allowed more
liberty, I went every year to pay a visit to
my uncle’s court, and usually stayed
there about two months. In this way my
cousin and I became very intimate, and
were much attached to each other. The
very last time I saw him he seemed more
delighted to see me than ever, and gave a
great feast in my honour. When we had
finished eating, he said to me, “My
cousin, you would never guess what I
have been doing since your last visit to
us! Directly after your departure I set a
number of men to work on a building
after my own design. It is now completed,
and ready to be lived in. I should like to
show it to you, but you must first swear
two things: to be faithful to me, and to
keep my secret.”
Of course I did not dream of refusing him
anything he asked, and gave the promise
without the least hesitation. He then bade
me wait an instant, and vanished,
returning in a few moments with a richly
dressed lady of great beauty, but as he
did not tell me her name, I thought it was
better not to inquire. We all three sat
down to table and amused ourselves with
talking of all sorts of indifferent things,
and with drinking each other’s health.
Suddenly the prince said to me, “Cousin,
we have no time to lose; be so kind as to
conduct this lady to a certain spot, where
you will find a dome-like tomb, newly
built. You cannot mistake it. Go in, both
of you, and wait till I come. I shall not be
long.”
As I had promised I prepared to do as I
was told, and giving my hand to the lady,
I escorted her, by the light of the moon,
to the place of which the prince had
spoken. We had barely reached it when
he joined us himself, carrying a small
vessel of water, a pickaxe, and a little bag
containing plaster.
With the pickaxe he at once began to
destroy the empty sepulchre in the
middle of the tomb. One by one he took
the stones and piled them up in a corner.
When he had knocked down the whole
sepulchre he proceeded to dig at the
earth, and beneath where the sepulchre
had been I saw a trap-door. He raised the
door and I caught sight of the top of a
spiral staircase; then he said, turning to
the lady, “Madam, this is the way that
will lead you down to the spot which I
told you of.”
The lady did not answer, but silently
descended the staircase, the prince
following her. At the top, however, he
looked at me. “My cousin,” he exclaimed,
“I do not know how to thank you for your
kindness. Farewell.”
“What do you mean?” I cried. “I don’t
understand.”
“No matter,” he replied, “go back by the
path that you came.”
He would say no more, and, greatly
puzzled, I returned to my room in the
palace and went to bed. When I woke,
and considered my adventure, I thought
that I must have been dreaming, and sent
a servant to ask if the prince was dressed
and could see me. But on hearing that he
had not slept at home I was much
alarmed, and hastened to the cemetery,
where, unluckily, the tombs were all so
alike that I could not discover which was
the one I was in search of, though I spent
four days in looking for it.
You must know that all this time the
king, my uncle, was absent on a hunting
expedition, and as no one knew when he
would be back, I at last decided to return
home, leaving the ministers to make my
excuses. I longed to tell them what had
become of the prince, about whose fate
they felt the most dreadful anxiety, but
the oath I had sworn kept me silent.
On my arrival at my father’s capital, I was
astonished to find a large detachment of
guards drawn up before the gate of the
palace; they surrounded me directly I
entered. I asked the officers in command
the reason of this strange behaviour, and
was horrified to learn that the army had
mutinied and put to death the king, my
father, and had placed the grand-vizir on
the throne. Further, that by his orders I
was placed under arrest.
Now this rebel vizir had hated me from
my boy-hood, because once, when
shooting at a bird with a bow, I had shot
out his eye by accident. Of course I not
only sent a servant at once to offer him
my regrets and apologies, but I made
them in person. It was all of no use. He
cherished an undying hatred towards me,
and lost no occasion of showing it. Having
once got me in his power I felt he could
show no mercy, and I was right. Mad with
triumph and fury he came to me in my
prison and tore out my right eye. That is
how I lost it.
My persecutor, however, did not stop
here. He shut me up in a large case and
ordered his executioner to carry me into
a desert place, to cut off my head, and
then to abandon my body to the birds of
prey. The case, with me inside it, was
accordingly placed on a horse, and the
executioner, accompanied by another
man, rode into the country until they
found a spot suitable for the purpose. But
their hearts were not so hard as they
seemed, and my tears and prayers made
them waver.
“Forsake the kingdom instantly,” said the
executioner at last, “and take care never
to come back, for you will not only lose
your head, but make us lose ours.” I
thanked him gratefully, and tried to
console myself for the loss of my eye by
thinking of the other misfortunes I had
escaped.
After all I had gone through, and my fear
of being recognised by some enemy, I
could only travel very slowly and
cautiously, generally resting in some out-
of-the-way place by day, and walking as
far as I was able by night, but at length I
arrived in the kingdom of my uncle, of
whose protection I was sure.
I found him in great trouble about the
disappearance of his son, who had, he
said, vanished without leaving a trace;
but his own grief did not prevent him
sharing mine. We mingled our tears, for
the loss of one was the loss of the other,
and then I made up my mind that it was
my duty to break the solemn oath I had
sworn to the prince. I therefore lost no
time in telling my uncle everything I
knew, and I observed that even before I
had ended his sorrow appeared to be
lightened a little.
“My dear nephew,” he said, “your story
gives me some hope. I was aware that my
son was building a tomb, and I think I
can find the spot. But as he wished to
keep the matter secret, let us go alone
and seek the place ourselves.”
He then bade me disguise myself, and we
both slipped out of a garden door which
opened on to the cemetery. It did not
take long for us to arrive at the scene of
the prince’s disappearance, or to
discover the tomb I had sought so vainly
before. We entered it, and found the
trap-door which led to the staircase, but
we had great difficulty in raising it,
because the prince had fastened it down
underneath with the plaster he had
brought with him.
My uncle went first, and I followed him.
When we reached the bottom of the
stairs we stepped into a sort of ante-
room, filled with such a dense smoke that
it was hardly possible to see anything.
However, we passed through the smoke
into a large chamber, which at first
seemed quite empty. The room was
brilliantly lighted, and in another
moment we perceived a sort of platform
at one end, on which were the bodies of
the prince and a lady, both half-burned,
as if they had been dragged out of a fire
before it had quite consumed them.
This horrible sight turned me faint, but,
to my surprise, my uncle did not show so
much surprise as anger.
“I knew,” he said, “that my son was
tenderly attached to this lady, whom it
was impossible he should ever marry. I
tried to turn his thoughts, and presented
to him the most beautiful princesses, but
he cared for none of them, and, as you
see, they have now been united by a
horrible death in an underground tomb.”
But, as he spoke, his anger melted into
tears, and again I wept with him.
When he recovered himself he drew me
to him. “My dear nephew,” he said,
embracing me, “you have come to me to
take his place, and I will do my best to
forget that I ever had a son who could act
in so wicked a manner.” Then he turned
and went up the stairs.
We reached the palace without anyone
having noticed our absence, when,
shortly after, a clashing of drums, and
cymbals, and the blare of trumpets burst
upon our astonished ears. At the same
time a thick cloud of dust on the horizon
told of the approach of a great army. My
heart sank when I perceived that the
commander was the vizir who had
dethroned my father, and was come to
seize the kingdom of my uncle.
The capital was utterly unprepared to
stand a siege, and seeing that resistance
was useless, at once opened its gates. My
uncle fought hard for his life, but was
soon overpowered, and when he fell I
managed to escape through a secret
passage, and took refuge with an officer
whom I knew I could trust.
Persecuted by ill-fortune, and stricken
with grief, there seemed to be only one
means of safety left to me. I shaved my
beard and my eyebrows, and put on the
dress of a kalendar, in which it was easy
for me to travel without being known. I
avoided the towns till I reached the
kingdom of the famous and powerful
Caliph, Haroun-al-Raschid, when I had no
further reason to fear my enemies. It was
my intention to come to Baghdad and to
throw myself at the feet of his Highness,
who would, I felt certain, be touched by
my sad story, and would grant me,
besides, his help and protection.
After a journey which lasted some
months I arrived at length at the gates of
this city. It was sunset, and I paused for a
little to look about me, and to decide
which way to turn my steps. I was still
debating on this subject when I was
joined by this other kalendar, who
stopped to greet me. “You, like me,
appear to be a stranger,” I said. He
replied that I was right, and before he
could say more the third kalendar came
up. He, also, was newly arrived in
Baghdad, and being brothers in
misfortune, we resolved to cast in our
lots together, and to share whatever fate
might have in store.
By this time it had grown late, and we did
not know where to spend the night. But
our lucky star having guided us to this
door, we took the liberty of knocking and
of asking for shelter, which was given to
us at once with the best grace in the
world.
This, madam, is my story.
“I am satisfied,” replied Zobeida; “you
can go when you like.”
The kalendar, however, begged leave to
stay and to hear the histories of his two
friends and of the three other persons of
the company, which he was allowed to
do.

Also Read:   Life At Kakaori - Season 1 - Episode 2
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