Matured Stories

Arabian night (+16) – Episode 12

The Story of the
Second Kalendar, Son of a King

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“Madam,” said the young man,
addressing Zobeida, “if you wish to know
how I lost my right eye, I shall have to
tell you the story of my whole life.”
I was scarcely more than a baby, when
the king my father, finding me unusually
quick and clever for my age, turned his
thoughts to my education. I was taught
first to read and write, and then to learn
the Koran, which is the basis of our holy
religion, and the better to understand it, I
read with my tutors the ablest
commentators on its teaching, and
committed to memory all the traditions
respecting the Prophet, which have been
gathered from the mouth of those who
were his friends. I also learnt history, and
was instructed in poetry, versification,
geography, chronology, and in all the
outdoor exercises in which every prince
should excel. But what I liked best of all
was writing Arabic characters, and in this
I soon surpassed my masters, and gained
a reputation in this branch of knowledge
that reached as far as India itself.
Now the Sultan of the Indies, curious to
see a young prince with such strange
tastes, sent an ambassador to my father,
laden with rich presents, and a warm
invitation to visit his court. My father,
who was deeply anxious to secure the
friendship of so powerful a monarch, and
held besides that a little travel would
greatly improve my manners and open
my mind, accepted gladly, and in a short
time I had set out for India with the
ambassador, attended only by a small
suite on account of the length of the
journey, and the badness of the roads.
However, as was my duty, I took with me
ten camels, laden with rich presents for
the Sultan.
We had been travelling for about a
month, when one day we saw a cloud of
dust moving swiftly towards us; and as
soon as it came near, we found that the
dust concealed a band of fifty robbers.
Our men barely numbered half, and as
we were also hampered by the camels,
there was no use in fighting, so we tried
to overawe them by informing them who
we were, and whither we were going.
The robbers, however, only laughed, and
declared that was none of their business,
and, without more words, attacked us
brutally. I defended myself to the last,
wounded though I was, but at length,
seeing that resistance was hopeless, and
that the ambassador and all our followers
were made prisoners, I put spurs to my
horse and rode away as fast as I could, till
the poor beast fell dead from a wound in
his side. I managed to jump off without
any injury, and looked about to see if I
was pursued. But for the moment I was
safe, for, as I imagined, the robbers were
all engaged in quarrelling over their
booty.
I found myself in a country that was
quite new to me, and dared not return to
the main road lest I should again fall into
the hands of the robbers. Luckily my
wound was only a slight one, and after
binding it up as well as I could, I walked
on for the rest of the day, till I reached a
cave at the foot of a mountain, where I
passed the night in peace, making my
supper off some fruits I had gathered on
the way.
I wandered about for a whole month
without knowing where I was going, till
at length I found myself on the outskirts
of a beautiful city, watered by winding
streams, which enjoyed an eternal spring.
My delight at the prospect of mixing once
more with human beings was somewhat
damped at the thought of the miserable
object I must seem. My face and hands
had been burned nearly black; my clothes
were all in rags, and my shoes were in
such a state that I had been forced to
abandon them altogether.
I entered the town, and stopped at a
tailor’s shop to inquire where I was. The
man saw I was better than my condition,
and begged me to sit down, and in return
I told him my whole story. The tailor
listened with attention, but his reply,
instead of giving me consolation, only
increased my trouble.
“Beware,” he said, “of telling any one
what you have told me, for the prince
who governs the kingdom is your father’s
greatest enemy, and he will be rejoiced to
find you in his power.”
I thanked the tailor for his counsel, and
said I would do whatever he advised;
then, being very hungry, I gladly ate of
the food he put before me, and accepted
his offer of a lodging in his house.
In a few days I had quite recovered from
the hardships I had undergone, and then
the tailor, knowing that it was the custom
for the princes of our religion to learn a
trade or profession so as to provide for
themselves in times of ill-fortune,
inquired if there was anything I could do
for my living. I replied that I had been
educated as a grammarian and a poet,
but that my great gift was writing.
“All that is of no use here,” said the
tailor. “Take my advice, put on a short
coat, and as you seem hardy and strong,
go into the woods and cut firewood,
which you will sell in the streets. By this
means you will earn your living, and be
able to wait till better times come. The
hatchet and the cord shall be my
present.”
This counsel was very distasteful to me,
but I thought I could not do otherwise
than adopt it. So the next morning I set
out with a company of poor wood-
cutters, to whom the tailor had
introduced me. Even on the first day I cut
enough wood to sell for a tolerable sum,
and very soon I became more expert, and
had made enough money to repay the
tailor all he had lent me.
I had been a wood-cutter for more than a
year, when one day I wandered further
into the forest than I had ever done
before, and reached a delicious green
glade, where I began to cut wood. I was
hacking at the root of a tree, when I
beheld an iron ring fastened to a
trapdoor of the same metal. I soon
cleared away the earth, and pulling up
the door, found a staircase, which I
hastily made up my mind to go down,
carrying my hatchet with me by way of
protection. When I reached the bottom I
discovered that I was in a huge palace, as
brilliantly lighted as any palace above
ground that I had ever seen, with a long
gallery supported by pillars of jasper,
ornamented with capitals of gold. Down
this gallery a lady came to meet me, of
such beauty that I forgot everything else,
and thought only of her.
To save her all the trouble possible, I
hastened towards her, and bowed low.
“Who are you? Who are you?” she said.
“A man or a Genie?”
“A man, madam,” I replied; “I have
nothing to do with genii.”
“By what accident do you come here?”
she asked again with a sigh. “I have been
in this place now for five and twenty
years, and you are the first man who has
visited me.”
Emboldened by her beauty and
gentleness, I ventured to reply, “Before,
madam, I answer your question, allow
me to say how grateful I am for this
meeting, which is not only a consolation
to me in my own heavy sorrow, but may
perhaps enable me to render your lot
happier,” and then I told her who I was,
and how I had come there.
“Alas, prince,” she said, with a deeper
sigh than before, “you have guessed
rightly in supposing me an unwilling
prisoner in this gorgeous place. I am the
daughter of the king of the Ebony Isle, of
whose fame you surely must have heard.
At my father’s desire I was married to a
prince who was my own cousin; but on
my very wedding day, I was snatched up
by a Genie, and brought here in a faint.
For a long while I did nothing but weep,
and would not suffer the Genie to come
near me; but time teaches us submission,
and I have now got accustomed to his
presence, and if clothes and jewels could
content me, I have them in plenty. Every
tenth day, for five and twenty years, I
have received a visit from him, but in
case I should need his help at any other
time, I have only to touch a talisman that
stands at the entrance of my chamber. It
wants still five days to his next visit, and
I hope that during that time you will do
me the honour to be my guest.”
I was too much dazzled by her beauty to
dream of refusing her offer, and
accordingly the princess had me
conducted to the bath, and a rich dress
befitting my rank was provided for me.
Then a feast of the most delicate dishes
was served in a room hung with
embroidered Indian fabrics.
Next day, when we were at dinner, I
could maintain my patience no longer,
and implored the princess to break her
bonds, and return with me to the world
which was lighted by the sun.
“What you ask is impossible,” she
answered; “but stay here with me
instead, and we can be happy, and all
you will have to do is to betake yourself
to the forest every tenth day, when I am
expecting my master the Genie. He is
very jealous, as you know, and will not
suffer a man to come near me.”
“Princess,” I replied, “I see it is only fear
of the Genie that makes you act like this.
For myself, I dread him so little that I
mean to break his talisman in pieces!
Awful though you think him, he shall feel
the weight of my arm, and I herewith
take a solemn vow to stamp out the
whole race.”
The princess, who realized the
consequences of such audacity, entreated
me not to touch the talisman. “If you do,
it will be the ruin of both of us,” said she;
“I know genii much better than you.” But
the wine I had drunk had confused my
brain; I gave one kick to the talisman,
and it fell into a thousand pieces.
Hardly had my foot touched the talisman
when the air became as dark as night, a
fearful noise was heard, and the palace
shook to its very foundations. In an
instant I was sobered, and understood
what I had done. “Princess!” I cried,
“what is happening?”
“Alas!” she exclaimed, forgetting all her
own terrors in anxiety for me, “fly, or
you are lost.”
I followed her advice and dashed up the
staircase, leaving my hatchet behind me.
But I was too late. The palace opened and
the Genie appeared, who, turning angrily
to the princess, asked indignantly,
“What is the matter, that you have sent
for me like this?”
“A pain in my heart,” she replied hastily,
“obliged me to seek the aid of this little
bottle. Feeling faint, I slipped and fell
against the talisman, which broke. That is
really all.”
“You are an impudent liar!” cried the
Genie. “How did this hatchet and those
shoes get here?”
“I never saw them before,” she
answered, “and you came in such a hurry
that you may have picked them up on the
road without knowing it.” To this the
Genie only replied by insults and blows. I
could hear the shrieks and groans of the
princess, and having by this time taken
off my rich garments and put on those in
which I had arrived the previous day, I
lifted the trap, found myself once more in
the forest, and returned to my friend the
tailor, with a light load of wood and a
heart full of shame and sorrow.
The tailor, who had been uneasy at my
long absence, was, delighted to see me;
but I kept silence about my adventure,
and as soon as possible retired to my
room to lament in secret over my folly.
While I was thus indulging my grief my
host entered, and said, “There is an old
man downstairs who has brought your
hatchet and slippers, which he picked up
on the road, and now restores to you, as
he found out from one of your comrades
where you lived. You had better come
down and speak to him yourself.” At this
speech I changed colour, and my legs
trembled under me. The tailor noticed
my confusion, and was just going to
inquire the reason when the door of the
room opened, and the old man appeared,
carrying with him my hatchet and shoes.
“I am a Genie,” he said, “the son of the
daughter of Eblis, prince of the genii. Is
not this hatchet yours, and these shoes?”
Without waiting for an answer–which,
indeed, I could hardly have given him, so
great was my fright–he seized hold of me,
and darted up into the air with the
quickness of lightning, and then, with
equal swiftness, dropped down towards
the earth. When he touched the ground,
he rapped it with his foot; it opened, and
we found ourselves in the enchanted
palace, in the presence of the beautiful
princess of the Ebony Isle. But how
different she looked from what she was
when I had last seen her, for she was
lying stretched on the ground covered
with blood, and weeping bitterly.
“Traitress!” cried the Genie, “is not this
man your lover?”
She lifted up her eyes slowly, and looked
sadly at me. “I never saw him before,”
she answered slowly. “I do not know who
he is.”
“What!” exclaimed the Genie, “you owe
all your sufferings to him, and yet you
dare to say he is a stranger to you!”
“But if he really is a stranger to me,” she
replied, “why should I tell a lie and cause
his death?”
“Very well,” said the Genie, drawing his
sword, “take this, and cut off his head.”
“Alas,” answered the princess, “I am too
weak even to hold the sabre. And
supposing that I had the strength, why
should I put an innocent man to death?”
“You condemn yourself by your refusal,”
said the Genie; then turning to me, he
added, “and you, do you not know her?”
“How should I?” I replied, resolved to
imitate the princess in her fidelity. “How
should I, when I never saw her before?”
“Cut her head off,” then, “if she is a
stranger to you, and I shall believe you
are speaking the truth, and will set you at
liberty.”
“Certainly,” I answered, taking the sabre
in my hands, and making a sign to the
princess to fear nothing, as it was my
own life that I was about to sacrifice, and
not hers. But the look of gratitude she
gave me shook my courage, and I flung
the sabre to the earth.
“I should not deserve to live,” I said to
the Genie, “if I were such a coward as to
slay a lady who is not only unknown to
me, but who is at this moment half dead
herself. Do with me as you will– I am in
your power–but I refuse to obey your
cruel command.”
“I see,” said the Genie, “that you have
both made up your minds to brave me,
but I will give you a sample of what you
may expect.” So saying, with one sweep
of his sabre he cut off a hand of the
princess, who was just able to lift the
other to wave me an eternal farewell.
Then I lost consciousness for several
minutes.
When I came to myself I implored the
Genie to keep me no longer in this state
of suspense, but to lose no time in
putting an end to my sufferings. The
Genie, however, paid no attention to my
prayers, but said sternly, “That is the way
in which a Genie treats the woman who
has betrayed him. If I chose, I could kill
you also; but I will be merciful, and
content myself with changing you into a
dog, an ass, a lion, or a bird–whichever
you prefer.”
I caught eagerly at these words, as giving
me a faint hope of softening his wrath.
“O Genie!” I cried, “as you wish to spare
my life, be generous, and spare it
altogether. Grant my prayer, and pardon
my crime, as the best man in the whole
world forgave his neighbour who was
eaten up with envy of him.” Contrary to
my hopes, the Genie seemed interested in
my words, and said he would like to hear
the story of the two neighbours; and as I
think, madam, it may please you, I will
tell it to you also.

Also Read:   Eve - Season 1 - Episode 10
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