Matured Stories

Arabian night (+16) – Episode 9

The Story of the Young King of the Black Isles

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You must know, sire, that my father was
Mahmoud, the king of this country, the
Black Isles, so called from the four little
mountains which were once islands,
while the capital was the place where
now the great lake lies. My story will tell
you how these changes came about.
My father died when he was sixty-six,
and I succeeded him. I married my
cousin, whom I loved tenderly, and I
thought she loved me too.
But one afternoon, when I was half
asleep, and was being fanned by two of
her maids, I heard one say to the other,
“What a pity it is that our mistress no
longer loves our master! I believe she
would like to kill him if she could, for
she is an enchantress.”
I soon found by watching that they were
right, and when I mortally wounded a
favourite slave of hers for a great crime,
she begged that she might build a palace
in the garden, where she wept and
bewailed him for two years.
At last I begged her to cease grieving for
him, for although he could not speak or
move, by her enchantments she just kept
him alive. She turned upon me in a rage,
and said over me some magic words, and
I instantly became as you see me now,
half man and half marble.
Then this wicked enchantress changed
the capital, which was a very populous
and flourishing city, into the lake and
desert plain you saw. The fish of four
colours which are in it are the different
races who lived in the town; the four
hills are the four islands which give the
name to my kingdom. All this the
enchantress told me to add to my
troubles. And this is not all. Every day
she comes and beats me with a whip of
buffalo hide.
When the young king had finished his sad
story he burst once more into tears, and
the Sultan was much moved.
“Tell me,” he cried, “where is this wicked
woman, and where is the miserable
object of her affection, whom she just
manages to keep alive?”
“Where she lives I do not know,”
answered the unhappy prince, “but she
goes every day at sunrise to see if the
slave can yet speak to her, after she has
beaten me.”
“Unfortunate king,” said the Sultan, “I
will do what I can to avenge you.”
So he consulted with the young king over
the best way to bring this about, and they
agreed their plan should be put in effect
the next day. The Sultan then rested, and
the young king gave himself up to happy
hopes of release. The next day the Sultan
arose, and then went to the palace in the
garden where the black slave was. He
drew his sword and destroyed the little
life that remained in him, and then threw
the body down a well. He then lay down
on the couch where the slave had been,
and waited for the enchantress.
She went first to the young king, whom
she beat with a hundred blows.
Then she came to the room where she
thought her wounded slave was, but
where the Sultan really lay.
She came near his couch and said, “Are
you better to-day, my dear slave? Speak
but one word to me.”
“How can I be better,” answered the
Sultan, imitating the language of the
Ethiopians, “when I can never sleep for
the cries and groans of your husband?”
“What joy to hear you speak!” answered
the queen. “Do you wish him to regain
his proper shape?”
“Yes,” said the Sultan; “hasten to set him
at liberty, so that I may no longer hear
his cries.”
The queen at once went out and took a
cup of water, and said over it some
words that made it boil as if it were on
the fire. Then she threw it over the
prince, who at once regained his own
form. He was filled with joy, but the
enchantress said, “Hasten away from this
place and never come back, lest I kill
you.”
So he hid himself to see the end of the
Sultan’s plan.
The enchantress went back to the Palace
of Tears and said, “Now I have done what
you wished.”
“What you have done,” said the Sultan,
“is not enough to cure me. Every day at
midnight all the people whom you have
changed into fish lift their heads out of
the lake and cry for vengeance. Go
quickly, and give them their proper
shape.”
The enchantress hurried away and said
some words over the lake.
The fish then became men, women, and
children, and the houses and shops were
once more filled. The Sultan’s suite, who
had encamped by the lake, were not a
little astonished to see themselves in the
middle of a large and beautiful town.
As soon as she had disenchanted it the
queen went back to the palace.
“Are you quite well now?” she said.
“Come near,” said the Sultan. “Nearer
still.”
She obeyed. Then he sprang up, and with
one blow of his sword he cut her in two.
Then he went and found the prince.
“Rejoice,” he said, “your cruel enemy is
dead.”
The prince thanked him again and again.
“And now,” said the Sultan. “I will go
back to my capital, which I am glad to
find is so near yours.”
“So near mine!” said the King of the Black
Isles.
“Do you know it is a whole year’s journey
from here? You came here in a few hours
because it was enchanted. But I will
accompany you on your journey.”
“It will give me much pleasure if you will
escort me,” said the Sultan, “and as I have
no children, I will make you my heir.”
The Sultan and the prince set out
together, the Sultan laden with rich
presents from the King of the Black Isles.
The day after he reached his capital the
Sultan assembled his court and told them
all that had befallen him, and told them
how he intended to adopt the young king
as his heir.
Then he gave each man presents in
proportion to his rank.
As for the fisherman, as he was the first
cause of the deliverance of the young
prince, the Sultan gave him much money,
and made him and his family happy for
the rest of their days.

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