Princess Badoura_ A tale from the Arabian Nights
A tale from the Arabian Nights
Hodder and Stoughton
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List of Illustrations
'As she rose up through clouds there passed one she knew by histail to be Dahnash.'
'The King came in haste, and found that which till now he hadonly pretended, concerning his daughter, apparently come true.'
'At last the King heard him, and said to the Vizier, "Go downand bring the Astrologer in."'
'She ran forth, and threw herself into the arms of Camaralzaman.'
'The Prince saw the girdle, and knotted within its folds, a largestone.'
'In the leaves overhead he saw one furiously attacking anotherwith beak and claw.'
'It so happened as the ship came into the harbour, Badoura waslooking out towards the sea.'
'The captain of the ship goes to capture Camaralzaman at thecommand of Badoura.'
A Tale fromThe Arabian NightsRetold by Laurence Housman
The Sultan Shahriar stands out to fame as thegreatest monogamist in all history. Havingbeen deceived by his first wife, he caused her tobe put to death, and then proceeded to avengehimself upon a thousand others. Faithful to hismonogamic instincts, he married a fresh wife everyday, and on the morning of the next became awidower. Having thus achieved faith to a thousanddead maidens—all equally beloved in turn—hemay, in his heart of hearts, have found thatchange, so doggedly insisted on, did but meanboredom, and so may readily have welcomed anyexcuse to relax a performance to which he hadbound himself by many religious oaths.
[Pg 2]But, if he had a heart, the old Eastern chroniclerhas neglected to tell us what was in it; andat the point where his sacrificial bridals have becomemonotonous, the interest of the story shiftsfrom bridegroom to bride, and Scheherazade,daughter of the Grand Vizier, witty, courageous,resourceful, and most prolix of all delightful tale-tellers,adventurously enters the royal menage, andbecomes his only surviving wife.
For Scheherazade, intent on saving the lives ofothers, brings her bridesmaid with her, a youngersister named Dinarzade; and when the morninglight comes to tell her that death is near, Dinarzade—promptedthereto beforehand—stirs in herattendant place at the foot of the couch, and asksfor the sake of old times that one last tale maybe told.
Shahriar, at the bride's humble request, grantspermission, and from that moment is in the toilsof the plot which has made his name so secondary[Pg 3]in importance to hers. Scheherazade, 'to do agreat right, does a little wrong': by her entrancingpowers of narrative, always interrupted whenthe interest of each story is at its height, she breedsin her tyrant lord infirmity of will, and destroysthe only principle of conduct wherewith he setout to teach woman her place. For the thousandand one nights which have given theirname to the world's most famous collection ofstories, he lives blissfully forsworn, postponingthe execution of his wife to another day; andat the end, repenting him of his vows, does whatwe still make our kings do in England whenjustice has gone astray, and bestows his 'freepardon' upon innocence.
The story which is here retold, with manyof its life-saving prolixities omitted, has thedistinction of being, according to some versions,the last of all: it witnesses the accomplishmentof the task which Scheherazade set out to perform.[Pg 4]With the story of Badoura, the woman ofbeauty and brain, who, personating her husband,ruled a Kingdom, and without jealousy providedhim at the end of his wanderings with a secondwife—in this story Scheherazade, her great actof statesmanship concluded, adumbrates whatwoman set free to use her own resources can do.And in this reflection of her own great adventurousself the series concludes. Through athousand dim dawns, with the issue still indoubt, she has led the forlorn hope for all theother women whose lives she would save; andwhen her tyrant relents, and in his promise tospare her life spares theirs as well, she kneelsand gratefully kisses his feet.
TheHistory of Badoura,Princess of China, and ofCamaralzaman, The Island Prince
The story of Aboulhassan, the Prince ofPersia, had come to an end and the lightof morning was full. Then said Dinarzade,'Another story, O sister, another story!' Scheherazademade answer, 'If my Lord will sufferme to live for another day, there is yet one moretale that I could tell. The history of PrinceCamaralzaman and of his bride Badoura is farmore entrancing than that which I have justgiven; but it is too long to be told now.'
Then she was silent; and Shahriar could notbring himself to order her death till he had heardthat story also. So once more he let his oath stay[Pg 6]unfulfilled and deferred sentence; and the nextnight, wakened in the small hours towards dawn,Scheherazade, opening a mouth of loveliness andfilling it with wise and sweet words, took up thethread of her tale and began:
O King, live for ever! About twenty days'sail from the coast of Persia there lies in the opensea an island which is called Khaledan, a countrywealthy and prosperous and containing manylarge and well-inhabited towns. Its ruler inancient times was a king named Shahzaman.As a reward for his many virtues, he had gatheredabout him a large and well-proportioned household,four wives, the daughters of kings, and sixtyconcubines; but, in spite of so generous a provisionfor that which only Heaven can bestow,he had no son; and as time went on, and hegrew old, his bones wasted, and his heart becamefilled with affliction; and he said to his Vizier,'Now in a little while I shall die; then will my[Pg 7]name perish, and my Kingdom pass to others, forI have not a son to come after me. Tell me,is there anything I can do to avert so great acalamity?'
His Vizier answered, 'When human meansfail, it is then that we must rely on Heaven, foroften these evils are sent to remind us of ourdependence on Him who alone holds power.Fast, therefore, and pray, and perform ablutions,and when that is done make a great banquet, andcall to it the poor and needy; it may be thatamong them will be found one pure and righteoussoul whose blessing will thus descend on thee, forthe fulfilment of thy desire.'
The King did as his Vizier advised: he madea great feast, and called to it all whose povertymight give virtue to their petition: and biddingthem pray that he might have a son, caused meat tobe set before them; so they did eat and were filled.
This holy act had the desired effect; one of[Pg 8]the King's four Queens immediately conceived,and in course of time presented him with a son asfair as a full moon on a cloudless night. Whenthe midwives and nurses carried him to his father,the King, seeing his beauty and transported withjoy at the event, named him Camaralzaman, that isto say Moon of the Age; and he sent out orders,on pain of death to any who disobeyed, that forseven days the drums were to beat and every housein the city to be decorated in sign of thanksgiving.Never were such rejoicings heard.
The Prince was reared and educated with allcare and magnificence until he attained the age offifteen. For the polish of his manners and theenlightenment of his brain the wisest and mostaccomplished men in the Kingdom were chosen;and since from the first he displayed a modestand docile disposition, combined with a fine understanding,he became, as he approached the yearsof manhood, the most virtuous and eligible heir to[Pg 9]a throne that monarch or people could find it intheir hearts to desire.
He was of surpassing comeliness and grace,perfect in form and stature; and his father lovedhim so tenderly that he could scarcely bear to beaway from him either by night or day. Thisdevotion to his son was, indeed, so excessive, thatthe King himself was perturbed by it, for alwaysaccompanying it was a terror lest the Prince mightdie.
One day he said to his Grand Vizier, 'Howcame it that my happiness in the possession of sucha son gives me anxiety rather than rest? When Iwas childless I was miserable, and now that thedesire of my heart has been satisfied, I am full ofdread lest he also should die childless and my hopeof posterity fail? Calamities and accidents comewhen we least expect them, and so it seems to menow that the Prince being vigorous and strong isin greater danger of death than I who am near the[Pg 10]grave. For him a thousand perils are waiting,while I have nothing to fear but old age. If,therefore, I may not see my son married in myown lifetime I shall die in a state more miserablethan that which I endured before he was born.'
His Vizier said, 'The Prince is still full young,but nothing forbids that he should marry if, by thewill of Allah, we can find one worthy of him.'
'As for that,' said the King, 'Heaven cannothave willed to send into the world a form of beautyand of virtue so pre-eminent without also providinga fitting match for it. Doubt not, if the Princehimself is willing, that some maiden not too farbeneath him will be found capable of sustainingthe honour.'
So Shahzaman sent for his son, and Camaralzamancame and stood before him, and when hesaw the King seated in state upon his throne,though not having his lords round him, the Princebade reverence take the place of love, and with his[Pg 11]head bowed down toward the ground waited insubmission for the royal word to be spoken.
Thus he stood before his father humbly as astranger; for never before had the King so receivedhim, and he wondered why he had been summoned,and in his heart there was a fear.
The King perceiving his reserve said to him,'My son, can you now guess for what reason Ihave sent for you?' But the Prince answered,'My lord, I would not so presume; for it is notin the power of one so young as I am to fathomthe thoughts of the hearts of Kings. Only when Ihear the true reason from your Majesty's lips willmy brain become enlightened.'
So he spoke, with all the decorum, and deference,and virtue, and prudent modesty whichhad been instilled in him by the preceptors of hisyouth; and Shahzaman, his father, loved him forit, and said in his heart, 'Never was King blessedwith such a son as I.'
[Pg 12]Then he said to the Prince, 'What thoulackest in years of man's estate thou hast alreadygained in wisdom and understanding; thereforeas a man I speak to thee. Know, then, it is mywish that thou shouldst marry, so that before mydays are ended I may rejoice in the assurance ofmy posterity.'
When Camaralzaman heard these words heno longer hung his head, but stood up straight;and as he made answer to the King his face flushedand his eyes grew bright; and said he, 'O myfather, is it into bondage you would deliver meere I become a man? Lo, here am I, the son ofKings, and all my life till now have I been free,and my soul has been free within me, because Ihave not gone in the way of women nor inclinedmy heart toward them; but if I marry, then bytheir cunning and guile will my soul and myfreedom be taken from me. Far rather would Idrink the cup of death.'
[Pg 13]When King Shahzaman heard that, the light ofday darkened before him, for never until now hadhis son gone against his wish