Arabian Child Book Story

Developing early reading habits is a crucial element in a child's development. We had selected for you several stories that are taken from different child story books. Those stories were selected from Arabian story books to keep your children in contact with their culture or to introduce your children to other people's cultures.

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PRINCE CAMARALZAMAN AND THE PRINCESS OF CHINA (Part Three)

After several years' absence in foreign parts on this account, he returned to the capital city of his native country, China, where seeing so many heads on the gate by which he entered, he was exceedingly surprised; and coming home he demanded for what reason they had been placed there, but more especially he inquired after the princess his foster-sister, whom he had not forgotten. As he could not receive an answer to one inquiry without the other, he heard at length a general account with much sorrow, waiting till he could learn more from his mother, the princess's nurse.

Although the nurse, mother to Marzavan, was very much taken up with the princess, she no sooner heard that her dear son had returned than she found time to come out, embrace him, and converse with him a little. Having told him, with tears in her eyes, what a sad condition the princess was in, and for what reason the king her father had shut her up, he desired to know of his mother if she could not procure him a private sight of her royal mistress, without the king's knowing it. After some pause, she told him she could say nothing for the present, but if he would meet her the next day at the same hour, she would give him an answer.

The nurse knowing that none could approach the princess but herself without leave of the officer who commanded the guard at the gate, addressed herself to him, who she knew had been so lately appointed that he could know nothing of what had passed at the court of China. 'You know,' said she to him, 'I have brought up the princess, and you may likewise have heard that I had a daughter whom I brought up along with her. This daughter has since been married; yet the princess still does her the honour to love her, and would fain see her, but without anybody's perceiving her coming in or out.'

The nurse would have gone on, but the officer cried, 'Say no more; I will with pleasure do anything to oblige the princess; go and fetch your daughter, or send for her about midnight, and the gate shall be open to you.'

As soon as night came, the nurse went to look for her son Marzavan, and having found him, she dressed him so artificially in women's clothes that nobody could know he was a man. She carried him along with her, and the officer verily believing it was her daughter, admitted them together.

The nurse, before she presented Marzavan, went to the princess, and said, 'Madam, this is not a woman I have brought to you; it is my son Marzavan in disguise, newly arrived from his travels, and he having a great desire to kiss your hand, I hope your highness will admit him to that honour.'

'What! my brother Marzavan,' said the princess, with great joy: 'come hither,' cried she, 'and take off that veil; for it is not unreasonable, surely, that a brother and a sister should see each other without covering their faces.'

Marzavan saluted her with profound respect, when she, without giving him time to speak, cried out, 'I am rejoiced to see you returned in good health, after so many years' absence without sending the least account all the while of your welfare, even to your good mother.'

'Madam,' replied Marzavan, 'I am infinitely obliged to your highness for your goodness in rejoicing at my health: I hoped to have heard a better account of yours than what to my great affliction I am now witness of. Nevertheless, I cannot but rejoice that I am come seasonably enough to bring your highness that remedy of which you stand so much in need; and though I should reap no other fruit of my studies and long voyage, I should think myself fully recompensed.'

Speaking these words, Marzavan drew forth out of his pocket a book and other things, which he judged necessary to be used, according to the account he had had from his mother of the princess's illness. The princess, seeing him make all these preparations, cried out, 'What! brother, are you then one of those that believe me mad? Undeceive yourself and hear me.'

The princess then began to relate to Marzavan all the particulars of her story, without omitting the least circumstance, even to the ring which was exchanged for hers, and which she showed him.

After the princess had done speaking, Marzavan, filled with wonder and astonishment, continued for some time with his eyes fixed on the ground, without speaking a word; but at length he lifted up his head and said, 'If it be as your highness says, which I do not in the least doubt, I do not despair of procuring you the satisfaction you desire; but I must first entreat your highness to arm yourself with patience for some time longer, till I shall return after I have travelled over kingdoms which I have not yet visited; and when you hear of my return, be assured that the object of your wishes is not far off.' So saying, Marzavan took leave of the princess, and set out next morning on his intended journey.

He travelled from city to city, from province to province, and from island to island, and in every place he passed through he could hear of nothing but the Princess Badoura (which was the Princess of China's name), and her history.

About four months afterwards, Marzavan arrived at Torf, a seaport town, great and populous, where he no more heard of the Princess Badoura, but where all the talk was of Prince Camaralzaman, who was ill, and whose history very much resembled hers. Marzavan was extremely delighted to hear this, and informed himself of the place where the prince was to be found. There were two ways to it; one by land and sea, the other by sea only, which was the shortest way.

Marzavan chose the latter, and embarking on board a merchant ship, he arrived safe in sight of the capital; but, just before it entered the port, the ship struck against a rock through the unskilfulness of the pilot, and foundered. It went down in sight of Prince Camaralzaman's castle, where were at that time the king and his grand vizier.

Marzavan could swim very well, and immediately on the ship's sinking cast himself into the sea, and got safe to the shore under the castle, where he was soon relieved by the grand vizier's order. After he had changed his clothes and been well treated, and had recovered, he was introduced to the grand vizier, who had sent for him.

Marzavan being a young man of good air and address, this minister received him very civilly; and when he heard him give such just and fitting answers to what was asked of him, conceived a great esteem for him. He also gradually perceived that he possessed a great deal of knowledge, and therefore said to him, 'From what I can understand, I perceive you are no common man; you have travelled a great way: would to God you had learned any secret for curing a certain sick person, who has greatly afflicted this court for a long while!'

Marzavan replied that if he knew what malady it was, he might perhaps find a remedy for it.

Then the grand vizier related to him the whole story of Prince Camaralzaman from its origin, and concealed nothing; his birth, his education, the inclination the king his father had to see him married early, his resistance and extraordinary aversion to marriage, his disobeying his father in full council, his imprisonment, his pretended extravagancies in prison, which were afterwards changed into a violent madness for a certain unknown lady, who, he pretended, had exchanged a ring with him; though, for his part, he verily believed there was no such person in the world.

Marzavan gave great attention to all the grand vizier said; and was infinitely rejoiced to find that, by means of his shipwreck, he had so fortunately lighted on the person he was looking after. He saw no reason to doubt that Prince Camaralzaman was the man, and the Princess of China the lady; therefore, without explaining himself further to the vizier, he desired to see him, that he might be better able to judge of his illness and its cure. 'Follow me,' said the grand vizier, 'and you will find the king with him, who has already desired that I should introduce you.'

The first thing that struck Marzavan on entering the prince's chamber was to find him upon his bed languishing, and with his eyes shut. Although he saw him in that condition, and although the king his father was sitting by him, he could not help crying out, 'Was there ever a greater resemblance!' He meant to the Princess of China; for it seems the princess and prince were much alike.

The words of Marzavan excited the prince's curiosity so far that he opened his eyes and looked at him. Marzavan, who had a ready wit, laid hold of that opportunity, and made his compliment in verse extempore: but in such a disguised manner, that neither the king nor grand vizier understood anything of the matter. However, he represented so nicely what had happened to him with the Princess of China, that the prince had no reason to doubt that he knew her, and could give him tidings of her. This made him so joyful, that the effects of it showed themselves in his eyes and looks.

After Marzavan had finished his compliment in verse which surprised Prince Camaralzaman so agreeably, his highness took the liberty to make a sign to the king his father, to go from the place where he was, and let Marzavan sit by him.

The king, overjoyed at this alteration, which gave him hopes of his son's speedy recovery, quitted his place, and taking Marzavan by the hand, led him to it. Then his majesty demanded of him who he was, and whence he came. And upon Marzavan's answering that he was a subject of China and came from that kingdom, the king cried out, 'Heaven grant that you may be able to cure my son of this profound melancholy, and I shall be eternally obliged to you; all the world shall see how handsomely I will reward you.' Having said thus, he left the prince to converse at full liberty with the stranger, whilst he went and rejoiced with the grand vizier.

Marzavan leaning down to the prince, spoke low in his ear, thus: 'Prince,' said he, 'it is time you should cease to grieve. The lady for whom you suffer is the Princess Badoura, daughter of Gaiour, King of China. This I can assure your highness from what she has told me of her adventure, and what I have learned of yours. She has suffered no less on your account than you have on hers.' Here he began to relate all that he knew of the princess's story, from the night of their extraordinary interview.

He omitted not to acquaint him how the king had treated those who had failed in their pretensions to cure the princess of her indisposition. 'But your highness is the only person,' added he, 'that can cure her effectually, and may present yourself without fear. However, before you undertake so great a voyage, I would have you perfectly recovered, and then we will take such measures as are necessary. Think then immediately of the recovery of your health.'

This discourse had a marvellous effect on the prince. He found such great relief that he felt he had strength to rise, and begged leave of his father to dress himself, with such an air as gave the old king incredible pleasure.

The king could not refrain from embracing Marzavan, without inquiring into the means he had used to produce this wonderful effect, and soon after went out of the prince's chamber with the grand vizier to publish this agreeable news. He ordered public rejoicings for several days together, and gave great largesses to his officers and the people, alms to the poor, and caused the prisoners to be set at liberty throughout his kingdom. The joy was soon general in the capital and every corner of his dominions.

Prince Camaralzaman, though extremely weakened by almost continual want of sleep and long abstinence from almost all food, soon recovered his health. When he found himself in a condition to undertake the voyage, he took Marzavan aside, and said, 'Dear Marzavan, it is now time to perform the promise you have made me. I burn with impatience to see the charming princess, and if we do not set out on our journey immediately I shall soon relapse into my former condition. One thing still troubles me,' continued he, 'and that is the difficulty I shall meet with in getting leave of my father to go. This would be a cruel disappointment to me, if you do not contrive a way to prevent it. You see he scarcely ever leaves me.'

At these words the prince fell to weeping: and Marzavan said, 'I foresaw this difficulty; let not your highness be grieved at that, for I will undertake to prevent it. My principal design in this voyage was to deliver the Princess of China from her malady, and this from all the reasons of mutual affection which we have borne to each other from our birth, besides the zeal and affection I otherwise owe her; and I should be wanting in my duty to her, if I did not do my best endeavour to effect her cure and yours, and exert my utmost skill. This then is the means I have contrived to obtain your liberty. You have not stirred abroad for some time, therefore let the king your father understand you have a mind to take the air, and ask his leave to go out on a hunting party for two or three days with me. No doubt he will grant your request; when he has done so, order two good horses to be got ready, one to mount, the other to change, and leave the rest to me.'

Next day Prince Camaralzarnan took his opportunity. He told the king he was desirous to take the air, and, if he pleased, would go and hunt for two or three days with Marzavan. The king gave his consent, but bade him be sure not to stay out above one night, since too much exercise at first might impair his health, and a too long absence create his majesty uneasiness. He then ordered him to choose the best horses in his stable, and himself took particular care that nothing should be wanting. When all was ready, his majesty embraced the prince, and having recommended the care of him to Marzavan, he let him go. Prince Camaralzaman and Marzavan were soon mounted, when, to amuse the two grooms that led the fresh horses, they made as if they would hunt, and so got as far off the city and out of the road as was possible. When night began to approach, they alighted at a caravansera or inn, where they supped, and slept till about midnight; then Marzavan awakened the prince without awakening the grooms, and desired his highness to let him have his suit, and to take another for himself, which was brought in his baggage. Thus equipped, they mounted the fresh horses, and after Marzavan had taken one of the groom's horses by the bridle, they set out as hard as their horses could go.

At daybreak they were in a forest, where, coming to the meeting of four roads, Marzavan desired the prince to wait for him a little, and went into the forest. He then killed the groom's horse, and after having torn the prince's suit, which he had put off, he besmeared it with blood and threw it into the highway.

The prince demanded his reason for what he had done. He told his highness he was sure the king his father would no sooner find that he did not return, and come to know that he had departed without the grooms, than he would suspect something, and immediately send people in quest of them. 'They that come to this place,' said he, 'and find these blood-stained clothes, will conclude you are devoured by wild beasts, and that I have escaped to avoid the king's anger. The king, persuading himself that you are dead will stop further pursuit, and we may have leisure to continue our journey without fear of being followed. I must confess,' continued Marzavan, 'that this is a violent way of proceeding, to alarm an old father with the death of his son, whom he loves so passionately; but his joy will be the greater when he hears you are alive and happy.'

'Brave Marzavan,' replied the prince,' I cannot but approve such an ingenious stratagem, or sufficiently admire your conduct: I am under fresh obligations to you for it.'

The prince and Marzavan, well provided with cash for their expenses, continued their journey both by land and sea, and found no other obstacle but the length of time which it necessarily took up. They, however, arrived at length at the capital of China, where Marzavan, instead of going to his lodgings, carried the prince to a public inn. They tarried there incognito for three days to rest themselves after the fatigue of the voyage; during which time Marzavan caused an astrologer's dress to be made for the prince. The three days being expired, the prince put on his astrologer's habit; and Marzavan left him to go and acquaint his mother, the Princess Badoura's nurse, of his arrival, to the end that she might inform the Princess.

Prince Camaralzaman, instructed by Marzavan as to what he was to do, and provided with all he wanted as an astrologer, came next morning to the gate of the king's palace, before the guards and porters, and cried aloud, 'I am an astrologer, and am come to effect a cure on the estimable Princess Badoura, daughter of the most high and mighty monarch Gaiour, King of China, on the conditions proposed by his majesty, to marry her if I succeed, or else to lose my life for my fruitless and presumptuous attempt.'

Besides the guards and porters at the gate, this drew together a great number of people about Prince Camaralzaman. No physician, astrologer, nor magician had appeared for a long time, deterred by the many tragic examples of ill success that appeared before their eyes; it was therefore thought that there were no more men of these professions in the world, or that there were no more so mad as those that had gone before them.

The prince's good mien, noble air, and blooming youth made everybody that saw him pity him. 'What mean you, sir,' said some that were nearest to him, 'thus to expose a life of such promising expectation to certain death? Cannot the heads you see on all the gates of this city deter you from such an undertaking? Consider what you do: abandon this rash attempt, and be gone.'

The prince continued firm, notwithstanding all these remonstrances; and as he saw nobody come to introduce him, he repeated the same cry with a boldness that made everybody tremble. Then they all cried, 'Let him alone, he is resolved to die; God have mercy upon his youth and his soul!' He then proceeded to cry out a third time in the same manner, when the grand vizier came in person, and introduced him to the King of China.

As soon as the prince came into the king's presence, he bowed and kissed the ground. The king, who, of all that had hitherto presumptuously exposed their lives on this occasion, had not seen one worthy to cast his eyes upon, felt real compassion for Prince Camaralzaman on account of the danger he was about to undergo. But as he thought him more deserving than ordinary, he showed him more honour, and made him come and sit by him. 'Young man,' said he, 'I can hardly believe that you, at this age, can have acquired experience enough to dare attempt the cure of my daughter. I wish you may succeed; and would give her to you in marriage with all my heart, with the greatest joy, more willingly than I should have done to others that have offered themselves before you; but I must declare to you at the same time, with great concern, that if you do not succeed in your attempt, notwithstanding your noble appearance and your youth you must lose your head.'

'Sir,' replied the prince, 'I am under infinite obligations to your majesty for the honour you design me, and the great goodness you show to a stranger; but I desire your majesty to believe that I would not have come from so remote a country as I have done, the name of which perhaps may be unknown in your dominions, if I had not been certain of the cure I propose. What would not the world say of my fickleness, if, after such great fatigues and dangers as I have undergone on this account, I should abandon the enterprise? Even your majesty would soon lose that esteem you have conceived for me. If I must die, sir, I shall die with the satisfaction of not having lost your esteem after I have merited it. I beseech your majesty therefore to keep me no longer impatient to display the certainty of my art.'

Then the king commanded the officer who had the custody of the princess to introduce Prince Camaralzaman into her apartment: but before he would let him go, he reminded him once more that he was at liberty to renounce his design; yet the prince paid no heed, but, with astonishing resolution and eagerness, followed the officer.

When they came to a long gallery, at the end of which was the princess's apartment, the prince, who saw himself so near the object of the wishes which had occasioned him so many tears, pushed on, and got before the officer.

The officer, redoubling his pace, with much ado got up with him. 'Whither away so fast?' cried he, taking him by the arm; 'you cannot get in without me: and it would seem that you have a great desire for death thus to run to it headlong. Not one of all those many astrologers and magicians I have introduced before made such haste as yourself to a place whither I fear you will come but too soon.'

'Friend,' replied the Prince, looking earnestly at the officer, and continuing his pace, 'this was because none of the astrologers you speak of were so sure of their art as I am of mine: they were certain, indeed, that they would die if they did not succeed, but they had no certainty of their success. On this account they had reason to tremble on approaching the place whither I go, and where I am sure to find my happiness.' He had just spoken these words as he was at the door. The officer opened it, and introduced him into a great hall, whence was an entrance into the princess's chamber, divided from it only by a piece of tapestry.

Prince Camaralzaman stopt before he entered, speaking softly to the officer for fear of being heard in the princess's chamber. 'To convince you,' said he, 'that there is neither presumption, nor whim, nor youthful conceit in my undertaking, I leave it to your own desire whether I should cure the princess in your presence, or where we are, without going any further?'

The officer was amazed to hear the prince talk to him with such confidence: he left off insulting him, and said seriously, 'It is no matter whether you do it here or there, provided the business is done: cure her how you will, you will get immortal honour by it, not only in this court, but over all the world.'

The prince replied, 'It will be best then to cure her without seeing her, that you may be witness of my skill: notwithstanding my impatience to see a princess of her rank, who is to be my wife, yet, out of respect to you, I will deprive myself of that pleasure for a little while.' He was furnished with everything suitable for an astrologer to carry about him; and taking pen, ink, and paper out of his pocket, he wrote a letter to the princess.

When the prince had finished his letter, he folded it up, and enclosed in it the princess's ring, without letting the officer see what he did. When he had sealed it, he gave it to him: 'There, friend,' said he, 'carry it to your mistress; if it does not cure her as soon as she reads it, and sees what is inclosed in it, I give you leave to tell everybody that I am the most ignorant and impudent astrologer that ever was, is, or shall be.'

The officer, entering the Princess of China's chamber, gave her the packet he received from Prince Camaralzaman. 'Madam,' said he, 'the boldest astrologer that ever lived, if I am not mistaken, has arrived here, and pretends that on reading this letter and seeing what is in it you will be cured; I wish he may prove neither a liar nor an impostor.'

The Princess Badoura took the letter, and opened it with a great deal of indifference, but when she saw the ring, she had not patience to read it through; she rose hastily, broke the chain that held her, ran to the door and opened it. She knew the prince as soon as she saw him, and he knew her; they at once embraced each other tenderly, without being able to speak for excess of joy: they looked on one another a long time, wondering how they met again after their first interview. The princess's nurse, who ran to the door with her, made them come into her chamber, where the Princess Badoura gave the prince her ring, saying, 'Take it; I cannot keep it without restoring yours, which I will never part with; neither can it be in better hands.'

The officer immediately went to tell the King of China what had happened. 'Sir,' said he, 'all the astrologers and doctors who have hitherto pretended to cure the princess were fools in comparison with the last. He made use neither of schemes nor spells or perfumes, or anything else, but cured her without seeing her.' Then he told the king how he did it. The monarch was agreeably surprised at the news, and going forthwith to the princess's chamber embraced her: he afterwards embraced the prince, and, taking his hand, joined it to the princess's.

'Happy stranger,' said the king, 'whoever you are, I will keep my word, and give you my daughter to marry; though, from what I see in you, it is impossible for me to believe that you are really what you appear to be, and would have me believe you.'

Prince Camaralzaman thanked the king in the most humble tones, that he might the better show his gratitude. 'As for my person,' said he, 'I must own I am not an astrologer, as your majesty very judiciously guessed; I only put on the habit of one, that I might succeed more easily in my ambition to be allied to the most potent monarch in the world. I was born a prince, and the son of a king and queen; my name is Camaralzaman; my father is Schahzaman, who now reigns over the islands that are well known by the name of the Islands of the Children of Khaledan.' He then told him his history.

When the prince had done speaking, the king said to him, 'This history is so extraordinary that it deserves to be known to posterity; I will take care it shall be; and the original being deposited in my royal archives, I will spread copies of it abroad, that my own kingdoms and the kingdoms around me may know it.'

The marriage was solemnized the same day, and the rejoicings for it were universal all over the empire of China. Nor was Marzavan forgotten: the king immediately gave him an honourable post in his court, and a promise of further advancement; and held continual feastings for several months, to show his joy.

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