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    11- History of the First Calender

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    Chapter 12
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    Madam, in order to inform you how I lost my right eye, and why I
    was obliged to put myself into a calender's habit, I must tell
    you, that I am a sultan's son born: my father had a brother who
    reigned over a neighbouring kingdom; and the prince his son and I
    were nearly of the same age.

    After I had learned my exercises, the sultan my father granted me
    such liberty as suited my dignity. I went regularly every year to
    see my uncle, at whose court I amused myself for a month or two,
    and then returned again to my father's. These journeys cemented a
    firm and intimate friendship between the prince my cousin and
    myself. The last time I saw him, he received me with greater
    demonstrations of tenderness than he had done at any time before;
    and resolving one day to give me a treat, he made great
    preparations for that purpose. We continued a long time at table,
    and after we had both supped; "Cousin," said he, "you will hardly
    be able to guess how I have been employed since your last
    departure from hence, about a year past. I have had a great many
    men at work to perfect a design I have formed; I have caused an
    edifice to be built, which is now finished so as to be habitable:
    you will not be displeased if I shew it you. But first you are to
    promise me upon oath, that you will keep my secret, according to
    the confidence I repose in you."

    The affection and familiarity that subsisted between us would not
    allow me to refuse him any thing. I very readily took the oath
    required of me: upon which he said to me, "Stay here till I
    return, I will be with you in a moment; and accordingly he came
    with a lady in his hand, of singular beauty, and magnificently
    apparelled: he did not intimate who she was, neither did I think
    it would be polite to enquire. We sat down again with this lady
    at table, where we continued some time, conversing upon
    indifferent subjects; and now and then filling a glass to each
    other's health. After which the prince said, "Cousin, we must
    lose no time; therefore pray oblige me by taking this lady along
    with you, and conducting her to such a place, where you will see
    a tomb newly built in form of a dome: you will easily know it;
    the gate is open; enter it together, and tarry till I come, which
    will be very speedily."

    Being true to my oath, I made no farther enquiry, but took the
    lady by the hand, and by the directions which the prince my
    cousin had given me, I brought her to the place. We were scarcely
    got thither, when we saw the prince following us, carrying a
    pitcher of water, a hatchet, and a little bag of mortar.

    The hatchet served him to break down the empty sepulchre in the
    middle of the tomb; he took away the stones one after another,
    and laid them in a corner; he then dug up the ground, where I saw
    a trap-door under the sepulchre, which he lifted up, and
    underneath perceived the head of a staircase leading into a
    vault. Then my cousin, speaking to the lady, said, "Madam, it is
    by this way that we are to go to the place I told you of:" upon
    which the lady advanced, and went down, and the prince began to
    follow; but first turning to me, said, "My dear cousin, I am
    infinitely obliged to you for the trouble you have taken; I thank
    you. Adieu." "Dear cousin," I cried, "what is the meaning of
    this?" "Be content," replied he; "you may return the way you

    I could get nothing farther from him, but was obliged to take my
    leave. As I returned to my uncle's palace, the vapours of the
    wine got up into my head; however, I reached my apartment, and
    went to bed. Next morning, when I awoke, I began to reflect upon
    what had happened, and after recollecting all the circumstances
    of such a singular adventure, I fancied it was nothing but a
    dream. Full of these thoughts, I sent to enquire if the prince my
    cousin was ready to receive a visit from me; but when they
    brought word back that he did not lie in his own lodgings that
    night, that they knew not what was become of him, and were in
    much trouble in consequence, I conceived that the strange event
    of the tomb was too true. I was sensibly afflicted, and went to
    the public burying-place, where there were several tombs like
    that which I had seen: I spent the day in viewing them one after
    another, but could not find that I sought for, and thus I spent
    four days successively in vain.

    You must know, that all this while the sultan my uncle was
    absent, and had been hunting for several days; I grew weary of
    waiting for him, and having prayed his ministers to make my
    apology at his return, left his palace, and set out towards my
    father's court. I left the ministers of the sultan my uncle in
    great trouble, surmising what was become of the prince: but
    because of my oath to keep his secret, I durst not tell them what
    I had seen.

    I arrived at my father's capital, where, contrary to custom, I
    found a numerous guard at the gate of the palace, who surrounded
    me as I entered. I asked the reason, and the commanding officer
    replied, "Prince, the army has proclaimed the grand vizier,
    instead of your father, who is dead, and I take you prisoner in
    the name of the new sultan." At these words the guards laid hold
    of me, and carried me before the tyrant: I leave you to judge,
    madam, how much I was surprised and grieved.

    This rebel vizier, had long entertained a mortal hatred against
    me; for this reason. When I was a stripling, I loved to shoot
    with a cross-bow; and being one day upon the terrace of the
    palace with my bow, a bird happening to come by, I shot but
    missed him, and the ball by misfortune hit the vizier, who was
    taking the air upon the terrace of his own house, and put out one
    of his eyes. As soon as I understood this, I not only sent to
    make my excuse to him, but did it in person: yet he never forgave
    me, and, as opportunity offered, made me sensible of his
    resentment. But now that he had me in his power, he expressed his
    feelings; for he came to me like a madman, as soon as he saw me,
    and thrusting his finger into my right eye, pulled it out, and
    thus I became blind of one eye.

    But the usurper's cruelty did not stop here; he ordered me to be
    shut up in a machine, and commanded the executioner to carry me
    into the country, to cut off my head, and leave me to be devoured
    by birds of prey. The executioner conveyed me thus shut up into
    the country, in order to execute the barbarous sentence; but by
    my prayers and tears, I moved the man's compassion: "Go," said he
    to me, "get you speedily out of the kingdom, and take heed of
    returning, or you will certainly meet your own ruin, and be the
    cause of mine." I thanked him for the favour he did me; and as
    soon as I was left alone, comforted myself for the loss of my
    eye, by considering that I had very narrowly escaped a much
    greater evil.

    Being in such a condition, I could not travel far at a time; I
    retired to remote places during the day, and travelled as far by
    night as my strength would allow me. At last I arrived in the
    dominions of the sultan my uncle, and came to his capital.

    I gave him a long detail of the tragical cause of my return, and
    of the sad condition he saw me in. "Alas!" cried he, "was it not
    enough for me to have lost my son, but must I have also news of
    the death of a brother I loved so dearly, and see you reduced to
    this deplorable condition?" He told me how uneasy he was that he
    could hear nothing of his son, notwithstanding all the enquiry he
    could make. At these words, the unfortunate father burst into
    tears, and was so much afflicted, that pitying his grief, it was
    impossible for me to keep the secret any longer; so that,
    notwithstanding my oath to the prince my cousin, I told the
    sultan all that I knew.

    His majesty listened to me with some sort of comfort, and when I
    had done, "Nephew," said he, "what you tell me gives me some
    hope. I knew that my son ordered that tomb to be built, and I can
    guess pretty nearly the place; and with the idea you still have
    of it, I fancy we shall find it: but since he ordered it to be
    built privately, and you took your oath to keep his secret, I am
    of opinion, that we ought to go in quest of it without other
    attendants." But he had another reason for keeping the matter
    secret, which he did not then tell me, and an important one it
    was, as you will perceive by the sequel of my story.

    We disguised ourselves and went out by a door of the garden which
    opened into the fields, and soon found what we sought for. I knew
    the tomb, and was the more rejoiced, because I had formerly
    sought it a long time in vain. We entered, and found the iron
    trap pulled down at the head of the staircase; we had great
    difficulty in raising it, because the prince had fastened it
    inside with the water and mortar formerly mentioned, but at last
    we succeeded.

    The sultan my uncle descended first, I followed, and we went down
    about fifty steps. When we came to the foot of the stairs, we
    found a sort of antechamber, full of thick smoke of an ill scent,
    which obscured the lamp, that gave a very faint light.

    From this antechamber we came into another, very large, supported
    by columns, and lighted by several branched candlesticks. There
    was a cistern in the middle, and provisions of several sorts
    stood on one side of it; but we were much surprised not to see
    any person. Before us there appeared a high estrade, which we
    mounted by several steps, and upon this there was a large bed,
    with curtains drawn. The sultan went up, and opening the
    curtains, perceived the prince his son and the lady in bed
    together, but burnt and changed to cinder, as if they had been
    thrown into a fire, and taken out before they were consumed.

    But what surprised me most was, that though this spectacle filled
    me with horror, the sultan my uncle, instead of testifying his
    sorrow to see the prince his son in such a condition, spat on his
    face, and exclaimed, with a disdainful air, "This is the
    punishment of this world, but that of the other will last to
    eternity;" and not content with this, he pulled off his sandal,
    and gave the corpse of his son a blow on the cheek.

    I cannot adequately express how much I was astonished when I saw
    the sultan my uncle abuse his son thus after he was dead. "Sir,"
    said I, "whatever grief this dismal sight has impressed upon me,
    I am forced to suspend it, to enquire of your majesty what crime
    the prince my cousin may have committed, that his corpse should
    deserve such indignant treatment?" "Nephew," replied the sultan,
    "I must tell you, that my son (who is unworthy of that name)
    loved his sister from his infancy, as she did him: I did not
    check their growing fondness, because I did not foresee its
    pernicious consequence. This tenderness increased as they grew in
    years, and to such a height, that I dreaded the end of it. At
    last, I applied such remedies as were in my power: I not only
    gave my son a severe reprimand in private, laying before him the
    horrible nature of the passion he entertained, and the eternal
    disgrace he would bring upon my family, if he persisted; but I
    also represented the same to my daughter, and shut her up so
    close that she could have no conversation with her brother. But
    that unfortunate creature had swallowed so much of the poison,
    that all the obstacles which by my prudence I could lay in the
    way served only to inflame her love.

    "My son being persuaded of his sister's constancy, on presence of
    building a tomb, caused this subterraneous habitation to be made,
    in hopes of finding one day or other an opportunity to possess
    himself of that objets which was the cause of his flame, and to
    bring her hither. He took advantage of my absence, to enter by
    force into the place of his sister's confinement; but this was a
    circumstance which my honour would not suffer me to make public.
    And after so damnable an action, he came and shut himself up with
    her in this place, which he has supplied, as you see, with all
    sorts of provisions, that he might enjoy detestable pleasures,
    which ought to be a subject of horror to all the world; but God,
    who would not suffer such an abomination, has justly punished
    them both." At these words, he melted into tears, and I joined
    mine with his.

    After a while, casting his eyes upon me, "Dear nephew," cried he,
    embracing me, "if I have lost that unworthy son, I shall happily
    find in you what will better supply his place." The reflections
    he made on the doleful end of the prince and princess his
    daughter made us both weep afresh.

    We ascended the stairs again, and departed at last from that
    dismal place. We let down the trap door, and covered it with
    earth, and such other materials as the tomb was built of, on
    purpose to hide, as much as lay in our power, so terrible an
    effect of the wrath of God.

    We had not been long returned to the palace, unperceived by any
    one, but we heard a confused noise of trumpets, drums, and other
    instruments of war. We soon understood by the thick cloud of
    dust, which almost darkened the air, that it was the arrival of a
    formidable army: and it proved to be the same vizier that had
    dethroned my father, and usurped his place, who with a vast
    number of troops was come to possess himself of that also of the
    sultan my uncle.

    My uncle, who then had only his usual guards about him, could not
    resist so numerous an enemy; they invested the city, and the
    gates being opened to them without any resistance, soon became
    masters of it, and broke into the palace where my uncle defended
    himself, and sold his life at a dear rate. I fought as valiantly
    for a while; but seeing we were forced to submit to a superior
    power, I thought on my retreat, which I had the good fortune to
    effect by some back ways, and got to one of the sultan's servants
    on whose fidelity I could depend.

    Being thus surrounded with sorrows and persecuted by fortune, I
    had recourse to a stratagem, which was the only means left me to
    save my life: I caused my beard and eye-brows to be shaved, and
    putting on a calender's habit, I passed, unknown by any, out of
    the city; after that, by degrees, I found it easy to quit my
    uncle's kingdom, by taking the bye-roads.

    I avoided passing through towns, until I had reached the empire
    of the mighty governor of the Moosulmauns, the glorious and
    renowned caliph Haroon al Rusheed, when I thought myself out of
    danger; and considering what I was to do, I resolved to come to
    Bagdad, intending to throw myself at the feet of that monarch,
    whose generosity is renowned throughout the world. "I shall move
    him to compassion," said I to myself, "by the relation of my
    uncommon misfortunes, and without doubt he will take pity on a
    persecuted prince, and not suffer me to implore his assistance in

    In short, after a journey of several months, I arrived yesterday
    at the gate of this city, into which I entered about the dusk of
    evening ; and stopping a little while to consider which way I was
    to turn, another calender came up; he saluted me, and I him: "You
    appear," said I, "to be a stranger, as I am." "You are not
    mistaken," replied he. He had no sooner returned this answer,
    than a third calender overtook us. He saluted us, and told us he
    was a stranger newly come to Bagdad; so that as brethren we
    joined together, resolving not to separate from one another.

    It was now late, and we knew not where to seek a lodging in the
    city, where we had never been before. But good fortune having
    brought us to your gate, we made bold to knock, when you received
    us with so much kindness, that we are incapable of rendering
    suitable thanks. "This, madam," said he, "is, in obedience to
    your commands, the account I was to give how I lost my right eye,
    wherefore my beard and eye-brows are shaved, and how I came to be
    with you at this time."

    "It is enough," said Zobeide; "you may retire to what place you
    think fit." The calender begged the ladies' permission to stay
    till he had heard the relations of his two comrades, "Whom I
    cannot," said he, "leave with honour;" and that he might also
    hear those of the three other persons in company.

    The story of the first calender seemed wonderful to the whole
    company, but especially to the caliph, who, notwithstanding the
    slaves stood by with their cimeters drawn, could not forbear
    whispering to the vizier "Many stories have I heard, but never
    any that equalled in surprising incident that of the calender."
    Whilst he was saying this, the second calender began, addressing
    himself to Zobeide.
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