This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
THERE was, in olden time, and in an ancient age and period, in the land of the Persians, a King named Shah-Zeman, and the place of his residence was Khurasan. He had a hundred concubines; but he had not been blest, during his whole life, with a male child by any of them, nor a female; and he reflected upon this, one day, and lamented that the greater portion of his life had passed, and he had not been blessed with a male child to inherit the kingdom after him as he had inherited it from his fathers and forefathers. So the utmost grief, and violent vexation, befell him on this account.
Now while he was sitting one day, one of his memluks came in to him, and said to him, O my lord, at the door is a slave-girl with a merchant: none more beautiful than she hath been seen. And he replied, Bring to me the merchant and the slave-girl. The merchant and the slave-girl therefore came to him; and when he saw her, he found her to resemble the Rudeyni1 lance. She was wrapped in an izar of silk embroidered with gold, and the merchant uncovered her face, whereupon the place was illuminated by her beauty, and there hung down from her forehead seven locks of hair reaching to her anklets, like the tails of horses. She had eyes bordered with kohl, and heavy hips, and slender waist: she was such as would cure the malady of the sick, and extinguish the fire of the thirsty, and was as the poet hath said in these verses:
I am enamoured of her: she is perfect in beauty, and perfect also in gravity and in dignity. She is neither tall nor short; but her hips are such that the izar is too narrow for them.
1Rttdeyneh and her husband Semher, of Khatt Hejer, were famous for making straight spear-ghafta*.
Her stature is a mean between the small and the large: so there it neither tallness nor shortness to find fault with.
Her hair reacheth to her anklets, [and is black as night,] but her face is ever like the day.
The King, therefore wondered at the sight of her, and at her beauty and loveliness, and her stature and justness of form; and he said to the merchant, O sheykh, for how much is this damsel to be sold? The merchant answered, O my lord, I purchased her for two thousand pieces of gold of the merchant who owned her before me, and I have been for three years travelling with her, and she hath cost, to the period of her arrival at this place, three thousand pieces of gold; and she is a present from me unto thee. Upon this, the King conferred upon him a magnificent robe of honour, and gave orders to present him with ten thousand pieces of gold. So he took them, and kissed the hands of the King, thanking him for his bounty and beneficence, and departed. Then the King committed the damsel to the tirewomen, saying to them, Amend the state of this damsel, and deck her, and furnish for her a private chamber, and take her into it. He also gave orders to his chamberlains that every thing which she required should be conveyed to her. The seat of government where he resided was on the shore of the sea, and his city was called the White City. And they conducted the damsel into a private chamber, which chamber had windows overlooking the sea; and the King commanded his chamberlains to close all the doors upon her after taking to her all that she required.
The King then went in to visit the damsel; but she rose not to him, nor took any notice of him. So the King said, It seemeth that she hath been with people who have not taught her good manners. And looking at the damsel, he saw her to be a person surpassing in beauty and loveliness, and in stature and justness of form; her face was like the disk of the moon at the full, or the shining sun in the clear sky; and he wondered at her beauty and loveliness, and stature and justness of form, extolling the perfection of God, the Creator: lauded be his power! Then the King advanced to the damsel, and seated himself by her side, pressed her to his bosom, and , seated her upon his thigh; and he kissed her lips, which he found to be sweeter than honey. After this, he gave orders to bring tables of the richest viands, comprising dishes of every kind; and the King ate, and put morsels into her mouth until she was satisfied, but she spoke not a single word. The King talked to her, and inquired of her her name; but she was silent, not uttering a word, nor returning him an answer, ceasing not to hang down her head towards the ground; and what protected her from the anger of the King was the excess of her beauty and loveliness, and her tenderness of manner. So the King said within himself, Extolled be the perfection of God, the Creator of this damsel! How elegant is she, saving that she doth not speak! But perfection belongeth unto God, whose name be exalted!-Then the King asked the female slaves whether she had spoken; and they answered him, From the time of her arrival to the present moment she hath not spoken one word, and we have not heard her talk.
The King therefore caused some of the female slaves and concubines to come, and ordered them to sing to her, and to make merry with her, thinking that then she might perhaps speak. Accordingly the female slaves and concubines played before her with all kinds of musical instruments, and enacted sports and other performances, and they sang so that every one who was present was moved with delight, except the damsel, who looked at them and was silent, neither laughing nor speaking. So the heart of the King was contracted. He however inclined to her entirely, paying no regard to others, but relinquishing all the rest of his concubines and favourites.
He remained with her a whole year, which seemed as one day, and still she spoke not; and he said to her one day, when his love of her, and his passion, were excessive, O desire of souls, verily the love that I have for thee is great, and I have relinquished for thy sake all my female slaves, and the concubines and the women and the favourites, and made thee my worldly portion, and been patient with thee a whole year. I beg God (whose name be exalted!) that He will, in his grace, soften thy heart towards me, and that thou mayest speak to me. Or, if thou be dumb, inform me by a sign, that I may give up hope of thy speaking. I also beg of God (whose perfection be extolled!) that He will bless me by thee with a male child that may inherit my kingdom after me; for I am single and solitary, having none to be my heir, and my age hath become great. I conjure thee then by Allah, if thou love me, that thou return me a reply.-And upon this, the damsel hung down her head towards the ground, meditating. Then she raised her head, and smiled in the face of the King, whereat it appeared to the King that lightning filled the private chamber; and she said, O magnanimous King, and bold lion, God hath answered thy prayer; for I am about to bear thee issue, and the time is [almost] come. But I know not whether the child is male or female. And were it not for my being in this state, I had not spoken to thee one word.-And when the King heard what she said, his face brightened up with joy and happiness, and he kissed her head and her hands by reason of the violence of his joy, and said, Praise be to God who hath favoured me with things that I desired; the first, thy speaking; and the second, thy information that thou art about to bear me issue. Then the King arose and went forth from her, and seated himself upon the throne of his kingdom in a state of exceeding happiness; and he ordered the Wezir to give out to the poor and the needy and the widows and others a hundred thousand pieces of gold as a thank-offering to God (whose name be exalted!) and an alms on his part. So the Wezir did as the King had commanded him. And after that, the King went in to the damsel, and sat with her, and embraced her and pressed her to his bosom, saying to her, O my mistress, who ownest me as thy slave, wherefore hath been this silence, seeing that thou hast been with me a whole year, night and day, awake and asleep, yet hast not spoken to me during this year except on this day? What then hath been the cause of thy silence?