There once was a king of Persia, who at the beginning of his reign had distinguished himself by many glorious and successful conquests, and had afterwards enjoyed such profound peace and tranquillity as rendered him the happiest of monarchs. His only occasion for regret was that he had no heir to succeed him in the kingdom after his death. One day, according to the custom of his royal predecessors during their residence in the capital, he held an assembly of his courtiers, at which all the ambassadors and strangers of renown at his court were present. Among these there appeared a merchant from a far-distant country, who sent a message to the king craving an audience, as he wished to speak to him about a very important matter. The king gave orders for the merchant to be instantly admitted; and when the assembly was over, and all the rest of the company had retired, the king inquired what was the business which had brought him to the palace.
‘Sire,’ replied the merchant, ‘I have with me, and beg your majesty to behold, the most beautiful and charming slave it would be possible to find if you searched every corner of the earth; if you will but see her, you will surely wish to make her your wife.’
The fair slave was, by the king’s commands, immediately brought in, and no sooner had the king beheld a lady whose beauty and grace surpassed anything he had ever imagined, than he fell passionately in love with her, and determined to marry her at once. This was done.
So the king caused the fair slave to be lodged in the next finest apartment to his own, and gave particular orders to the matrons and the women-slaves appointed to attend her, that they should dress her in the richest robe they could find, and carry her the finest pearl necklaces, the brightest diamonds, and other the richest precious stones, that she might choose those she liked best.
The King of Persia’s capital was situated in an island; and his palace, which was very magnificent, was built upon the sea-shore; his window looked towards the sea; and the fair slave’s, which was pretty near it, had also the same prospect, and it was the more pleasant on account of the sea’s beating almost against the foot of the wall.
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