STORY OF THE MERCHANT, HIS DAUGHTER, AND THE PRINCE OF EERAUK.
A certain rich merchant was constantly repining, because Providence had not added to his numerous blessings that of a child to inherit his vast wealth. This want destroyed the power of affluence to make him happy, and he importuned heaven with unceasing prayers. At length one evening, just as he had concluded his devotions, he heard a voice, saying, "Thy request has been heard, and thou wilt have a daughter, but she will give thee much uneasiness in her fourteenth year by an amour with the prince of Eerauk, and remember there is no avoiding the decrees of fate."
The merchant's wife that same night conceived, and at the usual time brought forth a daughter, who grew up an exquisite beauty. No pains were spared in her education, so that at thirteen she became most accomplished, and the fame of her charms and perfections was spread throughout the city. The merchant enjoyed the graces of his child, but at the same time his heart was heavy with anxiety for her fate, whenever he called to mind the prediction concerning her; so that at length he determined to consult a celebrated dervish, his friend, on the possible means of averting the fulfilment of the prophecy. The dervish gave him but little hopes of being able to counteract the will of heaven, but advised him to carry the beautiful maiden to a sequestered mansion, situated among unfrequented mountains surrounding it on all sides, and the only entrance to which was by a dark cavern hewn out of the solid rock, which might be safely guarded by a few faithful domestics. "Here," said the dervish, "your daughter may pass the predicted year, and if any human care can avail she may be thus saved from the threatened dishonour; but it is in vain for man to fight against the arms of heaven, therefore prepare thy mind for resignation to its decrees."
The merchant followed the advice of his friend, and having made the necessary preparations, accompanied by him, and attended by some white and black slaves of both sexes, arrived, after a month's journey, with his daughter, at the desired mansion; in which having placed her, he, after a day's repose, took his departure homewards with the dervish. Ample stores of all necessaries for her accommodation had been laid in, and slaves male and female were left for her attendance and protection. Not many days, had elapsed when an incident occurred, clearly proving the emptiness of human caution against the predestination of fate. The prince of Eerauk being upon a hunting excursion outrode his attendants, and missing his way, reached the gate of the cavern leading to the mansion, which was guarded by two black slaves, who seeing a stranger, cried out to him to withdraw. He stopped his horse, and in a supplicating tone requested protection and refreshment for the night, as he had wandered from the road, and was almost exhausted from weariness and want of food. The slaves were moved by the representation of his distress, as well as awed by his noble appearance, and apprehending no danger from a single person, conducted him through the cavern, into the beautiful valley, in which stood the mansion. They then informed their mistress of his arrival, who commanded him to be introduced into an apartment, in which an elegant entertainment was provided, where she gave him the most hospitable reception. To become known to each other was to love; nor was it long ere the prediction respecting the merchant's daughter proved fully verified. Some months passed in mutual happiness; when the prince, becoming anxious to return to his friends, took leave of his mistress, promising when he had seen his family to visit her again, and make her his wife.
On his way he met the merchant, who was coming to see his daughter. Halting at the same spot they fell into conversation, in which each inquired after the other's situation, and the prince, little aware to whom he was speaking, related his late adventure. The merchant, convinced that all his caution had been vain, concealed his uneasiness, resolved to take his daughter home, make the best of what had happened, and never again to struggle against fate. On his arrival at the cavern he found his daughter unwell; and before they reached their own abode she was delivered of a male infant, who, to save her credit, was left exposed in a small tent with a sum of money laid under its pillow, in hopes that the first passenger would take the child under his care. It so happened, that a caravan passing by, the leader of it, on examining the tent and seeing the infant, took it up, and having no children adopted it as his own. The prince of Eerauk having seen his parents, again repaired to visit his beautiful mistress, and on his journey to the cavern once more met the merchant, who, at his daughter's request, was travelling towards Eerauk to acquaint him with her situation. The prince, overjoyed, accompanied the merchant home, married the young lady, and with her parents returned to his dominions. Their exposed son, after long inquiry, was discovered, and liberal rewards bestowed on the leader of the caravan, who at his own request was permitted to reside in the palace of Eerauk, and superintend the education of his adopted son.