The King of Persia's capital was situated in an island; and his palace, which was very magnificent, was builtupon the sea-shore; his window looked towards the sea; and the fair slave's, which was pretty near it, had alsothe same prospect, and it was the more pleasant on account of the sea's beating almost against the foot of thewall.At the end of three days the fair slave, magnificently dressed, was alone in her chamber, sitting upon a sofa,and leaning against one of the windows that faced the sea, when the king, being informed that he might visither, came in. The slave hearing somebody walk in the room, immediately turned her head to see who it was.She knew him to be the king; but without showing the least surprise, or so much as rising from her seat tosalute or receive him, she turned back to the window again as if he had been the most insignificant person inthe world.The King of Persia was extremely surprised to see a slave of so beauteous a form so very ignorant of theworld. He attributed this to the narrowness of her education, and the little care that had been taken to instructher in the first rules of civility. He went to her at the window, where, notwithstanding the coldness andindifference with which she had just now received him, she suffered herself to be admired, kissed andembraced as much as he pleased, but answered him not a word.'My dearest life,' said the king, 'you neither answer, nor by any visible token give me the least reason tobelieve that you are listening to me. Why will you still keep to this obstinate silence, which chills me? Do youmourn for your country, your friends, or your relations? Alas! is not the King of Persia, who loves and adoresyou, capable of comforting, and making you amends for the loss of everything in the world?'But the fair slave continued her astonishing reserve; and keeping her eyes still fixed upon the ground, wouldneither look at him nor utter a word; but after they had dined together in absolute silence, the king went to thewomen whom he had assigned to the fair slave as her attendants, and asked them if they had ever heard herspeak.One of them presently made answer, 'Sire, we have neither seen her open her lips, nor heard her speak anymore than your majesty has just now; we have rendered her our services; we have combed and dressed herhair, put on her clothes, and waited upon her in her chamber; but she has never opened her lips, so much as tosay, That is well, or, I like this. We have often asked, Madam, do you want anything? Is there anything youwish for? Do but ask and command us: but we have never been able to draw a word from her. We cannot tellwhether her silence proceeds from pride, sorrow, stupidity, or dumbness; and this is all we can inform yourmajesty.'The King of Persia was more astonished at hearing this than he was before: however, believing the slavemight have some reason for sorrow, he endeavoured to divert and amuse her, but all in vain. For a whole yearshe never afforded him the pleasure of a single word.At length, one day there were great rejoicings in the capital, because to the king and his silent slave-queenthere was born a son and heir to the kingdom. Once more the king endeavoured to get a word from his wife.'My queen,' he said, 'I cannot divine what your thoughts are; but, for my own part, nothing would be wantingto complete my happiness and crown my joy but that you should speak to me one single word, for somethingwithin me tells me you are not dumb: and I beseech, I conjure you, to break through this long silence, andspeak but one word to me; and after that I care not how soon I die.'At this discourse the fair slave, who, according to her usual custom, had hearkened to the king with downcasteyes, and had given him cause to believe not only that she was dumb, but that she had never laughed in herlife, began to smile a little. The King of Persia perceived it with a surprise that made him break forth into anexclamation of joy; and no longer doubting but that she was going to speak, he waited for that happy momentwith an eagerness and attention that cannot easily be expressed.
Tales From The Arabian Nights, by E. Dixon3