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Title: Vathek - An Arabian Tale
Author: Beckford, William, 1760-1844
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Vathek - An Arabian Tale" ***

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                             AN ARABIAN TALE,

                                * * * * *


                          WILLIAM BECKFORD, ESQ.

                                * * * * *



                                * * * * *

                       GEORGE SLATER, 252, STRAND.

                                * * * * *



WILLIAM BECKFORD, the author of the following celebrated Eastern tale,
was born in 1760, and died in the spring of 1844, at the advanced age of
eighty-four years.  It is to be regretted, that a man of so remarkable a
character, did not leave the world some record of a life offering points
of interest different from that of any of his contemporaries, from the
peculiarly studious retirement and eccentric avocations in which it was
chiefly passed.  Such a memoir would have formed a curious contrast with
that of the late M. de Chateaubriand, who, born nearly at the same
period, outlived but by a few years, the strange Englishman, whose famous
romance forms a brilliant ornament to French literature, which even Atala
is unlikely to outlive in the memory of Chateaubriand’s countrymen.  All
men of genius should write autobiographies.  Such works are inestimable
lessons to posterity.  As it is, there are few men, of whom it is more
difficult to compose an elaborate and detailed history than the author of
“Vathek.”  From such scanty sources as are open to us, the reader must be
content with a few striking facts and illustrations, which may serve to
convey some idea of the idiosyncrasy of a man, whose whole life was a
sort of mystery, even to his personal acquaintances.

His great-great-grandfather was lieutenant-governor and commander of the
forces in Jamaica; and his grandfather president of the council in the
same island.  His father, though not a merchant, as has been represented,
but a large landed proprietor, both in England and the West Indies, was
lord mayor of London, and distinguished himself in presenting an address
to the king, George the Third,—by a spirited retort to his majesty,—who
had the ill-breeding to treat discourteously a deputation which the lord
mayor headed.  The portraits of Alderman Beckford, and his more
celebrated son, were painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds.  The former died in
1770, leaving the subject of this memoir the wealthiest commoner in

No pains were spared on the education of the young Croesus—the lords
Chatham and Camden being consulted by his father on that subject.
Besides Latin and Greek, he spoke five modern languages, and wrote three
with facility and elegance.  He read Persian and Arabic, designed with
great skill, and studied the science of music under the great Mozart.

At the age of eighteen he visited Paris, and was introduced to Voltaire.
“On taking leave of me,” said Beckford, “he placed his hand on my head,
saying, ‘There, young Englishman, I give you the blessing of a very old
man.’  Voltaire was a mere skeleton—a bony anatomy.  His countenance I
shall never forget.”

His first literary production, “Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters,” was
written at the early age of seventeen.  It would appear, that the old
housekeeper at Fonthill, was in the habit of edifying visitors to its
picture gallery by a description of the paintings, mainly derived from
her own fertile imagination.  This suggested to our author, the humorous
idea of composing a catalogue of suppositious painters with histories of
each, equally fanciful and grotesque.  Henceforward, the old housekeeper
had a printed guide (or rather, mis-guider) to go by, and could discourse
at large on the merits of Og of Bashan! Waterslouchy of Amsterdam! and
Herr Sucrewasser of Vienna! their wives and styles!  As for the country
squires, etc., “they,” Beckford tells us, “took all for gospel.”

“Vathek,”—the superb “Vathek,” which Lord Byron so much admired, and on
which he so frequently complimented the author,—“Vathek,” the finest of
Oriental romances, as “Lallah Rookh” is the first of Oriental poems, by
the pen of a “Frank,” was written and published before our author had
completed his twentieth year, it having been composed at a _single
sitting_!  Yes, for three days and two nights did the indefatigable
author persevere in his task.  He completed it, and a serious illness was
the result.  What other literary man ever equalled this feat of rapidity
and genius?

“Vathek” was originally written in French, of which its style is a model.
The translation which follows, is not by the author himself, though he
expressed perfect satisfaction with it.  It was originally published in
1786.  For splendour of description, exquisite humour, and supernatural
interest and grandeur, it stands without a rival in romance.  In as
thoroughly Oriental keeping, Hope’s “Anastasius, or Memoirs of a Modern
Greek,” which Beckford himself highly admired, can alone be compared with

Much of the description of Vathek’s palace, and even the renowned “Hall
of Eblis,” was afterwards visibly embodied in the real Fonthill Abbey, of
which wonders, almost as fabulous, were at one time reported and

Fonthill Abbey, which had been destroyed by fire, and re-built during the
life-time of the elder Beckford, was on account of its bad site
demolished, and again re-built under the superintendence of our author
himself, assisted by James Wyatt, Esq., the architect, with a
magnificence that excited the greatest attention and wonder at the time.
The total outlay of building Fonthill, including furniture, articles of
virtu, etc., must have been enormous, not much within the million, as
estimated by the “Times.”  A writer in the “Athenæum” mentions £400,000
as the sum.  Beckford informed Mr. Cyrus Redding, that the exact cost of
building Fonthill was £273,000.

The distinguishing architectural peculiarity of Fonthill Abbey, was a
lofty tower, 280 feet in height.  This tower was prominently shadowed
forth in “Vathek,” and shows how strong a hold the idea had upon his
mind.  Such was his impatience to see Fonthill completed, that he had the
works continued by torchlight, with relays of workmen.  During the
progress of the building, the tower caught fire, and was partly
destroyed.  The owner, however, was present, and enjoyed the magnificent
burning spectacle.  It was soon restored; but a radical fault in laying
the foundation, caused it eventually to fall down, and leave Fonthill a
ruin in the life-time of its founder.

Not so much his extravagant mode of life, which is the common notion, as
the loss of two large estates in a law suit (the value of which may be
inferred from the fact, that _fifteen hundred slaves_ were upon them)
induced our author to quit Fonthill, and offer it and its contents for
public sale.  There was a general desire to see the interior of the
palace, in which its lord had lived in a luxurious seclusion, so little
admired by the curious of the fashionable world.  “He is fortunate,” says
the “Times” of 1822, “who finds a vacant chair within twenty miles of
Fonthill; the solitude of a private apartment is a luxury which few can
hope for.” . . .  “Falstaff himself could not _take his ease_ at this
moment within a dozen leagues of Fonthill.” . . . “The beds through the
county are (literally) doing double duty—people who come in from a
distance during the night must wait to go to bed until others get up in
the morning.” . . . “Not a farm-house, however humble,—not a cottage near
Fonthill, but gives shelter to fashion, to beauty, and rank; ostrich
plumes, which, by their very waving, we can trace back to Piccadilly, are
seen nodding at a casement window over a depopulated poultry-yard.”

The costly treasures of art and virtu, as well as the furniture of the
rich mansion, were scattered far and wide; and one of its tables served
the writer of this memoir to scribble upon, when first stern necessity,
or yet sterner ambition, urged him to add his mite to the Babel tower of
literature.  At that table I first read “Vathek.”  I have read it often
since, and every perusal has increased my admiration.

Nearly fifty years after the publication of “Vathek,” in 1835, Mr.
Beckford published his “Recollections of an Excursion to the Monasteries
of Alcobaca and Batalha,” which he had taken in 1795, together with an
epistolatory record of his observations in Italy, Spain and Portugal,
between the years 1780 and 1794.  These are marked, as he himself
intimates, “with the bloom and heyday of youthful spirits and youthful
confidence, at a period when the older order of things existed with all
its picturesque pomps and absurdities; when Venice enjoyed her Piombi and
sub-marine dungeons; Prance her Bastille; the Peninsula her Holy
Inquisition.”  With none of those subjects, however, are the letters
occupied—but with delineations of landscape, and the effects of natural
phenomena.  These literary efforts appear to have exhausted their
author’s productive powers; in a word, he seems soon to have been
“used-up,” and then to have discontinued his search after new sensations,
or to have been content to live without them.

After the sale of Fonthill, our author lived a considerable time in
Portugal, and hence Lord Byron, who was fond of casting the shadow of his
own imagination over every object, penned the well-known lines at Cintra:

    “There thou, too, Vathek, England’s wealthiest son,
       Once formed thy paradise; as not aware
       Where wanton wealth her mightiest deeds hath done,
    Meek peace, voluptuous lures, was ever wont to shun.

       Here didst thou dwell; here scenes of pleasure plan,
       Beneath yon mountain’s ever beauteous brow;
       But now, as if a thing unblest by man,
       Thy fairy dwelling is as lone as thou!
       Here giant weeds a passage scarce allow
       To halls deserted; portals gaping wide
       Fresh lessons to the thinking bosom; how
       Vain are the pleasaunces on earth supplied,
    Swept into wrecks anon by time’s ungentle tide.”

These sombre verses contrast strangely with Beckford’s saying to Mr.
Cyrus Redding, in his seventy-sixth year, “that he had never felt a
moments’ ennui in his life.”

Beckford was in person scarcely above the middle height, slender, and
well formed, with features indicating great intellectual power.  He was
exactly one year younger than Pitt, the companion of his minority.  His
political principles were popular, though it is recorded, that at a court
ball on the Queen’s birth-day, in 1782, he, with Miss North, led up a
country dance.  He sat in parliament, in his early years, both for Wells
and Hendon, but retired on account of bad health.  This, however, he
overcame by careful diet and exercise, as testified by his great bodily
activity almost to the last.  He was a man of most extensive reading, and
cultivated taste.

The last years of his life were passed at Bath—where he united two houses
in Lansdown Crescent, by an arch thrown across the street, and containing
his library, which was well selected, and very extensive.  Not far off,
he again erected a tower, 180 feet high, of which the following
description was given at the time of his decease, by a correspondent of
the Athenæum:—

“Mr. Beckford, at an early period of his residence there, erected a lofty
tower, in the apartments of which were placed many of his choicest
paintings and articles of virtu.  Asiatic in its style, with gilded
lattices and blinds, or curtains, of crimson cloth, its striped ceilings,
its minaret, and other accessories, conveyed the idea that the being who
designed the place and endeavoured to carry out the plan, was deeply
imbued with the spirit of that lonely grandeur and strict solitariness
which obtains through all countries and among all people of the East.
The building was surrounded by a high wall, and entrance afforded to the
garden in which the tower stood, by a door of small dimensions.  The
garden itself was Eastern in its character.  Though comparatively
circumscribed in its size, nevertheless were to be found within it,
solitary walks and deep retiring shades, such as could be supposed
Vathek, the mournful and the magnificent, loved, and from the bowers of
which might be expected would suddenly fall upon the ear, sounds of the
cymbal and the dulcimer.  The building contained several apartments
crowded with the finest paintings.  At the time I made my inspection the
walls were crowded with the choicest productions of the easel.  The
memory falls back upon ineffaceable impressions of Old Franks, Breughel,
Cuyp, Titian, (a Holy Family), Hondekooter, Polemberg, and a host of
other painters whose works have immortalized Art.  Ornaments of the most
exquisite gold fillagree, carvings in ivory and wood, Raphaelesque china,
goblets formed of gems, others fashioned by the miraculous hands of
Benvenuto Cellini, filled the many cabinets and _recherché_ receptacles
created for such things.  The doors of the rooms were of finely polished
wood—the windows of single sweeps of plate glass—the cornices of gilded
silver; every part, both within and without, bespeaking the wealth, the
magnificence, and the taste of him who had built this temple in
dedication to grandeur, solitariness, and the arts.”

From the summit of this tower, Mr. Beckford, and he alone without a
telescope,—could behold that other tower of his youthful magnificence,
Fonthill; on which he loved to gaze, with feelings which it would be
difficult to describe.  His eyesight was wonderful; he could gaze upon
the sun like an eagle; and on the day that the great tower at Fonthill
fell he missed it in the landscape long before the news of the
catastrophe reached Bath.

In conclusion, we have only to add, that our author, in his life-time,
had all that wealth can give, and in his grave his memory will retain
that which no wealth can purchase.  Whatever may have been his errors,
they have died with him.  His genius yet lives, and “Vathek,” now for the
first time presented to the public in a popular form, will, whilst
English literature lasts, never want readers, and, while good taste
flourishes, admirers.


THE original of the following story, with some others of a similar kind,
collected in the east by a man of letters, was communicated to the editor
above three years ago.  The pleasure he received from the perusal of it
induced him at that time to transcribe, and since to translate it.  How
far the copy may be a just representation it becomes not him to
determine.  He presumes however to hope that if the difficulty of
accommodating our English idioms to the Arabic, preserving the
correspondent tones of a diversified narration, and discriminating the
nicer touches of character through the shades of foreign manners be duly
considered, a failure in some points will not preclude him from all claim
to indulgence; especially if those images, sentiments, and passions,
which being independent of local peculiarities, may be expressed in every
language, shall be found to retain their native energy in our own.


VATHEK, ninth Caliph {7a} of the race of the Abassides, was the son of
Motassem, and the grandson of Haroun Al Raschid.  From an early accession
to the throne, and the talents he possessed to adorn it, his subjects
were induced to expect that his reign would be long and happy.  His
figure was pleasing and majestic; but when he was angry, one of his eyes
became so terrible {7b} that no person could bear to behold it; and the
wretch upon whom it was fixed instantly fell backward, and sometimes
expired.  For fear, however, of depopulating his dominions, and making
his palace desolate, he but rarely gave way to his anger.

Being much addicted to women, and the pleasures of the table, he sought
by his affability to procure agreeable companions; and he succeeded the
better, as his generosity was unbounded and his indulgences unrestrained;
for he was by no means scrupulous: nor did he think, with the Caliph Omar
Ben Abdalaziz, {8a} that it was necessary to make a hell of this world to
enjoy Paradise in the next.

He surpassed in magnificence all his predecessors.  The palace of
Alkoremmi, which his father Motassem had erected on the hill of Pied
Horses, and which commanded the whole city of Samarah, {8b} was in his
idea far too scanty: he added, therefore, five wings, or rather other
palaces, which he destined for the particular gratification of each of
his senses.

In the first of these were tables continually covered with the most
exquisite dainties, which were supplied both by night and by day
according to their constant consumption; whilst the most delicious wines,
and the choicest cordials, flowed forth from a hundred fountains, that
were never exhausted.  This palace was called “The Eternal, or
Unsatiating Banquet.”

The second was styled “The Temple of Melody, or the Nectar of the Soul.”
It was inhabited by the most skilful musicians and admired poets of the
time, who not only displayed their talents within, but dispersing in
bands without, caused every surrounding scene to reverberate their songs,
which were continually varied in the most delightful succession.

The palace named “The Delight of the Eyes, or the Support of Memory,” was
one entire enchantment.  Rarities collected from every corner of the
earth were there found in such profusion as to dazzle and confound, but
for the order in which they were arranged.  One gallery exhibited the
pictures of the celebrated Mani; and statues that seemed to be alive.
Here a well-managed perspective attracted the sight; there, the magic of
optics agreeably deceived it; whilst the naturalist, on his part,
exhibited in their several classes the various gifts that heaven had
bestowed on our globe.  In a word, Vathek omitted nothing in this
particular that might gratify the curiosity of those who resorted to it,
although he was not able to satisfy his own; for he was, of all men, the
most curious.

“The Palace of Perfumes,” which was termed likewise, “The Incentive to
Pleasure,” consisted of various halls, where the different perfumes which
the earth produces were kept perpetually burning in censers of gold.
Flambeaus and aromatic lamps were here lighted in open day; but the too
powerful effects of this agreeable delirium might be avoided by
descending into an immense garden, where an assemblage of every fragrant
flower diffused through the air the purest odours.

The fifth palace, denominated “The Retreat of Joy, or the Dangerous,” was
frequented by troops of young females, beautiful as the Houris, {9} and
not less seducing, who never failed to receive with caresses all whom the
Caliph allowed to approach them; for he was by no means disposed to be
jealous, as his own women were secluded within the palace he inhabited

Notwithstanding the sensuality in which Vathek indulged, he experienced
no abatement in the love of his people, who thought that a sovereign
immersed in pleasure was not less tolerable to his subjects than one that
employed himself in creating them foes.  But the unquiet and impetuous
disposition of the Caliph would not allow him to rest there: he had
studied so much for his amusement in the life-time of his father as to
acquire a great deal of knowledge, though not a sufficiency to satisfy
himself; for he wished to know everything; even sciences that did not
exist.  He was fond of engaging in disputes with the learned, but liked
them not to push their opposition with warmth.  He stopped the mouths of
those with presents, whose mouths could be stopped; whilst others, whom
his liberality was unable to subdue, he sent to prison to cool their
blood; a remedy that often succeeded.

Vathek discovered also a predilection for theological controversy; but it
was not with the orthodox that he usually held.  By this means he induced
the zealots to oppose him, and then persecuted them in return; for he
resolved, at any rate, to have reason on his side.

The great prophet Mahomet, whose vicars the Caliphs are, beheld with
indignation from his abode in the seventh heaven the irreligious conduct
of such a vicegerent.

“Let us leave him to himself,” said he to the Genii, {10} who are always
ready to receive his commands; “let us see to what lengths his folly and
impiety will carry him; if he run into excess we shall know how to
chastise him.  Assist him, therefore, to complete the tower which, in
imitation of Nimrod, he hath begun; not, like that great warrior, to
escape being drowned, but from the insolent curiosity of penetrating the
secrets of heaven: he will not divine the fate that awaits him.”

The Genii obeyed; and when the workmen had raised their structure a cubit
in the day time, two cubits more were added in the night.  The expedition
with which the fabric arose was not a little flattering to the vanity of
Vathek.  He fancied that even insensible matter showed forwardness to
subserve his designs; not considering that the successes of the foolish
and wicked form the first rod of their chastisement.

His pride arrived at its height when, having ascended, for the first
time, the eleven thousand stairs of his tower, he cast his eyes below and
beheld men not larger than pismires; mountains than shells; and cities
than bee-hives.  The idea which such an elevation inspired of his own
grandeur completely bewildered him; he was almost ready to adore himself;
till lifting his eyes upwards, he saw the stars as high above him as they
appeared when he stood on the surface of the earth.  He consoled himself,
however, for this transient perception of his littleness with the thought
of being great in the eyes of the others, and flattered himself that the
light of his mind would extend beyond the reach of his sight, and
transfer to the stars the decrees of his destiny.

With this view the inquisitive prince passed most of his nights on the
summit of his tower, till he became an adept in the mysteries of
astrology, and imagined that the planets had disclosed to him the most
marvellous adventures, which were to be accomplished by an extraordinary
personage, from a country altogether unknown.  Prompted by motives of
curiosity, he had always been courteous to strangers; but from this
instant he redoubled his attention, and ordered it to be announced by
sound of trumpet, through all the streets of Samarah, that no one of his
subjects, on peril of his displeasure, should either lodge or detain a
traveller, but forthwith bring him to the palace.

Not long after this proclamation, there arrived in his metropolis, a man
so hideous that the very guards who arrested him were forced to shut
their eyes as they led him along.  The Caliph himself appeared startled
at so horrible a visage; but joy succeeded to this emotion of terror when
the stranger displayed to his view such rarities as he had never before
seen, and of which he had no conception.

In reality, nothing was ever so extraordinary as the merchandise this
stranger produced.  Most of his curiosities, which were not less
admirable for their workmanship than their splendour, had besides, their
several virtues described on a parchment fastened to each.  There were
slippers which enabled the feet to walk; knives that cut without the
motion of a hand; sabres which dealt the blow at the person they were
wished to strike; and the whole enriched with gems that were hitherto

The sabres, whose blades emitted a dazzling radiance, fixed more than all
the Caliph’s attention, who promised himself to decipher at his leisure
the uncouth characters engraven on their sides.  Without, therefore,
demanding their price, he ordered all the coined gold to be brought from
his treasury, and commanded the merchant to take what he pleased.  The
stranger complied with modesty and silence.

Vathek, imagining that the merchant’s taciturnity was occasioned by the
awe which his presence inspired, encouraged him to advance, and asked
him, with an air of condescension, “Who he was? whence he came? and where
he obtained such beautiful commodities?”

The man, or rather monster, instead of making a reply, thrice rubbed his
forehead, which, as well as his body, was blacker than ebony; four times
clapped his paunch, the projection of which was enormous; opened wide his
huge eyes, which glowed like firebrands; began to laugh with a hideous
noise, and discovered his long amber coloured teeth bestreaked with

The Caliph, though a little startled, renewed his enquiries, but without
being able to procure a reply.  At which, beginning to be ruffled, he
exclaimed, “knowest thou, varlet, who I am? and at whom thou art aiming
thy gibes?”  Then addressing his guards, “have ye heard him speak? is he

“He hath spoken,” they replied, “though but little.”

“Let him speak then again,” said Vathek, “and tell me who he is, from
whence he came, and where he procured these singular curiosities, or I
swear, by the ass of Balaam, that I will make him rue his pertinacity.”

This menace was accompanied by the Caliph with one of his angry and
perilous glances, which the stranger sustained without the slightest
emotion, although his eyes were fixed on the terrible eye of the prince.

No words can describe the amazement of the courtiers, when they beheld
this rude merchant withstand the encounter unshocked.  They all fell
prostrate with their faces on the ground, to avoid the risk of their
lives, and continued in the same abject posture till the Caliph exclaimed
in a furious tone:

“Up, cowards! seize the miscreant! see that he be committed to prison,
and guarded by the best of my soldiers!  Let him, however, retain the
money I gave him; it is not my intent to take from him his property, I
only want him to speak.”

No sooner had he uttered these words than the stranger was surrounded,
pinioned with strong fetters, and hurried away to the prison of the great
tower, which was encompassed by seven empalements of iron bars, and armed
with spikes in every direction, longer and sharper than spits.

The Caliph, nevertheless, remained in the most violent agitation.  He sat
down indeed to eat, but of the three hundred covers that were daily
placed before him, could taste of no more than thirty-two.

A diet to which he had been so little accustomed, was sufficient of
itself to prevent him from sleeping, what then must be its effect when
joined to the anxiety that prayed upon his spirits?  At the first glimpse
of dawn he hastened to the prison, again to importune this intractable
stranger; but the rage of Vathek exceeded all bounds on finding the
prison empty, the gates burst asunder, and his guards lying lifeless
around him.  In the paroxysm of his passion he fell furiously on the poor
carcases, and kicked them till evening without intermission.  His
courtiers and viziers exerted their efforts to soothe his extravagance,
but finding every expedient ineffectual, they all united in one

“The Caliph is gone mad! the Caliph is out of his senses!”

This outcry, which was soon resounded through the streets of Samarah, at
length reached the ears of Carathis, his mother: she flew in the utmost
consternation to try her ascendency on the mind of her son.  Her tears
and caresses called off his attention; and he was prevailed upon by her
entreaties to be brought back to the palace.

Carathis, apprehensive of leaving Vathek to himself, caused him to be put
to bed; and seating herself by him, endeavoured by her conversation to
heal and compose him.  Nor could any one have attempted it with better
success; for the Caliph not only loved her as a mother but respected her
as a person of superior genius.  It was she who had induced him, being a
Greek herself, to adopt all the sciences and systems of her country,
which good Mussulmans hold in such thorough abhorrence.

Judicial astrology was one of those systems in which Carathis was a
perfect adept.  She began, therefore, with reminding her son of the
promise which the stars had made him; and intimated an intention of
consulting them again.

“Alas!” sighed the Caliph, as soon at he could speak, “what a fool have I
been! not for the kicks bestowed on my guards, who so tamely submitted to
death, but for never considering that this extraordinary man was the same
the planets had foretold; whom, instead of ill-treating, I should have
conciliated by all the arts of persuasion.”

“The past,” said Carathis, “cannot be recalled; but it behoves us to
think of the future: perhaps you may again see the object you so much
regret: it is possible the inscriptions on the sabres will afford
information.  Eat, therefore, and take thy repose, my dear son.  We will
consider, to-morrow, in what manner to act.”

Vathek yielded to her counsel as well as he could, and arose in the
morning with a mind more at ease.  The sabres he commanded to be
instantly brought; and poring upon them through a green glass, that their
glittering might not dazzle, he set himself in earnest to decipher the
inscriptions; but his reiterated attempts were all of them nugatory: in
vain did he beat his head and bite his nails; not a letter of the whole
was he able to ascertain.  So unlucky a disappointment would have undone
him again, had not Carathis, by good fortune, entered the apartment.

“Have patience, son!” said she.  “You certainly are possessed of every
important science, but the knowledge of languages is a trifle, at best;
and the accomplishment of none but a pedant.  Issue forth a proclamation
that you will confer such rewards as become your greatness upon any one
that shall interpret what you do not understand, and what it is beneath
you to learn.  You will soon find your curiosity gratified.”

“That may be,” said the Caliph; “but in the mean time I shall be horribly
disgusted by a crowd of smatterers, who will come to the trial as much
for the pleasure of retailing their jargon as from the hope of gaining
the reward.  To avoid this evil, it will be proper to add that I will put
every candidate to death who shall fail to give satisfaction; for, thank
heaven, I have skill enough to distinguish between one that translates
and one that invents.”

“Of that I have no doubt,” replied Carathis, “but to put the ignorant to
death is somewhat severe, and may be productive of dangerous effects.
Content yourself with commanding their beards to be burnt: beards, in a
state, are not quite so essential as men.”

The Caliph submitted to the reasons of his mother, and sending for
Morakanabad, his prime vizier, said:

“Let the common criers proclaim, not only in Samarah, but throughout
every city in my empire, that whosoever will repair hither, and decipher
certain characters which appear to be inexplicable, shall experience the
liberality for which I am renowned; but that all who fail upon trial
shall have their beards burnt off to the last hair.  Let them add also,
that I will bestow fifty beautiful slaves, and as many jars of apricots
from the isle of Kirmith, upon any man that shall bring me intelligence
of the stranger.”

The subjects of the Caliph, like their sovereign, being great admirers of
women, and apricots from Kirmith, felt their mouths water at these
promises, but were totally unable to gratify their hankering, for no one
knew which way the stranger had gone.

As to the Caliph’s other requisition the result was different: the
learned, the half-learned, and those who were neither, but fancied
themselves equal to both, came boldly to hazard their beards, and all
shamefully lost them.

The exaction of these forfeitures, which found sufficient employment for
the Eunuchs, gave them such a smell of singed hair as greatly to disgust
the ladies of the seraglio, and make it necessary that this new
occupation of their guardians should be transferred into other hands.

At length, however, an old man presented himself, whose beard was a
cubit-and-a-half longer than any that had appeared before him.  The
officers of the palace whispered to each other, as they ushered him in:

“What a pity such a beard should be burnt!”

Even the Caliph, when he saw it, concurred with them in opinion; but his
concern was entirely needless.  This venerable personage read the
characters with facility, and explained them verbatim, as follows:

“We were made where everything good is made; we are the least of the
wonders of a place where all is wonderful; and deserving the sight of the
first potentate on earth.”

“You translate admirably!” cried Vathek.  “I know to what these
marvellous characters allude.  Let him receive as many robes of honour,
and thousands of sequins of gold, as he hath spoken words.  I am in some
measure relieved from the perplexity that embarrassed me!”

Vathek invited the old man to dine, and even to remain some days in the
palace.  Unluckily for him, he accepted the offer; for the Caliph having
ordered him next morning to be called, said:

“Read again to me what you have read already; I cannot hear too often the
promise that is made me, the completion of which I languish to obtain.”

The old man forthwith put on his green spectacles; but they instantly
dropped from his nose, on perceiving that the characters he had read the
day preceding, had given place to others of different import.

“What ails you?” asked the Caliph; “and why these symptoms of wonder?”

“Sovereign of the world,” replied the old man, “these sabres hold another
language to-day, from that they yesterday held.”

“How say you?” returned Vathek.  “But it matters not! tell me, if you
can, what they mean.”

“It is this, my lord,” rejoined the old man: “‘Woe to the rash mortal who
seeks to know that of which he should remain ignorant and to undertake
that which surpasseth his power!’”

“And woe to thee!” cried the Caliph, in a burst of indignation: “to-day
thou art void of understanding: begone from my presence, they shall burn
but the half of thy beard, because thou wert yesterday fortunate in
guessing.  My gifts I never resume.”

The old man, wise enough to perceive he had luckily escaped, considering
the folly of disclosing so disgusting a truth, immediately withdrew, and
appeared not again.

But it was not long before Vathek discovered abundant reason to regret
his precipitation; for though he could not decipher the characters
himself, yet, by constantly poring upon them, he plainly perceived that
they every day changed; and unfortunately no other candidate offered to
explain them.  This perplexing occupation inflamed his blood, dazzled his
sight, and brought on a giddiness and debility that he could not support.
He failed not, however, though in so reduced a condition, to be often
carried to his tower, as he flattered himself that he might there read in
the stars, which he went to consult, something more congruous to his
wishes.  But in this his hopes were deluded; for his eyes, dimmed by the
vapours of his head, began to subserve his curiosity so ill, that he
beheld nothing but a thick dun cloud, which he took for the most direful
of omens.

Agitated with so much anxiety, Vathek entirely lost all firmness; a fever
seized him and his appetite failed.  Instead of being one of the greatest
eaters, he became as distinguished for drinking.  So insatiable was the
thirst which tormented him, that his mouth, like a funnel, was always
open to receive the various liquors that might be poured into it and
especially cold water, which calmed him more than every other.

This unhappy prince being thus incapacitated for the enjoyment of any
pleasure, commanded the palaces of the five senses to be shut up;
forebore to appear in public, either to display his magnificence or
administer justice; and retired to the inmost apartment of his harem.  As
he had ever been an indulgent husband, his wives, overwhelmed with grief
at his deplorable situation, incessantly offered their prayers for his
health, and unremittingly supplied him with water.

In the mean time, the Princess Carathis, whose affliction no words can
describe, instead of restraining herself to sobbing and tears, was
closeted daily with the Vizier Morakanabad, to find out some cure or
mitigation of the Caliph’s disease.  Under the persuasion that it was
caused by enchantment, they turned over together leaf by leaf, all the
books of magic that might point out a remedy; and caused the horrible
stranger, whom they accused as the enchanter, to be everywhere sought for
with the strictest diligence.

At the distance of a few miles from Samarah stood a high mountain, whose
sides were swarded with wild thyme and basil, and its summit overspread
with so delightful a plain that it might be taken for the Paradise
destined for the faithful.  Upon it grew a hundred thickets of eglantine
and other fragrant shrubs; a hundred arbours of roses, jessamine, and
honeysuckle; as many clumps of orange trees, cedar, and citron; whose
branches, interwoven with the palm, the pomegranate, and the vine,
presented every luxury that could regale the eye or the taste.  The
ground was strewed with violets, harebells, and pansies; in the midst of
which sprung forth tufts of jonquils, hyacinths, and carnations, with
every other perfume that impregnates the air.  Four fountains, not less
clear than deep, and so abundant as to slake the thirst of ten armies,
seemed purposely placed here to make the scene more resemble the garden
of Eden, which was watered by the four sacred rivers.  Here the
nightingale sang the birth of the rose, her well-beloved, and at the same
time lamented its short-lived beauty; whilst the turtle deplored the loss
of more substantial pleasures and the wakeful lark hailed the rising
light that reanimates the whole creation.  Here, more than anywhere, the
mingled melodies of birds expressed the various passions they inspired;
as if the exquisite fruits, which they pecked at pleasure, had given them
a double energy.

To this mountain Vathek was sometimes brought, for the sake of breathing
a purer air; and especially, to drink at will of the four fountains,
which were reputed in the highest degree salubrious, and sacred to
himself.  His attendants were his mother, his wives, and some eunuchs,
who assiduously employed themselves in filling capacious bowls of rock
crystal, and emulously presenting them to him.  But it frequently
happened that his avidity exceeded their zeal; insomuch that he would
prostrate himself upon the ground to lap up the water, of which he could
never have enough.

One day when this unhappy prince had been long lying in so debasing a
posture, a voice, hoarse but strong, thus addressed him:

“Why assumest thou the function of a dog, oh Caliph, so proud of thy
dignity and power?”

At this apostrophe he raised up his head and beheld the stranger that had
caused him so much affliction.  Inflamed with anger at the sight, he

“Accursed Giaour! {23} what comest thou hither to do? is it not enough to
have transformed a prince, remarkable for his agility, into one of those
leather barrels which the Bedouin Arabs carry on their camels when they
traverse the deserts?  Perceivest thou not that I may perish by drinking
to excess, no less than by a total abstinence?”

“Drink then this draught,” said the stranger, as he presented to him a
phial of a red and yellow mixture; “and to satiate the thirst of thy soul
as well as of thy body, know that I am an Indian, but from a region of
India which is wholly unknown.”

The Caliph, delighted to see his desires accomplished in part, and
flattering himself with the hope of obtaining their entire fulfilment,
without a moment’s hesitation swallowed the potion, and instantaneously
found his health restored, his thirst appeased, and his limbs as agile as

In the transports of his joy, Vathek leaped upon the neck of the
frightful Indian, and kissed his horrid mouth and hollow cheeks, as
though they had been the coral lips, and the lilies and roses of his most
beautiful wives; whilst they, less terrified than jealous at the sight,
dropped their veils to hide the blush of mortification that suffused
their foreheads.

Nor would the scene have closed here, had not Carathis, with all the art
of insinuation, a little repressed the raptures of her son.  Having
prevailed upon him to return to Samarah, she caused a herald to precede
him, whom she commanded to proclaim as loudly as possible:

“The wonderful stranger hath appeared again; he hath healed the Caliph;
he hath spoken! he hath spoken!”

Forthwith all the inhabitants of this vast city quitted their
habitations, and ran together in crowds to see the procession of Vathek
and the Indian, whom they now blessed as much as they had before
execrated, incessantly shouting,

“He hath healed our sovereign; he hath spoken! he hath spoken!”

Nor were these words forgotten in the public festivals, which were
celebrated the same evening to testify the general joy, for the poets
applied them as a chorus to all the songs they composed.

The Caliph, in the mean while caused the palaces of the senses to be
again set open, and as he found himself prompted to visit that of taste,
in preference to the rest, immediately ordered a splendid entertainment,
to which his great officers and favourite courtiers were all invited.
The Indian, who was placed near the prince, seemed to think that as a
proper acknowledgment of so distinguished a privilege, he could neither
eat, drink, nor talk too much.  The various dainties were no sooner
served up than they vanished, to the great mortification of Vathek, who
piqued himself on being the greatest eater alive, and at this time in
particular had an excellent appetite.

The rest of the company looked round at each other in amazement, but the
Indian without appearing to observe it, quaffed large bumpers to the
health of each of them: sung in a style altogether extravagant; related
stories at which he laughed immoderately; and poured forth extemporaneous
verses which would not have been thought bad, but for the strange
grimaces with which they were uttered.  In a word, his loquacity was
equal to that of a hundred astrologers; he ate as much as a hundred
porters, and caroused in proportion.

The Caliph, notwithstanding the table had been thirty times covered,
found himself incommoded by the voraciousness of his guest, who was now
considerably declined in the prince’s esteem.  Vathek, however, being
unwilling to betray the chagrin he could hardly disguise, said in a
whisper to Bababalouk, {26a} the chief of his eunuchs:

“You see how enormous his performances in every way are; what would be
the consequence should he get at my wives?  Go! redouble your vigilance,
and be sure look well to my Circassians, who would be more to his taste
than all of the rest.”

The bird of the morning had thrice renewed his song, when the hour of the
divan {26b} sounded.  Vathek, in gratitude to his subjects, having
promised to attend, immediately arose from table and repaired thither
leaning upon his vizier, who could scarcely support him, so disordered
was the poor prince by the wine he had drank, and still more by the
extravagant vagaries of his boisterous guest.

The viziers, the officers of the crown, and of the law, arranged
themselves in a semi-circle about their sovereign, and preserved a
respectful silence, whilst the Indian, who looked as cool as if come from
a fast, sat down without ceremony on a step of the throne, laughing in
his sleeve at the indignation with which his temerity had filled the

The Caliph, however, whose ideas were confused and his head embarrassed,
went on administering justice at hap-hazard, till at length the prime
vizier {27} perceiving his situation, hit upon a sudden expedient to
interrupt the audience, and rescue the honour of his master, to whom he
said in a whisper:

“My lord, the princess Carathis, who hath passed the night in consulting
the planets, informs you that they portend you evil; and the danger is
urgent.  Beware, lest this stranger whom you have so lavishly recompensed
for his magical gewgaws, should make some attempt on your life: his
liquor, which at first had the appearance of effecting your cure, may be
no more than a poison of a sudden operation.  Slight not this surmise;
ask him, at least, of what it was compounded; whence he procured it; and
mention the sabres, which you seem to have forgotten.”

Vathek, to whom the insolent airs of the stranger became every moment
less supportable, intimated to his vizier by a wink of acquiescence, that
he would adopt his advice, and at once turning towards the Indian, said:

“Get up and declare in full divan of what drugs the liquor was compounded
you enjoined me to take, for it is suspected to be poison; add also the
explanation I have so earnestly desired concerning the sabres you sold
me, and thus show your gratitude for the favours heaped on you.”

Having pronounced these words in as moderate a tone as a Caliph well
could, he waited in silent expectation for an answer; but the Indian,
still keeping his seat, began to renew his loud shouts of laughter, and
exhibit the same horrid grimaces he had shown them before, without
vouchsafing a word in reply.  Vathek, no longer able to brook such
insolence, immediately kicked him from the steps, instantly descending
repeated his blow, and persisted with such assiduity, as incited all who
were present to follow his example.  Every foot was aimed at the Indian,
and no sooner had any one given him a kick than he felt himself
constrained to reiterate the stroke.

The stranger afforded them no small entertainment; for being both short
and plump, he collected himself into a ball and rolled round on all sides
at the blows of his assailants, who pressed after him wherever he turned,
with an eagerness beyond conception, whilst their numbers were every
moment increasing.  The ball, indeed, in passing from one apartment to
another, drew every person after it that came in its way, insomuch that
the whole palace was thrown into confusion, and resounded with a
tremendous clamour.  The women of the harem, amazed at the uproar, flew
to their blinds to discover the cause, but no sooner did they catch a
glimpse of the ball than feeling themselves unable to refrain, they broke
from the clutches of their eunuchs, who to stop their flight pinched them
till they bled, but in vain; whilst themselves, though trembling with
terror at the escape of their charge, were as incapable of resisting the

The Indian, after having traversed the halls, galleries, chambers,
kitchens, gardens, and stables of the palace, at last took his course
through the courts, whilst the Caliph, pursuing him closer than the rest,
bestowed as many kicks as he possibly could, yet not without receiving
now and then one, which his competitors, in their eagerness, designed for
the ball.

Carathis, Morakanabad, and two or three old viziers whose wisdom had
hitherto withstood the attraction, wishing to prevent Vathek from
exposing himself in the presence of his subjects, fell down in his way to
impede the pursuit, but he, regardless of their obstruction, leaped over
their heads, and went on as before.  They then ordered the muezzins to
call the people to prayers, both for the sake of getting them out of the
way, and of endeavouring by their petitions to avert the calamity; but
neither of these expedients was a whit more successful.  The sight of
this fatal ball was alone sufficient to draw after it every beholder.
The muezzins themselves, though they saw it but at a distance, hastened
down from their minarets and mixed with the crowd, which continued to
increase in so surprising a manner, that scarce an inhabitant was left in
Samarah, except the aged, the sick confined to their beds, and infants at
the breast, whose nurses could run more nimbly without them.  Even
Carathis, Morakanabad, and the rest, were all become of the party.

The shrill screams of the females who had broken from their apartments,
and were unable to extricate themselves from the pressure of the crowd,
together with those of the eunuchs jostling after them, terrified lest
their charge should escape from their sight, increased by the execrations
of husbands urging forward and menacing both, kicks given and received,
stumblings and overthrows at every step, in a word, the confusion that
universally prevailed, rendered Samarah like a city taken by storm, and
devoted to absolute plunder.

At last the cursed Indian, who still preserved his rotundity of figure,
after passing through all the streets and public places, and leaving them
empty, rolled onwards to the plain of Catoul, and traversed the valley at
the foot of the mountain of the four fountains.

As a continual fall of water had excavated an immense gulph in the
valley, whose opposite side was closed in by a steep acclivity, the
Caliph and his attendants were apprehensive lest the ball should bound
into the chasm, and to prevent it, redoubled their efforts, but in vain.
The Indian persevered in his onward direction, and as had been
apprehended, glancing from the precipice with the rapidity of lightning,
was lost in the gulph below.

Vathek would have followed the perfidious Giaour, had not an invisible
agency arrested his progress.  The multitude that pressed after him were
at once checked in the same manner, and a calm instantaneously ensued.
They all gazed at each other with an air of astonishment; and
notwithstanding that the loss of veils and turbans, together with torn
habits, and dust blended with sweat, presented a most laughable
spectacle, there was not one smile to be seen; on the contrary, all with
looks of confusion and sadness returned in silence to Samarah, and
retired to their inmost apartments, without ever reflecting that they had
been impelled by an invisible power into the extravagance for which they
reproached themselves: for it is but just, that men who so often arrogate
to their own merit the good of which they are but instruments, should
attribute to themselves the absurdities which they could not prevent.

The Caliph was the only person that refused to leave the valley.  He
commanded his tents to be pitched there, and stationed himself on the
very edge of the precipice, in spite of the representations of Carathis
and Morakanabad, who pointed out the hazard of its brink giving way, and
the vicinity to the magician that had so severely tormented him.  Vathek
derided all their remonstrances; and having ordered a thousand flambeaus
to be lighted, and directed his attendants to proceed in lighting more,
lay down on the slippery margin, and attempted, by the help of this
artificial splendour, to look through that gloom which all the fires of
the empyrean had been insufficient to pervade.  One while he fancied to
himself voices arising from the depth of the gulph, at another he seemed
to distinguish the accents of the Indian, but all was no more than the
hollow murmur of waters, and the din of the cataracts that rushed from
steep to steep, down the sides of the mountain.

Having passed the night in this cruel perturbation, the Caliph at
day-break retired to his tent, where, without taking the least
sustenance, he continued to doze till the dusk of evening began to come
on; he then resumed his vigils as before, and persevered in observing
them for many nights together.  At length, fatigued with so successless
an employment, he sought relief from change.  To this end he sometimes
paced with hasty strides across the plain; and as he wildly gazed at the
stars, reproached them with having deceived him; but lo! on a sudden the
clear blue sky appeared streaked over with streams of blood, which
reached from the valley even to the city of Samarah.  As this awful
phenomenon seemed to touch his tower, Vathek at first thought of
repairing thither to view it more distinctly, but feeling himself unable
to advance, and being overcome with apprehension, he muffled up his face
in his robe.

Terrifying as these prodigies were, this impression upon him was no more
than momentary, and served only to stimulate his love of the marvellous.
Instead, therefore, of returning to his palace, he persisted in the
resolution of abiding where the Indian vanished from his view.  One
night, however, while he was walking as usual on the plain, the moon and
the stars at once were eclipsed, and a total darkness ensued.  The earth
trembled beneath him, and a voice came forth, the voice of the Giaour,
who in accents more sonorous than thunder, thus addressed him:

“Would’st thou devote thyself to me? adore then the terrestrial
influences, and abjure Mahomet.  On these conditions I will bring thee to
the palace of subterranean fire: there shalt thou behold, in immense
depositories, the treasures which the stars have promised thee, and which
will be conferred by those intelligences whom thou shalt thus render
propitious.  It was from thence I brought my sabres; and it is there that
Soliman Ben Daoud reposes, surrounded by the talismans that control the

The astonished Caliph trembled as he answered, yet in a style that showed
him to be no novice in preternatural adventures:

“Where art thou?  Be present to my eyes; dissipate the gloom that
perplexes me, and of which I deem thee the cause.  After the many
flambeaus I have burnt to discover thee, thou mayest at least grant a
glimpse of thy horrible visage.”

“Abjure then Mahomet,” replied the Indian, “and promise me full proofs of
thy sincerity; otherwise thou shalt never behold me again.”

The unhappy Caliph, instigated by insatiable curiosity, lavished his
promises in the utmost profusion.  The sky immediately brightened; and by
the light of the planets, which seemed almost to blaze, Vathek beheld the
earth open, and at the extremity of a vast black chasm a portal of ebony,
before which stood the Indian, still blacker, holding in his hand a
golden key, that caused the lock to resound.

“How,” cried Vathek, “can I descend to thee, without the certainty of
breaking my neck?  Come take me, and instantly open the portal.”

“Not so fast,” replied the Indian, “impatient Caliph!  Know that I am
parched with thirst, and cannot open this door till my thirst be
thoroughly appeased.  I require the blood of fifty of the most beautiful
sons of thy viziers and great men, or neither can my thirst nor thy
curiosity be satisfied.  Return to Samarah; procure for me this necessary
libation; come back hither; throw it thyself into this chasm; and then
shalt thou see!”

Having thus spoken, the Indian turned his back on the Caliph, who,
incited by the suggestion of demons, resolved on the direful sacrifice.
He now pretended to have regained his tranquillity, and set out for
Samarah amidst the acclamations of a people who still loved him, and
forbore not to rejoice when they believed him to have recovered his
reason.  So successfully did he conceal the emotion of his heart, that
even Carathis and Morakanabad were equally deceived with the rest.
Nothing was heard of but festivals and rejoicings.  The ball, which no
tongue had hitherto ventured to mention, was again brought on the tapis.
A general laugh went round; though many, still smarting under the hands
of the surgeon, from the hurts received in that memorable adventure, had
no great reason for mirth.

The prevalence of this gay humour was not a little grateful to Vathek, as
perceiving how much it conduced to his project.  He put on the appearance
of affability to every one; but especially to his viziers, and the
grandees of his court, whom he failed not to regale with a sumptuous
banquet, during which he insensibly inclined the conversation to the
children of his guests.  Having asked, with a good-natured air, who of
them were blessed with the handsomest boys, every father at once asserted
the pretensions of his own; and the contest imperceptibly grew so warm,
that nothing could have with-holden them from coming to blows but their
profound reverence for the person of the Caliph.  Under the pretence,
therefore, of reconciling the disputants, Vathek took upon him to decide;
and with this view commanded the boys to be brought.

It was not long before a troop of these poor children made their
appearance, all equipped by their fond mothers with such ornaments as
might give the greatest relief to their beauty, or most advantageously
display the graces of their age.  But whilst this brilliant assemblage
attracted the eyes and hearts of every one besides, the Caliph
scrutinized each in his turn with a malignant avidity that passed for
attention, and selected from their number the fifty whom he judged the
Giaour would prefer.

With an equal show of kindness as before, he proposed to celebrate a
festival on the plain, for the entertainment of his young favourites, who
he said ought to rejoice still more than all at the restoration of his
health, on account of the favours he intended for them.

The Caliph’s proposal was received with the greatest delight, and soon
published through Samarah.  Litters, camels, and horses were prepared.
Women and children, old men and young—every one placed himself in the
station he chose.  The cavalcade set forward, attended by all the
confectioners in the city and its precincts.  The populace, following on
foot, composed an amazing crowd, and occasioned no little noise.  All was
joy; nor did any one call to mind what most of them had suffered when
they first travelled the road they were now passing so gaily.

The evening was serene, the air refreshing, the sky clear, and the
flowers exhaled their fragrance.  The beams of the declining sun, whose
mild splendour reposed on the summit of the mountain, shed a glow of
ruddy light over its green declivity, and the white flocks sporting upon
it.  No sounds were audible, save the murmurs of the four fountains, and
the reeds and voices of shepherds, calling to each other from different

The lovely innocents, proceeding to the destined sacrifice, added not a
little to the hilarity of the scene.  They approached the plain full of
sportiveness; some coursing butterflies, others culling flowers, or
picking up the shining little pebbles that attracted their notice.  At
intervals, they nimbly started from each other, for the sake of being
caught again, and mutually imparting a thousand caresses.

The dreadful chasm, at whose bottom the portal of ebony was placed, began
to appear at a distance.  It looked like a black streak that divided the
plain.  Morakanabad and his companions took it for some work which the
Caliph had ordered.  Unhappy men! little did they surmise for what it was

Vathek, not liking that they should examine it too nearly, stopped the
procession, and ordered a spacious circle to be formed on this side, at
some distance from the accursed chasm.  The body-guard of eunuchs was
detached, to measure out the lists intended for the games, and prepare
ringles for the lines to keep off the crowd.  The fifty competitors were
soon stripped, and presented to the admiration of the spectators the
suppleness and grace of their delicate limbs.  Their eyes sparkled with a
joy which those of their fond parents reflected.  Every one offered
wishes for the little candidate nearest his heart, and doubted not of his
being victorious.  A breathless suspense awaited the contest of these
amiable and innocent victims.

The Caliph, availing himself of the first moment to retire from the
crowd, advanced towards the chasm, and there heard, yet not without
shuddering, the voice of the Indian; who, gnashing his teeth, eagerly

“Where are they?  Where are they? perceivest thou not how my mouth

“Relentless Giaour!” answered Vathek, with emotion, “can nothing content
thee but the massacre of these lovely victims?  Ah! wert thou to behold
their beauty, it must certainly move thy compassion.”

“Perdition on thy compassion, babbler!” cried the Indian.  “Give them me!
instantly give them, or my portal shall be closed against thee for ever!”

“Not so loudly,” replied the Caliph, blushing.

“I understand thee,” returned the Giaour, with the grin of an ogre: “thou
wantest to summon up more presence of mind.  I will for a moment

During this exquisite dialogue the games went forward with all alacrity,
and at length concluded, just as the twilight began to overcast the
mountains.  Vathek, who was still standing on the edge of the chasm,
called out with all his might:

“Let my fifty little favourites approach me, separately; and let them
come in the order of their success.  To the first I will give my diamond
bracelet; to the second my collar of emeralds; to the third my aigret of
rubies; to the fourth my girdle of topazes; and to the rest, each a part
of my dress, even down to my slippers.”

This declaration was received with reiterated acclamations; and all
extolled the liberality of a prince who would thus strip himself for the
amusement of his subjects and the encouragement of the rising generation.

The Caliph in the mean while undressed himself by degrees; and raising
his arm as high as he was able, made each of the prizes glitter in the
air; but, whilst he delivered it with one hand to the child, who sprang
forward to receive it, he with the other pushed the poor innocent into
the gulph, where the Giaour, with a sullen muttering, incessantly
repeated “More! more!”

This dreadful device was executed with so much dexterity, that the boy
who was approaching him remained unconscious of the fate of his
forerunner; and as to the spectators, the shades of evening, together
with their distance, precluded them from perceiving any object
distinctly.  Vathek, having in this manner thrown in the last of the
fifty, and expecting that the Giaour on receiving him would have
presented the key, already fancied himself as great as Soliman, and
consequently above being amenable for what he had done; when, to his
utter amazement, the chasm closed, and the ground became as entire as the
rest of the plain.

No language could express his rage and despair.  He execrated the perfidy
of the Indian; loaded him with the most infamous invectives; and stamped
with his foot as resolving to be heard.  He persisted in this demeanour
till his strength failed him, and then fell on the earth like one void of
sense.  His viziers and grandees, who were nearer than the rest, supposed
him at first to be sitting on the grass at play with their amiable
children; but at length, prompted by doubt, they advanced towards the
spot, and found the Caliph alone, who wildly demanded what they wanted.

“Our children! our children!” cried they.

“It is assuredly pleasant,” said he, “to make me accountable for
accidents.  Your children, while at play, fell from the precipice that
was here; and I should have experienced their fate had I not been saved
by a sudden start back.”

At these words, the fathers of the fifty boys cried out aloud: the
mothers repeated their exclamations an octave higher; whilst the rest,
without knowing the cause, soon drowned the voices of both, with still
louder lamentations of their own.

“Our Caliph,” said they, and the report soon circulated, “Our Caliph has
played us this trick, to gratify his accursed Giaour.  Let us punish him
for his perfidy! let us avenge ourselves! let us avenge the blood of the
innocent! let us throw this cruel Prince into the gulph that is near, and
let his name be mentioned no more!”

At this rumour, and these menaces, Carathis, full of consternation,
hastened to Morakanabad, and said:

“Vizier, you have lost two beautiful boys, and must necessarily be the
most afflicted of fathers; but you are virtuous; save your master!”

“I will brave every hazard,” replied the Vizier, “to rescue him from his
present danger; but afterwards will abandon him to his fate.
Bababalouk,” continued he, “put yourself at the head of your Eunuchs,
disperse the mob, and if possible bring back this unhappy Prince to his

Bababalouk and his fraternity, felicitating each other in a low voice on
their disability of ever being fathers, obeyed the mandate of the Vizier;
who, seconding their exertions to the utmost of his power, at length
accomplished his generous enterprise, and retired, as he resolved, to
lament at his leisure.

No sooner had the Caliph re-entered his palace, than Carathis commanded
the doors to be fastened; but perceiving the tumult to be still violent,
and hearing the imprecations which resounded from all quarters, she said
to her son:

“Whether the populace be right or wrong, it behoves you to provide for
your safety: let us retire to your own apartment, and from thence,
through the subterranean passage known only to ourselves, into your
tower; there, with the assistance of the mutes who never leave it, we may
be able to make some resistance.  Bababalouk, supposing us to be still in
the palace, will guard its avenues for his own sake; and we shall soon
find, without the counsels of that blubberer Morakanabad, what expedient
may be the best to adopt.”

Vathek, without making the least reply, acquiesced in his mother’s
proposal, and repeated as he went:

“Nefarious Giaour! where art thou? hast thou not yet devoured those poor
children? where are thy sabres? thy golden key? thy talismans?”

Carathis, who guessed from these interrogations a part of the truth, had
no difficulty to apprehend in getting at the whole, as soon as he should
be a little composed in his tower.  This Princess was so far from being
influenced by scruples that she was as wicked as woman could be, which is
not saying a little, for the sex pique themselves on their superiority in
every competition.  The recital of the Caliph therefore occasioned
neither terror nor surprise to his mother; she felt no emotion but from
the promises of the Giaour; and said to her son:

“This Giaour, it must be confessed, is somewhat sanguinary in his taste,
but the terrestrial powers are always terrible: nevertheless, what the
one has promised and the others can confer, will prove a sufficient
indemnification.  No crimes should be thought too dear for such a reward.
Forbear then to revile the Indian: you have not fulfilled the conditions
to which his services are annexed.  For instance, is not a sacrifice to
the subterranean Genii required? and should we not be prepared to offer
it as soon as the tumult is subsided?  This charge I will take on myself,
and have no doubt of succeeding by means of your treasures; which, as
there are now so many others in store, may without fear be exhausted.”

Accordingly, the Princess, who possessed the most consummate skill in the
art of persuasion, went immediately back through the subterranean
passage, and presenting herself to the populace from a window of the
palace, began to harangue them with all the address of which she was
mistress, whilst Bababalouk showered money from both hands amongst the
crowd, who by these united means were soon appeased.  Every person
retired to his home, and Carathis returned to the tower.

Prayer at break of day was announced, when Carathis and Vathek ascended
the steps which led to the summit of the tower, where they remained for
some time, though the weather was lowering and wet.  This impending gloom
corresponded with their malignant dispositions; but when the sun began to
break through the clouds, they ordered a pavilion to be raised as a
screen from the intrusion of his beams.  The Caliph, overcome with
fatigue, sought refreshment from repose, at the same time hoping that
significant dreams might attend on his slumbers; whilst the indefatigable
Carathis, followed by a party of her mutes, descended to prepare whatever
she judged proper for the oblation of the approaching night.

By secret stairs, known only to herself and her son, she first repaired
to the mysterious recesses in which were deposited the mummies that had
been brought from the catacombs of the ancient Pharaohs.  Of these she
ordered several to be taken.  From thence she resorted to a gallery,
where, under the guard of fifty female negroes, mute, and blind of the
right eye, were preserved the oil of the most venomous serpents,
rhinoceros’ horns, and woods of a subtle and penetrating odour, procured
from the interior of the Indies, together with a thousand other horrible
rarieties.  This collection had been formed for a purpose like the
present, by Carathis herself, from a presentiment that she might one day
enjoy some intercourse with the infernal powers, to whom she had ever
been passionately attached, and to whose taste she was no stranger.

To familiarize herself the better with the horrors in view, the Princess
remained in the company of her negresses, who squinted in the most
amiable manner from the only eye they had, and leered with exquisite
delight at the skulls and skeletons which Carathis had drawn forth from
her cabinets, whose key she entrusted to no one; all of them making
contortions, and uttering a frightful jargon, but very amusing to the
Princess till at last, being stunned by their gibbering, and suffocated
by the potency of their exhalations, she was forced to quit the gallery,
after stripping it of a part of its treasures.

Whilst she was thus occupied, the Caliph, who instead of the visions he
expected, had acquired in these insubstantial regions a voracious
appetite, was greatly provoked at the negresses: for, having totally
forgotten their deafness, he had impatiently asked them for food; and
seeing them regardless of his demand, he began to cuff, pinch, and push
them, till Carathis arrived to terminate a scene so indecent, to the
great content of these miserable creatures, who having been brought up by
her, understood all her signs, and communicated in the same way their
thoughts in return.

“Son! what means all this?” said she, panting for breath.  “I thought I
heard as I came up, the shrieks of a thousand bats, tearing from their
crannies in the recesses of a cavern, and it was the outcry only of these
poor mutes, whom you were so unmercifully abusing.  In truth you but ill
deserve the admirable provision I have brought you.”

“Give it me instantly!” exclaimed the Caliph: “I am perishing for

“As to that,” answered she, “you must have an excellent stomach if it can
digest what I have been preparing.”

“Be quick,” replied the Caliph.  “But oh, heavens! what horrors!  What do
you intend?”

“Come, come,” returned Carathis, “be not so squeamish, but help me to
arrange every thing properly, and you shall see that what you reject with
such symptoms of disgust will soon complete your felicity.  Let us get
ready the pile for the sacrifice of to-night, and think not of eating
till that is performed.  Know you not that all solemn rites are preceded
by a rigorous abstinence?”

The Caliph, not daring to object, abandoned himself to grief, and the
wind that ravaged his entrails, whilst his mother went forward with the
requisite operations.  Phials of serpents’ oil, mummies, and bones, were
soon set in order on the balustrade of the tower.  The pile began to
rise; and in three hours was as many cubits high.  At length, darkness
approached, and Carathis having stripped herself to her inmost garment,
clapped her hands in an impulse of ecstasy, and struck light with all her
force.  The mutes followed her example: but Vathek, extenuated with
hunger and impatience, was unable to support himself, and fell down in a
swoon.  The sparks had already kindled the dry wood; the venomous oil
burst into a thousand blue flames; the mummies, dissolving, emitted a
thick dun vapour; and the rhinoceros’ horns beginning to consume; all
together diffused such a stench, that the Caliph, recovering, started
from his trance and gazed wildly on the scene in full blaze around him.
The oil gushed forth in a plentitude of streams; and the negresses, who
supplied it without intermission, united their cries to those of the
Princess.  At last the fire became so violent, and the flames reflected
from the polished marble so dazzling, that the Caliph, unable to
withstand the heat and the blaze, effected his escape, and clambered up
the imperial standard.

In the mean time, the inhabitants of Samarah, scared at the light which
shone over the city, arose in haste, ascended their roofs, beheld the
tower on fire, and hurried half-naked to the square.  Their love to their
sovereign immediately awoke; and apprehending him in danger of perishing
in his tower, their whole thoughts were occupied with the means of his
safety.  Morakanabad flew from his retirement, wiped away his tears, and
cried out for water like the rest.  Bababalouk, whose olfactory nerves
were more familiarized to magical odours, readily conjecturing that
Carathis was engaged in her favourite amusements, strenuously exhorted
them not to be alarmed.  Him, however, they treated as an old poltroon;
and forbore not to style him a rascally traitor.  The camels and
dromedaries were advancing with water, but no one knew by which way to
enter the tower.  Whilst the populace was obstinate in forcing the doors,
a violent east wind drove such a volume of flame against them, as at
first forced them off; but afterwards, rekindled their zeal.  At the same
time, the stench of the horns and mummies increasing, most of the crowd
fell backward in a state of suffocation.  Those that kept their feet
mutually wondered at the cause of the smell, and admonished each other to
retire.  Morakanabad, more sick than the rest, remained in a piteous
condition.  Holding his nose with one hand, he persisted in his efforts
with the other to burst open the doors, and obtain admission.  A hundred
and forty of the strongest and most resolute at length accomplished their
purpose.  Having gained the staircase by their violent exertions, they
attained a great height in a quarter of an hour.

Carathis, alarmed at the signs of her mutes, advanced to the staircase,
went down a few steps, and heard several voices calling out from below:

“You shall in a moment have water!”

Being rather alert, considering her age, she presently regained the top
of the tower, and bade her son suspend the sacrifice for some minutes,

“We shall soon be enabled to render it more grateful.  Certain dolts of
your subjects, imagining, no doubt, that we were on fire, have been rash
enough to break through those doors, which had hitherto remained
inviolate, for the sake of bringing up water.  They are very kind, you
must allow, so soon to forget the wrongs you have done them: but that is
of little moment.  Let us offer them to the Giaour.  Let them come up:
our mutes, who neither want strength nor experience, will soon despatch
them, exhausted as they are with fatigue.”

“Be it so,” answered the Caliph, “provided we finish, and I dine.”

In fact, these good people, out of breath from ascending eleven thousand
stairs in such haste, and chagrined at having spilt, by the way, the
water they had taken, were no sooner arrived at the top than the blaze of
the flames and the fumes of the mummies at once overpowered their senses.
It was a pity! for they beheld not the agreeable smile with which the
mutes and the negresses adjusted the cord to their necks: these amiable
personages rejoiced, however, no less at the scene.  Never before had the
ceremony of strangling been performed with so much facility.  They all
fell without the least resistance or struggle; so that Vathek, in the
space of a few moments, found himself surrounded by the dead bodies of
his most faithful subjects, all of which were thrown on the top of the

Carathis, whose presence of mind never forsook her, perceiving that she
had carcases sufficient to complete her oblation, commanded the chains to
be stretched across the staircase, and the iron doors barricaded, that no
more might come up.

No sooner were these orders obeyed, than the tower shook; the dead bodies
vanished in the flames; which at once changed from a swarthy crimson to a
bright rose colour.  An ambient vapour emitted the most exquisite
fragrance; the marble columns rang with harmonious sounds, and the
liquefied horns diffused a delicious perfume.  Carathis, in transports,
anticipated the success of her enterprise; whilst the mutes and
negresses, to whom these sweets had given the cholic, retired to their
cells grumbling.

Scarcely were they gone, when, instead of the pile, horns, mummies, and
ashes, the Caliph both saw and felt, with a degree of pleasure which he
could not express, a table, covered with the most magnificent repast:
flaggons of wine, and vases of exquisite sherbet, floating on snow.  He
availed himself, without scruple, of such an entertainment; and had
already laid hands on a lamb stuffed with pistachios, whilst Carathis was
privately drawing from a fillagreen urn, a parchment that seemed to be
endless; and which had escaped the notice of her son.  Totally occupied,
in gratifying an importunate appetite, he left her to peruse it, without
interruption; which having finished, she said to him, in an authoritative

“Put an end to your gluttony, and hear the splendid promises with which
you are favoured!”  She then read, as follows:

“Vathek, my well-beloved, thou hast surpassed my hopes: my nostrils have
been regaled by the savour of thy mummies, thy horns; and, still more, by
the lives devoted on the pile.  At the full of the moon, cause the bands
of thy musicians, and thy tymbals, to be heard; depart from thy palace
surrounded by all the pageants of majesty; thy most faithful slaves, thy
best beloved wives; thy most magnificent litters; thy richest loaden
camels; and set forward on thy way to Istakar.  There await I thy coming.
That is the region of wonders.  There shalt thou receive the diadem of
Gian Ben Gian, {50} the talismans of Soliman, and the treasures of the
preadimite Sultans: there shalt thou be solaced with all kinds of
delight.  But, beware how thou enterest any dwelling on thy route, or
thou shalt feel the effects of my anger.”

The Caliph, who, notwithstanding his habitual luxury, had never before
dined with so much satisfaction, gave full scope to the joy of these
golden tidings, and betook himself to drinking anew.  Carathis, whose
antipathy to wine was by no means insuperable, failed not to supply a
reason for every bumper, which they ironically quaffed to the health of
Mahomet.  This infernal liquor completed their impious temerity, and
prompted them to utter a profusion of blasphemies.  They gave a loose to
their wit, at the expense of the ass of Balaam, the dog of the seven
sleepers, and the other animals admitted into the paradise of Mahomet.
In this sprightly humour they descended the eleven thousand stairs,
diverting themselves as they went at the anxious faces they saw on the
square, through the oilets of the tower, and at length arrived at the
royal apartments by the subterranean passage.  Bababalouk was parading to
and fro, and issuing his mandates with great pomp to the eunuchs, who
were snuffing the lights and painting the eyes of the Circassians.  No
sooner did he catch sight of the Caliph and his mother than he exclaimed,

“Hah! you have then, I perceive, escaped from the flames; I was not,
however, altogether out of doubt.”

“Of what moment is it to us what you thought or think?” cried Carathis
“go, speed, tell Morakanabad that we immediately want him; and take care
how you stop by the way to make your insipid reflections.”

Morakanabad delayed not to obey the summons, and was received by Vathek
and his mother with great solemnity.  They told him with an air of
composure and commiseration that the fire at the top of the tower was
extinguished, but that it had cost the lives of the brave people who
sought to assist them.

“Still more misfortunes!” cried Morakanabad with a sigh.  “Ah, commander
of the faithful, our holy prophet is certainly irritated against us! it
behoves you to appease him.”

“We will appease him hereafter,” replied the Caliph, with a smile that
augured nothing of good.  “You will have leisure sufficient for your
supplications during my absence; for this country is the bane of my
health.  I am disgusted with the mountain of the Four Fountains, and am
resolved to go and drink of the stream of Rocnabad. {51}  I long to
refresh myself in the delightful valleys which it waters.  Do you, with
the advice of my mother, govern my dominions; and take care to supply
whatever her experiments may demand; for you well know that our tower
abounds in materials for the advancement of science.”

The tower but ill suited Morakanabad’s taste.  Immense treasures had been
lavished upon it, and nothing had he ever seen carried thither but female
negroes, mutes, and abominable drugs.  Nor did he know well what to think
of Carathis, who like a chamelion could assume all possible colours.  Her
cursed eloquence had often driven the poor Mussulman to his last shifts.
He considered, however, that if she possessed but few good qualities, her
son had still fewer, and that the alternative, on the whole, would be in
her favour.  Consoled, therefore, with this reflection, he went in good
spirits to soothe the populace, and make the proper arrangements for his
master’s journey.

Vathek, to conciliate the spirits of the subterranean palace, resolved
that his expedition should be uncommonly splendid.  With this view he
confiscated on all sides the property of his subjects, whilst his worthy
mother stripped the seraglios she visited of the gems they contained.
She collected all the sempstresses and embroiderers of Samarah, and other
cities, to the distance of sixty leagues, to prepare pavilions,
palanquins, sofas, canopies, and litters, for the train of the monarch.
There was not left in Masulipatan a single piece of chintz; and so much
muslin had been bought up to dress out Bababalouk and the other black
eunuchs, that there remained not an ell in the whole Irak of Babylon.

During these preparations, Carathis, who never lost sight of her great
object, which was to obtain favour with the powers of darkness, made
select parties of the fairest and most delicate ladies of the city; but
in the midst of their gaiety she contrived to introduce serpents amongst
them, and to break pots of scorpions under the table.  They all bit to a
wonder, and Carathis would have left them to bite, were it not that to
fill up the time, she now and then amused herself in curing their wounds
with an excellent anodyne of her own invention; for this good princess
abhorred being indolent.

Vathek, who was not altogether so active as his mother, devoted his time
to the sole gratification of his senses, in the palaces which were
severally dedicated to them.  He disgusted himself no more with the divan
or the mosque.  One half of Samarah followed his example, whilst the
other lamented the progress of corruption.

In the midst of these transactions, the embassy returned which had been
sent in pious times to Mecca.  It consisted of the most reverend
moullahs, {53} who had fulfilled their commission, and brought back one
of those precious besoms which are used to sweep the sacred caaba; a
present truly worthy of the greatest potentate on earth!

The Caliph happened at this instant to be engaged in an apartment by no
means adapted to the reception of embassies, though adorned with a
certain magnificence, not only to render it agreeable, but also because
he resorted to it frequently, and staid a considerable time together.
Whilst occupied in this retreat, he heard the voice of Bababalouk calling
out from between the door and the tapestry that hung before it:

“Here are the excellent Mahomet Ebn Edris al Shafei, and the seraphic Al
Mouhadethin, who have brought the besom from Mecca, and with tears of joy
entreat they may present it to your majesty in person.”

“Let them bring the besom hither, it may be of use,” said Vathek, who was
still employed, not having quite racked off his wine.

“How!” answered Bababalouk, half aloud and amazed.

“Obey,” replied the Caliph, “for it is my sovereign will; go instantly!
vanish! for here will I receive the good folk who have thus filled thee
with joy.”

The eunuch departed muttering, and bade the venerable train attend him.
A sacred rapture was diffused amongst these reverend old men.  Though
fatigued with the length of their expedition, they followed Bababalouk
with an alertness almost miraculous, and felt themselves highly flattered
as they swept along the stately porticos, that the Caliph would not
receive them like ambassadors in ordinary, in his hall of audience.  Soon
reaching the interior of the harem (where, through blinds of persian they
perceived large soft eyes, dark and blue, that went and came like
lightning) penetrated with respect and wonder, and full of their
celestial mission, they advanced in procession towards the small
corridors that appeared to terminate in nothing, but nevertheless led to
the cell where the Caliph expected their coming.

“What! is the commander of the faithful sick?” said Ebn Edris al Shafei,
in a low voice to his companion.

“I rather think he is in his oratory,” answered Al Mouhadethin.

Vathek, who heard the dialogue, cried out “What imports it you how I am
employed? approach without delay.”

They advanced, and Bababalouk almost sunk with confusion, {55} whilst the
Caliph, without showing himself, put forth his hand from behind the
tapestry that hung before the door, and demanded of them the besom.

Having prostrated themselves as well as the corridor would permit, and
even in a tolerable semi-circle, the venerable Al Shafei, drawing forth
the besom from the embroidered and perfumed scarfs in which it had been
enveloped, and secured from the profane gaze of vulgar eyes, arose from
his associates and advanced with an air of the most awful solemnity
towards the supposed oratory; but with what astonishment! with what
horror was he seized!

Vathek, bursting out into a villainous laugh, snatched the besom from his
trembling hand, and fixing upon it some cobwebs that hung suspended from
the ceiling, gravely brushed away till not a single one remained.

The old men, overpowered with amazement, were unable to lift their beards
from the ground; for as Vathek had carelessly left the tapestry between
them half drawn, they were witnesses to the whole transaction.  Their
tears gushed forth on the marble.  Al Mouhadethin swooned through
mortification and fatigue, whilst the Caliph, throwing himself backward
on his seat, shouted and clapped his hands without mercy.  At last,
addressing himself to Bababalouk:

“My dear black,” said he, “go, regale these pious poor souls with my good
wine from Shiraz; and as they can boast of having seen more of my palace
than any one besides, let them also visit my office courts, and lead them
out by the back steps that go to my stables.”  Having said this, he threw
the besom in their face, and went to enjoy the laugh with Carathis.

Bababalouk did all in his power to console the ambassadors, but the two
most infirm expired on the spot; the rest were carried to their beds,
from whence, being heart-broken with sorrow and shame, they never arose.

The succeeding night, Vathek, attended by his mother, ascended the tower
to see if everything were ready for his journey, for he had great faith
in the influence of the stars.  The planets appeared in their most
favourable aspects.  The Caliph, to enjoy so flattering a sight, supped
gaily on the roof, and fancied that he heard, during his repast, loud
shouts of laughter resound through the sky, in a manner that inspired the
fullest assurance.

All was in motion at the palace; lights were kept burning through the
whole of the night; the sound of implements, and of artisans finishing
their work; the voices of women and their guardians who sung at their
embroidery; all conspired to interrupt the stillness of nature, and
infinitely delight the heart of Vathek, who imagined himself going in
triumph to sit upon the throne of Soliman.

The people were not less satisfied than himself; all assisted to
accelerate the moment which should rescue them from the wayward caprices
of so extravagant a master.

The day preceding the departure of this infatuated prince was employed by
Carathis in repeating to him the decrees of the mysterious parchment,
which she had thoroughly gotten by heart; and in recommending him not to
enter the habitation of any one by the way; “for well thou knowest,”
added she, “how liquorish thy taste is after good dishes and young
damsels; let me therefore enjoin thee to be content with thy old cooks,
who are the best in the world; and not to forget that in thy ambulatory
seraglio there are three dozen pretty faces, which Bababalouk hath not
yet unveiled.  I, myself, have a great desire to watch over thy conduct,
and visit the subterranean palace, which no doubt contains whatever can
interest persons like us.  There is nothing so pleasing as retiring to
caverns; my taste for dead bodies and everything like mummy is decided;
and I am confident thou wilt see the most exquisite of their kind.
Forget me not then, but the moment thou art in possession of the
talismans which are to open to thee the mineral kingdoms, and the centre
of the earth itself, fail not to dispatch some trusty genius to take me
and my cabinet, for the oil of the serpents I have pinched to death will
be a pretty present to the Giaour, who cannot but be charmed with such

Scarcely had Carathis ended this edifying discourse, when the sun,
setting behind the mountain of the Four Fountains, gave place to the
rising moon.  This planet being that evening at full, appeared of unusual
beauty and magnitude in the eyes of the women, the eunuchs, and the
pages, who were all impatient to set forward.  The city re-echoed with
shouts of joy and flourishing of trumpets.  Nothing was visible but
plumes nodding on pavilions, and aigrets shining in the mild lustre of
the moon.  The spacious square resembled an immense parterre, variegated
with the most stately tulips of the east.

Arrayed in the robes which were only worn at the most distinguished
ceremonials, and supported by his vizier and Bababalouk, the Caliph
descended the grand staircase of the tower in the sight of all his
people.  He could not forbear pausing at intervals to admire the superb
appearance which everywhere courted his view, whilst the whole multitude,
even to the camels with their sumptuous burdens, knelt down before him.
For some time a general stillness prevailed, which nothing happened to
disturb, but the shrill screams of some eunuchs in the rear.  These
vigilant guards having remarked certain cages of the ladies swagging
somewhat awry, and discovered that a few adventurous gallants had
contrived to get in, soon dislodged the enraptured culprits, and
consigned them with good commendations, to the surgeons of the serail.
The majesty of so magnificent a spectacle was not, however, violated by
incidents like these.  Vathek, meanwhile, saluted the moon with an
idolatrous air, that neither pleased Morakanabad nor the doctors of the
law, any more than the viziers and grandees of his court, who were all
assembled to enjoy the last view of their sovereign.

At length the clarions and trumpets from the top of the tower announced
the prelude of departure.  Though the instruments were in unison with
each other, yet a singular dissonance was blended with their sounds.
This proceeded from Carathis, who was singing her direful orisons to the
Giaour, whilst the negresses and mutes supplied thorough bass without
articulating a word.  The good Mussulmans fancied that they heard the
sullen hum of those nocturnal insects which presage evil, and importuned
Vathek to beware how he ventured his sacred person.

On a given signal the great standard of the Califat was displayed; twenty
thousand lances shone around it; and the Caliph, treading royally on the
cloth of gold which had been spread for his feet, ascended his litter
amidst the general awe that possessed his subjects.

The expedition commenced with the utmost order, and so entire a silence,
that even the locusts were heard from the thickets on the plain of
Catoul.  Gaiety and good humour prevailing, six good leagues were past
before the dawn; and the morning star was still glittering in the
firmament when the whole of this numerous train had halted on the banks
of the Tigris, where they encamped to repose for the rest of the day.

The three days that followed were spent in the same manner, but on the
fourth the heavens looked angry, lightnings broke forth in frequent
flashes, re-echoing peals of thunder succeeded, and the trembling
Circassians clung with all their might to their ugly guardians.  The
Caliph himself was greatly inclined to take shelter in the large town of
Gulchissar, the governor of which came forth to meet him, and tendered
every kind of refreshment the place could supply.  But having examined
his tablets, he suffered the rain to soak him almost to the bone,
notwithstanding the importunity of his first favourites.  Though he began
to regret the palace of the senses, yet he lost not sight of his
enterprise, and his sanguine expectations confirmed his resolution.  His
geographers were ordered to attend him, but the weather proved so
terrible, that these poor people exhibited a lamentable appearance; and
as no long journeys had been undertaken since the time of Haroun al
Raschid, their maps of the different countries were in a still worse
plight than themselves.  Every one was ignorant which way to turn; for
Vathek, though well versed in the course of the heavens, no longer knew
his situation on earth.  He thundered even louder than the elements, and
muttered forth certain hints of the bowstring which were not very
soothing to literary ears.  Disgusted at the toilsome weariness of the
way, he determined to cross over the craggy heights, and follow the
guidance of a peasant, who undertook to bring him, in four days, to
Rocnabad.  Remonstrances were all to no purpose, his resolution was
fixed, and an invasion commenced on the province of the goats, who sped
away in large troops before them.  It was curious to view on these half
calcined rocks camels richly caparisoned, and pavilions of gold and silk
waving on their summits, which till then had never been covered, but with
sapless thistles and fern.

The females and eunuchs uttered shrill wailings at the sight of the
precipices below them, and the dreary prospects that opened in the vast
gorges of the mountains.  Before they could reach the ascent of the
steepest rock night overtook them, and a boisterous tempest arose, which
having rent the awnings of the palanquins and cages, exposed to the raw
gusts the poor ladies within, who had never before felt so piercing a
cold.  The dark clouds that overcast the face of the sky deepened the
horrors of this disastrous night, insomuch that nothing could be heard
distinctly but the mewling of pages, and lamentations of sultanas.

To increase the general misfortune, the frightful uproar of wild beasts
resounded at a distance, and there were soon perceived in the forest they
were skirting the glaring of eyes which could belong only to devils or
tigers.  The pioneers, who as well as they could, had marked out a track,
and a part of the advanced guard were devoured before they had been in
the least apprised of their danger.  The confusion that prevailed was
extreme.  Wolves, tigers, and other carnivorous animals, invited by the
howling of their companions, flocked together from every quarter.  The
crushing of bones was heard on all sides, and a fearful rush of wings
over head, for now vultures also began to be of the party.

The terror at length reached the main body of the troops which surrounded
the monarch and his harem, at the distance of two leagues from the scene.
Vathek (voluptuously reposed in his capacious litter upon cushions of
silk, with two little pages beside him, of complexions more fair than the
enamel of Franguestan, who were occupied in keeping off flies) was
soundly asleep, and contemplating in his dreams the treasures of Soliman.
The shrieks, however, of his wives awoke him with a start, and instead of
the Giaour with his key of gold, he beheld Bababalouk full of

“Sire,” exclaimed this good servant of the most potent of monarchs,
“misfortune has arrived at its height; wild beasts, who entertain no more
reverence for your sacred person than for that of a dead ass, have beset
your camels and their drivers: thirty of the richest laden are already
become their prey, as well as all your confectioners, your cooks, and
purveyors, and unless our holy prophet should protect us, we shall have
all eaten our last meal.”

At the mention of eating, the Caliph lost all patience.  He began to
bellow, and even beat himself, for there was no seeing in the dark.  The
rumour every instant increased, and Bababalouk finding no good could be
done with his master stopped both his ears against the hurly-burly of the
harem, and called out aloud:

“Come, ladies and brothers! all hands to work! strike light in a moment!
never shall it be said that the commander of the faithful served to
regale these infidel brutes.”

Though there wanted not in this bevy of beauties a sufficient number of
capricious and wayward, yet, on the present occasion they were all
compliance.  Fires were visible in a twinkling in all their cages.  Ten
thousand torches were lighted at once.  The Caliph himself seized a large
one of wax; every person followed his example; and by kindling ropes ends
dipped in oil and fastened on poles, an amazing blaze was spread.  The
rocks were covered with the splendour of sunshine.  The trails of sparks
wafted by the wind, communicated to the dry fern, of which there was
plenty.  Serpents were observed to crawl forth from their retreats with
amazement and hissings, whilst the horses snorted, stamped the ground,
tossed their noses in the air, and plunged about without mercy.

One of the forests of cedar that bordered their way took fire, and the
branches that overhung the path extending their flames to the muslins and
chintzes which covered the cages of the ladies, obliged them to jump out
at the peril of their necks.  Vathek, who vented on the occasion a
thousand blasphemies, was himself compelled to touch with his sacred feet
the naked earth.

Never had such an incident happened before.  Full of mortification, shame
and despondence, and not knowing how to walk, the ladies fell into the

“Must I go on foot,” said one.

“Must I wet my feet,” cried another.

“Must I soil my dress,” asked a third.

“Execrable Bababalouk,” exclaimed all; “Outcast of hell! what hadst thou
to do with torches?  Better were it to be eaten by tigers than to fall
into our present condition; we are for ever undone.  Not a porter is
there in the army, nor a currier of camels but hath seen some part of our
bodies, and what is worse, our very faces!”

On saying this, the most bashful amongst them hid their foreheads on the
ground, whilst such as had more boldness flew at Bababalouk, but he, well
apprised of their humour, and not wanting in shrewdness, betook himself
to his heels along with his comrades, all dropping their torches and
striking their tymbals.

It was not less light than in the brightest of the dog-days, and the
weather was hot in proportion; but how degrading was the spectacle, to
behold the Caliph bespattered like an ordinary mortal!  As the exercise
of his faculties seemed to be suspended, one of his Ethiopian wives (for
he delighted in variety) clasped him in her arms, threw him upon her
shoulder like a sack of dates, and finding that the fire was hemming them
in, set off with no small expedition, considering the weight of her
burden.  The other ladies who had just learned the use of their feet
followed her; their guards galloped after; and the camel drivers brought
up the rear as fast as their charge would permit.

They soon reached the spot where the wild beasts had commenced the
carnage, and which they had too much spirit to leave, notwithstanding the
approaching tumult, and the luxurious supper they had made.  Bababalouk
nevertheless seized on a few of the plumpest, which were unable to budge
from the place, and began to flay them with admirable adroitness.  The
cavalcade being got so far from the conflagration as that the heat felt
rather grateful than violent, it was immediately resolved on to halt.
The tattered chintzes were picked up; the scraps left by the wolves and
tigers interred; and vengeance was taken on some dozens of vultures that
were too much glutted to rise on the wing.  The camels which had been
left unmolested to make sal-ammoniac being numbered, and the ladies once
more inclosed in their cages, the imperial tent was pitched on the
levellest ground they could find.

Vathek, reposing upon a matrass of down, and tolerably recovered from the
jolting of the Ethiopian, who, to his feelings seemed the roughest
trotting jade he had hitherto mounted, called out for something to eat;
but alas! those delicate cakes which had been baked in silver ovens for
his royal mouth, those rich manchets, amber comfits, flaggons of Schiraz
wine, porcelain vases of snow, and grapes from the banks of the Tigris,
were all irremediably lost; and nothing had Bababalouk to present in
their stead, but a roasted wolf, vultures à la daube, aromatic herbs of
the most acrid poignancy, rotten truffles, boiled thistles, and such
other wild plants as must ulcerate the throat and parch up the tongue.
Nor was he better provided in the article of drink, for he could procure
nothing to accompany these irritating viands but a few phials of
abominable brandy, which had been secreted by the scullions in their

Vathek made wry faces at so savage a repast, and Bababalouk answered them
with shrugs and contortions.  The Caliph however eat with tolerable
appetite, and fell into a nap that lasted six hours.  The splendour of
the sun, reflected from the white cliffs of the mountains in spite of the
curtains that inclosed him, at length disturbed his repose.  He awoke
terrified, and stung to the quick by those wormwood-coloured flies which
emit from their wings a suffocating stench.  The miserable monarch was
perplexed how to act, though his wits were not idle in seeking
expedients, whilst Bababalouk lay snoring amidst a swarm of those
insects, that busily thronged to pay court to his nose.  The little
pages, famished with hunger, had dropped their fans on the ground, and
exerted their dying voices in bitter reproaches on the Caliph, who now
for the first time heard the language of truth.

Thus stimulated, he renewed his imprecations against the Giaour, and
bestowed upon Mahomet some soothing expressions.

“Where am I?” cried he; “What are these dreadful rocks; these valleys of
darkness?  Are we arrived at the horrible Kaf? {67a}  Is the Simurgh
{67b} coming to pluck out my eyes as a punishment for undertaking this
impious enterprise?”

Having said this, he bellowed like a calf, and turned himself towards an
outlet in the side of his pavilion.  But alas! what objects occurred to
his view! on one side a plain of black sand that appeared to be
unbounded, and on the other perpendicular crags bristled over with those
abominable thistles which had so severely lacerated his tongue.  He
fancied, however, that he perceived amongst the brambles and briars some
gigantic flowers, but was mistaken, for these were only the dangling
palampores and variegated tatters of his gay retinue.  As there were
several clefts in the rock from whence water seemed to have flowed,
Vathek applied his ear with the hope of catching the sound of some latent
runnel, but could only distinguish the low murmurs of his people, who
were repining at their journey, and complaining for the want of water.

“To what purpose,” asked they, “have we been brought hither?  Hath our
Caliph another tower to build? or have the relentless Afrits {67c} whom
Carathis so much loves, fixed in this place their abode?”

At the name of Carathis, Vathek recollected the tablets he had received
from his mother, who assured him they were fraught with preternatural
qualities, and advised him to consult them as emergencies might require.
Whilst he was engaged in turning them over, he heard a shout of joy, and
a loud clapping of hands.  The curtains of his pavilion were soon drawn
back, and he beheld Bababalouk, followed by a troop of his favourites,
conducting two dwarfs, each a cubit high, who brought between them a
large basket of melons, oranges, and pomegranites.  They were singing in
the sweetest tones the words that follow:

“We dwell on the top of these rocks, in a cabin of rushes and canes; the
eagles envy us our nest; a small spring supplies us with abdest, and we
daily repeat prayers which the prophet approves.  We love you, O
commander of the faithful! our master, the good emir Fakreddin, loves you
also; he reveres in your person the vicegerent of Mahomet.  Little as we
are, in us he confides; he knows our hearts to be good, as our bodies are
contemptible, and hath placed us here to aid those who are bewildered on
these dreary mountains.  Last night, whilst we were occupied within our
cell in reading the holy koran, a sudden hurricane blew out our lights
and rocked our habitation.  For two whole hours a palpable darkness
prevailed: but we heard sounds at a distance which we conjectured to
proceed from the bells of a cafila, passing over the rocks.  Our ears
were soon filled with deplorable shrieks, frightful roarings, and the
sound of tymbals.  Chilled with terror, we concluded that the Deggial
{68} with his exterminating angels had sent forth their plagues on the
earth.  In the midst of these melancholy reflections, we perceived flames
of the deepest red glow in the horizon, and found ourselves in a few
moments covered with flakes of fire.  Amazed at so strange an appearance,
we took up the volume dictated by the blessed intelligence, and kneeling
by the light of the fire that surrounded us, we recited the verse which
says: ‘Put no trust in any thing but the mercy of heaven; there is no
help save in the holy prophet; the mountain of Kaf itself may tremble; it
is the power of Alla only that cannot be moved.’  After having pronounced
these words, we felt consolation, and our minds were hushed into a sacred
repose.  Silence ensued, and our ears clearly distinguished a voice in
the air, saying: ‘Servants of my faithful servant, go down to the happy
valley of Fakreddin; tell him that an illustrious opportunity now offers
to satiate the thirst of his hospitable heart.  The commander of true
believers is this day bewildered amongst these mountains, and stands in
need of thy aid.’  We obeyed with joy the angelic mission, and our
master, filled with pious zeal, hath culled with his own hands these
melons, oranges, and pomegranites.  He is following us with a hundred
dromedaries laden with the purest waters of his fountains, and is coming
to kiss the fringe of your consecrated robe, and implore you to enter his
humble habitation, which, placed amidst these barren wilds, resembles an
emerald set in lead.”

The dwarfs having ended their address, remained still standing, and with
hands crossed upon their bosoms, preserved a respectful silence.

Vathek, in the midst of this curious harangue seized the basket, and long
before it was finished, the fruits had dissolved in his mouth.  As he
continued to eat, his piety increased, and in the same breath which
recited his prayers, he called for the koran and sugar.

Such was the state of his mind when the tablets, which were thrown by at
the approach of the dwarfs, again attracted his eye.  He took them up,
but was ready to drop on the ground when he beheld, in large red
characters, these words inscribed by Carathis, which were indeed enough
to make him tremble.

“Beware of thy old doctors, and their puny messengers of but one cubit
high; distrust their pious frauds; and instead of eating their melons,
impale on a spit the bearers of them.  Shouldst thou be such a fool as to
visit them, the portal of the subterranean palace will be shut in thy
face, and with such force as shall shake thee asunder; thy body shall be
spit upon, and bats will engender in thy belly.”

“To what tends this ominous rhapsody?” cries the Caliph; “and must I then
perish in these deserts with thirst, whilst I may refresh myself in the
valley of melons and cucumbers?  Accursed be the Giaour with his portal
of ebony! he hath made me dance attendance too long already.  Besides,
who shall prescribe laws to me?  I, forsooth, must not enter any one’s
habitation!  Be it so, but what one can I enter that is not my own.”

Bababalouk, who lost not a syllable of this soliloquy, applauded it with
all his heart; and the ladies, for the first time, agreed with him in
opinion.  The dwarfs were entertained, caressed, and seated with great
ceremony on little cushions of satin.  The symmetry of their persons was
the subject of criticism; not an inch of them was suffered to pass
unexamined.  Nick-nacks and dainties were offered in profusion, but all
were declined with respectful gravity.  They clambered up the sides of
the Caliph’s seat, and placing themselves each on one of his shoulders,
began to whisper prayers in his ears.  Their tongues quivered like the
leaves of a poplar, and the patience of Vathek was almost exhausted, when
the acclamations of the troops announced the approach of Fakreddin, who
was come with a hundred old grey-beards, and as many korans and
dromedaries.  They instantly set about their ablutions, and began to
repeat the Bismillah.  Vathek, to get rid of these officious monitors,
followed their example, for his hands were burning.

The good Emir, who was punctiliously religious, and likewise a great
dealer in compliments, made an harangue five times more prolix and
insipid than his harbingers had already delivered.  The Caliph, unable
any longer to refrain, exclaimed:

“For the love of Mahomet, my dear Fakreddin, have done! let us proceed to
your valley, and enjoy the fruits that heaven hath vouchsafed you.”  The
hint of proceeding put all into motion.  The venerable attendants of the
emir set forward somewhat slowly, but Vathek having ordered his little
pages, in private, to goad on the dromedaries, loud fits of laughter
broke forth from the cages, for the unwieldy curvetting of these poor
beasts, and the ridiculous distress of their superannuated riders
afforded the ladies no small entertainment.

They descended, however, unhurt into the valley, by the large steps which
the emir had cut in the rock; and already the murmuring of streams and
the rustling of leaves began to catch their attention.  The cavalcade
soon entered a path, which was skirted by flowering shrubs, and extended
to a vast wood of palm-trees whose branches overspread a building of hewn
stone.  This edifice was crowned with nine domes, and adorned with as
many portals of bronze, on which was engraven the following inscription:

“This is the asylum of pilgrims, the refuge of travellers, and the
depository of secrets for all parts of the world.”

Nine pages beautiful as the day, and clothed in robes of Egyptian linen,
very long and very modest, were standing at each door.  They received the
whole retinue with an easy and inviting air.  Four of the most amiable
placed the Caliph on a magnificent taktrevan; four others, somewhat less
graceful, took charge of Bababalouk, who capered for joy at the snug
little cabin that fell to his share; the pages that remained, waited on
the rest of the train.

When every thing masculine was gone out of sight, the gate of a large
inclosure on the right turned on its harmonious hinges, and a young
female of a slender form came forth.  Her light brown hair floated in the
hazy breeze of the twilight.  A troop of young maidens, like the
Pleiades, attended her on tip-toe.  They hastened to the pavilions that
contained the sultanas; and the young lady gracefully bending said to

“Charming princesses, every thing is ready; we have prepared beds for
your repose, and strewed your apartments with jasamine; no insects will
keep off slumber from visiting your eyelids; we will dispel them with a
thousand plumes.  Come then, amiable ladies! refresh your delicate feet
and your ivory limbs in baths of rose water, and by the light of perfumed
lamps your servants will amuse you with tales.”

The sultanas accepted with pleasure these obliging offers, and followed
the young lady to the emir’s harem, where we must for a moment leave them
and return to the Caliph.

Vathek found himself beneath a vast dome illuminated by a thousand lamps
of rock crystal, as many vases of the same material filled with excellent
sherbet sparkled on a large table, where a profusion of viands were
spread.  Amongst others were sweetbreads stewed in milk of almonds,
saffron soups, and lamb à la crême, of all of which the Caliph was
amazingly fond.  He took of each as much as he was able; testified his
sense of the emir’s friendship by the gaiety of his heart; and made the
dwarfs dance against their will; for these little devotees durst not
refuse the commander of the faithful.  At last he spread himself on the
sofa and slept sounder than he had ever before.

Beneath this dome a general silence prevailed, for there was nothing to
disturb it but the jaws of Bababalouk, who had untrussed himself to eat
with greater advantage, being anxious to make amends for his fast in the
mountains.  As his spirits were too high to admit of his sleeping, and
not loving to be idle, he proposed with himself to visit the harem, and
repair to his charge of the ladies, to examine if they had been properly
lubricated with the balm of Mecca, if their eye-brows and tresses were in
order, and in a word, to perform all the little offices they might need.
He sought for a long time together, but without being able to find out
the door.  He durst not speak aloud for fear of disturbing the Caliph,
and not a soul was stirring in the precincts of the palace.  He almost
despaired of effecting his purpose, when a low whispering just reached
his ear: it came from the dwarfs, who were returned to their old
occupation, and for the nine hundred and ninety-ninth time in their lives
were reading over the koran.  They very politely invited Bababalouk to be
of their party, but his head was full of other concerns.  The dwarfs,
though scandalized at his dissolute morals, directed him to the
apartments he wanted to find.  His way thither lay through a hundred dark
corridors, along which he groped as he went, and at last began to catch,
from the extremity of a passage, the charming gossiping of women, which
not a little delighted his heart.

“Ah, ah! what not yet asleep?” cried he, and taking long strides as he
spoke, “did you not suspect me of abjuring my charge?  I stayed but to
finish what my master had left.”

Two of the black eunuchs on hearing a voice so loud detached a party in
haste, sabre in hand, to discover the cause, but presently was repeated
on all sides:

“’Tis only Bababalouk, no one but Bababalouk!”

This circumspect guardian having gone up to a thin veil of carnation
colour silk that hung before the doorway, distinguished by means of a
softened splendour that shone through it, an oval bath of dark porphyry
surrounded by curtains festooned in large folds.  Through the apertures
between them, as they were not drawn close, groups of young slaves were
visible, amongst whom Bababalouk perceived his pupils indulgingly
expanding their arms, as if to embrace the perfumed water, and refresh
themselves after their fatigues.  The looks of tender languor, their
confidential whispers, and the enchanting smiles with which they were
imparted, the exquisite fragrance of the roses, all combined to inspire a
voluptuousness which even Bababalouk himself was scarce able to

He summoned up, however, his usual solemnity, and in the peremptory tone
of authority commanded the ladies instantly to leave the bath.  Whilst he
was issuing these mandates, the young Nouronihar, daughter of the emir,
who was sprightly as an antelope, and full of wanton gaiety, beckoned one
of her slaves to let down the great swing, which was suspended to the
ceiling by cords of silk, and whilst this was doing winked to her
companions in the bath, who chagrined to be forced from so soothing a
state of indolence, began to twist it round Bababalouk, and teaze him
with a thousand vagaries.

When Nouronihar perceived that he was exhausted with fatigue, she
accosted him with an arch air of respectful concern, and said:

“My lord, it is not by any means decent that the chief eunuch of the
Caliph our sovereign should thus continue standing, deign but to recline
your graceful person upon this sofa, which will burst with vexation if it
have not the honour to receive you.”

Caught by these flattering accents, Bababalouk gallantly replied:

“Delight of the apple of my eye!  I accept the invitation of thy honied
lips, and to say truth, my senses are dazzled with the radiance that
beams from thy charms.”

“Repose, then, at your ease,” replied the beauty, and placed him on the
pretended sofa, which, quicker than lightning, gave way all at once.  The
rest of the women having aptly conceived her design, sprang naked from
the bath and plied the swing with such unmerciful jerks, that it swept
through the whole compass of a very lofty dome, and took from the poor
victim all power of respiration.  Sometimes his feet rased the surface of
the water, and at others the skylight almost flattened his nose.  In vain
did he pierce the air with the cries of a voice that resembled the
ringing of a cracked basin, for their peals of laughter were still more

Nouronihar in the inebriety of youthful spirits being used only to
eunuchs of ordinary harems, and having never seen any thing so royal and
disgusting, was far more diverted than all of the rest.  She began to
parody some Persian verses, and sung with an accent most demurely

    “O gentle white dove as thou soar’st through the air,
    Vouchsafe one kind glance on the mate of thy love:
    Melodious Philomel I am thy rose;
    Warble some couplet to ravish my heart!”

The sultanas and their slaves stimulated by these pleasantries persevered
at the swing with such unremitted assiduity, that at length the cord
which had secured it snapped suddenly asunder, and Bababalouk fell
floundering like a turtle to the bottom of the bath.  This accident
occasioned a universal shout.  Twelve little doors till now unobserved
flew open at once, and the ladies in an instant made their escape, after
throwing all the towels on his head, and putting out the lights that

The deplorable animal, in water to the chin, overwhelmed with darkness,
and unable to extricate himself from the warp that embarrassed him, was
still doomed to hear for his further consolation, the fresh bursts of
merriment his disaster occasioned.  He bustled but in vain to get from
the bath, for the margin was become so slippery with the oil spilt in
breaking the lamps, that at every effort he slid back with a plunge,
which resounded aloud through the hollow of the dome.  These cursed peals
of laughter at every relapse were redoubled, and he, who thought the
place infested rather by devils than women, resolved to cease groping,
and abide in the bath, where he amused himself with soliloquies
interspersed with imprecations, of which his malicious neighbours,
reclining on down, suffered not an accent to escape.  In this delectable
plight the morning surprised him.  The Caliph, wondering at his absence,
had caused him to be everywhere sought for.  At last he was drawn forth
almost smothered from the whisp of linen, and wet even to the marrow.
Limping, and chattering his teeth, he appeared before his master, who
inquired what was the matter, and how he came soused in so strange a

“And why did you enter this cursed lodge?” answered Bababalouk, gruffly.
“Ought a monarch like you to visit with his harem the abode of a grey
bearded emir who knows nothing of life?  And with what gracious damsels
does the place too abound!  Fancy to yourself how they have soaked me
like a burnt crust, and made me dance like a jack-pudding the live-long
night through on their damnable swing.  What an excellent lesson for your
sultanas to follow, into whom I have instilled such reserve and decorum!”

Vathek, comprehending not a syllable of all this invective, obliged him
to relate minutely the transaction; but instead of sympathising with the
miserable sufferer, he laughed immoderately at the device of the swing,
and the figure of Bababalouk mounting upon it.  The stung eunuch could
scarcely preserve the semblance of respect.

“Aye, laugh my lord! laugh,” said he, “but I wish this Nouronihar would
play some trick on you; she is too wicked to spare even majesty itself.”

These words made for the present but a slight impression on the Caliph,
but they not long after recurred to his mind.

This conversation was cut short by Fakreddin, who came to request that
Vathek would join in the prayers and ablutions to be solemnized on a
spacious meadow, watered by innumerable streams.  The Caliph found the
waters refreshing, but the prayers abominably irksome.  He diverted
himself however with the multitude of Calenders, {79a} Santons, {79b} and
Dervises {79c} who were continually coming and going, but especially with
the Brahmins, {79d} Faquirs, {79e} and other enthusiasts, who had
travelled from the heart of India, and halted on their way with the emir.
These latter had each of them some mummery peculiar to himself.  One
dragged a huge chain where ever he went, another an ourang-outang, whilst
a third was furnished with scourges, and all performed to a charm.  Some
clambered up trees, holding one foot in the air; others poised themselves
over a fire, and without mercy fillipped their noses.  There were some
amongst them that cherished vermin, which were not ungrateful in
requiting their caresses.  These rambling fanatics revolted the hearts of
the Dervises, the Calenders, and Santons; however the vehemence of their
aversion soon subsided under the hope that the presence of the Caliph
would cure their folly, and convert them to the Mussulman faith.  But
alas! how great was their disappointment! for Vathek, instead of
preaching to them, treated them as buffoons; bade them present his
compliments to Visnow and Ixhora, and discovered a predilection for a
squat old man from the Isle of Serendib, who was more ridiculous than any
of the rest.

“Come,” said he, “for the love of your gods, bestow a few slaps on your
chops to amuse me.”

The old fellow offended at such an address began loudly to weep; but as
he betrayed a villainous drivelling in his tears, the Caliph turned his
back and listened to Bababalouk, who whispered, whilst he held the
umbrella over him:

“Your majesty should be cautious of this odd assembly, which hath been
collected I know not for what.  Is it necessary to exhibit such
spectacles to a mighty potentate, with interludes of talapoins more mangy
than dogs?  Were I you, I would command a fire to be kindled, and at once
purge the earth of the emir, his harem, and all his menagery.”

“Tush, dolt,” answered Vathek, “and know that all this infinitely charms
me.  Nor shall I leave the meadow till I have visited every hive of these
pious mendicants.”

Where ever the Caliph directed his course, objects of pity were sure to
swarm round him: the blind, the purblind, smarts without noses, damsels
without ears, each to extol the munificence of Fakreddin, who, as well as
his attendant grey-beards, dealt about gratis plasters and cataplasms to
all that applied.  At noon a superb corps of cripples made its
appearance; and soon after advanced by platoons on the plain the
completest association of invalids that had ever been embodied till then.
The blind went groping with the blind; the lame limped on together; and
the maimed made gestures to each other with the only arm that remained.
The sides of a considerable waterfall were crowded by the deaf, amongst
whom were some from Pegu, with ears uncommonly handsome and large, but
were still less able to hear than the rest.  Nor were there wanting
others in abundance with hump backs, wenny necks, and even horns of an
exquisite polish.

The emir, to aggrandize the solemnity of the festival in honour of his
illustrious visitant, ordered the turf to be spread on all sides with
skins and table cloths, upon which were served up for the good mussulmans
pilaus of every hue, with other orthodox dishes, and by the express order
of Vathek, who was shamefully tolerant, small plates of abominations for
regaling the rest.  This prince on seeing so many mouths put in motion
began to think it time for employing his own.  In spite, therefore, of
every remonstrance from the chief of his eunuchs, he resolved to have a
dinner dressed on the spot.  The complaisant emir immediately gave orders
for a table to be placed in the shade of the willows.  The first service
consisted of fish, which they drew from a river flowing over sands of
gold, at the foot of a lofty hill: these were broiled as fast as taken,
and served up with a sauce of vinegar and small herbs that grew on Mount
Sinai; for everything with the emir was excellent and pious.

The dessert was not quite set on when the sound of lutes from the hill
was repeated by the echoes of the neighbouring mountains.  The Caliph
with an emotion of pleasure and surprise, had no sooner raised up his
head than a handful of jasamine dropped on his face.  An abundance of
tittering succeeded this frolic, and instantly appeared through the
bushes the elegant forms of several young females, skipping and bounding
like roes.  The fragrance diffused from their hair struck the sense of
Vathek, who in an ecstasy, suspending his repast, said to Bababalouk:

“Are the Peries {82} come down from their spheres?  Note her in
particular whose form is so perfect, venturously running on the brink of
the precipice, and turning back her head as regardless of nothing but the
graceful flow of her robe.  With what captivating impatience doth she
contend with the bushes for her veil? could it be she who threw the
jasamine at me?”

“Aye, she it was; and you too would she throw from the top of the rock,”
answered Bababalouk, “for that is my good friend Nouronihar, who so
kindly lent me her swing.  My dear lord and master,” added he, twisting a
twig that hung by the rind from a willow, “let me correct her for her
want of respect: the emir will have no reason to complain, since (bating
what I owe to his piety) he is much to be censured for keeping a troop of
girls on the mountains, whose sharp air gives their blood too brisk a

“Peace, blasphemer!” said the Caliph: “speak not thus of her who over her
mountains leads my heart a willing captive.  Contrive, rather, that my
eyes may be fixed upon hers—that I may respire her sweet breath, as she
bounds panting along these delightful wilds!”

On saying these words, Vathek extended his arms towards the hill, and
directing his eyes with an anxiety unknown to him before, endeavoured to
keep within view the object that enthralled his soul; but her course was
as difficult to follow as the flight of one of those beautiful blue
butterflies of Cachmere, which are at once so volatile and rare.

The Caliph, not satisfied with seeing, wished also to hear Nouronihar,
and eagerly turned to catch the sound of her voice.  At last he
distinguished her whispering to one of her companions behind the thicket
from whence she had thrown the jasamine:

“A Caliph, it must be owned, is a fine thing to see, but my little
Gulchenrouz is much more amiable; one lock of his hair is of more value
to me than the richest embroidery of the Indies.  I had rather that his
teeth should mischievously press my finger, than the richest ring of the
imperial treasure.  Where have you left him, Sutlememe? and why is he now
not here?”

The agitated Caliph still wished to hear more, but she immediately
retired with all her attendants.  The fond monarch pursued her with his
eyes till she was gone out of sight, and then continued like a bewildered
and benighted traveller, from whom the clouds had obscured the
constellation that guided his way.  The curtain of night seemed dropped
before him—everything appeared discoloured.  The falling waters filled
his soul with dejection, and his tears trickled down the jasamines he had
caught from Nouronihar, and placed in his inflamed bosom.  He snatched up
a shining pebble to remind him of the scene where he felt the first
tumults of love.  Two hours were elapsed, and evening drew on before he
could resolve to depart from the place.  He often, but in vain, attempted
to go: a soft languor enervated the powers of his mind.  Extending
himself on the brink of the stream, he turned his eyes towards the blue
summits of the mountain, and exclaimed:

“What concealest thou behind thee? what is passing in thy solitudes?
Whither is she gone?  O heaven! perhaps she is now wandering in the
grottoes with her happy Gulchenrouz!”

In the mean time the damps began to descend, and the emir, solicitous for
the health of the Caliph, ordered the imperial litter to be brought.
Vathek, absorbed in his reveries, was imperceptibly removed and conveyed
back to the saloon that received him the evening before.

But let us leave the Caliph immersed in his new passion, and attend
Nouronihar beyond the rocks, where she had again joined her beloved
Gulchenrouz.  This Gulchenrouz was the son of Ali Hassan, brother to the
emir, and the most delicate and lovely creature in the world.  Ali
Hassan, who had been absent ten years on a voyage to the unknown seas,
committed at his departure this child, the only survivor of many, to the
care and protection of his brother.  Gulchenrouz could write in various
characters with precision, and paint upon vellum the most elegant
arabesques that fancy could devise.  His sweet voice accompanied the lute
in the most enchanting manner; and when he sung the loves of Megnoun and
Leileh, or some unfortunate lovers of ancient days, tears insensibly
overflowed the cheeks of his auditors.  The verses he composed (for like
Megnoun, he too was a poet) inspired that unresisting languor so
frequently fatal to the female heart.  The women all doated upon him, for
though he had passed his thirteenth year, they still detained him in the
harem.  His dancing was light as the gossamer waved by the zephyrs of
spring; but his arms which twined so gracefully with those of the young
girls in the dance, could neither dart the lance in the chase, nor curb
the steeds that pastured his uncle’s domains.  The bow, however, he drew
with a certain aim, and would have excelled his competitors in the race,
could he have broken the ties that bound him to Nouronihar.

The two brothers had mutually engaged their children to each other; and
Nouronihar loved her cousin more than her eyes.  Both had the same tastes
and amusements; the same long languishing looks; the same tresses; the
same fair complexions; and when Gulchenrouz appeared in the dress of his
cousin, he seemed to be more feminine than even herself.  If at any time
he left the harem to visit Fakreddin, it was with all the bashfulness of
a fawn that consciously ventures from the lair of its dam; he was however
wanton enough to mock the solemn old grey-beards to whom he was subject,
though sure to be rated without mercy in return.  Whenever this happened,
he would plunge into the recesses of the harem, and sobbing take refuge
in the arms of Nouronihar, who loved even his faults beyond the virtues
of others.

It fell out this evening that after leaving the Caliph in the meadow, she
ran with Gulchenrouz over the green sward of the mountain that sheltered
the vale, where Fakreddin had chosen to reside.  The sun was dilated on
the edge of the horizon; and the young people, whose fancies were lively
and inventive, imagined they beheld in the gorgeous clouds of the west
the domes of Shadukiam and Ambreabad, where the Peries have fixed their
abode.  Nouronihar, sitting on the slope of the hill, supported on her
knees the perfumed head of Gulchenrouz.  The air was calm, and no sound
stirred but the voices of other young girls who were drawing cool water
from the streams below.  The unexpected arrival of the Caliph, and the
splendour that marked his appearance, had already filled with emotion the
ardent soul of Nouronihar.  Her vanity irresistibly prompted her to pique
the prince’s attention, and this she before took good care to effect
whilst he picked up the jasamine she had thrown upon him.  But when
Gulchenrouz asked after the flowers he had culled for her bosom,
Nouronihar was all in confusion.  She hastily kissed his forehead, arose
in a flutter, and walked with unequal steps on the border of the
precipice.  Night advanced, and the pure gold of the setting sun had
yielded to a sanguine red, the glow of which, like the reflection of a
burning furnace, flushed Nouronihar’s animated countenance.  Gulchenrouz
alarmed at the agitation of his cousin, said to her with a supplicating

“Let us be gone; the sky looks portentious: the tamarisks tremble more
than common; and the raw wind chills my very heart.  Come, let us be
gone, ’tis a melancholy night.”

Then taking hold of her hand he drew it towards the path he besought her
to go.  Nouronihar unconsciously followed the attraction, for a thousand
strange imaginations occupied her spirit.  She passed the large round of
honeysuckles, her favourite resort, without ever vouchsafing it a glance,
yet Gulchenrouz could not help snatching off a few shoots in his way,
though he ran as if a wild beast were behind.

The young females seeing him approach in such haste, and according to
custom expecting a dance, instantly assembled in a circle and took each
other by the hand, but Gulchenrouz coming up out of breath, fell down at
once on the grass.  This accident struck with consternation the whole of
this frolicsome party, whilst Nouronihar, half distracted, and overcome
both by the violence of her exercise and the tumult of her thoughts, sunk
feebly down at his side, cherished his cold hands in her bosom, and
chafed his temples with a fragrant unguent.  At length he came to
himself, and wrapping up his head in the robe of his cousin, entreated
that she would not return to the harem.  He was afraid of being snapped
at by Shaban his tutor, a wrinkled old eunuch of a surly disposition, for
having interrupted the stated walk of Nouronihar, he dreaded lest the
churl should take it amiss.  The whole of this sprightly group, sitting
round upon a mossy knole, began to entertain themselves with various
pastimes, whilst their superintendents the eunuchs were gravely
conversing at a distance.  The nurse of the emir’s daughter observing her
pupil sit ruminating with her eyes on the ground, endeavoured to amuse
her with diverting tales, to which Gulchenrouz, who had already forgotten
his inquietudes, listened with a breathless attention.  He laughed; he
clapped his hands; and passed a hundred little tricks on the whole of the
company, without omitting the eunuchs, whom he provoked to run after him,
in spite of their age and decrepitude.

During these occurrences the moon arose, the wind subsided, and the
evening became so serene and inviting that a resolution was taken to sup
on the spot.  Sutlememe, who excelled in dressing a salad, having filled
large bowls of porcelain with eggs of small birds, curds turned with
citron juice, slices of cucumber, and the inmost leaves of delicate
herbs, handed it round from one to another, and gave each their shares in
a large spoon of cocknos.  Gulchenrouz nestling as usual in the bosom of
Nouronihar, pouted out his vermillion little lips against the offer of
Sutlememe, and would take it only from the hand of his cousin, on whose
mouth he hung like a bee inebriated with the quintessence of flowers.
One of the eunuchs ran to fetch melons, whilst others were employed in
showering down almonds from the branches that overhung this amiable

In the midst of this festive scene there appeared a light on the top of
the highest mountain, which attracted the notice of every eye.  This
light was not less bright than the moon when at full, and might have been
taken for her had it not been that the moon was already risen.  The
phenomenon occasioned a general surprise, and no one could conjecture the
cause.  It could not be a fire, for the light was clear and bluish; nor
had meteors ever been seen of that magnitude or splendour.  This strange
light faded for a moment, and immediately renewed its brightness.  It
first appeared motionless at the foot of the rock, whence it darted in an
instant to sparkle in a thicket of palm trees, from thence it glided
along the torrent, and at last fixed in a glen that was narrow and dark.
The moment it had taken its direction, Gulchenrouz, whose heart always
trembled at any thing sudden or rare, drew Nouronihar by the robe, and
anxiously requested her to return to the harem.  The women were
importunate in seconding the entreaty, but the curiosity of the emir’s
daughter prevailed.  She not only refused to go back, but resolved at all
hazards to pursue the appearance.  Whilst they were debating what was
best to be done, the light shot forth so dazzling a blaze that they all
fled away shrieking.  Nouronihar followed them a few steps, but coming to
the turn of a little bye path stopped, and went back alone.  As she ran
with an alertness peculiar to herself, it was not long before she came to
the place where they had just been supping.  The globe of fire now
appeared stationary in the glen, and burned in majestic stillness.
Nouronihar compressing her hands upon her bosom, hesitated for some
moments to advance.  The solitude of her situation was new; the silence
of the night awful; and every object inspired sensations which till then
she never had felt.  The affright of Gulchenrouz recurred to her mind;
and she a thousand times turned to go back, but this luminous appearance
was always before her.  Urged on by an irresistible impulse, she
continued to approach it in defiance of every obstacle that opposed her

At length she arrived at the opening of the glen, but instead of coming
up to the light, she found herself surrounded by darkness, except that at
a considerable distance a faint spark glimmered by fits.  She stopped a
second time: the sound of waterfalls mingling their murmurs, the hollow
rustlings amongst the palm branches, and the funereal screams of the
birds from their rifted trunks, all conspired to fill her with terror.
She imagined every moment that she trod on some venomous reptile.  All
the stories of malignant Dives, and dismal Goules thronged into her
memory, but her curiosity was notwithstanding more predominant than her
fears.  She therefore firmly entered a winding track that led towards the
spark, but being a stranger to the path, she had not gone far till she
began to repent of her rashness.

“Alas!” said she, “that I were but in those secure and illuminated
apartments where my evenings glided on with Gulchenrouz!  Dear child, how
would thy heart flutter with terror wert thou wandering in these wild
solitudes like me.”

At the close of this apostrophe she regained her road, and coming to
steps hewn out in the rock ascended them undismayed.  The light, which
was now gradually enlarging, appeared above her on the summit of the
mountain.  At length she distinguished a plaintive and melodious union of
voices proceeding from a sort of cavern, that resembled the dirges which
are sung over tombs.  A sound likewise like that which arises from the
filling of baths, at the same time struck her ear.  She continued
ascending, and discovered large wax torches in full blaze planted here
and there in the fissures of the rock.  This preparation filled her with
fear, whilst the subtle and potent odour which the torches exhaled caused
her to sink almost lifeless at the entrance of the grot.

Casting her eyes within in this kind of trance, she beheld a large
cistern of gold filled with a water, whose vapour distilled on her face a
dew of the essence of roses.  A soft symphony resounded through the grot.
On the sides of the cistern she noticed appendages of royalty; diadems
and feathers of the heron, all sparkling with carbuncles.  Whilst her
attention was fixed on this display of magnificence, the music ceased,
and a voice instantly demanded:

“For what monarch were these torches kindled, this bath prepared, and
these habiliments? which belong not only to the sovereigns of the earth,
but even to the talismanic powers!”

To which a second voice answered:

“They are for the charming daughter of the emir Fakreddin.”

“What,” replied the first, “for that trifler who consumes her time with a
giddy child, immersed in softness, and who at best can make but an
enervated husband?”

“And can she,” rejoined the other voice, “be amused with such empty
trifles, whilst the Caliph, the sovereign of the world, he who is
destined to enjoy the treasures of the preadimite sultans, a prince six
feet high, and whose eyes pervade the inmost soul of a female, is
inflamed with the love of her? no, she will be wise enough to answer that
passion alone that can aggrandize her glory.  No doubt she will, and
despise the puppet of her fancy; then all the riches this place contains,
as well as the carbuncle of Giamschid shall be hers.”

“You judge right,” returned the first voice, “and I haste to Istakar to
prepare the palace of subterranean fire for the reception of the bridal

The voices ceased, the torches were extinguished, the most entire
darkness succeeded, and Nouronihar recovering with a start, found herself
reclined on a sofa in the harem of her father.  She clapped her hands,
and immediately came together Gulchenrouz and her women, who, in despair
at having lost her, had despatched eunuchs to seek her in every
direction.  Shaban appeared with the rest, and began to reprimand her
with an air of consequence:

“Little impertinent,” said he, “whence got you false keys? or are you
beloved of some genius that hath given you a picklock?  I will try the
extent of your power; come, to your chamber! through the two sky-lights,
and expect not the company of Gulchenrouz.  Be expeditious!  I will shut
you up in the double tower.”

At these menaces Nouronihar indignantly raised her head, opened on Shaban
her black eyes, which since the important dialogue of the enchanted grot
were considerably enlarged, and said:

“Go, speak thus to slaves! but learn to reverence her who is born to give
laws, and subject all to her power.”

She was proceeding in the same style, but was interrupted by a sudden
exclamation of,

“The Caliph! the Caliph!”

The curtains at once were thrown open, and the slaves prostrate in double
rows, whilst poor little Gulchenrouz hid himself beneath the elevation of
a sofa.  At first appeared a file of black eunuchs trailing after them
long trains of muslin embroidered with gold, and holding in their hands
censers, which dispensed as they passed the grateful perfume of the wood
of aloes.  Next marched Bababalouk with a solemn strut, and tossing his
head as not over pleased at the visit.  Vathek came close after superbly
robed; his gait was unembarrassed and noble, and his presence would have
engaged admiration, though he had not been the sovereign of the world.
He approached Nouronihar with a throbbing heart, and seemed enraptured at
the full effulgence of her radiant eyes, of which he had before caught
but a few glimpses; but she instantly depressed them, and her confusion
augmented her beauty.

Bababalouk, who was a thorough adept in coincidences of this nature, and
knew that the worst game should be played with the best face, immediately
made a signal for all to retire, and no sooner did he perceive beneath
the sofa the little one’s feet, than he drew him forth without ceremony,
set him upon his shoulders, and lavished on him as he went off a thousand
odious caresses.  Gulchenrouz cried out, and resisted till his cheeks
became the colour of the blossom of the pomegranite, and the tears that
started into his eyes shot forth a gleam of indignation.  He cast a
significant glance at Nouronihar, which the Caliph noticing, asked:

“Is that then your Gulchenrouz?”

“Sovereign of the world,” answered she, “spare my cousin, whose innocence
and gentleness deserve not your anger!”

“Take comfort,” said Vathek with a smile, “he is in good hands.
Bababalouk is fond of children, and never goes without sweetmeats and

The daughter of Fakreddin was abashed; and suffered Gulchenrouz to be
borne away without adding a word.  The tumult of her bosom betrayed her
confusion; and Vathek becoming still more impassioned, gave a loose to
his frenzy, which had only not subdued the last faint strugglings of
reluctance, when the emir suddenly bursting in, threw his face upon the
ground at the feet of the Caliph, and said:

“Commander of the faithful, abase not yourself to the meanness of your

“No, emir,” replied Vathek, “I raise her to an equality with myself; I
declare her my wife; and the glory of your race shall extend from one
generation to another.”

“Alas! my lord,” said Fakreddin, as he plucked off the honours of his
beard, “cut short the days of your faithful servant rather than force him
to depart from his word.  Nouronihar, as her hands evince, is solemnly
promised to Gulchenrouz, the son of my bother, Ali Hassan; they are
united also in heart; their faith is mutually plighted; and affiances so
sacred cannot be broken.”

“What, then,” replied the Caliph bluntly, “would you surrender this
divine beauty to a husband more womanish than herself?  And can you
imagine that I will suffer her charms to decay in hands so inefficient
and nerveless?  No! she is destined to live out her life within my
embraces: such is my will: retire, and disturb not the night I devote to
the homage of her charms.”

The irritated emir drew forth his sabre, presented it to Vathek, and
stretching out his neck, said in a firm tone of voice:

“Strike your unhappy host my lord! he has lived long enough, since he
hath seen the prophet’s vicegerent violate the rights of hospitality.”

At his uttering these words, Nouronihar unable to support any longer the
conflict of her passions, sunk down in a swoon.  Vathek, both terrified
for her life, and furious at an opposition to his will, bade Fakreddin
assist his daughter, and withdrew, darting his terrible look at the
unfortunate emir, who suddenly fell backward bathed in a sweat, cold as
the damp of death.

Gulchenrouz, who had escaped from the hands of Bababalouk, and was that
instant returned, called out for help as loudly as he could, not having
strength to afford it himself.  Pale and panting, the poor child
attempted to revive Nouronihar by caresses, and it happened that the
thrilling warmth of his lips restored her to life.  Fakreddin beginning
also to recover from the look of the Caliph, with difficulty tottered to
a seat, and after warily casting round his eye to see if this dangerous
prince were gone, sent for Shaban and Sutlememe, and said to them apart—

“My friends, violent evils require as violent remedies; the Caliph has
brought desolation and horror into my family, and how shall we resist his
power?  Another of his looks will send me to my grave.  Fetch then that
narcotic powder which the Dervise brought me from Aracan.  A dose of it,
the effect of which will continue three days, must be administered to
each of these children.  The Caliph will believe them to be dead, for
they will have all the appearance of death.  We shall go as if to inter
them in the cave of Meimoune, at the entrance of the great desert of
sand, and near the cabin of my dwarfs.  When all the spectators shall be
withdrawn, you, Shaban, and four select eunuchs shall convey them to the
lake, where provision shall be ready to support them a month; for, one
day allotted to the surprise this event will occasion, five to the tears,
a fortnight to reflection, and the rest to prepare for renewing his
progress, will, according to my calculation, fill up the whole time that
Vathek will tarry, and I shall then be freed from his intrusion.”

“Your plan,” said Sutlememe, “is a good one, if it can but be effected.
I have remarked that Nouronihar is well able to support the glances of
the Caliph, and that he is far from being sparing of them to her; be
assured therefore, notwithstanding her fondness for Gulchenrouz, she will
never remain quiet while she knows him to be here, unless we can persuade
her that both herself and Gulchenrouz are really dead, and that they were
conveyed to those rocks for a limited season to expiate the little faults
of which their love was the cause.  We will add that we killed ourselves
in despair, and that your dwarfs whom they never yet saw will preach to
them delectable sermons.  I will engage that every thing shall succeed to
the bent of your wishes.”

“Be it so,” said Fakreddin; “I approve your proposal; let us lose not a
moment to give it effect.”  They forthwith hastened to seek for the
powder, which being mixed in a sherbet was immediately drunk by
Gulchenrouz and Nouronihar.  Within the space of an hour both were seized
with violent palpitations, and a general numbness gradually ensued.  They
arose from the floor, where they had remained ever since the Caliph’s
departure, and ascending to the sofa, reclined themselves at full length
upon it, clasped in each other’s embraces.

“Cherish me, my dear Nouronihar,” said Gulchenrouz; “put thy hand upon my
heart, for it feels as if it were frozen.  Alas! thou art as cold as
myself! hath the Caliph murdered us both with his terrible look?”

“I am dying,” cried she in a faltering voice; “press me closer, I am
ready to expire!”

“Let us die then together,” answered the little Gulchenrouz, whilst his
breast laboured with a convulsive sigh; “let me at least breathe forth my
soul on thy lips.”

They spoke no more, and became as dead.

Immediately the most piercing cries were heard through the harem, whilst
Shaban and Sutlememe personated with great adroitness the parts of
persons in despair.  The emir, who was sufficiently mortified to be
forced into such untoward expedients, and had now for the first time made
a trial of his powder, was under no necessity of counterfeiting grief.
The slaves, who had flocked together from all quarters, stood motionless
at the spectacle before them.  All lights were extinguished save two
lamps, which shed a wan glimmering over the faces of these lovely
flowers, that seemed to be faded in the spring-time of life.  Funeral
vestments were prepared; their bodies were washed with rose water; their
beautiful tresses were braided and incensed; and they were wrapped in
symars whiter than alabaster.  At the moment that their attendants were
placing two wreaths of their favourite jasamines on their brows, the
Caliph, who had just heard the tragical catastrophe, arrived.  He looked
not less pale and haggard than the goules that wander at night among
graves.  Forgetful of himself and every one else, he broke through the
midst of the slaves, fell prostrate at the foot of the sofa, beat his
bosom, called himself “atrocious murderer,” and invoked upon his head a
thousand imprecations.  With a trembling hand he raised the veil that
covered the countenance of Nouronihar, and uttering a loud shriek fell
lifeless on the floor.  The chief of the eunuchs dragged him off with
horrible grimaces, and repeated as he went:

“Aye, I foresaw she would play you some ungracious turn.”

No sooner was the Caliph gone than the emir commanded biers to be
brought, and forbade that any one should enter the harem.  Every window
was fastened; all instruments of music were broken; and the Imams began
to recite their prayers.  Towards the close of this melancholy day Vathek
sobbed in silence, for they had been forced to compose with anodynes his
convulsions of rage and desperation.

At the dawn of the succeeding morning the wide folding doors of the
palace were set open, and the funeral procession moved forward for the
mountain.  The wailful cries of “La Ilah illa Alla,” reached to the
Caliph, who was eager to cicatrize himself and attend the ceremonial; nor
could he have been dissuaded, had not his excessive weakness disabled him
from walking.  At the few first steps he fell on the ground, and his
people were obliged to lay him on a bed, where he remained many days in
such a state of insensibility as excited compassion in the emir himself.

When the procession was arrived at the grot of Meimoune, Shaban and
Sutlememe dismissed the whole of the train excepting the four
confidential eunuchs who were appointed to remain.  After resting some
moments near the biers which had been left in the open air, they caused
them to be carried to the brink of a small lake whose banks were
overgrown with a hoary moss.  This was the great resort of herons and
storks, which preyed continually on little blue fishes.  The dwarfs,
instructed by the emir, soon repaired thither, and with the help of the
eunuchs began to construct cabins of rushes and reeds, a work in which
they had admirable skill.  A magazine also was contrived for provisions,
with a small oratory for themselves, and a pyramid of wood neatly piled,
to furnish the necessary fuel, for the air was bleak in the hollows of
the mountains.

At evening two fires were kindled on the brink of the lake, and the two
lovely bodies taken from their biers were carefully deposited upon a bed
of dried leaves within the same cabin.  The dwarfs began to recite the
koran with their clear shrill voices, and Shaban and Sutlememe stood at
some distance anxiously waiting the effects of the powder.  At length
Nouronihar and Gulchenrouz faintly stretched out their arms, and
gradually opening their eyes began to survey with looks of increasing
amazement every object around them.  They even attempted to rise, but for
want of strength fell back again.  Sutlememe on this administered a
cordial which the emir had taken care to provide.

Gulchenrouz thoroughly aroused sneezed out aloud, and raising himself
with an effort that expressed his surprise, left the cabin, and inhaled
the fresh air with the greatest avidity.

“Yes,” said he, “I breathe again! again do I exist!  I hear sounds!  I
behold a firmament spangled over with stars!”

Nouronihar catching these beloved accents extricated herself from the
leaves, and ran to clasp Gulchenrouz to her bosom.  The first objects she
remarked were their long symars, their garlands of flowers, and their
naked feet: she hid her face in her hands to reflect.  The vision of the
enchanted bath, the despair of her father, and more vividly than both,
the majestic figure of Vathek recurred to her memory.  She recollected
also, that herself and Gulchenrouz had been sick and dying; but all these
images bewildered her mind.  Not knowing where she was, she turned her
eyes on all sides, as if to recognise the surrounding scene.  This
singular lake, those flames reflected from its glassy surface, the pale
hues of its banks, the romantic cabins, the bull-rushes that sadly waved
their drooping heads, the storks whose melancholy cries blended with the
shrill voices of the dwarfs, every thing conspired to persuade them that
the angel of death had opened the portal of some other world.

Gulchenrouz on his part, lost in wonder, clung to the neck of his cousin.
He believed himself in the region of phantoms, and was terrified at the
silence she preserved.  At length addressing her:

“Speak,” said he; “where are we! do you not see those spectres that are
stirring the burning coals?  Are they the Monker and Nakir, come to throw
us into them?  Does the fatal bridge cross this lake, whose solemn
stillness perhaps conceals from us an abyss, in which for whole ages we
shall be doomed incessantly to sink?”

“No my children,” said Sutlememe going towards them; “take comfort, the
exterminating angel who conducted our souls hither after yours, hath
assured us that the chastisement of your indolent and voluptuous life
shall be restricted to a certain series of years, which you must pass in
this dreary abode, where the sun is scarcely visible, and where the soil
yields neither fruits nor flowers.  These,” continued she, pointing to
the dwarfs, “will provide for our wants; for souls so mundane as ours
retain too strong a tincture of their earthly extraction.  Instead of
meats, your food will be nothing but rice, and your bread shall be
moistened in the fogs that brood over the surface of the lake.”

At this desolating prospect the poor children burst into tears, and
prostrated themselves before the dwarfs, who perfectly supported their
characters, and delivered an excellent discourse of a customary length
upon the sacred camel, which after a thousand years was to convey them to
the paradise of the faithful.

The sermon being ended and ablutions performed, they praised Alla and the
prophet, supped very indifferently, and retired to their withered leaves.
Nouronihar and her little cousin consoled themselves on finding that,
though dead, they yet lay in one cabin.  Having slept well before, the
remainder of the night was spent in conversation on what had befallen
them; and both, from a dread of apparitions, betook themselves for
protection to one another’s arms.

In the morning, which was lowering and rainy, the dwarfs mounted high
poles like minarets, and called them to prayers.  The whole congregation,
which consisted of Sutlememe, Shaban, the four eunuchs, and some storks,
were already assembled.  The two children came forth from their cabin
with a slow and dejected pace.  As their minds were in a tender and
melancholy mood, their devotions were performed with fervour.  No sooner
were they finished than Gulchenrouz demanded of Sutlememe and the rest,
“how they happened to die so opportunely for his cousin and himself.”

“We killed ourselves,” returned Sutlememe, “in despair at your death.”

On this, said Nouronihar, who notwithstanding what was past, had not yet
forgotten her vision:

“And the Caliph, is he also dead of his grief? and will he likewise come

The dwarfs, who were prepared with an answer, most demurely replied:

“Vathek is damned beyond all redemption!”

“I readily believe so,” said Gulchenrouz; “and am glad from my heart to
hear it, for I am convinced it was his horrible look that sent us hither,
to listen to sermons and mess upon rice.”

One week passed away on the side of the lake unmarked by any variety;
Nouronihar ruminating on the grandeur of which death had deprived her,
and Gulchenrouz applying to prayers and to panniers along with the
dwarfs, who infinitely pleased him.  Whilst this scene of innocence was
exhibiting in the mountains, the Caliph presented himself to the emir in
a new light.  The instant he recovered the use of his senses, with a
voice that made Bababalouk quake, he thundered out:

“Perfidious Giaour! I renounce thee for ever! it is thou who hast slain
my beloved Nouronihar! and I supplicate the pardon of Mahomet, who would
have preserved her to me had I been more wise.  Let water be brought to
perform my ablutions, and let the pious Fakreddin be called to offer up
his prayers with mine, and reconcile me to him.  Afterwards we will go
together and visit the sepulchre of the unfortunate Nouronihar.  I am
resolved to become a hermit, and consume the residue of my days on this
mountain, in hope of expiating my crimes.”

Nouronihar was not altogether so content, for though she felt a fondness
for Gulchenrouz, who to augment the attachment, had been left at full
liberty with her, yet she still regarded him as but a bauble that bore no
competition with the carbuncle of Giamschid.  At times she indulged
doubts on the mode of her being, and scarcely could believe that the dead
had all the wants and the whims of the living.  To gain satisfaction,
however, on so perplexing a topic, she arose one morning whilst all were
asleep with a breathless caution from the side of Gulchenrouz, and after
having given him a soft kiss, began to follow the windings of the lake
till it terminated with a rock whose top was accessible though lofty.
This she clambered up with considerable toil, and having reached the
summit, set forward in a run like a doe that unwittingly follows her
hunter.  Though she skipped along with the alertness of an antelope, yet
at intervals she was forced to desist, and rest beneath the tamarisks to
recover her breath.  Whilst she, thus reclined, was occupied with her
little reflections on the apprehension that she had some knowledge of the
place, Vathek, who finding himself that morning but ill at ease, had gone
forth before the dawn, presented himself on a sudden to her view.
Motionless with surprise, he durst not approach the figure before him,
which lay shrouded up in a symar extended on the ground, trembling and
pale, but yet lovely to behold.  At length Nouronihar, with a mixture of
pleasure and affliction, raising her fine eyes to him, said:

“My lord, are you come hither to eat rice and hear sermons with me?”

“Beloved phantom!” cried Vathek, “dost thou speak? hast thou the same
graceful form? the same radiant features? art thou palpable likewise?”
and eagerly embracing her he added, “here are limbs and a bosom animated
with a gentle warmth! what can such a prodigy mean?”

Nouronihar with diffidence answered:

“You know my lord that I died on the night you honoured me with your
visit; my cousin maintains it was from one of your glances, but I cannot
believe him, for to me they seem not so dreadful.  Gulchenrouz died with
me, and we were both brought into a region of desolation, where we are
fed with a wretched diet.  If you be dead also, and are come hither to
join us, I pity your lot, for you will be stunned with the clang of the
dwarfs and the storks.  Besides, it is mortifying in the extreme that you
as well as myself should have lost the treasures of the subterranean

At the mention of the subterranean palace, the Caliph suspended his
caresses, which indeed had proceeded pretty far, to seek from Nouronihar
an explanation of her meaning.  She then recapitulated her vision—what
immediately followed—and the history of her pretended death; adding also
a description of the palace of expiation from whence she had fled; and
all in a manner that would have extorted his laughter, had not the
thoughts of Vathek been too deeply engaged.  No sooner, however, had she
ended, than he again clasped her to his bosom, and said:

“Light of my eyes! the mystery is unravelled; we both are alive!  Your
father is a cheat, who for the sake of dividing hath deluded us both; and
the Giaour, whose design, as far as I can discover, is that we shall
proceed together, seems scarce a whit better.  It shall be some time at
least before he find us in his palace of fire.  Your lovely little person
in my estimation is far more precious than all the treasures of the
preadimite sultans, and I wish to possess it at pleasure, and in open day
for many a moon, before I go to burrow under ground like a mole.”

“Forget this little trifler Gulchenrouz, and”—

“Ah, my lord,” interposed Nouronihar, “let me entreat that you do him no

“No, no,” replied Vathek, “I have already bid you forbear to alarm
yourself for him.  He has been brought up too much on milk and sugar to
stimulate my jealousy.  We will leave him with the dwarfs, who by the bye
are my old acquaintances; their company will suit him far better than
yours.  As to other matters, I will return no more to your father’s.  I
want not to have my ears dinned by him and his dotards with the violation
of the rights of hospitality; as if it were less an honour for you to
espouse the sovereign of the world, than a girl dressed up like a boy.”

Nouronihar could find nothing to oppose in a discourse so eloquent.  She
only wished the amorous monarch had discovered more ardour for the
carbuncle of Giamschid; but flattered herself it would gradually
increase, and therefore yielded to his will with the most bewitching

When the Caliph judged it proper he called for Bababalouk, who was asleep
in the cave of Meimoune, and dreaming that the phantom of Nouronihar
having mounted him once more on her swing, had just given him such a jerk
that he one moment soared above the mountains, and the next sunk into the
abyss.  Starting from his sleep at the voice of his master, he ran
gasping for breath, and had nearly fallen backward at the sight, as he
believed, of the spectre, by whom he had so lately been haunted in his

“Ah my lord,” cried he, recoiling ten steps, and covering his eyes with
both hands, “do you then perform the office of a goule?  ’Tis true you
have dug up the dead, yet hope not to make her your prey; for after all
she hath caused me to suffer, she is even wicked enough to prey upon

“Cease thy folly,” said Vathek, “and thou shalt soon be convinced that it
is Nouronihar herself, alive and well, whom I clasp to my breast.  Go
only, and pitch my tents in the neighbouring valley.  There will I fix my
abode with this beautiful tulip, whose colours I soon shall restore.
There exert thy best endeavours to procure whatever can augment the
enjoyments of life, till I shall disclose to thee more of my will.”

The news of so unlucky an event soon reached the ears of the emir, who
abandoned himself to grief and despair, and began, as did all his old
greybeards, to begrime his visage with ashes.  A total supineness ensued;
travellers were no longer entertained, no more plasters were spread, and
instead of the charitable activity that had distinguished this asylum,
the whole of its inhabitants exhibited only faces of a half cubit long,
and uttered groans that accorded with their forlorn situation.

Though Fakreddin bewailed his daughter as lost to him for ever, yet
Gulchenrouz was not forgotten.  He despatched immediate instruction to
Sutlememe, Shaban, and the dwarfs, enjoining them not to undeceive the
child in respect to his state, but under some pretence to convey him far
from the lofty rock at the extremity of the lake, to a place which he
should appoint, as safer from danger; for he suspected that Vathek
intended him evil.

Gulchenrouz in the mean while was filled with amazement at not finding
his cousin; nor were the dwarfs at all less surprised; but Sutlememe, who
had more penetration, immediately guessed what had happened.  Gulchenrouz
was amused with the delusive hope of once more embracing Nouronihar in
the interior recesses of the mountains, where the ground, strewed over
with orange blossoms and jasamines, offered beds much more inviting than
the withered leaves in their cabin, where they might accompany with their
voices the sounds of their lutes, and chase butterflies in concert.
Sutlememe was far gone in this sort of description when one of the four
eunuchs beckoned her aside to apprise her of the arrival of a messenger
from their fraternity, who had explained the secret of the flight of
Nouronihar, and brought the commands of the emir.  A council with Shaban
and the dwarfs was immediately held.  Their baggage being stowed in
consequence of it, they embarked in a shallop and quietly sailed with the
little one, who acquiesced in all their proposals.  Their voyage
proceeded in the same manner, till they came to the place where the lake
sinks beneath the hollow of the rock, but as soon as the bark had entered
it, and Gulchenrouz found himself surrounded with darkness, he was seized
with a dreadful consternation, and incessantly uttered the most piercing
outcries; for he now was persuaded he should actually be damned for
having taken too many little freedoms in his life-time with his cousin.

But let us return to the Caliph, and her who ruled over his heart.
Bababalouk had pitched the tents, and closed up the extremities of the
valley with magnificent screens of India cloth, which were guarded by
Ethiopian slaves with their drawn sabres.  To preserve the verdure of
this beautiful enclosure in its natural freshness, the white eunuchs went
continually round it with their red water vessels.  The waving of fans
was heard near the imperial pavilion, where by the voluptuous light that
glowed through the muslins, the Caliph enjoyed at full view all the
attractions of Nouronihar.  Inebriated with delight, he was all ear to
her charming voice which accompanied the lute; while she was not less
captivated with his descriptions of Samarah and the tower full of
wonders, but especially with his relation of the adventure of the ball,
and the chasm of the Giaour with its ebony portal.

In this manner they conversed for a day and a night; they bathed together
in a basin of black marble, which admirably relieved the fairness of
Nouronihar.  Bababalouk, whose good graces this beauty had regained,
spared no attention that their repasts might be served up with the
minutest exactness: some exquisite rariety was ever placed before them;
and he sent even to Schiraz for that fragrant and delicious wine which
had been hoarded up in bottles prior to the birth of Mahomet.  He had
excavated little ovens in the rock to bake the nice manchets which were
prepared by the hands of Nouronihar, from whence they had derived a
flavour so grateful to Vathek, that he regarded the ragouts of his other
wives as entirely maukish; whilst they would have died at the emir’s of
chagrin at finding themselves so neglected, if Fakreddin, notwithstanding
his resentment, had not taken pity upon them.

The sultana Dilara, who till then had been the favourite, took this
dereliction of the Caliph to heart with a vehemence natural to her
character; for during her continuance in favour she had imbibed from
Vathek many of his extravagant fancies, and was fired with impatience to
behold the superb tombs of Istakar, and the palace of forty columns;
besides, having been brought up amongst the magi, she had fondly
cherished the idea of the Caliph’s devoting himself to the worship of
fire; thus his voluptuous and desultory life with her rival was to her a
double source of affliction.  The transient piety of Vathek had
occasioned her some serious alarms, but the present was an evil of far
greater magnitude.  She resolved therefore without hesitation to write to
Carathis, and acquaint her that all things went ill; that they had eaten,
slept, and revelled at an old emir’s, whose sanctity was very formidable,
and that after all the prospect of possessing the treasures of the
preadimite sultans was no less remote than before.  This letter was
entrusted to the care of two woodmen who were at work on one of the great
forests of the mountains, and being acquainted with the shortest cuts,
arrived in ten days at Samarah.

The princess Carathis was engaged at chess with Morakanabad, when the
arrival of these wood-fellers was announced.  She, after some weeks of
Vathek’s absence, had forsaken the upper regions of her tower, because
everything appeared in confusion among the stars, whom she consulted
relative to the fate of her son.  In vain did she renew her fumigations,
and extend herself on the roof to obtain mystic visions, nothing more
could she see in her dreams than pieces of brocade, nosegays of flowers,
and other unmeaning gewgaws.  These disappointments had thrown her into a
state of dejection which no drug in her power was sufficient to remove.
Her only resource was in Morakanabad, who was a good man, and endowed
with a decent share of confidence, yet whilst in her company he never
thought himself on roses.

No person knew aught of Vathek, and a thousand ridiculous stories were
propagated at his expense.  The eagerness of Carathis may be easily
guessed at receiving the letter, as well as her rage at reading the
dissolute conduct of her son.

“Is it so,” said she; “either I will perish, or Vathek shall enter the
palace of fire.  Let me expire in flames, provided he may reign on the
throne of Soliman!”

Having said this, and whirled herself round in a magical manner, which
struck Morakanabad with such terror as caused him to recoil, she ordered
her great camel Alboufaki to be brought, and the hideous Nerkes with the
unrelenting Cafour to attend.

“I require no other retinue,” said she to Morakanabad: “I am going on
affairs of emergency, a truce therefore to parade!  Take you care of the
people, fleece them well in my absence, for we shall expend large sums,
and one knows not what may betide.”

The night was uncommonly dark, and a pestilential blast ravaged the plain
of Catoul that would have deterred any other traveller however urgent the
call; but Carathis enjoyed most whatever filled others with dread.
Nerkes concurred in opinion with her, and Cafour had a particular
predilection for a pestilence.  In the morning this accomplished caravan,
with the wood-fellers who directed their route, halted on the edge of an
extensive marsh, from whence so noxious a vapour arose as would have
destroyed any animal but Alboufaki, who naturally inhaled these malignant
fogs.  The peasants entreated their convoy not to sleep in this place.

“To sleep,” cried Carathis, “what an excellent thought!  I never sleep
but for visions; and as to my attendants, their occupations are too many
to close the only eye they each have.”

The poor peasants, who were not over pleased with their party, remained
open-mouthed with surprise.

Carathis alighted as well as her negresses, and severally stripping off
their outer garments, they all ran in their drawers to cull from those
spots where the sun shone fiercest, the venomous plants that grew on the
marsh.  This provision was made for the family of the emir, and whoever
might retard the expedition to Istakar.  The woodmen were overcome with
fear when they beheld these three horrible phantoms run, and not much
relishing the company of Alboufaki, stood aghast at the command of
Carathis to set forward, notwithstanding it was noon, and the heat fierce
enough to calcine even rocks.  In spite, however, of every remonstrance,
they were forced implicitly to submit.

Alboufaki, who delighted in solitude, constantly snorted whenever he
perceived himself near a habitation, and Carathis, who was apt to spoil
him with indulgence, as constantly turned him aside; so that the peasants
were precluded from procuring subsistence; for the milch goats and ewes
which Providence had sent towards the district they traversed, to refresh
travellers with their milk, all fled at the sight of the hideous animal
and his strange riders.  As to Carathis, she needed no common aliment;
for her invention had previously furnished her with an opiate to stay her
stomach, some of which she imparted to her mutes.

At the fall of night Alboufaki making a sudden stop, stamped with his
foot, which to Carathis, who understood his paces, was a certain
indication that she was near the confines of some cemetery.  The moon
shed a bright light on the spot, which served to discover a long wall
with a large door in it standing a-jar, and so high that Alboufaki might
easily enter.  The miserable guides, who perceived their end approaching,
humbly implored Carathis, as she had now so good an opportunity, to inter
them, and immediately gave up the ghost.  Nerkes and Cafour, whose wit
was of a style peculiar to themselves, were by no means parsimonious of
it on the folly of these poor people, nor could any thing have been found
more suited to their taste than the site of the burying ground, and the
sepulchres which its precincts contained.  There were at least two
thousand of them on the declivity of a hill; some in the form of
pyramids, others like columns, and in short the variety of their shapes
was endless.  Carathis was too much immersed in her sublime
contemplations to stop at the view, charming as it appeared in her eyes.
Pondering the advantages that might accrue from her present situation,
she could not forbear to exclaim:

“So beautiful a cemetery must be haunted by Gouls, and they want not for
intelligence! having heedlessly suffered my guides to expire, I will
apply for directions to them, and as an inducement, will invite them to
regale on these fresh corpses.”

After this short soliloquy, she beckoned to Nerkes and Cafour, and made
signs with her fingers, as much as to say:

“Go, knock against the sides of the tombs, and strike up your delightful
warblings, that are so like to those of the guests whose company I wish
to obtain.”

The negresses, full of joy at the behests of their mistress, and
promising themselves much pleasure from the society of the Gouls, went
with an air of conquest, and began their knockings at the tombs.  As
their strokes were repeated, a hollow noise was heard in the earth, the
surface hove up into heaps, and the Gouls on all sides protruded their
noses to inhale the effluvia which the carcasses of the woodmen began to

They assembled before a sarcophagus of white marble, where Carathis was
seated between the bodies of her miserable guides.  The princess received
her visitants with distinguished politeness, and when supper was ended,
proceeded with them to business.  Having soon learnt from them every
thing she wished to discover, it was her intention to set forward
forthwith on her journey, but her negresses, who were forming tender
connections with the Gouls, importuned her with all their fingers to
wait, at least till the dawn.  Carathis, however, being chastity in the
abstract, and an implacable enemy to love and repose, at once rejected
their prayer, mounted Alboufaki, and commanded them to take their seats
in a moment.  Four days and four nights she continued her route, without
turning to the right hand or left; on the fifth she traversed the
mountains and half-burnt forests, and arrived on the sixth before the
beautiful screens which concealed from all eyes the voluptuous wanderings
of her son.

It was day-break, and the guards were snoring on their posts in careless
security, when the rough trot of Alboufaki awoke them in consternation.
Imagining that a group of spectres ascended from the abyss was
approaching, they all without ceremony took to their heels.  Vathek was
at that instant with Nouronihar in the bath, hearing tales and laughing
at Bababalouk who related them; but no sooner did the outcry of his
guards reach him, than he flounced from the water like a carp, and as
soon threw himself back at the sight of Carathis, who advancing with her
negresses upon Alboufaki, broke through the muslin awnings and veils of
the pavilion.  At this sudden apparition Nouronihar (for she was not at
all times free from remorse) fancied that the moment of celestial
vengeance was come, and clung about the Caliph in amorous despondence.

Carathis, still seated on her camel, foamed with indignation at the
spectacle which obtruded itself on her chaste view.  She thundered forth
without check or mercy:

“Thou double-headed and four legged monster! what means all this winding
and writhing? art thou not ashamed to be seen grasping this limber
sapling, in preference to the sceptre of the preadimite sultans?  Is it
then for this paltry doxy that thou hast violated the conditions in the
parchment of our Giaour?  Is it on her thou hast lavished thy precious
moments?  Is this the fruit of the knowledge I have taught thee?  Is this
the end of thy journey?  Tear thyself from the arms of this little
simpleton; drown her in the water before me, and instantly follow my

In the first ebullition of his fury, Vathek resolved to make a skeleton
of Alboufaki, and to stuff the skins of Carathis and her blacks; but the
ideas of the Giaour, the palace of Istakar, the sabres, and the
talismans, flashing before his imagination with the simultaneousness of
lightning, he became more moderate, and said to his mother in a civil but
decisive tone:

“Dread lady, you shall be obeyed; but I will not drown Nouronihar; she is
sweeter to me than a Myrabolan comfit, and is enamoured of carbuncles,
especially that of Giamschid, which hath also been promised to be
conferred upon her; she therefore shall go along with us, for I intend to
repose with her beneath the canopies of Soliman; I can sleep no more
without her.”

“Be it so,” replied Carathis alighting, and at the same time committing
Alboufaki to the charge of her women.

Nouronihar, who had not yet quitted her hold, began to take courage, and
said with an accent of fondness to the Caliph:

“Dear sovereign of my soul!  I will follow thee, if it be thy will beyond
the Kaf, in the land of the Afrits.  I will not hesitate to climb for
thee the nest of the Simurgh, who, this lady excepted, is the most awful
of created existences.”

“We have here then,” subjoined Carathis, “a girl both of courage and

Nouronihar had certainly both; but notwithstanding all her firmness, she
could not help casting back a look of regret upon the graces of her
little Gulchenrouz, and the days of tenderness she had participated with
him.  She even dropped a few tears, which Carathis observed, and
inadvertently breathed out with a sigh:

“Alas! my gentle cousin, what will become of him!”

Vathek at this apostrophe knitted up his brows, and Carathis enquired
what it could mean.

“She is preposterously sighing after a stripling with languishing eyes
and soft hair who loves her,” said the Caliph.

“Where is he?” asked Carathis.  “I must be acquainted with this pretty
child; for,” added she, lowering her voice, “I design before I depart to
regain the favour of the Giaour.  There is nothing so delicious in his
estimation as the heart of a delicate boy, palpitating with the first
tumults of love.”

Vathek as he came from the bath commanded Bababalouk to collect the women
and other moveables of his harem, embody his troops, and hold himself in
readiness to march in three days; whilst Carathis retired alone to a
tent, where the Giaour solaced her with encouraging visions; but at
length waking, she found at her feet Nerkes and Cafour, who informed her
by their signs, that having led Alboufaki to the borders of a lake, to
browse on some moss that looked tolerably venomous, they had discovered
certain blue fishes of the same kind with those in the reservoir on the
top of the tower.

“Ah, ah,” said she, “I will go thither to them.  These fish are past
doubt of a species that by a small operation I can render oracular.  They
may tell me where this little Gulchenrouz is, whom I am bent upon

Having thus spoken, she immediately set out with her swarthy retinue.

It being but seldom that time is lost in the accomplishment of a wicked
enterprise, Carathis and her negresses soon arrived at the lake, where,
after burning the magical drugs with which they were always provided,
they, stripping themselves naked, waded to their chins, Nerkes and Cafour
waving torches around them, and Carathis pronouncing her barbarous
incantations.  The fishes with one accord thrust forth their heads from
the water, which was violently rippled by the flutter of their fins, and
at length finding themselves constrained by the potency of the charm,
they opened their piteous mouths, said:

“From gills to tail we are yours; what seek ye to know?”

“Fishes,” answered she, “I conjure you by your glittering scales, tell me
where now is Gulchenrouz?”

“Beyond the rock,” replied the shoal in full chorus: “will this content
you? for we do not delight in expanding our mouths.”

“It will,” returned the princess: “I am not to learn that you like not
long conversations; I will leave you therefore to repose, though I had
other questions to propound.”

The instant she had spoken the water became smooth, and the fishes at
once disappeared.

Carathis, inflated with the venom of her projects, strode hastily over
the rock, and found the amiable Gulchenrouz asleep in an arbour, whilst
the two dwarfs were watching at his side, and ruminating their accustomed
prayers.  These diminutive personages possessed the gift of divining
whenever an enemy to good Mussulmans approached; thus they anticipated
the arrival of Carathis, who stopping short, said to herself:

“How placidly doth he recline his lovely little head! how pale and
languishing are his looks! it is just the very child of my wishes!”

The dwarfs interrupted this delectable soliloquy by leaping instantly
upon her, and scratching her face with their utmost zeal.  But Nerkes and
Cafour betaking themselves to the succour of their mistress, pinched the
dwarfs so severely in return, that they both gave up the ghost, imploring
Mahomet to inflict his sorest vengeance upon this wicked woman and all
her household.

At the noise which this strange conflict occasioned in the valley,
Gulchenrouz awoke, and bewildered with terror sprung impetuously upon an
old fig-tree that rose against the acclivity of the rocks, from thence
gained their summits, and ran for two hours without once looking back.
At last, exhausted with fatigue, he fell as if dead into the arms of a
good old Genius, whose fondness for the company of children had made it
his sole occupation to protect them, and who, whilst performing his
wonted rounds through the air, happening on the cruel Giaour at the
instant of his growling in the horrible chasm, rescued the fifty little
victims which the impiety of Vathek had devoted to his maw.  These the
Genius brought up in nests still higher than the clouds, and himself
fixed his abode in a nest more capacious than the rest, from which he had
expelled the possessors that had built it.

These inviolable asylums were defended against the Dives and the Afrits
by waving streamers, on which were inscribed in characters of gold that
flashed like lightning, the names of Alla and the prophet.  It was there
that Gulchenrouz, who as yet remained undeceived with respect to his
pretended death, thought himself in the mansions of eternal peace.  He
admitted without fear the congratulations of his little friends, who were
all assembled in the nest of the venerable Genius, and vied with each
other in kissing his serene forehead and beautiful eye-lids.  This he
found to be the state congenial to his soul—remote from the inquietudes
of earth—the impertinence of harems—the brutality of eunuchs—and the
lubricity of women.  In this peaceable society his days, months, and
years glided on, nor was he less happy than the rest of his companions,
for the Genius, instead of burdening his pupils with perishable riches,
and the vain sciences of the world, conferred upon them the boon of
perpetual childhood.

Carathis, unaccustomed to the loss of her prey, vented a thousand
execrations on her negresses for not seizing the child, instead of
amusing themselves with pinching to death the dwarfs, from which they
could gain no advantage.  She returned into the valley murmuring, and
finding that her son was not risen from the arms of Nouronihar,
discharged her ill-humour upon both.  The idea, however, of departing
next day for Istakar, and cultivating, through the good offices of the
Giaour, an intimacy with Eblis himself, at length consoled her chagrin:
but fate had ordained it otherwise.

In the evening, as Carathis was conversing with Dilara, who through her
contrivance had become of the party, and whose taste resembled her own,
Bababalouk came to acquaint her “that the sky towards Samarah looked of a
fiery red, and seemed to portend some alarming disaster.”  Immediately
recurring to her astrolabes and instruments of magic, she took the
altitude of the planets, and discovered by her calculations, to her great
mortification, that a formidable revolt had taken place at Samarah; that
Motavakel, availing himself of the disgust which was inveterate against
his brother had incited commotions amongst the populace, made himself
master of the palace, and actually invested the great tower, to which
Morakanabad had retired with a handful of the few that still remained
faithful to Vathek.

“What,” exclaimed she, “must I lose then my tower, my mutes, my
negresses, my mummies, and worse than all, the laboratory, in which I
have spent so many a night, without knowing, at least, if my hair-brained
son will complete his adventure?  No! I will not be the dupe!
Immediately will I speed to support Morakanabad.  By my formidable art
the clouds shall sleet hail-stones in the faces of the assailants, and
shafts of red-hot iron on their heads.  I will spring mines of serpents
and torpedoes from beneath them, and we shall soon see the stand they
will make against such an explosion!”

Having thus spoken, Carathis hasted to her son, who was tranquilly
banqueting with Nouronihar in his superb carnation coloured tent.

“Glutton that thou art,” cried she, “were it not for me, thou wouldst
soon find thyself the commander only of pies.  Thy faithful subjects have
abjured the faith they swore to thee.  Motavakel thy brother now reigns
on the hill of pied horses; and had I not some slight resources in the
tower, would not be easily persuaded to abdicate.  But that time may not
be lost, I shall only add four words: strike tent to-night; set forward;
and beware how thou loiterest again by the way.  Though thou hast
forfeited the conditions of the parchment, I am not yet without hope; for
it cannot be denied that thou hast violated to admiration the laws of
hospitality by seducing the daughter of the emir, after having partaken
of his bread and his salt.  Such a conduct cannot but be delightful to
the Giaour; and if on thy march thou canst signalize thyself by an
additional crime, all will still go well, and thou shalt enter the palace
of Soliman in triumph.  Adieu!  Alboufaki and my negresses are waiting.”

The Caliph had nothing to offer in reply: he wished his mother a
prosperous journey, and eat on till he had finished his supper.  At
midnight the camp broke up, amidst the flourishing of trumpets and other
martial instruments; but loud indeed must have been the sound of the
tymbals, to overpower the blubbering of the emir and his long-beards, who
by an excessive profusion of tears had so far exhausted the radical
moisture, that their eyes shrivelled up in their sockets, and their hairs
dropped off by the roots.  Nouronihar, to whom such a symphony was
painful, did not grieve to get out of hearing.  She accompanied the
Caliph in the imperial litter, where they amused themselves with
imagining the splendour which was soon to surround them.  The other
women, overcome with dejection, were dolefully rocked in their cages,
whilst Dilara consoled herself with anticipating the joy of celebrating
the rites of fire on the stately terraces of Istakar.

In four days they reached the spacious valley of Rocnabad.  The season of
spring was in all its vigour, and the grotesque branches of the almond
trees in full blossom fantastically chequered the clear blue sky.  The
earth, variegated with hyacinths and jonquils, breathed forth a fragrance
which diffused through the soul a divine repose.  Myriads of bees, and
scarce fewer of Santons had there taken up their abode.  On the banks of
the stream hives and oratories were alternately ranged, and their
neatness and whiteness were set off by the deep green of the cypresses
that spired up amongst them.  These pious personages amused themselves
with cultivating little gardens that abounded with flowers and fruits,
especially musk-melons of the best flavour that Persia could boast.
Sometimes dispersed over the meadow they entertained themselves with
feeding peacocks whiter than snow, and turtles more blue than the
sapphire.  In this manner were they occupied when the harbingers of the
imperial procession began to proclaim:

“Inhabitants of Rocnabad, prostrate yourselves on the brink of your pure
waters, and tender your thanksgivings to heaven that vouchsafeth to shew
you a ray of its glory; for lo! the commander of the faithful draws

The poor Santons, filled with holy energy, having bustled to light up wax
torches in their oratories, and expand the koran on their ebony desks,
went forth to meet the Caliph with baskets of honeycomb, dates, and
melons.  But whilst they were advancing in solemn procession and with
measured steps, the horses, camels, and guards wantoned over their tulips
and other flowers, and made a terrible havoc amongst them.  The Santons
could not help casting from one eye a look of pity on the ravages
committing around them, whilst the other was fixed upon the Caliph and
heaven.  Nouronihar, enraptured with the scenery of a place which brought
back to her remembrance the pleasing solitudes where her infancy had
passed, entreated Vathek to stop, but he, suspecting that each oratory
might be deemed by the Giaour a distinct habitation, commanded his
pioneers to level them all.  The Santons stood motionless with horror at
the barbarous mandate, and at last broke out into lamentations, but these
were uttered with so ill a grace, that Vathek bade his eunuchs to kick
them from his presence.  He then descended from the litter with
Nouronihar.  They sauntered together in the meadow, and amused themselves
with culling flowers, and passing a thousand pleasantries on each other.
But the bees, who were staunch Mussulmans, thinking it their duty to
revenge the insult on their dear masters the Santons, assembled so
zealously to do it with effect, that the Caliph and Nouronihar were glad
to find their tents prepared to receive them.

Bababalouk, who in capacity of purveyor, had acquitted himself with
applause, as to peacocks and turtles, lost no time in consigning some
dozens to the spit, and as many more to be fricasseed.  Whilst they were
feasting, laughing, carousing, and blaspheming at pleasure on the banquet
so liberally furnished, the Moullahs, the Sheiks, the Cadis, and Imans of
Schiraz (who seemed not to have met the Santons) arrived, leading by
bridles of ribband, inscribed from the koran, a train of asses which were
loaded with the choicest fruits the country could boast.  Having
presented their offerings to the Caliph, they petitioned him to honour
their city and mosques with his presence.

“Fancy not,” said Vathek, “that you can detain me.  Your presents I
condescend to accept, but beg you will let me be quiet, for I am not over
fond of resisting temptation.  Retire then.  Yet, as it is not decent for
personages so reverend to return on foot, and as you have not the
appearance of expert riders, my eunuchs shall tie you on your asses with
the precaution that your backs be not turned towards me, for they
understand etiquette.”

In this deputation were some high-stomached Sheiks, who taking Vathek for
a fool, scrupled not to speak their opinion.  These Bababalouk girded
with double cords; and having well disciplined their asses with nettles
behind, they all started with a preternatural alertness, plunging,
kicking, and running foul of each other in the most ludicrous manner

Nouronihar and the Caliph mutually contended who should most enjoy so
degrading a sight.  They burst out in volleys of laughter to see the old
men and their asses fall into the stream.  The leg of one was fractured,
the shoulder of another dislocated, the teeth of a third dashed out, and
the rest suffered still worse.

Two days more, undisturbed by fresh embassies, having been devoted to the
pleasures of Rocnabad, the expedition proceeded, leaving Schiraz on the
right, and verging towards a large plain, from whence were discernible on
the edge of the horizon the dark summits of the mountains of Istakar.

At this prospect the Caliph and Nouronihar were unable to repress their
transports.  They bounded from their litter to the ground, and broke
forth into such wild exclamations as amazed all within hearing.
Interrogating each other, they shouted,

“Are we not approaching the radiant palace of light, or gardens more
delightful than those of Sheddad?”

Infatuated mortals! they thus indulged delusive conjecture, unable to
fathom the decrees of the Most High!

The good Genii who had not totally relinquished the superintendence of
Vathek, repairing to Mahomet in the seventh heaven, said:

“Merciful Prophet! stretch forth thy propitious arms towards thy
vicegerent, who is ready to fall irretrievably into the snare which his
enemies the Dives have prepared to destroy him.  The Giaour is awaiting
his arrival in the abominable palace of fire, where if he once set his
foot his perdition will be inevitable.”

Mahomet answered with an air of indignation:

“He hath too well deserved to be resigned to himself; but I permit you to
try if one effort more will be effectual to divert him from pursuing his

One of these beneficent Genii, assuming without delay the exterior of a
shepherd, more renowned for his piety than all the Dervises and Santons
of the region, took his station near a flock of white sheep on the slope
of a hill, and began to pour forth from his flute such airs of pathetic
melody, as subdued the very soul; and awakening remorse, drove far from
it every frivolous fancy.  At these energetic sounds, the sun hid himself
beneath a gloomy cloud; and the waters of two little lakes, that were
naturally clearer than chrystal, became a colour like blood.  The whole
of this superb assembly, was involuntarily drawn towards the declivity of
the hill.  With downcast eyes, they all stood abashed; each upbraiding
himself with the evil he had done.  The heart of Dilara palpitated; and
the chief of the eunuchs, with a sigh of contrition, implored pardon of
the women, whom, for his own satisfaction, he had so often tormented.

Vathek and Nouronihar turned pale in their litter; and, regarding each
other with haggard looks, reproached themselves—the one with a thousand
of the blackest crimes, a thousand projects of impious ambition; the
other, with the desolation of her family, and the perdition of the
amiable Gulchenrouz.  Nouronihar persuaded herself that she heard in the
fatal music the groans of her dying father; and Vathek, the sobs of the
fifty children he had sacrificed to the Giaour.  Amidst these complicated
pangs of anguish, they perceived themselves impelled towards the
shepherd, whose countenance was so commanding, that Vathek, for the first
time, felt overawed; whilst Nouronihar concealed her face with her hands.
The music paused, and the Genius, addressing the Caliph, said:

“Deluded Prince! to whom Providence hath confided the care of innumerable
subjects, is it thus that thou fulfillest thy mission?  Thy crimes are
already completed; and, art thou now hastening towards thy punishment?
Thou knowest, that beyond these mountains, Eblis and his accursed Dives
hold their infernal empire; and seduced by a malignant phantom, thou art
proceeding to surrender thyself to them!  This moment is the last of
grace allowed thee!  Abandon thy atrocious purpose.  Return.  Give back
Nouronihar to her father, who still retains a few sparks of life.
Destroy thy tower, with all its abominations.  Drive Carathis from thy
councils.  Be just to thy subjects.  Respect the ministers of the
Prophet.  Compensate for thy impieties by an exemplary life; and, instead
of squandering thy days in voluptuous indulgence, lament thy crimes on
the sepulchres of thy ancestors.  Thou beholdest the clouds that obscure
the sun; at the instant he recovers his splendour, if thy heart be not
changed, the time of mercy assigned thee will be past for ever.”

Vathek, depressed with fear, was on the point of prostrating himself at
the feet of the shepherd, whom he perceived to be of a nature superior to
man, but his pride prevailing, he audaciously lifted his head, and
glancing at him one of his terrible looks, said:

“Whoever thou art, withhold thy useless admonitions.  Thou wouldst either
delude me, or art thyself deceived.  If what I have done be so criminal
as thou pretendest, there remains not for me a moment of grace.  I have
traversed a sea of blood, to acquire a power which will make thy equals
tremble; deem not that I shall retire when in view of the port; or that I
will relinquish her who is dearer to me than either my life or thy mercy.
Let the sun appear!  Let him illumine my career!  It matters not where it
may end.”

On uttering these words, which made even the Genius shudder, Vathek threw
himself into the arms of Nouronihar, and commanded that his horses should
be forced back to the road.

There was no difficulty in obeying these orders, for the attraction had
ceased, the sun shone forth in all his glory, and the shepherd vanished
with a lamentable scream.

The fatal impression of the music of the Genius remained,
notwithstanding, in the hearts of Vathek’s attendants.  They viewed each
other with looks of consternation.  At the approach of night, almost all
of them escaped; and, of this numerous assemblage, there only remained
the chief of the eunuchs, some idolatrous slaves, Dilara, and a few other
women, who, like herself, were votaries of the religion of the Magi.

The Caliph, fired with the ambition of prescribing laws to the
Intelligences of Darkness, was but little embarrassed at this
dereliction.  The impetuosity of his blood prevented him from sleeping;
nor did he encamp any more as before.  Nouronihar, whose impatience, if
possible, exceeded his own, importuned him to hasten his march, and
lavished on him a thousand caresses, to beguile all reflection.  She
fancied herself already more potent than Balkis; {134} and pictured to
her imagination the Genii falling prostrate at the foot of her throne.
In this manner they advanced by moonlight, till they came within view of
the two towering rocks, that form a kind of portal to the valley, at
whose extremity rose the vast ruins of Istakar.  Aloft on the mountain,
glimmered the fronts of various royal mausoleums, the horror of which was
deepened by the shadows of night.  They passed through two villages,
almost deserted; the only inhabitants remaining being a few feeble old
men, who at the sight of horses and litters fell upon their knees, and
cried out:

“O heaven! is it then by these phantoms that we have been for six months
tormented!  Alas! it was from the terror of these spectres, and the noise
beneath the mountains, that our people have fled, and left us at the
mercy of maleficent spirits!”

The Caliph, to whom these complaints were but unpromising auguries, drove
over the bodies of these wretched old men, and at length arrived at the
foot of the terrace of black marble.  There he descended from his litter,
handing down Nouronihar; both, with beating hearts, stared wildly around
them, and expected, with an apprehensive shudder, the approach of the
Giaour.  But nothing as yet announced his appearance.

A deathlike stillness reigned over the mountain, and through the air.
The moon dilated, on a vast platform, the shades of the lofty columns,
which reached from the terrace almost to the clouds.  The gloomy
watch-towers, whose number could not be counted, were veiled by no roof:
and their capitals, of an architecture unknown in the records of the
earth, served as an asylum for the birds of darkness, which, alarmed at
the approach of such visitants, fled away croaking.

The chief of the eunuchs, trembling with fear, besought Vathek that a
fire might be kindled.

“No!” replied he, “there is no time left to think of such trifles; abide
where thou art, and expect my commands.”

Having thus spoken, he presented his hand to Nouronihar, and ascending
the steps of a vast staircase, reached the terrace, which was flagged
with squares of marble, and resembled a smooth expanse of water, upon
whose surface not a leaf ever dared to vegetate.  On the right rose the
watch-towers, ranged before the ruins of an immense palace, whose walls
were embossed with various figures.  In front stood forth the colossal
forms of four creatures, composed of the leopard and the griffin; and
though but of stone, inspired emotions of terror.  Near these were
distinguished by the splendour of the moon, which streamed full on the
place, characters like those on the sabres of the Giaour, that possessed
the same virtue of changing every moment.  These, after vacillating for
some time, at last fixed in Arabic letters, and prescribed to the Caliph
the following words:

“Vathek! thou hast violated the conditions of my parchment, and deservest
to be sent back; but in favour to thy companion, and as the meed for what
thou hast done to obtain it, Eblis permitteth that the portal of his
palace shall be opened, and the subterranean fire will receive thee into
the number of its adorers.”

He scarcely had read these words before the mountain, against which the
terrace was reared, trembled; and the watch-towers were ready to topple
headlong upon them.  The rock yawned, and disclosed within it a staircase
of polished marble, that seemed to approach the abyss.  Upon each stair
were planted two large torches, like those Nouronihar had seen in her
vision, the camphorated vapour ascending from which gathered into a cloud
under the hollow of the vault.

This appearance, instead of terrifying, gave new courage to the daughter
of Fakreddin.  Scarcely deigning to bid adieu to the moon and the
firmament, she abandoned without hesitation the pure atmosphere, to
plunge into these infernal exhalations.   The gait of those impious
personages was haughty and determined.  As they descended, by the
effulgence of the torches, they gazed on each other with mutual
admiration, and both appeared so resplendent, that they already esteemed
themselves spiritual intelligences.  The only circumstance that perplexed
them, was their not arriving at the bottom of the stairs.  On hastening
their descent, with an ardent impetuosity, they felt their steps
accelerated to such a degree, that they seemed not walking, but falling
from a precipice.  Their progress, however, was at length impeded by a
vast portal of ebony, which the Caliph without difficulty recognized.
Here the Giaour awaited them, with the key in his hand,

“Ye are welcome!” said he to them, with a ghastly smile, “in spite of
Mahomet, and all his dependents.  I will now admit you into that palace,
where you have so highly merited a place.”

Whilst he was uttering these words, he touched the enamelled lock with
his key, and the doors at once expanded with a noise still louder than
the thunder of mountains, and as suddenly recoiled the moment they had

The Caliph and Nouronihar beheld each other with amazement, at finding
themselves in a place which, though roofed with a vaulted ceiling, was so
spacious and lofty, that at first they took it for an immeasurable plain.
But their eyes at length growing to the grandeur of the objects at hand,
they extended their view to those at a distance, and discovered rows of
columns and arcades, which gradually diminished, till they terminated in
a point, radiant as the sun, when he darts his last beams athwart the
ocean.  The pavement, strewed over with gold dust and saffron, exhaled so
subtile an odour, as almost overpowered them.  They, however, went on,
and observed an infinity of censers, in which ambergris and the wood of
aloes were continually burning.  Between the several columns were placed
tables, each spread with a profusion of viands, and wines of every
species, sparkling in vases of chrystal.  A throng of Genii, and other
phantastic spirits, of each sex, danced lasciviously in troops, at the
sound of music which issued from beneath.

In the midst of this immense hall, a vast multitude was incessantly
passing, who severally kept their right hands on their hearts, without
once regarding any thing around them.  They had all the livid paleness of
death.  Their eyes, deep sank in their sockets, resembled those
phosphoric meteors, that glimmer by night in places of interment.  Some
stalked slowly on, absorbed in profound reverie; some shrieking with
agony, ran furiously about, like tigers wounded with poisoned arrows;
whilst others, grinding their teeth in rage, foamed along, more frantic
than the wildest maniac.  They all avoided each other, and though
surrounded by a multitude that no one could number, each wandered at
random unheedful of the rest, as if alone on a desert which no foot had

Vathek and Nouronihar, frozen with terror at a sight so baleful, demanded
of the Giaour what these appearances might mean, and why these ambulating
spectres never withdrew their hands from their hearts.

“Perplex not yourselves,” replied he bluntly, “with so much at once, you
will soon be acquainted with all; let us haste and present you to Eblis.”

They continued their way through the multitude, but notwithstanding their
confidence at first, they were not sufficiently composed to examine with
attention the various perspectives of halls, and of galleries, that
opened on the right hand and left, which were all illuminated by torches
and braziers, whose flames rose in pyramids, to the centre of the vault.
At length they came to a place where long curtains, brocaded with crimson
and gold, fell from all parts, in striking confusion.  Here the choirs
and dances were heard no longer.  The light which glimmered came from

After some time Vathek and Nouronihar perceived a gleam brightening
through the drapery, and entered a vast tabernacle, carpeted with the
skins of leopards.  An infinity of elders, with streaming beards, and
afrits, in complete armour, had prostrated themselves before the ascent
of a lofty eminence, on the top of which, upon a globe of fire, sat the
formidable Eblis.  His person was that of a young man, whose noble and
regular features seemed to have been tarnished by malignant vapours.  In
his large eyes appeared both pride and despair; his flowing hair retained
some resemblance to that of an angel of light.  In his hand, which
thunder had blasted, he swayed the iron sceptre, that causes the monster
Ouranabad, {140} the afrits, and all the powers of the abyss to tremble.
At his presence the heart of the Caliph sank within him, and, for the
first time, he fell prostrate on his face.  Nouronihar, however, though
greatly dismayed, could not help admiring the person of Eblis, for she
expected to have seen some stupendous giant.  Eblis, with a voice more
mild than might be imagined, but such as transfused through the soul the
deepest melancholy, said:

“CREATURES OF CLAY, I receive you into mine empire.  Ye are numbered
amongst my adorers.  Enjoy whatever this palace affords—the treasures of
the preadimite sultans, their bickering sabres, and those talismans that
compel the Dives to open the subterranean expanses of the mountain of
Kaf, which communicate with these.  There, insatiable as your curiosity
may be, shall you find sufficient to gratify it.  You shall possess the
exclusive privilege of entering the fortress of Aherman, and the halls of
Argenk, where are portrayed all creatures endowed with intelligence, and
the various animals that inhabited the earth prior to the creation of
that contemptible being, whom ye denominate the Father of Mankind.”

Vathek and Nouronihar feeling themselves revived and encouraged by this
harangue, eagerly said to the Giaour:

“Bring us instantly to the place which contains these precious

“Come,” answered this wicked Dive, with his malignant grin, “come, and
possess all that my sovereign hath promised, and more.”

He then conducted them into a long aisle adjoining the tabernacle,
preceding them with hasty steps, and followed by his disciples with the
utmost alacrity.  They reached at length a hall of great extent, and
covered with a lofty dome, around which appeared fifty portals of bronze,
secured with as many fastenings of iron.  A funereal gloom prevailed over
the whole scene.  Here, upon two beds of incorruptible cedar, lay
recumbent the fleshless forms of the preadimite kings, who had been
monarchs of the whole earth.  They still possessed enough of life to be
conscious of their deplorable condition.  Their eyes retained a
melancholy motion; they regarded each other with looks of the deepest
dejection, each holding his right hand motionless on his heart.  At their
feet were inscribed the events of their several reigns, their power,
their pride, and their crimes.  Soliman Raad, Soliman Daki, and Soliman
Di Gian Ben Gian, who, after having chained up the Dives in the dark
caverns of Kaf, became so presumptuous, as to doubt of the Supreme Power.
All these maintained great state, though not to be compared with the
eminence of Soliman Ben Daoud.

This king, so renowned for his wisdom, was on the loftiest elevation, and
placed immediately under the dome.  He appeared to possess more animation
than the rest, though, from time to time, he laboured with profound
sighs, and, like his companions, kept his right hand on his heart; yet
his countenance was more composed, and he seemed to be listening to the
sullen roar of a vast cataract, visible in part through the grated
portals.  This was the only sound that intruded on the silence of these
doleful mansions.  A range of brazen vases surrounded the elevation.

“Remove the covers from these cabalistic depositaries,” said the Giaour
to Vathek, “and avail thyself of the talismans, which will break asunder
all these gates of bronze, and not only render thee master of the
treasures contained within them, but also of the spirits by which they
are guarded.”

The Caliph, whom this ominous preliminary had entirely disconcerted,
approached the vases with faltering footsteps, and was ready to sink with
terror, when he heard the groans of Soliman.  As he proceeded, a voice
from the livid lips of the prophet articulated these words:

“In my lifetime, I filled a magnificent throne, having on my right hand
twelve thousand seats of gold, where the patriarchs and prophets heard my
doctrines; on my left the sages and doctors, upon as many thrones of
silver, were present at all my decisions.  Whilst I thus administered
justice to innumerable multitudes, the birds of the air librating over
me, served as a canopy from the rays of the sun.  My people flourished,
and my palace rose to the clouds.  I erected a temple to the Most High,
which was the wonder of the universe; but I basely suffered myself to be
seduced by the love of women, and a curiosity that could not be
restrained by sub-lunary things.  I listened to the counsels of Aherman,
and the daughter of Pharaoh; and adored fire, and the host of heaven.  I
forsook the holy city, and commanded the Genii to rear the stupendous
palace of Istakar, and the terrace of the watch-towers, each of which was
consecrated to a star.  There for a while I enjoyed myself in the zenith
of glory and pleasure.  Not only men, but supernatural existences were
subject also to my will.  I began to think, as these unhappy monarchs
around had already thought, that the vengeance of heaven was asleep, when
at once the thunder burst my structures asunder, and precipitated me
hither; where, however, I do not remain like the other inhabitants
totally destitute of hope, for an angel of light hath revealed, that in
consideration of the piety of my early youth, my woes shall come to an
end when this cataract shall for ever cease to flow.  Till then I am in
torments, ineffable torments, an unrelenting fire preys on my heart.”

Having uttered this exclamation, Soliman raised his hands towards heaven,
in token of supplication, and the Caliph discerned through his bosom,
which was transparent as crystal, his heart enveloped in flames.  At a
sight so full of horror, Nouronihar fell back like one petrified, into
the arms of Vathek, who cried out with a convulsive sob:

“O Giaour! whither hast thou brought us!  Allow us to depart, and I will
relinquish all thou hast promised.  O Mahomet! remains there no more

“None! none!” replied the malicious Dive.  “Know, miserable prince, thou
art now in the abode of vengeance, and despair.  Thy heart, also, will be
kindled, like those of the other votaries of Eblis.  A few days are
allotted thee previous to this fatal period: employ them as thou wilt.
Recline on these heaps of gold: command the Infernal Potentates: range at
thy pleasure through these immense subterranean domains.  No barrier
shall be shut against thee.  As for me, I have fulfilled my mission.  I
now leave thee to thyself.”

At these words he vanished.

The Caliph and Nouronihar remained in the most abject affliction.  Their
tears unable to flow, scarcely could they support themselves.  At length,
taking each other despondingly by the hand, they went faltering from this
fatal hall, indifferent which way they turned their steps.  Every portal
opened at their approach.  The Dives fell prostrate before them.  Every
reservoir of riches was disclosed to their view, but they no longer felt
the incentives of curiosity, pride, or avarice.  With like apathy they
heard the chorus of Genii, and saw the stately banquets prepared to
regale them.  They went wandering on from chamber to chamber, hall to
hall, and gallery to gallery; all without bounds or limit; all
distinguishable by the same lowering gloom; all adorned with the same
awful grandeur; all traversed by persons in search of repose and
consolation, but who sought them in vain, for every one carried within
him a heart tormented in flames.  Shunned by these various sufferers, who
seemed by their looks to be upbraiding the partners of their guilt, they
withdrew from them, to wait in direful suspense the moment which should
render them to each other the like objects of terror.

“What,” exclaimed Nouronihar, “will the time come, when I shall snatch my
hand from thine!”

“Ah!” said Vathek, “and shall my eyes ever cease to drink from thine long
draughts of enjoyment!  Shall the moments of our reciprocal ecstasies be
reflected on with horror!  It was not thou that broughtest me hither; the
principles by which Carathis perverted my youth have been the sole cause
of my perdition!”

Having given vent to these painful expressions, he called to an Afrit,
who was stirring up one of the braziers, and bade him fetch the Princess
Carathis from the palace of Samarah.

After issuing these orders, the Caliph and Nouronihar continued walking
amidst the silent crowd, till they heard voices at the end of the
gallery.  Presuming them to proceed from some unhappy beings, who like
themselves were awaiting their final doom, they followed the sound, and
found it to come from a small square chamber, where they discovered
sitting on sofas, five young men of goodly figure, and a lovely female,
who were all holding a melancholy conversation, by the glimmering of a
lonely lamp.  Each had a gloomy and forlorn air, and two of them were
embracing each other with great tenderness.  On seeing the Caliph and the
daughter of Fakreddin enter they arose, saluted, and gave them place.
Then he who had appeared the most considerable of the group, addressed
himself thus to Vathek:

“Strangers! who doubtless are in the same state of suspense as ourselves,
as you do not yet bear your hand on your heart, if you are come hither to
pass the interval allotted previous to the infliction of our common
punishment, condescend to relate the adventures that have brought you to
this fatal place; and we in return will acquaint you with ours; which
deserves but too well to be heard.  We will trace back our crimes to
their source, though we are not permitted to repent.  This is the only
employment suited to wretches like us.”

The Caliph and Nouronihar assented to the proposal, and Vathek began, not
without tears and lamentations, a sincere recital of every circumstance
that had passed.  When the afflicting narrative was closed, the young man
entered on his own.  Each person proceeded in order, and when the fourth
prince had reached the midst of his adventures, a sudden noise
interrupted him, which caused the vault to tremble, and to open.

Immediately a cloud descended, which gradually dissipating, discovered
Carathis, on the back of an Afrit, who grievously complained of his
burden.  She, instantly springing to the ground, advanced towards her
son, and said:

“What dost thou here, in this little square chamber?  As the Dives are
become subject to thy beck, I expected to have found thee on the throne
of the preadimite kings.”

“Execrable woman!” answered the Caliph; “cursed be the day thou gavest me
birth!  Go! follow this Afrit; let him conduct thee to the hall of the
Prophet Soliman; there thou wilt learn to what these palaces are
destined, and how much I ought to abhor the impious knowledge thou hast
taught me.”

“The height of power to which thou art arrived, has certainly turned thy
brain,” answered Carathis; “but I ask no more, than permission to show my
respect for the prophet.  It is, however, proper thou shouldst know,
that, as the Afrit has informed me neither of us shall return to Samarah,
I requested his permission to arrange my affairs, and he politely
consented.  Availing myself, therefore, of the few moments allowed me, I
set fire to the tower, and consumed in it the mutes, negresses, and
serpents, which have rendered me so much good service; nor should I have
been less kind to Morakanabad, had he not prevented me, by deserting at
last to thy brother.  As for Bababalouk, who had the folly to return to
Samarah, and all the good brotherhood to provide husbands for thy wives,
I undoubtedly would have put them to the torture, could I but have
allowed them the time.  Being, however, in a hurry, I only hung him,
after having caught him in a snare with thy wives; whilst them I buried
alive by the help of my negresses, who thus spent their last moments,
greatly to their satisfaction.  With respect to Dilara, who ever stood
high in my favour, she hath evinced the greatness of her mind, by fixing
herself near, in the service of one of the Magi, and, I think, will soon
be our own.”

Vathek, too much cast down to express the indignation excited by such a
discourse, ordered the Afrit to remove Carathis from his presence, and
continued immersed in thought, which his companions durst not disturb.

Carathis, however, eagerly entered the dome of Soliman, and, without
regarding in the least the groans of the Prophet, undauntedly removed the
covers of the vases, and violently seized on the talismans.  Then, with a
voice more loud than had hitherto been heard in these mansions, she
compelled the Dives to disclose to her the most secret treasures, the
most profound stores, which the Afrit himself had not seen.  She passed
by rapid descents known only to Eblis and his most favoured Potentates,
and thus penetrated the very entrails of the earth, where breathes the
Sansar, or icy wind of death.  Nothing appalled her dauntless soul.  She
perceived, however, in all the inmates who bore their hands on their
heart, a little singularity not much to her taste.  As she was emerging
from one of the abysses, Eblis stood forth to her view, but,
notwithstanding he displayed the full effulgence of his infernal majesty,
she preserved her countenance unaltered, and even paid her compliments
with considerable firmness.

This superb monarch thus answered:

“PRINCESS, whose knowledge and whose crimes have merited a conspicuous
rank in my empire, thou doest well to employ the leisure that remains,
for the flames and torments which are ready to seize on thy heart, will
not fail to provide thee with full employment.”

He said this, and was lost in the curtains of his tabernacle.

Carathis paused for a moment with surprise, but, resolved to follow the
advice of Eblis, she assembled all the choirs of Genii, and all the
Dives, to pay her homage.  Thus marched she in triumph through a vapour
of perfumes, amidst the acclamations of all the malignant spirits; with
most of whom she had formed a previous acquaintance.  She even attempted
to dethrone one of the Solimans, for the purpose of usurping his place,
when a voice, proceeding from the Abyss of Death, proclaimed:


Instantaneously, the haughty forehead of the intrepid princess became
corrugated with agony; she uttered a tremendous yell, and fixed—no more
to be withdrawn—her right hand upon her heart, which was become a
receptacle of eternal fire.

In this delirium, forgetting all ambitious projects, and her thirst for
that knowledge which should ever be hidden from mortals, she overturned
the offerings of the Genii; and, having execrated the hour she was
begotten, and the womb that had borne her, glanced off in a whirl that
rendered her invisible, and continued to revolve without intermission.

At almost the same instant, the same voice announced to the Caliph,
Nouronihar, the five princes, and the princess, the awful and irrevocable
decree.  Their hearts immediately took fire, and they at once lost the
most precious of the gifts of heaven—HOPE.  These unhappy beings
recoiled, with looks of the most furious distraction.  Vathek beheld in
the eyes of Nouronihar nothing but rage and vengeance; nor could she
discern ought in his but aversion and despair.  The two princes who were
friends, and till that moment had preserved their attachment, shrunk
back, gnashing their teeth with mutual and unchangeable hatred.  Kalilah
and his sister made reciprocal gestures of imprecation; whilst the two
other princes testified their horror for each other by the most ghastly
convulsions, and screams that could not be smothered.  All severally
plunged themselves into the accursed multitude, there to wander in an
eternity of unabating anguish.

Such was, and such should be, the punishment of unrestrained passions,
and atrocious actions.  Such is, and such should be, the chastisement of
blind ambition, that would transgress those bounds which the Creator hath
prescribed to human knowledge, and by aiming at discoveries reserved for
pure intelligence, acquire that infatuated pride, which perceives not the
condition appointed to man is, TO BE IGNORANT AND HUMBLE.

Thus the CALIPH VATHEK who, for the sake of empty pomp and forbidden
power, hath sullied himself with a thousand crimes, became a prey to
grief without end, and remorse without mitigation; whilst the humble and
despised GULCHENROUZ passed whole ages in undisturbed tranquillity, and
the pure happiness of childhood.


{7a}  _Caliph_.  This title amongst the Mahometans comprehends the
concrete character of prophet, priest, and king; and is used to signify
_the Vicar of God on earth_.—Habesci’s State of the Ottoman Empire, p. 9.
Herbelot, p. 985.

{7b}  _One of his eyes became so terrible_.  The author of Nighiaristan
hath preserved a fact that supports this account; and there is no history
of Vathek, in which his _terrible eye_ is not mentioned.

{8a}  _Omar Ben Abdalaziz_.  This Caliph was eminent above all others for
temperance and self-denial; insomuch, that he is believed to have been
raised to Mahomet’s bosom, as a reward for his abstinence in an age of
corruption.  Herbelot, p. 690.

{8b}  _Samarah_.  A city of the Babylonian Irak, supposed to have stood
on the site where Nimrod erected his tower.  Khondemir relates, in his
life of Motassem, that this prince, to terminate the disputes which were
perpetually happening between the inhabitants of Bagdat and his Turkish
slaves, withdrew from thence; and, having fixed on a situation in the
plain of Catoul, there founded Samarah.  He is said to have had in the
stables of this city a hundred and thirty thousand pied horses; each of
which carried, by his order, a sack of earth to a place he had chosen.
By this accumulation, an elevation was formed that commanded a view of
all Samarah, and served for the foundation of his magnificent palace.
Herbelot, p. 752, 808, 985.  Anecdotes Arabes, p. 413.

{9}  _Houris_.  The Virgins of Paradise, called, from their large black
eyes, _Hur al oyun_.  An intercourse with these, according to the
institution of Mahomet, is to constitute the principal felicity of the
faithful.  Not formed of clay, like mortal women, they are deemed in the
highest degree beautiful, and exempt from every inconvenience incident to
the sex.  Al Koran; passim.

{10}  _Genii_.  Genn or Ginn, in the Arabic, signifies a Genius or
Demon—a being of a higher order, and formed of more subtile matter than
man.  According to Oriental mythology, the Genii governed the world long
before the creation of Adam.  The Mahometans regarded them as an
intermediate race between angels and men, and capable of salvation:
whence Mahomet pretended a commission to convert them.  Consonant to
this, we read that, “When the servant of God stood up to invoke him, it
wanted little but that the Genii had pressed on him in crowds, to hear
him rehearse the Koran.”  Herbelot, p. 357.  Al Koran ch. 72.

{23}  _Accursed Giaour_.  Dives of this kind are frequently mentioned by
Eastern writers.  Consult their tales in general, and especially those of
“The Fisherman,” “Aladdin,” and “The Princess of China.”

{26a}  _Bababalouk_, _the Chief of his Eunuchs_.  As it was the
employment of the black eunuchs to wait upon, and guard the sultanas, to
the general superintendence of the Harem was particularly committed to
their chief.  Habesci’s State of the Ottoman Empire, p. 155–6.

{26b}  _The Divan_.  This was both the supreme council, and court of
justice, at which the Caliphs of the race of the Abassides assisted in
person to redress the injuries of every appellant.  Herbelot, p. 298.

{27}  _The Prime Vizier_.  Vazir, Vezir, or as we express it, Vizier,
literally signifies a porter; and by metaphor, the minister who bears the
principal burden of the state.

{50}  _Gian Ben Gian_.  By this appellation was distinguished the monarch
of that species of beings, whom the Arabians denominate _Gian_ or _Ginn_,
that is, _Genii_; and the Tarik Thabari, _Peres_, _Feez_, or _Faeries_.

{51}  _Rocnabad_.  The stream thus denominated flows near the city of
Schiraz.  Its waters are uncommonly pure and limpid, and their banks
swarded with the finest verdure.

{53}  _Moullahs_.  Those among the Mahometans who were bred to the law
had this title; and from their order the judges of cities and provinces
were taken.

{55}  _Bababalouk almost sunk with confusion_, _whilst_, _etc._  The
heinousness of Vathek’s profanation can only be judged of by an orthodox
Mussulman; or one who recollects the ablution and prayer indispensably
required on the exoneration of nature.  Sale’s Prelim. Disc. p. 139.  Al
Koran, ch. 4.  Habesci’s State of the Ottoman Empire, p. 93.

{67a}  _Horrible Kaf_.  This mountain, which in reality is no other than
Caucasus, was supposed to surround the earth, like a ring encompassing a
finger.  The sun was believed to rise from one of its eminences (as over
Octa, by the Latin poets) and to set on the opposite; whence “from Kaf to
Kaf,” signified from one extremity of the earth to the other.

{67b}  _The Simurgh_.  This is that wonderful bird of the East concerning
which so many marvels are told.  It was not only endowed with reason, but
possessed also the knowledge of every language.  This creature relates of
itself, that it had seen the great revolution of seven thousand years,
twelve times, commence and close; and, that in its duration, the world
had been seven times void of inhabitants, and as often replenished.  The
Simurgh is represented as a great friend to the race of Adam, and not
less inimical to the Dives.

{67c}  _Afrits_.  These were a kind of Medusa, or Lamia, supposed to be
the most terrible and cruel of all the orders of the Dives.  Herbelot, p.

{68}  _Deggial_.  This word signifies properly a liar and imposter, but
is applied by Mahometan writers to their Antichrist.  He is described as
having but one eye and eyebrow, and on his forehead the radicals of
_cafer_, or infidel, are said to be impressed.

{79a}  _Calenders_.  These were a sort of men amongst the Mahometans who
abandoned father and mother, wife and children, relations and
possessions, to wander through the world, under a pretence of religion,
entirely subsisting on the fortuitous bounty of those they had the
address to dupe.  Herbelot, Suppl. p. 204.

{79b}  _Santons_.  A body of religionists who were also called _Abdals_,
and pretended to be inspired with the most enthusiastic raptures of
divine love.  They were regarded by the vulgar as saints.  Olearius, Tom.
I. p. 971.  Herbelot, p. 5.

{79c}  _Dervises_.  The term _dervise_ signifies a poor man, and is the
general appellation by which a religious sect amongst the Mahometans is

{79d}  _Brahmins_.  These constituted the principal caste of the Indians,
according to whose doctrines Brahma, from whom they are called, is the
first of the three created beings by whom the world was made.  This
Brahma is said to have communicated to the Indians four books, in which
all the sciences and ceremonies of their religion are comprised.

{79e}  _Faquirs_.  This sect were a kind of religious anchorites, who
spent their whole lives in the severest austerities and mortification.

{82}  _Peries_.  The word Peri, in the Persian language, signifies that
beautiful race of creatures which constitutes the link between angels and

{134}  _Balkis_.  This was the Arabian name of the Queen of Sheba, who
went from the South to hear the wisdom and admire the glory of Solomon.
The Koran represents her as a worshipper of fire.  Solomon is said not
only to have entertained her with the greatest magnificence, but also to
have raised her to his bed and his throne.  Al Koran, ch. 27, and Sale’s
notes.  Herbelot, p. 182.

{140}  _Ouranabad_.  This monster is represented as a fierce flying
hydra, and belongs to the same class with the _Rakshe_, whose ordinary
food was serpents and dragons; the _Soham_, which had the head of a
horse, with four eyes, and the body of a flame-coloured dragon; the
_Syl_, a basilisk with a face resembling the human, but so tremendous
that no mortal could bear to behold it; the _Ejder_, and others.  See
these respective titles in Richardson’s Dictionary, Persian, Arabic and

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