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The Flowers Personified


Section 2

 

THE SULTANA TULIPIA.


[1] [2] [3] [4]

 

 II.

THE HAREM

The sultan Shahabaam, singling out, at a glance of his eagle eye, the beautiful Tulipia, said immediately, -- “She is a Circassian.”

          The consequence was, that he named her for his favorite sultana.

          This situation was brilliant, but treacherous, under a prince so fantastic, capricious, and devoted to pleasure, as was the sultan Shahabaam.

          Accordingly Tulipia’s influence, which at first was unbounded, gradually declined.

          Shahabaam first transferred his affections to a bear, and then to red fishes. In about three months, it was considered settled in the seraglio, that an actress from the Varietés, lately taken captive, would soon be promoted to the rank of chief sultana.

          Had Tulipia’s ambition equaled her beauty, she might long have preserved her power. But she was indifferent. Her mind was inactive. She knew not how to sing, to dance, to make puns, or to solve riddles; and these were great deficiencies in the eyes of a master so sagacious as Shahabaam.

          The chief sultana’s apartments looked out on a splendid garden. Open blinds gave admission to the cool breezes, which played among the slats with flashes of bright reflection. As Tulipia, weeping, reclined upon her ottoman, she uttered, in broken phrases, the following soliloquy: --

          “Why did fate assign to me a master so intellectual as Shahabaam? I am handsome – but that is all. The tulip has nothing to boast of but her figure. Then I had selected so happily my former residence.  I wished to live, and I had, in fact, become a Dutch-woman. It would seem that fortune had undertaken to favor me still more, when she caused me to fall into the hands of the Barbary corsair. Have I not, indeed, all the requisites of an odah-lic, whose entire duties are comprised in these two words – pleasure and beauty? But how unfortunately has it all turned out! Does any one of you know this rival, whom Shahabaam prefers to me?”

          Tulipia said this to a group of females reclining at her feet upon the carpet.

          These women, as the intelligent reader has probably discovered were so many flowers, which had selected the seraglio for their abode: some of them, like the tuberose and the monkshood, from their ardent and voluptuous disposition; others from their indifference, as the hortensia and the snowball.

“You have to do with a powerful competitor, my dear Tulip,” said the Monkshood. “This actress from the Varietés is no other than our sister, Rose-pompon,* with whose sprightly graces you are well acquainted.”

          *The Provence rose.

          “I am ruined,” mournfully exclaimed the Tulip. “Were any other than Shahabaam to decide, I should not hesitate to enter the lists against Rose-pompon; but with him it is impossible.”