'Great queen!' answered King Beder, 'how can I be tired of so many favours and graces as your majesty perpetually heaps upon me? I must own, however, it is partly for this reason, that, my uncle loving me so tenderly, as I well know he does, and I having been absent from him now forty days, without once seeing him, I would not give him reason to think that I consent to remain longer without seeing him.'
'Go,' said the queen, 'you have my consent; but do not be long before you return.' This said, she ordered him a horse richly caparisoned, and he departed.
Old Abdallah was overjoyed to see King Beder; he embraced him tenderly, and King Beder did the same. As soon as they had sat down, 'Well,' said Abdallah to the king, 'how have you been, and how have you passed your time with that infidel sorceress?'
'Hitherto,' answered King Beder, 'I must needs own she has been extraordinarily kind to me, but I observed something last night which gives me just reason to suspect that all her kindness hitherto is but dissimulation.' He related to Abdallah how and after what manner he had seen her make the cake; and then added, 'Hitherto, I must needs confess I had almost forgotten, not only you, but all the advice you gave me concerning the wickedness of this queen; but this last action of hers gives me reason to fear she does not intend to observe any of her promises or solemn oaths to you. I thought of you immediately, and I esteem myself happy in that I have obtained permission to come to you.'
'You are not mistaken,' replied old Abdallah with a smile, which showed he did not himself believe she would have acted otherwise, 'nothing is capable of obliging a treacherous person to amend. But fear nothing. I know the way to make the mischief she intends for you fall upon herself. You are alarmed in time; and you could not have done better than to have recourse to me. It is her ordinary practice to keep her lovers only forty days, and after that time, instead of sending them home, to turn them into animals, to stock her forests and parks; but I thought of measures yesterday to prevent her doing you the same harm. The earth has borne this monster long enough, and it is now high time she should be treated as she deserves.'
So saying, Abdallah put two cakes into King Beder's hands, bidding him keep them to make use of as he should direct. 'You told me,' continued he, 'the sorceress made a cake last night; it was for you to eat, depend upon it; but take great care you do not touch it. Nevertheless, do not refuse to receive it when she offers it you; but instead of tasting it, break off part of one of the two I shall give you, unobserved, and eat that. As soon as she thinks you have swallowed it, she will not fail to attempt transforming you into some animal, but she will not succeed; when she sees that she will immediately turn the thing into a joke, as if what she had done was only to frighten you. But she will conceal a mortal grief in her heart, and think she omitted something in the composition of her cake. As for the other cake, you shall make a present of it to her and press her to eat it; which she will not refuse to do, were it only to convince you she does not mistrust you, though she has given you so much reason to mistrust her. When she has eaten of it, take a little water in the hollow of your hand, and throwing it in her face, say, "Quit that form you now wear, and take that of such and such an animal" as you think fit; which done, come to me with the animal, and I will tell you what you shall do afterwards.'
King Beder thanked Abdallah in the most expressive terms, and took his leave of him and returned to the palace. Upon his arrival, he understood that the queen waited for him with great impatience in the garden. He went to her, and she no sooner perceived him, than she came in great haste to meet him. 'My dear Beder!' said she, 'it seems ages since I have been separated from you. If you had stayed ever so little longer, I was preparing to come and fetch you.'
'Madam,' replied King Beder, 'I can assure your majesty I was no less impatient to rejoin you; but I could not refuse to stay a little longer with an uncle that loves me, and had not seen me for so long a time. He would have kept me still longer, but I tore myself away from him, to come where love calls me. Of all he prepared for me, I have only brought away this cake, which I desire your majesty to accept.' King Beder had wrapped up one of the two cakes in a handkerchief very neatly, took it out, and presented it to the queen, saying, 'I beg your majesty to accept it.'
'I do accept it with all my heart,' replied the queen, 'and will eat it with pleasure for your and your good uncle's sake; but before I taste it, I desire you for my sake to eat a piece of this, which I have made for you during your absence.'
'Fair queen,' answered King Beder, receiving it with great respect, I cannot sufficiently acknowledge the favour you do me.'
King Beder then artfully substituted in the place of the queen's cake the other which old Abdallah had given him, and having broken off a piece, he put it in his mouth, and cried, while he was eating, 'Ah! queen, I never tasted anything so charming in my life.'
Being near a cascade, as the sorceress saw him swallow one bit of the cake, and ready to eat another, she took a little water in the palm of her hand, throwing it in the king's face, said, 'Wretch! quit that form of a man, and take that of a vile horse, blind and lame.'
These words not having the desired effect, the sorceress was strangely surprised to find King Beder still in the same form, and that he only started for fear. Her cheeks reddened; and as she saw that she had missed her aim, 'Dear Beder,' cried she, 'this is nothing; recover yourself. I did not intend you any harm; I only did it to see what you would say.'
'Powerful queen,' replied King Beder, 'persuaded as I am that what your majesty did was only to divert yourself, yet I could not help being surprised. But, madam,' continued he, 'let us drop this, and since I have eaten your cake, would you do me the favour to taste mine?'
Queen Labe, who could not better justify herself than by showing this mark of confidence in the King of Persia, broke off a piece of his cake, and ate it. She had no sooner swallowed it than she appeared much troubled, and remained as it were motionless. King Beder lost no time, but took water out of the same basin, and throwing it in her face, cried, 'Abominable sorceress! quit that form of a woman, and be turned instantly into a mare.'
The same instant Queen Labe was transformed into a very beautiful mare; and her confusion was so great to find herself in that condition, that she shed tears in great abundance, which perhaps no mare before had ever been known to do. She bowed her head to the feet of King Beder, thinking to move him to compassion; but though he could have been so moved, it was absolutely out of his power to repair the mischief he had done. He led her into the stable belonging to the palace, and put her into the hands of a groom, to bridle and saddle; but of all the bridles which the groom tried upon her, not one would fit her. This made him cause two horses to be saddled, one for the groom, and the other for himself; and the groom led the mare after him to old Abdallah's.
Abdallah, seeing at a distance King Beder coming with the mare, doubted not but he had done what he advised him. 'Hateful sorceress!' said he immediately to himself in a transport of joy, 'Heaven has at length punished thee as thou deservest.' King Beder alighted at Abdallah's door, and entered the shop, embracing and thanking him for all the signal services he had done him. He related to him the whole matter, and told him that he could find no bridle fit for the mare. Abdallah, who had one for every horse, bridled the mare himself, and as soon as King Beder had sent back the groom with the two horses, he said to him, 'My lord, you have no reason to stay any longer in this city: mount the mare, and return to your kingdom. I have but one thing more to recommend to you; and that is, if you should ever happen to part with the mare, be sure not to give up the bridle.' King Beder promised to remember it; and having taken leave of the good old man, he departed.
The young King of Persia no sooner got out of the city, than he began to reflect with joy on the deliverance he had had, and that he had the sorceress in his power, who had given him so much cause to tremble. Three days after he arrived at a great city, where, entering the suburbs, he met a venerable old man. 'Sir,' said the old man, stopping him, 'may I presume to ask from what part of the world you come?' The king stopped to tell him, and as they were discoursing together, an old woman came up; who, stopping likewise, wept and sighed bitterly at the sight of the mare.
King Beder and the old man left off discoursing, to look at the old woman, whom the king asked what cause she had to lament so much, 'Alas! sir,' replied she, 'it is because your mare resembles so perfectly one my son had, which I still mourn the loss of on his account. I should think yours were the same, did I not know she was dead. Sell her to me, I beseech you: I will give you more than she is worth, and thank you too.'
'Good woman,' replied King Beder, 'I am heartily sorry I cannot comply with your request: my mare is not to be sold.'
'Alas! sir,' continued the old woman, 'do not refuse me this favour. My son and I will certainly die with grief if you do not grant it.'
'Good mother,' replied the king, 'I would grant it with all my heart, if I was disposed to part with so good a beast; but if I were so disposed, I believe you would hardly give a thousand pieces of gold for her, and I could not sell her for less.'
'Why should I not give so much?' replied the old woman: 'if that be the lowest price, you need only say you will take it, and I will fetch you the money.'
King Beder, seeing the old woman so poorly dressed, could not imagine she could find the money; therefore to try her, he said, 'Go, fetch me the money, and the mare is yours.' The old woman immediately unloosed a purse she had fastened to her girdle, and desiring him to alight, bade him tell over the money, and in case he found it came short of the sum demanded, she said her house was not far off, and she could quickly fetch the rest.
The surprise of King Beder, at the sight of this purse, was not small. 'Good woman,' said he, 'do you not perceive I have been bantering you all this while? I assure you my mare is not to be sold.'
The old man, who had been witness to all that was said, now began to speak. 'Son,' quoth he to King Beder, 'it is necessary you should know one thing, which I find you are ignorant of; and that is, that in this city it is not permitted to any one to tell a lie, on any account whatsoever, on pain of death. You cannot refuse taking this good woman's money, and delivering your mare, when she gives you the sum according to the agreement; and this you had better do without any noise, than expose yourself to what may happen.'
King Beder, sorely afflicted to find himself thus trapped by his rash offer, alighted with great regret. The old woman stood ready to seize the bridle, and immediately unbridled the mare, and taking some water in her hand, from a stream that ran in the middle of the street, she threw it in the mare's face, uttering these words, 'Daughter, quit that strange shape, and re-assume thine own.' The transformation was effected in a moment, and King Beder, who swooned as soon as he saw Queen Labe appear, would have fallen to the ground, if the old man had not caught him.
The old woman, who was mother to Queen Labe, and had instructed her in all her magic secrets, had no sooner embraced her daughter, than to show her fury, she whistled. Immediately rose a genie of gigantic form and stature. This genie took King Beder on one shoulder, and the old woman with the magic queen on the other, and transported them in a few minutes to the palace of Queen Labe in the City of Enchantments.
The magic queen immediately fell upon King Beder, 'Is it thus, ungrateful wretch,' said she, 'that thou and thy unworthy uncle repay me for all the kindnesses I have done for you? I shall soon make you both feel what you deserve.' She said no more, but taking water in her hand, threw it in his face with these words, 'Come out of that shape, and take that of a vile owl.' These words were followed by the effect, and immediately she commanded one of her women to shut up the owl in a cage, and give him neither meat nor drink.
The woman took the cage, and without regarding what the queen ordered, gave him both meat and drink; and being old Abdallah's friend, she sent him word privately how the queen had treated his nephew, and of her design to destroy both him and King Beder, that he might give orders to prevent it and save himself.
Abdallah knew no common measures would do with Queen Labe: he therefore did but whistle after a certain manner, and there immediately arose a vast giant, with four wings, who, presenting himself before him, asked what he wanted. 'Lightning,' said Abdallah to him (for so was the genie called), 'I command you to preserve the life of King Beder, son of Queen Gulnare. Go to the palace of the magic queen, and transport immediately to the capital of Persia the compassionate woman who has the cage in custody, so that she may inform Queen Gulnare of the danger the king her son is in, and the occasion he has for her assistance. Take care not to frighten her when you come before her and tell her from me what she ought to do.'
Lightning immediately disappeared, and got in an instant to the palace of the magic queen. He instructed the woman, lifted her up into the air, and transported her to the capital of Persia, where he placed her on the terrace near the apartment where Queen Gulnare was. She went downstairs to the apartment, and she there found Queen Gulnare and Queen Farasche her mother lamenting their misfortunes. She made them a profound obeisance and they soon understood the great need that King Beder was in of their assistance.
Queen Gulnare was so overjoyed at the news, that rising from her seat, she went and embraced the good woman, telling her how much she was obliged to her for the service she had done.
Then immediately going out, she commanded the trumpets to sound, and the drums to beat, to acquaint the city that the King of Persia would suddenly return safe to his kingdom. She then went again, and found King Saleh her brother, whom Queen Farasche had caused to come speedily thither by a certain fumigation. 'Brother,' said she to him, 'the king your nephew, my dear son, is in the City of Enchantments, under the power of Queen Labe. Both you and I must go to deliver him, for there is no time to be lost.'
King Saleh forthwith assembled a powerful body of his marine troops, who soon rose out of the sea. He also called to his assistance the genies, his allies, who appeared with a much more numerous army than his own. As soon as the two armies were joined, he put himself at the head of them, with Queen Farasche, Queen Gulnare, and the princesses. They then lifted themselves up into the air, and soon poured down on the palace and City of Enchantments, where the magic queen, her mother, and all the adorers of fire, were destroyed in an instant.
Queen Gulnare had ordered the woman who brought her the news of Queen Labe's transforming and imprisoning her son to follow her closely, and bade her go, and in the confusion, seize the cage, and bring it to her. This order was executed as she wished, and Queen Gulnare was no sooner in possession of the cage than she opened it and took out the owl, saying, as she sprinkled a little water upon him, 'My dear son, quit that strange form, and resume thy natural one of a man.'
In a moment Queen Gulnare no more saw the hideous owl, but King Beder her son. She immediately embraced him with an excess of joy. She could not find in her heart to let him go; and Queen Farasche was obliged to force him from her in her turn. After her, he was likewise embraced by the king his uncle and his relations.
Queen Gulnare's first care was to look out for old Abdallah, to whom she had been indebted for the recovery of the King of Persia. When he was brought to her, she said, 'My obligations to you, sir, have been so great, that there is nothing in my power that I would not freely do for you, as a token of my acknowledgment. Do but tell me in what I can serve you.'
'Great queen,' replied Abdallah, 'if the lady whom I sent to your majesty will but consent to the marriage I offer her, and the King of Persia will give me leave to reside at his court, I will spend the remainder of my days in his service.'
Then the queen turned to the lady, who was present, and finding that she was not averse to the match proposed, she caused them to join hands, and the King of Persia and she took care of their welfare.
This marriage occasioned the King of Persia to speak thus to the queen: 'Madam,' said he, 'I am heartily glad of this match which your majesty has just made. There remains one more, which I desire you to think of.'
Queen Gulnare did not at first comprehend what marriage he meant; but after a little considering, she said, 'Of yours, you mean, son? I consent to it with all my heart.' Then turning, and looking on her brother's sea attendants, and the genies who were still present, 'Go,' said she, 'and traverse both sea and land, to find out the most lovely and amiable princess, worthy of the king my son, and come and tell us.'
'Madam,' replied King Beder, 'it is to no purpose for them to take all that pains. You have no doubt heard that I have already given my heart to the Princess of Samandal. I have seen her, and do not repent of the present I then made her. In a word, neither earth nor sea, in my opinion, can furnish a princess like her. It is true that she treated me in a way that would have extinguished any affection less strong than mine. But I hold her excused; she could not treat me with less rigour, after I had had the king her father imprisoned. But it may be the King of Samandal has changed his mind; and his daughter the princess may consent to love me when she sees her father has agreed to it.'
'Son,' replied Queen Gulnare, 'if only the Princess Giauhara can make you happy, it is not my design to oppose you. The king your uncle need only have the King of Samandal brought, and we shall soon see whether he be still of the same untractable temper.'
Strictly as the King of Samandal had been kept during his captivity by King Saleh's orders, yet he always had great respect shown him, and was become very familiar with the officers who guarded him. King Saleh caused a chafing-dish of coals to be brought, into which he threw a certain composition, uttering at the same time some mysterious words. As soon as the smoke began to arise, the palace shook, and immediately the King of Samandal, with King Saleh's officers, appeared. The King of Persia cast himself at the King of Samandal's feet, and kneeling said, 'It is no longer King Saleh that demands of your majesty the honour of your alliance for the King of Persia; it is the King of Persia himself that humbly begs that boon; and I am sure your majesty will not persist in being the cause of the death of a king who can no longer live if he does not share life with the amiable Princess Giauhara.'
The King of Samandal did not long suffer the King of Persia to remain at his feet. He embraced him and obliging him to rise, said, 'I should be very sorry to have contributed in the least to the death of a monarch who is so worthy to live. If it be true that so precious a life cannot be preserved without my daughter, live, sir,' said he, 'she is yours. She has always been obedient to my will, and I cannot think she will now oppose it.' Speaking these words, he ordered one of his officers, whom King Saleh had permitted to be about him, to go and look for the Princess Giauhara, and bring her to him immediately.
The princess had remained where the King of Persia had left her. The officer soon perceived her, and brought her with her women. The King of Samandal embraced her, and said, 'Daughter, I have provided a husband for you; it is the King of Persia you see there, the most accomplished monarch at present in the universe. The preference he has given you over all other Princesses obliges us both to express our gratitude.'
'Sir,' replied the Princess Giauhara, 'your majesty well knows I never have presumed to disobey your will in anything; I shall always be ready to obey you; and I hope the King of Persia will forget my ill-treatment of him, and consider it was duty, not inclination, that forced me to it.'
The wedding was celebrated in the palace of the City of Enchantments, with the greater solemnity in that all the lovers of the magic queen, who resumed their original forms as soon as ever that queen ceased to live, came to return their thanks to the King of Persia, Queen Gulnare, and King Saleh. They were all sons of kings or princes, or persons of high rank.
King Saleh at length conducted the King of Samandal to his dominions, and put him in possession of them. The King of Persia returned to his capital with Queen Gulnare, Queen Farasche, and the princesses; and Queen Farasche and the princesses continued there till King Saleh came to reconduct them to his kingdom under the waves of the sea.
THE THREE PRINCES AND THE PRINCESS NOURONNIHAR.
There was once a sultan of India who had three sons. These, with the princess his niece, were the ornaments of his court. The eldest of the princes was called Houssain, the second Ali, the youngest Ahmed, and the princess his niece, Nouronnihar. The Princess Nouronnihar was the daughter of the younger brother of the sultan, to whom the sultan in his lifetime allowed a considerable revenue. But that prince had not been married long before he died, and left the princess very young. The sultan, out of brotherly love and friendship, took upon himself the care of his niece's education, and brought her up in his palace with the three princes, where her singular beauty and personal accomplishments, joined to a sprightly disposition and irreproachable conduct, distinguished her among all the princesses of her time.
The sultan, her uncle, proposed to get her married, when she arrived at a proper age, to some neighbouring prince, and was thinking seriously about it, when he perceived that the three princes his sons had all fallen in love with her. He was very much concerned, owing to the difficulty he foresaw whether the two younger would consent to yield to their elder brother. He spoke to each of them apart; and after having remonstrated on the impossibility of one princess being the wife of three persons, and the troubles they would create if they persisted, he did all he could to persuade them to abide by a declaration of the princess in favour of one of them; or to suffer her to be married to a foreign prince. But as he found them obstinate, he sent for them all together, and said to them, 'Children, since I have not been able to persuade you no longer to aspire to marry the princess your cousin; and as I have no inclination to force her to marry any of you, I have thought of a plan which will please you all, and preserve union among you, if you will but follow my advice. I think it would be best, if every one travelled separately into a different country, so that you might not meet each other: and as you know I delight in every thing that is rare and singular, I promise my niece in marriage to him that shall bring me the most extraordinary curiosity; and for travelling expenses, I will give each of you a sum befitting your rank and the purchase of the curiosity you search.'
As the three princes were always submissive and obedient to the sultan's will, and each flattered himself that fortune would favour him, they all consented. The sultan gave them the money he promised; and that very day they issued orders in preparation for their travels, and took leave of the sultan, that they might be ready to set out early the next morning. They all went out at the same gate of the city, each dressed like a merchant, attended by a trusty officer dressed like a slave, all well mounted and equipped. They went the first day's journey together; and slept at the first inn, where the road divided into three different tracks. At night when they were at supper together, they agreed to travel for a year, and to make that inn their rendezvous; that the first that came should wait for the rest; that as they had all three taken leave together of the sultan, they should all return together. The next morning by break of day, after they had embraced and wished each other good success, they mounted their horses, and each took a different road.
Prince Houssain, the eldest brother, who had heard wonders of the extent, strength, riches, and splendour of the kingdom of Bisnagar, bent his course towards the Indian coast; and, after three months travelling with different caravans, sometimes over deserts and barren mountains, and sometimes through populous and fertile countries, he arrived at Bisnagar, the capital of the kingdom of that name and the residence of its king. He lodged at a khan appointed for foreign merchants; and having learnt that there were four principal quarters where merchants of all sorts kept their shops, in the midst of which stood the castle, or rather the king's palace, as the centre of the city, surrounded by three courts, and each gate two leagues distant from the other, he went to one of these quarters the next day.
Prince Houssain could not see this quarter without admiration. It was large, and divided into several streets, all vaulted and shaded from the sun, and yet very light. The shops were all of the same size and proportion; and all that dealt in the same sort of merchandise, as well as the craftsmen, lived in one street.
The multitude of shops stocked with the finest linens from several parts of India, some painted in the brightest colours, with men, landscapes, trees, and flowers; silks and brocades from Persia, China, and other places; porcelain from Japan and China, foot carpets of all sizes,—all this surprised him so much that he knew not how to believe his own eyes; but when he came to the shops of the goldsmiths and jewellers (for those two trades were exercised by the same merchants), he was dazzled by the lustre of the pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones exposed for sale. But if he was amazed at seeing so many riches in one place, he was much more surprised when he came to judge of the wealth of the whole kingdom by considering that except the Brahmins and ministers of the idols, who profess a life retired from worldly vanity, there was not an Indian, man or woman, through the extent of that kingdom, who did not wear necklaces, bracelets, and ornaments about their legs and feet, made of pearls and other precious stones.
Another thing Prince Houssain particularly admired was the great number of rose-sellers, who crowded the streets; for the Indians are such lovers of that flower, that not one will stir without a nosegay in his hand, or a garland on his head; and the merchants keep them in pots in their shops, so that the air of the whole quarter, however large, is perfectly perfumed.
After Prince Houssain had run through the quarter, street by street, his thoughts fully occupied by the riches he had seen, he was very much tired, and a merchant civilly invited him to sit down in his shop. He accepted the offer; but had not been seated long before he saw a crier pass by with a piece of carpet on his arm, about six feet square, and cry it at thirty purses. The prince called to the crier, and asked to see the carpet, which seemed to him to be valued at an exorbitant price, not only for its size, but the meanness of the stuff. When he had examined it well, he told the crier that he could not comprehend how so small and poor a piece could be priced so high.
The crier, who took him for a merchant, replied, 'Sir, if this price seems so extravagant to you, your amazement will be greater when I tell you I have orders to raise it to forty purses, and not to part with it for less.'
'Certainly,' answered Prince Houssain, 'it must have something very extraordinary about it, which I know nothing of.'
'You have guessed right, sir,' replied the crier, 'and will own as much when you come to know that whoever sits on this piece of carpet may be transported in an instant wherever he desires to go without being stopped by any obstacle.'
At this the Prince of the Indies, considering that the principal motive of his journey was to carry some singular curiosity home to the sultan his father, thought that be could not meet with anything which could give him more satisfaction. 'If the carpet,' said he to the crier, 'has the virtue you assign it, I shall not think forty purses too much but shall make you a present besides.'
'Sir,' replied the crier, 'I have told you the truth; and it will be an easy matter to convince you of it, as soon as you have made the bargain for forty purses, by experiment. But as I suppose you have not so much with you, and that I must go with you to the khan where you lodge, with the leave of the master of the shop we will go into his back shop, and I will spread the carpet; and when we have both sat down, and you have formed the wish to be transported into your room at the khan, if we are not transported thither it shall be no bargain. As to your present, as I am paid for my trouble by the seller, I shall receive it as a favour, and be very much obliged to you for it.'
The prince accepted the conditions, and concluded the bargain; and having obtained the master's leave, they went into his back shop; they both sat down on the carpet, and as soon as the prince wished to be transported into his room at the khan, he found himself and the crier there, and as he wanted no more convincing proof of the virtue of the carpet, he counted to the crier forty purses of gold, and gave him twenty pieces for himself.
In this manner Prince Houssain became the possessor of the carpet, and was overjoyed that on his arrival at Bisnagar he had found so rare a treasure, which he never doubted would gain him the Princess Nouronnihar. In short he looked upon it as an impossible thing for the princes, his younger brothers, to meet with anything to compare with it. It was in his power, by sitting on this carpet, to be at the place of rendezvous that very day; but as he was obliged to wait for his brothers, as they had agreed, and as he was curious to see the King of Bisnagar and his court, and to learn about the laws, customs, and religion of the kingdom, he chose to make a longer abode there.
It was a custom of the King of Bisnagar to give audience to all strange merchants once a week; and Prince Houssain, who remained incognito, saw him often; and as he was handsome, clever, and extremely polite, he easily distinguished himself among the merchants, and was preferred before them all by the sultan, who asked him about the Sultan of the Indies, and the government, strength, and riches of his dominions.
The rest of his time the prince spent in seeing what was most remarkable in and about the city; and among other things he visited a temple, all built of brass. It was ten cubits square, and fifteen high; and the greatest ornament to it was an idol of the height of a man, of massy gold: its eyes were two rubies, set so artificially, that it seemed to look at those who looked at it, on whichever side they turned. Besides this, there was another not less curious, in a village in the midst of a plain of about ten acres, which was a delicious garden full of roses and the choicest flowers, surrounded with a small wall breast high, to keep the cattle out. In the midst of this plain was raised a terrace, a man's height, so nicely paved that the whole pavement seemed to be but one single stone. A temple was erected in the middle of this terrace, with a dome about fifty cubits high, which might be seen for several leagues round. It was thirty cubits long, and twenty broad, built of red marble, highly polished. The inside of the dome was adorned with three rows of fine paintings, in good taste: and there was not a place in the whole temple but was embellished with paintings, bas-reliefs, and figures of idols from top to bottom.
Every night and morning there were ceremonies performed in this temple, which were always succeeded by sports, concerts, dancing, singing, and feasts. The ministers of the temple and the inhabitants of the place had nothing to live on but the offerings of pilgrims, who came in crowds from the most distant parts of the kingdom to perform their vows.
Prince Houssain was also spectator of a solemn feast, which was celebrated every year at the court of Bisnagar, at which all the governors of provinces, commanders of fortified places, all the governors and judges of towns, and the Brahmins most celebrated for their learning, were obliged to be present; and some lived so far off that they were four months in coming. This assembly, composed of innumerable multitudes of Indians, met in a plain of vast extent, as far as the eye could reach. In the centre of this plain was a square of great length and breadth, closed on one side by a large scaffolding of nine stories, supported by forty pillars, raised for the king and his court, and those strangers whom he admitted to audience once a week. Inside, it was adorned and furnished magnificently; and on the outside were painted fine landscapes, wherein all sorts of beasts, birds, and insects, even flies and gnats, were drawn as naturally as possible. Other scaffolds of at least four or five stories, and painted almost all alike, formed the other three sides.
On each side of the square, at some little distance from each other, were ranged a thousand elephants, sumptuously harnessed, each having upon his back a square wooden castle, finely gilt, in which were musicians and actors. The trunks, ears, and bodies of these elephants were painted with cinnabar and other colours, representing grotesque figures.
But what Prince Houssain most of all admired was to see the largest of these elephants stand with his four feet on a post fixed into the earth, two feet high, playing and beating time with his trunk to the music. Besides this, he admired another elephant as big, standing on a board, which was laid across a strong beam about ten feet high, with a great weight at the other end which balanced him, while he kept time with the music by the motions of his body and trunk.
Prince Houssain might have made a longer stay in the kingdom and court of Bisnagar, where he would have seen other wonders, till the last day of the year, whereon he and his brothers had appointed to meet. But he was so well satisfied with what he had seen, and his thoughts ran so much upon the Princess Nouronnihar, that he fancied he should be the more easy and happy the nearer he was to her. After he had paid the master of the khan for his apartment, and told him the hour when he might come for the key, without telling him how he should go, he shut the door, put the key on the outside, and spreading the carpet, he and the officer he had brought with him sat down on it, and, as soon as he had wished, were transported to the inn at which he and his brothers were to meet, where he passed for a merchant till they came.
Prince Ali, the second brother, travelled into Persia with a caravan, and after four months' travelling arrived at Schiraz, which was then the capital of the kingdom of Persia, and having on the way made friends with some merchants, passed for a jeweller, and lodged in the same khan with them.
The next morning, while the merchants were opening their bales of merchandise, Prince Ali took a walk into that quarter of the town where they sold precious stones, gold and silver work, brocades, silks, fine linens, and other choice and valuable merchandise, which was at Schiraz called the bezestein. It was a spacious and well-built place, arched over, and supported by large pillars; along the walls, within and without, were shops. Prince Ali soon rambled through the bezestein, and with admiration judged of the riches of the place by the prodigious quantities of most precious merchandise there exposed to view.
But among all the criers who passed backwards and forwards with several sorts of things to sell, he was not a little surprised to see one who held in his hand an ivory tube about a foot in length and about an inch thick, and cried it at thirty purses. At first he thought the crier mad, and to make sure, went to a shop, and said to the merchant, who stood at the door, 'Pray, sir, is not that man mad? If he is not, I am very much deceived.'
'Indeed, sir,' answered the merchant, 'he was in his right senses yesterday, and I can assure you he is one of the ablest criers we have, and the most employed of any when anything valuable is to be sold; and if he cries the ivory tube at thirty purses, it must be worth as much, or more, for some reason or other which does not appear. He will come by presently, and we will call him; in the meantime sit down on my sofa and rest yourself.'
Prince Ali accepted the merchant's obliging offer, and presently the crier passed by. The merchant called him by his name; and pointing to the prince, said to him, 'Tell that gentleman, who asked me if you were in your right senses, what you mean by crying that ivory tube, which seems not to be worth much, at thirty purses: I should be very much amazed myself, if I did not know you were a sensible man.'
The crier, addressing himself to Prince Ali, said, 'Sir, you are not the only person that takes me for a madman on account of this tube; you shall judge yourself whether I am or no, when I have told you its peculiarity. First, sir,' pursued the crier, presenting the ivory tube to the prince, 'observe that this tube is furnished with a glass at both ends; by looking through one of them you see whatever object you wish to behold.'
'I am,' said the prince, 'ready to make you all proper reparation for the scandal I have thrown on you, if you will make the truth of what you say appear'; and as he had the ivory tube in his hand, he said, 'Show me at which of these ends I must look.' The crier showed him, and he looked through, wishing at the same time to see the sultan, his father. He immediately beheld him in perfect health, sitting on his throne, in the midst of his council. Afterwards, as there was nothing in the world so dear to him, after the sultan, as the Princess Nouronnihar, he wished to see her, and saw her laughing, and in a pleasant humour, with her women about her.
Prince Ali needed no other proof to persuade him that this tube was the most valuable thing, not only in the city of Schiraz, but in all the world; and he believed that, if he should neglect it, he would never meet again with such another rarity. He said to the crier, 'I am very sorry that I should have entertained so bad an opinion of you, but hope to make you amends by buying the tube, so tell me the lowest price the seller has fixed upon it. Come with me, and I will pay you the money.' The crier assured him that his last orders were to take no less than forty purses; and, if he disputed the truth of what he said, he would take him to his employer. The prince believed him, took him to the khan where he lodged, counted out the money, and received the tube.
Prince Ali was overjoyed at his bargain; and persuaded himself that, as his brothers would not be able to meet with anything so rare and marvellous, the Princess Nouronnihar would be his wife. He thought now of visiting the court of Persia incognito, and seeing whatever was curious in and about Schiraz, till the caravan with which he came returned back to the Indies. When the caravan was ready to set out, the prince joined them, and arrived without any accident or trouble at the place of rendezvous, where he found Prince Houssain, and both waited for Prince Ahmed.
Prince Ahmed took the road to Samarcand; and the day after his arrival there went, as his brothers had done, into the bezestein. He had not walked long before he heard a crier, who had an artificial apple in his hand, cry it at five-and-thirty purses. He stopped the crier, and said to him, 'Let me see that apple, and tell me what virtue or extraordinary property it has, to be valued at so high a rate.'
'Sir,' said the crier, putting it into his hand, 'if you look at the outside of this apple, it is very ordinary; but if you consider the great use and benefit it is to mankind, you will say it is invaluable. He who possesses it is master of a great treasure. It cures all sick persons of the most mortal diseases, fever, pleurisy, plague, or other malignant distempers; and, if the patient is dying, it will immediately restore him to perfect health; and this is done after the easiest manner in the world, merely by the patient smelling the apple.'
'If one may believe you,' replied Prince Ahmed, 'the virtues of this apple are wonderful, and it is indeed valuable: but what ground has a plain man like myself, who may wish to become the purchaser, to be persuaded that there is no deception or exaggeration in the high praise you bestow on it?'
'Sir,' replied the crier, 'the thing is known and averred by the whole city of Samarcand; but, without going any further, ask all these merchants you see here, and hear what they say; several of them would not have been alive this day if they had not made use of this excellent remedy. It is the result of the study and experience of a celebrated philosopher of this city, who applied himself all his life to the knowledge of plants and minerals, and at last performed such surprising cures in this city as will never be forgotten; but he died suddenly himself, before he could apply his own sovereign remedy, and left his wife and a great many young children behind him in very indifferent circumstances; to support her family, and provide for her children, she has resolved to sell it.'
While the crier was telling Prince Ahmed the virtues of the artificial apple, a great many persons came about them, and confirmed what he said; and one among the rest said he had a friend dangerously ill, whose life was despaired of, which was a favourable opportunity to show Prince Ahmed the experiment. Upon which Prince Ahmed told the crier he would give him forty purses if he cured the sick person by letting him smell at it.
The crier, who had orders to sell it at that price, said to Prince Ahmed, 'Come, sir, let us go and make the experiment, and the apple shall be yours; it is an undoubted fact that it will always have the same effect as it already has had in recovering from death many sick persons whose life was despaired of.'
The experiment succeeded, and the prince, after he had counted out to the crier forty purses, and the other had delivered the apple to him, waited with the greatest impatience for the first caravan that should return to the Indies. In the meantime he saw all that was curious in and about Samarcand, especially the valley of Sogda, so called from the river which waters it, and is reckoned by the Arabians to be one of the four paradises of this world, for the beauty of its fields and gardens and fine palaces, and for its fertility in fruit of all sorts, and all the other pleasures enjoyed there in the fine season.
At last Prince Ahmed joined the first caravan that returned to the Indies, and arrived in perfect health at the inn where the Princes Houssain and Ali were waiting for him.
Prince Ali, who was there some time before Prince Ahmed, asked Prince Houssain, who got there first, how long he had been there; he told him three months: to which he replied, 'Then certainly you have not been very far.'
'I will tell you nothing now,' said Prince Houssain, 'but only assure you I was more than three months travelling to the place I went to.'
'But then,' replied Prince Ali, 'you made a short stay there.'
'Indeed, brother,' said Prince Houssain, 'you are mistaken: I resided at one place over four or five months, and might have stayed longer.'
'Unless you flew back,' replied Prince Ali again, 'I cannot comprehend how you can have been three months here, as you would make me believe.'
'I tell you the truth,' added Prince Houssain, 'and it is a riddle which I shall not explain till our brother Ahmed comes; then I will let you know what curiosity I have brought home from my travels. I know not what you have got, but believe it to be some trifle, because I do not see that your baggage is increased.'
'And pray what have you brought?' replied Prince Ali, 'for I can see nothing but an ordinary piece of carpet, with which you cover your sofa, and as you seem to make what you have brought a secret, you cannot take it amiss that I do the same.'
'I consider the rarity which I have purchased,' replied Prince Houssain, 'to excel all others whatever, and should not have any objection to show it you, and make you agree that it is so, and at the same time tell you how I came by it, without being in the least apprehensive that what you have got is better. But we ought to wait till our brother Ahmed arrives, that we may all communicate our good fortune to each other.'
Prince Ali would not enter into a dispute with Prince Houssain, but was persuaded that, if his perspective glass were not preferable, it was impossible it should be inferior, and therefore agreed to wait till Prince Ahmed arrived, to produce his purchase.
When Prince Ahmed came, they embraced and complimented each other on the happiness of meeting together at the place they set out from. Then Prince Houssain, as the elder brother, said, 'Brothers, we shall have time enough hereafter to entertain ourselves with the particulars of our travels: let us come to that which is of the greatest importance for us to know; let us not conceal from each other the curiosities we have brought home, but show them, that we may do ourselves justice beforehand and see to which of us the sultan our father may give the preference.
'To set the example,' continued Prince Houssain, 'I will tell you that the rarity which I have brought from my travels to the kingdom of Bisnagar, is the carpet on which I sit, which looks but ordinary and makes no show; but, when I have declared its virtues to you, you will be struck with admiration, and will confess you never heard of anything like it. Whoever sits on it as we do, and desires to be transported to any place, be it ever so far off, is immediately carried thither. I made the experiment myself before I paid down the forty purses, and when I had fully satisfied my curiosity at the court of Bisnagar, and had a mind to return, I made use of no other means than this wonderful carpet for myself and servant, who can tell you how long we were coming hither. I will show you both the experiment whenever you please. I expect you to tell me whether what you have brought is to be compared to this carpet.'
Here Prince Houssain ended, and Prince Ali said, 'I must own, brother, that your carpet is one of the most surprising things imaginable, if it has, as I do not doubt in the least, that property you speak of. But you must allow that there may be other things, I will not say more, but at least as wonderful, in another way; and to convince you there are, here is an ivory tube, which appears to the eye no more a rarity than your carpet. It cost me as much, and I am as well satisfied with my purchase as you can be with yours; and you will be so just as to own that I have not been cheated, when you know by experience that by looking at one end you see whatever you wish to behold. Take it,' added Prince Ali, presenting the tube to him, 'make trial of it yourself.'
Prince Houssain took the ivory tube from Prince Ali, and clapped that end to his eye which Prince Ali showed him, to see the Princess Nouronnihar, and to know how she was, when Prince Ali and Prince Ahmed, who kept their eyes fixed upon him, were extremely surprised to see his countenance change suddenly with extraordinary pain and grief. Prince Houssain would not give them time to ask what was the matter, but cried out, 'Alas! princes, to what purpose have we undertaken long and fatiguing journeys? In a few moments our lovely princess will breathe her last. I saw her in her bed, surrounded by her women and attendants, who were all in tears. Take the tube, behold for yourselves the miserable state she is in.'
Prince Ali took the tube out of Prince Houssain's hand and after he had looked, presented it to Prince Ahmed.
When Prince Ahmed saw that the Princess Nouronnihar's end was so near, he addressed himself to his two brothers, and said, 'Princes, the Princess Nouronnihar, the object of all our vows, is indeed at death's door; but provided we make haste and lose no time, we may preserve her life.' Then he took out the artificial apple, and showing it to the princes his brothers, said to them, 'This apple which you see here cost as much as either the carpet or tube. The opportunity now presents itself to show you its wonderful virtue. Not to keep you longer in suspense, if a sick person smells it, though in the last agonies, it restores him to perfect health immediately. I have made the experiment, and can show you its wonderful effect on the Princess Nouronnihar, if we make all haste to assist her.'
'If that is all,' replied Prince Houssain, 'we cannot make more haste than by transporting ourselves instantly into her room by the means of my carpet. Come, lose no time; sit down on it by me; it is large enough to hold us all three: but first let us give orders to our servants to set out immediately, and join us at the palace.'
As soon as the order was given, Prince Ali and Prince Ahmed went and sat down by Prince Houssain, and all three framed the same wish, and were transported into the Princess Nouronnihar's chamber.
The presence of the three princes, who were so little expected, frightened the princess's women and attendants, who could not comprehend by what enchantment three men should be among them; for they did not know them at first, and the attendants were ready to fall upon them, as people who had got into a part of the palace where they were not allowed to come; but they presently recollected and found their mistake.
Prince Ahmed no sooner saw himself in Nouronnihar's room, and perceived the princess dying, than he rose off the tapestry, as did also the other two princes, and went to the bed-side, and put the apple under her nose. Some moments after, the princess opened her eyes, and turned her head from one side to another, looking at the persons who stood about her; she then rose up in the bed, and asked to be dressed, just as if she had awaked out of a sound sleep. Her women informed her, in a manner that showed their joy, that she was obliged to the three princes her cousins, and particularly to Prince Ahmed, for the sudden recovery of her health. She immediately expressed her joy to see them, and thanked them all together, and afterwards Prince Ahmed in particular, and they then retired.
While the princess was dressing, the princes went to throw themselves at the sultan their father's feet, and pay their respects to him. The sultan received and embraced them with the greatest joy, both for their return and for the wonderful recovery of the princess his niece, whom he loved as if she had been his own daughter, and who had been given over by the physicians. After the usual compliments, the princes presented each the curiosity which he had brought: Prince Houssain his carpet, which he had taken care not to leave behind him in the princess's chamber; Prince Ali his ivory tube, and Prince Ahmed the artificial apple; and after each had commended his present, when they put it into the sultan's hands, they begged him to pronounce their fate, and declare to which of them he would give the Princess Nouronnihar for a wife, according to his promise.
The Sultan of the Indies having kindly heard all that the princes had to say, without interrupting them, and being well informed of what had happened in relation to the Princess Nouronnihar's cure, remained some time silent, as if he were thinking what answer he should make. At last he broke silence, and said to them in terms full of wisdom, 'I would declare for one of you, my children, with a great deal of pleasure, if I could do so with justice; but consider whether I can. It is true, Prince Ahmed, the princess my niece is obliged to your artificial apple for her cure, but let me ask you, whether you could have been so serviceable to her if you had not known by Prince Ali's tube the danger she was in, and if Prince Houssain's carpet had not brought you to her so soon?
'Your tube, Prince Ali, informed you and your brothers that you were likely to lose the princess your cousin, and so far she is greatly obliged to you. You must also grant that that knowledge would have been of no service without the artificial apple and the carpet.
'And for you, Prince Houssain, consider that it would have been of little use if you had not been acquainted with the princess's illness by Prince Ali's tube, and Prince Ahmed had not applied his artificial apple. Therefore, as neither the carpet, the ivory tube, nor the artificial apple has the least preference one over the other, but, on the contrary, there is a perfect equality, I cannot grant the princess to any one of you, and the only fruit you have reaped from your travels is the glory of having equally contributed to restore her to health.
'If this be true,' added the sultan, 'you see that I must have recourse to other means to determine with certainty in the choice I ought to make among you, and as there is time enough between this and night, I will do it to-day. Go, and get each of you a bow and arrow, and repair to the great plain outside the city, where the horses are exercised. I will soon come to you, and I declare I will give the Princess Nouronnihar to him that shoots the farthest.
'I do not, however, forget to thank you all in general, and each in particular, for the presents you brought me. I have a great many rarities in my museum already, but nothing that comes up to the carpet, the ivory tube, and the artificial apple, which shall have the first place among them, and shall be preserved carefully, not only for show, but to make an advantageous use of them upon all occasions.'
The three princes had nothing to say against the decision of the sultan. When they were out of his presence, they each provided themselves with a bow and arrow, which they delivered to one of their officers, and went to the plain appointed, followed by a great concourse of people.
The sultan did not make them wait long; and as soon as he arrived, Prince Houssain, as the eldest, took his bow and arrow, and shot first. Prince Ali shot next, and much beyond him; and Prince Ahmed last of all; but it so happened, that nobody could see where his arrow fell; and, notwithstanding all the search of himself and everybody else, it was not to be found far or near. And though it was believed that he shot the farthest, and that he therefore deserved the Princess Nouronnihar, it was necessary that his arrow should be found, to make the matter evident and certain; so, notwithstanding his remonstrances, the sultan determined in favour of Prince Ali, and gave orders for preparations to be made for the wedding, which was celebrated a few days afterwards with great magnificence.
PRINCE AHMED AND THE FAIRY.
Prince Houssain would not honour the feast with his presence; he could scarcely endure to see the princess in the arms of Prince Ali, who, he said, did not deserve her better or love her more than himself. He left the court, and, renouncing all right of succession to the crown, turned dervish, and put himself under the discipline of a famous sheik, who had gained a reputation for his exemplary life, and had taken up his abode, together with his disciples, whose number was great, in an agreeable solitude.
Prince Ahmed did not assist at Prince Ali's and the Princess Nouronnihar's wedding, any more than his brother Houssain, but did not renounce the world as he had done. He could not imagine what had become of his arrow, so he stole away from his attendants, and resolved to search for it, that he might not have anything to reproach himself with. With this intention, he went to the place where the Princes Houssain's and Ali's were gathered up, and going straight forward from thence, looked carefully on both sides of him. He went so far, that at last he began to think his labour was in vain; yet he could not help going forwards, till he came to some steep, craggy rocks, which would have obliged him to return, had he been ever so anxious to proceed. They were situated in a barren country, about four leagues distant from whence he set out. When Prince Ahmed came near these rocks, he perceived an arrow, which he picked up, looked earnestly at it, and was in the greatest astonishment to find it was the same he shot. 'Certainly,' said he to himself, 'neither I nor any man living could shoot an arrow so far'; and finding it laid flat, not sticking into the ground, he judged that it had rebounded from the rock. 'There must be some mystery in this,' said he to himself again, 'and it may be to my advantage. Perhaps fortune, to make me amends for depriving me of what I thought the greatest happiness of my life, may have reserved a greater blessing for my comfort.' As these rocks were full of sharp points and crevices between them, the prince, full of these thoughts, entered a cavity, and looking about, cast his eyes on an iron door, which seemed to have no lock. He feared it was fastened; but pushing against it, it opened, and discovered an easy descent, but no steps. He walked down with his arrow in his hand. At first he thought he was going into a dark place, but presently a quite different light succeeded that which he had come out of. Coming upon a spacious square, fifty or sixty paces distant, he perceived a magnificent palace; but he had not time to look at it, for at the same moment a lady of majestic air, and of a beauty to which the richness of her clothes and the jewels which adorned her person added nothing, advanced as far as the porch, attended by a troop of ladies, of whom it was difficult to distinguish which was the mistress.
As soon as Prince Ahmed perceived the lady, he hastened to pay his respects; and the lady, on her part, seeing him coming, was beforehand with him. Raising her voice, she said, 'Come near, Prince Ahmed; you are welcome.'
It was no small surprise to the prince to hear himself named in a palace he had never heard of, though so near his father's capital, and he could not comprehend how he should be known to a lady who was a stranger to him. At last he returned the lady's salutation, by throwing himself at her feet, and rising up again, said to her, 'Madam, I return you a thousand thanks for welcoming me to a place where I had reason to believe my imprudent curiosity had made me penetrate too far. But, madam, may I, without being guilty of rudeness, presume to ask you how you know me? and why you, who live in the same neighbourhood should be so little known by me?'
'Prince,' said the lady, 'let us go into the hall; there I will gratify your request.'
After these words, the lady led Prince Ahmed into the hall, the noble structure of which, and the gold and azure which embellished the dome, and the inestimable richness of the furniture, appeared to him so wonderful that he had never in his life beheld anything like it, and believed that nothing was to be compared to it. 'I can assure you,' replied the lady, 'that this is but a small part of my palace, and you will say so when you have seen all the apartments.' Then she sat down on a sofa; and when the prince at her entreaty had seated himself, she said, 'You are surprised, you say, that I should know you, and not be known by you; but you will no longer be surprised when I inform you who I am. You cannot be ignorant that the world is inhabited by genies as well as men: I am the daughter of one of the most powerful and distinguished of these genies, and my name is Pari Banou: therefore I know you, the sultan your father, the princes your brothers, and the Princess Nouronnihar. I am no stranger to your love or your travels, of which I could tell you all the circumstances, since it was I myself who exposed for sale the artificial apple which you bought at Samarcand, the carpet which Prince Houssain met with at Bisnagar, and the tube which Prince Ali brought from Schiraz. This is sufficient to let you know that I am not unacquainted with anything that relates to you. The only thing I have to add is, that you seemed to me worthy of a still better fortune than that of marrying the Princess Nouronnihar. I was present when you drew your arrow, and foresaw it would not go beyond Prince Houssain's. I took it in the air, and made it strike against the rocks near which you found it. It is in your power to avail yourself of this favourable opportunity.'
As the fairy Pari Banou pronounced these words Prince Ahmed began to consider that the Princess Nouronnihar could never be his, and that the fairy Pari Banou excelled her infinitely in beauty and agreeableness, and, so far as he could judge from the magnificence of the palace where she resided, in immense riches. 'Madam,' replied he, 'should I, all my life, have had the happiness of being your slave, I should think myself the happiest of men. Pardon me my boldness, and do not refuse to admit into your court a prince who is entirely devoted to you.'
'Prince,' answered the fairy, 'as I have been a long time my own mistress, and am not dependent on my parents' consent, it is not as a slave that I would admit you into my court, but as my husband, pledging your faith to me. I am, as I said, mistress here; and must add, that the same customs are not observed among fairies as among other ladies.'
Prince Ahmed made no answer, but was so full of gratitude that he thought he could not express it better than by coming to kiss the hem of her garment. 'Then,' answered the fairy, 'you are my husband, and I am your wife. But as I suppose,' continued she, 'that you have eaten nothing to-day, a slight repast shall be served up for you while preparations are making for our wedding feast this evening, and then I will show you the apartments of my palace, and you shall judge if this hall is the smallest part of it.'
Some of the fairy's women who came into the hall with them, and guessed her intentions, immediately went out, and returned presently with some excellent meat and wine.
When Prince Ahmed had eaten and drunk as much as he wanted, the fairy Pari Banou took him through all the rooms, where he saw diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and all sorts of fine jewels, intermixed with pearls, agate, jasper, porphyry, and all kinds of the most precious marbles; not to mention the richness of the furniture, everything was in such profusion, that the prince acknowledged that there could not be anything in the world that could come up to it. 'Prince,' said the fairy, 'if you admire so much my palace, which is indeed very beautiful, what would you say to the palaces of the chiefs of our genies, which are much more beautiful, spacious, and magnificent? I could also charm you with my garden; but we will leave that till another time. Night draws near, and it will be time for supper.'
The next hall into which the fairy led the prince, where the cloth was laid for the feast, was the only room the prince had not seen, and it was not in the least inferior to the others. He admired the infinite number of wax candles perfumed with amber which formed an agreeable and pleasant sight. A large sideboard was set out with all sorts of gold plate, so finely wrought that the workmanship was much more valuable than the weight of the gold. Several beautiful women richly dressed, whose voices were ravishing, began a concert, accompanied with all kinds of the most harmonious instruments he had ever heard. When they had sat down to table, the fairy Pari Banou took care to help Prince Ahmed to most delicious meats, which the prince had never heard of, but found so nice that he commended them in the highest terms, saying that they far surpassed those among men. He found also the same excellence in the wines, which neither he nor the fairy tasted till the dessert was served up, which consisted of the choicest sweetmeats and fruits.
After the dessert, the fairy Pari Banou and Prince Ahmed rose from the table, which was immediately carried away, and sat on a sofa with cushions of fine silk, curiously embroidered with all sorts of large flowers, at their backs, and a great number of genie and fairies danced before them.
The days following the wedding were a continual feast, which the fairy Pari Banou, who could do it with the utmost ease, knew how to diversify by new dishes, new concerts, new dances, new shows, and new diversions; which were all so extraordinary, that Prince Ahmed, if he had lived a thousand years among men, could not have imagined.
At the end of six months, Prince Ahmed, who always loved and honoured the sultan his father, felt a great desire to know how he was; and as that desire could not be satisfied without his absenting himself to go and hear it in person, he mentioned it to the fairy, and desired she would give him leave.
This discourse alarmed the fairy, and made her fear it was only an excuse to leave her.
'My queen,' replied the prince, 'if you are offended at the leave I asked, I entreat you to forgive me, and I will make all the reparation I can. I did not do it with any intention of displeasing you, but from a motive of respect towards my father, whom I wish to free from the affliction in which my long absence must have overwhelmed him; indeed I have reason to think he believes me dead.'
'Prince,' said she, 'I am so fully convinced that I can depend upon your sincerity, that I grant you leave to go, on condition that your absence shall not be long.'
Prince Ahmed would have thrown himself at the fairy's feet, to show his gratitude; but she prevented him.
'Prince,' said she, 'go when you please; but first do not take it amiss if I give you some advice how you shall conduct yourself where you are going. First, I do not think it proper for you to tell the sultan your father of our marriage, nor what I am, nor the place where you are settled. Beg him to be satisfied with knowing that you are happy, and that you desire no more; and let him know that the sole end of your visit is to make him easy about your fate.'
She appointed twenty horsemen, well mounted and equipped, to attend him. When all was ready, Prince Ahmed took leave of the fairy, embraced her, and renewed his promise to return soon. Then his horse, which was as beautiful a creature as any in the Sultan of the Indies' stables, was brought, and he mounted him with an extraordinary grace, which gave great pleasure to the fairy, and after he had bid her a last adieu, set out on his journey.
As it was not a great way to his father's capital, Prince Ahmed soon arrived there. The people, glad to see him again, received him with acclamations, and followed him in crowds to the sultan's palace. The sultan received and embraced him with great joy; complaining at the same time with a fatherly tenderness, of the affliction his long absence had been to him; which he said was the more grievous, since as fortune had decided in favour of Prince Ali his brother, he was afraid he might have committed some act of despair.
'Sir,' replied Prince Ahmed, 'your majesty knows that when I shot my arrow the most extraordinary thing that ever befell anybody happened to me, that in so large and level a plain it should not be possible to find my arrow. Though thus vanquished, I lost no time in vain complaints; but to satisfy my perplexed mind, I gave my attendants the slip, and returned back again alone to look for my arrow. I sought all about the place where Prince Houssain's and Prince Ali's arrows were found, and where I imagined mine must have fallen; but all my labour was in vain, until after having gone four leagues, to that part of the plain where it is bounded by rocks, I perceived an arrow. I ran and took it up, and knew it to be the same which I had shot. Far from thinking your majesty had done me any injustice in declaring for my brother Prince Ali, I interpreted what had happened to me quite otherwise, and never doubted but there was a mystery in it to my advantage; the discovery of which I ought not to neglect, and which I found out without going further from the spot. But as to this mystery, I beg your majesty to let me remain silent, and that you will be satisfied to know from my own mouth that I am happy and contented. This was the only motive which brought me hither; the only favour I ask of your majesty is to give me leave to come often and pay you my respects, and inquire after your health.'
'Son,' answered the Sultan of the Indies, 'I cannot refuse you the leave you ask me; but I would much rather you would resolve to stay with me. At least tell me where I may hear of you, if you should fail to come, or when I may think your presence necessary.'
'Sir,' replied Prince Ahmed, 'what your majesty asks of me is part of the mystery I spoke of. I beg of you to give me leave to remain silent on this head; for I shall come so frequently where my duty calls, that I am afraid I shall sooner be thought troublesome than be accused of negligence in my duty.'
The Sultan of the Indies pressed Prince Ahmed no more; but said to him, 'Son, I penetrate no further into your secrets, but leave you at your liberty. I can only tell you, that you could not do me a greater pleasure than to come and by your presence restore to me the joy I have not felt for a long time, and that you will always be welcome when you come.'
Prince Ahmed stayed but three days at the sultan his father's court, and on the fourth returned to the fairy Pari Banou, who received him with great joy, as she did not expect him so soon.
A month after Prince Ahmed's return from paying a visit to his father, as the fairy Pari Banou had observed that since the time that the Prince gave her an account of his journey and his conversation with his father, in which he asked his leave to come and see him from time to time, he had never spoken of the sultan, as if there had been no such person in the world, whereas before he was always speaking of him, she said to him one day, 'Tell me, prince, have you forgotten the sultan your father? Do you not remember the promise you made to go and see him from time to time? For my part, I have not forgotten what you told me at your return, and put you in mind of it. Pay him another visit to-morrow, and after that go and see him once a month, without speaking to me, or waiting for my leave. I readily consent.'
Prince Ahmed went the next morning with the same attendants as before, but much finer, and himself more magnificently mounted, equipped, and dressed, and was received by the sultan with the same joy and satisfaction. For several months he constantly paid him visits, and always in a richer and more brilliant equipage.
At last some viziers, the sultan's favourites, who judged of Prince Ahmed's grandeur and power by the figure he made, abused the liberty the sultan gave them of speaking to him, to make him jealous of his son. They represented to him that it was but common prudence to know where the prince had retired, and how he could afford to live at such a rate, since he had no revenue or income assigned him; that he seemed to come to court only to brave him; and that it was to be feared he might stir up the people's favour and dethrone him.
The Sultan of the Indies was so far from thinking that Prince Ahmed could be capable of so wicked a design as his favourites would make him believe, that he said to them, 'You are mistaken; my son loves me, and I am assured of his tenderness and fidelity. Be it as it will, I do not believe my son Ahmed is so wicked as you would persuade me he is; however, I am obliged to you for your good advice, and do not doubt that it proceeds from a good intention.'
The Sultan of the Indies said this that his favourites might not know the impression their hints had made on his mind. He was, however, so much alarmed that he resolved to have Prince Ahmed watched, unknown to his grand vizier. For this end he sent for a sorceress, who was introduced by a private door into his room. 'My son Ahmed comes to my court every month; but I cannot learn from him where he resides, and I do not wish to force his secret out of him; but I believe you are capable of satisfying my curiosity, without letting him, or any of my court, know anything of the matter. You know that at present he is here with me, and is used to go away without taking leave of me, or any of my court. Go immediately out on the road, find out where he retires, and bring me word.'
The magician left the sultan, and knowing the place where Prince Ahmed found his arrow, went thither and hid herself near the rocks, so that nobody could see her.
The next morning Prince Ahmed set out by daybreak, without taking leave either of the sultan or of any of his court, according to custom. The magician, seeing him coming, followed him with her eyes, till all of a sudden she lost sight of him and his attendants.
The steepness of the rocks formed an insurmountable barrier to men, whether on horseback or on foot, so that the magician judged that there were but two ways; the prince had retired either into some cavern, or into some place underground, the abode of genies or fairies. When she thought the prince and his attendants were out of sight, she came out of the place where she had hidden herself, and went direct to the hollow where she had seen them go in. She entered it, and proceeded to the spot where it terminated in many windings, looking carefully about on all sides. But notwithstanding all her diligence she could perceive no opening, nor the iron gate which Prince Ahmed discovered. For this door was to be seen by and opened to none but men, and only to men whose presence was agreeable to the fairy Pari Banou, and not at all to women.
The magician, who saw it was in vain for her to search any further, was obliged to be satisfied with the discovery she had made, and returned to give the sultan an account. When she had told him what she had done, she added, 'Your majesty may easily understand, after what I have had the honour to tell you, that it will be no difficult matter to give you the satisfaction you desire concerning Prince Ahmed's conduct. To do this, I only ask time, and that you will have patience, and give me leave to do it without inquiring what measures I intend to take.'
The sultan was very well pleased with the magician's conduct, and said to her, 'Do as you think fit: I will wait patiently,' and to encourage her, he made her a present of a diamond of great value, telling her it was only an earnest of the ample reward she should receive when she had done him that important service, which he left to her management.
As Prince Ahmed, after he had obtained the fairy Pari Banou's leave to go to the Sultan of the Indies' court, never failed once a month, and the magician knew the time, she went a day or two before to the foot of the rock where she had lost sight of the prince and his attendants, and waited there with a plan she had formed.
The next morning Prince Ahmed went out as usual at the iron gate with the same attendants as before, and passed by the magician, whom he knew not to be such. Seeing her lie with her head on the rock, complaining as if she were in great pain, he pitied her, turned his horse about and went and asked her what was the matter, and what he could do to relieve her.
The artful sorceress, without lifting up her head, looked at the prince, and answered in broken words and sighs, as if she could hardly fetch her breath, that she was going to the city, but on the way thither was taken with so violent a fever that her strength failed her, and she was forced to stop and lie down, far from any habitation, and without any hope of assistance.
'Good woman,' replied Prince Ahmed, 'you are not so far from help as you imagine. I am ready to assist you, and to convey you where you shall not only have all possible care taken of you, but where you will find a speedy cure; only get up, and let one of my people take you.'
At these words, the magician, who pretended illness only to know where the prince lived, did not refuse the kind offer he made her so freely, and to show her acceptance rather by action than by word, she made many affected efforts to get up, pretending that her illness prevented her. At the same time two of the prince's attendants alighted off their horses, helped her up, and set her behind another. They mounted their horses again, and followed the prince, who turned back to the iron gate, which was opened by one of his retinue who rode before. When he came into the outer court of the fairy's palace, without dismounting, he sent to tell her he wanted to speak to her.
The fairy Pari Banou came with all haste, not knowing what made Prince Ahmed return so soon. Not giving her time to ask him, he said, 'My princess, I desire you would have compassion on this good woman,' pointing to the magician, who was taken off the horse by two of his retinue: 'I found her in the condition you see, and promised her the assistance she stands in need of. I commend her to your care, and am persuaded that you will not abandon her.'
The fairy Pari Banou, who had her eyes fixed upon the pretended sick woman all the time that the prince was talking, ordered two of the women who followed her to take her from the two men that held her up, and carry her into the palace, and take as much care of her as they could.
Whilst the two women executed the fairy's commands, she went up to Prince Ahmed, and whispering in his ear said, 'Prince, I commend your compassion, which is worthy of you, but give me leave to tell you that I am afraid it will be but ill rewarded. This woman is not so ill as she pretends to be; and I am very much mistaken if she is not sent hither on purpose to cause you great trouble. But do not be concerned, let what will be devised against you; be persuaded that I will deliver you out of all the snares that may be laid for you. Go and pursue your journey.'
This discourse of the fairy's did not in the least alarm Prince Ahmed. 'My princess,' said he, 'as I do not remember I ever did, or designed to do, anybody an injury, I cannot believe anybody can have a thought of doing me one; but if they have, I shall not forbear doing good whenever I have an opportunity.' So saying, he took leave of the fairy, and set out again for his father's capital, where he soon arrived, and was received as usual by the sultan, who restrained himself as much as possible, to disguise the trouble arising from the suspicions suggested by his favourites.
In the meantime, the two women to whom the fairy Pari Banou had given her orders carried the magician into a very fine apartment, richly furnished. First they set her down upon a sofa, with her back supported with a cushion of gold brocade, while they made a bed, the quilt of which was finely embroidered with silk, the sheets of the finest linen, and the coverlid cloth of gold. When they had put her into bed (for the old sorceress pretended that her fever was so violent that she could not help herself in the least), one of the women went out and soon returned again with a china cup in her hand full of a certain liquor, which she presented to the magician, while the other helped her to sit up. 'Drink this,' said she, 'it is the water of the fountain of lions, and a sovereign remedy against all fevers whatsoever. You will find the effect of it in less than an hour's time.'
The magician, to dissemble the better, took it after a great deal of entreaty, as if she was very much averse to having it, but at last taking the china cup, and shaking her head, as if she did great violence to herself, swallowed the liquor. When she had lain down again, the two women covered her up. 'Lie quiet,' said she who brought her the china cup, 'and get a little sleep if you can; we will leave you, and hope to find you perfectly cured when we come an hour hence.'
The magician, who came not to act a sick part long, but only to discover Prince Ahmed's retreat, and what made him leave his father's court, being fully satisfied in what she wanted to know, would willingly have declared that the potion had had its effects then, so great was her desire to return to the sultan, and inform him of the success of her commission; but as she had been told that the potion did not operate immediately, she was forced to await the women's return.
The two women came again at the time they said they should, and found the magician up and dressed, and seated on the sofa; when she saw them open the door she cried out, 'Oh, the admirable potion! it has wrought its cure much sooner than you told me it would, and I have waited a long time with impatience, to desire you to take me to your charitable mistress to thank her for her kindness, for which I shall always be obliged to her. Being thus cured as by a miracle, I had rather not lose time, but continue my journey.'
The two women, who were fairies as well as their mistress, after they had told the magician how glad they were that she was cured so soon, walked before her, and conducted her through several apartments into a large hall, the most richly and magnificently furnished of all the palace.
Pari Banou was seated in this hall, on a throne of massy gold, attended on each hand by a great number of beautiful fairies, all richly dressed. At the sight of so much majesty, the magician was so dazzled, that after she had prostrated herself before the throne, she could not open her lips to thank the fairy, as she proposed. However, Pari Banou saved her the trouble, and said to her, 'Good woman, I am glad I had the opportunity of obliging you, and to see you are able to pursue your journey. I will not detain you, but perhaps you may not be displeased to see my palace; follow my women, and they will show it to you.'
The old sorceress, who had not power nor courage to say a word, prostrated herself a second time, with her head on the carpet that covered the foot of the throne, and so took her leave, and was conducted by the two fairies through all the apartments which were shown to Prince Ahmed on his first arrival there. But what surprised her most of all was, that the two fairies told her that all she saw and admired so much was a mere sketch of their mistress's grandeur and riches, and that in the extent of her dominions she had so many palaces that they could not tell the number of them, all of different architecture, equally magnificent and superb. They led her at last to the iron gate at which Prince Ahmed brought her in, and after she had taken her leave of them, and thanked them for their trouble, they opened it, and wished her a pleasant journey.
After the magician had gone a little way, she turned back again to observe the door and know it again, but all in vain, for, as was before observed, it was invisible to her and all other women. Except in this, she was very well satisfied with her work, and posted away to the sultan. When she came to the capital, she went by a great many by-ways to the private door of the palace. The sultan being informed of her arrival, sent for her into his apartment and perceiving a melancholy look on her countenance, he thought she had not succeeded, and said to her, 'By your looks I guess that you have not made the discovery I expected from you.'
'Sir,' replied the magician, 'your majesty must give me leave to represent that you ought not to judge by my looks whether or no I have acquitted myself well as regards the commands you were pleased to honour me with. The melancholy you observe proceeds from another cause than the want of success.'
Then the magician related to the Sultan of the Indies the whole story of all that happened from beginning to end.
When the magician had ended, she said, 'What does your majesty think of these unheard-of riches of the fairy? Perhaps you will say you rejoice at the good fortune of Prince Ahmed your son. For my part, sir, I beg of your majesty to forgive me if I take the liberty to say that I think otherwise, and that I shudder when I consider the misfortunes which may happen to you. And this is the cause of the melancholy which you perceived. I would believe that Prince Ahmed, by his own good disposition, is incapable of undertaking anything against your majesty; but who can say that the fairy, by the influence she already has over him, may not inspire him with a dangerous design of dethroning your majesty, and seizing the crown of the Indies? This is what your majesty ought to consider serious and of the utmost importance.'
Though the Sultan of the Indies was very sure that Prince Ahmed's natural disposition was good, yet he could not help being uneasy at the remarks of the old sorceress, and said, 'I thank you for the pains you have taken, and your wholesome caution. I am so aware of the great importance it is to me, that I shall take advice upon it.'
He had been consulting with his favourites, when he was told of the magician's arrival. He ordered her to follow him to them. He acquainted them with what he had learnt, and communicated to them also the reason he had to fear the fairy's influence over the prince, and asked them what measures they thought most proper to prevent so great a misfortune. One of the favourites, taking upon himself to speak for the rest, said, 'Your majesty knows who must be the author of this mischief. In order to prevent it, now that he is in your court, and in your power, you ought not to hesitate to put him under arrest: I will not say take away his life, for that would make too much noise; but make him a close prisoner while he lives.' This advice all the other favourites unanimously applauded.
The magician, who thought it too violent, asked the sultan leave to speak, which being granted, she said, 'Sir, I am persuaded that the zeal of your councillors for your majesty's interest makes them propose arresting Prince Ahmed: but they will not take it amiss if I suggest to your and their consideration, that if you arrest the prince, you must also detain his retinue. But they are all genies. Do they think it will be so easy to surprise, seize, and secure their persons? Will they not disappear, by the property they possess of rendering themselves invisible, and transport themselves instantly to the fairy, and give her an account of the insult offered to her husband? And can it be supposed she will let it go unrevenged? But it would be better, if, by any other means which might not make so great a noise, the sultan could secure himself against any ill designs Prince Ahmed may have against him, and not involve his majesty's honour. If his majesty has any confidence in my advice, as genies and fairies can do things impracticable to men, he will touch Prince Ahmed's honour, and engage him, by means of the fairy, to procure certain advantages. For example, every time your majesty takes the field you are obliged to go to a great expense, not only in pavilions and tents for yourself and army, but likewise in mules and camels, and other beasts of burden, to carry their baggage. Might you not request him to use his interest with the fairy to procure you a tent which might be carried in a man's hand, and which should be large enough to shelter your whole army?