ADVENTURES OF THE THREE PRINCES, SONS OF THE SULTAN OF CHINA.
A sultaness of China being seized with an alarming illness was given over by the physicians, who declared her case incurable by any other means than the water of life, which they feared it was next to impossible to obtain before nature would be exhausted; the country in which, if anywhere, it was to be found, being so very distant. Such, however, was the affection of the sultaness's three sons, that in hopes of saving their mother they resolved to go in search of the precious medicine, and departed immediately in the route pointed out by the physicians. After travelling without success to their inquiries through divers countries, they agreed to separate, in hopes that one of them at least might be fortunate enough to procure the wished-for miraculous liquid, and return home in time to save their mother. Having taken an affectionate farewell, each pursued his journey alone. The *eldest prince, after a fatiguing walk (for the brothers had thought it prudent to lay aside their dignity, and as safest to disguise themselves in mean habits) over a wild country, arrived at last within sight of a large city, inhabited by blasphemous Jews, near which, in a superb synagogue, he laid himself down on a carpet to repose, being quite exhausted with toil and hunger. He had not rested long, when a Jew rabbi entering the building, the prince begged for the love of God a little refreshment; but the wicked infidel, who hated true believers, instead of relieving, cruelly put him to death with his sabre, and wrapping the corpse in a mat, threw it into a corner of the synagogue. By ill fortune, on the day following the second prince arrived, and was treated in the same manner by the barbarous Jew, and on the next came also the youngest brother to the same place, where he was met by the base assassin, who would have killed him also, had not the extraordinary beauty of the young prince struck his covetous mind with the idea of making him a slave, and selling him for a large sum of money. Speaking therefore to him in a kind manner he brought him refreshments, and inquired if he was willing to be his servant, and employ himself in cleaning the synagogue and lighting the lamps; to which the prince, being in an exhausted condition, seemingly assented, seeing no other means of present support, but secretly resolved to escape when recovered from his fatigue. The Jew now took him to his house in the city, and showed him, apparently, the same tenderness as he used towards his own children. The next day the prince repaired to his allotted task of cleaning the synagogue, where, to his grief and horror, he presently discovered the bodies of his unfortunate brothers. While he lamented their unhappy fate with showers of tears, the recollection of his own perilous situation, in the power of their murderer, filled his mind with terror; but after the agonies of thought were over, the natural courage of a princely heart rose in his bosom, and he meditated how to revenge the death of his brothers on the savage infidel. An opportunity happened that same night. The prince having composed his mind, finished his work, and when the Jew arrived to examine it, dissembled so well, that no appearance of his inward melancholy was displayed. The Jew applauded his diligence, and taking him home, made him sit down to supper with himself and family, consisting of a wife and two young lads. It being the middle of summer, and the weather sultry, they retired to sleep on the open terrace of the house, which was very lofty. In the dead of night, when the Jew and his family were fast locked in the arms of slumber, the prince, who had purposely kept himself awake, seized the sabre of the treacherous infidel, and with a dexterous blow struck off his head; then snatching up the two children, hurled them headlong from the terrace, so that their brains were dashed out on the stone pavement of the court below. He then uplifted the sabre to destroy the Jew's wife, but the thought that she might be of use to him withheld his hand. He awoke her gently, commanded her to make no noise, and follow him down stairs, where, by degrees, he informed her of his adventures, the discovery he had made of the murder of his brothers, and his revenge on her treacherous husband and ill-fated children, whom, however, he would not have destroyed had he not been apprehensive of their cries alarming the neighbourhood. The Moosulmaun woman, for such she secretly was, did not regard the death of the wicked Jew, who had married her against her will, and often used her with great harshness, and her sorrows for the children were softened by the salvation of her own life. She also felt sentiments of tenderness towards the prince, whose injuries in the murder of his unfortunate brothers had compelled him to revenge, and felt herself obliged to his mercy in letting her live. She now informed him that in the Jew's laboratory were many valuable medicines, and among them the very water of life he was in search of; which intelligence was most gratifying to the prince, who offered to take the woman under his protection, and she willingly consented to accompany him to a country inhabited by true believers. Having packed up the medicines, with some valuable jewels, and put them, with various refreshments and necessaries, on two camels, they mounted and left the city undiscovered, nor did any accident occur on their journey; but on reaching the capital of China, the prince found that his father was dead, while his mother, contrary to expectation, lingered in painful existence. The ministers, who had with difficulty, in hopes of the three brothers' arrival, kept the next relations of the throne from disputing their right to ascend it, were rejoiced at his return; and on being informed of the untimely end of the two elder princes, immediately proclaimed him sultan. His first care was to administer comfort and relief to his afflicted mother, on whom the water of life had an instantaneous effect; his next, to regulate the affairs of his government, which he did with such ability, justice, and moderation, that he became endeared to his subjects, and an example to other sovereigns.
As the sultan, some time after his accession, was one day amusing himself in the chase, he saw a venerable Arab, accompanied by his daughter, travelling on horseback. By accident the young female's veil being blown aside, displayed such beauty to the eyes of the sultan, as instantly fascinated his heart, and made him wish to have her for his sultana. He immediately made offers to her father of his alliance; but great was his mortification and surprise when the Arab rejected them, saying, "That he had sworn not to give his daughter to any one who was not master of some useful trade, by which a livelihood might be earned." "Father," replied the sultan, "what occasion is there that I should learn a mean occupation, when I have the wealth of a kingdom at my command?" "Because," rejoined the Arab, "such are the vicissitudes of the world, that you may lose your kingdom and starve, if not able to work in some way for your living." The sultan, unlike some princes, who would have seized the lady and punished the Arab for his freedom, felt the force of his remark, applauded his wisdom, and requested that he would not betroth her to another, as he was resolved to make himself worthy of becoming his son-in-law by learning some handicraft, till when he hoped they would accept of an abode near the palace. To this the old man readily consented; and in a short time the sultan, eager to possess his bride, became such an adept in the handicraft of making ornamental mats for sofas and cushions of cane and reeds, that the Arab agreed to the nuptials, which were celebrated with all possible splendour and rejoicing, while the subjects admired more than ever the justice and moderation of their sovereign; so true is it, that, unless in depraved states, a good prince makes a good people.
Some years rolled on in uninterrupted felicity to the sultan and his beloved partner. It was the custom of the former frequently to visit in the disguise of a dervish the various quarters of the city, by which means he learnt the opinions of the people, and inspected the conduct of the police. One day in an excursion of this sort he passed by a cook's shop, and being hungry, stepped in to take some refreshment. He was, with seeming respect, conducted to a back room spread with flowered carpeting, over which was a covering of muslin transparently fine. Pulling off his slippers, he entered the room and sat down upon a neat musnud, but to his surprise and terror it instantly sunk under him, and he found himself at the bottom of a dark vault, where by a glimmering light he could discern several naked bodies of unfortunate persons who had been murdered, and presently appeared, descending from a narrow staircase, a black slave of savage countenance, who, brandishing a huge cimeter, cried out, "Wretch, prepare thyself to die!" The sultan was alarmed, but his presence of mind did not forsake him. "What good," said he, "will my death do you or your employers? I have nothing about me but the humble habit I wear; but if you spare my life, I possess an art that will produce your employers considerable wealth." Upon this, the slave going to the master of the house informed him of what the supposed dervish had said, when the treacherous cook came to inquire after the promised riches. "Give me only some reeds and canes, varnished of different colours," said the sultan, "and I will make a mat, which if you carry to the palace and present to the vizier, he will purchase it for a thousand pieces of gold." The desired articles were furnished, and the sultan setting to work, in a few days finished a mat, in which he ingeniously contrived to plait in flowery characters, known only to himself and his vizier, the account of his situation. When finished, he gave it to his treacherous host, who admired the beauty of the workmanship, and not doubting of the reward, carried it to the palace, where he demanded admission, saying he had a curiosity to offer for sale. The vizier, who was then giving audience to petitioners, commanded him to be brought in; but what was his astonishment when the mat was unfolded, to see pourtrayed upon it the imminent danger of the sultan, whom he supposed to be in his haram, and whose absence the sultana had, in order to prevent confusion, commanded to be kept secret, hoping for his speedy return. The vizier instantly summoning his guards seized the villanous cook, and proceeding to his house, released the sultan from his confinement. The house was razed to the ground, and the abominable owner, with his guilty family, put to death. The sultan exultingly felt the use of having learnt a useful art, which had been the means of saving his life.