In days of yore and times long gone before there was a Sultan of India who begat three sons; the eldest hight Prince Husayn, the second Prince Ali, and the youngest Prince Ahmad; moreover he had a niece, named Princess Nur al-Nihár, [FN#315] the daughter of his cadet brother who, dying early, left his only child under her uncle's charge. The King busied himself with abundant diligence about her instruction and took all care that she should be taught to read and write, sew and embroider, sing and deftly touch all instruments of mirth and merriment. This Princess also in beauty and loveliness and in wit and wisdom far excelled all the maidens of her own age in every land. She was brought up with the Princes her cousins in all joyance; and they ate together and played together and slept together; and the king had determined in his mind that when she reached marriageable age he would give her in wedlock to some one of the neighbouring royalties; but, when she came to years of discretion, her uncle perceived that the three Princes his sons were all three deep in love of her, and each desired in his heart to woo and to win and to wed her. Wherefore was the King sore troubled in mind and said to himself, "An I give the Lady Nur al-Nihar in wedlock to any one of her cousins, the other twain will be dissatisfied and murmur against my decision; withal my soul cannot endure to see them grieved and disappointed. And should I marry her to some stranger the three Princes my sons will be sore distressed and saddened in soul; nay, who knoweth that they may not slay themselves or go forth and betake them to some far and foreign land? The matter is a troublous and a perilous; so it behoveth me their sire to take action on such wise that if one of them espouse her, the other two be not displeased thereat." Long time the Sultan revolved the matter in his mind; and at length he devised a device; and, sending for the three princes, addressed them saying, "O my sons, ye are in my opinion of equal merit one with other; nor can I give preference to any of you and marry him to the Princess Nur al-Nihar; nor yet am I empowered to wed her with all three. But I have thought of one plan whereby she shall be wife to one of you, and yet shall not cause aught of irk or envy to his brethren; so may your mutual love and affection remain unabated, and one shall never be jealous of the other's happiness. Brief, my device is this:--Go ye and travel to distant countries, each one separating himself from the others; and do ye bring me back the thing most wondrous and marvellous of all sights ye may see upon your wayfarings; and he who shall return with the rarest of curiosities shall be husband to the Princess Nur al-Nihar. Consent ye now to this proposal; and whatso of money ye require for travel and for the purchase of objects seld-seen and singular, take ye from the royal treasury as much as ye desire." The three Princes, who were ever submissive to their sire, consented with one voice to this proposal, and each was satisfied and confident that he would bring the King the most extraordinary of gifts and thereby win the Princess to wife. So the Sultan bade give to each what moneys he wanted without stint or account, and counselled them to make ready for the journey without stay or delay and depart their home in the Peace of Allah.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Forty-fourth Night
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the three princely brothers forthright made them ready for journey and voyage. So they donned disguise, preferring the dress of wandering merchants; and, buying such things as they needed and taking with them each his suite they mounted steeds of purest blood and rode forth in a body from the palace. For several stages they travelled the same road until, reaching a place where it branched off in three different ways, they alighted at a Khan and ate the evening meal. Then they made compact and covenant, that whereas they had thus far travelled together they should at break of day take separate roads and each wend his own way and all seek different and distant regions, agreeing to travel for the space of one year only, after which, should they be in the land of the living, all three would rendezvous at that same caravanserai and return in company to the King their sire. Furthermore, they determined that the first who came back to the Khan should await the arrival of the next, and that two of them should tarry there in expectancy of the third. Then, all this matter duly settled, they retired to rest, and when the morning morrowed they fell on one another's necks and bade farewell; and, lastly, mounting their horses, they rode forth each in his own direction. Now Prince Husayn, the eldest, had oft heard recount the wonders of the land Bishangarh [FN#316], and for a long while had wished to visit it; so he took the road which led thither, and, joining himself to a caravan journeying that way, accompanied it by land and by water and traversed many regions, desert wilds and stony wolds, dense jungles and fertile tracts, with fields and hamlets and gardens and townships. After three months spent in wayfare at length he made Bishangarh, a region over-reigned by manifold rulers, so great was its extent and so far reaching was its power. He put up at a Khan built specially for merchants who came from the farthest lands, and from the folk who dwelt therein he heard tell that the city contained a large central market [FN#317] wherein men bought and sold all manner of rarities and wondrous things. Accordingly, next day Prince Husayn repaired to the Bazar and on sighting it he stood amazed at the prospect of its length and width. It was divided into many streets, all vaulted over but lit up by skylights; and the shops on either side were substantially builded, all after one pattern and nearly of the same size, while each was fronted by an awning which kept off the glare and made a grateful shade. Within these shops were ranged and ordered various kinds of wares; there were bales of "woven air" [FN#318] and linens of finest tissue, plain-white or dyed or adorned with life-like patterns wherefrom beasts and trees and blooms stood out so distinctly that one might believe them to be very ferals, bosquets and gardens. There were moreover silken goods, brocaded stuffs, and finest satins from Persia and Egypt of endless profusion; in the China warehouses stood glass vessels of all kinds, and here and there were stores wherein tapestries and thousands of foot-carpets lay for sale. So Prince Husayn walked on from shop to shop and marvelled much to see such wondrous things whereof he had never even dreamt: and he came at length to the Goldsmiths' Lane and espied gems and jewels and golden and silvern vessels studded with diamonds and rubies, emeralds, pearls and other precious stones, all so lustrous and dazzling bright that the stores were lit up with their singular brilliancy. Hereat he said to himself, "If in one street only there be such wealth and jewels so rare, Allah Almighty and none save He knoweth what may be the riches in all this city." He was not less astonished to behold the Brahmins, how their women-kind for excess of opulence bedecked themselves with the finest gems and were ornamented with the richest gear from front to foot: their very slave-boys and handmaids wore golden necklaces and bracelets and bangles studded with precious stones. Along the length of one market street were ranged hosts of flower-sellers; for all the folk, both high and low, wore wreaths and garlands: some carried nosegays in hand, other some bound fillets round their heads, while not a few had ropes and festoons surrounding and hanging from their necks. The whole place seemed one huge parterre of bloomery; even traders set bouquets in every shop and stall, and the scented air was heavy with perfume. Strolling to and fro Prince Husayn was presently tired and would fain have sat him down somewhere to rest awhile, when one of the merchants, noting his look of weariness, with kindly courtesy prayed him be seated in his store. After saluting him with the salam the stranger sat down; and anon he saw a broker come that way, offering for sale a carpet some four yards square, and crying, "This be for sale; who giveth me its worth; to wit, thirty thousand gold pieces?"--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Forty-fifth Night
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Prince marvelled with excessive marvel at the price, and, beckoning the dealer, examined his wares right well; then said he, "A carpet such as this is selleth for a few silverlings. What special virtue hath it that thou demand therefor the sum of thirty thousand gold coins?" The broker, believing Husayn to be a merchant man lately arrived at Bishangarh, answered him saying, "O my lord, thinkest thou I price this carpet at too high a value? My master hath bidden me not to sell it for less than forty thousand Ashrafis." Quoth the Prince, "It surely cloth possess some wondrous virtue, otherwise wouldst thou not demand so prodigious a sum;" and quoth the broker, "'Tis true, O my lord, its properties are singular and marvellous. Whoever sitteth on this carpet and willeth in thought to be taken up and set down upon other site will, in the twinkling of an eye, be borne thither, be that place nearhand or distant many a day's journey and difficult to reach." [FN#319] The Prince hearing these words said to himself, "Naught so wonder-rare as this rug can I carry back to the Sultan my sire to my gift, or any that afford him higher satisfaction and delight. Almighty Allah be praised, the aim of my wayLare is attained and hereby, Inshallah! I shall win to my wish. This, if anything, will be to him a joy for ever." Wherefore the Prince, with intent to buy the Flying Carpet, turned to the broker and said, If indeed it have properties such as thou describest, verily the price thou askest therefor is not over much, and I am ready to pay thee the sum required." The other rejoined, "An thou doubt my words I pray thee put them to the test and by such proof remove thy suspicions. Sit now upon this square of tapestry, and at thy mere wish and will it shall transport us to the caravanserai wherein thou abidest: on this wise shalt thou be certified of my words being sooth, and when assured of their truth thou mayest count out to me, there and then, but not before, the value of my wares." Accordingly, the man spread out the carpet upon the ground behind his shop and seated the Prince thereupon, he sitting by his side. Then, at the mere will [FN#320] and wish of Prince Husayn, the twain were at once transported as though borne by the throne of Solomon to the Khan. So the eldest of the brothers joyed with exceeding joy to think that he had won so rare a thing, whose like could nowhere be found in the lands nor amongst the Kings; and his heart and soul were gladdened for that he had come to Bishangarh and hit upon such a prodigy. Accordingly he counted out the forty thousand Ashrafis as payment for the carpet, and gave, moreover, another twenty thousand by way of sweetmeat to the broker. Furthermore, he ceased not saying to himself that the King on seeing it would forthright wed him to the Princess Nur al-Nihar; for it were clear impossible that either of his brothers, e'en though they searched the whole world over and over, could find a rarity to compare with this. He longed to take seat upon the carpet that very instant and fly to his own country, or, at least, to await his brothers at the caravanserai where they had parted under promise and covenant, pledged and concluded, to meet again at the year's end. But presently he bethought him that the delay would be long and longsome, and much he feared lest he be tempted to take some rash step; wherefore he resolved upon sojourning in the country whose King and subjects he had ardently desired to behold for many a day, and determined that he would pass the time in sight-seeing and in pleasuring over the lands adjoining. So Prince Husayn tarried in Bishangarh some months. Now the King of that country was wont to hold a high court once every week for hearing disputes and adjudging causes which concerned foreign merchants; and thus the Prince ofttimes saw the King, but to none would he tell a word of his adventure. However, inasmuch as he was comely of countenance, graceful of gait, and courteous of accost, stout hearted and strong, wise and ware and witty, he was held by the folk in higher honour than the Sultan; not to speak of the traders his fellows; and in due time he be came a favourite at court and learned of the ruler himself all matters concerning his kingdom and his grandeur and greatness. The Prince also visited the most famous Pagodas [FN#321] of that country. The first he saw was wrought in brass and orichalch of most exquisite workmanship: its inner cell measured three yards square and contained amiddlemost a golden image in size and stature like unto a man of wondrous beauty; and so cunning was the workmanship that the face seemed to fix its eyes, two immense rubies of enormous value, upon all beholders no matter where they stood. [FN#322] He also saw another idol-temple, not less strange and rare than this, builded in a village on a plain surface of some half acre long and broad, wherein bloomed lovely rose-trees and jasmine and herb-basil and many other sweet-scented plants, whose perfume made the air rich with fragrance. Around its court ran a wall three feet high, so that no animal might stray therein; and in the centre was a terrace well-nigh the height of a man, all made of white marble and wavy alabaster, each and every slab being dressed so deftly and joined with such nice joinery that the whole pavement albeit covering so great a space, seemed to the sight but a single stone. In the centre of the terrace stood the domed fane towering some fifty cubits high and conspicuous for many miles around: its length was thirty cubits and its breadth twenty, and the red marbles of the revetment were clean polished as a mirror, so that every image was reflected in it to the life. The dome was exquisitely carved and sumptuously ornamented without; and within were ranged in due rank and sequence rows and rows of idols. To this, the Holy of Holies, from morn till eve thousands of Brahmins, men and women, came docking for daily worship. They had sports and diversions as well as rites and ceremonies: some feasted and others danced, some sang, others played on instruments of mirth and merriment, while here and there were plays and revels and innocent merry-makings. And hither at every season flocked from distant lands hosts of pilgrims seeking to fulfil their vows and to perform their orisons; all bringing gifts of gold and silver coin and presents rare and costly which they offered to the gods in presence of the royal officers.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Forty-sixth Night
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Prince Husayn also saw a fête once a year within the city of Bishangarh and the Ryots all, both great and small, gathered together and circumambulated the Pagodas; chiefly circuiting one which in size and grandeur surpassed all others. Great and learned Pandits versed in the Shástras [FN#323] made journeys of four or five months and greeted one another at that festival; thither too the folk from all parts of India pilgrimaged in such crowds that Prince Husayn was astounded at the sight; and, by reason of the multitudes that thronged around the temples, he could not see the mode in which the gods were worshipped. On one side of the adjacent plain which stretched far and wide, stood a new-made scaffolding of ample size and great magnificence, nine storeys high, and the lower part supported by forty pillars; and here one day in every week the King assembled his Wazirs for the purpose of meting out justice to all strangers in the land. The palace within was richly adorned and furnished with costly furniture: without, upon the wall faces were limned homely landscapes and scenes of foreign parts and notably all manner beasts and birds and insects even gnats and flies, portrayed with such skill of brain and cunning of hand that they seemed real and alive and the country-folk and villagers seeing from afar paintings of lions and tigers and similar ravenous beasts, were filled with awe and dismay. On the other three sides of the scaffolding were pavilions, also of wood, built for use of the commons, illuminated and decorated inside and outside like the first, and wroughten so cunningly that men could turn them round, with all the people in them, and moving them about transfer them to whatsoever quarter they willed. On such wise they shifted these huge buildings by aid of machinery; [FN#324] and the folk inside could look upon a succession of sports and games. Moreover, on each side of the square elephants were ranged in ranks, the number amounting to well nigh one thousand, their trunks and ears and hinder parts being painted with cinnabar and adorned with various lively figures; their housings were of gold brocade and their howdahs purfled with silver, carrying minstrels who performed on various instruments, whilst buffoons delighted the crowd with their jokes and mimes played their most diverting parts. Of all the sports, however, which the Prince beheld, the elephant-show amused him most and Wiled him with the greatest admiration. One huge beast, which could be wheeled about where the keepers ever listed, for that his feet rested upon a post which travelled on casters, held in his trunk a flageolet whereon he played so sweetly well that all the people were fain to cry Bravo! There was another but a smaller animal which stood upon one end of a beam laid crosswise upon, and attached with hinges to, a wooden block eight cubits high, and on the further end was placed an iron weight as heavy as the elephant, who would press down for some time upon the beam until the end touched the ground, and then the weight would raise him up again. [FN#325] Thus the beam swung like a see saw aloft and adown; and, as it moved, the elephant swayed to and fro and kept time with the bands of music, loudly trumpeting the while. The people moreover could wheel about this elephant from place to place as he stood balanced on the beam; and such exhibitions of learned elephants were mostly made in presence of the King. Prince Husayn spent well nigh a year in sight-seeing amongst the fairs and festivals of Bishangarh; and, when the period of the fraternal compact drew near, he spread his carpet upon the court-ground behind the Khan wherein he lodged, and sitting thereon, together with his suite and the steeds and all he had brought with him, mentally wished that he might be transported to the caravanserai where the three brothers had agreed to meet. No sooner had he formed the thought than straightway, in the twinkling of an eye, the carpet rose high in air and sped through space and carried them to the appointed stead where, still garbed as a merchant he remained in expectation of his brothers' coming. Hearken now, O auspicious King, to what befel Prince Ali, the second brother of Prince Husayn. On the third day after he had parted from the two others, he also joined a caravan and journeyed towards Persia; then, after a march of four months arriving at Shiraz, the capital of Iran-land, he alighted at a Khan, he and his fellow-travellers with whom he had made a manner of friendship; and, passing as a jeweller, there took up his abode with them. Next day the traders fared forth to buy wares and to sell their goods; but Prince Ali, who had brought with him naught of vendible, and only the things he needed, presently doffed his travelling dress, and in company with a comrade of the caravan entered the chief Bazar, known as the Bazistán, [FN#326] or cloth-market. Ali strolled about the place, which was built of brick and where all the shops had arched roofs resting on handsome columns; and he admired greatly to behold the splendid store-houses exposing for sale all manner goods of countless value. He wondered much what wealth was in the town if a single market street contained riches such as these. And as the brokers went about crying their goods for sale, he saw one of them hending in hand an ivory tube in length about a cubit, which he was offering for sale at the price of thirty thousand Ashrafis. Hearing such demand Prince Ali thought to himself, "Assuredly this fellow is a fool who asketh such a price for so paltry a thing."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Forty-seventh Night
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Prince Ali presently asked one of the shopkeepers with whom he had made acquaintance, saying, "O my friend, is this man a maniac that he asketh a sum of thirty thousand Ashrafis for this little pipe of ivory? Surely none save an idiot would give him such a price and waste upon it such a mint of money." Said the shop man, "O my lord, this broker is wiser and warier than all the others of his calling, and by means of him I have sold goods worth thousands of sequins. Until yesterday he was in his sound senses; but I cannot say what state is his to day and whether or no he have lost his wits; but this wot I well, that if he ask thirty thousand for yon ivory tube, 'twill be worth that same or even more. Howbeit we shall see with our own eyes. Sit thee here and rest within the shop until he pass this way." So Prince Ali abode where he was bidden and presently the broker was seen coming up the street. Then the shopman calling to him said, "O man, rare merit hath yon little pipe; for all the folk are astounded to hear thee ask so high a price therefor; nay more, this friend of mine thinketh that thou art crazy." The broker, a man of sense, was on no wise chafed at these words but answered with gentle speech, "O my lord, I doubt not but that thou must deem me a madman to ask so high a price, and set so great a value upon an article so mean; but when I shall have made known to thee its properties and virtues, thou wilt most readily consent to take it at that valuation. Not thou alone but all men who have heard me cry my cry laugh and name me ninny." So saying, the broker showed the Spying Tube to Prince Ali and handing it to him said, "Examine well this ivory, the properties of which I will explain to thee. Thou seest that it is furnished with a piece of glass at either end; [FN#327] and, shouldst thou apply one extremity thereof to thine eye, thou shalt see what thing soe'er thou listest and it shall appear close by thy side though parted from thee by many an hundred of miles." Replied the Prince, "This passeth all conception, nor can I believe it to be veridical until I shall have tested it and I become satisfied that 'tis even as thou sayest." Hereupon the broker placed the little tube in Prince Ali's hand, and showing him the way to handle it said, "Whatso thou mayest wish to descry will be shown to thee by looking through this ivory." Prince Ali silently wished to sight his sire, and when he placed the pipe close to his eye forthwith he saw him hale and hearty, seated on his throne and dispensing justice to the people of his dominion. Then the youth longed with great longing to look upon his lady love the Princess Nur al-Nihar; and straightway he saw her also sitting upon her bed, sound and sane, talking and laughing, whilst a host of handmaids stood around awaiting her commands. The Prince was astonished exceedingly to behold this strange and wondrous spectacle, and said to himself, "An I should wander the whole world over for ten years or more and search in its every corner and cranny, I shall never find aught so rare and precious as this tube of ivory." Then quoth he to the broker, "The virtues of thy pipe I find are indeed those thou hast described, and right willingly I give to thee its price the thirty thousand Ashrafis." Replied the sales-man, "O my lord, my master hath sworn an oath that he will not part with it for less than forty thousand gold pieces." Here-upon the Prince, understanding that the broker was a just man and a true, weighed out to him the forty thousand sequins and became master of the Spying Tube, enraptured with the thought that assuredly it would satisfy his sire and obtain for him the hand of Princess Nur al-Nihar. So with mind at ease Ali journeyed through Shiraz and over sundry parts of Persia; and in fine, when the year was well nigh spent he joined a caravan and, travelling back to India, arrived safe and sound at the appointed caravanserai whither Prince Husayn had foregone him. There the twain tarried awaiting the third brother's safe return. Such, O King Shahryar, is the story of the two brothers; and now I beseech thee incline thine ear and hearken to what befel the youngest, to wit Prince Ahmad; for indeed his adventure is yet more peregrine and seld-seen of all. When he had parted from his brothers, he took the road leading to Samarkand; and, arriving there after long travel, he also like his brothers alighted at a Khan. Next day he fared forth to see the market square, which folk call the Bazistan, and he found it fairly laid out, the shops wroughten with cunning workmanship and filled with rare stuffs and precious goods and costly merchandise. Now as he wandered to and fro he came across a broker who was hawking a Magical Apple and crying aloud, "Who will buy this fruit, the price whereof be thirty-five thousand gold pieces?" Quoth Prince Ahmad to the man, "Prithee let me see the fruit thou holdest in hand, and explain to me what hidden virtue it possesseth that thou art asking for it so high a value." Quoth the other, smiling and handing to him the apple, "Marvel not at this, O good my lord: in sooth I am certified that when I shall have explained its properties and thou shalt see how it advantageth all mankind, thou wilt not deem my demand exorbitant; nay, rather thou wilt gladly give a treasure house of gold so thou may possess it."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Forty-eighth Night
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the broker said moreover to Prince Ahmad, "Now hearken to me, O my lord, and I will tell thee what of virtue lieth in this artificial apple. If anyone be sick of a sickness however sore, nay more if he be ill nigh unto death, and perchance he smell this pome, he will forthwith recover and become well and whole of whatsoever disease he had, plague or pleurisy, fever or other malignant distemper, as though he never had been attacked; and his strength will return to him forthright, and after smelling this fruit he will be free from all ailment and malady so long as life shall remain to him." Quoth Prince Ahmad, "How shall I be assured that what thou speakest is truth? If the matter be even as thou sayest, then verily I will give thee right gladly the sum thou demandest." Quoth the broker, "O my lord, all men who dwell in the parts about Samarkand know full well how there once lived in this city a sage of wondrous skill who, after many years of toil and travail, wrought this apple by mixing medicines from herbs and minerals countless in number. All his good, which was great, he expended upon it, and when he had perfected it he made whole thousands of sick folk whom he directed only to smell the fruit. But, alas! his life presently came to an end and death overtook him suddenly ere he could save himself by the marvellous scent; and, as he had won no wealth and left only a bereaved wife and a large family of young children and dependents manifold, his widow had no help but provide for them a maintenance by parting with this prodigy." While the salesman was telling his tale to the Prince a crowd of citizens gathered around them and one amongst the folk, who was well known to the broker, came forward and said, "A friend of mine lieth at home sick to the death: the doctors and surgeons all despair of his life; so I beseech thee let him smell this fruit that he may live." Hearing these words, Prince Ahmad turned to the salesman and said, "O my friend, if this sick man of whom thou hearest can recover strength by smelling the apple, then will I straightway buy it of thee at a valuation of forty thousand Ashrafis." The man had permission to sell it for a sum of thirty-five thousand; so he was satisfied to receive five thousand by way of brokerage, and he rejoined, "'Tis well, O my lord, now mayest thou test the virtues of this apple and be persuaded in thy mind: hundreds of ailing folk have I made whole by means of it." Accordingly the Prince accompanied the people to the sick man's house and found him lying on his bed with the breath in his nostrils; but, as soon as the dying man smelt the fruit, at once recovering strength he rose in perfect health, sane and sound. Hereupon Ahmad bought the Magical Apple of the dealer and counted out to him the forty thousand Ashrafis. Presently, having gained the object of his travels, he resolved to join some caravan marching Indiawards and return to his father's home; but meanwhile he resolved to solace himself with the sights and marvels of Samarkand. His especial joy was to gaze upon the glorious plain highs Soghd, [FN#328] one of the wonders of this world: the land on all sides was a delight to the sight, emerald-green and bright, with crystal rills like the plains of Paradise; the gardens bore all manner flowers and fruits and the cities and palaces gladdened the stranger's gaze. After some days Prince Ahmad joined a caravan of merchants wending Indiawards; and, when his long and longsome travel was ended, he at last reached the caravanserai where his two brothers, Husayn and Ali, impatiently awaited his arrival. The three rejoiced with exceeding joy to meet once more and fell on one another's necks; thanking Allah who had brought them back safe and sound, hale and hearty, after such prolonged and longsome absence. Then Prince Husayn, being the eldest, turned to them and said, "Now it behoveth us each to recount what hath betided him and announce what rare thing he hath brought back and what be the virtues thereof; and I, being the first-born, will be the foremost to tell my adventures. I bring with me from Bishangarh, a carpet, mean to look at, but such are its properties that should any sit thereon and wish in mind to visit country or city, he will at once be carried thither in ease and safety although it be distant months, nay years of journey. I have paid forty thousand gold pieces to its price; and, after seeing all the wonders of Bishangarh-land, I took seat upon my purchase and willed myself at this spot. Straightway I found myself here as I wished and have tarried in this caravanserai three months awaiting your arrival. The flying carpet is with me; so let him who listeth make trial of it." When the senior Prince had made an end of telling his tale, Prince Ali spake next and said, "O my brother, this carpet which thou hast brought is marvel-rare and hath most wondrous gifts; nor according to thy statement hath any in all the world seen aught to compare with it." Then bringing forth the Spying Tube, he pursued, "Look ye here, I too have bought for forty thousand Ashrafis somewhat whose merits I will now show forth to you."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Forty-ninth Night
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Prince Ali enlarged upon the virtues of his purchase and said, "Ye see this ivory pipe? By means of it man may descry objects hidden from his sight and distant from him many a mile. 'Tis truly a most wondrous matter and right worthy your inspection, and you two may try it an ye will. Place but an eye close to the smaller glass and form a wish in mind to see what thing soe'er your soul desireth; and, whether it be near hand or distant many hundreds of miles, this ivory will make the object look clear and close to you." At these words Prince Husayn took the pipe from Prince Ali and, applying his eye to one end as he had been directed, then wished in his heart to behold the Princess Nur al-Nihar; [FN#329] and the two brothers watched him to learn what he would say. Suddenly they saw his face change colour and wither as a wilted flower, while in his agitation and distress a flood of tears gushed from his eyes; and, ere his brothers recovered from their amazement and could enquire the cause of such strangeness, he cried aloud, "Alas! and well away. We have endured toil and travail, and we have travelled so far and wide hoping to wed the Princess Nur al-Nihar. But 'tis all in vain: I saw her lying on her bed death-sick and like to breathe her last and around her stood her women all weeping and wailing in the sorest of sorrow. O my brothers, an ye would see her once again for the last time, take ye one final look through the glass ere she be no more." Hereat Prince Ali seized the Spying Tube and peered through it and found the condition of the Princess even as his brother Husayn had described; so he presently passed it over to Prince Ahmad, who also looked and was certified that the Lady Nur al-Nihar was about to give up the ghost. So he said to his elder brothers, "We three are alike love distraught for the Princess and the dearest wish of each one is to win her. Her life is on the ebb, still I can save her and make her whole if we hasten to her without stay or delay." So saying he pulled from his pocket the Magical Apple and showed it to them crying, "This thing is not less in value than either the Flying Carpet or the Spying Tube. In Samarkand I bought it for forty thousand gold pieces and here is the best opportunity to try its virtues. The folk told me that if a sick man hold it to his nose, although on the point of death, he will wax at once well and hale again: I have myself tested it, and now ye shall see for yourselves its marvel-cure when I shall apply it to the case of Nur al-Nihar. Only, let us seek her presence ere she die." Quoth Prince Husayn, "This were an easy matter: my carpet shall carry us in the twinkling of an eye straight to the bedside of our beloved. Do ye without hesitation sit down with me thereupon, for there is room sufficient to accommodate us three; we shall instantly be carried thither and our servants can follow us." Accordingly, the three Princes disposed themselves upon the Flying Carpet and each willed in his mind to reach the bedside of Nur al-Nihar, when instantly they found themselves within her apartment. The handmaids and eunuchs in waiting were terrified at the sight and marvelled how these stranger men could have entered the chamber; and, as the Castratos were fain fall upon them, brand in hand, they recognised the Princes and drew back still in wonderment at their intrusion. Then the brothers rose forthright from the Flying Carpet and Prince Ahmad came forwards and put the Magical Apple to the nostrils of the lady, who lay stretched on the couch in unconscious state; and as the scent reached her brain the sickness left her and the cure was complete. She opened wide her eyes and sitting erect upon her bed looked all around and chiefly at the Princes as they stood before her; for she felt that she had waxed hale and hearty as though she awoke after the sweetest of slumber. Presently she arose from her couch and bade her tire-women dress her the while they related to her the sudden coming of the three Princes, her uncle's sons, and how Prince Ahmad had made her smell something whereby she had recovered of her illness. And after she had made the Ablution of Health she joyed with exceeding joy to see the Princes and returned thanks to them, but chiefly to Prince Ahmad in that he had restored her to health and life.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fiftieth Night.
Then she said:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the brothers also were gladdened with exceeding gladness to see the Princess Nur al-Nihar recover so suddenly from mortal malady and, presently taking leave of her, they fared to greet their father. Meanwhile the Eunuchs had reported the whole matter to the Sultan, and when the Princes came before him he rose and embraced them tenderly and kissed them on their foreheads, filled with satisfaction to see them again and to hear from them the welfare of the Princess, who was dear to him as she had been his daughter. Then the three brothers produced each one the wondrous thing he had brought from his wayfare; and Prince Husayn first showed the Flying Carpet which in the twinkling of an eye had transported them home from far distant exile and said, "For outward show this carpet hath no merit, but inasmuch as it possesseth such wondrous virtue, methinks 'tis impossible to find in all the world aught that can compare to it for rarity." Next, Prince Ali presented to the King his Spying Tube and said, "The mirror of Jamshíd [FN#330] is as vain and naught beside this pipe, by means whereof all things from East to West and from North to South are made clearly visible to the ken of man." Last of all, Prince Ahmad produced the Magical Apple which wondrously saved the dear life of Nur al-Nihar and said, "By means of this fruit all maladies and grievous distempers are at once made whole." Thus each presented his rarity to the Sultan, saying, "O our lord, deign examine well these gifts we have brought and do thou pronounce which of them all is most excellent and admirable; so, according to thy promise, he amongst us on whom thy choice may fall shall marry the Princess Nur al-Nihar." When the King had patiently listened to their several claims and had understood how each gift took part in restoring health to his niece, for a while he dove deep in the sea of thought and then answered, "Should I award the palm of merit to Prince Ahmad, whose Magical Apple cured the Princess, then should I deal unfairly by the other two. Albeit his rarity restored her to life and health from mortal illness, yet say me how had he known of her condition save by the virtue of Prince Ali's Spying Tube? In like manner, but for the Flying Carpet of Prince Husayn, which brought you three hither in a moment's space, the Magical Apple would have been of no avail. Wherefore 'tis my rede all three had like part and can claim equal merit in healing her; for it were impossible to have made her whole if any one thing of the three were wanting; furthermore all three objects are wondrous and marvellous without one surpassing other, nor can I, with aught of reason, assign preference or precedence to any. My promise was to marry the Lady Nur al-Nihar to him who should produce the rarest of rarities, but although strange 'tis not less true that all are alike in the one essential condition. The difficulty still remaineth and the question is yet unsolved, whilst I fain would have the matter settled ere the close of day, and without prejudice to any. So needs must I fix upon some plan whereby I may be able to adjudge one of you to be the winner, and bestow upon him the hand of Princess Nur al-Nihar, according to my plighted word; and thus absolve myself from all responsibility. Now I have resolved upon this course of action; to wit, that ye should mount each one his own steed and all of you be provided with bow and arrows; then do ye ride forth to the Maydán--the hippodrome--whither I and my Ministers of State and Grandees of the kingdom and Lords of the land will follow you. There in my presence ye shall each, turn by turn, shoot a shaft with all your might and main; and he amongst you whose arrow shall fly the farthest will be adjudged by me worthiest to win the Princess Nur al-Nihar to wife." Accordingly the three Princes, who could not gainsay the decision of their sire nor question its wisdom and justice, backed their coursers, and each taking his bow and arrows made straight for the place appointed. The King also, when he had stored the presents in the royal treasury, arrived there with his Wazirs and the dignitaries of his realm; and as soon as all was ready, the eldest son and heir, Prince Husayn, essayed his strength and skill and shot a shaft far along the level plain. After him Prince Ali hent his bow in hand and, discharging an arrow in like direction, overshot the first; and lastly came Prince Ahmad's turn. He too aimed at the same end, but such was the decree of Destiny, that although the knights and courtiers urged on their horses to note where his shaft might strike ground, withal they saw no trace thereof and none of them knew if it had sunk into the bowels of earth or had flown up to the confines of the sky. Some, indeed, there were who with evil mind held that Prince Ahmad had not shot any bolt, and that his arrow had never left his bow. So at last the King bade no more search be made for it and declared himself in favour of Prince Ali and adjudged that he should wed the Princess Nur al-Nihar, forasmuch as his arrow had outsped that of Prince Husayn. Accordingly, in due course the marriage rites and ceremonies were performed after the law and ritual of the land with exceeding pomp and grandeur. But Prince Husayn would not be present at the bride-feast by reason of his dis appointment and jealousy, for he had loved the Lady Nur al-Nihar with a love far exceeding that of either of his brothers; and he doffed his princely dress and donning the garb of a Fakir fared forth to live a hermit's life. Prince Ahmad also burned with envy and refused to join the wedding-feast; he did not, however, like Prince Husayn, retire to a hermitage, but he spent all his days in searching for his shaft to find where it had fallen. Now it so fortuned that one morning he went again, alone as was his wont, in quest thereof, and starting from the stead whence they had shot their shafts reached the place where the arrows of Princes Husayn and Ali had been found. Then going straight forwards he cast his glances on every side over hill and dale to his right and to his left.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fifty-first Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Prince Ahmad went searching for his shaft over hill and dale when, after covering some three parasangs, suddenly he espied it lying flat upon a rock. [FN#331] Hereat he marvelled greatly, wondering how the arrow had flown so far, but even more so when he went up to it and saw that it had not stuck in the ground but appeared to have rebounded and to have fallen flat upon a slab of stone. Quoth he to himself, "There must assuredly be some mystery in this matter: else how could anyone shoot a shaft to such a distance and find it fallen after so strange a fashion." Then, threading his way amongst the pointed crags and huge boulders, he presently came to a hollow in the ground which ended in a subterraneous passage, and after pacing a few paces he espied an iron door. He pushed this open with all ease, for that it had no bolt, and entering, arrow in hand, he came upon an easy slope by which he descended. But whereas he feared to find all pitch-dark, he discovered at some distance a spacious square, a widening of the cave, which was lighted on every side with lamps and candelabra. Then advancing some fifty cubits or more his glance fell upon a vast and handsome palace, and presently there issued from within to the portico a lovely maiden lovesome and lovable, a fairy-form robed in princely robes and adorned from front to foot with the costliest of jewels. She walked with slow and stately gait, withal graceful and blandishing, whilst around her ranged her attendants like the stars about a moon of the fourteenth night. Seeing this vision of beauty, Prince Ahmad hastened to salute her with the salam and she returned it; then coming forwards greeted him graciously and said in sweetest accents, "Well come and welcome, O Prince Ahmad: I am pleased to have sight of thee. How fareth it with thy Highness and why hast thou tarried so long away from me?" The King's son marvelled greatly to hear her name him by his name; for that he knew not who she was, as they had never seen each other aforetime--how then came she to have learnt his title and condition? Then kissing ground before her he said, "O my lady, I owe thee much of thanks and gratitude for that thou art pleased to welcome me with words of cheer in this strange place where I, alone and a stranger, durst enter with exceeding hesitation and trepidation. But it perplexeth me sorely to think how thou camest to learn the name of thy slave." Quoth she with a smile, "O my lord, come hither and let us sit at ease within yon belvedere; and there I will give an answer to thine asking." So they went thither, Prince Ahmad following her footsteps; and on reaching it he was filled with wonder to see its vaulted roof of exquisite workmanship and adorned with gold and lapis lazuli [FN#332] and paintings and ornaments, whose like was nowhere to be found in the world. The lady seeing his astonishment said to the Prince, "This mansion is nothing beside all my others which now, of my free will, I have made thine own; and when thou seest them thou shalt have just cause for wonderment. Then that sylph-like being took seat upon a raised dais and with abundant show of affection seated Prince Ahmad by her side. Presently quoth she, "Albeit thou know me not, I know thee well, as thou shalt see with surprise when I shall tell thee all my tale. But first it behoveth me disclose to thee who I am. In Holy Writ belike thou hast read that this world is the dwelling-place not only of men, but also of a race hight the Jann in form likest to mortals. I am the only daughter of a Jinn chief of noblest strain and my name is Perí-Bánú. So marvel not to hear me tell thee who thou art and who is the King thy sire and who is Nur al-Nihar, the daughter of thine uncle. I have full knowledge of all concerning thyself and thy kith and kin; how thou art one of three brothers who all and each were daft for love of Princess Nur al-Nihar and strave to win her from one another to wife. Furthermore thy sire deemed it best to send you all far and wide over foreign lands, and thou faredest to far Samarkand and broughtest back a Magical Apple made with rare art and mystery which thou boughtest for forty thousand Ashrafis; then by means whereof thou madest the Princess thy lady-love whole of a grievous malady, whilst Prince Husayn, thine elder brother, bought for the same sum of money a Flying Carpet at Bishangarh, and Prince Ali also brought home a Spying Tube from Shiraz-city. Let this suffice to show thee that naught is hidden from me of all thy case; and now do thou tell me in very truth whom dost thou admire the more, for beauty and loveliness, me or the lady Nur al-Nihar thy brother's wife? My heart longeth for thee with excessive longing and desireth that we may be married and enjoy the pleasures of life and the joyance of love. So say me, art thou also willing to wed me, or pinest thou in preference for the daughter of thine uncle? In the fulness of my affection for thee I stood by thy side unseen during the archery meeting upon the plain of trial, and when thou shottest thy shaft I knew that it would fall far short of Prince Ali's, [FN#333] so I hent it in hand ere it touched ground and carried it away from sight, and striking it upon the iron door caused it rebound and lie flat upon the rock where thou didst find it. And ever since that day I have been sitting in expectancy, wotting well that thou wouldst search for it until thou find it, and by such means I was certified of bringing thee hither to me." Thus spake the beautiful maiden Peri-Banu who with eyes full of love-longing looked up at Prince Ahmad; and then with modest shame bent low her brow and averted her glance.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fifty-Second Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that when Prince Ahmad heard these words of Peri-Banu he rejoiced with joy exceeding, and said to himself, "The Princess Nur al-Nihar is not within my power to win, and Peri-Banu doth outvie her in comeliness of favour and in loveliness of form and in gracefulness of gait." In short so charmed was he and captivated that he clean forgot his love for his cousin; and, noting that the heart of his new enchantress inclined towards him, he replied, "O my lady, O fairest of the fair, naught else do I desire save that I may serve thee and do thy bidding all my life long. But I am of human and thou of non-human birth. Thy friends and family, kith and kin, will haply be displeased with thee an thou unite with me in such union." But she made answer, "I have full sanction of my parents to marry as I list and whomsoever I may prefer. Thou sayest that thou wilt be my servant, nay, rather be thou my lord and master; for I myself and my life and all my good are very thine, and I shall ever be thy bondswoman. Consent now, I beseech thee, to accept me for thy wife: my heart doth tell me thou wilt not refuse my request." Then Peri-Banu added, "I have told thee already that in this matter I act with fullest authority. Besides all this there is a custom and immemorial usage with us fairy-folk that, when we maidens come to marriageable age and years of understanding, each one may wed, according the dictates of her heart, the person that pleaseth her most and whom she judgeth likely to make her days happy Thus wife and husband live with each other all their lives in harmony and happiness. But if a girl be given away in marriage by the parents, according to their choice and not hers, and she be mated to a helpmate unmeet for her, because ill-shapen or ill-conditioned or unfit to win her affection, then are they twain likely to be at variance each with other for the rest of their days; and endless troubles result to them from such ill-sorted union. Nor are we bound by another law which bindeth modest virgins of the race of Adam; for we freely announce our preference to those we love, nor must we wait and pine to be wooed and won." When Prince Ahmad heard these words of answer, he rejoiced with exceeding joy and stooping down essayed to kiss the skirt of her garment, but she prevented him, and in lieu of her hem gave him her hand. The Prince clasped it with rapture and according to the custom of that place, he kissed it and placed it to his breast and upon his eyes. Hereat quoth the Fairy, smiling a charming smile, "With my hand locked in thine plight me thy troth even as I pledge my faith to thee, that I will alway true and loyal be, nor ever prove faithless or fail of constancy." And quoth the Prince, "O loveliest of beings, O dearling of my soul, thinkest thou that I can ever become a traitor to my own heart, I who love thee to distraction and dedicate to thee my body and my sprite; to thee who art my queen, the very empress of me? Freely I give myself to thee, do thou with me whatso thou wilt." Hereupon Peri-Banu said to Prince Ahmad, "Thou art my husband and I am thy wife. [FN#334] This solemn promise made between thee and me standeth in stead of marriage-contract: no need have we of Kazi, for with us all other forms and ceremonies are superfluous and of no avail. Anon I will show thee the chamber where we shall pass the bride-night; and methinks thou wilt admire it and confess that there is none like thereto in the whole world of men." Presently her handmaidens spread the table and served up dishes of various kinds, and the finest wines in flagons and goblets of gold dubbed with jewels. So they twain sat at meat and ate and drank their sufficiency. Then Peri-Banu took Prince Ahmad by the hand and led him to her private chamber wherein she slept; and he stood upon the threshold amazed to see its magnificence and the heaps of gems and precious stones which dazed his sight, till recovering himself he cried, "Methinks there is not in the universe a room so splendid and decked with costly furniture and gemmed articles such as this." Quoth Peri-Banu, "An thou so admire and praise this palace what wilt thou say when sighting the mansions and castles of my sire the Jann-King? Haply too when thou shalt behold my garden thou wilt be filled with wonder and delight; but now 'tis over late to lead thee thither and night approacheth." Then she ushered Prince Ahmad into another room where the supper had been spread, and the splendour of this saloon yielded in naught to any of the others; nay, rather it was the more gorgeous and dazzling. Hundreds of wax candles set in candelabra of the finest amber [FN#335] and the purest crystal, ranged on all sides, rained floods of light, whilst golden flowerpots and vessels of finest workmanship and priceless worth, of lovely shapes and wondrous art, adorned the niches and the walls.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fifty-third Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that tongue of man can never describe the magnificence of that room in which bands of virgin Peris, loveliest of forms and fairest of features, garbed in choicest garments played on sweet-toned instruments of mirth and merriment or sang lays of amorous significance to strains of heart bewitching music. Then they twain, to wit the bride and bridegroom, sat down at meat, ever and anon delaying to indulge in toyings and bashful love-play and chaste caresses. Peri-Banu with her own hands passed the choicest mouthfuls to Prince Ahmad and made him taste of each dish and dainty, telling him their names and whereof they were composed. But how shall I, O auspicious King Shahryar, avail to give thee any notion of those Jinn-made dishes or to describe with due meed of praise the delicious flavour of meats such as no mortal ever tasted or ever beheld? Then, when both had supped, they drank the choicest wines, and ate with relish sweet conserves and dry fruit and a dessert of various delicacies. At length, when they had their requirement of eating and drinking, they retired into another room which contained a raised dais of the grandest, bedecked with gold-purfled cushions and pillows wrought with seed-pearl and Achæmenian tapestries, whereupon they took seat side by side for converse and solace. Then came in a troop of Jinns and fairies who danced and sang before them with wondrous grace and art; and this pretty show pleased Peri-Banu and Prince Ahmad, who watched the sports and displays with ever-renewed delight. At last the newly wedded couple rose and retired, weary of revelry, to another chamber, wherein they found that the slaves had dispread the genial bed, whose frame was gold studded with jewels and whose furniture was of satin and sendal flowered with the rarest embroidery. Here the guests who attended at the marriage festival and the handmaids of the palace, ranged in two lines, hailed the bride and bridegroom as they went within; and then, craving dismissal, they all departed leaving them to take their joyance in bed. On such wise the marriage-festival and nuptial merry-makings were kept up day after day, with new dishes and novel sports, novel dances and new music; and, had Prince Ahmad lived a thousand years with mortal kind, never could he have seen such revels or heard such strains or enjoyed such love-liesse. Thus six months soon passed in the Fairy-land beside Peri-Banu, whom he loved with a love so fond that he would not lose her from his sight for a moment's space; but would feel restless and ill-at-ease whenas he ceased to look upon her. In like manner Peri-Banu was fulfilled with affection for him and strove to please her bridegroom more and more every moment by new arts of dalliance and fresh appliances of pleasure, until so absorbing waxed his passion for her that the thought of home and kindred, kith and kin, faded from his thoughts and fled his mind. But after a time his memory awoke from slumber and at times he found himself longing to look upon his father, albeit well did he wot that it were impossible to find out how the far one fared unless he went himself to visit him. So one day quoth he to Peri-Banu, "An it be thy pleasure, I pray thee give me thy command that I may leave thee for a few days to see my sire, who doubtless grieveth at my long absence and suffereth all the sorrows of separation from his son." Peri-Banu, hearing these words was dismayed with sore dismay, for that she thought within herself that this was only an excuse whereby he might escape and leave her after enjoyment and possession had made her love pall upon the palate of his mind. So quoth she in reply, "Hast thou forgotten thy vows and thy plighted troth, that thou wishest to leave me now? Have love and longing ceased to stir thee, whilst my heart always throbbeth in raptures as it hath ever done at the very thought of thee?" Replied the Prince, "O dearling of my soul, my queen, my empress, what be these doubts that haunt thy mind, and why such sad misgivings and sorrowful words? I know full well that the love of thee and thine affection me-wards are even as thou sayest; and did I not acknowledge this truth or did I prove unthankful or fail to regard thee with a passion as warm and deep, as tender and as true as thine own, I were indeed an ingrate and a traitor of the darkest dye. Far be it from me to desire severance from thee nor hath any thought of leaving thee never to return at any time crossed my mind. But my father is now an old man well shotten in years and he is sore grieved in mind at this long separation from his youngest son. If thou wilt deign command, I would fain go visit him and with all haste return to thine arms; yet I would not do aught in this matter against thy will; and such is my fond affection for thee that I would fain be at all hours of the day and watches of the night by thy side nor leave thee for a moment of time." Peri-Banu was somewhat comforted by this speech; and from his looks, words and acts she was certified that Prince Ahmad really loved her with fondest love and that his heart was true as steel to her as was his tongue. Whereupon she granted him leave and liberty to set forth and see his sire, whilst at the same time she gave him strict commandment not to tarry long with his kith and kin. Hearken now, O auspicious King Shahryar, to what befel the Sultan of Hindostan and how it fared with him after the marriage of Prince Ali to Princess Nur al-Nihar.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fifty-fourth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that not seeing Prince Husayn and Prince Ahmad for the space of many days the Sultan waxed exceeding sad and heavy-hearted, and one morning after Darbar, [FN#336] asked his Wazirs and Ministers what had betided them and where they were. Hereto the councillors made answer saying, "O our lord, and shadow of Allah upon earth, thine eldest son and fruit of thy vitals and heir apparent to thine Empire the Prince Husayn, in his disappointment and jealousy and bitter grief hath doffed his royal robes to become a hermit, a devotee, renouncing all worldly lusts and gusts. Prince Ahmad thy third son also in high dudgeon hath left the city; and of him none knoweth aught, whither he hath fled or what hath befallen him." The King was sore distressed and bade them write without stay or delay and forthright despatch firmans and commands to all the Nabobs and Governors of the provinces, with strict injunctions to make straight search for Prince Ahmad and to send him to his sire the moment he was found. But, albeit the commandments were carried out to the letter and all the seekers used the greatest diligence none came upon any trace of him. Then, with increased sadness of heart, the Sultan ordered his Grand Wazir to go in quest of the fugitive and the Minister replied, "Upon my head be it and mine eyes! Thy servant hath already caused most careful research to be made in every quarter, but not the smallest clue hath yet come to hand: and this matter troubleth me the more for that he was dear to me as a son." The Ministers and Grandees now understood that the King was overwhelmed with woe, tearful-eyed and heavy-hearted by reason of the loss of Prince Ahmad; whereupon bethought the Grand Wazir of a certain witch famed for the Black Art who could conjure down the stars from heaven; and who was a noted dweller in the capital. So going to the Sultan he spake highly of her skill in knowledge of the abstruse, [FN#337] saying "Let the King, I pray thee, send for this sorceress and enquire of her concerning his lost son." And the King replied, "'Tis well said: let her be brought hither and haply she shall give me tidings of the Prince and how he fareth." So they fetched the Sorceress and set her before the Sultan, who said, "O my good woman, I would have thee know that ever since the marriage of Prince Ali with the Lady Nur al-Nihar, my youngest son Prince Ahmad, [FN#338] who was disappointed in her love, hath disappeared from our sight and no man knoweth aught of him. Do thou forthright apply thy magical craft and tell me only this:--Is he yet alive or is he dead? An he live I would learn where is he and how fareth he; moreover, I would ask, Is it written in my book of Destiny that I shall see him yet again?" To this the Witch made reply, "O Lord of the Age and ruler of the times and tide, 'tis not possible for me at once to answer all these questions which belong to the knowledge of Hidden Things; but, if thy Highness deign grant me one day of grace, I will consult my books of gramarye and on the morrow will give thee a sufficient reply and a satisfactory." The Sultan to this assented, saying, "An thou can give me detailed and adequate answer, and set my mind at ease after this sorrow, thou shalt have an exceeding great reward and I will honour thee with highmost honour." Next day the Sorceress, accompanied by the Grand Wazir, craved permission to appear before the presence, and when it was granted came forward and said, "I have made ample investigation by my art and mystery and I have assured myself that Prince Ahmad is yet in the land of the living. Be not therefore uneasy in thy mind on his account; but at present, save this only, naught else can I discover regarding him, nor can I say for sure where he be or how he is to be found." At these words the Sultan took comfort, and hope sprang up within his breast that he should see his son again ere he died. Now return we to the story of Prince Ahmad. Whenas Peri-Banu understood that he was bent upon visiting his sire and she was convinced that his love her-wards remained firm and steadfast as before, she took thought and determined that it would ill become her to refuse him leave and liberty for such purpose; so she again pondered the matter in her mind and debated with herself for many an hour till at length, one day of the days, she turned to her husband and said, "Albeit my heart consenteth not to part from thee for a moment or to lose sight of thee for a single instant, still inasmuch as thou hast ofttimes made entreaty of me and hast shown thyself so solicitous to see thy sire, I will no longer baffle thy wish. But this my favour will depend upon one condition; otherwise I will never grant thy petition and give thee such permission. Swear to me the most binding of oaths that thou wilt haste thee back hither with all possible speed, and thou wilt not by long absence cause me yearning grief and anxious waiting for thy safe return to me." Prince Ahmad, well pleased to win his wish, thanked her saying, "O my beloved, fear not for me after any fashion and rest assured I will come back to thee with all haste as soon as I shall have seen my sire; and life hath no charms for me away from thy presence. Although I must needs be severed from thee for a few days, yet will my heart ever turn to thee and to thee only." These words of Prince Ahmad gladdened the heart of Peri-Banu and drove away the darksome doubts and mysterious misgivings which ever haunted her nightly dreams and her daily musings.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fifty-fifth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Peri-Banu gladdened by these premises addressed her husband, Prince Ahmad, "So now, as soon as thy heart desireth, go thou and pay thy respects to thy sire; but ere thou set out I would charge thee with one charge and look that on no wise thou forget my rede and my counsel. Speak not to any a single word of this thy marriage nor of the strange sights thou hast seen and the wonders thou hast witnessed; but keep them carefully concealed from thy father and thy brethren and from thy kith and kin, one and all. This only shalt thou tell thy sire, so his mind may be set at ease that thou art buxom and happy; also that thou hast returned home for a while only with the object of seeing him and becoming assured of his welfare." Then she gave orders to her people bidding them make ready for the journey without delay; and when all things were prepared she appointed twenty horsemen, armed cap-a-pie and fully accoutred, to accompany her husband, and gave him a horse of perfect form and proportions, swift as the blinding leven or the rushing wind; and its housings and furniture were bedeckt with precious ores and studded with jewels. Then she fell on his neck and they embraced with warmest love; and as the twain bade adieu, Prince Ahmad, to set her mind at rest, renewed his protestations and sware to her again his solemn oath. Then mounting his horse and followed by his suite (all Jinn-born cavaliers) he set forth with mighty pomp and circumstance, and riding diligently he soon reached his father's capital. Here he was received with loud acclamations, the like of which had never been known in the land. The Ministers and Officers of State, the citizens and the Ryots all rejoiced with exceeding joy to see him once more, and the folk left their work and with blessings and low obeisances joined the cavalcade; and, crowding around him on every side, escorted him to the palace gates. When the Prince reached the threshold he dismounted and, entering the audience-hall, fell at his father's feet and kissed them in a transport of filial affection. The Sultan, well nigh distraught for delight at the unexpected sight of Prince Ahmad, rose from his throne and threw himself upon his son's neck weeping for very joy and kissed his forehead saying, "O dear my child, in despair at the loss of the Lady Nur al-Nihar thou didst suddenly fly from thy home, and, despite all research, nor trace nor sign of thee was to be found however sedulously we sought thee; and I, distracted at thy disappearance, am reduced to this condition in which thou seest me. Where hast thou been this long while, and how hast thou lived all this time?" Replied Prince Ahmad, "'Tis true, O my lord the King, that I was downhearted and distressed to see Prince Ali gain the hand of my cousin, but that is not the whole cause of my absence. Thou mayest remember how, when we three brothers rode at thy command to yonder plain for a trial of archery, my shaft, albeit the place was large and flat, disappeared from sight and none could find where it had fallen. Now so it fortuned that one day in sore heaviness of mind I fared forth alone and unaccompanied to examine the ground thereabout and try if haply I could find my arrow. But when I reached the spot where the shafts of my brothers, Princes Husayn and Ali, had been picked up, I made search in all directions, right and left, before and behind, thinking that thereabouts mine also might come to hand; but all my trouble was in vain: I found neither shaft nor aught else. So walking onwards in obstinate research, I went a long way, and at last despairing, I would have given up the quest, for full well I knew that my bow could not have carried so far, and indeed that 'twere impossible for any marksman to have driven bolt or pile to such distance, when suddenly I espied it lying flat upon a rock some four parasangs [FN#339] distant from this place." The Sultan marvelled with much marvel at his words and the Prince presently resumed, "So when I picked up the arrow, O my lord, and considered it closely I knew it for the very one I had shot, but admired in my mind how it had come to fly so far, and I doubted not but that there was a somewhat mysterious about the matter. While I thus reflected I came upon the place where I have sojourned ever since that day in perfect solace and happiness. I may not tell thee more of my tale than this; for I came only to ease thy mind on my account, and now I pray thee deign grant me thy supreme permission that I return forthright to my home of delights. From time to time I will not cease to wait upon thee and to enquire of thy welfare with all the affection of a son." Replied the King, "O my child, the sight of thee hath gladdened mine eyes; and I am now satisfied; and not unwillingly I give thee leave to go, since thou art happy in some place so near hand; but shouldst thou at any time delay thy coming hither, say me, how shall I be able to get tidings of thy good health and welfare?" And quoth Prince Ahmad, "O my lord the King, that which thou requirest of me is part of my secret and this must remain deep hidden in my breast: as I said before, I may not discover it to thee nor say aught that might lead to its discovery. However, be not uneasy in thy soul, for I will appear before thee full many a time and haply I may irk thee with continual coming." "O my son," rejoined the Sultan, "I would not learn thy secret an thou would keep it from me, but there is one only thing I desire of thee, which is, that ever and anon I may be assured of thine enduring health and happiness. Thou hast my full permission to hie thee home, but forget not at least once a month to come and see me even as now thou dost, lest such forgetfulness cause me anxiety and trouble, cark and care." So Prince Ahmad tarried with his father three days full-told, but never for a moment did the memory of the Lady Peri-Banu fade from his mind; and on the fourth day he mounted horse and returned with the same pomp and pageantry wherewith he came.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fifty-sixth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Peri-Banu joyed with exceeding joy at the sight of Prince Ahmad as he returned to his home; and it seemed to her as though they had been parted for three hundred years: such is love that moments of separation are longsome and weary as twelvemonths. The Prince offered much of excuses for his short absence and his words delighted Peri-Banu yet the more. So these twain, lover and beloved, passed the time in perfect happiness, taking their pleasure one with other. Thus a month went by and Prince Ahmad never once mentioned the name of his sire nor expressed a wish to go visit him according to his promise. Noting this change, the Lady Peri-Banu said to him one day, "Thou toldest me aforetime that once in the beginning of each month thou wouldst fare forth and travel to thy father's court and learn news of his welfare: why then neglectest thou so to do, seeing that he will be distressed and anxiously expecting thee?" Replied Prince Ahmad, "'Tis even as thou sayest, but, awaiting thy command and thy permission, I have forborne to propose the journey to thee." And she made answer, "Let thy faring and thy returning rest not on my giving thee liberty of leave. At the beginning of each month as it cometh round, do thou ride forth, and from this time forwards thou hast no need to ask permission of me. Stay with thy sire three days full-told and on the fourth come back to me without fail." Accordingly, on the next day betimes in the morning Prince Ahmad took his departure and as aforetime rode forth with abundant pomp and parade and repaired to the palace of the Sultan his sire, to whom he made his obeisance. On like manner continued he to do each month with a suite of horsemen larger and more brilliant than before, whilst he himself was more splendidly mounted and equipped. And whenever the Crescent appeared in the Western sky he fondly farewelled his wife and paid his visit to the King, with whom he tarried three whole days, and on the fourth returned to dwell with Peri-Banu. But, as each and every time he went, his equipage was greater and grander than the last, at length one of the Wazirs, a favourite and cup-companion of the King, was filled with wonderment and jealousy to see Prince Ahmad appear at the palace with such opulence and magnificence. So he said in himself, "None can tell whence cometh this Prince, and by what means he hath obtained so splendid a suite." Then of his envy and malice that Wazir fell to plying the King with deceitful words and said, "O my liege lord and mighty sovran, it ill becometh thee to be thus heedless of Prince Ahmad's proceedings. Seest thou not how day after day his retinue increaseth in numbers and puissance? What an he should plot against thee and cast thee into prison, and take from thee the reins of the realm? Right well thou wottest that inasmuch as thou didst wed Prince Ali to the Lady Nur al-Nihar thou provokedest the wrath of Prince Husayn and Prince Ahmad; so that one of them in the bitterness of his soul renounced the pomps and vanities of this world and hath become a Fakir, whilst the other, to wit; Prince Ahmad, appeareth before thy presence in such inordinate power and majesty. Doubtless they both seek their revenge; and, having gotten thee into their power, the twain will deal treacherously with thee. So I would have thee beware, and again I say beware; and seize the forelock of opportunity ere it be too late; for the wise have said,
'Thou canst bar a spring with a sod of clay * But when grown 'twill bear a big host away.'"
Thus spake that malicious Wazir; and presently he resumed, "Thou knowest also that when Prince Ahmad would end his three days' visits he never asketh thy leave nor farewelleth thee nor biddeth adieu to any one of his family. Such conduct is the beginning of rebellion and proveth him to be rancorous of heart. But 'tis for thee in thy wisdom to decide." These words sank deep in the heart of the simple-minded Sultan and grew a crop of the direst suspicions. He presently thought within himself, "Who knoweth the mind and designs of Prince Ahmad, whether they be dutiful or undutiful towards me? Haply he may be plotting vengeance; so it besitteth me to make enquiries concerning him, to discover where he dwelleth and by what means he hath attained to such puissance and opulence." Filled with these jealous thoughts, he sent in private one day, unbeknown to the Grand Wazir who would at all times befriend Prince Ahmad, to summon the Witch; and, admitting her by a secret postern to his private chamber, asked of her saying, "Thou didst aforetime learn by thy magical art that Prince Ahmad was alive and didst bring me tidings of him. I am beholden to thee for this good office, and now I would desire of thee to make further quest into his case and ease my mind, which is sore disturbed. Albeit my son still liveth and cometh to visit me every month, yet am I clean ignorant of the place wherein he dwelleth and whence he setteth out to see me; for that he keepeth the matter close hidden from his sire. Go thou forthright and privily, without the knowledge of any, my Wazirs and Nabobs, my courtiers and my household; and make thou diligent research and with all haste bring me word whereabouts he liveth. He now sojourneth here upon his wonted visit; and, on the fourth day, without leave-taking or mention of departure to me or to any of the Ministers and Officers, he will summon his suite and mount his steed; then will he ride to some little distance hence and suddenly disappear. Do thou without stay or delay forego him on the path and lie perdue in some convenient hollow hard by the road whence thou mayest learn where he hometh; then quickly bring me tidings thereof." Accordingly, the Sorceress departed the presence of the King; and, after walking over the four parasangs, she hid herself within a hollow of the rocks hard by the place where Prince Ahmad had found his arrow, and there awaited his arrival. Early on the morrow the Prince, as was his wont, set out upon his journey without taking leave of his sire or fare welling any of the Ministers. So when they drew nigh, the Sorceress caught sight of the Prince and of the retinue that rode before and beside him; and she saw them enter a hollow way which forked into a many of by-ways; and so steep and dangerous were the cliffs and boulders about the track that hardly could a footman safely pace that path. Seeing this the Sorceress bethought her that it must surely lead to some cavern or haply to a subterraneous passage, or to a souterrain the abode of Jinns and fairies; when suddenly the Prince and all his suite vanished from her view. So she crept out of the hiding-place wherein she had ensconced herself and wandered far and wide seeking, as dillgently as she was able, but never finding the subterraneous passage nor yet could she discern the iron door which Prince Ahmad had espied, for none of human flesh and blood had power to see this save he alone to whom it was made visible by the Fairy Peri-Banu; furthermore it was ever concealed from the prying eyes of womankind. Then said the Sorceress to herself, This toil and moil have I undertaken to no purpose; yea, verily, I have failed to find out that wherefor I came." So she went forthright back to the Sultan and reported to him all that had betided her, how she had lain in wait amid the cliffs and boulders and had seen the Prince and suite ride up the most perilous of paths and, having entered a hollow way, disappear in an eyetwinkling from her sight. And she ended by saying, "Albeit I strove my utmost to find out the spot wherein the Prince abideth, yet could I on no wise succeed; and I pray thy Highness may grant me time to search further into the matter and to find out this mystery which by skill and caution on my part shall not long abide concealed." Answered the Sultan, "Be it as thou wilt: I grant thee leisure to make enquiry and after a time I shall await thy return hither."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fifty-seventh Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that moreover the King largessed the Witch with a diamond of large size and of great price, saying, "Take this stone to guerdon for thy trouble and travail and in earnest of future favours; so, when thou shalt return and bring me word that thou hast searched and found out the secret, thou shalt have a Bakhshish of far greater worth and I will make thy heart rejoice with choicest joy and honour thee with highmost honour." So the Sorceress looked forwards to the coming of the Prince, for well she knew that at the sight of each crescent he rode home to visit his sire and was bound to abide with him three days, even as the Lady Peri-Banu had permitted and had enjoined him. Now when the moon had waxed and waned, on the day before the Prince would leave home upon his monthly visit, the Witch betook her to the rocks and sat beside the place whence she imagined he would issue forth; and next morning early he and his suite, composed of many a mounted knight with his esquire a-foot, who now always accompanied him in increasing numbers, rode forth gallantly through the iron doorway and passed hard by the place where she lay in wait for him. The Sorceress crouched low upon the ground in her tattered rags; and, seeing a heap by his way, the Prince at first supposed that a slice of stone had fallen from the rocks across his path. But as he drew nigh she fell to weeping and wailing with might and main as though in sore dolour and distress, and she ceased not to crave his countenance and assistance with increase of tears and lamentations. The Prince seeing her sore sorrow had pity on her, and reining in his horse, asked her what she had to require of him and what was the cause of her cries and lamentations. At this the cunning crone but cried the more, and the Prince was affected with compassion still livelier at seeing her tears and hearing her broken, feeble words. So when the Sorceress perceived that Prince Ahmad had ruth on her and would fain show favour to her, she heaved a heavy sigh and in woeful tones, mingled with moans and groans, addressed him in these false words, withal holding the hem of his garment and at times stopping as if convulsed with pain, "O my lord and lord of all loveliness, as I was journeying from my home in yonder city upon an errand to such a place, behold, when I came thus far upon my way, suddenly a hot fit of fever seized me and a shivering and a trembling, so that I lost all strength and fell down helpless as thou seest me; and still no power have I in hand or foot to rise from the ground and to return to my place." Replied the Prince, "Alas, O good woman, there is no house at hand where thou mayest go and be fitly tended and tendered. Howbeit I know a stead whither, an thou wilt, I can convey thee and where by care and kindness thou shalt (Inshallah!) soon recover of thy complaint. Come then with me as best thou canst." With loud moans and groans the Witch made answer, "So weak am I in every limb and helpless that I can by no means rise off the ground or move save with the help of some friendly hand." The Prince then bade one of his horsemen lift up the feeble and ailing old woman and set her upon his steed; and the cavalier did his lord's bidding forthright and mounted her astraddle upon the crupper of his courser: then, Prince Ahmad rode back with her and entering by the iron door carried her to his apartment and sent for Peri-Banu. His wife hurriedly coming forth to the Prince asked him in her flurry, "Is all well and wherefore hast thou come back and what wouldst thou that thou hast sent for me?" Prince Ahmad then told her of the old woman who was healthless and helpless, adding, "Scarce had I set out on my journey when I espied this ancient dame lying hard by the roadside, suffering and in sore distress. My heart felt pity for her to see her in such case and constrained me to bring her hither as I could not leave her to die among the rocks; and I pray thee of thy bounty take her in and give her medicines that she may soon be made whole of this her malady. An thou wilt show this favour I shall not cease to thank thee and be beholden to thee." --And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fifty-eighth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Peri-Banu looked at the old woman and charged a twain of her handmaidens that they carry her into a room apart and tend her with the tenderest care and the uttermost of diligence. The attendants did as she bade them and transported the Sorceress to the place she had designed. Then Peri-Banu addressed Prince Ahmad saying, "O my lord, I am pleased to see thy pitiful kindness towards this ancient dame, and I surely will look to her case even as thou hast enjoined me; but my heart misgiveth me and much I fear some evil will result from thy goodness. This woman is not so ill as she doth make believe, but practiseth deceit upon thee and I ween that some enemy or envier hath plotted a plot against me and thee. Howbeit go now in peace upon thy journey." The Prince, who on no wise took to heart the words of his wife, presently replied to her, "O my lady, Almighty Allah forfend thee from all offence! With thee to help and guard me I fear naught of ill: I know of no foeman who would compass my destruction, for I bear no grudge against any living being, and I foresee no evil at the hands of man or Jann." Thereupon the Prince again took leave of Peri-Banu and repaired with his attendants to the palace of his sire who, by reason of the malice of his crafty Minister, was inwardly afraid to see his son; but not the less he welcomed him with great outward show of love and affection. Meanwhile the two fairy handmaidens, to whom Peri-Banu had given charge of the Witch, bore her away to a spacious room splendidly furnished; and laid her on a bed having a mattress of satin and a brocaded coverlet. Then one of them sat by her side whilst the other with all speed fetched, in a cup of porcelain, an essence which was a sovereign draught for ague and fever. Presently they raised her up and seated her on the couch saying, "Drain thou this drink. It is the water of the Lions' Fount and whoso tasteth of the same is forthwith made whole of what disease soever he hath." The Sorceress took the cup with great difficulty and after swallowing the contents lay back on the bed; and the handmaidens spread the quilt over her saying, "Now rest awhile and thou shalt soon feel the virtues of this medicine." Then they left her to sleep for an hour or so; but presently the Witch, who had feigned sickness to the intent only that she might learn where Prince Ahmad abode and might inform the Sultan thereof, being assured that she had discovered all that she desired, rose up and summoning the damsels said to them, "The drinking of that draught hath restored to me all my health and strength: I now feel hale and hearty once more and my limbs are filled with new life and vigour. So at once acquaint your lady herewith, that I may kiss the hem of her robe and return my thanks for her goodness me-wards, then depart and hie me home again." Accordingly, the two handmaidens took the Sorceress with them and showed her as they went along the several apartments, each more magnificent and kingly than the other; and at length they reached the belvedere which was the noblest saloon of all, and fitted and filled with furniture exceeding costly and curious. There sat Peri-Banu upon a throne which was adorned with diamonds and rubies, emeralds, pearls and other gems of unwonted size and water, whilst round about her stood fairies of lovely form and features, robed in the richest raiments and awaiting with folded hands her commandments. The Sorceress marvelled with extreme marvel to see the splendour of the chambers and their furniture, but chiefly when she beheld the Lady Peri-Banu seated upon the jewelled throne; nor could she speak a word for confusion and awe, but she bent down low and placed her head upon Peri-Banu's feet. Quoth the Princess in soft speech and reassuring tones, "O good woman, it pleaseth me greatly to see thee a guest in this my palace, and I joy even more to learn that thou be wholly quit of thy sickness. So now solace thy spirits with walking all round about the place and my servants will accompany thee and show thee what there is worthy of thine inspection." Hereat the Witch again louted low and kissed the carpet under Peri-Banu's feet, and took leave of her hostess in goodly phrase and with great show of gratitude for her favours. The handmaids then led her round the palace and displayed to her all the rooms, which dazed and dazzled her sight so that she could not find words to praise them sufficiently. Then she went her ways and the fairies escorted her past the iron doorway whereby Prince Ahmad had brought her in, and left her, bidding her God-speed and blessing her; and the foul crone with many thanks took the road to her own home. But when she had walked to some distance she was minded to see the iron door, so might she with ease know it again; so she went back, but lo and behold! the entrance had vanished and was invisible to her as to all other women. Accordingly, after searching on all sides and pacing to and fro and finding nor sign nor trace of palace or portal, she repaired in despair to the city and, creeping along a deserted path-way, entered the palace, according to her custom, by the private postern. When safely within she straightway sent word by an eunuch to the Sultan, who ordered that she be brought before him. She approached him with troubled countenance, whereat, perceiving that she had failed to carry out her purpose, he asked, "What news? Hast thou accomplished thy design or hast thou been baffled therein?" --And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Fifty-ninth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Sorceress, who was a mere creature of the malicious Wazir, replied, "O King of kings, this matter have I fully searched out even as thou gavest command, and I am about to tell thee all that hath betided me. The signs of sorrow and marks of melancholy thou notest upon my countenance are for other cause which narrowly concerneth thy welfare." Then she began to recount her adventure in these terms, "Now when I had reached the rocks I sat me down feigning sickness; and, as Prince Ahmad passed that way and heard my complaining and saw my grievous condition, he had compassion on me. After some 'said and say' he took me with him by a subterranean passage and through an iron door to a magnificent palace and gave me in charge of a fairy, Peri-Banu hight, of passing beauty and loveliness, such as human eye hath never yet seen. Prince Ahmad bade her make me her guest for some few days and bring me a medicine which would complete my cure, and she to please him at once appointed handmaidens to attend upon me. So I was certified that the twain were one flesh, husband and wife. I feigned to be exceeding frail and feeble and made as though I had not strength to walk or even to stand; whereat the two damsels supported me, one on either side, and I was carried into a room where they gave me somewhat to drink and put me upon a bed to rest and sleep. Then thought I to myself:--'Verily I have gained the object wherefor I had feigned sickness'; and I was assured that it availed no more to practise deceit. Accordingly, after a short while I arose and said to the attendants that the draught which they had given me to drink had cut short the fever and had restored strength to my limbs and life to my frame. Then they led me to the presence of the Lady Peri-Banu, who was exceeding pleased to see me once more hale and hearty, and bade her handmaidens conduct me around the palace and show each room in its beauty and splendour; after which I craved leave to wend my ways and here am I again to work thy will." When thus she had made known to the King all that had betided her, she resumed, "Perchance, on hearing of the might and majesty, opulence and magnificence of the Lady Peri-Banu, thou wilt be gladdened and say within thyself, ''Tis well that Prince Ahmad is wedded to this Fairy and hath gotten for himself such wealth and power;' but to the thinking of this thy slave the matter is quite other. It is not well, I dare avouch, that thy son should possess such puissance and treasures, for who knoweth but that he may by good aid of Peri-Banu bring about division and disturbance in the realm? Beware of the wiles and malice of women. The Prince is bewitched with love of her, and peradventure at her incitement he may act towards thee otherwise than right, and lay hands on thy hoards and seduce thy subjects and become master of thy kingdom; and albeit he would not of his own free will do aught to his father and his forbears save what was pious and dutiful, yet the charms of his Princess may work upon him little by little and end by making him a rebel and what more I may not say. Now mayest thou see that the matter is a weighty, so be not heedless but give it full consideration." Then the Sorceress made ready to gang her gait when spake the King, saying, "I am beholden to thee in two things; the first, that thou tookest upon thyself much toil and travail, and on my behalf riskedst thy life to learn the truth anent my son Prince Ahmad. Secondly, I am thankful for that thou hast given me a rede so sound and such wholesome counsel." So saying, he dismissed her with the highmost honour; but no sooner had she left the palace than he, sore distraught, summoned his second Wazir, the malicious Minister who had incited him against Prince Ahmad, and when he and his friends appeared in the presence he laid before them the whole matter and asked of them, saying, "What is your counsel, and what must I do to protect myself and my kingdom against the wiles of this Fairy?" Replied one of his councillors, "'Tis but a trifling matter and the remedy is simple and nearhand. Command that Prince Ahmad, who is now within the city if not in the palace, be detained as one taken prisoner. Let him not be put to death, lest haply the deed may engender rebellion; but at any rate place him under arrest and if he prove violent clap him in irons."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Sixtieth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that this felon counsel pleased the malicious Minister and all his fautors and flatterers highly approved his rede. The Sultan kept silence and made no reply, but on the morrow he sent and summoned the Sorceress and debated with her whether he should or should not cast Prince Ahmad into prison. Quoth she, "O King of kings, this counsel is clean contrary to sound sense and right reason. An thou throw Prince Ahmad into gaol, so must thou also do with all his knights and their esquires; and inasmuch as they are Jinns and Márids, who can tell their power of reprisals? Nor prison-cells nor gates of adamant can keep them in; they will forthwith escape and report such violence to the Fairy who, wroth with extreme wrath to find her husband doomed to durance vile like a common malefactor, and that too for no default or crime but by a treacherous arrest, will assuredly deal the direst of vengeance on thy head and do us a damage we shall not be able to forfend. An thou wilt confide in me, I will advise thee how to act, whereby thou mayest win thy wish and no evil will come nigh thee or thy kingship. Thou knowest well that to Jinns and Fairies is power given of doing in one short moment deeds marvellous and wondrous, which mortals fail to effect after long years of toil and trouble. Now whenas thou goest a-hunting or on other expedition, thou requirest pavilions for thyself and many tents for thy retinue and attendants and soldiery; and in making ready and transporting such store much time and wealth are wastefully expended. I would advise, O King of kings, that thou try Prince Ahmad by the following test: do thou bid him bring to thee a Sháhmiyánah [FN#340] so long and so broad that it will cover and lodge the whole of thy court and men-at-arms and camp-followers, likewise the beasts of burthen; and yet it must be so light that a man may hold it in the hollow of his hand and carry it whithersoever he listeth." Then, after holding her peace for a while, she added, still addressing the Sultan, "And as soon as Prince Ahmad shall acquit himself of this commission, do thou demand of him a somewhat still greater and more wondrous wherewith I will make thee ware, and which he will find grievous of execution. On this wise shalt thou fill thy treasury with rare inventions and strange, the handicraft of Jánn, nor will this cease till such time in fine when thy son shall be at his wits' end to carry out thy requirements. Then, humbled and abashed, he will never dare to enter thy capital or even thy presence; and thus shalt thou be saved from fear of harm at his hands, and thou shalt not have need to put him in gaol or, worse still, to do him dead." Hearing these words of wisdom, the Sultan made known the Witch's device to his advisers and asked them what they deemed thereof. They held their peace and answered not a word or good or ill; while he himself highly approved it and said no more. Next day Prince Ahmad came to visit the King, who welcomed him with overflowing affection and clasping him to his bosom kissed him on eyes and forehead. Long time they sat conversing on various subjects, till at length the Sultan finding an occasion spake thus, "O dear my son, O Ahmad, for many a day have I been sad at heart and sorrowful of soul because of separation from thee, and when thou camest back I was gladdened with great gladness at sight of thee, and albeit thou didst and dost still withhold from me the knowledge of thy whereabouts, I refrained from asking thee or seeking to find out thy secret, since it was not according to thy mind to tell me of thine abode. Now, however, I have heard say that thou art wedded to a mighty Jinníyah [FN#341], of passing beauty; and the tidings please me with the highmost possible pleasure. I desire not to learn aught from thee concerning thy Fairy-wife save whatso thou wouldst entrust to me of thine own free will; but, say me, should I at any time require somewhat of thee, canst thou obtain it from her? Doth she regard thee with such favour that she will not deny thee anything thou askest of her?" Quoth the Prince, "O my lord, what dost thou demand of me? My wife is devoted to her husband in heart and soul, so prithee let me learn what it is thou wouldst have of me and her." Replied the Sultan, Thou knowest that ofttimes I fare a-hunting or on some foray and fray, when I have great need of tents and pavilions and Shahmiyanahs, with herds and troops of camels and mules and other beasts of burden to carry the camp from place to place. I would, therefore, that thou bring me a tent so light that a man may carry it in the hollow of his hand, and yet so large that it may contain my court and all my host and camp and suttlers and bât-animals. An thou wouldst ask the Lady for this gift I know full well that she can give it; and hereby shalt thou save me much of trouble in providing carriage for the tentage and spare me much waste and loss of beasts and men." The Prince replied, "O my sire the Sultan, trouble not thy thought. I will at once make known thy wish to my wife, the Lady Peri-Banu; and, albeit little I wot an fairies have the faculty of making a pavilion such as thou describest, or indeed (supposing that they have such power), an she will grant me or not grant me her aidance; and, moreover, although I cannot promise thee such present, yet whatsoever lieth in my ability to do, that will I gladly do for thy service."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
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Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that quoth the King to Prince Ahmad, "Shouldst thou perchance fail in this matter and bring me not the gift required, O my son, I will never see thy face again. A sorry husband thou, in good sooth, if thy wife refuse so mean a thing and hasten not to do all thou biddest her do; giving thee to see that thou art of small value and consequence in her eyes, and that her love for thee is a quantity well nigh to naught. But do thou, O my child, go forth and straightway ask her for the tent. An she give it thee know thou she desireth thee and thou art the dearest of all things to her; and I have been informed that she loveth thee with all her heart and soul and will by no means refuse thee aught thou requirest, were it even the balls of her eyes." Now Prince Ahmad was ever wont to tarry three days each month with the Sultan his sire, and return to his spouse on the fourth; but this time he stayed two days only and farewelled his father on the third. As he passed into the palace Peri-Banu could not but note that he was sad at heart and downcast of face; so she asked of him, "Is all well with thee? Why hast thou come to-day and not tomorrow from the presence of the King thy father, and why carriest thou so triste a countenance?" Whereupon, after kissing her brow and fondly embracing her, he told her the whole matter, first to last, and she made answer, "I will speedily set thy mind at rest, for I would not see thee so saddened for a moment longer. Howbeit, O my love, from this petition of the Sultan thy sire I am certified that his end draweth nigh, and he will soon depart this world to the mercy of Allah the Almighty. [FN#342] Some enemy hath done this deed and much of mischief hath made for thee; and the result is that thy father, all unmindful of his coming doom, cloth seek diligently his own destruction." The Prince, anxious and alarmed, thus answered his wife, "Almighty Allah be praised, the King my liege lord is in the best of health and showeth no sign of disorder or decrepitude: 'tis but this morning I left him hale and hearty, and in very sooth I never saw him in better case. Strange, indeed, that thou shouldst ken what shall betide him before I have told thee aught concerning him, and especially how he hath come to learn of our marriage and of our home." Quoth Peri-Banu, "O my Prince, thou knowest what I said to thee whenas I saw the old dame whom thou broughtest hither as one afflicted with the ague and fever. That woman, who is a Witch of Satan's breed, hath disclosed to thy father all he sought to learn concerning this our dwelling-place. And notwithstanding that I saw full clearly she was nor sick nor sorry, but only feigning a fever, I gave her medicine to drink which cureth complaints of all kinds, and she falsely made believe that by its virtues she had recovered health and strength. So when she came to take leave of me, I sent her with two of my damsels and bid them display to her every apartment in the palace together with its furniture and decorations, that she might better know the condition of me and thee. Now all this did I on thy account only, for thou badest me show compassion to the ancient woman and I was rejoiced to see her departing safe and sound and in the best of spirits. Save her alone, no human being had ever power to know aught of this place, much less to come hither." Prince Ahmad hearing these words thanked and praised her and said, "O sun-faced beauty, I would beg of thee to grant me a boon whereof my father hath made request of me; to wit, a Shahmiyanah of such dimensions that it may shelter him and his many, his camp and bat-cattle and withal may be carried in the hollow of the hand. An such marvel exist I wot not, yet would I do my utmost to procure it, and carry it to him right loyally." Quoth she, "Why trouble thyself for so small a matter? I will forthright send for it and give it thee." Then she summoned one of her handmaids who was treasurer to her and said, "O Nur Jehán, [FN#343] go thou at once and bring me a pavilion of such and such a fashion." So she fared forth without delay and as quickly came back with the pavilion which, at her lady's bidding, she placed in the palm of Prince Ahmad's hand. --And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-second Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Prince Ahmad hent the pavilion in hand and thought to himself, "What is this Peri-Banu giveth me? Surely she doth make a mock of me." His wife, however, reading his mind in his face fell to laughing aloud, and asked, "What is it, O my dearling Prince? Dost thou think that I am jesting and jibing at thee?" Then she continued, addressing the treasurer Nur Jehan, "Take now yon tent from Prince Ahmad and set it upon the plain that he may see its vast size and know if it be such an one as required by the Sultan his sire." The handmaid took the pavilion and pitched it afar from the Palace; and yet one end thereof reached thereto from the outer limit of the plain; and so immense was its size that (as Prince Ahmad perceived) there was room therein for all the King's court; and, were two armies ranged under it with their camp-followers and bât-animals, one would on no wise crowd or inconvenience the other. He then begged pardon of Peri-Banu saying, "I wot not that the Shahmiyanah was so prodigious of extent and of so marvellous a nature; wherefore I misdoubted when first I saw it." The Treasurer presently struck the tent and returned it to the palm of his hand; then, without stay or delay, he took horse and followed by his retinue rode back to the royal presence, where after obeisance and suit and service he presented the tent. The Sultan also, at first sight of the gift, thought it a small matter, but marvelled with extreme marvel to see its size when pitched, for it would have shaded his capital and its suburbs. He was not, however, wholly satisfied, for the size of the pavilion now appeared to him superfluous; but his son assured him that it would always fit itself to its contents. He thanked the Prince for bringing him so rare a present, saying, "O my son, acquaint thy consort with my obligation to her and offer my grateful thanks for this her bounteous gift. Now indeed know I of a truth that she doth love thee with the whole of her heart and soul and all my doubts and fears are well nigh set at rest." Then the King commanded they should pack up the tent and store it with all care in the royal treasury. Now strange it is but true, that when the Sultan received this rare present from the Prince, the fear and doubt, the envy and jealousy of his son, which the Witch and the malicious Wazir and his other illadvisers had bred in his breast, waxed greater and livelier than before; because he was now certified that in very truth the Jinniyah was gracious beyond measure to her mate and that, notwithstanding the great wealth and power of the sovereign, she could outvie him in mighty deeds for the aidance of her husband. Accordingly, he feared with excessive fear lest haply she seek opportunity to slay him in favour of the Prince whom she might enthrone in his stead. So he bade bring the Witch who had counselled him aforetime, and upon whose sleight and malice he now mainly relied. When he related to her the result of her rede, she took thought for a while; then, raising her brow said, "O King of kings, thou troublest thyself for naught: thou needest only command Prince Ahmad to bring thee of the water of the Lions' Spring. He must perforce for his honour's sake fulfil thy wish, and if he fail he will for very shame not dare to show his face again at court. No better plan than this canst thou adopt; so look to it nor loiter on thy way." Next day at eventide, as the Sultan was seated in full Darbar surrounded by his Wazirs and Ministers, Prince Ahmad came forwards and making due obeisance took seat by his side and below him. Hereat, the King addressed him, as was his wont, with great show of favour saying, "It delighteth me mightily that thou hast brought me the tent I required of thee; for surely in my Treasury there be naught so rare and strange. Yet one other thing lack I, and couldst thou bring it me I shall rejoice with joy exceeding. I have heard tell that the Jinniyah, thy consort, maketh constant use of a water which floweth from the Lions' Spring, the drinking whereof doeth away with fevers and all other deadly diseases. I know thou art anxious that I live in health; and thou wilt gladden me by bringing somewhat of that water, so I may drink thereof when occasion shall require, and well I wot that, as thou valuest my love and affection thee wards, thou wilt not refuse to grant me my request." Prince Ahmad on hearing this demand was struck with surprise that his sire should so soon make a second demand. So he kept silence awhile, thinking within himself, I have managed by some means to obtain the tent from the Lady Peri-Banu, but Allah only knoweth how she will now act, and whether this fresh request will or will not rouse her wrath. Howbeit I know that she will on no wise deny me any boon I may ask of her." So after much hesitation Prince Ahmad made reply, "O my lord the King, I have no power to do aught in this matter, which resteth only with my spouse the Princess; yet will I petition her to give the water; and, if she vouchsafe consent I will bring it straight to thee. Indeed I cannot promise thee such boon with all certainty: I would gladly do my endeavour in all and everything that can benefit thee, but to ask her for this water is a work more weighty than asking for the tent." Next day the Prince took his departure and returned to Peri-Banu; and after loving embraces and greetings quoth he, "O my lady and light of my eyes, the Sultan my sire sendeth thee his grateful thanks for the granting of his wish; to wit, the pavilion; and now he adventureth himself once more and, certified of thy bounty and beneficence, he would pray from thy hand the boon of a little water from the Lions' Spring. Withal I would assure thee that an the giving of this water please thee not, let the matter be clean forgotten; for to do all thou willest is my one and only wish." Peri-Banu made reply, "Methinks the Sultan, thy sire, would put both me and thee to the test by requiring such boons as those suggested to him by the Sorceress." --And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-third Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Peri-Banu said further to Prince Ahmad, "Natheless I will grant this largesse also as the Sultan hath set his mind upon it, and no harm shall come therefrom to me or to thee, albe 'tis a matter of great risk and danger, and it is prompted by not a little of malice and ungraciousness. But give careful heed to my words, nor neglect thou aught of them, or thy destruction is certain-sure. I now will tell thee what to do. In the hall of yonder castle which riseth on that mountain is a fountain sentinelled by four lions fierce and ravening; and they watch and ward the path that leadeth thereto, a pair standing on guard whilst the other two take their turn to rest, and thus no living thing hath power to pass by them. Yet will I make known to thee the means whereby thou mayest win thy wish without any hurt or harm befalling thee from the furious beasts." Thus saying she drew from an ivory box a clew of thread and, by means of a needle one of those wherewith she had been plying her work, made thereof a ball. This she placed in the hands of her husband, and said, "First, be thou careful that thou keep about thee with all diligence this ball, whose use I shall presently explain to thee. Secondly, choose for thyself two horses of great speed, one for thine own riding, whilst on the other thou shalt load the carcass of a freshly slaughtered sheep cut into four quarters. In the third place, take with thee a phial wherewith I will provide thee, and this is for carrying the water which thou, Inshallah--God willing--shalt bring back. As soon as the morn shall morrow do thou arise with the light and go forth riding thy chosen steed and leading the other alongside of thee by the reins. When thou shalt reach the iron portals which open upon the castle-court, at no great distance from the gate, do thou cast the ball of thread upon the ground before thee. Forthwith it will begin rolling onwards of its own will towards the castle door; and do thou follow it through the open entrance until such time as it stop its course. At this moment thou shalt see the four lions; and the two that wake and watch will rouse the twain that sleep and rest. All four will turn their jaws to the ground and growl and roar with hideous howlings, and make as though about to fall upon thee and tear thee limb from limb. However, fear not nor be dismayed, but ride boldly on and throw to the ground from off the led-horse the sheep's quarters, one to each lion. See that thou alight not from thy steed, but gore his ribs with thy shovel stirrup [FN#344] and ride with all thy might and main up to the basin which gathereth the water. Here dismount and fill the phial whilst the lions will be busied eating. Lastly, return with all speed and the beasts will not prevent thy passing by them." Next day, at peep of morn, Prince Ahmad did according to all that Peri-Banu had bidden him and rode forth to the castle. Then, having passed through the iron portals and crossed the court and opened the door, he entered the hall, where he threw the quarters of the sheep before the lions, one to each, and speedily reached the Spring. He filled his phial with water from the basin and hurried back with all haste. But when he had ridden some little distance he turned about and saw two of the guardian lions following upon his track; however, he was on no wise daunted but drew his sabre from the sheath to prepare him for self-protection. Hereat one of the twain seeing him bare his brand for defence, retired a little way from the road and, standing at gaze, nodded his head and wagged his tail, as though to pray the Prince to put up his scymitar and to assure him that he might ride in peace and fear no peril. The other lion then sprang forwards ahead of him and kept close him, and the two never ceased to escort him until they reached the city, nay even the gate of the Palace. The second twain also brought up the rear till Prince Ahmad had entered the Palace-door; and, when they were certified of this, all four went back by the way they came. Seeing such wondrous spectacle, the towns-folk all fled in dire dismay, albeit the enchanted beasts molested no man; and presently some mounted horsemen espying their lord riding alone and unattended came up to him and helped him alight. The Sultan was sitting in his audience-hall conversing with his Wazirs and Ministers when his son appeared before him; and Prince Ahmad, having greeted him and blessed him and, in dutiful fashion, prayed for his permanence of existence and prosperity and opulence, placed before his feet the phial full of the water from the Lions' Spring, saying, "Lo, I have brought thee the boon thou desiredst of me. This water is most rare and hard to obtain; nor is there in all thy Treasure-house aught so notable and of such value as this. If ever thou fall ill of any malady (Almighty Allah forfend this should be in thy Destiny!) then drink a draught thereof and forthwith thou shalt be made whole of whatso distemper thou hast." When Prince Ahmad had made an end of speaking, the Sultan, with all love and affection, grace and honour, embraced him and kissed his head; then, seating him on his right said, "O my son, I am beholden to thee, beyond count and measure, for that thou hast adventured thy life and brought this water with great irk and risk from so perilous a place." Now the Witch had erewhile informed the King concerning the Lions' Spring and of the mortal dangers which beset the site; so that he knew right well how gallant was his son's derring-do; and presently he said, "Say me, O my child, how couldst thou venture thither and escape from the lions and broughtest back the water, thyself remaining safe and sound?" --And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-fourth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Prince replied, "By thy favour, O my lord the Sultan, have I returned in safety from that stead mainly because I did according to the bidding of my spouse, the Lady Peri-Banu; and I have brought the water from the Lions' Spring only by carrying out her commands." Then he made known to his father all that had befallen him in going and returning; and when the Sultan noted the pre-eminent valiance and prowess of his son he only feared the more, and the malice and the rancour, envy and jealousy which filled his heart waxed tenfold greater than before. However, dissembling his true sentiments he dismissed Prince Ahmad and betaking him to his private chamber at once sent word to bid the Witch appear in the presence; and when she came, he told her of the Prince's visit and all about the bringing of the water from the Lions' Spring. She had already heard somewhat thereof by reason of the hubbub in the city at the coming of the lions; but, as soon as she had given ear to the whole account, she marvelled with mighty marvel and, after whispering in the Sultan's ear her new device, said to him in triumph, "O King of kings, this time thou shalt lay a charge on the Prince and such commandment methinks will trouble him and it shall go hard with him to execute aught thereof." "Thou sayest well," replied the Sovran, "now indeed will I try this plan thou hast projected for me." Wherefore, next day whenas Prince Ahmad came to the presence of his sire, the King said to him, "O dear my child, it delighteth me exceedingly to see thy virtue and valour and the filial love wherewith thou art fulfilled, good gifts chiefly shown by obtaining for me the two rarities I asked of thee. And now one other and final requirement I have of thee; and, shouldst thou avail to satisfy my desire, I shall be wellpleased in my beloved son and render thanks to him for the rest of my days." Prince Ahmad answered, "What is the boon thou requirest? I will for my part do thy bidding as far as in me lieth." Then quoth the King in reply to the Prince, "I would fain have thee bring me a man of size and stature no more than three feet high, with beard full twenty ells in length, who beareth on his shoulder a quarter staff of steel, thirteen score pounds in weight, which he wieldeth with ease and swingeth around his head without wrinkle on brow, even as men wield cudgels of wood." On this wise the Sultan, led astray by the Doom of Destiny and heedless alike of good and evil, asked that which should bring surest destruction upon himself. Prince Ahmad also, with blind obedience out of pure affection to his parent, was ready to supply him with all he required unknowing what was prepared for him in the Secret Purpose. Accordingly he said, "O my sire the Sultan, I trow me 'twill be hard to find, all the world over, a man such as thou desirest, still I will work my best to do thy bidding." Thereupon the Prince retired from the presence and returned, as usual, to his palace where he greeted Peri-Banu with love and gladness; but his face was troubled and his heart was heavy at the thought of the King's last behest. Perceiving his pre-occupation the Princess asked him, saying, "O dear my lord, what tidings bringest thou for me to-day?" Hereto replied he, "The Sultan at each visit requireth of me some new thing and burtheneth me with his requests; and to-day he purposeth to try me and, in the hopes of putting me to shame, he asketh somewhat which 'twere vain to hope I can find in all the world." Thereupon Prince Ahmad told her all the King had said to him.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-fifth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Peri-Banu hearing these words said to the Prince, "Trouble not thyself at all in this matter. Thou didst venture at great risk to carry off for thy father water from the Lions' Spring and thou succeededst in winning thy wish. Now this task is on no wise more difficult or dangerous than was that: nay 'tis the easier for that he thou describest is none other than Shabbar, my brothergerman. Although we both have the same parents, yet it pleased Almighty Allah to enform us in different figures and to make him unlike his sister as being in mortal mould can be. Moreover he is valiant and adventurous, always seeking some geste and exploit whereby to further my i