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Supplemental Nights, Volume 3 by Richard F. Burton

Part 6 out of 11

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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 Jamshid[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 Maydan--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 Peri-Banu. 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 Achaemenian 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 Marids, 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
Shahmiyanah[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 Jann, 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 Jinniyah[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 bat-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

The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-first Night.

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 Jehan,[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 bat-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 interest, and right willingly doth he carry out whatso
he undertaketh. He is shaped and formed as the Sultan thy sire
hath described, nor useth he any weapons save the Nabbut[FN#345]
or quarter staff of steel. And see now I will send for him, but
be not thou dismayed at sighting him." Replied Prince Ahmad, "If
he be in truth thine own brother what matter how he looketh? I
shall be pleased to see him as when one welcometh a valued friend
or a beloved kinsman. Wherefore should I fear to look upon him?"
Hearing these words Peri-Banu despatched one of her attendants
who brought to her from her private treasury a chafing-dish of
gold; then she bade a fire be lit therein, and sending for a
casket of noble metals studded with gems, the gift of her
kinsmen, she took therefrom some incense and cast it upon the
flames. Herewith issued a dense smoke spireing high in air and
spreading all about the palace; and a few moments after,
Peri-Banu who had ceased her conjurations cried, "Lookye my
brother Shabbar cometh! canst thou distinguish his form?" The
Prince looked up and saw a mannikin in stature dwarfish and no
more than three feet high, and with a boss on breast and a hump
on back; withal he carried himself with stately mien and majestic
air. On his right shoulder was borne his quarter staff of steel
thirteen score pounds in weight. His beard was thick and twenty
cubits in length but arranged so skilfully that it stood clear
off from the ground; he wore also a twisted pair of long
mustachios curling up to his ears, and all his face was covered
with long pile. His eyes were not unlike unto pig's eyes; and his
head, on which was placed a crown-like coiffure, was enormous of
bulk, contrasting with the meanness of his stature. Prince Ahmad
sat calmly beside his wife, the Fairy, and felt no fear as the
figure approached; and presently Shabbar walked up and glancing
at him asked Peri-Banu saying, "Who be this mortal who sitteth
hard by thee?" Hereto she replied, "O my brother, this is my
beloved husband, Prince Ahmad, son of the Sultan of Hindostan. I
sent thee not an invitation to the wedding as thou wast then
engaged on some great expedition; now, however, by the grace of
Almighty Allah thou hast returned triumphant and victorious over
thy foes, wherefore I have summoned thee upon a matter which
nearly concerneth me." Hearing these words Shabbar looked
graciously at Prince Ahmad, saying, "O my beloved sister, is
there any service I can render to him?" and she replied, "The
Sultan his sire desireth ardently to see thee, and I pray thee go
forthright to him and take the Prince with thee by way of guide."
Said he, "This instant I am ready to set forth;" but said she,
"Not yet, O my brother. Thou art fatigued with journeying; so
defer until the morrow thy visit to the King, and this evening I
will make known to thee all that concerneth Prince Ahmad."
Presently the time came; so Peri-Banu informed her brother
Shabbar concerning the King and his ill-counsellors; but she
dwelt mainly upon the misdeeds of the old woman, the Witch; and
how she had schemed to injure Prince Ahmad and despitefully
prevent his going to city or court, and she had gained such
influence over the Sultan that he had given up his will to hers
and ceased not doing whatso she bade him. Next day at dawn
Shabbar the Jinn and Prince Ahmad set out together upon a visit
to the Sultan; and when they had reached the city gates, all the
folk, nobles and commons, were struck with consternation at the
dwarf's hideous form; and, flying on every side in affright and
running into shops and houses, barred the doors and closed the
casements and hid themselves therein. So panic-stricken indeed
was their flight that many feet lost shoes and sandals in
running, while from the heads of others their loosened turbands
fell to earth. And when they twain approached the palace through
streets and squares and market-places desolate as the Desert of
Samawah,[FN#346] all the keepers of the gates took to their heels
at sight of Shabbar and fled, so there was none to hinder their
entering. They walked straight on to the audience-chamber where
the Sultan was holding Darbar, and they found in attendance on
him a host of Ministers and Councillors, great and small, each
standing in his proper rank and station. They too on seeing
Shabbar speedily took flight in dire dismay and hid themselves;
also the guards had deserted their posts nor cared in any way to
let or stay the twain. The Sovran still sat motionless on his
throne, where Shabbar went up to him with lordly mien and royal
dignity and cried, "O King, thou hast expressed a wish to see me;
and lo, I am here. Say now what wouldst thou have me do?"--And as
the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till

The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-sixth Night.

Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the King
made no reply to Shabbar, but held up his hands before his eyes
that he might not behold that frightful figure, and turning his
head would fain have fled in terror. Shabbar was filled with fury
at this rudeness on the part of the Sultan, and was wroth with
exceeding wrath to think that he had troubled himself to come at
the bidding of such a craven, who now on seeing him would fain
run away. So the Jinn, without an instant's delay, raised his
quarter staff of steel, and, swinging it twice in air, before
Prince Ahmad could reach the throne or on any wise interfere,
struck the Sultan so fiercely upon the poll that his skull was
smashed and his brains were scattered over the floor. And when
Shabbar had made an end of this offender, he savagely turned upon
the Grand Wazir who stood on the Sultan's right and incontinently
would have slain him also, but the Prince craved pardon for his
life and said, "Kill him not: he is my friend and hath at no time
said one evil word against me. But such is not the case with the
others, his fellows." Hearing these words the infuriated Shabbar
fell upon the Ministers and ill-counsellors on either side, to
wit, all who had devised evil devices against Prince Ahmad, and
slew them each and every and suffered none to escape save only
those who had taken flight and hidden themselves. Then, going
from the hall of justice to the courtyard, the Dwarf said to the
Wazir whose life the Prince had saved, "Harkye, there is a Witch
who beareth enmity against my brother, the husband of my sister.
See that thou produce her forthright; likewise the villain who
filled his father's mind with hate and malice, envy and jealousy
against him, so may I quite them in full measure for their
misdeeds." The Grand Wazir produced them all, first the
Sorceress, and then the malicious minister with his rout of
fautors and flatterers, and Shabbar felled them one after the
other with his quarter staff of steel and killed them pitilessly,
crying to the Sorceress, "This is the end of all thy machinations
with the King, and this is the fruit of thy deceit and treachery;
so learn not to feign thyself sick." And in the blindness of his
passion he would have slain all the inhabitants of the city, but
Prince Ahmad prevented him and pacified him with soft and
flattering words. Hereupon Shabbar habited his brother in the
royal habit and seated him on the throne and proclaimed him
Sultan of Hindostan. The people all, both high and low, rejoiced
with exceeding joy to hear these tidings, for Prince Ahmad was
beloved by every one; so they crowded to swear fealty and bring
presents and Nazaranahs[FN#347] and raised shouts of acclamation
crying out, "Long live King Ahmad!" When all this was done,
Shabbar sent for his sister, Peri-Banu, and made her Queen under
the title of Shahr-Banu;[FN#348] and in due time taking leave of
her and of King Ahmad, the Jinni returned to his own home. And as
the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till

The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-seventh Night.

Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that after these
things King Ahmad summoned Prince Ali his brother and Nur
al-Nihar and made him governor of a large city hard by the
capital, and dismissed him thither in high state and splendour.
Also he commissioned an official to wait upon Prince Husayn and
tell him all the tidings, and sent word saying, "I will appoint
thee ruler over any capital or country thy soul desireth; and, if
thou consent, I will forward thee letters of appointment." But
inasmuch as the Prince was wholly content and entirely happy in
Darwaysh-hood, he cared naught for rule or government or aught of
worldly vanities; so he sent back the official with his duty and
grateful thanks, requesting that he might be left to live his
life in solitude and renunciation of matters mundane. Now when
Queen Shahrazad had made an end of telling her story and yet the
night was not wholly spent, King Shahryar spake saying, "This thy
story, admirable and most wonderful, hath given me extreme
delight; and I pray thee do thou tell us another tale till such
time as the last hours of this our night be passed." She replied,
"Be it as thou wilt, O auspicious King: I am thy slave to do as
thou shalt bid." Then she began to relate the tale of

THE TWO SISTERS WHO ENVIED THEIR
CADETTE[FN#349]

In days of yore and in times long gone before there lived a king
of Persia, Khusrau Shah hight, renowned for justice and
righteousness. His father, dying at a good old age, had left him
sole heir to all the realm and, under his rule, the tiger and the
kid drank side by side at the same Ghat;[FN#350] and his treasury
was ever full and his troops and guards were numberless. Now it
was his wont to don disguise and, attended by a trusty Wazir, to
wander about the street at night-time. Whereby things seld-seen
and haps peregrine became known to him, the which, should I tell
thee all thereof, O auspicious King, would weary thee beyond
measure. So he took seat upon the throne of his forbears and when
the appointed days of mourning were ended, according to the
custom of that country, he caused his exalted name, that is
Khusrau Shah, be struck upon all the coins of the kingdom and
entered into the formula of public prayer.[FN#351] And when
stablished in his sovranty he went forth as aforetime on one
evening accompanied by his Grand Wazir, both in merchant's habit,
walking the streets and squares, the markets and lanes, the
better to note what might take place both of good and of bad. By
chance they passed, as the night darkened, through a quarter
where dwelt people of the poorer class; and as they walked on,
the Shah heard inside a house women talking with loud voices;
then going near, he peeped in by the door-chink, and saw three
fair sisters who having supped together were seated on a divan
talking one to other. The King thereupon applied his ear to the
crack and listened eagerly to what they said, and heard each and
every declaring what was the thing she most desired.[FN#352]
Quoth the eldest, "I would I were married to the Shah's head
Baker for then should I ever have bread to eat, the whitest and
choicest in the city, and your hearts would be fulfilled with
envy and jealousy and malice at my good luck." Quoth the second,
"I would rather wive with the Shah's chief Kitchener and eat of
dainty dishes that are placed before his Highness, wherewith the
royal bread which is common throughout the Palace cannot compare
for gust and flavour." And quoth the third and youngest of the
three, and by far the most beautiful and lively of them all, a
maiden of charming nature, full of wit and humour; sharp-witted,
wary and wise, when her turn came to tell her wish, "O sisters,
my ambition is not as ordinary as yours. I care not for fine
bread nor glutton-like do I long for dainty dishes. I look to
somewhat nobler and higher: indeed I would desire nothing less
than to be married by the King and become the mother of a
beautiful Prince, a model of form and in mind as masterful as
valorous. His hair should be golden on one side and silvern on
the other: when weeping he should drop pearls in place of tears,
and when laughing his rosy lips should be fresh as the blossom
new-blown." The Shah was amazed with exceeding amazement to hear
the wishes of the three sisters, but chiefly of the youngest and
determined in himself that he would gratify them all. Wherefore
quoth he to the Grand Wazir, "Mark well this house And on the
morrow bring before me these maidens whom we Heard discoursing;"
and quoth the Wazir, "O Asylum of the Universe, I hear but to
obey." Thereupon the twain walked back to the palace and laid
them down to rest. When morning morrowed, the Minister went for
the sisters and brought them to the King, who, after greeting
them and heartening their hearts, said to them in kindly tone, "O
ye maidens of weal, last night what was it that in merry word and
jest ye spake one to other? Take heed ye tell the Shah every whit
in full detail, for all must become known to us; something have
we heard, but now the King would have ye recount your discourse
to his royal ears."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held
her peace till

The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-eighth Night

Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that at these
words of the Shah the sisters, confused and filled with shame,
durst not reply but stood before him silent with heads bent low;
and despite all questioning and encouragement they could not
pluck up courage. However, the youngest was of passing comeliness
in form and feature and forthwith the Shah became desperately
enamoured of her; and of his live began reassuring them and
saying, "O ye Princesses of fair ones, be not afraid nor troubled
in thought; nor let bashfulness or shyness prevent you telling
the Shah what three wishes you wished, for fain would he fulfil
them all." Thereat they threw themselves at his feet and, craving
his pardon for their boldness and freedom of speech, told him the
whole talk, each one repeating the wish she had wished; and on
that very day Khusrau Shah married the eldest sister to his chief
Baker, and the second sister to his head Cook, and bade make all
things ready for his own wedding with the youngest sister. So
when the preparations for the royal nuptials had been made after
costliest fashion, the King's marriage was celebrated with royal
pomp and pageantry, and the bride received the titles of Light of
the Harem and Banu of Iran-land. The other two maidens were
likewise married, one to the King's Baker the other to his Cook,
after a manner according to their several degrees in life and
with little show of grandeur and circumstance. Now it had been
only right and reasonable that these twain having won each her
own wish, should have passed their time in solace and happiness,
but the decree of Destiny doomed otherwise; and, as soon as they
saw the grand estate whereto their youngest sister had risen, and
the magnificence of her marriage-festival, their hearts were
fired with envy and jealousy and sore despite and they resolved
upon giving the rein to their hatred and malignancy and to work
her some foul mischief. On this wise they remained for many
months consumed with rancour, day and night; and they burned with
grief and anger whenever they sighted aught of her superior style
and state. One morning as the two met at the Hammam and found
privacy and opportunity, quoth the eldest sister to the second,
"A grievous thing it is indeed that she, our youngest sister, no
lovelier than ourselves, should thus be raised to the dignity and
majesty of Queendom and indeed the thought is overhard to bear."
Quoth the other, "O sister mine, I also am perplexed and
displeased at this thing, and I know not what of merit the Shah
could have seen in her that he was tempted to choose her for his
consort. She ill befitteth that high estate with that face like a
monkey's favour; and, save her youth, I know nothing that could
commend her to his Highness that he should so exalt her above her
fellows. To my mind thou and not she art fit to share the royal
bed; and I nurse a grudge against the King for that he hath made
this jade his Queen." And the eldest sister rejoined, "I likewise
marvel beyond all measure; and I swear that thy youth and beauty,
thy well-shaped figure and lovely favour and goodliness of gifts
past challenge or compare, might well have sufficed to win the
King and have tempted him to wed and bed with thee and make thee
his crowned Queen and Sovran Lady in lieu of taking to his arms
this paltry strumpet. Indeed he hath shown no sense of what is
right and just in leaving thee disappointed; and on this account
only the matter troubleth me with exceeding trouble."--And as the
morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till

The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-ninth Night.

Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the two
sisters took counsel each with other how they might abase their
youngest sister in the Shah's sight and cause her downfall and
utter ruin. Day and night they conned over the matter in their
minds and spoke at great length about it when they ever met
together, and pondered endless plans to injure the Queen their
sister, and if possible bring about her death; but they could fix
upon none. And, whilst they bore this despite and hatred towards
her and diligently and deliberately sought the means of
gratifying their bitter envy, hatred and malice, she on the other
hand regarded them with the same favour and affection as she had
done before marriage and thought only how to advantage their low
estate. Now when some months of her wedded life had passed, the
fair Queen was found to be with child whereof the glad tidings
filled the Shah with joy; and straightway he commanded all the
people of the capital and throughout the while Empire keep
holiday with feasts and dancing and every manner jollity as
became so rare and important an occasion. But as soon as the news
came to the ears of the two Envious Sisters they were constrained
perforce to offer their congratulations to the Queen; and, after
a long visit, as the twain were about to crave dismissal they
said, "Thanks be to Almighty Allah, O our sister, who hath shown
us this happy day. One boon have we to ask of thee: to wit, that
when the time shall come for thee to be delivered of a child, we
may assist as midwives at thy confinement, and be with thee and
nurse thee for the space of forty days." The Queen in her
gladness made reply, "O sisters mine, I fain would have it so;
for at a time of such need I know f none on whom to rely with
such dependence as upon you. During my coming trial your presence
with me will be most welcome and opportune; but I can do only
what thing the Shah biddeth anor can I do aught save by his
leave. My advice is thus:--Make known this matter to your mates
who have always access to the royal presence, and let them
personally apply for your attendance as midwives; I doubt not but
that the Shah will give you leave to assist me and remain by my
side, considering the fond relationship between us three." Then
the two sisters returned home full of evil thoughts and malice,
and told their wishes to their husbands who, in turn, bespake
Khusrau Shah, and proffered their petition with all humility,
little knowing what was hidden from them in the Secret Purpose.
The King replied, "When I shall have thought the matter over in
my mind, I will give you suitable orders." So saying he privately
visited the Queen and to her said, "O my lady, an it please thee,
methinks 'twould be well to summon thy sisters and secure their
aidance, when thou shalt be labouring of child, in lieu of any
stranger: and if thou be of the same mind as myself let me at
once learn and take steps to obtain their consent and concert ere
thy time arriveth. They will wait on thee with more loving care
than any hired nurse and thou wilt find thyself the safer in
their hands." Replied the Queen, "O my lord the Shah, I also
venture to think that 'twould be well to have my sisters by my
side and not mere aliens at such an hour." Accordingly he sent
sword to them and from that day they dwelt within the palace to
make all ready for the expected confinement; and on this wise
they found means to carry out their despiteful plot which during
so many days they had devised to scanty purpose. When her full
tale of months had been told, the Banu was brought to bed of a
man-child marvellous in beauty, whereat the fire of envy and
hatred was kindled with redoubled fury in the sisters' breasts.
So they again took counsel not suffered ruth nor natural
affection to move their cruel hearts; and presently, with great
care and secrecy, they wrapped the new-born in a bit of blanket
and putting him into a basket cast him into a canal which flowed
hard by the Queen's apartment.[FN#353] They then placed a dead
puppy in the place of the prince and showed it to the other
midwives and nurses, averring that the Queen had given birth to
such abortion. When these untoward tidings reached the King's ear
he was sore discomforted and waxed wroth with exceeding wrath.--
And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till

The end of the Six Hundred and Seventieth Night.

Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the King,
enflamed with sudden fierceness, drew his sword and would have
slain his Queen had not the Grand Wazir, who happened to be in
his presence at the time, restrained his rage and diverted him
from his unjust design and barbarous purpose. Quoth he, "O Shadow
of Allah upon earth, this mishap is ordained of the Almighty Lord
whose will no man hath power to gainsay. The Queen is guiltless
of offence against thee, for what is born of her is born without
her choice, and she indeed hath no hand therein." With this and
other sage counsels he dissuaded his lord from carrying out his
fell purpose and saved the guiltless Queen from a sudden and
cruel death. Meanwhile the basket wherein lay the newly-born
Prince was carried by the current into a rivulet which flowed
through the royal gardens; and, as the Intendant of the pleasure
grounds and pleasaunces chanced to walk along the bank, by the
decree of Destiny he caught sight of the basket floating by, and
he called a gardener, bidding him lay hold of it and bring it to
him that he might see what was therein. The man ran along the
rivulet side; and, with a long stick drawing the basket to land,
showed it to the Intendant who opened it and beheld within a new-
born babe, a boy of wondrous beauty wrapped in a bit of blanket;
at which sight he was astounded beyond measure of surprise. Now
it chanced that the Intendant, who was one of the Emirs and who
stood high in favour with the Sovran, had no children: withal he
never ceased offering prayers and vows to Almighty Allah that he
might have a son to keep alive his memory and continue his name.
Delighted at the sight he took home the basket with the babe and
giving it to his wife said, "See how Allah hath sent to us this
man-child which I just now found floating upon the waters; and do
thou apply thee forthright and fetch a wet-nurse to give him milk
and nourish him; and bring him up with care and tenderness as

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