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The “Aldine” Edition of
The Arabian Nights Entertainments
Illustrated by S. L. Wood
FROM THE TEXT OF DR. JONATHAN SCOTT
In Four Volumes
Pickering and Chatto
Contents of Volume IV.
The Story of the Enchanted Horse
The Story of Prince Ahmed, and the Fairy Perie Banou The Story of the Sisters Who Envied Their Younger Sister Story of the Three Sharpers and the Sultan The Adventures of the Abbdicated Sultan History of Mahummud, Sultan of Cairo
Story of the First Lunatic
Story of the Second Lunatic
Story of the Retired Sage and His Pupil, Related to the Sultan by the Second Lunatic
Story of the Broken-backed Schoolmaster Story of the Wry-mouthed Schoolmaster Story of the Sisters and the Sultana Their Mother Story of the Bang-eater and the Cauzee
Story of the Bang-eater and His Wife The Sultan and the Traveller Mhamood Al Hyjemmee The Koord Robber
Story of the Husbbandman
Story of the Three Princes and Enchanting Bird Story of a Sultan of Yemen and His Three Sons Story of the First Sharper in the Cave History of the Sultan of Hind
Story of the Fisherman’s Son
Story of Abou Neeut and Abou Neeuteen; Or, the Well-intentioned and the Double-minded
Adventure of a Courtier, Related by Himself to His Parton, an Ameer of Egypt
Story of the Prince of Sind, and Fatima, Daughter of Amir Bin Naomaun
Story of the Lovers of Syria; Or, the Heroine Story of Hyjauje, the Tyrannical Gtovernor of Coufeh, and the Young Syed
Story of Ins Alwujjood and Wird Al Ikmaun, Daughter of Ibrahim, Vizier to Sultan Shamikh
The Adventures of Mazin of Khorassaun Story of the Sultan the Dervish, and the Barber’s Son Adventures of Aleefa Daughter of Mherejaun Sultan of Hind, and Eusuff, Son of Sohul, Sultan of Sind
Adventures of the Three Princes, Sons of the Sultan of China Story of the Good Vizier Unjustly Imprisoned Story of the Lady of Cairo and Her Four Gallants The Cauzee’s Story
Story of the Merchant, His Daughter, and the Prince of Eerauk Adventures of the Cauzee, His Wife, &c The Sultan’s Story of Himself
THE STORY OF THE ENCHANTED HORSE.
The Nooroze, or the new day, which is the first of the year and spring, is observed as a solemn festival throughout all Persia, which has been continued from the time of idolatry; and our prophet’s religion, pure as it is, and true as we hold it, has not been able to abolish that heathenish custom, and the superstitious ceremonies which are observed, not only in the great cities, but celebrated with extraordinary rejoicings in every little town, village, and hamlet.
But the rejoicings are the most splendid at the court, for the variety of new and surprising spectacles, insomuch that strangers are invited from the neighbouring states, and the most remote parts, by the rewards and liberality of the sovereign, towards those who are the most excellent in their invention and contrivance. In short, nothing in the rest of the world can compare with the magnificence of this festival.
One of these festival days, after the most ingenious artists of the country had repaired to Sheerauz, where the court then resided, had entertained the king and all the court with their productions, and had been bountifully and liberally rewarded according to their merit and to their satisfaction by the monarch; when the assembly was just breaking up, a Hindoo appeared at the foot of the throne, with an artificial horse richly caparisoned, and so naturally imitated, that at first sight he was taken for a living animal.
The Hindoo prostrated himself before the throne; and pointing to the horse, said to the emperor, “Though I present myself the last before your majesty, yet I can assure you that nothing shewn to- day is so wonderful as this horse, on which I beg your majesty would be pleased to cast your eyes.” “I see nothing more in the horse,” said the emperor, “than the natural resemblance the workman has given him; which the skill of another workman may possibly execute as well or better.”
“Sir,” replied the Hindoo, “it is not for his outward form and appearance that I recommend my horse to your majesty’s examination as wonderful, but the use to which I can apply him, and which, when I have communicated the secret to them, any other persons may make of him. Whenever I mount him, be it where it may, if I wish to transport myself through the air to the most distant part of the world, I can do it in a very short time. This, sir, is the wonder of my horse; a wonder which nobody ever heard speak of, and which I offer to shew your majesty, if you command me.”
The emperor of Persia, who was fond of every thing that was curious, and notwithstanding the many prodigies of art he had seen had never beheld or heard of anything that came up to this, told the Hindoo, that nothing but the experience of what he asserted could convince him: and that he was ready to see him perform what he had promised.
The Hindoo instantly put his foot into the stirrup, mounted his horse with admirable agility, and when he had fixed himself in the saddle, asked the emperor whither he pleased to command him.
About three leagues from Sheerauz there was a lofty mountain discernible from the large square before the palace, where the emperor, his court, and a great concourse of people, then were. “Do you see that mountain?” said the emperor, pointing to it; “it is not a great distance from hence, but it is far enough to judge of the speed you can make in going and returning. But because it is not possible for the eye to follow you so far, as a proof that you have been there, I expect that you will bring me a branch of a palm-tree that grows at the bottom of the hill.”
The emperor of Persia had no sooner declared his will than the Hindoo turned a peg, which was in the hollow of the horse’s neck, just by the pummel of the saddle; and in an instant the horse rose off the ground and carried his rider into the air with the rapidity of lightning to such a height, that those who had the strongest sight could not discern him, to the admiration of the emperor and all the spectators. Within less than a quarter of an hour they saw him returning with the palm branch in his hand; but before he descended, he took two or three turns in the air over the spot, amid the acclamations of all the people; then alighted on the spot whence he had set off, without receiving the least shock from the horse to disorder him. He dismounted, and going up to the throne, prostrated himself, and laid the branch of the palm-tree at the feet of the emperor.
The emperor, who had viewed with no less admiration than astonishment this unheard-of sight which the Hindoo had exhibited, conceived a great desire to have the horse; and as he persuaded himself that he should not find it a difficult matter to treat with the Hindoo, for whatever sum of money he should value it at, began to regard it as the most valuable thing in his treasury. “Judging of thy horse by his outward appearance,” said he to the Hindoo, “I did not think him so much worth my consideration. As you have shewn me his merits, I am obliged to you for undeceiving me; and to prove to you how much I esteem it, I will purchase him of you, if he is to be sold.”
“Sir,” replied the Hindoo, “I never doubted that your majesty, who has the character of the most liberal prince on earth, would set a just value on my work as soon as I had shewn you on what account he was worthy your attention. I also foresaw that you would not only admire and commend it, but would desire to have it. Though I know his intrinsic value, and that my continuing master of him would render my name immortal in the world; yet I am not so fond of fame but I can resign him, to gratify your majesty; however, in making this declaration, I have another to add, without which I cannot resolve to part with him, and perhaps you may not approve of it.
“Your majesty will not be displeased,” continued the Hindoo, “if I tell you that I did not buy this horse, but obtained him of the inventor, by giving him my only daughter in marriage, and promising at the same time never to sell him; but if I parted with him to exchange him for something that I should value beyond all else.”
The Hindoo was proceeding, when at the word exchange, the emperor of Persia interrupted him. “I am willing,” said he, “to give you whatever you may ask in exchange. You know my kingdom is large, and contains many great, rich, and populous cities; I will give you the choice of which you like best, in full sovereignty for life.”
This exchange seemed royal and noble to the whole court; but was much below what the Hindoo had proposed to himself, who had raised his thoughts much higher. “I am infinitely obliged to your majesty for the offer you make me,” answered he, “and cannot thank you enough for your generosity; yet I must beg of you not to be displeased if I have the presumption to tell you, that I cannot resign my horse, but by receiving the hand of the princess your daughter as my wife: this is the only price at which I can part with my property.”
The courtiers about the emperor of Persia could not forbear laughing aloud at this extravagant demand of the Hindoo; but the prince Firoze Shaw, the eldest son of the emperor, and presumptive heir to the crown, could not hear it without indignation. The emperor was of a very different opinion, and thought he might sacrifice the princess of Persia to the Hindoo, to satisfy his curiosity. He remained however undetermined, considering what he should do.
Prince Firoze Shaw, who saw his father hesitated what answer to make, began to fear lest he should comply with the Hindoo’s demand, and regarded it as not only injurious to the royal dignity, and to his sister, but also to himself; therefore to anticipate his father, he said, “Sir, I hope your majesty will forgive me for daring to ask, if it is possible your majesty should hesitate about a denial to so insolent a demand from such an insignificant fellow, and so scandalous a juggler? or give him reason to flatter himself a moment with being allied to one of the most powerful monarchs in the world? I beg of you to consider what you owe to yourself, to your own blood, and the high rank of your ancestors.”
“Son,” replied the emperor of Persia, “I much approve of your remonstrance, and am sensible of your zeal for preserving the lustre of your birth; but you do not consider sufficiently the excellence of this horse; nor that the Hindoo, if I should refuse him, may make the offer somewhere else, where this nice point of honour may be waived. I shall be in the utmost despair if another prince should boast of having exceeded me in generosity, and deprived me of the glory of possessing what I esteem as the most singular and wonderful thing in the world. I will not say I consent to grant him what he asked. Perhaps he has not well considered his exorbitant demand: and putting my daughter the princess out of the question, I may make another agreement with him that will answer his purpose as well. But before I conclude the bargain with him, I should be glad that you would examine the horse, try him yourself, and give me your opinion.”
As it is natural for us to flatter ourselves in what we desire, the Hindoo fancied, from what he had heard, that the emperor was not entirely averse to his alliance, and that the prince might become more favourable to him; therefore, he expressed much joy, ran before the prince to help him to mount, and shewed him how to guide and manage the horse.
The prince mounted without the Hindoo’s assisting him; and no sooner had he got his feet in both stirrups, but without staying for the artist’s advice, he turned the peg he had seen him use, when instantly the horse darted into the air, quick as an arrow shot out of a bow by the most adroit archer; and in a few moments the emperor his father and the numerous assembly lost sight of him. Neither horse nor prince were to be seen. The Hindoo, alarmed at what had happened, prostrated himself before the throne, and said, “Your majesty must have remarked the prince was so hasty, that he would not permit me to give him the necessary instructions to govern my horse. From what he saw me do, he was ambitious of shewing that he wanted not my advice. He was too eager to shew his address, but knows not the way, which I was going to shew him, to turn the horse, and make him descend at the wish of his rider. Therefore, the favour I ask of your majesty is, not to make me accountable for what accidents may befall him; you are too just to impute to me any misfortune that may attend him.”
This address of the Hindoo much surprised and afflicted the emperor, who saw the danger his son was in to be inevitable, if, as the Hindoo said, there was a secret to bring him back, different from that which carried him away; and asked, in a passion, why he did not call him the moment he ascended?
“Sir,” answered the Hindoo, “your majesty saw as well as I with what rapidity the horse flew away. The surprise I was then, and still am in, deprived me of the use of my speech; but if I could have spoken, he was got too far to hear me. If he had heard me, he knew not the secret to bring him back, which, through his impatience, he would not stay to learn. But, sir,” added he, “there is room to hope that the prince, when he finds himself at a loss, will perceive another peg, and as soon as he turns that, the horse will cease to rise, and descend to the ground, when he may turn him to what place he pleases by guiding him with the bridle.”
Notwithstanding all these arguments of the Hindoo, which carried great appearance of probability, the emperor of Persia was much alarmed at the evident danger of his son. “I suppose,” replied he, “it is very uncertain whether my son may perceive the other peg, and make a right use of it; may not the horse, instead of lighting on the ground, fall upon some rock, or tumble into the sea with him?”
“Sir,” replied the Hindoo, “I can deliver your majesty from this apprehension, by assuring you, that the horse crosses seas without ever falling into them, and always carries his rider wherever he may wish to go. And your majesty may assure yourself, that if the prince does but find out the other peg I mentioned, the horse will carry him where he pleases. It is not to be supposed that he will stop any where but where he can find assistance, and make himself known.”
“Be it as it may,” replied the emperor of Persia, “as I cannot depend upon the assurance you give me, your head shall answer for my son’s life, if he does not return safe in three days’ time, or I should hear that he is alive.” He then ordered his officers to secure the Hindoo, and keep him close prisoner; after which he retired to his palace in affliction that the festival of Nooroze should have proved so inauspicious.
In the mean time the prince was carried through the air with prodigious velocity; and in less than an hour’s time had ascended so high, that he could not distinguish any thing on the earth, but mountains and plains seemed confounded together. It was then he began to think of returning, and conceived he might do this by turning the same peg the contrary way, and pulling the bridle at the same time. But when he found that the horse still rose with the same swiftness, his alarm was great. He turned the peg several times, one way and the other, but all in vain. It was then he grew sensible of his fault, in not having learnt the necessary precautions to guide the horse before he mounted. He immediately apprehended the great danger he was in, but that apprehension did not deprive him of his reason. He examined the horse’s head and neck with attention, and perceived behind the right ear another peg, smaller than the other. He turned that peg, and presently perceived that he descended in the same oblique manner as he had mounted, but not so swiftly.
Night had overshadowed that part of the earth over which the prince was when he found out and turned the small peg; and as the horse descended, he by degrees lost sight of the sun, till it grew quite dark; insomuch that, instead of choosing what place he would go to, he was forced to let the bridle lie upon the horse’s neck, and wait patiently till he alighted, though not without the dread lest it should be in the desert, a river, or the sea.
At last the horse stopped upon some solid substance about midnight, and the prince dismounted very faint and hungry, having eaten nothing since the morning, when he came out of the palace with his father to assist at the festival. He found himself to be on the terrace of a magnificent palace, surrounded with a balustrade of white marble, breast high; and groping about, reached a staircase, which led down into an apartment, the door of which was half open.
Few but prince Firoze Shaw would have ventured to descend those stairs dark as it was, and in the danger he exposed himself to from friends or foes. But no consideration could stop him. “I do not come,” said he to himself, “to do anybody harm; and certainly, whoever meets or sees me first, and finds that I have no arms in my hands, will not attempt any thing against my life, before they hear what I have to say for myself.” After this reflection, he opened the door wider, without making any noise, went softly down the stairs, that he might not awaken anybody; and when he came to a landing-place on the staircase, found the door of a great hall, that had a light in it, open.
The prince stopped at the door, and listening, heard no other noise than the snoring of some people who were fast asleep. He advanced a little into the room, and by the light of a lamp saw that those persons were black eunuchs, with naked sabres laid by them; which was enough to inform him that this was the guard- chamber of some sultan or princess; which latter it proved to be.
In the next room to this the princess lay, as appeared by the light, the door being open, through a silk curtain, which drew before the door-way, whither prince Firoze Shaw advanced on tip- toe, without waking the eunuchs. He drew aside the curtain, went in, and without staying to observe the magnificence of the chamber, gave his attention to something of greater importance. He saw many beds; only one of them on a sofa, the rest on the floor. The princess slept in the first, and her women in the others.
This distinction was enough to direct the prince. He crept softly towards the bed, without waking either the princess or her women, and beheld a beauty so extraordinary, that he was charmed, and inflamed with love at the first sight. “O heavens!” said he to himself, “has my fate brought me hither to deprive me of my liberty, which hitherto I have always preserved? How can I avoid certain slavery, when those eyes shall open, since, without doubt, they complete the lustre of this assemblage of charms! I must quickly resolve, since I cannot stir without being my own murderer; for so has necessity ordained.”
After these reflections on his situation, and on the princess’s beauty, he fell on his knees, and twitching gently the princess’s sleeve, pulled it towards him. The princess opened her eyes, and seeing a handsome man on his knees, was in great surprise; yet seemed to shew no sign of fear.
The prince availed himself of this favourable moment, bowed his head to the ground, and rising said, “Beautiful princess, by the most extraordinary and wonderful adventure, you see at your feet a suppliant prince, son of the emperor of Persia, who was yesterday morning in his court, at the celebration of a solemn festival, but is now in a strange country, in danger of his life, if you have not the goodness and generosity to afford him your assistance and protection. These I implore, adorable princess, with confidence that you will not refuse me. I have the more ground to persuade myself, as so much beauty and majesty cannot entertain inhumanity.”
The personage to whom prince Firoze Shaw so happily addressed himself was the princess of Bengal, eldest daughter of the Rajah of that kingdom, who had built this palace at a small distance from his capital, whither she went to take the benefit of the country air. After she had heard the prince with all the candour he could desire, she replied with equal goodness, “Prince, you are not in a barbarous country; take courage; hospitality, humanity, and politeness are to be met with in the kingdom of Bengal, as well as in that of Persia. It is not merely I who grant you the protection you ask; you not only have found it in my palace, but will meet it throughout the whole kingdom; you may believe me, and depend on what I say.”
The prince of Persia would have thanked the princess for her civility, and had already bowed down his head to return the compliment; but she would not give him leave to speak. “Notwithstanding I desire,” said she, “to know by what miracle you have come hither from the capital of Persia in so short a time; and by what enchantment you have been able to penetrate so far as to come to my apartment, and to have evaded the vigilance of my guards; yet, as it is impossible but you must want some refreshment, and regarding you as a welcome guest, I will waive my curiosity, and give orders to my women to regale you, and shew you an apartment, that you may rest yourself after your fatigue, and be better able to satisfy my curiosity.”
The princess’s women, who awoke at the first words which the prince addressed to the princess, were in the utmost surprise to see a man at the princess’s feet, as they could not conceive how he had got thither, without waking them or the eunuchs. They no sooner comprehended the princess’s intentions, than they were ready to obey her commands. They each took a wax candle, of which there were great numbers lighted up in the room; and after the prince had respectfully taken leave, went before and conducted him into a handsome chamber; where, while some were preparing the bed, others went into the kitchen; and notwithstanding it was so unseasonable an hour, they did not make prince Firoze Shaw wait long, but brought him presently a collation; and when he had eaten as much as he chose, removed the trays, and left him to taste the sweets of repose.
In the mean time, the princess of Bengal was so struck with the charms, wit, politeness, and other good qualities which she had discovered in her short interview with the prince, that she could not sleep: but when her women came into her room again asked them if they had taken care of him, if he wanted any thing; and particularly, what they thought of him?
The women, after they had satisfied her as to the first queries, answered to the last: “We do not know what you may think of him, but, for our parts, we are of opinion you would be very happy if your father would marry you to so amiable a youth; for there is not a prince in all the kingdom of Bengal to be compared to him; nor can we hear that any of the neighbouring princes are worthy of you.”
This flattering compliment was not displeasing to the princess of Bengal; but as she had no mind to declare her sentiments, she imposed silence, telling them that they talked without reflection, bidding them return to rest, and let her sleep.
The next day the princess took more pains in dressing and adjusting herself at the glass than she had ever done before. She never tired her women’s patience so much, by making them do and undo the same thing several times. She adorned her head, neck, arms, and waist, with the finest and largest diamonds she possessed. The habit she put on was one of the richest stuffs of the Indies, of a most beautiful colour, and made only for kings, princes, and princesses. After she had consulted her glass, and asked her women, one after another, if any thing was wanting to her attire, she sent to know, if the prince of Persia was awake; and as she never doubted but that, if he was up and dressed, he would ask leave to come and pay his respects to her, she charged the messenger to tell him she would make him the visit, and she had her reasons for this.
The prince of Persia, who by the night’s rest had recovered the fatigue he had undergone the day before, had just dressed himself, when he received the princess of Bengal’s compliments by one of her women. Without giving the lady who brought the message leave to communicate it, he asked her, if it was proper for him then to go and pay his respects to the princess; and when the lady had acquitted herself of her errand, he replied, “It shall be as the princess thinks fit; I came here to be solely at her pleasure.”
As soon as the princess understood that the prince of Persia waited for her, she immediately went to pay him a visit. After mutual compliments, the prince asking pardon for having waked the princess out of a profound sleep, and the princess inquiring after his health, and how he had rested, the princess sat down on a sofa, as did also the prince, though at some distance, out of respect.
The princess then resuming the conversation, said, “I would have received you, prince, in the chamber in which you found me last night; but as the chief of my eunuchs has the liberty of entering it, and never comes further without my leave, from my impatience to hear the surprising adventure which procured me the happiness of seeing you, I chose to come hither, that we may not be interrupted; therefore I beg of you to give me that satisfaction, which will highly oblige me.”
Prince Firoze Shaw, to gratify the princess of Bengal, began with describing the festival of the Nooroze, and mentioned the shows which had amazed the court of Persia, and the people of Sheerauz. Afterwards he came to the enchanted horse; the description of which, with the account of the wonders which the Hindoo had performed before so august an assembly, convinced the princess that nothing of that kind could be imagined more surprising in the world. “You may well think, charming princess,” continued the prince of Persia, “that the emperor my father, who cares not what he gives for any thing that is rare and curious, would be very desirous to purchase such a curiosity. He asked the Hindoo what he would have for him; who made him an extravagant reply, telling him, that he had not bought him, but taken him in exchange for his only daughter, and could not part with him but on the like condition, which was to have his consent to marry the princess my sister.
“The crowd of courtiers, who stood about the emperor my father, hearing the extravagance of this proposal, laughed loudly; I for my part conceived such great indignation, that I could not disguise it; and the more, because I saw that my father was doubtful what answer he should give. In short, I believe he would have granted him what he asked, if I had not represented to him how injurious it would be to his honour; yet my remonstrance could not bring him entirely to quit his design of sacrificing the princess my sister to so despicable a person. He fancied he should bring me over to his opinion, if once I could comprehend, as he imagined he did, the singular worth of this horse. With this view he would have me mount, and make a trial of him myself.
“To please my father, I mounted the horse, and as soon as I was upon his back, put my hand on a peg, as I had seen the Hindoo do before, to make the horse mount into the air, without stopping to take instructions of the owner for his guidance or descent. The instant I touched the peg, the horse ascended, as swift as an arrow shot out of a bow, and I was presently at such a distance from the earth that I could not distinguish any object. From the swiftness of the motion I was for some time unapprehensive of the danger to which I was exposed; when I grew sensible of it, I endeavoured to turn the peg the contrary way. But the experiment would not answer my expectation, for still the horse rose, and carried me a greater distance from the earth. At last I perceived another peg, which I turned, and then I grew sensible that the horse descended towards the earth, and presently found myself so surrounded with darkness, that it was impossible for me to guide the machine. In this condition I laid the bridle on his neck, and trusted myself to the will of God to dispose of my fate.
“At length the horse stopped, I got off his back, and examining whereabouts I might be, perceived myself on the terrace of this palace, and found the door of the staircase half open. I came softly down the stairs, and seeing a door open, put my head into the room, perceived some eunuchs asleep, and a great light in an adjoining chamber. The necessity I was under, notwithstanding the inevitable danger to which I should be exposed, if the eunuchs had waked, inspired me with the boldness, or rather rashness, to cross that room to get to the other.
“It is needless,” added the prince, “to tell you the rest, since you are not unacquainted with all that passed afterwards. But I am obliged in duty to thank you for your goodness and generosity, and to beg of you to let me know how I may shew my gratitude. According to the law of nations I am already your slave, and cannot make you an offer of my person; there only remains my heart: but, alas! princess, what do I say? My heart is no longer my own, your charms have forced it from me, but in such a manner, that I will never ask for it again, but yield it up; give me leave, therefore, to declare you mistress both of my heart and inclination.”
These last words of the prince were pronounced with such an air and tone, that the princess of Bengal never doubted of the effect she had expected from her charms; neither did she seem to resent the precipitate declaration of the prince of Persia. Her blushes served but to heighten her beauty, and render her more amiable in his eyes.
As soon as she had recovered herself, she replied, “Prince, you have given me sensible pleasure, by telling me your wonderful adventure. But, on the other hand, I can hardly forbear shuddering, when I think on the height you were in the air; and though I have the good fortune to see you here safe and well, I was in pain till you came to that part where the horse fortunately descended upon the terrace of my palace. The same thing might have happened in a thousand other places. I am glad that chance has given me the preference to the whole world, and of the opportunity of letting you know, that it could not have conducted you to any place where you could have been received with greater pleasure.
“But, prince,” continued she, “I should think myself offended, if I believed that the thought you mentioned of being my slave was serious, and that it did not proceed from your politeness rather than from a sincerity of sentiment; for, by the reception I gave you yesterday, you might assure yourself you are here as much at liberty as in the midst of the court of Persia.
“As to your heart,” added the princess, in a tone which shewed nothing less than a refusal, “as I am persuaded that you have not lived so long without disposing of it, and that you could not fail of making choice of a princess who deserves it, I should be sorry to give you an occasion to be guilty of infidelity to her.”
Prince Firoze Shaw would have protested that when he left Persia he was master of his own heart: but, at that instant, one of the princess’s ladies in waiting came to tell that a collation was served up.
This interruption delivered the prince and princess from an explanation, which would have been equally embarrassing to both, and of which they stood in need. The princess of Bengal was fully convinced of the prince of Persia’s sincerity; and the prince, though the princess had not explained herself, judged nevertheless from some words she had let fall, that he had no reason to complain.
As the lady held the door open, the princess of Bengal said to the prince, rising off her seat, as he did also from his, “I am not used to eat so early; but as I fancied you might have had but an indifferent supper last night, I ordered breakfast to be got ready sooner than ordinary.” After this compliment she led him into a magnificent hall, where a cloth was laid covered with great plenty of choice and excellent viands; and as soon as they were seated, many beautiful slaves of the princess, richly dressed, began a most agreeable concert of vocal and instrumental music, which lasted the whole time of eating.
This concert was so sweet and well managed, that it did not in the least interrupt the prince and princess’s conversation. The prince served the princess with the choicest of every thing, and strove to outdo her in civility, both by words and actions, which she returned with many new compliments: and in this reciprocal commerce of civilities and attentions, love made a greater progress in both than a concerted interview would have promoted.
When they rose, the princess conducted the prince into a large and magnificent saloon, embellished with paintings in blue and gold, and richly furnished; there they both sat down in a balcony, which afforded a most agreeable prospect into the palace garden, which prince Firoze Shaw admired for the vast variety of flowers, shrubs, and trees, which were full as beautiful as those of Persia, but quite different. Here taking the opportunity of entering into conversation with the princess, he said, “I always believed, madam, that no part of the world but Persia afforded such stately palaces and beautiful gardens; but now I see, that other great monarchs know as well how to build mansions suitable to their power and greatness; and if there is a difference in the manner of building, there is none in the degree of grandeur and magnificence.”
“Prince,” replied the princess of Bengal, “as I have no idea of the palaces of Persia, I cannot judge of the comparison you have made of mine. But, however sincere you seem to be, I can hardly think it just, but rather incline to believe it a compliment: I will not despise my palace before you; you have too good an eye, too good a taste not to form a sound judgment. But I assure you, I think it very indifferent when I compare it with the king my father’s, which far exceeds it for grandeur, beauty, and richness; you shall tell me yourself what you think of it, when you have seen it: for since a chance has brought you so nigh to the capital of this kingdom, I do not doubt but you will see it, and make my father a visit, that he may pay you all the honour due to a prince of your rank and merit.”
The princess flattered herself, that by exciting in the prince of Persia a curiosity to see the capital of Bengal, and to visit her father, the king, seeing him so handsome, wise, and accomplished a prince, might perhaps resolve to propose an alliance with him, by offering her to him as a wife. And as she was well persuaded she was not indifferent to the prince, and that he would be pleased with the proposal, she hoped to attain to the utmost of her wishes, and preserve all the decorum becoming a princess, who would appear resigned to the will of her king and father; but the prince of Persia did not return her an answer according to her expectation.
“Princess,” he replied, “the preference which you give the king of Bengal’s palace to your own is enough to induce me to believe it much exceeds it: and as to the proposal of my going and paying my respects to the king your father, I should not only do myself a pleasure, but an honour. But judge, princess, yourself, would you advise me to present myself before so great a monarch, like an adventurer, without attendants, and a train suitable to my rank?”
“Prince,” replied the princess, “let not that give you any pain; if you will but go, you shall want no money to have what train and attendants you please: I will furnish you; and we have traders here of all nations in great numbers, and you may make choice of as many as you please to form your household.”
Prince Firoze Shaw penetrated the princess of Bengal’s intention, and this sensible mark of her love still augmented his passion, which, notwithstanding its violence, made him not forget his duty. Without any hesitation he replied, “Princess, I should most willingly accept of the obliging offer you make me, for which I cannot sufficiently shew my gratitude, if the uneasiness my father must feel on account of my absence did not prevent me. I should be unworthy of the tenderness he has always had for me, if I should not return as soon as possible to calm his fears. I know him so well, that while I have the happiness of enjoying the conversation of so lovely a princess, I am persuaded he is plunged into the deepest grief, and has lost all hopes of seeing me again. I trust you will do me the justice to believe, that I cannot, without ingratitude, and being guilty of a crime, dispense with going to restore to him that life, which a too long deferred return may have endangered already.
“After this, princess,” continued the prince of Persia, “if you will permit me, and think me worthy to aspire to the happiness of becoming your husband, as my father has always declared that he never would constrain me in my choice, I should find it no difficult matter to get leave to return, not as a stranger, but as a prince, to contract an alliance with your father by our marriage; and I am persuaded that the emperor will be overjoyed when I tell him with what generosity you received me, though a stranger in distress.”
The princess of Bengal was too reasonable, after what the prince of Persia had said, to persist any longer in persuading him to pay a visit to the raja of Bengal, or to ask any thing of him contrary to his duty and honour. But she was much alarmed to find he thought of so sudden a departure; fearing, that if he took his leave of her so soon, instead of remembering his promise, he would forget when he ceased to see her. To divert him from his purpose, she said to him, “Prince, my intention of proposing a visit to my father was not to oppose so just a duty as that you mention, and which I did not foresee. But I cannot approve of your going so soon as you propose; at least grant me the favour I ask of a little longer acquaintance; and since I have had the happiness to have you alight in the kingdom of Bengal, rather than in the midst of a desert, or on the top of some steep craggy rock, from which it would have been impossible for you to descend, I desire you will stay long enough to enable you to give a better account at the court of Persia of what you may see here.”
The sole end the princess had in this request was, that the prince of Persia, by a longer stay, might become insensibly more passionately enamoured of her charms; hoping thereby that his ardent desire of returning would diminish, and then he might be brought to appear in public, and pay a visit to the Rajah of Bengal. The prince of Persia could not well refuse her the favour she asked, after the kind reception she had given him; and therefore politely complied with her request; and the princess’s thoughts were directed to render his stay agreeable by all the amusements she could devise.
Nothing went forward for several days but concerts of music, accompanied with magnificent feasts and collations in the gardens, or hunting-parties in the vicinity of the palace, which abounded with all sorts of game, stags, hinds, and fallow deer, and other beasts peculiar to the kingdom of Bengal, which the princess could pursue without danger. After the chase, the prince and princess met in some beautiful spot, where a carpet was spread, and cushions laid for their accommodation. There resting themselves, after their violent exercise, they conversed on various subjects. The princess took pains to turn the conversation on the grandeur, power, riches, and government of Persia; that from the prince’s replies she might have an opportunity to talk of the kingdom of Bengal, and its advantages, and engage him to resolve to make a longer stay there; but she was disappointed in her expectations.
The prince of Persia, without the least exaggeration, gave so advantageous an account of the extent of the kingdom of Persia, its magnificence and riches, its military force, its commerce by sea and land with the most remote parts of the world, some of which were unknown even to him; the vast number of large cities it contained, almost as populous as that which the emperor had chosen for his residence, where he had palaces furnished ready to receive him at all seasons of the year; so that he had his choice always to enjoy a perpetual spring; that before he had concluded, the princess found the kingdom of Bengal to be very much inferior to that of Persia in a great many respects. When he had finished his relation, he begged of her to entertain him with a description of Bengal.
The princess after much entreaty gave prince Firoze Shaw that satisfaction; but by lessening a great many advantages the kingdom of Bengal was well known to have over that of Persia, she betrayed the disposition she felt to accompany him, so that he believed she would consent at the first proposition he should make; but he thought it would not be proper to make it till he had shewed her so much deference as to stay with her long enough to make the blame fall on herself, in case she wished to detain him from returning to his father.
Two whole months the prince of Persia abandoned himself entirely to the will of the princess of Bengal, yielding to all the amusements she contrived for him, for she neglected nothing to divert him, as if she thought he had nothing else to do but to pass his whole life with her in this manner. But he now declared seriously he could not stay longer, and begged of her to give him leave to return to his father; repeating again the promise he had made her to come back soon in a style worthy of her and himself, and to demand her in marriage of the Rajah of Bengal.
“And, princess,” observed the prince of Persia, “that you may not suspect the truth of what I say; and that by my asking this permission you may not rank me among those false lovers who forget the object of their affection as soon as absent from them; to shew that my passion is real, and not feigned, and that life cannot be pleasant to me when absent from so lovely a princess, whose love to me I cannot doubt is mutual; I would presume, were I not afraid you would be offended at my request, to ask the favour of taking you along with me.”
As the prince saw that the princess blushed at these words, without any mark of anger, he proceeded, and said, “Princess, as for my father’s consent, and the reception he will give you, I venture to assure you he will receive you with pleasure into his alliance; and as for the Rajah of Bengal, after all the love and tender regard he has always expressed for you, he must be the reverse of what you have described him, an enemy to your repose and happiness, if he should not receive in a friendly manner the embassy which my father will send to him for his approbation of our marriage.”
The princess returned no answer to this address of the prince of Persia; but her silence, and eyes cast down, were sufficient to inform him that she had no reluctance to accompany him into Persia. The only difficulty she felt was, that the prince knew not well enough how to govern the horse, and she was apprehensive of being involved with him in the same difficulty as when he first made the experiment. But the prince soon removed her fear, by assuring her she might trust herself with him, for that after the experience he had acquired, he defied the Hindoo himself to manage him better. She thought therefore only of concerting measures to get off with him so secretly, that nobody belonging to the palace should have the least suspicion of their design.
The next morning, a little before day-break, when all the attendants were asleep, they went upon the terrace of the palace. The prince turned the horse towards Persia, and placed him where the princess could easily get up behind him; which she had no sooner done, and was well settled with her arms about his waist, for her better security, than he turned the peg, when the horse mounted into the air, and making his usual haste, under the guidance of the prince, in two hours time the prince discovered the capital of Persia.
He would not alight at the great square from whence he had set out, nor in the palace, but directed his course towards a pleasure-house at a little distance from the capital. He led the princess into a handsome apartment, where he told her, that to do her all the honour that was due to her, he would go and inform his father of their arrival, and return to her immediately. He ordered the housekeeper of the palace, who was then present, to provide the princess with whatever she had occasion for.
After the prince had taken his leave of the princess, he ordered a horse to be saddled, which he mounted, after sending back the housekeeper to the princess, with orders to provide her refreshments immediately, and then set forwards for the palace. As he passed through the streets he was received with acclamations by the people, who were overjoyed to see him again. The emperor his father was giving audience, when he appeared before him in the midst of his council. He received him with ecstacy, and embracing him with tears of joy and tenderness, asked him, what was become of the Hindoo’s horse.
This question gave the prince an opportunity of describing the embarrassment and danger he was in when the horse ascended into the air, and how he had arrived at last at the princess of Bengal’s palace, the kind reception he had met with there, and that the motive which had induced him to stay so long with her was the affection she had shewn him; also, that after promising to marry her, he had persuaded her to accompany him into Persia. “But, sir,” added the prince, “I felt assured that you would not refuse your consent, and have brought her with me on the enchanted horse, to a palace where your majesty often goes for your pleasure; and have left her there, till I could return and assure her that my promise was not in vain.”
After these words, the prince prostrated himself before the emperor to obtain his consent, when his father raised him up, embraced him a second time, and said to him, “Son, I not only consent to your marriage with the princess of Bengal, but will go and meet her myself, and thank her for the obligation I in particular have to her, and will bring her to my palace, and celebrate your nuptials this day.”
The emperor now gave orders for his court to make preparations for the princess’s entry; that the rejoicings should be announced by the royal band of military music, and that the Hindoo should be fetched out of prison and brought before him. When the Hindoo was conducted before the emperor, he said to him, “I secured thy person, that thy life, though not a sufficient victim to my rage and grief, might answer for that of the prince my son, whom, however, thanks to God! I have found again: go, take your horse, and never let me see your face more.”
As the Hindoo had learned of those who brought him out of prison that prince Firoze Shaw was returned with a princess, and was also informed of the place where he had alighted and left her, and that the emperor was making preparations to go and bring her to his palace; as soon as he got out of the presence, he bethought himself of being revenged upon the emperor and the prince. Without losing any time, he went directly to the palace, and addressing himself to the keeper, told him, he came from the prince of Persia for the princess of Bengal, and to conduct her behind him through the air to the emperor, who waited in the great square of his palace to gratify the whole court and city of Sheerauz with that wonderful sight.
The palace-keeper, who knew the Hindoo, and that the emperor had imprisoned him, gave the more credit to what he said, because he saw that he was at liberty. He presented him to the princess of Bengal; who no sooner understood that he came from the prince of Persia than she consented to what the prince, as she thought, had desired of her.
The Hindoo, overjoyed at his success, and the ease with which he had accomplished his villany, mounted his horse, took the princess behind him, with the assistance of the keeper, turned the peg, and instantly the horse mounted into the air.
At the same time the emperor of Persia, attended by his court, was on the road to the palace where the princess of Bengal had been left, and the prince of Persia was advanced before, to prepare the princess to receive his father; when the Hindoo, to brave them both, and revenge himself for the ill-treatment he had received, appeared over their heads with his prize.
When the emperor of Persia saw the ravisher, he stopped. His surprise and affliction were the more sensible, because it was not in his power to punish so high an affront. He loaded him with a thousand imprecations, as did also all the courtiers, who were witnesses of so signal a piece of insolence and unparalleled artifice and treachery.
The Hindoo, little moved with their curses, which just reached his ears, continued his way, while the emperor, extremely mortified at so great an insult, but more so that he could not punish the author, returned to his palace in rage and vexation.
But what was prince Firoze Shaw’s grief at beholding the Hindoo hurrying away the princess of Bengal, whom he loved so passionately that he could not live without her! At a spectacle so little expected he was confounded, and before he could deliberate with himself what measures to pursue, the horse was out of sight. He could not resolve how to act, whether he should return to his father’s palace, and shut himself in his apartment, to give himself entirely up to his affliction, without attempting to pursue the ravisher. But as his generosity, love, and courage, would not suffer this, he continued on his way to the palace where he had left his princess.
When he arrived, the palace-keeper, who was by this time convinced of his fatal credulity, in believing the artful Hindoo, threw himself at his feet with tears in his eyes, accused himself of the crime, which unintentionally he had committed, and condemned himself to die by his hand. “Rise,” said the prince to him, “I do not impute the loss of my princess to thee, but to my own want of precaution. But not to lose time, fetch me a dervish’s habit, and take care you do not give the least hint that it is for me.”
Not far from this palace there stood a convent of dervishes, the superior of which was the palace-keeper’s particular friend. He went to his chief, and telling him that a considerable officer at court and a man of worth, to whom he had been very much obliged and wished to favour, by giving him an opportunity to withdraw from some sudden displeasure of the emperor, readily obtained a complete dervish’s habit, and carried it to prince Firoze Shaw. The prince immediately pulled off his own dress, put it on, and being so disguised, and provided with a box of jewels, which he had brought as a present to the princess, left the palace, uncertain which way to go, but resolved not to return till he had found out his princess, and brought her back again, or perish in the attempt.
But to return to the Hindoo; he governed his enchanted horse so well, that he arrived early next morning in a wood, near the capital of the kingdom ot Cashmeer. Being hungry, and concluding the princess was so also, he alighted in that wood, in an open part of it, and left the princess on a grassy spot, close to a rivulet of clear fresh water.
During the Hindoo’s absence, the princess of Bengal, who knew that she was in the power of a base ravisher, whose violence she dreaded, thought of escaping from him, and seeking out for some sanctuary. But as she had eaten scarcely any thing on her arrival at the palace, was so faint, that she could not execute her design, but was forced to abandon it and stay where she was, without any other resource than her courage, and a firm resolution rather to suffer death than be unfaithful to the prince of Persia. When the Hindoo returned, she did not wait to be entreated, but ate with him, and recovered herself enough to answer with courage to the insolent language he now began to hold to her. After many threats, as she saw that the Hindoo was preparing to use violence, she rose up to make resistance, and by her cries and shrieks drew towards them a company of horsemen, which happened to be the sultan of Cashmeer and his attendants, who, as they were returning from hunting, happily for the princess of Bengal, passed through that part of the wood, and ran to her assistance, at the noise she made.
The sultan addressed himself to the Hindoo, demanded who he was, and wherefore he ill. treated the lady? The Hindoo, with great impudence, replied, “That she was his wife, and what had any one to do with his quarrel with her?”
The princess, who neither knew the rank nor quality of the person who came so seasonably to her relief, told the Hindoo he was a liar; and said to the sultan, “My lord, whoever you are whom Heaven has sent to my assistance, have compassion on a princess, and give no credit to that impostor. Heaven forbid that I should be the wife of so vile and despicable a Hindoo! a wicked magician, who has forced me away from the prince of Persia, to whom I was going to be united, and has brought me hither on the enchanted horse you behold there.”
The princess of Bengal had no occasion to say more to persuade the sultan of Cashmeer that what she told him was truth. Her beauty, majestic air, and tears, spoke sufficiently for her. Justly enraged at the insolence of the Hindoo, he ordered his guards to surround him, and strike off his head: which sentence was immediately executed.
The princess, thus delivered from the persecution of the Hindoo, fell into another no less afflicting. The sultan conducted her to his palace, where he lodged her in the most magnificent apartment, next his own, commanded a great number of women slaves to attend her, and ordered a guard of eunuchs. He led her himself into the apartment he had assigned her; where, without giving her time to thank him for the great obligation she had received, he said to her, “As I am certain, princess, that you must want rest, I will take my leave of you till to-morrow, when you will be better able to relate to me the circumstances of this strange adventure;” and then left her.
The princess of Bengal’s joy was inexpressible at finding herself delivered from the violence of the Hindoo, of whom she could not think without horror. She flattered herself that the sultan of Cashmeer would complete his generosity by sending her back to the prince of Persia when she should have told him her story, and asked that favour of him; but she was much deceived in these hopes; for her deliverer had resolved to marry her himself the next day; and for that end had ordered rejoicings to be made by day-break, by beating of drums, sounding of trumpets, and other instruments expressive of joy; which not only echoed through the palace, but throughout the whole city.
The princess of Bengal was awakened by these tumultuous concerts; but attributed them to a very different cause from the true one. When the sultan of Cashmeer, who had given orders that he should be informed when the princess was ready to receive a visit, came to wait upon her; after he had inquired after her health, he acquainted her that all those rejoicings were to render their nuptials the more solemn; and at the same time desired her assent to the union. This declaration put her into such agitation that she fainted away.
The women-slaves, who were present, ran to her assistance; and the sultan did all he could to bring her to herself, though it was a long time before they succeeded* But when she recovered, rather than break the promise she had made to prince Firoze Shaw, by consenting to marry the sultan of Cashmeer, who had proclaimed their nuptials before he had asked her consent, she resolved to feign madness. She began to utter the most extravagant expressions before the sultan, and even rose off her seat as if to attack him; insomuch that he was greatly alarmed and afflicted, that he had made such a proposal so unseasonably.
When he found that her frenzy rather increased than abated, he left her with her women, charging them never to leave her alone, but to take great care of her. He sent often that day to inquire how she did; but received no other answer than that she was rather worse than better. At night she seemed more indisposed than she had been all day, insomuch that the sultan deferred the happiness he had promised himself.
The princess of Bengal continued to talk wildly, and shew other marks of a disordered mind, next day and the following; so that the sultan was induced to send for all the physicians belonging to his court, to consult them upon her disease, and to ask if they could cure her.
The physicians all agreed that there were several sorts and degrees of this disorder, some curable and others not; and told the sultan, that they could not judge of the princess of Bengal’s unless they might see her; upon which the sultan ordered the eunuchs to introduce them into the princess’s chamber, one after another, according to their rank.
The princess, who foresaw what would happen, and feared, that if she let the physicians feel her pulse, the least experienced of them would soon know that she was in good health, and that her madness was only feigned, flew into such a well-dissembled rage and passion, that she appeared ready to injure those who came near her; so none of them durst approach her.
Some who pretended to be more skilful than the rest, and boasted of judging of diseases only by sight, ordered her some potions, which she made the less difficulty to take, well knowing she could be sick or well at pleasure, and that they could do her no harm.
When the sultan of Cashmeer saw that his court physicians could not cure her, he called in the most celebrated and experienced of the city, who had no better success. Afterwards he sent for the most famous in the kingdom, who met with no better reception than the others from the princess, and what they prescribed had no effect. Afterwards he dispatched expresses to the courts of neighbouring sultans, with the princess’s case, to be distributed among the most famous physicians, with a promise of a munificent reward to any of them who should come and effect her cure.
Various physicians arrived from all parts, and tried their skill; but none could boast of better success than their predecessors, or of restoring the princess’s faculties, since it was a case that did not depend on medicine, but on the will of the princess herself.
During this interval Firoze Shaw, disguised in the habit of a dervish, travelled through many provinces and towns, involved in grief; and endured excessive fatigue, not knowing which way to direct his course, or whether he might not be pursuing the very opposite road from what he ought, in order to hear the tidings he was in search of. He made diligent inquiry after her at every place he came to; till at last passing through a city of Hindoostan, he heard the people talk much of a princess of Bengal, who ran mad on the day of the intended celebration of her nuptials with the sultan of Cashmeer. At the name of the princess of Bengal, and supposing that there could exist no other princess of Bengal than her upon whose account he had undertaken his travels, he hastened towards the kingdom of Cashmeer, and upon his arrival at the capital took up his lodging at a khan, where the same day he was informed of ihe story of the princess, and the fate of the Hindoo magician, which he had so richly deserved. From the circumstances, the prince was convinced that she was the beloved object he had sought so long.
Being informed of all these particulars, he provided himself against the next day with a physician’s habit, and having let his beard grow during his travels, he passed the more easily for the character he assumed, went to the palace, impatient to behold his beloved, where he presented himself to the chief of the officers, and observed modestly, that perhaps it might be looked upon as a rash undertaking to attempt the cure of the princess, after so many had failed; but that he hoped some specifics, from which he had experienced success, might effect the desired relief. The chief of the officers told him he was welcome, that the sultan would receive him with pleasure, and that if he should have the good fortune to restore the princess to her former health, he might expect a considerable reward from his master’s liberality: “Stay a moment,” added he, “I will come to you again immediately.”
Some time had elapsed since any physician had offered himself; and the sultan of Cashmeer with great grief had begun to lose all hope of ever seeing the princess restored to health, that he might marry, and shew how much he loved her. He ordered the officer to introduce the physician he had announced.
The prince of Persia was presented, when the sultan, without wasting time in superfluous discourse, after having told him the princess of Bengal could not bear the sight of a physician without falling into most violent transports, which increased her malady, conducted him into a closet, from whence, through a lattice, he might see her without being observed.
There Firoze Shaw beheld his lovely princess sitting melancholy, with tears in her eyes, and singing an air in which she deplored her unhappy fate, which had deprived her, perhaps, for ever, of the object she loved so tenderly.
The prince was sensibly affected at the melancholy condition in which he found his dear princess, but he wanted no other signs to comprehend that her disorder was feigned, or that it was for love of him that she was under so grievous an affliction. When he came out of the closet, he told the sultan that he had discovered the nature of the princess’s complaint, and that she was not incurable; but added withal, that he must speak with her in private, and alone, as, notwithstanding her violent agitation at the sight of physicians, he hoped she would hear and receive him favourably.
The sultan ordered the princess’s chamber door to be opened, and Firoze Shaw went in. As soon as the princess saw him (taking him by his habit to be a physician), she rose up in a rage, threatening him, and giving him the most abusive language. He made directly towards her, and when he was nigh enough for her to hear him, for he did not wish to be heard by any one else, said to her, in a low voice, “Princess, I am not a physician, but the prince of Persia, and am come to procure you your liberty.”
The princess, who knew the sound of the voice, and the upper features of his face, notwithstanding he had let his beard grow so long, grew calm at once, and a secret joy and pleasure overspread her face, the effect of seeing the person so much desired so unexpectedly. Her agreeable surprise deprived her for some time of the use of speech, and gave Firoze Shaw time to tell her as briefly as possible, how despair had seized him when he saw the Hindoo carry her away; the resolution he afterwards had taken to leave every thing to find her out, and never to return home till he had regained her out of the hands of the perfidious wretch; and by what good fortune, at last, after a long and fatiguing journey, he had the satisfaction to find her in the palace of the sultan of Cashmeer. He then desired the princess to inform him of all that happened to her, from the time she was taken away, till that moment when he had the happiness to converse with her, telling her, that it was of the greatest importance to know this, that he might take the most proper measures to deliver her from the tyranny of the sultan of Cashmeer.
The princess informed him how she was delivered from the Hindoo’s violence by the sultan, as he was returning from hunting; how she was alarmed the next day, by a declaration he had made of his precipitate design to marry her, without even the ceremony of asking her consent; that this violent and tyrannical conduct put her into a swoon; after which she thought she had no other way than what she had taken, to preserve herself for a prince to whom she had given her heart and faith; or die, rather than marry the sultan, whom she neither loved, nor could ever love.
The prince of Persia then asked her, if she knew what became of the horse, after the death of the Hindoo magician. To which she answered, that she knew not what orders the sultan had given; but supposed, after the account she had given him of it, he would take care of it as a curiosity.
As Firoze Shaw never doubted but that the sultan had the horse, he communicated to the princess his design of making use of it to convey them both into Persia; and after they had consulted together on the measures they should take, they agreed that the princess should dress herself the next day, and receive the sultan civilly, but without speaking to him.
The sultan of Cashmeer was overjoyed when the prince of Persia stated to him what effect his first visit had had towards the cure of the princess. On the following day, when the princess received him in such a manner as persuaded him her cure was far advanced, he regarded him as the greatest physician in the world; and seeing her in this state, contented himself with telling her how rejoiced he was at her being likely soon to recover her health. He exhorted her to follow the directions of so skilful a physician, in order to complete what he had so well begun; and then retired without waiting for her answer.
The prince of Persia, who attended the sultan of Cashmeer out of the princess’s chamber, as he accompanied him, asked if, without failing in due respect, he might inquire, how the princess of Bengal came into the dominions of Cashmeer thus alone, since her own country was far distant? This he said on purpose to introduce some conversation about the enchanted horse, and to know what was become of it.
The sultan, who could not penetrate into the prince’s motive, concealed nothing from him; but informed him of what the princess had related, when he had delivered her from the Hindoo magician: adding, that he had ordered the enchanted horse to be kept safe in his treasury as a great curiosity, though he knew not the use of it.
“Sir,” replied the pretended physician, “the information which your majesty has given your devoted slave affords me a means of curing the princess. As she was brought hither on this horse, and the horse is enchanted, she hath contracted something of the enchantment, which can be dissipated only by a certain incense which I am acquainted with. If your majesty would entertain yourself, your court, and the people of your capital, with the most surprising sight that ever was beheld, let the horse be brought into the great square before the palace, and leave the rest to me. I promise to show you, and all that assembly, in a few moments time, the princess of Bengal completely restored in body and mind. But the better to effect what I propose, it will be requisite that the princess, should be dressed as magnificently as possible, and adorned with the most valuable jewels your majesty may possess.” The sultan would have undertaken much more difficult things to have arrived at the enjoyment of his desires, which he expected soon to accomplish.
The next day, the enchanted horse was, by his order, taken out of the treasury, and placed early in the great square before the palace. A report was spread through the town that there was something extraordinary to be seen, and crowds of people flocked thither from all parts, insomuch that the sultan’s guards were placed to prevent disorder, and to keep space enough round the horse.
The sultan of Cashmeer, surrounded by all his nobles and ministers of state, was placed on a scaffold erected on purpose. The princess of Bengal, attended by a number of ladies whom the sultan had assigned her, went up to the enchanted horse, and the women helped her to mount. When she was fixed in the saddle, and had the bridle in her hand, the pretended physician placed round the horse at a proper distance many vessels full of lighted charcoal, which he had ordered to be brought, and going round them with a solemn pace, cast in a strong and grateful perfume; then collected in himself, with downcast eyes, and his hands upon his breast, he ran three times about the horse, making as if he pronounced some mystical words. The moment the pots sent forth a dark cloud of pleasant smell, which so surrounded the princess, that neither she nor the horse could be discerned, watching his opportunity, the prince jumped nimbly up behind her, and reaching his hand to the peg, turned it; and just as the horse rose with them into the air, he pronounced these words, which the sultan heard distinctly, “Sultan of Cashmeer, when you would marry princesses who implore your protection, learn first to obtain their consent.”
Thus the prince delivered the princess of Bengal, and carried her the same day to the capital of Persia, where he alighted in the square of the palace, before the emperor his father’s apartment, who deferred the solemnization of the marriage no longer than till he could make the preparations necessary to render the ceremony pompous and magnificent, and evince the interest he took in it.
After the days appointed for the rejoicings were over, the emperor of Persia’s first care was to name and appoint an ambassador to go to the Rajah of Bengal with an account of what had passed, and to demand his approbation and ratification of the alliance contracted by this marriage; which the Rajah of Bengal took as an honour, and granted with great pleasure and satisfaction.
THE STORY OF PRINCE AHMED, AND THE FAIRY PERIE BANOU.
There was a sultan who had peaceably filled the throne of India many years, and had the satisfaction in his old age to have three sons the worthy imitators of his virtues, who, with the princess his niece, were the ornaments of his court. The eldest of the princes was called Houssain, the second Ali, the youngest Ahmed, and the princess his niece Nouronnihar.
The princess Nouronnihar was the daughter of the younger brother of the sultan, to whom in his lifetime he had allowed a considerable revenue. But that prince had not been married long before he died, and left the princess very young. The sultan, in consideration of the brotherly love and friendship that had always subsisted between them, besides a great attachment to his person, took upon himself the care of his daughter’s education, and brought her up in his palace with the three princes; where her singular beauty and personal accomplishments, joined to a lively wit and irreproachable virtue, distinguished her among all the princesses of her time.
The sultan, her uncle, proposed to marry her when she arrived at a proper age, and by that means to contract an alliance with some neighbouring prince; and was thinking seriously on the subject, when he perceived that the three princes his sons loved her passionately. This gave him much concern, though his grief did not proceed from a consideration that their passion prevented his forming the alliance he designed, but the difficulty he foresaw to make them agree, and that the two youngest should consent to yield her up to their eldest brother. He spoke to each of them apart; and remonstrated on the impossibility of one princess being the wife of three persons, and the troubles they would create if they persisted in their attachment. He did all he could to persuade them to abide by a declaration of the princess in favour of one of them; or to desist from their pretensions, to think of other matches which he left them free liberty to choose, and suffer her to be married to a foreign attachment. But as he found them obstinate, he sent for them all together, and said, “My children, since I have not been able to dissuade you from aspiring to marry the princess your cousin; and as I have no inclination to use my authority, to give her to one in preference to his brothers, I trust I have thought of an expedient which will please you all, and preserve harmony among you, if you will but hear me, and follow my advice. I think it would not be amiss if you were to travel separately into different countries, so that you might not meet each other: and as you know I am very curious, and delight in every thing that is rare and singular, I promise my niece in marriage to him who shall bring me the most extraordinary rarity; chance may lead you to form your own judgment of the singularity of the things which you bring, by the comparison you make of them, so that you will have no difficulty to do yourselves justice by yielding the preference to him who has deserved it; and for the expense of travelling, I will give each of you a sum suited to your rank, and for the purchase of the rarity you shall search after; which shall not be laid out in equipage and attendants, as much display, by discovering who you are, would not only deprive you of the liberty to acquit yourselves of your charge, but prevent your observing those things which may merit your attention, and may be most useful to you.”
As the three princes were always submissive and obedient to the sultan’s will, and each flattered himself fortune might prove favourable to him, and give him possession of the princess Nouronnihar, they all consented to the proposal. The sultan gave them the money he promised; and that very day they issued orders for the preparations for their travels, and took leave of their father, that they might be ready to set out early next morning. They all went out at the same gate of the city, each dressed like a merchant, attended by a trusty officer, habited as a slave, and all well mounted and equipped. They proceeded the first day’s journey together; and slept at a caravanserai, where the road divided into three different tracks. At night when they were at supper together, they all agreed to travel for a year, to make their present lodging their rendezvous; and that the first who came should wait for the rest; that as they had all three taken leave together of the sultan, they might return in company. The next morning by break of day, after they had embraced and wished each other reciprocally good success, they mounted their horses, and took each a different road.
Prince Houssain, the eldest brother, who had heard wonders of the extent, power, riches, and splendour of the kingdom of Bisnagar, bent his course towards the Indian coast; and after three months’ travelling, joining himself to different caravans, sometimes over deserts and barren mountains, and sometimes through populous and fertile countries, arrived at Bisnagar, the capital of the kingdom of that name, and the residence of its maharajah. He lodged at a khan appointed for foreign merchants; and having learnt that there were four principal divisions where merchants of all sorts kept their shops, in the midst of which stood the castle, or rather the maharajah’s palace, on a large extent of ground, as the centre of the city, surrounded by three courts, and each gate distant two leagues from the other, he went to one of these quarters the next day.
Prince Houssain could not view this quarter without admiration. It was large, divided into several streets, all vaulted and shaded from the sun, but yet very light. The shops were all of the same size and proportion; and all who dealt in the same sort of goods, as well as all the artists of the same profession, lived in one street.
The number of shops stocked with all kinds of merchandizes, such as the finest linens from several parts of India, some painted in the most lively colours, and representing men, landscapes, trees, and flowers; silks and brocades from Persia, China, and other places; porcelain from Japan and China; foot carpets of all sizes; surprised him so much, that he knew not how to believe his eyes: but when he came to the shops of the goldsmiths and jewellers (for those two trades were exercised by the same merchants), he was in a kind of ecstasy, at beholding such prodigious quantities of wrought gold and silver, and was dazzled by the lustre of the pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones exposed to sale. But if he was amazed at seeing so many treasures in one place, he was much more surprised when he came to judge of the wealth of the whole kingdom, by considering, that except the brahmins, and ministers of the idols, who profess a life retired from worldly vanity, there was not an Indian, man or woman, through the extent of the kingdom, but wore necklaces, bracelets, and ornaments about their legs and feet, made of pearls, and precious stones, which appeared with the greater lustre, as they were blacks, which colour admirably set off their brilliancy.
Another object which prince Houssain particularly admired was the great number of flower-sellers who crowded the streets; for the Indians are such great lovers of flowers that not one will stir without a nosegay of them in his hand, or a garland of them on his head; and the merchants keep them in pots in their shops, so that the air of the whole quarter, however extensive, is perfectly perfumed.
After prince Houssain had passed through that quarter, street by street, his thoughts fully employed on the riches he had seen, he was much fatigued; which a merchant perceiving, civilly invited him to sit down in his shop. He accepted his offer; but had not been seated long, before he saw a crier pass with a piece of carpeting on his arm, about six feet square, and crying it at thirty purses. The prince called to the crier, and asked to see the carpeting, which seemed to him to be valued at an exorbitant price, not only for the size of it, but the meanness of the materials. When he had examined it well, he told the crier that he could not comprehend how so small a piece of carpeting, and of so indifferent an appearance, could be set at so high a price.
The crier, who took him for a merchant, replied, “Sir, if this price seems so extravagant to you, your amazement will be greater when I tell you, I have orders to raise it to forty purses, and not to part with it under.” “Certainly,” answered prince Houssain, “it must have something very extraordinary in it, which I know nothing of.” “You have guessed right, sir,” replied the crier, “and will own it when you come to know, that whoever sits on this piece of carpeting may be transported in an instant wherever he desires to be, without being stopped by any obstacle.”
At this account, the prince of the Indies, considering that the principal motive of his tour was to carry the sultan his father home some singular rarity, thought that he could not meet with any which would afford him more satisfaction. “If the carpeting,” said he to the crier, “has the virtue you attribute to it, I shall not think forty purses too much; but shall make you a present besides.’ “Sir,” replied the crier, “I have told you the truth; and it will be an easy matter to convince you of it, as soon as you have made the bargain for forty purses, on condition I shew you the experiment. But as I suppose you have not so much with you, and to receive them, I must go with you to the khan where you lodge; with the leave of the master of this shop we will go into the back warehouse, where I will spread the carpeting; and when we have both sat down, and you have formed the wish to be transported into your apartment at the khan, if we are not conveyed thither, it shall be no bargain, and you shall be at your liberty. As to your present, as I am paid for my trouble by the seller, I shall receive it as a favour, and feel much obliged by your liberality.”
On this assurance of the crier, the prince accepted the conditions, and concluded the bargain; then having obtained the master’s leave, they went into his back-shop, where they both sat down on the carpeting; and as soon as the prince had formed his wish to be transported into his apartment at the khan, he in an instant found himself and the crier there: as he wanted not a more convincing proof of the virtue of the carpeting, he counted to the crier forty purses of gold, and gave him twenty pieces for himself.
In this manner prince Houssain became the possessor of the carpeting, and was overjoyed that at his arrival at Bisnagar he had found so rare a curiosity, which he never doubted must of course gain him the possession of Nouronnihar. In short, he thought it impossible for the princes, his younger brothers, to meet with any thing to be compared with ir. It was in his power, by sitting on this carpeting, to be at the place of rendezvous that very day; but as he would be obliged to wait there for his brothers, as they had agreed, and as he was desirous of seeing the maharajah of Bisnagar and his court, and to inform himself of the strength, laws, customs, and religion of the kingdom, he chose to make a longer abode in this capital, and to spend some months in satisfying his curiosity.
It was the custom of the maharajah of Bisnagar to give all foreign merchants access to his person once a week; so that in his assumed character prince Houssain saw him often: and as this prince was of an engaging presence, sensible and accomplished, he distinguished himself among the merchants, and was preferred before them all by the maharajah, who addressed himself to him to be informed of the person of the sultan of the Indies, and of the government, strength, and riches of his dominions.
The rest of his time the prince employed in viewing what was most remarkable in and about the city; and among the objects which were most worthy of admiration, he visited a temple remarkable for being built all of brass. It was ten cubits square, and fifteen high; but its greatest ornament was an idol of the height of a man, of massive gold; its eyes were two rubies, set so artificially, that it seemed to look at those who viewed it, on which side soever they turned: besides this, there was another not less curious, in the environs of the city, in the midst of a lawn of about ten acres, which was like a delicious garden full of roses and the choicest flowers, surrounded by a low wall, breast high, to keep out the cattle. In the midst of this lawn was raised a terrace, a man’s height, and covered with such beautiful cement, that the whole pavement seemed to be but one single stone, most highly polished. A temple was erected in the middle of this terrace, having a spire rising about fifty cubits high from the building, which might be seen for several leagues round. The temple was thirty cubits long, and twenty broad; built of red marble, highly polished. The inside of the spire was adorned with three compartments of fine paintings: and there was not a part in the whole edifice but what was embellished with paintings, or relievos, and gaudy idols from top to bottom.
Every night and morning there were superstitious ceremonies performed in this temple, which were always succeeded by sports, concerts of music, dancing, singing, and feasts. The brahmins of the temple, and the inhabitants of this suburb, had nothing to subsist on but the offerings of pilgrims, who came in crowds from the most distant parts of the kingdom to perform their vows.
Prince Houssain was also spectator of a solemn festival, which was celebrated every year at the court of Bisnagar, at which all the governors of provinces, commanders of fortified places, all heads and magistrates of towns, and the brahmins most celebrated for their learning, were usually present; and some lived so far off, that they were four months in coming. This assembly, composed of such innumerable multitudes of Hindoos encamped in variously coloured tents, on a plain of vast extent, was a splendid sight, as far as the eye could reach. In the centre of this plain was a square of great length and breadth, closed on one side by a large scaffolding of nine stories, supported by forty pillars, raised for the maharajah and his court, and those strangers whom he admitted to audience once a week: within, it was adorned and furnished magnificently with rich carpets and cushions; and on the outside were painted landscapes, wherein all sorts of beasts, birds, and insefts, even flies and gnats, were drawn very naturally. Other scaffolds of at least four or five stories, and painted almost all with the same fanciful brilliancy, formed the other three sides. But what was more particular in these scaffolds, they could turn, and make them change their fronts so as to present different decorations to the eye every hour.
On each side of the square, at some little distance from each other, were ranged a thousand elephants, sumptuously caparisoned, each having upon his back a square wooden stage, finely gilt, upon which were musicians and buffoons. The trunks, ears, and bodies of these elephants were painted with cinnabar and other colours, representing grotesque figures.
But what prince Houssain most of all admired, as a proof of the industry, address, and inventive genius of the Hindoos, was to see the largest of these elephants stand with his four feet on a post fixed into the earth, and standing out of it above two feet, playing and beating time with his trunk to the music. Besides this, he admired another elephant as large as the former, placed upon a plank, laid across a strong beam about ten feet high, with a sufficiently heavyweight at the other end, which balanced him, while he kept time, by the motions of his body and trunk, with the music, as well as the other elephant. The Hindoos, after having fastened on the counterpoise, had drawn the other end of the board down to the ground, and made the elephant get upon it.
Prince Houssain might have made a longer stay in the kingdom and court of Bisnagar, where he would have been agreeably diverted by a great variety of other wonders, till the last day of the year, whereon he and his brothers had appointed to meet. But he was so well satisfied with what he had seen, and his thoughts ran so much upon the object of his love, that after such success in meeting with his carpet, reflecting on the beauty and charms of the princess Nouronnihar increased every day the violence of his passion, and he fancied he should be the more easy and happy the nearer he was to her. After he had satisfied the master of the khan for his apartment, and told him the hour when he might come for the key, without mentioning how he should travel, he shut the door, put the key on the outside, and spreading the carpet, he and the officer he had brought with him sat down upon it, and as soon as he had formed his wish, were transported to the caravanserai at which he and his brothers were to meet, and where he passed for a merchant till their arrival.
Prince Ali, the second brother, who had designed to travel into Persia, in conformity with the intention of the sultan of the Indies, took that road, having three days after he parted with his brothers joined a caravan; and in four months arrived at Sheerauz, which was then the capital of the empire of Persia; and having in the way contracted a friendship with some merchants, passed for a jeweller, and lodged in the same khan with them.
The next morning, while the merchants opened their bales of merchandises, prince Ali, who travelled only for his pleasure, and had brought nothing but necessaries with him, after he had dressed himself, took a walk into that quarter of the town where they sold precious stones, gold and silver works, brocades, silks, fine linens, and other choice and valuable articles, and which was at Sheerauz called the bezestein. It was a spacious and well-built street, arched over, within the arcades of which were shops. Prince Ali soon rambled through the bezestein, and with admiration judged of the riches of the place by the prodigious quantities of the most precious merchandises exposed to view.
But among the criers who passed backwards and forwards with several sorts of goods, offering to sell them, he was not a little surprised to see one who held in his hand an ivory tube, of about a foot in length, and about an inch thick, which he cried at forty purses. At first he thought the crier mad, and to inform himself, went to a shop, and said to the merchant who stood at the door, “Pray, sir, is not that man” (pointing to the crier, who cried the ivory tube at forty purses) “mad? If he is not, I am much deceived.” “Indeed, sir,” answered the merchant, “he was in his right senses yesterday; and I can assure you he is one of the ablest criers we have, and the most employed of any, as being to be confided in when any thing valuable is to be sold; and if he cries the ivory tube at forty purses, it must be worth as much or more, on some account or other which does not appear. He will come by presently, when we will call him, and you shall satisfy yourself: in the mean time sit down on my sofa, and rest yourself.”
Prince Ali accepted the merchant’s obliging offer, and presently afterwards the crier arrived. The merchant called him by his name, and pointing to the prince, said to him, “Tell that gentleman, who asked me if you were in your right senses, what you mean by crying that ivory tube, which seems not to be worth much, at forty purses? I should indeed be much amazed myself, if I did not know you were a sensible man.” The crier, addressing himself to prince Ali, said, “Sir, you are not the only person that takes me for a madman, on account of this tube; you shall judge yourself whether I am or no, when I have told you its property; and I hope you will value it at as high a price as those I have shewed it to already, who had as bad an opinion of me as you have.
“First, sir,” pursued the crier, presenting the ivory tube to the prince, “observe, that this tube is furnished with a glass at both ends; by looking through one of them, you will see whatever object you wish to behold.” “I am,” said the prince, “ready to make you all proper reparation for the reflection I have cast upon you, if you can make the truth of what you advance appear; and” (as he had the ivory tube in his hand, after he had looked at the two glasses), he said, “shew me at which of these ends I must look, that I may be satisfied.” The crier presently shewed him, and he looked through; wishing, at the same time, to see the sultan his father, whom he immediately beheld in perfect health, sitting on his throne, in the midst of his council. Next, as there was nothing in the world so dear to him, after the sultan, as the princess Nouronnihar, he wished to see her; and instantly beheld her laughing, and in a gay humour, with her women about her.
Prince All wanted no other proof to persuade him that this tube was the most valuable article, not only in the city of Sheerauz, but in all the world; and believed, that if he should neglect to purchase it, he should never meet with an equally wonderful curiosity. He said to the crier, “I am very sorry that I have entertained so erroneous an opinion of you, but hope to make amends by buying the tube, for I should be sorry if any body else had it; so tell me the lowest price the owner has fixed; and do not give yourself any farther trouble to hawk it about, but go with me and I will pay you the money.” The crier assured him, with an oath, that his last orders were to take no less than forty purses; and if he disputed the truth of what he said, he would carry him to his employer. The prince believed him, took him to the khan where he lodged, told him out the money, and received the tube.
Prince Ali was overjoyed at his purchase; and persuaded himself, that as his brothers would not be able to meet with any thing so rare and admirable, the princess Nouronnihar must be the recompense of his fatigue and travels. He thought now of only visiting the court of Persia incognito, and seeing whatever was curious in and about Sheerauz, till the caravan with which he came might be ready to return to the Indies. He satisfied his curiosity, and when the caravan took its departure, the prince joined the former party of merchants his friends, and arrived happily without any accident or trouble, further than the length of the journey and fatigue of travelling, at the place of rendezvous, where he found prince Houssain, and both waited for prince Ahmed.
Prince Ahmed took the road of Samarcand, and the day after his arrival, went, as his brothers had done, into the bezestein; where he had not walked long before he heard a crier, who had an artificial apple in his hand, cry it at five-and-thirty purses. He stopped the crier, and said to him, “Let me see that apple, and tell me what virtue or extraordinary property it possesses, to be valued at so high a rate?” “Sir,” replied the crier, giving it into his hand, “if you look at the mere outside of this apple it is not very remarkable; but if you consider its properties, and the great use and benefit it is of to mankind, you will say it is invaluable, and that he who possesses it is master of a great treasure. It cures all sick persons of the most mortal diseases, whether fever, pleurisy, plague, or other malignant distempers; for even if the patient is dying, it will recover him immediately, and restore him to perfect health: and this merely by the patient’s smelling to it.”
“If one may believe you,” replied prince Ahmed, “the virtues of this apple are wonderful, and it is indeed invaluable: but what ground has the purchaser to be persuaded that there is no exaggeration in the high praises you bestow on it?” “Sir,” replied the crier, “the truth is known by the whole city of Samarcand; but without going any farther, ask all these merchants you see here, and hear what they say; you will find several of them will tell you they had not been alive this day had they not made use of this excellent remedy; and that you may the better comprehend what it is, I must tell you it is the fruit of the study and experience of a celebrated philosopher of this city, who applied himself all his lifetime to the knowledge of the virtues of plants and minerals, and at last attained to this composition, by which he performed such surprising cures, as will never be forgotten; but died suddenly himself, before he could apply his own sovereign remedy; and left his wife and a great many young children behind in very indifferent circumstances, who, to support her family, and to provide for her children, has resolved to sell it.”
While the crier was detailing to prince Ahmed the virtues of the artificial apple, many persons came about them, and confirmed what he declared; and one amongst the rest said he had a friend dangerously ill, whose life was despaired of; which was a favourable opportunity to shew the experiment. Upon which prince Ahmed told the crier he would give him forty purses for the apple if it cured the sick person by smelling to it.
The crier, who had orders to sell it at that price, said to prince Ahmed, “Come, sir, let us go and make the experiment, and the apple shall be yours; and I say this with the greater confidence, as it is an undoubted fact that it will always have the same effect, as it already has had whenever it has been applied to save from death so many persons whose lives were despaired of.” In short, the experiment succeeded; and the prince, after he had counted out to the crier forty purses, and had received the apple from him, waited with the greatest impatience for the departure of a caravan for the Indies. In the mean time he saw all that was curious at and about Samarcand, and principally the valley of Sogd, which is reckoned by the Arabians one of the four paradises of this world, for the beauty of its fields, gardens, and palaces, and for its fertility in fruit of all sorts, and all the other pleasures enjoyed there in the fine season.
Ahmed joined himself to the first caravan that set out for the Indies, and notwithstanding the inevitable inconveniences of so long a journey, arrived in perfect health at the caravanserai, where the princes Houssain and Ali waited for him.
Ali, who had arrived some time before Ahmed, asked Houssain how long he had been there? who told him, “Three months;” to which he replied, “Then certainly you have not been very far.” “I will tell you nothing now,” said prince Houssain, “of where I have been, but only assure you, I was above three months travelling to the place I went to.” “But then,” replied prince Ali, “you made a short stay there.” “Indeed, brother,” said prince Houssain, “you are mistaken; I resided at one place above four months, and might have stayed longer.” “Unless you flew back,” returned Ali again, “I cannot comprehend how you can have been three months here, as you would make me believe.”
“I tell you the truth,” added Houssain, “and it is a riddle which I shall not explain to you, till our brother Ahmed joins us; when I will let you know what rarity I have purchased in my travels. I know not what you have got, but believe it to be some trifle, because I do not perceive that your baggage is increased.” “And pray what have you brought?” demanded prince Ali, “for I can see nothing but an ordinary piece of carpeting, with which you cover your sofa; and therefore I think I may return your raillery; and as you seem to make what you have brought a secret, you cannot take it amiss that I do the same with respect to what I have procured.”
“I consider the rarity I have purchased,” replied Houssain, “to excel all others whatever, and should not make any difficulty to shew it you, and make you allow that it is so, and at the same time tell you how I came by it, without being in the least apprehensive that what you have got is to be preferred to it: but it is proper that we should wait till our brother Ahmed arrives, when we may communicate our good fortune to each other.”
Prince All would not enter into a dispute with prince Houssain on the preference he gave his rarity, but was persuaded, that if his perspective glass was not preferable, it was impossible it should be inferior to it; and therefore agreed to stay till prince Ahmed arrived, to produce his purchase.
When prince Ahmed joined his brothers, they embraced with tenderness, and complimented each other on the happiness of meeting together at the same place they had set out from. Houssain, as the eldest brother, then assumed the discourse, and said to them, “Brothers, we shall have time enough hereafter to entertain ourselves with the particulars of our travels. Let us come to that which is of the greatest importance for us to know; and as I do not doubt you remember the principal motive which engaged us to travel, let us not conceal from each other the curiosities we have brought, but shew them, that we may do ourselves justice beforehand, and judge to which of us the sultan our father may give the preference.
“To set the example,” continued Houssain, “I will tell you, that the rarity which I have brought from the kingdom of Bisnagar is the carpeting on which I sit, which looks but ordinary, and makes no shew; but when I have declared its virtues, you will be struck with admiration, and confess you never heard of any thing like it. Whoever sits on it, as we do, and desires to be transported to any place, be it ever so far distant, he is immediately carried thither. I made the experiment myself, before I paid the forty purses, which I most readily gave for it; and when I had fully satisfied my curiosity at the court of Bisnagar, and wished to return here, I made use of no other conveyance than this wonderful carpet for myself and servant, who can tell you how long we were on our journey. I will shew you both the experiment whenever you please. I expect now that you should tell me whether what you have brought is to be compared with this carpet.”
Here prince Houssain finished his commendations of the excellency of his carpet; and prince Ali, addressing himself to him, said, “I must own, brother, that your carpet is one of the most surprising curiosities, if it has, as I do not doubt, the property you speak of. But you must allow that there may be other rarities, I will not say more, but at least as wonderful, in another way; and to convince you there are, here is an ivory tube, which appears to the eye no more a prodigy than your carpet; it cost me as much, and I am as well satisfied with my purchase as you can be with yours; and you will be so just as to own that I have not been imposed upon, when you shall know by experience, that by looking at one end you see whatever object you wish to behold. I would not have you take my word,” added prince Ali, presenting the tube to him; “take it, make trial of it yourself.”
Houssain took the ivory tube from prince Ali, and put that end to his eye which Ali directed, with an intention to see the princess Nouronnihar; when Ali and prince Ahmed, who kept their eyes fixed upon him, were extremely surprised to see his countenance change in such a manner, as expressed extraordinary alarm and affliction. Prince Houssain did not give them time to ask what was the matter, but cried out, “Alas! princes, to what purpose have we undertaken such long and fatiguing journeys, but with the hopes of being recompensed by the possession of the charming Nouronnihar, when in a few moments that lovely princess will breathe her last. I saw her in her bed, surrounded by her women and eunuchs, all in tears, who seem to expect her death. Take the tube, behold yourselves the miserable state she is in, and mingle your tears with mine.”
Prince Ali took the tube out of Houssain’s hand, and after he had seen the same object with sensible grief, presented it to Ahmed, who took it, to behold the melancholy sight which so much concerned them all.
When prince Ahmed had taken the tube out of Ali’s hands, and saw that the princess Nouronnihar’s end was so near, he addressed himself to his two brothers, and said, “Princes, the princess Nouronnihar, equally the object of our vows, is indeed just at death’s door; but provided we make haste and lose no time, we may preserve her life.” He then took the artificial apple out of his bosom, and shewing it to his brothers, resumed, “This apple cost me as much and more than either the carpet or tube. The opportunity which now presents itself to shew you its wonderful property makes me not regret the forty purses I gave for it. But not to keep you longer in suspense, it has this virtue; if a sick person smells to it, though in the last agonies, it will restore him to perfect health immediately. I have made the experiment, and can show you its wonderful effect on the person of the princess Nouronnihar, if we hasten to assist her.”
“If that be all,” replied prince Houssain, “we cannot make more dispatch than by transporting ourselves instantly into her chamber by means of my carpet. Come, lose no time, sit down, it is large enough to hold us all: but first let us give orders to our servants to set out immediately, and join us at the palace.”
As soon as the order was given, the princes Ali and Ahmed sat down by Houssain, and as their interest was the same, they all framed the same wish, and were transported instantaneously into the princess Nouronnihar’s chamber.
The presence of the three princes, who were so little expected, alarmed the princess’s women and eunuchs, who could not comprehend by what enchantment three men should be among them; for they did not know them at first; and the eunuchs were ready to fall upon them, as people who had got into a part of the palace where they were not allowed to come; but they presently found their mistake.
Prince Ahmed no sooner saw himself in Nouronnihar’s chamber, and perceived the princess dying, but he rose off the carpet, as did also the other two princes, went to the bed-side, and put the apple to her nostrils. The princess instantly opened her eyes, and turned her head from one side to another, looking at the persons who stood about her; she then rose up in the bed, and asked to be dressed, with the same freedom and recollection as if she had awaked out of a sound sleep. Her women presently informed her, in a manner that shewed their joy, that she was obliged to the three princes her cousins, and particularly to prince Ahmed, for the sudden recovery of her health. She immediately expressed her joy at seeing them, and thanked them all together, but afterwards prince Ahmed in particular. As she desired to dress, the princes contented themselves with telling her how great a pleasure it was to them to have come soon enough to contribute each in any degree towards relieving her from the imminent danger she was in, and what ardent prayers they had offered for the continuance of her life; after which they retired.
While the princess was dressing, the princes went to throw themselves at the sultan their father’s feet; but when they came to him, they found he had been previously informed of their unexpected arrival by the chief of the princess’s eunuchs, and by what means the princess had been so suddenly cured. The sultan received and embraced them with the greatest joy, both for their return, and the wonderful recovery of the princess his niece, whom he loved as if she had been his own daughter, and who had been given over by the physicians. After the usual compliments, the princes presented each the rarity which he had brought: prince Houssain his carpet, prince Ali his ivory tube, and prince Ahmed the artificial apple; and after each had commended his present, as he put it into the sultan’s hands, they begged of him to pronounce their fate, and declare to which of them he would give the princess Nouronnihar, according to his promise.
The sultan of the Indies having kindly heard all that the princes had to say in favour of their rarities, without interrupting them, and being well informed of what had happened in relation to the princess Nouronnihar’s cure, remained some time silent, considering what answer he should make. At last he broke silence, and said to them in terms full of wisdom, “I would declare for