Wednesday, May 13, 2015

[Arabian Tale] The Three Princes and the Princess Nouronnihar

There was once a sultan of India who had three sons. These, with
the princess his niece, were the ornaments of his court. The eldest
of the princes was called Houssain, the second Ali, the youngest
Ahmed, and the princess his niece, Nouronnihar. The Princess
Nouronnihar was the daughter of the younger brother of the sultan,
to whom the sultan in his lifetime allowed a considerable revenue.
But that prince had not been married long before he died, and left
the princess very young. The sultan, out of brotherly love and
friendship, took upon himself the care of his niece's education,
and brought her up in his palace with the three princes, where her
singular beauty and personal accomplishments, joined to a sprightly
disposition and irreproachable conduct, distinguished her among all
the princesses of her time.

The sultan, her uncle, proposed to get her married, when she
arrived at a proper age, to some neighbouring prince, and was
thinking seriously about it, when he perceived that the three
princes his sons had all fallen in love with her. He was very much
concerned, owing to the difficulty he foresaw whether the two
younger would consent to yield to their elder brother. He spoke to
each of them apart; and after having remonstrated on the
impossibility of one princess being the wife of three persons, and
the troubles they would create if they persisted, he did all he
could to persuade them to abide by a declaration of the princess in
favour of one of them; or to suffer her to be married to a foreign
prince. But as he found them obstinate, he sent for them all
together, and said to them, 'Children, since I have not been able
to persuade you no longer to aspire to marry the princess your
cousin; and as I have no inclination to force her to marry any of
you, I have thought of a plan which will please you all, and
preserve union among you, if you will but follow my advice. I think
it would be best, if every one travelled separately into a
different country, so that you might not meet each other: and as
you know I delight in every thing that is rare and singular, I
promise my niece in marriage to him that shall bring me the most
extraordinary curiosity; and for travelling expenses, I will give
each of you a sum befitting your rank and the purchase of the
curiosity you search.'

As the three princes were always submissive and obedient to the
sultan's will, and each flattered himself that fortune would favour
him, they all consented. The sultan gave them the money he
promised; and that very day they issued orders in preparation for
their travels, and took leave of the sultan, that they might be
ready to set out early the next morning. They all went out at the
same gate of the city, each dressed like a merchant, attended by a
trusty officer dressed like a slave, all well mounted and equipped.
They went the first day's journey together; and slept at the first
inn, where the road divided into three different tracks. At night
when they were at supper together, they agreed to travel for a
year, and to make that inn their rendezvous; that the first that
came should wait for the rest; that as they had all three taken
leave together of the sultan, they should all return together. The
next morning by break of day, after they had embraced and wished
each other good success, they mounted their horses, and each took a
different road.

Prince Houssain, the eldest brother, who had heard wonders of the
extent, strength, riches, and splendour of the kingdom of Bisnagar,
bent his course towards the Indian coast; and, after three months
travelling with different caravans, sometimes over deserts and
barren mountains, and sometimes through populous and fertile
countries, he arrived at Bisnagar, the capital of the kingdom of
that name and the residence of its king. He lodged at a khan
appointed for foreign merchants; and having learnt that there were
four principal quarters where merchants of all sorts kept their
shops, in the midst of which stood the castle, or rather the king's
palace, as the centre of the city, surrounded by three courts, and
each gate two leagues distant from the other, he went to one of
these quarters the next day.

Prince Houssain could not see this quarter without admiration. It
was large, and divided into several streets, all vaulted and shaded
from the sun, and yet very light. The shops were all of the same
size and proportion; and all that dealt in the same sort of
merchandise, as well as the craftsmen, lived in one street.

The multitude of shops stocked with the finest linens from several
parts of India, some painted in the brightest colours, with men,
landscapes, trees, and flowers; silks and brocades from Persia,
China, and other places; porcelain from Japan and China, foot
carpets of all sizes,--all this surprised him so much that he knew
not how to believe his own eyes; but when he came to the shops of
the goldsmiths and jewellers (for those two trades were exercised
by the same merchants), he was dazzled by the lustre of the pearls,
diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones exposed for
sale. But if he was amazed at seeing so many riches in one place,
he was much more surprised when he came to judge of the wealth of
the whole kingdom by considering that except the Brahmins and
ministers of the idols, who profess a life retired from worldly
vanity, there was not an Indian, man or woman, through the extent
of that kingdom, who did not wear necklaces, bracelets, and
ornaments about their legs and feet, made of pearls and other
precious stones.

Another thing Prince Houssain particularly admired was the great
number of rose-sellers, who crowded the streets; for the Indians
are such lovers of that flower, that not one will stir without a
nosegay in his hand, or a garland on his head; and the merchants
keep them in pots in their shops, so that the air of the whole
quarter, however large, is perfectly perfumed.

After Prince Houssain had run through the quarter, street by
street, his thoughts fully occupied by the riches he had seen, he
was very much tired, and a merchant civilly invited him to sit down
in his shop. He accepted the offer; but had not been seated long
before he saw a crier pass by with a piece of carpet on his arm,
about six feet square, and cry it at thirty purses. The prince
called to the crier, and asked to see the carpet, which seemed to
him to be valued at an exorbitant price, not only for its size, but
the meanness of the stuff. When he had examined it well, he told
the crier that he could not comprehend how so small and poor a
piece could be priced so high.

The crier, who took him for a merchant, replied, 'Sir, if this
price seems so extravagant to you, your amazement will be greater
when I tell you I have orders to raise it to forty purses, and not
to part with it for less.'

'Certainly,' answered Prince Houssain, 'it must have something very
extraordinary about it, which I know nothing of.'

'You have guessed right, sir,' replied the crier, 'and will own as
much when you come to know that whoever sits on this piece of
carpet may be transported in an instant wherever he desires to go
without being stopped by any obstacle.'

At this the Prince of the Indies, considering that the principal
motive of his journey was to carry some singular curiosity home to
the sultan his father, thought that be could not meet with anything
which could give him more satisfaction. 'If the carpet,' said he to
the crier, 'has the virtue you assign it, I shall not think forty
purses too much but shall make you a present besides.'

'Sir,' replied the crier, 'I have told you the truth; and it will
be an easy matter to convince you of it, as soon as you have made
the bargain for forty purses, by experiment. But as I suppose you
have not so much with you, and that I must go with you to the khan
where you lodge, with the leave of the master of the shop we will
go into his back shop, and I will spread the carpet; and when we
have both sat down, and you have formed the wish to be transported
into your room at the khan, if we are not transported thither it
shall be no bargain. As to your present, as I am paid for my
trouble by the seller, I shall receive it as a favour, and be very
much obliged to you for it.'

The prince accepted the conditions, and concluded the bargain; and
having obtained the master's leave, they went into his back shop;
they both sat down on the carpet, and as soon as the prince wished
to be transported into his room at the khan, he found himself and
the crier there, and as he wanted no more convincing proof of the
virtue of the carpet, he counted to the crier forty purses of gold,
and gave him twenty pieces for himself.

In this manner Prince Houssain became the possessor of the carpet,
and was overjoyed that on his arrival at Bisnagar he had found so
rare a treasure, which he never doubted would gain him the Princess
Nouronnihar. In short he looked upon it as an impossible thing for
the princes, his younger brothers, to meet with anything to compare
with it. It was in his power, by sitting on this carpet, to be at
the place of rendezvous that very day; but as he was obliged to
wait for his brothers, as they had agreed, and as he was curious to
see the King of Bisnagar and his court, and to learn about the
laws, customs, and religion of the kingdom, he chose to make a
longer abode there.

It was a custom of the King of Bisnagar to give audience to all
strange merchants once a week; and Prince Houssain, who remained
incognito, saw him often; and as he was handsome, clever, and
extremely polite, he easily distinguished himself among the
merchants, and was preferred before them all by the sultan, who
asked him about the Sultan of the Indies, and the government,
strength, and riches of his dominions.

The rest of his time the prince spent in seeing what was most
remarkable in and about the city; and among other things he visited
a temple, all built of brass. It was ten cubits square, and fifteen
high; and the greatest ornament to it was an idol of the height of a
man, of massy gold: its eyes were two rubies, set so artificially,
that it seemed to look at those who looked at it, on whichever side
they turned. Besides this, there was another not less curious, in a
village in the midst of a plain of about ten acres, which was a
delicious garden full of roses and the choicest flowers, surrounded
with a small wall breast high, to keep the cattle out. In the midst
of this plain was raised a terrace, a man's height, so nicely paved
that the whole pavement seemed to be but one single stone. A temple
was erected in the middle of this terrace, with a dome about fifty
cubits high, which might be seen for several leagues round. It was
thirty cubits long, and twenty broad, built of red marble, highly
polished. The inside of the dome was adorned with three rows of fine
paintings, in good taste: and there was not a place in the whole
temple but was embellished with paintings, bas-reliefs, and figures
of idols from top to bottom.

Every night and morning there were ceremonies performed in this
temple, which were always succeeded by sports, concerts, dancing,
singing, and feasts. The ministers of the temple and the inhabitants
of the place had nothing to live on but the offerings of pilgrims,
who came in crowds from the most distant parts of the kingdom to
perform their vows.

Prince Houssain was also spectator of a solemn feast, which was
celebrated every year at the court of Bisnagar, at which all the
governors of provinces, commanders of fortified places, all the
governors and judges of towns, and the Brahmins most celebrated for
their learning, were obliged to be present; and some lived so far
off that they were four months in coming. This assembly, composed of
innumerable multitudes of Indians, met in a plain of vast extent, as
far as the eye could reach. In the centre of this plain was a square
of great length and breadth, closed on one side by a large
scaffolding of nine stories, supported by forty pillars, raised for
the king and his court, and those strangers whom he admitted to
audience once a week. Inside, it was adorned and furnished
magnificently; and on the outside were painted fine landscapes,
wherein all sorts of beasts, birds, and insects, even flies and
gnats, were drawn as naturally as possible. Other scaffolds of at
least four or five stories, and painted almost all alike, formed the
other three sides.

On each side of the square, at some little distance from each other,
were ranged a thousand elephants, sumptuously harnessed, each having
upon his back a square wooden castle, finely gilt, in which were
musicians and actors. The trunks, ears, and bodies of these
elephants were painted with cinnabar and other colours, representing
grotesque figures.

But what Prince Houssain most of all admired was to see the largest
of these elephants stand with his four feet on a post fixed into
the earth, two feet high, playing and beating time with his trunk
to the music. Besides this, he admired another elephant as big,
standing on a board, which was laid across a strong beam about ten
feet high, with a great weight at the other end which balanced him,
while he kept time with the music by the motions of his body and

Prince Houssain might have made a longer stay in the kingdom and
court of Bisnagar, where he would have seen other wonders, till the
last day of the year, whereon he and his brothers had appointed to
meet. But he was so well satisfied with what he had seen, and his
thoughts ran so much upon the Princess Nouronnihar, that he fancied
he should be the more easy and happy the nearer he was to her.
After he had paid the master of the khan for his apartment, and
told him the hour when he might come for the key, without telling
him how he should go, he shut the door, put the key on the outside,
and spreading the carpet, he and the officer he had brought with
him sat down on it, and, as soon as he had wished, were transported
to the inn at which he and his brothers were to meet, where he
passed for a merchant till they came.

Prince Ali, the second brother, travelled into Persia with a
caravan, and after four months' travelling arrived at Schiraz,
which was then the capital of the kingdom of Persia, and having on
the way made friends with some merchants, passed for a jeweller,
and lodged in the same khan with them.

The next morning, while the merchants were opening their bales of
merchandise, Prince Ali took a walk into that quarter of the town
where they sold precious stones, gold and silver work, brocades,
silks, fine linens, and other choice and valuable merchandise,
which was at Schiraz called the bezestein. It was a spacious and
well-built place, arched over, and supported by large pillars;
along the walls, within and without, were shops. Prince Ali soon
rambled through the bezestein, and with admiration judged of the
riches of the place by the prodigious quantities of most precious
merchandise there exposed to view.

But among all the criers who passed backwards and forwards with
several sorts of things to sell, he was not a little surprised to
see one who held in his hand an ivory tube about a foot in length
and about an inch thick, and cried it at thirty purses. At first he
thought the crier mad, and to make sure, went to a shop, and said
to the merchant, who stood at the door, 'Pray, sir, is not that man
mad? If he is not, I am very much deceived.'

'Indeed, sir,' answered the merchant, 'he was in his right senses
yesterday, and I can assure you he is one of the ablest criers we
have, and the most employed of any when anything valuable is to be
sold; and if he cries the ivory tube at thirty purses, it must be
worth as much, or more, for some reason or other which does not
appear. He will come by presently, and we will call him; in the
meantime sit down on my sofa and rest yourself.'

Prince Ali accepted the merchant's obliging offer, and presently
the crier passed by. The merchant called him by his name; and
pointing to the prince, said to him, 'Tell that gentleman, who
asked me if you were in your right senses, what you mean by crying
that ivory tube, which seems not to be worth much, at thirty
purses: I should be very much amazed myself, if I did not know you
were a sensible man.'

The crier, addressing himself to Prince Ali, said, 'Sir, you are
not the only person that takes me for a madman on account of this
tube; you shall judge yourself whether I am or no, when I have told
you its peculiarity. First, sir,' pursued the crier, presenting the
ivory tube to the prince, 'observe that this tube is furnished with
a glass at both ends; by looking through one of them you see
whatever object you wish to behold.'

'I am,' said the prince, 'ready to make you all proper reparation
for the scandal I have thrown on you, if you will make the truth of
what you say appear'; and as he had the ivory tube in his hand, he
said, 'Show me at which of these ends I must look.' The crier
showed him, and he looked through, wishing at the same time to see
the sultan, his father. He immediately beheld him in perfect
health, sitting on his throne, in the midst of his council.
Afterwards, as there was nothing in the world so dear to him, after
the sultan, as the Princess Nouronnihar, he wished to see her, and
saw her laughing, and in a pleasant humour, with her women about

Prince Ali needed no other proof to persuade him that this tube was
the most valuable thing, not only in the city of Schiraz, but in
all the world; and he believed that, if he should neglect it, he
would never meet again with such another rarity. He said to the
crier, 'I am very sorry that I should have entertained so bad an
opinion of you, but hope to make you amends by buying the tube, so
tell me the lowest price the seller has fixed upon it. Come with
me, and I will pay you the money.' The crier assured him that his
last orders were to take no less than forty purses; and, if he
disputed the truth of what he said, he would take him to his
employer. The prince believed him, took him to the khan where he
lodged, counted out the money, and received the tube.

Prince Ali was overjoyed at his bargain; and persuaded himself
that, as his brothers would not be able to meet with anything so
rare and marvellous, the Princess Nouronnihar would be his wife. He
thought now of visiting the court of Persia incognito, and seeing
whatever was curious in and about Schiraz, till the caravan with
which he came returned back to the Indies. When the caravan was
ready to set out, the prince joined them, and arrived without any
accident or trouble at the place of rendezvous, where he found
Prince Houssain, and both waited for Prince Ahmed.

Prince Ahmed took the road to Samarcand; and the day after his
arrival there went, as his brothers had done, into the bezestein.
He had not walked long before he heard a crier, who had an
artificial apple in his hand, cry it at five-and-thirty purses. He
stopped the crier, and said to him, 'Let me see that apple, and
tell me what virtue or extraordinary property it has, to be valued
at so high a rate.'

'Sir,' said the crier, putting it into his hand, 'if you look at
the outside of this apple, it is very ordinary; but if you consider
the great use and benefit it is to mankind, you will say it is
invaluable. He who possesses it is master of a great treasure. It
cures all sick persons of the most mortal diseases, fever,
pleurisy, plague, or other malignant distempers; and, if the
patient is dying, it will immediately restore him to perfect
health; and this is done after the easiest manner in the world,
merely by the patient smelling the apple.'

'If one may believe you,' replied Prince Ahmed, 'the virtues of
this apple are wonderful, and it is indeed valuable: but what
ground has a plain man like myself, who may wish to become the
purchaser, to be persuaded that there is no deception or
exaggeration in the high praise you bestow on it?'

'Sir,' replied the crier, 'the thing is known and averred by the
whole city of Samarcand; but, without going any further, ask all
these merchants you see here, and hear what they say; several of
them would not have been alive this day if they had not made use of
this excellent remedy. It is the result of the study and experience
of a celebrated philosopher of this city, who applied himself all
his life to the knowledge of plants and minerals, and at last
performed such surprising cures in this city as will never be
forgotten; but he died suddenly himself, before he could apply his
own sovereign remedy, and left his wife and a great many young
children behind him in very indifferent circumstances; to support
her family, and provide for her children, she has resolved to sell

While the crier was telling Prince Ahmed the virtues of the
artificial apple, a great many persons came about them, and
confirmed what he said; and one among the rest said he had a friend
dangerously ill, whose life was despaired of, which was a
favourable opportunity to show Prince Ahmed the experiment. Upon
which Prince Ahmed told the crier he would give him forty purses if
he cured the sick person by letting him smell at it.

The crier, who had orders to sell it at that price, said to Prince
Ahmed, 'Come, sir, let us go and make the experiment, and the apple
shall be yours; it is an undoubted fact that it will always have
the same effect as it already has had in recovering from death many
sick persons whose life was despaired of.'

The experiment succeeded, and the prince, after he had counted out
to the crier forty purses, and the other had delivered the apple to
him, waited with the greatest impatience for the first caravan that
should return to the Indies. In the meantime he saw all that was
curious in and about Samarcand, especially the valley of Sogda, so
called from the river which waters it, and is reckoned by the
Arabians to be one of the four paradises of this world, for the
beauty of its fields and gardens and fine palaces, and for its
fertility in fruit of all sorts, and all the other pleasures
enjoyed there in the fine season.

At last Prince Ahmed joined the first caravan that returned to the
Indies, and arrived in perfect health at the inn where the Princes
Houssain and Ali were waiting for him.

Prince Ali, who was there some time before Prince Ahmed, asked
Prince Houssain, who got there first, how long he had been there;
he told him three months: to which he replied, 'Then certainly you
have not been very far.'

'I will tell you nothing now,' said Prince Houssain, 'but only
assure you I was more than three months travelling to the place I
went to.'

'But then,' replied Prince Ali, 'you made a short stay there.'

'Indeed, brother,' said Prince Houssain, 'you are mistaken: I
resided at one place over four or five months, and might have
stayed longer.'

'Unless you flew back,' replied Prince Ali again, 'I cannot
comprehend how you can have been three months here, as you would
make me believe.'

'I tell you the truth,' added Prince Houssain, 'and it is a riddle
which I shall not explain till our brother Ahmed comes; then I will
let you know what curiosity I have brought home from my travels. I
know not what you have got, but believe it to be some trifle,
because I do not see that your baggage is increased.'

'And pray what have you brought?' replied Prince Ali, 'for I can
see nothing but an ordinary piece of carpet, with which you cover
your sofa, and as you seem to make what you have brought a secret,
you cannot take it amiss that I do the same.'

'I consider the rarity which I have purchased,' replied Prince
Houssain, 'to excel all others whatever, and should not have any
objection to show it you, and make you agree that it is so, and at
the same time tell you how I came by it, without being in the least
apprehensive that what you have got is better. But we ought to wait
till our brother Ahmed arrives, that we may all communicate our
good fortune to each other.'

Prince Ali would not enter into a dispute with Prince Houssain, but
was persuaded that, if his perspective glass were not preferable,
it was impossible it should be inferior, and therefore agreed to
wait till Prince Ahmed arrived, to produce his purchase.

When Prince Ahmed came, they embraced and complimented each other
on the happiness of meeting together at the place they set out
from. Then Prince Houssain, as the elder brother, said, 'Brothers,
we shall have time enough hereafter to entertain ourselves with the
particulars of our travels: let us come to that which is of the
greatest importance for us to know; let us not conceal from each
other the curiosities we have brought home, but show them, that we
may do ourselves justice beforehand and see to which of us the
sultan our father may give the preference.

'To set the example,' continued Prince Houssain, 'I will tell you
that the rarity which I have brought from my travels to the kingdom
of Bisnagar, is the carpet on which I sit, which looks but ordinary
and makes no show; but, when I have declared its virtues to you,
you will be struck with admiration, and will confess you never
heard of anything like it. Whoever sits on it as we do, and desires
to be transported to any place, be it ever so far off, is
immediately carried thither. I made the experiment myself before I
paid down the forty purses, and when I had fully satisfied my
curiosity at the court of Bisnagar, and had a mind to return, I
made use of no other means than this wonderful carpet for myself
and servant, who can tell you how long we were coming hither. I
will show you both the experiment whenever you please. I expect you
to tell me whether what you have brought is to be compared to this

Here Prince Houssain ended, and Prince Ali said, 'I must own,
brother, that your carpet is one of the most surprising things
imaginable, if it has, as I do not doubt in the least, that
property you speak of. But you must allow that there may be other
things, I will not say more, but at least as wonderful, in another
way; and to convince you there are, here is an ivory tube, which
appears to the eye no more a rarity than your carpet. It cost me as
much, and I am as well satisfied with my purchase as you can be
with yours; and you will be so just as to own that I have not been
cheated, when you know by experience that by looking at one end you
see whatever you wish to behold. Take it,' added Prince Ali,
presenting the tube to him, 'make trial of it yourself.'

Prince Houssain took the ivory tube from Prince Ali, and clapped
that end to his eye which Prince Ali showed him, to see the
Princess Nouronnihar, and to know how she was, when Prince Ali and
Prince Ahmed, who kept their eyes fixed upon him, were extremely
surprised to see his countenance change suddenly with extraordinary
pain and grief. Prince Houssain would not give them time to ask
what was the matter, but cried out, 'Alas! princes, to what purpose
have we undertaken long and fatiguing journeys? In a few moments
our lovely princess will breathe her last. I saw her in her bed,
surrounded by her women and attendants, who were all in tears. Take
the tube, behold for yourselves the miserable state she is in.'

Prince Ali took the tube out of Prince Houssain's hand and after he
had looked, presented it to Prince Ahmed.

When Prince Ahmed saw that the Princess Nouronnihar's end was so
near, he addressed himself to his two brothers, and said, 'Princes,
the Princess Nouronnihar, the object of all our vows, is indeed at
death's door; but provided we make haste and lose no time, we may
preserve her life.' Then he took out the artificial apple, and
showing it to the princes his brothers, said to them, 'This apple
which you see here cost as much as either the carpet or tube. The
opportunity now presents itself to show you its wonderful virtue.
Not to keep you longer in suspense, if a sick person smells it,
though in the last agonies, it restores him to perfect health
immediately. I have made the experiment, and can show you its
wonderful effect on the Princess Nouronnihar, if we make all haste
to assist her.'

'If that is all,' replied Prince Houssain, 'we cannot make more
haste than by transporting ourselves instantly into her room by the
means of my carpet. Come, lose no time; sit down on it by me; it is
large enough to hold us all three: but first let us give orders to
our servants to set out immediately, and join us at the palace.'

As soon as the order was given, Prince Ali and Prince Ahmed went
and sat down by Prince Houssain, and all three framed the same
wish, and were transported into the Princess Nouronnihar's chamber.

The presence of the three princes, who were so little expected,
frightened the princess's women and attendants, who could not
comprehend by what enchantment three men should be among them; for
they did not know them at first, and the attendants were ready to
fall upon them, as people who had got into a part of the palace
where they were not allowed to come; but they presently recollected
and found their mistake.

Prince Ahmed no sooner saw himself in Nouronnihar's room, and
perceived the princess dying, than he rose off the tapestry, as did
also the other two princes, and went to the bed-side, and put the
apple under her nose. Some moments after, the princess opened her
eyes, and turned her head from one side to another, looking at the
persons who stood about her; she then rose up in the bed, and asked
to be dressed, just as if she had awaked out of a sound sleep. Her
women informed her, in a manner that showed their joy, that she was
obliged to the three princes her cousins, and particularly to
Prince Ahmed, for the sudden recovery of her health. She
immediately expressed her joy to see them, and thanked them all
together, and afterwards Prince Ahmed in particular, and they then

While the princess was dressing, the princes went to throw
themselves at the sultan their father's feet, and pay their
respects to him. The sultan received and embraced them with the
greatest joy, both for their return and for the wonderful recovery
of the princess his niece, whom he loved as if she had been his own
daughter, and who had been given over by the physicians. After the
usual compliments, the princes presented each the curiosity which
he had brought: Prince Houssain his carpet, which he had taken care
not to leave behind him in the princess's chamber; Prince Ali his
ivory tube, and Prince Ahmed the artificial apple; and after each
had commended his present, when they put it into the sultan's
hands, they begged him to pronounce their fate, and declare to
which of them he would give the Princess Nouronnihar for a wife,
according to his promise.

The Sultan of the Indies having kindly heard all that the princes
had to say, without interrupting them, and being well informed of
what had happened in relation to the Princess Nouronnihar's cure,
remained some time silent, as if he were thinking what answer he
should make. At last he broke silence, and said to them in terms
full of wisdom, 'I would declare for one of you, my children, with
a great deal of pleasure, if I could do so with justice; but
consider whether I can. It is true, Prince Ahmed, the princess my
niece is obliged to your artificial apple for her cure, but let me
ask you, whether you could have been so serviceable to her if you
had not known by Prince Ali's tube the danger she was in, and if
Prince Houssain's carpet had not brought you to her so soon?

'Your tube, Prince Ali, informed you and your brothers that you
were likely to lose the princess your cousin, and so far she is
greatly obliged to you. You must also grant that that knowledge
would have been of no service without the artificial apple and the

'And for you, Prince Houssain, consider that it would have been of
little use if you had not been acquainted with the princess's
illness by Prince Ali's tube, and Prince Ahmed had not applied his
artificial apple. Therefore, as neither the carpet, the ivory tube,
nor the artificial apple has the least preference one over the
other, but, on the contrary, there is a perfect equality, I cannot
grant the princess to any one of you, and the only fruit you have
reaped from your travels is the glory of having equally contributed
to restore her to health.

'If this be true,' added the sultan, 'you see that I must have
recourse to other means to determine with certainty in the choice I
ought to make among you, and as there is time enough between this
and night, I will do it to-day. Go, and get each of you a bow and
arrow, and repair to the great plain outside the city, where the
horses are exercised. I will soon come to you, and I declare I will
give the Princess Nouronnihar to him that shoots the farthest.

'I do not, however, forget to thank you all in general, and each in
particular, for the presents you brought me. I have a great many
rarities in my museum already, but nothing that comes up to the
carpet, the ivory tube, and the artificial apple, which shall have
the first place among them, and shall be preserved carefully, not
only for show, but to make an advantageous use of them upon all

The three princes had nothing to say against the decision of the
sultan. When they were out of his presence, they each provided
themselves with a bow and arrow, which they delivered to one of
their officers, and went to the plain appointed, followed by a
great concourse of people.

The sultan did not make them wait long; and as soon as he arrived,
Prince Houssain, as the eldest, took his bow and arrow, and shot
first. Prince Ali shot next, and much beyond him; and Prince Ahmed
last of all; but it so happened, that nobody could see where his
arrow fell; and, notwithstanding all the search of himself and
everybody else, it was not to be found far or near. And though it
was believed that he shot the farthest, and that he therefore
deserved the Princess Nouronnihar, it was necessary that his arrow
should be found, to make the matter evident and certain; so,
notwithstanding his remonstrances, the sultan determined in favour
of Prince Ali, and gave orders for preparations to be made for the
wedding, which was celebrated a few days afterwards with great

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