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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Complete - 210/272 -


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

The Arabian Nights Entertainments Complete - 210/272

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