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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 4 - 10/71 -
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 one of you, my children, if I could do it with justice; but consider whether I can? It is true, 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 Ali's tube the danger she was in, and if Houssain's carpet had not brought you to her so soon? Your tube, Ali, informed you and your brothers that you were likely to lose the
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