| The Ivory City And Its Fairy Princess |
NE DAY A young prince was out practising archery with the son of his father's chief vizier, when one of the arrows accidentally struck the wife of a merchant, who was walking about in an upper room of a house close by. The prince aimed at a bird that was perched on the window- sill of that room, and had not the slightest idea that anybody was at hand, or he would not have shot in that direction. Consequently, not knowing what had happened, he and the vizier's son walked away, the vizier's son chaffing him because he had missed the bird.
Presently the merchant went to ask his wife about something, and found her lying, to all appearance, dead in the middle of the room, and an arrow fixed in the ground within half a yard of her head. Supposing that she was dead, he rushed to the window and shrieked, "Thieves thieves! They have killed my wife." The neighbours quickly gathered, and the servants came running upstairs to see what was the matter. It happened that the woman had fainted, and that there was only a very slight wound in her breast where the arrow had grazed.
As soon as the woman recovered her senses she told them that two young men had passed by the place with their bows and arrows, and that one of them had most deliberately aimed at her as she stood by the window.
On hearing this the merchant went to the king, and told him what had taken place. His Majesty was much enraged at such audacious wickedness, and swore that most terrible punishment should be visited on the offender if he could be discovered. He ordered the merchant to go back and ascertain whether his wife could recognise the young men if she saw them again.
"Oh yes," replied the woman, "I should know them again among all the people in the city."
"Then," said the king, when the merchant brought back this reply, "to- morrow I will cause all the male inhabitants of this city to pass before your house, and your wife will stand at the window and watch for the man who did this wanton deed."
A royal proclamation was issued to this effect. So the next day all the men and boys of the city, from the age of ten years upwards, assembled and marched by the house of the merchant. By chance (for they both had been excused from obeying this order) the king's son and the vizier's son were also in the company, and passed by in the crowd. They came to see the tamasha.
As soon as these two appeared in front of the merchant's window they were recognised by the merchant's wife, and at once reported to the king.
"My own son and the son of my chief vizier!" exclaimed the king, who had been present from the commencement. "What examples for the people! Let them both be executed."
"Not so, your Majesty," said the vizier, "I beseech you Let the facts of the case be thoroughly investigated. How is it?" he continued, turning to the two young men. "Why have you done this cruel thing?"
"I shot an arrow at a bird that was sitting on the sill of an open window in yonder house, and missed," answered the prince. "I suppose the arrow struck the merchant's wife. Had I known that she or anybody had been near I should not have shot in that direction."
"We will speak of this later on," said the king, on hearing this answer. "Dismiss the people. Their presence is no longer needed."
In the evening his Majesty and the vizier had a long and earnest talk about their two sons. The king wished both of them to be executed; but the vizier suggested that the prince should be banished from the country. This was finally agreed to.
Accordingly, on the following morning, a little company of soldiers escorted the prince out of the city. When they reached the last custom- house the vizier's son overtook them. He had come with all haste, bringing with him four bags of muhrs on four horses. "I am come," he said, throwing his arms round the prince's neck, "because I cannot let you go alone. We have lived together, we will be exiled together, and we will die together. Turn me not back, if you love me."
"Consider," the prince answered, "what you are doing. All kinds of trial may be before me. Why should you leave your home and country to be with me?"
"Because I love you," he said, "and shall never be happy without you."
So the two friends walked along hand in hand as fast as they could to get out of the country, and behind them marched the soldiers and the horses with their valuable burdens. On reaching a place on the borders of the king's dominions the prince gave the soldiers some gold, and ordered them to return. The soldiers took the money and left; they did not, however, go very far, but hid themselves behind rocks and stones, and waited till they were quite sure that the prince did not intend to come back.
On and on the exiles walked, till they arrived at a certain village, where they determined to spend the night under one of the big trees of the place. The prince made preparations for a fire, and arranged the few articles of bedding that they had with them, while the vizier's son went to the baniya and the baker and the butcher to get something for their dinner. For some reason he was delayed; perhaps the tsut was not quite ready, or the baniya had not got all the spices prepared. After waiting half an hour the prince became impatient, and rose up and walked about.
He saw a pretty, clear little brook running along not far from their resting-place, and hearing that its source was not far distant, he started off to find it. The source was a beautiful lake, which at that time was covered with the magnificent lotus flower and other water plants. The prince sat down on the bank, and being thirsty took up some of the water in his hand. Fortunately he looked into his hand before drinking, and there, to his great astonishment, he saw reflected whole and clear the image of a beautiful fairy. He looked round, hoping to see the reality; but seeing no person, he drank the water, and put out his hand to take some more. Again he saw the reflection in the water which was in his palm. He looked around as before, and this time discovered a fairy sitting by the bank on the opposite side of the lake. On seeing her he fell so madly in love with her that he dropped down in a swoon.
When the vizier's son returned, and found the fire lighted, the horses securely fastened, and the bags of muhrs lying altogether in a heap, but no prince, he did not know what to think. He waited a little while, and then shouted; but not getting any reply, he got up and went to the brook. There he came across the footmarks of his friend. Seeing these, he went back at once for the money and the horses, and bringing them with him, he tracked the prince to the lake, where he found him lying to all appearance dead.
"Alas! alas!" he cried, and lifting up the prince, he poured some water over his head and face. "Alas! my brother, what is this? Oh! do not die and leave me thus. Speak, speak! I cannot bear this!"
In a few minutes the prince, revived by the water, opened his eyes, and looked about wildly.
"Thank God!" exclaimed the vizier's son. "But what is the matter, brother?"
"Go away," replied the prince. "I don't want to say anything to you, or to see you. Go away."
"Come, come; let us leave this place. Look, I have brought some food for you, and horses, and everything. Let us eat and depart."
"Go alone," replied the prince.
"Never," said the vizier's son. "What has happened to suddenly estrange you from me? A little while ago we were brethren, but now you detest the sight of me."
"I have looked upon a fairy," the prince said. "But a moment I saw her face; for when she noticed that I was looking at her she covered her face with lotus petals. Oh, how beautiful she was! And while I gazed she took out of her bosom an ivory box, and held it up to me. Then I fainted. Oh! if you can get me that fairy for my wife, I will go anywhere with you."
"Oh, brother," said the vizier's son, "you have indeed seen a fairy. She is a fairy of the fairies. This is none other than Gulizar of the Ivory City. I know this from the signs that she gave you. From her covering her face with lotus petals I learn her name, and from her showing you the ivory box I learn where she lives. Be patient, and rest assured that I will arrange your marriage with her."
When the prince heard these encouraging words he felt much comforted, rose up, and ate, and then went away gladly with his friend.
On the way they met two men. These two men belonged to a family of robbers. There were eleven of them altogether. One, an elder sister, stayed at home and cooked the food, and the other ten--all brothers-- went out, two and two, and walked about the four different ways that ran through that part of the country, robbing those travellers who could not resist them, and inviting others, who were too powerful for two of them to manage, to come and rest at their house, where the whole family attacked them and stole their goods. These thieves lived in a kind of tower, which had several strong-rooms in it, and under it was a great pit, wherein they threw the corpses of the poor unfortunates who chanced to fall into their power.