Select the desired text size
From The The blue fairy book by Andrew lang
Press F5 to hear again
Start of Story
There was a sultan, who had three sons and a niece. 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, who died, and left the Princess very young. The Sultan took upon
himself the care of his daughter's education, and brought her up in his
palace with the three Princes, proposing to marry her when she arrived
at a proper age, and to contract an alliance with some neighboring
prince by that means. But when he perceived that the three Princes, his
sons, loved her passionately, he thought more seriously on that affair.
He was very much concerned; the difficulty he foresaw was to make them
agree, and that the two youngest should consent to yield her up to their
elder brother. As he found them positively obstinate, he sent for them
all together, and said to them: "Children, since for your good and
quiet I have not been able to persuade you no longer to aspire to
the Princess, your cousin, I think it would not be amiss if every one
traveled separately into different countries, so that you might not
meet each other. And, as you know I am very curious, and delight in
everything that's singular, I promise my niece in marriage to him that
shall bring me the most extraordinary rarity; and for the purchase of
the rarity you shall go in search after, and the expense of traveling, I
will give you every one a sum of money."
As the three Princes were always submissive and obedient to the Sultan's
will, and each flattered himself fortune might prove favorable to him,
they all consented to it. The Sultan paid them the money he promised
them; and that very day they gave orders for the preparations for their
travels, and took their leave of the Sultan, that they might be the more
ready to go the next morning. Accordingly they all set out at the same
gate of the city, each dressed like a merchant, attended by an officer
of confidence dressed like a slave, and all well mounted and equipped.
They went the first day's journey together, and lay all at an inn, where
the road was divided into three different tracts.
At night, when they
were at supper together, they all agreed to travel for a year, and to
meet at that inn; and that the first that came should wait for the rest;
that, as they had all three taken their leave together of the Sultan,
they might 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 took each a different road.
Prince Houssain, the eldest brother, arrived at Bisnagar, the capital
of the kingdom of that name, and the residence of its king. He went and
lodged at a khan appointed for foreign merchants; and, having learned
that there were four principal divisions where merchants of all sorts
sold their commodities, and kept shops, and in the midst of which
stood the castle, or rather the King's palace, he went to one of these
divisions the next day.
Prince Houssain could not view this division without admiration. It was
large, and divided into several streets, all vaulted and shaded from the
sun, and yet very light too. The shops were all of a size, and all
that dealt in the same sort of goods lived in one street; as also the
handicrafts-men, who kept their shops in the smaller streets.
The multitude of shops, stocked with all sorts of merchandise, as the
finest linens from several parts of India, some painted in the most
lively colors, and representing beasts, trees, and flowers; silks and
brocades from Persia, China, and other places, porcelain both from Japan
and China, and tapestries, surprised him so much that he knew not how to
believe his own eyes; but when he came to the goldsmiths and jewelers he
was in a kind of ecstacy to behold such prodigious quantities of wrought
gold and silver, and was dazzled by the lustre of the pearls, diamonds,
rubies, emeralds, and other jewels exposed to sale.
Another thing Prince Houssain particularly admired was the great number
of rose-sellers who crowded the streets; for the Indians are so great
lovers of that flower that no 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, that the air is perfectly perfumed.
After Prince Houssain had run through that division, street by street,
his thoughts fully employed on the riches he had seen, he was very much
tired, which a merchant perceiving, civilly invited him to sit down in
his shop, and he accepted; but had not been sat down long before he
saw a crier pass by with a piece of tapestry on his arm, about six feet
square, and cried at thirty purses. The Prince called to the crier,
and asked to see the tapestry, which seemed to him to be valued at an
exorbitant price, not only for the size of it, but the meanness of the
stuff; when he had examined it well, he told the crier that he could
not comprehend how so small a piece of tapestry, and of so indifferent
appearance, could be set at so high a price.
The crier, who took him for a merchant, replied: "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 it,
sir," replied the crier, "and will own it when you come to know that
whoever sits on this piece of tapestry may be transported in an instant
wherever he desires to be, without being stopped by any obstacle."
At this discourse of the crier the Prince of the Indies, considering
that the principal motive of his travel was to carry the Sultan, his
father, home some singular rarity, thought that he could not meet with
any which could give him more satisfaction. "If the tapestry," 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 is an easy matter to
convince you of it, as soon as you have made the bargain for forty
purses, on condition I show you the experiment. But, as I suppose you
have not so much about you, and to receive them I must go with you to
your khan, where you lodge, with the leave of the master of the shop, we
will go into the back shop, and I will spread the tapestry; and when we
have both sat down, and you have formed the wish to be transported into
your apartment of the khan, if we are not transported thither it shall
be no bargain, and you shall be at your liberty. As to your present,
though I am paid for my trouble by the seller, I shall receive it as a
favor, and be very much obliged to you, and thankful."
On the credit of the crier, the Prince accepted the conditions, and
concluded the bargain; and, having got the master's leave, they went
into his back shop; they both sat down on it, and as soon as the Prince
formed his wish to be transported into his apartment at the khan he
presently found himself and the crier there; and, as he wanted not a
more sufficient proof of the virtue of the tapestry, he counted the
crier out forty pieces of gold, and gave him twenty pieces for himself.
In this manner Prince Houssain became the possessor of the tapestry,
and was overjoyed that at his arrival at Bisnagar he had found so rare
a piece, which he never disputed would gain him the hand of Nouronnihar.
In short, he looked upon it as an impossible thing for the Princes his
younger brothers to meet with anything to be compared with it. It was
in his power, by sitting on his tapestry, to be at the place of meeting
that very day; but, as he was obliged to stay there for his brothers, as
they had agreed, and as he was curious to see the King 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 there, and to
spend some months in satisfying his curiosity.
Prince Houssain might have made a longer abode in the kingdom and
Court of Bisnagar, but he was so eager to be nearer the Princess that,
spreading the tapestry, he and the officer he had brought with him sat
down, and as soon as he had formed his wish were transported to the inn
at which he and his brothers were to meet, and where he passed for a
merchant till they came.
Prince Ali, Prince Houssain's second brother, who designed to travel
into Persia, took the road, having three days after he parted with
his brothers joined a caravan, and after four days' travel arrived at
Schiraz, which was the capital of the kingdom of Persia. Here he passed
for a jeweler.
The next morning Prince Ali, who traveled only for his pleasure, and
had brought nothing but just necessaries along with him, after he had
dressed himself, took a walk into that part of the town which they at
Schiraz called the bezestein.
Among all the criers who passed backward and forward with several sorts
of goods, offering to sell them, he was not a little surprised to see
one who held an ivory telescope in his hand of about a foot in length
and the thickness of a man's thumb, and cried it at thirty 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 perspective glass at
thirty purses) "mad? If he is not, I am very much deceived."
"Indeed, sir," answered the merchant, "he was in his right senses
yesterday; 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 perspective glass at thirty purses it must be worth as
much or more, on some account or other. He will come by presently, and
we will call him, and you shall be satisfied; in the meantime sit down
on my sofa, and rest yourself."
Prince Ali accepted the merchant's obliging offer, and presently
afterward 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
perspective glass, which seems not to be worth much, at thirty purses.
I should be very much amazed myself if I did not know you." 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 perspective glass.
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
showed it to already, who had as bad an opinion of me as you.
"First, sir," pursued the crier, presenting the ivory pipe to the
Prince, "observe that this pipe is furnished with a glass at both ends;
and consider that by looking through one of them you see whatever object
you wish to behold." "I am," said the Prince, "ready to make you all
imaginable reparation for the scandal I have thrown on you if you will
make the truth of what you advance appear," and as he had the ivory pipe
in his hand, after he had looked at the two glasses he said: "Show me
at which of these ends I must look that I may be satisfied." The crier
presently showed him, and he looked through, wishing at the same time to
see the Sultan his father, whom he immediately beheld in perfect health,
set on his throne, in the midst of his council. Afterward, 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 at her toilet laughing,
and in a pleasant humor, with her women about her.
Prince Ali wanted no other proof to be persuaded that this perspective
glass was the most valuable thing in the world, and believed that if
he should neglect to purchase it he should never meet again with such
another rarity. He therefore took the crier with him to the khan where
he lodged, and counted him out the money, and received the perspective
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
admirable, the Princess Nouronnihar would be the recompense of his
fatigue and trouble; that he thought of nothing but visiting the Court
of Persia incognito, and seeing whatever was curious in Schiraz and
thereabouts, till the caravan with which he came returned back to the
Indies. As soon as the caravan was ready to set out, the Prince joined
them, and arrived happily without any accident or trouble, otherwise
than the length of the journey and fatigue of traveling, at the place of
rendezvous, where he found Prince Houssain, and both waited for Prince
Prince Ahmed, who took the road of Samarcand, the next day after his
arrival there went, as his brothers had done, into the bezestein, where
he had not walked long but heard a crier, who had an artificial apple
in his hand, cry it at five and thirty purses; upon which he stopped the
crier, and said to him: "Let me see that apple, and tell me what virtue
and extraordinary properties it has, to be valued at so high a rate."
"Sir," said the crier, giving it into his hand, "if you look at the
outside of this apple, it is very worthless, but if you consider its
properties, virtues, and the great use and benefit it is to mankind, you
will say it is no price for it, and that he who possesses it is master
of a great treasure. In short, it cures all sick persons of the most
mortal diseases; and if the patient is dying it will recover him
immediately and restore him to perfect health; and this is done after
the easiest manner in the world, which is by the patient's smelling the