Sindbad the sailor and other stories from the Arabian nights/Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
ALADDIN AND THE WONDERFUL LAMP
KNOW, O King, that, once upon a time, in a far city of Cathay, there dwelt a poor tailor who had an only son named Aladdin. This boy was a born ne'er-do-well, and persistently resisted all his father's efforts to teach him a trade by means of which he would be able in future to earn a livelihood. Aladdin would sooner play at knuckle-bones in the gutter with others as careless as himself than he would set his mind to honest business; and, as to obeying his parents in the smallest matter, it was not in his nature. Such was this boy Aladdin, and yet—so remarkable is the favour of fate—he was strangely predestined for great things.
Stricken with grief because of the waywardness and idle conduct of his son the father fell ill and died, and the mother found great difficulty in supporting herself, to say nothing of the worthless Aladdin as well. While she wore the flesh off her bones in the endeavour to obtain a meagre subsistence Aladdin would amuse himself with his fellow urchins of the street, only returning home to his meals. In this way he continued until he was fourteen years of age, when his extraordinary destiny took him by the hand, and led him, step by step, through adventures so wonderful that words can scarce describe them.
One day he was playing in the gutter with his ragged companions, as was his wont, when a Moorish Dervish came by, and, catching sight of Aladdin's face, suddenly stopped and approached him. This Dervish was a sorcerer who had discovered many hidden secrets by his black art; in fact, he was on the track of one now; and, by the look on his face as he scrutinised Aladdin's features, it seemed that the boy was closely connected with his quest.
The Dervish beckoned to one of the urchins and asked him who Aladdin was, who his father was, and indeed all about him. Having thus learned the whole history of the boy and his family the Dervish gave his informer some coins and sent him away to spend them. Then he approached Aladdin and said to him, "Boy, I seem to recognise in thee a family likeness. Art thou not the tailor's son?" Aladdin answered him that he was, and added that his father was dead.
On hearing this the Dervish cried out with grief and embraced Aladdin, weeping bitterly. The boy was surprised at this and enquired the cause of such sorrow. "Alas!" replied the Dervish with tears running down his cheeks, "my fate is an unhappy one. Boy, I have come from a distant country to find my brother, to look upon his face again, and to cheer and comfort him; and now thou tellest me he is dead." He took Aladdin's face in his hands and gazed searchingly upon it as he continued: "Boy, I recognise my brother's features in thine; and, now that he is dead, I will find comfort in thee."
Aladdin looked up at him in wonder, for he had never been told that he had an uncle; indeed, he was inclined to doubt the truth of the matter; but, when the Dervish took ten pieces of gold from his purse and placed them in his hand, all doubt was out of the question, and he rejoiced at having found so rich an uncle. The Dervish then asked him concerning his mother and begged him to show him the way to her house. And, when Aladdin had shewed him, he gave the boy more gold and said, "Give this to thy mother with my blessing, and say that her brother-in-law, who has been absent forty years, has returned and will visit her to-morrow to weep with her over the place where his brother is buried." With this he departed, and Aladdin ran to his mother to tell her the news.
"Mother! Mother!" he cried excitedly, bursting in upon her, "my uncle hath returned after forty years; he wept when I told him my father was dead; he salutes thee and—" "My son," she broke in, "what are these wild words? Thou hast no uncle, and the only one thou ever hadst died many years before thou wast born." "Nay, nay;" returned Aladdin, "this is my father's brother; he recognised my father's features in mine and wept, and gave me this to bring to thee, with a message that he would come to see thee tomorrow."
He handed her the gold, and, as the widow took it, her doubt was lessened considerably. "I wonder," she cried. "Can it be that my husband's brother did not die after all, or that he has risen from the grave? In either case he is rich and generous."
On the morrow the Dervish sought Aladdin in the street where he had seen him the day before, and found him there among his disreputable friends. Taking him aside he kissed him and embraced him; then, placing ten gold pieces in his hand, he said, "Hasten now to thy mother and give her these gold pieces and say that her brother-in-law would come to sup at her house this night."
So Aladdin left him and ran home to his mother with the gold pieces and the message. Then the widow busied herself and prepared for the corning of this new-found relative. She bought rich food, and borrowed from the neighbours such dishes, utensils and napery as she required. When the supper was ready, and the widow was about to send Aladdin to hasten the guest, the Dervish entered, followed by a slave bearing fruit and wine, which he set down, and then went his way. The Dervish, weeping bitterly, saluted the widow and immediately fell to asking questions about the departed, finally desiring to know which was his empty seat. On being shown it he prostrated himself and cried, "Alas! that I should return to find his place vacant. Oh! woe; there is no power nor strength but in God!" And he ceased not to weep until he had convinced the widow that his grief was genuine.
Then, when he was comforted and they all sat at supper together, the Dervish told them how he had journeyed from a far land with one thought only: to see his brother once again; and how, with a great joy, he had chanced to find Aladdin, in whose face he had recognised his brother's likeness—a joy so suddenly turned to sadness and grief on his learning that his only brother was dead. At his words the widow fell to weeping, whereupon the Dervish, to change the subject of talk, turned to Aladdin and asked him if he knew any art or trade. At this Aladdin hung his head, and, as he was too ashamed to answer, his mother dried her tears and answered for him. "Alack!" she said, "he is nothing but an idler. He spends his time as thou didst find him, playing with ragamuffins in the street, and is never at home except at meal times. And I—I am an old woman and ugly through toil and hardship, and grief at his behaviour. O my
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brother-in-law! It is he who should provide for me, not I for him."
"I am grieved to hear this of thee," said the Dervish, turning to Aladdin; "for thou art no longer a child, but a man of ability and kindness; and thou shouldst work to provide for thine aged mother so that she may live in comfort. Now, tell thine uncle what trade thou wouldst follow, and he will start thee in it so that in time thou mayst be able to support thy mother and thyself. Come, my son!" But Aladdin was still silent, and it was clear that he had no mind to work at any trade. Seeing this the Dervish made a better offer. "Wouldst thou like to be a merchant?" he asked. "If so I will give thee a shop with all kinds of merchandise, and thou shalt buy and sell and get gain, and rise to a position of importance."
Now Aladdin regarded a merchant as a well-dressed, well-fed being, who did no work to speak of, but, from the profits on his wares, lived in a state of perfect delight. So the suggestion pleased him, and he replied with a smile that, above all things, he would like to be a merchant. "It is well, O Son of my brother!" replied the Dervish. "Then, to-morrow, I will take thee to the market and purchase a fine dress tor thee, so that thou wilt be well received amongst thy fellow merchants; and, on the following day, I will stock a shop and set thee up in it; for this is the least I can do to show the great affection I bear for the memory of my late lamented brother."
At this Aladdin clapped his hands with glee, and his mother was rejoiced. If at first she had been disposed to doubt the Dervish she now accepted him unreservedly as her brother-in-law, saying within herself, "Who but the boy's uncle would behave with such great kindness towards him?" And she chid her boy for his own good, and counselled him straitly to obey his uncle in all things. The Dervish also gave Aladdin much sound advice on the conduct of trade, so that the boy's head was bursting with buying and selling, and he could not sleep that night for dreams of rich stuffs, and bales of merchandise. At last, when the Dervish arose and took his departure, promising to return for Aladdin on the morrow and take him to buy his merchant's dress, the wizard felt that he had proved himself undoubtedly the best of brothers-in-law, and the best of uncles.
True to his word the Dervish came on the morrow, and Aladdin, holding him affectionately by the hand, went with him forth to the market. There they entered a shop full of the finest materials, and the Dervish asked to be shewn some dresses such as a wealthy merchant might wear. The owner of the shop laid a great variety before him and the Dervish said, "Now, my son, choose what dress you like." This delicate favour of choice pleased Aladdin greatly, for it seemed that he had now at last reached the age of discretion. He picked out one that he liked, and the Dervish paid the price without any attempt at bargaining. Then they went together to the Hammam, and, when they had bathed and rested, Aladdin clothed himself in his new dress and came forth in great delight, kissing his uncle's hand and thanking him again, and again.
The Dervish then showed Aladdin the market and the traffic in goods, saying that he must study all these things in order to be apt in his profession. From the markets they passed on to the mosques and other fine buildings in the city, and thence to an eating-place where the finest food was served on silver dishes, and the sherbet was of the rarest kind. Here they regaled themselves sumptuously, and rested. And, whenever Aladdin thanked his uncle for his kindness, the Dervish replied, "Nay, boy; am I not thine uncle? Would that I could do more by my brother's son."
When the afternoon came they strolled in the beautiful gardens, and the Dervish delighted Aladdin by showing him the pleasure grounds and the magnificent palaces. And so they wandered on, hand in hand, until they came to a garden full of every delight, where crystal streams flowed between glorious banks of flowers, and fountains played and sparkled in the sunlight. There they sat down by the side of the running water and made merry, so that none observing them could doubt that they were kind uncle and glad nephew.
After they had rested the Dervish suggested a walk, and he led Aladdin through garden after garden until they came to the confines of the city, beyond which stood a high hill. "Shall we return, O my uncle?" said Aladdin, who was in no mood for climbing the hill. "There are no more gardens outside the city." "Nay," replied the Dervish, "on the hillside is the loveliest garden of all. Bear up, my son, and be a man; we shall soon be there." And, as they went, he beguiled the boy with anecdotes, so that Aladdin forgot both the length of the way and his weariness.
At last they came to a place on the hillside where the Dervish paused and looked about him, saying to himself, "This is the spot I have journeyed so far to find." But to Aladdin he said, "Rest here awhile, O my son, and, when thou art refreshed, gather some wood and we will make a fire; then, if thou wish to see a most wonderful thing, I will shew thee that which will take thy breath away."
At this Aladdin's curiosity was excited, and, with no thought of resting, he began at once to gather wood. When he had collected a sufficient quantity the Dervish lighted the fire, and, taking from his wallet a little box, drew some fine powder from it and scattered it over the fire, uttering an incantation. Immediately, amid rumblings of thunder, the earth reeled and opened. At this Aladdin fled in terror, but the Dervish, powerless to effect his purpose without the boy's aid, flew after him in a rage, and smote him over the head, so that he fell to the ground stunned.
When, presently, he regained his senses, he sat up and cried out, "What have I done, O my uncle, that thou shouldst strike me?" "Nay, my son," replied the Dervish, "I intended not to hurt thee. Come, now, be a man, and obey my wishes if thou wouldst see the wonderful things that I will shew thee." With such words as these he banished Aladdin's fears and smoothed him over. Then he directed him to the opening in the earth, where there was revealed a slab of marble with a brass ring let into it. The Dervish stooped and began to draw figures upon the ground, saying as he did so, "Obey me, Aladdin, in all that I say, for so thou shalt become richer than all the kings of the earth. Know, O my son, that beyond that slab of stone lies vast treasure which none but thee can acquire and live. Therefore, advance, my son, and take the brass ring in thy hand, and lift the slab from its place; for it is predestined that thou art the only one on this earth that hath the power to do this thing." And Aladdin, stirred to great wonder by the words of the Dervish, would have done his bidding with alacrity, but, on looking at the marble slab, he saw that it was far too heavy for him.
"Never can I raise that alone, O my uncle," he said. "Wilt thou not help me?" "Nay," answered the Dervish, "it will yield to no hand but thine. Grasp the ring and repeat the names of as many of thine ancestors as thou canst remember, beginning with thy father and mother; for thine ancestors are my ancestors, O my son! By this the stone will come away quite easily in thy hand as if it were a feather. Am I not thine uncle, and have I not said it? And did I not cleave the hillside with my incantations? Wherefore, pluck up courage, and forget not that all the riches beyond that stone are for thee."
Thus encouraged Aladdin advanced to the stone, repeating the names of all the ancestors he could remember; and, taking hold of the ring, lifted the heavy slab from its place with perfect ease, and threw it aside. Then within the aperture lay revealed a stairway of twelve steps leading into a passage.
While Aladdin was gazing at this wonder the Dervish took a ring from his finger and placed it upon the middle finger of the boy's right hand, saying impressively as he did so, "Listen to me, O my son! fear nothing in what I am about to bid thee do, for this ring will be thy protection in all dangers and against all evils. If thou shouldst find thyself in evil case thou hast only to—, but of that I will tell thee presently. What is more important now is this. In order to come at the treasure, O my son, steady thyself and listen attentively, and see to it that thou fail not a word of these my instructions. Go down the steps and traverse the passage to the end, where thou wilt find a chamber divided into four parts, each containing four vessels of gold. Touch not these on thy life, for if so much as the fringe of thy robe cometh in contact with any of them, thou wilt immediately be turned into stone. Linger not to gaze upon them, but pass right through to the end, where thou wilt find a door. Open this, repeating again the names of thine ancestors, when lo, thou wilt behold a beautiful garden before thee. Take the pathway that is ready for thy feet and proceed forty nine cubits until thou comest to an alcove, where is set a stairway of forty nine steps. Look not to ascend that stairway: it is not for thee nor me; but direct thine attention to a lamp hanging above the alcove. Take it from its fastening, and pour out the oil therein; then put it in thy breast securely, and retrace thy steps to me. Is it clear to thee, my son?"
"O my uncle, it is quite clear," replied Aladdin, and he repeated the instructions he had received. "Pull thy wits together then, my son," said the Dervish, well pleased; "and descend, for verily thou art a man of mettle, and not a child. Yea, thou, and thou only, art the rightful owner of all this great treasure. Come now!"
Filled with courage from the wizard's words, and enticed by the dazzle of untold riches, Aladdin descended the twelve steps and passed through the fourfold chamber with the utmost care lest he should touch any of the golden jars therein with so much as the fringe of his garment. When he came to the door at the far end he paused to repeat the names of his ancestors, and opened it; then, lo, before him lay a beautiful garden where the trees were laden with many coloured fruit, while sweet voiced birds sang in the branches. He took the pathway that lay before his feet, and, as he followed it, he looked up and noticed that the trees bore, not fruit as he had supposed, but sparkling jewels flashing with many colours. On boughs where rosy apples might have hung were blood-red rubies half bidden in the leaves, and, where the purple grape might have clustered, were branches of large sapphires. On some trees white blossoms grew, and every blossom was a pearl, while what seemed like drops of dew among the blossoms were purest diamonds. All the leaves of the trees were of mother-of-emerald, and on their under surface they held, like seeds, rows of the emerald itself. Virgin gold peeled like bark from the trunks and branches, and, when bird chased bird through the foliage, there fell such a rain of wealth on the dull earth's lap as would have enriched a king far above his fellow kings.
But Aladdin, though dazzled by the glitter, thought these sparkling things were but coloured glass; and it was for such that he plucked them with boyish delight until his pockets were full. "These are lovely things to play with," he said, and proceeded to fill his girdle also.
As he made his way along the garden path, plucking the bright jewels as he went, he caught sight of the alcove at the far end, and, remembering his uncle's instructions, hastened towards it. There was the stairway of forty-nine steps, and there, hanging from a crystal beam, was the Lamp. He paused, looking up at it. How should he reach it?" His uncle had said that the stairway was neither for Aladdin nor for himself, and yet he saw at a glance that the only way of reaching the Lamp was by mounting seven steps of the stairway. He hesitated, then, concluding that the Lamp was the whole object of his quest, and that he must reach it at all costs, he ventured. With some misgivings he mounted the seven steps and, reaching out, took the Lamp from its fastening and descended with it. Then, emptying out the oil, he placed it securely in his bosom, saying "Now, as my uncle said to me, with this Lamp in my bosom all is mine!"
As Aladdin was returning along the pathway among the trees, laden with the precious jewels, fear assailed him lest his uncle would be angry at his delay, for it was borne in upon him that no great delight can come to a mortal without his having to suffer for it. Whereupon he hastened his footsteps, and, passing through the fourfold chamber without touching the golden jars—for the fear of that was still upon him,—he arrived quickly at the foot of the stairway of twelve steps. Heavily weighted as he was with the jewels and the Lamp he proceeded to mount the stairs at a run. But the jewels grew heavier, and the Lamp weighed upon his bosom, so that he was exhausted by the time he was halfway up. Kneeling on the seventh step he looked up and saw the Dervish urging him on with the greatest impatience.
"Bear with me, O my uncle," he said. "I am heavily weighted and am out of breath. I will soon come to thee." Then he climbed three steps and one step more, and sank exhausted before the last, which was far higher than the others. The jewels and the Lamp oppressed him with heaviness and he could not mount that last step. "O my uncle, give me thy hand and help me up," he cried. But the wizard dare not touch him, for so the spell of fate was worded and he must abide by it. "Nay," he called down, "thou art man enough! It is the Lamp that hampers thee. Reach up and place it on the ledge here; then thou canst mount easily thyself."
The Dervish held out his hand expectantly for the Lamp and his eyes glittered. Aladdin saw the evil light in them, and, having some mother wit, replied, "O my uncle, the Lamp is no weight at all; it is simply that I am exhausted
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and this step is too high for me. Give me thy hand and help me up." "Give me the Lamp!" cried the Dervish holding his hand out for it, and beginning to rage. "Place it on the ledge before thee, and then I will help thee up." "Nay," returned Aladdin, growing obstinate, "if thou wilt not give me thy hand I will not give thee the Lamp, for it is in my thoughts that thou wantest the Lamp more than thou wantest me."
This enraged the Dervish to a point beyond control, and he said within himself, "If I get not the Lamp then may it perish with him!" And, taking a box from his wallet, he threw some powder on the embers of the fire, muttering curses and incantations as he did so. Immediately a flame shot up, and its many tongues went hither and thither, licking the air. The earth shuddered and groaned with a hollow thunder; then the marble slab closed of itself over the aperture, the hillside rushed together above it, and all was as before, save that Aladdin was sealed within that cavern without hope of escape.
Long and loud did Aladdin call to his supposed uncle to save him from a living death; but there was no answer to his cries, and, at last, when he was almost exhausted, he took counsel of himself and plainly saw the truth of the matter. The Dervish was no uncle of his, but a cunning wizard who had made a catspaw of him to secure treasure which, by the laws of magic and destiny, he was powerless to come at in any other way. The whole thing, from the very beginning, was a trick; and he saw it clearly now that it was too late. The way out was sealed, and the darkness pressed heavily upon him. Frantic with the desire to escape from this dungeon he thought of the garden and the stairway in the alcove; but, when he had groped his way to the end of the passage, he found the door closed, and all his efforts failed to open it. The names of his ancestors were of no avail against the magic of the Dervish. At this he wept loudly, and continued to weep throughout the night, until his rage and despair were spent. At last he sank down exhausted on the lowest step of the stairway by which he had first descended, and, feeling himself utterly abandoned by man, he raised his hands to God, praying for deliverance from his calamity.
Now, while he was holding his hands in supplication, he felt the ring upon his middle finger—the ring which the Dervish had placed there saying, "In whatever difficulty thou mayst find thyself this ring will be thy protection; thou hast only to—but of that I will tell thee later." The Dervish had perhaps given him the ring to gain his confidence, and had purposely omitted to reveal its secret. But now, in answer to Aladdin's prayer, the power of the ring was revealed as if by the merest chance; for, when he felt the ring, he looked at it; and, seeing a light from the jewel therein, he breathed upon it and rubbed it with his palm to increase its lustre. No sooner had he done this when, lo, the Slave of the Ring appeared, and gathered shape before him, first in a luminous haze, and then, gradually, in clearer and clearer contour.
"Ask what thou wilt, and it shall be done," said the apparition; "for know that I am the Slave of the Ring and the slave of him on whose finger my master placed the ring."
Aladdin, seeing before him an Efrite after the order of those invoked by the Lord Suleiman, was terrified, and his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth, so that he could not speak. But the Efrite reassured him with kindly speech. "Thou hast only to ask," he said, "and thy wish will be fulfilled; for, since my master's ring is on thy hand, I am thy servant."
At this Aladdin took heart, and, having considered his wish, resolved to put the matter to the test. "O Slave of the Ring!" he said, "my wish is that thou take me from this dungeon and place me in the light of day where the sun shines and the breezes blow—if indeed it is day, for here have I been for many, many hours."
Scarcely had he spoken the words when there was a clap of thunder. The cavern opened, and, by some mysterious power, he was conveyed through the opening. Then, when he sat up and looked around him, he was in the light of day upon the hillside, and everything was as it had been when he and the Dervish had first reached the spot.
Aladdin marvelled greatly at this, and said within himself, "I wonder if it was all a dream!" But, when he looked at the ring upon his finger and felt the Lamp and the jewel-fruit he had gathered from the trees in the garden, he knew it was not a dream. Besides, there was the spot where the fire had been; and it was now but a heap of grey ashes on the ground. Turning himself about, he saw the path by which they had ascended, and the gardens stretching below. Nothing had changed. The side of the hill which the Dervish by his magic had opened for his entrance, and the Slave of the Ring had now closed up behind him, was as it had been when he first saw it.
Seeing that he was safe and sound in the outer world, Aladdin fell on his knees and gave thanks to the most High for his deliverance from a terrible death. Then straightway he arose and took the path that led down the hillside and through the gardens of the city in the direction of his home. At length, with wearied body, but elated mind, he reached the doorway of his dwelling, and, entering, found his mother weeping.
"Where hast thou been, my son?" she cried. "All night long I lay awake, anxious for thee; and now it is again near nightfall, and thou comest like one about to die. Where hast thou been, and where is thine uncle? "
But Aladdin could not answer her. What with utter weariness, and the joy of gaining his home once more, he fell in a swoon at her feet. Quickly she dashed water on his face and restored him. Then, when she had made him eat, she enquired gently what had befallen him.
"O my mother," said Aladdin, "how much thou art to blame! Thou gavest me over to a devil of a sorcerer who tried, by his evil arts, to compass my ruin. I have a stout reckoning against thee for this; for, look you; this vile and wicked one, whom thou toldst me was my uncle, was naught but a liar and an impostor. Think, mother, of the richness of his promises! What was he not going to do for me? His affection for me was overwhelming, and he ceased not to pretend in that lying hypocrisy until the cheat was exposed and I saw that his purpose was to use me for his own ends, and then to destroy me. Mother, the devils beneath the sea and the earth are not the equal of this vile sorcerer." And thus, having vented his anger at the false conduct of the Dervish, he proceeded to tell his mother, first about the lamp and the jewel-fruit, then about all that had happened on the hillside, from the opening of the earth by a magic spell, to the closing of it again, and his subsequent escape through the Slave of the Ring. "And thus," he concluded, "thus did this devil's own shew me in the end that he was accursed and that he cared no jot for me, but only for the Lamp."
Then Aladdin took the Lamp and the precious stones from his bosom and placed them before his mother, albeit neither knew why the Lamp had been so coveted by the Dervish, or that the stones were more valuable than any possessed by kings. And Aladdin, now weeping for joy at his deliverance, and now cursing with rage at the vile hypocrisy of the sorcerer, found sympathy in both cases in his mother, who wept and cursed with him, crying out that the Omnipotent, who had graciously saved his life, would most assuredly punish that wicked man for his abominable actions.
Now, neither Aladdin nor his mother had rested for two days and two nights, so that, exhausted at length with weeping and with heaping maledictions on the Dervish, they slept; and, when they awoke, it was about noon of the following day. Aladdin's first words on pulling his wits together were to the effect that he was hungry. "Nay, O my son," replied his mother, "there is nothing to eat in the house, for thou didst eat yesterday all that there was. But stay, I have some spinning that is ready for the market. I will take and sell it and buy some food."
She was busying herself about this when Aladdin suddenly called out to her, "Mother! bring me the Lamp, and I will take and sell that; it will fetch more than the spinning." Now, although Aladdin and his mother knew that the Dervish had greatly coveted the Lamp, they both imagined that he had some strange reason of his own for this; and, as the Lamp was an article that would command a ready sale, the mother quickly agreed to Aladdin's proposal and brought the Lamp to him in answer to his call. On regarding it closely, however, she observed that it was very dirty. Well knowing that it would fetch a better price if it were clean and bright, she set to work to polish it with some fine sand; when lo, as soon as she started to rub the Lamp, the air before her danced and quivered and a chill gasp of wind smote her in the face. Then, looking up, she saw, towering above her, a being monstrous and terrible, with a fierce face in which gleamed fiery eyes beneath frowning brows. She gazed at this apparition in fear and astonishment, for she knew it was surely a powerful Efrite such as were under the power of the Lord Suleiman. Then the being spoke: "Thou hast invoked me; what is thy wish?" But she only gazed at him, dumb with terror. Again the awful being spoke: "Thou hast summoned me, for I am the Slave of the Lamp which is in thy hand. What is thy desire?" At this the poor woman could no longer endure her fear, and, with a cry, she fell in a swoon.
Aladdin had heard the Efrite's words and had hastened to his mother's side. He had already seen the power of the Slave of the Ring, and he guessed that now the Slave of the Lamp had appeared, and was ready to do the bidding of the one who held the Lamp. So he quickly took it from his mother's hand, and, standing before the Efrite, plucked up courage and said, "I desire food, O Slave of the Lamp! the finest food that ever was set before a king."
No sooner had he spoken than the Efrite vanished, but only to reappear immediately, bearing a rich tray of solid silver, on which were twelve golden dishes with fruits and meats of various kinds. There were also flagons of wine and silver goblets. As Aladdin stared in amazement at this magnificent repast the Efrite set the tray down before him and vanished in a flash. Then Aladdin turned to his mother and dashed cold water on her face, and held perfumes to her nostrils until she regained consciousness and sat up. And when she beheld the sumptuous repast set out upon the golden dishes she was greatly astonished, and imagined that the Sultan had sent it from his palace. But Aladdin, who was very hungry, fell to eating heartily; and, while persuading his mother to eat, he would tell her nothing.
It was not until they had satisfied their hunger, and placed the remainder aside for the morrow, that Aladdin informed her what had happened. Then she questioned him, saying, "O my son, was not this the same Efrite that appeared to thee when thou wast in the cavern?" "Nay," he answered. "That was the Slave of the Ring; this was the Slave of the Lamp." "At all events," said she, "it was a terrible monster that nearly caused my death through fear. Promise me, O my son, that thou wilt have naught further to do with the Ring and the Lamp. Cast them from thee, for the Holy Prophet hath told us to have no traffic with devils."
"Nay, nay, O my mother," protested Aladdin; "it were wiser to keep them, for did not the Slave of the Ring deliver me from death? and has not the Slave of the Lamp brought us delicious food when we were hungry?" "That may be so," replied his mother, "but hear my words, my son; no good thing can come of these dealings with accursed spirits, and it were better for thee to have died in the cavern than to invoke their aid." And thus she pleaded with him to cast away the Ring and the Lamp, for she was sore afraid of the power of the Evil One. But Aladdin would not undertake to do this, although, in respect for her wishes, he agreed to conceal the objects so that she might never need to look upon them. He also agreed to invoke neither of the Efrites again, unless it were a case of dire necessity. And with this his mother had to rest content.
Mother and son continued to live on the food that remained, until, in a few days, it was all gone. Then Aladdin took up one of the dishes from the tray, and, not knowing that it was of pure gold, went out to sell it and buy food with the proceeds. In the market he came to the shop of a Jew—a man of exceeding vile methods of buying and selling; and he showed the dish to him. This Jew, as soon as he saw the dish, knew it for pure gold and glanced sharply at Aladdin to find whether he knew its value. But Aladdin's face told him nothing; so he enquired, "What price do you ask, O my master?" "Its value in the market," returned Aladdin; and at this the Jew pondered, saying within himself, "If he knoweth the value, and I offer him too little, he will give me a bad name in the market; yet, if he knoweth not, I should be ruining myself by offering him too large a price. Perchance he knoweth not." Then, preferring that others might call him a rogue rather than that the event might prove him a fool in his own eyes, he took a single gold piece from his pocket and handed it to Aladdin. On this and its issue, seeing quickly that Aladdin knew not the value of the thing—for he took the gold piece and walked away—the Jew repented him bitterly of his rash act, for he could have bought the dish for much less.
The Lady Bedr-el-Budur at her bath. Page 84
As for Aladdin, he hastened home and gave the gold piece to his mother, begging her to buy food with it. She did so, and they ate, and were comforted. And so, from day to day, they lived on the proceeds of one dish after another, which the unregenerate Hebrew bought at cheaper and cheaper prices, saying always that the metal was inferior and that the demand for such goods was not what it used to be. And, when at last the dishes were all sold, Aladdin summoned the Jew to the house to inspect the goblets and also the tray, which was too heavy for him to carry to the market. When the Jew saw how much silver there was in the tray and the goblets he forgot himself and offered ten gold pieces for them—at least a thirtieth part of their value. Aladdin took the gold pieces, and the Jew departed with the tray. So food was forthcoming for many more days; but at last the money was exhausted and there was now nothing left to sell. At this Aladdin, who, in deference to his mother's wishes, had concealed the Lamp and the Ring against a necessitous occasion, brought forth the former and rubbed it, for so, he concluded, was the Slave invoked. His conclusion was right, for no sooner had he rubbed the Lamp than the Efrite suddenly appeared before him, immense and of terrible aspect.
"What is thy wish, O my master?" said the Efrite; "for I am the Slave of the Lamp and of him who holds it." "My wish," answered Aladdin, "is that you bring me another tray of food similar to the one you brought before." Immediately the Efrite vanished, and, in a moment, appeared again, bearing a tray of food exactly similar to the one he had brought before. He set this down before Aladdin and then disappeared.
"Mother! Mother!" cried Aladdin in delight. "Come here and see what we have for supper." When she hastened to him and saw the delicate food, and smelt the rich savours, she was pleased, although she knew that Aladdin had summoned the Efrite and commanded him to bring the tray. "Look at it, Mother!" cried Aladdin; "and thou wouldst have me cast away the Lamp by means of which we have gotten this repast!" "O my son," answered she, "if the Slave of the Lamp be a devil then he is a good devil; but, for all that, I know I should swoon again at sight of him."
And they ate and drank and were merry, the food lasting them some days. Then, just as a tidy housewife clears away the platter after a meal, so, when the food was all gone, Aladdin proceeded to dispose of the dishes as before. Taking one of them he went forth to find the Jew, but it chanced that on his way he passed the shop of a fair-dealing man—that is to say, not a Jew—who had no vile methods of buying and selling, but was just, and feared God. When this man saw Aladdin passing he called to him, and told him that he had frequently seen him selling things to the Jew, and warned him about it. "Thou knowest not how the Jew will trick thee," he said, "for the goods of the faithful are fair spoil to the Jews; and it was ever so, and ever will be. If, therefore, thou hast aught to sell, I will give thee its full value, in the name of the Prophet."
Then Aladdin shewed him the dish of gold and he took it, and weighed it on the scales. "Did you sell any of this kind to the Jew?" he asked. "Yes," answered Aladdin, "many—all of them exactly the same." "And what price did he pay you?" "A gold piece for the first, and afterwards less." The merchant looked grieved and spat on the ground. "My son," he said; "it is not meet that a servant of God should fall into the hands the Jew. Woe unto him, accursed! He hath cheated thee sore, for my balance tells me truly the weight of this dish, which is of pure gold; and its value is seventy pieces of gold. Here is the price if thou wouldst sell."
He counted out seventy gold pieces and handed them to Aladdin, who took them and thanked the merchant heartily for his honest exposure of the Jew's wickedness. And thereafter he brought the remaining dishes, and at last the tray, to that merchant, and received from him their full value; so that Aladdin and his mother were placed above want and in a comfortable position for people of their station in life.
During this time Aladdin had changed his ways greatly. He no longer consorted with the ragamuffins of the street but selected for his friends men of standing and integrity. His daily practice was to go to the market and converse with the merchants in a serious and business-like manner in the endeavour to learn their methods and the value of stuffs. And often he would watch the jewellers at their work, and the goods they handled; and, through knowledge thus acquired, he began to suspect that the jewel-fruit he had gathered in the garden of the cavern was not glass, as he had imagined, but real gems. By this and that, and by comparing and asking questions, he came at length to the certainty that he actually possessed the richest jewels in all the earth. The smallest among them was bigger and more sparkling by far than the largest and finest he could see in any jeweller's shop.
One day, while his mind was engaged with this amazing thing, and while he was as usual studying the ways of the merchants in the bazaar and the varying quality of their goods, a thing happened which was predestined to have far-reaching results on his life. He was in the jewellers' market, taking note of things, when a herald came by, crying to all people: "Take heed! By command of the Sultan, King of the Age and Lord of the Earth, let all doors be closed, and let none come forth from shop or dwelling on pain of instant death, for the Sultan's daughter, Bedr-el-Budur cometh to the bath! Take heed!"
Now, on hearing this, a great longing arose in Aladdin's breast to look upon the face of Bedr-el-Budur, the Sultan's daughter. "All people extol her loveliness," he said to himself; "and I—even if I die for it—I will look upon her face; for something—I know not what—impels me to gaze on Bedr-el-Budur the beautiful."
So, with this will, he speedily found the way. Hastening to the Hammam he secreted himself behind the door so that, unobserved himself, he might see her when she came in. And he had not long to wait, for, presently, the Sultan's daughter arrived; and, as she entered, she lifted the veil from her face, so that Aladdin saw her features clearly.
What a wondrous beauty was there! The witchery of her eyes! The ivory of her skin! The jet of her glossy tresses! These, and the swaying of her graceful body as she walked, caused Aladdin's heart to turn to water and then to spring wildly into flame. "What a creature is this Princess!" he said within himself. "I knew not that God had ever created such a soul of loveliness." Then, suddenly, an over-whelming love for her took him by the heart, and gat hold of him utterly, so that he knew naught else for the very stress of it.
Like one walking in a dream Aladdin went home and sat him down in dejection of spirit. For a long time he answered not his mother's questions as to what ailed him, but continued like one who had beheld a vision so lovely that it had deprived him of his senses. At last, however, he looked up, and said, "O my mother, know that until to-day I had believed that all women were of thy fashion of face, but now I find they are not; for to-day I saw the Sultan's daughter, and she is more beautiful than all others on earth." And Aladdin told her how he had hidden behind the door of the Hammam, so that, when Bedr-el-Budur had entered and lifted her veil, he had seen her clearly; and how, on that, a great love had leapt up in his heart and filled him to the exclusion of all else. "And there is no rest for me," he concluded, "until I win the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, and make her my wife."
At these daring words Aladdin's mother regarded him sharply, with fear on her face. "Art thou mad, my son?" she cried. "For, if such an insane act is thine intention, then God save thee!" "Nay, O my mother," he answered, "I am not mad. But, as I risked my life to see her, so will I risk it again to win her; for, without her, life is of no account to me. I will go to the Sultan and ask him to give me the lovely Bedr-el-Budur for my lawful wife."
Seeing his determination his mother was sore afraid, and knew not what to do. For a long time she reasoned with him anxiously, pointing out what a scandal it would be for the son of a poor tailor to aspire to the Sultan's daughter—the highest in the land, and one whom the Sultan would scarce bestow upon a King who was his equal. Aladdin listened very quietly, and then replied that his resolve was unshaken; and, though he admitted the truth of all she had said, he would nevertheless carry out his purpose, for the Lady Bedr-el-Budur was the only thing in the world to him, and if he did not win her he would die. In vain she suggested that there were many of his own class he might marry; besides, to approach the Sultan on such a matter meant certain death; unless, indeed, the Sultan thought to bind him on an ass, with his face to the tail, and parade him through the city with the heralds shouting, "Behold the reward of presumption and the payment of impertinence!"
These arguments, and more, his mother put before him; but Aladdin shook his head at all of them, and remained firm in his determination. "And further, O my mother," he said, "I wish now that thou go thyself to the Sultan and put my request to him, for am I not thy child? And is it not thy duty to perform this office for me?"
"O my son," she cried in despair, "wilt thou bring me into thy madness? I, a poor woman of humble birth, to go in to the Sultan and demand the princess for my son! Why, if I were to go even to one of our equals and demand his daughter, I should immediately be asked what money and goods we possessed; and, if I could not give a ready reply on that matter to an equal, what reply, do you imagine, could I give the Sultan? Besides all this, O my son, how shall I even gain access to the Sultan's presence for this purpose without bearing a rich gift to offer him? Out on thee, my son, for thy presumption! What hast thou done for thy country, or what are thy vast possessions that the Sultan should reward thee with his daughter?"
"Mother," answered Aladdin," thy words have served me well, for they have called to my recollection a thing which, through excess of love for the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, I had forgotten. Thou sayest that thou canst not approach the Sultan without a rich gift. Then, O my mother, if I place in thy hands an offering richer than any King in the world can make to any other, wilt thou carry out my desire?"
Thinking his words were wild as the wind, and that he could produce no such offering, his mother agreed; but, remembering the Slave of the Lamp, and what had already been done in that way, she stipulated with Aladdin that she would carry out his wish only on condition that it required no further invoking of the Efrite. Aladdin assured her on this and asked her to fetch him a china bowl. Wondering greatly she arose, and brought the bowl to him. Then Aladdin emptied into it all the sparkling jewels which he carried within his garments, and, when they were heaped together in the bowl they shone with a dazzling splendour. Liking well her amazement he explained to his mother how he had learned in the market place that what he had at first thought were mere glass were really the rarest of precious stones, the equal of the least of which could not be found in the treasuries of Kings. On hearing this, and at sight of the brilliant, flashing gems, his mother was dumbfounded, for she saw that this was indeed a treasure beyond all imagination, and worthy of the Sultan's acceptance. But, as she had naught to say, Aladdin spoke for her, and held her to her promise.
"Thou seest, O my mother," he said, "that this is an offering excelling all others. Now, therefore, according to thy promise, arise straightway and go to the Sultan, bearing these wondrous jewels. I am greatly mistaken if he accepteth not the gift." "But, O my son," answered she in dismay, "what can I say to him? The gift is fabulous indeed, but still more fabulous is the request thou desirest me to put to him. For, if I say I want his daughter for my son, he may be so angered at my impertinence that he will take the jewels and condemn me to death. And then he may search for thee, my son; and, when he hath found thee, and looked upon thy face, we shall assuredly die together."
Aladdin made a gesture of impatience at his mother's view of the matter. "On my head and eye," he said angrily, "though thou art my mother thou art verily lacking in sense. I put it to you: What man living, yea, even though he be the Sultan, would refuse to grant thy request when thou comest to him with the price of more than half his kingdom? Nay, my mother,—for such thou art,—thou art surely deficient in wisdom." And he took up the bowl of glittering jewels and weighed the chances of them in his hand.
But his mother, silenced as she was with his shrewd words, was terrified at the prospect of her visit to the Sultan, and still went on raising difficulties. "Haply, O my son, he will be pleased to see me, because of the gift; but what if he say to me, 'Who is this, thy son, who seeketh the hand of my daughter? What is his condition and state of life?'" "How can he ask thee that," answered Aladdin, "when the jewels in the bowl are crying out my state and my condition? Such a thing will never happen, except in thy mind. Do thou now arise and go to him, for I will no longer listen to these fanciful excuses." "Nay, nay, my son," she cried, seeing there was no withdrawing from her promise; "I will go, but give me till the morning to strengthen and prepare myself."
So Aladdin curbed his impatience and agreed to wait until the following day; but, since he realised that it was not impossible that the project might fail, and that he might have to seek to the Slave of the Lamp for advice and help in
The Lady Bedr-el-Budur. Page 113
difficulty, he spoke to his mother on the matter. "O my mother," he said, "it was the condition of thy promise that I should not invoke the Slave of the Lamp in the furtherance of this my desire; yet it must be understood between us that if thou make a blunder—which thou needst not do—then, to extricate us from a dire calamity, I am free to rub the Lamp and see what its Slave can do for our salvation."
His mother assented to this, for she knew, if she failed with the Sultan, all was lost; and, in such case, even the aid of a demon would be acceptable. "Then," said Aladdin, "see thou to it that in thy gossip to our neighbours no word of the Lamp escape thy lips, for, if this wonderful possession of ours become known, it will speedily pass out of our hands and its virtues with it. Therefore keep thy counsel, O my mother, and babble not of our secret." "Fear nothing, my son," she replied, "the Lamp is our peculiar possession, and no word shall pass my lips concerning it." And they ceased not to talk of their project, and the saving powers of the Lamp, far into the night.
When morning dawned Aladdin's mother arose and prepared herself for the visit to the Palace, and, wrapping the bowl of jewels in a cloth, went forth early. When she arrived at the Palace she found herself among the first there assembled, and at once fell to watching the princes and nobles and high officials as they came in. When the audience was full the Sultan came in and seated himself on the royal divan. All bowed down before him, and then stood waiting with folded arms for his permission to be seated. And, when he gave permission, all sat down in their due order of precedence. Then he listened to their petitions in the same order, and gave his decisions, until the hour grew late, and the audience was declared closed. The Sultan arose and went into the Palace, and the princes, with the nobles and the people, went their ways. Among them went Aladdin's mother, thinking to herself that this would be a matter of many days.
She hastened home to Aladdin, who, when he saw her with the bowl of jewels just as when she departed, cried, "What is this, O my mother? Hath he refused the jewels, and thy head still on thy shoulders?" "Nay, my son," she replied; "be patient! There were many before me and I had no opportunity." And she told him how she had gained a place in the audience, and how it was only a matter of waiting till her turn came to place her petition before the Sultan; perchance to-morrow or the next day.
Aladdin was overjoyed at this; and, though his exceeding love for the Princess probed him sore, yet he resolved to possess his soul in patience against the fulfilment of his desire. But what he momently expected was hourly delayed, and, from that time forth, the daily postponement of his request added fuel to the flame of love in his heart; for, on the following morning, his mother set forth again for the Palace and returned again in the evening but one day nearer to the putting of her petition. And every day thereafter she stood in the audience with the bowl of jewels under her arm and heard the petitions, but dared not for very timidity address the Sultan. And in this way she continued for a whole month, while Aladdin was nursing his impatient soul and waiting on the issue.
Now the Sultan, being observant, had noticed the woman present herself constantly at the levée; and, at length, one day, after the audience had dispersed and the Sultan had retired with his Grand Vizier, he said to him, "Hearken, O Vizier! for many days have I seen an old woman at the levee, and on each occasion she has carried a bundle under her arm. Knowest thou aught of her?" And the Vizier, who had little esteem for women, replied, "Doubtless a woman like other women, O our Lord! Maybe she cometh with a deadly grievance against her husband, whom she desires to be beheaded; and, when thou grantest her desire, she will plead for his life, supplicating thee with tears; for such was ever their way." But the Sultan was curious about the woman and her silent persistence, and was not satisfied to dismiss the matter so easily. So he commanded the Vizier to see to it that, should the woman present herself again, she be instantly brought before him.
And so it came about. Aladdin's mother, though weary with her many attendances, still persevered in her quest, feeling that, for the sake of her son, she would endure all delay so that the issue might come at last. And it came according to the Sultan's command to the Grand Vizier; for one day the Sultan saw her waiting in the audience chamber and ordered the Vizier to bring her forward that he might consider her affair.
Now, at last, she was face to face with the Sultan, making obeisance to him and kissing the ground at his feet. "I have seen thee here, O woman, for many days," said the Sultan; "and thou hast not approached me. If thou hast a wish that I can grant, lay it before me." At this she kissed the ground again, and prayed fervently for the prolongation of his life. Then she said, "O King of all the Ages, I have a request; but, peace be on thee, it is a strange one! Wherefore I claim thy clemency before I state it."
These words whetted the Sultan's curiosity, and, as he was a man of great gentleness, he spoke her softly in reply, and not only assured her of his clemency but ordered all others present to withdraw, saving only the Grand Vizier, so that he might hear her petition in secret.
"Now, woman," said the Sultan, turning to her, "make thy petition, and the peace and protection of God be on thee." "Thy forgiveness, also, O King," she said. "God forgive thee if there is aught to forgive," he replied. And at this Aladdin's mother unfolded the tale of her son's exceeding love for Bedr-el-Budur, the Sultan's daughter: how life had become intolerable to him because of this, and how his only thought was to win the Lady Bedr-el-Budur for his wife, or die—either of grief, or by the Sultan's anger. Wherefore, his life being in the balance in any case, she had come as a last resort to beg the Sultan to bestow his daughter on her son. And she concluded by beseeching the Sultan not to punish either her or her son for this unparalleled hardihood.
The Sultan looked at the Grand Vizier, whose face was of stone—for the Lady Bedr-el-Budur had already been promised to his son: a matter well understood between them. "What sayest thou?" said the Sultan, regarding him with merriment in his eyes. But the Grand Vizier only cast a contemptuous look at Aladdin's mother, and answered him: "O King of the Age! Thou knowest how to deal with this petition." At this the Sultan laughed outright, and, turning a kindly face to the humble suppliant, observed her minutely. "What is that bundle thou hast under thine arm?" he said at last, remembering that she had brought it with her on every occasion.
Aladdin's mother, greatly relieved to see the Sultan laughing, unfolded the wrappings of the bowl and handed it to him. As soon as he took it in his hand, and saw the size and splendid sparkle of the jewels, the Sultan laughed no longer, but gazed at them, speechless with wonder and admiration. Then at length, he handed the bowl to the Grand Vizier, saying, "Upon my oath, this is a marvellous thing! Tell me, O Vizier, have I in my treasury a single jewel that will compare with even the smallest of these?"
The Grand Vizier also was taken aback by their dazzling loveliness and beauty. He would have lied, saying they were glass or crystal, but the stones themselves flashed back the purposed lie in his teeth. All he could reply was, "Never, O my lord the King, have I beheld the like of these; nor is there one in thy treasury that could equal the beauty of the smallest of them." And, saying this, the Vizier turned very pale, for neither he nor his son could approach the Sultan with such a gift. And it was as he had feared, and as Aladdin had prophesied: the Sultan required to know nothing further than what was before him in the bowl, for it was evident that the giver of these rare jewels must take precedence of all others, since, if they were sold in the market, their price would buy a dozen Grand Viziers and their sons, to say nothing of princes and nobles with their palaces and all. Indeed, as the Vizier readily saw, the worth of the precious stones might equal the worth of the Sultan's kingdom, and this caused his knees to quake, for he quickly concluded within his mind that there was more behind this thing than what the eye beheld: perchance the old woman's story was but the curtain that concealed a richer treasury than Cathay had ever heard of.
"O Vizier," said the Sultan in dry and chilling tones, "it seemeth that in this land there are men greater than the greatest. What sayest thou? The man who sends me this kingly gift cannot conceal his greatness and worthiness behind the thin, loose yarn spun by his messenger here. That he is worthy of my daughter is clearly proved, O Vizier; and I, the Sultan, King of the Age, having power over all men, do withdraw my former promise to thee to bestow her on thy son. Bedr-el-Budur, the one beautiful jewel in the treasury of my heart, is my gift in return to the man who has sent me these priceless jewels."
The Grand Vizier bit his lips and pondered awhile. Then he spoke. "Peace be on thee, O King of all the Earth. But is not thy promise worth most of all? Thou didst pledge me thy daughter for my son, and with that pledge I went, thinking that the whole earth and all therein were not its value. Wherefore, O King, I pray that thou wilt allow this matter time. If thou wilt pledge this foster mother of a prince that thou wilt comply with her request in three months time, then it seems to me that, by so doing, thou wilt cement the good feeling and loosen the griefs of all parties concerned. And in the meantime—yea, I have good reason for saying it—there will come before thee, O King of the Age, a gift compared to which this thou hast seen is but dross."
The Sultan weighed the Grand Vizier's words in his mind, and concluded that it would be best for all concerned to accept the gift from Aladdin's mother and to grant her son's wish, but at the same time to felicitate the Grand Vizier by imposing a three months' stay of the nuptials. Accordingly, he said to the woman, "Tell thy son that he hath my royal assent, and that I will give him my daughter in marriage; but, as every woman knows, these things cannot be hastened, for there are garments and necessaries to be prepared; wherefore thy son (on whom be peace) must abide in patience for, let us say, three months. At the end of that time he may approach me for the fulfilment of my promise."
Satisfied with this, Aladdin's mother thanked and blessed the Sultan, and, buoyed up with a burden of delight, almost flew back to her house. There Aladdin was awaiting for her, and, when he saw her hastening, and noticed that she had returned without the bowl of jewels, his heart rose high to meet her. "Hath the Sultan considered thy request?" he cried, as she came in panting. "Hath he accepted the jewels? Tell me that only, and I know the rest without a movement of thy tongue."
And his mother, whose haste and condition had already answered all his questions, answered them still further with "Yea, yea, yea!" Then she related to him the details of the interview, laying stress upon the fact that, although the Sultan had been moved at the sight of the jewels to make immediate arrangements for the marriage, a private word from the Grand Vizier had led him to delay the ceremony for three months. "Take heed, my son!" she concluded. "The Grand Vizier hath a motive for this counsel of delay. He is thine enemy. I saw it in his face. Beware of him!"
Aladdin was greatly relieved by her news. He felt like one jerked out of the grave; and, where the Sultan was favourable to his suit, he was in no mood to fear a Grand Vizier. "Nay, nay," he said, "the jewels have the eye of the Sultan more than the Grand Vizier hath his ear. Fear nothing, O my mother! The Sultan's word is good, and I rest content to wait; though I know not how such a long time as three months can be got into the calendar."
Two of these long, weary months went by, and Aladdin nursed his soul in patience. Then a thing happened which gave him seriously to think. On a day in the first week of the third month his mother went forth into the market place about sunset to buy oil, and she saw that all the shops were closed, and the people were adorning their windows with bright garlands as if for some festivity. She wondered greatly at this, thinking the Sultan had either changed his birthday or that another child had been born to him. Yet she had gleaned nothing of any great event from the gossip of her neighbours. Having, after much difficulty, found an oil shop open, she bought her oil, and questioned the man. "Uncle," she said; "what is abroad in the city that the people close their shops and place candles and garlands in their windows?" "Thou art evidently a stranger," replied the man. "Nay, I am of this city," said she. "Then must thou cleanse thine ears," he retorted. "Hast thou not heard that the Grand Vizier's son is to take to himself this evening the beautiful Bedr-el-Budur? Surely, woman, thou hast been sleeping all day on thine ears, for the news went abroad early this morning. The Vizier's son is at the Hamman, and these soldiers and officials you see in the streets are waiting to escort him to the palace. And, look you, you are fortunate to get oil to-day, for all those who purvey oil to the Grand Vizier and his household have closed their shops as a mark of respect."
On hearing this, Aladdin's mother was so distressed that her knees shook, and she walked away without replying—even forgetting to pay for the oil. But the man speedily called her back and reminded her that, though the Grand Vizier had never given him an order, she had, and the price of the oil was such and such. In confusion of face she paid him and then hurried away, the oilman looking after her and wondering what manner of woman was this. Had he known all, he might have wondered more, or ceased to wonder.
Meanwhile, Aladdin's mother went home in a state of great consternation. Though her feet hastened, her heart lagged behind her, for she knew not how to tell her son the terrible news. She was afraid that after his joy at the Sultan's promise, and his patient waiting, this blow would send him from his mind. Then she contrived it in her thoughts that it was best to provoke her son's anger against the Sultan, rather than his grief at the loss of Bedr-el-Budur. Accordingly, as soon as she entered the house and found him sitting thinking, as was his wont of late, she said, "O my son, who can put trust in a King? When I went to buy oil, I found that the Sultan had proclaimed a holiday, and all the shops were closed except one. Tush! There is no faith in Sultans!"
"How now, O my mother?" answered Aladdin. "Treason hath a loud voice. With the Sultan and the Grand Vizier, hush! What ails thee? Thy hand is a-tremble." And she answered him: "O my son, there is no faith nor trust but in God. Said I not to thee that the Grand Vizier was thine enemy? Out on him and the Sultan, for their word is but hot wind, and there is no faith in the promise of a King." "I see by thy face and by thy speech," said Aladdin, "that thou hast some bad news. What is it, O my mother?"
Then his mother told how that the Sultan had violated his covenant, and how the marriage of the Lady Bedr-el-Budur to the Grand Vizier's son was to take place that very evening. For this she heaped abuse upon the Grand Vizier, saying that it was only the worst of men that could so lead the Sultan to break his promise. When she had told all, and Aladdin understood how the matter lay, he arose, more in anger than in grief, and cried out against the Grand Vizier and cursed all the parties concerned in the affair. But presently he remembered that, when all seemed lost, he still had the Lamp, and that was something in time of trouble and difficulty. So he suddenly restrained his speech and fell to thinking what manner of death the Vizier's son should die. His mother, seeing him in better spirits, questioned him. "What now, O my son?" she said. "Is thy bitterness of feeling gone? What gift wilt thou send the wedded pair? Peradventure another bowl of jewels?" She spoke mockingly for she wanted him to spend his wrath and save his reason. "Nay, O my mother," replied Aladdin lightly; "they are not wedded yet; and, on my head and eye, verily it is not every knot that holds."
With this he arose and retired to his own chamber, where he brought out the Lamp. Then, having considered well the manner of his wish, he rubbed it. Immediately the Efrite stepped out of the unseen and stood before him, saying, "Thou hast invoked me: what is thy desire? I am the Slave of the Lamp in thy hand and am here to do thy bidding." And Aladdin answered: "Know, O Slave of the Lamp, that the Sultan promised me his daughter for my wife, but he has broken his word, and this night she is to be united with the Grand Vizier's son; wherefore I wish that, as soon as the pair retire, thou take them up, with the couch whereon they lie, and bring them hither to me." "I hear and obey," said the Slave of the Lamp, and immediately vanished.
Aladdin waited expectantly for some time, for he guessed that the moment would not be long delayed when the wedded pair would retire from the ceremonies. And his guess was right, for when he had waited a little longer, suddenly a cold blast of air swept through the chamber; the wall opened and there appeared the Efrite bearing in his arms the wedded pair upon the nuptial couch. They had been transported in the twinkling of an eye, and, when the Efrite had set the couch down at Aladdin's feet, they were both stupefied with astonishment at this proceeding.
"Take that scurvy thief," said Aladdin to the Efrite, pointing to the Vizier's son, "and bind him and lodge him in the wood-closet for the night." And the Efrite did so. He took up the Vizier's son in one hand, and, reaching with the other for cords, drew them from the invisible and bound the miscreant securely. Then he placed him in the wood-closet and blew an icy blast upon him to comfort him. Returning to Aladdin he said, "It is done, O Master of the Lamp! Is there aught else thou dost desire?" "Naught but this," replied Aladdin. "In the morning, when the Sultan is proceeding towards their chamber to wish them long life and happiness, convey them back thither in a state of sleep so that the Sultan's knock at their door may wake them." "I will obey," said the Efrite, and, in a moment, the air closed over him and he was gone.
And Aladdin smiled to himself to think that this thing had been done. Then he turned to the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, who was sitting weeping on the couch. "O lovely one," said he, "weep not; for I would not hurt one hair of thy head, nor sully thine honour in any way. Know that I love thee too much to harm thee; but, since thy father the Sultan promised me thee, and has violated his word, I am determined that none other shall call thee his. Rest in peace, lovely lady; for neither am I thy husband nor the thief of thy husband's honour. Wherefore, weep not, but rest in peace."
So saying he took a sword that hung on the wall of his chamber, and, having placed it by her side in token of security, he stretched himself upon the couch so that they lay with the sword between them. Thus they passed the night. The Sultan's daughter wept the long night through, and Aladdin could not close his eyes for thinking of his unfortunate rival's condition in the wood-closet. Towards morning Bedr-el-Budur, utterly exhausted with weeping, fell asleep; and, as Aladdin gazed upon her, he saw that indeed her loveliness was rare; and, the more he gazed, the more he thought of the unhappy fate of the Vizier's son. Never was a man so badly treated as to be bound fast on his wedding night and laid in a wood-cellar in deadly fear of the dreadful apparition that had placed him there.
In the morning, while Bedr-el-Budur still slept, the Slave of the Lamp appeared according to Aladdin's command. "O my master," he said, "the Sultan hath left his couch and is about to knock at the door of the bridal chamber. I am here to perform thy bidding on the instant." "So be it," answered Aladdin. "Convey them together on the couch back to their place." And scarcely had he spoken when the Efrite vanished and reappeared with the Vizier's son, whom he quickly unbound and laid upon the couch beside the sleeping Bedr-el-Budur. Then, lifting the couch with the two upon it, he vanished, and Aladdin knew that, before the Sultan had knocked at the door of the bridal chamber, everything would be as it had been. Everything? No, not everything; for the Lady Bedr-el-Budur must awake as from a terrible nightmare; and, as for the Vizier's son, would he sing a song to the Sultan about spending the night in the wood-closet? Aladdin pondered over this and decided that nothing less than a repetition of the affair would wring the truth from either of them.
At this moment the Sultan knocked at the door of the bridal chamber in the Palace, and the Vizier's son, still cold from the wood-closet, arose and opened to him. The Sultan advanced to the couch, and kissed his daughter, and asked her if she was happy and content. By way of answer she glared at him in sullen silence, for she had not forgotten, in dreams or in waking, what had happened to her. The Sultan, not understanding what had befallen, and feeling annoyed, turned and left the chamber to lay the matter before the Queen, to whose ear their daughter's tongue might the more easily be loosed. So he came to the Queen and told her how Bedr-el-Budur had received him, concluding his recital with the remark, "Thus it is; there is trouble behind the door of that bridal chamber."
But the Queen smiled at his serious fears and answered him: "O my Lord the King, thou knowest little of the heart of a woman. When it is happiest, a trifle makes it sad; and, when it would send tears of laughter and joy to the eyes, it sometimes turns perverse against itself for very gladness, and sends tears of pain instead. Wherefore, be not angry with her, but let me go and see her. She will surely confide in me."
So saying, she arose and robed herself, and went to the bridal chamber. At first sight of her daughter's dejected attitude and pained expression she imagined that some lovers' quarrel over a mere trifle had occurred; but when she kissed her, wishing her good morning, and Bedr-el-Budur answered no word to her salutation, she began to think that some grave trouble rested on her daughter's mind. And it was not until she had coaxed her, and used every argument known to a mother, that she received an answer to her questions. "Be not angry with me, O my mother," said Bedr-el-Budur at last, raising her sad, beautiful eyes, "but know that a terrible thing has happened,—a thing which I hardly dare tell thee lest thou think I have lost my reason. Scarcely had we retired, O my mother, when there suddenly appeared a huge black shape,—terrible, horrific in aspect; and this—I know not what nor who—lifted the couch whereon we lay and conveyed us in a flash to some dark and vile abode of the common people." And then to her mother's astonished ears she unfolded the tale of all that had happened during the night till, suddenly, in the morning, she awoke to find the monstrous shape replacing them in the bridal chamber at the moment her father the Sultan had knocked at the door. "And that, O my mother," she concluded, "is why I could not answer my father, for I was so bewildered and stricken with unhappiness that I thought that I was mad; though, now I have thought about the affair from beginning to end, I know that I have my wits like any other."
"Truly, O my daughter," said the Queen with great concern, "if thou were to tell this story to thy father he would say thou wert mad. Wherefore, I counsel thee, child, tell it to him not; neither to him nor to any other one." "Nay, O my mother," answered Bedr-el-Budur, "dost thou doubt me? I have told thee the plain truth, and, if thou doubt it, ask my husband if my tale be true or not." But the Queen replied, "Sweep these fancies from thy mind, O my daughter; and arise and robe thyself to attend the rejoicings which this day have been prepared in the City in thine honour. For the whole people is in glad array, and the drums will beat and music will delight the ears of all; and the musicians will sing thy praises and all will wish thee long life and happiness."
Leaving Bedr-el-Budur, then, with her tirewomen, the Queen sought the Sultan, and begged him not to be angry with their daughter, for she had been distressed with unhappy dreams. Then she sent for the Vizier's son to come to her secretly, and, when he stood before her, she related to him what Bedr-el-Budur had told her, and asked him if it were true or if he knew aught of it. "Nay," he answered, for he had thought the matter over and feared that the truth might rob him of his bride; besides, his acquaintance with the wood-closet seemed to him discreditable, and he felt little inclined to boast of it. "Nay, O my lady the Queen," said he; "I know naught of these things beyond what thou hast told me."
From this there was no doubt left in the Queen's mind that her daughter had suffered from a nightmare so vivid that she had been unable easily to cast it from her. Nevertheless, she felt assured that, as the day wore on, with its gaieties and rejoicings, Bedr-el-Budur would be enabled to rid herself of these troublous imaginings of the night, and resume her former self.
All that day the City was thrown into a state of the utmost festivity which the Sultan and the Queen busied themselves to augment, for to restore their daughter's happiness was their chief concern. The Grand Vizier, who knew only that his daughter-in-law had been troubled by evil dreams, laid this not to his conscience in that he had persuaded the Sultan to break his pledge, but attempted rather to mend matters by adopting every means in his power to increase the universal gaiety. The drums beat, and music echoed through the City. Trumpeters went forth, fanfaring the beauty of Bedr-el-Budur; heralds proclaimed her graces in the streets and byways; singers extolled her charms; and the heavy burden of taxation was lifted from the people's backs for one month, so that they might stand up for a little and see what a great man was the Grand Vizier in the Sultan's eyes, and what a charming person his son must be to deserve the beautiful cause of these wonderful things. As for the Vizier's son, he ceased not to pursue all manner of gaieties, thinking thereby to convince himself that the wood-closet was naught but an odious dream. But all this festivity and rejoicing failed to dispel Bedr-el-Budur's gloom. Being of a sincere nature, she could not pretend like the Vizier's son, nor could she love him the better for stoutly denying what was plain truth to them both.
And, as the City went about its gladness without restraint, Aladdin strolled forth from his mother's house and viewed it all from the point of view of one who knows. When he surveyed the delighted rabble rejoicing over the happiness of bride and bridegroom he laughed within himself, saying, "Little they know!" But when he heard all men envying the great honour and distinction of the Grand Vizier's
The Sultan and his Vizier looking for Aladdin's magic Palace Page 122
son, and praising him in that his excellent qualities had won the heart of the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, he feared that he might die for laughing. "Verily, ye glad people," he said within himself," ye would envy him to distraction if ye only knew that he would far sooner rest in a wood-closet than on the bridal couch. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ye doubt me? Then come and peep into the wood-closet to-night, ye rabble! and see for yourselves what a happy bridegroom he makes of himself, the gallows-bird that he is!"
At eventime, when the wild rejoicing of the City had fatigued itself against replenishment by wine, Aladdin retired to his chamber and rubbed the Lamp. Immediately the Slave appeared and desired to know his wish. "O Slave of the Lamp," said Aladdin, "do as thou didst last night. See to it that thou convey the bridal pair hither again as man and maid at the eleventh hour of their innocence." The Slave of the Lamp vanished in a moment, and Aladdin sat for a long time; yet he was content, for he knew that the wily Efrite was but waiting his opportunity. At length the monster reappeared before him, bearing in his arms the bridal couch with the pair upon it, weeping and wringing their hands in excess of grief and terror. And, at Aladdin's word the Slave took the Vizier's son as before and put him to bed in the wood-closet, where he remained, bound fast in an icy chill. Then having dismissed the Efrite with injunctions to convey the pair back in the morning as he had done the day before, Aladdin placed the sword between Bedr-el-Budur and himself and composed himself to rest, regardless of her weeping and restlessness; for, he said to himself, "I am sufficiently rewarded for all my trouble. The Vizier's son hath retired to the wood-closet. He careth not for this world's joys—the gallows-bird! And he leaves me his bride to protect in the hour of need. Verily he is of a trusting nature." And Aladdin slept not nor stirred the whole night through; and it was as if Bedr-el-Budur's sobbing and tribulation were cut off from him by the sword that lay between them. And when it was morning, and the Sultan was about to knock at the door of the bridal chamber in the palace, the Slave of the Lamp appeared and conveyed the bride and the bride-groom swiftly back to their place.
On being set down in the bridal chamber, dazed and bewildered, they had not returned to their proper senses when the knock came at the door. The Sultan had come to wish his daughter good-morning, and to see also if she would behave towards him as on the former occasion. The bridegroom arose, shivering with cold,—for he had but a moment since left the wood-closet,—and opened the door. He made way for the Sultan, who entered, and, approaching the couch, saluted Bedr-el-Budur with a kiss. But, when he asked her if she was not the happiest of women, she made no reply, but met his gaze with an angry stare. It was easy to see that she was perfectly miserable. But the Sultan did not look at it in that light, he saw only what he took for sullen obstinacy, and, flying into a passion, drew his sword, saying, "By Allah! tell me what ails thee, or thy head will not remain upon thy body."
Then Bedr-el-Budur wept and supplicated him, and told him what had befallen on the second night as on the first, so that as she revealed it all his pity was aroused, and he sheathed his sword. "Thy words ring true, O my daughter!" he said. "But fear not, and be comforted; for at this moment I am minded to set a guard on this chamber so that no such thing may happen a third time. For the present, peace be on thee!"
The Sultan repaired immediately to the Grand Vizier and told him all; and asked him whether he had received the same version of this matter from his son. But the Grand Vizier shook his head in the manner of one who might be lying and might not. "Then," said the Sultan, "go at once and question him, for it may be that my daughter hath seen visions and dreamed dreams; albeit, I am unable to disbelieve the truth of her story."
So the Grand Vizier went and enquired of his son, and presently returned to the Sultan in great perplexity of face, for his son, whatever he had admitted before, had now confessed to everything, even to the wood-closet. And, moreover, he had begged and implored his father to obtain his release from this most unhappy marriage, since it was better to be without a bride and sleep in peace than to have one and perish with cold in a wood-closet. Thus it was with the Vizier's son.
"O King of the Age," said the Grand Vizier, who could not see his way to conceal the truth, "my son telleth the same tale as thy daughter, the Lady Bedr-el-Budur. Wherefore I beseech thee that thou set a guard this night, so that——" "Nay," broke in the Sultan angrily; "it is an unhappy marriage and bodes no good. Thou didst persuade me that my promise to that woman in respect of her son was not binding, but these unhappy events and ill-omened affairs make me think thou wast mistaken. Abide not another night, for worse may happen. Go forth, O Vizier, and proclaim the marriage annulled. Bid the people cease to rejoice, and command all to go their own ways and comport themselves as if the marriage had not been."
At this the Grand Vizier bowed his head and went forth exceeding wroth, and proclaimed the annulment of the marriage to all the people. Great was the wonder at this on every hand, for, among them all, none knew why, save one alone; and that one was Aladdin, the Master of the Lamp and of the Slave of the Lamp. He alone knew, and it was almost with regret that he decided the wood-closet need have no tenant that night.
Whether the Sultan had swiftly forgotten, or tardily remembered, his pledge, Aladdin troubled not to enquire. He waited patiently until the three months had expired, and then sent his mother to demand of the Sultan the fulfilment of his promise.
So it transpired that, on the day of the expiration of the term, the Sultan saw Aladdin's mother standing in the Hall of Audience. He was not astonished at this, for the matter of his broken or twisted pledge had somewhat disturbed his dreams. "Behold! there she stands!" he said to the Grand Vizier. "Bring her before me immediately." The Vizier arose, his face like autumn leaves withered in the wind, and did as he was bidden.
"What is thy suit?" asked the Sultan of Aladdin's mother as soon as she stood before him. Then, when she had kissed the ground and prayed for the prolongation of his life, she answered: "O King of all the Earth, the three months thou didst proscribe are at an end and I have come to ask thee to redeem thy pledge in respect of thy daughter and my son Aladdin."
The Sultan, who had not now the bowl of jewels before him to blind his vision, regarded her intently, and saw that she was of humble state; then, as he turned in perplexity to the Grand Vizier, he observed that the expression on his face was the expression of one who ponders the laying of a stratagem and the way it should be hatched. "What is thy thought on this, O Vizier?" he said. "My word is my word, and I regret that thou shouldst have explained it away; yet it seems to me that this woman is not of the kind that could mother-in-law my daughter. Hast thou a plan which is not a trick? If thou hast, whisper it in mine ear."
The Grand Vizier was pleased to hear the Sultan appealing to his ready wit in this way, for he was consumed with chagrin at what had befallen his son and desired only to non-suit this woman who had out-bid him with the jewels. So he unfolded his plan—his stratagem—his trick, privately to the Sultan's ear. "O King of the Age," he said, "thy pledge holds good, as ever it did; yea, as good as marriage vows. But verily, if this common woman's son desireth thy daughter for his wife, there should be a settlement befitting such a suit. Wherefore ask of him forty bowls of gold filled with jewels of the same blood and tincture as the woman brought at first, with forty female slaves to carry them, and a fitting retinue of forty. This thing, which is a Sultan's right to ask, it seemeth to me he cannot contrive to execute, and thus thou shalt be free of him."
"By Allah!" said the Sultan, "thou art of ready wit, O Vizier! Truly a marriage settlement is needed." Then, turning to Aladdin's mother, he said: "O woman! know that when one asketh the daughter of the Sultan one must have standing, for so it is in royal circles; and, to prove that standing, the suitor must show that he is able to provide for the Sultan's daughter and keep her in that state to which she has been accustomed. Wherefore he must bring to me forty golden bowls filled with jewels such as thou didst bring, with forty beautiful female slaves to carry them and forty black slaves as a retinue. Coming like this, thy son may claim my daughter, for the Sultan's word is the Sultan's word."
A sad woman then was Aladdin's mother. She returned to her son sick at heart, saying with herself, "Forty bowls of jewels, with forty maids and forty black slaves! How can my son do this? Better he had not entered on this affair!" Then, with bitterness, she added, "The Sultan asketh far too little: forty five bowls with forty five maids and forty five slaves and a palace to boot! Oh! what a thing it is to live up to such a demand as I have made." Thinking like this she found her son and spoke sorrowfully to him. "O my son," she exclaimed, weeping, "said I not to thee that the Grand Vizier was thine enemy? The Sultan remembered his pledge, but the Vizier—may his bones rot!—spake in his ear, and the outcome is this: forty golden bowls of jewels, forty female slaves to carry them, and forty slaves as an escort. With this dowry, O my son, thou mayest approach the Sultan and claim his daughter as thy bride."
Loudly Aladdin laughed to scorn. "O my mother," he said; "is this all the Sultan requireth? The Grand Vizier—may his bones rot as thou sayest!—hath proposed what he imagines an impossible thing; but it is not at all impossible. Now, mother, set some food before me, and, when I have eaten, I will tell thee."
And when his mother had brought him food, and he had eaten, he arose and went into his chamber. There he brought out the Lamp, and, sitting down, he rubbed it. Immediately the Slave appeared. "What is thy wish, O my master?" "Lo, O Slave of the Lamp, know that the Sultan hath promised me his daughter, but, repenting him of his promise, he hath required of me what he thinketh a dowry impossible for anyone to compass: forty golden bowls of rare and splendid jewels, carried by forty maids, with an escort of forty slaves. Therefore I desire all these things of thee." "I obey!" said the Efrite, and vanished.
In less than an hour he returned and led before Aladdin forty beautiful maidens, each carrying a golden bowl of jewels on her head, and each accompanied by a magnificent black slave. And when Aladdin's mother saw this array she knew that it was done by the Lamp, and she blessed it for her son's sake. Then said Aladdin, "O my mother, behold, the dowry is ready according to the Sultan's requirement. It is for thee to take it to him, to shew him what is in my power, and also that no time hath been lost in complying with his request."
Then the maids, with the golden bowls of precious stones, arrayed themselves in the street outside the house, and by each maid stood a slave. Thus, led by Aladdin's mother, they proceeded to the Sultan's Palace; and the people crowded in the streets to see this unwonted sight, for the maids were richly dressed, and all, with the sun shining on their raiment and flashing in the jewels they bore, made a magnificent spectacle. Never had the people seen such jewels, never such beauteous damsels, never such magnificent slaves. A cortège like this was a wonder beyond the reach of kings. But Aladdin's mother headed the procession unmindful of their shouts of acclamation, for she well knew that she was going before the Sultan in a manner and with a gift that would take his breath away.
When they reached the Palace gates the wonder of the people spread to the soldiers and the guards, who, after a moment of speechless admiration, found tongue to say to one another, "Does this earth contain such splendid jewels? And are there such radiant maidens even in the Fragrant Paradise?" And amazement gat hold of them, and their hearts leapt in their breasts, so that not one amongst them could ever think to become an anchorite, or hope to call one grandson. And so it was with the commanding officers, the chamberlains, the officials of the Palace and the grandees and nobles there assembled; they were all cast into the depths of wonder, and the whole place effervesced and simmered with an excitement it had never known before.
Thus, in due course, came Aladdin's mother before the Sultan, leading the cortege into the Audience Hall. And so they stood before him, a magnificent array, before whose dazzle and splendour the richness of the place, the nobles and grandees with their costly robes, even the Sultan himself and the throne whereon he sat, all seemed poor and common by comparison. The maidens took the bowls of jewels from their heads and set them on the ground. Then they made obeisance, they and the slaves prostrating themselves before the Sultan; and, having done this, they all arose and stood before him in humble reverence. And, when the Sultan's gaze at last left the beauteous damsels and fell upon the bowls of jewels at their feet, he was beside himself with wonder and admiration; and he was the more amazed that surpassing wealth in this form could be brought before him in the short space of one hour. For some moments he was
The Nuptial Dance of Aladdin and the Lady Bedr-el-Budur Page 130
speechless; then, when he found words, he commanded that the whole cortège should present itself, with the jewels, to the Lady Bedr-el-Budur in her Palace. So, in due order and with perfect grace of movement, the damsels took up their precious burdens; and thus, escorted by the slaves, and led by Aladdin's mother, they went in to the Sultan's daughter. While they were laying this dowry before her, Aladdin's mother returned to the Sultan and spoke with him. "O King of the Age," she said, "'tis but a mere trifle, and scarcely worthy of the priceless rarity of thy fair daughter."
"What sayest thou?" said the Sultan, addressing the Grand Vizier. "He who can control such wealth is surely worthy of my daughter." But the wily Vizier, who had twice persuaded the Sultan, and had twice been beaten, was minded to chance a third attempt, for he could not bear to see the Lady Bedr-el-Budur pass to Aladdin without a struggle. "O my Lord," he said, green with envy, "rich though these things be, thinkest thou they are worth one single curl of thy daughter's head? Thou art the King of Earth, and the Lady Bedr-el-Budur is thy daughter: this gift is not worthy of her."
"Perchance that is why thy son feared to bring the like lest I should be displeased," returned the Sultan sharply, for he saw that the Grand Vizier was envious to excess. Then he added to Aladdin's mother: "Tell thy son he need fear not but that I shall keep my promise; but bid him come hither to me with all haste, so that I may look upon his face and accept him as my son-in-law; for the marriage shall be this very night."
Aladdin's mother flushed red with joy—redder than she had ever known as a girl. The Grand Vizier turned white with rage—whiter than his false heart had ever been, even when a boy. After a dagger-thrust of glances between them, Aladdin's mother made obeisance to the Sultan and thanked him. Then, with contempt for the Grand Vizier written plainly on her face, she withdrew, and returned home, walking on the air.
As soon as she was gone the Sultan dismissed the audience and repaired to his daughter's palace, where he found Bedr-el-Budur examining the jewels in a state of the utmost delight, and singing a song of their wondrous beauty. Then, when the Sultan told her that they came from her new bridegroom, she clapped her hands with joy and demanded to know what he was like, and where was his splendid kingdom. "I know not," said the Sultan in answer, "but he cometh to me shortly, and then he will reveal to me his state. Meanwhile, O my daughter, do thou regard him in the sparkling light of these wondrous jewels, and know that, while he regardeth them as not worth thy little finger, his love for thee must be great."
Now Aladdin, when he saw his mother returning swift-footed and on wings of joy, knew that good tidings came with her. But, before he could speak, his mother burst in upon him and embraced him, crying, "O my son! thy heart's wish is fulfilled. This very night thou art to wed the Sultan's daughter, and so it is proclaimed before all the world." Then did Aladdin rejoice that his expectations were fulfilled, and was continuing to rejoice when his mother addressed him suddenly. "Nay," she said, "I have not told thee all. The Sultan bids thee go to him immediately, for he desires to see his son-in-law. But how shalt thou approach the Sultan in thy merchant's garments? However, I have done all I can for thee, and it is now thine own affair."
So saying, she withdrew to rest a little, and Aladdin, having blessed her, retired to his chamber and brought forth the Lamp. With a set purpose in his mind, he rubbed it, and at once the Slave appeared. "Thou knowest me: what is thy desire?" "I wish," answered Aladdin, "that thou take me to a bath which hath no equal in all the kingdoms, and provide me there with a change of raiment of resplendent glory, richer than any the Sultan has ever worn."
No sooner had he spoken than the Efrite bore him away in his arms, and deposited him in a bath the like of which no King could compass nor any man describe. Everything was there which delighted the eye, and not the least of the wonders of this splendid bath was a hall whose walls were encrusted with jewels. Seeing there was no one in attendance, Aladdin clapped his hands, and immediately came slaves to wait upon him. And one with marvellous strength and dexterity of hand washed him and manipulated his limbs until he was altogether refreshed. Then he sought the jewelled hall and found there, in place of his merchant's garb, a set of robes that exceeded all imagination. These he put on, and smiled to himself as if he looked down on kings; for, indeed, the robes were more than royal. And, when he had drunk the sherbets and the coffee which the slaves brought him, he submitted to the completion of his dress by delicate unguents and perfumes, and then went forth. At the door of the bath, he was met by the Efrite in waiting, who took up and bore him in a flash to his home.
"Hast thou still some further need?" asked the Slave of the Lamp, about to vanish. "Yea," replied Aladdin. "Bring me here a Chief of Memluks with forty-eight in his train—twenty-four to precede me and twenty-four to follow after; and see that they have splendid horses and equipments, so that not even the greatest in the world can say, 'This is inferior to mine.' For myself I want a stallion such as cannot be equalled among the Arabs, and his housings must be for value such as one could purchase only in dreams. And to each memluk give a thousand gold pieces, and to the Chief Memluk ten thousand; for we go to the Sultan's palace and would scatter largesse on the way. Wait! Also twelve maidens of unequalled grace and loveliness in person to attire and accompany my mother to the Sultan's presence. And look you! whatever of grace and beauty is lacking in my person supply it to me on my natural plan of being. See to it, O Slave of the Lamp!"
"It is already done," said the Slave of the Lamp; and, vanishing on the instant, he reappeared at once at the doorway of the house, leading a noble white stallion gorgeously equipped, while behind came the twelve damsels and forty-nine memluks on magnificent chargers. The damsels were bearing rich stuffs in their arms; so Aladdin, guessing that these were the robes for his mother, led them in to her that she might be arrayed in a manner befitting the mother-in-law of a Princess. Then he sent the Chief Memluk post haste to the Palace to announce his speedy arrival. The memluk rode like the wind, and soon returned at full gallop, saying as he drew rein, "O my lord, the Sultan expecteth thee every moment."
Then Aladdin, having seen that the maidens had properly arrayed his mother, mounted his steed and set out for the Palace with memluks before and behind him, and his mother following, supported by the maidens. It was a brave cavalcade that proceeded through the streets, and the people watched it in amazement. "Is not this the tailor's son?" said one to another. "Yea, we all thought so," was the reply; "but it seems we have never known the truth." For, when they saw Aladdin's courtly grace, enhanced as it was by the Slave of the Lamp, and beheld his memluks scattering gold, they said among themselves that he was the son of a potent king of far lands, and had been placed in the tailor's care; for see! his foster mother, magnificently robed, was following. Little did they think—for Aladdin's mother had not gossiped—that all this ravishing splendour was of the Lamp, which could work wonders for whosoever possessed it. And the cavalcade filed onwards amid the acclamations and blessings of the people, until the Palace was reached. And all the way they ceased not to distribute largesse to the people.
Now, when the Sultan had received word that Aladdin was coming, he informed his nobles and grandees of the meaning of this thing; so that, when Aladdin arrived, there was a vast concourse of people, and all the stateliest of the land were there awaiting his entry. And, as he rode in at the gates, he was received not only by the greatest personages of the Sultan's realm, but also by officials high and low, who did him homage and extolled him. There was no office too small to be performed for him—no word of welcome too great to greet him. As the sun rises in glory upon a waiting world, so came Aladdin to the Palace. At the door of the Hall of Audience he dismounted, while hands held his stirrup that had never performed such an office before.
The Sultan was seated on his throne, and, immediately he saw Aladdin, he arose and descended and took him to his breast, forbidding all ceremony on so great an occasion. Then he led him up affectionately, and placed him on his right hand. In all this Aladdin forgot not the respect due to kings. Forbidden to be too humble, he was not too lofty in his bearing. He spoke:
"O my Lord the Sultan! King of the Earth and Heaven's Dispenser of all Good! Truly thou hast treated me graciously in bestowing upon me thy daughter the Lady Bedr-el-Budur. Know, O King, that when I consider her grace and loveliness, which cometh from thee, I feel unworthy, like one of the meanest slaves. Yet, since thou hast so honoured me of thy Felicity, I cannot bring to thy feet a slave's humility, for, by the gift of this lovely lady, thy daughter, thou hast raised me above my fellows beneath thy sheltering wing. Wherefore, while my tongue knoweth no words to thank and extol thee for the magnitude of thy favour, it can still pray fervently for the prolongation of thy life. O King of the Age! be gracious and hear me yet further, for I have a request to make. Wilt thou grant me a site whereon to build a palace, unworthy as it may prove, for the comfort and happiness of thy daughter, the Lady Bedr-el-Budur?"
Now, while Aladdin was thus speaking with courtly grace and diction, the Sultan's attention was divided between his ears and eyes. While listening to Aladdin's words he was noting his more than princely raiment, his beauty and perfection, of form, his magnificent retinue of memluks, and the royal richness of everything that appertained to him—all following his lordly wake without compulsion, as though it were natural from long custom so to do. And he was bewildered, and wondered greatly that this son of a thousand kings should have been heralded by a woman of the people, saying, forsooth, she was his mother. And, while he was wondering, Aladdin's mother approached, apparelled in robes more costly than any in his own Queen's wardrobe, and supported humbly and decorously by her twelve maidens of surpassing loveliness. At this, while the Grand Vizier came nigh to death with envy, the Sultan on a sudden turned to Aladdin and embraced and kissed him, saying, "My son! My son! How hast thou hid from me so long?"
Then the Sultan conversed with Aladdin and was greatly charmed with his courtliness and eloquence. Anon he ordered the musicians to play, and together they listened to the music in the utmost content. Finally he arose, and, taking Aladdin by the hand, led him forth into the Palace banqueting hall, where a splendid supper was awaiting them with the lords of the land standing ready in their proper order of degree. Yet above them all sat Aladdin, for he was at the Sultan's right hand. And, while they ate, the music played and a merry wit prevailed; and the Sultan drew nearer to Aladdin in their talk, and saw, from his grace, his manner of speech, and his complaisance, that indeed he must have been brought up and nurtured among kings. Then, while they conversed, the Sultan's heart went out with joy and satisfaction to Aladdin, and the whole assemblage saw that it was not as it had been with the Vizier's son.
The Grand Vizier himself would have retired early had it not been that his presence was required for the marriage ceremony. As soon as the banquet was over and the tables cleared away, the Sultan commanded the Vizier to summon the Kadis and the witnesses, and thus the contract between Aladdin and the Lady Bedr-el-Budur was duly executed. Then, without a warning word, Aladdin arose to depart. "Wherefore, O my son?" said the Sultan. "Thy wedding is duly contracted and the festivities are about to begin."
"Yea, O my lord the King," replied Aladdin; "and none rejoiceth at that more than I; but, if it please thee, it is my thought to build a palace for the Lady Bedr-el-Budur; and if my love and longing for her be anything, thou mayest rest assured that it will be completed so quickly as to amaze thee." At this the Grand Vizier tugged the Sultan's sleeve, but received no attention. "It is well," said the Sultan to Aladdin; "choose what site seemeth best to thee and follow thine own heart in the matter. See! this open space by my palace! What thinkest thou, my son?" "O King," replied Aladdin, "I cannot thank thee enough, for it is the summit of my felicity to be near thee."
Then Aladdin left the Palace in the same royal manner as he had approached it, with his memluks preceding and following; and again the people praised and blessed him as he passed. When he reached his house he left all other affairs in the hands of his Chief Memluk with certain instructions, and went into his chamber. There he took the Lamp and rubbed it. The Slave appeared on the instant and desired to know his pleasure. "O Slave," answered Aladdin, "I have a great task for thee. I desire thee to build for me in all haste a palace on the open space near the Sultan's Serai,—a palace of magnificent design and construction, andfilled with rare and costly things. And let it be incomplete in one small respect, so that, when the Sultan offers to complete it to match the whole, all the wealth and artifice at his command will not suffice for the task." "O my master," replied the Efrite, "it shall be done with all speed. I will return when the work is finished." With this he vanished. It was an hour before dawn when the Slave of the Lamp returned to Aladdin, and, awakening him from sleep, stood before him. "O Master of the Lamp," he said, "the palace is built as thou didst command." "It is well, O Slave of the Lamp," answered Aladdin; "and I would inspect thy work." No sooner had he spoken than he found himself being borne swiftly through the air in the arms of the Efrite, who set him down almost immediately within the palace.
Most excellently had the Slave done his work. Porphyry, jasper, alabaster and other rare stones had been used in the construction of the building. The floors were of mosaics the which to match would cost much wealth and time in the fashioning, while the walls and ceilings, the doors and the smallest pieces of detail were all such that even the imagination of them could come only to one dissatisfied with the palaces of Kings. When Aladdin had wondered at all this, the Slave led him into the Treasury, and showed him countless bars of gold and silver and gems of dazzling brilliance. Thence to the banqueting hall, where the tables were arrayed in a manner to take one's breath away; for every dish and every flagon were of gold or silver, and all the goblets were crusted with jewels. Thence, again, to the wardrobes, where the richest stuffs of the East were piled in great gold-bound chests to an extent that baffled the reason. And so from room to room, where everything that met the eye dazzled and captivated it. And all this had been done in a single night.
Having surveyed it all, Aladdin knew not what to say, scarcely even what to think. It seemed to him that the most sovereign monarch of all the world could command nothing like this. But, when the Slave led him further and shewed him a pavilion with twenty-four niches thickly set with diamonds and emeralds and rubies, he fairly lost his wits. And the Slave took him to one niche and shewed him how his command had been carried out in that this was the one small part of the palace that was left incomplete in order to tempt and tax the Sultan to finish it.
When Aladdin had viewed the whole palace, and seen the numerous slaves and beautiful maidens therein, he asked yet one thing more of the Efrite. "O Slave of the Lamp," he said, "the work is wonderful, yet it still lacketh an approach from the Sultan's palace. I desire, therefore, a rich carpet laid upon the intervening space, so that the Lady Bedr-el-Budur may come and go upon a splendid pathway of brocade worked with gold and inwrought with precious stones." "I hear and obey," said the Slave, and vanished. Presently he returned and led Aladdin to the steps of the palace. "O my lord," he said, "what thou didst command is done." And he pointed to a magnificent carpet extending from palace to palace. The gold and the precious stones in the brocade gleamed and sparkled in the stars' last rays before the rise of dawn. When Aladdin had gazed upon it and wondered at it, the Efrite carried him in the twinkling of an eye back to his own home.
Shortly afterwards, when the dawn had arisen, the Sultan opened his eyes, and, looking forth from his window, beheld a magnificent structure where the day before had been an open space. Doubting the evidence of his senses, he turned himself about and rubbed his eyes and looked again. There, undoubtedly, was a palace more splendid and glorious than any he had ever seen; and there, leading to it, was a carpet the like of which he had never trod. And all those who awoke betimes in the Sultan's palace observed these wonderful things, and neither they nor the Sultan could keep their amazement to themselves. The news of it spread through the palace like wildfire. The Grand Vizier came rushing to the Sultan, and, finding him at the window, had no need to tell him the cause of his excitement. "What sayest thou, O Vizier?" said the Sultan. "Yonder stands a palace surpassing all others. Truly Aladdin is worthy of my daughter, since at his bidding such a royal edifice arises in a single night."
Then the Vizier's envy found vent. "O King," he said, "thinkest thou that such a thing as this could be done save by the vilest of sorcery? Riches and jewels and costly attire are in the hands of mortals, but this—this is impossible!" "Impossible?" said the Sultan. "Behold!"—and he pointed towards the palace"—there it stands in the light of day, and thou sayest it is impossible. Verily, O Vizier, it seems thy wits are turned with envy at the wealth of Aladdin. Prate not to me of sorcery. There are few things beyond the power of a man in whose treasury are such jewels as those sent me by Aladdin." At this the Grand Vizier was silent; indeed, his excess of envy well nigh choked him, for he saw that the Sultan loved Aladdin greatly.
Now when Aladdin awoke in the morning and knew that he must set forth for the palace where the nobles and grandees were already assembling for the wedding celebration, he took the Lamp and rubbed it. The slave appeared on the instant and desired to know his wish. "O Slave of the Lamp," said Aladdin, "this is my wedding day and I go to the Sultan's palace. Wherefore I shall need ten thousand gold pieces." "I hear and obey," said the Efrite, and, vanishing, returned on the instant with the gold packed in bags. These he placed before Aladdin, and then, receiving no further command, disappeared.
Aladdin called his Chief Memluk and ordered him to take the gold and see that it was scattered among the people on the way to the palace. When all was ready Aladdin mounted his steed and rode through the City while the memluks before and behind distributed largesse all the way. And the people were loud in their praises of his dignity and grace and loved him greatly for his generosity. Anon the palace was reached and there the high officials, who were looking for Aladdin and his train, hastened to inform the Sultan of his approach. On this the Sultan arose, and, going out to the gates of the palace to meet him, embraced and kissed him. Then, taking him by the hand, he led him in and seated him at his right hand. Meanwhile the whole City was in festivity. Pomp and ceremony went hand in hand with gaiety and mirth. Soldiers and guards kept holiday order in the streets where youths and bright-garlanded maidens made merry riot. Within the palace resounded music and singing and the murmur of happy voices, for this was the nation's day of joy.
Anon the Sultan commanded the wedding banquet to be served, and the eunuchs set the tables out with royal dishes of gold and silver filled with sumptuous viands and fruits that might have been culled in Paradise. And, when it was all ready, Aladdin sat on the right hand of the Sultan; and they, with all the nobles and foremost in the land, ate and drank. On every hand were honour and good will for Aladdin. Everyone was filled with joy at the event, saying that this wedding was as happy as that of the Grand Vizier's son was unfortunate. Aladdin's palace and the space around it were thronged with people of every degree who ceased not to wonder at its resplendent beauty and the fact that it had been built in a single night. "May his head survive us all!" said some; and others, "God give him every pleasure, for verily he deserveth it."
When the banquet was over Aladdin repaired with his memluks to his palace to make ready for the reception of his bride, Bedr-el-Budur. And, as he went, all the people thronged him shouting, "God give thee happiness! God bless thy days!" And he scattered gold amongst them.
Coming to his palace he dismounted, and went in, and seated himself whilst his attendants bowed before him. And, thinking of naught else but his bride, the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, he commanded them to prepare for her reception. And they did so. Meanwhile Aladdin looked forth from a window of the palace and saw the Sultan with his horsemen descending into the riding ground. At this he bethought him of his stallion and commanded his Chief Memluk accordingly. Then, mounted on his steed and accompanied by his retinue, he galloped down into the riding ground. There, javelin in hand, he displayed his prowess, and none could stand against him. Bedr-el-Budur, watching him from a window in her father's palace, felt her heart turn over and over in her bosom, and then, saying within herself, "He is my husband and none other," she renounced herself to the exquisite joy of sudden love.
At eventime, when the sport and play were over, the princes of the land surrounded Aladdin—for he had become the centre of all interest—and accompanied him to the Hammam. There he was bathed and perfumed, and, when he came forth and mounted his matchless steed, he was escorted through the City by guards and emirs with drawn swords, while all the people thronged in procession before and behind and on every side, beating drums and playing musical instruments and singing for very excess of joy and revel. And when he reached his palace he dismounted and entered, and seated himself. And the nobles and grandees, submitting to the ruling of his Chief Memluk, were seated also, each according to his degree. Then refreshments were served without stint, even to the multitude without the gates. And Aladdin arose in the midst of this and beckoned to his Chief Memluk. "Is there any gold?" he asked. "Yea," answered the Memluk, "some thousands of pieces." "Then," said Aladdin, "scatter it among the people who throng the gates." And thus it was at Aladdin's palace.
Meanwhile the Sultan, on returning from the riding ground, commanded an escort to conduct the Lady Bedr-el-Budur to her husband's abode. On this the Captains of guards, the officers of state and nobles, well equipped, were mounted in readiness and waiting at the door of Bedr-el-Budur's apartments. Presently, preceded by female slaves and eunuchs bearing lighted tapers set in jewelled candlesticks, came forth a vision of liveliness. Bedr-el-Budur, aflame with love for Aladdin, appeared on the threshold like a pure white bird about to fly into space. All too slow was the procession that escorted her to Aladdin's palace. The stately pomp and splendour accorded not with the beating of her heart. She saw not Aladdin's mother nor the beauteous damsels, nor the mounted guards, nor the emirs, nor the nobles—her only thought was Aladdin, for her heart was consumed with love. Thus from the Seraglio to Aladdin's palace, where Bedr-el-Budur, as one floating in a dream, was taken to her apartments and arrayed for presentation to the Court assembled. And of all that Court and multitude of people the only one who had no voice was Aladdin, for, when he looked upon his bride in her surpassing loveliness, he was reft of speech or thought, and stood silent before a joy too great for tongue to tell.
At last, when the presentation was over, Aladdin sought the bridal chamber where he found his mother with Bedr-el-Budur. And there, in the apartment all sparkling with gold and; precious stones, his mother unveiled her and Aladdin gazed into her eyes and took no thought for the lustre of jewels. And while his mother went into raptures over the splendour of the place, Aladdin and Bedr-el-Budur exchanged one look of love—a thing which none could purchase with all the treasures of the earth. And so it was with Aladdin and his bride.
In the morning Aladdin arose and donned a costly robe of royal magnificence; then, when he had quaffed some delicious coffee flavoured with ambergris, he ordered his steed, and, with his memluks preceding and following, rode to the Sultan's palace. As soon as the Sultan was informed of his arrival he came to meet him, and, having embraced and kissed him with great affection, led him in and seated him on his right hand. And the nobles and grandees and high officials of the realm craved the privilege to approach him with congratulations and blessings. When this was over—Aladdin having shown an exceeding graciousness to all—the Sultan ordered breakfast to be brought. The tables were immediately laid, and all assembled ate and drank and conversed in a state of the utmost joy and happiness.
"O my Lord," said Aladdin to the Sultan when they had finished the repast, "I crave that thou wilt favour and honour me with thy presence, and that of thy Court, to dine with thy well-beloved daughter Bedr-el-Budur at her palace to-day. I entreat thy Felicity to refuse not my request." And the Sultan answered with a charming smile, "O my son, thou art too generous; but who could refuse thee anything?" Accordingly, in due course, the Sultan commanded his suite, and all rode forth with him and Aladdin to Bedr-el-Budur's palace.
Great was the Sultan's wonder and admiration when he saw the architecture and masonry of the structure, for, even without, it was all of the rarest and most costly stone inwrought with gold and silver and fashioned with consummate skill; but when he entered and viewed the entrance hall his breath was snatched away from him, for he had never seen anything so magnificent in his life. At length, finding speech, he turned to the Grand Vizier and said, "Verily, this is the greatest wonder of all. Hast thou ever, from first to last, beheld a palace like this?" "O King of the Age," replied the Vizier gravely, "there hath never been the like of this among the sons of men. It would take ten thousand workmen ten thousand days to construct it; wherefore, as I told thy Felicity, its completion in a single night is the work of sorcery." At this the Sultan was not pleased. "Verily, O Vizier," he replied, "thou hast an envious heart, and thou speakest foolishly with thy mouth."
At this moment Aladdin approached the Sultan to conduct him through the rooms of the palace. And, as they went from one to another, the Sultan was simply astounded at the wealth of metal and precious stones on every hand, and at the workmanship thereof. As for the Vizier, he had said
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all he had to say, and followed sullenly, nursing an evil heart. At length they came to the kiosk, which was a crowning work of jewel-clusters so rich and splendid that the treasuries of the earth must have been emptied to fill them. The Sultan nearly went from his wits in the effort to calculate the fabulous wealth of this apartment alone. His thought sped onward through thousands, millions, of gold pieces; and, losing itself in the thousands of millions, fell back staggering and distraught. For relief he turned this way and that, gazing upon the niches, which were the most precious and wonderful of all. And in this way he came at length to the niche that had been left incomplete. This gave him speech. "Alas!" he said, relieved to find a flaw, "this niche, at least, is imperfect." Then, turning to Aladdin, he enquired the reason of it. "Yea, O my Lord," answered Aladdin, "woe unto it; it is indeed unfinished, for the workmen clamoured to be allowed to prepare themselves for the wedding festivities and I had not the heart to say them nay. So they left it as thou seest it." Then, while Aladdin stood by observing intently the effect of his words, the Sultan stroked his beard in contemplation. "O my son," he said presently, "the thought has come to me to complete it myself." "On the head and eye, O King!" cried Aladdin. "And may thy life be prolonged! If thou wilt honour me thus it will be a fitting perpetuation of thy memory in the palace of thy daughter." At this, the Sultan, vastly pleased, summoned his jewellers and artificers, and, empowering them to draw on the Royal Treasury for all they might require, he commanded them to complete the niche.
Scarcely had the Sultan finished his directions in this matter when Bedr-el-Budur came to greet him. And his heart leapt with joy at her radiant face when he looked upon her. Then, when she had confided to him how happy she was, Aladdin led them into the banqueting hall, where all was ready. One table was set apart for the Sultan and Bedr-el-Budur and Aladdin, and another for the Sultan's suite. Then the Sultan seated himself between Aladdin and his daughter, and the meal proceeded. The viands were like ambrosia, and the wine like nectar; and the serving was done by eighty damsels, to each one of whom the moon might have curtseyed, saying, "Thy pardon, but I have stolen thy seat." And some of these damsels took musical instruments and played and sang in a manner divine. The Sultan's heart expanded, and he said, "Verily, this is a feast to which a king might aspire."
When they had eaten and emptied their cups the Chief Memluk opened the way to another room, where the most delicious fruits and sweetmeats were set out against a wealth of delicate flowers and greenery. Here the whole assembly lingered long in perfect delight while, upon the soft carpets, the beauteous damsels danced to the sound of sweetest music. Never had any of them, including the Sultan himself, been so near to Paradise before. Even the Grand Vizier shed his envy for the moment and forgot himself to joy.
When the Sultan's soul was well nigh weary with excess of enjoyment he rose, and, bethinking himself of the unfinished niche, repaired to the kiosk to see how his workmen had progressed with their task. And when he came to them and inspected their work he saw that they had completed only a small portion and that neither the execution nor the material, which was already exhausted, could compare with that of the other niches. Seeing this he bethought him of his reserve Treasury and the jewels Aladdin had given him. Wherefore he commanded the workmen to draw upon these and continue their work. This they did, and, in due course, the Sultan returned to find that the work was still incomplete. Determined to carry out his design at whatever cost the Sultan commanded his officials to seize all the jewels they could lay their hands on in the kingdom. Even this was done, and lo, still the niche was unfinished.
It was not until late on a day thereafter that Aladdin found the jewellers and goldsmiths adding to the work the last stones at their command. "Hast thou jewels enough?" he asked of the chief artificer. "Nay, O my master," he replied sadly. "We have used all the jewels in the Treasuries; yea, even in all the kingdom, and yet the work is only half finished."
"Take it all away!" said Aladdin. "Restore the jewels to their rightful owners." So they undid their work and returned the jewels to the Treasuries and to the people from whom they had been taken. And they went in to the Sultan and told him. Unable to learn from them the exact reason for this, the Sultan immediately called for his attendants and his horses and repaired to Aladdin's palace.
Meanwhile, Aladdin himself, as soon as the workmen had left, retired to a private chamber; and, taking out the Lamp, rubbed it. "Ask what thou wilt," said the Slave, appearing on the instant. "I desire thee to complete the niche which was left incomplete," answered Aladdin. "I hear and obey," said the Slave, and vanished. In a very short space of time he returned, saying, "O my master, the work is complete." Then Aladdin arose and went to the kiosk, and found that the Slave had spoken truly; the niche was finished. As he was examining it, a memluk came to him and informed him that the Sultan was at the gates. At this Aladdin hastened to meet him. "O my son," cried the Sultan as Aladdin greeted him, "why didst thou not let my jewellers complete the niche in the kiosk? Wilt thou not have the palace whole?" And Aladdin answered him, "O my lord, I left it unfinished in order to raise a doubt in thy mind and then dispel it; for, if thy Felicity doubted my ability to finish it, a glance at the kiosk as it now stands will make the matter plain." And he led the Sultan to the kiosk and showed him the completed niche.
The Sultan's astonishment was now greater than ever, that Aladdin had accomplished in so short a space that which he himself could command neither workmen nor jewels sufficient to accomplish in many months. It filled him with wonder. He embraced Aladdin and kissed him, saying there was none like him in all the world. Then, when he had rested awhile with his daughter Bedr-el-Budur, who was full of joy and happiness, the Sultan returned to his own palace.
As the days passed by Aladdin's fame went forth through all the land. It was his daily pleasure to ride through the City with his memluks, scattering gold among the people, and there was no kind of generosity or kindness that he did not practise. His hospitality drew the nobles and grandees to his table, and his name was exalted far and wide. In the chase and on the riding ground there was none could vie with Aladdin, and frequently Bedr-el-Budur, watching from a window in the palace, would glow with love and pride at the sight of his graceful and daring horsemanship in the javelin joust. Then she would say within herself, "A lucky one am I to have escaped the Vizier's son."
Now it chanced that the Sultan's enemies from distant parts invaded his territory and rode down against him. The Sultan assembled his armies for war and gave the chief command to Aladdin, whose skill and prowess had found great favour in his eyes. And Bedr-el-Budur wept when Aladdin went forth to the wars, but great was her delight when he returned victorious, having routed the enemy in a great battle with terrible slaughter. Many were the tales the soldiers told of Aladdin's courage and strength, his daring when, at the head of his troops, he thundered down upon the enemy, sword in hand, and broke and dispersed them. A great triumph was held in the City, for Aladdin returned not only with victory, but with much plunder and many flocks and herds of which he had despoiled the enemy. And the Sultan rejoiced over Aladdin in that he had saved the realm and smitten his enemies; and Bedr-el-Budur wept upon his breast with delight that he had returned to her safe and sound and covered with glory. The City was illuminated, and everyone feasted and drank by order of the Sultan, and praised Aladdin by the dictate of their own hearts. So greatly was he magnified by the people of high and low degree that, if any swore, it was by Allah in Heaven and by Aladdin on earth. Such was his exalted position in the land.
Now the fame of Aladdin penetrated even to distant parts, so that his name was heard even in the land of the Moors, where the accursed Dervish dwelt. This sorcerer had not yet made an end of lamenting the loss of the Lamp just as it seemed about to pass into his hands. And, while he lamented, he cursed Aladdin in his bitter rage, saying within himself, "'Tis well that ill-omened miscreant is dead and buried, for, if I have not the Lamp, it is at least safe, and one day I may come by it." But when he heard the name "Aladdin," and the fame attached to it, he muttered to himself, "Can this be he? And hath he risen to a high position through the Lamp and the Slave of the Lamp?" Then he rose and drew a table of magic signs in the sand in order to find if the Aladdin of Destiny were indeed alive upon the earth. And the figures gave him what he feared. Aladdin was alive and the Lamp was not in the cavern where by his magic he had first discovered it. At this a great fear struck him to the heart, and he wondered that he had lived to experience it, for he knew that at any moment Aladdin, by means of the Slave of the Lamp, might slay him for revenge. Wondering that this had not occurred to Aladdin's mind he hastened to draw another table; by which he saw that Aladdin had acquired great possessions and had married the Sultan's daughter. At this his rage mastered his fear and he cursed Aladdin with fury and envy. But, though his magic was great, it could not cope with that which slumbered in the Lamp, and his curses missed their mark, only to abide the time when they might circle back upon him. Meanwhile, in great haste, he arose and journeyed to the far land of Cathay, fearing every moment that Aladdin would bethink him of revenge by means of the Slave of the Lamp. Yet he arrived safely at the City of the Sultan and rested at an inn where he heard naught but praises of Aladdin's generosity, his bravery in battle, his beautiful bride Bedr-el-Budur and his magnificent palace. This gave a biting edge to his envious wrath, and, when he went forth into the ways of the City and still heard groups of people talking of Aladdin and the splendour of his state, he approached a young man, and, saluting him with feigned graciousness, said, "O my master, pray tell me, who is this great one that all extol?" And the young man replied, "Verily thou art a stranger in the City and from exceeding distant parts if thou hast not heard of Aladdin—whose glory be increased! His wonderful palace is the talk of the world." "Yea," answered the Dervish, "I am a stranger from very distant lands and there is nothing more to my desire than to see the palace, if thou wilt direct me." "On the head and eye," replied the youth; and, leading him through the City, he brought him to Aladdin's Palace. Then, when the Dervish scrutinised the wonderful building, he knew it to be the work of the Slave of the Lamp. "By Allah!" he cried when the youth had left him, "I will be even with this accursed tailor's son who got all this through me."
He returned to the inn, and, taking his instruments of divination, soon learned that the Lamp was not on Aladdin's person, but in the Palace. At this he was overjoyed, for he had a plan to get possession of it. Then he went out into the market and bought a great number of new lamps, which he put in a basket and took back to the inn. When evening was drawing nigh, he took the basket and went forth in the City—for such was his plan—crying, "New lamps for old! Who will exchange old lamps for new?" And the people hearing this, laughed among themselves, saying he was mad; and none brought an old lamp to him in exchange for a new one, for they all thought there was nothing to be gained out of a madman. But when the Dervish reached Aladdin's palace he began to cry more lustily, "New lamps for old! Who will exchange old lamps for new?" And he took no heed of the boys who mocked him and the people who thronged him.
Now Fate so willed it that, as he came by, Bedr-el-Budur was sitting at a window of the kiosk; and, when she heard the tumult and saw the pedlar about whom it turned, she bade her maid go and see what was the matter. The girl went, and soon returned, saying, "O my lady, it is a poor pedlar who is asking old lamps for new ones; and the people are mocking him, for without a doubt he is mad." "It seems proof enough," answered Lady Bedr-el-Budur, laughing. "'Old wine for new' I could understand, but 'old lamps for new' is strange. Hast thou not an old lamp so that we might test him and see whether his cry be true or false?"
Now the damsel had seen an old lamp in Aladdin's apartment, and hastened to acquaint her mistress with this. "Go and bring it!" said the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, who had no knowledge whatever of the Lamp and its wonderful virtues. So the maid went and brought the Lamp, little knowing what woe she was working Aladdin. Then the Lady Bedr-el-Budur called one of the memluks and handed him the Lamp, bidding him go down to the pedlar and exchange it for a new one. Presently he returned, bearing a new lamp, and, when the Princess took it and saw that it was a far better one than the old one, she laughed and said, "Verily this man is mad! A strange trade, and one that can bring him small profit. But his cry is true, therefore take him this gold to cover his losses." And she gave the memluk ten gold pieces, and bad him hasten. But the memluk returned anon with the ten pieces, saying that the pedlar had disappeared, having left all his new lamps with
The Lady Bedr-el-Budur and the Wicked Magician. Page 148
the people. The Lady Bedr-el-Budur wondered at this, but knew not, nor guessed the terrible consequences of her act.
As for the Dervish, as soon as he had got the Lamp, he recognised it. Placing it in his bosom, he left all else and ran, which to the people was only a further proof of his madness. On and on he ran, through the City and its outskirts, until he came to the desert, where at last he was alone. Then, and not till then, he took the Lamp from his bosom and rubbed it. In a flash appeared the Slave of the Lamp. "What is thy wish? I am the Slave of the Lamp which is in thy hands." And the Dervish replied, "I desire thee to take the palace of Aladdin, with all it contains, and convey it to the land of the Moors in Africa, and set it down upon the open space within the gardens of my dwelling in that land. Take me also with it. I have spoken." "O my master," said the Slave, "in the twinkling of an eye it is done. If thou carest to close thine eyes for one moment, when thou openest them thou wilt find thyself within the palace, in thy garden in the land of the Moors." And ere the Dervish could say, "I have closed my eye and opened it again," he found that it was even so, as the Slave had said. The palace and all in it were in his own garden, in his own country, with the sun of Africa shining in upon him.
Now the Lady Bedr-el-Budur was within the palace, but Aladdin was not. He had not yet returned from the chase. This thing had taken place after nightfall, so that as yet none had perceived it. But at the hour of the rising of the full moon, the Sultan looked forth from a window to admire Aladdin's palace in its silver light; what was his surprise to find that there was no palace there! All was bare and open space just as it had been before this wonderful palace was built. "By Allah!" he cried in distress and alarm. "Can it be that the Vizier was right, and that this splendid thing was but the fabric of sorcery, built in a single night and dissolved in a moment like a dream on waking? And my daughter, where is she? Oh woe! oh woe!" And the Sultan wrung his hands in grief. Then presently he summoned the Grand Vizier, and bade him look forth at the palace of Aladdin. And when the Vizier looked forth and saw no splendid edifice giving back the rays of the moon, but all as bare as it had been before, he turned to the Sultan, his face pale and twitching with excitement. "O King of the Age," he said, "doth thy Felicity now believe that the palace and all Aladdin's wealth were the work of sorcery?" And the Sultan did not reply, but beat his breast and plucked his beard; for, apart from sorcery, it was enough for him to know that Aladdin's palace was gone and his daughter with it. "Where is Aladdin?" he demanded at last in wrath. "At the chase," replied the Vizier. "Then I command thee to have him brought before me at once, pinioned and shackled."
A glad man then was the Vizier. With all alacrity he issued the Sultan's commands to the captains, who went forth with their soldiers to find and seize Aladdin. It was a difficult task for them, for they all loved him greatly; and, when they came upon him, they asked his forgiveness, yet took him and led him bound and manacled before the Sultan, whose word must be obeyed on the head and the eye. But when the people saw him thus, they one and all armed themselves and followed the soldiers with Aladdin to the palace, saying among themselves, "It will be a bad day for the Sultan if he cuts off Aladdin's head." But the Sultan knew not of this rising of the people, and, being filled with rage at the loss ot his daughter, no sooner set eyes on Aladdin among his captors than he ordered him to the executioner. Now when this came to the ears of the people, they surrounded the palace and barred its gates and doors, and raised a great clamour without, so that the Sultan sent his Grand Vizier to ascertain the cause. Presently he returned, saying, "O King of the Age, the people have risen in a great multitude, and they are shouting that they will pull down the palace over thy head if any harm come to Aladdin. Wherefore it were better to pardon Aladdin, and so avert this great calamity, for it is evident the people love Aladdin more than they love us."
Meanwhile on the scaffold the executioner had spread the mat of death and Aladdin was kneeling thereon blind-folded, ready for the blow. The executioner walked round him thrice and then turned towards the Sultan, who stood at a window and awaited his command to strike. At this moment the cries of the people grew louder and fiercer and the Sultan beheld them scaling the walls of the palace. Then fear gat hold of him for the issue, and he signalled to the executioner to stay his hand, and bade the Vizier proclaim to the people that Aladdin was pardoned.
As soon as Aladdin was freed from his chains he begged speech of the Sultan, and said to him, "O my Lord, I thank thee for thy clemency, though I know not yet wherein my offence lay." "O base one," replied the Sultan; "hitherto I found thee blameless, but now—" he turned to the Grand Vizier, adding, "Lead him to the windows overlooking his palace, and shew him how it sparkles in the light of the sun. So the Vizier took Aladdin to the window and bade him look forth. Utter amazement fell upon Aladdin when he saw that his palace had completely disappeared, leaving no vestige to mark the spot where it had stood. He was so dazed and bewildered that he turned in silence and walked back into the Sultan's presence like one in a dream. "Well," said the Sultan, "where is thy palace? And, what is more to me, where is my daughter?" And Aladdin shook his head sorrowfully and spread his hands in helpless despair; but made no other reply for he was dumbfounded. Again the Sultan spoke: "It was my thought to set thee free so that thou mayest search for my daughter and restore her to me. For this purpose I grant thee a delay of forty days, and, if in that time thou canst not find her, then, by Allah! I will cut off thy head." And Aladdin answered him, "O King of the Age, if I find her not within forty days then I no longer wish to have a head left upon my body."
And Aladdin went forth sad and dejected. The cries of joy with which the people greeted him fell like lead on his aching heart. He escaped from their goodwill and wandered in the City like one distraught, greeting none, nor raising his eyes to any greeting. For two days he neither ate nor drank for grief at what had happened. Finally he wandered beyond the confines of the City into the desert. There, on the bank of a dark pool, he resolved to drown himself and so end his misery. But, being devout and fearing God, he must first perform his ablutions. So he stooped and took water in his hands and rubbed them together, when lo! a strange thing happened; for as his hands came together, he chanced to rub the ring which was on one of his ringers. In a flash the Slave of the Ring appeared and standing before him, said, "O my master, what is thy desire?" Aladdin then was seized with great joy, and he cried, "O Slave, I desire my palace and my wife." "Alas!" answered the Slave, "that I cannot bring about, for this matter is protected by the Slave of the Lamp who hath put a seal upon it." "Then," urged Aladdin, "since thou canst not bring the palace and my wife to me, transport me to the palace wherever it may be upon the earth." "On the head and the eye," replied the Slave, and immediately Aladdin found himself borne swiftly through the air and set down by his palace in the land of the Moors. Although the night had fallen he could recognise it without difficulty, and close at hand was the window of his wife's chamber. Great joy at this exhausted what little strength remained to him—for he had neither eaten nor slept for many days—and, overcome with fatigue and weakness, he threw himself down beneath a tree hard by and slept.
Awakened at dawn by the singing of birds in the garden, Aladdin arose, and, having bathed in a stream, recited the morning prayer, after which he returned and sat beneath the window of Bedr-el-Budur's apartment. Now the Lady Bedr-el-Budur, filled with grief at her separation from her husband and her father, could neither sleep nor eat by reason of her keen distress. Each day when dawn leapt into the sky she would arise and sit at her window and weep. And on this morning she came as usual, but did not weep, for she saw Aladdin sitting on the ground outside. And they both cried out and flew to one another; and their greeting was full of joy. She opened a side door for him, bidding him enter, for she knew it was not the time for the accursed Dervish to come to see her as was his daily wont. Then, when they had embraced and kissed and shed tears of joy, Aladdin said to her, "O my beloved, before all else answer me one question: in my apartment there was an old copper lamp which—," "Alas," broke in Bedr-el-Budur, "that lamp was the cause of it all, for the man who obtained it by a stratagem told me of its virtues and how he had achieved this thing by its aid." And immediately Aladdin heard this he knew that it was indeed the Dervish who had worked this woe upon him.
"Tell me, how doth this accursed man treat thee?" he asked. "He cometh once a day," she replied, "and he would fain win my love and console me for thy loss, for he saith the Sultan, my father, hath struck off thy head, and at the best thou wert of poor family and stole thy wealth from him. But he gets no word from me, only tears and lamentations." And Aladdin embraced her again and comforted her for what she had suffered. "Tell me," he asked again presently, "where doth this accursed keep the Lamp?" "Always in his bosom," she replied, "where he guards it with the greatest care and none knows of it but me." Aladdin was overjoyed when he heard this, for he thought he saw a way to obtain the Lamp. "Listen, my beloved," he said, "I will leave thee now and return shortly in disguise. Bid thy maid stand by the side door to let me in. Then I will tell thee my plan to slay this accursed one and take the Lamp."
Then Aladdin went forth upon the road that led to the city, and he had not journeyed far before he met a poor peasant proceeding to his daily toil. Stopping him he offered to exchange his own costly garments for those the peasant was wearing. But the man demurred, whereat Aladdin set upon him and effected the exchange by force. Then, leaving the peasant battered and bruised but dressed like a prince, he went on into the city, and, coming to the market, purchased some powder of benj, which is called "the son of an instant," for it stupefies in a moment. With this he returned to the palace, and, when he came to the side door where the maid was waiting, she recognised him and opened immediately. Very soon he was exposing his plan to Bedr-el-Budur.
"O my beloved," he said, "I wish thee to attire thyself gaily, and adorn thyself with jewels in the sparkle of which no grief can live; and, when the accursed cometh, greet him with a smile and a look from thy lovely eyes; for so he will know thou hast turned his wooing over in thy mind and heart, and hast forgotten thy father and thine Aladdin. Then invite him to sup with thee, and, when thou hast aroused a blinding passion in his bosom, he will forget the Lamp which lieth there. See," he drew forth the powder, "this is benj, the 'son of an instant.' It cannot be detected in red wine. Thou knowest the rest: pledge him in a cup and see to it that the benj is in his and not in thine. Thou knowest how to ply him till he is careless, how to resist him till he is blinded by thy loveliness, how at last to wish him joy and happiness for ever by thy side so that he will drain the cup. Then, O my beloved, ere he can set it down, he will fall at thy feet like one in death. Thou canst do this?"
"Yea," replied Bedr-el-Budur. "It is difficult, but I will dare all for thee; and well I know that this accursed wretch deserves not to live. Yet will I add something to thy plan from a woman's wit. Lest he should suspect a trick he shall find me weeping when he cometh; then will I take up some speech of his and dry my tears; and then, in a space—having all things ready—will I appear before him in a manner to dazzle his senses, and then—then—Oh! my Aladdin; fear not, for all will be well." And on this assurance Aladdin withdrew to a private chamber and sat him down to wait. He realised his extreme danger, for he knew that if the Dervish so much as suspected his existence in the flesh a rub of the Lamp and a word to the Slave would bring him instant death; but he did not know that Bedr-el-Budur, having learnt the virtues of the Lamp, had exacted a pledge from the Dervish that he would make no further use of it until she had given him her final decision as to whether she would come to him of her own free will and accord, which she maintained was a better thing than subsequently to be compelled by the abominable power of sorcery. Bedr-el-Budur, who in this was merely temporising, had not thought, in the joy and stress of their conversation, to tell Aladdin of it; while, as for the wizard, he had kept his pledge, deeming that a woman's love freely given was a better thing to have than any that could be acquired by magic spells.
According to the plan set forth for the Dervish's undoing Bedr-el-Budur ordered her slave girls to prepare everything of jewels and bright attire, ready for a rapid toilet. Then, when the Dervish appeared, she sat weeping as usual, and it was not until, in his protestations of love, he said words that were suitable to her purpose that she paused and half dried her tears as if it needed little more to make her weigh his petition with care. Observing this he drew near and sat by her side, and now, though no longer weeping, she had not yet found words for him. He took her hand, but she snatched
The Porter and the Ladies. Page 154
it away crying, "No, it cannot be! Never can I forget Aladdin!" He pleaded with her, and his passion made him eloquent. He showed her the uselessness of longing for a dead man when a living one was by her side. He told her too—and with the Lamp in his bosom she could not doubt the truth of it—that he and she could command the earth and look down on kings. Why had he not already won this as well as her love by means of the Lamp? Because he had pledged himself to wait and win her as a man wins woman. At this she turned her face to him on a sudden. A faint smile seemed to live in the corners of her bewitching mouth, and a look in her eyes convinced him that he was a much better man than he had thought since he could keep his pledge on so great a matter. On this, he drew still nearer to the lovely Bedr-el-Budur, and this time she did not snatch her hand away, but left it in his, pondering dreamily the while. Presently, on a sudden, she pushed him away petulantly. "Nay, nay," she cried, "I cannot rein my heart to thee at will. Give me, I pray thee, a little space of time—two days; and when my eyes are dim with weeping for Aladdin—" "Two days? Alas!" broke in the Dervish, "two days is a lifetime." "One day—I may decide in one, if weeping do not kill me." The Dervish smote his breast, "One day! one hour is the limit of my life. Think, O Lovely One, how I have waited to win thee as man wins woman, when in a moment I could call thee mine by other means." And his hand moved to his bosom where lay the Lamp. "Stay!" she cried, rising and standing before him. "Thy pledge! My decision is not yet. Having waited so long, surely thou canst wait another—" "Day? say not that." "Well then, at least, another hour." And, flashing a look upon him that might hold his wits in thrall for that space of time, she turned to leave the apartment. "I go to weep," she said, throwing him a backward glance, "and my tears perchance will be for Aladdin, perchance for thee if I cannot bend my heart from him. Abide thou in patience. I will come to thee in one hour."
So she went, leaving the Dervish in an ecstasy of doubt. Time, times passed over his head as he sat weighing the issue, and yet he smiled to himself, for he knew that the Lady Bedr-el-Budur would sooner compel herself than be compelled by the Slave of the Lamp. And he was right. At the expiration of the hour the door opened and she stood before him a vision of loveliness in resplendent attire bedecked with priceless jewels. A smile was on her face and her answer to him was in her eyes. Yet, as he darted forward, her manner of approach showed him that, although he had won her, she was a surrendering princess demanding in her condescension a fitting control—even homage—from him. Having convinced him of this, she seated herself by his side and said boldly, "Thou seest how it is with me. My tears for Aladdin—who is dead—flowed till the hour was half spent; then, I know not why, they changed to tears of joy for thee, who art alive. Then I arose and arrayed myself gladly and came to thee. Yet even now I am not wholly thine, for tears—now grief now joy, I know not which—contend in mine eyes for him or thee. Wherefore come not too near me lest what thou hast won be forfeited. Perchance if we sup together with a jar of the red wine of thine own country—in which it may be that my soul will taste thine—then, who knows—" "O my life's delight," broke in the Dervish. "A jar of red wine and thee! I have many jars in my house, and, not forgetting that tears contend in thine eyes as thou saidst, I will go and return in all haste with the reddest wine." "Nay, go not thyself," said Bedr-el-Budur, bethinking her of the Lamp. "Do not leave me. One of my slave girls will go. My tears have dried in my heart, leaving it thirsty for love." And the Dervish was cajoled, and he remained while a slave girl went forth for the wine.
While she was gone Bedr-el-Budur pretended to busy herself issuing orders to the household about the preparation of supper. And under cover of this she sought and found Aladdin. "It is well," she said as he held her to his heart and pressed his lips to hers. "But, O my beloved," he replied, "art thou sure that the Lamp is in his bosom?" "I will go and see," she answered. And she returned to the Dervish and, approaching him shyly, began to doubt the truth of this great thing—his love for her. As she did this she placed her hands on his shoulders and looked into his eyes; whereat the Dervish drew her close to him and she felt the Lamp in his bosom. Immediately she wrenched herself free and left him with a glance in which disdain and love were kindly mixed. "It is so," she said on returning to Aladdin, "the Lamp is in his bosom, and, since he embraced me—I could not help it nor could I endure it, beloved—it is a wonder the Slave of the Lamp did not appear to see how I tore myself away, I was pressed so close."
Meanwhile the slave girl returned with the wine, and, supper being ready, Bedr-el-Budur invited the Dervish to sit by her at the table. And when they had eaten somewhat, she paused and questioned him with a glance. It was for him to call for wine, and he did so. Immediately a slave girl filled their goblets, and they drank; and another and another until the distance between them was melted, and they became, so to speak, the best of boon companions. And he drank to her and she to him, and her tongue was loosed and she bewitched him with her charming eloquence of speech. But with it all was the dignity of the Princess, which repelled while it attracted. In this subtle manner she fanned his passion to a flame until his heart rocked and his head swam, and all else but her was as nothing in his eyes.
At length, when the supper was drawing to an end, and the wits of the Dervish were well mastered by wine, Bedr-el-Budur leaned towards him in an unbending mood. "This wine of thine has set me on fire, beloved!" she said. "But one more cup and then, if I say thee nay, do not believe me, for thou hast kept thy pledge and hast won me as man wins woman. And this shall be a loving cup, for it is the fashion in my country for the lover to take the loved one's cup and drink it." "O lovely one of my eye," he replied, "I will honour thy custom, since thou hast so greatly honoured me"
At this Bedr-el-Budur took his cup and filled it for herself, while a slave girl, who knew what to do as well as she hated the Dervish, handed him the cup which, though it contained the benj, she had just filled as if for her mistress. She even had to be told twice that it was not for her mistress but for the guest. So the Dervish took it, and felt for one moment like the conqueror of worlds and the Lord of two Horns as he looked into the eyes of Bedr-el-Budur brimming with love. But only for a moment. They drank, and immediately the Dervish fell senseless at her feet, while the cup, flung from his nerveless hand, clattered across the floor.
In the space of moments Aladdin was on the spot. Bedr-el-Budur's arms were round his neck, and she was sobbing on his breast, while the Dervish lay stretched helpless before them. "Come, come," said Aladdin, smoothing her raven hair, "thou hast succeeded: wherefore weep? Thou art the cleverest of women. Go now with the maidens, and leave me here with this accursed." And when he had comforted her she went, and the slave girls with her. Then Aladdin locked the door, and, approaching the Dervish, drew the Lamp from his bosom. This done, he stood over him and swore a fearful oath, then, without further shrift, he drew his sword and hewed off his head, after which he drove the point of the sword through his heart, for only in this way can a wizard be warned off the realm of mortals. And when the sword pierced the heart the look of hate on the upturned face of the wizard died out, and he was gone—for ever.
Once in possession of the Lamp Aladdin lost no time. He rubbed it and immediately the Slave appeared. "I am here, O my master; what is thy wish?" "Thou knowest," replied Aladdin. "Bear this palace and all that is in it to the Land of Cathay and set it down on the spot from which thou didst take it at the command of that." He pointed to the dismembered wizard. "It is well," said the Slave, who served the living and not the dead; "I hear and obey, on the head and the eye." Then Aladdin returned to Bedr-el-Budur, and, in the space of one kiss of love, the palace with all therein was carried swiftly back to the original site from which it had been taken.
When Aladdin and Bedr-el-Budur looked forth and saw the lights in the windows of the Sultan's palace they were overcome with joy. They feasted and drank and made merry far into the night. They kissed and embraced, and kissed again. And when Aladdin had told her all the wretchedness of his losing her she wept, saying it was nothing to what she had endured. Then Aladdin made her narrate her way with the wizard, point by point, till he exclaimed, laughing, that a woman's way in such was more than a man could compass in a thousand years. And so, full of delight for to-day and anticipation of joy for to-morrow, they rose and went hand in hand to rest—those lovers reunited. Thus it was with Aladdin and Bedr-el-Budur.
Now the Sultan was in grievous mood ever since the loss of his daughter—the apple of his eye. All night long he would weep, and, arising at dawn, would look forth on the empty space where once had stood Aladdin's palace. Then his tears would flow as from a woman's eyes, for Bedr-el-Budur was very dear to him. But, when he looked forth one morning and saw the palace standing as it had stood, he was rapt with joy. Instantly he ordered his horse, and, mounting, rode to the gates. Aladdin came out to greet him, and, taking him by the hand with never a word, led him towards the apartments of Bedr-el-Budur. She too, radiant with joy, was running to meet him. Like a bird of the air she flew to his arms, and for some moments neither of them could say a word for very happiness. Then in a torrent of words, she told him all about the accursed Dervish; how by his sorcery he had conveyed the palace to Africa, and how Aladdin had slain him, thus releasing the spell and restoring everything to its place. But not a word did she say about the Lamp and its virtues. And the Sultan turned to Aladdin as if he might add something to the tale. But Aladdin had nothing to add save that he had outwitted the Dervish and reversed his sorcery by cutting off his damnable head and plunging his sword through his heart. Then they arose and went to the chamber which contained the trunk and severed head of the Dervish. And, by the Sultans orders, these remains of the Sorcerer were burnt to ashes and scattered to the four winds of heaven.
And so Aladdin was restored to the Sultan's favour, and he and the Lady Bedr-el-Budur dwelt together in the utmost joy and happiness. And Aladdin guarded the Lamp with the greatest care, but, at the wish of Bedr-el-Budur, he refrained from seeking to it. "Let well alone, my beloved," she said; "there is no happiness for us in commanding everything at will. Besides, we are grateful to the Lamp for what it has done for us; any more is of sorcery." And Aladdin smiled to himself as he recognised the wisdom of a woman. Never did he gainsay her words. Never again did he rub the Lamp.
Time, times, and the Sultan died. Then Aladdin sat on the throne, and ruled the land wisely and well. And the people, with one heart, loved him and his Queen Bedr-el-Budur; and the realm continued in peace and happiness until at last the Great Gleaner came in their old age and knocked at the palace doors and gathered them in to rest.