The Journey of Hatim to explore the Bath of Badgard— His arrival in that place.— His safe returns to Shahabad, and the marriage of Husn Banu with the Assyrian prince Munir.

WE are informed that after Hatim left Shahabad, he traversed a wide desert till at length he arrived in a populous city, where he saw the inhabitants assembled round the mouth of a well. He approached; and on asking one of them what was the matter, he was told that the son of the chief magistrate had gone mad, and was in the habit of frequenting the well, when at length he threw himself in headlong. “Three days,” said the man, “we have looked for him here, but no trace can we find of his body, nor is there any of our people bold enough to venture into the well, lest he should lose his own life.”

While they were in this conversation, the parents of the youth came weeping to the mouth of the well. Hatim’s heart melted when he witnessed their sorrow, and he said to them, “Despair not, my friends, I will myself dive into the well, and search for the body of your son; do you remain here till my return.”— “Generous stranger.” said the chief, “rest assured that we will with patience wait your return, should the period be even a month.” Hatim then plunged into the water; and after he had been some minutes in sinking, he felt his feet on firm ground. He opened he eyes, and saw not the well nor its waters, but an extensive plain illumined with the rays of the sun. After he had advanced some distance he came to a garden, and as the doors were opened, he entered. There he saw flowers of every hue, and in the midst of the garden was a palace of elegant structure. He entered a spacious hall, which he found to be furnished with splendid couches, on which reclined fairies of beautiful form. In the centre of the hall were two thrones of burnished gold, on one of which sat the fairy queen, of transcendent beauty and angelic counte­nance; and on the other, a young man of noble form and graceful mien.

When the fairies that acted as sentinels had observed Hatim’s approach, they immediately gave information to their sovereign that another of the race of Adam had arrived in the garden. The queen, addressing the youth upon the throne, said to him, “The stranger is of your race, is it your pleasure that we hold conference with him?” The young man assented, and the attendants accordingly conducted Hatim to the foot of the throne. The queen rose and graciously received him and having seated him on a couch beside her, she ordered him to be presented with food and drink. Hatim willingly accepted her hospitality; after which, the young man asked him whence he came and whither, he was bound. “I am a native of Yemen,” said Hatim in reply, “and I lately left the city of Shahabad on a journey to the bath of Badgard. When I arrived in a certain city, I saw all the inhabitants assembled round the month of a well; and on inquiring the cause of their anxiety, the chief told me with tears in his eyes, that his son had three days ago cast himself headlong into the pit. I was moved by his grief, and dived into the well, resolved to procure the dead body of the youth. But now I am bewildered, and know not whither to direct my search. You, I see, are the human race; may I ask whether you are the young man whom I seek?

The youth replied, “I am indeed that devoted person. I was one day seated at the mouth of the well, when the heart-ravishing fairy appeared to my enchanted sight. I lost hold of reins of reason, and for some days lingered like a maniac round the mouth of the well. My passion was completely beyond my control: I plunged into the water, and opened my eyes I know not by what means in his para­dise. When the fairy queen beheld me she gladdened my heart with the charms of his society, and now my happiness is complete.”— “Deluded youth,” said Hatim, “can you be happy when your parents and relations are enduring the pangs of despair on your account?”— “I have no choice left,” rejoined the young man; “but should the queen give me leave, I will accompany you to my relations, and having assured them of my safety, instantly return.”— “Have patience, then,” said Hatim, “till I plead your cause.”

Hatim turned his discourse to the queen, and said, “Thy conduct, fair queen, is far from being generous and noble, in detaining this youth from his distressed parents. Allow him to accompany me for a few days, that he may console his father and mother; after which, he will return to you,”— “Stranger,” replied the queen, “I do not in the least restrain this youth in his movements. He saw me, and became enamoured of my person. In his despair he cast himself into the pit, for which I am not to blame. At present he has his free will to go whenever he chooses.” Here the youth stood up, and said to the fairy, “By your leave, fair queen, I have one request to make ere I depart, should it be agreeable to your will to grant it. Say that I am not to despair; that you will speedily come to my father’s house, and make me happy in once more behold­ing you.

Hatim for some time held down his head in silence, awaiting the queen’s reply; at length he spoke out, “Generous queen, if you have any compassion, assent to the youth’s request.”— “He asks of me,” she replied, “more than ever any of our race have granted to your’s.” In return, Hatim related to the queen numerous instances of kindness and compassion experienced by himself from the hands of the fairy race. To this the queen replied, “Brave Hatim, what you have stated is true; but this youth does not so sincerely love me as to deserve my regard”— “Had I not loved you from my heart and soul,” said the young man, “should I, regardless of life, of every human tie, cast myself healdong into the well?”— “To put your affection of the proof,” rejoined the queen “are you prepared to do whatever I request of you?”— “Command me,” said he, “and I will perform.”

The fairy queen summoned her attendants, and said to them “Go, fill the large cauldron with oil, place it on the fire, and make it boil to the utmost heat.” When the cauldron was heated, the queen took the young man by the hand, and said to him, “Now, if you love me, prove it by casting yourself this instant into the cauldron of boil­ing oil.” The youth instantly rose up, and was about to plunge into the burning liquid, when the queen exclaimed, “Hold, I merely spoke to try your affection. Now I am satisfied, and I agree to your request.” Hatim remained for about a month with the fairy queen and her lover. At the end of this period, the queen confirmed her promise, having sworn by the seal of Sulaiman, to visit the youth soon. Having then bid adieu to Hatim and her lover, she ordered some of her fairies to conduct them to the mouth of the well. The fairies seized the mor­tals by the hand, and in the twinkling of an eye they found themselves at the mouth of the well. The guides then vanished into the deep and Hatim presented the young man to his fond parents. The chief of the city and all the inhabitants were highly delighted at the sight and prostrated themselves at Hatim’s feet in token of their gratitude. They then returned to the city and for many days vied with one another in treating the generous stranger with every mark of hospitality.

At length the fairy, agreeably to her promise, visited the love-sick youth. Two weeks after, Hatim once more betook himself to the road, and in the course of a few days he arrived at a large and populous city. As he was about to enter the gates, he met an old man standing upon the road. When the old man observed him, he approached and said, “My blessings be upon you, noble stranger, welcome, thrice welcome, to our city.” Hatim returned this cour­teous salutation, whereupon the old man said to him, “If you will for this night reside in my house, and taste of my salt, it will be doing me the highest of favours.” Hatim thanked the old man, and accepted his hospitable invitation. Arrived in the house, the old man presented him with food; and after they had eaten together, the aged host said, “Tell me. noble sir, if such be your pleasure, what is your name, whence are you, and whither do you travel?”— “I am an Arab,” replied Hatim, “and am on my way from Shahabad to the bath of Badgard, which it is my intention to explore.” The old man hearing this, long held down his head in deep reflection, after which, he said to Hatim, “Devoted man, what enemy has sent you on so perilous an errand? I have been assured that no man has hitherto visited Badgard and come back to tell the news. The place is in the vicinity of a city called Katan, the name of whose king is Harith. Around his dominions are stationed numerous sentinels, whose duty it is to bring before their king whatsoever stranger attempts to visit Badgard. When carried to the presence of Harith, no one knows how they are treated, for they never return.” Hatim nothing daunted, related to the old man the cause of his journey, and detailed his former adventures in behalf of Munir the Assyrian prince. “This,” concluded Hatim, “is the seventh and last question, from which I will not shrink.”— “May heaven reward your generosity and bravery,” replied the venerable host; “be advised by me, and turn back: the bath of Badgard is all enchantment; but of its inner mysteries, no one can give the least account”— “Venerable sir,” resumed Hatim, “how can I possibly return? would you have me act as a false coward?”— “Listen to my counsel,” replied the host, “and cast not away your life like the frog that disregarded the advice of his friends, and at last bad cause for repentance.” “Tell me,” said Hatim, “what happened to the frog.”

The old man thus spoke: “In the region of Sham it happened once upon a time that a number of frogs were living happily together in a pond, when one of them took it into his head to remove to another pond in the vicinity. ‘Travelling’ said the frog to himself, ‘is the means of rendering the poor man rich.’ His friends remonstrated, saying, ‘Fool that you are, what absurd idea is this which has found its way into your head! Abandon such vain thoughts, otherwise you will have cause to repent when too late. Know you not that he who disregards the admonition of the wise will end in misery and shame.’ The brain of the frog was filled with the wind of self-conceit; he there­fore would not listen to the advice of his friends, and forth­with quitted that pond, along with his wife and young ones. In their way to the next pond, they rejoiced in the antici­pation of the happiness and ease and independence which awaited them. At lenth they arrived on the brink, and were about to enter their new residence, when all at once a water-snake thrust out its head to welcome them. This snake had for some time occupied the pond, and had devoured all the frogs that were in it. Having had no food for some days previous, the serpent no sooner saw the frogs than he began to devour them one after another.

“The old frog that had caused the removal, quickly dived into the bottom of the pond, and having escaped the mouth of the snake, he watched his opportunity and returned to his former abode. His old acquaintances seeing him return alone without his young, opened upon him the tongue of reproach, and said, “Rash full that you are, how dare you come among us without your wife and young ones? Tell us quickly, what has happened to them and you when absent; can it be possible that you have left them to destruction?” — The frog, full of shame and remorse, listened, but replied not, while the others were the more urgent in their inquiries. At last they all attacked the unfortunate frog, and having almost killed him, they said, “Such is the reward of vanity and folly; and he who disregards the admonitions of the wise will become involved in similar calamities.”

When the old man finished the story of the frog, he said “Brave Hatim, do you apply your ear to my advice, and turn back in time ere your calamity be past remedy.”— “I am confident,” replied Hatim, “that all you have stated is kindly meant; but remember that I am acting for others, not for myself, and I will never disgrace myself by abandoning a task which I have promised to accomplish; for the sake of God, then shew me the way, and let me depart.” When the old man saw that Hatim’s resolution was determined, he yielded to necessity and conducted him out of the city till they came to two roads, when he stopped short and said, “Noble Hatim, proceed on the right-hand road, which will take you through many a city and town. At length you will come to a high mountain, where there are dangers innumer­able. Should it please God that you surmount these, you will then come to a spot where the road branches into two. There I would advice you to take the left-hand path, for though that to the right be nearer, it is highly dangerous; whereas the other, though circuitous, is safe and free from peril.”