Story of the Prince and the Ghūl.*

THERE was a certain sultan who had a son, whom he loved with ardent affection. The prince one day begged permission of his father to hunt; upon which the sultan ordered preparations, commanded his vazīr to attend him, and sent with him slaves, domestics, and troops. They advanced towards the chase, and passed through a verdant plain, having groves and rivulets, among which the antelopes sported. The prince pursued and ran down much game of various kinds, and remained long, diverting himself with the sport, in great spirits and enjoyment.

As he was returning homewards, there bounded across the plain an antelope, brilliant as the sun shining in a serene sky; and the vazīr said: “Let us pursue this deer, for my heart longs to take her.” When the prince heard this, he followed her; and the attendants would have accompanied him, but the vazīr forbade them. The antelope did not cease to gain ground, nor the prince to pursue her, till the evening overshadowed, when she disappeared, and darkness came on.

The prince would have returned, but could not find his path, and he fainted with terror; nor could he move from the thirsty desert until the morning. He then prayed to God for deliverance, and travelled on, oppressed with hunger, until mid-day; when, lo! he came to a ruined town, in which owls and ravens had their abodes. While he stopped, astonished at their screamings, a female voice struck his ear, and he be­held a beautiful girl sitting under one of the mould­ering walls, weeping bitterly. He addressed her, and said: “Why dost thou lament, and who art thou?” She replied: “Know that I am the daughter of a certain sultan of the north. My father espoused me to the son of my uncle, and detached troops to escort me to him, and we began our journey. When we arrived here, I fell from my carriage, as you see, and my attendants went on, and left me, thinking I was still upon the camel.* I have remained here three days, famishing and thirsty, and was despairing of life, when I saw thee.”—The prince mounted her behind him, and said: “Comfort thy heart, and dry thine eyes, and say, God be praised, for thy deliverance from this desert.”

They now proceeded, and besought assistance from the Almighty.* When they had journeyed some time, they reached a city, ruinous like the first, and the damsel said to him: “Remain here, while I retire a little; I will soon return.” The prince helped her down, and waited with his horse, when, behold! the ghūl (for such was the pretended damsel) cried to two others, saying: “I have brought a prey to feast upon.”* When the prince heard this, his heart was chilled. The ghūl came out, and found him pale and trembling. She said: “Prince, why do I behold thy colour changed?” He answered: “I was reflecting on the cause of my sorrows.” She exclaimed: “Seek a remedy for them in the treasures of thy father.” He replied: “They are not to be remedied by treasure or hoards.” She said: “Remedy them by your armies and troops.” He replied: “They are not to be re­medied by them.” She continued: “Ask help of the God of power and might; for ye pretend that ye have in the heavens a God who, when ye call upon him, will be gracious, and that he is absolute over all things.” The prince replied: “It is true; and we have no other help but him.” Then he lifted up his face towards heaven, and said: “O Lord, I humbly beseech thee, and implore aid from thee in this crisis, which grieveth and afflicteth me;”* at the same time catching the pretended princess in his arms. Scarcely had he concluded his prayer, when an angel descended from the sky, with a sword of flame, and smote her with it, and destroyed her.* For this miracle may the Almighty be glorified! The prince after this returned safely to the capital of his father. [7]

“All this danger,” continued the damsel, “occurred from the schemes of the vazīr; and I inform thee, O sultan, that thy vazīrs are also treacherous. Be, then, watchful of their arts.”—Upon this the sultan gave orders for the execution of his son.

On the next day the Third Vazīr entered, kissed the ground before the sultan, and said: “Know, O sultan, I would advise thee candidly, and am faithful to thyself and thy son. Be not violent against thy child, the light of thine eyes. It is possible the damsel's desire of his death may proceed from malice; and I have heard that two great tribes were destroyed for the sake of a drop of honey.” The sultan inquired, upon what occasion, and the vazīr said: