Story of the Transformed Prince.

THERE was a sultan, who had an only son, whom he betrothed to the daughter of a great monarch. She was very beautiful, and passionately beloved by the son of her uncle; but her father would not consent to give her to him in marriage, on account of his prior engagement to the sultan. When the young man found that his uncle had affianced her to another, he was exceedingly afflicted, and had no other resource but to send rich presents to the vazīr of the intended bridegroom's father, and entreat him that he would deceive the prince by some stratagem, so that the match might be broken off. The vazīr accepted the bribe, and promised compliance.

The father of the princess, after some time, wrote to the sultan, requesting that he would send his son, to celebrate the marriage at his court; after which he might return home with his bride. The sultan consented, and despatched the prince under care of his vazīr, with attendants and slaves, and an escort of a thousand horse; he also sent by him a rich present of camels, and horses, and tents, and valuable curiosities.

The vazīr departed with the prince, but resolved to betray him, on account of the bribes he had received from the cousin of the princess. At length they entered a desert, where the vazīr bethought himself of a fountain, named the White Fountain, of which but few persons knew the properties; these were, that if a man drank of the water, he became a woman; and if a woman drank of it, she became a man. The vazīr encamped at some distance from it, and invited the prince to ride out with him; when he mounted, but did not suspect what the vazīr had devised. They did not cease riding in the wilderness till sunset, when the prince complained that he was overcome with thirst, and unable to converse from the parching of his mouth. The vazīr then brought him to the foun­tain, and said: “Dismount, and drink.”

The prince alighted from his horse, and drank, when lo! he instantly became a woman. On per­ceiving his condition, he wept aloud, and was over­come with shame, and fainted. On his recovery, the vazīr came up to him with pretended condolements, and said: “What has befallen thee? And whence is this sorrow?” The prince having related what had occurred to him, the vazīr said: “Thy enemies must have done this. A great misfortune and a heavy calamity have certainly come upon thee; for how can the object of our journey be performed when thou art thyself become a bride? I would advise that we return to thy father, and inform him of what has happened.” The prince replied: “I swear by the Almighty, that I will not return, until he shall remove from me this affliction, though I should die under it.”—The vazīr then returned to his troops, and left the prince; who walked onwards, not knowing whither he should proceed.

On the way there met him a horseman, beautiful as the full moon,* who saluted him, and said: “Lady, who art thou, and why behold I thee alone in this frightful desert? For I perceive upon thee the marks of distinction, and that thou art sorrowful and afflicted.” When the prince heard these kind express­ions from the horseman, he put confidence in him, and related what had befallen him. The cavalier said: “Hast thou drank of the White Fountain?” He answered: “Yes;” and the other rejoined: “Comfort thyself, and dry thine eyes, for I will attempt thy delivery.” The prince then fell at his feet, and would have kissed them, but he forbade him; when the prince said: “I conjure thee by Allah, tell me, how can relief come to me through thee?” He replied: “I am a jinnī, but will not injure thee.”

They travelled all night, and at dawn reached a verdant plain, abounding in trees and rivulets, and upon it lofty edifices; and there they dismounted, and entered one of the palaces. The jinnī welcomed him, and they remained all day feasting in mirth and gladness. At night the jinnī mounted his horse, and taking the prince behind him, travelled through the dark until daylight, when, lo! they beheld a black plain, frightful and gloomy, which might be compared to the confines of hell. The prince inquired the name of the country, and the jinnī replied: “This country is called the Black Region, and is governed by a prince of the jinn, without whose permission no one dare enter it. Remain here, while I ask for leave, and return.” The prince remained a little while, when the jinnī appeared, and conducted him onwards; and they did not stop till they came to a stream of water flowing from a rock, of which the jinnī commanded him to drink. He dismounted, and drank, and his sex returned to him as before.

The prince now praised God, and prayed, and he thanked the jinnī and kissed his hands, and inquired the name of the well. The jinnī replied: “This is the Fountain of Women. If a woman drink of it she becomes a man, by the decree of God. Praise the Lord, then, O my brother, for thy welfare and de­liverance.”

They travelled the remainder of the day, till they arrived at the dwelling of the jinnī, where the prince remained with him in mirth and festivity all that night and the following day; in the evening of which the jinnī said: “Dost thou wish to spend this night with thy bride?” The prince replied: “Certainly; but how, my lord, can I effect it?” The jinnī then called to one of his attendants, whose name was Jāzūr, and said: “Take this youth upon thy back, and do not descend anywhere but upon the terrace of his father-in-law's palace, near the apartment of his bride.” Jāzūr replied: “To hear is to obey.”

When a third of the night remained, Jāzūr appeared. He was an 'Ifrīt of monstrous size, so that the prince was alarmed; but the jinnī said: “He will not injure thee; fear him not.” He then embraced the prince, took leave, and mounting him upon the back of the 'Ifrīt, said: “Bind something over thine eyes.” The prince having done so, the 'Ifrīt soared with him between heaven and earth; but he perceived no motion, till he was set down on the terrace of his father-in-law's palace, when the 'Ifrīt disappeared. The prince slept till near daylight, when his spirits revived, and he descended towards the apartments. The female attendants met him, and saluted him, and conducted him to the sultan, who knew him, and stood up and embraced him, and welcoming him, said: “My son, they usually bring the bridegroom by the gate, but thou comest from the terrace; truly I am astonished at thy proceedings.” The prince answered: “If that seems strange, I have still more wonderful events to detail;” and he then related his adventures from first to last, at which the sultan was astonished, and praised God for his deliverance.

The nuptial ceremonies were now commenced, and when the rites were concluded the prince was admitted to his bride, and remained with her a whole month. He then requested leave to return home; upon which his father-in-law presented him with rich gifts, and furnished him with an escort. The cousin of the princess died of disappointment. The prince arrived with his bride at the capital of his father in safety; and the sultan rejoiced with exceeding great joy, after being in despair for his son. [26]

“I hope,” said the Damsel, “that God will also revenge me upon thy vazīrs and upon thy son.”—The sultan replied: “I will do thee justice immediately,” and issued orders for the execution of the prince.