The Lost Camel—p. 194.

FEW stories are more widely spread than that of the Lost Camel, which occurs in the opening of our romance. It was formerly, and perhaps is still, reproduced in school-books as a reading exercise. Voltaire, in chapter iii of Zadig, ou la Destinée, (the substance of which he is said to have derived from Geuelette's Soirées Bretonnes), gives a version in which a lost palfrey and a she-dog are accurately described by the “sage” from the traces they had left on the path over which they passed.

The oldest known written form of the story of the Lost Camel is in the great work of Mas'udí, the celebrated Arabian historian, ‘Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems,’ which has not yet been completely translated into English.—In an Arabic MS. text of the Alf Layla wa Layla (Thousand and one Nights), brought from the East by Wortley Montague, and now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, it forms an incident in the tale of the Sultan of Yaman's Three Sons: After their father's death the three royal youths quarrel over the succession to the throne, and at length agree to submit their respective claims to one of their father's tributary princes. On the road one of them remarks: “A camel has lately passed this way, loaded with grain on one side and with sweetmeats on the other.” The second observes: “And the camel is blind of one eye.” The third adds: “And it has lost its tail.” The owner comes up to them, and on hearing their descripton of his beast forces them to go with him before the king of the country, to whom they explain how they discovered the defects of the camel and its lading. In this form it also occurs in the Turkish collection translated under the title of Turkish Evening Entertainments—see ante, p. 472—with the addition of a woman riding on the back of the camel, she having got off the animal during a temporary halt, and left her small footprints in the sand.

In a Siberian version three youths are met by a man, who asks them if they have seen his camel, to which they reply by describing the colour and peculiarities of the animal so exactly that he accuses them to the prince of the country of having stolen it. “I have lost a camel, my lord,” says he; “and when I met these three young men we saluted, and I told them of my loss. One of these youths asked me: ‘Was thy camel of a light colour?’ The second: ‘Was thy camel lame?’ And the third: ‘Was thy camel not blind of an eye?’ I answered ‘Yes’ to their questions. Now decide, my lord. It is evident that these young men have stolen my camel.” Then the prince asked the eldest: ‘How did you know that the camel was of a light colour?’ He answered: “By some hairs which had fallen on the ground when it rubbed itself against the trees.” The two others gave answers similar to those in our version. Then said the prince to the man: “Thy camel is lost; go and look for it.” So the stranger mounted his horse and departed.*

Captain (now Sir) Richard F. Burton, in his Scinde, or the Unhappy Valey, vol. i, p. 142, thus describes how a paggi, or tracker, sets about discovering a strayed camel: “He ties on his slippers with packthread, winds his sheet tight round his waist, and squatting upon the ground scrutinises the footprint before he starts, with all the air of a connoisseur, making mean­while his remarks aloud: ‘He is a little, little camel—his feet are scarcely three parts grown—he treads lightly with the off foreleg, and turns this toe in—his sole is scarred—he is not laden—there he goes—there—there, he is off to the jungles of Shaykh Radhan’.”