246 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
he took up, and whilst inspecting the precious stones set in it he noticed a little pouch sewn to the girdle and fastened by a loop. He touched it and felt something hard within. Curious as to what this might be, he opened the pouch and found a cornelian engraved with various figures and strange characters.
' This cornelian must be something very precious,' thought he, ' or my wife would not wear it on her person with so much care.'
In truth it was a talisman which the Queen of China had given her daughter, telling her it would ensure her happiness as long as she carried it about her.
The better to examine the stone the prince stepped to the open doorway of the tent. As he stood there holding it in the open palm of his hand, a bird suddenly swooped down, picked the stone up in its beak and flew away with it.
Imagine the prince's dismay at losing a thing by which his wife evidently set such store!
The bird having secured its prey flew off some yards and alighted on the ground, holding the talisman it its beak. Prince Camaralzaman advanced, hoping the bird would drop it, but as soon as he approached the thief fluttered on a little further still. He continued his pursuit till the bird suddenly swallowed the stone and took a longer flight than before. The prince then hoped to kill it with a stone, but the more hotly he pursued the further flew the bird.
In this fashion he was led on by hill and dale through the entire day, and when night came the tiresome creature roosted on the top of a very high tree where it could rest in safety.
The prince in despair at all his useless trouble began to think whether he had better return to the camp. • But,' thought he, ' how shall I find my way back? Must I go up hill or down? I should certainly lose my way in the dark, even if my strength held out.' Overwhelmed by