842 THE STORY OF PRINCE AHMED
THE STORY OF PRINCE AHMED AND THE FAIRY PABIBANOU
T HERE was a sultan, who had three sens and a niece. The eldest of the Princes was called Houssain, the second Ali, the youngest Ahmed, and the Princess, his niece, Nouronnihar.
The Princess Nouronnihar was the daughter of the younger brother of the Sultan, who died, and left the Princess very young. The Sultan took upon himself the care of his daughter's education, and brought her up in his palace with the three Princes, proposing to marry her when she arrived at a proper age, and to contract an alliance with some neighbouring prince by that means. But when he perceived that the three Princes his sons loved her passionately, he thought more seriously on that affair. He was very much concerned ; the difficulty he foresaw was to make them agree, and that the two youngest should consent to yield her up to their elder brother. As he found them positively obstinate, he sent for them all together, and said to them : ' Children, since for your good and. quiet I have not been able to persuade you no longer to aspire to the Princess, your cousin, I think it would not be amiss if every one travelled separately into different countries, so that you might not meet each other. And, as you know I am very curious, and delight in everything that's singular, I promise my niece in marriage to him that shall bring me the most extraordinary rarity; and for the purchase of the rarity you shall go in search after, and the expense of travelling, I will give you every one a sum of money.'
As the three Princes were always submissive and obedient to the Sultan's will, and each flattered himself fortune might prove favourable to him, they all consented to it. The Sultan paid them the money he promised them ; and that very day they gave orders for the preparations for their travels, and took their leaves of the Sultan, that they might be the more ready to go the next morning. Accordingly they all set out at the same gate of the city, each dressed