354 THE STORY OF PRINCE AHMED
ment by throwing himself at her feet, and, rising up again, said to her: ' Madam, I return you a thousand thanks for the assurance you give me of a welcome to a place where I believed my imprudent curiosity had made me penetrate too far. But, madam, may I, without being guilty of ill manners, dare to ask you by what adventure you know me ? and how you, who live in the same neighbourhood with me, should be so great a stranger to me ? ' ' Prince,' said the lady, ' let us go into the hall, there I will gratify you in your request.'
After these words the lady led Prince Ahmed into the hall. Then she sat down on a sofa, and when the Prince by her entreaty had done the same she said : ' You are surprised, you say, that I should know you and not be known by you, but you will be no longer surprised when I inform you who I am. You are undoubtedly sensible that your religion teaches you to believe that the world is inhabited by genies as well as men. I am the daughter of one of the most powerful and distinguished genies, and my name is Pai-i-banou. The only thing that I have to add is, that you seemed to me worthy of a more happy fate than that of possessing the Princess Nouronnihar ; and, that you might attain to it, I was present when you drew your arrow, and foresaw it would not go beyond Prince Houssain's. I took it in the air, and gave it the necessary motion to strike against the rocks near which you found it, and I tell you that it lies in your power to make use of the favourable opportunity which presents itself to make you happy.'
As the Fairy Paribanou pronounced these last words with a different tone, and looked, at the same time, tenderly upon Prince Ahmed, with a modest blush on her cheeks, it was no hard matter for the Prince to comprehend what happiness she meant. He presently considered that the Princess Nouronnihar could never be his, and that the Fairy Paribanou excelled her infinitely in beauty, agreeableness, wit, and, as much as he could conjecture by the magnificence of the palace, in immense riches. He blessed the moment that he thought of seeking after his arrow a second time, and, yielding to his love : ' Madam,' replied he, ' should I all my life have the happiness of being your slave, and the admirer of the many charms which ravish my soul, I should think myself the most blest of men. Pardon in me the boldness which inspires me to ask this favour, and don't refuse to admit me into your Court, a prince who is entirely devoted to you.'
' Prince,' answered the Fairy, ' will you not pledge your faith to