368 THE STORY OF PRINCE AHMED
Majesty desired so much to keep among your other rarities in your treasury, but at the same time wish you such extraordinary health as never to have occasion to make use of it.'
After the Prince had made an end of his compliment the Sultan placed him on his right hand, and then said to him : ' Son, I am very much obliged to you for this valuable present, as also for the great danger you have exposed yourself to upon my account (which I have been informed of by a magician who knows the Fountain of Lions); but do me the pleasure,' continued he, ' to inform me by what address, or, rather, by what incredible power, you have been secured.'
' Sir,' replied Prince Ahmed, ' I have no share in the compliment your Majesty is pleased to make me; all the honour is due to the Fairy my spouse, whose good advice I followed.' Then he informed the Sultan what those directions were, and by the relation of this his expedition let him know how well he had behaved himself. "When he had done the Sultan, who showed outwardly all the demonstrations of great joy, but secretly became more jealous, retired into an inward apartment, where he sent for the magician.
The magician, at her arrival, saved the Sultan the trouble to tell her of the success of Prince Ahmed's journey, which she had heard of before she came, and therefore was prepared with an infallible means, as she pretended. This means she communicated to the Sultan, who declared it the next day to the Prince, in the midst of all his courtiers, in these words: ' Son,' said he, ' I have one thing more to ask of you, after which I shall expect nothing more from your obedience, nor your interest with your wife. This request is, to bring me a man not above a foot and a half high, and whose beard is thirty feet long, who carries a bar of iron upon his shoulders of five hundredweight, which he uses as a quarterstaff.'
Prince Ahmed, who did not believe that there was such a man in the world as his father described, would gladly have excused himself; but the Sultan persisted in his demand, and told him the Fairy could do more incredible things.
The next day the Prince returned to his dear Paribanou, to whom he told his father's new demand, which, he said, he looked upon to be a thing more impossible than the two first; ' for,' added he, ' I cannot imagine there can be such a man in the world ; without doubt, he has a mind to try whether or no I am so silly as to go about it, or he has a design on my ruin. In short, how can he suppose that I should lay hold on a man so well armed, though he is