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nowhere to be seen, whilst all the rest remained as it was in the room! No, there was no door by which he could have got out. There was only one door, and near that we were all gathered. He could not have got out that way without our seeing him. And the windows were very small and high up-too small for a man to get out. Nor was there any hole in the floor, all was solid masonry. No, there are many things too wonderful to be explained, and this is one of them. There are spirits good and bad, and some men can get their help to do wonderful things.
Then our king entered, and a rich carpet and cushion were brought for him, and a pillow against which to lean, just as in the durbar; and he sat there, and a voice from the air gave him the salutation, ‘Salaam aleikum!' (peace be with you), and the king answered. It was the king of the peris gave the salutation, but he was invisible, and his voice appeared to come from overhead. God is great, and with the help of spirits wonderful things can be done. No, it was not any of the peris standing about that
gave the salutation. It was the voice of a man, that man whom we had seen sitting on the throne, and now man and throne were both invisible.
And after much dancing and singing of the peris before the king, our king, there was again a colloquy between our king and the invisible; and the king of the peris promised to come down to his brother, our king, and to sit and converse with him.
So the door was again shut. Bismillah! but it was a wonderful thing and an inexplicable. When we were admitted again, the king of the peris was there upon his throne, just as he had been before, talking to our king Wajid Aly. Where could he have come from but from the air, in which he had been invisible? Do I tell lies? Did I alone see it? Did not hundreds witness it as well as I? If I saw it not with these eyes, may my life and death be both unfortunate.
A general dance, with music and singing, in which our king took part, and the king of the peris loudly applauded him, concluded the entertainment.
THE QUEEN'S FAVOURITE STORY.
BEFORE beginning a story, the story-teller always repeated the following lines:
Sleeps all the world—
Eyes of mine saw it not,
From hearsay I repeat it.
False or true, the meed be his.
And of all the stories the queen heard, the following was the one she most liked, and which she had most frequently repeated to
There was a king who was becoming old without having had any son. Indeed he had no children; his wife was barren. One day he called his vizier to him, and asked his
advice. Now the vizier was a wise man and skilful, and he said, 'In the middle of a great jungle far, far off, many hundreds of miles away, lives a holy Fakir. He sits at the foot of a great mango-tree, and sleeps twelve years at a time, waking also for the same length of time; and he is surrounded by spirits and ogres of superhuman power, who carefully protect him from the intrusion of mankind. This Fakir knows all enchantments, and one of the mangoes from his holy tree will cure any disease, and remove barrenness.'
So next day the king sat in durbar in great state, and summoned all his nobles and the officers of his army and of his household, and told them what the vizier had said. But all were afraid, and not one offered to face the perils of the way, and procure for the king one of the enchanted mangoes, or the Fakir's advice.
Then the king asked if there was any man ready to risk his life in this service; and they all, with one voice, every man of them, said, 'I am ready.'
So the king had a glass of sherbet and a plate of salt brought into the divan, and said, "Whoever undertakes this work must devote himself to it by drinking the sherbet and tasting the salt.' Every man sat still. No man stirred. All were afraid.
At length the vizier himself, stepping forward, pledged himself to the enterprise, and drank the sherbet and tasted the salt. When he had so done every man in the divan lifted up his voice and said, 'I too am ready.' But the king, despising vain words, arose from his throne and embraced the vizier as a brother, and kissed him, and promised him half the kingdom on his return.
So the vizier set his house in order, and went forth, with camp and followers, on his long journey, the king escorting him, with great pomp and splendour, to the gates of the town.
Many weary days did the vizier journey on, now crossing plains, now mountains, another time deep and rapid rivers, and again pathless jungles; but his heart was good, and God was with him.