The story of the False Prince
” exclaimed the sultana. “Ah, that I might embrace thee, and call thee, son! Forgive me, husband and master,” she continued, turning to the sultan, “for having set on foot this stratagem against you. See you not now who is prince, and who tailor? Of a truth the caftan which your lord son has made, is magnificent, and I would fain ask with what master he has learned!”
The sultan was lost in deep reflection, looking with distrust, now on his wife, now on Labakan, who vainly sought to conceal his blushes and consternation at having so stupidly betrayed himself. “This proof pleases me not,” said he; “but, Allah be praised! I know a means of learning whether I am deceived.” He commanded them to bring his swiftest horse, mounted, and rode to a forest, which commenced not far from the city. There, according to an old tradition, lived a good fairy, named Adolzaide, who had often before this assisted with her advice the monarchs of his family, in the hour of need: thither hastened the sultan.
In the middle of the wood was an open place, surrounded by lofty cedars. There, the story said, lived the fairy; and seldom did a mortal visit this spot, for a certain awe connected with it had, from olden time, descended from father to son. When the sultan had drawn near he dismounted, tied his horse to a tree, and placing himself in the middle of the open space, cried with loud voice:—
“If it be true that thou hast given good counsel to my fathers, in the hour of need, then disdain not the request of their descendant, and advise me in a case where human understanding is too short-sighted.”
Hardly had he uttered the last word, when one of the cedars opened, and a veiled lady, in long white garments, stepped forth.
“I know, Sultan Saoud, why thou comest to me; thy wish is fair, therefore shall my assistance be thine. Take these two chests; let each of the two who claim to be thy son, choose; I know that he who is the real one, will not make a wrong selection.” Thus speaking, the veiled lady extended to him two little caskets of ivory, richly adorned with gold and pearls: upon the lids, which he vainly sought to open, were inscriptions formed by inlaid diamonds.