Once upon a time that was no time there were two brothers. Their father and mother had died and divided all their property between them. The elder brother opened a shop, but the younger brother, who was but a feather-brain, idled about and did nothing; so that at last, what with eating and drinking and gadding abroad, the day came when he had no more money left. Then he went to his elder brother and begged a copper or two of him, and when that all was spent he came to him again, and so he continued to live upon him.
At last the elder brother began to grow tired of this waste, but seeing that he could not be quit of his younger brother, he turned all his possessions into sequins, and embarked on a ship in order to go into another kingdom. The younger brother, however, had got wind of it, and before the ship started he managed to creep on board and conceal himself without any one observing him. The elder brother suspected that if the younger one heard of his departure he would be sure to follow after, so he took good care not to show himself on deck. But scarcely had they unfurled the sails when the two brothers came face to face, and the elder brother found himself saddled with his younger brother again.
The elder brother was not a little angry, but what was the use of that! - for the ship did not stop till it came to Egypt. There the elder brother said to the younger brother: "Thou stay here, and I will go and get two mules that we may go on further." The youth sat down on the shore and waited for his brother, and waited, but waited in vain. "I think I had better look for him," thought he, and up he got and went after his elder brother.
He went on and on and on, he went a short distance and he went a long distance, six months was he crossing a field; but once as he looked over his shoulder, he saw that for all his walking he walked no further than a barley-stalk reaches. Then he strode still more, he strode still further, he strode for half a year continuously; he kept plucking violets as he went along, and as he went striding, striding, his feet struck upon a hill, and there he saw three youths quarrelling with one another about something. He soon made a fourth, and asked them what they were tussling about.
"We are the children of one father," said the youngest of them, "and our father has just died and left us, by way of inheritance, a turban, a whip, and a carpet. Whoever puts the turban on his head is hidden from mortal eyes. Whoever extends himself on the carpet and strikes it once with the whip can fly far away, after the manner of birds; and we are eternally quarrelling among ourselves as to whose shall be the turban, whose the whip, and whose the carpet."
"All three of them must belong to one of us," cried they all. "They are mine, because I am the biggest," said one. - "They are mine by right, because I am the middling-sized brother," cried the second. - "They are mine, because I am the smallest," cried the third. From words they speedily came to blows, so that it was as much as the youth could do to keep them apart.
"You can't settle it like that," said he; "I'll tell you what we'll do. I'll make an arrow from this little piece of wood, and shoot it off. You run after it, and he who brings it to me here soonest shall have all three things." Away flew the dart, and after it pelted the three brothers, helter-skelter; but the wise youth knew a trick worth two of that, for he stuck the turban on his head, sat down on the carpet, tapped it once with the whip, and cried: "Hipp - hopp! let me be where my elder brother is!" and when he awoke a large city lay before him.
He had scarce taken more than a couple of steps through the street, when the Padishah's herald came along, and proclaimed to the inhabitants of the town that the Sultan's daughter disappeared every night from the- palace. Whoever could find out what became of her should receive the damsel and half the kingdom. "Here am I!" cried the youth, "lead me to the Padishah, and if I don't find out, let them take my head!"
So they brought the fool into the palace, and in the evening there lay the Sultan's daughter watching, with her eyes half-closed, all that was going on. The damsel was only waiting for him to go to sleep, and presently she stuck a needle into her heel, took the candle with her, lest the youth should awake, and went out by a side door.
The youth had his turban on his head in a trice, and no sooner had he popped out of the same door than he saw a black efrit standing there with a golden buckler on his head, and on the buckler sat the Sultan's daughter, and they were just on the point of starting off. The lad was not such a fool as to fancy that he could keep up with them by himself, so he also leaped on to the buckler, and very nearly upset the pair of them in consequence. The efrit was alarmed, and asked the damsel in Allah's name what she was about, as they were within a hair's-breadth of falling. "I never moved," said the damsel; "I am sitting on the buckler just as you put me there."
The black efrit had scarcely taken a couple of steps, when he felt that the buckler was unusually heavy. The youth's turban naturally made him invisible, so the efrit turned to the damsel and said: "My Sultana, thou art so heavy to-day that I all but break down beneath thee!" - "Darling Lala!" replied the girl, "thou art very odd to-night, for I am neither bigger nor smaller than I was yesterday."
Shaking his head the black efrit pursued his way, and they went on and on till they came to a won-drously beautiful garden, where the trees were made of nothing but silver and diamonds. The youth broke off a twig and put it in his pocket, when straightway the trees began to sigh and weep and say: "There's a child of man here who tortures us! there's a child of man here who tortures us!"
The efrit and the damsel looked at each other.
"They sent a youth in to me to-day," said the damsel, "maybe his soul is pursuing us."