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The Bel-Princess
by [?]

In a country lived a King who had seven sons. Six of these sons married, but the seventh and youngest son would not marry; and, moreover, he disliked his six sisters-in-law, and could not bear to take food from their hands. One day, they got very angry with him for disliking them, and they said to him, taunting him, “We think that you will marry a Bél-Princess.”

“A Bél-Princess,” said the young prince to himself. “What is a Bél-Princess? and where is one to be found? I will go and look for one.” But the next day he thought, “How can I find a Bél-Princess? I don’t know where to seek for her.”

At last one day he saddled and bridled one of his father’s beautiful horses. Then he put on his grand clothes, took his sword and gun, and said good-bye to his father and mother, and set out on his search. They cried very much at parting with him.

He rode from his father’s country for a long, long way. At length, when he had journeyed for six months, he found himself in a great jungle, through which he went for many nights and days, until he at last came to where a fakír lay sleeping. The young prince thought, “I will watch by this fakír till he wakes. Perhaps he can help me.” So he stayed with the fakír for one whole month; and all that time he took care of him and watched by him, and kept his hut clean.

This fakír used to sleep for six whole months at a time, and then he would remain awake for six months.

When the prince had watched over him for one month the fakír woke, for his six months’ sleep had come to an end; and when he saw what care the young prince had taken of him, and how clean his hut was, he was very much pleased with the King’s son, and said to him, “How have you been able to reach this jungle, to which no man can come? and who are you? and whence do you come?”

“I am a King’s son,” answered the prince. “My father’s country is a six months’ journey away from this; and I am come to look for a Bél-Princess. I hear there is a Bél-Princess, and I want to find her. Can you tell me where she is?”

“It is true that there is one,” answered the fakír, “and I know where she is. She is in the fairies’ country, whither no man can go.”

This made the young prince very sad. “What shall I do?” he said. “I have left my father and mother, and have travelled a long, long way to find the Bél-Princess. And now you tell me I cannot go where she lives.”

“I will help you,” said the fakír, “and if you do exactly what I tell you, you will find her. But, first, stay here with me for a little while.”

So the King’s son stayed for another month with the fakír, and took care of him, and did everything for him, as he did for his own father.

At the end of the month, the fakír gave him his stick, and said to him, “Now you must go to the fairies’ country. It is one week’s journey distant from this jungle. When you get there, you will see a number of demons and fairies who live in it.” Then the fakír took a little earth from the ground, and put it in the prince’s hand. “When you have come to the fairies’ country, in order that they and the demons may not see you, you must blow all this earth away from the palm of your hand, and then you will be invisible. You must ride on till you come to a great plain in the middle of their garden, and on this plain you will see a large bél-tree and on it one big bél-fruit. In this fruit is the Bél-Princess. You must throw my stick at it, and it will fall; but you must take care to catch the fruit in your shawl, and not let it fall to the ground. Then ride quickly back to me, for as soon as the fruit falls you will cease to be invisible, and the fairies and demons who guard the fruit will all come running after you, and they will all call to you. But take care, take care not to look behind you when they call you. Ride straight on to me with the fruit, and do not look behind you. If you do, you will become stone, and your horse too, and they will take the bél-fruit back to its tree.”