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Olgil and the Wonderful Lamp

Oil lamp

In China there once lived a poor tailor, He had a son called Olgil, a careless, idle boy who would do nothing but play ball all day long in the streets with little idle boys like himself. This so grieved the father that he died; yet, in spite of his mother's tears and prayers, Olgil did not mend his ways.

One day, when he was playing in the streets as usual, a stranger asked him his age, and if he was not the son of Mu Staph the tailor. "I am, sir," answered Olgil; "but my father died a long while ago."

On this the stranger, who was a famous Muffian wizard, fell on his neck and kissed him, saying, "I am your uncle, and knew you because you look like my brother once did. Go to your mother and tell her I am coming." Olgil ran home and told his mother of his newly found uncle. "Indeed, child," she said, "your father had a brother, but I always thought he was dead." However, she prepared supper, and bade Olgil seek his uncle, who came laden with wine and fruit. He fell down and kissed the place where Mu Staph used to sit, bidding Olgil's mother not to be surprised at not having seen him before, as he had been forty years out of the country.

He then turned to Olgil, and asked him his trade. It made the boy hang his head and his mother burst into tears. On learning that Olgil was idle and would learn no trade, he offered to take a shop for him and stock it with merchandise. Next day he bought Olgil a fine suit of clothes and took him all over the city, showing him the sights, and brought him home at nightfall to his mother, who was overjoyed to see her son so fine.

Next day the wizard led Olgil into some beautiful gardens a long way outside the city gates. They sat down by a fountain and the wizard pulled from his girdle a cake and divided it between them. They then journeyed onward till they almost reached the mountains. Olgil was so tired that he begged to go back, but the wizard knew how to lead him on in spite of himself.

At last they came to two mountains divided by a narrow valley. "We will go no farther," said the false uncle. "I will show you something wonderful; only gather up sticks while I kindle a fire."

When it was lit the wizard threw on it a powder he had about him, at the same time saying some magical words. The earth trembled a little and opened in front of them, disclosing a square flat stone with a brass ring in the middle to raise it by. Olgil tried to run away, but the wizard caught him and said.

"Do as I say. Beneath this stone lies a treasure which can be yours, so do exactly as I tell you."

At the word treasure Olgil forgot his fears, and grasped the ring as he was told, saying the names of his father and grandfather. The stone came up quite easily, and some steps appeared.

"Go down," said the wizard; "at the foot of those steps you will find an open door leading into three large halls. Tuck up your gown and go through them without touching anything, or you will die at once. These halls lead into a garden of fine fruit trees. Walk on until you come to a niche in a terrace where stands a lighted lamp. Pour out the oil that is in it, and bring the lamp to me."

In saying so he drew another ring from his finger and gave it to Olgil. Olgil put it on for safety and went down into the cave.

Olgil found everything as the wizard had said, gathered some fruit off the trees, and, having got the lamp, arrived at the mouth of the cave. The wizard cried out in a great hurry: "Hurry and give me the lamp."

But Olgil did not want to do that till he was out of the cave. The wizard flew into a terrible passion, and throwing some more powder on to the fire, he said something, and the stone rolled back into its place.

The wizard left China for good. He was no farsighted uncle, after all, but someone who had read in magic books of a wonderful lamp that could make him the most powerful man in the world. Though he knew where to find it, he could only receive it from the hand of another. He had picked out the foolish Olgil to get the lamp for him, and kill the boy afterward.

For two days Olgil remained in the dark, lamenting. At last he clasped his hands in prayer, and in so doing rubbed the safety ring that the wizard had forgotten to take from him. At once a big spirit rose out of the earth, saying: "What do you want from me? I am the servant of the ring, and will obey you in all things."

Olgil answered: "Deliver me from this place!"

The earth opened at once, and he found himself outside. As soon as his eyes could bear the light he walked the long way home, but fainted on the threshold. When he came to himself he told his mother what had passed, and showed her the lamp and the fruits he had gathered in the garden. They were, in reality, precious stones. He then asked for some food.

"Alas! child," she said, "I have nothing in the house, but I have spun a little cotton and will go and sell it."

Olgil bade her keep her cotton, for he would sell the lamp instead. Since it was very dirty she began to rub it that it might fetch a higher price. At once another spirit appeared, and asked what she would have. She fainted away, but Olgil, snatching the lamp, said boldly: "Fetch me something to eat!"

The spirit returned with a silver bowl, twelve silver plates containing rich meats, two silver cups, and two bottles of wine. Olgil's mother, when she came to herself, said: "Where does this splendid feast come from?" "Don't ask, but eat," answered Olgil. So they sat at breakfast till it was dinner-time, and Olgil told his mother about the lamp. She begged him to sell it, and have nothing to do with devils.

"No," said Olgil, "since good luck has made us aware of its virtues, we will use it, and the ring too. I will wear it on my finger."

When they had eaten all the spirit had brought, Olgil sold one of the silver plates, and so on till none were left. He then called forth the spirit again and was given another set of plates, and thus they lived for many years.

One day Olgil heard an order from the emperor proclaimed that everyone was to stay at home and close his shutters while the princess, his daughter, went to and from the bath. Olgil was seized by a desire to see her face. That was a very difficult undertaking, for she always went veiled. He hid himself behind the door of the bath, and peeped through a chink. The princess lifted her veil as she went in, and looked so beautiful that Olgil fell in love with her at first sight.

He went home so changed that his mother was frightened. He told her he loved the princess so deeply that he could not live without her, and meant to ask her father to marry her to him. His mother, on hearing this, burst out laughing, but Olgil at last persuaded her go before the emperor and carry his request.

She fetched a napkin and laid in it the magic fruits from the enchanted garden, which sparkled and shone like the most beautiful jewels. She took these with her to please the emperor, and set out.

The grand prime minister and the lords of council had just gone in as she entered the hall and placed herself in front of the emperor. He, however, took no notice of her. She went every day for a week, and stood in the same place.

When the council broke up on the sixth day the emperor said to his prime minister: "I see a certain woman in the audience-chamber every day carrying something in a napkin. Call her next time, that I may find out what she wants."

Next day, at a sign from the prime minister, she went up to the foot of the throne and remained kneeling till the emperor said to her: "Rise, woman, and tell me what you want."

She hesitated, so the emperor sent away all but the prime minister, and bade her speak frankly, promising to forgive her beforehand for anything she might say. She then told him of her son's violent love for the princess. "I prayed him to forget her," she said, "but in vain; he threatened to do some desperate deed if I refused to go and ask your Majesty to let her marry him. Now please forgive not me alone, but my son Olgil too."

The emperor asked her kindly what she had in the napkin, whereon she unfolded the jewels and presented them. He was thunderstruck, and turning to the prime minister said: "What do you say? Ought I not to bestow the princess on one who values her at such a price?"

The prime minister, who wanted her for his own son, begged the emperor to withhold her for three months. He hoped his son would find a way to present an even richer gift to the emperor till then. The emperor granted this and told Olgil's mother that although he agreed to the marriage, she must not appear before him again for three months.

Olgil waited patiently for nearly three months, but after two months had elapsed his mother, going into the city to buy oil, found everyone rejoicing, and asked what was going on. "Don't you know," was the answer, "that the son of the prime minister is to marry the emperor's daughter tonight?"

Breathless, she ran and told Olgil, who was overwhelmed at first, but then came to think of the lamp. He rubbed it, and the spirit appeared, saying, "What is your will?"

Olgil answered: "The emperor has broken his promise to me, and the prime minister's son is to have the princess. Bring the bride and bridegroom here tonight."

"Oh yes, I obey," said the spirit.

Olgil then went to his chamber. At midnight the spirit transported the bed of the prime minister's son and the princess there. "Take this new-married man," he said, "and put him outside in the cold, and return at daybreak."

On this the spirit took the prime minister's son out of bed, leaving Olgil with the princess. "Fear nothing," Olgil said to her; "you are my wife, promised to me by your unjust father, and no harm shall come to you."

The princess was too frightened to speak, and passed the most miserable night of her life, while Olgil lay down beside her and slept soundly.

At the appointed hour the spirit fetched in the shivering bridegroom, laid him in his place, and transported the bed back to the castle, where the emperor came to wish his daughter good-morning. The unhappy prime minister's son jumped up and hid himself, while the princess would not say a word, and was very sorrowful. The emperor sent her mother to her, who said: "How comes it, child, that you will not speak to your father? What has happened?"

The princess sighed deeply, and at last told her mother how, during the night, the bed had been carried into some strange house, and what had passed there. Her mother did not believe her, but told her to consider it an idle dream.

The following night the same thing happened, and next morning, when the princess still refused to talk, the emperor threatened to cut off her head. She then confessed all, bidding him to ask the prime minister's son if it were not so. The emperor told the prime minister to ask his son, who said her tale was true and that he had rather die than go through another such fearful night, and wished to be separated from her. His wish was granted.

When the three months were over, Olgil sent his mother to remind the emperor of his promise. She stood in the same place as before, and the emperor, who had forgotten Olgil, at once remembered him, and sent for her. On seeing her poverty the emperor felt less inclined to keep his word, and asked his prime minister what to do. He was counselled to set so high a value on the princess that no man living could come up to it. The emperor then turned to Olgil's mother, saying: "Good woman, a emperor must remember his promises, and I will remember mine, but your son must first send me forty basins of gold brimful of jewels, carried by forty splendidly dressed servants. Tell him that I wait for his answer."

The mother of Olgil bowed low and went home, thinking all was lost. She gave Olgil the message, adding: "He may wait long enough for your answer!"

"Not so long, mother, as you think," her son answered. "I would do a great deal more than that for the princess." He summoned the spirit, and in a few moments the forty well dressed servants arrived and filled up the small house and garden. Olgil made them set out to the castle, two and two, followed by his mother. They were so richly dressed, with such splendid jewels in their girdles, that everyone crowded to see them and the basins of gold they carried on their heads. They entered the castle. After kneeling before the emperor they stood in a half-circle round the throne with their arms crossed, while Olgil's mother presented them to the emperor.

He hesitated no longer, but said: "Good woman, return and tell your son that I wait for him with open arms."

She lost ho time in telling Olgil, bidding him make haste. But Olgil first called the spirit. "I want a scented bath," he said, "a richly embroidered habit, a horse surpassing the emperor's, and twenty servants to attend me. Besides this, six servants, beautifully dressed, to wait on my mother; and lastly, ten thousand pieces of gold in ten purses."

No sooner said than done. Olgil mounted his horse and passed through the streets, the servants strewing gold as they went. Those who had played with him in his childhood knew him not, he had grown so handsome.

When the emperor saw him he came down from his throne, embraced him, and led him into a hall where a feast was spread, intending to marry him to the princess that very day. But Olgil refused, saying, "I must have built a castle fit for her," and took his leave.

Once home, he said to the spirit: "Build me a fine castle of marble, please. But let one window, set with diamonds and rubies, be unfinished, thank you."

The castle was finished by the next day, and the spirit carried him there and showed him all his orders faithfully carried out, even to the laying of a velvet carpet from Olgil's castle to the emperor's. Olgil's mother then dressed herself carefully, and walked to the castle with her servants. The emperor sent musicians with trumpets and cymbals to meet them, and the air resounded with music and cheers. She was taken to the princess, who saluted her and treated her with great honour.

At night the princess said good-by to her father, and set out on the carpet for Olgil's castle, with his mother at her side, and followed by the hundred servants. She was charmed at the sight of Olgil, who ran to receive her. "Princess," he said, "blame your beauty for my boldness if I have displeased you."

She told him that after having seen him she willingly obeyed her father in this matter. After the wedding Olgil led her into the hall, where a feast was spread, and she supped with him, and then they danced till midnight.

Next day Olgil invited the emperor to see the castle. On entering the hall he noticed there were four-and-twenty windows, with rubies, diamonds, and emeralds, and cried: "It is a world's wonder! There is only one thing that surprises me. Was it by accident that one window was left unfinished?"

"No, sir, by design," returned Olgil. "I wished your Majesty to have the glory of finishing this castle." The emperor was pleased, and sent for the best jewelers in the city. He showed them the unfinished window, and bade them fit it up like the others.

"Sir," answered their spokesman, "we cannot find jewels enough."

The emperor had his own fetched, which they soon used, but to no purpose, for in a month's time the work was not half done. Olgil, knowing that their task was vain, bade them undo their work and carry the jewels back, and the spirit finished the window at his command.

The emperor was surprised to receive his jewels again, and visited Olgil, who showed him the window finished. The emperor embraced him, the envious prime minister meanwhile hinting that it was the work of enchantment.

Olgil had won the hearts of the people by his gentle bearing. He was made general of the emperor's armies, and won several battles for him, but remained modest and courteous as before, and lived thus in peace and content for several years.

But far away in Muffia the wizard remembered Olgil, and by his magic arts discovered that Olgil, instead of perishing miserably in the cave, had escaped and had married a princess. Now he was living with her in great honor and wealth. The wizard knew that the poor tailor's son could only have accomplished this by means of the lamp, and travelled night and day till he reached China, bent on ruining Olgil.

As he passed through the capital he heard people talking everywhere about a marvellous castle. "Forgive my ignorance," he asked, "what is this castle you speak of?"

"Have you not heard of Prince Olgil's castle," was the reply, "the greatest wonder of the world? I will direct you if you have a mind to see it."

The wizard thanked him who spoke, and having seen the castle, knew that it had been raised by the Spirit of the Lamp, and became half mad with rage. He determined to get hold of the lamp, and again plunge Olgil into the deepest poverty.

Unluckily, Olgil had gone hunting for eight days, and this gave the wizard plenty of time. He bought a dozen copper lamps, put them into a basket, and went to the castle, crying: "New lamps for old!" followed by a jeering crowd. The princess, sitting in a hall of four-and-twenty windows, sent a servant to find out what the noise was about. She came back laughing so much, long, and loud that the princess scolded her.

"Madam," answered the servant, "who can help laughing to see an old fool offering to exchange fine new lamps for old ones?"

Another servant, hearing this, said: "There is an old one on the cornice there which he can have."

Now this was the magic lamp, which Olgil had left there, as he would not take it out and risking any harm done to it from hunting hardships. The princess, not knowing how valuable the lamp was, laughingly bade the woman servant take it and make the exchange. She went and said to the wizard: "Give me a new lamp for this."

He snatched it and bade the servant take her choice, among the jeers of the crowd. Little he cared, but went soon out of the city gates to a lonely place. There he remained till nightfall, when he pulled out the lamp and rubbed it. The spirit of the lamp appeared, and at the wizard's command carried him, together with the castle and the princess in it, to a lonely place in Muffia.

Next morning the emperor looked out of the window toward Olgil's castle and rubbed his eyes, for it was gone. He sent for the prime minister and asked what had become of the castle. The prime minister looked out too, and was lost in astonishment. He again put it down to enchantment, and this time the emperor believed him, and sent thirty men on horseback to fetch Olgil in chains.

They met him as he was riding homeward, bound him, and forced him to go with them on foot. The people, however, who loved him, followed, armed, to see that he came to no harm. He was carried before the emperor, who ordered the executioner to cut off his head. The executioner made Olgil kneel down, bandaged his eyes, and raised his scimitar to strike. At that instant the prime minister, who saw that the crowd had forced their way into the courtyard and were scaling the walls to rescue Olgil, called to the executioner to stay his hand. The people looked so threatening that the emperor gave way and ordered Olgil to be unbound, and pardoned him in the sight of the crowd.

Olgil now begged to know what he had done. "False wretch!" said the emperor, "come there," and showed him from the window the place where his castle had stood. Olgil was so amazed that he could not say a word.

"Where is my castle and my daughter?" demanded the emperor. "For the first I am not so deeply concerned, but my daughter I must have, and you must find her or lose your head."

Olgil asked for forty days to find her, and promised that if he failed, he would return and suffer death at his father-in-law's pleasure. His prayer was granted, and he went forth sadly from the emperor's presence.

For three days he wandered about like a madman, asking everyone what had become of his castle, but they only laughed and pitied him. He came to the banks of a river, and knelt down to say his prayers before throwing himself in. In so doing he rubbed the magic ring he still wore. The spirit he had seen in the cave appeared, and asked his will.

"Save my life, spirit," said Olgil, "bring my castle back."

"That is not in my power," said the spirit; "I am only the servant of the ring; you must ask him of the lamp."

"Well," said Olgil, "then you can take me to the castle and set me down under my dear wife's window."

He at once found himself on a horseback in Muffia, under the window of the princess, and fell asleep and down from his horse out of sheer weariness. He was awakened by the singing of birds, and his heart was lighter. He understood that all his misfortunes were owing to the loss of the lamp, and wondered who had robbed him of it.

That morning the princess rose earlier than she had done since she had been carried into Muffia by the wizard. She, in turn, had treated him as harshly and with as much contempt as she dared to, do with the result that he hardly was in the castle at all. As she was dressing, one of her women looked out and saw Olgil. The princess ran and opened the window, and at the noise she made Olgil looked up. She called to him to come to her, and great was their joy at seeing each other again.

After he had kissed her, Olgil said: "I beg of you, in the Way's name, tell me for your own sake and mine before we speak of anything else what has become of an old lamp I left on the cornice in the hall of four-and- twenty windows, when I went hunting."

"Alas!" she said, "I am the innocent cause of our sorrows," and told him of the exchange of the lamp.

"Now I know," cried Olgil, "that we have to thank the Muffian wizard for this! Where is the lamp?"

"He carries it about with him," said the princess. "I know, for he pulled it out of his breast to show me. He wishes me to break my faith with you and marry him, saying that you were beheaded by my father's command. He is for ever speaking ill of you but I only reply by my tears. If I persist, I doubt not but he will use violence."

Olgil comforted her, and left her for a while. He changed clothes with the first person he met in the town, and having bought a certain powder, returned to the princess, who let him in by a little side door. "Put on your most beautiful dress," he said to her "and receive the wizard with smiles, leading him to believe that you have forgotten me. Invite him to sup with you, and say you wish to taste the wine of his country. He will go for some and while he is gone I will tell you what to do."

She listened carefully and when he left she arrayed herself gaily for the first time since she left China. She put on a girdle and head-dress of diamonds, and, seeing in a glass that she was more beautiful than ever, received the wizard, saying, to his great amazement: "I have made up my mind that all my tears will not bring Olgil back to life, so I am resolved to mourn no more, and have invited you to sup with me and taste the wines of Muffia."

The wizard flew to his cellar, and the princess put the powder Olgil had given her in her cup. When he returned she asked him to drink her health in the wine of Muffia, handing him her cup in exchange for his, as a sign she was reconciled to him.

Before drinking the wizard made her a speech in praise of her beauty. The princess cut him short, saying: "Let us drink first, and you shall say what you will afterward." She set her cup to her lips and kept it there, while the wizard drained his to the dregs and fell back lifeless.

The princess then opened the door to Olgil, and flung her arms round his neck; but Olgil put her away, bidding her leave him, as he had more to do. He then went to the dead wizard, took the lamp out of his vest, and bade the spirit carry the castle and all in it gently, gently back to China. This was done, and the princess in her chamber only felt two little shocks, and little thought she was at home again.

The emperor, who was sitting in his closet, mourning for his lost daughter, happened to look up, and rubbed his eyes, for there stood the castle as before! He hastened there, and Olgil received him in the hall of the four- and-twenty windows, with the princess at his side. Olgil told him what had happened, and showed him the dead body of the wizard, that he might believe. A ten days' feast was proclaimed, and it seemed as if Olgil might now live the rest of his life in peace; but it was not to be.

The Muffian wizard had a younger brother, who was, if possible, more wicked and more cunning than himself. He travelled to China to avenge his brother's death, and went to visit a pious woman called Chu Fan, thinking she might be of use to him. He entered her cell and clapped a dagger to her breast, telling her to rise and do his bidding on pain of death. He changed clothes with her, colored his face like hers, put on her veil, and murdered her that she might tell no tales. Then he went toward the castle of Olgil, and all the people, thinking he was the holy woman, gathered round him, kissing his hands and begging his blessing.

When he got to the castle there was such a noise going on round him that the princess bade her servant look out of the window and ask what was the matter. The servant said it was the holy woman, curing people by her touch of their ailments, whereon the princess, who had long desired to see Chu Fan, sent for her.

On coming to the princess the wizard offered up a prayer for her health and prosperity. When he had done the princess made him sit by her, and begged him to stay with her always. The false Chu Fan, who wished for nothing better, consented, but kept the veil down for fear of discovery. The princess showed her the hall, and asked what she thought of it.

"It is truly beautiful," said the false Chu Fan. "In my mind it wants but one thing."

"And what is that?" said the princess. "If only a gigantic roc's egg," answered he, "were hung up from the middle of this dome, it would be the wonder of the world."

After this the princess could think of nothing but the roc's egg, and when Olgil returned from hunting he found her in a very ill humor. He begged to know what was amiss, and she told him that all her pleasure in the hall was spoiled for the want of a roc's egg hanging from the dome.

"If that is all," answered Olgil, "you shall soon be happy." He left her and rubbed the lamp, and when the spirit appeared commanded him to bring a roc's egg.

The spirit gave such a loud and terrible shriek that the hall shook. "Wretch!" he thundered, "Must you command me to bring my master and hang him up in the middle of this dome? You and your wife and your castle deserve to be burnt to ashes for this. However, I see that this request does not come from you, but from the brother of the Muffian wizard you destroyed. He is now in your castle disguised as a holy woman he has murdered. It was he who put that wish into your wife's head. Take care of yourself, for he means to kill you."

So saying, the spirit disappeared.

Olgil went back to the princess, saying his head ached, and requesting that the holy Chu Fan should be fetched to lay her hands on it. But when the wizard came near, Olgil, seizing his dagger, pierced him to the heart.

"What have you done?" cried the princess. "You have killed the holy woman!"

"Oh well, not so," answered Olgil, "but a wicked wizard," and told her of how she had been deceived.

After this Olgil and his wife lived in peace. He succeeded the emperor when he died, and reigned for many years, leaving behind him a long line of emperors.

[Arabian Nights.]

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