The Prince and the Lions, from the Persian
IN an Eastern city there once lived a young Prince
named Azgid. He was virtuous and accomplished,
but had one fault—he was a bit of a coward!
Prince Azgid's father had recently died, and he was
looking forward to his coronation. A few days before
the day fixed for the ceremony, the old Vizier called
upon the Prince and informed His Royal Highness that
before he could ascend the throne he must in accordance
with an ancient custom, fight a certain huge red lion
which was kept in a den within the precincts of the
The Prince, upon hearing this, was so frightened that
he made up his mind to run away. He rose in the night,
dressed himself hastily, mounted his horse, and left the
city. Thus he journeyed for three days.
In the course of the third day, as he rode through a
beautiful thickly-wooded country, he heard the sound of
exquisite music, and presently overtook a handsome
youth, who was leading a few sheep, and playing upon
The young man having courteously saluted the
stranger, Prince Azgid begged him to go on playing, for
never in his life before, said the Prince, had he listened
to such enchanting strains.
The player then told Azgid that he was the slave of
the wealthy shepherd named Oaxus, to whose abode,
which was close at hand, he offered to conduct the
The Prince gladly accepted this invitation, and in a
few moments was entering the house of Oaxus, who
accorded him a hearty welcome, and placed food and
drink before him. When Azgid had finished his meal,
he felt it incumbent upon him to make some sort of explanation
to his host.
"Doubtless," said he, "you wonder who I am, and
what is my errand in coming hither? I can tell you this
much—that I am a Prince whom trouble has driven from
home. Pardon me if I do not divulge my name; that
is a secret which must be securely locked within my own
breast. If convenient to you, I would gladly remain in
this delightsome spot. I have ample means, and can
remunerate you for your kindness."
Oaxus assured his guest that nothing would give him
greater pleasure than to entertain him for as long a period as he cared to stay, and he begged him not to
think of offering any remuneration.
"And now, Isdril," added Oaxus, addressing his
slave, "show the Prince our fountains and waterfalls, our
rocks and vales, for I perceive that he is one who can
appreciate Nature's beauties."
The youth took up his flute and went out with the
After wandering awhile amidst romantic scenery, the
two young men sat down to rest upon a rock in a shady
valley. The slave put his flute to his lips, and began to
play. The prince loved music passionately, and the
idea had already occurred to him that, if he ever left this
fair retreat, he would like to purchase from Oaxus his
Suddenly Isdril broke the spell of the Prince's enjoyment
by rising to his feet, with the words: "It is time
for us to be going."
"Wherefore?" queried the Prince. "Why should we
quit this delicious spot so soon?"
"Because," replied the other, "the neighbourhood is
infested with lions. It is well, therefore, to retire early
within our abodes, and close the gates. Upon one
occasion I lagged behind, and see the consequence!"
He rolled up his sleeve and revealed a big scar upon
his arm. Azgid turned pale, and upon reaching the
house, informed his host that he had changed his mind
and found himself obliged to ride on farther. He
thanked Oaxus, bade farewell to him and to Isdril, and
Again he journeyed for three days, and came to a vast
desert, in the midst of which he beheld an Arab encampment.
Thankfully he rode up to the black tents, for both
he and his horse were worn out with hunger and
He was received by a dignified Sheik, to whom he
made the same speech that he had addressed to the
Sheik Hajaar, like the shepherd, answered to the
effect that he desired no other remuneration than the
pleasure of the Prince's society, and that he should be
delighted to keep his guest for ever, if so it might be.
He introduced Azgid to a large number of his friends,
and provided for his use a magnificent steed.
A week passed. Day by day the Prince accompanied
the Sheik in his antelope-hunting expeditions, which he
enjoyed exceedingly. He quite thought that he was
now happily settled for life, when one night, after he
had retired to rest, Sheik Hajaar approached his couch,
"My son, I have come to tell you how pleased my
people are with you, more especially with the spirit you
have shown in the chase. But our life is not wholly
taken up in such easy recreations; we frequently engage
in hard fighting with other tribes. All my men are
seasoned warriors, and before they can have perfect
confidence in you it is necessary that they should have
some proof of your prowess. Two leagues to the south
is a range of hills infested with lions. Go, then, early
in the morning, mounted upon your horse, and armed
with sword and spear. Slay one of these fierce beasts
and bring us his skin; so shall we know that we may rely upon you in the day of
When the Sheik had left him, Azgid rose, dressed
himself, slipped quietly out of his tent, and bade a sorrowful, affectionate farewell to the horse which the
Sheik had allowed him to use, now tethered with the
others. Then he mounted his own steed, and rode forth
into the night.
By the middle of the next day, he was rejoiced to find
that he was leaving the desert, and entering a fair region
of hill and dale, meadows and streams. Soon he came
to a splendid palace, built of porphyry, and standing in
the midst of a magnificent garden.
The owner of the palace, a rich Emir, was sitting in
the porch, with his golden-haired daughter, Perizide.
Here, again, the Prince was most kindly received.
The interior of the building proved to be even more
beautiful than the exterior. The rooms blazed with
gold and precious stones; walls and ceilings were covered
with valuable paintings; the windows were of the costliest
stained glass. The Emir set before his guest a collection
of delicate viands.
The Prince made his accustomed speech, avowing his
rank, but concealing his name. He added also his
customary request, that he might be allowed to remain
for a time in the house of his present entertainer.
The Emir replied politely that the prince was heartily
welcome to remain until the end of his life, if he chose to
do so. Then he begged his guest to excuse him for a
few minutes, as he was expecting some friends, and
wished to make preparations for their reception.
Thus Azgid was left alone with Perizide, with whom he
was already in love. She took him into the garden,
after exploring the beauties of which the pair returned
to the house.
The palace, now illuminated from top to bottom, was
full of company. The evening passed merrily. Observing
a lute which lay upon a couch, the music-loving
young Prince begged Perizide to play to him. In the
midst of his enjoyment, however, he was startled by a
strange, loud sound, and asked his fair companion what
it might be.
"Oh!" replied she, with a laugh, "that is only Boulak,
our black porter, indulging in a yawn."
"Good gracious!" exclaimed Azgid; "what uncommonly
good lungs he must have!"
After the other guests had left, and Perizide had
gone to bed, the Emir and the Prince chatted and smoked
together for some time. By-and-by, the former offered
to conduct the latter to his sleeping apartment. When
they came to the foot of the grand staircase, which was
of white marble, Azgid, looking up, was horrified to
behold an enormous black lion stretched upon the topmost
"What is that?" faltered he.
"That," returned his host, "is Boulak, our black
porter. He is a tame lion, and will not harm you, if you
are not afraid of him. He knows when any one fears
him and then becomes ferocious."
"I fear him greatly!" whispered the Prince.
As he could not be persuaded to mount the stairs,
he had to return to the saloon, and repose upon one of
After the Emir had left him, Azgid carefully locked
the door and fastened the windows. Then he lay down,
but not to sleep. For he could hear the lion walking about, and once the beast actually came to the door, and
uttering a terrific roar, sprang against it with his forepaws.
The poor Prince made sure that the door would burst
open, and that he should be devoured. Nothing of the
kind happened, however. In a few moments Boulak
went upstairs, and came down no more that night.
Azgid lay thinking. Evidently he had flown in the
face of Providence when he had fled from the lion at
home. Since then, lions had met him at every turn.
He resolved to submit to what was so clearly his
destined duty—to return home and fulfil the condition
In the morning, therefore, he told the Emir the whole
truth. The kind old man had been acquainted with
Azgid's father, the King Almamoun. He highly
approved of the young man's resolution, and, with a
parting blessing, sped him on his way. But the Prince
had no opportunity of making his adieux to the fair
Then Azgid rode back to the Arab camp, and confessed
all to the good Sheik Hajaar. He also inquired
after the beautiful horse.
"He is well," replied the other, "and I should be
gratified if you could stay with us and use him again
But it would be wrong to hinder you from your pious,
undertaking. Return to your home, and do your duty
like a man."
Azgid next visited Oaxus, to whom, as to the others,
he revealed his name and parentage, confessed his fault,
and expressed his repentance.
"Go, my friend!" said the kindly shepherd, "and may
Heaven give you strength to persevere in your laudable
"Farewell!" answered Azgid; "greet Isdril from me,
and tell him that I hope some day to return and listen
to his sweet music in spite of the lions."
Without further interruption, the Prince rode straight
home, and announced to the old Vizier his intention to
fight the lion.
The old man wept tears of joy at his Prince's return,
and it was arranged that the combat should take place
in a week's time.
When the hour came, and the Prince entered the
arena, the lion gave a loud roar, and approached his
opponent slowly, with fierce looks. Azgid did not quail.
With steady gaze he advanced, spear in hand. Suddenly
the lion bounded forward, and, with another roar, sprang
clean over the Prince's head. Then he ran joyously up
to him, and began licking his hands with every demonstration
The Vizier called out to the Prince that he had
conquered, and bade him leave the arena. The lion
followed like a dog.
"As you now see, Prince Azgid," said the old Minister,
"the lion is a tame one, and would injure no one. You,
however, were ignorant of this fact, and have satisfactorily
proved your courage and valour by your readiness to
fight him. Now all will know that you are worthy to
ascend the throne of your heroic ancestors."
Two men—one old, the other very young—came forward
to congratulate the Prince. They were Oaxus and Isdril.
"Prince Azgid," said the old shepherd, "as a memento
of this happy day, allow me to make you a present."
So saying, he pushed forward his slave, Isdril.
"I heartily thank you, Oaxus!" said the Prince,
"and you, Isdril, are no longer a slave. From this
moment you are free; but you shall be my companion,
and delight me with your skill upon the flute."
Presently another little group presented itself. It
was composed of Sheik Hajaar, some of his Arabs, and
the horse which the Prince had learned to love.
"Azgid!" said the Sheik, "I congratulate you heartily,
and beg your acceptance of this steed."
The Prince thanked and embraced the Sheik, and
kissed the beautiful creature, who returned his caresses.
The Emir was the next person to appear upon the
scene. He was surrounded by a brilliant retinue, with
music and banners.
"I have come to congratulate you," said he to the
Prince. "I have brought you no present, but I and all
my belongings are yours."
"I am rejoiced to see you, noble Emir!" replied
Azgid. "And how is your lovely daughter? As soon
as I am crowned, I intend to set off at lightning speed
to visit her!"
"That will be needless," said the Emir; "come with
me." And he led the young man to a veiled lady, who
sat upon a white horse. It was Perizide!
Then, by order of the Vizier, the whole procession
wended its way towards the palace.
Many thoughts and emotions stirred within the breast
of the young Prince. "When I fled from duty," reflected
he, "everything went against me; now that I have
fulfilled it, fresh happiness meets me at every step."
The coronation—and also a wedding—took place on
the same day. Azgid and Perizide reigned long and
happily. By the King's command, his adventures were
recorded in the annals of the kingdom. And over the
door of his palace were inscribed, in golden letters, these
words: "Never run from the lion."