Aladdin – extract

One day he was in the market when a herald came by shouting: “Make way! Make way for the Princess Badr-al-Budur, the daughter of his Most Exalted Sublimity the Sultan of China! Everyone is to close their shops, their doors, their windows and their eyes until she has passed on her way to the Baths, by the Sultan’s orders!”

Aladdin was immensely curious to see the Princess. He ran to the Baths and hid among the branches of a fig-tree outside the doors, and as Princess Badr-al-Budur came near, followed by her female slaves, she lifted her veil a moment before entering, and Aladdin saw her face.

He felt as if lightning had struck his heart. He couldn’t breathe, his head was spinning, he nearly fell out of the fig-tree. When he’d recovered a little, he staggered home and said, “Mother! Make my bed! I’m not well… Something has happened to me… I saw the Princess Badr-al-Budur and now I don’t know if I’m in paradise or in hell… Only yesterday, I thought all women looked like you under their veils, mother, all wrinkled and ugly! But now I’ll have no rest, I’ll die, I’ll never have a moment’s peace until I marry her.”

His mother threw up her hands.

“My dear son, you must have lost your wits along with your heart. What makes you think the Sultan would ever take you for a son-in-law? Put it out of your mind! There are plenty of girls, and they don’t all look like me, whatever it was you said, all wrinkly and so on. Besides, you need someone to callĀ on the Sultan and ask for her hand. You mustn’t do that yourself. But who would go for you?”