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The Arabian Nights Entertainments, by Andrew Lang

Part 6 out of 6

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here to obey her orders."

In a few moments the princess herself appeared, and after the usual
compliments had passed between them, the princess sat down on a sofa,
and began to explain to the prince her reasons for not giving him
an audience in her own apartments. "Had I done so," she said,
"we might have been interrupted at any hour by the chief of the eunuchs,
who has the right to enter whenever it pleases him, whereas this
is forbidden ground. I am all impatience to learn the wonderful
accident which has procured the pleasure of your arrival, and that
is why I have come to you here, where no one can intrude upon us.
Begin then, I entreat you, without delay."

So the prince began at the beginning, and told all the story of the
festival of Nedrouz held yearly in Persia, and of the splendid spectacles
celebrated in its honour. But when he came to the enchanted horse,
the princess declared that she could never have imagined anything
half so surprising. "Well then," continued the prince, "you can
easily understand how the King my father, who has a passion for
all curious things, was seized with a violent desire to possess
this horse, and asked the Indian what sum he would take for it.

"The man's answer was absolutely absurd, as you will agree, when I
tell you that it was nothing less than the hand of the princess
my sister; but though all the bystanders laughed and mocked,
and I was beside myself with rage, I saw to my despair that my
father could not make up his mind to treat the insolent proposal
as it deserved. I tried to argue with him, but in vain. He only
begged me to examine the horse with a view (as I quite understood)
of making me more sensible of its value."

"To please my father, I mounted the horse, and, without waiting
for any instructions from the Indian, turned the peg as I had seen
him do. In an instant I was soaring upwards, much quicker than
an arrow could fly, and I felt as if I must be getting so near
the sky that I should soon hit my head against it! I could see
nothing beneath me, and for some time was so confused that I
did not even know in what direction I was travelling. At last,
when it was growing dark, I found another screw, and on turning it,
the horse began slowly to sink towards the earth. I was forced
to trust to chance, and to see what fate had in store, and it was
already past midnight when I found myself on the roof of this palace.
I crept down the little staircase, and made directly for a light
which I perceived through an open door--I peeped cautiously in,
and saw, as you will guess, the eunuchs lying asleep on the floor.
I knew the risks I ran, but my need was so great that I paid no
attention to them, and stole safely past your guards, to the curtain
which concealed your doorway.

"The rest, Princess, you know; and it only remains for me to thank you
for the kindness you have shown me, and to assure you of my gratitude.
By the law of nations, I am already your slave, and I have only
my heart, that is my own, to offer you. But what am I saying?
My own? Alas, madame, it was yours from the first moment I
beheld you!"

The air with which he said these words could have left no doubt
on the mind of the princess as to the effect of her charms,
and the blush which mounted to her face only increased her beauty.

"Prince," returned she as soon as her confusion permitted her to speak,
"you have given me the greatest pleasure, and I have followed you
closely in all your adventures, and though you are positively
sitting before me, I even trembled at your danger in the upper
regions of the air! Let me say what a debt I owe to the chance
that has led you to my house; you could have entered none which
would have given you a warmer welcome. As to your being a slave,
of course that is merely a joke, and my reception must itself have
assured you that you are as free here as at your father's court.
As to your heart," continued she in tones of encouragement,
"I am quite sure that must have been disposed of long ago, to some
princess who is well worthy of it, and I could not think of being
the cause of your unfaithfulness to her."

Prince Firouz Schah was about to protest that there was no lady
with any prior claims, but he was stopped by the entrance
of one of the princess's attendants, who announced that dinner
was served, and, after all, neither was sorry for the interruption.

Dinner was laid in a magnificent apartment, and the table was
covered with delicious fruits; while during the repast richly
dressed girls sang softly and sweetly to stringed instruments.
After the prince and princess had finished, they passed into a small
room hung with blue and gold, looking out into a garden stocked
with flowers and arbutus trees, quite different from any that were
to be found in Persia.

"Princess," observed the young man, "till now I had always believed
that Persia could boast finer palaces and more lovely gardens
than any kingdom upon earth. But my eyes have been opened,
and I begin to perceive that, wherever there is a great king
he will surround himself with buildings worthy of him."

"Prince," replied the Princess of Bengal, "I have no idea what
a Persian palace is like, so I am unable to make comparisons.
I do not wish to depreciate my own palace, but I can assure you
that it is very poor beside that of the King my father, as you
will agree when you have been there to greet him, as I hope you
will shortly do."

Now the princess hoped that, by bringing about a meeting
between the prince and her father, the King would be so struck
with the young man's distinguished air and fine manners,
that he would offer him his daughter to wife. But the reply
of the Prince of Persia to her suggestion was not quite what she wished.

"Madame," he said, "by taking advantage of your proposal to visit the
palace of the King of Bengal, I should satisfy not merely my curiosity,
but also the sentiments of respect with which I regard him.
But, Princess, I am persuaded that you will feel with me, that I
cannot possibly present myself before so great a sovereign without
the attendants suitable to my rank. He would think me an adventurer."

"If that is all," she answered, "you can get as many attendants
here as you please. There are plenty of Persian merchants, and as
for money, my treasury is always open to you. Take what you please."

Prince Firouz Schah guessed what prompted so much kindness on the part
of the princess, and was much touched by it. Still his passion,
which increased every moment, did not make him forget his duty.
So he replied without hesitation:

"I do not know, Princess, how to express my gratitude for your obliging
offer, which I would accept at once if it were not for the recollection
of all the uneasiness the King my father must be suffering on my account.
I should be unworthy indeed of all the love he showers upon me,
if I did not return to him at the first possible moment. For, while I
am enjoying the society of the most amiable of all princesses, he is,
I am quite convinced, plunged in the deepest grief, having lost all
hope of seeing me again. I am sure you will understand my position,
and will feel that to remain away one instant longer than is
necessary would not only be ungrateful on my part, but perhaps
even a crime, for how do I know if my absence may not break his heart?

"But," continued the prince, "having obeyed the voice of my conscience,
I shall count the moments when, with your gracious permission,
I may present myself before the King of Bengal, not as a wanderer,
but as a prince, to implore the favour of your hand. My father has
always informed me that in my marriage I shall be left quite free,
but I am persuaded that I have only to describe your generosity,
for my wishes to become his own."

The Princess of Bengal was too reasonable not to accept the explanation
offered by Prince Firouz Schah, but she was much disturbed at his
intention of departing at once, for she feared that, no sooner had he
left her, than the impression she had made on him would fade away.
So she made one more effort to keep him, and after assuring him
that she entirely approved of his anxiety to see his father,
begged him to give her a day or two more of his company.

In common politeness the prince could hardly refuse this request,
and the princess set about inventing every kind of amusement for him,
and succeeded so well that two months slipped by almost unnoticed,
in balls, spectacles and in hunting, of which, when unattended
by danger, the princess was passionately fond. But at last, one day,
he declared seriously that he could neglect his duty no longer,
and entreated her to put no further obstacles in his way, promising at
the same time to return, as soon as he could, with all the magnificence
due both to her and to himself.

"Princess," he added, "it may be that in your heart you class me with
those false lovers whose devotion cannot stand the test of absence.
If you do, you wrong me; and were it not for fear of offending you,
I would beseech you to come with me, for my life can only be happy
when passed with you. As for your reception at the Persian Court,
it will be as warm as your merits deserve; and as for what concerns
the King of Bengal, he must be much more indifferent to your welfare
than you have led me to believe if he does not give his consent to
our marriage."

The princess could not find words in which to reply to the arguments
of the Prince of Persia, but her silence and her downcast eyes spoke
for her, and declared that she had no objection to accompanying
him on his travels.

The only difficulty that occurred to her was that Prince Firouz
Schah did not know how to manage the horse, and she dreaded
lest they might find themselves in the same plight as before.
But the prince soothed her fears so successfully, that she soon
had no other thought than to arrange for their flight so secretly,
that no one in the palace should suspect it.

This was done, and early the following morning, when the whole palace
was wrapped in sleep, she stole up on to the roof, where the prince
was already awaiting her, with his horse's head towards Persia.
He mounted first and helped the princess up behind; then, when she
was firmly seated, with her hands holding tightly to his belt,
he touched the screw, and the horse began to leave the earth quickly
behind him.

He travelled with his accustomed speed, and Prince Firouz Schah guided
him so well that in two hours and a half from the time of starting,
he saw the capital of Persia lying beneath him. He determined
to alight neither in the great square from which he had started,
nor in the Sultan's palace, but in a country house at a little
distance from the town. Here he showed the princess a beautiful
suite of rooms, and begged her to rest, while he informed his father
of their arrival, and prepared a public reception worthy of her rank.
Then he ordered a horse to be saddled, and set out.

All the way through the streets he was welcomed with shouts of joy
by the people, who had long lost all hope of seeing him again.
On reaching the palace, he found the Sultan surrounded by his ministers,
all clad in the deepest mourning, and his father almost went out of his
mind with surprise and delight at the mere sound of his son's voice.
When he had calmed down a little, he begged the prince to relate
his adventures.

The prince at once seized the opening thus given him, and told
the whole story of his treatment by the Princess of Bengal,
not even concealing the fact that she had fallen in love with him.
"And, Sire," ended the prince, "having given my royal word that you
would not refuse your consent to our marriage, I persuaded her
to return with me on the Indian's horse. I have left her in one
of your Highness's country houses, where she is waiting anxiously
to be assured that I have not promised in vain."

As he said this the prince was about to throw himself at the feet
of the Sultan, but his father prevented him, and embracing him again,
said eagerly:

"My son, not only do I gladly consent to your marriage with the
Princess of Bengal, but I will hasten to pay my respects to her,
and to thank her in my own person for the benefits she has
conferred on you. I will then bring her back with me, and make
all arrangements for the wedding to be celebrated to-day."

So the Sultan gave orders that the habits of mourning
worn by the people should be thrown off and that there
should be a concert of drums, trumpets and cymbals.
Also that the Indian should be taken from prison, and brought before him.

His commands were obeyed, and the Indian was led into his presence,
surrounded by guards. "I have kept you locked up," said the Sultan,
"so that in case my son was lost, your life should pay the penalty.
He has now returned; so take your horse, and begone for ever."

The Indian hastily quitted the presence of the Sultan, and when he
was outside, he inquired of the man who had taken him out of prison
where the prince had really been all this time, and what he had
been doing. They told him the whole story, and how the Princess
of Bengal was even then awaiting in the country palace the consent
of the Sultan, which at once put into the Indian's head a plan
of revenge for the treatment he had experienced. Going straight to
the country house, he informed the doorkeeper who was left in charge
that he had been sent by the Sultan and by the Prince of Persia to
fetch the princess on the enchanted horse, and to bring her to the palace.

The doorkeeper knew the Indian by sight, and was of course aware
that nearly three months before he had been thrown into prison
by the Sultan; and seeing him at liberty, the man took for granted
that he was speaking the truth, and made no difficulty about
leading him before the Princess of Bengal; while on her side,
hearing that he had come from the prince, the lady gladly consented
to do what he wished.

The Indian, delighted with the success of his scheme,
mounted the horse, assisted the princess to mount behind him,
and turned the peg at the very moment that the prince was leaving
the palace in Schiraz for the country house, followed closely by the
Sultan and all the court. Knowing this, the Indian deliberately
steered the horse right above the city, in order that his revenge
for his unjust imprisonment might be all the quicker and sweeter.

When the Sultan of Persia saw the horse and its riders, he stopped short
with astonishment and horror, and broke out into oaths and curses,
which the Indian heard quite unmoved, knowing that he was perfectly
safe from pursuit. But mortified and furious as the Sultan was,
his feelings were nothing to those of Prince Firouz Schah, when he
saw the object of his passionate devotion being borne rapidly away.
And while he was struck speechless with grief and remorse at not
having guarded her better, she vanished swiftly out of his sight.
What was he to do? Should he follow his father into the palace,
and there give reins to his despair? Both his love and his courage
alike forbade it; and he continued his way to the palace.

The sight of the prince showed the doorkeeper of what folly he
had been guilty, and flinging himself at his master's feet,
implored his pardon. "Rise," said the prince, "I am the cause of
this misfortune, and not you. Go and find me the dress of a dervish,
but beware of saying it is for me."

At a short distance from the country house, a convent of dervishes
was situated, and the superior, or scheih, was the doorkeeper's friend.
So by means of a false story made up on the spur of the moment,
it was easy enough to get hold of a dervish's dress, which the
prince at once put on, instead of his own. Disguised like this
and concealing about him a box of pearls and diamonds he had intended
as a present to the princess, he left the house at nightfall,
uncertain where he should go, but firmly resolved not to return
without her.

Meanwhile the Indian had turned the horse in such a direction that,
before many hours had passed, it had entered a wood close to
the capital of the kingdom of Cashmere. Feeling very hungry,
and supposing that the princess also might be in want of food,
he brought his steed down to the earth, and left the princess
in a shady place, on the banks of a clear stream.

At first, when the princess had found herself alone, the idea
had occurred to her of trying to escape and hide herself.
But as she had eaten scarcely anything since she had left Bengal,
she felt she was too weak to venture far, and was obliged to
abandon her design. On the return of the Indian with meats of
various kinds, she began to eat voraciously, and soon had regained
sufficient courage to reply with spirit to his insolent remarks.
Goaded by his threats she sprang to her feet, calling loudly
for help, and luckily her cries were heard by a troop of horsemen,
who rode up to inquire what was the matter.

Now the leader of these horsemen was the Sultan of Cashmere,
returning from the chase, and he instantly turned to the Indian
to inquire who he was, and whom he had with him. The Indian rudely
answered that it was his wife, and there was no occasion for anyone
else to interfere between them.

The princess, who, of course, was ignorant of the rank of
her deliverer, denied altogether the Indian's story. "My lord,"
she cried, "whoever you may be, put no faith in this impostor.
He is an abominable magician, who has this day torn me from the
Prince of Persia, my destined husband, and has brought me here on
this enchanted horse." She would have continued, but her tears
choked her, and the Sultan of Cashmere, convinced by her beauty
and her distinguished air of the truth of her tale, ordered his
followers to cut off the Indian's head, which was done immediately.

But rescued though she was from one peril, it seemed as if she
had only fallen into another. The Sultan commanded a horse to
be given her, and conducted her to his own palace, where he led
her to a beautiful apartment, and selected female slaves to wait
on her, and eunuchs to be her guard. Then, without allowing
her time to thank him for all he had done, he bade her repose,
saying she should tell him her adventures on the following day.

The princess fell asleep, flattering herself that she had only
to relate her story for the Sultan to be touched by compassion,
and to restore her to the prince without delay. But a few hours
were to undeceive her.

When the King of Cashmere had quitted her presence the evening before,
he had resolved that the sun should not set again without the princess
becoming his wife, and at daybreak proclamation of his intention was
made throughout the town, by the sound of drums, trumpets, cymbals,
and other instruments calculated to fill the heart with joy.
The Princess of Bengal was early awakened by the noise, but she did
not for one moment imagine that it had anything to do with her,
till the Sultan, arriving as soon as she was dressed to inquire
after her health, informed her that the trumpet blasts she heard
were part of the solemn marriage ceremonies, for which he begged
her to prepare. This unexpected announcement caused the princess
such terror that she sank down in a dead faint.

The slaves that were in waiting ran to her aid, and the Sultan
himself did his best to bring her back to consciousness, but for
a long while it was all to no purpose. At length her senses
began slowly to come back to her, and then, rather than break
faith with the Prince of Persia by consenting to such a marriage,
she determined to feign madness. So she began by saying all
sorts of absurdities, and using all kinds of strange gestures,
while the Sultan stood watching her with sorrow and surprise.
But as this sudden seizure showed no sign of abating, he left
her to her women, ordering them to take the greatest care of her.
Still, as the day went on, the malady seemed to become worse,
and by night it was almost violent.

Days passed in this manner, till at last the Sultan of Cashmere
decided to summon all the doctors of his court to consult together
over her sad state. Their answer was that madness is of so many
different kinds that it was impossible to give an opinion on
the case without seeing the princess, so the Sultan gave orders
that they were to be introduced into her chamber, one by one,
every man according to his rank.

This decision had been foreseen by the princess, who knew quite
well that if once she allowed the physicians to feel her pulse,
the most ignorant of them would discover that she was in perfectly
good health, and that her madness was feigned, so as each man approached,
she broke out into such violent paroxysms, that not one dared to lay
a finger on her. A few, who pretended to be cleverer than the rest,
declared that they could diagnose sick people only from sight,
ordered her certain potions, which she made no difficulty about taking,
as she was persuaded they were all harmless.

When the Sultan of Cashmere saw that the court doctors could do
nothing towards curing the princess, he called in those of the city,
who fared no better. Then he had recourse to the most celebrated
physicians in the other large towns, but finding that the task
was beyond their science, he finally sent messengers into the other
neighbouring states, with a memorandum containing full particulars
of the princess's madness, offering at the same time to pay
the expenses of any physician who would come and see for himself,
and a handsome reward to the one who should cure her. In answer
to this proclamation many foreign professors flocked into Cashmere,
but they naturally were not more successful than the rest had been,
as the cure depended neither on them nor their skill, but only on
the princess herself.

It was during this time that Prince Firouz Schah, wandering sadly
and hopelessly from place to place, arrived in a large city of India,
where he heard a great deal of talk about the Princess of Bengal who
had gone out of her senses, on the very day that she was to have been
married to the Sultan of Cashmere. This was quite enough to induce
him to take the road to Cashmere, and to inquire at the first inn
at which he lodged in the capital the full particulars of the story.
When he knew that he had at last found the princess whom he had
so long lost, he set about devising a plan for her rescue.

The first thing he did was to procure a doctor's robe, so that his dress,
added to the long beard he had allowed to grow on his travels,
might unmistakably proclaim his profession. He then lost no time
in going to the palace, where he obtained an audience of the
chief usher, and while apologising for his boldness in presuming
to think that he could cure the princess, where so many others
had failed, declared that he had the secret of certain remedies,
which had hitherto never failed of their effect.

The chief usher assured him that he was heartily welcome, and that
the Sultan would receive him with pleasure; and in case of success,
he would gain a magnificent reward.

When the Prince of Persia, in the disguise of a physician, was brought
before him, the Sultan wasted no time in talking, beyond remarking
that the mere sight of a doctor threw the princess into transports
of rage. He then led the prince up to a room under the roof,
which had an opening through which he might observe the princess,
without himself being seen.

The prince looked, and beheld the princess reclining on a sofa
with tears in her eyes, singing softly to herself a song bewailing
her sad destiny, which had deprived her, perhaps for ever,
of a being she so tenderly loved. The young man's heart beat fast
as he listened, for he needed no further proof that her madness
was feigned, and that it was love of him which had caused her to
resort to this species of trick. He softly left his hiding-place,
and returned to the Sultan, to whom he reported that he was sure
from certain signs that the princess's malady was not incurable,
but that he must see her and speak with her alone.

The Sultan made no difficulty in consenting to this, and commanded
that he should be ushered in to the princess's apartment.
The moment she caught sight of his physician's robe, she sprang
from her seat in a fury, and heaped insults upon him. The prince
took no notice of her behaviour, and approaching quite close,
so that his words might be heard by her alone, he said in a low whisper,
"Look at me, princess, and you will see that I am no doctor,
but the Prince of Persia, who has come to set you free."

At the sound of his voice, the Princess of Bengal suddenly grew calm,
and an expression of joy overspread her face, such as only comes
when what we wish for most and expect the least suddenly happens
to us. For some time she was too enchanted to speak, and Prince
Firouz Schah took advantage of her silence to explain to her all
that had occurred, his despair at watching her disappear before
his very eyes, the oath he had sworn to follow her over the world,
and his rapture at finally discovering her in the palace at Cashmere.
When he had finished, he begged in his turn that the princess would
tell him how she had come there, so that he might the better devise
some means of rescuing her from the tyranny of the Sultan.

It needed but a few words from the princess to make him acquainted
with the whole situation, and how she had been forced to play the part
of a mad woman in order to escape from a marriage with the Sultan,
who had not had sufficient politeness even to ask her consent.
If necessary, she added, she had resolved to die sooner than permit
herself to be forced into such a union, and break faith with a prince
whom she loved.

The prince then inquired if she knew what had become of the
enchanted horse since the Indian's death, but the princess could
only reply that she had heard nothing about it. Still she did
not suppose that the horse could have been forgotten by the Sultan,
after all she had told him of its value.

To this the prince agreed, and they consulted together over a plan
by which she might be able to make her escape and return with him
into Persia. And as the first step, she was to dress herself
with care, and receive the Sultan with civility when he visited
her next morning.

The Sultan was transported with delight on learning the result
of the interview, and his opinion of the doctor's skill was raised
still higher when, on the following day, the princess behaved
towards him in such a way as to persuade him that her complete
cure would not be long delayed. However he contented himself with
assuring her how happy he was to see her health so much improved,
and exhorted her to make every use of so clever a physician,
and to repose entire confidence in him. Then he retired,
without awaiting any reply from the princess.

The Prince of Persia left the room at the same time, and asked
if he might be allowed humbly to inquire by what means the Princess
of Bengal had reached Cashmere, which was so far distant from her
father's kingdom, and how she came to be there alone. The Sultan
thought the question very natural, and told him the same story
that the Princess of Bengal had done, adding that he had ordered
the enchanted horse to be taken to his treasury as a curiosity,
though he was quite ignorant how it could be used.

"Sire," replied the physician, "your Highness's tale has supplied me
with the clue I needed to complete the recovery of the princess.
During her voyage hither on an enchanted horse, a portion of its
enchantment has by some means been communicated to her person,
and it can only be dissipated by certain perfumes of which I possess
the secret. If your Highness will deign to consent, and to give
the court and the people one of the most astonishing spectacles they
have ever witnessed, command the horse to be brought into the big
square outside the palace, and leave the rest to me. I promise that
in a very few moments, in presence of all the assembled multitude,
you shall see the princess as healthy both in mind and body as ever
she was in her life. And in order to make the spectacle as impressive
as possible, I would suggest that she should be richly dressed
and covered with the noblest jewels of the crown."

The Sultan readily agreed to all that the prince proposed,
and the following morning he desired that the enchanted horse
should be taken from the treasury, and brought into the great square
of the palace. Soon the rumour began to spread through the town,
that something extraordinary was about to happen, and such a crowd
began to collect that the guards had to be called out to keep order,
and to make a way for the enchanted horse.

When all was ready, the Sultan appeared, and took his place on
a platform, surrounded by the chief nobles and officers of his court.
When they were seated, the Princess of Bengal was seen leaving
the palace, accompanied by the ladies who had been assigned
to her by the Sultan. She slowly approached the enchanted horse,
and with the help of her ladies, she mounted on its back.
Directly she was in the saddle, with her feet in the stirrups
and the bridle in her hand, the physician placed around the horse
some large braziers full of burning coals, into each of which he
threw a perfume composed of all sorts of delicious scents. Then he
crossed his hands over his breast, and with lowered eyes walked
three times round the horse, muttering the while certain words.
Soon there arose from the burning braziers a thick smoke which almost
concealed both the horse and princess, and this was the moment for
which he had been waiting. Springing lightly up behind the lady,
he leaned forward and turned the peg, and as the horse darted up into
the air, he cried aloud so that his words were heard by all present,
"Sultan of Cashmere, when you wish to marry princesses who have
sought your protection, learn first to gain their consent."

It was in this way that the Prince of Persia rescued the Princess
of Bengal, and returned with her to Persia, where they descended
this time before the palace of the King himself. The marriage
was only delayed just long enough to make the ceremony as brilliant
as possible, and, as soon as the rejoicings were over, an ambassador
was sent to the King of Bengal, to inform him of what had passed,
and to ask his approbation of the alliance between the two countries,
which he heartily gave.

The Story of Two Sisters Who Were Jealous of Their Younger Sister

Once upon a time there reigned over Persia a Sultan named Kosrouschah,
who from his boyhood had been fond of putting on a disguise and seeking
adventures in all parts of the city, accompanied by one of his officers,
disguised like himself. And no sooner was his father buried
and the ceremonies over that marked his accession to the throne,
than the young man hastened to throw off his robes of state,
and calling to his vizir to make ready likewise, stole out in the simple
dress of a private citizen into the less known streets of the capital.

Passing down a lonely street, the Sultan heard women's voices
in loud discussion; and peeping through a crack in the door, he saw
three sisters, sitting on a sofa in a large hall, talking in a very
lively and earnest manner. Judging from the few words that reached
his ear, they were each explaining what sort of men they wished to marry.

"I ask nothing better," cried the eldest, "than to have the Sultan's
baker for a husband. Think of being able to eat as much as one wanted,
of that delicious bread that is baked for his Highness alone!
Let us see if your wish is as good as mine."

"I," replied the second sister, "should be quite content
with the Sultan's head cook. What delicate stews I should
feast upon! And, as I am persuaded that the Sultan's bread is used
all through the palace, I should have that into the bargain.
You see, my dear sister, my taste is as good as yours."

It was now the turn of the youngest sister, who was by far the most
beautiful of the three, and had, besides, more sense than the
other two. "As for me," she said, "I should take a higher flight;
and if we are to wish for husbands, nothing less than the Sultan
himself will do for me."

The Sultan was so much amused by the conversation he had overheard,
that he made up his mind to gratify their wishes, and turning to
the grand-vizir, he bade him note the house, and on the following
morning to bring the ladies into his presence.

The grand-vizir fulfilled his commission, and hardly giving
them time to change their dresses, desired the three sisters
to follow him to the palace. Here they were presented one by one,
and when they had bowed before the Sultan, the sovereign abruptly
put the question to them:

"Tell me, do you remember what you wished for last night, when you
were making merry? Fear nothing, but answer me the truth."

These words, which were so unexpected, threw the sisters into
great confusion, their eyes fell, and the blushes of the youngest
did not fail to make an impression on the heart of the Sultan.
All three remained silent, and he hastened to continue: "Do not
be afraid, I have not the slightest intention of giving you pain,
and let me tell you at once, that I know the wishes formed by
each one. You," he said, turning to the youngest, "who desired to
have me for an husband, shall be satisfied this very day. And you,"
he added, addressing himself to the other two, "shall be married
at the same moment to my baker and to my chief cook."

When the Sultan had finished speaking the three sisters flung
themselves at his feet, and the youngest faltered out, "Oh, sire,
since you know my foolish words, believe, I pray you, that they were
only said in joke. I am unworthy of the honour you propose to do me,
and I can only ask pardon for my boldness."

The other sisters also tried to excuse themselves, but the Sultan
would hear nothing.

"No, no," he said, "my mind is made up. Your wishes shall
be accomplished."

So the three weddings were celebrated that same day, but with a
great difference. That of the youngest was marked by all the
magnificence that was customary at the marriage of the Shah of Persia,
while the festivities attending the nuptials of the Sultan's baker
and his chief cook were only such as were suitable to their conditions.

This, though quite natural, was highly displeasing to the elder
sisters, who fell into a passion of jealousy, which in the end
caused a great deal of trouble and pain to several people.
And the first time that they had the opportunity of speaking to
each other, which was not till several days later at a public bath,
they did not attempt to disguise their feelings.

"Can you possibly understand what the Sultan saw in that little cat,"
said one to the other, "for him to be so fascinated by her?"

"He must be quite blind," returned the wife of the chief cook.
"As for her looking a little younger than we do, what does that matter?
You would have made a far better Sultana than she."

"Oh, I say nothing of myself," replied the elder, "and if the
Sultan had chosen you it would have been all very well; but it
really grieves me that he should have selected a wretched little
creature like that. However, I will be revenged on her somehow,
and I beg you will give me your help in the matter, and to tell
me anything that you can think of that is likely to mortify her."

In order to carry out their wicked scheme the two sisters met
constantly to talk over their ideas, though all the while they
pretended to be as friendly as ever towards the Sultana, who,
on her part, invariably treated them with kindness. For a long
time no plan occurred to the two plotters that seemed in the
least likely to meet with success, but at length the expected
birth of an heir gave them the chance for which they had been hoping.

They obtained permission of the Sultan to take up their abode in the
palace for some weeks, and never left their sister night or day.
When at last a little boy, beautiful as the sun, was born, they laid
him in his cradle and carried it down to a canal which passed
through the grounds of the palace. Then, leaving it to its fate,
they informed the Sultan that instead of the son he had so fondly
desired the Sultana had given birth to a puppy. At this dreadful
news the Sultan was so overcome with rage and grief that it was with
great difficulty that the grand-vizir managed to save the Sultana
from his wrath.

Meanwhile the cradle continued to float peacefully along the canal till,
on the outskirts of the royal gardens, it was suddenly perceived
by the intendant, one of the highest and most respected officials
in the kingdom.

"Go," he said to a gardener who was working near, "and get that
cradle out for me."

The gardener did as he was bid, and soon placed the cradle
in the hands of the intendant.

The official was much astonished to see that the cradle, which he had
supposed to be empty, contained a baby, which, young though it was,
already gave promise of great beauty. Having no children himself,
although he had been married some years, it at once occurred to him
that here was a child which he could take and bring up as his own.
And, bidding the man pick up the cradle and follow him, he turned
towards home.

"My wife," he exclaimed as he entered the room, "heaven has denied
us any children, but here is one that has been sent in their place.
Send for a nurse, and I will do what is needful publicly to recognise
it as my son."

The wife accepted the baby with joy, and though the intendant saw
quite well that it must have come from the royal palace, he did
not think it was his business to inquire further into the mystery.

The following year another prince was born and sent adrift,
but happily for the baby, the intendant of the gardens again
was walking by the canal, and carried it home as before.

The Sultan, naturally enough, was still more furious the second time
than the first, but when the same curious accident was repeated
in the third year he could control himself no longer, and, to the
great joy of the jealous sisters, commanded that the Sultana should
be executed. But the poor lady was so much beloved at Court that not
even the dread of sharing her fate could prevent the grand-vizir
and the courtiers from throwing themselves at the Sultan's feet
and imploring him not to inflict so cruel a punishment for what,
after all, was not her fault.

"Let her live," entreated the grand-vizir, "and banish her
from your presence for the rest of her days. That in itself
will be punishment enough."

His first passion spent, the Sultan had regained his self-command.
"Let her live then," he said, "since you have it so much at heart.
But if I grant her life it shall only be on one condition, which shall
make her daily pray for death. Let a box be built for her at the door
of the principal mosque, and let the window of the box be always open.
There she shall sit, in the coarsest clothes, and every Mussulman
who enters the mosque shall spit in her face in passing. Anyone that
refuses to obey shall be exposed to the same punishment himself.
You, vizir, will see that my orders are carried out."

The grand-vizir saw that it was useless to say more, and, full of triumph,
the sisters watched the building of the box, and then listened to the
jeers of the people at the helpless Sultana sitting inside. But the poor
lady bore herself with so much dignity and meekness that it was not long
before she had won the sympathy of those that were best among the crowd.

But it is now time to return to the fate of the third baby,
this time a princess. Like its brothers, it was found by the
intendant of the gardens, and adopted by him and his wife,
and all three were brought up with the greatest care and tenderness.

As the children grew older their beauty and air of distinction
became more and more marked, and their manners had all the grace
and ease that is proper to people of high birth. The princes had
been named by their foster-father Bahman and Perviz, after two of
the ancient kings of Persia, while the princess was called Parizade,
or the child of the genii.

The intendant was careful to bring them up as befitted their
real rank, and soon appointed a tutor to teach the young princes
how to read and write. And the princess, determined not to be
left behind, showed herself so anxious to learn with her brothers,
that the intendant consented to her joining in their lessons,
and it was not long before she knew as much as they did.

From that time all their studies were done in common. They had the best
masters for the fine arts, geography, poetry, history and science,
and even for sciences which are learned by few, and every branch seemed
so easy to them, that their teachers were astonished at the progress
they made. The princess had a passion for music, and could sing
and play upon all sorts of instruments she could also ride and drive
as well as her brothers, shoot with a bow and arrow, and throw
a javelin with the same skill as they, and sometimes even better.

In order to set off these accomplishments, the intendant resolved
that his foster children should not be pent up any longer in the
narrow borders of the palace gardens, where he had always lived,
so he bought a splendid country house a few miles from the capital,
surrounded by an immense park. This park he filled with wild beasts
of various sorts, so that the princes and princess might hunt as much
as they pleased.

When everything was ready, the intendant threw himself at the
Sultan's feet, and after referring to his age and his long services,
begged his Highness's permission to resign his post. This was granted
by the Sultan in a few gracious words, and he then inquired what reward
he could give to his faithful servant. But the intendant declared that
he wished for nothing except the continuance of his Highness's favour,
and prostrating himself once more, he retired from the Sultan's presence.

Five or six months passed away in the pleasures of the country,
when death attacked the intendant so suddenly that he had no time
to reveal the secret of their birth to his adopted children,
and as his wife had long been dead also, it seemed as if the princes
and the princess would never know that they had been born to a
higher station than the one they filled. Their sorrow for their
father was very deep, and they lived quietly on in their new home,
without feeling any desire to leave it for court gaieties or intrigues.

One day the princes as usual went out to hunt, but their sister
remained alone in her apartments. While they were gone an old
Mussulman devotee appeared at the door, and asked leave to enter,
as it was the hour of prayer. The princess sent orders at once that
the old woman was to be taken to the private oratory in the grounds,
and when she had finished her prayers was to be shown the house
and gardens, and then to be brought before her.

Although the old woman was very pious, she was not at all
indifferent to the magnificence of all around her, which she
seemed to understand as well as to admire, and when she had
seen it all she was led by the servants before the princess,
who was seated in a room which surpassed in splendour all the rest.

"My good woman," said the princess pointing to a sofa, "come and sit
beside me. I am delighted at the opportunity of speaking for a few
moments with so holy a person." The old woman made some objections
to so much honour being done her, but the princess refused to listen,
and insisted that her guest should take the best seat, and as she
thought she must be tired ordered refreshments.

While the old woman was eating, the princess put several questions
to her as to her mode of life, and the pious exercises she practiced,
and then inquired what she thought of the house now that she had
seen it.

"Madam," replied the pilgrim, "one must be hard indeed to please
to find any fault. It is beautiful, comfortable and well ordered,
and it is impossible to imagine anything more lovely than the garden.
But since you ask me, I must confess that it lacks three things
to make it absolutely perfect."

"And what can they be?" cried the princess. "Only tell me, and I
will lose no time in getting them."

"The three things, madam," replied the old woman, "are, first,
the Talking Bird, whose voice draws all other singing birds to it,
to join in chorus. And second, the Singing Tree, where every leaf
is a song that is never silent. And lastly the Golden Water,
of which it is only needful to pour a single drop into a basin
for it to shoot up into a fountain, which will never be exhausted,
nor will the basin ever overflow."

"Oh, how can I thank you," cried the princess, "for telling me of
such treasures! But add, I pray you, to your goodness by further
informing me where I can find them."

"Madam," replied the pilgrim, "I should ill repay the hospitality
you have shown me if I refused to answer your question. The three
things of which I have spoken are all to be found in one place,
on the borders of this kingdom, towards India. Your messenger has
only to follow the road that passes by your house, for twenty days,
and at the end of that time, he is to ask the first person he meets
for the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree, and the Golden Water."
She then rose, and bidding farewell to the princess, went her way.

The old woman had taken her departure so abruptly that the Princess
Parizade did not perceive till she was really gone that the directions
were hardly clear enough to enable the search to be successful.
And she was still thinking of the subject, and how delightful it
would be to possess such rarities, when the princes, her brothers,
returned from the chase.

"What is the matter, my sister?" asked Prince Bahman; "why are you
so grave? Are you ill? Or has anything happened?"

Princess Parizade did not answer directly, but at length she raised
her eyes, and replied that there was nothing wrong.

"But there must be something," persisted Prince Bahman, "for you
to have changed so much during the short time we have been absent.
Hide nothing from us, I beseech you, unless you wish us to believe
that the confidence we have always had in one another is now
to cease."

"When I said that it was nothing," said the princess, moved by
his words, "I meant that it was nothing that affected you, although I
admit that it is certainly of some importance to me. Like myself,
you have always thought this house that our father built for us was
perfect in every respect, but only to-day I have learned that three
things are still lacking to complete it. These are the Talking Bird,
the Singing Tree, and the Golden Water." After explaining the peculiar
qualities of each, the princess continued: "It was a Mussulman
devotee who told me all this, and where they might all be found.
Perhaps you will think that the house is beautiful enough as it is,
and that we can do quite well without them; but in this I cannot
agree with you, and I shall never be content until I have got them.
So counsel me, I pray, whom to send on the undertaking."

"My dear sister," replied Prince Bahman, "that you should care
about the matter is quite enough, even if we took no interest in
it ourselves. But we both feel with you, and I claim, as the elder,
the right to make the first attempt, if you will tell me where I
am to go, and what steps I am to take."

Prince Perviz at first objected that, being the head of the family,
his brother ought not to be allowed to expose himself to danger;
but Prince Bahman would hear nothing, and retired to make the needful
preparations for his journey.

The next morning Prince Bahman got up very early, and after
bidding farewell to his brother and sister, mounted his horse.
But just as he was about to touch it with his whip, he was stopped
by a cry from the princess.

"Oh, perhaps after all you may never come back; one never can tell
what accidents may happen. Give it up, I implore you, for I would
a thousand times rather lose the Talking Bird, and the Singing Tree
and the Golden Water, than that you should run into danger."

"My dear sister," answered the prince, "accidents only happen
to unlucky people, and I hope that I am not one of them.
But as everything is uncertain, I promise you to be very careful.
Take this knife," he continued, handing her one that hung sheathed
from his belt, "and every now and then draw it out and look at it.
As long as it keeps bright and clean as it is to-day, you will know
that I am living; but if the blade is spotted with blood, it will be
a sign that I am dead, and you shall weep for me."

So saying, Prince Bahman bade them farewell once more, and started
on the high road, well mounted and fully armed. For twenty days he
rode straight on, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left,
till he found himself drawing near the frontiers of Persia.
Seated under a tree by the wayside he noticed a hideous old man,
with a long white moustache, and beard that almost fell to his feet.
His nails had grown to an enormous length, and on his head he wore a
huge hat, which served him for an umbrella.

Prince Bahman, who, remembering the directions of the old woman,
had been since sunrise on the look-out for some one, recognised the
old man at once to be a dervish. He dismounted from his horse,
and bowed low before the holy man, saying by way of greeting,
"My father, may your days be long in the land, and may all your wishes
be fulfilled!"

The dervish did his best to reply, but his moustache was so thick that
his words were hardly intelligible, and the prince, perceiving what
was the matter, took a pair of scissors from his saddle pockets,
and requested permission to cut off some of the moustache, as he had
a question of great importance to ask the dervish. The dervish made
a sign that he might do as he liked, and when a few inches of his hair
and beard had been pruned all round the prince assured the holy man
that he would hardly believe how much younger he looked. The dervish
smiled at his compliments, and thanked him for what he had done.

"Let me," he said, "show you my gratitude for making me more
comfortable by telling me what I can do for you."

"Gentle dervish," replied Prince Bahman, "I come from far, and I
seek the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree, and the Golden Water.
I know that they are to be found somewhere in these parts, but I am
ignorant of the exact spot. Tell me, I pray you, if you can, so that I
may not have travelled on a useless quest." While he was speaking,
the prince observed a change in the countenance of the dervish,
who waited for some time before he made reply.

"My lord," he said at last, "I do know the road for which you ask,
but your kindness and the friendship I have conceived for you make
me loth to point it out."

"But why not?" inquired the prince. "What danger can there be?"

"The very greatest danger," answered the dervish. "Other men,
as brave as you, have ridden down this road, and have put me
that question. I did my best to turn them also from their purpose,
but it was of no use. Not one of them would listen to my words,
and not one of them came back. Be warned in time, and seek to go
no further."

"I am grateful to you for your interest in me," said Prince Bahman,
"and for the advice you have given, though I cannot follow it.
But what dangers can there be in the adventure which courage and a good
sword cannot meet?"

"And suppose," answered the dervish, "that your enemies are invisible,
how then?"

"Nothing will make me give it up," replied the prince, "and for
the last time I ask you to tell me where I am to go."

When the dervish saw that the prince's mind was made up,
he drew a ball from a bag that lay near him, and held it out.
"If it must be so," he said, with a sigh, "take this, and when
you have mounted your horse throw the ball in front of you.
It will roll on till it reaches the foot of a mountain, and when it
stops you will stop also. You will then throw the bridle on your
horse's neck without any fear of his straying, and will dismount.
On each side you will see vast heaps of big black stones,
and will hear a multitude of insulting voices, but pay no heed
to them, and, above all, beware of ever turning your head.
If you do, you will instantly become a black stone like the rest.
For those stones are in reality men like yourself, who have been on
the same quest, and have failed, as I fear that you may fail also.
If you manage to avoid this pitfall, and to reach the top of
the mountain, you will find there the Talking Bird in a splendid cage,
and you can ask of him where you are to seek the Singing Tree and
the Golden Water. That is all I have to say. You know what you
have to do, and what to avoid, but if you are wise you will think
of it no more, but return whence you have come."

The prince smilingly shook his head, and thanking the dervish
once more, he sprang on his horse and threw the ball before him.

The ball rolled along the road so fast that Prince Bahman had much
difficulty in keeping up with it, and it never relaxed its speed
till the foot of the mountain was reached. Then it came to a
sudden halt, and the prince at once got down and flung the bridle
on his horse's neck. He paused for a moment and looked round him
at the masses of black stones with which the sides of the mountain
were covered, and then began resolutely to ascend. He had hardly
gone four steps when he heard the sound of voices around him,
although not another creature was in sight.

"Who is this imbecile?" cried some, "stop him at once." "Kill him,"
shrieked others, "Help! robbers! murderers! help! help!" "Oh, let
him alone," sneered another, and this was the most trying of all,
"he is such a beautiful young man; I am sure the bird and the cage
must have been kept for him."

At first the prince took no heed to all this clamour, but continued
to press forward on his way. Unfortunately this conduct, instead of
silencing the voices, only seemed to irritate them the more,
and they arose with redoubled fury, in front as well as behind.
After some time he grew bewildered, his knees began to tremble,
and finding himself in the act of falling, he forgot altogether
the advice of the dervish. He turned to fly down the mountain,
and in one moment became a black stone.

As may be imagined, Prince Perviz and his sister were all this
time in the greatest anxiety, and consulted the magic knife,
not once but many times a day. Hitherto the blade had remained
bright and spotless, but on the fatal hour on which Prince Bahman
and his horse were changed into black stones, large drops of blood
appeared on the surface. "Ah! my beloved brother," cried the princess
in horror, throwing the knife from her, "I shall never see you again,
and it is I who have killed you. Fool that I was to listen to the
voice of that temptress, who probably was not speaking the truth.
What are the Talking Bird and the Singing Tree to me in comparison
with you, passionately though I long for them!"

Prince Perviz's grief at his brother's loss was not less than that of
Princess Parizade, but he did not waste his time on useless lamentations.

"My sister," he said, "why should you think the old woman was deceiving
you about these treasures, and what would have been her object in
doing so! No, no, our brother must have met his death by some accident,
or want of precaution, and to-morrow I will start on the same quest."

Terrified at the thought that she might lose her only remaining
brother, the princess entreated him to give up his project,
but he remained firm. Before setting out, however, he gave her a
chaplet of a hundred pearls, and said, "When I am absent, tell this
over daily for me. But if you should find that the beads stick,
so that they will not slip one after the other, you will know that
my brother's fate has befallen me. Still, we must hope for better luck."

Then he departed, and on the twentieth day of his journey fell
in with the dervish on the same spot as Prince Bahman had met him,
and began to question him as to the place where the Talking Bird,
the Singing Tree and the Golden Water were to be found. As in the case
of his brother, the dervish tried to make him give up his project,
and even told him that only a few weeks since a young man,
bearing a strong resemblance to himself, had passed that way,
but had never come back again.

"That, holy dervish," replied Prince Perviz, "was my elder brother,
who is now dead, though how he died I cannot say."

"He is changed into a black stone," answered the dervish, "like all
the rest who have gone on the same errand, and you will become one
likewise if you are not more careful in following my directions."
Then he charged the prince, as he valued his life, to take no heed
of the clamour of voices that would pursue him up the mountain,
and handing him a ball from the bag, which still seemed to be half full,
he sent him on his way.

When Prince Perviz reached the foot of the mountain he jumped from
his horse, and paused for a moment to recall the instructions the
dervish had given him. Then he strode boldly on, but had scarcely
gone five or six paces when he was startled by a man's voice
that seemed close to his ear, exclaiming: "Stop, rash fellow,
and let me punish your audacity." This outrage entirely put
the dervish's advice out of the prince's head. He drew his sword,
and turned to avenge himself, but almost before he had realised
that there was nobody there, he and his horse were two black stones.

Not a morning had passed since Prince Perviz had ridden away without
Princess Parizade telling her beads, and at night she even hung
them round her neck, so that if she woke she could assure herself
at once of her brother's safety. She was in the very act of moving
them through her fingers at the moment that the prince fell a victim
to his impatience, and her heart sank when the first pearl remained
fixed in its place. However she had long made up her mind what she
would do in such a case, and the following morning the princess,
disguised as a man, set out for the mountain.

As she had been accustomed to riding from her childhood, she managed
to travel as many miles daily as her brothers had done, and it was,
as before, on the twentieth day that she arrived at the place
where the dervish was sitting. "Good dervish," she said politely,
"will you allow me to rest by you for a few moments, and perhaps you
will be so kind as to tell me if you have ever heard of a Talking Bird,
a Singing Tree, and some Golden Water that are to be found somewhere
near this?"

"Madam," replied the dervish, "for in spite of your manly dress your
voice betrays you, I shall be proud to serve you in any way I can.
But may I ask the purpose of your question?"

"Good dervish," answered the princess, "I have heard such glowing
descriptions of these three things, that I cannot rest till I
possess them."

"Madam," said the dervish, "they are far more beautiful than
any description, but you seem ignorant of all the difficulties
that stand in your way, or you would hardly have undertaken
such an adventure. Give it up, I pray you, and return home,
and do not ask me to help you to a cruel death."

"Holy father," answered the princess, "I come from far, and I should
be in despair if I turned back without having attained my object.
You have spoken of difficulties; tell me, I entreat you, what they are,
so that I may know if I can overcome them, or see if they are beyond
my strength."

So the dervish repeated his tale, and dwelt more firmly than before
on the clamour of the voices, the horrors of the black stones,
which were once living men, and the difficulties of climbing
the mountain; and pointed out that the chief means of success
was never to look behind till you had the cage in your grasp.

"As far as I can see," said the princess, "the first thing is not
to mind the tumult of the voices that follow you till you reach
the cage, and then never to look behind. As to this, I think I
have enough self-control to look straight before me; but as it is
quite possible that I might be frightened by the voices, as even the
boldest men have been, I will stop up my ears with cotton, so that,
let them make as much noise as they like, I shall hear nothing."

"Madam," cried the dervish, "out of all the number who have asked me
the way to the mountain, you are the first who has ever suggested
such a means of escaping the danger! It is possible that you
may succeed, but all the same, the risk is great."

"Good dervish," answered the princess, "I feel in my heart that I
shall succeed, and it only remains for me to ask you the way I am
to go."

Then the dervish said that it was useless to say more, and he gave
her the ball, which she flung before her.

The first thing the princess did on arriving at the mountain was
to stop her ears with cotton, and then, making up her mind which was
the best way to go, she began her ascent. In spite of the cotton,
some echoes of the voices reached her ears, but not so as to trouble her.
Indeed, though they grew louder and more insulting the higher she climbed,
the princess only laughed, and said to herself that she certainly
would not let a few rough words stand between her and the goal.
At last she perceived in the distance the cage and the bird,
whose voice joined itself in tones of thunder to those of the rest:
"Return, return! never dare to come near me."

At the sight of the bird, the princess hastened her steps, and without
vexing herself at the noise which by this time had grown deafening,
she walked straight up to the cage, and seizing it, she said:
"Now, my bird, I have got you, and I shall take good care that you
do not escape." As she spoke she took the cotton from her ears,
for it was needed no longer.

"Brave lady," answered the bird, "do not blame me for having joined
my voice to those who did their best to preserve my freedom.
Although confined in a cage, I was content with my lot, but if I
must become a slave, I could not wish for a nobler mistress than
one who has shown so much constancy, and from this moment I swear
to serve you faithfully. Some day you will put me to the proof,
for I know who you are better than you do yourself. Meanwhile, tell me
what I can do, and I will obey you."

"Bird," replied the princess, who was filled with a joy that seemed
strange to herself when she thought that the bird had cost her the
lives of both her brothers. "bird, let me first thank you for your
good will, and then let me ask you where the Golden Water is to be found."

The bird described the place, which was not far distant, and the
princess filled a small silver flask that she had brought with her
for the purpose. She then returned to the cage, and said: "Bird,
there is still something else, where shall I find the Singing Tree?"

"Behind you, in that wood," replied the bird, and the princess
wandered through the wood, till a sound of the sweetest voices told
her she had found what she sought. But the tree was tall and strong,
and it was hopeless to think of uprooting it.

"You need not do that," said the bird, when she had returned
to ask counsel. "Break off a twig, and plant it in your garden,
and it will take root, and grow into a magnificent tree."

When the Princess Parizade held in her hands the three wonders
promised her by the old woman, she said to the bird: "All that is
not enough. It was owing to you that my brothers became black stones.
I cannot tell them from the mass of others, but you must know,
and point them out to me, I beg you, for I wish to carry them away."

For some reason that the princess could not guess these words seemed
to displease the bird, and he did not answer. The princess waited
a moment, and then continued in severe tones, "Have you forgotten
that you yourself said that you are my slave to do my bidding,
and also that your life is in my power?"

"No, I have not forgotten," replied the bird, "but what you ask is
very difficult. However, I will do my best. If you look round,"
he went on, "you will see a pitcher standing near. Take it, and, as you
go down the mountain, scatter a little of the water it contains
over every black stone and you will soon find your two brothers."

Princess Parizade took the pitcher, and, carrying with her besides
the cage the twig and the flask, returned down the mountain side.
At every black stone she stopped and sprinkled it with water,
and as the water touched it the stone instantly became a man.
When she suddenly saw her brothers before her her delight was mixed
with astonishment.

"Why, what are you doing here?" she cried.

"We have been asleep," they said.

"Yes," returned the princess, "but without me your sleep would
probably have lasted till the day of judgment. Have you forgotten
that you came here in search of the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree,
and the Golden Water, and the black stones that were heaped
up along the road? Look round and see if there is one left.
These gentlemen, and yourselves, and all your horses were changed
into these stones, and I have delivered you by sprinkling you with
the water from this pitcher. As I could not return home without you,
even though I had gained the prizes on which I had set my heart,
I forced the Talking Bird to tell me how to break the spell."

On hearing these words Prince Bahman and Prince Perviz understood
all they owed their sister, and the knights who stood by declared
themselves her slaves and ready to carry out her wishes.
But the princess, while thanking them for their politeness,
explained that she wished for no company but that of her brothers,
and that the rest were free to go where they would.

So saying the princess mounted her horse, and, declining to allow
even Prince Bahman to carry the cage with the Talking Bird,
she entrusted him with the branch of the Singing Tree, while Prince
Perviz took care of the flask containing the Golden Water.

Then they rode away, followed by the knights and gentlemen,
who begged to be permitted to escort them.

It had been the intention of the party to stop and tell their
adventures to the dervish, but they found to their sorrow that he
was dead, whether from old age, or whether from the feeling
that his task was done, they never knew.

As they continued their road their numbers grew daily smaller,
for the knights turned off one by one to their own homes, and only
the brothers and sister finally drew up at the gate of the palace.

The princess carried the cage straight into the garden, and, as soon
as the bird began to sing, nightingales, larks, thrushes, finches,
and all sorts of other birds mingled their voices in chorus.
The branch she planted in a corner near the house, and in a few
days it had grown into a great tree. As for the Golden Water it
was poured into a great marble basin specially prepared for it,
and it swelled and bubbled and then shot up into the air in a fountain
twenty feet high.

The fame of these wonders soon spread abroad, and people came
from far and near to see and admire.

After a few days Prince Bahman and Prince Perviz fell back into
their ordinary way of life, and passed most of their time hunting.
One day it happened that the Sultan of Persia was also hunting
in the same direction, and, not wishing to interfere with his sport,
the young men, on hearing the noise of the hunt approaching,
prepared to retire, but, as luck would have it, they turned
into the very path down which the Sultan was coming. They threw
themselves from their horses and prostrated themselves to the earth,
but the Sultan was curious to see their faces, and commanded them
to rise.

The princes stood up respectfully, but quite at their ease,
and the Sultan looked at them for a few moments without speaking,
then he asked who they were and where they lived.

"Sire," replied Prince Bahman, "we are sons of your Highness's
late intendant of the gardens, and we live in a house that he
built a short time before his death, waiting till an occasion
should offer itself to serve your Highness."

"You seem fond of hunting," answered the Sultan.

"Sire," replied Prince Bahman, "it is our usual exercise,
and one that should be neglected by no man who expects to comply
with the ancient customs of the kingdom and bear arms."

The Sultan was delighted with this remark, and said at once,
"In that case I shall take great pleasure in watching you.
Come, choose what sort of beasts you would like to hunt."

The princes jumped on their horses and followed the Sultan
at a little distance. They had not gone very far before they
saw a number of wild animals appear at once, and Prince Bahman
started to give chase to a lion and Prince Perviz to a bear.
Both used their javelins with such skill that, directly they arrived
within striking range, the lion and the bear fell, pierced through
and through. Then Prince Perviz pursued a lion and Prince
Bahman a bear, and in a very few minutes they, too, lay dead.
As they were making ready for a third assault the Sultan interfered,
and, sending one of his officials to summon them, he said smiling,
"If I let you go on, there will soon be no beasts left to hunt.
Besides, your courage and manners have so won my heart that I will
not have you expose yourselves to further danger. I am convinced
that some day or other I shall find you useful as well as agreeable."

He then gave them a warm invitation to stay with him altogether,
but with many thanks for the honour done them, they begged to
be excused, and to be suffered to remain at home.

The Sultan who was not accustomed to see his offers rejected
inquired their reasons, and Prince Bahman explained that they did
not wish to leave their sister, and were accustomed to do nothing
without consulting all three together.

"Ask her advice, then," replied the Sultan, "and to-morrow come
and hunt with me, and give me your answer."

The two princes returned home, but their adventure made so little
impression on them that they quite forgot to speak to their sister
on the subject. The next morning when they went to hunt they met
the Sultan in the same place, and he inquired what advice their
sister had given. The young men looked at each other and blushed.
At last Prince Bahman said, "Sire, we must throw ourselves on your
Highness's mercy. Neither my brother nor myself remembered anything
about it."

"Then be sure you do not forget to-day," answered the Sultan,
"and bring me back your reply to-morrow."

When, however, the same thing happened a second time, they feared
that the Sultan might be angry with them for their carelessness.
But he took it in good part, and, drawing three little golden
balls from his purse, he held them out to Prince Bahman, saying,
"Put these in your bosom and you will not forget a third time,
for when you remove your girdle to-night the noise they will make
in falling will remind you of my wishes."

It all happened as the Sultan had foreseen, and the two brothers
appeared in their sister's apartments just as she was in the act
of stepping into bed, and told their tale.

The Princess Parizade was much disturbed at the news, and did not
conceal her feelings. "Your meeting with the Sultan is very honourable
to you," she said, "and will, I dare say, be of service to you,
but it places me in a very awkward position. It is on my account,
I know, that you have resisted the Sultan's wishes, and I am
very grateful to you for it. But kings do not like to have their
offers refused, and in time he would bear a grudge against you,
which would render me very unhappy. Consult the Talking Bird,
who is wise and far-seeing, and let me hear what he says."

So the bird was sent for and the case laid before him.

"The princes must on no account refuse the Sultan's proposal,"
said he, "and they must even invite him to come and see your house."

"But, bird," objected the princess, "you know how dearly we love
each other; will not all this spoil our friendship?"

"Not at all," replied the bird, "it will make it all the closer."

"Then the Sultan will have to see me," said the princess.

The bird answered that it was necessary that he should see her,
and everything would turn out for the best.

The following morning, when the Sultan inquired if they had spoken
to their sister and what advice she had given them, Prince Bahman
replied that they were ready to agree to his Highness's wishes,
and that their sister had reproved them for their hesitation about
the matter. The Sultan received their excuses with great kindness,
and told them that he was sure they would be equally faithful to him,
and kept them by his side for the rest of the day, to the vexation
of the grand-vizir and the rest of the court.

When the procession entered in this order the gates of the capital,
the eyes of the people who crowded the streets were fixed on the two
young men, strangers to every one.

"Oh, if only the Sultan had had sons like that!" they murmured,
"they look so distinguished and are about the same age that his sons
would have been!"

The Sultan commanded that splendid apartments should be prepared for the
two brothers, and even insisted that they should sit at table with him.
During dinner he led the conversation to various scientific subjects,
and also to history, of which he was especially fond, but whatever
topic they might be discussing he found that the views of the young
men were always worth listening to. "If they were my own sons,"
he said to himself, "they could not be better educated!" and aloud
he complimented them on their learning and taste for knowledge.

At the end of the evening the princes once more prostrated themselves
before the throne and asked leave to return home; and then,
encouraged by the gracious words of farewell uttered by the Sultan,
Prince Bahman said: "Sire, may we dare to take the liberty of asking
whether you would do us and our sister the honour of resting for
a few minutes at our house the first time the hunt passes that way?"

"With the utmost pleasure," replied the Sultan; "and as I am
all impatience to see the sister of such accomplished young men
you may expect me the day after to-morrow."

The princess was of course most anxious to entertain the Sultan
in a fitting way, but as she had no experience in court customs
she ran to the Talking Bird, and begged he would advise her
as to what dishes should be served.

"My dear mistress," replied the bird, "your cooks are very good
and you can safely leave all to them, except that you must be
careful to have a dish of cucumbers, stuffed with pearl sauce,
served with the first course."

"Cucumbers stuffed with pearls!" exclaimed the princess. "Why, bird,
who ever heard of such a dish? The Sultan will expect a dinner he
can eat, and not one he can only admire! Besides, if I were to use
all the pearls I possess, they would not be half enough."

"Mistress," replied the bird, "do what I tell you and nothing
but good will come of it. And as to the pearls, if you go at dawn
to-morrow and dig at the foot of the first tree in the park,
on the right hand, you will find as many as you want."

The princess had faith in the bird, who generally proved to be right,
and taking the gardener with her early next morning followed out
his directions carefully. After digging for some time they came
upon a golden box fastened with little clasps.

These were easily undone, and the box was found to be full of pearls,
not very large ones, but well-shaped and of a good colour.
So leaving the gardener to fill up the hole he had made under the tree,
the princess took up the box and returned to the house.

The two princes had seen her go out, and had wondered what could have
made her rise so early. Full of curiosity they got up and dressed,
and met their sister as she was returning with the box under her arm.

"What have you been doing?" they asked, "and did the gardener come
to tell you he had found a treasure?"

"On the contrary," replied the princess, "it is I who have found one,"
and opening the box she showed her astonished brothers the
pearls inside. Then, on the way back to the palace, she told them
of her consultation with the bird, and the advice it had given her.
All three tried to guess the meaning of the singular counsel,
but they were forced at last to admit the explanation was beyond them,
and they must be content blindly to obey.

The first thing the princess did on entering the palace was to send
for the head cook and to order the repast for the Sultan When she
had finished she suddenly added, "Besides the dishes I have mentioned
there is one that you must prepare expressly for the Sultan, and that
no one must touch but yourself. It consists of a stuffed cucumber,
and the stuffing is to be made of these pearls."

The head cook, who had never in all his experience heard of such
a dish, stepped back in amazement.

"You think I am mad," answered the princess, who perceived what was
in his mind. "But I know quite well what I am doing. Go, and do
your best, and take the pearls with you."

The next morning the princes started for the forest, and were soon
joined by the Sultan. The hunt began and continued till mid-day,
when the heat became so great that they were obliged to leave off.
Then, as arranged, they turned their horses' heads towards the palace,
and while Prince Bahman remained by the side of the Sultan,
Prince Perviz rode on to warn his sister of their approach.

The moment his Highness entered the courtyard, the princess flung
herself at his feet, but he bent and raised her, and gazed at her
for some time, struck with her grace and beauty, and also with the
indefinable air of courts that seemed to hang round this country girl.
"They are all worthy one of the other," he said to himself,
"and I am not surprised that they think so much of her opinions.
I must know more of them."

By this time the princess had recovered from the first embarrassment
of meeting, and proceeded to make her speech of welcome.

"This is only a simple country house, sire," she said,
"suitable to people like ourselves, who live a quiet life.
It cannot compare with the great city mansions, much less,
of course, with the smallest of the Sultan's palaces."

"I cannot quite agree with you," he replied; "even the little
that I have seen I admire greatly, and I will reserve my judgment
until you have shown me the whole."

The princess then led the way from room to room, and the Sultan examined
everything carefully. "Do you call this a simple country house?"
he said at last. "Why, if every country house was like this,
the towns would soon be deserted. I am no longer astonished
that you do not wish to leave it. Let us go into the gardens,
which I am sure are no less beautiful than the rooms."

A small door opened straight into the garden, and the first object
that met the Sultan's eyes was the Golden Water.

"What lovely coloured water!" he exclaimed; "where is the spring,
and how do you make the fountain rise so high? I do not believe there
is anything like it in the world." He went forward to examine it,
and when he had satisfied his curiosity, the princess conducted him
towards the Singing Tree.

As they drew near, the Sultan was startled by the sound of
strange voices, but could see nothing. "Where have you hidden
your musicians?" he asked the princess; "are they up in the air,
or under the earth? Surely the owners of such charming voices
ought not to conceal themselves!"

"Sire," answered the princess, "the voices all come from the tree
which is straight in front of us; and if you will deign to advance
a few steps, you will see that they become clearer."

The Sultan did as he was told, and was so wrapt in delight
at what he heard that he stood some time in silence.

"Tell me, madam, I pray you," he said at last, "how this
marvellous tree came into your garden? It must have been brought
from a great distance, or else, fond as I am of all curiosities,
I could not have missed hearing of it! What is its name?"

"The only name it has, sire," replied she, "is the Singing Tree,
and it is not a native of this country. Its history is mixed up with
those of the Golden Water and the Talking Bird, which you have not
yet seen. If your Highness wishes I will tell you the whole story,
when you have recovered from your fatigue."

"Indeed, madam," returned he, "you show me so many wonders that it
is impossible to feel any fatigue. Let us go once more and look
at the Golden Water; and I am dying to see the Talking Bird."

The Sultan could hardly tear himself away from the Golden Water,
which puzzled him more and more. "You say," he observed to
the princess, "that this water does not come from any spring,
neither is brought by pipes. All I understand is, that neither
it nor the Singing Tree is a native of this country."

"It is as you say, sire," answered the princess, "and if you
examine the basin, you will see that it is all in one piece,
and therefore the water could not have been brought through it.
What is more astonishing is, that I only emptied a small flaskful
into the basin, and it increased to the quantity you now see."

"Well, I will look at it no more to-day," said the Sultan.
"Take me to the Talking Bird."

On approaching the house, the Sultan noticed a vast quantity of birds,
whose voices filled the air, and he inquired why they were so much
more numerous here than in any other part of the garden.

"Sire," answered the princess, "do you see that cage hanging in one
of the windows of the saloon? that is the Talking Bird, whose voice
you can hear above them all, even above that of the nightingale.
And the birds crowd to this spot, to add their songs to his."

The Sultan stepped through the window, but the bird took no notice,
continuing his song as before.

"My slave," said the princess, "this is the Sultan; make him
a pretty speech."

The bird stopped singing at once, and all the other birds stopped too.

"The Sultan is welcome," he said. "I wish him long life
and all prosperity."

"I thank you, good bird," answered the Sultan, seating himself
before the repast, which was spread at a table near the window,
"and I am enchanted to see in you the Sultan and King of the Birds."

The Sultan, noticing that his favourite dish of cucumber was placed
before him, proceeded to help himself to it, and was amazed to and
that the stuffing was of pearls. "A novelty, indeed!" cried he,
"but I do not understand the reason of it; one cannot eat pearls!"

"Sire," replied the bird, before either the princes or the princess
could speak, "surely your Highness cannot be so surprised at beholding
a cucumber stuffed with pearls, when you believed without any
difficulty that the Sultana had presented you, instead of children,
with a dog, a cat, and a log of wood."

"I believed it," answered the Sultan, "because the women attending
on her told me so."

"The women, sire," said the bird, "were the sisters of the Sultana,
who were devoured with jealousy at the honour you had done her, and in
order to revenge themselves invented this story. Have them examined,
and they will confess their crime. These are your children,
who were saved from death by the intendant of your gardens,
and brought up by him as if they were his own."

Like a flash the truth came to the mind of the Sultan.
"Bird," he cried, "my heart tells me that what you say is true.
My children," he added, "let me embrace you, and embrace each other,
not only as brothers and sister, but as having in you the blood
royal of Persia which could flow in no nobler veins."

When the first moments of emotion were over, the Sultan hastened
to finish his repast, and then turning to his children he exclaimed:
"To-day you have made acquaintance with your father. To-morrow I
will bring you the Sultana your mother. Be ready to receive her."

The Sultan then mounted his horse and rode quickly back to the capital.
Without an instant's delay he sent for the grand-vizir, and ordered
him to seize and question the Sultana's sisters that very day.
This was done. They were confronted with each other and proved guilty,
and were executed in less than an hour.

But the Sultan did not wait to hear that his orders had been
carried out before going on foot, followed by his whole court to
the door of the great mosque, and drawing the Sultana with his own
hand out of the narrow prison where she had spent so many years,
"Madam," he cried, embracing her with tears in his eyes,
"I have come to ask your pardon for the injustice I have done you,
and to repair it as far as I may. I have already begun by punishing
the authors of this abominable crime, and I hope you will forgive
me when I introduce you to our children, who are the most charming
and accomplished creatures in the whole world. Come with me,
and take back your position and all the honour that is due to you."

This speech was delivered in the presence of a vast multitude of people,
who had gathered from all parts on the first hint of what was happening,
and the news was passed from mouth to mouth in a few seconds.

Early next day the Sultan and Sultana, dressed in robes of state
and followed by all the court, set out for the country house
of their children. Here the Sultan presented them to the Sultana
one by one, and for some time there was nothing but embraces and
tears and tender words. Then they ate of the magnificent dinner
which had been prepared for them, and after they were all refreshed
they went into the garden, where the Sultan pointed out to his wife
the Golden Water and the Singing Tree. As to the Talking Bird,
she had already made acquaintance with him.

In the evening they rode together back to the capital, the princes
on each side of their father, and the princess with her mother.
Long before they reached the gates the way was lined with people,
and the air filled with shouts of welcome, with which were mingled
the songs of the Talking Bird, sitting in its cage on the lap of
the princess, and of the birds who followed it.

And in this manner they came back to their father's palace.

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