THE TWO SISTERS WHO ENVIED THEIR CADETTE [FN#349]
In days of yore and in times long gone before there lived a king of Persia, Khusrau Sháh hight, renowned for justice and righteousness. His father, dying at a good old age, had left him sole heir to all the realm and, under his rule, the tiger and the kid drank side by side at the same Ghát; [FN#350] and his treasury was ever full and his troops and guards were numberless. Now it was his wont to don disguise and, attended by a trusty Wazir, to wander about the street at night-time. Whereby things seld-seen and haps peregrine became known to him, the which, should I tell thee all thereof, O auspicious King, would weary thee beyond measure. So he took seat upon the throne of his forbears and when the appointed days of mourning were ended, according to the custom of that country, he caused his exalted name, that is Khusrau Shah, be struck upon all the coins of the kingdom and entered into the formula of public prayer. [FN#351] And when stablished in his sovranty he went forth as aforetime on one evening accompanied by his Grand Wazir, both in merchant's habit, walking the streets and squares, the markets and lanes, the better to note what might take place both of good and of bad. By chance they passed, as the night darkened, through a quarter where dwelt people of the poorer class; and as they walked on, the Shah heard inside a house women talking with loud voices; then going near, he peeped in by the door-chink, and saw three fair sisters who having supped together were seated on a divan talking one to other. The King thereupon applied his ear to the crack and listened eagerly to what they said, and heard each and every declaring what was the thing she most desired. [FN#352] Quoth the eldest, "I would I were married to the Shah's head Baker for then should I ever have bread to eat, the whitest and choicest in the city, and your hearts would be fulfilled with envy and jealousy and malice at my good luck." Quoth the second, "I would rather wive with the Shah's chief Kitchener and eat of dainty dishes that are placed before his Highness, wherewith the royal bread which is common throughout the Palace cannot compare for gust and flavour." And quoth the third and youngest of the three, and by far the most beautiful and lively of them all, a maiden of charming nature, full of wit and humour; sharp-witted, wary and wise, when her turn came to tell her wish, "O sisters, my ambition is not as ordinary as yours. I care not for fine bread nor glutton-like do I long for dainty dishes. I look to somewhat nobler and higher: indeed I would desire nothing less than to be married by the King and become the mother of a beautiful Prince, a model of form and in mind as masterful as valorous. His hair should be golden on one side and silvern on the other: when weeping he should drop pearls in place of tears, and when laughing his rosy lips should be fresh as the blossom new-blown." The Shah was amazed with exceeding amazement to hear the wishes of the three sisters, but chiefly of the youngest and determined in himself that he would gratify them all. Wherefore quoth he to the Grand Wazir, "Mark well this house And on the morrow bring before me these maidens whom we Heard discoursing;" and quoth the Wazir, "O Asylum of the Universe, I hear but to obey." Thereupon the twain walked back to the palace and laid them down to rest. When morning morrowed, the Minister went for the sisters and brought them to the King, who, after greeting them and heartening their hearts, said to them in kindly tone, "O ye maidens of weal, last night what was it that in merry word and jest ye spake one to other? Take heed ye tell the Shah every whit in full detail, for all must become known to us; something have we heard, but now the King would have ye recount your discourse to his royal ears."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-eighth Night
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that at these words of the Shah the sisters, confused and filled with shame, durst not reply but stood before him silent with heads bent low; and despite all questioning and encouragement they could not pluck up courage. However, the youngest was of passing comeliness in form and feature and forthwith the Shah became desperately enamoured of her; and of his live began reassuring them and saying, "O ye Princesses of fair ones, be not afraid nor troubled in thought; nor let bashfulness or shyness prevent you telling the Shah what three wishes you wished, for fain would he fulfil them all." Thereat they threw themselves at his feet and, craving his pardon for their boldness and freedom of speech, told him the whole talk, each one repeating the wish she had wished; and on that very day Khusrau Shah married the eldest sister to his chief Baker, and the second sister to his head Cook, and bade make all things ready for his own wedding with the youngest sister. So when the preparations for the royal nuptials had been made after costliest fashion, the King's marriage was celebrated with royal pomp and pageantry, and the bride received the titles of Light of the Harem and Bánú of Irán-land. The other two maidens were likewise married, one to the King's Baker the other to his Cook, after a manner according to their several degrees in life and with little show of grandeur and circumstance. Now it had been only right and reasonable that these twain having won each her own wish, should have passed their time in solace and happiness, but the decree of Destiny doomed otherwise; and, as soon as they saw the grand estate whereto their youngest sister had risen, and the magnificence of her marriage-festival, their hearts were fired with envy and jealousy and sore despite and they resolved upon giving the rein to their hatred and malignancy and to work her some foul mischief. On this wise they remained for many months consumed with rancour, day and night; and they burned with grief and anger whenever they sighted aught of her superior style and state. One morning as the two met at the Hammám and found privacy and opportunity, quoth the eldest sister to the second, "A grievous thing it is indeed that she, our youngest sister, no lovelier than ourselves, should thus be raised to the dignity and majesty of Queendom and indeed the thought is overhard to bear." Quoth the other, "O sister mine, I also am perplexed and displeased at this thing, and I know not what of merit the Shah could have seen in her that he was tempted to choose her for his consort. She ill befitteth that high estate with that face like a monkey's favour; and, save her youth, I know nothing that could commend her to his Highness that he should so exalt her above her fellows. To my mind thou and not she art fit to share the royal bed; and I nurse a grudge against the King for that he hath made this jade his Queen." And the eldest sister rejoined, "I likewise marvel beyond all measure; and I swear that thy youth and beauty, thy well-shaped figure and lovely favour and goodliness of gifts past challenge or compare, might well have sufficed to win the King and have tempted him to wed and bed with thee and make thee his crowned Queen and Sovran Lady in lieu of taking to his arms this paltry strumpet. Indeed he hath shown no sense of what is right and just in leaving thee disappointed; and on this account only the matter troubleth me with exceeding trouble."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Sixty-ninth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the two sisters took counsel each with other how they might abase their youngest sister in the Shah's sight and cause her downfall and utter ruin. Day and night they conned over the matter in their minds and spoke at great length about it when they ever met together, and pondered endless plans to injure the Queen their sister, and if possible bring about her death; but they could fix upon none. And, whilst they bore this despite and hatred towards her and diligently and deliberately sought the means of gratifying their bitter envy, hatred and malice, she on the other hand regarded them with the same favour and affection as she had done before marriage and thought only how to advantage their low estate. Now when some months of her wedded life had passed, the fair Queen was found to be with child whereof the glad tidings filled the Shah with joy; and straightway he commanded all the people of the capital and throughout the while Empire keep holiday with feasts and dancing and every manner jollity as became so rare and important an occasion. But as soon as the news came to the ears of the two Envious Sisters they were constrained perforce to offer their congratulations to the Queen; and, after a long visit, as the twain were about to crave dismissal they said, "Thanks be to Almighty Allah, O our sister, who hath shown us this happy day. One boon have we to ask of thee: to wit, that when the time shall come for thee to be delivered of a child, we may assist as midwives at thy confinement, and be with thee and nurse thee for the space of forty days." The Queen in her gladness made reply, "O sisters mine, I fain would have it so; for at a time of such need I know f none on whom to rely with such dependence as upon you. During my coming trial your presence with me will be most welcome and opportune; but I can do only what thing the Shah biddeth anor can I do aught save by his leave. My advice is thus:--Make known this matter to your mates who have always access to the royal presence, and let them personally apply for your attendance as midwives; I doubt not but that the Shah will give you leave to assist me and remain by my side, considering the fond relationship between us three." Then the two sisters returned home full of evil thoughts and malice, and told their wishes to their husbands who, in turn, bespake Khusrau Shah, and proffered their petition with all humility, little knowing what was hidden from them in the Secret Purpose. The King replied, "When I shall have thought the matter over in my mind, I will give you suitable orders." So saying he privately visited the Queen and to her said, "O my lady, an it please thee, methinks 'twould be well to summon thy sisters and secure their aidance, when thou shalt be labouring of child, in lieu of any stranger: and if thou be of the same mind as myself let me at once learn and take steps to obtain their consent and concert ere thy time arriveth. They will wait on thee with more loving care than any hired nurse and thou wilt find thyself the safer in their hands." Replied the Queen, "O my lord the Shah, I also venture to think that 'twould be well to have my sisters by my side and not mere aliens at such an hour." Accordingly he sent sword to them and from that day they dwelt within the palace to make all ready for the expected confinement; and on this wise they found means to carry out their despiteful plot which during so many days they had devised to scanty purpose. When her full tale of months had been told, the Banu was brought to bed of a man-child marvellous in beauty, whereat the fire of envy and hatred was kindled with redoubled fury in the sisters' breasts. So they again took counsel not suffered ruth nor natural affection to move their cruel hearts; and presently, with great care and secrecy, they wrapped the new-born in a bit of blanket and putting him into a basket cast him into a canal which flowed hard by the Queen's apartment. [FN#353] They then placed a dead puppy in the place of the prince and showed it to the other midwives and nurses, averring that the Queen had given birth to such abortion. When these untoward tidings reached the King's ear he was sore discomforted and waxed wroth with exceeding wrath.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Seventieth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the King, enflamed with sudden fierceness, drew his sword and would have slain his Queen had not the Grand Wazir, who happened to be in his presence at the time, restrained his rage and diverted him from his unjust design and barbarous purpose. Quoth he, "O Shadow of Allah upon earth, this mishap is ordained of the Almighty Lord whose will no man hath power to gainsay. The Queen is guiltless of offence against thee, for what is born of her is born without her choice, and she indeed hath no hand therein." With this and other sage counsels he dissuaded his lord from carrying out his fell purpose and saved the guiltless Queen from a sudden and cruel death. Meanwhile the basket wherein lay the newly-born Prince was carried by the current into a rivulet which flowed through the royal gardens; and, as the Intendant of the pleasure grounds and pleasaunces chanced to walk along the bank, by the decree of Destiny he caught sight of the basket floating by, and he called a gardener, bidding him lay hold of it and bring it to him that he might see what was therein. The man ran along the rivulet side; and, with a long stick drawing the basket to land, showed it to the Intendant who opened it and beheld within a new-born babe, a boy of wondrous beauty wrapped in a bit of blanket; at which sight he was astounded beyond measure of surprise. Now it chanced that the Intendant, who was one of the Emirs and who stood high in favour with the Sovran, had no children: withal he never ceased offering prayers and vows to Almighty Allah that he might have a son to keep alive his memory and continue his name. Delighted at the sight he took home the basket with the babe and giving it to his wife said, "See how Allah hath sent to us this man-child which I just now found floating upon the waters; and do thou apply thee forthright and fetch a wet-nurse to give him milk and nourish him; and bring him up with care and tenderness as though he were thine own." So the Intendant's wife took charge of the child with great gladness and reared him with her whole heart, diligently as though born of her own womb; nor did the Intendant say aught to any, or seek to find out whose might be the child lest haply some one claim and take it from him. He was certified in his mind that the boy came from the Queen's quarter of the palace, but deemed inexpedient to make too strict enquiry concerning the matter; and he and his spouse kept the secret with all secrecy. A year after this the Queen gave birth to a second son, when her sisters, the Satanesses full of spite, did with this babe, even as they had done by the first: they wrapped it in a cloth and set it in a basket which they threw into the stream, then gave out that the Queen had brought forth a kitten. But once more, by the mercy of Allah Almighty, this boy came to the hands of that same Intendant of the gardens who carried him to his wife and placed him under her charge with strict injunctions to take care of the second foundling sedulously as she had done with the first. The Shah, enraged to hear the evil tidings, again rose up to slay the Queen; but as before the Grand Wazir prevented him and calmed his wrath with words of wholesome rede and a second time saved the unhappy mother's life. And after another year had gone by the Banu was brought to bed and this time bore a daughter by whom the sisters did as they had done by her brothers: they set the innocent inside a basket and threw her into the stream; and the Intendant found her also and took her to his wife and bade her rear the infant together with the other two castaways. Hereupon the Envious Sisters, wild with malice, reported that the Queen had given birth to a musk-ratling; [FN#354] whereat King Khusrau could no longer stay his wrath and indignation. So he cried in furious rage to the Grand Wazir, "What, shall the Shah suffer this woman, who beareth naught but vermin and abortions, to share the joys of his bed? Nay more, the King can no longer allow her to live, else she will fill the palace with monstrous births: in very sooth, she is herself a monster, and it behoveth us to rid this place of such unclean creature and accursed." So saying the Shah commanded them do her to death; but the ministers and high officers of estate who stood before the presence fell at the royal feet and besought pardon and mercy for the Queen. The Grand Wazir also said with folded hands, "O Sháhihsháh [FN#355]--O King of the kings--thy slave would fain represent that 'tis not in accordance with the course of justice or the laws of the land to take the life of a woman for no fault of her own. She cannot interfere with Destiny, nor can she prevent unnatural births such as have thrice betided her; and such mishaps have oftentimes befallen other women, whose cases call for compassion and not punishment. An the King be displeased with her then let him cease to live with her, and the loss of his gracious favour will be a penalty dire enough; and, if the Shah cannot suffer the sight of her, then let her be confined in some room apart, and let her expiate her offence by alms deed and charity until 'Izráíl, the Angel of Death, separate her soul from her flesh." Hearing these words of counsel from his aged Councillor, Khusrau Shah recognised that it had been wrong to slay the Queen, for that she could on no wise do away with aught that was determined by Fate and Destiny; and presently he said to the Grand Wazir, "Her life is spared at thine intercession, O wise man and ware; yet will the King doom her to a weird which, haply, is hardly less hard to bear than death. And now do thou forthright make ready, by the side of the Cathedral-mosque, a wooden cage with iron bars and lock the Queen therein as one would confine a ferocious wild beast. [FN#356] Then every Mussulman who wendeth his way to public prayers Shall spit in her face ere he set foot within the fane, and if any fail to carry out this command he shall be punished in like manner. So place guards and inspectors to enforce obedience and let me hear if there be aught of gainsaying." The Wazir durst not make reply but carried out the Shah's commandments; and this punishment inflicted upon the blameless Queen had far better befitted her Envious Sisters.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The End of the Six Hundred and Seventy-first Night.
Then said she--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the cage was made ready with all speed; and, when the forty days after purification of child-bed [FN#357] had come to an end, the Banu was locked therein; and, according to the King's commandment, all who came to prayer in the Great Mosque would first spit in her face. The hapless woman, well knowing that she as not worthy of this ignominy, bore her sufferings with all patience and fortitude; nor were they few who deemed her blameless and undeserving to endure these torments and tortures inflicted upon her by the Shah; and they pitied her and offered prayers and made vows for her release. Meanwhile the Intendant of the gardens and his wife brought up the two Princes and the Princess with all love and tenderness; and, as the children grew in years, their love for these adopted ones increased in like proportion. They gave the eldest Prince the name Bahman, [FN#358], and to his brother Parwez, [FN#359], and as the maiden was of rare of beauty and passing of loveliness and graciousness, they called her Perízádah. [FN#360] When the Princes became of years to receive instruction, the Intendant of the gardens appointed tutors and masters to teach them reading and writing and all the arts and sciences: the Princess also, showing like eagerness to acquire knowledge, was taught letters by the same instructors, and soon could read and write with as perfect fluency and fluency as could her brothers. Then they were placed under the most learned of the Philosophers and the Olema, who taught them the interpretation of the Koran and the sayings of the Apostle; the science of geometry as well as poetry and history, and even the abstruse sciences and the mystic doctrines of the Enlightened; and their teachers were astonished to find how soon and how far all three made progress in their studies and bid fair to outstrip even the sages however learned. Moreover, they all three were reared to horsemanship and skill in the chase, to shooting with shafts and lunging with lance and sway with sabre and jerking the Jeríd, with other manly and warlike sports. Besides all this the Princess Perizadah was taught to sing and play on various instruments of mirth and merriment, wherein she became the peerless pearl of her age and time. The Intendant was exceeding glad of heart to find his adopted children prove themselves such proficients in every branch of knowledge; and presently, forasmuch as his lodging was small and unfit for the growing family, he bought at a little distance from the city a piece of land sufficiently large to contain fields and meadows and copses. Here he fell to building a mansion of great magnificence; and busied himself day and night with supervising the architects and masons and other artificers. He adorned the walls inside and out with sculptural work of the finest and paintings of the choicest, and he fitted every apartment with richest furniture. In the front of his mansion he bade lay out a garden and stocked it with scented flowers and fragrant shrubs and fruit trees whose produce was as that of Paradise. There was moreover a large park girt on all sides by a high wall wherein he reared game, both fur and feather, as sport for the two Princes and their sister. And when the mansion was finished and fit for habitation, the Intendant, who had faithfully served the Shah for many generations of men, craved leave of his lord that he might bid adieu to the city and take up his abode in his new country seat; and the King, who had always looked upon him with the eye of favour, granted to him the required boon right heartily; furthermore, to prove his high opinion of his old servant and his services, he inquired of him if he had aught to request that it might granted to him. Replied the other, "O my liege lord, thy slave desireth naught save that he may spend the remnant of his days under the shadow of the Shah's protection, with body and soul devoted to his service, even as I served the side before the son," The Shah dismissed him with words of thanks and comfort, when he left the city and taking with him the two Princes and their sister, he carried them to his newly-built mansion. Some years before this time his wife had departed to the mercy of Allah, and he had passed only five or six months in his second home when he too suddenly felt sick and was admitted into the number of those who have found ruth. Withal he had neglected every occasion of telling his three foundlings the strange tale of their birth and how he had carried them to his home as castaways and had reared them as rearlings and had cherished them as his own children. But he had time to charge them, ere he died, that they three should never cease to live together in love and honour and affection and respect one towards other. The loss of their protector caused them to grieve with bitter grief for they all thought he was their real father; so they bewailed them and buried him as befitted; after which the two brothers and their sister dwelt together in peace and plenty. But one day of the days the Princes, who were full of daring and of the highest mettle, rode forth a-hunting and Princess Perizadah was left alone at home when an ancient woman--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Seventy-second Night.
Then said she--I have heard, O auspicious King, that perchance an ancient woman of the Moslems, a recluse and a devotee, came to the door and begged leave to enter within and repeat her prayers, as it was then the canonical hour and she had but time to make the Wuzú-ablution. Perizadah bade being her and saluted her with the salam and kindly welcomed her; then, when the holy woman had made an end of her orisons, the handmaids of the Princess, at her command, conducted her all through the house and grounds, and displayed to her the rooms with their furniture and fittings, and lastly the garden and orchard and game-park. She was well pleased with all she saw and said within herself, "The man who built this mansion and laid out these parterres and vergiers was verily an accomplished artist and a wight of marvellous skill." At last the slaves led her back to the Princess who, awaiting her return, was sitting in the belvedere; and quoth she to the devotee, "Come, O good my mother, do thou sit beside me and make me happy by the company of a pious recluse whom I am fortunate enough to have entertained unawares, and suffer I listen to thy words of grace and thereby gain no small advantage in this world and the next. Thou hast chosen the right path and straight whereon to walk, and that which all men strive for and pine for." The holy woman would fain have seated herself at the feet of the Princess, but she courteously arose and took her by the hand and constrained her to sit beside her. Quoth she, "O my lady, mine eyes never yet beheld one so well-mannered as thou art: indeed, I am unworthy to sit with thee, natheless, as thou biddest, I will e'en do thy bidding." As they sat conversing each with other the slave-girls set before them a table whereon were placed some platters of bread and cakes with saucers full of fruits both fresh and dried, and various kinds of cates and sweetmeats. The Princess took one of the cakes and giving it to the good woman said, "O my mother, refresh thyself herewith and eat of the fruits such as thou likest. 'Tis now long since thou didst leave thy home and I trow thou hast not tasted aught of food upon the road." Replied the holy woman, "O lady of gentle birth, I am not wont to taste of dainty dishes such as these, but I can ill refuse thy provision, since Allah the Almighty deigneth send me food and support by so liberal and generous a hand as thine." And when they twain had eaten somewhat and cheered their hearts, the Princess asked the devotee concerning the manner of her worship and of her austere life; whereto she made due answer and explained according to her knowledge. The Princess then exclaimed, "Tell me, I pray thee, what thou thinkest of this mansion and the fashion of its building and the furniture and the appurtenances; and say me is all perfect and appropriate, or is aught still lacking in mansion or garden?" And she replied, "Since thou deignest ask my opinion, I confess to thee that both the buildings and the parterres are finished and furnished to perfection; and the belongings are in the best of taste and in the highest of ordinance. Still to my thinking there be three things here wanting, which if thou hadst the place would be most complete." The Princess Perizadah adjured her saying, "O my aunt, I beseech thee tell me what three articles yet are lacking, that I may lose no pains nor toil to obtain them;" and as the maiden pressed her with much intreaty, the devotee was constrained to tell her. Quoth she, "O gentle lady, the first thing is the Speaking-Bird, called Bulbul-i-hazár-dástán; [FN#361] he is very rare and hard to find but, whenever he poureth out his melodious notes, thousands of birds fly to him from every side and join him in his harmony. The next thing is the Singing-Tree, whose smooth and glossy leaves when shaken by the wind and rubbed against one another send forth tuneful tones which strike the ear like the notes of sweet-voices minstrels ravishing the heart of all who listen. The third thing is the Golden-Water of transparent purity, whereon should but one drop be dripped into a basin and this be placed inside the garden it presently will fill the vessel brimful and will spout upwards in gerbes playing like a fountain that jets: moreover it never ceaseth playing, and all the water as it shooteth up falleth back again inside the basin, not one gout thereof being lost." Replied the Princess, "I doubt not but thou knowest for a certainty the very spot where these wondrous things are to be found; and I pray thee tell me now the place and means whereby I may take action to obtain them."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Seventy-third Night.
Then said she--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the holy woman thus answered the Princess, "These three rarities are not to be found, save on the boundary-line that lieth between the land of Hind and the confining countries, a score of marches along the road that leadeth Eastwards from this mansion. Let him who goeth forth in quest of them ask the first man he meeteth on the twentieth stage concerning the spot where he may find the Speaking-Bird, the Singing-Tree and the Golden-Water; and he will direct the seeker where to come upon all three." When she had made an end of speaking the Devotee, with many blessings and prayers and vows for her well-being, farewelled the lady Perizadah and fared forth homewards. The Princess, however, ceased not to ponder her words and ever to dwell in memory upon the relation of the holy woman who, never thinking that her hostess had asked for information save by way of curiosity, nor really purposed in mind to set forth with intent of finding the rarities, ahd heedlessly told all she knew and had given a clue to the discovery. But Perizadah kept these matters deeply graven on the tablets of her heart with firm resolution to follow the directions and, by all means in her power, to gain possession of these three wonders. Withal, the more she reflected the harder appeared the enterprise, and her fear of failing only added to her unease. Now whilst she sat perplexed with anxious thought and anon terrified with sore affright, her brothers rode back from the hunting-ground; and they marvelled much to see her sad of semblance and low-spirited, wondering the while what it was that troubles her. Presently quoth Prince Bahman, "O sister mine, why art thou so heavy of heart this day? Almighty Allah forbid thou ill in health or that aught have betided thee to cause thy displeasure or to make thee melancholy. Tell us I beseech thee what it is, that we may be sharers in thy sorrow and be alert to aid thee." The Princess answered not a word, but after long silence raised her head and looked up at her brothers; then casting down her eyes she said in curt phrase that naught was amiss with her. Quoth Prince Bahman, "Full well I wot that there is a somewhat on my mind which thou hesitateth to tell us; and now hear me swear a strong oath that I will never leave thy side till thou shalt have told us what cause it is that troubleth thee. Haply thou art aweary of our affection and thou wouldest undo the fraternal tie which hath united us from our infancy." When she saw her brothers so distressed and distraught, she was compelled to speak and said, "Albeit, O my dearlings, to tell you wherefore I am sad and sorrowful may cause you grief, still there is no help but I explain the matter to you twain. This mansion, which our dear father (who hath found ruth) builded for us, is perfect in every attribute nor lacketh it any condition of comfort or completion. Howbeit I have found out by chance this day that there are yet three things which, were they set within these walls, of the house and grounds, would make our place beyond compare, and in the wide world there would be naught with it to pair. These three things are the Speaking-Bird an the Singing-Tree and the Golden- Water; and ever since I heard of them my heart is filled with extreme desire to place them within our domain and excessive longing to obtain them by any means within my power. It now behoveth you to help me with your best endeavour and to consider what person will aid me in getting possession of these rarities." Replied Prince Bahman, "My life and that of my brother are at thy service to carry out thy purpose with heart and soul; and, couldst thou give me but a clue to the place where these strange things are found, I would sally forth in quest of them at day-break as soon as the morning shall morrow." When Prince Parwez understood that his brother was about to make this journey, he spake saying, "O my brother, thou art eldest of us, so do thou stay at home while I go forth to seek for these three things and bring them to our sister. And indeed it were more fitting for me to undertake a task which may occupy me for years." Replied Prince Bahman, "I have full confidence in thy strength and prowess, and whatso I am able to perform thou canst do as well as I can. Still it is my firm resolve to fare forth upon this adventure alone and unaided, and thou must stay and take care of our sister and our house." So next day Prince Bahman learned from the Princess the road whereon he was to travel and the marks and signs whereby to find the place. Presently, he donned armour and arms and bidding the twain adieu, he took horse and was about to ride forth with the stoutest of hearts, whereat Princess Perizadah's eyes brimmed with tears and in faltering accents she addressed him saying, "O dear my brother, this bitter separation is heart-breaking; and sore sorrowful am I to see thee part from us. This disunion and thine absence in a distant land cause me grief and woe far exceeding that wherewith I mourned and pined for the rarities wherefor thou quittest us. If only we might have some news of thee from day to day then would I fell somewhat comforted and consoled; but not 'tis clear otherwise and regret is of none avail."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Seventy-fourth Night.
Then she said--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Prince Bahman made answer in these words: "O sister mine, I am fully determined in mind to attempt this derring-do; be thou not however anxious or alarmed, for Inshallah--God willing--I shall return successful and triumphant. After my departure shouldst thou at any time feel in fear for my safety, then by this token which I leave thee thou shalt know of my fate and lot, good or evil." Then, drawing from his waist-shawl a little hunting-knife like a whittle, he gave it to Princess Perizadah, saying, "Take now this blade and keep it ever by thee; and shouldst thou at any day or hour be solicitous concerning my condition, draw it from its sheath; and if the steel be clean and bright as 'tis now then know that I am alive and safe and sound; but an thou find stains of blood thereon then shalt thou know that I am slain, and naught remaineth for thee to do save to pray for me as for one dead." With these words of solace the Prince departed on his journey, and travelled straight along the road to India, turning nor to right hand nor to left but ever keeping the same object in view. Thus a score of days was spent in journeying from the land of Iran, and upon the twentieth he reached the end of his travel. Here he suddenly sighted an ancient man of frightful aspect sitting beneath a tree hard by his thatched hut wherein he was wont to shelter himself from the rains of spring and the heats of summer and the autumnal miasmas and the wintry frosts. So shotten in years was this Shaykh that hair and beard, mustachios and whiskers were white as snow, and the growth of his upper lip was so long and so thick that it covered and concealed his mouth, while his beard swept the ground and the nails of his hands and feet had grown to resemble the claws of a wild beast. Upon his head he wore a broad-brimmed hat of woven palm-leaves like that of a Malábár fisherman, and all his remaining habit was a strip of matting girded around his waist. Now this Shaykh was a Darwaysh who for many years had fled the world and all worldly pleasures; who lived a holy life of poverty and chastity and other-worldliness whereby his semblance had become such as I, O auspicious King, have described to thee. From early dawn that day Prince Bahman had been watchful and vigilant, ever looking on all sides to descry some one who could supply him with information touching the whereabouts of the rarities he sought; and this was the first human being he had sighted on that stage, the twentieth and last of his journey. So he rode up to him, being assured that the Shaykh must be the wight of whom the holy woman had spoken. Then Prince Bahman dismounting and making low obeisance to the Darwaysh, said, "I my father, Allah Almighty prolong thy years and grant thee all thy wishes!" Whereto the Fakir made answer but in accents so indistinct that the Prince could not distinguish a single word he said; and presently Bahman understood that his moustache was on such wise closed and concealed his mouth that his utterance became indistinct and he only muttered when he would have spoken. He therefore haltered his horse to a tree and pulling out a pair of scissors said, "O holy man, thy lips are wholly hidden by this overlong hair; suffer me, I pray thee, clip the bristling growth which overspreadeth thy face and which is so long and thick that thou art fearsome to behold; nay, more like to a bear than to a human being." The Darwaysh with a nod consented, and when the Prince had clipped it and trimmed the growth, his face once more looked young and fresh as that of a man in the prime of youth. Presently quoth Bahman to him, "Would Heaven that I had a mirror wherein to show thee thy face, so wouldst thou see how youthful thou seemest, and how thy favour hath become far more like that of folk than whilom it was." These flattering words pleased the Darwaysh who smiling said, "I thank thee much for this thy goodly service and kindly offices; and, if in return, I can do aught of favour for thee, I pray thee let me know, and I will attempt to satisfy thee in all things with my very heart and soul." Then said the Prince, "O holy man, I have come hither from far distant lands along a toilsome road in quest of three things; to wit, a certain Speaking-Bird, a Singing-Tree and a Golden-Water; and this know I for certain that they are all to be found hard by this site."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Prince, turning to the Darwaysh, continued, "O Devotee, albeit well I wot that the three things I seek are in this land and nearhand, yet I know not the exact spot wherein to find them. An thou have true information concerning the place and will inform me thereof, I on my part will never forget thy kindness, and I shall have the satisfaction of feeling that this long and toilsome wayfare hath not been wholly vain." Hearing these words of the Prince, the Darwaysh changed countenance and his face waxed troubled and his colour wan; then he bent his glance downwards and sat in deepest silence. Whereat the other said, "O holy father, dost thou not understand the words wherewith I have bespoken thee? An thou art ignorant of the matter prithee let me know straightway that I may again fare onwards until such time as I find a man who can inform me thereof." After a long pause the Darwaysh made reply, "O stranger, 'tis true I ken full well the site whereof thou are in search; but I hold thee dear in that thou hast been of service to me; and I am loath for thine own sake to tell thee where to find that stead." And the Prince rejoined, "Say me, O Fakir, why dost thou withhold this knowledge from me, and wherefore art thou not lief to let me learn it?" Replied the other, "'Tis a hard road to travel and full of perils and dangers. Besides thyself many have come hither and have asked the path of me, and I refused to tell them, but they heeded not my warning and pressed me sore and compelled me to disclose the secret which I would have buried in my breast. Know, O my son, that all those braves have perished in their pride and not one of them hath returned to me safe and sound. Now, an thy life be dear to thee, follow my counsel and fare no further, but rather turn thee back without stay or delay and make for house and home and family." Hereto Prince Bahman, stern in resolution, made reply, "Thou hast after kindly guise and friendly fashion advised me with the best of advice; and I, having heard all thou hast to day, do thank thee gratefully. But I reck not one jot or tittle of what dangers affront me, nor shall thy threats however fatal deter me from my purpose: moreover, if thieves or foemen haply fall upon me, I am armed at point and can and will protect myself, for I am certified that none can outvie me in strength and stowre." To this the Fakir made reply, "The beings who will cut thy path and bar thy progress to that place are unseen of man, nor will they appear to thee on any wise: how then canst thou defend thyself against them?" And he replied, "So be it, still I fear not and I pray thee only show me the road thither." When the Darwaysh was assured that the Prince had fully determined in mind to attempt the exploit and would by no means turn or be turned back from carrying out his purpose, he thrust his hand into a bag which lay hard by and took therefrom a ball, and said, "Alas, O my son, thou wilt not accept my counsel and I needs must let thee follow thy wilful way. Take this ball and, mounting thy horse, throw it in front of thee, and as long as it shall roll onwards do thou ride after it, but when it shall stop at the hill-foot dismount from thy horse and throw the reins upon his neck and leave him alone, for he will stay there without moving until such time as thou return. Then manfully breast the ascent, and on either side of the path, right and left, thou shalt see a scatter of huge black boulders. Here the sound of many voices in confused clamour and frightful will suddenly strike thine ears, to raise thy wrath and to fill thee with fear and hinder thy higher course uphill. Have a heed that thou be not dismayed, also beware, and again say I beware, lest thou turn they head at any time, and cast a look backwards. An thy courage fail thee, or thou allow thyself one glance behind thee, thou shalt be transformed that very moment into a black rock; for know thou, O Prince, that all those stones which thou shalt see strewn upon thy way were men whilome and braves like thyself, who went forth with intent to gain the three things thou seekest, but frightened at those sounds lost human shape and became black boulders. However, shouldst thou reach the hill-top sae and sound, thou shalt find on the very summit a cage and perched therein the Speaking-Bird ready to answer all thy queries. So ask of him where thou mayest find the Singing-Tree and the Golden-Water, and he will tell thee all thou requirest. When thou shalt safely have seized all three thou wilt be free from further danger; yet, inasmuch as thou hast not yet set out upon this journey give ear to my counsel. I beg of thee to desist from this thy purpose and return home in peace whilst thou hast yet the power."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Seventy-sixth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Prince made answer to the Darwaysh, "Until, O thou holy man, such time as I win to my purpose I will not go back; no, never; therefore adieu." So he mounted his horse and threw the ball in front of him; and it rolled forward at racing-speed and he, with gaze intent thereupon, rode after it and did not suffer it to gain upon him. When it had reached the hill whereof the Darwaysh spake, it ceased to make further way, whereupon the Prince dismounted and throwing the reins on his horse's neck left him and fared on afoot to the slope. As far as he could see, the line of his path from the hill-foot to the head was strown with a scatter of huge black boulders; withal his heart felt naught of fear. He had not taken more than some four or five paces before a hideous din and a terrible hubbub of many voices arose, even as the Darwaysh had forewarned him. Prince Bahman, however, walked on valiantly with front erect and fearless tread, but he saw no living thing and heard only the Voices [FN#362] sounding all around him. Some said, "Who is yon fool man and whence hath he come?" Stop him, let him not pass!" Others shouted out, "Fall on him, seize this zany and slay him!" Then the report waxed louder and louder still, likest to the roar of thunder, and many Voices yelled out, "Thief! Assassin! Murderer!" Another muttered in taunting undertones, "Let him be, fine fellow that he is! Suffer him to pass on, for he and he only shall get the cage and the Speaking-Bird." The Prince feared naught but advanced hot foot with his wonted verve and spirit; presently, however, when the Voices kept approaching nearer and nearer to him and increased in number on every side, he was sore perplexed. His legs began to tremble, he staggered and in fine overcome by fear he clean forgot the warning of the Darwaysh and looked back, whereat he was incontinently turned to stone like the scores of knights and adventurers who had foregone him. Meantime the Princess Perizadah ever carried the hunting-knife, which Bahman her brother had given her, sheathed as it was in her maiden zone. She had kept it there ever since he set out upon his perilous expedition, and whenever she felt disposed she would bare the blade and judge by its sheen how fared her brother. Now until that day when he was transmewed to stone she found it, as often as she looked at it, clean and bright; but on the very evening when that evil fate betided him perchance Prince Parwez said to Perizadah, "O sister mine, give me I pray thee the hunting-knife that I may see how goeth it with our brother." She took it from her waist-belt and handed it to him; and as soon as he unsheathed the knife lo and behold! he saw gouts of gore begin to drop from it. Noting this he dashed the hunting-knife down and burst out into loud lamentations, whilst the Princess who divined what had happened shed a flood of bitter tears and cried with sighs and sobs, "Alas, O my brother, thou hast given thy life for me. Ah, woe is me and well-away! why did I tell thee of the Speaking-Bird and the Singing-Tree and the Golden- Water? Wherefore did I ask that holy woman how she liked our home, and hear of those three things in answer to my question? Would to Heaven she had never crossed our threshold and darkened our doors! Ungrateful hypocrite, dost thou requite me on such wise for the favour and the honour I was fain to show thee; and what made me ask of thee the means whereby to win these things? If now I obtain possession of them what will they advantage me, seeing that my brother Bahman is no more? What should I ever do with them?" Thus did Perizadah indulge her grief bewailing her sad fate; while Parwez in like manner moaned for his brother Bahman with exceeding bitter mourning. At last the Prince, who despite his sorrow was assured that his sister still ardently desired to possess the three marvels, turned to Perizadah and said, "It behoveth me, O my sister, to set out forthright and to discover whether Bahman our brother met his death by doom of Destiny, or whether some enemy have slain him; and if he hath been killed then must I take full vengeance on his murtherer." Perizadah besought him with much weeping and wailing not to leave her, and said, "O joy of my heart, Allah upon thee, follow not in the footsteps of our dear departed brother or quit me in order to attempt a journey so rife in risks. I care naught for those things in my fear lest I lose thee also while attempting such enterprise." But Prince Parwez would in no wise listen to her lament and next day took leave of her, but ere he fared she said to him, "The hunting-knife which Bahman left with me was the means of informing us concerning the mishap which happened to him; but, say me how I shall know what happeneth to thee?" Then he produced a string of pearls which numbered one hundred and said, "As long as thou shalt see these pearls all parted one from other and each running loose upon the string, then do thou know that I am alive; but an thou shouldst find them fixed and adhering together then be thou ware that I am dead." The Princess taking the string of pearls hung it around her neck, determined to observe it hour after hour and find out how it fared with her second brother. After this Prince Parwez set out upon his travels and at the twentieth stage came to the same spot where Bahman had found the Darwaysh and saw him there in like condition. Then, after saluting him with the salam, the Prince asked, "Canst thou tell me where to find the Speaking-Bird and the Singing-Tree and the Golden-Water; and by what manner of means I may get possession of them? An thou can I pray thee inform me of this matter."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Seventy-seventh Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Darwaysh strave to stay Prince Parwez from his design and shewed him all the dangers on the way. Quoth he, "Not many days ago one like unto thee in years and in features came hither and enquired of me concerning the matter you now seekest. I warned him of the perils of the place and would have weaned him from his wilful ways, but he paid no wise heed to my warnings and refused to accept my counsel. He went off with full instructions from me on how to find those things he sought; but as yet he hath not returned, and doubtless he also hath perished like the many who preceded him upon that perilous enterprise." Then said Prince Parwez, "O holy father, I know the man of whom thou speakest, for that he was my brother; and I learned that he was dead, but have no inkling of the cause whereby he died." Replied the Darwaysh, "O my lord, I can inform thee on this matter; he hath been transmewed into a black stone, like the others of whom I just now spake to thee. If thou wilt not accept my advice and act accordingly to my counsel thou also shalt perish by the same means as did thy brother; and I solemnly forewarn thee to desist from this endeavour." Prince Parwez having pondered these words, presently made reply, "O Darwaysh, I thank thee again and again and am much beholden to thee that thou art fain of my welfare and thou hast given me the kindest of counsel and the friendliest of advice; nor am I worthy of such favours bestowed upon a stranger. But now remaineth naught for me to beseech that thou wilt point out the path, for I am fully purposed to fare forwards and in no wise to desist from my endeavour. I pray thee favour me with full instructions for the road even as thou favouredst my brother." Then said the Darwaysh, "An thou wilt not lend ear to my warnings and do as I desire thee, it mattereth to me neither mickle nor little. Choose for thyself and I by doom of Destiny must perforce forward thy attempt and albeit, by reason of my great age and infirmities, I may not conduct thee to the place I will not grudge thee a guide." Then Prince Parwez mounted his horse and the Darwaysh taking one of many balls from out his scrip placed it in the youth's hands, directing him the while what to do, as he had counselled his brother Bahman; and, after giving him much advice and many warnings he ended with saying, "O my lord, have a heed not to be perplexed and terrified by the threatening Voices [FN#363], and sounds from unseen beings, which shall strike thine ear; but advance dauntless to the hill-top where thou shalt find the cage with the Speaking-Bird and the Singing-Tree and the Golden-Water." The Fakir then bid him adieu with words of good omen and the Prince set forth. He threw the ball upon the ground before him and, as it rolled up the path, he urged his horse to keep pace with it. But when he reached the hill-foot and saw that the ball had stopped and lay still, he dismounted forthright and paused awhile ere he should begin to climb and conned well in his mind the directions, one and all, given to him by the Darwaysh. Then, with firm courage and fast resolve, he set out afoot to reach the hill-top. But hardly had he begun to climb before he heard a voice beside him threatening him in churlish tongue and crying, "O youth of ill-omen, stand still that I may trounce thee for this thine insolence." Hearing these insulting words of the Invisible Speaker, Prince Parwez felt his blood boil over; he could not refrain his rage and in his passion he clean forgot the words of wisdom wherewith the Fakir was warned him. He seized his sword and drawing it from the scabbard, turned about to slay the man who durst insult him in such wise; but he saw no one and, in the act of looking back both he and his horse became black stones. Meanwhile the Princess ceased not at all hours of the day and watches of the night to consult the string of pearls which Parwez had left her; she counted them overnight when she retired to rest, she slept with them around her neck during the hours of darkness, and when she awoke at the dawn of day she first of all consulted them and noted their condition. Now at the very hour when her second brother was turned to stone she found the pearls sticking one to other so close together that she might not move a single bead apart from its fellows and she knew thereby that Prince Parwez also was lost to her for ever.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Seventy-eight Night.
Then said she:-I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Princess Perizadah was sore grieved at so sudden a blow and said to herself, "Ah! Woe is me and well-away! How bitter will be living without the love of such brothers whose youthtide was sacrificed for me! 'Tis but right that I share their fate whate'er be my lot; else what shall I have to say on the Day of Doom and the Resurrection of the Dead and the Judgment of Mankind?" Wherefore next morning, without further let or stay, she donned disguise of man's attire; and, warning her women and slaves that she would be absent on an errand for a term of days during which they would be in charge of the house and goods, she mounted her hackney and set out alone and unattended. Now, inasmuch as she was skilled in horsemanship and had been wont to accompany her brothers when hunting and hawking, she was better fitted than other women to bear the toils and travails of travel. So on the twentieth day she arrived safe and sound at the hermitage-hut where, seeing the same Shaykh, she took seat beside him and after salaaming to him and greeting him she asked him, "O holy father, suffer me to rest and refresh myself awhile in this site of good omen; then deign point out to me, I pray thee, the direction of the place, at no far distance herefrom, wherein are found a certain Speaking-Bird and a Singing-Tree and a Golden-Water. An thou wilt tell me I shall deem this the greatest of favour." Replied the Darwaysh, "Thy voice revealeth to me that thou art a woman and no man, albeit attired in male's apparel. Well I wot the stead whereof thou speakest and which containeth the marvellous things thou hast named. But say me, what is thy purpose in asking me?" The Princess made reply, "I have been told many a tale anent these rare and wondrous things, and I would fain get possession of them and bear them to my home and make them its choicest adornments." And said the Fakir, "O my daughter, in very truth these matters are exceeding rare and admirable: right fit are they for fair ones like thyself to win and take back with thee, but thou hast little inkling of the dangers manifold and dire that encompass them. Better far were it for thee to cast away this vain thought and go back by the road thou camest." Replied the Princess, "O holy father and far-famed anchorite, I come from a distant land whereto I will nevermore return, except after winning my wish; no, never! I pray thee tell me the nature of those dangers and what they be, that hearing thereof my heart may judge if I have or have not the strength and the spirit to meet them." Then the Shaykh described to the Princess all the risks of the road as erst he had informed Princes Bahman and Parwez; and he ended with saying, "The dangers will display themselves as soon as thou shalt begin to climb the hill-head where is the home of the Speaking-Bird. Then, if thou be fortunate enough to seize him, he will direct thee where to find the Singing-Tree and the Golden-Water. All the time thou climbest the hill, Voices from throats unseen and accents fierce and fell shall resound in thine ears. Furthermore, thou shalt see black rocks and boulders strewn upon thy path; and these, thou must know, are the transformed bodies of men who with exceeding courage attempted the same enterprise, but filled with sudden fear and tempted to turn and to look backwards were changed into stones. Now do thou steadily bear in mind what was their case. At the first the listened to those fearful sounds and cursings with firm souls, but anon their hearts and minds misgave them, or, haply, they fumed with fury to hear the villain words addressed to them and they turned about and gazed behind them, whereat both men and horses became black boulders." But when the Darwaysh had told her every whit, the Princess made reply, "From what thou sayest it seemeth clear to me that these Voices can do nothing but threaten and frighten by their terrible din; furthermore that there is naught to prevent a man climbing up the hill, nor is there any fear of any one attacking him; all he hath to do is on no account to look behind him." And after a short pause she presently added, "O Fakir, albeit a woman yet I have both nerve and thews to carry me through this adventure. I shall not heed the Voices not be enraged thereat, neither will they have any power to dismay me: moreover, I have devised a device whereby my success on this point is assured." "And what wilt thou do?" asked he, and she answered, "I will stop mine ears with cotton so may not my mind be disturbed and reason perturbed by hearing those awesome sounds." The Fakir marvelled with great marvel and presently exclaimed, "O my lady, methinks thou art destined to get possession of the things thou seekest. This plan hath not occurred to any hitherto [FN#364] and hence it is haply that one and all have failed miserably and have perished in the attempt. Take good heed to thyself, however, not run any risk other than the enterprise requireth." She replied, "I have no cause for fear since this one and only danger is before me to prevent happy issue. My heart doth bear me witness that I shall surely gain the guerdon wherefor I have undertaken such toil and trouble, But now do thou tell me what I must do, and whither to win my wish I must wend." The Darwaysh once more besought her to return home, but Perizadah refused to listen and remained as firm and resolute as before; so when he saw that she was fully bent upon carrying out her purpose he exclaimed, "Depart, O my daughter, in the peace of Almighty Allah and His blessing; and may He defend thy youth and beauty from all danger." Then taking from his bag a ball he gave it her and said, "When thou art seated in saddle throw this before thee and follow it whitherso it lead thee; and when it shall stop at the hill-foot then dismount and climb the slope. What will happen after I have already told thee."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Seventy-ninth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Princess after farewelling the Fakir straightway bestrode her steed and threw the ball in front of his hooves as she had been bidden do. It rolled along before her in the direction of the hill and she urged her hackney to keep up with it, until reaching the hill it suddenly stopped. Hereat the Princess dismounted forthwith and having carefully plugged both her ears with cotton, began to breast the slope with fearless heart and dauntless soul; and as soon as she had advanced a few steps a hubbub of voices broke out all around her, but she heard not a sound, by reason of her hearing being blunted by the cotton-wool. Then hideous cries arose with horrid din, still she heard them not; and at last they grew to a storm of shouts and shrieks and groans and moans flavoured with foul language such as shameless women use when railing one at other. She caught now and then an echo of the sounds but recked naught thereof and only laughed and said to herself, "What care I for their scoffs and jeers and fulsome taunts? Let them hoot on and bark and bay as they may: this at least shall not turn me from my purpose." As she approached the goal the path became perilous in the extreme and the air was so filled with an infernal din and such awful sounds that even Rustam would have quailed thereat and the bold spirit of Asfandiyar [FN#365] have quaked with terror. The Princess, however, pressed on with uttermost speed and dauntless heart till she neared the hill-top and espied above her the cage in which the Speaking-Bird was singing with melodious tones; but, seeing the Princess draw nigh, he broke out despite his puny form in thundering tones and cried, "Return, O fool: hie thee back not dare come nearer." Princess Perizadah heeded not his clamour a whit but bravely reached the hill-top, and running over the level piece of ground made for the cage and seized it saying, "At last I have thee and thou shalt not escape me." She then pulled out the cotton-wool wherewith she had stopped her ears, and heard the Speaking-Bird reply in gentle accents, "O lady valiant and noble, be of good cheer for no harm or evil shall betide thee, as hath happened to those who essayed to make me their prize. Albeit I am encaged I have much secret knowledge of what happeneth in the world of men and I an content to become thy slave, and for thee to be my liege lady. Moreover I am more familiar with all that concerneth thee even than thou art thyself; and one day of the days I will do thee a service which shall deserve thy gratitude. What is now thy command? Speak that I may fulfil thy wish." Princess Perizadah was gladdened by these words, but in the midst of her joy she grieved at the thought of how she had lost her brothers whom she loved with a love so dear, and anon she said to the Speaking-Bird, "Full many a thing I want, but first tell me of the Golden-Water, of which I have heard so much, be nigh unto this place and if so do thou show me where to find it." The Bird directed her accordingly and the Princess took a silver flagon she had brought with her and filled it brimful from the magical fount. Then quoth she to the Bird, "The third and last prize I have come to seek is the Singing- Tree; discover to me where that also can be found." The Bird replied, "O Princess of fair ones, behind thy back in yonder clump that lieth close at hand groweth the Tree;" so she went forthright to the copse and found the Tree she sought singing with sweetest toned voice. But inasmuch as it was huge in girth she returned to her slave the Bird and said, "The Tree indeed I found but 'tis lofty and bulky; how then shall I pull it up?" and he made answer, "Pluck but a branchlet of the Tree and plant it in thy garden; 'twill at once take root and in shortest time be as gross and fair a growth as that in yonder copse." So the Princess broke off a twig, and now that she had secured the three things, whereof the holy woman spake to her, she was exceeding joyful and turning to the Bird said, "I have in very deed won my wish, but one thing is yet wanting to my full satisfaction. My brothers who ventured forth with this same purpose are lying hereabouts turned into black stones; and I fain would have them brought to life again and the twain return with me in all satisfaction and assurance of success. Tell me now some plan whereby mine every desire may be fulfilled."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Eightieth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Speaking-Bird replied, "O Princess, trouble not thyself, the thing is easy. Sprinkle some of the Golden-Water from the flagon upon the black stones lying round about, and by virtue thereof each and every shall come to life again, thy two brothers as well as the others." So Princess Perizadah's heart was set at rest and taking the three prizes with her she fared forth and scattered a few drops from the silver flagon upon each black stone as she passed it when, lo and behold! they came to life as men and horses. Amongst them were her brothers who she at once knew and falling on their necks she embraced them, and asked in tones of surprise, "O my brothers, what do ye here?" To this they answered, "We lay fast asleep." Quoth she, "Strange indeed that ye take delight in slumber away from me and ye forget the purpose wherefor ye left me; to wit, the winning of the Speaking-Bird and the Singing-Tree and the Golden-Water. Did ye not see this place all bestrown with dark hued rocks? Look now and say if there be aught left of them. These men and horses now standing around us were all black stones as ye yourselves also were; but, by the boon of Almighty Allah, all have come to life again and await the signal to depart. And if now ye wish to learn by what strange miracle both ye and they have recovered human shape, know ye that it hath been wrought by virtue of a water contained in this flagon which I sprinkled in the rocks with leave of the Lord of all Living. When I had gained possession of this cage and its Speaking-Bird, and also of the Singing-Tree, a wand whereof ye see in my hand, and lastly of the Golden-Water, I would not take them home with me unless ye twain could also bear me company; so I asked of this Bird the means whereby ye could be brought to life again. He made me drop some drops of the Golden-Water on the boulders and when I had done this ye two like all the others returned to life and to your proper forms." Hearing these her words the Princes Bahman and Parwez thanked and praised their sister Perizadah; and all the other she had saved showered thanks and blessings on her hear saying with one accord, "O our lady, we are now thy slaves; nor can a lifelong service repay the debt of gratitude we owe thee for this favour thou hast shown us. Command and we are ready to obey thee with our hearts and our souls." Quoth Perizadah, "The bringing back to life of these my brothers were my aim and purpose, and in so doing ye too have profited thereby; and I accept your acknowledgements as another pleasure. But now do ye mount each and every man his horse and ride back by the way ye came to your homes in Allah's peace." On this wise the Princess dismissed them and made herself ready to depart; but, as she was about to bestride her steed, Prince Bahman asked permission of her that he might hold in hand the cage and ride in front of her. She answered, "Not so, O brother mine; this Bird is now my slave and I will carry him myself. An thou wilt, take thou this twig with thee, but hold the cage only till I am seated in saddle." She then mounted her hackney and, placing the cage before her on the pommel, bade her brother Parwez take charge of the Golden-Water in the silver flagon and carry it with all ease and the Prince did her bidding without gainsaying. And when they were all ready to ride forth, including the knights and the squires whom Perizadah had brought to life by sprinkling the Water the Princess turned to them and said, "Why delay we our departure and how is it that none offereth to lead us?" Bur as all hesitated she gave command, "Now let him amongst you number whose noblesse and high degree entitle him to such distinction fare before us and show us the way." Then all with one accord replied, "O Princes of fair ones, there be none amongst us worthy of such honour, nor may any wight dare to ride before thee." So when she saw that none amongst them claimed preeminence or right of guidance, and none desired to take precedence of the rest, she made excuse and said, "O my lords, 'tis not for me by right to lead the way, but since ye order I must needs obey." Accordingly she pushed on to the front, and after came her brothers and behind them the rest. And as they journeyed on all desired to see the holy man, and thank him for his favours and friendly rede, but when they reached the spot where he dwelt they found him dead, and they knew not if old age had taken him away, or if he perished in his prise because the Princess Perizadah had found and carried off the three things whereof he had been appointed by Destiny guard and guide.--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Eighty-first Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that all the company rode on, and as each one arrived at the road which led him to his natal land he took leave of the Lady Perizadah and went his way, until all were gone and the Princess and her brothers were the only left. At last they reached their journey's end safe and sound, and on entering their mansion Perizadah hung the cage inside the garden hard by the belvedere and no sooner did the Speaking-Bird begin to sing than flights of ring-doves and bulbuls and nightingales and skylarks and parrots and other songsters came flocking around him from afar and anear. Likewise she set the twig, which she had taken from the Singing-Tree, in a choice parterre also hard by the belvedere, and forthright it took root and put forth boughs and buds and grew goodly in growth, till it became a trunk as large as that from which she had plucked the twig, whilst from its leafage went forth bewitching sounds rivalling the music of the parent tree. She lastly bid them carve her a basin of pure white marble and set it in the centre of the pleasure grounds; then she poured therein the Golden-Water and forthright it filled the bowl and sot upwards like a spouting fountain some twenty feet in height; moreover the gerbes and jets fell back whence they came and not one drop was lost: whereby the working of the waters was unbroken and ever similar. Now but few days passed ere the report of these three wonders was bruited abroad and flocked the folk daily from the city to solace themselves with the sight, and the gates stood always open wide and all who came had entrance to the house and gardens and free leave to walk about at will and see these rarities which affected them with admiration and delight. Then also, as soon as both the Princes had recovered from the toils of travel, they began to go a-hunting as heretofore; and it chanced one day they rode forth several miles from home and were both busies in the chase, when the Shah of Iran-land came by decree of Destiny to the same place for the same purpose. The Princes, seeing a band of knights and huntsmen drawing near, were fain to ride home and to avoid such meeting; so they left the hunting-grounds and turned them homewards. But as Fate and lot would have it they hit upon the very road whereby King Khusrau Shah was coming, and so narrow was the path that they could not avoid the horsemen by wheeling round and wending another way. So they drew rein perforce and dismounting the salaamed and did obeisance to the Shah and stood between his hands with heads held low. The Sovran, seeing the horses' fine trappings and the Princes' costly garments, thought that the two youths were in the suite of his Wazirs and his Ministers of state and much wished to look upon their faces; he therefore bade them raise their heads and stand upright in the presence and they obeyed his bidding with modest mien and downcast eyes. He was charmed to behold their comeliness of favour and their graceful forms and their noble air and their courtly mien; and, after gazing at them for some time in not a little wonder and admiration, he asked them who they were and when might be their names and where they abode. Hereto Prince Bahman made reply, "O Asylum of the Universe, we are the sons of one whose life was spent in serving the Shah, the Intendant of the royal gardens and pleasaunces. As his days grew to a close he builded him a home without the town for us to dwell in till we should grow to man's estate and become fit to do thy Highness suit and service and carry out thy royal commands." The Shah furthermore asked them, "How is it that ye go a-hunting? This is a special sport of Kings and is not meant for the general of his subjects and dependants." Prince Bahman rejoined, "O Refuge of the World, we are yet young in years and being brought up at home we know little of courtly customs; but, as we look to bear arms in the armies of the Shah we fain would train our bodies to toil and moil." This answer was honoured by the royal approof and the King rejoined, "The Shah would see how ye deal with noble game; so choose ye whatever quarry ye will and bring it down in the presence." The Princes hereat remounted their horses and joined the Sovran; and when they reached the thickmost of the forest, Prince Bahman started a tiger and Prince Parwez rode after a bear; and the twain used their spears with such skill and good will that each killed his quarry and laid it at the Shah's feet. Then entering the wood again Prince Bahman slew a bear, and Prince Parwez, a tiger [FN#366] and did as before; but when they would have ridden off the third time the King forbade them saying, "What! would ye strip the royal preserve of all the game? This be enough and more than enough, that Shah wished only to put your valour to the proof and having seen it with his own eyes he is fully satisfied. Come now with us and stand before us as we sit at meat." Prince Bahman made reply, "We are not worthy of the high honour and dignity wherewith thou favourest us thy humble servants. We dutifully and humbly petition thy Highness to hold us excused for this day; but if the Asylum of the Universe deign appoint some other time thy slaves will right gladly execute thy auspicious orders."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Eighty-Second Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that Khusrau Shah, astonished at their refusal, asked the cause thereof when Prince Bahman answered, "May I be thy sacrifice, [FN#367] O King of kings, we have at home an only sister; and all three are bound together with bonds of the fondest affection; so we brothers go not anywhere without consulting her nor doth she aught save according to our counsel." The King was pleased to see such fraternal love and union and presently quoth he, "By the head of the Shah, [FN#368] he freely giveth you leave to go to-day: consult your sister and meet the Shadow of Allah [FN#369] to-morrow at this hunting-ground, and tell him what she saith and if she content to let to twain and wait upon the Shah at meat." So the Princes farewelled and prayed for him; then rode back home; but they both forgot to tell their sister how they had fallen in with the King; and of all that passed between them they remembered not one word. [FN#370] Next day again they went ahunting and on returning from the chase the Shah enquired of them, "Have ye consulted with your sister if ye may serve the King, and what saith she thereto? Have ye obtained permission from her?" On hearing these words the Princes waxed aghast with fear; the colour of their faces changed, and each began to look into the other's eyes. Then Bahman said, "Pardon, O Refuge of the World, this our transgression. We both forgot the command and remembered not to tell her sister." Replied the King, "It mattereth not! ask her to-day and bring me word tomorrow." But it so happened that on that day also they forgot the message yet the King was not annoyed at their shortness of memory, but taking from his pocket three little balls of gold, and tying them in a kerchief of sillk he handed them to Prince Bahman saying, "Put these balls in thy waist shawl, so shalt thou not forget to ask thy sister; and if perchance the matter escape thy memory, when thou shalt go to bed and take off thy girdle, haply the sound of them falling to the ground will remind thee of thy promise." Despite this strict injunction of the Shadow of Allah the Princes on that day also clean forgot the order and the promise they had made to the King. When, however, night came on, and Prince Bahman went to his bed-chamber for sleep, he loosed his girdle and down fell the golden balls and at the sound the message of the Shah flashed across his thought. So he and his brother Parwez at once hastened to Perizadah's bower, where she was about retiring to rest; and, with many excuses for troubling her at so unseasonable an hour, reported to her all that happened. She lamented their thoughtlessness which for three successive days had caused them to forget the royal behest and ended with saying, "Fortune hath favoured you, O my brothers, and brought you suddenly to the notice of the Asylum of the Universe, a chance which often hath led to the height of good. It grieveth me sore that on your over regard for our fraternal love and union ye did not take service with the King when he deigned command you. Moreover ye have far greater cause for regret and repentance than I in that ye failed to plead a sufficient excuse and that which ye offered must have sounded rude and churlish. A right dangerous thing it is to thwart Kingly wishes. In his extreme condescension the Shah commandeth you to take service with him and ye, in rebelling against his exalted orders have done foolishly and ye have caused me much trouble of mind. Howbeit I will sue counsel from my slave the Speaking-Bird and see what he may say; for when I have ever any hard and weighty question to decide I fail not to ask his advice." Hereupon the Princess set the cage by her side and after telling her slave all that her brothers have made known to her, asked admonition of him regarding what they should do. The Speaking-Bird made answer, "It behoveth the Princes to gratify the Shah in all things he requireth of them; moreover, let them make ready a feast for the King and humbly pray them to visit this house, and thereby testify to him loyalty and devotion to his royal person." Then said the Princess, "O Bird, my brothers are most dear to me nor would I suffer them leave my sight for one moment if it were possible; and Allah forfend that this daring on their part do injury to our love and affection." Said the Speaking-Bird, "I have counselled thee for the best and have offered thee the right rede; nor do thou fear aught in following it, for naught save good shall come therefrom." "But," quoth the Princess, "an the Shadow of Allah honour us by crossing the threshold of this house needs must I present myself before him with face unveiled?" [FN#371] "By all means," quoth the Speaking-Bird, "this will not harm thee, nay rather 'twill be to thine advantage."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Eighty-third Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that early next day the two Princes Bahman and Parwez rode as aforetime to the hunting-ground and met Khusrau Shah, who asked them, saying, "What answer bring ye from your sister?" Hereupon the elder brother advancing said, "O shadow of Allah, verily we are thy slaves and whatever thou deign bid that we are ready to obey. These less than the least have referred the matter to their sister and have obtained their consent; nay more, she blamed and chided them for that they did not hurry to carry out the commands of the Refuge of the World the moment they were delivered. Therefore being sore displeased at us, she desireth us on her behalf to plead forgiveness with the Sháhinshah [FN#372] for this offence by us offered." Replied the King, "No crime have ye committed to call forth the royal displeasure: nay more, it delighteth the Shadow of Allah exceedingly to see the love ye twain bear towards your sister." Hearing such words of condescension and kindliness from the Shah, the Princes held their peace and hung their heads for shame groundwards; and the King who that day was not keen, according to his custom, after the chase, whenever he saw the brothers hold aloof, called them to his presence and heartened their hearts with words of favour; and presently, when a-weary of sport, he turned the head of his steed palace-ward and deigned order the Princes to ride by his side. The Wazirs and Councillors and Courtiers one and all fumed with envy and jealousy to see two unknowns entreated with such especial favour; and as they rode at the head of the suite adown the market-street all eyes were turned upon the youths and men asked one of other, "Who be the two who ride beside the Shah? Belong they to this city, or come they from some foreign land?" And the folk praised and blessed them saying, "Allah send our King of kings two Princes as godly and gallant as are these twain who ride beside him. If our hapless Queen who languisheth in durance had brought forth sons, by Allah's favour they would now be of the same age as these young lords." But as soon as the cavalcade reached the palace the King alighted from his horse and led the Princes to his private chamber, a splendid retreat magnificently furnished, wherein a table had been spread with sumptuous meats and rarest cates; and having seated himself thereat he motioned them to do likewise. Hereupon the brothers making low obeisance also took their seats and ate in well-bred silence with respectful mien. Then the Shah, desiring to warm then into talk [FN#373] and thereby to test their wit and wisdom, addressed them on themes galore and asked of them many questions; and, inasmuch as they had been taught well and trained in every art and science, they answered with propriety and perfect ease. The Shah struck with admiration bitterly regretted that Almighty Allah had not vouchsafed to him sons so handsome in semblance and so apt and so learned as these twain; and, for the pleasure of listening to them, he lingered at meat longer than he was wont to do. And when he rose from table and retired with them to his private apartment he still sat longwhile talking with them and at last in his admiration he exclaimed, "Never until this day have I set eyes on youths so well brought up and so comely and so capable as are these, and methinks 'twere hard to find their equals anywhere." In fine quoth he, "The time waxeth late, so now let us cheer our hearts with music." And forthright the royal band of minstrels and musicians began to sing and perform upon instruments of mirth and merriment, whilst dancing-girls and boys displayed their skill, and mimes and mummers played their parts. The Princes enjoyed the spectacle with extreme joy and the last hours of the afternoon passed in royal revelry and regale. But when the sun had set and evening came on, the youths craved dismissal from the Shah with many expressions of gratitude for the exalted favours he had deigned bestow on them; and ere they fared forth the King of kings bespake them, saying, "Come ye again on the morrow to our hunting-ground as heretofore, and thence return to the palace. By the beard of the Shah, he fain would have you always with him, and solace him with your companionship and converse." Prince Bahman, prostrating himself before the presence, answered, "'Tis the very end and aim of all our wishes, O Shadow of Allah upon Earth, that on the morrow when thou shalt come from the chase and pass by our poor house, thou graciously deign enter and rest in it awhile, thereby conferring the highmost of honours upon ourselves and upon our sister. Albeit the place is not worthy of the Shahinshah's exalted presence, yet at times do mighty Kings condescend to visit the huts of their slaves." The King, ever more and more enchanted with their comeliness and pleasant speech, vouchsafed a most gracious answer, saying, "The dwelling place of youths in your estate and degree will certainly be goodly and right worthy of you; and the Shah willingly consenteth for the morrow to become the guest of you twain and of your sister whom, albeit he have not yet seen, he is assured to find perfect in all gifts of body and mind. Do ye twain therefore about early dawn-tide expect the Shah at the usual trysting-place." The Princes then craved leave to wend their ways; and going home said to their sister, "O Perizadah, the Shah hath decreed that to-morrow he will come to our house and rest here awhile after the hunt." Said she, "An so it be, needs must we see to it that all be made ready for a royal banquet and we may not be put to shame when the Shadow of Allah shall deign shade us. There is no help but that in this matter I ask of my slave, the Speaking-Bird, what counsel he would give; and that I prepare according thereto such meats as are meet for him and are pleasing to the royal palate."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Eighty-fourth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Princes both approved of her plan and went to seek repose; whereupon Perizadah sent for the cage and setting it before her said, "O Bird, the Shah hath made a promise and hath decreed that he will deign honour this our house on the morrow, wherefore we must needs make ready for our liege lord the best of banquets and I bid thee say me what dishes should the kitcheners cook for him?" The Speaking-Bird replied, "O my lady, thou hast the most skilful of cooks and confectioners. Do thou bid them dress for thee the choicest dainties, but above all others see thou with thine own eyes that they set before the Shah a dish of new green cucumbers stuffed with pearls." Quoth the Princess in utter wonderment, "Never until this time heard I of such a dainty! How? Cucumbers with a filling of pearls! And what will the King, who cometh to eat bread and not to gaze on stones, say to such meat? Furthermore, I have not in my possession pearls enough to serve for even a single cucumber." Replied the Speaking-Bird, "This were an easy matter: do thou dread naught but only act as I shall advise thee. I seek not aught save thy welfare and would on no wise counsel thee to thy disadvantage. As for the pearls thou shalt collect them on this wise: go thou to-morrow betimes to the pleasure-gardens and bid a hole be dug at the foot of the first tree in the avenue by thy right hand, and there shalt thou find of pearls as large a store as thou shalt require." So after dawn on the next day Princess Perizadah bade a gardener-lad accompany her and fared to the sire within the pleasure-gardens whereof the Speaking-Bird had told her. Here the boy dug a hole both deep and wide when suddenly his spade struck upon somewhat hard, and he removed with his hands the earth and discovered to view a golden casket well nigh one foot square. Hereupon the young gardener showed it to the Princess who explained, "I brought thee with me for this very reason. Take heed and see that no harm come to it, but dig it out and bring it to me with all care." When the lad did her bidding she opened it forthright and found it filled with pearls and unions fresh from the sea, round as rings and all of one and the same size perfectly fitted for the purpose which the Speaking-Bird had proposed. Perizadah rejoiced with extreme joy at the sight and taking up the box walked back with it to the house; and the Princes who had seen their sister faring forth betimes with the gardener-lad and had wondered why she went to the park thus early unaccording to her wonted custom, catching sight of her from the casement quickly donned their walking dresses and came to meet her. And as the two brothers walked forwardes they saw the Princess approaching them with somewhat unusual under her arm, which when they met, proved to be a golden casket whereof they knew naught. Quoth they, "O our sister at early light we espied thee going to the pleasure- grounds with a gardener-lad empty handed, but now thou bringest back this golden casket; so disclose to us where and how thou hast found it; and haply there may be some hoard close hidden in the parterre?" Perizadah replied, "Sooth ye say, O my brothers: I took this lad with me and made him dig under a certain tree where we came upon this box of pearls, at the sight whereof methinks your hearts will be delighted." The Princess straightway opened the box and her brothers sighting the pearls and unions were amazed with extreme amazement and rejoiced greatly to see them. Quoth the Princess, "Come now ye twain with me, for that I have in hand a weighty matter;" and quoth Prince Bahman, "What is there to do? I pray thee tell us without delay for never yet hast thou kept aught of thy life from us." She made reply, "O my brothers, I have naught to hide from you, nor think ye any ill of me, for I am now about to tell you all the tale." Then she made known to them what advice the Speaking-Bird had given to her; and they, conning the matter over in this minds, marvelled much why her slave had bidden them set a dish of green cucumbers stuffed with pearls before the Shah, nor could they devise any reason for it. Presently the Princess resumed, "The Speaking-Bird indeed is wise and ware; so methinks this counsel must be for our advantage; and at any rate it cannot be without some object and purpose. It therefore behoveth us to do even as he hath commanded." Hereupon the Princess went to her own chamber and summoning the head cook said to him, "This day the Shah, the Shadow of Allah upon Earth, will condescend here to eat the noon-meal. So do thou take heed that the meats be of choiest flavour and fittest to set before the Asylum of the World, but of all the dishes there is one thou alone must make and let not another have a hand therein. This shall be of the freshest green cucumbers with a stuffing of unions and pearls."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Eighty-fifth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the head Cook listened to this order of the Princess with wonderment and said in himself, "Who ever heard of such a dish or dreamed of ordering such a one." The Lady seeing his astonishment betrayed in his semblance without the science of thought-reading, [FN#374] said to him, "It seemeth from thy countenance that thou deemest me daft of wit to give thee such order. I know that no one ever tasted a dish of the kind, but what is that to thee? Do thou e'en as thou art bidden. Thou seest this box brimful on pearls; so take of them as many as thou needest for the dish, and what remaineth over leave in the box." The Kitchener who could answer nothing in his confusion and amazement, chose as many precious stones as he required, and presently fared away to superintend the meats being cooked and made ready for the feast. Meanwhile the Princess when over the house and grounds and gave directions to the slaves about the ordinance thereof, leading especial attention to the carpets and divans, the lamps and all other furniture. Next day at break of dawn Princes Bahman and Parwez rode forth in rich attire to the appointed place where they first met the Shah, who was also punctual to his promise and vouchsafed to join them in the hunt. Now when the sun had risen high and its rays waxed hot, the King gave up the chase, and set forth with the Princes to their house; and as they drew nigh thereto the cadet pushed forwards and sent word to the Princess that the Asylum of the World was coming in all good omen. Accordingly, he hastened to receive him and stood waiting his arrival at the inner entrance; and after, when the King rode up to the gate and dismounting within the court stepped over the threshold of the house-door, she fell down at his feet and did worship. Hereat her brothers said, "O Asylum of the World, this is our sister of whom we spake;" and the Shah with gracious kindness and condescension raised her by the hand, and when he saw her face he marvelled much at its wondrous comeliness and loveliness. He thought in himself, "How like she is to her brothers in favour and form, and I trow there be none of all my lieges in city or country who can compare with them for beauty and noble bearing. This country-house also exceedeth all that I have ever seen in splendour and grandeur." The Princess then led the Shah through the house and showed him all the magnificence thereof, while he rejoiced with extreme joy at everything that met his sight. So when King Khusrau had considered whatso was in the mansion he said to the Princess, "This home of thine is far grander than any palace owned by the Shah, who would now stroll about the pleasure-garden, never doubting but that it will be delightsome at the house." Hereat the Princess threw wide open the door whence the grounds could be seen; and at once the King beheld before and above all other things, the fountain which cast up incessantly, in gerbes and jets, water clear as crystal withal golden of hue. Seeing such prodigy he cried, "This is indeed a glorious gusher: never before saw I one so admirable. But say me where is its source, and by what means doth it shoot up in spurts so high? Whence cometh this constant supply and in what fashion was it formed? The Shah would fain see it near hand." "O King of kings, and Lord of the lands," quoth the Princess, "be pleased to do whatso thou desirest." Thereupon they went up to the fountain and the Shah stood gazing upon it with delight when behold, he heard a concert of sugar-sweet voices choiring with the harmony and melody of wit-ravishing music. So he turned him around and gazed about him to discover the singers, but no one was in sight; and albeit he looketh both hard and near all was in vain, he heard the voices but he could descry no songster. At length completely baffled he exclaimed, "Whence come these most musical of sounds; and rise they from the bowels of earth or are they floating in the depths of air? They fill the heart with rapture, but strangely surprise the senses to see that no one singer is in sight." Replied the Princess with a smile "O Lord of lords, there are no minstrels here and the strains which strike the Shah's ear come from yonder tree. Deign walk on, I pray thee, and examine it well." So be advanced thereto, ever more and more enchanted with the music, and he gazed now at the Golden-Water and now at the Singing-Tree till lost in wonderment and amazement; then, "O Allah," said he to himself, "is all this Nature-made or magical, for in very deed the place is full of mystery?" Presently, turning to the Princess quoth he, "O my lady, prithee whence came ye by this wondrous tree which hath been planted in the middlemost of this garden: did anyone bring it from some far distant land as a rare gift, and by what name is it known?" Quoth Perizadah in reply, "O King of kings, this marvel hight Singing-Tree groweth not in our country. 'Twere long to recount whence and by what means I obtained it; and suffice it for the present to say that the Tree, together with the Golden-Water and the Speaking-Bird, were all found by me at one and the same time. Deign now accompany thy slave and look upon this third rarity; and when the Shah shall have rested and recovered from the toils and travails of hunting, the tale of these three strange things shall be told to the Asylum of the World in fullest detail." Hereto the King replied, "All the Shah's fatigue hath gone for gazing upon these wonders; and now to visit the Speaking-Bird."--And as the morning began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Eighty-sixth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Princess took the King and when she had shown to him the Speaking-Bird, they returned to the garden where he never ceased considering the fountain with extreme surprise and presently exclaimes, "How is this? No spring whence cometh all this water meeteth the Shah's eye, and no channel; nor is there any reservoir large enough to contain it." She replied, "Thou speakest sooth, O King of kings! This jetting font hath no source; and it springeth from a small marble basin which I filled from a single flagon of the Golden-Water; and by the might of Allah Almighty it increased and waxed copious until it shot up in this huge gerbe which the Shah seeth. Furthermore it ever playeth day and night; and, marvellous to relate, the water falling back from that height into the basin minisheth not in quantity nor is aught of it spilt or wasted." Hereat the King, filled with wonder and astonishment, bade go back to the Speaking-Bird; whereupon the Princess led him to the belvedere whence he looked out upon thousands of all manner fowls carolling in the trees and filling air with their hymns and prises of the Creator; so he asked his guide, "O my lady, whence come these countless songsters which haunt yonder tree and make the welkin resound with their melodious notes; yet they affect none other of the trees?" Quoth Perizadah, "O King of kings, they are all attracted by the Speaking-Bird and flock hither to accompany his song; and for that his cage hangeth to the window of this belvedere they prefer only the nearest of the trees; and here he may be heard singing sweeter notes than any of the others, nay in a plaint more musical than that of any nightingale." And as the Shah drew nigh the cage and gave ear to the Bird's singing, the Princess called to her captive saying, "Ho, my slave the Bird, dost thou not perceive the Asylum of the Universe is here that thou payest him not due homage and worship?" Hearing these words the Speaking-Bird forthright ceased his shrilling and at the same moment all the other songsters sat in deepest silence; for they were loyal to their liege lord nor durst any one utter a note when he held his peace. The Speaking-Bird then spake in human voice saying, "O great King, may Almighty Allah by His Might and Majesty accord thee health and happiness;" so the Shah returned the salutation and the Slave of Princess Perizadah ceased not to shower blessings upon his head. Meanwhile the tables were spread after sumptuous fashion and the choicest meats were set before the company which was seated in due order and degree, the Shah placing himself hard by the Speaking-Bird and close to the casement where the cage was hung. Then the dish of green cucumbers having been set before him, he put forth his hand to help himself, but drew it back in wonderment when he saw that the cucumbers, ranged in order upon the plate, were stuffed with pearls which appeared at either end. He asked the Princess and her brothers, "What is this dish? It cannot be meant for food; then wherefore is it placed before the Shah? Explain to me, I command you, what this thing meaneth." They could not give an answer unknowing what reply to make, and as all held their peace the Speaking-Bird answered for them saying, "O King of the Age and the Time, dost thou deem it strange to see a dish of cucumbers stuffed with pearls? How much stranger then it is that thou wast not astonished to hear that the Queen thy Consort had, contrary to the laws of Allah's ordinance, given birth to such animals as dog and cat and musk-rat. This should have caused thee far more of wonder, for who hath ever heard of woman bearing such as these?" Hereat the Shah made answer to the Speaking-Bird, "All that thou sayest is right indeed and I know that such things are not after the law of Almighty Allah; but I believed the reports of the midwives, the wise women who were with the Queen such time she was brought to bed, for they were not strangers but her own sisters, born of the same parents as herself. How then could I do otherwise than trust their words?" Quoth the Speaking-Bird, "O King of kings, indeed the truth of the matter is not hidden from me. Albeit they be the sisters of thy Queen, yet seeing the royal favours and affection towards their cadette they were consumed with anger and hatred and despite by reason of their envy and jealousy. So they devised evil devices against her and their deceits at last succeeded in diverting thy thoughts from her, and in hiding her virtues from thy sight. Now are their malice and treason made manifest to thee; and, if thou require further proof, do thou summon them and question them of the case. They cannot hide it from thee and will be reduced to confess and crave thy pardon."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Eighty-seventh Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King, that the Speaking-Bird also said to Khusrau Shah, "These two royal brothers so comely and stalwart and this lovely Princess, their sister, are thine own lawful children to whom the Queen thy Consort gave birth. The midwives, thy sisters-in-law, by reason of the blackness of their hearts and faces bore them away as soon as they were born: indeed every time a child was given to thee they wrapped it in a bit of blanket and putting it in a basket committed it to the stream which floweth by the palace to the intent that it might die an obscure death. But it so fortuned that the Intendant of thy royal gardens espied these baskets one and all as they floated past his grounds, and took charge of the infants he found therein. He then caused them to be nursed and reared with all care and, whilst they were growing up to man's estate, he looked to their being taught every art and science; and whilst his life endured he dealt with them and brought them up in love and tenderness as though they had been his very own. And now, O Khusrau Shah, wake from thy sleep of ignorance and heedlessness, and know that these two Princes Bahman and Parwez and the Princess Perizadah their sister are thine own issue and thy rightful heirs." When the King heard these words and was assured of the purport being true and understood the evil doing of those Satans, his sisters-in-law, he said, "O Bird, I am indeed persuaded of thy soothfastness, for when I first saw these youths at the hunting-ground my bowels yearned with affection towards them and my heart felt constrained to love them as though they had been my own seed. Both they and their sister have drawn my affections to them as a magnet draweth iron: and the voice of blood crieth to me and compelleth me to confess the tie and to acknowledge that they are my true children, borne in the womb of my Queen, whose direful Destiny I have been the means of carrying out." Then turning to the Princes and their sister he said with tearful eyes and broken voice, "Ye are my children and henceforth do ye regard me as your father." At this they ran to him with rare delight and falling on his neck embraced him. Then they all sat down to meat and when they had finished eating, Khusrau Shah said to them, "O my children, I must now leave you, but Inshallah--Allah willing--I will come again to-morrow and bring with me the Queen your mother." So saying he farewelled them fondly and mounting his horse departed to his palace; and no sooner had he seated himself upon his throne than he summoned the Grand Wazir and commanded him saying, "Do thou send this instant and bind in heaviest bonds those vile women, the sisters of my Queen; for their ill deeds have at last come to light and they deserve to die the death of murtherers. Let the Sworder forthright make sharp his sword; for the ground thirsteth for their blood. Go see thyself that they are beheaded without stay or delay: await not other order, but instantly obey my commandment." The Grand Wazir went forth at one and in his presence the Envious Sisters were decapitated and this underwent fit punishment for their malice and their evil doing. After this, Khusrau Shah with his retinue walked afoot to the Cathedral-mosque whereby the Queen had been imprisoned for so many years in bitter grief and tenderly embraced her. Then seeing her sad plight and her careworn countenance and wretched attire he wept and cried, "Allah Almighty forgive me this mine unjust and wrongful dealing towards thee. I have put to death thy sisters who deceitfully and despitefully raised my wrath and anger against thee, the innocent, the guiltless; and they have received due retribution for their misdeeds."--And as the morn began to dawn Shahrazad held her peace till
The end of the Six Hundred and Eighty-eighth Night.
Then said she:--I have heard, O auspicious King that the King spake kindly and fondly to his Consort, and told her all that had betided him, and what the Speaking-Bird had made known to him, ending with these words, "Come now with me to the palace where thou shalt thee thy two sons and daughter grown up to become the loveliest of things. Hie with me and embrace them and take them to thy bosom, for they are our children, the light of our etes. But first do thou repair to the Hammam and don thy royal robes and jewels." Meanwhile tidings of these events were noised about the city how the King had at length shown due favour to the Queen, and had released her from bondage with his own hands and prayed forgiveness for the wrongs he had done to her; and how the Princes and the Princess had been proved to be her true-born children, and also how Khusrau Shah had punished her sisters who conspired against her; so joy and gladness prevailed both in city and kingdom, and all the folk blessed the Shah's Bánú and cursed the Satanesses her sisters. And next day when the Queen had bathed in the Hammam and had donned royal dress and regal jewels, she went to meet her children together with the King who led up to her the Princes Bahman and Parwez and the Princess Perizadah and said, "See, here are thy children, fruit of thy womb and core of thy heart, thine own very sons and thy daughter: embrace them with all a mother's love and extend thy favour and affection to them even as I have done. When thou didst give them birth, thine illomened sisters bore them away from thee and cast them into yonder stream and said that thou hadst been delivered first of a puppy, then of a kitten and lastly of a musk-ratling. I cannot console myself for having credited their calumnies and the only recompense I can make is to place in thine embrace these three thou broughtest forth, and whom Allah Almighty hath restored to us and hath made right worthy to be called our children." Then the Princes and Princess fell upon their mother's neck and fondly embraced her weeping tear-floods of joy. After this the Shah and the Banu sai down to meat together with their children; and when they had made an end of eating, King Khusrau Shah repaired to the garden with his Consort that he might show her the Singing-Tree and the fountain of Golden-Water, whereat the Queen was filled with wonder and delight. Next they turned to the belvedere and visited the Speaking-Bird of whom, as they sat at meat, the King had spoken to her in highest praise, and the Queen rejoiced in his sweet voice and melodious singing. And when they had seen all these things, the King mounted horse, Prince Bahman riding on his right hand and on his left Prince Parwez, while the Queen took Princess Perizadah with her inside her litter, and thus they set forth for the palace. As the royal cavalcade passed the city walls and entered the capital with royal pomp and circumstance, the subjects who had heard the glad tidings thronged in multitudes to see their progress and volleyed shouts of acclamation; and as the lieges had grieved aforetime to see the Queen-consort imprisoned, so now the rejoiced with exceeding joy to find her free once more. But chiefly they marvelled to look upon the Speaking-Bird, for the Princess carried the cage with her, and as they rode along thousands of sweet-toned songsters came swarming round them from every quarter, and flew as an escort to the cage, filling the air with marvellous music; while flocks of others, perching upon the trees and the housetops, carolled and warbled as it were to greet their lord's cage accompanying the royal cavalcade. And when the palace was reached, the Shah and his Queen and his children sat down to a sumptuous banquet; and the city was illuminated, and everywhere dancings and merry-makings testified to the joy of the lieges; and for many days these revels and rejoicings prevailed throughout the capital and the kingdom where every man was blithe and happy and had feastings and festivities in his house, After these festivals King Khusrau Shah made his elder son Bahman heir to his throne and kingdom and committed to his hands the affairs of state in their entirety, and the Prince administered affairs with such wisdom and success that the greatness and glory of the realm were increased twofold. The Shah also entrusted to his youngest son Parwez the charge of his army, both of horsemen and foot-soldiers; and Princess Perizadah was given by her sire in marriage to a puissant King who reigned over a mighty country; and lastly the Queen-mother forgot in perfect joy and happiness the pangs of her captivity. Destiny ever afterwards endowed them, one and all, with days the most delectable and they led the liefest of lives until at last there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies and the Depopulator of palaces and the Garnerer of graveyards and the Reaper for Resurrection-day, and they became as though they had never been. So laud be to the Lord who dieth not and who knoweth no shadow of change.
End of Volume 9.