The Story Of The Three Sons Of Hali





Till his eighteenth birthday the young Neangir lived happily in a

village about forty miles from Constantinople, believing that

Mohammed and Zinebi his wife, who had brought him up, were his

real parents.



Neangir was quite content with his lot, though he was neither

rich nor great, and unlike most young men of his age had no

desire to leave his home. He was therefore completely taken by

surprise when one day Mohammed told him with many sighs that the

time had now come for him to go to Constantinople, and fix on a

profession for himself. The choice would be left to him, but he

would probably prefer either to be a soldier or one of the

doctors learned in the law, who explain the Koran to the ignorant

people. 'You know the holy book nearly by heart,' ended the old

man, 'so that in a very short time you would be fitted to teach

others. But write to us and tell us how you pass your life, and

we, on our side, will promise never to forget you.'



So saying, Mohammed gave Neangir four piastres to start him in

the great city, and obtained leave for him to join a caravan

which was about to set off for Constantinople.



The journey took some days, as caravans go very slowly, but at

last the walls and towers of the capital appeared in the

distance. When the caravan halted the travellers went their

different ways, and Neangir was left, feeling very strange and

rather lonely. He had plenty of courage and made friends very

easily; still, not only was it the first time he had left the

village where he had been brought up, but no one had ever spoken

to him of Constantinople, and he did not so much as know the name

of a single street or of a creature who lived in it.



Wondering what he was to do next, Neangir stood still for a

moment to look about him, when suddenly a pleasant-looking man

came up, and bowing politely, asked if the youth would do him the

honour of staying in his house till he had made some plans for

himself. Neangir, not seeing anything else he could do, accepted

the stranger's offer and followed him home.



They entered a large room, where a girl of about twelve years old

was laying three places at the table.



'Zelida,' said the stranger, 'was I not quite right when I told

you that I should bring back a friend to sup with us?'



'My father,' replied the girl, 'you are always right in what you

say, and what is better still, you never mislead others.' As she

spoke, an old slave placed on the table a dish called pillau,

made of rice and meat, which is a great favourite among people in

the East, and setting down glasses of sherbet before each person,

left the room quietly.



During the meal the host talked a great deal upon all sorts of

subjects; but Neangir did nothing but look at Zelida, as far as

he could without being positively rude.



The girl blushed and grew uncomfortable, and at last turned to

her father. 'The stranger's eyes never wander from me,' she said

in a low and hesitating voice. 'If Hassan should hear of it,

jealousy will make him mad.'



'No, no,' replied the father, 'you are certainly not for this

young man. Did I not tell you before that I intend him for your

sister Argentine. I will at once take measures to fix his heart

upon her,' and he rose and opened a cupboard, from which be took

some fruits and a jug of wine, which he put on the table,

together with a small silver and mother-of-pearl box.



'Taste this wine,' he said to the young man, pouring some into a

glass.



'Give me a little, too,' cried Zelida.



'Certainly not,' answered her father, 'you and Hassan both had as

much as was good for you the other day.'



'Then drink some yourself,' replied she, 'or this young man will

think we mean to poison him.'



'Well, if you wish, I will do so,' said the father; 'this elixir

is not dangerous at my age, as it is at yours.'



When Neangir had emptied his glass, his host opened the

mother-of-pearl box and held it out to him. Neangir was beside

himself with delight at the picture of a young maiden more

beautiful than anything he had ever dreamed of. He stood

speechless before it, while his breast swelled with a feeling

quite new to him.



His two companions watched him with amusement, until at last

Neangir roused himself. 'Explain to me, I pray you,' he said,

'the meaning of these mysteries. Why did you ask me here? Why did

you force me to drink this dangerous liquid which has set fire to

my blood? Why have you shown me this picture which has almost

deprived me of reason?'



'I will answer some of your questions,' replied his host, 'but

all, I may not. The picture that you hold in your hand is that of

Zelida's sister. It has filled your heart with love for her;

therefore, go and seek her. When you find her, you will find

yourself.'



'But where shall I find her?' cried Neangir, kissing the charming

miniature on which his eyes were fixed.



'I am unable to tell you more,' replied his host cautiously.



'But I can' interrupted Zelida eagerly. 'To-morrow you must go to

the Jewish bazaar, and buy a watch from the second shop on the

right hand. And at midnight--'



But what was to happen at midnight Neangir did not hear, for

Zelida's father hastily laid his hand over her mouth, crying:

'Oh, be silent, child! Would you draw down on you by imprudence

the fate of your unhappy sisters?' Hardly had he uttered the

words, when a thick black vapour rose about him, proceeding from

the precious bottle, which his rapid movement had overturned. The

old slave rushed in and shrieked loudly, while Neangir, upset by

this strange adventure, left the house.



He passed the rest of the night on the steps of a mosque, and

with the first streaks of dawn he took his picture out of the

folds of his turban. Then, remembering Zelida's words, he

inquired the way to the bazaar, and went straight to the shop she

had described.



In answer to Neangir's request to be shown some watches, the

merchant produced several and pointed out the one which he

considered the best. The price was three gold pieces, which

Neangir readily agreed to give him; but the man made a difficulty

about handing over the watch unless he knew where his customer

lived.



'That is more than I know myself,' replied Neangir. 'I only

arrived in the town yesterday and cannot find the way to the

house where I went first.'



'Well,' said the merchant, 'come with me, and I will take you to

a good Mussulman, where you will have everything you desire at a

small charge.'



Neangir consented, and the two walked together through several

streets till they reached the house recommended by the Jewish

merchant. By his advice the young man paid in advance the last

gold piece that remained to him for his food and lodging.



As soon as Neangir had dined he shut himself up in his room, and

thrusting his hand into the folds of his turban, drew out his

beloved portrait. As he did so, he touched a sealed letter which

had apparently been hidden there without his knowledge, and

seeing it was written by his foster-mother, Zinebi, he tore it

eagerly open. Judge of his surprise when he read these words:



'My dearest Child,--This letter, which you will some day find in

your turban, is to inform you that you are not really our son. We

believe your father to have been a great lord in some distant

land, and inside this packet is a letter from him, threatening to

be avenged on us if you are not restored to him at once. We shall

always love you, but do not seek us or even write to us. It will

be useless.'



In the same wrapper was a roll of paper with a few words as

follows, traced in a hand unknown to Neangir:



'Traitors, you are no doubt in league with those magicians who

have stolen the two daughters of the unfortunate Siroco, and have

taken from them the talisman given them by their father. You have

kept my son from me, but I have found out your hiding-place and

swear by the Holy Prophet to punish your crime. The stroke of my

scimitar is swifter than the lightning.'



The unhappy Neangir on reading these two letters-- of which he

understood absolutely nothing--felt sadder and more lonely than

ever. It soon dawned on him that he must be the son of the man

who had written to Mohammed and his wife, but he did not know

where to look for him, and indeed thought much more about the

people who had brought him up and whom he was never to see again.



To shake off these gloomy feelings, so as to be able to make some

plans for the future, Neangir left the house and walked briskly

about the city till darkness had fallen. He then retraced his

steps and was just crossing the threshold when he saw something

at his feet sparkling in the moonlight. He picked it up, and

discovered it to be a gold watch shining with precious stones. He

gazed up and down the street to see if there was anyone about to

whom it might belong, but there was not a creature visible. So he

put it in his sash, by the side of a silver watch which he had

bought from the Jew that morning.



The possession of this piece of good fortune cheered Neangir up a

little, 'for,' thought he, 'I can sell these jewels for at least

a thousand sequins, and that will certainly last me till I have

found my father.' And consoled by this reflection he laid both

watches beside him and prepared to sleep.



In the middle of the night he awoke suddenly and heard a soft

voice speaking, which seemed to come from one of the watches.



'Aurora, my sister,' it whispered gently. 'Did they remember to

wind you up at midnight?'



'No, dear Argentine,' was the reply. 'And you?'



'They forgot me, too,' answered the first voice, 'and it is now

one o'clock, so that we shall not be able to leave our prison

till to-morrow--if we are not forgotten again--then.'



'We have nothing now to do here,' said Aurora. 'We must resign

ourselves to our fate--let us go.'



Filled with astonishment Neangir sat up in bed, and beheld by the

light of the moon the two watches slide to the ground and roll

out of the room past the cats' quarters. He rushed towards the

door and on to the staircase, but the watches slipped downstairs

without his seeing them, and into the street. He tried to unlock

the door and follow them, but the key refused to turn, so he gave

up the chase and went back to bed.



The next day all his sorrows returned with tenfold force. He felt

himself lonelier and poorer than ever, and in a fit of despair he

thrust his turban on his head, stuck his sword in his belt, and

left the house determined to seek an explanation from the

merchant who had sold him the silver watch.



When Neangir reached the bazaar he found the man he sought was

absent from his shop, and his place filled by another Jew.



'It is my brother you want,' said he; 'we keep the shop in turn,

and in turn go into the city to do our business.'



'Ah! what business?' cried Neangir in a fury. 'You are the

brother of a scoundrel who sold me yesterday a watch that ran

away in the night. But I will find it somehow, or else you shall

pay for it, as you are his brother!'



'What is that you say?' asked the Jew, around whom a crowd had

rapidly gathered. 'A watch that ran away. If it had been a cask

of wine, your story might be true, but a watch--! That is hardly

possible!'



'The Cadi shall say whether it is possible or not,' replied

Neangir, who at that moment perceived the other Jew enter the

bazaar. Darting up, he seized him by the arm and dragged him to

the Cadi's house; but not before the man whom he had found in the

shop contrived to whisper to his brother, in a tone loud enough

for Neangir to hear, 'Confess nothing, or we shall both be lost.'



When the Cadi was informed of what had taken place he ordered the

crowd to be dispersed by blows, after the Turkish manner, and

then asked Neangir to state his complaint. After hearing the

young man's story, which seemed to him most extraordinary, he

turned to question the Jewish merchant, who instead of answering

raised his eyes to heaven and fell down in a dead faint.



The judge took no notice of the swooning man, but told Neangir

that his tale was so singular he really could not believe it, and

that he should have the merchant carried back to his own house.

This so enraged Neangir that he forgot the respect due to the

Cadi, and exclaimed at the top of his voice, 'Recover this fellow

from his fainting fit, and force him to confess the truth,'

giving the Jew as he spoke a blow with his sword which caused him

to utter a piercing scream.



'You see for yourself,' said the Jew to the Cadi, 'that this

young man is out of his mind. I forgive him his blow, but do not,

I pray you, leave me in his power.'



At that moment the Bassa chanced to pass the Cadi's house, and

hearing a great noise, entered to inquire the cause. When the

matter was explained he looked attentively at Neangir, and asked

him gently how all these marvels could possibly have happened.



'My lord,' replied Neangir, 'I swear I have spoken the truth, and

perhaps you will believe me when I tell you that I myself have

been the victim of spells wrought by people of this kind, who

should be rooted out from the earth. For three years I was

changed into a three- legged pot, and only returned to man's

shape when one day a turban was laid upon my lid.'



At these words the Bassa rent his robe for joy, and embracing

Neangir, he cried, 'Oh, my son, my son, have I found you at last?

Do you not come from the house of Mohammed and Zinebi?'



'Yes, my lord,' replied Neangir, 'it was they who took care of me

during my misfortune, and taught me by their example to be less

worthy of belonging to you.'



'Blessed be the Prophet,' said the Bassa, 'who has restored one

of my sons to me, at the time I least expected it! You know,' he

continued, addressing the Cadi, 'that during the first years of

my marriage I had three sons by the beautiful Zambac. When he was

three years old a holy dervish gave the eldest a string of the

finest coral, saying "Keep this treasure carefully, and be

faithful to the Prophet, and you will be happy." To the second,

who now stands before you, he presented a copper plate on which

the name of Mahomet was engraved in seven languages, telling him

never to part from his turban, which was the sign of a true

believer, and he would taste the greatest of all joys; while on

the right arm of the third the dervish clasped a bracelet with

the prayer that his right hand should be pure and the left

spotless, so that he might never know sorrow.



'My eldest son neglected the counsel of the dervish and terrible

troubles fell on him, as also on the youngest. To preserve the

second from similar misfortunes I brought him up in a lonely

place, under the care of a faithful servant named Gouloucou,

while I was fighting the enemies of our Holy Faith. On my return

from the wars I hastened to embrace my son, but both he and

Gouloucou had vanished, and it is only a few months since that I

learned that the boy was living with a man called Mohammed, whom

I suspected of having stolen him. Tell me, my son, how it came

about that you fell into his hands.'



'My lord,' replied Neangir, 'I can remember little of the early

years of my life, save that I dwelt in a castle by the seashore

with an old servant. I must have been about twelve years old when

one day as we were out walking we met a man whose face was like

that of this Jew, coming dancing towards us. Suddenly I felt

myself growing faint. I tried to raise my hands to my head, but

they had become stiff and hard. In a word, I had been changed

into a copper pot, and my arms formed the handle. What happened

to my companion I know not, but I was conscious that someone had

picked me up, and was carrying me quickly away.



'After some days, or so it seemed to me, I was placed on the

ground near a thick hedge, and when I heard my captor snoring

beside me I resolved to make my escape. So I pushed my way among

the thorns as well as I could, and walked on steadily for about

an hour.



'You cannot imagine, my lord, how awkward it is to walk with

three legs, especially when your knees are as stiff as mine were.

At length after much difficulty I reached a market-garden, and

hid myself deep down among the cabbages, where I passed a quiet

night.



'The next morning, at sunrise, I felt some one stooping over me

and examining me closely. "What have you got there, Zinebi?" said

the voice of a man a little way off.



'"The most beautiful pot in the whole world," answered the woman

beside me, "and who would have dreamed of finding it among my

cabbages!"



'Mohammed lifted me from the ground and looked at me with

admiration. That pleased me, for everyone likes to be admired,

even if he is only a pot! And I was taken into the house and

filled with water, and put on the fire to boil.



'For three years I led a quiet and useful life, being scrubbed

bright every day by Zinebi, then a young and beautiful woman.



'One morning Zinebi set me on the fire, with a fine fillet of

beef inside me to cook for dinner. Being afraid that some of the

steam would escape through the lid, and that the taste of her

stew would be spoilt, she looked about for something to put over

the cover, but could see nothing handy but her husband's turban.

She tied it firmly round the lid, and then left the room. For the

first time during three years I began to feel the fire burning

the soles of my feet, and moved away a little-- doing this with a

great deal more ease than I had felt when making my escape to

Mohammed's garden. I was somehow aware, too, that I was growing

taller; in fact in a few minutes I was a man again.



'After the third hour of prayer Mohammed and Zinebi both

returned, and you can guess their surprise at finding a young man

in the kitchen instead of a copper pot! I told them my story,

which at first they refused to believe, but in the end I

succeeded in persuading them that I was speaking the truth. For

two years more I lived with them, and was treated like their own

son, till the day when they sent me to this city to seek my

fortune. And now, my lords, here are the two letters which I

found in my turban. Perhaps they may be another proof in favour

of my story.'



Whilst Neangir was speaking, the blood from the Jew's wound had

gradually ceased to flow; and at this moment there appeared in

the doorway a lovely Jewess, about twenty-two years old, her hair

and her dress all disordered, as if she had been flying from some

great danger. In one hand she held two crutches of white wood,

and was followed by two men. The first man Neangir knew to be the

brother of the Jew he had struck with his sword, while in the

second the young man thought he recognised the person who was

standing by when he was changed into a pot. Both of these men had

a wide linen band round their thighs and held stout sticks.



The Jewess approached the wounded man and laid the two crutches

near him; then, fixing her eyes on him, she burst into tears.



'Unhappy Izouf,' she murmured, 'why do you suffer yourself to be

led into such dangerous adventures? Look at the consequences, not

only to yourself, but to your two brothers,' turning as she spoke

to the men who had come in with her, and who had sunk down on the

mat at the feet of the Jew.



The Bassa and his companions were struck both with the beauty of

the Jewess and also with her words, and begged her to give them

an explanation.



'My lords,' she said, 'my name is Sumi, and I am the daughter of

Moizes, one of our most famous rabbis. I am the victim of my love

for Izaf,' pointing to the man who had entered last, 'and in

spite of his ingratitude, I cannot tear him from my heart. Cruel

enemy of my life,' she continued turning to Izaf, 'tell these

gentlemen your story and that of your brothers, and try to gain

your pardon by repentance.'



'We all three were born at the same time,' said the Jew, obeying

the command of Sumi at a sign from the Cadi, 'and are the sons of

the famous Nathan Ben-Sadi, who gave us the names of Izif, Izouf,

and Izaf. From our earliest years we were taught the secrets of

magic, and as we were all born under the same stars we shared the

same happiness and the same troubles.



'Our mother died before I can remember, and when we were fifteen

our father was seized with a dangerous illness which no spells

could cure. Feeling death draw near, he called us to his bedside

and took leave of us in these words:



'"My sons, I have no riches to bequeath to you; my only wealth

was those secrets of magic which you know. Some stones you

already have, engraved with mystic signs, and long ago I taught

you how to make others. But you still lack the most precious of

all talismans--the three rings belonging to the daughters of

Siroco. Try to get possession of them, but take heed on beholding

these young girls that you do not fall under the power of their

beauty. Their religion is different from yours, and further, they

are the betrothed brides of the sons of the Bassa of the Sea. And

to preserve you from a love which can bring you nothing but

sorrow, I counsel you in time of peril to seek out the daughter

of Moizes the Rabbi, who cherishes a hidden passion for Izaf, and

possesses the Book of Spells, which her father himself wrote with

the sacred ink that was used for the Talmud." So saying, our

father fell back on his cushions and died, leaving us burning

with desire for the three rings of the daughters of Siroco.



'No sooner were our sad duties finished than we began to make

inquiries where these young ladies were to be found, and we

learned after much trouble that Siroco, their father, had fought

in many wars, and that his daughters, whose beauty was famous

throughout all the land, were named Aurora, Argentine, and

Zelida.'



At the second of these names, both the Bassa and his son gave a

start of surprise, but they said nothing and Izaf went on with

his story.



'The first thing to be done was to put on a disguise, and it was

in the dress of foreign merchants that we at length approached

the young ladies, taking care to carry with us a collection of

fine stones which we had hired for the occasion. But alas! it was

to no purpose that Nathan Ben-Sadi had warned us to close our

hearts against their charms! The peerless Aurora was clothed in a

garment of golden hue, studded all over with flashing jewels; the

fair-haired Argentine wore a dress of silver, and the young

Zelida, loveliest of them all, the costume of a Persian lady.



'Among other curiosities that we had brought with us, was a flask

containing an elixir which had the quality of exciting love in

the breasts of any man or woman who drank of it. This had been

given me by the fair Sumi, who had used it herself and was full

of wrath because I refused to drink it likewise, and so return

her passion. I showed this liquid to the three maidens who were

engaged in examining the precious stones, and choosing those that

pleased them best; and I was in the act of pouring some in a

crystal cup, when Zelida's eyes fell on a paper wrapped round the

flask containing these words. "Beware lest you drink this water

with any other man than him who will one day be your husband."

"Ah, traitor!" she exclaimed, "what snare have you laid for me?"

and glancing where her finger pointed I recognised the writing of

Sumi.



'By this time my two brothers had already got possession of the

rings of Aurora and Argentine in exchange for some merchandise

which they coveted, and no sooner had the magic circles left

their hands than the two sisters vanished completely, and in

their place nothing was to be seen but a watch of gold and one of

silver. At this instant the old slave whom we had bribed to let

us enter the house, rushed into the room announcing the return of

Zelida's father. My brothers, trembling with fright, hid the

watches in their turbans, and while the slave was attending to

Zelida, who had sunk fainting to the ground, we managed to make

our escape.



'Fearing to be traced by the enraged Siroco, we did not dare to

go back to the house where we lodged, but took refuge with Sumi.



'"Unhappy wretches!" cried she, "is it thus that you have

followed the counsels of your father? This very morning I

consulted my magic books, and saw you in the act of abandoning

your hearts to the fatal passion which will one day be your ruin.

No, do not think I will tamely bear this insult! It was I who

wrote the letter which stopped Zelida in the act of drinking the

elixir of love! As for you," she went on, turning to my brothers,

"you do not yet know what those two watches will cost you! But

you can learn it now, and the knowledge of the truth will only

serve to render your lives still more miserable."



'As she spoke she held out the sacred book written by Moizes, and

pointed to the following lines:



'"If at midnight the watches are wound with the key of gold and

the key of silver, they will resume their proper shapes during

the first hour of the day. They will always remain under the care

of a woman, and will come back to her wherever they may be. And

the woman appointed to guard them is the daughter of Moizes."



'My brothers were full of rage when they saw themselves

outwitted, but there was no help for it. The watches were

delivered up to Sumi and they went their way, while I remained

behind curious to see what would happen.



'As night wore on Sumi wound up both watches, and when midnight

struck Aurora and her sister made their appearance. They knew

nothing of what had occurred and supposed they had just awakened

from sleep, but when Sumi's story made them understand their

terrible fate, they both sobbed with despair and were only

consoled when Sumi promised never to forsake them. Then one

o'clock sounded, and they became watches again.



'All night long I was a prey to vague fears, and I felt as if

something unseen was pushing me on--in what direction I did not

know. At dawn I rose and went out, meeting Izif in the street

suffering from the same dread as myself. We agreed that

Constantinople was no place for us any longer, and calling to

Izouf to accompany us, we left the city together, but soon

determined to travel separately, so that we might not be so

easily recognised by the spies of Siroco.



'A few days later I found myself at the door of an old castle

near the sea, before which a tall slave was pacing to and fro.

The gift of one or two worthless jewels loosened his tongue, and

he informed me that he was in the service of the son of the Bassa

of the Sea, at that time making war in distant countries. The

youth, he told me, had been destined from his boyhood to marry

the daughter of Siroco, whose sisters were to be the brides of

his brothers, and went on to speak of the talisman that his

charge possessed. But I could think of nothing but the beautiful

Zelida, and my passion, which I thought I had conquered, awoke in

full force.



'In order to remove this dangerous rival from my path, I resolved

to kidnap him, and to this end I began to act a madman, and to

sing and dance loudly, crying to the slave to fetch the boy and

let him see my tricks. He consented, and both were so diverted

with my antics that they laughed till the tears ran down their

cheeks, and even tried to imitate me. Then I declared I felt

thirsty and begged the slave to fetch me some water, and while he

was absent I advised the youth to take off his turban, so as to

cool his head. He complied gladly, and in the twinkling of an eye

was changed into a pot. A cry from the slave warned me that I had

no time to lose if I would save my life, so I snatched up the pot

and fled with it like the wind.



'You have heard, my lords, what became of the pot, so I will only

say now that when I awoke it had disappeared; but I was partly

consoled for its loss by finding my two brothers fast asleep not

far from me. "How did you get here?" I inquired, "and what has

happened to you since we parted?"



'"Alas!" replied Izouf, "we were passing a wayside inn from which

came sounds of songs and laughter, and fools that we were--we

entered and sat down. Circassian girls of great beauty were

dancing for the amusement of several men, who not only received

us politely, but placed us near the two loveliest maidens. Our

happiness was complete, and time flew unknown to us, when one of

the Circassians leaned forward and said to her sister, 'Their

brother danced, and they must dance too.' What they meant by

these words I know not, but perhaps you can tell us?"



'"I understand quite well," I replied. "They were thinking of the

day that I stole the son of the Bassa, and had danced before

him."



'"Perhaps you are right," continued Izouf, "for the two ladies

took our hands and danced with us till we were quite exhausted,

and when at last we sat down a second time to table we drank more

wine than was good for us. Indeed, our heads grew so confused,

that when the men jumped up and threatened to kill us, we could

make no resistance and suffered ourselves to be robbed of

everything we had about us, including the most precious

possession of all, the two talismans of the daughters of Siroco."



'Not knowing what else to do, we all three returned to

Constantinople to ask the advice of Sumi, and found that she was

already aware of our misfortunes, having read about them in the

book of Moizes. The kind-hearted creature wept bitterly at our

story, but, being poor herself, could give us little help. At

last I proposed that every morning we should sell the silver

watch into which Argentine was changed, as it would return to

Sumi every evening unless it was wound up with the silver key--

which was not at all likely. Sumi consented, but only on the

condition that we would never sell the watch without ascertaining

the house where it was to be found, so that she might also take

Aurora thither, and thus Argentine would not be alone if by any

chance she was wound up at the mystic hour. For some weeks now we

have lived by this means, and the two daughters of Siroco have

never failed to return to Sumi each night. Yesterday Izouf sold

the silver watch to this young man, and in the evening placed the

gold watch on the steps by order of Sumi, just before his

customer entered the house; from which both watches came back

early this morning.'



'If I had only known!' cried Neangir. 'If I had had more presence

of mind, I should have seen the lovely Argentine, and if her

portrait is so fair, what must the original be!'



'It was not your fault,' replied the Cadi, 'you are no magician;

and who could guess that the watch must be wound at such an hour?

But I shall give orders that the merchant is to hand it over to

you, and this evening you will certainly not forget.'



'It is impossible to let you have it to-day,' answered Izouf,

'for it is already sold.'



'If that is so,' said the Cadi, 'you must return the three gold

pieces which the young man paid.'



The Jew, delighted to get off so easily, put his hand in his

pocket, when Neangir stopped him.



'No, no,' he exclaimed, 'it is not money I want, but the adorable

Argentine; without her everything is valueless.'



'My dear Cadi,' said the Bassa, 'he is right. The treasure that

my son has lost is absolutely priceless.'



'My lord,' replied the Cadi, 'your wisdom is greater than mine.

Give judgment I pray you in the matter.'



So the Bassa desired them all to accompany him to his house, and

commanded his slaves not to lose sight of the three Jewish

brothers.



When they arrived at the door of his dwelling, he noticed two

women sitting on a bench close by, thickly veiled and beautifully

dressed. Their wide satin trousers were embroidered in silver,

and their muslin robes were of the finest texture. In the hand of

one was a bag of pink silk tied with green ribbons, containing

something that seemed to move.



At the approach of the Bassa both ladies rose, and came towards

him. Then the one who held the bag addressed him saying, 'Noble

lord, buy, I pray you, this bag, without asking to see what it

contains.'



'How much do you want for it?' asked the Bassa.



'Three hundred sequins,' replied the unknown.



At these words the Bassa laughed contemptuously, and passed on

without speaking.



'You will not repent of your bargain,' went on the woman.

'Perhaps if we come back to-morrow you will be glad to give us

the four hundred sequins we shall then ask. And the next day the

price will be five hundred.'



'Come away,' said her companion, taking hold of her sleeve. 'Do

not let us stay here any longer. It may cry, and then our secret

will be discovered.' And so saying, the two young women

disappeared.



The Jews were left in the front hall under the care of the

slaves, and Neangir and Sumi followed the Bassa inside the house,

which was magnificently furnished. At one end of a large,

brilliantly-lighted room a lady of about thirty-five years old

reclined on a couch, still beautiful in spite of the sad

expression of her face.



'Incomparable Zambac,' said the Bassa, going up to her, 'give me

your thanks, for here is the lost son for whom you have shed so

many tears,' but before his mother could clasp him in her arms

Neangir had flung himself at her feet.



'Let the whole house rejoice with me,' continued the Bassa, 'and

let my two sons Ibrahim and Hassan be told, that they may embrace

their brother.'



'Alas! my lord!' said Zambac, 'do you forget that this is the

hour when Hassan weeps on his hand, and Ibrahim gathers up his

coral beads?'



'Let the command of the Prophet be obeyed,' replied the Bassa;

'then we will wait till the evening.'



'Forgive me, noble lord,' interrupted Sumi, 'but what is this

mystery? With the help of the Book of Spells perhaps I may be of

some use in the matter.'



'Sumi,' answered the Bassa, 'I owe you already the happiness of

my life; come with me then, and the sight of my unhappy sons will

tell you of our trouble better than any words of mine.'



The Bassa rose from his divan and drew aside the hangings leading

to a large hall, closely followed by Neangir and Sumi. There they

saw two young men, one about seventeen, and the other nineteen

years of age. The younger was seated before a table, his forehead

resting on his right hand, which he was watering with his tears.

He raised his head for a moment when his father entered, and

Neangir and Sumi both saw that this hand was of ebony.



The other young man was occupied busily in collecting coral beads

which were scattered all over the floor of the room, and as he

picked them up he placed them on the same table where his brother

was sitting. He had already gathered together ninety-eight beads,

and thought they were all there, when they suddenly rolled off

the table and he had to begin his work over again.



'Do you see,' whispered the Bassa, 'for three hours daily one

collects these coral beads, and for the same space of time the

other laments over his hand which has become black, and I am

wholly ignorant what is the cause of either misfortune.'



'Do not let us stay here,' said Sumi, 'our presence must add to

their grief. But permit me to fetch the Book of Spells, which I

feel sure will tell us not only the cause of their malady but

also its cure.'



The Bassa readily agreed to Sumi's proposal, but Neangir objected

strongly. 'If Sumi leaves us,' he said to his father, 'I shall

not see my beloved Argentine when she returns to-night with the

fair Aurora. And life is an eternity till I behold her.'



'Be comforted,' replied Sumi. 'I will be back before sunset; and

I leave you my adored Izaf as a pledge.'



Scarcely had the Jewess left Neangir, when the old female slave

entered the hall where the three Jews still remained carefully

guarded, followed by a man whose splendid dress prevented Neangir

from recognising at first as the person in whose house he had

dined two days before. But the woman he knew at once to be the

nurse of Zelida.



He started eagerly forward, but before he had time to speak the

slave turned to the soldier she was conducting. 'My lord,' she

said, 'those are the men; I have tracked them from the house of

the Cadi to this palace. They are the same; I am not mistaken,

strike and avenge yourself.'



As he listened the face of the stranger grew scarlet with anger.

He drew his sword and in another moment would have rushed on the

Jews, when Neangir and the slaves of the Bassa seized hold of

him.



'What are you doing?' cried Neangir. 'How dare you attack those

whom the Bassa has taken under his protection?'



'Ah, my son,' replied the soldier, 'the Bassa would withdraw his

protection if he knew that these wretches have robbed me of all I

have dearest in the world. He knows them as little as he knows

you.'



'But he knows me very well,' replied Neangir, 'for he has

recognised me as his son. Come with me now into his presence.'



The stranger bowed and passed through the curtain held back by

Neangir, whose surprise was great at seeing his father spring

forward and clasp the soldier in his arms.



'What! is it you, my dear Siroco?' cried he. 'I believed you had

been slain in that awful battle when the followers of the Prophet

were put to flight. But why do your eyes kindle with the flames

they shot forth on that fearful day? Calm yourself and tell me

what I can do to help you. See, I have found my son, let that be

a good omen for your happiness also.'



'I did not guess,' answered Siroco, 'that the son you have so

long mourned had come back to you. Some days since the Prophet

appeared to me in a dream, floating in a circle of light, and he

said to me, "Go to-morrow at sunset to the Galata Gate, and there

you will find a young man whom you must bring home with you. He

is the second son of your old friend the Bassa of the Sea, and

that you may make no mistake, put your fingers in his turban and

you will feel the plaque on which my name is engraved in seven

different languages."'



'I did as I was bid,' went on Siroco, 'and so charmed was I with

his face and manner that I caused him to fall in love with

Argentine, whose portrait I gave him. But at the moment when I

was rejoicing in the happiness before me, and looking forward to

the pleasure of restoring you your son, some drops of the elixir

of love were spilt on the table, and caused a thick vapour to

arise, which hid everything. When it had cleared away he was

gone. This morning my old slave informed me that she had

discovered the traitors who had stolen my daughters from me, and

I hastened hither to avenge them. But I place myself in your

hands, and will follow your counsel.'



'Fate will favour us, I am sure,' said the Bassa, 'for this very

night I expect to secure both the silver and the gold watch. So

send at once and pray Zelida to join us.'



A rustling of silken stuffs drew their eyes to the door, and

Ibrahim and Hassan, whose daily penance had by this time been

performed, entered to embrace their brother. Neangir and Hassan,

who had also drunk of the elixir of love, could think of nothing

but the beautiful ladies who had captured their hearts, while the

spirits of Ibrahim had been cheered by the news that the daughter

of Moizes hoped to find in the Book of Spells some charm to

deliver him from collecting the magic beads.



It was some hours later that Sumi returned, bringing with her the

sacred book.



'See,' she said, beckoning to Hassan, 'your destiny is written

here.' And Hassan stooped and read these words in Hebrew. 'His

right hand has become black as ebony from touching the fat of an

impure animal, and will remain so till the last of its race is

drowned in the sea.'



'Alas!' sighed the unfortunate youth. 'It now comes back to my

memory. One day the slave of Zambac was making a cake. She warned

me not to touch, as the cake was mixed with lard, but I did not

heed her, and in an instant my hand became the ebony that it now

is.'



'Holy dervish!' exclaimed the Bassa, 'how true were your words!

My son has neglected the advice you gave him on presenting him

the bracelet, and he has been severely punished. But tell me, O

wise Sumi, where I can find the last of the accursed race who has

brought this doom on my son?'



'It is written here,' replied Sumi, turning over some leaves.

'The little black pig is in the pink bag carried by the two

Circassians.'



When he read this the Bassa sank on his cushions in despair.



'Ah,' he said, 'that is the bag that was offered me this morning

for three hundred sequins. Those must be the women who caused

Izif and Izouf to dance, and took from them the two talismans of

the daughters of Siroco. They only can break the spell that has

been cast on us. Let them be found and I will gladly give them

the half of my possessions. Idiot that I was to send them away!'



While the Bassa was bewailing his folly, Ibrahim in his turn had

opened the book, and blushed deeply as he read the words: 'The

chaplet of beads has been defiled by the game of "Odd and Even."

Its owner has tried to cheat by concealing one of the numbers.

Let the faithless Moslem seek for ever the missing bead.'



'O heaven,' cried Ibrahim, 'that unhappy day rises up before me.

I had cut the thread of the chaplet, while playing with Aurora.

Holding the ninety-nine beads in my hand she guessed "Odd," and

in order that she might lose I let one bead fall from my hand.

Since then I have sought it daily, but it never has been found.'



'Holy dervish!' cried the Bassa, 'how true were your words! From

the time that the sacred chaplet was no longer complete, my son

has borne the penalty. But may not the Book of Spells teach us

how to deliver Ibrahim also?'



'Listen,' said Sumi, 'this is what I find: "The coral bead lies

in the fifth fold of the dress of yellow brocade."' 'Ah, what

good fortune!' exclaimed the Bassa; 'we shall shortly see the

beautiful Aurora, and Ibrahim shall at once search in the fifth

fold of her yellow brocade. For it is she no doubt of whom the

book speaks.'



As the Jewess closed the Book of Moizes, Zelida appeared,

accompanied by a whole train of slaves and her old nurse. At her

entrance Hassan, beside himself with joy, flung himself on his

knees and kissed her hand.



'My lord,' he said to the Bassa, 'pardon me these transports. No

elixir of love was needed to inflame my heart! Let the marriage

rite make us speedily one.'



'My son, are you mad?' asked the Bassa. 'As long as the

misfortunes of your brothers last, shall you alone be happy? And

whoever heard of a bridegroom with a black hand? Wait yet a

little longer, till the black pig is drowned in the sea.'



'Yes! dear Hassan,' said Zelida, 'our happiness will be increased

tenfold when my sisters have regained their proper shapes. And

here is the elixir which I have brought with me, so that their

joy may equal ours.' And she held out the flask to the Bassa, who

had it closed in his presence.



Zambac was filled with joy at the sight of Zelida, and embraced

her with delight. Then she led the way into the garden, and

invited all her friends to seat themselves under the thick

overhanging branches of a splendid jessamine tree. No sooner,

however, were they comfortably settled, than they were astonished

to hear a man's voice, speaking angrily on the other side of the

wall.



'Ungrateful girls!' it said, 'is this the way you treat me? Let

me hide myself for ever! This cave is no longer dark enough or

deep enough for me.'



A burst of laughter was the only answer, and the voice continued,

'What have I done to earn such contempt? Was this what you

promised me when I managed to get for you the talismans of

beauty? Is this the reward I have a right to expect when I have

bestowed on you the little black pig, who is certain to bring you

good luck?'



At these words the curiosity of the listeners passed all bounds,

and the Bassa commanded his slaves instantly to tear down the

wall. It was done, but the man was nowhere to be seen, and there

were only two girls of extraordinary beauty, who seemed quite at

their ease, and came dancing gaily on to the terrace. With them

was an old slave in whom the Bassa recognised Gouloucou, the

former guardian of Neangir.



Gouloucou shrank with fear when he saw the Bassa, as he expected

nothing less than death at his hands for allowing Neangir to be

snatched away. But the Bassa made him signs of forgiveness, and

asked him how he had escaped death when he had thrown himself

from the cliff. Gouloucou explained that he had been picked up by

a dervish who had cured his wounds, and had then given him as

slave to the two young ladies now before the company, and in

their service he had remained ever since.



'But,' said the Bassa, 'where is the little black pig of which

the voice spoke just now?'



'My lord,' answered one of the ladies, 'when at your command the

wall was thrown down, the man whom you heard speaking was so

frightened at the noise that he caught up the pig and ran away.'



'Let him be pursued instantly,' cried the Bassa; but the ladies

smiled.



'Do not be alarmed, my lord,' said one, 'he is sure to return.

Only give orders that the entrance to the cave shall be guarded,

so that when he is once in he shall not get out again.'



By this time night was falling and they all went back to the

palace, where coffee and fruits were served in a splendid

gallery, near the women's apartments. The Bassa then ordered the

three Jews to be brought before him, so that he might see whether

these were the two damsels who had forced them to dance at the

inn, but to his great vexation it was found that when their

guards had gone to knock down the wall the Jews had escaped.



At this news the Jewess Sumi turned pale, but glancing at the

Book of Spells her face brightened, and she said half aloud,

'There is no cause for disquiet; they will capture the dervish,'

while Hassan lamented loudly that as soon as fortune appeared on

one side she fled on the other!



On hearing this reflection one of the Bassa's pages broke into a

laugh. 'This fortune comes to us dancing my lord,' said he, 'and

the other leaves us on crutches. Do not be afraid. She will not

go very far.'



The Bassa, shocked at his impertinent interference, desired him

to leave the room and not to come back till he was sent for.



'My lord shall be obeyed,' said the page, 'but when I return, it

shall be in such good company that you will welcome me gladly.'

So saying, he went out.



When they were alone, Neangir turned to the fair strangers and

implored their help. 'My brothers and myself,' he cried, 'are

filled with love for three peerless maidens, two of whom are

under a cruel spell. If their fate happened to be in your hands,

would you not do all in your power to restore them to happiness

and liberty?'



But the young man's appeal only stirred the two ladies to anger.

'What,' exclaimed one, 'are the sorrows of lovers to us? Fate has

deprived us of our lovers, and if it depends on us the whole

world shall suffer as much as we do!'



This unexpected reply was heard with amazement by all present,

and the Bassa entreated the speaker to tell them her story.

Having obtained permission of her sister, she began:





The Story Of The Three Calenders Sons Of Kings And Of Five Ladies Of Bagdad The Story Of The Vizir Who Was Punished facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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