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

: The Arabian Nights Entertainments

Once upon a time there reigned over Persia a Sultan named Kosrouschah,

who from his boyhood had been fond of putting on a disguise and seeking

adventures in all parts of the city, accompanied by one of his

officers, disguised like himself. And no sooner was his father buried

and the ceremonies over that marked his accession to the throne, than

the young man hastened to throw off his robes of state, and calling to

izir to make ready likewise, stole out in the simple dress of a

private citizen into the less known streets of the capital.

Passing down a lonely street, the Sultan heard women's voices in loud

discussion; and peeping through a crack in the door, he saw three

sisters, sitting on a sofa in a large hall, talking in a very lively

and earnest manner. Judging from the few words that reached his ear,

they were each explaining what sort of men they wished to marry.

"I ask nothing better," cried the eldest, "than to have the Sultan's

baker for a husband. Think of being able to eat as much as one wanted,

of that delicious bread that is baked for his Highness alone! Let us

see if your wish is as good as mine."

"I," replied the second sister, "should be quite content with the

Sultan's head cook. What delicate stews I should feast upon! And, as

I am persuaded that the Sultan's bread is used all through the palace,

I should have that into the bargain. You see, my dear sister, my taste

is as good as yours."

It was now the turn of the youngest sister, who was by far the most

beautiful of the three, and had, besides, more sense than the other

two. "As for me," she said, "I should take a higher flight; and if we

are to wish for husbands, nothing less than the Sultan himself will do

for me."

The Sultan was so much amused by the conversation he had overheard,

that he made up his mind to gratify their wishes, and turning to the

grand-vizir, he bade him note the house, and on the following morning

to bring the ladies into his presence.

The grand-vizir fulfilled his commission, and hardly giving them time

to change their dresses, desired the three sisters to follow him to the

palace. Here they were presented one by one, and when they had bowed

before the Sultan, the sovereign abruptly put the question to them:

"Tell me, do you remember what you wished for last night, when you were

making merry? Fear nothing, but answer me the truth."

These words, which were so unexpected, threw the sisters into great

confusion, their eyes fell, and the blushes of the youngest did not

fail to make an impression on the heart of the Sultan. All three

remained silent, and he hastened to continue: "Do not be afraid, I

have not the slightest intention of giving you pain, and let me tell

you at once, that I know the wishes formed by each one. You," he said,

turning to the youngest, "who desired to have me for an husband, shall

be satisfied this very day. And you," he added, addressing himself to

the other two, "shall be married at the same moment to my baker and to

my chief cook."

When the Sultan had finished speaking the three sisters flung

themselves at his feet, and the youngest faltered out, "Oh, sire, since

you know my foolish words, believe, I pray you, that they were only

said in joke. I am unworthy of the honour you propose to do me, and I

can only ask pardon for my boldness."

The other sisters also tried to excuse themselves, but the Sultan would

hear nothing.

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


So the three weddings were celebrated that same day, but with a great

difference. That of the youngest was marked by all the magnificence

that was customary at the marriage of the Shah of Persia, while the

festivities attending the nuptials of the Sultan's baker and his chief

cook were only such as were suitable to their conditions.

This, though quite natural, was highly displeasing to the elder

sisters, who fell into a passion of jealousy, which in the end caused a

great deal of trouble and pain to several people. And the first time

that they had the opportunity of speaking to each other, which was not

till several days later at a public bath, they did not attempt to

disguise their feelings.

"Can you possibly understand what the Sultan saw in that little cat,"

said one to the other, "for him to be so fascinated by her?"

"He must be quite blind," returned the wife of the chief cook. "As for

her looking a little younger than we do, what does that matter? You

would have made a far better Sultana than she."

"Oh, I say nothing of myself," replied the elder, "and if the Sultan

had chosen you it would have been all very well; but it really grieves

me that he should have selected a wretched little creature like that.

However, I will be revenged on her somehow, and I beg you will give me

your help in the matter, and to tell me anything that you can think of

that is likely to mortify her."

In order to carry out their wicked scheme the two sisters met

constantly to talk over their ideas, though all the while they

pretended to be as friendly as ever towards the Sultana, who, on her

part, invariably treated them with kindness. For a long time no plan

occurred to the two plotters that seemed in the least likely to meet

with success, but at length the expected birth of an heir gave them the

chance for which they had been hoping.

They obtained permission of the Sultan to take up their abode in the

palace for some weeks, and never left their sister night or day. When

at last a little boy, beautiful as the sun, was born, they laid him in

his cradle and carried it down to a canal which passed through the

grounds of the palace. Then, leaving it to its fate, they informed the

Sultan that instead of the son he had so fondly desired the Sultana had

given birth to a puppy. At this dreadful news the Sultan was so

overcome with rage and grief that it was with great difficulty that the

grand-vizir managed to save the Sultana from his wrath.

Meanwhile the cradle continued to float peacefully along the canal

till, on the outskirts of the royal gardens, it was suddenly perceived

by the intendant, one of the highest and most respected officials in

the kingdom.

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

out for me."

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

of the intendant.

The official was much astonished to see that the cradle, which he had

supposed to be empty, contained a baby, which, young though it was,

already gave promise of great beauty. Having no children himself,

although he had been married some years, it at once occurred to him

that here was a child which he could take and bring up as his own.

And, bidding the man pick up the cradle and follow him, he turned

towards home.

"My wife," he exclaimed as he entered the room, "heaven has denied us

any children, but here is one that has been sent in their place. Send

for a nurse, and I will do what is needful publicly to recognise it as

my son."

The wife accepted the baby with joy, and though the intendant saw quite

well that it must have come from the royal palace, he did not think it

was his business to inquire further into the mystery.

The following year another prince was born and sent adrift, but happily

for the baby, the intendant of the gardens again was walking by the

canal, and carried it home as before.

The Sultan, naturally enough, was still more furious the second time

than the first, but when the same curious accident was repeated in the

third year he could control himself no longer, and, to the great joy of

the jealous sisters, commanded that the Sultana should be executed.

But the poor lady was so much beloved at Court that not even the dread

of sharing her fate could prevent the grand-vizir and the courtiers

from throwing themselves at the Sultan's feet and imploring him not to

inflict so cruel a punishment for what, after all, was not her fault.

"Let her live," entreated the grand-vizir, "and banish her from your

presence for the rest of her days. That in itself will be punishment


His first passion spent, the Sultan had regained his self-command.

"Let her live then," he said, "since you have it so much at heart. But

if I grant her life it shall only be on one condition, which shall make

her daily pray for death. Let a box be built for her at the door of

the principal mosque, and let the window of the box be always open.

There she shall sit, in the coarsest clothes, and every Mussulman who

enters the mosque shall spit in her face in passing. Anyone that

refuses to obey shall be exposed to the same punishment himself. You,

vizir, will see that my orders are carried out."

The grand-vizir saw that it was useless to say more, and, full of

triumph, the sisters watched the building of the box, and then listened

to the jeers of the people at the helpless Sultana sitting inside. But

the poor lady bore herself with so much dignity and meekness that it

was not long before she had won the sympathy of those that were best

among the crowd.

But it is now time to return to the fate of the third baby, this time a

princess. Like its brothers, it was found by the intendant of the

gardens, and adopted by him and his wife, and all three were brought up

with the greatest care and tenderness.

As the children grew older their beauty and air of distinction became

more and more marked, and their manners had all the grace and ease that

is proper to people of high birth. The princes had been named by their

foster-father Bahman and Perviz, after two of the ancient kings of

Persia, while the princess was called Parizade, or the child of the


The intendant was careful to bring them up as befitted their real rank,

and soon appointed a tutor to teach the young princes how to read and

write. And the princess, determined not to be left behind, showed

herself so anxious to learn with her brothers, that the intendant

consented to her joining in their lessons, and it was not long before

she knew as much as they did.

From that time all their studies were done in common. They had the

best masters for the fine arts, geography, poetry, history and science,

and even for sciences which are learned by few, and every branch seemed

so easy to them, that their teachers were astonished at the progress

they made. The princess had a passion for music, and could sing and

play upon all sorts of instruments she could also ride and drive as

well as her brothers, shoot with a bow and arrow, and throw a javelin

with the same skill as they, and sometimes even better.

In order to set off these accomplishments, the intendant resolved that

his foster children should not be pent up any longer in the narrow

borders of the palace gardens, where he had always lived, so he bought

a splendid country house a few miles from the capital, surrounded by an

immense park. This park he filled with wild beasts of various sorts,

so that the princes and princess might hunt as much as they pleased.

When everything was ready, the intendant threw himself at the Sultan's

feet, and after referring to his age and his long services, begged his

Highness's permission to resign his post. This was granted by the

Sultan in a few gracious words, and he then inquired what reward he

could give to his faithful servant. But the intendant declared that he

wished for nothing except the continuance of his Highness's favour, and

prostrating himself once more, he retired from the Sultan's presence.

Five or six months passed away in the pleasures of the country, when

death attacked the intendant so suddenly that he had no time to reveal

the secret of their birth to his adopted children, and as his wife had

long been dead also, it seemed as if the princes and the princess would

never know that they had been born to a higher station than the one

they filled. Their sorrow for their father was very deep, and they

lived quietly on in their new home, without feeling any desire to leave

it for court gaieties or intrigues.

One day the princes as usual went out to hunt, but their sister

remained alone in her apartments. While they were gone an old

Mussulman devotee appeared at the door, and asked leave to enter, as it

was the hour of prayer. The princess sent orders at once that the old

woman was to be taken to the private oratory in the grounds, and when

she had finished her prayers was to be shown the house and gardens, and

then to be brought before her.

Although the old woman was very pious, she was not at all indifferent

to the magnificence of all around her, which she seemed to understand

as well as to admire, and when she had seen it all she was led by the

servants before the princess, who was seated in a room which surpassed

in splendour all the rest.

"My good woman," said the princess pointing to a sofa, "come and sit

beside me. I am delighted at the opportunity of speaking for a few

moments with so holy a person." The old woman made some objections to

so much honour being done her, but the princess refused to listen, and

insisted that her guest should take the best seat, and as she thought

she must be tired ordered refreshments.

While the old woman was eating, the princess put several questions to

her as to her mode of life, and the pious exercises she practiced, and

then inquired what she thought of the house now that she had seen it.

"Madam," replied the pilgrim, "one must be hard indeed to please to

find any fault. It is beautiful, comfortable and well ordered, and it

is impossible to imagine anything more lovely than the garden. But

since you ask me, I must confess that it lacks three things to make it

absolutely perfect."

"And what can they be?" cried the princess. "Only tell me, and I will

lose no time in getting them."

"The three things, madam," replied the old woman, "are, first, the

Talking Bird, whose voice draws all other singing birds to it, to join

in chorus. And second, the Singing Tree, where every leaf is a song

that is never silent. And lastly the Golden Water, of which it is only

needful to pour a single drop into a basin for it to shoot up into a

fountain, which will never be exhausted, nor will the basin ever


"Oh, how can I thank you," cried the princess, "for telling me of such

treasures! But add, I pray you, to your goodness by further informing

me where I can find them."

"Madam," replied the pilgrim, "I should ill repay the hospitality you

have shown me if I refused to answer your question. The three things

of which I have spoken are all to be found in one place, on the borders

of this kingdom, towards India. Your messenger has only to follow the

road that passes by your house, for twenty days, and at the end of that

time, he is to ask the first person he meets for the Talking Bird, the

Singing Tree, and the Golden Water." She then rose, and bidding

farewell to the princess, went her way.

The old woman had taken her departure so abruptly that the Princess

Parizade did not perceive till she was really gone that the directions

were hardly clear enough to enable the search to be successful. And

she was still thinking of the subject, and how delightful it would be

to possess such rarities, when the princes, her brothers, returned from

the chase.

"What is the matter, my sister?" asked Prince Bahman; "why are you so

grave? Are you ill? Or has anything happened?"

Princess Parizade did not answer directly, but at length she raised her

eyes, and replied that there was nothing wrong.

"But there must be something," persisted Prince Bahman, "for you to

have changed so much during the short time we have been absent. Hide

nothing from us, I beseech you, unless you wish us to believe that the

confidence we have always had in one another is now to cease."

"When I said that it was nothing," said the princess, moved by his

words, "I meant that it was nothing that affected you, although I admit

that it is certainly of some importance to me. Like myself, you have

always thought this house that our father built for us was perfect in

every respect, but only to-day I have learned that three things are

still lacking to complete it. These are the Talking Bird, the Singing

Tree, and the Golden Water." After explaining the peculiar qualities

of each, the princess continued: "It was a Mussulman devotee who told

me all this, and where they might all be found. Perhaps you will think

that the house is beautiful enough as it is, and that we can do quite

well without them; but in this I cannot agree with you, and I shall

never be content until I have got them. So counsel me, I pray, whom to

send on the undertaking."

"My dear sister," replied Prince Bahman, "that you should care about

the matter is quite enough, even if we took no interest in it

ourselves. But we both feel with you, and I claim, as the elder, the

right to make the first attempt, if you will tell me where I am to go,

and what steps I am to take."

Prince Perviz at first objected that, being the head of the family, his

brother ought not to be allowed to expose himself to danger; but Prince

Bahman would hear nothing, and retired to make the needful preparations

for his journey.

The next morning Prince Bahman got up very early, and after bidding

farewell to his brother and sister, mounted his horse. But just as he

was about to touch it with his whip, he was stopped by a cry from the


"Oh, perhaps after all you may never come back; one never can tell what

accidents may happen. Give it up, I implore you, for I would a

thousand times rather lose the Talking Bird, and the Singing Tree and

the Golden Water, than that you should run into danger."

"My dear sister," answered the prince, "accidents only happen to

unlucky people, and I hope that I am not one of them. But as

everything is uncertain, I promise you to be very careful. Take this

knife," he continued, handing her one that hung sheathed from his belt,

"and every now and then draw it out and look at it. As long as it

keeps bright and clean as it is to-day, you will know that I am living;

but if the blade is spotted with blood, it will be a sign that I am

dead, and you shall weep for me."

So saying, Prince Bahman bade them farewell once more, and started on

the high road, well mounted and fully armed. For twenty days he rode

straight on, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, till he

found himself drawing near the frontiers of Persia. Seated under a

tree by the wayside he noticed a hideous old man, with a long white

moustache, and beard that almost fell to his feet. His nails had grown

to an enormous length, and on his head he wore a huge hat, which served

him for an umbrella.

Prince Bahman, who, remembering the directions of the old woman, had

been since sunrise on the look-out for some one, recognised the old man

at once to be a dervish. He dismounted from his horse, and bowed low

before the holy man, saying by way of greeting, "My father, may your

days be long in the land, and may all your wishes be fulfilled!"

The dervish did his best to reply, but his moustache was so thick that

his words were hardly intelligible, and the prince, perceiving what was

the matter, took a pair of scissors from his saddle pockets, and

requested permission to cut off some of the moustache, as he had a

question of great importance to ask the dervish. The dervish made a

sign that he might do as he liked, and when a few inches of his hair

and beard had been pruned all round the prince assured the holy man

that he would hardly believe how much younger he looked. The dervish

smiled at his compliments, and thanked him for what he had done.

"Let me," he said, "show you my gratitude for making me more

comfortable by telling me what I can do for you."

"Gentle dervish," replied Prince Bahman, "I come from far, and I seek

the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree, and the Golden Water. I know that

they are to be found somewhere in these parts, but I am ignorant of the

exact spot. Tell me, I pray you, if you can, so that I may not have

travelled on a useless quest." While he was speaking, the prince

observed a change in the countenance of the dervish, who waited for

some time before he made reply.

"My lord," he said at last, "I do know the road for which you ask, but

your kindness and the friendship I have conceived for you make me loth

to point it out."

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

"The very greatest danger," answered the dervish. "Other men, as brave

as you, have ridden down this road, and have put me that question. I

did my best to turn them also from their purpose, but it was of no use.

Not one of them would listen to my words, and not one of them came

back. Be warned in time, and seek to go no further."

"I am grateful to you for your interest in me," said Prince Bahman,

"and for the advice you have given, though I cannot follow it. But

what dangers can there be in the adventure which courage and a good

sword cannot meet?"

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

how then?"

"Nothing will make me give it up," replied the prince, "and for the

last time I ask you to tell me where I am to go."

When the dervish saw that the prince's mind was made up, he drew a ball

from a bag that lay near him, and held it out. "If it must be so," he

said, with a sigh, "take this, and when you have mounted your horse

throw the ball in front of you. It will roll on till it reaches the

foot of a mountain, and when it stops you will stop also. You will

then throw the bridle on your horse's neck without any fear of his

straying, and will dismount. On each side you will see vast heaps of

big black stones, and will hear a multitude of insulting voices, but

pay no heed to them, and, above all, beware of ever turning your head.

If you do, you will instantly become a black stone like the rest. For

those stones are in reality men like yourself, who have been on the

same quest, and have failed, as I fear that you may fail also. If you

manage to avoid this pitfall, and to reach the top of the mountain, you

will find there the Talking Bird in a splendid cage, and you can ask of

him where you are to seek the Singing Tree and the Golden Water. That

is all I have to say. You know what you have to do, and what to avoid,

but if you are wise you will think of it no more, but return whence you

have come."

The prince smilingly shook his head, and thanking the dervish once

more, he sprang on his horse and threw the ball before him.

The ball rolled along the road so fast that Prince Bahman had much

difficulty in keeping up with it, and it never relaxed its speed till

the foot of the mountain was reached. Then it came to a sudden halt,

and the prince at once got down and flung the bridle on his horse's

neck. He paused for a moment and looked round him at the masses of

black stones with which the sides of the mountain were covered, and

then began resolutely to ascend. He had hardly gone four steps when he

heard the sound of voices around him, although not another creature was

in sight.

"Who is this imbecile?" cried some, "stop him at once." "Kill him,"

shrieked others, "Help! robbers! murderers! help! help!" "Oh, let him

alone," sneered another, and this was the most trying of all, "he is

such a beautiful young man; I am sure the bird and the cage must have

been kept for him."

At first the prince took no heed to all this clamour, but continued to

press forward on his way. Unfortunately this conduct, instead of

silencing the voices, only seemed to irritate them the more, and they

arose with redoubled fury, in front as well as behind. After some time

he grew bewildered, his knees began to tremble, and finding himself in

the act of falling, he forgot altogether the advice of the dervish. He

turned to fly down the mountain, and in one moment became a black stone.

As may be imagined, Prince Perviz and his sister were all this time in

the greatest anxiety, and consulted the magic knife, not once but many

times a day. Hitherto the blade had remained bright and spotless, but

on the fatal hour on which Prince Bahman and his horse were changed

into black stones, large drops of blood appeared on the surface. "Ah!

my beloved brother," cried the princess in horror, throwing the knife

from her, "I shall never see you again, and it is I who have killed

you. Fool that I was to listen to the voice of that temptress, who

probably was not speaking the truth. What are the Talking Bird and the

Singing Tree to me in comparison with you, passionately though I long

for them!"

Prince Perviz's grief at his brother's loss was not less than that of

Princess Parizade, but he did not waste his time on useless


"My sister," he said, "why should you think the old woman was deceiving

you about these treasures, and what would have been her object in doing

so! No, no, our brother must have met his death by some accident, or

want of precaution, and to-morrow I will start on the same quest."

Terrified at the thought that she might lose her only remaining

brother, the princess entreated him to give up his project, but he

remained firm. Before setting out, however, he gave her a chaplet of a

hundred pearls, and said, "When I am absent, tell this over daily for

me. But if you should find that the beads stick, so that they will not

slip one after the other, you will know that my brother's fate has

befallen me. Still, we must hope for better luck."

Then he departed, and on the twentieth day of his journey fell in with

the dervish on the same spot as Prince Bahman had met him, and began to

question him as to the place where the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree

and the Golden Water were to be found. As in the case of his brother,

the dervish tried to make him give up his project, and even told him

that only a few weeks since a young man, bearing a strong resemblance

to himself, had passed that way, but had never come back again.

"That, holy dervish," replied Prince Perviz, "was my elder brother, who

is now dead, though how he died I cannot say."

"He is changed into a black stone," answered the dervish, "like all the

rest who have gone on the same errand, and you will become one likewise

if you are not more careful in following my directions." Then he

charged the prince, as he valued his life, to take no heed of the

clamour of voices that would pursue him up the mountain, and handing

him a ball from the bag, which still seemed to be half full, he sent

him on his way.

When Prince Perviz reached the foot of the mountain he jumped from his

horse, and paused for a moment to recall the instructions the dervish

had given him. Then he strode boldly on, but had scarcely gone five or

six paces when he was startled by a man's voice that seemed close to

his ear, exclaiming: "Stop, rash fellow, and let me punish your

audacity." This outrage entirely put the dervish's advice out of the

prince's head. He drew his sword, and turned to avenge himself, but

almost before he had realised that there was nobody there, he and his

horse were two black stones.

Not a morning had passed since Prince Perviz had ridden away without

Princess Parizade telling her beads, and at night she even hung them

round her neck, so that if she woke she could assure herself at once of

her brother's safety. She was in the very act of moving them through

her fingers at the moment that the prince fell a victim to his

impatience, and her heart sank when the first pearl remained fixed in

its place. However she had long made up her mind what she would do in

such a case, and the following morning the princess, disguised as a

man, set out for the mountain.

As she had been accustomed to riding from her childhood, she managed to

travel as many miles daily as her brothers had done, and it was, as

before, on the twentieth day that she arrived at the place where the

dervish was sitting. "Good dervish," she said politely, "will you

allow me to rest by you for a few moments, and perhaps you will be so

kind as to tell me if you have ever heard of a Talking Bird, a Singing

Tree, and some Golden Water that are to be found somewhere near this?"

"Madam," replied the dervish, "for in spite of your manly dress your

voice betrays you, I shall be proud to serve you in any way I can. But

may I ask the purpose of your question?"

"Good dervish," answered the princess, "I have heard such glowing

descriptions of these three things, that I cannot rest till I possess


"Madam," said the dervish, "they are far more beautiful than any

description, but you seem ignorant of all the difficulties that stand

in your way, or you would hardly have undertaken such an adventure.

Give it up, I pray you, and return home, and do not ask me to help you

to a cruel death."

"Holy father," answered the princess, "I come from far, and I should be

in despair if I turned back without having attained my object. You

have spoken of difficulties; tell me, I entreat you, what they are, so

that I may know if I can overcome them, or see if they are beyond my


So the dervish repeated his tale, and dwelt more firmly than before on

the clamour of the voices, the horrors of the black stones, which were

once living men, and the difficulties of climbing the mountain; and

pointed out that the chief means of success was never to look behind

till you had the cage in your grasp.

"As far as I can see," said the princess, "the first thing is not to

mind the tumult of the voices that follow you till you reach the cage,

and then never to look behind. As to this, I think I have enough

self-control to look straight before me; but as it is quite possible

that I might be frightened by the voices, as even the boldest men have

been, I will stop up my ears with cotton, so that, let them make as

much noise as they like, I shall hear nothing."

"Madam," cried the dervish, "out of all the number who have asked me

the way to the mountain, you are the first who has ever suggested such

a means of escaping the danger! It is possible that you may succeed,

but all the same, the risk is great."

"Good dervish," answered the princess, "I feel in my heart that I shall

succeed, and it only remains for me to ask you the way I am to go."

Then the dervish said that it was useless to say more, and he gave her

the ball, which she flung before her.

The first thing the princess did on arriving at the mountain was to

stop her ears with cotton, and then, making up her mind which was the

best way to go, she began her ascent. In spite of the cotton, some

echoes of the voices reached her ears, but not so as to trouble her.

Indeed, though they grew louder and more insulting the higher she

climbed, the princess only laughed, and said to herself that she

certainly would not let a few rough words stand between her and the

goal. At last she perceived in the distance the cage and the bird,

whose voice joined itself in tones of thunder to those of the rest:

"Return, return! never dare to come near me."

At the sight of the bird, the princess hastened her steps, and without

vexing herself at the noise which by this time had grown deafening, she

walked straight up to the cage, and seizing it, she said: "Now, my

bird, I have got you, and I shall take good care that you do not

escape." As she spoke she took the cotton from her ears, for it was

needed no longer.

"Brave lady," answered the bird, "do not blame me for having joined my

voice to those who did their best to preserve my freedom. Although

confined in a cage, I was content with my lot, but if I must become a

slave, I could not wish for a nobler mistress than one who has shown so

much constancy, and from this moment I swear to serve you faithfully.

Some day you will put me to the proof, for I know who you are better

than you do yourself. Meanwhile, tell me what I can do, and I will

obey you."

"Bird," replied the princess, who was filled with a joy that seemed

strange to herself when she thought that the bird had cost her the

lives of both her brothers, "bird, let me first thank you for your good

will, and then let me ask you where the Golden Water is to be found."

The bird described the place, which was not far distant, and the

princess filled a small silver flask that she had brought with her for

the purpose. She then returned to the cage, and said: "Bird, there is

still something else, where shall I find the Singing Tree?"

"Behind you, in that wood," replied the bird, and the princess wandered

through the wood, till a sound of the sweetest voices told her she had

found what she sought. But the tree was tall and strong, and it was

hopeless to think of uprooting it.

"You need not do that," said the bird, when she had returned to ask

counsel. "Break off a twig, and plant it in your garden, and it will

take root, and grow into a magnificent tree."

When the Princess Parizade held in her hands the three wonders promised

her by the old woman, she said to the bird: "All that is not enough.

It was owing to you that my brothers became black stones. I cannot

tell them from the mass of others, but you must know, and point them

out to me, I beg you, for I wish to carry them away."

For some reason that the princess could not guess these words seemed to

displease the bird, and he did not answer. The princess waited a

moment, and then continued in severe tones, "Have you forgotten that

you yourself said that you are my slave to do my bidding, and also that

your life is in my power?"

"No, I have not forgotten," replied the bird, "but what you ask is very

difficult. However, I will do my best. If you look round," he went

on, "you will see a pitcher standing near. Take it, and, as you go

down the mountain, scatter a little of the water it contains over every

black stone and you will soon find your two brothers."

Princess Parizade took the pitcher, and, carrying with her besides the

cage the twig and the flask, returned down the mountain side. At every

black stone she stopped and sprinkled it with water, and as the water

touched it the stone instantly became a man. When she suddenly saw her

brothers before her her delight was mixed with astonishment.

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

"We have been asleep," they said.

"Yes," returned the princess, "but without me your sleep would probably

have lasted till the day of judgment. Have you forgotten that you came

here in search of the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree, and the Golden

Water, and the black stones that were heaped up along the road? Look

round and see if there is one left. These gentlemen, and yourselves,

and all your horses were changed into these stones, and I have

delivered you by sprinkling you with the water from this pitcher. As I

could not return home without you, even though I had gained the prizes

on which I had set my heart, I forced the Talking Bird to tell me how

to break the spell."

On hearing these words Prince Bahman and Prince Perviz understood all

they owed their sister, and the knights who stood by declared

themselves her slaves and ready to carry out her wishes. But the

princess, while thanking them for their politeness, explained that she

wished for no company but that of her brothers, and that the rest were

free to go where they would.

So saying the princess mounted her horse, and, declining to allow even

Prince Bahman to carry the cage with the Talking Bird, she entrusted

him with the branch of the Singing Tree, while Prince Perviz took care

of the flask containing the Golden Water.

Then they rode away, followed by the knights and gentlemen, who begged

to be permitted to escort them.

It had been the intention of the party to stop and tell their

adventures to the dervish, but they found to their sorrow that he was

dead, whether from old age, or whether from the feeling that his task

was done, they never knew.

As they continued their road their numbers grew daily smaller, for the

knights turned off one by one to their own homes, and only the brothers

and sister finally drew up at the gate of the palace.

The princess carried the cage straight into the garden, and, as soon as

the bird began to sing, nightingales, larks, thrushes, finches, and all

sorts of other birds mingled their voices in chorus. The branch she

planted in a corner near the house, and in a few days it had grown into

a great tree. As for the Golden Water it was poured into a great

marble basin specially prepared for it, and it swelled and bubbled and

then shot up into the air in a fountain twenty feet high.

The fame of these wonders soon spread abroad, and people came from far

and near to see and admire.

After a few days Prince Bahman and Prince Perviz fell back into their

ordinary way of life, and passed most of their time hunting. One day

it happened that the Sultan of Persia was also hunting in the same

direction, and, not wishing to interfere with his sport, the young men,

on hearing the noise of the hunt approaching, prepared to retire, but,

as luck would have it, they turned into the very path down which the

Sultan was coming. They threw themselves from their horses and

prostrated themselves to the earth, but the Sultan was curious to see

their faces, and commanded them to rise.

The princes stood up respectfully, but quite at their ease, and the

Sultan looked at them for a few moments without speaking, then he asked

who they were and where they lived.

"Sire," replied Prince Bahman, "we are sons of your Highness's late

intendant of the gardens, and we live in a house that he built a short

time before his death, waiting till an occasion should offer itself to

serve your Highness."

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

"Sire," replied Prince Bahman, "it is our usual exercise, and one that

should be neglected by no man who expects to comply with the ancient

customs of the kingdom and bear arms."

The Sultan was delighted with this remark, and said at once, "In that

case I shall take great pleasure in watching you. Come, choose what

sort of beasts you would like to hunt."

The princes jumped on their horses and followed the Sultan at a little

distance. They had not gone very far before they saw a number of wild

animals appear at once, and Prince Bahman started to give chase to a

lion and Prince Perviz to a bear. Both used their javelins with such

skill that, directly they arrived within striking range, the lion and

the bear fell, pierced through and through. Then Prince Perviz pursued

a lion and Prince Bahman a bear, and in a very few minutes they, too,

lay dead. As they were making ready for a third assault the Sultan

interfered, and, sending one of his officials to summon them, he said

smiling, "If I let you go on, there will soon be no beasts left to

hunt. Besides, your courage and manners have so won my heart that I

will not have you expose yourselves to further danger. I am convinced

that some day or other I shall find you useful as well as agreeable."

He then gave them a warm invitation to stay with him altogether, but

with many thanks for the honour done them, they begged to be excused,

and to be suffered to remain at home.

The Sultan who was not accustomed to see his offers rejected inquired

their reasons, and Prince Bahman explained that they did not wish to

leave their sister, and were accustomed to do nothing without

consulting all three together.

"Ask her advice, then," replied the Sultan, "and to-morrow come and

hunt with me, and give me your answer."

The two princes returned home, but their adventure made so little

impression on them that they quite forgot to speak to their sister on

the subject. The next morning when they went to hunt they met the

Sultan in the same place, and he inquired what advice their sister had

given. The young men looked at each other and blushed. At last Prince

Bahman said, "Sire, we must throw ourselves on your Highness's mercy.

Neither my brother nor myself remembered anything about it."

"Then be sure you do not forget to-day," answered the Sultan, "and

bring me back your reply to-morrow."

When, however, the same thing happened a second time, they feared that

the Sultan might be angry with them for their carelessness. But he

took it in good part, and, drawing three little golden balls from his

purse, he held them out to Prince Bahman, saying, "Put these in your

bosom and you will not forget a third time, for when you remove your

girdle to-night the noise they will make in falling will remind you of

my wishes."

It all happened as the Sultan had foreseen, and the two brothers

appeared in their sister's apartments just as she was in the act of

stepping into bed, and told their tale.

The Princess Parizade was much disturbed at the news, and did not

conceal her feelings. "Your meeting with the Sultan is very honourable

to you," she said, "and will, I dare say, be of service to you, but it

places me in a very awkward position. It is on my account, I know,

that you have resisted the Sultan's wishes, and I am very grateful to

you for it. But kings do not like to have their offers refused, and in

time he would bear a grudge against you, which would render me very

unhappy. Consult the Talking Bird, who is wise and far-seeing, and let

me hear what he says."

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

"The princes must on no account refuse the Sultan's proposal," said he,

"and they must even invite him to come and see your house."

"But, bird," objected the princess, "you know how dearly we love each

other; will not all this spoil our friendship?"

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

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

The bird answered that it was necessary that he should see her, and

everything would turn out for the best.

The following morning, when the Sultan inquired if they had spoken to

their sister and what advice she had given them, Prince Bahman replied

that they were ready to agree to his Highness's wishes, and that their

sister had reproved them for their hesitation about the matter. The

Sultan received their excuses with great kindness, and told them that

he was sure they would be equally faithful to him, and kept them by his

side for the rest of the day, to the vexation of the grand-vizir and

the rest of the court.

When the procession entered in this order the gates of the capital, the

eyes of the people who crowded the streets were fixed on the two young

men, strangers to every one.

"Oh, if only the Sultan had had sons like that!" they murmured, "they

look so distinguished and are about the same age that his sons would

have been!"

The Sultan commanded that splendid apartments should be prepared for

the two brothers, and even insisted that they should sit at table with

him. During dinner he led the conversation to various scientific

subjects, and also to history, of which he was especially fond, but

whatever topic they might be discussing he found that the views of the

young men were always worth listening to. "If they were my own sons,"

he said to himself, "they could not be better educated!" and aloud he

complimented them on their learning and taste for knowledge.

At the end of the evening the princes once more prostrated themselves

before the throne and asked leave to return home; and then, encouraged

by the gracious words of farewell uttered by the Sultan, Prince Bahman

said: "Sire, may we dare to take the liberty of asking whether you

would do us and our sister the honour of resting for a few minutes at

our house the first time the hunt passes that way?"

"With the utmost pleasure," replied the Sultan; "and as I am all

impatience to see the sister of such accomplished young men you may

expect me the day after to-morrow."

The princess was of course most anxious to entertain the Sultan in a

fitting way, but as she had no experience in court customs she ran to

the Talking Bird, and begged he would advise her as to what dishes

should be served.

"My dear mistress," replied the bird, "your cooks are very good and you

can safely leave all to them, except that you must be careful to have a

dish of cucumbers, stuffed with pearl sauce, served with the first


"Cucumbers stuffed with pearls!" exclaimed the princess. "Why, bird,

who ever heard of such a dish? The Sultan will expect a dinner he can

eat, and not one he can only admire! Besides, if I were to use all the

pearls I possess, they would not be half enough."

"Mistress," replied the bird, "do what I tell you and nothing but good

will come of it. And as to the pearls, if you go at dawn to-morrow and

dig at the foot of the first tree in the park, on the right hand, you

will find as many as you want."

The princess had faith in the bird, who generally proved to be right,

and taking the gardener with her early next morning followed out his

directions carefully. After digging for some time they came upon a

golden box fastened with little clasps.

These were easily undone, and the box was found to be full of pearls,

not very large ones, but well-shaped and of a good colour. So leaving

the gardener to fill up the hole he had made under the tree, the

princess took up the box and returned to the house.

The two princes had seen her go out, and had wondered what could have

made her rise so early. Full of curiosity they got up and dressed, and

met their sister as she was returning with the box under her arm.

"What have you been doing?" they asked, "and did the gardener come to

tell you he had found a treasure?"

"On the contrary," replied the princess, "it is I who have found one,"

and opening the box she showed her astonished brothers the pearls

inside. Then, on the way back to the palace, she told them of her

consultation with the bird, and the advice it had given her. All three

tried to guess the meaning of the singular counsel, but they were

forced at last to admit the explanation was beyond them, and they must

be content blindly to obey.

The first thing the princess did on entering the palace was to send for

the head cook and to order the repast for the Sultan When she had

finished she suddenly added, "Besides the dishes I have mentioned there

is one that you must prepare expressly for the Sultan, and that no one

must touch but yourself. It consists of a stuffed cucumber, and the

stuffing is to be made of these pearls."

The head cook, who had never in all his experience heard of such a

dish, stepped back in amazement.

"You think I am mad," answered the princess, who perceived what was in

his mind. "But I know quite well what I am doing. Go, and do your

best, and take the pearls with you."

The next morning the princes started for the forest, and were soon

joined by the Sultan. The hunt began and continued till mid-day, when

the heat became so great that they were obliged to leave off. Then, as

arranged, they turned their horses' heads towards the palace, and while

Prince Bahman remained by the side of the Sultan, Prince Perviz rode on

to warn his sister of their approach.

The moment his Highness entered the courtyard, the princess flung

herself at his feet, but he bent and raised her, and gazed at her for

some time, struck with her grace and beauty, and also with the

indefinable air of courts that seemed to hang round this country girl.

"They are all worthy one of the other," he said to himself, "and I am

not surprised that they think so much of her opinions. I must know

more of them."

By this time the princess had recovered from the first embarrassment of

meeting, and proceeded to make her speech of welcome.

"This is only a simple country house, sire," she said, "suitable to

people like ourselves, who live a quiet life. It cannot compare with

the great city mansions, much less, of course, with the smallest of the

Sultan's palaces."

"I cannot quite agree with you," he replied; "even the little that I

have seen I admire greatly, and I will reserve my judgment until you

have shown me the whole."

The princess then led the way from room to room, and the Sultan

examined everything carefully. "Do you call this a simple country

house?" he said at last. "Why, if every country house was like this,

the towns would soon be deserted. I am no longer astonished that you

do not wish to leave it. Let us go into the gardens, which I am sure

are no less beautiful than the rooms."

A small door opened straight into the garden, and the first object that

met the Sultan's eyes was the Golden Water.

"What lovely coloured water!" he exclaimed; "where is the spring, and

how do you make the fountain rise so high? I do not believe there is

anything like it in the world." He went forward to examine it, and

when he had satisfied his curiosity, the princess conducted him towards

the Singing Tree.

As they drew near, the Sultan was startled by the sound of strange

voices, but could see nothing. "Where have you hidden your musicians?"

he asked the princess; "are they up in the air, or under the earth?

Surely the owners of such charming voices ought not to conceal


"Sire," answered the princess, "the voices all come from the tree which

is straight in front of us; and if you will deign to advance a few

steps, you will see that they become clearer."

The Sultan did as he was told, and was so wrapt in delight at what he

heard that he stood some time in silence.

"Tell me, madam, I pray you," he said at last, "how this marvellous

tree came into your garden? It must have been brought from a great

distance, or else, fond as I am of all curiosities, I could not have

missed hearing of it! What is its name?"

"The only name it has, sire," replied she, "is the Singing Tree, and it

is not a native of this country. Its history is mixed up with those of

the Golden Water and the Talking Bird, which you have not yet seen. If

your Highness wishes I will tell you the whole story, when you have

recovered from your fatigue."

"Indeed, madam," returned he, "you show me so many wonders that it is

impossible to feel any fatigue. Let us go once more and look at the

Golden Water; and I am dying to see the Talking Bird."

The Sultan could hardly tear himself away from the Golden Water, which

puzzled him more and more. "You say," he observed to the princess,

"that this water does not come from any spring, neither is brought by

pipes. All I understand is, that neither it nor the Singing Tree is a

native of this country."

"It is as you say, sire," answered the princess, "and if you examine

the basin, you will see that it is all in one piece, and therefore the

water could not have been brought through it. What is more astonishing

is, that I only emptied a small flaskful into the basin, and it

increased to the quantity you now see."

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

the Talking Bird."

On approaching the house, the Sultan noticed a vast quantity of birds,

whose voices filled the air, and he inquired why they were so much more

numerous here than in any other part of the garden.

"Sire," answered the princess, "do you see that cage hanging in one of

the windows of the saloon? that is the Talking Bird, whose voice you

can hear above them all, even above that of the nightingale. And the

birds crowd to this spot, to add their songs to his."

The Sultan stepped through the window, but the bird took no notice,

continuing his song as before.

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


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

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


"I thank you, good bird," answered the Sultan, seating himself before

the repast, which was spread at a table near the window, "and I am

enchanted to see in you the Sultan and King of the Birds."

The Sultan, noticing that his favourite dish of cucumber was placed

before him, proceeded to help himself to it, and was amazed to and that

the stuffing was of pearls. "A novelty, indeed!" cried he, "but I do

not understand the reason of it; one cannot eat pearls!"

"Sire," replied the bird, before either the princes or the princess

could speak, "surely your Highness cannot be so surprised at beholding

a cucumber stuffed with pearls, when you believed without any

difficulty that the Sultana had presented you, instead of children,

with a dog, a cat, and a log of wood."

"I believed it," answered the Sultan, "because the women attending on

her told me so."

"The women, sire," said the bird, "were the sisters of the Sultana, who

were devoured with jealousy at the honour you had done her, and in

order to revenge themselves invented this story. Have them examined,

and they will confess their crime. These are your children, who were

saved from death by the intendant of your gardens, and brought up by

him as if they were his own."

Like a flash the truth came to the mind of the Sultan. "Bird," he

cried, "my heart tells me that what you say is true. My children," he

added, "let me embrace you, and embrace each other, not only as

brothers and sister, but as having in you the blood royal of Persia

which could flow in no nobler veins."

When the first moments of emotion were over, the Sultan hastened to

finish his repast, and then turning to his children he exclaimed:

"To-day you have made acquaintance with your father. To-morrow I will

bring you the Sultana your mother. Be ready to receive her."

The Sultan then mounted his horse and rode quickly back to the capital.

Without an instant's delay he sent for the grand-vizir, and ordered him

to seize and question the Sultana's sisters that very day. This was

done. They were confronted with each other and proved guilty, and were

executed in less than an hour.

But the Sultan did not wait to hear that his orders had been carried

out before going on foot, followed by his whole court to the door of

the great mosque, and drawing the Sultana with his own hand out of the

narrow prison where she had spent so many years, "Madam," he cried,

embracing her with tears in his eyes, "I have come to ask your pardon

for the injustice I have done you, and to repair it as far as I may. I

have already begun by punishing the authors of this abominable crime,

and I hope you will forgive me when I introduce you to our children,

who are the most charming and accomplished creatures in the whole

world. Come with me, and take back your position and all the honour

that is due to you."

This speech was delivered in the presence of a vast multitude of

people, who had gathered from all parts on the first hint of what was

happening, and the news was passed from mouth to mouth in a few seconds.

Early next day the Sultan and Sultana, dressed in robes of state and

followed by all the court, set out for the country house of their

children. Here the Sultan presented them to the Sultana one by one,

and for some time there was nothing but embraces and tears and tender

words. Then they ate of the magnificent dinner which had been prepared

for them, and after they were all refreshed they went into the garden,

where the Sultan pointed out to his wife the Golden Water and the

Singing Tree. As to the Talking Bird, she had already made

acquaintance with him.

In the evening they rode together back to the capital, the princes on

each side of their father, and the princess with her mother. Long

before they reached the gates the way was lined with people, and the

air filled with shouts of welcome, with which were mingled the songs of

the Talking Bird, sitting in its cage on the lap of the princess, and

of the birds who followed it.

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