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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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,
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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.