STORY OF THE THREE SISTERS

STORY OF THE THREE SISTERS

There was an emperor of Persia, named Khoonoo-shah. He often walked in disguise through the city, attended by a trusty minister, when he met with many adventures. On one of these occasions, as he was passing through a street in that part of the town inhabited only by the meaner sort, he heard some people talking very loud; and going close to the house whence the noise proceeded, he perceived a light, and three sisters sitting on a sofa, conversing together after supper. By what the eldest said, he presently understood the subject of their conversation was wishes: "For," said she, "since we have got upon wishes, mine shall be to have the sultan's baker for my husband, for then I shall eat my fill of that bread which by way of excellence is called the sultan's. Let us see if your tastes are as good as mine."

"For my part," replied the second sister, "I wish I was wife to the sultan's chief cook, for then I should eat of the most excellent dishes; and, as I believe the sultan's bread is common in the palace, I should not want any of that. Therefore, you see," addressing herself to her eldest sister, "that I have better taste than you."

The youngest sister, who was very beautiful, and had more charms and wit than the two elder, spoke in her turn: "For my part, sisters," said she, "I shall not limit my desires to such trifles, but take a higher flight; and since we are upon wishing, I wish to be the emperor's queen consort. I would make him father of a prince[120] whose hair should be gold on one side of his head, and silver on the other; when he cried, the tears from his eyes should be pearl; and when he smiled, his vermilion lips should look like a rose-bud fresh blown."
The gardener, with a rake which he had in his hand, drew the basket to the side of the canal.
The gardener, with a rake which he had in his hand, drew the basket to the side of the canal. Page 122

The three sisters' wishes, particularly that of the youngest, seemed so singular to the sultan that he resolved to gratify them in their desires; but without communicating his design to his grand vizier he charged him only to take notice of the house, and bring the three sisters before him the following day.

The grand vizier, in executing the emperor's orders, would give the sisters but just time to dress themselves to appear before him, without telling them the reason. He brought them to the palace and presented them to the emperor, who said to them, "Do you remember the wishes you expressed last night, when you were all in so pleasant a mood? Speak the truth; I must know what they were."

At these unexpected words of the emperor the three sisters were much confounded. They cast down their eyes and blushed. Modesty, and fear lest they might have offended the emperor by their conversation, kept them silent.

The emperor, perceiving their confusion, said, to encourage them, "Fear nothing; I did not send for you to distress you; and since I see that, without my intending it, is the effect of the question I asked, as I know the wish of each I will relieve you from your fears. You," added he, "who wished to be my wife shall have your desire this day; and you," continued he, addressing himself to the two elder sisters, "shall also be married, to my chief baker and cook."

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The nuptials were all celebrated that day, as the emperor had resolved, but in a different manner. The youngest sister's were solemnized with all the rejoicings usual at the marriages of the emperors of Persia; and those of the other two sisters according to the quality and distinction of their husbands; the one as the sultan's chief baker, and the other as head cook.

The two elder sisters felt strongly the disproportion of their marriages to that of their younger sister. This consideration made them far from being content, though they were arrived at the utmost height of their late wishes, and much beyond their hopes. They gave themselves up to an excess of jealousy, and frequently met together to consult how they might revenge themselves on the queen. They proposed a great many ways, which they could not accomplish, but dissimulated all the time to flatter the queen with every demonstration of affection and respect.

Some months after her marriage, the queen gave birth to a young prince, as bright as the day; but her sisters, to whom the child was given at his birth, wrapped him up in a basket and floated it away on a canal that ran near the palace, and declared that the queen had given birth to a little dog. This made the emperor very angry.

In the meantime, the basket in which the little prince was exposed was carried by the stream toward the garden of the palace. By chance the intendant of the emperor's gardens, one of the principal and most considerable officers of the kingdom, was walking by the side of this canal, and perceiving a basket floating called to a gardener, who was not far off, to bring it to shore that he might see what it contained. The gardener,[122] with a rake which he had in his hand, drew the basket to the side of the canal, took it up, and gave it to him.

The intendant of the gardens was extremely surprised to see in the basket a child, which, though he knew it could be but just born, had very fine features. This officer had been married several years, but though he had always been desirous of having children, Heaven had never blessed him with any. He made the gardener follow him with the child; and when he came to his own house, which was situated at the entrance into the gardens of the palace, went into his wife's apartment. "Wife," said he, "as we have no children of our own, God hath sent us one. I recommend him to you; provide him a nurse, and take as much care of him as if he were our own son; for, from this moment, I acknowledge him as such." The intendant's wife received the child with great joy.

The following year the queen consort gave birth to another prince, on whom the unnatural sisters had no more compassion than on his brother; but exposed him likewise in a basket, and set him adrift in the canal, pretending this time that the sultaness was delivered of a cat. It was happy also for this child that the intendant of the gardens was walking by the canal side. He carried this child to his wife, and charged her to take as much care of it as of the former, which was as agreeable to her inclination as it was to that of the intendant.

This time the Emperor of Persia was more enraged against the queen than before, and she had felt the effects of his anger, as the grand vizier's remonstrances had not prevailed.

The next year the queen gave birth to a princess,[123] which innocent babe underwent the same fate as the princes her brothers; for the two sisters, being determined not to desist from their detestable schemes till they had seen the queen their younger sister at least cast off, turned out, and humbled, exposed this infant also on the canal. But the princess, as had been the two princes her brothers, preserved from death by the compassion and charity of the intendant of the gardens.

To this inhumanity the two sisters added a lie and deceit, as before. They procured a piece of wood, of which they said the queen had been delivered.

Khoonoo-shah could no longer contain himself at this third disappointment. He ordered a small shed to be built near the chief mosque, and the queen to be confined in it, so that she might be subjected to the scorn of those who passed by; which usage, as she did not deserve it, she bore with a patient resignation that excited the admiration as well as compassion of those who judged of things better than the vulgar.

The two princes and the princess were in the meantime nursed and brought up by the intendant of the gardens and his wife with all the tenderness of a father and mother; and as they advanced in age, they all showed marks of superior dignity, by a certain air which could only belong to exalted birth. All this increased the affection of the intendant and his wife, who called the eldest prince Bahman, and the second Perviz, both of them names of the most ancient emperors of Persia, and the princess Perie-zadeh, which name also had been borne by several queens and princesses of the kingdom.[39]

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As soon as the two princes were old enough, the intendant provided proper masters to teach them to read and write; and the princess, their sister, who was often with them—showing a great desire to learn—the intendant, pleased with her quickness, employed the same master to teach her also. Her emulation, vivacity, and wit made her in a little time as proficient as her brothers. At the hours of recreation, the princess learned to sing and to play upon all sorts of instruments; and when the princes were learning to ride, she would not permit them to have that advantage over her, but went through all the exercises with them, learning to ride also, to bend the bow, and dart the reed or javelin, and oftentimes outdid them in the race and other contests of agility.

The intendant of the gardens was so overjoyed to find his adopted children so well requited the expense he had been at in their education, that he resolved to be at a still greater; for as he had till then been content only with his lodge at the entrance to the garden, and kept no country house, he purchased a country seat at a short distance from the city, surrounded by a large tract of arable land, meadows, and woods, and furnished it in the richest manner, and added gardens, according to a plan drawn by himself, and a large park, stocked with fallow deer, that the princes and princess might divert themselves with hunting when they chose.

When this country seat was finished, the intendant of the gardens went and cast himself at the emperor's feet, and after representing his long service and the infirmities of age, which he found growing upon him, begged permission to resign his charge and retire. The emperor[125] gave him leave, and asked what he should do to recompense him. "Sire," replied the intendant of the gardens, "I have received so many obligations from your majesty and the late emperor your father, of happy memory, that I desire no more than the honor of being assured of your continued favor."

He took his leave of the emperor, and retired with the two princes and the princess to the country retreat he had built. His wife had been dead some years, and he himself had not lived in his new abode above six months when he was surprised by so sudden a death that he had not time to give them the least account of the manner in which he had saved them from destruction.

The Princes Bahman and Perviz, and the Princess Perie-zadeh, who knew no other father than the intendant of the emperor's gardens, regretted and bewailed him as such, and paid all the honors in his funeral obsequies which love and filial gratitude required of them. Satisfied with the plentiful fortune he had left them, they lived together in perfect union, free from the ambition of distinguishing themselves at court, or aspiring to places of honor and dignity, which they might easily have obtained.

One day when the two princes were hunting, and the princess had remained at home, an old woman, a devotee, came to the gate, and desired leave to go in to say her prayers, it being then the hour. The servants asked the princess's permission, who ordered them to show her into the oratory, which the intendant of the emperor's gardens had taken care to fit up in his house, for want of a mosque in the neighborhood. After the good woman had finished her prayers, she was brought before the[126] princess in the great hall, which in beauty and richness exceeded all the other apartments.

As soon as the princess saw the devout woman, she asked her many questions upon the exercise of devotion which she practiced, and how she lived; all which were answered with great modesty. Talking of several things, at last she asked the woman what she thought of the house, and how she liked it.

"Madam," answered the devout woman, "if you will give me leave to speak my mind freely, I will take the liberty to tell you that this house would be incomparable if it had three things which are wanting to complete it. The first of these three things is the speaking-bird, so singular a creature that it draws around it all the singing-birds in the neighborhood, which come to accompany his song. The second is the singing-tree, the leaves of which are so many mouths, which form an harmonious concert of different voices, and never cease. The third is the yellow-water of a gold color, a single drop of which being poured into a vessel properly prepared, it increases so as to fill it immediately, and rises up in the middle like a fountain, which continually plays, and yet the basin never overflows."

"Ah! my good mother," cried the princess, "how much am I obliged to you for the knowledge of these curiosities! They are surprising, and I never before heard there were such wonderful rarities in the world; but as I am persuaded that you know, I expect that you will do me the favor to inform me where they are to be found."

"Madam," replied the good woman, "I am glad to tell you that these curiosities are all to be met with in[127] the same spot on the confines of this kingdom, toward India. The road lies before your house, and whoever you send needs but follow it for twenty days, and on the twentieth let him only ask the first person he meets where the speaking-bird, singing-tree, and yellow-water are, and he will be informed."

After saying this she rose from her seat, took her leave, and went her way.

The Princess Perie-zadeh's thoughts were so absorbed in her desire to obtain possession of these three wonders, that her brothers, on their return from hunting, instead of finding her lively and gay, as she used to be, were amazed to see her pensive and melancholy, and weighed down by some trouble.

"Sister," said Prince Bahman, "what has become of all your mirth and gayety? Are you not well? Or has some misfortune befallen you? Tell us that we may give you some relief."

The princess at first returned no answer to these inquiries; but on being pressed by her brothers, thus replied: "I always believed that this house which our father built us was so complete that nothing was wanting. But this day I have learned that it wants three rarities, the speaking-bird, the singing-tree, and the yellow-water. If it had these, no country seat in the world could be compared with it." Then she informed them wherein consisted the excellency of these rarities, and requested her brothers to send some trustworthy person in search of these three curiosities.

"Sister," replied Prince Bahman, "it is enough that you have an earnest desire for the things you mention to oblige us to try to obtain them. I will take that[128] charge upon myself; only tell me the place, and the way to it, and I will set out to-morrow. You, brother, shall stay at home with our sister, and I commend her to your care."

Prince Bahman spent the remainder of the day in making preparations for his journey, and informing himself from the princess of the directions which the devout woman had left her. The next morning he mounted his horse, and Perviz and the princess embraced him and wished him a good journey. But in the midst of their adieus, the princess recollected what she had not thought of before.

"Brother," said she, "I had quite forgotten the perils to which you may be exposed. Who knows whether I shall ever see you again! Alight, I beseech you, and give up this journey. I would rather be deprived of the sight and possession of the speaking-bird, singing-tree, and yellow-water, than run the risk of never seeing you more."

"Sister," replied Bahman, smiling at the sudden fears of the princess, "my resolution is fixed, and you must allow me to execute it. However, as events are uncertain, and I may fail in this undertaking, all I can do is to leave you this knife. It has a peculiar property. If when you pull it out of the sheath it is clean as it is now, it will be a sign that I am alive; but if you find it stained with blood, then you may believe me to be dead."

The princess could prevail nothing more with Bahman. He bade adieu to her and Prince Perviz for the last time, and rode away. When he got into the road, he never turned to the right hand nor to the left, but went directly forward toward India. The twentieth[129] day he perceived on the roadside a very singular old man, who sat under a tree some small distance from a thatched house, which was his retreat from the weather.

His eyebrows were as white as snow, as was also his beard, which was so long as to cover his mouth, while it reached down to his feet. The nails of his hands and feet were grown to an immense length; a flat broad umbrella covered his head. He wore no clothes, but only a mat thrown round his body.

This old man was a dervish, for many years retired from the world, and devoted to contemplation, so that at last he became what we have described.

Prince Bahman, who had been all that morning expecting to meet some one who could give him information of the place he was in search of, stopped when he came near the dervish, alighted, in conformity to the directions which the devout woman had given the Princess Perie-zadeh, and, leading his horse by the bridle, advanced toward him, and saluting him, said, "God prolong your days, good father, and grant you the accomplishment of your desires."

The dervish returned the prince's salutation, but spoke so unintelligibly that he could not understand one word he said. Prince Bahman perceiving that this difficulty proceeded from the dervish's hair hanging over his mouth, and unwilling to go any farther without the instructions he wanted, pulled out a pair of scissors he had about him, and having tied his horse to a branch of the tree, said, "Good dervish, I want to have some talk with you, but your hair prevents my understanding what you say, and if you will consent, I will cut off some part of it and of your eyebrows, which disfigure you so[130] much that you look more like a bear than a man."

The dervish did not oppose the offer; and when the prince had cut off as much hair as he thought fit, he perceived that the dervish had a good complexion, and that he did not seem so very old.

"Good dervish," said he, "if I had a glass I would show you how young you look: you are now a man, but before nobody could tell what you were."

The kind behavior of Prince Bahman made the dervish smile, and return his compliment.

"Sir," said he, "whoever you are, I am obliged by the good office you have performed, and am ready to show my gratitude by doing anything in my power for you. Tell me wherein I may serve you."

"Good dervish," replied Prince Bahman, "I am in search of the speaking-bird, the singing-tree, and the yellow-water. I know these three rarities are not far from here, but cannot tell exactly the place where they are to be found; if you know, I conjure you to show me the way, that I may not lose my labor after so long a journey."

The prince, while he spoke, observed that the dervish changed countenance, held down his eyes, looked very serious, and instead of making any reply, remained silent: which obliged him to say to him again, "Good father, tell me whether you know what I ask you, that I may not lose my time, but inform myself somewhere else."

At last the dervish broke silence. "Sir," said he to Prince Bahman, "I know the way you ask of me; but the danger you are going to expose yourself to is greater than you may suppose. A number of gentlemen of as much bravery and courage as yourself have passed this[131] way, and asked me the same question. I can assure you they have all perished, for I have not seen one come back. Therefore, if you have any regard for your life, take my advice, go no farther, but return home."

"Nothing," replied Prince Bahman to the dervish, "shall make me change my intention. Whoever attacks me, I am brave and well armed."

"But they who will attack you are not to be seen," said the dervish. "How will you defend yourself against invisible persons?"

"It is no matter," answered the prince; "all you can say shall not persuade me to forego my purpose. Since you know the way, I once more conjure you to inform me."

When the dervish found he could not prevail upon Prince Bahman to relinquish his journey, he put his hand into a bag that lay by him and pulled out a bowl, which he presented to him. "Since you will not be led by my advice," said he, "take this bowl: when you have mounted your horse, throw it before you, and follow it to the foot of a mountain. There, as soon as the bowl stops, alight, leave your horse with the bridle over his neck, and he will stand in the same place till you return. As you ascend you will see on your right and left a great number of large black stones, and will hear on all sides a confusion of voices, which will utter a thousand injurious threats to discourage you, and prevent your reaching the summit of the mountain. Be not afraid; but above all things, do not turn your head to look behind you; for in an instant you will be changed into such a black stone as those you see, which are all youths who have failed in this enterprise. If you escape the danger, of[132] which I give you but a faint idea, and get to the top of the mountain, you will see a cage, and in that cage is the bird you seek; ask him which are the singing-tree and the yellow-water, and he will tell you. I have nothing more to say, except to beg you again not to expose your life, for the difficulty is almost insuperable."

After these words, the prince mounted his horse, took his leave of the dervish with a respectful salute, and threw the bowl before him.

The bowl rolled away unceasingly, with as much swiftness as when Prince Bahman first hurled it from his hand, which obliged him to put his horse to the gallop to avoid losing sight of it, and when it had reached the foot of the mountain it stopped. The prince alighted from his horse, laid the bridle on his neck, and, having first surveyed the mountain and seen the black stones, began to ascend. He had not gone four steps before he heard the voices mentioned by the dervish, though he could see nobody. Some one said, "Where is he going?" "What would he have?" "Do not let him pass"; others, "Stop him," "Catch him," "Kill him"; and others, with a voice like thunder, "Thief!" "Assassin!" "Murderer!" while some, in a gibing tone, cried, "No, no, do not hurt him; let the pretty fellow pass. The cage and bird are kept for him."

Notwithstanding all these troublesome voices, Prince Bahman ascended with courage and resolution for some time, but the voices redoubled with so loud a din near him, both behind, before, and on all sides, that at last he was seized with dread, his legs trembled under him, he staggered, and finding that his strength failed him, he forgot the dervish's advice, turned about to run[133] down the hill, and was that instant changed into a black stone. His horse likewise, at the same moment, underwent the same change.

From the time of Prince Bahman's departure, the Princess Perie-zadeh always wore the knife and sheath in her girdle, and pulled it out several times a day, to know whether her brother was yet alive. She had the consolation to find he was in perfect health, and to talk of him frequently with Prince Perviz.

On the fatal day that Prince Bahman was transformed into a stone, as Prince Perviz and the princess were talking together in the evening, as usual, the prince desired his sister to pull out the knife to know how their brother did. The princess readily complied, and seeing the blood run down the point, was seized with so much horror that she threw it down.

"Ah! my dear brother," cried she, "woe's me! I have been the cause of your death, and shall never see you more! Why did I tell you of the speaking-bird, the singing-tree, and yellow-water! Why did I allow my peace to be disturbed by the idle tales of a silly old woman!"

Prince Perviz was as much afflicted at the death of Prince Bahman as the princess; but as he knew that she still passionately desired possession of the speaking-bird, the singing-tree, and the golden-water, he interrupted her, saying, "Sister, our regret for our brother is vain and useless; our grief and lamentations cannot restore him to life. It is the will of God. We must submit to it, and adore the decrees of the Almighty without searching into them. Why should you now doubt of the truth of what the holy woman told you? Our brother's death[134] is probably owing to some error on his part. I am determined to know the truth, and am resolved myself to undertake this search. To-morrow I shall set out."

The princess did all she could to dissuade Prince Perviz, conjuring him not to expose her to the danger of losing two brothers; but all the remonstrances she could urge had no effect upon him. Before he went, that she might know what success he had, he left her a string of a hundred pearls, telling her, that if they would not run when she should count them upon the string, but remain fixed, that would be a certain sign he had undergone the same fate as his brother; but at the same time told her he hoped it would never happen, but that he should have the happiness to see her again to their mutual satisfaction.

Prince Perviz, on the twentieth day after his departure, met the same dervish in the same place as had his brother Bahman before him, and asked of him the same question. The dervish urged the same difficulties and remonstrances as he had done to Prince Bahman, telling him that a young gentleman, who very much resembled him, was with him a short time before, and had not yet returned.

"Good dervish," answered Prince Perviz, "I know whom you speak of; he was my elder brother, and I am informed of the certainty of his death, but know not the cause."

"I can tell you," replied the dervish. "He was changed into a black stone, as all I speak of have been; and you must expect the same fate unless you observe more exactly than he has done the advice I gave him; but I once more entreat you to renounce your resolution."[135]

"Dervish," said Prince Perviz, "I cannot sufficiently express how much I am obliged to you for your kind caution; but I cannot now relinquish this enterprise; therefore I beg of you to do me the same favor you have done my brother."

On this the dervish gave the prince a bowl with the same instructions he had delivered to his brother, and so let him depart.

Prince Perviz thanked the dervish, and when he had remounted, and taken leave, threw the bowl before his horse, and spurring him at the same time, followed it. When the bowl came to the bottom of the hill it stopped, the prince alighted, and stood some time to recollect the dervish's directions. He encouraged himself, and then began to walk up with a determination to reach the summit; but before he had gone above six steps, he heard a voice, which seemed to be near, as of a man behind him, say in an insulting tone, "Stay, rash youth, that I may punish you for your presumption."

Upon this affront, the prince, forgetting the dervish's advice, clapped his hand upon his sword, drew it, and turned about to avenge himself; but had scarcely time to see that nobody followed him before he and his horse were changed into black stones.

In the meantime, the Princess Perie-zadeh, several times a day after her brother's departure, counted her chaplet. She did not omit it at night, but when she went to bed put it about her neck; and in the morning when she awoke counted over the pearls again to see if they would slide.

The day that Prince Perviz was transformed into a stone she was counting over the pearls as she used to do,[136] when all at once they became immovably fixed, a certain token that the prince, her brother, was dead. As she had determined what to do in case it should so happen, she lost no time in outward demonstrations of grief, but proceeded at once to put her plan into execution. She disguised herself in her brother's robes, and having procured arms and equipment she mounted her horse the next morning. Telling her servants she should return in two or three days, she took the same road as her brothers.

On the twentieth day she also met the dervish as her brothers had done, and asked him the same question and received from him the same answer, with a caution against the folly of sacrificing her life in such a search.

When the dervish had done, the princess replied, "By what I comprehend from your discourse, the difficulties of succeeding in this affair are, first, the getting up to the cage without being frightened at the terrible din of voices I shall hear; and, secondly, not to look behind me. For this last direction, I hope I shall be mistress enough of myself to observe it. As to the first, I desire to know of you if I may use a stratagem against those voices which you describe, and which are so well calculated to excite terror."

"And what stratagem is it you would employ?" said the dervish.

"To stop my ears with cotton," answered the princess, "that the voices, however loud and terrible, may make the less impression upon my imagination, and my mind remain free from that disturbance which might cause me to lose the use of my reason."

"Princess," replied the dervish, "if you persist in your design, you may make the experiment. You will[137] be fortunate if it succeeds; but I would advise you not to expose yourself to the danger."

After the princess had thanked the dervish, and taken her leave of him, she mounted her horse, threw down the bowl which he had given her, and followed it till it stopped at the foot of the mountain.

The princess alighted, stopped her ears with cotton, and after she had well examined the path leading to the summit, began with a moderate pace, and walked up with intrepidity. She heard the voices, and perceived the great service the cotton was to her. The higher she went, the louder and more numerous the voices seemed; but they were not capable of making any impression upon her. She heard a great many affronting speeches and insulting accusations, which she only laughed at. At last she saw the cage and the bird, while at the same moment the clamor and thunders of the invisible voices greatly increased.

The princess, encouraged by the sight of the object of which she was in search, redoubled her speed, and soon gained the summit of the mountain, where the ground was level; then running directly to the cage, and clapping her hand upon it, cried, "Bird, I have you, and you shall not escape me."

At the same moment the voices ceased.

While Perie-zadeh was pulling the cotton out of her ears the bird said to her, "Heroic princess, since I am destined to be a slave, I would rather be yours than any other person's, since you have obtained me so courageously. From this instant I pay an entire submission to all your commands. I know who you are, for you are not what you seem, and I will one day tell you more.[138] In the meantime, say what you desire, and I am ready to obey you."

"Bird," said Perie-zadeh, "I have been told that there is not far off a golden-water, the property of which is very wonderful; before all things, I ask you to tell me where it is."

The bird showed her the place, which was just by, and she went and filled a little silver flagon which she had brought with her. She returned to the bird, and said, "Bird, this is not enough; I want also the singing-tree. Tell me where it is."

"Turn about," said the bird, "and you will see behind you a wood, where you will find this tree. Break off a branch, and carry it to plant in your garden; it will take root as soon as it is put into the earth, and in a little time will grow to a fine tree."

The princess went into the wood, and by the harmonious concert she heard, soon discovered the singing-tree.
When the princess had obtained possession of the branch of the singing-tree, she returned again to the bird, and said, "Bird, what you have yet done for me is not sufficient. My two brothers, in their search for thee, have been transformed into black stones on the side of the mountain. Tell me how I may obtain their dis-enchantment."

The bird seemed most reluctant to inform the princess on this point; but on her threatening to take his life, he bade her sprinkle every stone on her way down the mountain with a little of the water from the golden fountain. She did so, and every stone she thus touched resumed the shape of a man or of a horse ready[139] caparisoned. Among these were her two brothers, Bahman and Perviz, who exchanged with her the most affectionate embraces.

Having explained to her brothers and the band of noble youths who had been enchanted in their search after these three wonders, the means of their recovery, Perie-zadeh placed herself at their head, and bade them follow her to the old dervish, to thank him for his reception and wholesome advice, which they had all found to be sincere. But he was dead, whether from old age or because he was no longer needed to show the way to the obtaining the three rarities which the Princess Perie-zadeh had secured, did not appear. The procession, headed by Perie-zadeh, pursued its route, but lessened in its numbers every day. The youths, who had come from different countries, took leave of the princess and her brothers one after another, as they approached the various roads by which they had come.

As soon as the princess reached home, she placed the cage in the garden; and the bird no sooner began to warble than he was surrounded by nightingales, chaffinches, larks, linnets, goldfinches, and every species of birds of the country. And the branch of the singing-tree was no sooner set in the midst of the parterre, a little distance from the house, than it took root, and in a short time became a large tree, the leaves of which gave as harmonious a concert as those of the tree from which it was gathered. A large basin of beautiful marble was placed in the garden; and when it was finished the princess poured into it all the yellow-water from the flagon, which instantly increased and swelled so much that it soon reached up to the edges of the basin,[140] and afterward formed in the middle a fountain twenty feet high which fell again into the basin perpetually without running over.

The report of these wonders was presently spread abroad, and as the gates of the house and those of the gardens were shut to nobody, a great number of people came to admire them.

Some days after, when the Princes Bahman and Perviz had recovered from the fatigue of their journey, they resumed their former way of living; and as their usual diversion was hunting, they mounted their horses and went for the first time since their return, not to their own demesne, but two or three leagues from their house. As they pursued their sport, the Emperor of Persia came in pursuit of game upon the same ground. When they perceived by the number of horsemen in different places that he would soon be up, they resolved to discontinue their chase, and retire to avoid encountering him; but in the very road they took they chanced to meet him in so narrow a way that they could not retreat without being seen. In their surprise they had only time to alight, and prostrate themselves before the emperor. He stopped and commanded them to rise. The princes rose up, and stood before him with an easy and graceful air. The emperor, after he had admired their good air and mien, asked them who they were, and where they lived.

"Sire," said Prince Bahman, "we are the sons of the late intendant of your majesty's gardens, and live in a house which he built a little before he died, till it should please you to give us some employment."

"By what I perceive," replied the emperor, "you love hunting."[141]

"Sire," replied Prince Bahman, "it is our common exercise, and what none of your majesty's subjects who intend to bear arms in your armies ought, according to the ancient custom of the kingdom, to neglect."

The emperor, charmed with so prudent an answer, said, "It is so, and I should be glad to see your expertness in the chase; choose your own game."

The princes mounted their horses again, and followed the emperor; but had not gone far before they saw many wild beasts together. Prince Bahman chose a lion, and Prince Perviz a bear; and pursued them with so much intrepidity, that the emperor was surprised. They came up with their game nearly at the same time, and darted their javelins with so much skill and address, that they pierced, the one the lion and the other the bear, so effectually that the emperor saw them fall one after the other. Immediately afterward Prince Bahman pursued another bear, and Prince Perviz another lion, and killed them in a short time, and would have beaten out for fresh game, but the emperor would not let them, and sent to them to come to him.

When they approached, he said, "If I would have given you leave, you would soon have destroyed all my game; but it is not that which I would preserve, but your persons; for I am so well assured your bravery may one time or other be serviceable to me, that from this moment your lives will be always dear to me."

The emperor, in short, conceived so great a fondness for the two princes that he invited them immediately to make him a visit; to which Prince Bahman replied, "Your majesty does us an honor we do not deserve; and we beg you will excuse us."[142]

The emperor, who could not comprehend what reason the princes could have to refuse this token of his favor, pressed them to tell him why they excused themselves.

"Sire," said Prince Bahman, "we have a sister younger than ourselves, with whom we live in such perfect union that we undertake nothing before we consult her, nor she anything without asking our advice."

"I commend your brotherly affection," answered the emperor. "Consult your sister, then meet me here to-morrow, and give me an answer."

The princes went home, but neglected to speak of their adventure in meeting the emperor, and hunting with him, and also of the honor he had done them by asking them to go home with him; yet did not the next morning fail to meet him at the place appointed.

"Well," said the emperor, "have you spoken to your sister? And has she consented to the pleasure I expect of seeing you?"

The two princes looked at each other and blushed.

"Sire," said Prince Bahman, "we beg your majesty to excuse us; for both my brother and I forgot."

"Then remember to-day," replied the emperor, "and be sure to bring me an answer to-morrow."

The princes were guilty of the same fault a second time, and the emperor was so good-natured as to forgive their negligence; but to prevent their forgetfulness the third time, he pulled three little golden balls out of a purse, and put them into Prince Bahman's bosom.

"These balls," said he, smiling, "will prevent you forgetting a third time what I wish you to do, since the noise they will make by falling on the floor, when you undress, will remind you, if you do not recollect it before."[143]

The event happened just as the emperor foresaw; and without these balls the princes had not thought of speaking to their sister of this affair. For as Prince Bahman unloosened his girdle to go to bed the balls dropped on the floor, upon which he ran into Prince Perviz's chamber, when both went into the Princess Perie-zadeh's apartment, and after they had asked her pardon for coming at so unseasonable a time, they told her all the circumstances of their meeting the emperor.

The princess was somewhat surprised at this intelligence. "It was on my account, I know," she said, "you refused the emperor, and I am infinitely obliged to you for doing so. For, my dear brothers, I know by this your affection for me is equal to my own. But you know monarchs will be obeyed in their desires, and it may be dangerous to oppose them; therefore, if to follow my inclination I should dissuade you from showing the complaisance the emperor expects from you, it may expose you to his resentment, and may render myself and you miserable. These are my sentiments; but before we conclude upon anything let us consult the speaking-bird, and hear what he says; he is wise, and has promised his assistance in all difficulties."

The princess sent for the cage, and after she had related the circumstances to the bird in the presence of her brothers, asked him what they should do in this perplexity.

The bird answered,[40] "The princes, your brothers, [144]must conform to the emperor's pleasure, and in their turn invite him to come and see your house."
He presently discovered a gold box, about a foot square, which he gave into the princess's hands.
He presently discovered a gold box, about a foot square, which he gave into the princess's hands. Page 147

Next morning the princes met the emperor again, who called and asked them, while they were yet afar off, if they had remembered to speak to their sister. Prince Bahman approached, and answered, "Sire, your majesty may dispose of us as you please. We are ready to obey you; for we have not only obtained our sister's consent with great ease, but she took it amiss that we should pay her that deference in a matter wherein our duty to your majesty was concerned. But if we have offended, we hope you will pardon us."

"Do not be uneasy on that account," replied the emperor. "So far from taking amiss what you have done, I highly approve of your conduct, and hope you will have the same deference and attachment to my person, if I have ever so little share in your friendship."

The princes, confounded at the emperor's goodness, returned no other answer but a low obeisance, to show the great respect with which they received it.

The emperor gave orders to return at once to his palace. He made the princes ride one on each side of him, an honor which grieved the grand vizier, who was much mortified to see them preferred before him.

When the emperor entered his capital, the eyes of the people, who stood in crowds in the streets, were fixed upon the two Princes Bahman and Perviz; and they [145]were earnest to know who they might be, whether foreigners or natives, and many wished that the emperor had been blessed with two such handsome princes.

The first thing that the emperor did when he arrived at his palace was to conduct the princes into the principal apartments. With due discrimination, like persons conversant in such matters, they praised the beauty and symmetry of the rooms, and the richness of the furniture and ornaments. Afterward, a magnificent repast was served up, and the emperor made them sit with him, and was so much pleased with the wit, judgment, and discernment shown by the two princes that he said, "Were these my own children, and I had improved their talents by suitable education, they could not have been more accomplished or better informed."

When night approached, the two princes prostrated themselves at the emperor's feet; and having thanked him for the favors he had heaped upon them, asked his permission to retire, which was granted by the emperor.

Before they went out of the emperor's presence, Prince Bahman said, "Sire, may we presume to request that you will do us and our sister the honor to visit us the first time you take the diversion of hunting in that neighborhood? Our house is not worthy your presence; but monarchs sometimes have vouchsafed to take shelter in a cottage."

"My children," replied the emperor, "your house cannot be otherwise than beautiful, and worthy of its owners. I will call and see it with pleasure, which will be the greater for having for my hosts you and your sister, who is already dear to me from the accounts you give me of the rare qualities with which she is endowed;[146] and this satisfaction I will defer no longer than to-morrow. Early in the morning I will be at the place where I shall never forget that I first saw you. Meet me, and you shall be my guides."

When the Princes Bahman and Perviz had returned home they gave the princess an account of the distinguished reception the emperor had accorded them, and told her that he would call at their house the next day.

"If it be so," replied the princess, "we must think of preparing a repast fit for his majesty; and for that purpose I think it would be proper we should consult the speaking-bird; he will tell us perhaps what meats the emperor likes best."

The princes approved of her plan, and after they had retired, she consulted the bird alone.

"Bird," said she, "the emperor will to-morrow come to see our house, and we are to entertain him. Tell us what we shall do to acquit ourselves to his satisfaction."

"Good mistress," replied the bird, "you have excellent cooks; let them do the best they can. But above all things, let them prepare a dish of cucumbers stuffed full of pearls, which must be set before the emperor in the first course, before all the other dishes."

"Cucumbers stuffed full of pearls!" cried Princess Perie-zadeh, with amazement. "Surely, bird, you do not know what you say. It is an unheard-of dish! Besides, all the pearls I possess are not enough for such a dish."

"Mistress," said the bird, "do what I say, and as for the pearls, go early to-morrow morning to the foot of the first tree on your right hand in the park, dig under it, and you will find more than you want."

The princess immediately ordered a gardener to be[147] ready to attend her in the morning, and led him at daybreak to the tree which the bird had told her of, and bade him dig at its foot. When the gardener came to a certain depth, he found some resistance to the spade, and presently discovered a gold box, about a foot square, which he gave into the princess's hands. As it was fastened only with neat little hasps, she soon opened it, and found it full of pearls. Very well satisfied with having found this treasure, after she had shut the box again she put it under her arm, and went back to the house; while the gardener threw the earth into the hole at the foot of the tree as it had been before.

The princess, as she returned to the house, met her two brothers and gave them an account of her having consulted the bird, and the answer he had given her to prepare a dish of cucumbers stuffed full of pearls, and how he had told her where to find this box. The princes and princess, though they could not by any means guess at the reason of the bird ordering them to prepare such a dish, yet agreed to follow his advice exactly.

As soon as the princess entered the house she called for the head cook; and after she had given him directions about the entertainment for the emperor, said to him, "Besides all this, you must dress an extraordinary dish to set before the emperor himself. This dish must be of cucumbers stuffed with these pearls." And at the same time she opened the box and showed him the pearls.

The chief cook, who had never heard of such a dish, started back, and could make no reply, but took the box and retired. Afterward the princess gave directions to all the domestics to have everything in order, both in house and gardens, to receive the emperor.[148]

Next day the two princes went to the place appointed; and as soon as the Emperor of Persia arrived the chase began, which lasted till the heat of the sun obliged him to leave off. While Prince Bahman stayed to conduct the emperor to their house, Prince Perviz rode before to show the way, and when he came in sight of the house, spurred his horse, to inform the Princess Perie-zadeh that the emperor was approaching; but she had been told by some attendants whom she had placed to give notice, and the prince found her waiting ready to receive him.

When the emperor had entered the courtyard, and alighted at the portico, the princess came and threw herself at his feet.

The emperor stooped to raise her, and after he had gazed some time on her beauty, said, "The brothers are worthy of the sister, and she is worthy of them. I am not amazed that the brothers would do nothing without their sister's consent; but," added he, "I hope to be better acquainted with you, my daughter, after I have seen the house."

The princess led the emperor through all the rooms except the hall; and after he had considered them very attentively and admired their variety, "My daughter," said he to the princess, "do you call this a country house? The finest and largest cities would soon be deserted if all country houses were like yours. I am no longer surprised that you take so much delight in it, and despise the town. Now let me see the garden, which I doubt not is answerable to the house."

The princess opened a door which led into the garden; and conducted him to the spot where the harmonious tree was planted, and there the emperor heard a concert,[149] different from all he had ever heard before. Stopping to see where the musicians were, he could discern nobody far or near, but still distinctly heard the music, which ravished his senses. "My daughter," said he to the princess, "where are the musicians whom I hear? Are they underground, or invisible in the air? Such excellent performers will lose nothing by being seen; on the contrary, they would please the more."

"Sire," answered the princess, smiling, "they are not musicians, but the leaves of the tree your majesty sees before you, which form this concert; and if you will give yourself the trouble to go a little nearer, you will be convinced, for the voices will be the more distinct."

The emperor went nearer, and was so charmed with the sweet harmony that he could never have been tired with hearing it.

"Daughter," said he, "tell me, I pray you, whether this wonderful tree was found in your garden by chance, or was a present made to you, or have you procured it from some foreign country? It must certainly have come from a great distance, otherwise, curious as I am after natural rarities, I should have heard of it. What name do you call it by?"

"Sire," replied the princess, "this tree has no other name than that of the singing-tree, and is not a native of this country. Its history is connected with the yellow-water and the speaking-bird, which came to me at the same time, and which your majesty may see after you have rested yourself. And if it please you, I will relate to you the history of these rarities."

"My daughter," replied the emperor, "my fatigue is so well recompensed by the wonderful things you have[150] shown me, that I do not feel it the least. I am impatient to see the yellow-water and to admire the speaking-bird."

When the emperor came to the yellow-water his eyes were fixed so steadfastly upon the fountain that he could not take them off. At last, addressing himself to the princess, he said, "Whence is this wonderful water? Where its source? By what art is it made to play so high that nothing in the world can be compared to it? I conclude that it is foreign, as well as the singing-tree."

"Sire," replied the princess, "it is as your majesty conjectures; and to let you know that this water has no communication with any spring, I must inform you that the basin is one entire stone, so that the water cannot come in at the sides or underneath. But what your majesty will think most wonderful is, that all this water proceeded but from one small flagon, emptied into this basin, which increased to the quantity you see, by a property peculiar to itself, and formed this fountain."

"Well," said the emperor, going from the fountain, "this is enough for one time. I promise myself the pleasure to come and visit it often. Now let us go and see the speaking-bird."

As he went toward the hall, the emperor perceived a prodigious number of singing-birds in the trees around, filling the air with their songs and warblings, and asked why there were so many there, and none on the other trees in the garden.

"The reason, sire," answered the princess, "is, because they come from all parts to accompany the song of the speaking-bird, which your majesty may see in a cage in one of the windows of the hall we are approaching; and if you attend, you will perceive that his notes are[151] sweeter than those of any of the other birds, even the nightingale's."

The emperor went into the hall; and as the bird continued singing, the princess raised her voice, and said, "My slave, here is the emperor. Pay your compliments to him."

The bird left off singing that instant, all the other birds ceasing also, and it said, "God save the emperor. May he long live!"

As the entertainment was served at the sofa near the window where the bird was placed, the sultan replied, as he was taking his seat, "Bird, I thank you, and am overjoyed to find in you the sultan and king of birds."

As soon as the emperor saw the dish of cucumbers set before him, thinking it was stuffed in the best manner, he reached out his hand and took one; but when he cut it, was in extreme surprise to find it stuffed with pearls.

"What novelty is this?" said he. "And with what design were these cucumbers stuffed thus with pearls, since pearls are not to be eaten!"

He looked at the two princes and the princess to ask them the meaning; when the bird, interrupting him, said, "Can your majesty be in such great astonishment at cucumbers stuffed with pearls, which you see with your own eyes, and yet so easily believe that the queen your wife was the mother of a dog, a cat, and of a piece of wood?"

"I believed those things," replied the emperor, "because the nurses assured me of the facts."

"Those nurses, sire," replied the bird, "were the queen's two sisters, who, envious of her happiness in[152] being preferred by your majesty before them, to satisfy their envy and revenge have abused your majesty's credulity. If you interrogate them, they will confess their crime. The two brothers and the sister whom you see before you are your own children, whom they exposed, and who were saved by the intendant of your gardens, who adopted and brought them up as his own children."

"Bird," cried the emperor, "I believe the truth which you discover to me. The inclination which drew me to them told me plainly they must be my own kin. Come then, my sons, come, my daughter, let me embrace you, and give you the first marks of a father's love and tenderness."

The emperor then rose, and after having embraced the two princes and the princess, and mingled his tears with theirs, said, "It is not enough, my children. You must embrace each other, not as the children of the intendant of my gardens, to whom I have been so much obliged for preserving your lives, but as my own children, of the royal blood of the monarchs of Persia, whose glory, I am persuaded, you will maintain."

After the two princes and the princess had embraced mutually with new satisfaction, the emperor sat down again with them, and finished his meal in haste; and when he had done, said, "My children, you see in me your father; to-morrow I will bring the queen your mother. Therefore prepare to receive her."

The emperor afterward mounted his horse, and returned with expedition to his capital. The first thing he did, as soon as he had alighted and entered his palace, was to command the grand vizier to seize the queen's two sisters. They were taken from their houses separately,[153] convicted and condemned, and the fatal sentence was put in execution within an hour.

In the meantime the Emperor Khoonoo-shah, followed by all the lords of his court who were then present, went on foot to the door of the great mosque; and after he had taken the queen out of the strict confinement she had languished under for so many years, embracing her in the miserable condition to which she was then reduced, he said to her, with tears in his eyes:

"I come to entreat your pardon for the injustice I have done you, and to make you the reparation I ought. I have punished your cruel sisters who put the abominable cheat upon me; and I hope soon to present to you two accomplished princes and a lovely princess, our children. Come and resume your former rank, with all the honors which are your due."

All this was done and said before great crowds of people, who flocked from all parts at the first news of what was passing, and immediately spread the joyful intelligence through the city.

Next morning early the emperor and queen, whose mournful humiliating dress was changed for magnificent robes, went with all their court to the house built by the intendant of the gardens, where the emperor presented the Princes Bahman and Perviz and the Princess Perie-zadeh to their enraptured mother.

"These, much injured wife," said he, "are the two princes your sons, and this the princess your daughter; embrace them with the same tenderness I have done, since they are worthy both of me and you."

The tears flowed plentifully down the cheeks of all, but especially of the queen, from her exceeding joy at[154] having two such princes for her sons, and such a princess for her daughter, on whose account she had so long endured the severest afflictions.

The two princes and the princess had prepared a magnificent repast for the emperor and queen and their court. As soon as that was over, the emperor led the queen into the garden, and showed her the harmonious-tree and the beautiful yellow-fountain. She had already seen and heard the speaking-bird in his cage, and the emperor had spared no panegyric in his praise during the repast.

When there was nothing to detain the emperor any longer, he took horse, and with the Princes Bahman and Perviz on his right hand, and the queen and the princess at his left, preceded and followed by all the officers of his court according to their rank, returned to his capital. Crowds of people came out to meet them, and with acclamations of joy ushered them into the city, where all eyes were fixed not only upon the queen, the two princes, and the princess, but also upon the bird which the princess carried before her in his cage, admiring his sweet notes which had drawn all the other birds about him, which followed him, flying from tree to tree in the country, and from one housetop to another in the city.

The Princes Bahman and Perviz and the Princess Perie-zadeh were at length brought to the palace with this pomp, and nothing was to be seen or heard all that night but illuminations and rejoicings both in the palace and in the utmost parts of the city, which lasted for many days, and extended throughout the empire of Persia.
FOOTNOTES:

[39] Parizadeh, the Parisatis of the Greeks, signifies born of a fairy.—D'Herbelot.

[40] To understand the language of birds was peculiarly one of the boasted sciences of the Arabians, who pretend that many of their countrymen have been skilled in the knowledge of the language of birds ever since the time of King Solomon. Their writers relate that Balkis, the Queen of Sheba, had a bird called Hudhud, that is, lapwing, which was her trusty messenger to King Solomon. D'Herbelot tells this story of Athejaj, a famous Arabian commander: While he and a camel driver were talking together, a bird flew over their heads, making, at the same time, an unusual sort of noise, which the camel driver hearing, looked steadfastly on Athejaj, and demanded who he was. Athejaj, not choosing to answer, desired to know the reason of that question. "Because," replied the camel driver, "this bird assured me that a company of people is coming this way, and that you are the chief of them." While he was speaking, Athejaj's attendants arrived.—Warton's History of Poetry, Vol. II, p. 182. Ed. 1840.

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