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Two sisters who were jealous.
From Arabian Nights Entertainments by Andrew Lang.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 Plus.
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."