Stories of Arabian Nights -
One thousand one Arabian Nights
More of Two Sisters Who Were Jealous of Their Younger Sister
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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 them."
"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 strength."
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
"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
"Good dervish," answered the princess, "I feel in my heart that I shall succeed,
and it only remains for me to ask you the way I am to go."
Then the dervish said that it was useless to say more, and he gave her the ball,
which she flung before her.
The first thing the princess did on arriving at the mountain was to stop her
ears with cotton, and then, making up her mind which was the best way to go, she
began her ascent. In spite of the cotton, some echoes of the voices reached her
ears, but not so as to trouble her. Indeed, though they grew louder and more
insulting the higher she climbed, the princess only laughed, and said to herself
that she certainly would not let a few rough words stand between her and the
goal. At last she perceived in the distance the cage and the bird, whose voice
joined itself in tones of thunder to those of the rest: "Return, return! never
dare to come near me."
At the sight of the bird, the princess hastened her steps, and without vexing
herself at the noise which by this time had grown deafening, she walked straight
up to the cage, and seizing it, she said: "Now, my bird, I have got you, and I
shall take good care that you do not escape." As she spoke she took the cotton
from her ears, for it was needed no longer.
"Brave lady," answered the bird, "do not blame me for having joined my voice to
those who did their best to preserve my freedom. Although confined in a cage, I
was content with my lot, but if I must become a slave, I could not wish for a
nobler mistress than one who has shown so much constancy, and from this moment I
swear to serve you faithfully. Some day you will put me to the proof, for I know
who you are better than you do yourself. Meanwhile, tell me what I can do, and I
will obey you."
"Bird," replied the princess, who was filled with a joy that seemed strange to
herself when she thought that the bird had cost her the lives of both her
brothers. "bird, let me first thank you for your good will, and then let me ask
you where the Golden Water is to be found."
The bird described the place, which was not far distant, and the princess filled
a small silver flask that she had brought with her for the purpose. She then
returned to the cage, and said: "Bird, there is still something else, where
shall I find the Singing Tree?"
"Behind you, in that wood," replied the bird, and the princess wandered through
the wood, till a sound of the sweetest voices told her she had found what she
sought. But the tree was tall and strong, and it was hopeless to think of
"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
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 a agreeable."
He then gave them a warm invitation to stay with him altogether, but with many
thanks for the honour done them, they begged to be excused, and to be suffered
to remain at home.
The Sultan who was not accustomed to see his offers rejected inquired their
reasons, and Prince Bahman explained that they did not wish to leave their
sister, and were accustomed to do nothing without consulting all three together.
"Ask her advice, then," replied the Sultan, "and to-morrow come and hunt with
me, and give me your answer."
The two princes returned home, but their adventure made so little impression on
them that they quite forgot to speak to their sister on the subject. The next
morning when they went to hunt they met the Sultan in the same place, and he
inquired what advice their sister had given. The young men looked at each other
and blushed. At last Prince Bahman said, "Sire, we must throw ourselves on your
Highness's mercy. Neither my brother nor myself remembered anything about it."
"Then be sure you do not forget to-day," answered the Sultan, "and bring me back
your reply to-morrow."
When, however, the same thing happened a second time, they feared that the
Sultan might be angry with them for their carelessness. But he took it in good
part, and, drawing three little golden balls from his purse, he held them out to
Prince Bahman, saying, "Put these in your bosom and you will not forget a third
time, for when you remove your girdle to-night the noise they will make in
falling will remind you of my wishes."
It all happened as the Sultan had foreseen, and the two brothers appeared in
their sister's apartments just as she was in the act of stepping into bed, and
told their tale.
The Princess Parizade was much disturbed at the news, and did not conceal her
feelings. "Your meeting with the Sultan is very honourable to you," she said,
"and will, I dare say, be of service to you, but it places me in a very awkward
position. It is on my account, I know, that you have resisted the Sultan's
wishes, and I am very grateful to you for it. But kings do not like to have
their offers refused, and in time he would bear a grudge against you, which
would render me very unhappy. Consult the Talking Bird, who is wise and
far-seeing, and let me hear what he says."
So the bird was sent for and the case laid before him.
"The princes must on no account refuse the Sultan's proposal," said he, "and
they must even invite him to come and see your house."
"But, bird," objected the princess, "you know how dearly we love each other;
will not all this spoil our friendship?"
"Not at all," replied the bird, "it will make it all the closer."
"Then the Sultan will have to see me," said the princess.
The bird answered that it was necessary that he should see her, and everything
would turn out for the best.
The following morning, when the Sultan inquired if they had spoken to their
sister and what advice she had given them, Prince Bahman replied that they were
ready to agree to his Highness's wishes, and that their sister had reproved them
for their hesitation about the matter. The Sultan received their excuses with
great kindness, and told them that he was sure they would be equally faithful to
him, and kept them by his side for the rest of the day, to the vexation of the
grand-vizir and the rest of the court.
When the procession entered in this order the gates of the capital, the eyes of
the people who crowded the streets were fixed on the two young men, strangers to
"Oh, if only the Sultan had had sons like that!" they murmured, "they look so
distinguished and are about the same age that his sons would have been!"
The Sultan commanded that splendid apartments should be prepared for the two
brothers, and even insisted that they should sit at table with him. During
dinner he led the conversation to various scientific subjects, and also to
history, of which he was especially fond, but whatever topic they might be
discussing he found that the views of the young men were always worth listening
to. "If they were my own sons," he said to himself, "they could not be better
educated!" and aloud he complimented them on their learning and taste for
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
"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
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 course."
"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
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
These were easily undone, and the box was found to be full of pearls, not very
large ones, but well-shaped and of a good colour. So leaving the gardener to
fill up the hole he had made under the tree, the princess took up the box and
returned to the house.
The two princes had seen her go out, and had wondered what could have made her
rise so early. Full of curiosity they got up and dressed, and met their sister
as she was returning with the box under her arm.
"What have you been doing?" they asked, "and did the gardener come to tell you
he had found a treasure?"
"On the contrary," replied the princess, "it is I who have found one," and
opening the box she showed her astonished brothers the pearls inside. Then, on
the way back to the palace, she told them of her consultation with the bird, and
the advice it had given her. All three tried to guess the meaning of the
singular counsel, but they were forced at last to admit the explanation was
beyond them, and they must be content blindly to obey.
The first thing the princess did on entering the palace was to send for the head
cook and to order the repast for the Sultan When she had finished she suddenly
added, "Besides the dishes I have mentioned there is one that you must prepare
expressly for the Sultan, and that no one must touch but yourself. It consists
of a stuffed cucumber, and the stuffing is to be made of these pearls."
The head cook, who had never in all his experience heard of such a dish, stepped
back in amazement.
"You think I am mad," answered the princess, who perceived what was in his mind.
"But I know quite well what I am doing. Go, and do your best, and take the
pearls with you."
The next morning the princes started for the forest, and were soon joined by the
Sultan. The hunt began and continued till mid-day, when the heat became so great
that they were obliged to leave off. Then, as arranged, they turned their
horses' heads towards the palace, and while Prince Bahman remained by the side
of the Sultan, Prince Perviz rode on to warn his sister of their approach.
The moment his Highness entered the courtyard, the princess flung herself at his
feet, but he bent and raised her, and gazed at her for some time, struck with
her grace and beauty, and also with the indefinable air of courts that seemed to
hang round this country girl. "They are all worthy one of the other," he said to
himself, "and I am not surprised that they think so much of her opinions. I must
know more of them."
By this time the princess had recovered from the first embarrassment of meeting,
and proceeded to make her speech of welcome.
"This is only a simple country house, sire," she said, "suitable to people like
ourselves, who live a quiet life. It cannot compare with the great city
mansions, much less, of course, with the smallest of the Sultan's palaces."
"I cannot quite agree with you," he replied; "even the little that I have seen I
admire greatly, and I will reserve my judgment until you have shown me the
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 themselves!"
"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
"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
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 speech."
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 prosperity."
"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
"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
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
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
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.
Index of stories of Arabian nights