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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 4 - 20/71 -
it, observing that the person who had formed it must have been an excellent master of his art. Afterwards she was brought before the princess, who waited for her in the great hall, which in beauty and richness exceeded all that she had admired in the other apartments.
As soon as the princess saw the devout woman, she said to her, "My good mother, come near and sit down by me. I am overjoyed at the happiness of having the opportunity of profiting for some moments by the good example and conversation of such a person as you, who have taken the right way by dedicating yourself to the service of God. I wish every one were as wise."
The devout woman, instead of sitting on a sofa, would only sit upon the edge of one. The princess would not permit her to do so, but rising from her seat,'and taking her by the hand, obliged her to come and sit by her. The good woman, sensible of the civility, said, "Madam, I ought not to have so much respect shewn me; but since you command, and are mistress of your own house, I will obey you." When she had seated herself, before they entered into any conversation, one of the princess's women brought a little low stand of mother of pearl and ebony, with a china dish full of cakes upon it, and many others set round it full of fruits in season, and wet and dry sweetmeats.
The princess took up one of the cakes, and presenting her with it, said, "Eat, good mother, and make choice of what you like best; you had need to eat after coming so far." "Madam," replied the good woman, "I am not used to eat such delicacies; but will not refuse what God has sent me by so liberal a hand as yours."
While the devout woman was eating, the princess ate a little too, to bear her company, and asked her many questions upon the exercise of devotion which she practised, and how she lived: all which she answered with great modesty. Talking of several things, at last she asked her what she thought of the house, and how she liked it.
"Madam," answered the devout woman, "I must certainly have very bad taste to disapprove any thing in it, since it is beautiful, regular, and magnificently furnished with exactness and judgment, and all its ornaments adjusted in the best manner. Its situation is an agreeable spot, and no garden can be more delightful; but yet 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.""My good mother," replied the princess Perie-zadeh,"what are those? I conjure you, in God's name, to tell me what they are: I will spare nothing to get them, if it be possible."
"Madam," replied the devout woman, "the first of these three things is the speaking bird, so singular a creature, that it draws round it all the singing birds of the neighbourhood, 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 colour, 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 should do me the favour to inform me where they are to be found."
"Madam," replied the good woman, "I should be unworthy the hospitality you have with so much goodness shewn me, if I should refuse to satisfy your curiosity in that point; and am glad to have the honour to tell you, that these curiosities are all to be met with in the same spot on the confines of this kingdom, towards India. The road to it 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 taken up with what the devout woman had told her of the speaking bird, singing tree, and yellow water, that she never perceived her departure, till she wanted to ask her some question for her better information; for she thought that what she had told her was not a sufficient reason for exposing herself by undertaking a long journey, possibly to no purpose. However, she would not send after her, but endeavoured to remember all she had told her; and when she thought she had recollected every word, took real pleasure in thinking of the satisfaction she should have if she could get these wonderful curiosities into her possession; but the difficulties she apprehended, and the fear of not succeeding, made her very uneasy.
She was absorbed in these thoughts when her brothers returned from hunting; who, when they entered the great hall, instead of finding her lively and gay, as she used to be be, were amazed to see her so pensive, and hanging down her head as if something troubled her.
"Sister," said prince Bahman,"what is become of all your mirth and gaiety? Are you not well? or has some misfortune befallen you? Has any body given you reason to be so melancholy? Tell us, that we may know how to act, and give you some relief. If any one has affronted you, we will resent his insolence."
The princess remained in the same posture some time without answering; but at last lifted up her eyes to look at her brothers, and then held them down again, telling them nothing disturbed her.
"Sister," said prince Bahman, "you conceal the truth from us; there must be something of consequence. It is impossible we could observe so sudden a change if nothing was the matter with you. You would not have us satisfied with the evasive answer you have given: do not conceal any thing, unless you would have us suspect that you renounce the strict union which has hitherto subsisted between us from our infancy."
The princess, who had not the smallest intention to offend her brothers, would not suffer them to entertain such a thought, but said, "When I told you nothing disturbed me, I meant nothing that was of importance to you; but to me it is of some consequence; and since you press me to tell you by our strict union and friendship, which are so dear to me, I will. You think, and I always believed so too, that this house was so complete that nothing was wanting. But this day I have learned that it wants three rarities, which would render it so perfect that no country seat in the world could be compared with it. These three things are, the speaking bird, the singing tree, and the yellow water. After she had informed them wherein consisted the excellency of these rarities, "A devout woman," added she, "has made this discovery to me, told me the place where they are to be found, and the way thither. Perhaps you may imagine these things to be trifles, and of little consequence to render our house complete, that without these additions it will always be thought sufficiently elegant with what it already contains, and that we can do without them. You may think as you please; but I cannot help telling you that I am persuaded they are absolutely necessary, and I shall not be easy without them. Therefore, whether you value them or not, I desire you to consider what person you may think proper for me to send in search of the curiosities I have mentioned."
"Sister," replied prince Bahman, "nothing can concern you in which we have not an equal interest. It is enough that you have an earnest desire for the things you mention to oblige us to take the same interest; but if you had not, we feel ourselves inclined of our own accord and for our own individual satisfaction. I am persuaded my brother is of the same opinion, and therefore we ought to undertake this conquest; for the importance and singularity of the undertaking deserve that name. I will take that charge upon myself; only tell me the place, and the way to it, and I will defer my journey no longer than till to-morrow."
"Brother," said prince Perviz, "it is not proper that you, who are the head and director of our family, should be absent. I desire my sister would join with me to oblige you to abandon your design, and allow me to undertake it. I hope to acquit myself as well as you, and it will be a more regular proceeding." "I am persuaded of your good-will, brother," replied prince Bahman, "and that you would succeed as well as myself in this journey; but I have resolved, and will undertake it. You shall stay at home with our sister, and I need not recommend her to you." He 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 Bahman mounted his horse, and Perviz and the princess embraced, 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 accidents which attend travellers. 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, but were it not, I should determine upon it now, and you must allow me to execute it. The accidents you speak of befall only those who are unfortunate; but there are more who are not so. However, as events are uncertain, and I may fail in this undertaking, all I can do is to leave you this knife."
Bahman, pulling a knife from his vestband, and presenting it in the sheath to the princess, said, "Take this knife, sister, and give yourself the trouble sometimes to pull it out of the sheath: while you see it 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 dead, and indulge me with your prayers."
The princess could obtain nothing more of 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 direftly forward towards India. The twentieth day he perceived on the road side a hideous old man, who sat under a tree some small distance from a thatched house, which was his retreat from the weather.
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