The Olive Fairy Book Part 40

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'That will be charming,' answered the prince, 'so pray begin at once.'

'Once upon a time,' said the nightingale, 'there lived a woman who was so beautiful that every man who saw her fell in love with her. But she was very hard to please, and refused to wed any of them, though she managed to keep friends with all. Years passed away in this manner, almost without her noticing them, and one by one the young men grew tired of waiting, and sought wives who may have been less handsome, but were also less proud, and at length only three of her former wooers remained--Baldschi, Jagdschi, and Firedschi. Still she held herself apart, thought herself better and lovelier than other women, when, on a certain evening, her eyes were opened at last to the truth.

She was sitting before her mirror, combing her curls, when amongst her raven locks she found a long white hair!

'At this dreadful sight her heart gave a jump, and then stood still.

'"I am growing old," she said to herself, "and if I do not choose a husband soon, I shall never get one! I know that either of those men would gladly marry me to-morrow, but I cannot decide between them. I must invent some way to find out which of them is the best, and lose no time about it."



'So instead of going to sleep, she thought all night long of different plans, and in the morning she arose and dressed herself.

'"That will have to do," she muttered as she pulled out the white hair which had cost her so much trouble. "It is not very good, but I can think of nothing better; and--well, they are none of them clever, and I dare say they will easily fall into the trap." Then she called her slave and bade her let Jagdschi know that she would be ready to receive him in an hour's time. After that she went into the garden and dug a grave under a tree, by which she laid a white shroud.

'Jagdschi was delighted to get the gracious message; and, putting on his newest garments, he hastened to the lady's house, but great was his dismay at finding her stretched on her cushions, weeping bitterly.

'"What is the matter, O Fair One?" he asked, bowing low before her.

'"A terrible thing has happened," said she, her voice choked with sobs. "My father died two nights ago, and I buried him in my garden.

But now I find that he was a wizard, and was not dead at all, for his grave is empty and he is wandering about somewhere in the world."

'"That is evil news indeed," answered Jagdschi; "but can I do nothing to comfort you?"

'"There is one thing you can do," replied she, "and that is to wrap yourself in the shroud and lay yourself in the grave. If he should not return till after three hours have elapsed he will have lost his power over me, and be forced to go and wander elsewhere."

'Now Jagdschi was proud of the trust reposed in him, and wrapping himself in the shroud, he stretched himself at full length in the grave. After some time Baldschi arrived in his turn, and found the lady groaning and lamenting. She told him that her father had been a wizard, and that in case, as was very likely, he should wish to leave his grave and come to work her evil, Baldschi was to take a stone and be ready to crush in his head, if he showed signs of moving.

'Baldschi, enchanted at being able to do his lady a service, picked up a stone, and seated himself by the side of the grave wherein lay Jagdschi.

'Meanwhile the hour arrived in which Firedschi was accustomed to pay his respects, and, as in the case of the other two, he discovered the lady overcome with grief. To him she said that a wizard who was an enemy of her father's had thrown the dead man out of his grave, and had taken his place. "But," she added, "if you can bring the wizard into my presence, all his power will go from him; if not, then I am lost."

'"Ah, lady, what is there that I would not do for you!" cried Firedschi; and running down to the grave, he seized the astonished Jagdschi by the waist, and flinging the body over his shoulder, he hastened with him into the house. At the first moment Baldschi was so surprised at this turn of affairs, for which the lady had not prepared him, that he sat still and did nothing. But by-and-by he sprang up and hurled the stone after the two flying figures, hoping that it might kill them both. Fortunately it touched neither, and soon all three were in the presence of the lady. Then Jagdschi, thinking that he had delivered her from the power of the wizard, slid off the back of Firedschi, and threw the shroud from him.'

'Tell me, my prince,' said the nightingale, when he had finished his story, 'which of the three men deserved to win the lady? I myself should choose Firedschi.'

'No, no,' answered the prince, who understood the wink the bird had given him; 'it was Baldschi who took the most trouble, and it was certainly he who deserved the lady.'

But the nightingale would not agree; and they began to quarrel, till a third voice broke in:

'How can you talk such nonsense?' cried the princess--and as she spoke a sound of tearing was heard. 'Why, you have never even thought of Jagdschi, who lay for three hours in the grave, with a stone held over his head! Of course it was _he_ whom the lady chose for her husband!'

It was not many minutes before the news reached the sultan; but even now he would not consent to the marriage till his daughter had spoken a third time. On hearing this, the young man took counsel with the nightingale how best to accomplish this, and the bird told him that as the princess, in her fury at having fallen into the snare laid for her, had ordered the pillar to be broken in pieces, he must be hidden in the folds of a curtain that hung by the door.

The following evening the prince entered the palace, and walked boldly up to the princess's apartments. As he entered the nightingale flew from under his arm and perched himself on top of the door, where he was entirely concealed by the folds of the dark curtain. The young man talked as usual to the princess without obtaining a single word in reply, and at length he left her lying under the heap of shining veils--now rent in many places--and crossed the room towards the door, from which came a voice that gladly answered him.

For a while the two talked together: then the nightingale asked if the prince was fond of stories, as he had lately heard one which interested and perplexed him greatly. In reply, the prince begged that he might hear it at once, and without further delay the nightingale began:

[Illustration: 'THE SEVEN VEILS FELL FROM HER']

'Once upon a time, a carpenter, a tailor, and a student set out together to see the world. After wandering about for some months they grew tired of travelling, and resolved to stay and rest in a small town that took their fancy. So they hired a little house, and looked about for work to do, returning at sunset to smoke their pipes and talk over the events of the day.

'One night in the middle of summer it was hotter than usual, and the carpenter found himself unable to sleep. Instead of tossing about on his cushions, making himself more uncomfortable than he was already, the man wisely got up and drank some coffee and lit his long pipe.

Suddenly his eye fell on some pieces of wood in a corner and, being very clever with his fingers, he had soon set up a perfect statue of a girl about fourteen years old. This so pleased and quieted him that he grew quite drowsy, and going back to bed fell fast asleep.

'But the carpenter was not the only person who lay awake that night.

Thunder was in the air, and the tailor became so restless that he thought he would go downstairs and cool his feet in the little fountain outside the garden door. To reach the door he had to pass through the room where the carpenter had sat and smoked, and against the wall he beheld standing a beautiful girl. He stood speechless for an instant before he ventured to touch her hand, when, to his amazement, he found that she was fashioned out of wood.

'"Ah! I can make you more beautiful still," said he. And fetching from a shelf a roll of yellow silk which he had bought that day from a merchant, he cut and draped and stitched, till at length a lovely robe clothed the slender figure. When this was finished, the restlessness had departed from him, and he went back to bed.

'As dawn approached the student arose and prepared to go to the mosque with the first ray of sunlight. But, when he saw the maiden standing there, he fell on his knees and lifted his hands in ecstasy.

'"Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air, clad in the beauty of ten thousand stars," he murmured to himself. "Surely a form so rare was never meant to live without a soul." And forthwith he prayed with all his might that life should be breathed into it.

'And his prayer was heard, and the beautiful statue became a living girl, and the three men all fell in love with her, and each desired to have her to wife.

'Now,' said the nightingale, 'to which of them did the maiden really belong? It seems to me that the carpenter had the best right to her.'

'Oh, but the student would never have thought of praying that she might be given a soul had not the tailor drawn attention to her loveliness by the robe which he put upon her,' answered the prince, who guessed what he was expected to say: and they soon set up quite a pretty quarrel. Suddenly the princess, furious that neither of them alluded to the part played by the student, quite forgot her vow of silence and cried loudly:

'Idiots that you are! how could she belong to any one but the student?

If it had not been for him, all that the others did would have gone for nothing! Of course it was he who married the maiden!' And as she spoke the seven veils fell from her, and she stood up, the fairest princess that the world has ever seen.

'You have won me,' she said smiling, holding out her hand to the prince.

And so they were married: and after the wedding-feast was over they sent for the old woman whose pitcher the prince had broken so long ago, and she dwelt in the palace, and became nurse to their children, and lived happily till she died.

(Adapted from _Turkische Volksmarchen aus Stambul gesammelt, ubersetzt und eingeleitet_ von Dr. Ignaz Kunos. Brill, Leiden.)

The Olive Fairy Book Part 40

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The Olive Fairy Book Part 40 summary

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