« PoprzedniaDalej »
ing, come thou hither ; we will go together into the field, snuff a little out of my box, and then listen to what is said in the air, and in the water, in the wood and in the field.”
On the following morning, the Caliph had scarcely breakfasted, and dressed himself, when the Grand Vizier appeared, to accompany him upon bis walk, as he had commanded. The Caliph placed the box with the magic powder in his girdle, and having directed his train to remain behind, he set out alone with his Grand Vizier. They went first through the spacious gardens of the Caliph, and looked around, but in vain, for some living thing, that they might try their trick. The Vizier at last proposed that they should go farther on, to a pond, where he had often seen many of those animals called storks, which, by their grave appearance, and their continual clacking, had always excited his attention.
The Caliph approved the proposal of his Vizier, and they went together to the pond. When they had arrived there, they saw a stork walking gravely up and down, looking for frogs, and now and then clacking away something to himself. At the same time they saw also, far above in the air, another stork, hovering.over the place.
“I wager my beard, most gracious master," said the Grand Vizier, “ that these two long-footed fellows are about carrying on a fine conversation with one another. What if we should become storks?"
“Well said I replied the Caliph. “But first let us consider, once more, how we are to become men again. True ! three times must we bend toward the east, and say, Mutabor ; then I am Caliph again, and thou Vizier. But for heaven's sake, do not laugh, or we are lost.”
While the Caliph was thus speaking, he saw the other stork hover over their heads, and slowly descend toward the earth. He drew the box quickly from his girdle, took a good pinch, offered it to the Grand Vizier, who also snuffed it, and both called out, “ Mutabor !!!
Their legs then shrivelled up, and became thin and red; the beautiful yellow slippers of the Caliph and of his companion were changed into ill-shapen stork's feet; their arms were turned into wings; their necks were lengthened out from their shoulders, and became a yard long ; their beards had disappeared, and their bodies were covered with soft feathers.
“ You have a beautiful beak," said the Caliph, after a long
pause of astonishment.
"By the beard of the Prophet 1-1 have never seen anything like it in my life!"
“I thank you most humbly," returned the Grand Vizier, while he made his obeisance ; “ but if it were permitted, I might assert that your highness looks even more handsome as a stork, than as a Caliph. But come, if it please you, let us listen to our comrades yonder, and find out whether we actually understand the storkish language."
In the meanwhile the other stork had reached the ground. He trimmed his feet with his beak, put his feathers in order, and advanced to his companion. The two new new storks hastened to get near them, and to their surprise, overheard the following conversation :
“Good morning, Lady Longlegs ! Already so early upon the meadow !"
" Thank you, dear Clatterbeak! I have had only a slight breakfast. You would like, perhaps, a piece of a duck, or the leg of a frog ?”
"Much obliged, but I have no appetite to-day. I have come upon the meadow for a very different purpose. I am to dance to-day before some guests of my father's, and I wish to practice here a little, quietly by myself.”
The young stork immediately jumped about the field, with singular motions. The Caliph and Manzor looked on with wonder ; but as she stood in a picturesque attitude upon one foot, and fluttered her wings gracefully, they could no longer contain themselves; an irresistible laughter barst forth from their beaks, from which they could not recover themselves for a long time. The Caliph first collected himself.
" That was a joke, now, ," he exclaimed, “ that is not to be purchased with gold ! Pity that the foolish animals have been frightened away by our laughter; otherwise, perhaps, they might even have sung !"
But it now occurred to the grand Vizier that laughter har been forbidden them, during their transformation.
Heimparted his anxiety to the Caliph. “Odds, Mecca and Medina! It would be a bad joke, if I must remain a stork I Bethink thyself of that stupid word ; I cannot bring it out.”
“ Three times must we bow toward the east, and then say, Mu, mu, mu--"!
They turned toward the east, and bowed and bowed, so that their beaks almost touched the earth ; but alas ! the magic word had escaped them. However often the Caliph bowed himself, and however anxiously the Vizier called out thereupon,
“Mu mu,"-all recollection of it had vanished, and the poor Chasid and his Vizier remained storks.
MOURNFULLY wandered the enchanted ones through the fields. They knew not what they should do in their distress. They could not rid themselves of their stork's skin; they could not return to the city to make themselves known, for who would have believed a stork, if he said he was the Caliph ? -and even if they should believe it, the inhabitants of Bagdad would not have a stork for their Caliph.
Thus they wandered around for several days, and nourished themselves sorrowfully with the fruits of the field, which they could not eat very conveniently, on account of their long beaks. For ducks and frogs they had no appetite ; they were afraid that with such morsels they might fatally disorder their stomachs. It was their only pleasure, in this sad condition, that they could fly, and so they often flew upon the roofs of Bagdad, to see what passed in the city.
During the first days, they remarked great disorder and mourning in the streets ; but about the fourth day after their transformation, as they sat upon the Caliph's palace, they saw in the street below a splendid procession. The drums and fifes sounded; a man in a scarlet mantle, embroidered with gold, rode a richly caparisoned steed, surrounded by a brilliant train of attendants. Half Bagdad leaped to meet him, and all cried, “ Hail, Mirza, lord of Bagdad !” The two storks upon the roof of the palace looked at one another, and the Caliph said : “ Canst thou now divine, Grand Vizier, wherefore I am enchanted ? This Mirza is the son of my deadly enemy, the mighty magician, Cachnur, who in an evil hour swore revenge upon me.
But still I will not give up hope. Come with me, thou true companion of my misfortune! We will wander to the grave of the Prophet. Perhaps upon that holy spot, this spell will vanish.” They soared from the roof of the palace, and flew toward Medina.
But flying was not such an easy matter to them, for the two storks bad as yet had but little practice. “Oh, my lord!" sighed forth the Grand Vizier, after a few hours ; “ with your permission, I can stand it no longer ; you fly altogether too fast. Beside, it is now evening, and we should do well to seek a shelter for the night." Chasid yielded to the prayer of his Vizier ; and as they at
this moment perceived a ruin in the valley below, they flew thither. The place in which they had taken refuge for the night, seemed formerly to have been a castle. Beautiful columns overtopped the ruins, and several chambers, which were still in a tolerable state of preservation, gave evidence of the former splendour of the building. Chasid and his companion wandered through the passages, to find a dry spot for themselves. Suddenly the stork Manzor stopped. lord and master,” he whispered softly, • if it were not folly in a Grand Vizier, and still more in a stork, to be afraid of spirits, I should feel much alarmed for something near by us sighed and groaned very audibly.”
The Caliph stood still also, and heard very distinctly a low weeping, that seemed rather to come from a human being, than from an animal. Full of expectation, he was abouti to advance toward the place from whence the sounds of lamentation proceeded, when the Vizier seized him by the wing with his beak, and begged him earnestly not to plunge into new and unknown dangers. But in vain! The Caliph, who bore
brave heart under his stork's wing, tore himself loose, with the loss of some of his feathers, and hastened into a dark passage-way. He soon arrived at a door, which seemed to be partly open, and through which he overheard distinct sighs, with a slight moaning. In the ruined chamber, which was but scantily lighted by a small grated window, he perceived a large night owl, seated upon the floor. Big tears rolled from her large round eyes, and with a hoarse voice she sent forth her lamentations from her curved beak. As soon, however, as she spied the Caliph and his Vizier, who also had stalked thither, she gave a loud scream of joy. Gracefully she wiped the tears from her eyes, with her brown spotted wing, and to the great astonishment of both, she exclaimed, in good human Arabic: “Welcome, ye storks! Ye are a good sign of my c'escue ; for it has been prophesied to me, that by a stork I shall arrive to great happiness."
When the Caliph had recovered from his astonishment, he bowed with his long neck, brought his thin feet into a handsome position, and said : “Night Owll from thy words I may conclude that thou art a companion in suffering. But alas ! the hope that thou wilt be rescued by us, is in vain : thou wilt thyself perceive our helplessness, when thou shalt have heard our history." The Night Owl begged him to relate it. The Caliph commenced, and repeated what we already know.
When the Caliph had related to the Owl his history, she thanked him, and said : “ Hear also my story, and learn that I am not less unhappy than you. My father is king of India. I, his only unhappy daughter, am called Lusa. That magi. cian Cachnur, who has enchanted you, bas also plunged me into this misery. He came one day to my father, and desired me for a wife to his son. But my father, who is a quicktempered man, ordered him to be pushed down the stairs. The wretch contrived to approach me under another form ; and once, when I would take refreshments in my garden, he brought to me, in the habit of a slave, a draught which transformed me into this frightful shape. Powerless from fright, he brought me hither, and cried, with a dreadful voice in my
· Here shalt thou remain, hateful, despised even by the beasts, until thy death, or until some one, with free will, shall desire thee for his wife, even in this horrible shape. Thus I revenge myself upon thee and thy proud father !'
“ Since then, many months bave flown away. Solitary and disconsolate, I inhabit these walls as a hermitess. Scorned by the world, a horror even to the beasts ; beautiful nature is locked up from me, for I am blind by day, and only when the moon pours her pale light over these rains, does the veil fall from my eyes."
The Owl ended, and wiped the tears again from her eyes ; for the relation of her sorrows bad drawn them forth anew.
During the relation of the princess, the Caliph appeared sunk in deep thought. “ If everything does not deceive me," he said, “there is a secret connection between our fates; but where shall I find the key to this riddle ?" The Owl answered him : “Oh, my lord ! I also have such a thought, for it was once prophesied to me, in my earliest youth, that a stork would bring me great happiness; and I may know, perhaps, how we can be rescued.”
The Caliph was much astonished, and asked her in what way she meant.
• The magician who hąs made us both miserable," said she, comes once in every month to these ruins. Not far from this chamber, is a hall. There he is accustomed to feast with many of his companions. I have often listened there already. They relate then to one another their shameful deeds; perchance they may pronounce the magic word which you have forgotten.'