STORY OF THE JEALOUS SISTERS 403
will then throw the bridle on your horse's neck without any fear of his straying, and will dismount. On each side you will see vast heaps of big black stones, and will hear a multitude of insulting voices, but pay no heed to them, and, above all, beware of ever turning your head. If you do, you will instantly become a black stone like the rest. For those stones are in reality men like yourself, who have been on the same quest, and have failed, as I fear that you may fail also. If you manage to avoid this pitfall, and to reach the top of the mountain, you will find there the Talking Bird in a splendid cage, and you can ask of him where you are to seek the Singing Tree and the Golden Water. That is all I have to say. You know what you have to do, and what to avoid, but if you are wise you will think of it no more, but return whence you have come.'
The prince smilingly shook his head, and thanking the dervish once more, he sprang on his horse and threw the ball before him.
The ball rolled along the road so fast that Prince Bahman had much difficulty in keeping up with it, and it never relaxed its speed till the foot of the mountain was reached. Then it came to a sudden halt, and the prince at once got down and flung the bridle on his horse's neck. He paused for a moment, and looked round him at the masses of black stones with which the sides of the mountain were covered, and then began resolutely to ascend. He had hardly gone four steps when he heard the sound of voices around him, although not another creature was in sight.
' Who is this imbecile? ' cried some, ' stop him at once.' ' Kill him,' shrieked others, ' Help ! robbers ! murderers ! help! help!' 'Oh, let him alone,'sneered another, and this was the most trying of all, ' he is such a beautiful young man; I am sure the bird and the cage must have been kept for him.'
At first the prince took no heed to all this clamour, but continued to press forward on his way. Unfortunately