406 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
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