STORY OF THE JEALOUS SISTERS 423
The Sultan, noticing that his favourite dish of cucumber was placed before him, proceeded to help himself to it, and was amazed to find that the stuffing was of pearls. ( A novelty, indeed!' cried he, ' but I do not understand the reason of it; one cannot eat pearls!'
' Sire,' replied the bird, before either the princes or the princess could speak, ' surely your Highness cannot be so surprised at beholding a cucumber stuffed with pearls, when you believed without any difficulty that the Sultana had presented you, instead of children, with a dog, a cat, and a log of wood.'
' I believed it,' answered the Sultan, ' because the women attending on her told me so.'
' The women, sire,' said the bird, ' were the sisters of the Sultana, who were devoured with jealousy at the honour you had done her, and in order to revenge themselves invented this story. Have them examined, and they will confess their crime. These are your children, who were saved from death by the intendant of your gardens, and brought up by him as if they were his own.'
Like a flash the truth came to the mind of the Sultan. ' Bird,' he cried, ' my heart tells me that what you say is true. My children,' he added, ' let me embrace you, and embrace each other, not only as brothers and sister, but as having in you the blood royal of Persia which could flow in no nobler veins.'
When the first moments of emotion were over, the Sultan hastened to finish his repast, and then turning to his children he exclaimed: ' To-day you have made acquaintance with your father. To-morrow I will bring you the Sultana your mother. Be ready to receive her.'
The Sultan then mounted his horse and rode quickly back to the capital. Without an instant's delay he sent for the grand-vizir, and ordered him to seize and question the Sultana's sisters that very day. This was clone. They were confronted with each other and proved guilty, and were executed in less than an hour.