THE STORYOF CALIPH STORK, 37
Meantime the second stork had reached the ground. It first scraped its bill with its claw, stroked down its feathers, and then advanced toward the first stork. The two newly made storks lost no time in drawing near, and to their amazement overheard the following conversation:
"Good-morning, Dame Longlegs. You are out early this morning!"
"Yes, indeed, dear Chatterbill! I am getting myself a morsel of breakfast. May I offer you a joint of lizard or a frog's thigh?"
"A thousand thanks, but I have really no appetite this morning. I am here for a very different purpose. I am to dance to-day before my father's guests, and I have come to the meadow for a little quiet practice."
Thereupon the young stork began to move about with the most wonderful steps. The caliph and Mansor looked on in surprise for some time; but when at last she balanced herself in a picturesque attitude on one leg and flapped her wings gracefully up and down, they could hold out no longer; a prolonged peal burst from each of their bills, and it was some time before they could recover their composure. The caliph was the first to collect himself. "That was the best joke," said he, "I've ever seen. It's a pity the stupid creatures were scared away by our laughter, or no doubt they would have sung next!"
Suddenly, however, the vizier remembered how strictly they had been warned not to laugh during their transformation. He at once communicated his fears to the caliph, who exclaimed: "By Mecca and Medina! it would indeed prove but a poor joke if I had to remain a stork for the remainder of my days! Do just try and remembel the stupid word. It has slipped my memory."
"We must bow three times eastward and say 'Mu—mu -mu-----' "
They turned to the east and fell to bowing till their bills touched the ground, but, oh, horror—the magic word was quite forgotten, and however often the caliph bowed and however touchingly his vizier cried "Mu—mu—" they could not recall it, and the unhappy Chasid and Mansor remained storks as they were.