THE STORY OF CALIPH STORK. 41
downstairs. The wretch not long after managed to approach me under another form, and one day, when I was in the garden and asked for some refreshment, he brought me—in the disguise of a slave—a draught which changed me at once to this horrid shape. While I was fainting with terror he transported me here and cried to me with his awful voice: 'There shall you remain, lonely and hideous, despised even by the brutes, till the end of your days or till some one of his own free will asks you to be his wife. Thus do I avenge myself on you and your proud father.' Since then many months have passed away. Sad and lonely do I live like any hermit within these walls, avoided by the world and a terror even to animals. The beauties of nature are hidden from me, for I am blind by day, and it is only when the moon sheds her pale light on this spot that the veil falls from my eyes and I can see."
The owl paused and once more wiped her eyes with her wing, for the recital of her woes had drawn fresh tears from her.
The caliph fell into deep thought on hearing this story of the princess. "If I am not much mistaken," said he, "there is some mysterious connection between our misfortunes, but how to find the key to the riddle is the question."
The owl answered: "Oh, my lord! I too feel sure of this, for in my earliest youth a wise woman foretold that a stork would bring me some great happiness, and I think I could tell you how we might save ourselves." The caliph was much surprised and asked her what she meant.
"The magician who has made us both miserable," said she, "comes once a month to these ruins. Not far from this room is a large hall where he is in the habit of feasting with his companions. I have often watched them. They tell each other all about their evil deeds, and possibly the magic word which you have forgotten may be mentioned."
"Oh, dearest princess!" exclaimed the caliph, "say, when does he come and where is the hall?"
The owl paused a moment and then said: "Do not think me unkind, but I can only grant your request on one condition."
"Speak! speak!" cried Chasid. "CommandI I will gladly do whatever you wish J"