THE GREEN FAIRY BOOK.
"Well," replied the owl, "you see I should like to be free too; but this can only be if one of you will offer me his hand in marriage."
The storks seemed rather taken aback by this suggestion, and the caliph beckoned to his vizier to retire and consult with him.
When they were outside the door the caliph said: "Grand vizier, this is a tiresome business. However, you can take her."
"Indeed!" said the vizier; "so that when I go home my wife may scratch my eyes out! Besides, I am an old man, and your highness is still young and unmarried and afar more suitable match for a young and lovely princess."
"That's just where it is," sighed the caliph, whose wings drooped in a dejected manner. "How do you know she is young and lovely? I call it buying a pig in a poke."
They argued on for some time, but at length, when the caliph saw plainly that his vizier would rather remain a stork to the end of his days than marry the owl, he determined to fulfill the condition himself. The owl was delighted. She owned that they could not have arrived at a better time, as most probably the magicians would meet that very night.
She then proceeded to lead the two storks to the chamber. They passed through a long dark passage till at length a bright ray of light shone before them through the chinks of a half-ruined wall. "When they reached it the owl advised them to keep very quiet. Through the gap near which they stood they could with ease survey the whole of the large hall. It was adorned with splendid carved pillars; a number of colored lamps replaced the light of day. In the middle of the hall stood a round table covered with a variety of dishes, and about the table was a divan on which eight men were seated. In one of these bad men the two recognized the peddler who had sold the magic powder. The man next him begged him to relate all his latest doings, and among them he told the story of the caliph and his vizier.
"And what kind of word did you give them?" asked another old sorcerer.
"A very difficult Latin word. It is 'Mutabor.' "