234 STORY OF THE THREE SONS OF HALI
mother could clasp him in her arms Neangir had flung himself at her feet.
' Let the whole house rejoice with me,' continued the Bassa, ' and let my two sons Ibrahim and Hassan be told, that they may embrace their brother.'
' Alas! my lord ! ' said Zambac, ; do you forget that this is the hour when Hassan weeps ( on his hand, and Ibrahim gathers up his coral beads? '
' Let the command of the prophet be obeyed,' replied the Bassa; ' then we will wait till the evening.'
' Forgive me, noble lord,' interrupted Sumi, ; but what is this mystery? With the help of the Book of Spells perhaps I may be of some use in the matter.'
'Sumi,' answered the Bassa, 'I owe you already the happiness of my life; come with me then, and the sight of my unhappy sons will tell you of our trouble better than any words of mine.'
The Bassa rose from his divan and drew aside the hangings leading to a large hall, closely followed by Neangir and Sumi. There they saw two young men, one about seventeen, and the other nineteen years of age. The younger was seated before a table, his forehead resting on his right hand, which he was watering with his tears. He raised his head for a moment when his father entered, and Neangir and Sumi both saw that this hand was of ebony.
The other young man was occupied busily in collecting coral beads which were scattered all over the floor of the room, and as he picked them up he placed them on the same table where his brother was sitting. He had already gathered together ninety-eight beads, and thought they were all there, when they suddenly rolled off the table and he had to begin his work over again.
' Do you see,' whispered the Bassa, ' for three hours daily one collects these coral beads, and for the same space of time the other laments over his hand which has