THE ENCHANTED HEAD 213
some time he sent for the old woman, who was expecting the summons.
' The garden is wonderful, and the palace the finest in the world,' said he, ' so fine, that my servants would cut but a sorry figure in it. Let your son fill it with forty slaves whose beauty shall be unequalled, all exactly like each other, and of the same height.'
This time the king thought he had invented something totally impossible, and was quite pleased with himself for his cleverness.
Thirty-nine days passed, and at midnight on the night of the last the old woman was standing on the bridge.
' Bekir ! Bekir ! Bekir !' cried she. And a negro appeared, and inquired what she wanted.
' The head, your master, bids you find forty slaves of unequalled beauty, and of the same height, and place them in the sultan's palace on the other side of the garden.'
And when, on the morning of the fortieth day, the sultan went to the blue palace, and was received by the forty slaves, he nearly lost his wits from surprise.
I will assuredly give my daughter to the old woman's son,' thought he. ' If I were to search all the world through I could never find a more powerful son-in-law.'
And when the old woman entered his presence he informed her that he was ready to fulfil his promise, and she was to bid her son appear at the palace without delay.
This command did not at all please the old woman, though, of course, she made no objections to the sultan.
'All has gone well so far,' she grumbled, when she told her story to the head, ' but what do you suppose the sultan will say, when he sees his daughter's husband ?'
' Never mind what he says ! Put me on a silver dish and carry me to the palace.'
So it was done, though the old woman's heart beat as she laid down the dish with the head upon it.