At the time of the mid-day meal the woman returned to the house with her friend. "Good," said she, "I'll bring dinner," and she went to get the pot off the fire, but saw that it had been tampered with. To herself she said: "There now, do you see, after all the trouble I've taken I've not secured my object." However, as there was nothing else to be done, she poured ghee over the dish and brought it and set it before her friend. But when he examined it and found that it contained neither the head nor the liver of the bird, he flew into a passion, and got up, saying: "You bring me only the remains of a dish of which some one else has already eaten."
"It wasn't my fault," said the woman; "the children must have come back from the akhund's and eaten a little of it. Now I'll cook another fowl for you." "But what I want isn't here," replied the man. - "What is that?" - "The bird's head and its liver."
Now the boys came up behind the door and they heard their mother talking with a strange man, and she was begging his pardon and saying: "My children ate some of the ash. I'll cook another for you," but the man wouldn't be appeased. Then the elder brother said: "Brother, this is some companion of our mother's. Don't interfere, and let me see what they say." So they stood still and listened, and the man said: "If you really wish that we should be friends, you and I, then bring your children to the house. I will give them a drug that will make them unconscious, and I will then recover the head and liver of this fowl. After that I will restore the boys to consciousness again." "On my eyes be it!" said the mother. "I will do exactly as you tell me. Sit down, they will be coming in presently."
But the elder brother heard all this and said: "Brother, let us fly. If we don't, they will kill us." So they fled for their lives. Meanwhile the man sat on waiting, till at last when he saw they weren't coming he got up and went away. The woman kept watching the road for the boys, but when they hadn't come by supper-time she realised that they must have been listening and have taken fright and run away. Then she scratched her face and cut off her hair and cried out: "My sons are lost! Do you see what misfortune has fallen on my head? The old woman deceived me. I killed the bird, and my sons have run away for good. I fell in love with a strange man, and I haven't even got what I wanted!"
Now old Father Thorn - gatherer came back from wherever he had been to, and saw his wife mourning with her hair cut off and her face all scratched. "Woman," said he, "whatever has happened to you?" "Ashes on my head!" she replied, "my sons have disappeared!" So the Thorn-cutter fell to weeping too, and from grief for their sons both of them became blind.
Now hear what befell the boys. They travelled along together for several days, and every night there was a hundred tumans under the pillow of Mahmad, who had the bird's liver round his neck. At last they came to where the road divided into two, and they saw inscribed on a stone that if any two persons both went along one road they would die, and that one of them must take the left-hand road and one the right. The one who went to the left, after many hardships, would attain his desire, and the one who went to the right would likewise secure his, but more easily. They sat down and threw their arms round each other's neck and wept. Then said Ahmad: "O Brother, what good will come crying? Let us get up and be off." So they rose up, and Ahmad held to the right and Mahmad to the left, and they started off on their different ways.
Wherever Mahmad spent the night a hundred tumans turned up under his pillow. As he approached a certain village a Castle came into view, and as he went along the road he saw a number of people sitting in the midst of dust and ashes. He went up and inquired of them: "Why are you sitting like this?" "Friend," said they, "we are all sons of a merchant and khan, and we owned great possessions. Now there is a Lady who lives in this Castle, and she takes a hundred tumans a night to let a man spend the night in it. In this way we have spent every penny we had, and now we haven't the face to go back to our own country, nor have we anything more to give the woman. So we have no choice but to stay here."
"This is the very place for me," thought Mahmad to himself, and he went up to the Castle and said: "I have a hundred tumans, may I stay for the night?' "By all means," said they, and he paid the money and stayed. Now the Lady of the Castle had several slave-girls who were like herself; no one could escape from them. One of these slave-girls came and sat down with him, and they kept each other company till morning.
When it was daylight the slave-girl said: "Be off with you," but he said: "I am going to stay here to-night too." "Very well," said she. He stayed for several nights, and the woman said to herself: "Where is he getting all this money from? We saw that he came here without any animals or property, and now he gives us a hundred tumans every day. I must watch what he does." One day she watched, and saw that he put his hand under his head and brought out a hundred tumans and handed it over. Then she understood that he must have the liver of the mountain bird as a talisman, and she came and told her mistress.
Thereupon the Lady of the Castle came and gave him some old wine with a drug in it which threw him into a deep sleep. When he was unconscious she took the amulet from him and hung it round her own neck. Then she beat him on the back of the head and turned him out, and she sent a man with him saying: "Take him and turn him out, and then come back yourself." The man did so, and Mahmad went his way.
Night overtook him, and he lay down and slept just where he was, and when morning came he found there was no hundred tumans under his pillow nor anything else, and his amulet was gone. He pursued his way over a wide desert till he came to a flat open space, where he found three men sitting together quarrelling. He went up to them and said: "Friends, who are you, and why are you quarrelling?" "We are the sons of Malik Ahmad, merchant of Bidabad," said they, "and we have come into our father's estate, for he himself has died. Now all the estate has been dissipated and only these three articles remain to us, and we cannot agree how to divide them peaceably." Then they asked: "Who are you?"