Very quietly she slipped two fingers into her pocket and extracted the ring.
Then she said: "O Your Majesty King Suleman, take us and the castle and the man who is in love away to his town!" Forthwith they found themselves there. Then the King's Son presented himself to Malik Ibrahim's wife and said: "Now you belong to me." "Very good," said she, "but there's a condition." - "What's that?" - "It is the custom in our country to mourn for forty days. Now after forty days I will do exactly what you want, and I shall be your property, but if you try to do otherwise than as I have told you, then I shall kill myself. Now you may do as you please."
"I will go hunting till the forty days come to an end," said he.
Now listen to a few words about Malik Ibrahim. When he came back from hunting he saw that there was no castle nor anything else. Then he remembered the advice he had bought. "Good," said he, "now see what I've gone and done! I allowed that outside woman into my house." Then he set out across the open desert and came to the side of a lake. He took his seat in a boat and crossed over and went on till he gradually arrived in the outskirts of a town, and in it he saw and recognised his gold and silver castle.
The gate, however, was closed and guarded by watchmen and doorkeepers, for the King's Son had gone off to hunt, and had given orders that no one was to be allowed to approach the castle till he returned in forty days from his hunting expedition. Now the old woman kept constantly coming in, and had become the confidential companion of Malik Ibrahim's wife in her private apartments. The poor girl kept weeping day and night, and the old woman sought to comfort her. "O old woman," said she, "you try to comfort me because you have taken all the happiness out of my life."
Now listen to a couple of words about the cat, the hound, and the pigeon. They said among themselves: "Our master paid three hundred tumans and bought us that we might be of service to him in time of difficulty. If we are not of use to him to-day, when shall we be?" Thereupon the pigeon flew off and the hound and the cat started out along the road. They went on walking till they came to the edge of the water; there the pigeon said: "I'll fly on," and the cat and the dog remained behind, but the dog said: "Come, get up on my back and let us go on too." The cat mounted on his back, and so they crossed over to the other side, while the pigeon flew over.
When they had gone on some leagues the pigeon saw the gold and silver castle glittering in the distance. "O brothers," he cried, "I have sighted the castle." They were filled with delight, and continued on their way. When they arrived near the castle the pigeon flew up and lighted on the top of it, and the cat and the hound entered by a water-channel. The lady looked round and saw them and was greatly delighted. "How ever have they come here?" said she to herself, and she showed them every sort of care and attention, till a day or so later they said: "Come, let us go and find our master."
They went and found him, and he wrote a letter and tied it round the cat's neck. He wrote: "I have come, and have been here some days. What can I do?" "God is kind," said he to himself, "He will provide a way."
Thirty-nine days had passed and the next day would be the last of the forty days, and on the morrow his wife and the King's Son were to be married. The King's Son arrived back from his hunting, and they made the preparations for the wedding, and it was arranged that they should take the lady that night to the women's quarters. Now Malik Ibrahim was there all the time, but he was afraid to say anything, for if he were to show himself they would kill him.
Then the cat went off and caught the King of the Mice and ordered him to get the ring, saying: "I require from you the ring which is in the old woman's pocket." The mice went off and opened and turned out every little bundle of odds and ends that the miserable old woman possessed, until at last one thin little mouse found the ring. He carried it off and brought it to the cat, saying: "I have found the ring."
The cat was much pleased, and went and put it into the hand of Malik Ibrahim's wife. She was sitting in deep grief, saying: "O God, do Thou provide a means!" when she noticed that the cat had come and was scratching her hand. At first she was annoyed, but then she said: "Perhaps she has some purpose," so she caught her paw and the cat placed the ring in her hand. In great joy she got up and dressed herself in bright-coloured clothes and went to the bath.
Meanwhile the old woman went off and brought the news to the King's Son, saying: "I have brought her into a good temper. I have made her very ardent, and you may be quite happy in your mind about her."
"How ever have they come here?" 281
When the sun was just setting Malik Ibrahim's wife wrote him a letter, saying: "This is how the matter stands. Come now, and wait in some corner, and enter the castle under cover of darkness. The cat will come and let you know." When he had received the letter, Malik Ibrahim and the cat came along together and took their stand in a corner in the dark, for the women were passing backwards and forwards, and no men were allowed to enter the castle.
In the meantime the King's Son and the old woman had forgathered. "Old woman," said he. - "Yes." - "Arrange for privacy, I have something to do now." She turned out every one she could see, but said to him: "You yourself may stay," and she brought him to the women's quarters.
Now Malik Ibrahim was saying to himself: "My wife is fooling me, she wishes I should see her disloyalty with my own eyes, and in reality it is the King's Son she is going to receive. When once he comes the matter will be past praying for. What good will I get out of it all?" Presently the King's Son came into her presence and sat down. The wife said: "Sit down till I say my prayers. The old woman needn't go away; she is entirely to be trusted." "Get on, then," said he, "and say your prayers," but she went out to her husband's hiding-place and said: "How are you?" "I'm dead," said he, "unless you bring me to life again."
"Our hope is in God. Be quite easy in your mind," said his wife, and they performed their ablutions together, and sat down together in the dark and said their prayers. Then she said: "O Your Majesty King Suleman, take us and the castle and the King's Son and the old woman and the pigeon and the hound and the cat, and bring us back to my own place!" Immediately they found themselves at her own home, and they sat down in a corner and slept till morning.
When they woke up they found that the King's Son and the old woman were missing. They had started out with the intention of making their way back to his country, and they wandered about looking for it. When day broke they found, however, that they had not got back to his country, but were still in the same place, and they saw Malik Ibrahim and his wife coming along hand in hand.
Then Malik Ibrahim sent for the executioner and had the old woman caught and cut in two lengthways, and one half he had hung up at one gateway and the other half at the other. Then he came to the King's Son and said: "You iniquitous villain, what evil did I ever do to you? There are plenty of women in the world, and God allots one to every man. There is no need to take any by force. One woman is as good as another; some one or other will fall in love with you, take her away and marry her. One would think there were no women in your own country! Good or bad, you would have got whatever was appointed for you by destiny."
Then he gave orders, and they struck off the young man's head, and he arrived straight in Hell.
"I bought three hundred tumans' worth of advice," said Malik Ibrahim, "and if I had not told my secret and let the outside woman into my house I should not have suffered these misfortunes. And if it had not been for the pigeon, the hound, and the cat I should not have recovered my wife and caught the culprits."
After this Malik Ibrahim and his wife settled down to live together in peace.