Once upon a time there was a time when there was no one but God.
There was a father who had three daughters, and his wife who was their mother was dead. Every day he used to go off to work at his trade, and every evening he came home. One night on his return he said: "Girls, some evening you might make a little sherbatu for me. You can eat some yourselves, and put a little aside so that I can have it in the morning to dip my bread into at breakfast-time." The daughters took sugar, flour, butter, and spices and made the sherbatu and ate their own share, putting the rest into a bowl, which they placed on one side for their father's breakfast. In the middle of the night, when he was asleep, the two elder sisters got up and ate up the whole bowlful of sherbatu, and filled the bowl with dirt and rubbish and put it back in its place. In the morning when the father woke up and found what the daughters had done, he was very angry and wished them ill, but he said nothing about it.
A little later in the day he said: "Come, children, let's go for an excursion to-day." So they took some bread and a skin of water for their picnic, and went far, far out into the desert. After some time they came to the ruins of an old house. "Come here and sit down and rest a little," said the father. "I'll just go and wash my hands and be back presently." He went out and hung the skin of water up behind the wall, and made a hole in it and went off about his own business.
The daughters waited and waited, but there was no sign of his coming back. However, as long as they heard the water splashing out of the skin they thought he was washing his hands and didn't worry about him. But at last, when the skin ran dry, the splashing stopped, and they began to get frightened and called out: "Father Splash-splash, when are you coming back? Why aren't you coming, Father Splash-splash?" But no answer came, and when they ran out they saw that their father wasn't there nor any one else.
The three sisters took each other's hands and wandered out into the desert. Now it happened that the King's Son was out hunting, and he chanced to pass that way and saw the three maidens wandering about hand in hand, apparently lost in the desert. "Who are you?" asked he. "We are the daughters of Father Splash-splash," they replied.
Thereupon he turned to his servants and said: "Put these maidens on horseback and let us take them home." So he took them home, and he saw that the youngest was the fairest of them all. He married her, therefore, and said to the two elder ones: "You will stay here and serve your sister. Attend properly to your work and don't go off anywhere else."
So he took the youngest sister to wife, but the others were very jealous, and were always on the look-out to do her an injury. Now after some time the young wife was ill and in bed, and the evil sisters went and found the nurse who was attending her and said: "We will give you anything you like if you will find a pair of puppy dogs and bring them to us. But don't say a word about it to any one."
When they got the two puppies they hid them safely for the moment. After a time two lovely children were born to the youngest sister - a son with a tuft of golden hair and a daughter with a face as beautiful as the moon. Then the wicked sisters stole away the beautiful babies and put the two puppy dogs in their place, and the babies they put in a box and fastened down the lid and threw it into the water.
When the news was brought to, the King's Son that instead of a baby two puppy dogs had been born to him, he gave orders: "Take this woman to the cross-roads and build her up into a lime pillar, and let every one who passes by throw a stone at her."
Now a certain fuller went down that day to a stream of water to do his fulling, and he saw the water bringing down a box. He drew it in and lifted the lid, and found inside a moon-faced baby girl and a golden-tufted baby boy. He took them out and went and got hold of a foster-mother for them, and brought them up, and by and by, when they were big enough, he sent them both to a mulla to learn to read and write.
Each morning as they went to the mulla they used to notice that every one who passed the cross-roads took up a stone and threw it at the woman in the pillar. One day as they came out they picked a rose-leaf and threw it at the woman instead of a stone. When the two little children hit her with the rose-leaves she started crying so bitterly that a crowd collected round her. "Why is this?" they asked. "When people throw stones at you, you make no sound, but when these two children throw rose-leaves you begin to cry!" "Ah," said she, "from other people I expect no kindness, but these are my own two babies," for her mother's love made her recognise her own children.
The news was brought to the King's Son that such and such a strange thing had happened to the fuller's children. He sent for the good man and said: "Where did your two children come from?" "On such and such a day," said he, "in such and such a month, in a certain year, I was working at my fulling beside the stream there, and I saw the water bringing a box down towards me. I pulled it in to me, opened it, and found inside two lovely babies, so I got a foster-mother for them, and have brought them up until this day. And as soon as they were big enough I sent them to the mulla, and now this has happened."
The King's Son said: "Go and fetch the nurse who was with my wife." They brought in the nurse. "What children were born to me and my wife?" asked the Prince. "If you tell the truth I shall give you a reward, and if you tell a lie I shall cut off your head." "May it please your Highness," said she, "there was born a baby-boy with a golden tuft and a baby-girl with a moon-face. But your wife's two sisters came and put the babies into a box and threw it into the water, and they put a pair of puppies in the babies' place and said the puppy-dogs were hers."
Thereupon the Prince sent for the wicked sisters. When they came he asked: "What is the proper punishment for a woman who does evil?" Now they thought he was still angry with their sister and wanted to punish her further, and they said: "You should take two vicious dogs and put one into each leg of her trousers, and tie her to the tail of a wild horse and drive it out into the desert." Then the King's Son sent for four vicious dogs and did to the wicked sisters even as they had said, and mounted one of them on a wild horse and tied the second to the tail of a wild horse, and drove them out into the desert and said:
"Evil overtake the evildoer!"
Then he sent and bade them release his wife from the pillar of lime, and take her to the baths and then bring her back in honour to his house, and she became his wife and he became her husband. And he took the children back from the fuller, and they all sat down to live their lives together.
And now my story has come to an end, but the sparrow never got home.