With that the wood-cutter took the three tablets, put them in his pocket, and the ghost went to the right and he went to the left, and neither of them thought any more of the old woman in the well. But let us first follow the ghost.
Scarcely had this son of a devil quitted the woodcutter than he stood in the Serai of the Padishah, and entered into the poor daughter of the Sultan. The poor girl immediately fell to the ground in great pain. "O my head! O my head!" she cried continually. They sent word to the Padishah, and he, hastening thither, found his daughter lying on the ground and groaning. Straightway he sent for leeches, wise men, drugs, and incense, but none of them assuaged her pain. They sent for them a second time, they sent for them a third time, but all their labour was in vain. At last they had ten doctors and ten wise men trying what they could do, and all the time the poor girl kept moaning: "My head, my head!"
"O my sweet child," groaned the Padishah, "if thy head aches, believe me my head, and my heart also, ache a thousand times as much to hear thee. What shall I do for thee? I know what I will do. I will go call the astrologers, perchance they will know more than I do." And with that he called together all the most famous astrologers in his kingdom. One of them had one plan, another had another, but not one of them could cure the complaint of the poor damsel.
But now let us see what became of the poor wood-cutter.
He lived on in the world without his wife, and gradually he forgot all about her, and about the ghost and the three wooden tablets, and the ghost's advice and promise. But one day, when he had no thought at all of these things, a herald from the city of the Padishah came to where he was with a firman1 in his hand, and read this out of it in a loud voice: "The damsel, the Sultan's daughter, is very sick. The leeches, the wise men, the astrologers, all have seen her, and not one of them can cure her complaint. Whoever is a master of mysteries, let him come forward and doctor her. If he be a Mussulman, and cure her, the Sultan's daughter now and my realm after my death shall be his reward; and if he be a Giaour1 and cure her, all the treasures in my realm shall be his."
1 An Imperial rescript.
The wood-cutter needed no more to remind him of the ghost, the three tablets, and his wife. He arose and went up to the herald. "By the mercy of Allah I will cure the Sultan's daughter, if she be still alive," said he. At these words the servant of the Padishah caught hold of the wood-cutter, and led him into the Serai.
Word was sent at once of his arrival to the Padishah, and in an instant everything was made ready for him to enter the sick chamber. There before him lay the poor damsel, and all she did was to cry continually: "My head, my head! "The wood-cutter brought forth the wooden tablets, moistened them, and scarcely had he spread them on the Sultan's daughter than immediately she became as well again as if she had never been ill. At this there was great joy and gladness in the Serai, and they gave the daughter of the Sultan to the wood-cutter; so the poor man became the son-in-law of the Padishah.
Now this Padishah had a brother who was also a Padishah, and his kingdom was the neighbouring kingdom. He also had a daughter, and it occurred to the ghost of the well to possess her likewise.
1 An unbeliever.
So she also began to be tormented in the same way, and nobody could find a cure for her complaint. They searched and searched for assistance high and low, till at last they heard how the daughter of the neighbouring Padishah had been cured of a like sickness. So that other Padishah sent many men into the neighbouring kingdom, and begged the first Padishah, for the love of Allah, to send thither his son-in-law to cure the other damsel also. If he cured her he was to have the damsel for his second wife.
So the Padishah sent his son-in-law that he might cure the damsel - 'twould be nothing to such a master of mysteries as he, they said. All that he could say was in vain, the poor fellow had to set out, and as soon as he arrived they led him at once into the sick-chamber. But now the ghost of the well had a word to say in the matter.
For that evil spirit was furious with his poor comrade. "Thou didst a good deed to me, it is true," began the ghost, "but thou canst not say that I remained thy debtor. I left for thy sake the beautiful daughter of the Sultan, and I chose out another for myself, and thou wouldst now take her from me also? Well, wait a while, and thou shalt see that for this deed of thine I will take them both away from thee."
At this the poor man was sore troubled.
"I did not come hither for the damsel," said he, "she is thy property, and, if such be thy desire, thou mayest take mine away also."
"Then what's thy errand here? " roared the ghost.
"Alas! 'tis my wife, the old woman of the well," sighed the former wood-cutter, "and I only left her in the well that I might be rid of her."
On hearing this the ghost was terribly frightened, and it was with a small voice that he now inquired whether by chance she had come to light again.
"Yes, indeed, she's outside," sighed the man, "wherever I may go I am saddled with her. I haven't the heart to free myself from her. Hark! she's at the door now, she'll be in the room in a moment."
The ghost needed no more. Forthwith he left the daughter of the Sultan, and the Serai, and the whole city, and the whole kingdom, so that not even the rumour of him remained. And not a child of man has ever seen him since.
But the daughter of the Sultan recovered instantly, and they gave her to the former wood-cutter, and he took her home as his second wife.