The King's son went on, and on, and on. He went a long way, and he went a short way, he went across mountains and through valleys. At last he came to a sandy desert, and there he bethought him of the oranges, and drawing one out, he cut it open. Scarcely had he cut into it when a damsel, lovely as a Peri, popped out of it before him; the moon when it is fourteen days old is not more dazzling. "For Allah's sake, give me a drop of water!" cried the damsel, and inasmuch as there was no trace of water anywhere, she vanished from the face of the earth. The King's son grieved right sorely, but there was no help for it, the thing was done.
Again he went on his way, and when he had gone a little further he thought to himself, "I may as well cut open one more orange." So he drew out the second orange, and scarcely had he cut into it than there popped down before him a still more lovely damsel, who begged piteously for water, but as the King's son had none to give her, she also vanished.
"Well, I'll take better care of the third," cried he, and continued his journey. He went on and on till he came to a large spring, drank out of it, and then thought to himself: "Well, now I'll cut open the third orange also." He drew it out and cut it, and immediately a damsel even lovelier than the other two stood before him. As soon as she called for water, he led her to the spring and gave her to drink, and the damsel did not disappear, but remained there as large as life.
Mother-naked was the damsel, and as he could not take her to town like that, he bade her climb up a large tree that stood beside the spring, while he went into the town to buy her raiment and a carriage.
While the King's son had gone away, a negro servant came to the spring to draw water, and saw the reflection of the damsel in the watery mirror. "Why, thou art something like a damsel," said she to herself, "and ever so much lovelier than thy mistress; so she ought to fetch water for me, not I for her." With that she broke the pitcher in two, went home, and when her mistress asked where the pitcher of water was, she replied: "I am much more beautiful than thou, so thou must fetch water for me, not I for thee." Her mistress took up a mirror, held it before her, and said: "Methinks thou must have taken leave of thy senses; look at this mirror! "The Moor looked into the mirror, and saw that she was as coal-black as ever. Without another word she took up the pitcher, went again to the spring, and seeing the damsel's face in the mirror, again fancied that it was hers.
"I'm right, after all," she cried; "I'm ever so much more beautiful than my mistress." So she broke the pitcher to pieces again, and went home. Again her mistress asked her why she had not drawn water. "Because I am ever so much more beautiful than thou, so thou must draw water for me," replied she.
"Thou art downright crazy," replied her mistress, drew out a mirror, and showed it to her; and when the Moor-girl saw her face in it, she took up another pitcher and went to the fountain for the third time.
The damsel's face again appeared in the water, but just as she was about to break the pitcher again, the damsel called to her from the tree: "Break not thy pitchers, 'tis my face thou dost see in the water, and thou wilt see thine own there also."
The Moor-girl looked up, and when she saw the wondrously beautiful shape of the damsel in the tree, she climbed up beside her and spake coaxing words to her: "Oh, my little golden damsel, thou wilt get the cramp from crouching there so long; come, rest thy head!" And with that she laid the damsel's head on her breast, felt in her bosom, drew out a needle, pricked the damsel with it in the skull, and in an instant the Orange-Damsel was changed into a bird, and pr-r-r-r-r! she was gone, leaving the Moor all alone in the tree.
Now when the King's son came back with his fine coach and beautiful raiment, looked up into the tree, and saw the black face, he asked the girl what had happened to her. "A nice question!" replied the Moor-girl. "Why, thou didst leave me here all day, and wentest away, so of course the sun has tanned me black." What could the poor King's son do? He made the black damsel sit in the coach, and took her straight home to his father's house.
In the palace of the Padishah they were all waiting, full of eagerness, to behold the Peri-Bride, and when they saw the Moorish damsel they said to the King's son: "However couldst thou lose thy heart to a black maid?"
"She is not a black maid," said the King's son. "I left her at the top of a tree, and she was blackened there by the rays of the sun. If only you let her rest a bit she'll soon grow white again." And with that he led her into her chamber, and waited for her to grow white again.
Now there was a beautiful garden in the palace of the King's son, and one day the Orange-Bird came flying on to a tree there, and called down to the gardener.
"What dost thou want with me?" asked the gardener.
"What is the King's son doing?" inquired the bird.
"He is doing no harm that I know of," replied the gardener.
"And what about his black bride?"
"Oh, she's there too, sitting with him as usual."
Then the little bird sang these words:
"She may sit by his side, But she shall not abide; For all her fair showing The thorns are a-growing. As I hop on this tree, It will wither 'neath me."
And with that it flew away.
The next day it came again, and inquired once more about the King's son and his black consort, and repeated what it said before. The third day it did in like manner, and as many trees as it hopped upon withered right away beneath it.
One day the King's son felt weary of his black bride, so he went out into the garden for a walk. Then his eye fell on the withered trees, and he called the gardener and said to him: "What is this, gardener? Why dost thou not take better care of thy trees? Dost thou not see that they are all withering away?" Then the gardener replied that it was of but little use for him to take care of the trees, for a few days ago a little bird had been there, and asked what the King's son and his black consort were doing, and had said that though she might be sitting there, she should not sit for ever, but that thorns would grow, and every tree it lit upon should wither.
The King's son commanded the gardener to smear the trees with bird-lime, and if the bird then lit upon it, to bring it to him. So the gardener smeared the trees with bird-lime, and when the bird came there next day he caught it, and brought it to the King's son, who put it in a cage. Now no sooner did the black woman look upon the bird than she knew at once that it was the damsel. So she pretended to be very ill, sent for the chief medicine-man, and by dint of rich gifts persuaded him to say to the King's son that his consort would never get well unless he fed her with such and such birds.
The King's son saw that his consort was very sick, he sent for the doctor, went with him to see the sick woman, and asked him how she was to be cured. The doctor said she could only be cured if they gave her such and such birds to eat. "Why, only this very day have I caught one of such birds," said the King's son; and they brought the bird, killed it, and fed the sick lady with the flesh thereof. In an instant the black damsel arose from her bed. But one of the bird's dazzling feathers fell accidentally to the ground and slipped between the planks, so that nobody noticed it.
Time went on, and the King's son was still waiting and waiting for his consort to turn white. Now there was an old woman in the palace who used to teach the dwellers in the harem to read and write. One day as she was going down-stairs she saw something gleaming between the planks of the floor, and going towards it, perceived that it was a bird's feather that sparkled like a diamond. She took it home and thrust it behind a rafter. The next day she went to the palace, and while she was away the bird's feather leaped down from the rafter, shivered a little, and the next moment turned into a most lovely damsel. She put the room tidy, cooked the meal, set everything in order, and then leaped back upon the rafter and became a feather again. When the old woman came home she was amazed at what she saw. She thought: "Somebody must have done all this," so she went up and down, backwards and forwards through the house, but nobody could she see.
Early next morning she again went to the palace, and the feather leaped down again in like manner, and did all the household work. When the old woman came home, she perceived the house all nice and clean, and everything in order. "I really must find out the secret of this," thought she, so next morning she made as if she were going away as usual, and left the door ajar, but went and hid herself in a corner. All at once she perceived that there was a damsel in the room, who tidied the room and cooked the meal, whereupon the old woman dashed out, seized hold of her, and asked her who she was and whence she came. Then the damsel told her her sad fate, and how she had been twice killed by the black woman, and had come thither in the shape of a feather.
"Distress thyself no more, my lass," said the old woman. "I'll put thy business to rights, and this very day, too." And with that she went straight to the King's son and invited him to come and see her that evening. The King's son was now so sick unto death of his black bride that he was glad of any excuse to escape from his own house, so the evening found him punctually at the old woman's. They sat down to supper, and when the coffee followed the meats, the damsel entered with the cups, and when the King's son saw her he was like to have fainted. "Nay, but, mother," said the King's son, when he had come to himself a little, "who is that damsel? "
" Thy wife," replied the old woman.
"How didst thou get that fair creature? "inquired the King's son. "Wilt thou not give her to me?"
"How can I give her to thee, seeing that she was thine own once upon a time," said the old woman; and with that the old woman took the damsel by the hand, led her to the King's son, and laid her on his breast. "Take better care of the Orange-Peri another time," said she.
The King's son now nearly fainted in real earnest, but it was from sheer joy. He took the damsel to his palace, put to death the black slave-girl, but held high festival with the Peri for forty days and forty nights. So they had the desire of their hearts, and may Allah satisfy your desires likewise.