In the olden times, when there were sieves in straws and lies in everything, in the olden times when there was abundance, and men ate and drank the whole day and yet lay down hungry, in those olden, olden times there was once a Padishah whose days were joyless, for he had never a son to bless himself with.
One day he was in the path of pleasure with his Vizier, and when they had drunk their coffee and smoked their chibooks, they went out for a walk, and went on and on till they came to a great valley. Here they sat down to rest a while, and as they were looking about them to the right hand and to the left, the valley was suddenly shaken as if by an earthquake, a whip cracked, and a dervish, a green-robed, yellow-slippered, white-bearded dervish, suddenly stood before them. The Padishah and the Vizier were so frightened that they dared not budge; but when the dervish approached them and addressed them with the words, "Selamun aleykyum,"1 they took heart a bit, and replied courteously, "Ve aleykyum selam."2
"What is thy errand here, my lord Padishah?" asked the dervish.
"If thou dost know that I am a Padishah, thou dost also know my errand," replied the Padishah.
Then the dervish took from his bosom an apple, gave it to the Padishah, and said these words: "Give half of this to thy Sultana, and eat the other half thyself," and with these words he disappeared.
Then the Padishah went home, gave half the apple to his consort, and ate the other half himself, and in exactly nine months and ten days there was a little prince in the harem. The Padishah was beside himself for joy. He scattered sequins among the poor, restored to freedom his slaves, and the banquet he gave to his friends had neither beginning nor end.
Swiftly flies the time in fairy tales, and the child had reached his fourteenth summer while yet they fondled him. One day he said to his father: "My lord father Padishah, make me now a little marble palace, and let there be two springs under it, and let one of them run with honey, and the other with butter!" Dearly did the Padishah love his little son, because he was his only child, so he made him the marble palace with the springs inside it as his son desired. There then sat the King's son in the marble palace, and while he was looking at the springs that bubbled forth both butter and honey, he saw an old woman with a pitcher in her hand, and she would fain have filled it from the spring. Then the King's son caught up a stone and flung it at the old woman's pitcher, and broke it into pieces. The old woman said not a word, but she went away.
1 "Peace be unto you." 2 "Unto you be peace,"
But the next day she was there again with her pitcher, and again she made as if she would fill it, and a second time the King's son cast a stone at her and broke her pitcher. The old woman went away without speaking a word. She came on the third day also, and it fared with her pitcher then as on the first two days. Then the old woman spoke. "Oh, youth!" cried she, " 'tis the will of Allah that thou shouldst fall in love with the three Orange-peris," and with that she quitted him.
From thenceforth the heart of the King's son was consumed by a hidden fire. He began to grow pale and wither away. When the Padishah saw that his son was ill, he sent for the wise men and the leeches, but they could find no remedy for the disease. One day the King's son said to his father: "Oh, my dear little daddy Shah! these wise men of thine cannot cure me of my disease, and all their labours are in vain. I have fallen in love with the three Oranges, and never shall I be better till I find them."
"Oh, my dear little son!" groaned the Padishah, "thou art all that I have in the wide world: if thou dost leave me, in whom can I rejoice?" Then the Bang's son slowly withered away, and his days were as a heavy sleep; so his father saw that it would be better to let him go forth on his way and find, if so be he might, the three Oranges that were as the balsam of his soul. "Perchance too he may return again," thought the Padishah.
So the King's son arose one day and took with him things that were light to carry, but heavy in the scales of value, and pursued his way over mountains and valleys, rising up and lying down again for many days. At last in the midst of a vast plain, in front of the high-road, he came upon her Satanic Majesty the Mother of Devils, as huge as a minaret. One of her legs was on one mountain, and the other leg on another mountain; she was chewing gum (her mouth was full of it) so that you could hear her half-an-hour's journey off; her breath was a hurricane, and her arms were yards and yards long.
"Good-day, little mother!" cried the youth, and he embraced the broad waist of the Mother of Devils. "Good-day, little sonny!" she replied. "If thou hadst not spoken to me so politely, I should have gobbled thee up." Then she asked him whence he came and whither he was going.
"Alas! dear little mother," sighed the youth, "such a terrible misfortune has befallen me that I can neither tell thee nor answer thy question."
"Nay, come, out with it, my son," urged the Mother of Devils.
"Well then, my sweet little mother," cried the youth, and he sighed worse than before, " I have fallen violently in love with the three Oranges. If only I might find my way thither!"
"Hush!" cried the Mother of Devils, "it is not lawful to even think of that name, much less pronounce it. I and my sons are its guardians, yet even we don't know the way to it. Forty sons have I, and they go up and down the earth more than I do, perchance they may tell thee something of the matter." So when it began to grow dusk towards evening, ere yet the devil-sons had come home, the old woman gave the King's son a tap, and turned him into a pitcher of water. And she did it not a moment too soon, for immediately afterwards the forty sons of the Mother of Devils knocked at the door and cried: "Mother, we smell man's flesh!"