Next day the youth set out on his journey. He prayed by the wayside well, opened all the gates he came to, and, looking neither to the right hand nor to the left, went on straight before him through the sooty darkness. All at once it began to grow a little lighter, and a large cypress wood appeared right in front of him. The leaves of the trees were of a burning green, and their drooping crowns hid snow-white tombs. Nay, but they were not tombs, but stones as big as men. Nay, but they were not stones at all, but men who had turned, who had stiffened, into stone. There was neither man, nor spirit, nor noise, nor breath of wind, and the youth froze with horror to his very marrow. Nevertheless he plucked up his courage and went on his way. He looked straight before him all the time, and his eyes were almost blinded by a dazzling light. Was it the sun he saw? No, it was the palace of the Queen of the Peris! Then he rallied all the strength that was left in him and shouted the name of the Queen of the Peris with all his might, and the words had not yet died away upon his lips when his whole body up to his knee-cap stiffened into stone. Again he shouted with all his might, and he turned to stone up to his navel. Then he shouted for the last time with all his might, and stiffened up to his throat first and then up to his head, till he became a tombstone like the rest.
But now the Queen of the Peris came into her garden, and she had silver sandals on her feet and a golden saucer in her hand, and she drew water from a diamond fountain, and when she watered the stone youth, life and motion came back to him.
"Well, thou youth thou," said the Queen of the Peris, "'tis not enough, then, that thou hast taken away my Peri branch and my magic mirror, but thou must needs, forsooth, venture hither a third time! Thou shalt share the fate of thy innocent buried mother, stone thou shalt become and stone shalt thou remain. What brought thee hither? - speak!"
"I came for thee," replied the youth very courageously.
"Well, as thou hast loved me so exceedingly, no harm shall befall thee, and we will go away together."
Then the youth begged her to have compassion on all the men she had turned to stone and give them back their lives again. So the Peri returned to her palace, packed up her baggage, which was small in weight but priceless in value, filled the little golden saucer with water, and sprinkled therewith all the stones and the whole multitude of the stones became men. They all took horse, and as they quitted the Peri realm, the earth trembled beneath them and the sky was shaken as if the seven worlds and the seven heavens were mingled together, so that the youth would have died of fright if the Queen of the Peris had not been by his side. Never once did they look behind them, but galloped on and on till they came to the house of the youth's sister, and such was their joy and gladness at seeing each other again that place could scarce be found for the Queen of the Peris. But now the youth was in no great hurry to go hunting as before, for he had changed hearts with the lovely Queen of the Peris, and she was his and he was hers.
Now when the Queen of the Peris had heard the history of the children and their parents, and the fate of their innocent mother, she said one morning to the youth: "Go a-hunting in the forest, and thou wilt meet the Padishah. The first thing he will do will be to invite thee to the palace, but beware lest thou accept his invitation." And so indeed it turned out. Scarcely had he taken a turn in the wood than the Padishah stood before him, and, one word leading to another, he invited the youth to his palace, but the youth would not go.
Early next morning the Peri awoke the children, clapped her hands together and called her Lala,1 and immediately a huge negro sprang up before them. So big was he that one of his lips touched the sky while the other swept the earth. "What dost thou command me, my Sultana?" cried the Lala.
"Fetch me hither my father's steed!" commanded the Peri.
The negro vanished like a hurricane, and, a moment afterwards, the steed stood before them, and the like of it was not to be found in the wide world.
The youth leaped upon the horse, and the splendid suite of the Padishah was already waiting for him at the roadside.
But - O Allah, forgive me! - I have forgotten the best of the story. The Peri charged the youth as he quitted her to take heed, while he was in the palace of the Padishah, to the neighing of his horse. At the first neighing he was to hasten back.
So the youth went to meet the Padishah on his diamond-bridled charger, and behind him came a gay and gallant retinue. He saluted the people on the right hand and on the left all the way to the palace, and there they welcomed him with a pomp the like of which was never known before. They ate and drank and made merry till the Padishah could scarce contain himself for joy, but then the steed neighed, the youth arose, and all their entreaties to him to stay could not turn him from his set purpose. He mounted his horse, invited the Padishah to be his guest on the following day, and returned home to the Peri and his own sister.
Meanwhile the Peri dug up the mother of the children, and so put her to rights again by her Peri arts that she became just as she was in the days of her first youth. But she spake not a word about the mother to the children, nor a word about the children to the mother. On the morning of the reception of guests she rose up early and commanded that on the spot where the little hut stood a palace should rise, the like of which eye hath never seen nor ear heard of, and there were as many precious stones heaped up there as were to be found in the whole kingdom. And then the garden that surrounded that palace! There were multitudes of flowers, each one lovelier than the other, and on every flower there was a singing bird, and every bird bad featbers aglow with light, so that one could only look at it all open-mouthed and cry: "Oh! oh!" And the palace itself was full of domestics, there were black harem slaves, and white captive youths, and dancers and singers, and players of stringed instruments - more than thou canst count, count thou never so much, and words cannot tell of the splendour of the retinue which went forth to greet the Padishah as a guest.
"These children are not of mortal birth!" thought the Padishah to himself, when he beheld all these marvels, "or if they are of mortal birth a Peri must have bad a hand in the matter."
They led the Padishah into the most splendid room of the palace, they brought him coffee and sherbet, and then the music spoke to him, and the singing birds - oh! a man could have listened to them for ever and ever! Then rich meats on rare and precious dishes were set before him, and then the dancers and the jugglers diverted him till the evening.
At eventide the servants came and bowed before the Padishah and said: "My lord! peace be with thee! They await thee in the harem!" So he entered the harem, and there he saw before him the golden-haired youth, with a beautiful half-moon shining on bis forehead, and his bride, the Peri-Queen, and his own consort, the Sultana, who had been buried in the earth, and by her side a golden-haired maiden with a star sparkling on her forehead. There stood the Padishah as if turned to stone, but his consort ran up to him and kissed the edge of his garment, and the Peri-Queen began to tell him the whole of her life and how everything had happened.
The Padishah was nigh to dying in the fulness of his joy. He could scarce believe his eyes, but he pressed his consort to his breast and embraced the two beauteous children, and the Queen of the Peris likewise. He forgave the sisters of the Sultana their offences, but the old witch was mercilessly destroyed by lingering tortures. But he and his consort and her son and the Queen of the Peris, and his daughter, and his daughter's bridegroom sat down to a great banquet and made merry. Forty days and forty nights they feasted, and the blessing of Allah was upon them.