Suddenly the door of the palace was opened, and the garden was so flooded with light that the eyes of the youth were dazzled even to blindness. It was the World's most beauteous Damsel who had appeared in the door of the palace, and the great light was the rosiness of her two radiant cheeks. She approached the prince and spoke to him, but scarcely did the youth perceive her than he fainted away before her eyes. When he came to himself again they brought him into the damsel's palace, and there he rejoiced exceedingly in the World's most beauteous Damsel, for her face was as the face of a Houri, and her presence was as a vision of Peris.

The World's most Beauteous Damsel.

The World's most Beauteous Damsel. - p. 159.

"Oh, prince!" began the damsel, "thou that art the son of Shah Suleiman, canst aid me in my deep distress. In the vast garden of the Demon of Autumn there is a bunch of singing-pomegranates: if thou canst get them for me I will be thine for ever and ever."

Then the youth gave her his hand upon it, the hand of loyal friendship, and departed far far away. He went on and on without stopping, he went on, and for months and months he crossed deserts where man had never trod, and mountains over which there was no path. "Oh, my Creator," he sighed, "wilt thou not show me the right way?" and he rose up again each morning from the place where he had sunk down exhausted the night before, and so he went on and on from day to day till the path led him right down to the roots of the mountains. There it seemed to him as if it were the Day of Judgment. Such a noise, such a hubbub, such a hurly-burly of sounds arose that all the hills and rocks around him trembled. The youth knew not whether it was friend or foe, man or spirit, and as he went on further, trembling with fear, the noise grew louder and the dust rose up round about him like smoke. He knew not where he was going, but he might have known from what he heard that the smaller garden of the Demon of Autumn was now but a six-months' journey off, and all this great hubbub and clamour was the talisman of the gate of the garden.

And now he drew still nearer and could see the gate of the smaller garden, and could hear the roaring of the talismans in the gate, and could perceive the guardian of the gate also. Then he went up to him and told him of his trouble. "But art thou not afraid of this great commotion?" asked the guardian of the gate. "Is it not because of thee that all the talismans are so impatient? even I am afraid thereat!"

But the youth did nothing but inquire continually about the cluster of singing-pomegranates.

"'Tis a hard task to reach that," said the guardian, "yet if thou art not afraid, perhaps thou mayest get it after all. Three-months' journey from hence thou wilt come to such another place of talismans, there also there is a garden, and the guardian of that garden is my own mother. But whatever thou dost, take care not to draw nigh to her, nor let her draw nigh to thee. Give her my salaams, but tell her nothing of thy trouble unless she ask thee."

So the youth went on towards the second garden, and after a three-months' journey such a monstrous din and racket arose around him as to make the former noise seem nothing. This was the greater garden of the Demon of Autumn, and the great din proceeded from the talismans of the garden. The youth lay down beside a rock, and when he had waited a little he saw something like a man approaching him, but as it came nearer he perceived that it was an old woman, a little beldame of thrice thirty winters. The hairs of her head were as white as snow, red circles were round her eyes, her eyebrows were like pointed darts, the fire of hell was in her eyes, her nails were two ells long, her teeth were like faggots, her two lips had only one jaw, she shuffled along leaning on a stick, drew in her breath through her nose, and coughed and sneezed at every step she took. "Oh-oh! oh-oh!" she groaned, shuffling painfully along in her large slippers, till it seemed as if she would never be able to reach the new-comer. This was the mother of the guardian of the lesser garden, and she herself was the guardian of the larger one.

At last she got up to the youth, and asked him what he was doing in those parts? The prince gave her the compliments of her son. "Ah, the vagabond!" said'the old woman, "where didst thou meet with him? That wicked lad of mine knew that I would have compassion on thee, so he sent thee hither. Very well, let us make an end of thee." And with that she seized hold of him, and cried: "Hi, Earless!" and something came running up to him, and before he knew where he was, the youth found himself seated on its back. He looked down upon it and saw beneath him a creature like a shrunken huddled toad, that had neither eyes nor ears. This was Eariess, and away it went with him. When he first saw it, it was as small as a worm, but the moment he was on its back it took such leaps that every three of them covered as much space as a vast ocean. Suddenly Earless stopped short and said to him: "Whatever thou mayest see, whatever thou mayest hear, take care not to speak, or it will be all up with thee," and with that it vanished.

There in the rippling water in front of the prince, like a dream-shape, lay a large garden. This garden had neither beginning nor end, and within it were such trees and flowers and sweet fruit as the eye of man hath never seen. Whithersoever one turned nothing was to be heard but the rustling of soft wings and the songs of nightingales, so that the whole atmosphere of that garden seemed to be an eternal song. The youth looked all about him, his reason died away within him, he entered the garden. But then he heard quite near to him such a woeful wailing that his heart was like to break, and the thought of the cluster of pomegranates occurred to his mind. His eyes sought for them in every direction but in vain, till he came to the centre of the garden, where was a fountain and a little palace made of flowers, and the pomegranates hung down from the flowery palace like so many shining lamps. The youth plucked a branch, but no sooner had he done so than there was a horrible cry, and a warning voice exclaimed -

A son of man of us hath ta'en, We by a son of man are slain!"

The youth scarce had time to escape from the garden. "Hasten! fly!" cried Earless, who was waiting again at the gate. The youth jumped on its back, and in a couple of leaps they were beyond the ocean. Then only did the youth think of looking at the cluster of pomegranates. There were fifty pomegranates on it, and each one had a different voice, and each voice had a different song - it was just as if all the music in the wide world was gathered together in one place. By this time they had reached the old grandmother, the old old beldame of thrice thirty winters.

"Guard well thy pomegranate cluster," said the old woman, "never leave it out of thy sight. If on the first night of thy wedding thou and thy bride are able to listen to their music all night without going to sleep once, these pomegranates will love thee, and after that thou wilt have nothing more to fear, for they will deliver thee from every ill." Then they went from the old mother to the son; he also bade them take to heart his mother's words, and then the youth went on his way to his sole-beloved, the World's most beauteous Damsel.

The girl was awaiting him with the greatest impatience, for she also dearly loved the prince, and her days were passed in anxiety lest some mischief should befall the youth. All at once she heard the sound of music, the fifty pomegranates were singing fifty different songs with fifty different voices, and she opened her heart to the beautiful music. The damsel rushed forth to meet the youth, and at their joyous embrace the pomegranates rang out with a melody so sweet that the like of it is not to be found in this world, but only in Allah's world beyond the grave. Forty days and forty nights did the wedding-feast last, and on the fortieth day the King's son went in unto his bride, and they lay down and listened to the pomegranates. Then when the day was born again they arose, and the pomegranate cluster rejoiced again in their love, and so they went on their way to the prince's own kingdom. There all the feasting began again, and in his joy the old Padishah resigned his kingdom to his son, the Padishah of the cluster of Pomegranates.