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The Caliph Stork
by [?]

“That was sport!” exclaimed he, “that money could not buy. It’s too bad that the stupid creatures were frightened away by our laughter, or they would certainly have tried to sing.”

Just here the Vizier remembered that laughing during the transformation was forbidden them. He communicated his anxiety to the Caliph.

“Zounds! By the Cities of the Prophet, that would be a bad joke if I were compelled to remain a stork! Try and think of that stupid word, Mansor! For the life of me, I can’t recall it!”

“We must bow three times towards the East, calling: MuMuMu.”

They turned towards the East, and bowed away so zealously that their bills nearly ploughed up the ground. But, O Horror! the magic word had escaped them; and no matter how often the Caliph bowed, or how earnestly his Vizier called out– MuMu, their memory failed them; and the poor Chasid and his Vizier remained storks.


Sadly the enchanted ones wandered through the fields, without the slightest idea of what course they had better pursue in their present plight. They could neither get rid of their feathers, nor could they return to the town with any hope of recognition; for who would believe a stork, were he to proclaim himself Caliph? or, even believing the story, would the citizens of Bagdad be willing to have a stork for their Caliph? So they stole about for several days, supporting themselves very poorly on fruits, which, on account of their long bills, they could eat only with great difficulty. For lizards and frogs they had no appetite, fearing lest such tit-bits might disagree with their stomachs. The only consolation left them in their wretchedness was the power of flight; and they often flew to the roofs of Bagdad, that they might see what occurred there. For the first day or two, they noticed great excitement in the streets, followed by sadness. But about the fourth day after their enchantment, while they were resting on the roof of the Caliph’s palace, they observed down in the street a brilliant procession. Trumpets and fifes sounded. A man in a gold-embroidered scarlet coat sat upon a richly caparisoned steed, surrounded by a gay retinue. Half Bagdad followed him, and all shouted:

“Hail Mizra! Ruler of Bagdad!”

The two storks perched on the palace roof, exchanged a glance, and Caliph Chasid said–

“Do you perceive now the meaning of my enchantment, Grand Vizier? This Mizra is the son of my deadly enemy, who, in an evil hour, swore to revenge himself on me. But still I will not give up all hope. Come with me, thou faithful companion of my misfortune, we will make a pilgrimage to the grave of the Prophet. Perhaps in that sacred place the spell will be removed.”

They rose from the palace roof and flew in the direction of Medina. But so little practice had the two storks had in flying, that it fared hard with them.

“Oh, Sire!” groaned the Grand Vizier, after a few hours’ flight, “with your permission I shall have to stop. You fly much too fast! And it is now evening, and we should do well to look out for a place on which to alight for the night.”

Chasid harkened to the request of his follower, and, perceiving a ruin that promised to afford a shelter, they flew down to it. The place they had selected for the night bore the appearance of having once been a castle. Beautiful columns rose out of the ruins, while several rooms still in a fair state of preservation, testified to the former splendor of the building. Chasid and his companion strolled through the passages, seeking some dry sheltered spot, when suddenly the stork Mansor stopped.

“Sire,” whispered he softly, “I wish it were not so unbecoming in a Grand Vizier, and even more in a stork, to fear ghosts! My courage is fast failing me, for near here there was a distinct sound of sighing and groaning!”