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The Caliph Stork
by [?]

“Do you no longer recognize the owl?” she asked.

It really was the Princess. The Caliph was so enraptured by her beauty and grace, that he declared his transformation into a stork had been the best piece of fortune that had ever happened to him.

The three now set out together on their journey to Bagdad. The Caliph found in his clothes not only the box of magic powder, but his purse as well. He therefore bought in the next village whatever was necessary for their journey, and thus they soon reached the gates of Bagdad. There the arrival of the Caliph caused the greatest surprise. He had long since been given up for dead, and the joy of the people at getting back their beloved ruler knew no bounds. All the more was their wrath inflamed against the traitor Mizra. They rushed to the palace, and took the old sorcerer and his son prisoners.

The Caliph sent the old man to the ruins, and had him hanged in the very room that had been occupied by the Princess when an owl. But to the son, who understood nothing of the art of his father, he gave the choice of death or a pinch of the powder. As the prisoner chose the latter, the Grand Vizier offered him the box. A generous pinch, followed by the magic word of the Caliph, and he became a stork. The Caliph secured him in an iron cage, which was placed in the garden.

Long and happily Caliph Chasid lived with his wife, the Princess. His pleasantest hours were always those of the afternoon, when the Grand Vizier visited him. Then they often spoke of their adventures as storks, and whenever the Caliph felt unusually merry, he began to imitate the Grand Vizier as he appeared when a stork. He stalked up and down the room, set up a great clapping, waved his arms as though they were wings, and showed how the Vizier had turned to the East and called, ” MuMuMu –.” All this was great sport for the Caliph’s wife and children. But sometimes, when the Caliph clapped too long and cried, ” MuMuMu –” too often, the Vizier was wont to silence him with the threat that if he did not stop he would tell the Princess what their conversation had been before the door of her room in the ruin.

As Selim Baruch finished his story, the merchants testified their approval thereof most heartily.

“Of a truth, the afternoon has passed without our knowing it,” said one of them, lifting the curtain of the tent. “The evening wind blows fresh; we could put behind us a good stretch of road.”

As his companions were of the same opinion, the tents were folded, and the caravan started on its way in the same order in which it had entered camp.

They journeyed nearly all night, as the days were hot and sultry, while the night was cool and starlit. They came at last to a convenient camping place, pitched their tents and lay down to rest. But the merchants did not neglect to provide for the stranger as bountifully as if he had been their most honored guest. One gave him a cushion, another blankets, a third gave him slaves; in short, he was as well provided for as though he had been at home.

The heated hours of the day were already upon them when they arose from their slumbers, and they therefore unanimously decided to remain where they were until evening.

When night approached, the movement of the caravan was resumed, and its progress was continued until the following noon without impediment. After they had halted and refreshed themselves, Selim Baruch said to Muley, the youngest of the merchants–

“Although you are the youngest of us all, you are always cheerful, and could certainly give us a merry tale. Serve it up, so that we may refresh ourselves after the heat of the day.”

“I should be glad to relate something that would amuse you,” answered Muley. “Still, modesty in all things is becoming to youth; therefore, my older traveling companions should take precedence. Zaleukos is always so serious and silent, ought he not to tell us what it is that clouds his life? Perhaps we should be able to lighten his sorrow, if such he experiences; for we would willingly treat him as a brother, even though he is not of our religion.”

The person thus addressed was a Greek merchant–a man in middle age, fine looking and of vigorous frame, but very grave. Although he was an unbeliever (that is, not a Musselman), he was much beloved by his fellow-travelers, as his whole conduct had won their esteem and confidence. He had but one hand, and some of his companions supposed that this loss was the cause of his grief.

Zaleukos replied to the confidential inquiries of Muley: “I am much honored by the interest you take in me, but have no grief–at least none that you, with even the best intentions, could dispel. Still, as Muley seems to lay so much stress on my sadness, I will tell you something that will perhaps account for my appearing sadder than other people. As you see, I have lost my left hand. It was not missing at my birth, but I was deprived of it in the darkest hours of my life. Whether my punishment was just–whether, under the circumstances, my features could be other than sad–you may judge for yourselves when you have heard the story of the Amputated Hand.”

(see story 3)