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The Ogress Of Silver Land
by [?]




In the second year of the reign of the renowned Caliph Lo there dwelt in SILVER LAND, adjoining his territory, a certain terrible ogress. She lived in the bowels of a dismal mountain, where she was in the habit of confining such unfortunate travellers as ventured within her domain. The country for miles around was sterile and barren. In some places it was covered with a white powder, which was called in the language of the country AL KA LI, and was supposed to be the pulverized bones of those who had perished miserably in her service.

In spite of this, every year, great numbers of young men devoted themselves to the service of the ogress, hoping to become her godsons, and to enjoy the good fortune which belonged to that privileged class. For these godsons had no work to perform, neither at the mountain nor elsewhere, but roamed about the world with credentials of their relationship in their pockets, which they called STOKH, which was stamped with the stamp and sealed with the seal of the ogress, and which enabled them at the end of each moon to draw large quantities of gold and silver from her treasury. And the wisest and most favored of those godsons were the Princes BADFELLAH and BULLEBOYE. They knew all the secrets of the ogress, and how to wheedle and coax her. They were also the favorites of SOOPAH INTENDENT, who was her Lord High Chamberlain and Prime Minister, and who dwelt in SILVER LAND.

One day, SOOPAH INTENDENT said to his servants, “What is that which travels the most surely, the most secretly, and the most swiftly?”

And they all answered as one man, “LIGHTNING, my lord, travels the most surely, the most swiftly, and the most secretly!”

Then said SOOPAH INTENDENT, “Let Lightning carry this message secretly, swiftly, and surely to my beloved friends the Princes BADFELLAH and BULLEBOYE, and tell them that their godmother is dying, and bid them seek some other godmother or sell their STOKH ere it becomes badjee,–worthless.”

“Bekhesm! On our heads be it!” answered the servants; and they ran to Lightning with the message, who flew with it to the City by the Sea, and delivered it, even at that moment, into the hands of the Princes BADFELLAH and BULLEBOYE.

Now the Prince BADFELLAH was a wicked young man; and when he had received this message he tore his beard and rent his garment and reviled his godmother, and his friend SOOPAH INTENDENT. But presently he arose, and dressed himself in his finest stuffs, and went forth into the bazaars and among the merchants, capering and dancing as he walked, and crying in a loud voice, “O, happy day! O, day worthy to be marked with a white stone!”

This he said cunningly, thinking the merchants and men of the bazaars would gather about him, which they presently did, and began to question him: “What news, O most worthy and serene Highness? Tell us, that we make merry too!”

Then replied the cunning prince, “Good news, O my brothers, for I have heard this day that my godmother in SILVER LAND is well.” The merchants, who were not aware of the substance of the real message, envied him greatly, and said one to another: “Surely our brother the Prince BADFELLAH is favored by Allah above all men;” and they were about to retire, when the prince checked them, saying: “Tarry for a moment. Here are my credentials, or STOKH. The same I will sell you for fifty thousand sequins, for I have to give a feast to-day, and need much gold. Who will give fifty thousand?” And he again fell to capering and dancing. But this time the merchants drew a little apart, and some of the oldest and wisest said: “What dirt is this which the prince would have us swallow? If his godmother were well, why should he sell his STOKH? Bismillah! The olives are old and the jar is broken!” When Prince BADFELLAH perceived them whispering, his countenance fell, and his knees smote against each other through fear; but, dissembling again, he said: “Well, so be it! Lo, I have much more than shall abide with me, for my days are many and my wants are few. Say forty thousand sequins for my STOKH and let me depart in Allah’s name. Who will give forty thousand sequins to become the godson of such a healthy mother?” And he again fell to capering and dancing, but not as gayly as before, for his heart was troubled. The merchants, however, only moved farther away. “Thirty thousand sequins,” cried Prince BADFELLAH; but even as he spoke they fled before his face, crying: “His godmother is dead. Lo, the jackals are defiling her grave. Mashalla! he has no godmother.” And they sought out PANIK, the swift-footed messenger, and bade him shout through the bazaars that the godmother of Prince BADFELLAH was dead. When he heard this, the prince fell upon his face, and rent his garments, and covered himself with the dust of the market-place. As he was sitting thus, a porter passed him with jars of wine on his shoulders, and the prince begged him to give him a jar, for he was exceeding thirsty and faint. But the porter said, “What will my lord give me first?” And the prince, in very bitterness of spirit, said, “Take this,” and handed him his STOKH, and so exchanged it for a jar of wine.