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The Nightingale, Story From Asia - Once there was a fat old merchant whose father died and left him much money. He also owned many shops in which he sold expensive rugs, fine silks and jewels.

The old man and his wife had no children although they prayed each day for a son. “We have everything we want. I wish we had a son,” said the merchant to his wife.

Each month he travelled to cities far from his home. He bought carpets from Persia, silk from China and satin coats from Turkey with which he filled his shops. People came from distant lands to buy from him for the merchant was known for his good taste and honesty.

On each journey he always bought something for his wife. One day, he brought her a nightingale in a large, silver cage. It was a magnificent cage. The roof was made of silver-plate and the floor of the cage was covered with gold. “This is for you, Wife,” he said.

There was nothing that was too good for the bird. A special servant fed it twice a day, bringing the bird seeds in a mother-of-pearl shell. The cage was kept spotless. The nightingale sang all day. It had not a care in the world.

“Why, its life in my house is better than that of my servants from India,” said the merchant to his wife one day.

“It's true. The bird is well cared for and you can see how happy it is by the way it sings,” said his wife, smiling.

The nightingale overheard them talking and thought sadly to himself. “Nothing would make me happier than to be free.”

But when the merchant asked the bird if it was happy living in his home, the nightingale replied, “Master, you are theworld's most generous man. How could I not be happy in such a home?” This made the merchant happy for the nightingale had taken the place of the son he had never had.

One day the merchant announced that he had to go on a long journey overseas. “I've heard that there are rare gems there. I wish to buy some for my shops,” he told his wife. So preparations were made for the journey which would take several weeks.

One day the merchant was feeding the nightingale when the bird said: “Master, take me with you. You're going to the land I was born in. I left it when I was very young for a mer­chant sold me.” The merchant shook his head. The bird had be­come very precious to him and his wife.

“My wife would miss you and besides, the journey would take many weeks. Whatif you fell ill and died? She'd never for­give me,” he said. The bird bowed its head and said nothing.

The next day, the merchant was ready to leave on his long journey. He noticed how sad the nightingale looked. “Tell me what you'd like as a present from your country,” he asked the bird.

“Master, you've always treated me well. There's nothing I want. But would you do me a great favour? I've many relatives who live in the Pomegranate Garden. Please see them and tell them that I send my good wishes to them. Tell them that I'm very well and have the best Master in the world,” said the bird.

“Certainly, I shall. I'll also tell them what a beautiful home you live in and how happy you are here,” said the merchant, smiling.

After many weeks, the merchant arrived in the capital city. He spent some time doing business and buying goods for his shops. The day before he was to leave, he suddenly remembered his promise to the nightingale. “Do you know where the Pomegranate Garden is? he asked the hotel-keeper.

The hotel-keeper told him where to go and the merchant set off. He walked for some time and as it was a hot day, he stopped to rest. He saw a man selling drinks. He bought a glass of cool fruit juice-and drank it thirstily. “Tell me, where is this garden, the Pomegranate Garden where the nightingales liver he asked.

“Just behind those gates,” said the man, pointing to some heavy iron gates opposite. The merchant thanked him and hur­ried across. It was already getting quite late.

He opened the gates and went in. There were beds full of fragrant flowers. The trees hung with all types of fruit. On every tree and on every branch there were nightingales. The air was filled with their merry singing.

One nightingale flew from tree to tree, coming closer and closer to have a better look at the merchant. “How sweetly it sings. It must be a relative of the nightingale at home,” thought the merchant to himself.

“Excuse me, but I have a message from a brother of yours who lives in a lovely, silver cage in my home. My wife and I are very fond of it. A special servant takes care of it. In fact I think it's better off there than here, as it gets a great deal of care and attention from us,” said the merchant. “Your brother sends his good wishes.”

The nightingale heard these words but said nothing. In­stead it fell to the ground as if something had hit it. It lay there as if it was dead. Its wings were spread out, its beak wide open. It did not move.

The merchant was very upset. “Oh dear, I think the shock of hearing about his brother must have been too much,” he said. Tenderly he picked the bird up and laid it in some bushes. But the nightingale was not dead. Instead it flew from tree to tree singing merrily. “Where are you going?Tell me what I must say to your brother,” he said.

But the bird did not reply. It flew away singing happily. Puzzled, the merchant left the garden. When he returned home he went to see the nightingale.

“Well, Master, did you give my relatives my best wishes? How are they?” asked the bird eagerly.
“I told all your relatives about you but one of your brothers behaved very strangely,” said the merchant.
“Why, what did my brother say?” asked the bird curiously.

“That's just it. He didn't say anything. When I said how happy you were here and what a fine-loge you live in, he didn't even bother to listen. And then he pretended to be dead. He dived, with his wings spread. Thinking he was dead I laid him in some bushes. No sooner had I done that when he suddenly came to life and flew away, singing merrily. He behaved most rudely. He didn't even ask how you were!” said the merchant angrily.

The nightingale heard all this in silence. It thought longingly of its home across the seas. It was very sad and it neither ate nor drank. The next morning, when the servant came to feed it he found the bird lying at the bottom of the cage. Its beak was wide open and its wings spread out. It appeared to be dead.

When the merchant and his wife were told, they hurried to the cage. They tried everything they could to bring the bird back to life. Water was poured into the bird's beak but it trick­led down the side. Gently the merchant laid the nightingale in the sunshine, thinking that the warm sun would give it life. But still the bird lay as if dead.

His wife began to cry. “It has given us such pleasure for so many months with its fine singing. I am so sad that it has died.”

That afternoon the servant took the body of the bird and threw it on a rubbish heap. As soon as the bird landed on the heap it came to life. It flew round and round the garden singing and calling out. “Thank you, Master, for everything, my brother did send me a message although you did not understand it. Be­ing free like all the birds in the Pomegranate Garden was much better than life in a silver cage, no matter how comfortable itwas,” said the nightingale, as it flew merrily off to its own home across the seas.

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