A Thousand And One Arabian Nights
The Story of the Enchanted Horse
It was the Feast of the New Year, the oldest and most splendid of
all the feasts in the Kingdom of Persia, and the day had been spent
by the king in the city of Schiraz, taking part in the magnificent
spectacles prepared by his subjects to do honour to the festival.
The sun was setting, and the monarch was about to give his court the
signal to retire, when suddenly an Indian appeared before his throne,
leading a horse richly harnessed, and looking in every respect
exactly like a real one.
"Sire," said he, prostrating himself as he spoke, "although I make
my appearance so late before your Highness, I can confidently
assure you that none of the wonders you have seen during the day
can be compared to this horse, if you will deign to cast your eyes
"I see nothing in it," replied the king, "except a clever imitation
of a real one; and any skilled workman might do as much."
"Sire," returned the Indian, "it is not of his outward form that I
would speak, but of the use that I can make of him. I have only
to mount him, and to wish myself in some special place, and no
matter how distant it may be, in a very few moments I shall find
myself there. It is this, Sire, that makes the horse so marvellous,
and if your Highness will allow me, you can prove it for yourself."
The King of Persia, who was interested in every thing out of the common,
and had never before come across a horse with such qualities,
bade the Indian mount tho animal, and show what he could do.
In an instant the man had vaulted on his back, and inquired where
the monarch wished to send him.
"Do you see that mountain?" asked the king, pointing to a huge
mass that towered into the sky about three leagues from Schiraz;
"go and bring me the leaf of a palm that grows at the foot."
The words were hardly out of the king's mouth when the Indian
turned a screw placed in the horse's neck, close to the saddle,
and the animal bounded like lightning up into the air, and was soon
beyond the sight even of the sharpest eyes. In a quarter of an
hour the Indian was seen returning, bearing in his hand the palm,
and, guiding his horse to the foot of the throne, he dismounted,
and laid the leaf before the king.
Now the monarch had no sooner proved the astonishing speed of which the
horse was capable than he longed to possess it himself, and indeed,
so sure was he that the Indian would be quite ready to sell it,
that he looked upon it as his own already.
"I never guessed from his mere outside how valuable an animal he was,"
he remarked to the Indian, "and I am grateful to you for having shown
me my error," said he. "If you will sell it, name your own price."
"Sire," replied the Indian, "I never doubted that a sovereign so wise
and accomplished as your Highness would do justice to my horse,
when he once knew its power; and I even went so far as to think it
probable that you might wish to possess it. Greatly as I prize it,
I will yield it up to your Highness on one condition. The horse
was not constructed by me, but it was given me by the inventor,
in exchange for my only daughter, who made me take a solemn oath that I
would never part with it, except for some object of equal value."
"Name anything you like," cried the monarch, interrupting him.
"My kingdom is large, and filled with fair cities. You have only
to choose which you would prefer, to become its ruler to the end
of your life."
"Sire," answered the Indian, to whom the proposal did not seem
nearly so generous as it appeared to the king, "I am most
grateful to your Highness for your princely offer, and beseech
you not to be offended with me if I say that I can only deliver
up my horse in exchange for the hand of the princess your daughter."
A shout of laughter burst from the courtiers as they heard these words,
and Prince Firouz Schah, the heir apparent, was filled with anger
at the Indian's presumption. The king, however, thought that it
would not cost him much to part from the princess in order to gain
such a delightful toy, and while he was hesitating as to his answer
the prince broke in.
"Sire," he said, "it is not possible that you can doubt for an
instant what reply you should give to such an insolent bargain.
Consider what you owe to yourself, and to the blood of your ancestors."
"My son," replied the king, "you speak nobly, but you do not
realise either the value of the horse, or the fact that if I reject
the proposal of the Indian, he will only make the same to some
other monarch, and I should be filled with despair at the thought
that anyone but myself should own this Seventh Wonder of the World.
Of course I do not say that I shall accept his conditions,
and perhaps he may be brought to reason, but meanwhile I should
like you to examine the horse, and, with the owner's permission,
to make trial of its powers."
The Indian, who had overheard the king's speech, thought that he
saw in it signs of yielding to his proposal, so he joyfully agreed
to the monarch's wishes, and came forward to help the prince to mount
the horse, and show him how to guide it: but, before he had finished,
the young man turned the screw, and was soon out of sight.
They waited some time, expecting that every moment he might be seen
returning in the distance, but at length the Indian grew frightened,
and prostrating himself before the throne, he said to the king,
"Sire, your Highness must have noticed that the prince,
in his impatience, did not allow me to tell him what it was necessary
to do in order to return to the place from which he started.
I implore you not to punish me for what was not my fault, and not
to visit on me any misfortune that may occur."
"But why," cried the king in a burst of fear and anger, "why did
you not call him back when you saw him disappearing?"
"Sire," replied the Indian, "the rapidity of his movements took me
so by surprise that he was out of hearing before I recovered my speech.
But we must hope that he will perceive and turn a second screw,
which will have the effect of bringing the horse back to earth."
"But supposing he does!" answered the king, "what is to hinder
the horse from descending straight into the sea, or dashing him
to pieces on the rocks?"
"Have no fears, your Highness," said the Indian; "the horse has
the gift of passing over seas, and of carrying his rider wherever
he wishes to go."
"Well, your head shall answer for it," returned the monarch, "and if
in three months he is not safe back with me, or at any rate does
not send me news of his safety, your life shall pay the penalty."
So saying, he ordered his guards to seize the Indian and throw him
Meanwhile, Prince Firouz Schah had gone gaily up into the air,
and for the space of an hour continued to ascend higher and higher,
till the very mountains were not distinguishable from the plains.
Then he began to think it was time to come down, and took for granted
that, in order to do this, it was only needful to turn the screw
the reverse way; but, to his surprise and horror, he found that,
turn as he might, he did not make the smallest impression.
He then remembered that he had never waited to ask how he was to get
back to earth again, and understood the danger in which he stood.
Luckily, he did not lose his head, and set about examining the
horse's neck with great care, till at last, to his intense joy,
he discovered a tiny little peg, much smaller than the other,
close to the right ear. This he turned, and found him-self dropping
to the earth, though more slowly than he had left it.
It was now dark, and as the prince could see nothing, he was obliged,
not without some feeling of disquiet, to allow the horse to direct
his own course, and midnight was already passed before Prince Firouz
Schah again touched the ground, faint and weary from his long ride,
and from the fact that he had eaten nothing since early morning.
The first thing he did on dismounting was to try to find out where
he was, and, as far as he could discover in the thick darkness,
he found himself on the terraced roof of a huge palace, with a
balustrade of marble running round. In one corner of the terrace stood
a small door, opening on to a staircase which led down into the palace.
Some people might have hesitated before exploring further, but not
so the prince. "I am doing no harm," he said, "and whoever the owner
may be, he will not touch me when he sees I am unarmed," and in dread
of making a false step, he went cautiously down the staircase.
On a landing, he noticed an open door, beyond which was a faintly
Before entering, the prince paused and listened, but he heard
nothing except the sound of men snoring. By the light of a lantern
suspended from the roof, he perceived a row of black guards sleeping,
each with a naked sword lying by him, and he understood that the hall
must form the ante-room to the chamber of some queen or princess.
Standing quite still, Prince Firouz Schah looked about him, till his
eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, and he noticed a bright light
shining through a curtain in one corner. He then made his way softly
towards it, and, drawing aside its folds, passed into a magnificent
chamber full of sleeping women, all lying on low couches, except one,
who was on a sofa; and this one, he knew, must be the princess.
Gently stealing up to the side of her bed he looked at her, and saw
that she was more beautiful than any woman he had ever beheld.
But, fascinated though he was, he was well aware of the danger
of his position, as one cry of surprise would awake the guards,
and cause his certain death.
So sinking quietly on his knees, he took hold of the sleeve of
the princess and drew her arm lightly towards him. The princess
opened her eyes, and seeing before her a handsome well-dressed man,
she remained speechless with astonishment.
This favourable moment was seized by the prince, who bowing low
while he knelt, thus addressed her:
"You behold, madame, a prince in distress, son to the King of Persia,
who, owing to an adventure so strange that you will scarcely
believe it, finds himself here, a suppliant for your protection.
But yesterday, I was in my father's court, engaged in the celebration
of our most solemn festival; to-day, I am in an unknown land,
in danger of my life."
Now the princess whose mercy Prince Firouz Schah implored was the eldest
daughter of the King of Bengal, who was enjoying rest and change in the
palace her father had built her, at a little distance from the capital.
She listened kindly to what he had to say, and then answered:
"Prince, be not uneasy; hospitality and humanity are practised
as widely in Bengal as they are in Persia. The protection you ask
will be given you by all. You have my word for it." And as the
prince was about to thank her for her goodness, she added quickly,
"However great may be my curiosity to learn by what means you
have travelled here so speedily, I know that you must be faint
for want of food, so I shall give orders to my women to take you
to one of my chambers, where you will be provided with supper,
and left to repose."
By this time the princess's attendants were all awake, and listening
to the conversation. At a sign from their mistress they rose,
dressed themselves hastily, and snatching up some of the tapers which
lighted the room, conducted the prince to a large and lofty room,
where two of the number prepared his bed, and the rest went down
to the kitchen, from which they soon returned with all sorts
of dishes. Then, showing him cupboards filled with dresses and linen,
they quitted the room.
During their absence the Princess of Bengal, who had been greatly struck
by the beauty of the prince, tried in vain to go to sleep again.
It was of no use: she felt broad awake, and when her women entered
the room, she inquired eagerly if the prince had all he wanted,
and what they thought of him.
"Madame," they replied, "it is of course impossible for us to tell
what impression this young man has made on you. For ourselves,
we think you would be fortunate if the king your father should
allow you to marry anyone so amiable. Certainly there is no one
in the Court of Bengal who can be compared with him."
These flattering observations were by no means displeasing to
the princess, but as she did not wish to betray her own feelings she
merely said, "You are all a set of chatterboxes; go back to bed,
and let me sleep."
When she dressed the following morning, her maids noticed that,
contrary to her usual habit, the princess was very particular about
her toilette, and insisted on her hair being dressed two or three
times over. "For," she said to herself, "if my appearance was not
displeasing to the prince when he saw me in the condition I was,
how much more will he be struck with me when he beholds me with all
Then she placed in her hair the largest and most brilliant diamonds
she could find, with a necklace, bracelets and girdle, all of
precious stones. And over her shoulders her ladies put a robe of the
richest stuff in all the Indies, that no one was allowed to wear except
members of the royal family. When she was fully dressed according
to her wishes, she sent to know if the Prince of Persia was awake
and ready to receive her, as she desired to present herself before him.
When the princess's messenger entered his room, Prince Firouz Schah
was in the act of leaving it, to inquire if he might be allowed to pay
his homage to her mistress: but on hearing the princess's wishes,
he at once gave way. "Her will is my law," he said, "I am only
here to obey her orders."
In a few moments the princess herself appeared, and after the usual
compliments had passed between them, the princess sat down on a sofa,
and began to explain to the prince her reasons for not giving him
an audience in her own apartments. "Had I done so," she said,
"we might have been interrupted at any hour by the chief of the eunuchs,
who has the right to enter whenever it pleases him, whereas this
is forbidden ground. I am all impatience to learn the wonderful
accident which has procured the pleasure of your arrival, and that
is why I have come to you here, where no one can intrude upon us.
Begin then, I entreat you, without delay."
So the prince began at the beginning, and told all the story of the
festival of Nedrouz held yearly in Persia, and of the splendid spectacles
celebrated in its honour. But when he came to the enchanted horse,
the princess declared that she could never have imagined anything
half so surprising. "Well then," continued the prince, "you can
easily understand how the King my father, who has a passion for
all curious things, was seized with a violent desire to possess
this horse, and asked the Indian what sum he would take for it."
"The man's answer was absolutely absurd, as you will agree, when I
tell you that it was nothing less than the hand of the princess
my sister; but though all the bystanders laughed and mocked,
and I was beside myself with rage, I saw to my despair that my
father could not make up his mind to treat the insolent proposal
as it deserved. I tried to argue with him, but in vain. He only
begged me to examine the horse" with a view (as I quite understood)
of making me more sensible of its value.
"To please my father, I mounted the horse, and, without waiting
for any instructions from the Indian, turned the peg as I had seen
him do. In an instant I was soaring upwards, much quicker than
an arrow could fly, and I felt as if I must be getting so near
the sky that I should soon hit my head against it! I could see
nothing beneath me, and for some time was so confused that I
did not even know in what direction I was travelling. At last,
when it was growing dark, I found another screw, and on turning it,
the horse began slowly to sink towards the earth. I was forced
to trust to chance, and to see what fate had in store, and it was
already past midnight when I found myself on the roof of this palace.
I crept down the little staircase, and made directly for a light
which I perceived through an open door--I peeped cautiously in,
and saw, as you will guess, the eunuchs lying asleep on the floor.
I knew the risks I ran, but my need was so great that I paid no
attention to them, and stole safely past your guards, to the curtain
which concealed your doorway."
"The rest, Princess, you know; and it only remains for me to thank you
for the kindness you have shown me, and to assure you of my gratitude.
By the law of nations, I am already your slave, and I have only
my heart, that is my own, to offer you. But what am I saying?
My own? Alas, madame, it was yours from the first moment I
The air with which he said these words could have left no doubt
on the mind of the princess as to the effect of her charms,
and the blush which mounted to her face only increased her beauty.
"Prince," returned she as soon as her confusion permitted her to speak,
"you have given me the greatest pleasure, and I have followed you
closely in all your adventures, and though you are positively
sitting before me, I even trembled at your danger in the upper
regions of the air! Let me say what a debt I owe to the chance
that has led you to my house; you could have entered none which
would have given you a warmer welcome. As to your being a slave,
of course that is merely a joke, and my reception must itself have
assured you that you are as free here as at your father's court.
As to your heart," continued she in tones of encouragement,
"I am quite sure that must have been disposed of long ago, to some
princess who is well worthy of it, and I could not think of being
the cause of your unfaithfulness to her."
Prince Firouz Schah was about to protest that there was no lady
with any prior claims, but he was stopped by the entrance
of one of the princess's attendants, who announced that dinner
was served, and, after all, neither was sorry for the interruption.
Dinner was laid in a magnificent apartment, and the table was
covered with delicious fruits; while during the repast richly
dressed girls sang softly and sweetly to stringed instruments.
After the prince and princess had finished, they passed into a small
room hung with blue and gold, looking out into a garden stocked
with flowers and arbutus trees, quite different from any that were
to be found in Persia.
"Princess," observed the young man, "till now I had always believed
that Persia could boast finer palaces and more lovely gardens
than any kingdom upon earth. But my eyes have been opened,
and I begin to perceive that, wherever there is a great king
he will surround himself with buildings worthy of him."
"Prince," replied the Princess of Bengal, "I have no idea what
a Persian palace is like, so I am unable to make comparisons.
I do not wish to depreciate my own palace, but I can assure you
that it is very poor beside that of the King my father, as you
will agree when you have been there to greet him, as I hope you
will shortly do."
Now the princess hoped that, by bringing about a meeting
between the prince and her father, the King would be so struck
with the young man's distinguished air and fine manners,
that he would offer him his daughter to wife. But the reply
of the Prince of Persia to her suggestion was not quite what she wished.
"Madame," he said, "by taking advantage of your proposal to visit the
palace of the King of Bengal, I should satisfy not merely my curiosity,
but also the sentiments of respect with which I regard him.
But, Princess, I am persuaded that you will feel with me, that I
cannot possibly present myself before so great a sovereign without
the attendants suitable to my rank. He would think me an adventurer."
"If that is all," she answered, "you can get as many attendants
here as you please. There are plenty of Persian merchants, and as
for money, my treasury is always open to you. Take what you please."
Prince Firouz Schah guessed what prompted so much kindness on the part
of the princess, and was much touched by it. Still his passion,
which increased every moment, did not make him forget his duty.
So he replied without hesitation:
"I do not know, Princess, how to express my gratitude for your obliging
offer, which I would accept at once if it were not for the recollection
of all the uneasiness the King my father must be suffering on my account.
I should be unworthy indeed of all the love he showers upon me,
if I did not return to him at the first possible moment. For, while I
am enjoying the society of the most amiable of all princesses, he is,
I am quite convinced, plunged in the deepest grief, having lost all
hope of seeing me again. I am sure you will understand my position,
and will feel that to remain away one instant longer than is
necessary would not only be ungrateful on my part, but perhaps
even a crime, for how do I know if my absence may not break his heart?"
"But," continued the prince, "having obeyed the voice of my conscience,
I shall count the moments when, with your gracious permission,
I may present myself before the King of Bengal, not as a wanderer,
but as a prince, to implore the favour of your hand. My father has
always informed me that in my marriage I shall be left quite free,
but I am persuaded that I have only to describe your generosity,
for my wishes to become his own."
The Princess of Bengal was too reasonable not to accept the explanation
offered by Prince Firouz Schah, but she was much disturbed at his
intention of departing at once, for she feared that, no sooner had he
left her, than the impression she had made on him would fade away.
So she made one more effort to keep him, and after assuring him
that she entirely approved of his anxiety to see his father,
begged him to give her a day or two more of his company.
In common politeness the prince could hardly refuse this request,
and the princess set about inventing every kind of amusement for him,
and succeeded so well that two months slipped by almost unnoticed,
in balls, spectacles and in hunting, of which, when unattended
by danger, the princess was passionately fond. But at last, one day,
he declared seriously that he could neglect his duty no longer,
and entreated her to put no further obstacles in his way, promising at
the same time to return, as soon as he could, with all the magnificence
due both to her and to himself.
"Princess," he added, "it may be that in your heart you class me with
those false lovers whose devotion cannot stand the test of absence.
If you do, you wrong me; and were it not for fear of offending you,
I would beseech you to come with me, for my life can only be happy
when passed with you. As for your reception at the Persian Court,
it will be as warm as your merits deserve; and as for what concerns
the King of Bengal, he must be much more indifferent to your welfare
than you have led me to believe if he does not give his consent to
The princess could not find words in which to reply to the arguments
of the Prince of Persia, but her silence and her downcast eyes spoke
for her, and declared that she had no objection to accompanying
him on his travels.
The only difficulty that occurred to her was that Prince Firouz
Schah did not know how to manage the horse, and she dreaded
lest they might find themselves in the same plight as before.
But the prince soothed her fears so successfully, that she soon
had no other thought than to arrange for their flight so secretly,
that no one in the palace should suspect it.
This was done, and early the following morning, when the whole palace
was wrapped in sleep, she stole up on to the roof, where the prince
was already awaiting her, with his horse's head towards Persia.
He mounted first and helped the princess up behind; then, when she
was firmly seated, with her hands holding tightly to his belt,
he touched the screw, and the horse began to leave the earth quickly
He travelled with his accustomed speed, and Prince Firouz Schah guided
him so well that in two hours and a half from the time of starting,
he saw the capital of Persia lying beneath him. He determined
to alight neither in the great square from which he had started,
nor in the Sultan's palace, but in a country house at a little
distance from the town. Here he showed the princess a beautiful
suite of rooms, and begged her to rest, while he informed his father
of their arrival, and prepared a public reception worthy of her rank.
Then he ordered a horse to be saddled, and set out.
All the way through the streets he was welcomed with shouts of joy
by the people, who had long lost all hope of seeing him again.
On reaching the palace, he found the Sultan surrounded by his ministers,
all clad in the deepest mourning, and his father almost went out of his
mind with surprise and delight at the mere sound of his son's voice.
When he had calmed down a little, he begged the prince to relate
The prince at once seized the opening thus given him, and told
the whole story of his treatment by the Princess of Bengal,
not even concealing the fact that she had fallen in love with him.
"And, Sire," ended the prince, "having given my royal word that you
would not refuse your consent to our marriage, I persuaded her
to return with me on the Indian's horse. I have left her in one
of your Highness's country houses, where she is waiting anxiously
to be assured that I have not promised in vain."
As he said this the prince was about to throw himself at the feet
of the Sultan, but his father prevented him, and embracing him again,
"My son, not only do I gladly consent to your marriage with the
Princess of Bengal, but I will hasten to pay my respects to her,
and to thank her in my own person for the benefits she has
conferred on you. I will then bring her back with me, and make
all arrangements for the wedding to be celebrated to-day."
So the Sultan gave orders that the habits of mourning
worn by the people should be thrown off and that there
should be a concert of drums, trumpets and cymbals.
Also that the Indian should be taken from prison, and brought before him.
His commands were obeyed, and the Indian was led into his presence,
surrounded by guards. "I have kept you locked up," said the Sultan,
"so that in case my son was lost, your life should pay the penalty.
He has now returned; so take your horse, and begone for ever."
The Indian hastily quitted the presence of the Sultan, and when he
was outside, he inquired of the man who had taken him out of prison
where the prince had really been all this time, and what he had
been doing. They told him the whole story, and how the Princess
of Bengal was even then awaiting in the country palace the consent
of the Sultan, which at once put into the Indian's head a plan
of revenge for the treatment he had experienced. Going straight to
the country house, he informed the doorkeeper who was left in charge
that he had been sent by the Sultan and by the Prince of Persia to
fetch the princess on the enchanted horse, and to bring her to the palace.
The doorkeeper knew the Indian by sight, and was of course aware
that nearly three months before he had been thrown into prison
by the Sultan; and seeing him at liberty, the man took for granted
that he was speaking the truth, and made no difficulty about
leading him before the Princess of Bengal; while on her side,
hearing that he had come from the prince, the lady gladly consented
to do what he wished.
The Indian, delighted with the success of his scheme,
mounted the horse, assisted the princess to mount behind him,
and turned the peg at the very moment that the prince was leaving
the palace in Schiraz for the country house, followed closely by the
Sultan and all the court. Knowing this, the Indian deliberately
steered the horse right above the city, in order that his revenge
for his unjust imprisonment might be all the quicker and sweeter.
When the Sultan of Persia saw the horse and its riders, he stopped short
with astonishment and horror, and broke out into oaths and curses,
which the Indian heard quite unmoved, knowing that he was perfectly
safe from pursuit. But mortified and furious as the Sultan was,
his feelings were nothing to those of Prince Firouz Schah, when he
saw the object of his passionate devotion being borne rapidly away.
And while he was struck speechless with grief and remorse at not
having guarded her better, she vanished swiftly out of his sight.
What was he to do? Should he follow his father into the palace,
and there give reins to his despair? Both his love and his courage
alike forbade it; and he continued his way to the palace.
The sight of the prince showed the doorkeeper of what folly he
had been guilty, and flinging himself at his master's feet,
implored his pardon. "Rise," said the prince, "I am the cause of
this misfortune, and not you. Go and find me the dress of a dervish,
but beware of saying it is for me."
At a short distance from the country house, a convent of dervishes
was situated, and the superior, or scheih, was the doorkeeper's friend.
So by means of a false story made up on the spur of the moment,
it was easy enough to get hold of a dervish's dress, which the
prince at once put on, instead of his own. Disguised like this
and concealing about him a box of pearls and diamonds he had intended
as a present to the princess, he left the house at nightfall,
uncertain where he should go, but firmly resolved not to return
Meanwhile the Indian had turned the horse in such a direction that,
before many hours had passed, it had entered a wood close to
the capital of the kingdom of Cashmere. Feeling very hungry,
and supposing that the princess also might be in want of food,
he brought his steed down to the earth, and left the princess
in a shady place, on the banks of a clear stream.
At first, when the princess had found herself alone, the idea
had occurred to her of trying to escape and hide herself.
But as she had eaten scarcely anything since she had left Bengal,
she felt she was too weak to venture far, and was obliged to
abandon her design. On the return of the Indian with meats of
various kinds, she began to eat voraciously, and soon had regained
sufficient courage to reply with spirit to his insolent remarks.
Goaded by his threats she sprang to her feet, calling loudly
for help, and luckily her cries were heard by a troop of horsemen,
who rode up to inquire what was the matter.
Now the leader of these horsemen was the Sultan of Cashmere,
returning from the chase, and he instantly turned to the Indian
to inquire who he was, and whom he had with him. The Indian rudely
answered that it was his wife, and there was no occasion for anyone
else to interfere between them.
The princess, who, of course, was ignorant of the rank of
her deliverer, denied altogether the Indian's story. "My lord,"
she cried, "whoever you may be, put no faith in this impostor.
He is an abominable magician, who has this day torn me from the
Prince of Persia, my destined husband, and has brought me here on
this enchanted horse." She would have continued, but her tears
choked her, and the Sultan of Cashmere, convinced by her beauty
and her distinguished air of the truth of her tale, ordered his
followers to cut off the Indian's head, which was done immediately.
But rescued though she was from one peril, it seemed as if she
had only fallen into another. The Sultan commanded a horse to
be given her, and conducted her to his own palace, where he led
her to a beautiful apartment, and selected female slaves to wait
on her, and eunuchs to be her guard. Then, without allowing
her time to thank him for all he had done, he bade her repose,
saying she should tell him her adventures on the following day.
The princess fell asleep, flattering herself that she had only
to relate her story for the Sultan to be touched by compassion,
and to restore her to the prince without delay. But a few hours
were to undeceive her.
When the King of Cashmere had quitted her presence the evening before,
he had resolved that the sun should not set again without the princess
becoming his wife, and at daybreak proclamation of his intention was
made throughout the town, by the sound of drums, trumpets, cymbals,
and other instruments calculated to fill the heart with joy.
The Princess of Bengal was early awakened by the noise, but she did
not for one moment imagine that it had anything to do with her,
till the Sultan, arriving as soon as she was dressed to inquire
after her health, informed her that the trumpet blasts she heard
were part of the solemn marriage ceremonies, for which he begged
her to prepare. This unexpected announcement caused the princess
such terror that she sank down in a dead faint.
The slaves that were in waiting ran to her aid, and the Sultan
himself did his best to bring her back to consciousness, but for
a long while it was all to no purpose. At length her senses
began slowly to come back to her, and then, rather than break
faith with the Prince of Persia by consenting to such a marriage,
she determined to feign madness. So she began by saying all
sorts of absurdities, and using all kinds of strange gestures,
while the Sultan stood watching her with sorrow and surprise.
But as this sudden seizure showed no sign of abating, he left
her to her women, ordering them to take the greatest care of her.
Still, as the day went on, the malady seemed to become worse,
and by night it was almost violent.
Days passed in this manner, till at last the Sultan of Cashmere
decided to summon all the doctors of his court to consult together
over her sad state. Their answer was that madness is of so many
different kinds that it was impossible to give an opinion on
the case without seeing the princess, so the Sultan gave orders
that they were to be introduced into her chamber, one by one,
every man according to his rank.
This decision had been foreseen by the princess, who knew quite
well that if once she allowed the physicians to feel her pulse,
the most ignorant of them would discover that she was in perfectly
good health, and that her madness was feigned, so as each man approached,
she broke out into such violent paroxysms, that not one dared to lay
a finger on her. A few, who pretended to be cleverer than the rest,
declared that they could diagnose sick people only from sight,
ordered her certain potions, which she made no difficulty about taking,
as she was persuaded they were all harmless.
When the Sultan of Cashmere saw that the court doctors could do
nothing towards curing the princess, he called in those of the city,
who fared no better. Then he had recourse to the most celebrated
physicians in the other large towns, but finding that the task
was beyond their science, he finally sent messengers into the other
neighbouring states, with a memorandum containing full particulars
of the princess's madness, offering at the same time to pay
the expenses of any physician who would come and see for himself,
and a handsome reward to the one who should cure her. In answer
to this proclamation many foreign professors flocked into Cashmere,
but they naturally were not more successful than the rest had been,
as the cure depended neither on them nor their skill, but only on
the princess herself.
It was during this time that Prince Firouz Schah, wandering sadly
and hopelessly from place to place, arrived in a large city of India,
where he heard a great deal of talk about the Princess of Bengal who
had gone out of her senses, on the very day that she was to have been
married to the Sultan of Cashmere. This was quite enough to induce
him to take the road to Cashmere, and to inquire at the first inn
at which he lodged in the capital the full particulars of the story.
When he knew that he had at last found the princess whom he had
so long lost, he set about devising a plan for her rescue.
The first thing he did was to procure a doctor's robe, so that his dress,
added to the long beard he had allowed to grow on his travels,
might unmistakably proclaim his profession. He then lost no time
in going to the palace, where he obtained an audience of the
chief usher, and while apologising for his boldness in presuming
to think that he could cure the princess, where so many others
had failed, declared that he had the secret of certain remedies,
which had hitherto never failed of their effect.
The chief usher assured him that he was heartily welcome, and that
the Sultan would receive him with pleasure; and in case of success,
he would gain a magnificent reward.
When the Prince of Persia, in the disguise of a physician, was brought
before him, the Sultan wasted no time in talking, beyond remarking
that the mere sight of a doctor threw the princess into transports
of rage. He then led the prince up to a room under the roof,
which had an opening through which he might observe the princess,
without himself being seen.
The prince looked, and beheld the princess reclining on a sofa
with tears in her eyes, singing softly to herself a song bewailing
her sad destiny, which had deprived her, perhaps for ever,
of a being she so tenderly loved. The young man's heart beat fast
as he listened, for he needed no further proof that her madness
was feigned, and that it was love of him which had caused her to
resort to this species of trick. He softly left his hiding-place,
and returned to the Sultan, to whom he reported that he was sure
from certain signs that the princess's malady was not incurable,
but that he must see her and speak with her alone.
The Sultan made no difficulty in consenting to this, and commanded
that he should be ushered in to the princess's apartment.
The moment she caught sight of his physician's robe, she sprang
from her seat in a fury, and heaped insults upon him. The prince
took no notice of her behaviour, and approaching quite close,
so that his words might be heard by her alone, he said in a low whisper,
"Look at me, princess, and you will see that I am no doctor,
but the Prince of Persia, who has come to set you free."
At the sound of his voice, the Princess of Bengal suddenly grew calm,
and an expression of joy overspread her face, such as only comes
when what we wish for most and expect the least suddenly happens
to us. For some time she was too enchanted to speak, and Prince
Firouz Schah took advantage of her silence to explain to her all
that had occurred, his despair at watching her disappear before
his very eyes, the oath he had sworn to follow her over the world,
and his rapture at finally discovering her in the palace at Cashmere.
When he had finished, he begged in his turn that the princess would
tell him how she had come there, so that he might the better devise
some means of rescuing her from the tyranny of the Sultan.
It needed but a few words from the princess to make him acquainted
with the whole situation, and how she had been forced to play the part
of a mad woman in order to escape from a marriage with the Sultan,
who had not had sufficient politeness even to ask her consent.
If necessary, she added, she had resolved to die sooner than permit
herself to be forced into such a union, and break faith with a prince
whom she loved.
The prince then inquired if she knew what had become of the
enchanted horse since the Indian's death, but the princess could
only reply that she had heard nothing about it. Still she did
not suppose that the horse could have been forgotten by the Sultan,
after all she had told him of its value.
To this the prince agreed, and they consulted together over a plan
by which she might be able to make her escape and return with him
into Persia. And as the first step, she was to dress herself
with care, and receive the Sultan with civility when he visited
her next morning.
The Sultan was transported with delight on learning the result
of the interview, and his opinion of the doctor's skill was raised
still higher when, on the following day, the princess behaved
towards him in such a way as to persuade him that her complete
cure would not be long delayed. However he contented himself with
assuring her how happy he was to see her health so much improved,
and exhorted her to make every use of so clever a physician,
and to repose entire confidence in him. Then he retired,
without awaiting any reply from the princess.
The Prince of Persia left the room at the same time, and asked
if he might be allowed humbly to inquire by what means the Princess
of Bengal had reached Cashmere, which was so far distant from her
father's kingdom, and how she came to be there alone. The Sultan
thought the question very natural, and told him the same story
that the Princess of Bengal had done, adding that he had ordered
the enchanted horse to be taken to his treasury as a curiosity,
though he was quite ignorant how it could be used.
"Sire," replied the physician, "your Highness's tale has supplied me
with the clue I needed to complete the recovery of the princess.
During her voyage hither on an enchanted horse, a portion of its
enchantment has by some means been communicated to her person,
and it can only be dissipated by certain perfumes of which I possess
the secret. If your Highness will deign to consent, and to give
the court and the people one of the most astonishing spectacles they
have ever witnessed, command the horse to be brought into the big
square outside the palace, and leave the rest to me. I promise that
in a very few moments, in presence of all the assembled multitude,
you shall see the princess as healthy both in mind and body as ever
she was in her life. And in order to make the spectacle as impressive
as possible, I would suggest that she should be richly dressed
and covered with the noblest jewels of the crown."
The Sultan readily agreed to all that the prince proposed,
and the following morning he desired that the enchanted horse
should be taken from the treasury, and brought into the great square
of the palace. Soon the rumour began to spread through the town,
that something extraordinary was about to happen, and such a crowd
began to collect that the guards had to be called out to keep order,
and to make a way for the enchanted horse.
When all was ready, the Sultan appeared, and took his place on
a platform, surrounded by the chief nobles and officers of his court.
When they were seated, the Princess of Bengal was seen leaving
the palace, accompanied by the ladies who had been assigned
to her by the Sultan. She slowly approached the enchanted horse,
and with the help of her ladies, she mounted on its back.
Directly she was in the saddle, with her feet in the stirrups
and the bridle in her hand, the physician placed around the horse
some large braziers full of burning coals, into each of which he
threw a perfume composed of all sorts of delicious scents. Then he
crossed his hands over his breast, and with lowered eyes walked
three times round the horse, muttering the while certain words.
Soon there arose from the burning braziers a thick smoke which almost
concealed both the horse and princess, and this was the moment for
which he had been waiting. Springing lightly up behind the lady,
he leaned forward and turned the peg, and as the horse darted up into
the air, he cried aloud so that his words were heard by all present,
"Sultan of Cashmere, when you wish to marry princesses who have
sought your protection, learn first to gain their consent."
It was in this way that the Prince of Persia rescued the Princess
of Bengal, and returned with her to Persia, where they descended
this time before the palace of the King himself. The marriage
was only delayed just long enough to make the ceremony as brilliant
as possible, and, as soon as the rejoicings were over, an ambassador
was sent to the King of Bengal, to inform him of what had passed,
and to ask his approbation of the alliance between the two countries,
which he heartily gave.
Next: AN: The Story of Two Sisters Who Were Jealous of Their Younger Sister
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