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THE STORY OF THE ENCHANTED HORSE
THE Nevrouz, or New Year's Day, is an ancient and solemn feast, which has been continued from the time of idolatry throughout all Persia, and celebrated with extraordinary rejoicings not only in the great cities, but in every little town, village, and hamlet. But the rejoicings are the most extraordinary at the court, owing to the variety of new and surprising sights; insomuch that strangers are invited from the neighbouring states and the most remote parts, and by the liberality of the king rewards are given to those who most excel in their inventions.
On one of these feast days, after the most skilful inventors of the country had repaired to Schiraz, where the court then resided, had entertained the king and all the court with their shows, and had been bountifully and liberally rewarded according to their merit by the king, just as the assembly was breaking up, an Indian appeared at the foot of the throne, with an artificial horse richly bridled and saddled, and so well made that at first sight he looked like a living horse.
The Indian prostrated himself before the throne; and, pointing to the horse, said to the king, "Though, sir, I present myself last before your majesty, yet I can assure you that nothing that has been shown to-day is so wonderful as this horse, on which I beg your majesty will be pleased to cast your eyes."
"I see nothing more in the horse," said the king, "than the natural appearance the workman has given him; which the skill of another workman may do as well or better."
"Sir," replied the Indian, "it is not for his outward form and appearance that I recommend my horse to your majesty, but for the use I know how to make of him, and what any other person, when I have communicated the secret to him, may do as well. Whenever I mount him, be it where it will, if I wish to transport myself through the air to the most distant part of the world, I can do it in a very short time. This, sir, is the wonder of my horse; a wonder which nobody ever heard of, and which I offer to show your majesty, if you command me."
The King of Persia, who was fond of everything that was curious, and, after the many wonderful things he had seen and desired to see, had never seen or heard of anything that came up to this, told the Indian that nothing but personal experience should convince him; and that he was ready to see him perform what he promised.
The Indian immediately put his foot into the stirrup, and mounted his horse with activity; and when he had got the other foot into the stirrup, and had fixed himself in the saddle, he asked the King of Persia where he was pleased to send him.
About three leagues from Schiraz there was a high mountain visible from the large square before the palace, where the king and his court, and a great concourse of people, then were.
"Do you see that mountain?" said the king, pointing to the hill: "Go to it; it is not a great way off, but it is far enough for me to judge of the haste you can make in going and coming. But because it is not possible for the eye to follow you so far, for a certain sign that you have been there I expect you to bring me a branch of a palm tree that grows at the bottom of the hill.
The King of Persia had no sooner declared his will, than the Indian turned a peg which was in the hollow of the horse's neck just by the pummel of the saddle: and in an instant the horse rose off the ground and carried his rider into the air like lightning, to such a height that those who had the strongest sight could not discern him, to the wonder of the king and all the spectators. In less than a quarter of an hour they saw him come back with a palm branch in his hand: but, before he came quite down, he took two or three turns in the air, amid the acclamations of all the people: then descended upon the same spot of ground whence he had" set off, without receiving the least shock from the horse to disorder him. He dismounted; and, going up to the throne, prostrated himself, and laid the branch of the palm tree at the king's feet.
The King of Persia, who was an eye-witness, with admiration and astonishment, of this unheard-of feat which the Indian had exhibited, conceived a great desire to have the horse, and persuaded himself that he should not find it a difficult matter to treat with the Indian for whatever sum of money he should value it at. "To judge of thy horse by his outward appearance," said he to the Indian, "I did not think him so much worth my consideration. As you have showed me his merits, I am obliged to you for undeceiving me; and, to show you how much I esteem him, I will buy him of you, if he is to be sold."
"Sir," replied the Indian, "I never doubted that your majesty, who has the character of being the most judicious prince on earth, would set a just value on my work as soon as I had shown you why he was worthy of your attention. I also foresaw that you would not only admire and commend him, but would desire to have him. For my part, sir, though I know the true value of him, and that my being master of him will render my name immortal in the world, yet I am not so fond of him that I could not resign him to gratify that noble desire of your majesty; but in making this declaration, I have a request to add, without which I cannot resolve to part with him, and perhaps you may not approve of it.
"Your majesty will not be displeased," continued the Indian, "if I tell you that I did not buy this horse, but obtained him of the inventor and maker by giving him my only daughter in marriage, and promising at the same time never to sell him; but, if I parted with him, to exchange him for something that I should like."
The Indian would have gone on; but at the word "exchange," the King of Persia interrupted him. "I am willing," said he, "to give you what you will ask in exchange. You know my kingdom is large, and contains many great, rich, and populous cities; I will give you the choice of whichever you like best, in full sovereignty for the rest of your life."
This exchange seemed royal and noble to the whole court, but was much below what the Indian proposed to himself. "I am infinitely obliged to your majesty for the offer you make me," answered he, "and cannot thank you enough for your generosity; yet I must beg of you not to be angry with me if I have the boldness to tell you that I cannot resign to you my horse, except on receiving the hand of the princess, your daughter, as my wife; this is the only price at which I can give him up."
The courtiers could not forbear laughing aloud at this extravagant demand of the Indian; but Prince Firouz Schah, the king's eldest son and presumptive heir to the crown, could not hear it without indignation. The king was of a very different opinion, and thought he might sacrifice the Princess of Persia to the Indian, to satisfy his curiosity. He remained, however, undetermined, considering what he should do.
Prince Firouz Schah, who saw his father hesitate as to what answer he should make, began to fear lest he should comply with the Indian's demand, and looked upon it as injurious not only to the royal dignity and to his sister, but also to himself; therefore, to anticipate his father, he said, "Sir, I hope your majesty will forgive me for daring to ask you if it is possible that your majesty should hesitate a moment about denying so insolent a demand from such an insignificant fellow and scandalous juggler, and that you should give him reason to flatter himself for a moment on being allied to one of the most powerful monarchs in the world? I beg of you to consider what you owe to yourself, and to your own flesh and blood, and the high rank of your ancestors."
"Son," replied the King of Persia, "I very much approve of your remonstrance, and your zeal for preserving the lustre of your noble birth, but you do not enough consider the excellence of this horse, nor that the Indian, if I should refuse him, may make the offer somewhere else, where this nice point of honour may be waived. I shall be in the utmost despair if another prince should boast of having exceeded me in generosity, and deprived me of the glory of possessing a horse which I esteem as the most singular and wonderful thing in the world. I will not say I consent to grant him what he asks. Perhaps he has not made up his mind about this exorbitant demand; and, putting my daughter the princess out of the question, I may make another agreement with him that will answer his purpose as well. But before I strike the bargain with him, I should be glad if you would examine the horse, try him yourself, and give me your opinion. I doubt not he will allow it."
As it is natural for us to flatter ourselves over what we desire, the Indian fancied, by what he heard the King of Persia say, that he was not entirely averse to the alliance by taking the horse at his price, and that the prince, instead of being against it, might become more favourable to him, and not oppose the desire the king seemed to have. So, to show that he consented to it with pleasure, he expressed much joy, ran before the prince to help him to mount, and showed him how to guide and manage the horse.
The prince mounted the horse with wonderful skill, without the Indian assisting him, and no sooner had he got his feet in both stirrups than, without waiting for the Indian's advice, he turned the peg he had seen him use, and mounted into the air as quick as an arrow shot out of a bow by the stoutest and most adroit archer, and in a few moments the king, court, and the numerous assembly lost sight of him. Neither horse nor prince was to be seen, and the King of Persia made vain efforts to discern them. The Indian, alarmed at what had happened, prostrated himself before the throne, and forced the king to pay attention to what he said. "Sir," said he, "your majesty yourself saw that the prince was so hasty that he would not permit me to give him the necessary instructions how to govern my horse. From what he saw me do, he would show that he wanted not my advice. He was too willing to show his cleverness, but knows not how to turn the horse round and bring him back again. Therefore, sir, the favour I ask of your majesty is not to make me accountable for whatever accidents may befall him."
This discourse of the Indian very much surprised and afflicted the King of Persia, who saw the danger his son was in if, as the Indian said, there was another secret to bring him back again different from that which carried him away, and asked, in a passion, why he did not call him back the moment he went.
"Sir," answered the Indian, "your majesty saw as well as I with what swiftness the horse and the prince flew away. The surprise in which I then was, and still am, deprived me of the use of my speech, and, if I could have spoken, he had got too far to hear me. If he had heard me, he knew not the secret to bring him back, which, through his impatience, he would not wait to learn. But, sir," added he, "there is room for hope that the prince, when he finds himself at a loss, will perceive another peg; and, as soon as he turns that, the horse will cease to rise, and will descend to the ground, and he may turn him to whatever place he pleases by guiding him with the bridle."
Notwithstanding all these arguments of the Indian, the King of Persia was terribly frightened at the evident danger of his son. "I suppose," replied he, "it is very uncertain whether my son perceives the other peg and makes a right use of it; may not the horse, instead of lighting on the ground, fall upon some rock, or tumble into the sea with him?"
"Sir," replied the Indian, "I can deliver your majesty from this fear by assuring you that the horse crosses seas without ever falling into them, and always carries his rider wherever he has a mind to go. And your majesty may assure yourself that, if the prince does but find out the other peg which I mention, the horse will carry him where he pleases to go. It is not to be supposed that he will go anywhere but where he can find assistance, and make himself known."
"Be it as it will," replied the King of Persia, "as I cannot depend upon the assurance you give me, your head shall answer for my son's life, if he does not return safe and sound in three days' time, or I hear certainly that he is alive." Then he ordered his officers to secure the Indian, and keep him a close prisoner; after which he retired to his palace, extremely grieved that the feast of Nevrouz should afford him and his court so much sorrow.
In the meantime Prince Firouz Schah was carried through the air with prodigious swiftness, and in less than an hour's time he had got so high that he could not distinguish any thing on the earth; mountains and plains seemed confused together. It was then he began to think of returning from whence he came, and thought to do it by turning the same peg the contrary way, and pulling the bridle at the same time. But when he found that the horse still rose with the same swiftness, his astonishment was extreme. He turned the peg several times, one way and the other, but all in vain. It was then that he grew aware of his fault, in not taking the necessary precautions to guide the horse before he mounted him. He immediately apprehended the great danger he was in, but it did not deprive him of his reason. He examined the horse's head and neck with great attention, and perceived behind the horse's right ear another peg, smaller and less discernible than the other. He turned that peg, and immediately perceived that he descended in the same oblique manner as he mounted, but not so swiftly.
Night had overshadowed that part of the earth over which the prince then was for almost half an hour, when he found out and turned the small peg; and, as the horse descended, he lost sight of the sun by degrees, till it grew quite dark, insomuch that, instead of choosing what place he would go to, he was forced to let the bridle lie upon the horse's neck and wait patiently till he alighted, though not without dread lest it should be in the desert, a river, or the sea.
At last, after midnight, the horse alighted and stopped, and Prince Firouz Schah dismounted very faint and hungry, having eaten nothing since the morning, when he came out of the palace with his father to assist at the festival. The first thing he had to do in this darkness of the night was to endeavour to find out where he was. He found himself to be on the terrace of a magnificent palace, surrounded with a balustrade of white marble breast high, and groping about, found a flight of stairs, which led down into the palace, the door of which was half open.
None but Prince Firouz Schah would have ventured to go down those stairs, dark as it was, and exposed to danger from friends or foes. But no consideration could stop him. "I do not come," said he to himself, "to do anybody any harm, and certainly, whoever meets or sees me first, and finds that I have no arms in my hands, will not attempt anything against my life, before they hear what I have to say for myself." After this reflection, he opened the door wider, without making any noise, and went softly down the stairs, that he might not wake anybody, and, when he came to a landing place on the staircase, he found the door open of a great hall, that had a light in it.
The prince stopped at the door, and listening, heard no other noise than the snoring of some people who were fast asleep. He advanced a little into the room, and, by the light of a lantern, saw that the persons whom he heard snore were black chamberlains, with naked sabres laid by them, which was enough to inform him that this was the guardchamber of some queen or princess; which latter it proved to be.
In the next room to this was the princess, as appeared by the light he saw, the door being open, and a thin silken curtain hanging before the doorway. Prince Firouz Schah advanced on tip-toe, without waking the chamberlains. He put by the curtain and looked in. The princess lay asleep on a sofa, and her women on the floor.
The prince immediately fell in love with her. He gently woke her, and the princess at once opened her eyes without fear. Seeing the prince on his knees as a suppliant, she asked him what was the matter.
The prince made use of this favourable moment, bowed his head down to the ground, and rising, said, "Most noble princess, by the most extraordinary and wonderful adventure imaginable you see here at your feet a suppliant prince, the son of the King of Persia, who was yesterday morning with his father at his court, at the celebration of a solemn feast, and is now in a strange country, in danger of his life, if you have not the goodness and generosity to give him your assistance and protection. 'These I implore, adorable princess, with confidence that you will not refuse me. So much beauty and majesty cannot entertain the least inhumanity."
This princess, to whom Prince Firouz Schah so fortunately addressed himself, was the Princess of Bengal, eldest daughter of the king of that kingdom, who had built this palace at a small distance from his capital, whither she went to enjoy the country. After she had heard the prince, she replied with kindness: "Prince, you are not in a barbarous country; take courage; hospitality, humanity, and politeness are to be met with in the kingdom of Bengal, as well as in that of Persia. It is not I who grant you the protection you ask; you may find it not only in my palace, but throughout the whole kingdom; you may believe me, and depend upon what I say."
The Prince of Persia would have thanked the Princess of Bengal for her kindness, and the favour she did him, and had already bowed down his head, but she would not give him leave to speak. "Notwithstanding my desire," said she, "to know by what miracle you have come hither from the capital of Persia in so short a time, and by what enchantment you have been able to come to my apartment, and to have escaped the vigilance of my guards; as you must want some refreshment I will waive my curiosity, and give orders to my women to regale you, and show you to a room where you may rest after your fatigue."
The princess's women each took a wax candle, of which there were numbers in the room, and after the prince had taken leave very respectfully, they went before him, and conducted him into a handsome chamber, where, notwithstanding that it was so unseasonable an hour, they did not make Prince Firouz Schah wait long, but brought him all sorts of meat; and when he had eaten, they removed the table, and left him to repose.
In the meantime the Princess of Bengal was so struck with the intelligence, politeness, and other good qualities which she had discovered in that short conversation with the prince, that she could not sleep, but, when her women came into her room again, she asked them if they had taken care of him, and if he wanted anything, and particularly what they thought of him.
The women answered: "We do not know what you may think of him, but, for our part, we think you would be very happy if the king your father would marry you to so amiable a prince, for there is not a prince in all the kingdom of Bengal to be compared to him, nor can we hear that any of the neighbouring princes are worthy of you."
This flattering discourse was not displeasing to the Princess of Bengal, but she imposed silence upon them, telling them they talked without reflection.
Next day, the princess dressed herself very carefully, and sent to know if the Prince of Persia was awake, and charged the messenger to tell him she would pay him a visit.
The Prince of Persia by his night's rest had recovered from the fatigue he had undergone the day before, and when the lady-in-waiting had acquitted herself of her errand, he replied: "It shall be as the princess thinks fit; I came here to be solely at her pleasure."
As soon as the Princess of Bengal understood that the Prince of Persia waited for her, she immediately went to pay him a visit. After mutual compliments on both sides, the princess said: "Through my impatience to hear the surprising adventure which procures me the happiness of seeing you, I chose to come hither that we may not be interrupted; therefore, I beg of you to oblige me."
Prince Firouz Schah began his discourse with the solemn and annual feast of the Nevrouz, relating all the sights worthy of her curiosity which had amazed the court of Persia and the whole town of Schiraz. Afterwards he came to the enchanted horse; the description of which with the account of the wonders which the Indian had performed on him before so august an assembly, and of what had happened to himself, convinced the princess that nothing of the kind could be imagined more surprising in all the world.
For two whole months Prince Firouz Schah remained the guest of the Princess of Bengal, taking part in all the amusements she arranged for him, as if he had nothing else to do but to pass his whole life in this manner. But after that time he declared seriously that he could not stay any longer, and begged her to give him leave to return to his father; repeating a promise he had made her to return soon in a style worthy of her and of himself, and to demand her in marriage of the King of Bengal.
"And, princess," replied the Prince of Persia, "that you may not doubt the truth of what I say, and that you may not rank me among those false lovers who forget the object of their love as soon as they are absent from them; but to show that it is real, and that life cannot be pleasant to me. when absent from so lovely a princess, I would presume, if I were not afraid you would be offended at my request, to ask the favour of taking you along with me to visit the king my father."
The Princess of Bengal consented. The only difficulty was that the prince knew not very well how to manage the horse, and she was apprehensive of being involved with him in the same kind of perilous adventure as when he made the experiment. But the prince soon removed her fear, by assuring her that she might trust herself with him, for after the experience he had had, he defied the Indian himself to manage him better.
The next morning, a little before daybreak, they went out on the terrace of the palace. The prince turned the horse towards Persia, and placed him where the princess could easily get up behind him; which she had no sooner done, and was well settled with her arms round his waist, for better security, than he turned the peg, and the horse mounted into the air, and making his usual haste, under the guidance of the prince, in two hours' time the prince discovered the capital of Persia.
He would not alight at the great square from whence he had set out, nor in the sultan's palace, but directed his course towards a palace at a little distance from the town. He led the princess into a handsome apartment, where he told her that, to do her all the honour that was due, he would go and inform his father of their arrival, and return to her immediately. He ordered the housekeeper of the palace, who was then present, to provide the princess with whatever she had occasion for.
After the prince had taken his leave of the princess, he ordered a horse to be saddled, and after sending back the housekeeper to the princess with orders to provide her breakfast immediately, he set out for the palace. As he passed through the streets, he was received with acclamations by the people, who were overjoyed to see him again. The sultan his father was giving audience, when he appeared before him in the midst of his council, all of whom, as well as the sultan and the whole court, had been in mourning ever since he had been absent. The sultan received him, and embracing him with tears of joy and tenderness, asked him what had become of the Indian's horse.
This question gave the prince an opportunity to tell him of the embarrassment and danger he was in when the horse mounted into the air with him, and how he arrived at last at the Princess of Bengal's palace, and the kind reception he met with there: and how after promising to marry her, he had persuaded her to come with him to Persia. "But, sir," added the prince, "I have promised that you would not refuse your consent, and have brought her with me on the Indian's horse, to a palace where your majesty often goes; and have left her there, till I could return and assure her that my promise was not in vain."
After these words the prince prostrated himself before the sultan to gain his consent, but his father raised him up, embraced him a second time, and said: "Son, I not only consent to your marriage with the Princess of Bengal, but will go and meet her myself, and thank her for the obligation I am under to her, and will bring her to my palace, and celebrate your wedding this day."
Then the sultan gave orders for his court to go out of mourning, and make preparations for the princess's entry; that the rejoicings should begin with a grand concert of military music, and that the Indian should be fetched out of prison. When the Indian was brought before the sultan, he said to him, "I secured thy person, that thy life might answer for that of the prince my son, whom, thank Heaven! I have found again; go, take your horse, and never let me see your face more."
As the Indian had learned, of those who fetched him out of prison that Prince Firouz Schah had returned, and had brought a princess behind him on his horse, and was also informed of the place where he had alighted and left her, and that the sultan was making preparations to go and bring her to his palace; as soon as he got out of the sultan's presence, he bethought himself of being beforehand with him and the prince, and, without losing any time, went direct to the palace, and addressing himself to the housekeeper told him that he came from the Sultan and Prince of Persia, to fetch the Princess of Bengal, and to carry her behind him through the air to the sultan, who waited in the great square of his palace to gratify the whole court and city of Schiraz with that wonderful sight.
The housekeeper, who knew the Indian, and knew that the sultan had imprisoned him, gave the more credit to what he said, because he saw that he was at liberty. He presented him to the Princess of Bengal, who no sooner understood that he came from the Prince of Persia, than she consented to what the prince, as she thought, desired of her.
The Indian, overjoyed at his success, and the ease with which he had accomplished his villainy, mounted his horse, took the princess behind him with the assistance of the housekeeper, turned the peg, and presently the horse mounted into the air with him and the princess.
At the same time the Sultan of Persia, followed by his court, was on the way from his own palace to the palace where the Princess of Bengal was left, and the Prince of Persia had ridden on before to prepare the Princess of Bengal to receive him, when the Indian, to defy them both and revenge himself for the ill-treatment he had received, passed over their heads with his prize.
When the Sultan of Persia saw this, he stopped. His surprise and affliction were the more keen because it was not in his power to make him repent of so outrageous, an affront. He loaded him with a thousand imprecations, as also did all the courtiers, who were witnesses of so signal a piece of insolence and unparalleled villainy.
The Indian, little moved by their curses, which just reached his ears, continued his way, while the sultan, extremely mortified to find that he could not punish its author, returned to his palace.
But what was Prince Firouz Schah's grief to see the Indian carry away the Princess of Bengal, whom he loved so dearly that he could not live without her! At so unexpected a sight he was thunderstruck, and before he could make up his mind whether he should let fly all the reproaches his rage could invent against the Indian, or bewail the deplorable fate of the princess, or ask her pardon for not taking better care of her, the horse was out of sight. He could not resolve what to do, and so continued his way to the palace where he had left his princess.
When he came there, the housekeeper, who was by this time convinced that he had been deceived by the Indian, threw himself at his feet with tears in his eyes, and accused himself of the crime which he thought he had committed, and condemned himself to die.
"Rise up," said the prince to him, "I do not impute the loss of my princess to thee, but to my own folly. But do not lose time, fetch me a dervish's robe, and take care you do not give the least hint that it is for me."
Not far from this palace there stood a convent of dervishes, the sheik or superior of which was the palace-keeper's particular friend. He went to this sheik, and telling him that it was for an officer at court, a man to whom he had been much obliged and wished to favour by giving him an opportunity to withdraw from the sultan's rage, he easily got a complete dervish's suit of clothes, and carried it to Prince Firouz Schah. The prince immediately pulled off his own clothes, and put them on; and being so disguised, and provided with a box of jewels, which he had brought as a present to the princess, he left the palace in the evening, uncertain which way to go, but resolved not to return till he had found out his princess, and brought her back again.
But to return to the Indian: he managed his enchanted horse so well that day, that he arrived early in the evening at a wood near the capital of the kingdom of Cashmire. Being hungry, and inferring that the princess was hungry also, he alighted in an open part of the wood, and left the princess, on a grassy spot, by a rivulet of clear fresh water.
During the Indian's absence, the Princess of Bengal, who knew that she was in the power of a base deceiver, whose violence she dreaded, thought of getting away from him, and seeking a sanctuary. But as she had eaten scarcely anything on her arrival at the palace in the morning, she was so faint that she was forced to abandon her plan, and to stay where she was, without any other resource than her courage, and a firm resolution to suffer death rather than be unfaithful to the Prince of Persia. When the Indian returned, she did not wait to be asked twice, but ate with him, and recovered herself enough to reply with courage to the insolent language he began to use to her when they had done. After a great many threats, as she saw that the Indian was preparing to use violence, she rose up to make resistance, and, by her cries and shrieks, drew about them a company of horsemen, who happened to be the Sultan of Cashmire and his attendants, returning from hunting.
The sultan addressed himself to the Indian, and asked him who he was, and what he presumed to do to the lady? The Indian, with great impudence, replied that she was his wife; and what had anyone to do with his quarrel with her?
The princess, who knew neither the rank nor the quality of the person who came so seasonably to her relief, told the Indian he was a liar; and said to the sultan, "Sir, whoever you are that Heaven has sent to my assistance, have compassion on a princess, and give no credit to that impostor. Heaven forbid that I should be the wife of so vile and despicable an Indian! a wicked magician, who has taken me away from the Prince of Persia, to whom. I was going to be married, and has brought me hither on the enchanted horse you see."
The Princess of Bengal had no occasion to say any more to persuade the Sultan of Cashmire that she told him the truth. Her beauty, majestic air, and tears spoke sufficiently for her. Justly enraged at the insolence of the Indian, the Sultan of Cashmire ordered his guards to surround him, and cut off his head: which sentence was immediately executed, as the Indian, just released from prison, was unprovided with any weapon to defend himself.
The princess, thus delivered from the persecution of the Indian, fell into another no less afflicting to her. The sultan, after he had ordered her a horse, carried her with him to his palace, where he lodged her in the most magnificent apartment, next his own, and gave her a great number of women-slaves to attend her, and a guard. He showed her himself into the apartment he assigned her; where, without giving her time to thank him, he said, "As I am certain, princess, that you must want rest, I will here take my leave of you till to-morrow, when you will be better able to give me all the circumstances of this strange adventure; "and then left her.
The Princess of Bengal's joy was inexpressible, to find that she was so soon freed from the violence of a man she could not look upon without horror. She flattered herself that the Sultan of Cashmire would complete his generosity by sending her back to the Prince of Persia when she told him her story, and asked that favour of him; but she was very much deceived in these hopes, for the Sultan of Cashmire resolved to marry her the next day; and to that end had ordered rejoicings to be made by daybreak, by beating of drums and sounding of trumpets and other instruments; which echoed not only through the palace, but throughout the city.
The Princess of Bengal was awakened by these tumultuous concerts; but attributed them to a very different cause from the true one. When the Sultan of Cashmire, who had given orders that he should be informed when the princess was ready to receive a visit, came to enquire after her health, he told her that all those rejoicings were to render their wedding more solemn; and at the same time desired her to approve. This discourse put her into such consternation that she fainted away.
The women-slaves, who were present, ran to her assistance; and the sultan did all he could to bring her to herself again, though it was a long time before they could. But when she recovered, rather than break the promise she had made to Prince Firouz Schah, by consenting to marry the Sultan of Cashmire, who had proclaimed their wedding before he had asked her consent, she resolved to feign madness. She began to say the most extravagant things before the sultan, and even rose off her seat to fly at him; insomuch that the sultan was very much surprised and afflicted that he should have made such a proposal so unseasonably.
When he found that her frenzy rather increased than abated, he left her with her women, charging them never to leave her alone, but to take great care of her. He sent often that day to know how she was; but received no other answer than that she was rather worse than better. In short, at night she seemed much worse than she had been all day.
The Princess of Bengal continued to talk wildly, and show other marks of a disordered mind, next day and the following ones; so that the sultan was obliged to send for all the physicians belonging to his court, to consult them about her disease, and to ask them if they could cure her.
The physicians all agreed that there were several sorts and degrees of this distemper, some curable and others not; and told the sultan that they could not judge of the Princess of Bengal's malady unless they saw her: upon which the sultan ordered the chamberlain to introduce them into the princess's chamber, one after another, according to their rank.
The princess, who foresaw what would happen, and feared that, if she let the physicians come near her to feel her pulse, the least experienced of them would soon know that she was in a good state of health, and that her madness was only feigned, flew into such a rage and passion that she was ready to tear out their eyes if they came near her; so none of them dared approach her.
Some of them, who pretended to be more skilful than the rest, and boasted of judging of diseases only by sight, ordered her some medicines, which she made less objection to take, well knowing she could be ill or well at pleasure, and that they could do her no harm.
When the Sultan of Cashmire saw that his court physicians could not cure her, he called in the most noted and experienced in the city, who had no better success. Afterwards he sent for the most famous in the kingdom, who met with no better reception than the others from the princess, and what they ordered had no better effect. Afterwards he despatched messengers to the courts of neighbouring princes, with a description of the princess's case, to be distributed among the most famous physicians, with a promise of a handsome reward, besides travelling expenses, to any who should come and cure the Princess of Bengal.
A great many physicians came from all parts, and undertook the cure; but none of them could boast of better success than their fellows, since it was a case that did not depend on their skill, but on the will of the princess herself.
During this interval, Prince Firouz Schah, disguised in the habit of a dervish, had travelled through a great many provinces and towns, full of grief, and having endured much fatigue, not knowing which way to direct his course, or whether he was not taking the very opposite road to the right one to hear the tidings he sought. He made diligent enquiry after her at every place he came to; till at last passing through a great town in India, he heard the people talk very much of a Princess of Bengal who went mad on the day of her marriage with the Sultan of Cashmire. At the name of the Princess of Bengal, and supposing that there was no other Princess of Bengal than she upon whose account he undertook his travels, he set out for the kingdom of Cashmire, and on his arrival at the capital he went and lodged at a khan, where the same day he was told the story of the Princess of Bengal, and the unhappy fate of the Indian, which he richly deserved. By all the circumstances, the prince knew he could not be deceived, but that she was the princess he had sought after so long.
The Prince of Persia, being informed of all these particulars, provided himself with a physician's robe, and, having let his beard grow during his travels, he passed for a physician; and, through the greatness of his impatience to see his princess, went to the sultan's palace. . Here, presenting himself to the chief of the officers, he told him that perhaps it might be looked upon as a very bold undertaking in him to offer to attempt the cure of the princess after so many had failed; but that he hoped some specifics, which he had had great experience of and success from, would effect the cure. The chief of the officers told him he was very welcome, that the sultan would receive him with pleasure, and that if he should have the good fortune to restore the princess to her former health, he might expect a liberal reward from the sultan his master. "Wait a moment," added he, "I will come to you again presently."
It was a long time since any physician had offered himself; and the Sultan of Cashmire, with great grief, had begun to lose all hope of ever seeing the Princess of Bengal restored to her former health, that he might marry her. He ordered the officer to bring in the physician he had announced.
The Prince of Persia was presented to the Sultan of Cashmire in the robe and disguise of a physician, and the sultan, without wasting time in superfluous discourse, after having told him that the Princess of Bengal could not bear the sight of a physician without falling into the most violent transports, which increased her illness, took him into a private room, from whence, through a window, he might see her without being seen.
There Prince Firouz Schah saw his lovely princess sitting carelessly, singing a song with tears in her eyes, deploring her unhappy fate, which deprived her, perhaps for ever, of the prince she loved so tenderly.
The prince was so much affected at the melancholy condition in which he found his dear princess, that he at once comprehended that her illness was feigned. When he came away he told the sultan that he had discovered the nature of the princess's illness, and that she was not incurable, but added that he must speak to her in private, and by himself; and, notwithstanding her violent fits at the sight of physicians, he hoped she would hear and receive him favourably.
The sultan ordered the princess's door to be opened, and Prince Firouz Schah went in. As soon as the princess saw him (taking him by his appearance to be a physician), she rose up in a rage, threatening and giving way to the most abusive language. He made directly towards her, and when he was near enough for her to hear him, for he did not wish to be heard by anyone else, he said to her, in a low voice, and in a most respectful manner, to make her believe him, "Princess, I am not a physician, but the Prince of Persia, and am come to set you at liberty."
The princess, who immediately knew the sound of the voice, and the upper features of his face, notwithstanding his beard, grew calm at once, and a secret joy and pleasure overspread her face. Her agreeable surprise deprived her for some time of speech, and gave Prince Firouz Schah time to tell her as briefly as possible how despair seized him when he saw the Indian carry her away; the resolution he took afterwards to leave nothing undone to find out where she was, and never to return home till he had found her, and forced her out of the hands of the perfidious wretch; and by what good fortune at last, after a long and fatiguing journey, he had the satisfaction of finding her in the palace of the Sultan of Cashmire. He then desired the princess to inform him of all that happened to her from the time she was taken away till that moment, telling her that it was of the greatest importance to know this, that he might take the proper measures to deliver her from the tyranny of the Sultan of Cashmire.
The Princess of Bengal told the prince how she was delivered from the Indian's violence by the Sultan of Cashmire, as he was returning home from hunting; but how ill she was treated by his overhasty design to marry her that very day, without even asking her consent; that this violent and tyrannical conduct put her into a swoon, after which she thought she had no other way to save herself for a prince to whom she had given her heart and faith, and would rather die than marry the sultan, whom she neither loved, nor ever could.
Then the Prince of Persia asked her if she knew what had become of the horse after the Indian's death. To which she answered that she knew not what orders the sultan had given about it, but believed he would take care of it.
As Prince Firouz Schah never doubted that the sultan had the horse, he communicated to the princess his design of making use of it to carry them both back to Persia, and after they had consulted together on the measures they were to take, they agreed that the princess should next day receive the sultan civilly, but without speaking to him.
The Sultan of Cashmire was overjoyed when the Prince of Persia told him the effect his first visit had had on the Princess of Bengal. And the next day, when the princess received him in such a manner as persuaded him that her cure was far advanced, he looked upon the prince as the greatest physician in the world, and contented himself with telling her how rejoiced he was to see her so likely to recover her health. He exhorted her to follow the directions of so thoughtful a physician, and to complete what he had so well begun, and then retired, without waiting for her answer.
The Prince of Persia, who went with the Sultan of Cashmire out of the princess's chamber, asked him if, without failing in due respect, he might enquire how the Princess of Bengal came into the dominions of Cashmire thus alone, since her own country lay so far off? This he said on purpose to introduce some remark about the enchanted horse, and to know what had become of it.
The Sultan of Cashmire, who could not penetrate the Prince of Persia's motive for asking this question, concealed nothing, but told him much the same story as the Princess of Bengal had done; adding that he had ordered the enchanted horse to be kept safe in his treasury as a great curiosity, though he knew not the use of it.
"Sir," replied the pretended physician, "the information which your majesty gives me affords me a means of curing the princess. As she was brought hither on this horse, and the horse is enchanted, she has contracted somewhat of the enchantment, which can be dissipated only by certain incense which I am acquainted with. If your majesty would be pleased to entertain yourself, your court, and the people of your capital with the most surprising sight that ever was seen, let the horse be brought into the great square before the palace, and leave the rest to me. I promise to show you, and all that assembly in a few moments' time, the Princess of Bengal as well in body and mind as ever she was in her life. But, the better to effect what I propose, it would be best that the princess should be dressed as magnificently as possible, and. adorned with the best jewels your majesty has." The sultan agreed.
Early the next day, the enchanted horse was, by his order, taken out of the treasury, and placed in the great square before the palace. A report was spread through the town that there was something extraordinary to be seen, and crowds of people flocked thither from all parts, insomuch that the sultan's guards were placed to prevent disorder, and to keep space enough round the horse.
The Sultan of Cashmire, surrounded by all his nobles and ministers of state, sat in state on a platform erected on purpose. The Princess of Bengal, attended by a vast number of ladies whom the sultan had assigned her, went up to the enchanted horse and the women helped her to get upon its back. When she was fixed in the saddle, and had the bridle in her hand, the pretended physician placed round the horse a great many vessels full of fire, which he had ordered to be brought, and going round it, he cast a strong and pleasant perfume into these pots; then, collected in himself, with downcast eyes, and his hands upon his breast, he ran three times about the horse, pretending to pronounce certain words. The moment the pots sent forth a dark cloud of pleasant scent, which so surrounded the princess that neither she nor the horse was to be discerned, the prince, watching his opportunity, jumped nimbly up behind her, and stretching out his hand to the peg, turned it; and just as the horse rose with them into the air, he pronounced these words, which the sultan heard distinctly" Sultan of Cashmire, when you would marry princesses who implore your protection, learn first to obtain their consent."
Thus the Prince of Persia recovered the Princess of Bengal, and carried her that same day to the capital of Persia, where he alighted in the midst of the palace, before the king his father's window. The king deferred the marriage no longer than until he could make the preparations necessary to render the ceremony pompous and magnificent.
After the days appointed for the rejoicing were over, the King of Persia's first care was to appoint an ambassador to go and give the King of Bengal an account of what had happened, and to demand his approval and ratification of the alliance. This the King of Bengal took as an honour, and granted with great pleasure and satisfaction.