The Enchanted Horse
It was the Festival of the New Year, the oldest and most splendid of all the festivals in the Kingdom of Persia, and the day had been spent by the king in the city of Shiraz, taking part in the magnificent parades prepared by his subjects to do honour to the festival. The sun was setting, and the king was about to leave, 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, bowing as he spoke, “Although I make my appearance so late before your Highness, I am certain that none of the wonders you have seen during the day can be compared to this horse, if you will please look at him.”
“I see nothing in it,” replied the king, “except a clever imitation of a real one. Any skilled workman could do the same.”
“Sire,” replied the Indian, “it is not his appearance that I am talking about, 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 far away it may be, in a very few moments I shall find myself there. It is this, Sire, that makes the horse so marvelous, and if your Highness will allow me, you can prove it for yourself.”
The King of Persia, who was interested in everything that was unusual, and had never before come across a horse with such qualities, told the Indian mount the animal, and show what he could do. In an instant the man had jumped on his back, and asked where the king wished to send him.
“Do you see that mountain?” asked the king, pointing to a huge mountain that towered into the sky about three miles from Shiraz, “Go and bring me the leaf of a palm tree 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 king 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 appearance 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 was sure that a king so wise as your Highness would be impressed by my horse, when he once knew its power. I thought that you might wish to possess it. Greatly as I prize it, I will give it up to your Highness on one condition. The horse was not built by me, but it was given to me by the inventor, in exchange for my only daughter, who made me promise that I would never part with it, except for some object of equal value.”
“Name anything you like,” cried the king, 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, “I am most grateful to your Highness for your generous offer, and beg you not to be offended with me if I say that I can only give my horse away 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, was filled with anger at the Indian’s idea. 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 spoke.
“Sire,” he said, “It is not possible that you can consider doing this. Consider what you owe to yourself, and to the blood of your ancestors.”
“My son,” replied the king, “You speak well, but you do not realize either the value of the horse, or the fact that if I reject the proposal of the Indian, he will only make the same offer to some other king, 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 persuaded to accept something else, but meanwhile I should like you to examine the horse, and, with the owner’s permission, to test its powers.”
The Indian, who had overheard the king’s speech joyfully agreed to the king’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 any moment he might be seen returning in the distance, but at last the Indian grew frightened, and bowing 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 where he started. I beg you not to punish me for what was not my fault.”
“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 speed of his movements took me so by surprise that he was out of hearing before I could speak. But we must hope that he will see 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 stop the horse from falling straight into the sea, or smashing 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,” replied the monarch, “and if in three months he is not safe back with me, or 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 into prison.
Meanwhile, Prince Firouz Schah had gone up into the air, and for an hour continued to fly higher and higher, till the very mountains could not be seen from the plains. Then he began to think it was time to come down, and thought that, in order to do this, it was only needed to turn the screw the opposite way; but, to his surprise and horror, he found that, turn as he might, nothing happened. 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 remained calm, and set about examining the horse’s neck with great care, till at last, to his great joy, he discovered a tiny little peg, much smaller than the other, close to the right ear. This he turned, and found himself dropping to the earth, though more slowly than he had left it.
It was now dark, and as the prince could see nothing, he had to allow the horse to go its own way, 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. 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 fear of stumbling, he went cautiously down the staircase. On a landing, he noticed an open door, beyond which was a faintly lighted hall.
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 saw a row of black guards sleeping, each with a 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 dark, and he noticed a bright light shining through a curtain in one corner. He then made his way softly towards it, and, drawing it aside, passed into a magnificent room 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 walking up to the side of her bed he looked at her, and saw that she was more beautiful than any woman he had ever seen. 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 going down 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, spoke,” You see, Madam, a prince, son to the King of Persia, who, owing to an adventure so strange that you will scarcely believe it, finds himself here, asking for your protection. But yesterday, I was in my father’s court, in the celebration of our most important festival. Today, I am in an unknown land, in danger of my life.”
Now the princess whose mercy Prince Firouz Schah asked was the eldest daughter of the King of Bengal, who was enjoying rest 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, don’t worry, hospitality is as common in Bengal as it is 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 traveled here so speedily, I know that you must be hungry, so I shall give orders to my women to take you to one of my rooms, where you will be provided with supper, and left to rest.”
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 quickly, and conducted the prince to a large room, where two of them prepared his bed, and the rest went down to the kitchen, from which they soon returned with all sorts of dishes. Then, they left the room.
During their absence the Princess of Bengal, who had been greatly impressed by the beauty of the prince, tried in vain to go to sleep again. It was of no use. She felt wide awake, and when her women entered the room, she asked eagerly if the prince had all he wanted, and what they thought of him.
“Madam,” they replied, “We think you would be fortunate if the king your father should allow you to marry anyone so friendly. Certainly there is no one in the Court of Bengal who can be compared with him.”
These ideas were pleasing to the princess, but as she did not wish to show her own feelings she merely said, “You are all chatterboxes. Go back to bed, and let me sleep.”
When she dressed the following morning, her maids noticed that, the princess was very fussy about her appearance, and insisted on her hair being dressed two or three times. She said to herself, “If my appearance was pleasing to the prince when he saw me half asleep, how much more will he be impressed with me when he sees me all prepared.”
Then she placed in her hair the largest and most brilliant diamonds she could find, with a necklace and bracelets, all of precious stones. And over her shoulders her ladies put a robe of the richest cloth 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 about to leave it, to ask if he might be allowed to visit her mistress, but on hearing the princess’s wishes, he at once agreed. “Whatever she wishes,” he said, “I am only here to obey her orders.”
In a few moments the princess herself appeared, and after greeting each other, the princess sat down on a sofa, and began to explain to the prince her reasons for not meeting him in her own room. “Had I done so,” she said, “we might have been interrupted at any time by the chief of the servants, who has the right to enter whenever it pleases him. I am impatient to learn the wonderful accident which has brought you here, and that is why I have come to you here, where no one can interrupt us. Begin then, I beg 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 shows 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, desperately wanted to possess this horse, and asked the Indian how much he wanted.
“The man’s answer was absolutely crazy, 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 in a rage, I saw to my despair that my father had decided to accept. I tried to argue with him, but in vain. He only begged me to examine the horse.”
“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 traveling. 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 straight for a light which I noticed through an open door. I peeped cautiously in, and saw, as you will guess, the guards lying asleep on the floor. I knew the risks, but my need was so great that I paid no attention to them, and sneaked safely past your guards, to the curtain which hid 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 tell 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, madam, it was yours from the first moment I saw you!”
“Prince,” replied she as soon as her confusion allowed her to speak, “You have given me the greatest pleasure, and I have listened closely to all your adventures, and though you are sitting before me, I even trembled at your danger in the upper air! As to your being a slave, of course that is merely a joke, and my reception must itself have shown you that you are as free here as at your father’s court. As to your heart,” she continued, “I am quite sure that must have been promised 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 other lady, but he was stopped by the entrance of one of the princess’s attendants, who announced that dinner was served.
Dinner was laid out in a magnificent room, and the table was covered with delicious fruits, while during the meal 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,” said the young man, “till now I had always believed that Persia had finer palaces and more lovely gardens than any kingdom upon earth. But my eyes have been opened, and I begin to realize 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 can tell 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 impressed with the young man’s 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.
” But, Princess, I believe that you will feel with me, that I cannot possibly present myself before so great a king without the attendants suitable to my position. He would think me false.”
“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 the reason was for 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 kind offer, which I would accept at once if it were not for the uneasiness the King my father must be suffering because of me. 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 company of the most beautiful of all princesses, he is, I believe, 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, “with your permission, I may present myself before the King of Bengal, not as a wanderer, but as a prince, to beg for your hand in marriage. My father has always told me that in my marriage I shall be left quite free, but I believe 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 plan to depart 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 telling him that she entirely approved of his desire 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 passed almost unnoticed, in balls and in hunting, of which, the princess was very fond. But at last, one day, he declared seriously that he could neglect his duty no longer, and begged her to put no further obstacles in his way, promising at the same time to return, as soon as he could.
“Princess,” he added, “it may be that in your heart you think me the same as those false lovers whose devotion cannot stand the test of absence. If you do, you are mistaken, and I would beg you to come with me, for my life can only be happy when with you. As for your reception at the Persian Court, it will be as warm as you deserve.”
The princess could not find words in which to reply to the arguments of the Prince of Persia, but her silence and her 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 feared they might find themselves in the same danger as before. But the prince calmed 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 in sleep, she sneaked 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 behind him.
He travelled with his usual speed, and Prince Firouz Schah guided him so well that in two hours from the time of starting, he saw the capital of Persia lying beneath him. He decided to land 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, 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 tell of his adventures.
The prince at once told the whole story of his treatment by the Princess of Bengal, not even hiding 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 agreement 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.”
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, said eagerly,” My son, not only do I gladly agree to your marriage with the Princess of Bengal, but I will hurry to pay my respects to her, and to thank her in person for what she has done for you. I will then bring her back with me, and make all arrangements for the wedding to be celebrated today.”
So the Sultan gave orders 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 be gone forever.”
The Indian quickly left the presence of the Sultan, and when he was outside, he asked 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 agreement 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 free, the man took for granted that he was speaking the truth, and made no difficulty about leading him before the Princess of Bengal. Hearing that he had come from the prince, the lady gladly agreed 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 Shiraz 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, which the Indian heard quite unmoved, knowing that he was perfectly safe. But horrified 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 carried rapidly away. And while he was struck speechless with regret at not having guarded her better, she vanished swiftly out of his sight. What was he to do?
The sight of the prince showed the doorkeeper his mistake and flinging himself at his master’s feet, begged his pardon. “Rise,” said the prince, “I am the cause of this misfortune, and not you. Go and find me the robe of a monk, but do not say it is for me.”
At a short distance from the country house, there was a monastery of monks, and the head monk, was the doorkeeper’s friend. So, it was easy enough to get hold of a monk’s robe, which the prince at once put on, instead of his own. Disguised like this and hiding on 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 determined not to return without her.
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 also want food, he brought his horse 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 go far, and had to give up her plan. On the return of the Indian with food, she began to eat hungrily, and soon had sufficient courage to reply to his rude words. She sprang to her feet, calling loudly for help, and luckily her cries were heard by a troop of horsemen, who rode up to ask what the matter was.
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. Then, without allowing her time to thank him for all he had done, he told her to rest, saying she should tell him her adventures on the following day.
The princess fell asleep, believing that she had only to relate her story for the Sultan to be touched by compassion, and to return her to the prince without delay.
When the King of Cashmere had left her the evening before, he had decided 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. 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 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. At last her senses began slowly to come back to her, and then, rather than break a promise to the Prince of Persia by agreeing to such a marriage, she decided to pretend to be mad. So she began by saying all sorts of crazy things, and using all kinds of strange gestures, while the Sultan stood watching her with sorrow and surprise. But as this sudden behaviour showed no sign of stopping, he left her to her women, ordering them to take the greatest care of her. Still, as the day went on, the illness 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.
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 false, so as each man approached, she broke out into such violent actions, 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 believed 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 did no better. Then he called 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 make him take the road to Cashmere, and to ask at the first inn at which he stayed in the capital the full details of the story. When he knew that he had at last found the princess whom he had so long lost, he set about creating a plan for her rescue.
The first thing he did was to buy a doctor’s robe, so that his robe, added to the long beard he had allowed to grow on his travels, might unmistakably show his profession. He then lost no time in going to the palace, where he obtained an audience of the chief usher and declared that he had the secret of certain remedies, which had before never failed to work.
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 a 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 saw the princess lying on a sofa with tears in her eyes, singing softly to herself a song about her sad destiny, which had taken from her, perhaps for ever, a man she so tenderly loved. The young man’s heart beat fast as he listened, for he needed no further proof that her madness was false, and that it was love of him which had caused her to use this 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 illness was not incurable, but that he must see her and speak with her alone.
The Sultan made no difficulty in agreeing to this, and ordered that he should be taken into the princess’s apartment. The moment she caught sight of his physician’s robe, she sprang from her seat in a fury, and threw insults at 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. For some time she was too amazed 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 promise he had made to follow her over the world, and his joy 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 Sultan.
It needed but a few words from the princess to explain 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 made up her mind to die sooner than permit herself to be forced into such a marriage, and break a promise to a prince whom she loved.
The prince then asked 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 power.
To this the prince agreed, and they discussed 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 politely when he visited her next morning.
The Sultan was delighted 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 be soon. However he contented himself with assuring her how happy he was to see her health so much improved, and urged her to make every use of so clever a physician, and to have confidence in him. Then he left, 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 to ask by what means the Princess of Bengal had reached Cashmere, which was so far 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 here on an enchanted horse, a part of its enchantment has by some means been passed to her, and it can only be removed by certain perfumes of which I possess the secret. If your Highness will agree, and to give the court and the people one of the most astonishing sights they have ever seen, order 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 the presence of all the people, 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 best jewels of the crown.”
The Sultan readily agreed to all that the prince proposed, and the following morning he ordered 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. As soon as 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 containers full of burning coals, into each of which he threw a perfume made of all sorts of delicious scents. Then he crossed his hands over his chest, and with lowered eyes walked three times round the horse, muttering the while certain words. Soon there arose from the burning coals a thick smoke which almost hid 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 flew 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 get their permission.”
It was in this way that the Prince of Persia rescued the Princess of Bengal, and returned with her to Persia, where they landed 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 celebrations were over, a messenger was sent to the King of Bengal, to inform him of what had passed, and to ask for his friendship between the two countries, which he heartily gave.