Four expectant fathers were in a Minneapolis hospital waiting room while their wives were in labor. The nurse arrived and proudly announced to the first man, "Congratulations, sir. You're the father of twins!" "What a coincidence! I work for the ... Read more of How many babies? at Free Jokes.caInformational Site Network Informational
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The Enchanted Horse

from The Arabian Nights Entertainments





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 upon him."

"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 the 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 into prison.

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 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 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 my
charms."

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 beheld you!"

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 our marriage."

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 behind him.

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 his
adventures.

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, said
eagerly:

"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 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 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.





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