Stories of Arabian Nights -
One thousand one Arabian Nights
The Story of the Enchanted Horse
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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 that
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
"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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
"If that is all," she answered, "you can get as many attendants here as you
please. There are plenty of Persian merchants, and as for money, my treasury is
always open to you. Take what you please."
Prince Firouz Schah guessed what prompted so much kindness on the part of the
princess, and was much touched by it. Still his passion, which increased every
moment, did not make him forget his duty. So he replied without hesitation:
"I do not know, Princess, how to express my gratitude for your obliging offer,
which I would accept at once if it were not for the recollection of all the
uneasiness the King my father must be suffering on my account. I should be
unworthy indeed of all the love he showers upon me, if I did not return to him
at the first possible moment. For, while I am enjoying the society of the most
amiable of all princesses, he is, I am quite convinced, plunged in the deepest
grief, having lost all hope of seeing me again. I am sure you will understand my
position, and will feel that to remain away one instant longer than is necessary
would not only be ungrateful on my part, but perhaps even a crime, for how do I
know if my absence may not break his heart?"
"But," continued the prince, "having obeyed the voice of my conscience, I shall
count the moments when, with your gracious permission, I may present myself
before the King of Bengal, not as a wanderer, but as a prince, to implore the
favour of your hand. My father has always informed me that in my marriage I
shall be left quite free, but I am persuaded that I have only to describe your
generosity, for my wishes to become his own."
The Princess of Bengal was too reasonable not to accept the explanation offered
by Prince Firouz Schah, but she was much disturbed at his intention of departing
at once, for she feared that, no sooner had he left her, than the impression she
had made on him would fade away. So she made one more effort to keep him, and
after assuring him that she entirely approved of his anxiety to see his father,
begged him to give her a day or two more of his company.
In common politeness the prince could hardly refuse this request, and the
princess set about inventing every kind of amusement for him, and succeeded so
well that two months slipped by almost unnoticed, in balls, spectacles and in
hunting, of which, when unattended by danger, the princess was passionately
fond. But at last, one day, he declared seriously that he could neglect his duty
no longer, and entreated her to put no further obstacles in his way, promising
at the same time to return, as soon as he could, with all the magnificence due
both to her and to himself.
"Princess," he added, "it may be that in your heart you class me with those
false lovers whose devotion cannot stand the test of absence. If you do, you
wrong me; and were it not for fear of offending you, I would beseech you to come
with me, for my life can only be happy when passed with you. As for your
reception at the Persian Court, it will be as warm as your merits deserve; and
as for what concerns the King of Bengal, he must be much more indifferent to
your welfare than you have led me to believe if he does not give his consent to
The princess could not find words in which to reply to the arguments of the
Prince of Persia, but her silence and her downcast eyes spoke for her, and
declared that she had no objection to accompanying him on his travels.
The only difficulty that occurred to her was that Prince Firouz Schah did not
know how to manage the horse, and she dreaded lest they might find themselves in
the same plight as before. But the prince soothed her fears so successfully,
that she soon had no other thought than to arrange for their flight so secretly,
that no one in the palace should suspect it.
This was done, and early the following morning, when the whole palace was
wrapped in sleep, she stole up on to the roof, where the prince was already
awaiting her, with his horse's head towards Persia. He mounted first and helped
the princess up behind; then, when she was firmly seated, with her hands holding
tightly to his belt, he touched the screw, and the horse began to leave the
earth quickly 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Index of stories of Arabian nights