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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 4 - 3/71 -
sleeve, pulled it towards him. The princess opened her eyes, and seeing a handsome man on his knees, was in great surprise; yet seemed to shew no sign of fear.
The prince availed himself of this favourable moment, bowed his head to the ground, and rising said, "Beautiful princess, by the most extraordinary and wonderful adventure, you see at your feet a suppliant prince, son of the emperor of Persia, who was yesterday morning in his court, at the celebration of a solemn festival, but is now in a strange country, in danger of his life, if you have not the goodness and generosity to afford him your assistance and protection. These I implore, adorable princess, with confidence that you will not refuse me. I have the more ground to persuade myself, as so much beauty and majesty cannot entertain inhumanity."
The personage to whom prince Firoze Shaw so happily addressed himself was the princess of Bengal, eldest daughter of the Rajah of that kingdom, who had built this palace at a small distance from his capital, whither she went to take the benefit of the country air. After she had heard the prince with all the candour he could desire, she replied with equal goodness, "Prince, you are not in a barbarous country; take courage; hospitality, humanity, and politeness are to be met with in the kingdom of Bengal, as well as in that of Persia. It is not merely I who grant you the protection you ask; you not only have found it in my palace, but will meet it throughout the whole kingdom; you may believe me, and depend on what I say."
The prince of Persia would have thanked the princess for her civility, and had already bowed down his head to return the compliment; but she would not give him leave to speak. "Notwithstanding I desire," said she, "to know by what miracle you have come hither from the capital of Persia in so short a time; and by what enchantment you have been able to penetrate so far as to come to my apartment, and to have evaded the vigilance of my guards; yet, as it is impossible but you must want some refreshment, and regarding you as a welcome guest, I will waive my curiosity, and give orders to my women to regale you, and shew you an apartment, that you may rest yourself after your fatigue, and be better able to satisfy my curiosity."
The princess's women, who awoke at the first words which the prince addressed to the princess, were in the utmost surprise to see a man at the princess's feet, as they could not conceive how he had got thither, without waking them or the eunuchs. They no sooner comprehended the princess's intentions, than they were ready to obey her commands. They each took a wax candle, of which there were great numbers lighted up in the room; and after the prince had respectfully taken leave, went before and conducted him into a handsome chamber; where, while some were preparing the bed, others went into the kitchen; and notwithstanding it was so unseasonable an hour, they did not make prince Firoze Shaw wait long, but brought him presently a collation; and when he had eaten as much as he chose, removed the trays, and left him to taste the sweets of repose.
In the mean time, the princess of Bengal was so struck with the charms, wit, politeness, and other good qualities which she had discovered in her short interview with the prince, that she could not sleep: but when her women came into her room again asked them if they had taken care of him, if he wanted any thing; and particularly, what they thought of him?
The women, after they had satisfied her as to the first queries, answered to the last: "We do not know what you may think of him, but, for our parts, we are of opinion you would be very happy if your father would marry you to so amiable a youth; for there is not a prince in all the kingdom of Bengal to be compared to him; nor can we hear that any of the neighbouring princes are worthy of you."
This flattering compliment was not displeasing to the princess of Bengal; but as she had no mind to declare her sentiments, she imposed silence, telling them that they talked without reflection, bidding them return to rest, and let her sleep.
The next day the princess took more pains in dressing and adjusting herself at the glass than she had ever done before. She never tired her women's patience so much, by making them do and undo the same thing several times. She adorned her head, neck, arms, and waist, with the finest and largest diamonds she possessed. The habit she put on was one of the richest stuffs of the Indies, of a most beautiful colour, and made only for kings, princes, and princesses. After she had consulted her glass, and asked her women, one after another, if any thing was wanting to her attire, she sent to know, if the prince of Persia was awake; and as she never doubted but that, if he was up and dressed, he would ask leave to come and pay his respects to her, she charged the messenger to tell him she would make him the visit, and she had her reasons for this.
The prince of Persia, who by the night's rest had recovered the fatigue he had undergone the day before, had just dressed himself, when he received the princess of Bengal's compliments by one of her women. Without giving the lady who brought the message leave to communicate it, he asked her, if it was proper for him then to go and pay his respects to the princess; and when the lady had acquitted herself of her errand, he replied, "It shall be as the princess thinks fit; I came here to be solely at her pleasure."
As soon as the princess understood that the prince of Persia waited for her, she immediately went to pay him a visit. After mutual compliments, the prince asking pardon for having waked the princess out of a profound sleep, and the princess inquiring after his health, and how he had rested, the princess sat down on a sofa, as did also the prince, though at some distance, out of respect.
The princess then resuming the conversation, said, "I would have received you, prince, in the chamber in which you found me last night; but as the chief of my eunuchs has the liberty of entering it, and never comes further without my leave, from my impatience to hear the surprising adventure which procured me the happiness of seeing you, I chose to come hither, that we may not be interrupted; therefore I beg of you to give me that satisfaction, which will highly oblige me."
Prince Firoze Shaw, to gratify the princess of Bengal, began with describing the festival of the Nooroze, and mentioned the shows which had amazed the court of Persia, and the people of Sheerauz. Afterwards he came to the enchanted horse; the description of which, with the account of the wonders which the Hindoo had performed before so august an assembly, convinced the princess that nothing of that kind could be imagined more surprising in the world. "You may well think, charming princess," continued the prince of Persia, "that the emperor my father, who cares not what he gives for any thing that is rare and curious, would be very desirous to purchase such a curiosity. He asked the Hindoo what he would have for him; who made him an extravagant reply, telling him, that he had not bought him, but taken him in exchange for his only daughter, and could not part with him but on the like condition, which was to have his consent to marry the princess my sister.
"The crowd of courtiers, who stood about the emperor my father, hearing the extravagance of this proposal, laughed loudly; I for my part conceived such great indignation, that I could not disguise it; and the more, because I saw that my father was doubtful what answer he should give. In short, I believe he would have granted him what he asked, if I had not represented to him how injurious it would be to his honour; yet my remonstrance could not bring him entirely to quit his design of sacrificing the princess my sister to so despicable a person. He fancied he should bring me over to his opinion, if once I could comprehend, as he imagined he did, the singular worth of this horse. With this view he would have me mount, and make a trial of him myself.
"To please my father, I mounted the horse, and as soon as I was upon his back, put my hand on a peg, as I had seen the Hindoo do before, to make the horse mount into the air, without stopping to take instructions of the owner for his guidance or descent. The instant I touched the peg, the horse ascended, as swift as an arrow shot out of a bow, and I was presently at such a distance from the earth that I could not distinguish any object. From the swiftness of the motion I was for some time unapprehensive of the danger to which I was exposed; when I grew sensible of it, I endeavoured to turn the peg the contrary way. But the experiment would not answer my expectation, for still the horse rose, and carried me a greater distance from the earth. At last I perceived another peg, which I turned, and then I grew sensible that the horse descended towards the earth, and presently found myself so surrounded with darkness, that it was impossible for me to guide the machine. In this condition I laid the bridle on his neck, and trusted myself to the will of God to dispose of my fate.
"At length the horse stopped, I got off his back, and examining whereabouts I might be, perceived myself on the terrace of this palace, and found the door of the staircase half open. I came softly down the stairs, and seeing a door open, put my head into the room, perceived some eunuchs asleep, and a great light in an adjoining chamber. The necessity I was under, notwithstanding the inevitable danger to which I should be exposed, if the eunuchs had waked, inspired me with the boldness, or rather rashness, to cross that room to get to the other.
"It is needless," added the prince, "to tell you the rest, since you are not unacquainted with all that passed afterwards. But I am obliged in duty to thank you for your goodness and generosity, and to beg of you to let me know how I may shew my gratitude. According to the law of nations I am already your slave, and cannot make you an offer of my person; there only remains my heart: but, alas! princess, what do I say? My heart is no longer my own, your charms have forced it from me, but in such a manner, that I will never ask for it again, but yield it up; give me leave, therefore, to declare you mistress both of my heart and inclination."
These last words of the prince were pronounced with such an air and tone, that the princess of Bengal never doubted of the effect she had expected from her charms; neither did she seem to resent the precipitate declaration of the prince of Persia. Her blushes served but to heighten her beauty, and render her more amiable in his eyes.
As soon as she had recovered herself, she replied, "Prince, you have given me sensible pleasure, by telling me your wonderful adventure. But, on the other hand, I can hardly forbear shuddering, when I think on the height you were in the air; and
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