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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 4 - 5/71 -
betrayed the disposition she felt to accompany him, so that he believed she would consent at the first proposition he should make; but he thought it would not be proper to make it till he had shewed her so much deference as to stay with her long enough to make the blame fall on herself, in case she wished to detain him from returning to his father.
Two whole months the prince of Persia abandoned himself entirely to the will of the princess of Bengal, yielding to all the amusements she contrived for him, for she neglected nothing to divert him, as if she thought he had nothing else to do but to pass his whole life with her in this manner. But he now declared seriously he could not stay longer, and begged of her to give him leave to return to his father; repeating again the promise he had made her to come back soon in a style worthy of her and himself, and to demand her in marriage of the Rajah of Bengal.
"And, princess," observed the prince of Persia, "that you may not suspect the truth of what I say; and that by my asking this permission you may not rank me among those false lovers who forget the object of their affection as soon as absent from them; to shew that my passion is real, and not feigned, and that life cannot be pleasant to me when absent from so lovely a princess, whose love to me I cannot doubt is mutual; I would presume, were I not afraid you would be offended at my request, to ask the favour of taking you along with me."
As the prince saw that the princess blushed at these words, without any mark of anger, he proceeded, and said, "Princess, as for my father's consent, and the reception he will give you, I venture to assure you he will receive you with pleasure into his alliance; and as for the Rajah of Bengal, after all the love and tender regard he has always expressed for you, he must be the reverse of what you have described him, an enemy to your repose and happiness, if he should not receive in a friendly manner the embassy which my father will send to him for his approbation of our marriage."
The princess returned no answer to this address of the prince of Persia; but her silence, and eyes cast down, were sufficient to inform him that she had no reluctance to accompany him into Persia. The only difficulty she felt was, that the prince knew not well enough how to govern the horse, and she was apprehensive of being involved with him in the same difficulty as when he first made the experiment. But the prince soon removed her fear, by assuring her she might trust herself with him, for that after the experience he had acquired, he defied the Hindoo himself to manage him better. She thought therefore only of concerting measures to get off with him so secretly, that nobody belonging to the palace should have the least suspicion of their design.
The next morning, a little before day-break, when all the attendants were asleep, they went upon the terrace of the palace. The prince turned the horse towards Persia, and placed him where the princess could easily get up behind him; which she had no sooner done, and was well settled with her arms about his waist, for her better security, than he turned the peg, when the horse mounted into the air, and making his usual haste, under the guidance of the prince, in two hours time the prince discovered the capital of Persia.
He would not alight at the great square from whence he had set out, nor in the palace, but directed his course towards a pleasure-house at a little distance from the capital. He led the princess into a handsome apartment, where he told her, that to do her all the honour that was due to her, he would go and inform his father of their arrival, and return to her immediately. He ordered the housekeeper of the palace, who was then present, to provide the princess with whatever she had occasion for.
After the prince had taken his leave of the princess, he ordered a horse to be saddled, which he mounted, after sending back the housekeeper to the princess, with orders to provide her refreshments immediately, and then set forwards for the palace. As he passed through the streets he was received with acclamations by the people, who were overjoyed to see him again. The emperor his father was giving audience, when he appeared before him in the midst of his council. He received him with ecstacy, and embracing him with tears of joy and tenderness, asked him, what was become of the Hindoo's horse.
This question gave the prince an opportunity of describing the embarrassment and danger he was in when the horse ascended into the air, and how he had arrived at last at the princess of Bengal's palace, the kind reception he had met with there, and that the motive which had induced him to stay so long with her was the affection she had shewn him; also, that after promising to marry her, he had persuaded her to accompany him into Persia. "But, sir," added the prince, "I felt assured that you would not refuse your consent, and have brought her with me on the enchanted horse, to a palace where your majesty often goes for your pleasure; and have left her there, till I could return and assure her that my promise was not in vain."
After these words, the prince prostrated himself before the emperor to obtain his consent, when his father raised him up, embraced him a second time, and said to him, "Son, I not only consent to your marriage with the princess of Bengal, but will go and meet her myself, and thank her for the obligation I in particular have to her, and will bring her to my palace, and celebrate your nuptials this day."
The emperor now gave orders for his court to make preparations for the princess's entry; that the rejoicings should be announced by the royal band of military music, and that the Hindoo should be fetched out of prison and brought before him. When the Hindoo was conducted before the emperor, he said to him, "I secured thy person, that thy life, though not a sufficient victim to my rage and grief, might answer for that of the prince my son, whom, however, thanks to God! I have found again: go, take your horse, and never let me see your face more."
As the Hindoo had learned of those who brought him out of prison that prince Firoze Shaw was returned with a princess, and was also informed of the place where he had alighted and left her, and that the emperor was making preparations to go and bring her to his palace; as soon as he got out of the presence, he bethought himself of being revenged upon the emperor and the prince. Without losing any time, he went directly to the palace, and addressing himself to the keeper, told him, he came from the prince of Persia for the princess of Bengal, and to conduct her behind him through the air to the emperor, who waited in the great square of his palace to gratify the whole court and city of Sheerauz with that wonderful sight.
The palace-keeper, who knew the Hindoo, and that the emperor had imprisoned him, gave the more credit to what he said, because he saw that he was at liberty. He presented him to the princess of Bengal; who no sooner understood that he came from the prince of Persia than she consented to what the prince, as she thought, had desired of her.
The Hindoo, overjoyed at his success, and the ease with which he had accomplished his villany, mounted his horse, took the princess behind him, with the assistance of the keeper, turned the peg, and instantly the horse mounted into the air.
At the same time the emperor of Persia, attended by his court, was on the road to the palace where the princess of Bengal had been left, and the prince of Persia was advanced before, to prepare the princess to receive his father; when the Hindoo, to brave them both, and revenge himself for the ill-treatment he had received, appeared over their heads with his prize.
When the emperor of Persia saw the ravisher, he stopped. His surprise and affliction were the more sensible, because it was not in his power to punish so high an affront. He loaded him with a thousand imprecations, as did also all the courtiers, who were witnesses of so signal a piece of insolence and unparalleled artifice and treachery.
The Hindoo, little moved with their curses, which just reached his ears, continued his way, while the emperor, extremely mortified at so great an insult, but more so that he could not punish the author, returned to his palace in rage and vexation.
But what was prince Firoze Shaw's grief at beholding the Hindoo hurrying away the princess of Bengal, whom he loved so passionately that he could not live without her! At a spectacle so little expected he was confounded, and before he could deliberate with himself what measures to pursue, the horse was out of sight. He could not resolve how to act, whether he should return to his father's palace, and shut himself in his apartment, to give himself entirely up to his affliction, without attempting to pursue the ravisher. But as his generosity, love, and courage, would not suffer this, he continued on his way to the palace where he had left his princess.
When he arrived, the palace-keeper, who was by this time convinced of his fatal credulity, in believing the artful Hindoo, threw himself at his feet with tears in his eyes, accused himself of the crime, which unintentionally he had committed, and condemned himself to die by his hand. "Rise," said the prince to him, "I do not impute the loss of my princess to thee, but to my own want of precaution. But not to lose time, fetch me a dervish's habit, and take care you do not give the least hint that it is for me."
Not far from this palace there stood a convent of dervishes, the superior of which was the palace-keeper's particular friend. He went to his chief, and telling him that a considerable officer at court and a man of worth, to whom he had been very much obliged and wished to favour, by giving him an opportunity to withdraw from some sudden displeasure of the emperor, readily obtained a complete dervish's habit, and carried it to prince Firoze Shaw. The prince immediately pulled off his own dress, put it on, and being so disguised, and provided with a box of jewels, which he had brought as a present to the princess, left the palace, uncertain which way to go, but resolved not to return till he had found out his princess, and brought her back again, or perish in the attempt.
But to return to the Hindoo; he governed his enchanted horse so well, that he arrived early next morning in a wood, near the capital of the kingdom ot Cashmeer. Being hungry, and concluding the princess was so also, he alighted in that wood, in an open part of it, and left the princess on a grassy spot, close to a rivulet of clear fresh water.
During the Hindoo's absence, the princess of Bengal, who knew
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