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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 4 - 6/71 -
that she was in the power of a base ravisher, whose violence she dreaded, thought of escaping from him, and seeking out for some sanctuary. But as she had eaten scarcely any thing on her arrival at the palace, was so faint, that she could not execute her design, but was forced to abandon it and stay where she was, without any other resource than her courage, and a firm resolution rather to suffer death than be unfaithful to the prince of Persia. When the Hindoo returned, she did not wait to be entreated, but ate with him, and recovered herself enough to answer with courage to the insolent language he now began to hold to her. After many threats, as she saw that the Hindoo was preparing to use violence, she rose up to make resistance, and by her cries and shrieks drew towards them a company of horsemen, which happened to be the sultan of Cashmeer and his attendants, who, as they were returning from hunting, happily for the princess of Bengal, passed through that part of the wood, and ran to her assistance, at the noise she made.
The sultan addressed himself to the Hindoo, demanded who he was, and wherefore he ill. treated the lady? The Hindoo, with great impudence, replied, "That she was his wife, and what had any one to do with his quarrel with her?"
The princess, who neither knew the rank nor quality of the person who came so seasonably to her relief, told the Hindoo he was a liar; and said to the sultan, "My lord, whoever you are whom Heaven has sent to my assistance, have compassion on a princess, and give no credit to that impostor. Heaven forbid that I should be the wife of so vile and despicable a Hindoo! a wicked magician, who has forced me away from the prince of Persia, to whom I was going to be united, and has brought me hither on the enchanted horse you behold there."
The princess of Bengal had no occasion to say more to persuade the sultan of Cashmeer that what she told him was truth. Her beauty, majestic air, and tears, spoke sufficiently for her. Justly enraged at the insolence of the Hindoo, he ordered his guards to surround him, and strike off his head: which sentence was immediately executed.
The princess, thus delivered from the persecution of the Hindoo, fell into another no less afflicting. The sultan conducted her to his palace, where he lodged her in the most magnificent apartment, next his own, commanded a great number of women slaves to attend her, and ordered a guard of eunuchs. He led her himself into the apartment he had assigned her; where, without giving her time to thank him for the great obligation she had received, he said to her, "As I am certain, princess, that you must want rest, I will take my leave of you till to-morrow, when you will be better able to relate to me the circumstances of this strange adventure;" and then left her.
The princess of Bengal's joy was inexpressible at finding herself delivered from the violence of the Hindoo, of whom she could not think without horror. She flattered herself that the sultan of Cashmeer would complete his generosity by sending her back to the prince of Persia when she should have told him her story, and asked that favour of him; but she was much deceived in these hopes; for her deliverer had resolved to marry her himself the next day; and for that end had ordered rejoicings to be made by day-break, by beating of drums, sounding of trumpets, and other instruments expressive of joy; which not only echoed through the palace, but throughout the whole city.
The princess of Bengal was awakened by these tumultuous concerts; but attributed them to a very different cause from the true one. When the sultan of Cashmeer, who had given orders that he should be informed when the princess was ready to receive a visit, came to wait upon her; after he had inquired after her health, he acquainted her that all those rejoicings were to render their nuptials the more solemn; and at the same time desired her assent to the union. This declaration put her into such agitation that she fainted away.
The women-slaves, who were present, ran to her assistance; and the sultan did all he could to bring her to herself, though it was a long time before they succeeded* But when she recovered, rather than break the promise she had made to prince Firoze Shaw, by consenting to marry the sultan of Cashmeer, who had proclaimed their nuptials before he had asked her consent, she resolved to feign madness. She began to utter the most extravagant expressions before the sultan, and even rose off her seat as if to attack him; insomuch that he was greatly alarmed and afflicted, that he had made such a proposal so unseasonably.
When he found that her frenzy rather increased than abated, he left her with her women, charging them never to leave her alone, but to take great care of her. He sent often that day to inquire how she did; but received no other answer than that she was rather worse than better. At night she seemed more indisposed than she had been all day, insomuch that the sultan deferred the happiness he had promised himself.
The princess of Bengal continued to talk wildly, and shew other marks of a disordered mind, next day and the following; so that the sultan was induced to send for all the physicians belonging to his court, to consult them upon her disease, and to ask if they could cure her.
The physicians all agreed that there were several sorts and degrees of this disorder, some curable and others not; and told the sultan, that they could not judge of the princess of Bengal's unless they might see her; upon which the sultan ordered the eunuchs to introduce them into the princess's chamber, one after another, according to their rank.
The princess, who foresaw what would happen, and feared, that if she let the physicians feel her pulse, the least experienced of them would soon know that she was in good health, and that her madness was only feigned, flew into such a well-dissembled rage and passion, that she appeared ready to injure those who came near her; so none of them durst approach her.
Some who pretended to be more skilful than the rest, and boasted of judging of diseases only by sight, ordered her some potions, which she made the less difficulty to take, well knowing she could be sick or well at pleasure, and that they could do her no harm.
When the sultan of Cashmeer saw that his court physicians could not cure her, he called in the most celebrated and experienced of the city, who had no better success. Afterwards he sent for the most famous in the kingdom, who met with no better reception than the others from the princess, and what they prescribed had no effect. Afterwards he dispatched expresses to the courts of neighbouring sultans, with the princess's case, to be distributed among the most famous physicians, with a promise of a munificent reward to any of them who should come and effect her cure.
Various physicians arrived from all parts, and tried their skill; but none could boast of better success than their predecessors, or of restoring the princess's faculties, since it was a case that did not depend on medicine, but on the will of the princess herself.
During this interval Firoze Shaw, disguised in the habit of a dervish, travelled through many provinces and towns, involved in grief; and endured excessive fatigue, not knowing which way to direct his course, or whether he might not be pursuing the very opposite road from what he ought, in order to hear the tidings he was in search of. He made diligent inquiry after her at every place he came to; till at last passing through a city of Hindoostan, he heard the people talk much of a princess of Bengal, who ran mad on the day of the intended celebration of her nuptials with the sultan of Cashmeer. At the name of the princess of Bengal, and supposing that there could exist no other princess of Bengal than her upon whose account he had undertaken his travels, he hastened towards the kingdom of Cashmeer, and upon his arrival at the capital took up his lodging at a khan, where the same day he was informed of ihe story of the princess, and the fate of the Hindoo magician, which he had so richly deserved. From the circumstances, the prince was convinced that she was the beloved object he had sought so long.
Being informed of all these particulars, he provided himself against the next day with a physician's habit, and having let his beard grow during his travels, he passed the more easily for the character he assumed, went to the palace, impatient to behold his beloved, where he presented himself to the chief of the officers, and observed modestly, that perhaps it might be looked upon as a rash undertaking to attempt the cure of the princess, after so many had failed; but that he hoped some specifics, from which he had experienced success, might effect the desired relief. The chief of the officers told him he was welcome, that the sultan would receive him with pleasure, and that if he should have the good fortune to restore the princess to her former health, he might expect a considerable reward from his master's liberality: "Stay a moment," added he, "I will come to you again immediately."
Some time had elapsed since any physician had offered himself; and the sultan of Cashmeer with great grief had begun to lose all hope of ever seeing the princess restored to health, that he might marry, and shew how much he loved her. He ordered the officer to introduce the physician he had announced.
The prince of Persia was presented, when the sultan, without wasting time in superfluous discourse, after having told him the princess of Bengal could not bear the sight of a physician without falling into most violent transports, which increased her malady, conducted him into a closet, from whence, through a lattice, he might see her without being observed.
There Firoze Shaw beheld his lovely princess sitting melancholy, with tears in her eyes, and singing an air in which she deplored her unhappy fate, which had deprived her, perhaps, for ever, of the object she loved so tenderly.
The prince was sensibly affected at the melancholy condition in which he found his dear princess, but he wanted no other signs to comprehend that her disorder was feigned, or that it was for love of him that she was under so grievous an affliction. When he came out of the closet, he told the sultan that he had discovered the nature of the princess's complaint, and that she was not incurable; but added withal, that he must speak with her in private, and alone, as, notwithstanding her violent agitation at the sight of physicians, he hoped she would hear and receive him favourably.
The sultan ordered the princess's chamber door to be opened, and
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