Select the desired text size
story of the king who would be stronger than fate.
Start of Story
At length he collected himself enough to say:--'If this young man will
enlist in my army I will let him off. We have need of such as him, and
a little discipline will do him good.' Still the old woman pleaded that
she could not live without her son, and was nearly as terrified at the
idea of his becoming a soldier as she was at the thought of his being
put in prison. But at length the king--determined to get the youth into
his clutches--pacified her by promising her a pension large enough to
keep her in comfort; and Nur Mahomed, to his own great delight, was duly
enrolled in the king's army.
As a soldier Nur Mahomed seemed to be in luck. He was rather surprised,
but much pleased, to find that he was always one of those chosen when
any difficult or dangerous enterprise was afoot; and, although he had
the narrowest escapes on some occasions, still, the very desperateness
of the situations in which he found himself gave him special chances
of displaying his courage. And as he was also modest and generous, he
became a favourite with his officers and his comrades.
Thus it was not very surprising that, before very long, he became
enrolled amongst the picked men of the king's bodyguard. The fact is,
that the king had hoped to have got him killed in some fight or another;
but, seeing that, on the contrary, he throve on hard knocks, he was now
determined to try more direct and desperate methods.
One day, soon after Nur Mahomed had entered the bodyguard, he was
selected to be one of the soldiers told off to escort the king through
the city. The procession was marching on quite smoothly, when a man,
armed with a dagger, rushed out of an alley straight towards the king.
Nur Mahomed, who was the nearest of the guards, threw himself in the
way, and received the stab that had been apparently intended for the
king. Luckily the blow was a hurried one, and the dagger glanced on is
breastbone, so that, although he received a severe wound, his youth and
strength quickly got the better of it. The king was, of course, obliged
to take some notice of this brave deed, and as a reward made him one of
his own attendants.
After this the strange adventures the young man passed through were
endless. Officers of the bodyguard were often sent on all sorts of
secret and difficult errands, and such errands had a curious way of
becoming necessary when Nur Mahomed was on duty. Once, while he was
taking a journey, a foot-bridge gave way under him; once he was attacked
by armed robbers; a rock rolled down upon him in a mountain pass; a
heavy stone coping fell from a roof at his feet in a narrow city alley.
Altogether, Nur Mahomed began to think that, somewhere or other, he had
made an enemy; but he was light-hearted, and the thought did not much
trouble him. He escaped somehow every time, and felt amused rather than
anxious about the next adventure.
It was the custom of that city that the officer for the day of the
palace guards should receive all his food direct from the king's
kitchen. One day, when Nur Mahomed's turn came to be on duty, he was
just sitting down to a delicious stew that had been sent in from
the palace, when one of those gaunt, hungry dogs, which, in eastern
countries, run about the streets, poked his nose in at the open
guard-room door, and looked at Nur Mahomed with mouth watering and
nostrils working. The kind-hearted young man picked out a lump of meat,
went to the door, and threw it outside to him. The dog pounced upon
it, and gulped it down greedily, and was just turning to go, when it
staggered, fell, rolled over, and died. Nur Mahomed, who had been lazily
watching him, stood still for a moment, then he came back whistling
softly. He gathered up the rest of his dinner and carefully wrapped it
up to carry away and bury somewhere; and then he sent back the empty
How furious the king was when, at the next morning's durbar, Nur
Mahomed appeared before him fresh, alert and smiling as usual. He was
determined, however, to try once more, and bidding the young man come
into his presence that evening, gave orders that he was to carry a
secret despatch to the governor of a distant province. 'Make your
preparations at once,' added he, 'and be ready to start in the morning.
I myself will deliver you the papers at the last moment.'
Now this province was four or five days' journey from the palace, and
the governor of it was the most faithful servant the king had. He could
be silent as the grave, and prided himself on his obedience. Whilst he
was an old and tried servant of the king's, his wife had been almost a
mother to the young princess ever since the queen had died some years
before. It happened that, a little before this time, the princess had
been sent away for her health to another remote province; and whilst she
was there her old friend, the governor's wife, had begged her to come
and stay with them as soon as she could.
The princess accepted gladly, and was actually staying in the governor's
house at the very time when the king made up his mind to send Nur
Mahomed there with the mysterious despatch.
According to orders Nur Mahomed presented himself early the next morning
at the king's private apartments. His best horse was saddled, food
placed in is saddle-bag, and with some money tied up in his waist-band,
he was ready to start. The king handed over to him a sealed packet,
desiring him to give it himself only into the hands of the governor,
and to no one else. Nur Mahomed hid it carefully in his turban, swung
himself into the saddle, and five minutes later rode out of the city
gates, and set out on his long journey.
The weather was very hot; but Nur Mahomed thought that the sooner his
precious letter was delivered the better; so that, by dint of riding
most of each night and resting only in the hottest part of the day, he
found himself, by noon on the third day, approaching the town which was
his final destination.
Not a soul was to be seen anywhere; and Nur Mahomed, stiff, dry,
thirsty, and tired, looked longingly over the wall into the gardens, and
marked the fountains, the green grass, the shady apricot orchards, and
giant mulberry trees, and wished he were there.
At length he reached the castle gates, and was at once admitted, as he
was in the uniform of the king's bodyguard. The governor was resting,
the soldier said, and could not see him until the evening. So Nur
Mahomed handed over his horse to an attendant, and wandered down into
the lovely gardens he had seen from the road, and sat down in the shade
to rest himself. He flung himself on his back and watched the birds
twittering and chattering in the trees above him. Through the branches
he could see great patches of sky where the kites wheeled and circled
incessantly, with shrill whistling cried. Bees buzzed over the flowers
with a soothing sound, and in a few minutes Nur Mahomed was fast asleep.