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story of the king who would be stronger than fate.
Start of Story
Every day, through the heat of the afternoon, the governor, and his wife
also, used to lie down for two or three hours in their own rooms, and
so, for the matter of that, did most people in the palace. But the
princess, like many other girls, was restless, and preferred to wander
about the garden, rather than rest on a pile of soft cushions. What a
torment her stout old attendants and servants sometime thought her when
she insisted on staying awake, and making them chatter or do something,
when they could hardly keep their eyes open! Sometimes, however, the
princess would pretend to go to sleep, and then, after all her women had
gladly followed her example, she would get up and go out by herself, her
veil hanging loosely about her. If she was discovered her old hostess
scolded her severely; but the princess only laughed, and did the same
thing next time.
This very afternoon the princess had left all her women asleep, and,
after trying in vain to amuse herself indoors, she had slipped out
into the great garden, and rambled about in all her favourite nooks
and corners, feeling quite safe as there was not a creature to be seen.
Suddenly, on turning a corner, she stopped in surprise, for before her
lay a man fast asleep! In her hurry she had almost tripped over him. But
there he was, a young man, tanned and dusty with travel, in the uniform
of an officer of the king's guard. One of the few faults of this lovely
princess was a devouring curiosity, and she lived such an idle life that
she had plenty of time to be curious.
Out of one of the folds of this
young man's turban there peeped the corner of a letter! She wondered
what the letter was--whom it was for! She drew her veil a little closer,
and stole across on tip-toe and caught hold of the corner of the letter.
Then she pulled it a little, and just a little more! A great big seal
came into view, which she saw to be her father's, and at the sight of
it she paused for a minute half ashamed of what she was doing. But the
pleasure of taking a letter which was not meant for her was more than
she could resist, and in another moment it was in her hand. All at once
she remembered that it would be death to this poor officer if he lost
the letter, and that at all hazards she must put it back again. But this
was not so easy; and, moreover, the letter in her hand burnt her with
longing to read it, and see what was inside. She examined the seal. It
was sticky with being exposed to the hot sun, and with a very little
effort it parted from the paper. The letter was open and she read it!
And this was what was written:
'Behead the messenger who brings this letter secretly and at once. Ask
The girl grew pale. What a shame! she thought. SHE would not let a
handsome young fellow like that be beheaded; but how to prevent it
was not quite clear at the moment. Some plan must be invented, and she
wished to lock herself in where no one could interrupt her, as might
easily happen in the garden. So she crept softly to her room, and took
a piece of paper and wrote upon it: 'Marry the messenger who brings
this letter to the princess openly at once. Ask no questions.' And even
contrived to work the seals off the original letter and to fix them to
this, so that no one could tell, unless they examined it closely, that
it had ever been opened. Then she slipped back, shaking with fear and
excitement, to where the young officer still lay asleep, thrust the
letter into the fold so his turban, and hurried back to her room. It was
Late in the afternoon Nur Mahomed woke, and, making sure that the
precious despatch was still safe, went off to get ready for his audience
with the governor. As soon as he was ushered into his presence he
took the letter from his turban and placed it in the governor's hands
according to orders. When he had read it the governor was certainly a
little astonished; but he was told in the letter to 'ask no questions,'
and he knew how to obey orders. He sent for his wife and told her to get
the princess ready to be married at once.
'Nonsense!' said his wife, 'what in the world do you mean?'
'These are the king's commands,' he answered; 'go and do as I bid
you. The letter says "at once," and "ask no questions." The marriage,
therefore, must take place this evening.'
In vain did his wife urge every objection; the more she argued, the more
determined was her husband. 'I know how to obey orders,' he said,
'and these are as plain as the nose on my face!' So the princess was
summoned, and, somewhat to their surprise, she seemed to take the news
very calmly; next Nur Mahomed was informed, and he was greatly startled,
but of course he could but be delighted at the great and unexpected
honour which he thought the king had done him. Then all the castle
was turned upside down; and when the news spread in the town, THAT
was turned upside down too. Everybody ran everywhere, and tried to do
everything at once; and, in the middle of it all, the old governor went
about with his hair standing on end, muttering something about 'obeying
And so the marriage was celebrated, and there was a great feast in the
castle, and another in the soldiers' barracks, and illuminations all
over the town and in the beautiful gardens. And all the people declared
that such a wonderful sight had never been seen, and talked about it to
the ends of their lives.
The next day the governor despatched the princess and her bridegroom to
the king, with a troop of horsemen, splendidly dressed, and he sent a
mounted messenger on before them, with a letter giving the account of
the marriage to the king.
When the king got the governor's letter, he grew so red in the face
that everyone thought he was going to have apoplexy. They were all very
anxious to know what had happened, but he rushed off and locked himself
into a room, where he ramped and raved until he was tired. Then, after
awhile, he began to think he had better make the best of it, especially
as the old governor had been clever enough to send him back his
letter, and the king was pretty sure that this was in the princess's
handwriting. He was fond of his daughter, and though she had behaved
badly, he did not wish to cut HER head off, and he did not want people
to know the truth because it would make him look foolish. In fact, the
more he considered the matter, the more he felt that he would be wise
to put a good face on it, and to let people suppose that he had really
brought about the marriage of his own free will.
So, when the young couple arrived, the king received them with all
state, and gave his son-in-law a province to govern. Nur Mahomed soon
proved himself as able and honourable a governor as he was a brave
soldier; and, when the old king died, he became king in his place, and
reigned long and happily.
Nur Mahomed's old mother lived for a long time in her 'son's' palace,
and died in peace. The princess, his wife, although she had got her
husband by a trick, found that she could not trick HIM, and so she never
tried, but busied herself in teaching her children and scolding her
maids. As for the old hermit, no trace of him was ever discovered; but
the cave is there, and the leaves lie thick in front of it unto this