Songs for December
The Moon's the North Wind's Cooky
The Enchanted Horse
In far away Persia the sultan held great feasts on the first day of the year. To one of these feasts came a Hindu with a wooden horse. It was so well made that it looked in every way like a real horse.
The Hindu threw himself upon his face before the throne, and said, "This horse is a wonder. If I mount my horse and wish myself in any part of the earth, in a short time I find myself there. If your majesty command me, I will show you this wonder."
The sultan, who was fond of anything curious, bade the Hindu show what he could do. The Hindu put his foot into the stirrup, mounted the horse, and asked the sultan to command him.
"Ride to yonder mountain," said the sultan, "and bring me a branch of the palm tree that grows at the foot of the hill."
The Hindu turned a peg that was in the hollow of the horse's neck. The horse rose from the ground and carried his rider through the air with the speed of the wind. In a few minutes the man returned with the palm branch and laid it at the feet of the sultan. The sultan was filled with wonder and wished to have the horse.
"Sire," said the Hindu, "I will not part with my horse unless I receive the hand of your fair daughter as my bride. This is the only bargain I can make with you."
The people laughed at this proposal, and the prince was very angry. "Father," he said, "I hope you will consider that an insult."
"Son," said the sultan, "I will not give him my daughter, but before I bargain with him try the horse yourself and tell me what you think of it."
The Hindu was delighted to have the prince try the horse. He ran before the prince to help him mount the horse, and to show him how to guide it. But the prince mounted the wonderful horse without waiting for the Hindu to help him. He turned the peg which he had seen the Hindu use. Instantly the horse rose into the air and they were soon out of sight.
The Hindu was alarmed. He threw himself at the feet of the sultan and cried, "Sire, your majesty saw that the horse flew away so rapidly I could not tell the prince the secret of bringing him back. Let us hope that he will find the peg which will do so."
The sultan saw the danger for his son. "May he not land on a rock or in the sea?" he asked the Hindu.
"No," replied the Hindu. "The horse will go where he wishes, and he will wish to land in a place of safety."
"Your head shall answer for my son's life if he does not return," said the sultan. He then ordered his officers to throw the Hindu into prison.
In the meantime the prince was carried into the air, higher and higher. At last he rose so high he could not see the earth. It was then he began to think about returning. He turned the peg the other way, but to his horror he found that the horse rose still higher. Then he remembered he had not waited to learn how to descend. He examined the horse's head and neck, and found a small peg behind his ear. He turned this peg and soon found that he was slowly descending.
It was dark and he did not know where he was going, but he wished he would land in a place of safety. When the horse alighted he found himself on the roof of a grand palace. He looked about and saw a bright light shining through the curtains. He listened. All was quiet. He pulled a curtain aside and stepped in.
There on a couch lay the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen. He fell on his knees beside her and gently touched her sleeve. The princess opened her eyes and, seeing a handsome prince, was too surprised to speak.
The prince bowed low and said, "Beautiful princess, you see before you the son of the Sultan of Persia. I have had a wonderful adventure. Yesterday I was in my father's court, to-day I am in an unknown land and I pray for your protection."
"Take courage, prince," replied the princess, "hospitality is met with in our country as well as in Persia. I am the daughter of the Sultan of Bengal and I grant you the protection you ask. As you must be in need of food and rest I will order my servants to attend you."
The next morning the princess dressed herself with great care, and sent word to the prince that she would see him. He hastened to her. After thanking her he told her all about the enchanted horse. Then he said, "I must return to my father, the sultan."
The princess begged that he remain long enough to know something of the country. The prince could not refuse the request and for many days there was great feasting. At last the prince saw that he must return to his home. He then begged the princess to go back to Persia with him as his bride.
The next morning they went to the roof of the palace. The prince turned the head of the horse toward Persia. He placed the princess behind him and turned the peg, and the horse once more mounted into the air. In a very short time they arrived at the capital of Persia.
The sultan was delighted to see his son again and consented to his marriage with the princess.
Then he sent for the Hindu and said, "My son has returned. Take your horse and be gone forever."
The Hindu was very angry and wished to be revenged. He mounted his horse and, snatching up the princess of Bengal, placed her behind him. Then he turned the peg and the horse rose into the air.
When the prince saw his beloved princess borne away on the enchanted horse he lost no time, but dressed himself as a dervish and started in search of her.
In the meantime the Hindu, with the princess, had arrived at the capital of Cashmere. He did not enter the city, but left the princess on a grassy spot in the woods and went to get her some food and drink. Hearing someone passing, the princess cried out for help. It was the Sultan of Cashmere returning from the hunt. He heard the cries of the princess and went to her rescue.
The princess said, "I am a princess. This Hindu is a wicked magician who brought me here on an enchanted horse."
The sultan ordered the guard to bind the Hindu and throw him into prison. Then he took the princess to his palace. She thought, when she had told her story, that he would help her to return to Persia, but the sultan resolved to marry her himself the very next day.
At daybreak the princess was awakened by the sound of drums and bugles. The sultan soon arrived and informed her that it was a part of their marriage ceremony.
This filled the princess with horror and she pretended to go mad.
The sultan ordered the wedding to be put off until the princess was better. But the princess was too wise to get better.
The sultan sent for all the doctors in the country to cure her madness, but the princess flew at them in such a rage that they were afraid to go near her.
The prince of Persia heard of this princess who had gone mad, and of the enchanted horse. He decided it must be the princess of Bengal. He hastened to the kingdom of Cashmere dressed as a doctor. He went to the palace and declared he could cure the princess. The sultan had given up all hope, but he allowed the doctor to see the mad princess.
When he entered the room the princess turned to fly at him. But when she saw that it was her own dear prince she fell into his arms and wept for joy. Then she told him all that had happened, and that she had only pretended to go mad.
The prince went to the sultan and said, "There is only one way to cure the princess. Some of the magic from the enchanted horse has entered into her. She must be set on the horse's back, a fire lighted around her and an incense burned in the flames. I promise you that the princess will be completely cured in a few minutes."
The next day the enchanted horse was brought into the open square. A great crowd of people gathered to see the wonderful cure. The sultan and his court were in the gallery which was built for the occasion.
The princess, dressed in a fine robe and covered with jewels, was placed on the horse. The fire was lighted and some incense thrown into it. Soon a dense cloud of smoke surrounded the princess so that she could not be seen. The prince jumped up behind her and turned the peg.
Just as the horse rose into the air the prince said, "Sultan, if you would marry a princess, you must first get her consent."
That same day they arrived in Persia, where they were married and lived happily ever after.