THE kingdom of Cashmere was formerly governed by a king named Togrul Bey. He had a son and a daughter who were the admiration of their epoch.

The prince, named Farrukhrouz, or Happy Day, was a young hero of a thousand virtues; and Farrukhnaz, or Happy Pride, his sister, was a miracle of beauty.

This princess was indeed so beautiful, and at the same time so attractive, that she inspired all men who dared look upon her with love, but this love became fatal to them, for the majority lost their reason or fell into a languor which insensibly consumed them.

When she left the palace to go hunting, she wore no veil. The people followed her in crowds, and testified by their acclamations the pleasure they took in seeing her. She usually rode a white Tartar horse with red spots, and moved in the midst of a hundred slaves, magnificently clothed and mounted on black horses. These slaves were also unveiled, but though they were almost all of charming beauty, their mistress alone attracted all the attention. Every one tried to approach her, in spite of the numerous guards which surrounded her. In vain the soldiers tried, sword in hand, to keep the people back, in vain even they struck and slew those who advanced too near, there were always some unhappy persons who, far from fearing such a deplorable fate, seemed to take a pleasure in dying before the eyes of the princess.

The king, touched by the misfortunes caused by the charms of his daughter, resolved to conceal her from the eyes of men. He forbade her to leave the palace, so that the people saw her no more. Nevertheless the reputation of her beauty spread over the East. Several kings became desirous of her on the faith of her renown, and soon it was known in Cashmere that ambassadors from all the courts of Asia were coming to ask the hand of the princess. But before they arrived she had a dream which made every man odious to her. She dreamt that a stag caught in a trap had been liberated by a doe, and that the doe having fallen into the same trap, the stag, instead of having helped, had abandoned her.

Farrukhnaz on awaking was struck by this dream. She did not look upon it at all as an illu­sion of an agitated fancy. She thought that the great ruler of Heaven had interested himself in her destiny, and by these images had wished to make her understand that all men were traitors who could only repay with ingratitude the affection of women.

Possessed by this strange idea, and fearing to be sacrificed to some one of the princes whose ambassadors were daily expected, she went to find the king her father. Without telling him she was opposed to men, she conjured him with tears in her eyes not to marry her in spite of herself. Her tears distressed Togrul Bey.

‘No, my daughter,’ he said to her, ‘I will not force your inclinations. Although it is usual to dispose of women like yourself without consulting them, I swear that no prince, were he even the heir to the Sultan of India, shall ever marry you without your consent.’

The princess, reassured by this oath, the value of which she knew, retired well satisfied and well resolved to refuse every prince who sought her hand.

A few days after, the ambassadors of several different courts arrived. They had audience in turn. Each one extolled the alliance of his master and the merits of the prince whom he came to propose. The king was very agreeable to them all, but he declared his daughter was the mistress of her hand, because he had solemnly sworn that he would not give her away against her inclination. Thus, the princess not wishing to give herself to anyone, the ambassadors returned very confused at not having succeeded in their embassy.

The wise Togrul Bey saw their departure with sorrow. He feared lest their masters, irritated at his refusals, might think of revenging themselves, and angry at having taken an oath which might bring upon himself a cruel war, he sent for the nurse of Farrukhnaz.

‘Sutlumemé,’ he said, ‘I must confess to you that the conduct of the princess astonishes me. What can cause the repugnance she has for marriage? Speak. Is it not you who have inspired it in her?’

‘No, my lord,’ replied the nurse, ‘I am not at all an enemy of men, and this repugnance is the effect of a dream.’

‘Of a dream!’ replied the king, very surprised. ‘Ah! what are you saying? No, no,’ he added a moment after, ‘I cannot believe what you tell me. What dream could have made such a strong impression on my daughter?’

Sutlumemé related it, and after telling him all the circumstances, ‘Such, my lord,’ she continued, ‘such is the dream which has struck the imagina­tion of the princess. She judges of men by that stag, and persuaded that they are all ungrateful and perfidious, she rejects all who are presented to her.’

This speech increased the astonishment of the king, who could not conceive that this dream would have placed the princess in the disposition she was in.

‘Well, my dear Sutlumemé,’ he said to the nurse, ‘what shall we do to destroy the mistrust with which the mind of my daughter is filled against men?’

‘My lord,’ she replied, ‘if your majesty will charge me with that care, I do not despair of acquitting myself therein happily.’

‘What will you do?’ said Togrul Bey.

‘I know,’ replied the nurse, ‘an infinity of curious stories, the relating of which may, in amusing the princess, remove the bad opinion she has of men. In showing her that there have been faithful lovers, I shall doubtless dispose her to believe that they still exist. So, my lord,’ she added, ‘let me combat her error; I flatter myself I could dissipate it.’

The king approved of the nurse’s plan, and she thought only of finding a favourable moment to execute it.

As Farrukhnaz usually spent the time after dinner with the king, the prince of Cashmere, and all the princesses of the court, listening to the palace slaves singing and playing on all sorts of instruments, the mornings appeared more suitable to Sutlumemé, who resolved to take the time which the princess employed in her bath.

So the next day, as soon as Farrukhnaz was in her bath, the nurse said to her, ‘I know a story full of singular events. If my princess will permit me to relate it for her amusement, I do not doubt she will take great pleasure in it.’

The princess of Cashmere, less perhaps to satisfy her curiosity than to content that of her women who pressed her to hear this story, per­mitted Sutlumemé to begin the recital of it; which she did in these terms.

(Be it known now that hereafter the Persian sage interpolates, in the manner of the Arabian scribe, the intervals between the bathing times of the princess between the tale-tellings of the nurse. These intervals have been omitted in this English rendering that the stories may move uninterrupted from beginning to end.)