Tales of Old Lusitania/The Enchanted Moorish Princess
THE ENCHANTED MOORISH PRINCESS.
Once a young man set out to travel through the world. Coming to a certain town, he looked about for a night's lodging, but in vain. He was told that the whole city was full; but that in the immediate neighbourhood there stood an old castle, which was empty, where he might find quarters, provided he had no objection to sleeping in a haunted house. The family to whom it belonged had lived there many years, but had suddenly left it, on account of the awful noises heard, and the apparition which wandered through the chambers every night. The castle and its grounds had, therefore, been left to rack and ruin.
As the traveller could find no other shelter he resolved to avail himself of the haunted mansion, since he had no fear of ghosts or apparitions. Nevertheless, when he reached the place, and saw the dismal and decayed aspect of the building, a weird feeling came over him, and he did not venture inside its walls, but thought he would sleep in the verandah, where he arranged a bed for himself with the wraps he had brought.
Night had hardly set in when he perceived a hand stretched out to him, holding a lighted candle. This hand made signs to him to enter the deserted mansion. He took courage, went in, and found himself in a magnificently furnished room, in the middle of which stood a table, with an elegant supper spread for him, comprising delicious viands, sweets and wines of every description. As he was hungry, he ate to his heart's content; after which, feeling drowsy and tired from the day's fatigue, he leaned his head upon his hand and dozed off to sleep. While he slept, a gold ring he wore was taken from his finger and replaced by another. When he awoke, the hand again beckoned him to a chamber where there was a magnificent bed prepared for him. He threw himself on the bed, and then, for the first time, he noticed the new ring on his finger. About midnight he was awakened by some one moving in the chamber, and he made bold to ask who it was that flitted about him, whether it was a man or a woman. A weak voice replied, "I am a hapless Moorish maiden, who has been spell-bound within these walls for many a long year. Good man," said she, "if you have any pity for a forlorn creature, and are willing to break the spell I am under, I promise to make you rich and prosperous. But the conditions are hard; in order to succeed you will have to remain here three days and three nights, subjected to being turned out of bed by the hands of invisible beings, who will cry, Police! Police! What has brought you here? Besides, they will drag you about and beat you unmercifully, bruising your body and causing many wounds. But at the end of each day you will be cured of your wounds by drinking one drop out of three bottles which you will find under the bed. If you decide to remain here the three nights and days, I will leave you three bags of gold, of which you can spend as much as you please, for you have only to say, 'Ah, poor me! I have no money,' and immediately the bags will be filled again. Before I leave you, I must tell you that my father is viceroy in the land of the Moors." Saying this, she departed; for, though he had not seen the person who had spoken, he could tell that he was left alone.
The traveller now felt as if under some spell, and as though he had no power to refuse the request of his midnight visitor. He decided to stay the three days, and endure whatever might befall him. Every thing happened as the Moorish maid had said it would; and every night he drank the drops prescribed out of the bottles she had left him; and after doing so he felt his wounds and bruises perfectly healed. At the end of the three days, finding that no more meals were provided for him, he sallied out of the haunted castle, and took the first road he came to, carrying with him the bags of gold. As he went along, if he saw any house or lands to let, he bought them and gave them to the poor.
He arrived at last in the land of the Moors, where he bought an estate, and settled down on it. He had not been long established there when the approaching marriage of the viceroy's daughter was announced. The princess suggested to her father that it would be as well to invite the foreign noble man who had settled among them, and he was accordingly invited as a guest to the breakfast which was to be given before the wedding ceremony.
At the banquet the guests petitioned the princess to do them the honour of carving for them. And as she graciously did so, our traveller noticed that she had his ring on her finger, the one he had missed when he first entered the enchanted castle. Wishing to attract her attention to her own ring which he wore, he tried every time he stretched out his hand for a plate, to let her see the finger that had it on.
The princess noticed the ring, and her heart bounded with joy to find the man she had so longed to meet, the man who had disenchanted her. She suddenly paused, and said, addressing her father: "My dear father, before we proceed any further, and the marriage ceremony takes place, I have a question to put to you, if our guests will allow me. I lost the key of my jewel chest, and I had another made instead. But as soon as I was in possession of the new one I recovered the old one. Now, I wish you and our honoured guests to tell me which you think I ought to keep and use, the new or the old key?"
Her father replied: "My child, in my opinion you should use the old key in preference, as you are more accustomed to it, and can open your chest more easily, even in the dark."
"Then," said the princess, with a beaming countenance, "I must marry this foreign gentleman who so generously and magnanimously disenchanted me, a feat which subjected him to much trouble and illtreatment."
She married the traveller; and the poor prince, for whose wedding so much preparation had been made, was forced to retire, very disconsolate at the sudden turn of affairs.