324 THE SILENT PRINCESS
replied the youth boldly ; ' and why should not I be he as well as another? At any rate, rny word is pledged, and I cannot draw back now.'
' Well, go if you must,' said the sultan. And he bade his attendants lead the way to the chamber of the princess, but to allow the young man to enter alone.
Catching up, unseen, his mantle and the cage as they passed into the dark corridor—for by this time night was coming on—the youth found himself standing in a room bare except for a pile of silken cushions, and one tall golden candlestick. His heart beat high as he looked at the cushions, and knew that, shrouded within the shining veils that covered them, lay the much longed-for princess. Then, fearful that after all other eyes might be watching him, he hastily placed the nightingale under the open pedestal on which the candlestick was resting, and turning again he steadied his voice, and besought the princess to tell him of her well-being.
Not by even a movement of her hand did the princess show that she had heard, and the young man, who of course expected this, went on to speak of his travels and of the strange countries he had passed through; but not a sound broke the silence.
' I see clearly that you are interested in none of these things,' said he at last, ' and as I have been forced to hold my peace for so many months, I feel that now I really must talk to somebody, so I shall go and address my conversation to the candlestick.' And with that he crossed the room behind the princess, and cried: ' 0 fairest of candlesticks, how are you ? '
' Very well indeed, my lord,' answered the nightingale ; ' but I wonder how many years have gone by since any one has spoken with me ? And, now that you have come, rest, I pray you, awhile, and listen to my story.'
' Willingly,' replied the youth, curling himself up on the floor, for there was no cushion for him to sit on.