328 THE SILENT PRINCESS
waxed hot, till, suddenly, the listening princess started up from her cushions and cried :
' Oh, you fools ! cannot you understand that if it had not been for him who had power to reach the palace in time the ointment itself would have been useless, for death would have claimed her ? It is he and no other who ought to have the princess !'
At the first sound of the princess's voice, a slave, who was standing at the door, ran at full speed to tell the sultan of the miracle which had taken place, and the delighted father hastened to the spot. But by this time the princess perceived that she had fallen into a trap which had been cunningly laid for her, and would not utter another word. All she could be prevailed on to do was to make signs to her father that the man who wished to be her husband must induce her to speak three times. And she smiled to herself beneath her seven veils as she thought of the impossibility of that!
When the sultan told the prince that though he had succeeded once, he would have twice to pass through the same test, the young man's face clouded over. It did not seem to him fair play, but he dared not object, so he only bowed low, and contrived to step back close to the spot where the nightingale was hidden. As it was now quite dark he tucked unseen the little cage under his cloak, and left the palace.
' Why are you so gloomy ?' asked the nightingale, as soon as they were safely outside. ' Everything has gone exactly right! Of course the princess was very angry with herself for having spoken. And did you see that, at her first words, the veils that covered her began to rend ? Take me back to-morrow evening, and place me on the pillar by the lattice. Fear nothing, you have only to trust to me !'
The next evening, towards sunset, the prince left the cage behind him, and with the bird in the folds of his garment slipped into the palace and made his way straight