STRONGER THAN FATE 309
' Make your preparations at once,' added he, ' and be ready to start in the morning. I myself will deliver you the papers at the last moment.'
Now this province was four or five days' journey from the palace, and the governor of it was the most faithful servant the king had. He could be silent as the grave, and prided himself on his obedience. Whilst he was an old and tried servant of the king's, his wife had been almost a mother to the young princess ever since the queen had died some years before. It happened that, a little before this time, the princess had been sent away for her health to another remote province ; and whilst she was there her old friend, the governor's wife, had begged her to come and stay with them as soon as she could.
The princess accepted gladly, and was actually staying in the governor's house at the very time when the king made up his mind to send Nur Mahomed there with the mysterious despatch.
According to orders Nur Mahomed presented himself early the next morning at the king's private apartments. His best horse was saddled, food placed in his saddle-bag, and with some money tied up in his waist-band, he was ready to start. The king handed over to him a sealed packet, desiring him to give it himself only into the hands of the governor, and to no one else. Nur Mahomed hid it carefully in his turban, swung himself into the saddle, and five minutes later rode out of the city gates, and set out on his long journey.
The weather was very hot; but Nur Mahomed thought that the sooner his precious letter was delivered th 3 better; so that, by dint of riding most of each night and resting only in the hottest part of the day, he found himself, by noon on the third day, approaching the town which was his final destination.
Not a soul was to be seen anywhere; and Nur Mahomed, stiff, dry, thirsty, and tired, looked longingly