We left the library, the Sultan indicating with a gesture
that I follow him. The doors and corridors we passed were furnished in mahogany
wood and finished with gold touches.
Everything, just about everything in the
room seemed to remind me of her: the Sultan’s beautiful daughter, Princess Selma.
I had come to this land not because of her, but because of some business proposition to discuss with her father. Presently, the daughter became the reason for me to delay my return home. We discussed business in the library from morning until noon everyday. I dined with His Royal Highness but the Princess was never to be seen. I chanced to see her the first time while on my way to the dinning hall.
She was painfully good looking and as our eyes met, I could sense there was something more to her than just beauty. It was a look for about
a fraction of a second, however, to me it seemed have lasted for hours.
“I am sorry.” she said, covering her face in her veil and
walking away from me as quickly as light footsteps would carry here.
It was against their culture for a girl to be seen in
public. A woman of her standard could not been seen roaming about in her own
Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop myself from wishing I would
see the gorgeous Princess once again. In due time, my fancy was granted.
. . .
I heard stealthy footsteps one night making its way towards
the library. I lurked in the shadows and discovered the Princess was in her
dancing attire. I watched as she opened a trapdoor behind the book case. I
startled her when she was half-way into the hidden hole by coolly asking:
“Do you often come here, Princess?”
“Oh, it’s you – is it?”
Her voice showed no sign of surprise. When she turned and
faced me, I saw no flicker of astonishment in her eyes either. I was taken
aback by her behavior.
“Do you hate me?” I asked her for she kept glaring at me.
“You are the ‘nice young businessman’, aren’t you?” her
words were filled with sarcasm.
“What is the matter with you?” I asked.
She didn’t want to get married to the first person her
father would catch, she told me. She didn’t want to be unhappily married like
her mother and sisters before her. She wanted to dance and she craved
independence. But she asked for the very things this land denied its daughters.
And the Sultan would never approve.
“I am not getting married to anyone!” she said in a decided
tone “I would rather dance.”
“But what if you fall in love?” I asked her.
She looked at me in a new way. As though this was a
possibility she had not considered before. She shook her head at me and
disappeared into the trapdoor. I wanted to follow her but my good sense told me
to forgo that impulse.
. . .
The next time I met her, she told me with passion that she
had fallen in love. She confessed on her own that she was in love with a
childhood playmate of hers who by birth was a Prince but very poor. Her father
would never give his consent to the match. She begged me to ask on her behalf.
“And what would I tell him? ‘O, pray lend an ear to the plea
of your daughter who wishes to marry her childhood friend as they claim to
possess undying love for each other.’ I think not.” It was my turn to be
sarcastic. But these scathing words cut the Princess to the heart. Her sad face
was sadder still, and my laughter seemed to have stung her heart.
We parted on no good terms once more.
. . .
Three days later I met the Princess for the last time. She
had come to meet in front of my quarters. Tears were flowing down her cheeks,
and the reproachful manner in which she looked at me somehow made me sense she
was unhappy because of me. I didn’t need to rack my brains to find out.
“My father fixed my marriage.” Princess sobbed.
“To your Prince?” I asked, with a fluttering heart knowing
full well it couldn’t be so. She would have been happier then.
“To you.” she wailed.
Whatever had been my inner feelings towards this young woman
were completely private. All sorts of vague possibilities occurred to me – had
the servants noticed our rendezvous, had someone got hold of my diary, had I
been talking in my sleep? I felt dizzy as these thoughts went reeling through
my head. I had never asked for the daughter’s hand in marriage. What had made
the father think me to be a worthy match?
I walked away from her, from all this and shut myself in my
. . .
With all my bags packed and a heavy heart, I called in the
library for the daily meeting with the Sultan. He smiled when he saw me enter.
“My son, I have good news for you.” he practically beamed.
“I wish you to marry my Selma.”
“I’m sorry.” I found myself answering. “That cannot be.”
He surveyed me curiously. “Why, may I know?”
“I’m promised.” I lied.
The Sultan sighed. He got up, and we left the library, the
Sultan indicating with a gesture that I follow him. I meekly followed him out
of the door, drinking in the furnishings as memory of the one girl I loved so
As I left the palace gates, I looked up and saw a solitary
face beaming at me from the window. Selma
smiled down at me, looking like a celestial being. Her features were altered.
My refusal had granted her, her dearest wish. She could now dance to her
heart’s content without anyone objecting to it.
Love makes one self less. Looking at the happy face of Selma, I realized I had
done the right thing for love…