Ch 15: Princess of France

Soon after Isabella was taken to the large room in which her friends were sitting and the monk informed them that Princess Arkia would come shortly after finishing her preliminary prayer and then he left. Now Mirano, Mertha and Hanana found the opportunity to talk secretly to Isabella. They had full talk about their present situation and various plans were discussed about releasing Isabella. It was put to Isabella that, in order to be relieved of her permanent troubles, she should temporarily become a Christian. But Isabella spurned at the suggestion and said that whatever trouble came to her in connection with Islam they would Insha Allah (God willing) be an atonement for her sins and strengthen the faith, and if God wanted her to be released from the clutches of these oppressors, He will provide means for it, otherwise God’s Will be done. After full discussion a plan was thought out on which all agreed and, after making up their minds, the girls engaged in prayer. Isabella’s prayer was simply this verse of the Quran: “My Fosterer, take me in with truth.” Mirano began to recite salutations to the Prophet and other girls recited prayer appropriate to the occasion. Then the door opened and the Princess of France came in. She was welcomed by all.

Arkia: I am very sorry that Isabella has left the fold of the Lord and has allied herself with apostasy. I wonder why Satan has possessed her. Just last night I have seen in my dream that eminent Muslim divines were burning in Hell and this unlucky girl also wants to join them. If she takes up the Cross of the Lord again on her shoulders and lives with me just for a few days I will let her see the Lord.

Mirano: Surely it is most shameful that the daughter of the spiritual father has thus become an apostate. This is why we have brought her to you today that you may influence her with your spiritual powers, and bring her back at the feet of the Lord. She could not be silenced by argument, but now it is necessary to convert her by spiritual influence.

Arkia: Very well. Just today an effort will be made by prayer and austerities to turn Isabella towards Virgin Mary and I am sure that she will come round by the morning. I quite see that the Lord is waiting for Isabella with open arms and Isabella is also ready to go into his arms. You may not worry. Just see what happens by the morning. (Here Isabella wanted to say something but Mertha beckoned her to keep quiet.)

When Arkia had spoken of her miracles, the door opened again and the same chief monk entered and, addressing Mirano, asked her if she needed some more nuns. Mirano thanked him and said that she did not need any more but requested him that if he could come once or twice in the night and give them his advice it will be very good of him. The monk promised to look them up after every two hours and would carry out all their requests, and then left and the door was closed.

Now there was just half an hour for the midnight and the girls sat down for prayer along with Arkia who sat before the statue of Virgin Mary. The girls took their places ten paces apart from one another. Mirano took up her seat near Isabella so that if she wanted to convey something important she could do that easily and others might not know it.

After an hour was spent in prayer Mirano whispered to Isabella: Look here. You should not interrupt me whatever I say, but just listen quietly and accept what I say. Arkia in her zeal of sainthood did very curiouss things, sometimes she extended her hands as if trying to take someone in her arms, sometimes she wept and sometimes cried painfully and uttered again and again: Yes, yes. Your Lord may bless you. The Holy Ghost may soon help us. At about one in the night Mirano raised an outcry and feigned faint. Isabella sat stiffly at her seat, but Arkia, Mertha and Hanana rushed to Mirano and wanted to revive her by sprinkling water but Arkia stopped them saying that Mirano had certainly seen the Lord and their prayer of that day would surely end in success

Do not worry, she said, it is our good fortune that the Lord has come to our monastery. (Going near Isabella) Well, Isabella, do you still hesitate in lifting the Cross of our Lord ? Isabella did not reply and continued to listen in silence. Isabella’s silence further convinced Arkia that the Lord had surely descended there and cast his blessing eyes on Isabella. Mirano still continued in her swoon when the chief monk entered the room and was perturbed to see Mirano faint and cried : Oh! what has happened? Arkia promptly narrated the story of her superstition and said with firm faith that the Lord had descended on Isabella which the monk immediately confirmed as he already believed in the saintliness of Arkia. At last with great effort Mirano was revived and regained her senses.

Chief monk: Well, Mirano, how are you? Give us some good tidings.

Mirano (pointing to Arkia): It is all the manifestation of her saintliness and blessing. With her attention she made me see the Lord.

Arkia: Lord be glorified! Blessed be the name of crucified Christ!

Monk: Well, well! What did you see?

Mirano: I was absorbed in prayer when I saw a very handsome and graceful person rushing towards me and he looked in truth at Isabella and smiled.

Monk: Congratulation, congratulation.

Mirano: I was intently looking at the person when he turned towards me. I saw a mark on his face on which was written “The Holy Ghost” with light letters. (Here Isabella was suddenly forced to laugh but she suppressed it
by coughing.)

Arkia: O Lord ! Glorified be Thy Name!

Mirano: Then he took out a phial and poured a few drops on the head of Isabella.

Monk: Surely, they were drops of faith. Isabella, your luck has brightened.

Mirano: Thereafter the Holy Ghost told me two things…

Monk: Say what these two things were.

Mirano: He said that there is a sacred Church in the southern part of Cordova which is now-a-days deserted and in which bones of holy saints are preserved for pilgrims and seekers of blessings. I am going there. Look, the Lord is waiting for you there with extended arms to confer blessings.

Arkia: Crucified Lord! Thy Name be glorified. By holy Mary! how lucky is the revelation. And I had seen the Lord the moment I came here. Do you see how Mirano’s revelation has confirmed what I said.

Monk : Now say what was the other thing which the Holy Ghost said.

Mirano : The other thing…

Monk: Yes.

Mirano: The other thing is not to be told here, as I have been so enjoined.

Monk: Did the Holy Ghost ask you not to reveal it ?

Mirano: Yes, He told me not to reveal it before others.

Monk: At least tell me if it was about some person or some work?

Mirano: I can say this much that it was about you, holy father. How could I know that your position is so exalted before the Lord?

Since the monks and Roman Catholic Christians are very superstitious and easily led to believe, the monk believed it at once and jumped in joy and on hearing from Mirano “How could I know that you have so exalted a position before the Lord?” Arkia fell at the feet of the monk and began to rub her forehead on them while the monk in the ecstasy of joy stood motionless and could only say to her: Daughter, have patience! You will also be with me in

So two hours passed in this demonstration of jubilations when Arkia addressed the monk. Arkia: What should we do?

Monk: To seek our Lord we should go to the place indicated to Mirano. (To Isabella:) Look, O girl, truly it is due to you that the Holy Ghost has descended on us today. Surely just on meeting the Lord you will become a saint and kings will seek blessing at your feet.

Mirano: Is it necessary for us to go to that old Church indicated by the Holy Ghost ?

Monk: Simple girl, have you still any hesitation when the Holy Ghost has ordered that we should reach there before morning.

Mirano: Well, then, lock up Isabella in the underground chamber and prepare to start.

Monk: Why ! Should we leave the very person behind for whom the Holy Ghost has descended here and given us the honour of seeing the Lord? Look, Isabella has received a special grace of God, just as Holy Peter, despite being the bitterest enemy of the Lord, was the recipient of a special grace. So get up, take Isabella with you and go to the Church.

Hanana: If Isabella slips away on the way? Monk (laughing) : Strange! Has the Lord called us to his presence for nothing? As if he is not aware of even this that the person whom he has called will slip away.

Arkia: I think we should not delay now for the Holy Ghost has directed that we should reach there soon. (Looking at the sky:) See I am already seeing the Holy Ghost. O Lord ! glory to thy Name ! (All join in a loud cry): O Lord! glory to thy Name!

Monk: Well, I am asking the donkeys of the monastery to be brought and you prepare in the meantime. The donkeys are very fast runners and will take you to the Church in half an hour.

The monk then called some servants and ordered them to bring the donkeys. The order was promptly carried out, but he kept his departure a secret. The monk was very happy that Isabella, immediately on reaching there, on seeing the Lord would lift up the Cross of Christ and the holy father (Isabella’s father) would be struck with wonder on seeing this miracle. Now, they were all ready to start and Isabella, Hanana, Mertha, Mirano, Arkia and the monk mounted on fast running donkeys and, at the instruction of Mirano, Isabella was kept in the middle as a precaution. In a quarter of an hour’s time they reached the Church of Saint Peter. In this Church the bones of the martyrs, renowned in Christianity, were preserved and Christian women from distant places came on pilgrimage to receive blessings.

There was yet a long time for the dawn to appear and the awesome atmosphere of the Church filled the hearts of all with awe. Immediately on entering the Church Arkia and the monk prostrated before a large skeleton and began to cry aloud as they hoped that before the morning they will see the Lord and the Holy Ghost will embrace them.

While there was weeping in the dead of the night on the one side, Isabella and her three friends were devising their own plans. Suddenly all the four fell upon the monk who was prostrating and weeping before a skeleton and two of them caught his hands and the other two his feet and taking out a rope and rags concealed in their pockets tightly bound the monk’s feet and thrust rags in his mouth. On this sudden and unexpected attack the poor fellow could not even cry for help. Arkia was prostrating before another skeleton, hoping to see the Lord. After securing safely the monk they went to Arkia and whispered in here ear: Come, holy sister! we will show you the Lord.

Arkia, full of zeal, at once rose and when she approached the helpless monk, she cried in anguish: What is this?

Isabella: This is your Lord to see whom you came here.

Then the girls warned Arkia of her future and preached Islam to her and said that if she wanted to see the soul of truth and the perfect man she should recite, La ilaha ill Allah Muhammad Rasulullah [There is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His Apostle]; otherwise she would never be able to see her imaginary Lord till the Dooms Day. So saying the four girls mounted on the fast running donkeys and quickly left the Church.

After their departure Arkia stood transfixed as if she had lost her wit and senses. At last in the dim light of candles, the monk beckoned to her of his plight and Arkia first took out the rags from his mouth and released his hands and feet.

Hearing his outcries other pilgrims also came up, but Isabella and her friends were nowhere to be seen.

Isabella with her three friends (Mertha, Hanana and Mirano) coming out of the Church of Saint Peter mounted their fast running donkeys and driving them with all speed soon reached Umar Lahmi’s house and informed him and other Muslim divines of all that had happened. Ziad b. Umar was also intimated of these interesting details. All the Muslims were astonished on the wisdom and tact of Mirano and congratulated the four guests on their release from Christian oppression.

The four girls came to the meeting of Ziad b. Umar which assembled after early night prayer at which other eminent divines, philosophers, medical practitioners, interpreters of the Holy Quran, traditionists, and historians were present. As nearly all Muslims were aware of the affairs of Isabella and every second or third day Umar Lahmi was informed of the day-to-day happenings, all with great joy were anxious to hear their stories.

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