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In the reign of the caliph Haroon al Rusheed, there lived at Bagdad a druggist, named Alboussan Ebn Thaher, a very rich handsome man. He had more wit and politeness than people of his profession generally possess: his integrity, sincerity, and good humour made him beloved and sought after by all sorts of people. The caliph, who knew his merit, had entire confidence in him. He held him in such high esteem, that he entrusted him to provide his favourite ladies with all the things they stood in need of. He chose for them their clothes, furniture, and jewels, with admirable taste.
His good qualities, and the favour of the caliph, occasioned the sons of emirs, and other officers of the first rank, to be always about him: his house was the rendezvous of all the nobility of the court Among the young lords that went daily to visit him, was one whom he took more notice of than the rest, and with whom he contrasted a particular friendship, called Aboulhassen Ali Ebn Becar, originally of an ancient royal family of Persia. This family had continued at Bagdad ever since the conquest of that kingdom. Nature seemed to have taken pleasure in endowing this young prince with the rarest qualities of body and mind: his face was so very beautiful, his shape so fine, his air so easy, and his physiognomy so engaging, that it was impossible to see him without immediately loving him. When he spoke, he expressed himself in terms proper and well chosen, with a new and agreeable turn, and his voice charmed all that heard him: he had besides so much wit and judgment, that he thought and spoke of all subjects with admirable exactness. He was so reserved and modest, that he advanced nothing till after he had taken all possible care to avoid giving any ground of suspicion that he preferred his own opinion to that of others.
Being such a person as I have represented him, we need not wonder that Ebn Thaher distinguished him from all the other young noblemen of the court, most of whom had the vices which composed the opposites to his virtues. One day, when the prince was with Ebn Thaher, there came a lady mounted on a piebald mule, in the midst of ten female slaves who accompanied her on foot, all very handsome, as far as could be judged by their air, and through their veils which covered their faces. The lady had a girdle of a rose colour, four inches broad, embroidered with pearls and diamonds of an extraordinary bigness; and for beauty it was easy to perceive that she surpassed all her women, as far as the full moon does that of two days old. She came to buy something, and as she wanted to speak to Ebn Thaher, entered his shop, which was very neat and spacious; and he received her with all the marks of the most profound respect, entreating her to sit down, and directing her to the most honourable place.
In the mean time, the prince of Persia, unwilling to lose such an opportunity of strewing his good breeding and gallantry, adjusted the cushion of cloth of gold, for the lady to lean on; after which he hastily retired, that she might sit down; and having saluted her, by kissing the carpet under her feet, rose and stood before her at the lower end of the sofa. It being her custom to be free with Ebn Thaher, she lifted up her veil, and discovered to the prince of Persia such an extraordinary beauty as struck him to the heart. On the other hand, the lady could not refrain from looking upon the prince, the sight of whom had made the same impressions upon her. "My lord," said she to him, with an obliging air, "pray sit down." The prince of Persia obeyed, and sat on the edge of the sofa. He had his eyes constantly fixed upon her, and swallowed large draughts of the sweet poison of love. She quickly perceived what passed in his heart, and this discovery served to inflame her the more towards him. She arose, went to Ebn Thaher, and after she had whispered to him the cause of her coming, asked the name and country of the prince. "Madam," answered Ebn Thaher, "this young nobleman's name is Aboulhassen Ali Ebn Becar, and he is a prince of the blood royal of Persia."
The lady was transported at hearing that the person she already loved so passionately was of so high a rank. "Do you really mean," said she, "that he is descended from the kings of Persia?" "Yes, madam," replied Ebn Thaher, "the last kings of Persia were his ancestors, and since the conquest of that kingdom, the princes of his family have always made themselves very acceptable at the court of our caliphs." "You will oblige me much," added she, "by making me acquainted with this young nobleman: when I send this woman," pointing to one of her slaves, "to give you notice to come and see me, pray bring him with you; I shall be glad to afford him the opportunity of seeing the magnificence of my house, that he may have it in his power to say, that avarice does not reign at Bagdad among persons of quality. You know what I mean."
Ebn Thaher was a man of too much penetration not to perceive the lady's mind by these words: "My princess, my queen," replied he, "God preserve me from giving you any occasion of anger: I shall always make it a law to obey your commands." At this answer, the lady bowed to Ebn Thaher, and took her leave; and after she had given a favorable look to the prince of Persia, she remounted her mule, and departed.
The prince of Persia was so deeply in love with the lady, that he looked after her as far as he could; and long after she was out of sight directed his eyes that way. Ebn Thaher told him, that he remarked several persons observing him, and began to laugh to see him in this posture. "Alas!" said the prince, "the world and you would pity me, if you knew that the beautiful lady, who is just gone from you, has carried with her the best part of me, and that the remaining part seeks for an opportunity to go after her. Tell me, I conjure you," added he, "what cruel lady is this, who forces people to love her, without giving them time to reflect?" "My lord," answered Ebn Thaher, "this is the celebrated Schemselnihar, the principal favourite of the caliph, our master." "She is justly so called," added the prince, "since she is more beautiful than the sun at noonday." "True," replied Ebn Thaher; "therefore the commander of the faithful loves, or rather adores her. He gave me express orders to furnish her with all that she asked for, and to anticipate her wishes as far as lies in my power."
He spoke thus to hinder him from engaging in a passion which could not but prove unfortunate to him; but this served only to inflame it the more. "I feared, charming Schemselnihar," cried he, "I should not be allowed so much as to think of you; I perceive, however, that without hopes of being loved in return, I cannot forbear loving you; I will love you then, and bless my lot that I am the slave of an object fairer than the meridian sun."
While the prince of Persia thus consecrated his heart to the fair Schemselnihar, this lady, as she went home, contrived how she might see, and have free converse with him. She no sooner entered her palace, than she sent to Ebn Thaher the woman she had pointed out to him, and in whom she placed all her confidence, to tell him to come and see her without delay, and bring the prince of Persia with him. The slave came to Ebn Thaher's shop, while he was speaking to the prince, and endeavouring to dissuade him, by very strong arguments, from loving the caliph's favourite. When she saw them together, "Gentlemen," said she, "my honourable mistress Schemselnihar the chief favourite of the commander of the faithful, entreats you to come to her palace, where she waits for you." Ebn Thaher, to testify his obedience, rose up immediately, without answering the slave, and followed her, not without some reluctance. The prince also followed he, without reflecting on the danger there might be in such a visit. The presence of Ebn Thaher, who had liberty to go to the favourite when he pleased, made the prince very easy: they followed the slave, who went a little before them, and entered after her into the caliph's palace, and joined her at the gate of Schemselnihar's pavilion, which was ready open. She introduced them into a great hall, where she prayed them to be seated.
The prince of Persia thought himself in one of those delicious palaces that are promised to us in the other world: he had never seen any thing that came near the magnificence of the place. The carpets, cushions, and other appendages of the sofa, the furniture, ornaments, and architecture, were surprisingly rich and beautiful. A little time after Ebn Thaher and he had seated themselves, a very handsome black slave brought in a table covered with several delicacies, the admirable smell of which evinced how deliciously they were seasoned. While they were eating, the slave who brought them in waited upon them; she took particular care to invite them to eat of what she knew to be the greatest dainties. The other slaves brought them excellent wine after they had eaten. When they had done, there was presented to each of them a gold basin full of water to wash their hands; after which, they brought them a golden pot full of the wood of aloes, with which they perfumed their beards and clothes. Odoriferous water was not forgotten, but served in a golden vessel enriched with diamonds and rubies, and it was thrown upon their beards and faces according to custom; they then resumed their places, but had scarcely sat down, when the slave entreated them to arise and follow her. She opened a door, and conducted them into a large saloon of wonderful structure. It was a dome of the most agreeable form, supported by a hundred pillars of marble, white as alabaster. The bases and chapiters of the pillars were adorned with four-footed beasts, and birds of various sorts, gilded. The carpet of this noble saloon consisted of one piece of cloth of gold, embroidered with bunches of roses in red and white silk; and the dome painted in the same manner, after the Arabian fashion, presented to the mind one of the most charming objects. In every space between the columns was a little sofa adorned in the same manner, and great vessels of china, crystal, jasper, jet, porphyry, agate, and other precious materials, garnished with gold and jewels; in these spaces were also so many large windows, with balconies projecting breast high, fitted up as the sofas, and looking out into the most delicious garden; the walks were of little pebbles of different colours, of the same pattern as the carpet of the saloon; so that, looking upon the carpet within and without it seemed as if the dome and the garden with all its ornaments had been upon the same carpet. The prospect was, at the end of the walks, terminated by two canals of clear water, of the same circular figure as the dome, one of which being higher than the other, emptied its water into the lowermost, in form of a sheet; and curious pots of gilt brass, with flowers and shrubs, were set upon the banks of the canals at equal distances. Those walks lay betwixt great plots of ground planted with straight and bushy trees, where a thousand birds formed a melodious concert, and diverted the eye by flying about, and playing together, or fighting in the air.
The prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher were a long time engaged in viewing the magnificence of the place, and expressed their surprise at every thing thing saw, especially the prince, who had never beheld any thing like it. Ebn Thaher, though he had been several times in that delicious place, could not but observe many new beauties, In a word they never grew weary in admiring so many singularities, and were thus agreeably employed, when they perceived a company of ladies richly appareled sitting without, at some distance from the dome, each of them upon a seat of Indian plane wood inlaid with silver filigree in compartments, with instruments of music in their hands, waiting for orders to play. They both went forward, and had a full view of the ladies, and on the right they saw a great court with a stair up from the garden, encompassed with beautiful apartments. The slave had left them, and being alone, they conversed together; "For you, who are a wise man," said the prince of Persia, "I doubt not but you look with a great deal of satisfaction upon all these marks of grandeur and power; for my part, I do not think there is any thing in the world more surprising. But when I consider that this is the glorious habitation of the lovely Schemselnihar, and that the greatest monarch of the earth keeps her here, I confess to you that I look upon myself to be the most unfortunate of all mankind, and that no destiny can be more cruel than mine, to love an object possessed by my rival, and that too in a place where he is so potent, that I cannot think myself sure of my life one moment."
Ebn Thaher, hearing the prince of Persia speak, replied, "Sir, I wish you could give me as good assurance of the happy success of your passion, as I can give you of the safety of your life. Though this stately palace belongs to the caliph, who built it on purpose for Schemselnihar, and called it the palace of eternal pleasures, and though it makes part of his own palace, yet you must know that this lady lives here at absolute liberty. She is not beset by eunuchs to be spies upon her; this is her private house, absolutely at her disposal. She goes into the city when she pleases, and returns again, without asking leave of any body: and the caliph never comes to see her, but he sends Mesrour, the chief of his eunuchs, to give her notice, that she may be prepared to receive him. Therefore you may be easy, and give full attention to the concert of music, which, I perceive, Schemselnihar is preparing for you."
Just as Ebn Thaher had spoken these words, the prince of Persia, and he, saw the favourite's trusty slave giving orders to the ladies to begin to sing, and play with the instruments: they all began immediately to play together as a prelude, and after they had played some time, one of them began to sing alone, and accompanied herself at the same time admirably upon her lute, being informed beforehand upon what subject she was to sing. The words were so agreeable to the prince of Persia's sentiments, that he could not forbear applauding her at the end of the couplet. "Is it possible," cried he, "that you have the gift of knowing people's hearts, and that the knowledge of what is passing in my mind has occasioned you to give us a taste of your charming voice by those words? I should not express myself otherwise, were I to choose." The lady made no reply, but went on and sung several other stanzas, with which the prince was so affected, that he repeated some of them with tears in his eyes; which discovered plainly enough that he applied them to himself. When she had finished, she and her companions rose up and sung a chorus, signifying by their words, that the full moon was going to rise in all her splendour, and that they should speedily see her approach the sun. Intimating, that Schemselnihar was coming, and that the prince of Persia would soon have the pleasure of beholding her.
In fact, as they looked towards the court, they saw Schemselnihar's confidant coming towards them, followed by ten black women, who, with much difficulty, carried a throne of massive silver curiously wrought, which they set down before them at a certain distance; the black slaves then retired behind the trees, to the entrance of a walk. After this came twenty handsome ladies richly appareled alike; they advanced in two rows, each singing and playing upon instruments which she held in her hands, and placed themselves on each side of the throne.
All these things kept the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher in so much the greater expectation, as they were curious to know how they would end. At length they saw advancing from the gate through which the ten black women had proceeded ten other ladies equally handsome, and well dressed, who halted a few moments, expecting the favourite, who came out last, and placed herself in the midst of them.
Schemselnihar was easily distinguished from the rest, by her fine shape and majestic air, as well as by a sort of mantle, of a very fine stuff of gold and sky-blue, fastened to her shoulders, over her other apparel, which was the most handsome, most magnificent, and best contrived that could be imagined.
The pearls, rubies, and diamonds, which adorned her, were well disposed; not many in number, but chosen with taste, and of inestimable value. She came forward, with a majesty resembling the sun in its course amidst the clouds, which receive his splendour without hiding his lustre, and sat upon the silver throne that had been brought for her.
As soon as the prince of Persia saw Schemselnihar, his eyes were rivetted on her. "We cease inquiring," said he to Ebn Thaher, "after what we seek, when once it is in view; and no doubt remains, when once the truth is made apparent. Do you see this charming beauty? She is the cause of all my sufferings, which I bless, and will never forbear to bless, however severe and lasting. At the sight of this objets, I am not my own master; my soul is disturbed, and rebels, and seems disposed to leave me. Go then, my soul, I allow thee; but let it be for the welfare and preservation of this weak body. It is you, cruel Ebn Thaher, who are the cause of this disorder, in bringing me hither. You thought to do me a great pleasure; but I perceive I am only come to complete my ruin. Pardon me," he continued, interrupting himself; "I am mistaken. I would come, and can blame no one but myself;" and at these words he burst into tears. "I am glad," said Ebn Thaher, "that you do me justice. When I told you at first, that Schemselnihar was the caliph's chief favourite, I did it on purpose to prevent that fatal passion which you please yourself with entertaining. All that you see here ought to disengage you, and you are to think of nothing but of acknowledging the honour which Schemselnihar has done you, by ordering me to bring you with me; recall then your wandering reason, and prepare to appear before her, as good breeding requires. See, she advances: were we to begin again, I would take other measures, but since the thing is done, I pray God we may not have cause to repent. All that I have now to say to you is, that love is a traitor, who may involve you in difficulties from which you will never be able to extricate yourself."
Ebn Thaher had no time to say more, because Schemselnihar approached, and sitting down upon her throne, saluted them both by bowing her head; but she fixed her eyes on the prince of Persia, and they spoke to one another in a silent language intermixed with sighs; by which in a few moments they spoke more than they could have done by words in a much longer time. The more Schemselnihar, looked upon the prince, the more she found in his looks to confirm her opinion that he was in love with her; and being thus persuaded of his passion, thought herself the happiest woman in the world. At last she turned her eyes from him, to command the women, who began to sing first, to come near; they rose, and as they advanced, the black women, who came out of the walk into which they had retired, brought their seats, and placed them near the window, in the front of the dome where Ebn Thaher and the prince of Persia stood, and their seats were so disposed, that, with the favourite's throne and the women on each side of her, they formed a semicircle before them.
The women, who were sitting before she came resumed their places, with the permission of Schemselnihar, who ordered them by a sign; that charming favourite chose one of those women to sing, who, after she had spent some moments in tuning her lute, sung a song, the meaning whereof was, that when two lovers entirely loved one another with affection boundless, their hearts, though in two bodies, were united; and, when any thing opposed their desires, could say with tears in their eyes, "If we love because we find one another amiable, ought we to be blamed? Let destiny bear the blame."
Schemselnihar evinced so plainly by her eyes and gestures that those words were applicable to herself and the prince of Persia, that he could not contain himself. He arose, and advancing to a balustrade, which he leaned upon, beckoned to one of the companions of the woman who had just done singing, to approach. When she had got near enough, he said to her, "Do me the favour to accompany me with your lute, in a song which you shall hear me sing." He then sung with an air so tender and passionate, as perfectly expressed the violence of his love. As soon as he had done, Schemselnihar, following his example, said to one of the women, "Attend to me likewise, and accompany my song." At the same time she sung in such a manner, as more deeply to penetrate the heart of the prince of Persia, who answered her by a new air, more passionate than the former.
The two lovers having declared their mutual affection by their songs, Schemselnihar yielded to the force of hers. She arose from her throne in transport, and advanced towards the door of the hall. The prince, who perceived her design, rose up immediately, and went to meet her. They met at the door, where they took one another by the hand, and embraced with so much passion, that they fainted, and would have fallen, if the woman who followed Schemselnihar had not hindered them. They supported them to a sofa, where they were brought to themselves, by throwing odoriferous water on their faces, and applying pungent odours to their nostrils.
When they had recovered, the first thing Schemselnihar did was to look about: and not seeing Ebn Thaher, she asked, with eagerness, where he was? He had withdrawn out of respect whilst her women were engaged in recovering her, and dreaded, not without reason, that some disagreeable consequence might follow what he had seen; but as soon as he heard Schemselnihar inquire for him, he came forward.
Schemselnihar was much pleased to see Ebn Thaher, and expressed her joy in the most obliging terms: "Ebn Thaher, I know not how to make you proper returns for the great obligations you have put upon me; without you, I should never have seen the prince of Persia, nor have loved the most amiable person in the world. Assure yourself I shall not die ungrateful, and that my gratitude, if possible, shall be equal to the obligation." Ebn Thaher answered this compliment by a low obeisance, and wished the favourite the accomplishment of all her desires.
Schemselnihar, turning towards the prince of Persia, who sat by her, and looking upon him with some confusion after what had passed, said to him, "I am well assured you love me, and how great soever your love may be to me, you need not doubt but mine is as great towards you: but let us not flatter ourselves; for, notwithstanding this conformity of our sentiments, I see nothing for you and me but trouble, impatience, and tormenting grief. There is no other remedy for our evils but to love one another constantly, to refer ourselves to the disposal of Heaven, and to wait its determination of our destiny." "Madam," replied the prince of Persia, "you will do me the greatest injustice, if you doubt for a moment the continuance of my love. It is so interwoven with my soul, that I can justly say it makes the best part of it, and will continue so after death. Pains, torments, obstacles, nothing shall prevent my loving you." Speaking these words he shed tears in abundance, and Schemselnihar was not able to restrain hers.
Ebn Thaher took this opportunity to speak to the favourite. "Madam, allow me to represent to you, that, instead of melting into tears, you ought to rejoice that you are now together. I understand not this grief. What will it be when you are obliged to part? But why do I talk of that? We have been a long while here, and you know, madam, it is time for us to be going." "Ah! how cruel are you!" replied Schemselnihar, "You, who know the cause of my tears, have you no pity for my unfortunate condition? Oh! sad fatality! What have I done to subject myself to the severe law of not being able to join with the only person I love?"
Persuaded as she was that Ebn Thaher spoke to her only out of friendship, she did not take amiss what he said, but made a proper use of his intimation She made a sign to the slave her confidant, who immediately went out, and in a little time brought a collation of fruits upon a small silver table, which she set down betwixt her mistress and the prince of Persia. Schemselnihar took some of the best, and presented it to the prince, praying him to eat it for her sake; he took it, and put to his mouth that part which she had touched; and then he presented some to her, which she took, and ate in the same manner. She did not forget to invite Ebn Thaher to eat with them; but he thinking himself not safe in that place, and wishing himself at home, ate only out of complaisance. After the collation was taken away, they brought a silver basin, with water in a vessel of gold, and washed together; they afterwards returned to their places, and three of the ten black women brought each a cup of rock crystal full of exquisite wine, upon a golden salver; which they placed before Schemselnihar, the prince of Persia, and Ebn Thaher. That they might be the more private, Schemselnihar kept with her only ten black women, with ten others who began to sing, and play upon instruments; and after she had sent away all the rest, she took up one of the cups, and holding it in her hand sung some tender words, which one of her women accompanied with her lute. When she had done, she drank, and afterwards took up one of the other cups and presented it to the prince, praying him to drink for love of her, as she had drunk for love of him. He received the cup with a transport of love and joy; but before he drank, he sung also a song, which another woman accompanied with an instrument: and as he sang the tears fell from his eyes in such abundance, that he could not forbear expressing in his song, that he knew not whether he was going to drink the wine she had presented to him, or his own tears. Schemselnihar at last presented the third cup to Ebn Thaher, who thanked her for her kindness, and for the honour she did him.
After this she took a lute from one of her women, and sung to it in such a passionate manner, that she seemed to be transported out of herself: and the prince of Persia stood with his eyes fixed upon her, as if he had been enchanted. At this instant, her trusty slave came in great alarm, and addressing herself to her mistress, said, "Madam Mesrour and two other officers, with several eunuchs that attend them, are at the gate, and want to speak with you from the caliph." When the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher heard these words, they changed colour, and began to tremble as if they had been undone: but Schemselnihar who perceived their agitation, revived their courage by a sigh.
After Schemselnihar had quieted the fears of the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher, she ordered the slave, her confidant, to go and speak to Mesrour, and the two other officers, till she had put herself in a condition to receive them, and could send her to introduce them. Immediately she ordered all the windows of' the saloon to be shut, and the painted cloth on the side of the garden to be let down: and after having assured the prince and Ebn Thaher that they might continue there without any fear, she went out at the gate leading to the garden, and closed it upon them: but whatever assurance she had given them of their safety, they were full of apprehension all the while they remained there. As soon as Schemselnihar had reached the garden with the women that had followed her, she ordered all the seats, which served the women who played on the instruments, to be placed near the window, where the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher heard them; and having got things in order, she sat down upon her silver throne: she then sent notice to the slave her confidant to bring in the chief of the eunuchs, and his two subaltern officers.
They appeared, followed by twenty black eunuchs all handsomely clothed, with cimeters by their sides, and gold belts of four inches broad. As soon as they perceived the favourite Schemselnihar at a distance, they made her a profound reverence, which she returned them from her throne. When they approached, she arose and went to meet Mesrour, who advanced first; she asked what news he brought? He answered, "Madam, the commander of the faithful has sent me to signify that he cannot live longer without seeing you; he designs to do himself that pleasure this night, and I am come to give you notice, that you may be ready to receive him. He hopes, madam, that you will receive him with as much pleasure as he feels impatience to see you."
At these words the favourite Schemselnihar prostrated herself to the ground, as a mark of that submission with which she received the caliph's order. When she rose, she said, "Pray tell the commander of the faithful, that I shall always reckon it my glory to execute his majesty's commands, and that his slave will do her utmost to receive him with all the respect that is due to him." At the same time she ordered the slave her confidant to tell the black women appointed for that service to get the palace ready to receive the caliph, and dismissing the chief of the eunuchs, said to him, "You see it requires some time to get all things ready, therefore I entreat you to curb his majesty's impatience, that, when he arrives, he may not find things out of order."
The chief of the eunuchs and his retinue being gone, Schemselnihar returned to the saloon, extremely concerned at the necessity she was under of sending back the prince of Persia sooner than she had intended. She came up to him again with tears in her eyes, which heightened Ebn Thaher's fear, who thought it no good omen. "Madam," said the prince to her, "I perceive you are come to tell me that we must part: if there be nothing more to dread, I hope Heaven will give me the patience which is necessary to support your absence." "Alas!" replied the too tender Schemselnihar, "how happy do I think you, and how unhappy do I think myself, when I compare your lot with my sad destiny! No doubt you will suffer by my absence, but that is all, and you may comfort yourself with hopes of seeing me again; but as for me, just Heaven! what a terrible trial am I brought to! I must not only be deprived of the sight of the only person whom I love, but I must be tormented with the presence of one whom you have made hateful to me. Will not the arrival of the caliph put me in mind of your departure? And how can I, when I am taken up with your dear image, express to that prince the joy which he always observed in my eyes whenever he came to see me? I shall have my mind perplexed when I speak to him, and the least complaisance which I shew to his love will stab me to the heart. Can I relish his kind words and caresses? Think, prince, to what torments I shall be exposed when I can see you no more." Her tears and sighs hindered her from going on, and the prince of Persia would have replied, but his own grief, and that of his mistress, deprived him of the power of speech.
Ebn Thaher, who only wished to get out of the palace, was obliged to comfort them, and to exhort them to have patience: but the trusty slave again interrupted them. "Madam," said she to Schemselnihar, "you have no time to lose; the eunuchs begin to arrive, and you know the caliph will be here immediately." "O Heaven! how cruel is this separation!" cried the favourite. "Make haste," said she to the confidant, "take them both to the gallery which looks into the garden on the one side, and to the Tigris on the other; and when the night grows dark, let them out by the back gate, that they may retire with safety." Having spoken thus, she tenderly embraced the prince of Persia, without being able to say one word more, and went to meet the caliph in such disorder as cannot well be imagined.
In the mean time, the trusty slave conducted the prince and Ebn Thaher to the gallery, as Schemselnihar had appointed; and left them there, assuring them, as she closed the door upon them, that they had nothing to fear, and that she would come for them when it was time
When Schemselnihar's trusty slave had left the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher, they forgot she had assured them they had nothing to apprehend. They examined the gallery, and were seized with extreme fear, because they knew no means of escape, if the caliph or any of his officers should happen to come there.
A great light, which they suddenly beheld through the lattices on the garden side, caused them to approach them to see from whence it came. It was occasioned by a hundred flambeaux of white wax, carried by as many young eunuchs: these were followed by more than a hundred others, who guarded the ladies of the caliph's palace, clothed, and armed with cimeters, in the same manner as those I spoke of before; and the caliph came after them, betwixt Mesrour their captain on his right, and Vassif their second officer on his left hand.
Schemselnihar waited for the caliph at the entrance of a walk, accompanied by twenty women all of surprising beauty, adorned with necklaces and ear-rings of large diamonds; they played and sung on their instruments, and formed a charming concert. The favourite no sooner saw the prince appear, but she advanced and prostrated herself at his feet; and while she was doing this, "Prince of Persia," said she, within herself, "if your sad eyes witness what I do, judge of my hard lot; if I were humbling myself so before you, my heart would feel no reluctance."
The caliph was delighted to see Schemselnihar: "Rise, madam," said he to her, "come near, I am angry with myself that I should have deprived myself so long of the pleasure of seeing you." As he spoke, he took her by the hand, and, with many tender expressions, went and sat down upon the silver throne which Schemselnihar caused to be brought for him, and she sat down on a seat before him. The twenty women made a circle round them upon other seats, while the young eunuchs, who carried flambeaux, dispersed themselves at a certain distance from one another, that the caliph might the better enjoy the cool of the evening.
When the caliph had seated himself, he looked round him, and beheld with great satisfaction the garden illuminated with many other lights, besides those flambeaux which the young eunuchs held; but taking notice that the saloon was shut, expressed his surprise, and demanded the reason. It was done on purpose to surprise him; for he had no sooner spoken, than all the windows flew open at once, and he saw it illuminated within and without, in a much better manner than ever he had beheld it before. "Charming Schemselnihar," cried he, at this sight, "I understand you; you would have me know there are as fine nights as days. After what I have seen, I cannot deny this."
Let us return to the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher, whom we left in the gallery. Ebn Thaher could not enough admire all that he saw: "I am not young," said he, "and I have seen great entertainments in my time; but I do not think any thing can be seen so surprising and magnificent! All that is said of enchanted palaces does not come up to the prodigious spectacle we now behold. What riches and magnificence united!"
The prince of Persia was not at all interested by the objects which so delighted Ebn Thaher; he could look on nothing but Schemselnihar, and the presence of the caliph threw him into inconceivable grief. "Dear Ebn Thaher," he exclaimed, "would to God I had my mind as much at liberty to attend to those objects of admiration as you! But alas! I am in a quite different situation, all these things serve only to increase my torment. Can I see the caliph familiar with the objets of my love, and not die of grief? Must so ardent a passion as mine be disturbed with so potent a rival? O heavens! How cruel and strange is my destiny! It is but a moment since I esteemed myself the most fortunate lover in the world, and at this instant I feel a death stroke to my heart. I cannot resist it, my dear Ebn Thaher; my patience is exhausted, my disorder overwhelms me, and my courage fails." While he was speaking, he saw something pass in the garden, which obliged him to be silent and to turn all his attention that way.
The caliph had ordered one of the women, who was near him, to play upon her lute, and she began to sing. The words she sung were very passionate, and the caliph, persuaded that she sung thus by order of Schemselnihar, who had frequently entertained him with the like testimonies of her affection, interpreted them in his own favour. But this was not now Schemselnihar's meaning; she applied them to her dear Ali Ebn Becar, and was so sensibly touched with grief, to have before her an object whose presence she could no longer enjoy, that she fainted and fell backwards upon her seat, which having no arms to support her, she must have fallen, had not some of the women given her timely assistance, taken her up, and carried her into the saloon.
Ebn Thaher, who was in the gallery, being surprised at this accident, turned towards the prince of Persia; but instead of finding him standing, and looking through the window as before, he was extremely amazed to discover him Iying at his feet motionless. This convinced him of the violence of the prince's passion for Schemselnihar, and he admired that strange effect of sympathy, which put him into a mortal fear on account of the place they were in. He did all he could to recover the prince, but in vain. Ebn Thaher was in this perplexity, when Schemselnihar's confidant opened the gallery door, and entered out of breath, as one who knew not where she was. "Come speedily," cried she "that I may let you out; all is in confusion here; and I fear this will be the last of our days." "Alas! how would you have us go?" replied Ebn Thaher, with a mournful voice; "approach, and see what a condition the prince of Persia is in." When the slave saw him in a swoon, she ran for water, and returned in an instant.
At last the prince of Persia, after they had thrown water on his face, recovered. "Prince," said Ebn Thaher to him, "we run the risk of perishing if we stay here any longer; exert yourself, therefore, let us endeavour to save our lives." He was so feeble, that he could not rise alone; Ebn Thaher and the confidant lent him their hands, and supported him on each side. They reached a little iron gate which opened towards the Tigris, went out at it, and came to the side of a little canal which communicated with the river. The confidant clapped her hands, and immediately a little boat appeared, and came towards them with one rower. Ali Ebn Becar and his comrade went aboard, and the confidant remained at the side of the canal. As soon as the prince was seated in the boat, he stretched out one hand towards the palace, and laying the other on his heart, exclaimed with a feeble voice, "Dear object of my soul, receive my faith with this hand, while I assure you with the other, that my heart shall for ever preserve the fire with which it burns for you."
In the mean time the boatman rowed with all his might, and Schemselnihar's confidant accompanied the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher walking along the side of the canal, until they came to the Tigris, and when she could go no farther she took leave of them and returned.
The prince of Persia continued very feeble. Ebn Thaher comforted him, and exhorted him to take courage. "Consider," said he, "that when we are landed, we have a great way to walk before we reach my house, and I would not advise you to go to your palace, which is a great deal farther, at this hour and in this condition." At last they went out of the boat, but the prince had so little strength that he could not walk, which put Ebn Thaher into great perplexity. He recollected he had a friend in the neighbourhood, and carried the prince thither with great difficulty. His friend received him very cheerfully, and when he had made them sit down, he asked them where they had been so late. Ebn Thaher answered, "I heard this evening that a man who owed me a considerable sum of money was setting out on a long voyage. I lost no time to find him, and by the way I met with this young nobleman, to whom I am under a thousand obligations; for knowing my debtor, he did me the favour to go along with me. We had a great deal of trouble to bring the man to reason. We have at length succeeded, and that is the cause of our being so late. In our return home, this good lord, to whom I am for ever bound to shew all possible respect, was attacked by a sudden illness, which made me take the liberty to knock at your door, flattering myself that you would be pleased to lodge us this night." Ebn Thaher's friend took all this for truth, told them they were welcome, and offered the prince of Persia, whom he knew not, all the assistance he could desire; but Ebn Thaher spoke for the prince, and said, that his distemper was of such a nature as to require nothing but rest. His friend understood by this that they desired to go to bed. Upon which he conducted them to an apartment, where he left them.
Though the prince of Persia slept, he was interrupted by troublesome dreams, which represented Schemselnihar in a swoon at the caliph's feet, and increased his affliction. Ebn Thaher was very impatient to be at home, and doubted not but his family was under great apprehension, because he never used to sleep out. He arose and departed early in the morning, after he had taken leave of his friend, who rose at break of day to prayers At last he reached his house, and the first thing the prince of Persia did, who had walked so far with much trouble, was to lie down upon a sofa, as weary as if he had been a long journey. Not being in a state to go to his own palace, Ebn Thaher ordered a chamber to be prepared for him, and sent to acquaint his friends with his condition, and where he was. In the mean time he begged him to compose himself, to command in his house, and to dispose of all things as he pleased. "I thank you heartily for your obliging offers," said the prince; "but that I may not be any ways troublesome to you, I conjure you to deal with me as if I were not at your house. I would not stay one moment, if I thought my presence would incommode you in the least."
As soon as Ebn Thaher had time to recollect himself, he told his family all that had passed at Schemselnihar's palace, and concluded by thanking God, who had delivered him from the danger he had been in. The prince of Persia's principal domestics came to receive his orders at Ebn Thaher's house, and in a little time there arrived several of his friends, who had notice of his indisposition. Those friends passed the greatest part of the day with him; and though their conversation could not extinguish those melancholy ideas which were the cause of his trouble, yet it afforded him some relief. He would have taken his leave of Ebn Thaher towards the evening; but this faithful friend found him still so weak, that he obliged him to stay till next day, and in the mean time, to divert him, gave a concert of vocal and instrumental music in the evening; but this concert served only to remind him of the preceding night, and renewed his trouble, instead of assuaging it; so that next day his distemper seemed to increase. Upon this Ebn Thaher did not oppose his going home, but took care to accompany him; and when he was with him alone in his chamber, he represented to him all those arguments which might influence him to a generous effort to overcome his passion, which in the end would neither prove fortunate to himself nor to the favourite. "Ah! dear Ebn Thaher," exclaimed the prince, "how easy is it for you to give this advice, but how hard for me to follow it! I am sensible of its importance, but am not able to profit by it. I have said already, that I shall carry to the grave the love I bear to Schemselnihar." When Ebn Thaher saw that he could gain nothing upon the prince, he took his leave, and would have retired.
The prince of Persia interrupted him, and said, "Kind Ebn Thaher, since I have declared to you that it is not in my power to follow your wise counsels, I beg you would not charge it on me as a crime, nor forbear to give me the usual testimonies of your friendship. You cannot do me a greater favour than to inform me of the destiny of my dear Schemselnihar, when you hear of her. The uncertainty I am in concerning her fate, and the apprehensions her fainting have occasioned in me, keep me in this languishing condition you reproach me with." "My lord," answered Ebn Thaher, "you have reason to hope that her fainting was not attended with any bad consequences: her confidant will quickly come and inform me of the issue; and as soon as I know the particulars, I will not fail to impart them."
Ebn Thaher left the prince in this hope, and returned home, where he expected Schemselnihar's confidant all the rest of the day, but in vain, nor did she come on the following. His uneasiness to know the state of the prince of Persia's health would not suffer him to wait any longer without seeing him. He went to his palace to exhort him to patience, and found him lying on his bed as ill as ever, surrounded by a great many of his friends, and several physicians, who used all their art to discover the cause of his disorder. As soon as he saw Ebn Thaher, he looked at him with a smile, to signify that he had two things to tell him; the one, that he was glad to see him; the other how much the physicians, who could not discover the cause of his illness, were out in their reasonings.
His friends and physicians retired one after another, so that Ebn Thaher being alone with him, approached his bed to ask him how he had been since he had last seen him. "I must tell you," answered the prince, "that my passion, which continually gathers new strength, and the uncertainty of the lovely Schemselnihar's fate, augment my disorder every moment, and cast me into such a state as afflicts my kindred and friends, and breaks the measures of my physicians, who do not understand it. You cannot think," he added, "how much I suffer by seeing so many people about me, who importune me, and whom I cannot in civility put away. Your company alone relieves me; but I conjure you not to dissemble with me: what news do you bring of Schemselnihar? Have you seen her confidant? What says she to you?" Ebn Thaher answered, that he had not seen her yet. No sooner had he communicated to the prince of Persia this sad intelligence, than the tears came into his eyes; he could not answer one word, his heart was so oppressed. "Prince," added Ebn Thaher, "suffer me to tell you, that you are too ingenious in tormenting yourself. In the name of God, wipe away your tears: if any of your people should come in, they would discover you by this, notwithstanding the care you ought to take to conceal your thoughts." Whatever his judicious adviser could say, it was not possible for the prince to refrain from weeping. "Wise Ebn Thaher," said he, when he had recovered his speech, "I may indeed hinder my tongue from revealing the secrets of my heart, but I have no power over my tears, upon such an alarming subject as Schemselnihar's danger. If that adorable and only objets of my desires be no longer in the world, I shall not survive her a moment." "Reject so afflicting a thought," replied Ebn Thaher; "Schemselnihar is yet alive, you need not doubt it: if you have heard no news of her, it is because she could find no opportunity to send to you, and I hope you will hear from her to-day." To this he added several other consoling arguments, and then withdrew.
Ebn Thaher had scarcely reached his own house, when Schemselnihar's confidant arrived with a melancholy countenance, which he reckoned a bad omen. He asked news of her mistress. "Tell me yours first," said the confidant, "for I was in great trouble to see the prince of Persia go away in that condition." Ebn Thaher told her all that she wished to know, and when he had done, the slave began thus: "If the prince of Persia has suffered, and does still suffer for my mistress, she suffers no less for him. After I departed from you, I returned to the saloon, where I found Schemselnihar not yet recovered from her swoon, notwithstanding all the assistance they endeavoured to give her. The caliph was sitting near her with all the signs of real grief. He asked all the women, and me in particular, if we knew the cause of her disorder; but we kept all secret, and told him we were altogether ignorant of it. In the mean time we all wept to see her suffer so long, and forgot nothing that might any ways relieve her. In a word, it was almost midnight before she came to herself. The caliph, who had the patience to wait the event, was rejoiced at her recovery, and asked Schemselnihar the cause of her illness. As soon as she heard him speak, she endeavoured to recover her seat; and after she had kissed his feet, before he could hinder her, ‘Sir,' said she, ‘I have reason to complain of heaven, that it did not allow me to expire at your majesty's feet to testify thereby how sensible I am of your favours.'
"‘I am persuaded you love me,' replied the caliph, ‘and I command you to preserve yourself for my sake. You have probably exceeded in something to-day, which has occasioned this indisposition; take care, I entreat you; abstain from it for the future. I am glad to see you better, and advise you to stay here to-night, and not return to your chamber, for fear the motion should affect you.' He then commanded a little wine to be brought to strengthen her; and taking leave of her, returned to his apartment.
"As soon as the caliph had departed, my mistress gave me a sign to come near her. She asked me earnestly concerning you: I assured her that you had been gone a long time, which made her easy on that head. I took care not to speak of the prince of Persia's fainting, lest she should fall into the same state, from which we had so much trouble to recover her: but my precautions were in vain, as you shall hear. ‘Prince,' exclaimed she, ‘I henceforth renounce all pleasure as long as I am deprived of the sight of you. If I have understood your heart right, I only follow your example. You will not cease to weep and mourn until I see you.' At these words, which she uttered in a manner expressive of the violence of her passion, she fainted a second time in my arms.
"My companions and I were a long time recovering her; at last she came to herself; and then I said to her, ‘Madam, are you resolved to kill yourself, and to make us also die with you? I entreat you, in the name of the prince of Persia, who is so deeply interested in your life, to preserve it.' ‘I am much obliged to you,' replied she, ‘ for your care, your zeal, and your advice; but alas! they are useless to me: you are not to flatter us with any hopes, for we can expect no end of our torment but in the grave'
"One of my companions would have diverted these sad thoughts by playing on the lute, but she commanded her to be silent, and ordered all of them to retire, except me, whom she kept all night with her. O heavens! what a night it was! she passed it in tears and groans, and incessantly naming the prince of Persia. She lamented her lot, that had destined her to the caliph, whom she could not love, and not for him whom she loved so dearly.
"Next morning, as she was not commodiously lodged in the saloon, I helped her to her chamber, which she had no sooner reached, than all the physicians of the palace came to see her, by order of the caliph, who was not long before he arrived himself. The medicines which the physicians prescribed to Schemselnihar were ineffectual, because they were ignorant of the cause of her malady, which was augmented by the presence of the caliph. She got a little rest however this night, and as soon as she awoke, she charged me to come to you, to learn some news of the prince of Persia." "I have already informed you of his case," said Ebn Thaher; "so return to your mistress, and assure her, that the prince of Persia waits for some account of her with an impatience equal to her own. Above all, exhort her to moderation, and to overcome her feelings, for fear she should drop before the caliph some word, which may prove fatal to us all." "As for me," replied the confidant, "I confess I dread her transports. I have taken the liberty to tell her my mind, and am persuaded that she will not take it ill that I tell her this from you."
Ebn Thaher, who had but just come from the prince of Persia's lodgings, thought it not convenient to return so soon, and neglect his own important affairs; he therefore went not till the evening. The prince was alone, and no better than in the morning. "Ebn Thaher," said he to him, as soon as he saw him, "you have doubtless many friends, but they do not know your worth, which you discover to me by your zeal, your care, and the trouble you give yourself to oblige me. I am confounded with all that you do for me with so much affection, and I know not how I shall be able to express my gratitude." "Prince," answered Ebn Thaher, "do not speak thus, I entreat you. I am ready, not only to give one of my eyes to save one of yours, but to sacrifice my life for you. But this is not the present business. I come to tell you that Schemselnihar sent her confidant to ask me about you, and at the same time to inform me of her condition. You may assure yourself that I said nothing but what might confirm the excess of your passion for her mistress, and the constancy with which you love her." Then Ebn Thaher gave him a particular account of all that had passed betwixt the trusty slave and him. The prince listened with all the different emotions of fear, jealousy, affection, and compassion, which this conversation could inspire, making, upon every thing which he heard, all the afflicting or comforting reflections that so passionate a lover was capable of.
Their conversation continued so long that the night was far advanced, so that the prince of Persia obliged Ebn Thaher to stay with him. The next morning, as this trusty friend returned home, there came a woman to him whom he knew to be Schemselnihar's confidant, and immediately she spoke to him thus: "My mistress salutes you, and I am come to entreat you in her name to deliver this letter to the prince of Persia." The zealous Ebn Thaher took the letter, and returned to the prince, accompanied by the confidant slave.
When Ebn Thaher entered the prince of Persia's house with Schemselnihar's confidant, he prayed her to stay, and wait for him a moment in the ante-room. As soon as the prince saw him, he asked earnestly what news he had to communicate? "The best you can expect," answered Ebn Thaher: "you are as dearly beloved as you love; Schemselnihar's confidant is in your anteroom; she has brought you a letter from her mistress, and waits for your orders to come in." "Let her enter," cried the prince, with a transport of joy; and so saying, sat up to receive her.
The prince's attendants retired as soon as they saw Ebn Thaher, and left him alone with their master. Ebn Thaher opened the door himself, and brought in the confidant. The prince knew her, and received her with great politeness. "My lord," said she to him, "I am sensible of the affliction you have endured since I had the honour to conduct you to the boat which waited to bring you back; but I hope the letter I have brought will contribute to your cure." So saying, she presented him the letter. He took it, and after he had kissed it several times, opened it, and read as follows:
Letter from Schemselnihar to the Prince of Persia.
"The person who will deliver to you this letter will give you more correct information concerning me than I can, for I have not been myself since I saw you. Deprived of your presence, I endeavour to deceive myself by conversing with you by these ill- written lines, with the same pleasure as if I had the happiness of speaking to you in person.
"It is said that patience is a cure for all evils, but instead of relieving it heightens my sufferings. Although your picture is deeply engraver in my heart, my eyes desire to have the original continually before them; and they will lose all their light, if they be any considerable time deprived of this felicity. May I flatter myself that yours have the same impatience to see me? Yes, I can; their tender glances have sufficiently assured me of this. How happy, prince, would it be for you, how happy for Schemselnihar, if our united desires were not thwarted by invincible obstacles; obstacles which afflict me the more sensibly as they affect you.
"These thoughts which my fingers write, and which I express with incredible pleasure, repeating them again and again, proceed from the bottom of my heart, and from the incurable wound which you have made in it; a wound which I bless a thousand times, notwithstanding the cruel torments I endure through your absence. I would reckon all that opposes our love nothing, were I only allowed to see you sometimes with freedom; I should then enjoy your company, and what could I desire more?
"Do not imagine that I say more than I think. Alas! whatever expressions I use, I feel that I think more than I can tell you. My eyes, which are continually watching and weeping for your return; my afflicted heart, which desires you alone; the sighs that escape me as often as I think on you, and that is every moment; my imagination, which represents no other object to me than my dear prince; the complaints that I make to heaven for the rigour of my destiny; m a word, my grief, my distress, my torments, which have allowed me no ease since I was deprived of your presence, will vouch for what I write.
"Am not I unhappy to be born to dove, without hope of enjoying the object of my passion? This afflicting thought oppresses me so that I should die, were I not persuaded that you love me: but this sweet comfort balances my despair, and preserves my life. Tell me that you love me always. I will keep your letter carefully, and read it a thousand times a-day: I shall endure my afflictions with less impatience: I pray heaven may cease to be angry at us, and grant us an opportunity to say that we love one another without fear; and that we shall never cease thus to love. Adieu. I salute Ebn Thaher, to whom we are so much obliged."
The prince of Persia was not satisfied with reading the letter once; he thought he had perused it with too little attention, and therefore read it again with more leisure; and while so doing, sometimes heaved deep sighs, sometimes shed tears, and sometimes broke out into transports of joy and tenderness as the contents affected him. In short, he could not keep his eyes off those characters drawn by so beloved a hand, and was beginning to read it a third time, when Ebn Thaher observed to him that the confidant had no time to lose, and that he ought to think of giving an answer. "Alas!" cried the prince, "how would you have me reply to so kind a letter! In what terms shall I express myself in my present disturbed state! My mind is tossed with a thousand tormenting thoughts, which are lost the moment they are conceived, to make way for others. So long as my body is influenced by the impressions of my mind, how shall I be able to hold the paper, or guide a reed to write."
So saying, he took out of a little desk which was near him, paper, a cane ready cut, and an inkhorn.
The prince of Persia, before he began to write, gave Schemselnihar's letter to Ebn Thaher, and prayed him to hold it open while he wrote, that by casting his eyes upon it he might the better see what to answer. He began to write; but the tears that fell from his eyes upon the paper obliged him several times to stop, that they might fall the more freely. At last he finished his letter, and giving it to Ebn Thaher, "Read it, I pray," said he, "and do me the favour to see if the disorder of my mind has allowed me to give a favourable answer." Ebn Thaher took it, and read as follows:
The Prince of Persia's Answer to Schemselnihar's Letter.
"I was plunged in the deepest grief when I received your letter, but at the sight of it I was transported with unspeakable joy. When I beheld the characters written by your fair hand, my eyes were enlightened by a stronger light than they lost, when yours were suddenly closed at the feet of my rival. The words contained in your kind epistle are so many rays which have dispelled the darkness wherewith my soul was obscured; they shew me how much you suffer from your love of me, and that you are not ignorant of what I endure on your account. Thus they comfort me in my afflictions. On the one hand they cause me to shed tears in abundance; and on the other, inflame my heart with a fire which supports it, and prevents my dying of grief. I have not had one moment's rest since our cruel separation. Your letter alone gave me some ease. I kept a mournful silence till the moment I received it, and then recovered my speech. I was buried in profound melancholy, but it inspired me with joy, which immediately appeared in my eyes and countenance. But my surprise at receiving a favour which I had not yet deserved was so great, that I knew not how to begin to testify my thankfulness. In a word, after having kissed it several times, as a precious pledge of your goodness, I read it over and over, and was confounded at the excess of my good fortune. You would have me declare that I always love you. Ah! did I not love you so perfectly as I do, I could not forbear adoring you, after all the marks you have given me of an affection so uncommon: yes, I love you, my dear soul, and shall account it my glory to burn all my days with that sweet fire you have kindled in my heart. I will never complain of that ardour with which I feel it consumes me: and how rigorous soever the evils I suffer, I will bear them with fortitude, in hopes some time or other to see you. Would to heaven it were to-day, and that, instead of sending you my letter, I might be allowed to come and assure you in person, that I die for you! My tears hinder me from saying more. Adieu."
Ebn Thaher could not read these last lines without weeping. He returned the letter to the prince of Persia, and assured him it wanted no correction. The prince closed it, and when he had sealed it, he desired the trusty slave to come near, and said to her, "This is my answer to you dear mistress's letter. I conjure you to carry it to her, and to salute her in my name." The slave took the letter, and retired with Ebn Thaher.
After Ebn Thaher had walked some way with the slave, he left her, and went to his house, and began to think in earnest upon the amorous intrigue in which he found himself unhappily engaged. He considered, that the prince of Persia and Schemselnihar, notwithstanding their interest to conceal their correspondence, conducted themselves with so little discretion, that it could not be long a secret. He drew all the consequences from it, which a man of good sense might have anticipated. "Were Schemselnihar," said he to himself, "a lady of common rank, I would contribute all in my power to make her and her lover happy; but she is the caliph's favourite, and no man can without danger attempt to engage the affections of the objets of his choice. His anger would fall in the first instance on Schemselnihar; it will next cost the prince of Persia his life, and I should be involved in his misfortune. In the mean time I have my honour, my quiet, my family, and my property to preserve. I must, while I can, extricate myself out of such a perilous situation."
These thoughts occupied his mind all that day. Next morning he went to the prince of Persia, with a design of making one more effort to induce him to conquer his passion. He represented to him what he had before urged in vain; that it would be much better for him to summon all his resolution, to overcome his inclination for Schemselnihar, than to suffer himself to be hurried away by it; and that his passion was so much the more dangerous, as his rival was powerful. "In short, sir," added he, "if you will hearken to me, you ought to think of nothing but to triumph over your love; otherwise you run the risk of destroying yourself with Schemselnihar, whose life ought to be dearer to you than your own. I give you this advice as a friend, for which you will some time or other thank me."
The prince heard Ebn Thaher with great impatience, but suffered him to speak his mind, and then replied to him thus: "Ebn Thaher, do you think I can cease to love Schemselnihar, who loves me so tenderly? She is not afraid to expose her life for me, and would you have me regard mine? No; whatever misfortunes befall me, I will love Schemselnihar to my last breath."
Abn Thaher, shocked at the obstinacy of the prince of Persia, left him hastily, and going to his own house, recalled his former reflections, and began to think seriously what he should do. In the mean time a jeweller, one of his intimate friends, came to see him. The jeweller had perceived that Schemselnihar's confidant came oftener to Ebn Thaher than usual, and that he was constantly with the prince of Persia, whose sickness was known to every one, though not the cause. This had awakened the jeweller's suspicions, and finding Ebn Thaher very pensive, he presently judged that he was perplexed with some important affair, and fancying that he knew the cause, he asked what Schemselnihar's confidant wanted with him? Ebn Thaher being struck with this question, would have dissembled, and told him, that it was on some trifling errand she came so frequently to him. "You do not tell me the truth," said the jeweller, "and your dissimulation only serves to prove to me that this trifle is a more important affair than at first I thought it to be."
Ebn Thaher, perceiving that his friend pressed him so much, said to him, "It is true, that it is an affair of the greatest consequence. I had resolved to keep it secret, but since I know how much you are my friend, I choose rather to make you my confidant, than to suffer you to be under a mistake about it. I do not bind you to secrecy, for you will easily judge by what I am going to tell you how impossible it is to keep it unknown." After this preamble, he told him the amour between Schemselnihar and the prince of Persia. "You know," he continued, "in what esteem I am at court, in the city, and with lords and ladies of the greatest quality; what a disgrace would it be for me, should this rash amour come to be discovered? But what do I say; should not I and my family be completely ruined! That is what perplexes my mind; but I have just formed my resolution: I will go immediately and satisfy my creditors, and recover my debts, and when I have secured my property, will retire to Bussorah, and stay till the storm, that I foresee, is blown over. My friendship for Schemselnihar and the prince of Persia makes me very sensible to what dangers they are exposed. I pray heaven to convince them of their peril, and to preserve them; but if their evil destiny should bring their attachment to the knowledge of the caliph, I shall, at least, be out of the reach of his resentment; for I do not think them so wicked as to design to involve me in their misfortunes. It would be the height of ingratitude, and a bad reward for the service I have done them, and the good advice I have given, particularly to the prince of Persia, who may save both himself and his mistress from this precipice. He may as easily leave Bagdad as I; and absence will insensibly disenage him from a passion, which will only increase whilst he continues in this place."
The jeweller was extremely surprised at what Ebn Thaher told him. "What you say," said he, "is of so much importance, that I cannot understand how Schemselnihar and the prince could have abandoned themselves to such a violent passion. What inclination soever they may have for one another, instead of yielding to it, they ought to resist it, and make a better use of their reason. Is it possible they can be insensible of the danger of their correspondence? How deplorable is their blindness! I anticipate all its consequences as well as yourself; but you are wise and prudent, and I approve your resolution; as it is the only way to deliver yourself from the fatal events which you have reason to fear." After this conversation the jeweller rose, and took his leave of Ebn Thaher.
Before the jeweller retired, Ebn Thaher conjured him by the friendship betwixt them, to say nothing of what he had heard. "Fear not," replied the jeweller, "I will keep this secret at the peril of my life."
Two days after, the jeweller went to Ebn Thaher's shop, and seeing it shut, he doubted not but he had executed his design; but, to be more sure, he asked a neighbour, if he knew why it was not opened? The neighbour answered that he knew not, unless Ebn Thaher was gone a journey. There was no need of his enquiring farther, and he immediately thought of the prince of Persia: "Unhappy prince," said he to himself, "what will be your grief when you hear this news? How will you now carry on your correspondence with Schemselnihar? I fear you will die of despair. I pity you, and must repair your loss of a too timid confidant."
The business that obliged him to come abroad was of no consequence, so that he neglected it, and though he had no knowledge of the prince of Persia, only by having sold him some jewels, he went to his house. He addressed himself to one of his servants, and desired him to tell his master, that he wished to speak with him about business of very great importance. The servant returned immediately to the jeweller, and introduced him to the prince's chamber. He was leaning on a sofa, with his head on a cushion. As soon as the prince saw him, he rose up to receive and welcome him, and entreated him to sit down; asked him if he could serve him in any thing, or if he came to tell him any thing interesting concerning himself. "Prince," answered the jeweller, "though I have not the honour to be particularly acquainted with you, yet the desire of testifying my zeal has made me take the liberty to come to your house, to impart to you a piece of news that concerns you. I hope you will pardon my boldness for my good intention."
After this introduction, the jeweller entered upon the matter, and continued: "Prince, I shall have the honour to tell you, that it is a long time since conformity of disposition, and some business we have had together, united Ebn Thaher and myself in strict friendship. I know you are acquainted with him, and that he has employed himself in obliging you to his utmost. I have learnt this from himself, for he keeps nothing secret from me, nor I from him. I went just now to his shop, and was surprised to find it shut. I addressed myself to one of his neighbours, to ask the reason; he answered me, that two days ago Ebn Thaher took leave of him, and other neighbours, offering them his service at Bussorah, whither he is gone, said he, about an affair of great importance. Not being satisfied with this answer, my concern for his welfare determined me to come and ask if you knew any thing particular concerning this his sudden departure."
At this discourse, which the jeweller accommodated to the subject, the better to compass his design, the prince of Persia changed colour, and looked at the jeweller in a manner which convinced him how much he was disconcerted at the intelligence. "I am surprised at what you inform me," said he; "a greater misfortune could not befall me: Ah!" he continued, with tears in his eyes, "if what you tell me be true, I am undone! Has Ebn Thaher, who was all my comfort, in whom I put all my confidence, left me? I cannot think of living after so cruel a blow."
The jeweller needed no more to convince him fully of the prince of Persia's violent passion, which Ebn Thaher had told him of: mere friendship would not make him speak so; nothing but love could produce such lively sensations.
The prince continued some moments absorbed in melancholy thoughts; at last he lifted up his head, and calling one of his servants, said, "Go, to Ebn Thaher's house, and ask some of his domestics if he be gone to Bussorah: run, and come back quickly with the answer." While the servant was gone, the jeweller endeavoured to entertain the prince of Persia with indifferent subjects; but the prince gave little heed to him. He was a prey to fatal grief: sometimes he could not persuade himself that Ebn Thaher was gone, and at others he did not doubt of it, when he reflected upon the conversation he had had with him the last time he had seen him, and the abrupt manner in which he had left him.
At last the prince's servant returned, and reported that he had spoken with one of Ebn Thaher's servants, who assured him that he had been gone two days to Bussorah. "As I came from Ebn Thaher's house," added the servant. "a slave well dressed met me, and after she had asked me if I had the honour to belong to you, told me she wanted to speak with you, and begged at the same time that she might accompany me: she is in the outer room, and I believe has a letter to deliver to you from some person of consequence." The prince commanded her to be immediately introduced, not doubting but it was Schemselnihar's confidant slave, as indeed it was. The jeweller knew her, having seen her several times at Ebn Thaher's house: she could not have come at a better time to save the prince from despair. She saluted him. The prince of Persia returned the salute of Schemselnihar's confidant. The jeweller arose as soon as he saw her and retired, to leave them at liberty to converse together. The confidant, after she had spoken some time with the prince, took her leave and departed. She left him quite another person from what he was before; his eyes appeared brighter, and his countenance more gay, which satisfied the jeweller that the good slave came to tell him something favourable to his amour.
The jeweller having taken his place again near the prince, said to him smiling, "I see, prince, you have business of importance at the caliph's palace." The prince of Persia, astonished and alarmed at these words, answered the jeweller, "What leads you to suppose that I have business at the caliph's palace?" "I judge so," replied the jeweller, "by the slave who has just left you." "And to whom, think you, belongs this slave?" demanded the prince. "To Schemselnihar the caliph's favourite," answered the jeweller: "I know," continued he, "both the slave and her mistress, who has several times done me the honour to come to my house, and buy jewels. Besides, I know that Schemselnihar keeps nothing secret from this slave; and I have seen her pass backwards and forwards for several days along the streets, as I thought very much troubled; I imagined that it was for some affair of consequence concerning her mistress."
The jeweller's words greatly troubled the prince of Persia. "He would not say so," said he to himself, "if he did not suspect, or rather were not acquainted with my secret." He remained silent for some time, not knowing what course to take. At last he began, and said to the jeweller, "You have told me things which make me believe that you know yet more than you have acquainted me with; it concerns my repose that I be perfectly informed; I conjure you therefore not to conceal any thing from me."
Then the jeweller, who desired nothing more, gave him a particular account of what had passed betwixt Ebn Thaher and himself. He informed him that he was apprised of his correspondence with Schemselnihar. and forgot not to tell him that Ebn Thaher, alarmed at the danger of being his confidant in the matter, had communicated to him his intention of retiring to Bussorah, until the storm which he dreaded should be blown over. "This he has executed," added the jeweller, "and I am surprised how he could determine to abandon you, in the condition he informed me you were in. As for me, prince, I confess, I am moved with compassion towards you, and am come to offer you my service. If you do me the favour to accept of it, I engage myself to be as faithful to you as Ebn Thaher; besides, I promise to be more resolute. I am ready to sacrifice my honour and life for you: and, that you may not doubt of my sincerity, I swear by all that is sacred in our religion, to keep your secret inviolable. Be persuaded then, prince, that you will find in me the friend whom you have lost." This declaration encouraged the prince, and comforted him under Ebn Thaher's absence. "I am glad," said he to the jeweller, "to find in you a reparation of my loss; I want words to express the obligations I am under to you. I pray God to recompense your generosity, and I accept your obliging offer with all my heart. Believe me," continued he, "Schemselnihar's confidant came to speak to me concerning you. She told me that it was you who advised Ebn Thaher to go from Bagdad; these were the last words she spoke to me, as she went away, and she seemed persuaded of what she said; but they do not do you justice. I doubt not, after what you have told me, she is deceived." "Prince" replied the jeweller, "I have had the honour to give you a faithful account of my conversation with Ebn Thaher. It is true, when he told me he meant to retire to Bussorah, I did not oppose his design; but let not this prevent your putting confidence in me. I am ready to serve you with all imaginable zeal. If you do not use my service, this shall not hinder me from keeping your secret religiously, according to my oath." "I have already told you," replied the prince, "that I did not believe what the confidant said: it is her zeal which inspired her with this groundless suspicion, and you ought to excuse it, as I do."
They continued their conversation for some time, and consulted together about the most convenient means to keep up the prince's correspondence with Schemselnihar. They agreed to begin by undeceiving the confidant, who was so unjustly prepossessed against the jeweller. The prince engaged to remove her mistake the first time he saw her again, and to intreat her to address herself to the jeweller whenever she might bring letters, or any other information from her mistress to him. In short, they determined, that she ought not to come so frequently to the prince's house, because thereby she might lead to the discovery of what it was of so great importance to conceal. At last the jeweller arose, and, after having again intreated the prince of Persia to place an unreserved confidence in him, withdrew.
The jeweller returning to his house perceived before him a letter, which somebody had dropped in the street. He took it up, and as it was not sealed, he opened it, and read as follows:
Letter from Schemselnihar to the Prince of Persia.
"I have received from my confidant intelligence which gives me no less concern than it must give you. In Ebn Thaher, we have indeed sustained a great loss; but let this not hinder you, dear prince, from thinking of your own preservation. If our friend has abandoned us through fear, let us consider that it is a misfortune which we could not avoid. I confess Ebn Thaher has left us at a time when we most needed his assistance; but let us bear this unexpected stroke with patience, and let us not forbear to love one another constantly. Fortify your heart under this misfortune. The object of our wishes is not to be obtained without trouble. Let us not be discouraged, but hope that heaven will favour us, and that, after so many afflictions, we shall see a happy accomplishment of our desires. Adieu."
While the jeweller was conversing with the prince of Persia, the confidant had time to return to the palace and communicate to her mistress the ill news of Ebn Thaher's departure. Schemselnihar immediately wrote this letter, and sent back her confidant with it to the prince of Persia, but she negligently dropped it on her way.
The jeweller was glad to find it, for it furnished him with an opportunity of justifying himself to the confidant, and bringing her to the point he desired. When he had read it, he perceived the slave seeking for it with the greatest anxiety. He closed it again quickly, and put it into his bosom; but the slave observed him, and running to him, said, "Sir, I have dropped a letter, which you had just now in your hand; I beseech you to restore it." The jeweller, pretending not to hear her, continued his way till he came to his house. He left his door open, that the confidant, who followed him, might enter after him. She followed him in, and when she came to his apartment, said, "Sir, you can make no use of that letter you have found, and you would not hesitate to return it to me, if you knew from whom it came, and to whom it is directed. Besides, allow me to tell you, you cannot honestly keep it."
Before the jeweller returned her any answer he made her sit down, and then said to her, "Is not this letter from Schemselnihar, and is it not directed to the prince of Persia?" The slave, who expected no such question, blushed. "The question embarrasses you," continued he; "but I assure you I do not put it rashly: I could have given you the letter in the street, but I wished you to follow me, on purpose that I might come to some explanation with you. Is it just, tell me, to impute a misfortune to persons who have no ways contributed towards it? Yet this you have done, in telling the prince of Persia that it was I who advised Ebn Thaher to leave Bagdad for his own safety. I do not intend to waste time in justifying myself; it is enough that the prince of Persia is fully persuaded of my innocence; I will only tell you, that instead of contributing to Ebn Thaher's departure, I have been extremely afflicted at it, not so much from my friendship to him, as out of compassion for the condition in which he left the prince of Persia, whose correspondence with Schemselnihar he has discovered to me. As soon as I knew certainly that Ebn Thaher was gone from Bagdad, I went and presented myself to the prince, in whose house you found me, to inform him of this event, and to offer to undertake the service in which he had been employed; and provided you put the same confidence in me, that you did in Ebn Thaher, it will be your own fault if you do not make my assistance of use to you. Inform your mistress of what I have told you, and assure her, that though I should die for engaging in so dangerous an intrigue, I should not repent of having sacrificed myself for two lovers so worthy of one another."
The confidant, after having heard the jeweller with great satisfaction, begged him to pardon the ill opinion she had conceived of him, for the zeal she had for her mistress's interest.? I am beyond measure glad," she added, "that Schemselnihar and the prince have found in you a person so fit to supply Ebn Thaher's place I will not fail to convince my mistress of the good-will you bear her."
After the confidant had testified to the jeweller her joy to see him so well disposed to serve Schemselnihar and the prince of Persia, the jeweller took the letter out of his bosom, and restored it to her, saying, "Go, carry it quickly to the prince, and return this way that I may see his reply. Forget not to give him an account of our conversation."
The confidant took the letter and carried it to the prince, who answered it immediately. She returned to the jeweller's house to shew him the answer, which was in these words:
The Prince of Persia's Answer to Schemselnihar.
"Your precious letter has had a great effect upon me, but not so great as I could have wished. You endeavour to comfort me for the loss of Ebn Thaher; alas! however sensible I am of this, it is but the least of my troubles. You know these troubles, and you know also that your presence alone can cure me. When will the time come that I shall enjoy it without fear of a separation? How distant does it seem to me! or shall we flatter ourselves that we may ever see it? You command me to preserve myself; I will obey you, since I have renounced my own will to follow only yours. Adieu."
After the jeweller had read this letter, he returned it to the confidant, who said, as she was going away, "I will desire my mistress to put the same confidence in you that she did in Ebn Thaher. You shall hear of me to-morrow." Accordingly, next day she returned with a pleasant countenance. "Your very looks," said he to her, "inform me that you have brought Schemselnihar to the point you wished." "It is true," replied the confidant, "and you shall hear how I succeeded. I found yesterday, on my return, Schemselnihar expecting me with impatience, I gave her the prince of Persia's letter, and she read it with tears in her eyes. When she had done, I saw that she had abandoned herself to her usual sorrow. ‘Madam,' said I to her, ‘it is doubtless Ebn Thaher's removal that troubles you; but suffer me to conjure you in the name of God, to alarm yourself no farther on this account. We have found another Ebn Thaher, who offers to oblige you with equal zeal; and, what is yet more important, with greater courage.' Then I spoke to her of you," continued the slave, "and acquainted her with the motive which led you to the prince of Persia's house. In short, I assured her that you would keep inviolably the secret betwixt her and the prince of Persia, and that you were resolved to favour their amour with all your might. She seemed to be much relieved by my discourse. ‘Ah! what obligations,' said she, ‘are the prince of Persia and I under to that honest man you speak of! I must be acquainted with him and see him, that I may hear from his own mouth what you tell me, and thank him for such unheard-of generosity towards persons on whose account he is no way obliged to interest himself. The sight of him will give me pleasure, and I shall omit nothing to confirm him in those good sentiments. Fail not to bring him to me to- morrow.' Therefore, sir, be so good as to accompany me to the palace."
The confidant's proposal perplexed the jeweller. "Your mistress," replied he, "must allow me to say that she has not duly considered what she requires of me. Ebn Thaher's access to the caliph gave him admission every where; and the officers who knew him, allowed him free access to Schemselnihar's palace; but as for me, how dare I enter? You see clearly that it is impossible. I entreat you to represent to Schemselnihar the reasons which prevent me from affording her that satisfaction; and acquaint her with all the ill consequences that would attend my compliance. lf she considered it ever so little, she would find that it would expose me needlessly to very imminent danger."
The confidant endeavoured to encourage the jeweller. "Can you believe," said she, "that Schemselnihar is so unreasonable as to expose you to the least danger by bringing you to her, from whom she expects such important services? Consider with yourself that there is not the least appearance of risk. My mistress and I are too much interested in this affair to involve you in any danger. You may depend upon me, and leave yourself to my conduit. After the thing is over you will be the first to confess that your apprehensions were groundless."
The jeweller yielded to the confidant's assurances, and rose up to follow her, but notwithstanding his boasted courage, he was seized with such terror that his whole body trembled. "In your present state," said she, "I perceive it will be better for you to remain at home, and that Schemselnihar should take other measures to see you. It is not to be doubted but that to satisfy her desire she will come hither herself: the case being so, sir, I would not have you go: I am persuaded it will not be long ere you see her here." The confidant foresaw this; for she no sooner informed Schemselnihar of the jeweller's fear, but she prepared to go to his house.
He received her with all the expressions of profound respect. When she sat down, being a little fatigued, she unveiled herself, and exhibited to the jeweller such beauty as convinced him that the prince of Persia was excusable in giving his heart to the caliph's favourite. Then she saluted the jeweller with a graceful air, and said to him, "I could not hear with what zeal you have engaged in the prince of Persia's concerns and mine, without immediately determining to express my gratitude in person. I thank heaven for having so soon made up to us the loss of Ebn Thaher."
Schemselnihar said many other obliging things to the jeweller, after which she returned to her palace. The jeweller went immediately to give an account of this visit to the prince of Persia; who said to him, as soon as he saw him, "I have expected you impatiently. The trusty slave has brought me a letter from her mistress, but it does not relieve me. Whatever the lovely Schemselnihar says, I dare not hope, and my patience is exhausted; I know not now what measures to pursue; Ebn Thaher's departure reduces me to despair. He was my only support: in him I have lost every thing. I had flattered myself with some hopes by reason of his access to Schemselnihar."
After these words, which the prince spoke with so much eagerness, that he gave the jeweller no time to interrupt him, he said to the prince, "No man can take more interest in your affliction than I do; and if you will have patience to hear me you will perceive that I can relieve you." Upon this the prince became silent, and listened to him. "I see," said the jeweller, "that the only way to give you satisfaction is to devise a plan that will afford you an opportunity of conversing freely with Schemselnihar. This I wish to procure you, and to-morrow will make the attempt. You must by no means expose yourself to enter Schemselnihar's palace; you know by experience the danger of that step. I know a fitter place for this interview, where you will be safe." When the jeweller had finished, the prince embraced him with transports of joy. "You revive," said he, "by this promise, a wretched lover, who was condemned to die. You have fully repaired the loss of Ebn Thaher; whatever you do will be well performed; I leave myself entirely to your conduct."
After the prince had thus thanked him for his zeal, the jeweller returned home, and next morning Schemselnihar's confidant came to him. He told her that he had given the prince of Persia hopes that he should shortly see her mistress. "I am come on purpose," answered she, "to concert measures with you for that end. I think this house will be convenient enough for their interview." "I could receive them very well here," replied he, "but I think they will have more liberty in another house of mine where no one resides at present; I will immediately furnish it for their reception." "There remains nothing then for me to do," replied the confidant, "but to bring Schemselnihar to consent to this. I will go and speak to her, and return speedily with an answer."
She was as diligent as her promise, and returning to the jeweller, told him that her mistress would not fail to keep the appointment in the evening. In the mean time she gave him a purse, and told him it was to prepare a collation. He carried her immediately to the house where the lovers were to meet, that she might know whither to bring her mistress: and when she was gone, he went to borrow from his friends gold and silver plate, tapestry, rich cushions, and other furniture, with which he furnished the house very magnificently; and when he had put all things in order, went to the prince of Persia.
You may easily conceive the prince of Persia's joy, when the jeweller told him that he came to conduct him to the house he had prepared to receive him and Schemselnihar. This news made him forget all his former trouble. He put on a magnificent robe, and went without his retinue along with the jeweller; who led him through several by-streets that nobody might observe them, and at last brought him to the house, where they conversed together until Schemselnihar's arrival.
They did not wait long for this passionate lover. She came after evening prayer, with her confidant, and two other slaves. It is impossible to express the excess of joy that seized these two lovers when they saw one another. They sat down together upon a sofa, looking upon one another for some time, without being able to speak, they were so much overjoyed: but when their speech returned, they soon made up for their silence. They said to each other so many tender things, as made the jeweller, the confidant, and the two other slaves weep. The jeweller however restrained his tears, to attend the collation, which he brought in himself. The lovers ate and drank little, after which they sat down again upon the sofa: Schemselnihar asked the jeweller if he had a lute, or any other instrument, The jeweller, who took care to provide all that could please her, brought her a lute: she spent some time in tuning it, and then sung.
While Schemselnihar was charming the prince of Persia, and expressing her passion by words composed extempore, a great noise was heard; and immediately the slave, whom. the jeweller had brought with him, came in great alarm to tell him that some people were breaking in at the gate; that he asked who they were, but instead of any answer the blows were redoubled. The jeweller, being alarmed, left Schemselnihar and the prince to inform himself of the truth of this intelligence. No sooner had he got to the court, than he perceived, notwithstanding the darkness of the night, a company of men armed with spears and cimeters, who had broken the gate, and came directly towards him. He stood close to a wall for fear of his life, and saw ten of them pass without being perceived by them. Finding he could give no great assistance to the prince of Persia and Schemselnihar, he contented himself with lamenting their fate, and fled for refuge to a neighbour's house, who was not yet gone to bed. He did not doubt but this unexpected violence was by the caliph's order, who, he thought, had been informed of his favourite's meeting the prince of Persia there. He heard a great noise in his house, which continued till midnight: and when all was quiet, as he thought, he desired his neighbour to lend him a cimeter; and being thus armed, went on till he came to the gate of his own house: he entered the court full of fear, and perceived a man, who asked him who he was; he knew by his voice that it was his own slave. "How did you manage," said he, "to avoid being taken by the watch?" "Sir," answered the slave, "I hid myself in a corner of the court, and I went out as soon as I heard the noise. But it was not the watch who broke into your house: they were robbers, who within these few days robbed another house in this neighbourhood. They doubtless had notice of the rich furniture you brought hither, and had that in view."
The jeweller thought his slave's conjecture probable enough. He entered the house, and saw that the robbers had taken all the furniture out of the apartment where he received Schemselnihar and her lover, that they had also carried off the gold and silver plate, and, in a word, had left nothing. Perceiving this desolation, he exclaimed, "O heaven! I am irrecoverably ruined! What will my friends say, and what excuse can I make when I shall tell them that the robbers have broken into my house, and robbed me of all they had generously lent me? I shall never be able to make up their loss. Besides, what is become of Schemselnihar and the prince of Persia? This business will be so public, that it will be impossible but it must reach the caliph's ears. He will get notice of this meeting, and I shall fall a sacrifice to his fury." The slave, who was very much attached to him, endeavoured to comfort him. "As to Schemselnihar," said he, "the robbers would probably consent themselves with stripping her, and you have reason to think that she is retired to her palace with her slaves. The prince of Persia too has probably escaped, so that you have reason to hope the caliph will never know of this adventure. As for the loss your friends have sustained, that is a misfortune that you could not avoid. They know very well the robbers are numerous, that they have not only pillaged the house I have already spoken of, but many other houses of the principal noblemen of the court: and they are not ignorant that, notwithstanding the orders given to apprehend them, nobody has been yet able to seize any of them. You will be acquitted by restoring your friends the value of the things that are stolen, and, blessed be God, you will have enough left."
While they were waiting for day-light, the jeweller ordered the slave to mend the street door, which was broken, as well as he could: after which he returned to his usual residence with his slave, making melancholy reflections on what had happened. "Ebn Thaher," said he to himself, "has been wiser than I; he foresaw the misfortune into which I have blindly thrown myself: would to God I had never meddled in this intrigue, which will, perhaps, cost me my life!"
It was scarcely day when the report of the robbery spread through the city, and a great many of his friends and neighbours came to his house to express their concern for his misfortune; but were curious to know the particulars. He thanked them for their affection, and had at least the consolation, that he heard no one mention Schemselnihar. or the prince of Persia: which made him believe they were at their houses, or in some secure place.
When the jeweller was alone, his servants brought him something to eat, but he had no appetite. About noon one of his slaves came to tell him there was a man at the gate, whom he knew not, that desired to speak with him. The jeweller, not choosing to receive a stranger into his house, rose up, and went to speak to him. "Though you do not know me," said the man; "I know you, and I am come to talk to you about an important affair." The jeweller desired him to come in. "No," answered the stranger "if you please, rather take the trouble to go with me to your other house." "How know you," asked the jeweller, "that I have another house?" "I know very well," answered the stranger; "follow me, and do not fear any thing: I have something to communicate which will please you." The jeweller went immediately with him; and after he had considered by the way how the house they were going to had been robbed, he said to him that it was not fit to receive him.
When they were before the house, and the stranger saw the gate half broken down, he said to the jeweller, "I see you have told me the truth. I will conduct you to a place where we shall be better accommodated." When he had thus spoken, he went on, and walked all the rest of the day without stopping. The jeweller being fatigued with his walk, vexed to see night approach, and that the stranger went on without telling him where he was going, began to lose his patience, when they came to a path which led to the Tigris. As soon as they reached the river, they embarked in a little boat, and went over. The stranger led the jeweller through a long street, where he had never been before; and after he had brought him through several by-streets, he stopped at a gate, which he opened. He made the jeweller go in before him, he then shut and bolted the gate, with a huge iron bolt, and conducted him to a chamber, where there were ten other men, all of them as great strangers to the jeweller as he who had brought him hither.
These ten men received him without much ceremony. They desired him to sit down, of which he had great need; for he was not only out of breath with walking so far, but his terror at finding himself with people whom he thought he had reason to fear would have disabled him from standing. They waited for their leader to go to supper, and as soon as he came it was served up. They washed their hands, obliged the jeweller to do the like, and to sit at table with them. After supper the men asked him, if he knew whom he spoke to? He answered, "No; and that he knew not the place he was in." "Tell us your last night's adventure," said they to him, "and conceal nothing from us." The jeweller, being astonished at this request, answered, "Gentlemen, it is probable you know it already." "That is true," replied they; "the young man and the young lady, who were at your house yesternight, told it us; but we would know it from your own mouth." The jeweller needed no more to inform him that he spoke to the robbers who had broken into and plundered his house. "Gentlemen," said he, "I am much troubled for that young man and lady; can you give me any tidings of them?"
Upon the jeweller's inquiry of the thieves, if they knew any thing of the young man and the young lady, they answered, "Be not concerned for them, they are safe and well," so saying, they shewed him two closets, where they assured him they were separately shut up. They added, "We are informed you alone know what relates to them, which we no sooner came to understand, but we shewed them all imaginable respect, and were so far from doing them any injury, that we treated them with all possible kindness on your account. We answer for the same," proceeded they, "for your own person, you may put unlimited confidence in us."
The jeweller being encouraged by this assurance, and overjoyed to hear that the prince of Persia and Schemselnihar were safe, resolved to engage the robbers yet farther in their interest. He commended them, flattered them, and gave them a thousand benedictions. "Gentlemen," said he, "I must confess I have not the honour to know you, yet it is no small happiness to me that I am not wholly unknown to you; and I can never be sufficiently grateful for the favours which that knowledge has procured me at your hands. Not to mention your great humanity, I am fully persuaded now, that persons of your character are capable of keeping a secret faithfully, and none are so fit to undertake a great enterprise, which you can best bring to a good issue by your zeal, courage, and intrepidity. Confiding in these qualities, which are so much your due, I hesitate not to tell you my whole history, with that of those two persons you found in my house, with all the fidelity you desire me."
After the jeweller had thus secured, as he thought, the confidence of the robbers, he made no scruple to relate to them the whole amour of the prince of Persia and Schemselnihar, from the beginning of it to the time he had received them into his house.
The robbers were greatly astonished at all the particulars they heard, and could not forbear exclaiming, "How! is it possible that the young man should be the illustrious Ali Ebn Becar, prince of Persia, and the young lady the fair and celebrated beauty Schemselnihar?" The jeweller assured them nothing was more certain, and that they need not think it strange, that persons of so distinguished a character should wish not to be known.
Upon this assurance of their quality, the robbers went immediately, one after another, and threw themselves at their feet, imploring their pardon, and protesting that nothing of the kind would have happened to them, had they been informed of the quality of their persons before they broke into the house; and that they would by their future conduct endeavour to make amends for the crime they had thus ignorantly committed. Then turning to the jeweller, they told him, they were heartily sorry they could not restore to him all that had been taken from him, part of it being no longer in their possession. but as for what remained, if he would content himself with his plate, it should be forthwith put into his hand.
The jeweller was overjoyed at the favour done him, and after the robbers had delivered to him the plate, they required of the prince, Schemselnihar, and him, to promise them upon oath, that they would not betray them, and they would carry them to a place whence they might easily return to their respective homes. The prince, Schemselnihar, and the jeweller, replied, that they might rely on their words, but since they desired an oath of them, they solemnly swore not to discover them. The thieves, satisfied with this, immediately went out with them.
On the way, the jeweller, uneasy at not seeing the confidant and the two slaves, came up to Schemselnihar, and begged her to inform him what was become of them. She answered, she knew nothing of them, and that all she could tell him was, that she was carried away from his house, ferried over the river, and brought to the place from whence they were just come.
Schemselnihar and the jeweller had no farther conversation; they let the robbers conduit them with the prince to the river's side, when the robbers immediately took boat, and carried them over to the opposite bank.
While the prince, Schemselnihar, and the jeweller were landing, they heard the noise of the horse patrol coming towards them, just as the boat had conveyed the robbers back.
The commander of the brigade demanded of the prince, Schemselnihar, and the jeweller, who they were, and whence they had come so late? Frightened as they were, and apprehensive of saying any thing that might prejudice them, they could not speak; but at length it was necessary they should. The jeweller's mind being most at ease, he said, "Sir, I can assure you, we are respectable people of the city. The persons who have just landed us, and are now returned to the other side of the water, are thieves, who having last night broke open the house where we were, pillaged it, and afterwards carried us to their quarters, whence by fair words, we prevailed on them to let us have our liberty; and they brought us hither. They have restored us part of the booty they had taken from us." At which words he shewed the parcel of plate he had recovered.
The commander, not satisfied with what the jeweller had told him, came up to him and the prince of Persia, and looking steadfastly at them, said, "Tell me truly, who is this lady? How came you to know her?"
These questions embarrassed them so much that neither of them could answer; till at length Schemselnihar extricated them from their difficulty, and taking the commander aside, told him who she was; which he no sooner heard, than he alighted with expressions of great respect and politeness, and ordered his men to bring two boats.
When the boats were come, he put Schemselnihar into one, and the prince of Persia and the jeweller into the other, with two of his people in each boat; with orders to accompany each of them whithersoever they were bound. The boats took different routes, but we shall at present speak only of that which contained the prince and the jeweller.
The prince, to save his guides trouble, bade them land the jeweller at his house, naming the place. The guide, by this direction, stopped just before the caliph's palace, which put both him and the jeweller into great alarm; for although they had heard the commander's orders to his men, they could not help imagining they were to be delivered up to the guard, to be brought before the caliph next morning.
This nevertheless was not the intention of the guides. For after they had landed them, they, by their master's command, recommended them to an officer of the caliph's guard who assigned them two soldiers to conduct them by land to the prince's house, which was at some distance from the river. They arrived there, but so tired and weary that they could hardly move.
The prince being come home, with the fatigue of his journey, and this misadventure to himself and Schemselnihar, which deprived him of all hope of ever seeing her more, fell into a swoon on his sofa. While the greatest part of his servants were endeavoring to recover him, the rest gathered about the jeweller, and begged him to tell them what had happened to the prince their lord, whose absence had occasioned them such inexpressible uneasiness.
While the greatest part of the prince's domestics were endeavouring to recover him from his swoon, others of them got about the jeweller, desiring to know what had happened to their lord. The jeweller, who took care to discover nothing that was not proper for them to know, told them that it was an extraordinary case, but that it was not a time to relate it, and that they would do better to go and assist the prince. By good fortune the prince came to himself that moment, and those that but just before required his history with so much earnestness retreated to a respectful distance.
Although the prince had in some measure recovered his recollection, he continued so weak that he could not open his mouth to speak. He answered only by signs, even to his nearest relations, when they spoke to him. He remained in this condition till next morning, when the jeweller came to take leave of him. He could answer only by a movement of his eyes, and holding out his right hand; but when he saw he was laden with a bundle of plate, which the thieves had returned to him, he made a sign to his servants that they should take it and carry it to his house.
The jeweller had been expected with great impatience by his family the day he departed with the stranger; but now he was quite given over, and it was no longer doubted but some disaster had befallen him. His wife, children, and servants, were in the greatest alarm, and lamenting him. When he arrived, their joy was excessive; yet they were troubled to see that he was so much altered in the short interval, that he was hardly to be known. This was occasioned by the great fatigue of the preceding day, and the fears he had undergone all night, which would not permit him to sleep. Finding himself much indisposed, he continued at home two days, and would admit only one of his intimate friends to visit him.
The third day, finding himself something better, he thought he might recover strength by going abroad to take the air; and therefore went to the shop of a rich merchant of his acquaintance, with whom he continued long in conversation. As he was rising to take leave of his friend to return home, he observed a woman making a sign to him, whom he presently knew to be the confidant of Schemselnihar. Between fear and joy, he made what haste he could away, without looking at her; but she followed him, as he feared she would, the place they were in being by no means proper to converse in. As he quickened his pace, she, not being able to overtake him, every now and then called out to him to stay.
He heard her; but after what had happened, he did not think fit to speak to her in public, for fear of giving cause to suspect that he was connected with Schemselnihar. It was known to every body in Bagdad, that this woman belonged to her, and executed all her little commissions. He continued the same pace, and at length reached a mosque, where he knew but few people came. He entered, and she followed him, and they had a long conversation together, without any body overhearing them.
Both the jeweller and confidant expressed much joy at seeing each other, after the strange adventure of the robbers, and their reciprocal apprehension for each other, without regarding their own particular persons.
The jeweller wished her to relate to him how she escaped with the two slaves, and what she knew of Schemselnihar from the time he lost sight of her; but so great was her eagerness to know what had happened to him from the time of their unexpected separation, that he found himself obliged to satisfy her. "Having given you the detail you desired," said he, "oblige me in your turn," which she did in the following manner.
"When I first saw the robbers, I hastily imagined that they were soldiers of the caliph's guard, and that the caliph being informed of Schemselnihar's going out, had sent them to put her, the prince, and all of us to death. Under this impression I immediately got up to the terrace of your house, when the thieves entered the apartment where the prince and Schemselnihar were, and I was soon after followed by that lady's two slaves. From terrace to terrace, we came at last to a house of very honest people, who received us with much civility, and with whom we lodged that night.
"Next morning, after thanking the master of the house for our good usage, we returned to Schemselnihar's palace, where we entered in great disorder and distress, because we could not learn the fate of the two unfortunate lovers. The other women of Schemselnihar were astonished to see me return without their lady. We told them, we had left her at the house of one of her female friends, and that she would send for us when she wished to come home; with which excuse they seemed well satisfied.
"For my part, I spent the day in great uneasiness, and when night arrived, opening a small private gate, I espied a little boat on the canal which seemed driven by the stream. I called to the waterman, and desired him to row up each side of the river, and look if he could not see a lady; and if he found her, to bring her along with him. The two slaves and I waited impatiently for his return, and at length, about midnight, we saw the boat coming down with two men in it, and a woman lying along in the stern. When the boat was come up, the two men helped the woman to rise, and then it was I knew her to be Schemselnihar. I cannot express my joy at seeing her.
"I gave my hand to Schemselnihar to help her out of the boat; she had great need of my assistance, for she could hardly stand. When she was landed, she whispered me in a tone expressive of her affliction, and bade me go and take a purse of one thousand pieces of gold and give it to the two soldiers that had accompanied her. I left her to the care of the two slaves to support her, and having ordered the two soldiers to wait for me a moment, I took the purse, and returned instantly; I gave it to them, and having paid the waterman, shut the door.
"I then followed my lady, and overtook her before she had reached her chamber. We immediately undressed her, and put her to bed, where she had not long been, before she became so ill that for the whole of the night we almost despaired of her life. The day following, her other women expressed a great desire to see her; but I told them she had been greatly fatigued, and wanted rest. The other two women and I gave her all the assistance in our power; but we should have given over every hope of her recovery, had I not at last perceived that the wine which we every now and then gave her had a sensible effect in recruiting her strength. By importunity we at length prevailed with her to eat.
"When she recovered the use of her speech, for she had hitherto only wept, groaned, and sighed, I begged of her to tell me how she had escaped out of the hands of the robbers. ‘Why would you require of me,' said she, with a profound sigh, ‘to renew my grief? Would to God the robbers had taken away my life, rather than have preserved it; my misfortunes would then have had an end, whereas I live but to increase my sufferings.'
"Madam,' I replied, ‘I beg you would not refuse me this favour. You cannot but know that the wretched feel a consolation in relating their greatest misfortunes; what I ask would alleviate yours, if you would have the goodness to gratify me.'
"‘Hear then,' said she, ‘the most afflicting adventure that could possibly have happened to one so deeply in love as myself, who considered myself as at the utmost point of my wishes. You must know, when I first saw the robbers enter, sword in hand, I considered it as the last moment of our lives. But death was not an object of regret, since I thought I was to die with the prince of Persia. However, instead of murdering us, as I expected, two of the robbers were ordered to take care of us, whilst their companions were busied in packing up the goods they found in the house. When they had done, and got their bundles upon their backs, they went out, and took us with them.
"‘As we went along, one of those that had charge of us demanded of me who I was? I answered, I was a dancer. He put the same question to the prince, who replied, he was a citizen.
"When we had reached the place of our destination, a new alarm seized us. They gathered about us, and after having considered my dress, and the rich jewels I was adorned with, they seemed to suspect I had disguised my quality. "Dancers," said they, "do not use to be dressed as you are. Tell us truly who you are?"
"‘When they saw I made no reply, they asked the prince once more who he was, for they told him they plainly perceived he was not the person he pretended to be. He did not satisfy them much more than I had done; he only told them he came to see the jeweller, naming him, who was the owner of the house where they found us. "I know this jeweller," replied one of the rogues, who seemed to have some authority over the rest: "I owe him some obligations, which he knows nothing of, and I take upon me to bring him hither to-morrow morning; but you must not expect," continued he, "to be released till he arrives and tells us who you are; in the mean time, I promise you there shall be no injury offered to you."
"‘ The jeweller was brought next morning, who thinking to oblige us, as he really did, declared to the robbers the whole truth. They immediately came and asked my pardon, and I believe did the like to the prince, who was shut up in another room. They protested to me, they would not have broken open the house where we were, had they known it was the jeweller's. They soon after took us (the prince, the jeweller, and myself), carried us to the river side, put us aboard a boat, and rowed us across the water; but we were no sooner landed, than a party of horse-patrol came up to us.
"The robbers fled; I took the commander aside, and told him my name, and that the night before I had been seized by robbers, who forced me along with them; but having been told who I was, released me, and the two persons he saw with me, on my account. He alighted out of respect to me; and expressing great joy at being able to oblige me, caused two boats to be brought: putting me and two of his soldiers, whom you have seen, into one, he escorted me hither: but what is become of the prince and his friend I cannot tell.
"‘I trust,' added she, melting into tears, ‘no harm has befallen them since our separation; and I do not doubt but the prince's concern for me is equal to mine for him. The jeweller, to whom we have been so much obliged, ought to be recompensed for the loss he has sustained on our account. Fail not, therefore, to take two purses of a thousand pieces of gold in each, and carry them to him to-morrow morning in my name, and be sure to inquire after the prince's welfare.'
"When my good mistress had done speaking, I endeavoured, as to the last article of inquiring into the prince's welfare, to persuade her to endeavour to triumph over her passion, after the danger she had so lately escaped almost by miracle. ‘Make me no answer,' said she, ‘but do what I require.'
"I was obliged to be silent, and am come hither to obey her commands. I have been at your house, but not finding you at home, and uncertain as I was of where you might be found, was about going to the prince of Persia; but not daring to attempt the journey, I have left the two purses with a particular friend, and if you will wait here, I will go and fetch them immediately."
The confidant soon returned to the jeweller in the mosque, where she had left him, and giving him the two purses, bade him out of them satisfy his friends. "They are much more than is necessary," said he, "but I dare not refuse the present from so good and generous a lady to her most humble servant; I beseech you to assure her from me, that I shall preserve an eternal remembrance of her goodness." He then agreed with the confidant, that she should find him at the house where she had first seen him, whenever she had occasion to impart any thing from Schemselnihar, or to hear any tidings of the prince of Persia: and so they parted.
The jeweller returned home well pleased, not only that he had got wherewithal so fully to satisfy his friends, but also to think that no person in Bagdad could possibly know that the prince and Schemselnihar had been in his other house when it was robbed. It is true, he had acquainted the thieves with it, but on their secrecy he thought he might very well depend. Next morning he visited the friends who had obliged him, and found no difficulty in satisfying them. He had money in hand to furnish his other house, in which he placed servants. Thus he forgot all his past danger, and the next evening waited on the prince of Persia.
The prince's domestics told the jeweller, that he came very opportunely, as the prince, since he had parted with him, was reduced to such a state that his life was in danger. They introduced him softly into his chamber, and he found him in a condition that excited his pity. He was lying on his bed, with his eyes closed; but when the jeweller saluted him, and exhorted him to take courage, he recollected him, opened his eyes, and gave him a look that sufficiently declared the greatness of his affliction, infinitely beyond what he felt after he first saw Schemselnihar. He grasped him by the hand, to testify his friendship, and told him, in a feeble voice, that he was extremely obliged to him for coming so far to visit one so unhappy and wretched.
"Prince," replied the jeweller, "mention not, I beseech you, any obligations you owe to me. I wish the good offices I have endeavoured to do you had had a better effect; but at present, let us talk only of your health; which, in the state I see you, I fear you greatly injure by unreasonably abstaining from proper nourishment."
The prince's servants took this opportunity to tell him, it was with the greatest difficulty they had prevailed on their master to take the smallest refreshment, and that for some time he had taken nothing. This obliged the jeweller to entreat the prince to let his servants bring him something to eat.
After the prince had, through the persuasion of the jeweller, eaten more than he had hitherto done, he commanded the servants to leave him alone with his friend. When the room was clear, he said, "Besides the misfortune that distracts me, I have been exceedingly concerned to think what a loss you have sustained on my account; and it is but just I should make you some recompence. But before I do this, after begging your pardon a thousand times, I conjure you to tell me whether you have learnt any tidings of Schemselnihar, since I had the misfortune to be parted from her."
Here the jeweller, instructed by the confidant, related to him all that he knew of Schemselnihar's arrival at her palace, her state of health from that time till she recovered, and how she had sent her confidant to him to inquire after his welfare.
To all this the prince replied only by sighs and tears. He made an effort to get up, and calling his servants, went himself to his wardrobe, and having caused several bundles of rich furniture and plate to be packed up, he ordered them to be carried to the jeweller's house.
The jeweller would fain have declined this kind offer; but although he represented that Schemselnihar had already made him more than sufficient amends for what he had lost, the prince would be obeyed. The jeweller was therefore obliged to make all possible acknowledgments, and protested how much he was confounded at his highness's liberality. He would then have taken his leave, but the prince desired him to stay, and they passed good part of the night in conversation.
Next morning the jeweller waited again on the prince, who made him sit down by him. "You know," said he, "there is an end proposed in all things: that which the lover proposes, is to enjoy the beloved object in spite of all opposition. If once he loses that hope, he must not think to live. Such is my hard case; for twice when I have been at the very point of fulfilling my desires, I have suddenly been torn from her I loved in the most cruell manner imaginable. It remains for me only to think of death, and I had sought it, but that our holy religion forbids suicide; but I need not anticipate it; I need not wait long." Here he stopped, and vented his passion in groans, sighs, sobs, and tears, which flowed abundantly.
The jeweller, who knew no better way of diverting him from his despair than by bringing Schemselnihar into his mind, and giving him some shadow of hope, told him, he feared the confidant might be come from her lady, and therefore it would not be proper to stay any longer from home. "I will let you go," said the prince, "but conjure you, that if you see her, you recommend to her to assure Schemselnihar, that if I die, as I expect to do shortly, I shall love her to the last moment, even in the grave."
The jeweller returned home, and waited in expectation of seeing the confidant, who came some hours after, but all in tears, and in great affliction. The jeweller alarmed, asked her what was the matter? She answered, that Schemselnihar, the prince, herself, and he, were all ruined. "Hear the sad news," said she, "as it was told me just upon my entering the palace after I had left you
"Schemselnihar had for some fault chastised one of the slaves you saw with her when you met in your other house. The slave, enraged at the ill treatment, ran immediately away, and finding the gate open, went out; so that we have just reason to believe she has discovered all to an eunuch of the guard, who gave her protection.
"But this is not all; the other slave her companion has fled too, and has taken refuge in the caliph's palace. So that we may well fear she has borne her part in this discovery: for just as I came away, the caliph had sent twenty of his eunuchs for Schemselnihar, who have carried her to the palace. I just found means to come and tell you this. I know not what has passed, yet I fear no good; but above all, I recommend to you to keep the secret inviolate."
The confidant added to what she had related before to the jeweller, that it was proper he should go immediately and acquaint the prince with the whole affair, that he might be prepared for every event, and keep faithful to the common cause. She went away in haste, without staying for any answer.
What answer could the jeweller have made in the condition he was in? He stood motionless as if thunderstruck. He found, however, that there was no time to be lost, and immediately went to give the prince information. He addressed him with an air, that sufficiently shewed the bad news he brought. "Prince," said he, "arm yourself with courage and patience, and prepare to receive the most terrible shock that ever you had to encounter."
"Tell me in a few words," replied the prince, "what is the matter, without keeping me in suspense; I am, if necessary, prepared to die."
Then the jeweller repeated all that he had learnt from the confidant. "You see," continued he, "your destruction is inevitable. Rise, save yourself by flight, for the time is precious. You, of all men, must not expose yourself to the anger of the caliph, and, less than any, confess in the midst of torture."
At these words the prince was ready to expire through grief, affliction, and fear. However, he recovered himself, and asked the jeweller what resolution he would advise him to take in this conjuncture, every moment of which ought to be employed. The jeweller told him, he thought nothing remained, but that he should immediately take horse, and hasten away towards Anbar, that he might get thither before day. "Take what servants and swift horses you think necessary," continued he, "and suffer me to escape with you."
The prince, seeing nothing more to be done, immediately gave orders to prepare such an equipage as would be least troublesome; took money and jewels, and having taken leave of his mother, departed with the jeweller and such servants as he had chosen.
They travelled all night without stopping, till at length, both their horses and themselves being spent with so long a journey, they halted to rest themselves.
They had hardly alighted before they found themselves surrounded and assaulted by a band of robbers. They defended their lives for some time courageously; but at length the prince's servants being all killed, both he and the jeweller were obliged to yield at discretion. The robbers, however, spared their dives, but after they had seized the horses and baggage, they took away their clothes and left them naked.
When the thieves were gone, the prince said to the jeweller, "What think you of our adventure and condition? Had I not better have tarried in Bagdad, and awaited my death?" "Prince," replied the jeweller, "it is the decree of Heaven that we should thus suffer. It has pleased God to add affliction to affliction. and we must not murmur, but receive his chastisements with submission. Let us stay no longer here, but seek for some retreat where we may perhaps be relieved."
"Let me die," said the prince; "for what signifies it whether I die here or elsewhere. Perhaps while we are talking, Schemselnihar is no more, and why should I endeavour to live after she is dead!" The jeweller, by his entreaty, at length prevailed on him, and they had not gone far before they came to a mosque, which was open; they entered it, and passed there the remainder of the night.
At day-break a man came into the mosque. When he had ended his prayer, as he turned about to go away, he perceived the prince and jeweller, who were sitting in a corner. He came up to them, and after having saluted them with a great deal of civility, said, "I perceive you are strangers."
The jeweller answered, "You are not deceived. We have been robbed to-night in coming from Bagdad, as you may see, and have retired hither for shelter, but we know not to whom to apply." "If you think fit to accompany me to my house," answered the man, "I will give you all the assistance in my power."
Upon this obliging offer, the jeweller turned to the prince, and whispered, "This man, as you perceive, sir, does not know us, and we have reason to fear that somebody else may come who does. We cannot, I think, refuse his offer." "Do as you please," said the prince; "I am willing to be guided by your discretion."
The man observing the prince and jeweller consulting together, and thinking they made some difficulty to accept his offer, asked them if they were resolved what to do? The jeweller answered "We are ready to follow you; all we hesitate about is that we are ashamed to appear thus naked."
Fortunately the man had it in his power to cover them sufficiently till they could get to his house. As soon as they had entered, he brought a very handsome suit for each of them. As he thought they must be hungry, and might wish to be alone, he had several dishes brought to them by a slave; but they ate little, especially the prince who was so dejected and dispirited, that he gave the jeweller cause to fear he would die. Their host visited them several times in the course of the day, and in the evening, as he knew they wanted rest, he left them early. But he was no sooner in bed, than the jeweller was forced to call him again to assist at the death of the prince of Persia. He found him breathe short, and with difficulty, which gave him reason to fear he had but few minutes to live. Coming near him, the prince said, "It is all over, and I am glad you are witness of my last words. I quit life with a great deal of satisfaction; I need not tell you the reason, for you know it already. All my concern is, that I cannot die in the arms of my dear mother, who has always loved me tenderly, and for whom I had a reciprocal affection. Let her know how much I was concerned at this, and request her in my name to have my body removed to Bagdad, that she may have an opportunity to bedew my tomb with her tears, and assist my departed soul with her prayers." He then took notice of the master of the house, and thanked him for his kindness in taking him in; and after desiring him to let his body rest with him till it should be conveyed to Bagdad, he expired.
The day after the prince's death, the jeweller took the opportunity of a numerous caravan that was going to Bagdad, and arrived there in safety. He first went home to change his clothes, and then hastened to the prince's palace, where every body was alarmed at not seeing the prince with him. He desired them to acquaint the prince's mother that he wished to speak with her, and it was not long before he was introduced to her in a hall, with several of her women about her. "Madam," said he to her, with an air that sufficiently denoted the ill news he brought, "God preserve you, and shower down upon you the choicest of his blessings. You cannot be ignorant that he alone disposes of us at his pleasure."
The princess would not permit him to proceed, but exclaimed, "Alas! you bring me the news of my son's death?" She and her women at the same time wept and sobbed loudly. At length she checked her sighs and groans, and begged of him to continue without concealing from her the least circumstance of such a melancholy separation. He satisfied her, and when he had done, she farther demanded of him, if her son the prince had not given him in charge something more particular in his last moments? He assured her his last words were, that it was to him the most afflicting circumstance that he must die so far distant from his dear mother, and that the only thing he wished was, that she would have his corpse transported to Bagdad. Accordingly early next morning the princess set out with her women and great part of her slaves, to bring her son's body to her own palace.
When the jeweller, whom she had detained, had seen her depart, he returned home very sad and melancholy, at the reflection that so accomplished and amiable a prince was thus cut off in the flower of his age.
As he walked towards his house, dejected and musing, he saw a woman standing before him. He recognized her to be Schemselnihar's confidant. At the sight of her, his tears began to flow afresh but he said nothing to her; and going into his own house, she followed him.
They sat down; when the jeweller beginning the conversation, asked the confidant, with a deep sigh, if she had heard of the death of the prince of Persia, and if it was on his account that she grieved. "Alas!" answered she, "What! is that charming prince then dead? He has not lived long after his dear Schemselnihar. Beauteous souls," continued she, "in whatsoever place ye now are, ye must be happy that your loves will no more be interrupted. Your bodies were an obstacle to your wishes; but Heaven has delivered you from them; ye may now form the closest union."
The jeweller, who had heard nothing of Schemselnihar's death, and had not reflected that the confidant was in mourning, suffered fresh grief at this intelligence. "Is Schemselnihar then dead?" cried he. "She is," replied the confidant, weeping afresh, "and it is for her I wear these weeds. The circumstances of her death were extraordinary," continued she, "and deserve to be known to you: but before I give you an account of them, I beg you to acquaint me with those of the prince of Persia, whom, with my dearest friend and mistress, I shall lament as long as I live."
The jeweller then gave the confidant the information she desired; and after he had told her all, even to the departure of the prince's mother to bring her son's body to Bagdad, she began and said, "You have not forgotten that I told you the caliph had sent for Schemselnihar to his palace. He had, as we had every reason to believe, been informed of the amour betwixt her and the prince by the two slaves, whom he had examined apart. You may imagine, he would be exceedingly enraged at Schemselnihar's conduct, and give striking proofs of his jealousy and of his impending vengeance against the prince. But this was by no means the case. He pitied Schemselnihar, and in some measure blamed himself for what had happened, in giving her so much freedom to walk about the city without being attended by his eunuchs. This is the only conclusion that could be drawn from his extraordinary behavior towards her, as you will hear.
"He received her with an open countenance; and when he observed that the melancholy which oppressed her did not lessen her beauty (for she appeared thus before him without surprise or fear), with a goodness worthy himself, he said ‘Schemselnihar, I cannot bear your appearing before me thus with an air which gives me infinite pain. You must needs be sensible how much I have always loved you, and be convinced of the sincerity of my passion by the continued demonstrations I have given of it. I can never change my mind, for I love you more than ever. You have enemies, Schemselnihar,' proceeded he, ‘and those enemies have insinuated things against your conduct, but all they have said against you has not made the least impression upon me. Shake off then this melancholy, and prepare to entertain me this night with some amusing conversation, after your accustomed manner.' He said many other obliging things to her, and then desired her to step into a magnificent apartment near her own, and wait for him.
"The afflicted Schemselnihar was very sensible of the caliph's kindness; but the more she thought herself obliged to him, the more she was concerned that she was so far removed, perhaps for ever, from her prince, without whom she could not live.
"This interview between the caliph and Schemselnihar," continued the confidant, "took place whilst I was come to speak to you, and I learned the particulars of it from my companions who were present. But I had no sooner left you," proceeded she, "than I went to my dear mistress again, and was eye-witness to what happened in the evening. I found her in the apartment I told you of; and as she though I came from you, she drew near me, and whispering me, said, ‘I am much obliged to you for the service you have done me, but I feel it will be the last.' She said no more; but I was not in a place proper to offer any thing to comfort her.
"The caliph was introduced at night with the sound of instruments which her women played upon, and the collation was immediately served up. He took his mistress by the hand, and made her sit down with him on the sofa; she put such a force upon herself to please him, that she expired a few minutes after. In short, she was hardly set down, when she fell backwards. The caliph believed she had only fainted, and so we all thought; but she never recovered, and in this manner we lost her.
"The caliph did her the honour to weep over her, not being able to refrain from tears; and before he left the room ordered all the musical instruments to be broken; this was immediately done. I stayed with her corpse all night, and next morning washed and dressed her for her funeral, bathing her with my tears. The caliph had her interred in a magnificent tomb he had erected for her in her lifetime, in a place she had desired to be buried in. Now since you tell me," said she, "the prince of Persia's body is to be brought to Bagdad, I will use my best endeavours that he shall be interred in the same tomb."
The jeweller was much surprised at this resolution of the confidant, and said, "Certainly you do not consider that the caliph will never suffer this?" "You think the thing impossible," replied she; "it is not. You will alter your opinion when I tell you that the caliph has given liberty to all her slaves, with a pension to each for their support. He has committed to me the care and keeping of my mistress's tomb, and allotted me an annual income for that purpose, and for my maintenance. Besides, the caliph, who was not ignorant of the amour between Schemselnihar and the prince, as I have already told you, without being offended, will not be sorry if after her death he be buried with her." To all this the jeweller had not a word to say. He earnestly entreated the confidant to conduct him to her mistress's tomb, that he might say his prayers over her. When he came in sight of it, he was not a little surprised to find a vast concourse of people of both sexes, who were come thither from all parts of Bagdad. As he could not come near the tomb, he said his prayers at a distance; and then going to the confidant, who was waiting hard by, said to her, "I am now so far from thinking that what you proposed cannot be put in execution, that you and I need only publish abroad what we know of the amour of this unfortunate couple, and how the prince died much about the same time with his mistress. Before his corpse arrives, all Bagdad will concur to desire that two such faithful lovers, whom nothing could divide in affection whilst they lived, should not be separated when dead." It happened as he said; for as soon as it was known that the corpse was within a day's journey of the city, an infinite number of people went above twenty miles to meet it, and afterwards walked before it till it came to the city gate; where the confidant, waiting for that purpose, presented herself before the prince's mother, and begged of her in the name of the whole city, who earnestly desired it, that she would be pleased to consent that the bodies of the two lovers, who had but one heart whilst they lived, from the time their mutual passion commenced, might be buried in the same tomb. The princess immediately consented; and the corpse of the prince, instead of being deposited in his own burying-place, was laid by Schemselnihar's side, after it had been carried along in procession at the head of an infinite number of people of all ranks. From that time all the inhabitants of Bagdad, and even strangers from all parts of the world where the Mahummedan religion prevails have held that tomb in the highest veneration, and pay their devotions at it.
[Go to The Loves of Kummir Al Zummaun, Prince of the Isles of the Children of Khaledan, and of Badoura, Princess of China]
Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.
1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM