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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Complete - 90/272 -

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

The Arabian Nights Entertainments Complete - 90/272

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