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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 80/114 -

of them sat down on each side of it.

All these things kept the prince of Persia and Ebn Thaher in very great suspense, both of them being impatient to know how they would end. In this state of anxious expectation, they saw ten handsome ladies, well dressed, come out of the same gate whence the ten black women came, where they stopped for 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 very fine stuff of gold and sky-blue, fastened to her shoulders over her other apparel, which was the most handsome, best contrived, and most magnificent, that could be thought of. The pearls, rubies, and diamonds, with which she was adorned, though few in number, were well chosen, and of inestimable value, and were displayed in excellent order. She came forward with a majesty resembling the sun in his course amidst the clouds, which receive his splendour without hiding his lustre, and seated herself on the silver throne that was brought for her.

As soon as the prince of Persia beheld Schemselnihar, nothing else could attract his notice: We cease inquiring after what we seek, said he to Ebn Thaher, when we see it; and there is no doubt remaining when once the truth makes itself manifest. Do you see this charming beauty? She is the cause of all my sufferings, which I hug, and will never forbear blessing them, however lasting they may be! At the sight of this object, I am not my own master; my soul rebels, and disturbs me; and I fancy it has a mind 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! You thought to do me great pleasure in bringing me hither, and I perceive I am only come to complete my ruin! Pardon me, said he, interrupting himself; I am mistaken: I was willing to come, and can blame nobody but myself. At these words, he could not refrain from tears. I am very well pleased, said Ebn Thaher, that you do me justice; when at first I told you that Schemselnihar was the caliph's chief favourite, I did it on purpose to prevent that fatal passion which you please yourself with entertaining in your breast. All that you see here ought to disengage you, and you are to think of nothing but of acknowledgments for the honour which Schemselnihar was willing to do you, by ordering me to bring you with me. Call in, then, your wandering reason, and put yourself in a condition to appear before her, as good-breeding requires. Behold, there she comes! Were the matter to begin again, I would take other measures; but, since the thing is done, I wish we may not repent of it. What I have further to say to you is this, that love is a traitor, who may throw you into a pit from which you will never be able to escape.

Ebn Thaher had not time to say more, because Schemselnihar came, and, sitting down upon her throne, saluted them both with an inclination of the 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 could have been done by words in a great deal of time. The more Schemselnihar looked upon the prince, the more she found from his looks that he was in love with her; and, being thus persuaded of his passion, thought herself the happiest woman in the world. At last, turning her eyes from him to command the women who began to sing first to come near; they got up, and whilst they advanced, the black women, who came out of the walk into which they retired, brought their seats, and set them near the window, in the jet of the dome, where Ebn Thaher and the prince of Persia stood; and then they so disposed them on each side of the favourite's throne, that they formed a semicircle.

The women who were sitting before she came, took each of them their places again, with the permission of Schemselnihar, who ordered them by a sign. That charming favourite chose one of these women to sing; who, after she had spent some moments in tuning her lute, played a song, the meaning whereof was, that two lovers, who entirely loved each other, and whose affection was boundless, their hearts, though in two bodies, were one and the same; 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 for this? Let destiny bear the blame.

Schemselnihar discovered so well, by her eyes and gestures, that these sayings ought to be applied to her and the prince of Persia, that he could not maintain himself; he rose, and came to a balluster, which he leaned upon, and obliged one of the women, who came to sing, to observe him. When she was near him, Follow me, said he to her, and do me the favour to accompany with your lute a song which you shall forthwith hear. Then he sang with an air so tender and passionate, as perfectly expressed the violence of his love. When he had done, Schemselnihar, following his example, said to one of the women, Follow me likewise, and accompany my voice; at the same time she sung after such a manner, as further pierced the heart of the prince of Persia, who answered her by a new air as passionate as the former.

These two lovers declared their mutual affection by their songs. Schemselnihar yielded to the force of hers; she rose from her throne, and advanced towards the door of the hall. The prince, who knew her design, rose likewise, and went towards her in all haste. They met at the door, where they took each other by the hand, embracing with so much passion, that they fainted, and would have fallen, if the women who followed them had not helped them. But they were supported and carried to a sofa, where they were brought to themselves again, by throwing odoriferous water upon their faces, and giving them other things to smell.

When they came to themselves, the first tiling that Schemselnihar did was to look about; and not seeing Ebn Thaher, she asked, with a great deal of concern, where he was. He had withdrawn out of respect, whilst her women were applying things to recover her, and dreaded, not without reason, that some troublesome consequence might attend what had happened; but as soon as he heard Schemselnihar ask for him, he came forward, and presented himself before her.

Schemselnihar was very well pleased to see Ebn Thaher, and expressed her joy in these terms: Kind Ebn Thaher, I do not know how to make amends for the great obligation you have put upon me: without you I should never have seen the prince of Persia, nor have loved him who is the most amiable person in the world; but you may assure yourself, however, that I shall not die ungrateful, and that my acknowledgment, if possible, shall be equal to the obligation. Ebn Thaher answered this compliment by a low bow, 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 sort of confusion, after what had passed between them, said to him, Sir, I am very well assured you love me; and, however great your love may be to me, you need not doubt but mine is as great towards you; but let us not flatter ourselves; for, though we are both agreed, yet 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 till it shall determine our destiny. Madam, replied the prince of Persia, you will do me the greatest injustice in the world if you doubt but one moment of the continuance of my love. It is so united to my soul, that I can justly say it makes the best part of it, and that I shall persevere in it till death. Pains, torments, obstacles, nothing shall be capable of hindering me to love 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, said he, allow me to represent to you, that, instead of breaking forth into tears, you ought to rejoice that you are 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 time here; and you know, madam, that it is time for us to be going. Ah, how cruel you are! 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 be subject to the severe law of not being able to enjoy the person whom I love?

She being persuaded that Ebn Thaher spoke to her only out of friendship, did not take amiss what he said to her, but made a right use of it. Then she made a sign to the slave, her confident, who immediately went out, and in a little time brought a collation of fruit upon a small silver table, which she set down between her mistress and the prince of Persia. Schemselnihar presented some of the best to the prince, and prayed him to eat for her sake: he did so, and put that part to his mouth 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 not thinking himself safe in that place, ate only from 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, when three of the ten black women brought each of them a cup of rock crystal full of curious wines, upon a golden salver, which they set down before Schemselnihar, the prince of Persia, and Ebn Thaher. That they might be 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 expressions, 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 drinking, he also sung a song, which another woman accompanied with an instrument and as he sung, 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.

She then took a lute from one of her women, and sung to it in such a passionate manner as bespoke her to be beside herself, the prince of Persia standing with his eyes fixed upon her, as if he had been enchanted. As these things were passing, her trusty slave arrived all in a fright; 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 it, recovered their courage by a smile.

The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 80/114

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