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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 90/114 -
thunderstruck, and had not a word to say. He was, however, sensible that the affair required expedition, and therefore went immediately to give the prince an account of it. He addressed himself to him with an air that sufficiently showed the bad news he brought. Prince, said he to him, arm yourself with courage and patience, and prepare to receive the most terrible assault ever yet made on your nature. Tell me, in few words, said the prince, what it is I must prepare to receive; for if it be death only, I am ready and willing to undergo it.
Then the jeweller told him all that he had learned from the confident. You see, continued he, that your destruction is inevitable, if you delay. 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 should much less confess any thing in the midst of torments.
At these words the prince was almost ready to expire with grief, affliction, and fear; he recovered, however, and demanded of the jeweller what resolution he would advise him to take in this unhappy conjuncture. The jeweller told him he thought nothing more proper than that he should immediately take horse, and haste away towards Anbar, [Footnote: Anbar is a city on the Tigris, twenty leagues below Bagdad.] that he might get thither with all convenient speed. Take what servants and horses you think necessary, continued he, and suffer me to escape with you.
The prince, seeing nothing more advisable, immediately gave orders for such an equipage as would be least troublesome; so having put some money and jewels in his pocket, and taking leave of his mother, he departed in company with the jeweller, and with such servants as he had chosen. They travelled all that day and the day following without stopping, till at length, about the dusk of the evening, their horses and selves being greatly fatigued, they alighted at an inn to refresh themselves.
They had hardly sat down, before they found themselves surrounded and assaulted by a gang of thieves. 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 thieves, however, spared their lives; but, after they had seized their horses and baggage, they took away their clothes, and left them naked.
In this condition, and after the thieves had left them, the prince said to the jeweller, What is to be done, my friend, in this conjuncture? Had I not better, think you, have tarried in Bagdad, and undergone any fate, rather than have been reduced to this extremity? My lord, 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 at it, but receive his chastisements with submission. Let us stay no longer here, but go and look out for some place where we may be concealed and relieved.
No, let me rather die, said the prince; for what signifies it whether I die here or elsewhere? for die I know I must very shortly. It may be, this very minute that we are talking, Schemselnihar is no more! And why should I endeavour to live after she is dead? The jeweller at length prevailed on him to go; but they had not gone far before they came to a mosque, which, being open, they entered, and passed there the remainder of the night.
At day-break a single man came into the mosque to his devotion. When he had ended his prayer, and was turning to go out, he perceived the prince and the jeweller, who were sitting in a corner to conceal themselves. He went up to them; and, saluting them with a great deal of civility, said, By what I perceive, gentlemen, you seem to be strangers.
The jeweller answered, You are not deceived, sir. We have been robbed to-night in coming from Bagdad, and retired hither for shelter. If you can relieve us in our necessities, we shall he very much obliged to you, for we know nobody here to whom to apply to. The man answered, If you think fit to come to my house, I shall do what I can for you.
Upon this obliging offer, the jeweller turned to the prince, and said in his ear, This man, as far as I can perceive, sir, does not know us; therefore we had better go with him, than stay here to be exposed to the sight of somebody that may. 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, thought they made some difficulty to accept his proposition; wherefore he demanded of them if they were resolved what to do. The jeweller answered, We are ready to follow you whither you please; all that we make a difficulty about is to appear thus naked.
Let not that trouble you, said the man; we shall find wherewithal to clothe you, I warrant you. They were no sooner got to the house, than he brought forth a very handsome suit for each of them. Next, as he thought they must be very hungry, and have a mind to go to bed, he had several plates of meat brought out to them by a slave; but they ate little, particularly the prince, who was so dejected and dispirited, as gave the jeweller cause to fear he would die. They went to bed, and their host left them to their repose; but they had no sooner lain down, than the jeweller was forced to call him again to assist at the death of the prince. He breathed short, and with difficulty; which gave him reason to fear he had but a few minutes to live. Coming near him, the prince said, It is done; and I am glad you are by, to be witness of my last words. I quit this life with a great deal of satisfaction; but I need not tell you the reason, for you know it too well already. All the regret I have is, that I cannot die in the arms of my dearest mother, who has always loved me with a tenderness not to be expressed, and for whom I had a reciprocal affection. She will undoubtedly be not a little grieved that she could not close my eyes, and bury me with her own hands. But let her know how much I was concerned at this; and desire her, in my name, to have my corpse transported 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, thanked him for the several favours he had received from him, and desired him to let his body be deposited with him till such time as it should be carried away to Bagdad. Having said this, he turned aside and 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 some time after in safety. He first went home to change his clothes, and then hastened to the prince's palace, where every body was surprised that their lord was not come with him. He desired them to acquaint the prince's mother that he must speak to her immediately; and it was not long before he was introduced to her. She was seated in a hall, with several of her women about her. Madam, said he to her, with an air that sufficiently denoted his ill news, God preserve your highness, and shower down the choicest of his blessings upon you! You cannot be ignorant that it is he alone who disposes of us all at his pleasure.
The princess would not give him leave to go on, but cried out, Alas, you bring me the deplorable news of my son's death! At which words she and her women set up such a hideous outcry, as soon brought fresh tears into the jeweller's eyes. She thus tormented and grieved herself a long while before the unfortunate messenger was allowed to go on. At length, however, she gave a truce to her sighs and groans, and begged of him to continue the fatal relation, without concealing from her the least circumstance. He did as she commanded; and, when he had done, she further demanded of him, if her son the prince had not given him in charge something more particular. He assured her his last words were, that it was the greatest concern to him that he must die so far distant from his dear mother, and that he earnestly entreated she would be pleased to have his corpse transported to Bagdad. Accordingly, next morning at day-break, the princess set out, with her women and great part of her slaves, to bring her son's body to her own palace.
The jeweller, having taken leave of her, returned home very sad and melancholy, to think he had lost so good a friend, and so accomplished a prince, in the flower of his age.
As he came near his house, dejected and musing, on a sudden lifting up his eyes, he saw a woman in mourning and tears standing before him. He presently knew her to be the confident, who had stood there grieving for some time that she could not see him. 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 dismal discourse, asked the confident, with a deep sigh, if she had heard nothing of the death of the prince of Persia, or 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 ought to be pleased that your loves will no more be interrupted. Your bodies were before an obstacle to your wishes; but now, being delivered from them, you may unite as closely as you please.
The jeweller, who had heard nothing of Schemselnihar's death, and had not observed that the confident was in mourning, through the excessive grief that blinded him, was now afflicted anew. Is Schemselnihar then dead? cried he, in great astonishment. She is dead, replied the confident, weeping afresh; and it is for her that I wear these weeds. The circumstances of her death are extraordinary, continued she; therefore it is but requisite you should know them; but, before I give you an account of them, I beg you to let me know those of the prince of Persia, whom, in conjunction with my dearest friend and mistress, I shall lament as long as I live.
The jeweller then gave the confident the satisfaction 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, I suppose, that I told you the caliph had sent for Schemselnihar to his palace; and it is true, as we had all the reason in the world to believe, he had been informed of the amour between her and the prince by the two slaves, whom he had examined apart. Now, you will be apt to imagine he must of necessity be exceedingly enraged at Schemselnihar, and discover many tokens of jealousy and revenge against the prince; but I must tell you he had neither one nor the other, aud lamented only his dear mistress forsaking him,
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