Chapter XXXVI. Pekuah Is Still Remembered. The Progress of Sorrow

CHAP. XXXVI.

The princess hears news of Pekuah.

In seven months, one of the messengers,
who had been sent away upon
the day when the promise was drawn
from the princess, returned, after many
unsuccessful rambles, from the borders
of Nubia, with an account that Pekuah
was in the hands of an Arab chief, who
possessed a castle or fortress on the extremity
of Egypt. The Arab, whose revenue
was plunder, was willing to restore
her, with her two attendants, for
two hundred ounces of gold. [77]

The price was no subject of debate.
The princess was in extasies when she
heard that her favourite was alive, and
might so cheaply be ransomed. She
could not think of delaying for a moment
Pekuah’s happiness or her own,
but entreated her brother to send back
the messenger with, the sum required.
Imlac, being consulted, was not very
confident of the veracity of the relator,
and was still more doubtful of the Arab’s
faith, who might, if he were too liberally
trusted, detain at once the money
and the captives. He thought it dangerous
to put themselves in the power of
the Arab, by going into his district, and
could not expect that the Rover would so
much expose himself as to come into the
lower country, where he might be seized
by the forces of the Bassa. [78]

It is difficult to negotiate where neither
will trust. But Imlac, after some
deliberation, directed the messenger to.
propose that Pekuah should be conducted
by ten horsemen to the monastry of St.
Anthony, which is situated in the deserts
of Upper-Egypt, where she should be
met by the fame number, and her
ransome should be paid.
That no time might be lost, as they
expeced that the proposal would not be
refused, they immediately began their
journey to the monastry; and, when they
arrived, Imlac went forward with the
former messenger to the Arab’s fortress.
Rasselas was desirous to go with them,
but neither his sister nor Imlac would
consent. The Arab, according to the
custom of his nation, observed the laws [79]

of hospitality with great exactness to those
who put themselves into his power, and,
in a few days, brought Pekuah with her
maids, by easy journeys, to their place
appointed, where receiving the stipulated
price, he restored her with great respect
to liberty and her friends, and undertook
to conduct them back towards
Cairo beyond all danger of robbery or
violence.
The princess and her favourite embraced
each other with transport too violent
to be expressed, and went out
together to pour the tears of tenderness
in secret, and exchange professions of
kindness and gratitude. After a few
hours they returned into the refectory of
the convent, where, in the presence of
the prior and his brethren, the prince required [80]

of Pekuah the history of her adventures. [81]

         

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A Digital Anthology of Writing in English, 1660-1783