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Chapter XXXVII. The Princess Hears News of Pekuah



CHAP. XXXVII.

The adventures of the lady Pekuah.

"At what time, and in what manner,

I was forced away, laid Pekuah,

your servants have told you. The

suddenness of the event struck me with

surprise, and I was at first rather stupified

than agitated with any passion of either

fear or sorrow. My confusion was

encreased by the speed and tumult of our

fight while we were followed by the

Turks, who, as it seemed, soon despaired

to overtake us, or were afraid of those

whom they made a shew of menacing. [81]

"When the Arabs saw themselves out

of danger they slackened their course,

and as I was less harassed by external

violence, I began to feel more uneasiness

in my mind. After some time we stopped

near a spring shaded with trees in a

pleasant meadow, where we were set upon

the ground, and offered such refreshments

as our masters were partaking. I

was suffered to sit with my maids apart

from the rest, and none attempted to

comfort or insult us. Here I first began

to feel the full weight of my misery.

The girls sat weeping in silence, and

from time to time looked on me for

succour. I knew not to what condition

we were doomed, nor could conjecture

where would be the place of our captivity,

or whence to draw any hope of deliverance.

I was in the hands, of [82]

robbers and savages, and had no reason to

suppose that their pity was more than

their justice, or that they would forbear

the gratification of any ardour of desire,

or caprice of cruelty. I, however, kissed

my maids, and endeavoured to pacify

them by remarking, that we were yet

treated with decency, and that, since we

were now carried beyond persuit, there

was no danger of violence to our lives.

"When we were to be set again on

horseback, my maids clung round me,

and refused to be parted, but I commanded

them not to irritate those who

had us in their power. We travelled

the remaining part of the day through

an unfrequented and pathless country,

and came by moonlight to the side of a

hill, where the rest of the troop was stationed. [83]

Their tents were pitched, and

their fires kindled, and our chief was

welcomed as a man much beloved by his

dependants.

"We were received into a large tent,

where we found women who had attended

their husbands in the expedition.

They set before us the supper which

they had provided, and I eat it rather

to encourage my maids than to comply

with any appetite of my own. When

the meat was taken away they spread

the carpets for repose. I was weary, and

hoped to find in sleep that remission of

distress which nature seldom denies.

Ordering myself therefore to be undrest,

I observed that the women looked very

earnestly upon me, not expecting, I suppose,

to see me so submissively attended. [84]

When my upper vest was taken off,

they were apparently struck with the

splendour of my cloaths, and one of

them timorously laid her hand upon

the embroidery. She then went out,

and, in a short time, came back with

another woman, who seemed to be of

higher rank, and greater authority. She

did, at her entrance, the usual act of

reverence, and, taking me by the hand,

placed me in a smaller tent, spread with

finer carpets, where I spent the night

quietly with my maids.

"In the morning, as I was sitting on

the grass, the chief of the troop came towards

me. I rose up to receive him, and

he bowed with great respect. "Illustrious

lady, said he, my fortune is better

than I had presumed to hope; I am

told by my women, that I have a princess [85]

in my camp."Sir, answered I,

your women have deceived themselves

and you; I am not a princess, but an

unhappy stranger who intended soon to

have left this country, in which I am

now to be imprisoned for ever. "Whoever,

or whencesoever, you are, returned

the Arab, your dress, and that of

your servants, show your rank to be high,

and your wealth to be great. Why

should you, who can so easily procure

your ransome, think yourself in danger

of perpetual captivity? The purpose

of my incursions is to encrease my riches,

or more properly to gather tribute.

The sons of Ishmael are the natural and

hereditary lords of this part of the continent,

which is usurped by late invaders,

and low-born tyrants, from whom we

are compelled to take by the sword what [86]

is denied to justice. The violence of war

admits no distinction; the lance that is

lifted at guilt and power will sometimes

fall on innocence and gentleness."

"How little, said I, did I expect that

yesterday it should have fallen upon me."

"Misfortunes, answered the Arab,

should always be expected. If the eye

of hostility could learn reverence or pity,

excellence like yours had been exempt

from injury. But the angels of affliction

spread their toils alike for the virtuous

and the wicked, for the mighty and

the mean."Do not be disconsolate; I am

not one of the lawless and cruel rovers

of the desart; I know the rules of civil

life: I will fix your ransome, give a pasport [87]

to your messenger, and perform my

stipulation with nice punctuality."

"You will easily believe that I was

pleased with his courtesy; and finding

that his predominant passion was desire

of money, I began now to think my

danger less, for I knew that no sum

would be thought too great for, the release

of Pekuah. I told him that he

should have no reason to charge me with

ingratitude, if I was used with kindness,

and that any ransome, which could be

expected for a maid of common rank,

would be paid, but that he must not persist

to rate me as a princess. He said,

he would consider what he should demand,

and then, smiling, bowed and retired. [88]

"Soon after the women came about

me, each contending to be more officious

than the other, and my maids themselves

were served with reverence. We travelled,

onward by short journeys. On the

fourth day the chief told me, that my

ransome must be two hundred ounces

of gold, which I not only promised him,

but told him, that I would add fifty

more, if I and my maids were honourably treated.

"I never knew the power of gold before.

From that time I was the leader

of the troop. The march of every day

was longer or shorter as I commanded,

and the tents were pitched where I chose

to rest. We now had camels and other

conveniencies for travel, my own women

were always at my side, and I amused [89]

myself with observing the manners of

the vagrant nations, and with viewing

remains of ancient edifices with which

these deserted countries appear to have

been, in some distant age, lavishly embellished.

"The chief of the band was a man

far from illiterate: he was able to travel

by the stars or the compass, and

had marked in his erratick expeditions

such places as are most worthy the notice

of a passenger. He observed to me,

that buildings are always best preserved in

places little frequented, and difficult of

access: for, when once a country declines

from its primitive splendour, the

more inhabitants are left, the quicker

ruin will be made. Walls supply stones

more easily than quarries, and palaces [90]

and temples will be demolished to make

stables of granate, and cottages of porphyry. [91]

 

 


Post date: 2015-02-28 21:36:03
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