« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
only by its truth: those that never heard of one another would not have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers can very little weaken the general evidence, and some who deny it with their tongues, confess it by their fears.
Yet I do not mean to add new terrors to those which have already seized upon Pekuah. There can be no reason why spectres should haunt the pyramid more than other places, or why they should have power or will to hurt innocence and purity. Our entrance is no violation of their privileges; we can take nothing from them, how then can we offend them ?”
“ My dear Pekuah,” said the Princess, “ I will always go before you, and Imlac shall follow you. Remember that you are the companion of the Princess of Abissinia.”
“ If the Princess is pleased that her servant should die," returned the lady, “ let her command some death less dreadful than inclosure in this horrid ca
You know I dare not disobey you; I must go if you command me; but, if I once enter, I shall never come back.”
The Princess saw that her fear was too strong for expostulation or reproof, and embracing her, told her that she should stay in the tent till their return. 'Pekuah was not yet satisfied, but intreated the Princess not to pursue so dreadful a purpose as that of entering the recesses of the pyramids. “ Though I cannot teach courage,” said Nekayah, “I must not learn
cowardice; nor leave at last undone what I came hither only to do."
They enter the Pyramid.
Pekuah descended to the tents, and the rest entered the pyramid; they passed through the galleries, surveyed the vaults of marble, and examined the chest in which the body of the founder is supposed to have been reposited. They then sat down in one of the most spacious chambers to rest awhile, before they attempted to return.
« We have now,” said Imlac, gratified our minds with an exact view of the greatest work of man, except the wall of China.
“ Of the wall it is very easy to assign the motives. It secured a wealthy and timorous nation from the incursions of barbarians, whose unskilfulness in the arts made it easier for them to supply their wants by rapine than by industry, and who from time to time poured in upon the inhabitants of peaceful commerce, as vultures descend upon domestic fowl. Their celerity and fierceness made the wall necessary, and their iguorance made it efficacious.
“But for the pyramids no reason has ever been given, adequate to the cost and labour of the work. The narrowness of the chambers proves that it could afford no retreat from enemies, and treasures might have been reposited at far less expense with equal security. It seems to have been erected only in compliance with that hunger of imagination which preys incessantly upon life, and must be always appeased by some employment. Those who have already all that they can enjoy, must enlarge their desires. He that has built for use, till use is supplied, must begin to build for vanity, and extend his plan to the utmost power of human performance, that he may not be soon reduced to form another wish.
“ I consider this mighty structure as a monument of the insufficiency of human enjoyments.
A king, whose power is unlimited, and whose treasures surmount all real and imaginary wants, is compelled to solace, by the erection of a pyramid, the satiety of dominion and tastelessness of pleasures, and to amuse the tediousness of decliving life, by seeing thousands labouring without end, and one stone, for no purpose, laid upon another. Whoever thou art, that, not content with a moderate condition, imaginest happiness in royal magnificence, and dreamest that command or riches can feed the appetite of novelty with perpetual gratifications, survey the pyramids, and confess thy folly!"
The Princess meets with an unexpected misfortune.
They rose up, and returned through the cavity at which they entered, and the Princess prepared for her favourite a long narrative of dark labyrinths, and costly rooms, and of the different impressions which the varieties of the way had made upon her. But when they came to their train, they found every one silent and dejected : the men discovered shame and fear in their countenances, and the women were weeping in their tents.
What had happened they did not try to conjecture, but immediately inquired. “You had scarcely entered into the pyramid,” said one of the attendants,
when a troop of Arabs rushed upon us: we were too few to resist them, and too slow to escape. They were about to search the tents, set us on our camels, and drive us along before them, when the approach of some Turkish horsemen put them to flight; but they seized the lady Pekuah with her two maids, and carried them away: the Turks are now pursuing them by our instigation, but I fear they will not be able to overtake them.”
The Princess was overpowered with surprise and grief. Rasselas, in the first heat of his resentment, ordered his servants to follow him, and prepared to « Sir,
pursue the robbers with his sabre in his hand. said Inlac, “ what can you hope from violence or valour; the Arabs are mounted on horses trained to battle and retreat; we have only beasts of burden. By leaving our present station we may lose the Princess, but cannot hope to regain Pekuah.”
In a short time the Turks returned, having not been able to reach the enemy. The Princess burst out into new lamentations, and Rasselas could scarcely forbear to reproach them with cowardice ; but Imlac was of opinion, that the escape of the Arab was no addition to their misfortune, for, perhaps, they would have killed their captives rather than have resigned them.
HERE was nothing to be hoped from longer stay. They returned to Cairo, repenting of their curiosity, censuring the negligence of the government, lamenting their own rashness, which had neglected to procure a guard, imagining many expedients by which the loss of Pekuah might have been prevented, and resolving to do something for her recovery, though none could find any thing proper to be done.