« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Nekayah retired to her chamber, where her women attempted to comfort her, by telling her that all had their troubles, and that lady Pekuah had enjoyed much happiness in the world for a long time, and might reasonably expect a change of fortune. They hoped some good would befal her wheresoev she was, and that their mistress would find another friend, who might supply her place.
The Princess made them no answer, and they continued the form of condolence, not much grieved in their hearts that the favourite was lost.
Next day the Prince presented to the Bassa a memorial of the wrong which he had suffered, and a petition for redress. The Bassa threatened to punish the robbers, but did not attempt to catch them, nor indeed could any account or description he given which might direct the pursuit.
It soon appeared that nothing would be done by authority. Governors being accustomed to hear of more crimes than they can punish, and more wrongs than they can redress, set themselves at ease by indiscriminate negligence, and presently forget the request when they lose sight of the petitioner.
Imlac then endeavoured to gain some intelligence by private agents. He found many who pretended to an exact knowledge of all the haunts of the Arabs, and to regular correspondence with their chiefs, and who readily undertook the recovery of Pekuah. Of these, some were furnished with money for their jonrney, and came back no more ; some were liberally paid for accounts which a few days discovered to be
false. But the Princess would not suffer any means, however improbable, to be left untried. While she was doing something she kept her hope alive. As one expedient failed, another was suggested; when one messenger returned unsuccessful, another was lispa ed to a different quarter.
Two months had passed, and of Pekuah nothing had been heard ; the hopes which they had endeavoured to raise in each other grew more languid, and the Princess, wheu she saw nothing more to be tried, sunk down inconsolable in hopeless dejection. A thousand times she reproached herself with the easy compliance by which she permitted her favourite to stay behind her. “ Had nol my fondness,” said she, “ lessened my authority, Pekuah had not dared to talk of her terrors. She ought to have feared me more than spectres. A severe look would have overpowered her ; a peremptory command would have compelled obedience. Why did foolish indulgence prevail upon me? why did I not speak and refuse to hear?”
“ Great Princess," said Imlac; “ do not reproach yourself for your virtue, or consider that as blameable by which evil has accidentally been caused. Your tenderness for the timidity of Pekuah was generous and kind. When we act according to our duty, we commit the events to him by whose laws our actions are governed, and who will suffer none to be finally punished for obedience. When, in prospect of some good, whether natural or moral, we break the rules prescribed us, we withdraw from the direction of
superior wisdom, and take all consequences upon ourselves. Man cannot so far know the connection of causes and events, as that he may venture to do wrong in order to do right. When we pursue our end by lawful means, we may always console our miscarriage by the hope of future recompense. When we consult only our own policy, and attempt to find a nearer way to good, by overleaping the settled boundaries of right and wrong, we cannot be happy even by success, because we cannot escape the consciousness of our fault; but if we miscarry, the disappointment is irremediably imbittered. How comfortless is the sorrow of him who feels at once the pangs of guilt, and the vexation of calamity, which guilt has brought upon him ? “ Consider, Princess, what would have been your
tion, if the lady Pekuah had entreated to accompany you, and, being compelled to stay in the tents, had been carried away; or how would you have borne the thought, if you had forced her into the pyramid, and she had died before you in agonies of terror."
“ Had either happened,” said Nekayah, “ I could not have borne life till now: I shonld have been tortured to madness by the remembrance of such cruelty, or must have pined away in abhorrence of myself."
“ This at least,” said Imlac, “ is the present reward of virtuous conduct, that no unlucky consequence can oblige us to repent it.”
The Princess languishes for want of Pekuah.
NEKAYAH, being thus reconciled to herself, found that no evil is insupportable but that which is accompanied with consciousness of wrong. She was, from that time, delivered from the violence of tempestuous sorrow, and sunk into silent pensiveness and gloomy tranquillity. She sat from morning to evening recollecting all that had been done or said by her Pekuah, treasured up with care every trifle on which Pekuah had set an accidental value, and which might recal to mind any little incident or careless conversation. The sentiments of her, whom she now expected to see no more, were treasured in her memory as rules of life, and she deliberated to no other end than to conjecture on any occasion what would have been the opinion and counsel of Pekuah.
The women, by whom she was attended, knew nothing of her real condition, and therefore she could not talk to them but with caution and reserve. She began to remit her curiosity, having no great care to connect notions which she had no convenience of uttering. Rasselas endeavoured" first to comfort, and afterwards to divert her; he hired musicians, to whom she seemed to listen, but did not hear them, and
procured masters to instruct her in various arts, whose lectures, when they visited her again, were again to
be repeated. She had lost her taste of pleasure, and her ambition of excellence. And her mind, though forced into short excursions, always recurred to the image of her friend.
Imlac was every morning earnestly enjoined to renew his inquires, and was asked every night whether he had yet heard of Pekuah, till, not being able to return the Princess the answer that she desired, he was less and less willing to come into her presence. She observed his backwardness, and commanded him to attend her. “ You are not," said she,“ to confound impatience with resentment, or to suppose that I charge you with negligence, because I repine at your unsuccessfulness. I do not much wonder at
absence. I know that the unhappy are never pleasing, and that all naturally avoid the contagion of misery. To hear complaints is wearisome, alike to the wretched and the happy; for who would cloud by adventitious grief the short gleams of gaiety which life al. lows us ? or who, that is struggling under his own evils, will add to them the miseries of another ?”
“ The time is at hand, when none shall be disturbed any longer by the sighs of Nekayah: my search after happiness is now at an end. I am resolved to retire from the world with all its flatteries and deceits, and will hide myself in solitude, without any other care than to compose my thoughts, and regulate my hours by a constant succession of innocent occupations, till, with a mind purified from earthly desires, I sball enter into that state, to which all are hastening, and in which I hope again to enjoy the friendship of Pekuah.”