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“ Do not entangle your mind,” said Imlac,“ by irrevocable determinations, nor increase the burden of life by a voluntary accumulation of misery: the weariness of retirement will continue or increase when the loss of Pękuah is forgot. That you have been deprived of one pleasure is no very good reason for rejection of the rest."
“ Since Pekuah was taken from me," said the Princess, “ I have no pleasure to reject or to retain. She that has no one to love or trust, has little to hope. She wants the radical principle of happiness. We may, perhaps, allow that what satisfaction this world can afford, must arise from the conjunction of wealth, knowledge, and goodness : wealth is nothing but as it is bestowed, and knowledge nothing but as it is communicated: they must therefore be imparted to others, and to whom could I now delight to impart them? Goodness affords the only comfort which can be enjoyed without a partner, and goodness may be practised in retirement."
« How far solitude may admit goodness, or advance it, I shall not,” replied Imlac,“ dispute at present.Remember the confession of the pious hermit. You will wish to return into the world when the image of your companion has left your thoughts.” “That time,” said Nekayah, “ will never come. The generous frankness, the modest obsequiousness, and the faithful secresy of my dear Pekuah, will always be more missed, as I shall live longer to see vice and folly."
" The state of a mind oppressed with a sudden calamity,” said Imlac,“ is like that of the fabulous inhabi
tants of the new created earth, who, when the first night came upon them, supposed that day would never return. When the clouds of sorrow gather over us, we see nothing beyond them, nor can imagine how they will be dispelled : yet a new day succeeded to the night, and sorrow is never long without a dawn of
But they who restrain themselves from receiving comfort, do as the savages would have done, had they put out their eyes when it was dark. Our minds, like our bodies, are in continual flux ; something is hourly lost, and something acquired. To lose much at once is inconvenient to either, but while the vital powers remain uninjured, nature will find the means of reparation. Distance has the same effect on the mind as on the eye, and while we glide along the stream of time, whatever we leave behind us is always lessening, and that which we approach increasing, in magnitude. Do not suffer life to stagnate; it will grow muddy for want of motion ; commit yourself again to the current of the world; Pekuah will vanish by degrees ; you will meet in your way some other favourite, or learn to diffuse yourself in general conversation.”
“At least," said the Prince,“ do not despair before all remedies have been tried; the inquiry after the unfortunate lady is still continued, and shall be carried on with greater diligence, on condition that you will promise to wait a year for the event, without any unalterable resolution.”
Nekayah thought this a reasonable demand, and made the promise to ber brother, who had been advis. ed by Imlac to require it. Imlac had, indeed, no
great hope of regaining Pekuah, but he supposed, that if he could secure the interval of a year, the Princess would be then in no danger of a cloister.
Pekuah is still remembered. The Progress of Sorrow.
Nekayah, seeing that nothing was omitted for the recovery of her favourite, and having, by her promise, set hier intention of retirement at a distance, began imperceptibly to return to common cares and common pleasures. She rejoiced without her own consent at the suspension of her sorrows, and sometimes caught herself with indignation in the act of turning away from her mind the remembrance of her, whom yet she resolved never to forget.
She then appointed a certain hour of the day for, meditation on the merits and fondness of Pekuah, and for some weeks retired constantly at the time fixed, and returned with her eyes swollen and her countemance clouded. By degrees she grew less scrupulous and suffered any important and pressing avocation to delay the tribute of daily tears. She then yielded to less occasions; and sometimes forgot what she was indeed afraid to remember, and, at last, wholly released herself from the duty of periodical affliction.
Her real love for Pekuah was not yet diminished. A thousand occurrences brought her back to memory, and a thousand wants, which nothing but the confidence of friendship can supply, made her frequently regretted. She, therefore, solicited Imlac, never to desist from inquiry, and to leave no art of intelligence untried, that at least she might have the comfort of knowing that she did not suffer by negligence or sluggishness. “Yet what,” said she, “ is to be expected from our pursuit of happiness, when we find the state of life to be such, that happiness itself is the cause of misery? Why should we endeavour to attain that, of which the possession cannot be secured? I shall henceforward fear to yield my heart to excellence, however bright, or to fondness, however tender, lest I should lose again what I have lost in Pekuah.”
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,
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.
The price was no subject of debate. The Princess was in ecstasies 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.
It is difficult to negociate where neither will trust. But Imlac, after some deliberation, directed the messenger to propose that Pekuah should be conducted by ten horsemen to the monastery of St Anthony, which is situated in the deserts of Upper-Egypt, where she should be met by the same number, and her ransom should be paid.
That no time might be lost, as they expected that the proposal would not be refused, they immediately began their journey to the monastery; 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