Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
Letter XLVII
Zachi to Usbek, at Paris
I HAVE great news for you. Zephis and I are reconciled, and the seraglio, which had taken sides in our quarrel, is reunited. I need nothing now in this abode of peace but you. Come, my dear Usbek, come to me, and let love be triumphant.  1
  I made a great feast in honor of Zephis, to which your mother, your wives, and your principal concubines were invited; your aunts and some of your female cousins also came; they arrived on horseback, covered by the dark cloud of their veils and garments.  2
  Next day we set out for the country, where we hope to have greater liberty. We mounted our camels, four in each palanquin. As the party had been improvised, we had not time to send round the courouc, 1 but the chief eunuch, always attentive, took another precaution: to the cloth which hid us from sight, he attached a curtain so thick, that we could positively see nobody.  3
  When we reached that river which we have to cross, each of us went, in the usual way, into a box which was transported in the ferry boat; for we were told that there were a great many people on the river. One inquisitive person who approached too near the place where we were shut up, received a mortal blow, which cut him off forever from the light of day; another, who was found bathing naked on the bank, met the same fate: those two wretches were sacrificed by your faithful eunuchs to your honor and to ours.  4
  But listen to the rest of our adventures. When we had reached the middle of the river, so violent a wind arose, and such a dense cloud covered the sky, that our sailors began to lose hope. Terrified at the danger, we nearly all swooned away. I remember that I heard the voices of our eunuchs in dispute. Some of them said that, to save us from danger, we must be set at liberty; but their chief insisted, unfalteringly, that he would sooner die than permit his master to be so dishonored, and that he would plunge a dagger into the breast of any one who should dare to make such proposals. One of my slaves, quite beside herself and all undressed, came running to my assistance; but a black eunuch seized her brutally, and thrust her back whence she had come. Then I swooned away, and returned to myself only after the danger was past.  5
  How distressing journeys are for us poor women! Men are exposed only to those dangers which threaten their lives; but we are in constant terror of losing either life or virtue. Farewell, my dear Usbek, whom I shall always adore.

  THE SERAGLIO AT FATME, the 2nd of the moon of Rhamazan, 1713.
Note 1. Courouc (back! back!) is the cry of the eunuchs who accompany the women’s litters. [back]

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