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[Tent of Zuleika; guitar, ottoman, etc.]
Zuleika [pacing up and down]. Night draweth on apace, and ever nearer comes the fatal hour. With to-morrow's dawn all hope is o'er, for Mohammed hath sworn the Greek shall die, and when was he ere known to fail in his dread purpose? In vain have I wept before him, imploring him to have some mercy; in vain have I sought with golden promises to move the stony-hearted Hafiz,—all, all hath failed, and I am in despair. And that brave youth, his true heart filled with love's pure devotion, seeking by the sacrifice of his own life to save a father! And now each moment bringeth nearer the death-hour of that father, and he is mourning in solitude that he may not say farewell. Where can I turn for help? Ah, Hassan! my faithful slave. He is true, and loveth me like his own. He must aid me [claps her hands; enter Hassan]. Hassan, thou lovest me, and would not see me grieve?
Hassan. Allah, forbid! Thou art dear to old Hassan as the breath of life, and while life lingers he will serve thee.
Zuleika. Then must thou aid me in a deed of mercy. Who doth keep watch to-night before the tent of the young Greek?
Hassan. Mine is the watch. Wherefore dost thou seek to know?
Zuleika. Hassan, thou hast sworn to serve me. I have a boon to ask of thee.
Hassan. Speak, lady! thy slave doth listen.
Zuleika. Thou knowest that with the morning sun Mohammed hath sworn Cleon shall die. Such is the fierce anger he doth bear his foe he hath refused all mercy and scorned to listen to the prayers of the young prince who hath journeyed hither at peril of his own life to place himself in the power of the king as hostage for his father.
Hassan. It is indeed most true. Poor youth!
Zuleika. 'Tis of him I would speak to thee. Mohammed, angered at his boldness, hath, as thou knowest, guarded him in yonder tent, denying him his last sad prayer to speak once more in life with his father. Oh, Hassan, what must be the agony of that young heart to see the hours swift speeding by, and know no hope.
Hassan. What wouldst thou have me do?
Zuleika. Lead him to his father; give him the consolation of folding to his breast the beloved one to save whose life he hath sacrificed his own.
Hassan. Dear mistress, thou art dreaming, and cannot know the danger of so rash a deed. Bethink thee of Mohammed's anger, the almost certain doom of such as dare to brave his mighty will. I pray thee let not thy noble heart lead thee astray. Thou canst not save him, and will but harm thyself.
Zuleika. Hassan, thy love and true devotion, I well know, doth prompt thee to thus counsel, and in thy fear for me thou dost forget to think of mercy or of pity. I thank thee; but thou canst not move me from my firm resolve. Again I ask thee, Wilt thou aid me?
Hassan [falling at her feet]. Pardon, but I cannot. Heed, I implore thee, the counsel of thy faithful servant, and trust to the wisdom these gray hairs have brought. Thou art young and brave, but believe me, maiden, dangers of which thou dost not dream beset the path, and I were no true friend did I not warn thee to beware. Do not tempt me; I cannot aid thee to thy ruin.
Zuleika. Then will I go alone. I will brave the peril, and carry comfort to a suffering soul [turns to go; Hassan catches her robe].
Hassan. Maiden! once more let thy slave entreat. Thy father places faith in me. I am the captive's guard.
Zuleika. Peace, Hassan, peace; if life be then so dear to thee, and thy duty to thy king greater than that thou dost owe to thy fellow-man, Allah forbid that I should tempt thee to forget it. But did death look me in the face, I would not tarry now.
Hassan. And thou wouldst seek the captive's cell?
Zuleika. This very hour. Soon it will be too late.
Hassan. Thou knowest not the way,—soldiers guard every turn. Oh, tarry till the dawn, I do implore thee.
Zuleika. The darkness shall be my guide, Allah my guard; shrouded in yon dark mantle none will deem me other than a slave. Again I ask thee, Wilt thou go?
Hassan. I go. I were no true man to tremble when a woman fears not. I will guide thee, and may Allah in his mercy shield us both. Say thy prayers, Hassan, for thy head no longer rests in safety.
Zuleika. Come, let us on! The moments speed. The darkening gloom befriends us. First to the tent of the young prince, and while I in brief speech do acquaint him with mine errand, thou shalt keep guard without. Then will we guide him to his father, and unto Allah leave the rest [shrouds herself in dark mantle and veil]. Lead on, good Hassan. Let us away!
Hassan. Fold thy veil closer, that none may know the daughter of Mohammed walks thus late abroad. Come, and Allah grant we sleep not in paradise to-morrow!
[Exit, leading Zuleika.
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