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action as well as I could. We cannot precisely say that we gained a victory, because, alas! we have no heads to show; but we also were not defeated. The Serdar, ass that he is, instead of waiting for the artillery, and availing himself of the infantry, attacks a walled town with his cavalry only, and is very much surprised that the garrison shut their gates, and fire at him from the ramparts: of course he can achieve nothing, and retires in disgrace. Had I been your leader, things would have gone otherwise; and as it was, 1 was the only man who came hand to hand with the enemy. I was wounded in a desperate manner; and had it not been for the river between us, not a man of them would have been left to tell the tale. You will say all this, and as much more as you please;" and then, giving me a packet of letters to the grand vizier, and to the different men in office, and an arizeh (a memorial) to the Shah, he ordered me to depart.
I found the Shah still encamped at Sultaniah, although the autumn was now far advanced, and the season for returning to Tehran near at hand. I presented myself at the grand vizier's levee, with several other couriers from different parts of the empire, and delivered my despatches. When he had inspected mine, he called me to him, and said aloud, "You are welcome! You also were at Hamamlu. The infidels did not dare to face the Kizzil bushes, eh? The Persian horseman, and the Persian sword, after all, nobody can face. Your khan, I see, has been wounded; he is indeed one of the Shah's best servants. Well it was no worse. You must have had hot work on each bank of the river."
To all of this, and much more, I said, "Yes, yes," and "no, no," as fast as the necessity of the remark required; and I enjoyed the satisfaction of being looked upon as a man just come out of a battle. The vizier then called to one of his mirzas, or secretaries—" Here," said he, "you must make out a fatteh numeh (a proclamation of victory), which must immediately be sent into the different provinces, particularly to Khorassan, in order to overawe the rebel khans there; and let the account be suited to the dignity and character of our victorious monarch. We are in want of a victory just at present; but recollect, a good, substantial, and bloody victory."
"How many strong were the enemy 1" inquired the mirza, looking towards me. "Bisyar, bisyar, many, many," answered I, hesitating and embarrassed how many it would be agreeable that I should say.—" Put down fifty thousand," said the vizier coolly. "How many killed V said the mirza, looking first at the vizier, then at me. "Write ten to fifteen thousand killed," answered the minister: "remember these letters have to travel a great distance. It is beneath the dignity of the Shah to kill less than his thousands and tens of thousands. Would you have him less than Rustam, and weaker than Afrasiab? No, our kings must be drinkers of blood, and slayers of men, to be held in estimation by their subjects and surrounding nations. Well, have you written 1" said the grand vizier.
"Yes, at your highness's service," answered the mirza; "I have written (reading from his paper) that the infidel dogs of Muscovites (whom may Allah in his mercy impale on stakes of living fires!) dared to appear in arms to the number of fifty thousand, flanked and supported by a hundred mouths spouting fire and brimstone; but that as soon as the all-victorious armies of the Shah appeared, ten to fifteen thousand of them gave up their souls; whilst prisoners poured in in such vast numbers, that the prices of slaves have diminished one hundred per cent, in all the slave-markets of Asia."
"Barikallah! Well done," said the grand vizier. "You have written well. If the thing be not exactly so, yet, by the good luck of the Shah, it will; and therefore it amounts to the same thing. Truth is an excellent thing when it suits one's purpose, but very inconvenient when otherwise." Anonymous.
The mirth of the company was greatly promoted by the humours of an eccentric personage, whom Mr. Bracebridge always addressed with the quaint appellation of Master Simon. He was a tight brisk little man, with the air of an arrant old bachelor. His nose was shaped like the bill of a parrot; his face slightly pitted with the small-pox, with a dry perpetual bloom on it, like a frost bitten leaf in autumn. He had an eye of great quickness and vivacity, with a drollery Vol. III. M
and lurking waggery of expression that was irresistible. He was evidently the wit of the family, dealing very much in sly jokes and inuendos with the ladies, and making infinite merriment by harpings upon old themes; which, unfortunately, my ignorance of the family chronicles did not permit me to enjoy. It seemed to be his great delight during supper to keep a young girl next him in a continual agony of stifled laughter, in spite of her awe of the reproving looks of her mother, who sat opposite. Indeed, he was the idol of the younger part of the company, who laughed at every thing he said or did, and at every turn of his countenance. I could not wonder at it; for he must have been a miracle of accomplishments in their eyes. He could imitate Punch and Judy; make an old woman of his hand, with the assistance of a burnt cork and pocket handkerchief; and cut an orange into such a ludicrous caricature, that the young folks were ready to die with laughing.
I was let briefly into his history by Frank Bracebridge. He was an old bachelor, of a small independent income, which, by careful management, was sufficient for all his wants. He revolved through the family system like a vagrant comet in its orbit; sometimes visiting one branch, and sometimes another quite remote; as is often the case with gentlemen of extensive connexions and small fortunes in England. He had a chirping buoyant disposition, always enjoying the present moment; and his frequent change of scene and company prevented his acquiring those rusty unaccommodating habits with which old bachelors are so uncharitably charged. He was a complete family chronicle, being versed in the genealogy, history, and intermarriages of the whole house of Bracebridge, which made him a great favourite with the old folks; he was a beau of all the elder ladies and superannuated spinsters, among whom he was habitually considered rather a young fellow, and he was a master of the revels among the children; so that there was not a more popular being in the sphere in which he moved than Mr. Simon Bracebridge. Of late years he had resided almost entirely with the squire, to whom he had become a factotum, and whom he particularly delighted by jumping with his humour in respect to old times, and by having a scrap of an old song to suit every occasion.
By no one has my return to the hall been more heartily greeted than by Mr. Simon Bracebridge, or Master Simon, as the squire most commonly calls him. I encountered him just as I entered the park, where he was breaking a pointer, and he received me with all the hospitable cordiality with which a man welcomes a friend to another one's house. I have already introduced him to the reader as a brisk old bachelor-looking little man, the wit and superannuated beau of a large family connexion, and the squire's factotum. I found him, as usual, full of bustle; with a thousand petty things to do, and persons to attend to, and in chirping good humour; for there are few happier beings than a busy idler; that is to say, a man who is eternally busy about nothing.