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escape, and it was only when strong and armed parties were out for grain or other goods from one village to the other, that Noor Allee could safely go to see his bride.
“ At length, however, the period appointed for the marriage drew nigh. The preparations were made upon the most liberal scale; but as the distance of the homes of the respective parties made it inconvenient to celebrate the nuptials with due form at Iulana, it was agreed that the bride should be escorted by her father and lover to Sultaunabad, and take up her abode in the house of the Kelkhodah, whose wife was a relative of her deceased mother; there, were all the customary ceremonies to be performed, and from thence was the bridegroom to carry home his bride.
“So far, Aga, were all things fully arranged, and it was settled that Noor Allee, with a strong party of his companions and friends, should come to Iulana on the morning appointed, to escort her father and herself across the dangerous tract. But disappointment is the lot of man— what is written must be— for to avoid destiny is impossible. The arrival of Noor Allee with his escort at Iulana was by some accident delayed, and old Hassan, the father of Neilah, impatient to set out, so as to reach his journey's end with daylight, and trusting probably to meet with his son-in-law before he could be molested by any enemy, left the village with his daughter, accompanied only by a young girl her friend, a servant, with a mule which bore some part of the bridal outfit, and two of the villagers as guards. But scarcely had he lost sight of his own village, by turning the corner of a hill where there is a spring of fresh water, than the party was startled by the yells of the Toorkomans, who rushed out from their hiding-places, and with their long spears protruding from their saddle-bows, galloped up to the travellers. Away flew the two guards —even the servant strove to drive his obstinate mule from the spot where it seemed to root itself as if in malice; but old Hassan, confounded and terror-struck, could only call out, “ Amaun! amaun! (quarter!). Little did the rough robbers mind his cries. In a moment they drove him off his ass, secured the bride, and dashed after the loaded mule; speared the servant, who would not stop; hamstrung the poor animal, which was of no use to them, and throwing its burthen across one of their own horses, rode off towards the desert, with their captives and their booty.
“ Scarcely had the Toorkomans decamped, when up came Noor Allee and his party to the spot; and his heart failed him when he saw the disabled mule and other tokens of the fray. But what was his horror at recognising the wounded servant, who was just able to tell him what had happened, before he yielded up the ghost. Terrible was the poor young man's despair at these tidings; he raved and beat his breast, and swore he would pursue the villains, and follow his Neilah even to the bazaars of Khyvah -- a city near the Oxus, to which the Toorkomans often carry their captives for sale. His comrades, moved by his distress, and indignant at so atrocious and ill-timed an outrage, called aloud that they were ready to follow and assist him in recovering his mistress.
“ Away they went, accordingly, upon their traces ; they had not ridden many miles, when, entering a tract of rocky hills mingled with loose sand, these traces were utterly lost, and the day being now on the decline, the ardour of the pursuit began to abate with the diminished prospect of success. At first, they had listened only to the voice of their indignation, and attachment to their comrade, overlooking their imperfect state of equipment, and their want of provision and of necessaries for a lengthened expedition ; but as their hopes began to fail, and their enthusiasm to cool, they could not but feel how insufficiently prepared they were to meet with a stout and well-armed band of enemies ; and though pity for the poor bereaved lover, and shame at the idea of abandoning so soon an enterprise in which they had volunteered, induced them to persevere for a while, there is little doubt that to this point it would soon have come, had not the disgrace been spared them and their hopes been revived, by the appearance of two horsemen, who came suddenly in view from behind the turning of a rock. Their dress and accoutrements instantly proclaimed the strangers to be Toorkomans, and the whole party, with a shout, dashed forward to prevent their escape.
“But escape did not appear to be their intention. Quietly permitting the party to ride up and surround them, the foremost of the two addressed them with the salutation of peace; nor was it until he heard the voice, that Noor Allee recognised his friend Solymaun Yoorkeh, and arrested the headlong violence of his associates, who were perfectly ready to come at once to extremities.
“ The astonishment and concern of Solymaun, when informed of the cause of their being in arms, was too natural to be assumed, and removed at once all doubts as to his own innocence and ignorance of the transaction.
"May the curse of Omar light upon that Togrul Beg!' exclaimed he, after having heard all that could be told him on the subject; "he is always busy when he should be at rest, and slow when he should be swift. I see how it is, my friends, and the case is bad enough; the old man has run like a young fool into the snare of a scoundrel. But take courage— the game is not yet done, and we may shew him a trick that he looks not for,—the lost lamb may be recovered, but it must be by wit, not by force. Those who did the business are far enough out of reach by this time, and what could you do with such gear and such beasts against them, if you did overtake them? Not a day's barley in your joals, (travelling-bags) neither, I warrant. No, no! it will never do this way; give the chase up and return to your village, and leave the matter to me. If the thing is to
be done by man, your bride shall be restored without either harm or ransom; no ill can happen from the delay, and let the worst come, it is but ransom in the end.'
“Loth was Noor Allee to give up the chase, Aga;loth to submit to the delay, and still more so to leave his Neilah in the hands of the rough Toorkomans; but he knew that no insult would in all likelihood be offered her; as, whether she were kept for sale, or intended for a wife to any of the chieftains, a due respect would certainly be paid to her sex; and he hoped that before her fate could possibly be determined, the efforts of his friend might operate in her favour, and probably procure her release. Reluctantly, therefore, and in deep distress, in spite of the hope which dawned upon him, he suffered himself to be led back to the village, whither he was accompanied by Solymaun, who had come upon one of his trading visits to the villages in that quarter.
“ But the distress of his friend and the danger of the maiden were too urgent to admit of Solymaun remaining inactive in the cause. Now was the time to acquit himself of his obligation to Noor Allee, and he resolved to prove his gratitude by the zeal with which he should embark in his service on the present occasion. Before the next morning's dawn was he on his way back to the plains of Goorgaun, where the aouls of his tribe had their habitations.
“Keep up your spirits, my friend,' said he, to Noor Allee, as he sprung upon his horse ; .be of good hope ;