Page images
PDF
EPUB

have your ears and your eyes open, for I may have to send you strange messages, and by uncertain messengers; yet on your comprehension of my meaning may success depend. Let your friends be ready to mount at a moment's notice; they may be wanted before the week is out. More I cannot say, for as yet I know nothing myself. I go to act for your benefit, as circumstances may indicate. On my head be the safety of your mistress. May God protect you!'

“ In two days, Aga, did Solymaun Yoorkeh reach the banks of the Goorgaun river, where the aoul of Togrul Beg had pitched their tents. His conjecture that this chieftain had been the author of the chappow, was correct; for he found both the old man and his daughter prisoners in his tent. Solymaun had too much prudence to commence operations before he knew how matters stood, and he soon discovered, not only that Togrul Beg had resolved on making Neilah one of his wives, but that the expedition had been actually concerted by that chief, who had heard of her beauty, for the express purpose of carrying her off, during her journey to Sultaunabad.

“ This information sufficiently proved the hopelessness of entering into any negociation for the maiden’s release ; and he therefore at once determined to have recourse to stratagem. Familiar as he was with every individual of the aoul, and unsuspected of any secret design against its members, Solymaun easily found means to communi

cate with the captive girl ; and she, on her part, acquainted with his person, and eagerly grasping at the slightest offer of assistance, readily informed him of all that had occurred to her since her capture. This detail confirmed his belief of Togrul Beg's intentions. He cautioned her, however, against alarming her master by too decided a rejection of his suit, and bad her seek, by all means, to create delay, even at the expense of giving a false encouragement to his hopes. It was the object of Solymaun to involve the chief in a dilemma, which should oblige him voluntarily to grant that which force would in vain be employed to obtain and to effect,—this was the end of his interview and discourse with the maiden. How he succeeded, Aga, you will learn from the sequel.

“ Although Neilah was entirely and absolutely in his power, it still was the wish of Togrul Beg to win her consent to be his wife, rather than to risk the consequences of forcing her into compliance with his will; and therefore he was not a little delighted to find, when next he saw his captive, that the violence of her grief had abated, and that the fear, and even horror with which she at first greeted his approach, had given way to a soft timidity which rendered her only more fascinating. In the transports of his joy he swore by his own head, that if she would only be reasonable, resume her cheerfulness, and consent to be his wife, there was nothing in his power that she should not command. A faint smile was

the only reply; but she raised her eyes as if about to speak, when the tears which had for a while been repressed, gushed out afresh, as gazing around her she saw only the walls of the tent hung with the utensils and accoutrements of the fierce Toorkomans, whom she had so much reason to dread. An eager inquiry into the cause of her distress, immediately burst from the lips of her enamoured master.

« « Alas! my lord,' replied the damsel, you seek to see me cheerful and happy; but how can that be the case when I see myself a captive in the hands of strangers, far, far from all I have been accustomed to love, without a single familiar face to which I may turn for sympathy;—without one friend of my youth, with whom I might talk of the days that are gone, who might comfort me for the loss of all that has been taken from me?' and her tears flowed faster at the thoughts she had conjured up in her mind.

" Light of my eyes!' exclaimed the Beg, “is not then your father here ?- your own father? the old man whom for your sake alone I have caused to be brought here? Of what use else could he be to me?'

«• Alas! yes, my poor father! he will die of grief at being separated from all his family and kindred, before the month be out. As well might ye think to make the wild goat of the mountains browse contentedly at the door of your tent, as to make him live in captivity, away from his friends and his home. If, indeed, my dear cousin Aishké were here; if I had but her to speak to and amuse me, I could be happy any where!'

" And who is this Aishké, and where does she dwell ?' inquired Togrul Beg, eagerly.

""Ah, she is in my own dear village,' replied the girl, 'weeping, no doubt, and pining for her Neilah! Oh, if she but knew where I am, how willingly would she fly to me,-we did love one another so!

“The Toorkoman was silent for a few moments, but sat drawing rapid whiffs from the calloon which he was smoking. • And you would be quite happy if she were with you?' said he, at last. The large black eyes of Neilah were turned upon his ugly face with a gleam of delight, which melted his very soul...

""Oh yes!' exclaimed she, “if Aishké were with me I should be quite content, quite, quite happy!'

“ Again did the harsh features of her master flush and work, as if a mighty purpose were brooding in his mind. • And what is to hinder her being here?' said he at last—Describe to me her person-give me some token by which I may recognise the maid, and your favourite shall be your companion before the next moon shall have waned -provided’ added he, assuming as amiable a look as possible, - provided you consent to become my wife as soon as that shall have been effected.'

“Another and more killing glance from the large black eyes of his captive, completed the rapture of the

Beg.

“ I promise,' uttered she in low and trembling tones, that so soon as you bring me my cousin Aishké, I will no longer refuse to become the wife of my lord !--nor need the term of delay be a long one,' added she, the first day of the moon is close at hand, and it is the custom of our village to ornament the mosque and houses of the Moollahs and Kelkhodah with boughs and flowers, such as our little gardens, and the country near us, can supply. On the morning of that day, if the country be in a peaceful state, our young girls are wont to venture beyond the walls, to gather them; and there is among the mountains, not half a fursung westward, a hollow, where a few sinjed trees-(a sort of willow, the blossoms of which are very fragrant)- with other wild foliage, are found overhanging a little spring of fresh water. To that spot did Aishké and myself, with some of the other girls, always repair, to supply ourselves with our contribution to the decorations for our festival; and on the morning of the new moon, which is now but four days distant, she will assuredly be there. You could not fail to know her, for she is taller and fairer than any girl in the village ; she wears around her head a black silk handkerchief, embroidered with pink flowers; and on her arm a large silver casket, containing a talisman. -If you, my lord, with a small party, were to repair thither on the preceding night, you might seize upon her, and be far enough distant before the village could be alarmed ---and see, behold this ring of turquoise !

« PreviousContinue »