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reclined on their sofas over a bowl of sherbet, the young merchant repeated his offer, accompanying it with a detailed account of his situation and prospects, together with warm protestations of his esteem for the Cadi, and his passion for his daughter ; and last, though far from least, with an offer 10 settle fifteen purses in the way of a jointure on his intended. To all which the old magistrate tranquilly replied :
“It cannot be denied that the request you have made is in the highest degree flattering to my daughter and myself, nor could anything be more gratifying to us both than the union you propose ; nevertheless I cannot but counsel you, for your own sake, to give the matter a little further consideration—at least if your proposal is a serious one, which I must needs suppose it to be, seeing that the contrary would imply such a forgetfulness of the respect due to my years, my dignity as a dispenser of justice, and my descent from the family of the Prophet, on whose head be peace! such a disregard of propriety, I say, as cannot easily be credited of so well-seeming a young person as yourself.”
“Serious !” exclaimed the youth, overjoyed by the magistrate's ready acceptance of his suit, yet puzzled by the doubt with which it was gratified : “I was never more serious in my life; and as to any further consideration of the matter on my own account, believe me, all the anxiety which I have hitherto felt on the subject has been of the very contrary nature ; namely, an
apprehension lest my very slender claims should not be held sufficient to warrant me in aspiring tồ the hand of so admirable a person as your daughter.” .
“She is, indeed, a steady and well-disposed young maiden,” rejoined the father ; “ although not, perhaps, in all respects such as a rich and handsome man, like yourself, might have been expected to choose as his partner for life.”
Obeidollah hereupon renewed his protestations, and assured the Cadi that his whole hopes of happiness rested on the success of his petition. The eagerness with which he pressed his suit, appeared to stagger the old gentleman; who at length, with the air of one who has just been inspired by a bright thought, resumed as follows: "I do not dispute the earnestness and sincerity of your wishes in this affair : it is however barely possible, that your inclinations may change hereafter — such things have happened ere now — and as my daughter's happiness is as dear to me as it can possibly be to you, it is but natural that I should take proper precautions for her welfare, in the event of any such contingency. You will not blame me, therefore, if, in addition to the fifteen purses abovementioned, I require that five more be paid down previous to the marriage, to be forfeited in case of a divorce.”
“ Call them ten,” said the merchant. The Cadi looked more and more astonished, and even ventured some remonstrances with the young man on the pre
cipitancy of his conduct; but with the same success as before. To shorten my details — the magistrate consented, the ten purses were paid down, the legal witnesses summoned, and the nuptial contract signed that very evening; the completion of the marriage being, rather against the will of our lover, deferred until the following day.
We must pass hastily over the ensuing ceremonies the wedding procession, the songs and dances, the festivities in the Cadi’s hall, and the congratulations of the wedding-guests, intermixed here and there with illsuppressed smiles, and looks of malicious intelligence, which our young bridegroom was far too much absorbed in his own happiness to notice. Suffice it, that by midnight the joyous company dispersed, and the new-made spouse was admitted to the chamber of his bride; when, on lifting the veil which concealed her features, he beheld—but how shall I describe what is indescribable? If the reader's perverse imagination has ever disported itself in accumulating images of ugliness, and building up an ideal of deformity till it shrank in disgust from its own creation, let him recal, if possible, the apparition thus conjured up, and he will have some faint idea of the spectre which encountered our young merchant in the shape of his betrothed bride. In the words of the story-teller from whom I had this narrative, it seemed to him as though he had been shut up in one of the witch-caverns of Northern Persia, with the white devil and his retinue of monsters for companions.
As soon as it was day, the young merchant arose from his sleepless pillow, and repaired to the public baths, as was his wont. Here, after performing his ablutions, he lay down on one of the couches, and gave himself up to melancholy reflections, which the early hour, and the consequent solitude around him, allowed him to pursue without interruption. If the reader has ever experienced a disappointment of the same nature—but no; the difference of our western manners precludes any such antenuptial delusion, excepting as regards the more trifling points of temper, habit, and principle: if, however, he has ever suffered under the minor casualties of an overreaching partner-a'racketing fellow-lodger- a talkative companion in a stage-coach-a disagreeable associate in a club, corporation, or committee or any other similar calamity, falling upon him unforeseen, he may form some idea of the state of my hero's mind in the present conjuncture. Mingled with grief for his disappointment, was mortification at having been the dupe of what now appeared to him so very shallow an artifice, and one which nothing but his own passionate and unthinking precipitation could have rendered at all plausible : nor was he without secret twinges of conscience for the unmerciful sarcasms which he had uttered in former times against the fair sex, and for which his present sufferings seemed no more than an appropriate retribution. Then came meditations of revenge against the beautiful author of the mischief, and vows that he would
not rest again on his bed until he had discovered her of course for the purpose of punishing her; and then his thoughts reverted to the possible or impossible means of escape from his present difficulties; the forfeiture of the ten purses, and probably of the fifteen, in case of not being able to assign sufficient reasons for a divorce; to say nothing of the implacable resentment of the Cadi and his connexions -- the talk of the neighbourhood—the comments of Malek Ebn Omar the jeweller -- the apophthegms of Saleh the barber — all these, and more, came crowding into his mind, the lesser evils giving, as it were, a barbed point to the greater, and superadding annoyance to affliction. At length, finding reflection of no avail, he arose, and with slow and pensive steps adjourned to his shop in the bezestein.
He had not been seated there long, with his morning cup of coffee before him, ere several of his friends and neighbours, as well as of the foreign traders and masters of vessels with whom he had dealings, entered singly, or in groups, to pay their compliments to him on his marriage. It may be imagined that these greetings were any thing but welcome to the unfortunate Obeidollah : on such occasions, when friendship itself has much to do to suppress its smile, it cannot be expected that envy will forbear its gibe ; and where there is good cause for ridicule, ridicule is sure to be suspected. Nor was the effect lessened by the evident mortification of the patient, and the abstracted air with which he received their congratulations.