Page images

occurred to him, which he forthwith resolved to put in practice. This was, to leave the government of his dominions in the hands of his ministers, for a time, while he put on the habit of a pilgrim, and visited the shrines of several celebrated divinities of India, not in the expectation of obtaining in those places the key to happiness, but in the hope of picking it up by the way. The necessary arrangements being completed, Hurchund left his palace and his capital, and bent his way towards the south. He now mingled with mankind upon equal terms; and looking them directly in the face, as it were, from the same level, observed many good qualities which had not been visible to him when he contemplated his species from the height of his throne. He was often disgusted, however, by the dignified airs which silly people put on to conceal their real insignificance, and could scarcely refrain from throwing off his disguise, and commanding that respect by his authority, which he found his genius and his reason too weak to procure for him. Nevertheless, he contented himself with hoarding up his resentments for another day, after the manner of kings; and grew daily more and more amused with the study of mankind, which enabled him to acquire, in a certain sense, the ring of Gyges; that is to say, while he learned to discover the faults and imperfections of others, he also grew skilful in concealing his own, which is the height of wisdom.

At length, after much wandering, he arrived at the

capital of the Deccan; and as princes, like lions, and other fierce and destructive animals, have a secret preference for their own species, Hurchund felt himself attracted towards the Court. In India, pilgrims, and other professedly holy persons, have in all ages been allowed very free access to royalty; extremes being, according to the proverb, addicted to meet. The air and appearance of the Rajah, even in his disguise, were calculated to excite curiosity; and, among persons of intellect and penetration, to command respect; and he .very quickly succeeded, by his captivating manners and versatile and vigorous mind, in working his way to the table of the prince. Ramadeva, the sovereign who then reigned over the Deccan, was a man who, though somewhat advanced in years, possessed a mind which still retained its juvenile flavour, and could bear those shocks and blows, which those who associate with persons of haughty, energetic characters, incapable of acting the part of slaves, must often endure. In Hurchund he appeared to find a man after his own heart. He admired his knowledge, his frankness, his simplicity. He tolerated his haughtiness; for this was a portion of his character which Hurchund had not yet learned to disguise sufficiently.

Ramadeva had three sons and two daughters; and it was somewhat singular, that, though differing considerably from each other in character and manners, they all became, by degrees, more or less attached to the pilgrim. This might perhaps be accounted for by the exquisite policy of Hurchund's conduct, who, having profoundly studied the disposition of each, adapted himself to their several natures with the utmost delicacy and precision. With the father he discoursed concerning the origin and nature of the Gods; with the sons, of politics and war; and with the daughters, when he happened to bestow a moment upon them, he dwelt upon the wonders he had seen, and the pains he had endured. To all, however, he for some time appeared to be a man of iron naturea cold shell, as it were, of clay, from which the passions had departed, like gods from a desecrated temple; so completely had he acquired the mastery over his feelings and emotions, or rather over those muscles of the countenance which betray their existence to the world. But no force of dissimulation will hold out against time and intimacy. As continual intercourse flung aside, one after another, the impediments to friendship and mutual good understanding, Hurchund appeared to all in a new light. The goodness of Ramadeva gradually wore away a portion of his guest's reserve, and the prince began to perceive that the frankness and simplicity, for which he had at first given him credit, were fictitious. His soul, however, seemed to be like an image, of which we obtain glimpses through thick clouds of incense, but sufficiently distinct to convince us that the figure is of gold. Now and then, whether designedly or accidentally did not appear, he allowed it to be perceived that his soul, however

firm, stoical, and cold, harboured a secret unhappiness, which no gratification of sense or intellect could remove. These revelations were most frequently wrung from him when the young princesses were present; in all probability, because it is the nature of woman to command confidence, and because, if there be a balm on earth for the pains of the heart, it is in her keeping. However this may be, Ramayuna, the younger of the princesses, a girl in whom external beauty seemed but an index to the purity and loveliness which were within, appeared suddenly to discover that Hurchund was still in the prime of life, and began, in the recesses of her soul, to think, that if it could be permitted to a person of her rank to console the spirit of an adventurer, it might not be impossible to cause this extraordinary man still to taste of happiness. By dwelling frequently upon this idea, she at length became reconciled to it; but, as often happens in such cases, by meditating upon the means of providing for another's happiness, she lost her own.

In the mean time, Hurchund himself was not altogether indifferent. He found that his heart was affected in a peculiar way whenever Ramayuna was near him ; and that at length her absence, which he was very often compelled to endure, cast a gloom over his spirit still more dark and painful than that which had driven him from his palace. He knew very well that it would not be difficult to obtain her hand, by declaring his rank and suing for it in due form ; but this by no means accorded

with his present views. He continued, therefore, to proceed as he had begun, conversing continually with the sovereign and his sons; pouring forth the riches of his mind, now exhibiting his character under one aspect, now under another ; but always allowing it, in spite of himself, to be discovered that his eagle spirit had yet to find a fitting mate.

The princes of Hindoostan have, in all ages, been distinguished by their passion for hunting, which, in that country, is not a pusillanimous chase after a fowl-eating fox, or timid hare; but a bold species of warfare, carried on against those fierce animals which dispute man's empire over the earth, and in many cases render it doubtful. Ramghur, the eldest son of Ramadeva, was a hunter of the boldest stamp, and sometimes exposed himself in a fool-hardy manner to the wounded or enraged animals with which he delighted to contend. One day, this Orion of the east, being desirous of exhibiting his prowess and his skill before the ladies of the palace, a royal hunt was proclaimed ; and early in the morning the whole court proceeded towards the jungles, where the tigers were to be roused,—the ladies mounted in their golden howdahs upon enormous elephants, which was supposed to raise them above the reach of danger, and the men on light active horses, trained to the chase. The sights, scents, and sounds which strike upon our senses in the morning, in fields glittering with flowers and still wet with dew, inevitably occasion an effervescence of imagination,

« PreviousContinue »