Alfred John Church.

Stories of the magicians; Thalaba and the magicians of the Domdaniel, Rustem and the genii, Kehama and his sorceries online

. (page 9 of 13)
Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchStories of the magicians; Thalaba and the magicians of the Domdaniel, Rustem and the genii, Kehama and his sorceries → online text (page 9 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

who had wandered far away from his master's
camping-place. Not long afterwards they
came upon him, and made haste to possess
themselves of him. First they tried to throw
a lasso over him, but when Raksh saw the
lasso he rushed at them like a lion, struck two
of them dead with two blows of his fore-feet,
and bit off the head of a third. Thus three of
the company were dead, and the brave Raksh
was not yet taken. Nevertheless the other
four entangled him with their lassos, and, so
capturing him, took him with them to the town.

When Rustem woke from his sleep, he
looked about for his horse, but could find no
traces of him. " How can I go," he said to
himself, " carrying rny quiver and my club, this
heavy helmet, this sword, and this coat of
mail ? The Tartars will say, * Rustem slept
and some one stole his horse,' and I shall be
covered with shame."

When he came near to the town of Semen-


gan, the King and his nobles saw that it was
Rustem that was approaching. The King
went out to meet him, and said : " What has
happened ? How is it that you came on foot ?
Tell us how we can serve you. We are all at
your bidding."

Rustem saw that they were friends, and
answered : " My horse Raksh has escaped
from me on this plain without bit or reins.
Find him for me, and I will reward you as
is fitting. But if Raksh is not found, I will
make many suffer for it."

The King said: " No one will dare to do you
a wrong in this matter. Come and be my
guest. Let us drive away care with the wine-
cup. Anger profits nothing. It is by charming
that one brings the serpent out of his hole. As
for the horse Raksh, it is not possible that he
should be hid, for all the world knows of him.
We will look for him, and bring him to you
without delay."

So Rustem put away all suspicion out of his
mind, and became the guest of the King. So
they sat and drank wine together, and the King
waited upon him as though he were his slave.


While the hero tarried in the palace, the
King's daughter, who had often heard of his
prowess and courage, and of the great exploits
which he had done, saw him and loved him.
She was the most beautiful of maidens. Her
eyebrows were arched, the two plaits of her hair
like the ropes of a lasso, her lips like rubies,
and she was tall as a cypress.

Rustem asked her in marriage of her father,
and the King, who was glad to find so noble a
husband for her, gladly listened to his suit. So
the two the maiden's name was Tehmina
were married with much rejoicing.

When the time came that Rustem must
leave the King's court for there were grave
matters that called him back to Persia he
took an onyx bracelet that he wore upon his
arm, and gave it to his wife, saying, "If God
should give you a daughter, fasten this bracelet
under the curls of her hair, But if you should
bear a son, let him wear it on his arm, as his
father has worn it."

So Rustem departed, taking his horse with
him, for the King had found Raksh.

In due time Tehmina bore a son. The


infant was as beautiful as the moon. When
he was but a month old he had the limbs of a
yearling child ; at three years he learnt exer-
cises of arms ; at five he was as bold as a lion ;
and at ten there was not a man in the whole
country that dared wrestle with him. One day
he went to his mother, and said, " Tell me who
I am. What must I say when they ask me
my father's name ? "

Tehmina said, " You are the son of Rustem.
Never since God made the world has there
been such a warrior as he ; " and she showed
him a letter from Rustem, and three rubies
which he had sent for a gift. " But," she said,
" King Afrasiab must know nothing of this, for
he is the sworn foe of Rustem. He would kill
the son because he hates the father. And
besides, if your father knew to what strength
and stature you are grown, he would send for you,
and your mother's heart would break for grief."

Sohrab said for that was the youth's name :
" This is a story that cannot be hid. But
listen to what I will do. I will put myself at
the head of an innumerable army of Tartars.
I will deprive King Kaoiis of his kingdom. I


will set Rustem upon his throne ; and, this
done, I will make war against Afrasiab and
possess myself of his throne. Seeing that
Rustem is my father and I am his son, I will
not suffer that there should be any kings in the
world but he and I."

Sohrab, after he had chosen for himself a
horse, having the good fortune to find one that
was of the breed of Raksh, asked his grand-
father to help him. " I would go," he said, " to
the land of Persia, and help my father."

The King loaded him with gifts, and sent
him away.

Meanwhile it was told to King Afrasiab that
Sohrab was gathering an army againt the King
of Persia. He called his nobles and said :
" Listen to me ; I have a plan which shall rid
us of our enemies. Rustem must not know
that Sohrab is his son. The two will meet in
battle, and it may be that the young lion will
kill the old one. If it be so, one day we will
take Sohrab by stratagem and slay him. But
if Rustem, on the other hand, should slay his
son, then his heart will be eaten away with
grief, and we need fear him no more."


Accordingly Afrasiab sent messengers to
Sohrab with gifts and this message : " You will
do well if you can conquer the land of Persia.
I send you for your help such an army as is
fitting. Go on, and prosper."

So Sohrab set out with his army. He came
in his march to a certain stronghold that was
called the White Fort, and was the chief hope
of the Persians. The governor of the fort was
an old man and very feeble ; but in the
garrison there was a very brave champion,
Hedjir by name, who, when he saw the army
of Sohrab approaching, rushed out to meet
him. "Come to me," he said, in his pride,
" and I will cut your head from your body, and
give your flesh to the vultures to eat."

Sohrab smiled to hear such brave words, and
charged his enemy. The two met. Hedjir
struck Sohrab on the girdle with a spear, but
the point did not pierce the armour. But
Sohrab, reversing his spear, struck Hedjir with
the shaft, and felled him from his saddle ; then,
leaping from his horse, stood over him, and
would have cut his head from his body, but
that the vanquished man begged for quarter.


Sohrab granted him his life, bound him with
cords, and sent him a prisoner to the King.

The old governor of the fort had a daughter,
Gurdafurd by name, a very fair maiden, but
as strong and brave as any warrior in the
land. It troubled her greatly to see the young
champion discomfited and bound, and without
hesitating a moment she armed herself, hid her
long hair under her helmet, and rode forth from
the fort to do battle with the Tartars.

She rode in front of the army of the besiegers,
and said, "Who is there among you that will
come and fight with me ? " None of them
were willing to accept her challenge ; but when
Sohrab saw her he said, il Here is another wild
ass for my lasso ! " and hastily putting on his
armour rode out to meet her. The girl let
fly a storm of arrows at him, attacking him first
from one side then from the other ; and when
Sohrab charged her, threw her bow over her
shoulder, put her spear in rest, and galloped
to meet him. Sohrab drew his spear back so
far that the point was almost level with his
body ; then, delivering it with all his force,
struck Gurdafurd on the girdle, burst the


fastenings of her coat of mail, and hurled her
from her saddle like a ball struck by a racquet.
The girl twisted herself under her saddle, drew
a sword from her girdle, and cut Sohrab's spear
in half. Then she jumped again into the saddle,
but turned to fly, for she had little liking for
the conflict. Sohrab slackened the reins of his
horse, and, galloping after her at full speed,
overtook her, and catching her by the helmet,
drew it from her head. Then all her long hair
fell down, and the young hero knew that he
had been fighting with a girl. "Well!" said
he, "if the maidens of Persia fight in this
fashion, the men must be notable warriors."
He threw his lasso round her waist, and said,
" Do not attempt to escape ; but tell me, beau-
tiful girl, why did you seek this conflict ?"

The girl said, "All the army will laugh at
you, if they should see my face and my hair.
They will say, ( The brave Sohrab went out
to fight a woman.' Let us conceal this adven-
ture. The fort is yours, and all the soldiers
in it and all the treasure, as soon as you shall
be pleased to take possession of it."

Sohrab said, " Do not fail of your promise,


and do not trust in the strength of your walls.
Were they as high as the vault of heaven, my
club would level them to the ground."

So they rode together to the gate of the fort,
and Gurdafurd, wounded and wearied, dragged
herself within. Her father received her with
great joy, and said, " You have done well, my
daughter. We have no cause to be ashamed
of your courage and address. Thanks be to
God, who has not suffered this stranger to
kill you."

After this the girl mounted on the wall, and
seeing Sohrab waiting beneath, said to him,
"Why do you weary yourself with waiting,
lord of the Tartars ? Return to the place
whence you came."

Sohrab said : " Treacherous one ! I swear by
heaven and earth that you will repent of this
falsehood. Where is the treaty that you made
with me, that you would deliver up the fort,
with all its garrison and its treasure ? "

The girl laughed, and said: u Take care; the
great Rustem will soon be here, and not a man
of your army will be left alive. But what a
pity that such arms and such a breast as yours


should be a prey for jackals ! Pride yourself
as you will on your strength, but yet the stupid
cow will eat the grass upon your grave."

Sohrab was covered with shame to hear these
mocking words. But he said, "It is too late
to give battle to-day; but with dawn to morrow
we will lay the fort level with the dust." Then
he shook the reins of his horse, and galloped
back to the camp.

At dawn he marched against the fort with
his army. But there was no one to be seen
upon the walls. He rode up to the gate, and
it was opened to him. But there was not a
single armed man in the whole place. In fact,
the governor and the garrison had departed in
the night by a passage under the earth, of
which no one was aware, and with them was
gone the beautiful Gurdafurd. This troubled
Sohrab more than anything else, for his heart
was full of love for the girl, so beautiful and so



SOHRAB (continued].

MEANWHILE the governor of the fort had sent
a letter to King Kaoiis, telling him how there
had appeared among the Tartars a mighty
champion, against whom, such was the strength
of his arms, no one could stand ; how he had
overthrown and taken prisoner their champion,
and now threatened to overrun and conquer
the whole land of Persia. When the King
had received and read this letter he was greatly
troubled, and, calling a scribe, said to him,
"Sit down and write a letter to Rustem." So
the scribe sat down and wrote. The letter was
this : " There has appeared among the Tartars
a great champion, strong as an elephant and
fierce as a lion. No one can stand against him.
We look to you for help. It is of your doing


that our warriors hold their heads so high.
Come, then, with all the speed that you can
use so soon as you shall have read this letter.
Be it night or day, come at once ; do not
open your mouth to speak ; if you have a bunch
of roses in your hand do not stop to smell it,
but come ; for the warrior of whom I write
is such that you only can meet him."

King Kaotis sealed the letter and gave it
to a warrior named Giv. At the same time
he said, " Haste to Rustem. Tarry not on the
way ; and when you are come, do not rest there
for an hour. If you arrive in the night, depart
again the next morning." So Giv departed,
and travelled with all his speed, allowing
himself neither sleep nor food. When he
approached Zabulistan, the watchman said,
"A warrior comes from Persia, riding like the
wind." So Rustem, with his chiefs, went out
to meet him. When they had greeted each
other, they returned together to Rustem's palace.
Giv delivered his message and handed the
King's letter, telling himself much more that
he had heard about the strength and courage of
this Tartar warrior. Rustem heard him with


astonishment, and said, " This champion is like,
you say, to the great San, my grandfather.
That such a man should come from the free
Persians is possible ; but that he should be
among those slaves the Tartars, is past belief.
I have myself a child, whom the daughter of
a Tartar king bore to me ; but the child is a
girl. This, then, that you tell me is passing
strange ; but for the present let us make merry."

So they made merry with the chiefs that
were assembled in Rustem's palace. But after
awhile Giv said again : " King Kaotis com-
manded me, saying, ' You must not sleep in
Zabulistan ; if you arrive in the night, set out
again the next morning. It will go ill with
us if we have to fight before Rustem comes.'
It is necessary, then, great hero, that we set
out in all haste for Persia."

Rustem said, " Do not trouble yourself about
this matter. We must all die some day. Let
us, therefore, enjoy the present. Our lips are
dry, let us wet them with wine. As to this
Tartar, fortune will not always be with him.
When he sees my standard, his heart will fail


So they sat, drinking the red wine and
singing merry songs, instead of thinking of
the King and his commands. The next day
Rustem passed in the same fashion, and the
third also. But on the fourth Giv made pre-
parations to depart, saying to Rustem, "If we
do not make haste to set out, the King will
be wroth, and his anger is terrible." Rustem
said, "Do not trouble yourself ; no man dares
to be wroth with me." Nevertheless he bade
them saddle Raksh, and set out with his com-

When they came near the King's palace, a
great company of nobles rode out to meet them,
and conducted them to the King, and they paid
their homage to him. But the King turned
away from them in a rage. "Who is Rustem,"
he cried, " that he forgets his duty to me, and
disobeys my commands ? If I had a sword
in my hand this moment, I would cut off his
head, as a man cuts an orange in half. Take
him, hang him up alive on gallows, and never
mention his name again in my presence."

Giv answered, (; Sir, will you lay hands
upon Rustem ? "


The King burst out again in rage against
Giv and Rustem, crying to one of his nobles,
"Take these two villains and hang them
alive on gallows." And he rose up from his
throne in fury. The noble to whom he had
spoken laid his hand upon Rustem, wishing to
lead him out of the King's presence, lest Kaoiis
in his rage should do him an injury. But
Rustem cried out, "What a king are you!
Hang this Tartar, if you can, on your gallows.
Keep such things for your enemies. All the
world has bowed itself before me and Raksh
my horse. And you you are king by my

Thus speaking, he struck away the hand
that the noble had laid upon him so fiercely
that the man fell headlong to the ground, and
he passed over his body to go from the presence
of the King. And as he mounted on Raksh,
he cried : "What is Kaous that he should deal
with me in this fashion ? It is God who has
given me strength and victory, and not he or
his army. The nobles would have given me the
throne of Persia long since, but I would not
receive it ; I kept the right before my eyes.


Verily, had I not done so, you, Kaous, would
not be sitting upon the throne." Then he turned
to the Persians that stood by, and said, " This
brave Tartar will come. Look out for yourselves
how you may save your lives. Me you shall
see no more in the land of Persia."

The Persians were greatly troubled to hear
such words ; for they were sheep, and Rustem
was their shepherd. So the nobles assembled,
and said to each other: " The King has for-
gotten all gratitude and decency. Does he not
remember that he owes to Rustem his throne
nay, his very life ? If the gallows be Rustem's
reward, what shall become of us ? "

So the oldest among them came and stood
before the King, and said : " O King, have you
forgotten what Rustem has done for you and
for this land how he conquered Mazanderan
and its king and the White Genius; how he gave
you back the sight of your eyes ? And now you
have commanded that he should be hanged
alive upon a gallows. Are these fitting words
for a king ? "

The King listened to the old man, and said :
" You speak well. The words of a king should



be words of wisdom. Go now to Rustem, and
speak good words to him, and make him forget
my anger."

So the old man rode after Rustem, and many
of the nobles went with him. When they had
overtaken him, the old man said, " You know
that the King is a wrathful man, and that in
his rage he speaks hard words. But you know
also that he soon repents. But now he is
ashamed of what he said. And if he has
offended, yet the Persians have done no wrong
that you should thus desert them."

Rustem answered, " Who is the King that I
should care for him ? My saddle is my throne,
my helmet is my crown, my corselet is my robe
of state. What is the King to me but a grain
of dust ? Why should I fear his anger ? I
delivered him from prison ; I gave him back
his crown. And now my patience is at an

The old man said, " This is well. But the
King and his nobles will think, ' Rustem fears
this Tartar,' and they will say, ' If Rustem is
afraid, what can we do but leave our country ? '
I pray you therefore not to turn your back upon


the King, when things are in such a plight. Is
it well that the Persians should become the
slaves of the infidel Tartars ? "

Rustem stood confounded to hear such words.
"If there were fear in my heart, then I would
tear my soul from my body. But you know
that it is not ; only the King has treated me
with scorn."

But he perceived that he must yield to the
old man's advice. So he went back with the

As soon as the King saw him, he leapt
upon his feet, and said, " I am hard of soul, but
a man must grow as God has made him. My
heart was troubled by the fear of this new
enemy. I looked to you for safety, and you
delayed your coming. Then I spoke in my
wrath ; but I have repented, and my mouth is
full of dust."

Rustem said, "It is yours to command, O
King, and ours to obey. You are the master,
and we are your slaves. I am but as one of
those who open the door for you, if indeed I
am worthy to be reckoned among them. And
now I am come to execute your commands."


Kaotis said, " It is well. Now let us feast.
To-morrow we will prepare for war."

So Kaoits, and Rustem, and the nobles
feasted till the night had passed and the morn-
ing- came.


son R AB (continued) .

THE next day King Kaotis and Rustem, with
a great army, began their march. Now Sohrab
was still at the fort from which the beautiful
Gurdafurd had escaped. When the army of
the Persians came in sight, the Tartars that
were in the fort set up a great shout ; and
Sohrab hearing it, came and stood on the ram-
part, with Hedjir, the champion whom he had
conquered and taken prisoner, by his side.
" You do not see," he said, " in this great army
a man with a great club who would be able to
meet me in battle. There are many men, it is
true ; but not a single man of war. Verily I
will cover the plain with their blood, as the
waters cover the sea."

So saying, he ^Yent down from the rampart,


and called for a cup of wine. He had not a
thought of fear in his heart. On the other
side, the King's army pitched their tents on the
plain, which they covered from side to side
with their encampment.

That night Rustem went to the King, and
said, " Will the King suffer me to go out
to-night without helmet or belt that I may see
for myself who this champion is, and who are
the warriors that follow him ? "

The King said, " It is well thought of.
Only be prudent, and may God have you in
His keeping."

So Rustem put on the dress of a Tartar, and
set out for the fort. He made his way into it,
like a lion which steals on a herd of antelopes,
and saw Sohrab and the chief sitting at the

Now Sohrab's mother had said to Zendeh
her brother, when her son was setting out for
the war, " Go with Sohrab, for you know the
face of Rustem ; and when the time is come,
you will show my son his father." So Sohrab
sat at the feast, and Zendeh his uncle sat by him.

Rustem stood by the door watching the


feasters, and it so chanced that Zendeh, leaving
the room, saw him standing there. " Who are
you ? " he said, for there was not a man in the
whole army of the Tartars that was his like in
strength and stature.

Rustem answered him not a word, but struck
him on the nape of the neck so fierce a blow
that he fell down and died. There was np
more feasting or fighting for Zendeh.

When Sohrab saw that Zendeh's place re-
mained empty, he asked where he was. Some
of the guests went to look for him, and found
him lying dead by the door. They came and
told Sohrab, who called the nobles and said to
them, " We must not sleep to-night, but must
spend the time in sharpening the points of our
lances. The wolf has come into the fold, and,
in spite of shepherds and dogs, has taken the
best of the flock. With God for my helper,
I will avenge on the Persian the death of

When he had thus spoken he came back to
his place, and cried, "Zendeh will be wanting
by my side in the battle ; but I am not weary
of the feast."


Meanwhile Rustem went back to King
Kaotis, and told him what he had seen and
done. " As for Sohrab," said he, " he has not
his equal in Persia, or among the Tartars. He
might have been the great warrior San, and
what can I say more ? "

The next day Sohrab put on his armour, and,
going out of the fort, chose a steep place from
which he could see the army of the Persians,
and bade Hedjir come and stand by him.
"Deal fairly with me," said he, "answer me
true, and it shall go well with you. You shall
have rewards to your heart's content. But if
you deceive me, you shall lie in prison for the
rest of your days."

Hedjir said,." I will tell you truly all that I
can about the army of the Persians. And,
indeed, why should I lie unto my lord ? "

Sohrab went on, " I am going to ask you
questions about the great men of the Persian
army. Tell me now who they are. And first
I see a tent of leopard skin, surrounded with
brocade of many colours, and guarded by a
hundred war-elephants. Over the tent there
floats a violet flag, on which are figured the


sun and the moon in gold. Whose is this

"That," said Hedjir, " is the tent of the
Persian king."

"I see another tent," said Sohrab, " and the
flag that flies over it has the figure of an ele-
phant. Whose is it ? "

"That is the tent of Thous, son of King

" And now," Sohrab went on, " tell me whose
is that tent of green ? I see, sitting on a chair,
a stalwart hero, with such an air, such shoulders,
and such a frame as I have never seen before.
Though he is sitting, yet he overtops all the
warriors that are near him. And in front of
him there stands a great charger, as high as the
hero himself ; and from the saddle there hangs
a lasso. Nowhere have I seen such a man or
such a horse. See his standard ; it has the
figure of a dragon, and on the spear-head is a
lion's head."

Hedjir said to himself, " If I were to tell this
young lion that this great warrior is Rustem,
he would do his best to slay him. No ; I will
keep his name secret." So he said : ' This is


one of the King's allies that is newly come from

" But what is his name ? " said Sohrab.

" I do not know," answered the other, "for I
was in the fort when he came to the King."

Sohrab was greatly grieved to find no trace
of Rustem. His mother had told him certain
signs by which he should know the hero. He
saw them all, but he could not believe his eyes.
Again he asked Hedjir about the green tent,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13

Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchStories of the magicians; Thalaba and the magicians of the Domdaniel, Rustem and the genii, Kehama and his sorceries → online text (page 9 of 13)