Charles Stuart Savile.

Karah Kaplan; or, The Koordish chief. A tale of Persia and Koordistan (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryCharles Stuart SavileKarah Kaplan; or, The Koordish chief. A tale of Persia and Koordistan (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 11)
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Whose dog was Rustum, compared to you ?


It was nearly midnight, and a solemn still-
ness reigned throughout the camp, only broken
by the tread of those sentinels, whom sleep
had not surprised upon their posts, and by the
baying of the dogs, that invariably infest a
Persian camp. The moon having long since
set, a gloomy darkness wrapped all around
in its folds, save where the dim light of a
solitary lamp might be seen through the can-



vass of a tent. The air was fresh and balmy,
as is usual to the climate of northern Persia
at that season of the year ; but it was no in-
tention of enjoying the delightful nocturnal
breeze that induced a tall figure, wrapped in
a huge kabau to creep slowly along the outer
wall which enclosed the tent of Zoraya. This
mysterious person gradually reached the en-
trance, but perceiving when so close upon
him only that he nearly trod upon his face, a
sleeping sentinel stretched across the opening;
he was for an instant perplexed, a sudden
thought, however, seemed to flash across his
mind, for proceeding some steps further, he
drew his cummar and slit up the canvass wall,
until an aperture sufficiently large for his en-
trance was made ; then bending down he crept
through, and proceeded towards the tent con-
taining the maiden, which was a few paces
distance ; just, however, as he had reached the
door, a man, who was keeping watch, sprung


upon him, and was on the point of seizing him,
and demanding the reason of his presence at
such an hour ; when prompt as thought, the
intruder (although the attack was entirely un-
expected), seized the throat of his assailant
with a powerful grasp, and kept him at arm's
length. The man struggled furiously to free
himself, but his adversary was one possessed
of such tremendous strength, that the other
was as a child in his grasp. With a dying
effort, however, the Persian drew his dagger,
and struck it at the side of his foe ; the weapon
was truly aimed, and had it gone the road
it was intended to do, would have caused a
mortal wound, but a shirt of mail met the
point, which snapped asunder like glass. The
struggles of the wretch now became fainter,
and presently ceased altogether, the unhappy
victim having been strangled by the powerful
grasp laid upon his throat. The deed had been
performed with scarcely any noise, excepting

B 2


a slight rattle, and the murderer smiled con-
temptuously, as he gently laid the body on the
ground. To him the encounter had been
but child's play, having scarcely required
the slightest exertion on his part.

u So may all mine enemies perish/' he
ejaculated, as he lifted up the curtain which
led into the tent, at the door of which the
fatal deed had heen committed. With this
observation he entered.

A lamp was burning within, and by its light
the sleeping form of the Hamadanee maiden
was visible ; her head reclining upon one arm,
while the other hung gracefully over her fore-
head. Her bedding, according to the custom
of the country, was spread upon the beautiful
carpets, which covered the ground. The ar-
rangement of oriental bedding among the upper
classes is simple, consisting of a mattress laid
upon the ground, over which is spread a sheet,
on which the form of the sleeper reclines, his


head being supported by pillows of down ; the
outer covering is a lahofF, or quilt, made of
silk stuffed with cotton. In the present in-
stance, the materials composing the coverlet
were of the most beautiful Cashmere shawls,
and the sheets of the best European cambric.
Near the bed occupied by Zoraya, slept Nargis
and other kaneezes, upon couches formed of
simpler materials.

The new comer paused for a moment as he
entered, and gazed upon the sleeping forms
before him ; and for a moment the feelings of
him, who had just before committed murder,
felt softened — so transcendently beautiful, so
innocent was the scene before him; but the
sensation was momentary, for expelling from
his breast every sparkling of humanity, the
fiend prepared to finish his work.

Creeping softly as if treading upon ice, he
approached the couch of the sleeping maiden,
and bending down till his ear was close to her


mouth, he seemed listening, in order to ascer-
tain whether her slumbers were sound. Hu-
man nature here prevailed, and he could not
restrain himself from imprinting upon the
pouting lips before him, an impassioned kiss.
Still the maiden woke not, she was evidently
under the influence of the potion he had
directed to be administered. Encouraged at
this, the ruffian quietly tied a gag over her
mouth, and then proceeded to bind her arms
and legs with a silken cord he had brought for
the purpose. While he was thus engaged,
Nargis moved and spoke ; the dagger of the
intruder was instantly raised, but on his ob-
serving that the girl had merely uttered the
sound in her sleep, it was returned to its

As soon as Zoraya had been so fastly bound,
that even had she awakened, she could neither
have screamed or struggled, the astrologer,
(for it was he) raised her in his arms, and pre-


pared to leave the tent 5 before, however, final-
ly quitting it, he hesitated, and the idea ran
through his mind, that it would be as well to
drive his cumraar to the heart of each of the
sleeping kaneezes, in order to entirely prevent
their giving any alarm, should they awake
and find their mistress gone ; it was, however,
a momentary thought, for the innocent faces of
the maidens, as they lay wrapped in slumber,
recalled to his recollection, that he had a sister
and a wife — and that he had once been a child,
and must have appeared as peaceable and in-
nocent while sleeping.

Crossing therefore the threshold, and step-
ping over the dead body of the man he had
slain, he proceeded with noiseless steps, to-
wards the rent he had made in the canvass
wall, and crept through ; but instead of return-
ing towards his own tent, he turned his steps
as fast as the darkness would permit, in a
different direction, until he arrived at a spot


where several horses were tethered, while the
Mehters,(l) whose duty it was to watch them,
were lying fast asleep, near a heap of saddles.
Placing the unconscious maiden on the ground,
and laying hold of a saddle, he proceeded to
strap it on the back of one of the animals, then
having bridled it, he once more took up his
sleeping burden, and placing her across the
neck of the steed, mounted with a vault, and
spurring its sides with the sharp stirrup, gal-
loped off. The sounds caused by the animaPs
hoofs, awoke one of the Mehters, who instant-
ly gave the alarm, crying out to his companions
that a horse had been carried off by robbers.
The man then hastily counted those under his
care, and discovering the loss to be real, he
halloed out to the sentinels on the outside of
the camp to stop the thief.

The astrologer heard the cry, and know-
ing that he would be obliged to pass a spot
where a sentinel was on guard, and apprehen-


sive of the man's being aroused by the alarm
that had been given, he drew his sabre, and as
he came up to the serbaz, who called on him to
stop, he struck his head from his shoulders
with one swoop of his arm, and with such
force, that it flew several paces from the trunk,
which fell heavily to the ground. The mur-
dered serbaz, however, in the moment of death,
had pulled the trigger of his musket, which
going off, the report aroused the picket, who
were sleeping close at hand. In a moment
several soldiers had sprung to their feet, and
discharged their muskets in the direction of
the flying marauder. It was, however, too
obscure to take an aim, and though several
balls whistled by his ears, he was unscathed ;
but knowing well, that an instant pursuit would
be made, he urged his horse, notwithstanding
the almost impenetrable gloom, to its utmost
speed, and being well acquainted with the
ground over which he was galloping, he was

B 3


soon far beyond pursuit ; indeed, after a most
unsuccessful search, the pursuers had returned
to their stations, the only satisfaction received
by the owner of the stolen horse, being the
witnessing of a most terrible bastinado, which
he commanded to be administered on the soles
of the negligent Mehter, as a warning not to
sleep another time, while watching over his

In the meanwhile the astrologer, having held
on his rapid course for a full hour, at length
arrived where the ground became so hilly, and
the path so winding, that he was obliged to
rein in his panting steed, and moderate his
pace. Having thus proceeded for above two
hours, he came up to the brink of a steep pre-
cipice, where he gave a shrill whistle, which
was answered by another, and in a few mo-
ments more, he was surrounded by several
men who, by the light of a fanoos(2) held in
the hand of one of them, appeared habited


in the Koordish costume, and armed from head
to foot.

" Welcome, thrice welcome, Moorad Beg/'
they cried, " have you been successful ?"

" Behold !" answered the soothsayer, or
rather Moorad as we must now call him. " Be-
hold !"(3)

With these words he dismounted, and laid
his burden on the ground.

u By Ali V 9 cried the admiring throng, " your
head is exalted, and your face will be whitened
in the sight of the Khan !"

" Thank you, my friends,' 5 replied Moorad,
" accept my thanks for your good wishes ; but
stand back for the present while I unbind this
girl ; no one excepting myself, must gaze upon
beauty destined for his Highness."

The Koords having respectfully retreated a
few paces at this command, Moorad cut with
his dagger, the cords which bound the limbs of
Zoraya, and having removed the gag which


covered her mouth, cast a veil over her features,
and calling to his companions observed : —

" Tell me Ibrahim, have you prepared all,
as was commanded ?"

u Aye, Sahib, all is ready. In yonder cavern
is a takteravan filled with the softest cushions,
and four of the best mules to be found in the
country. We have also brought an old
woman from our tribe, in case the Khanum
might need some gentler tending than we
could bestow/'

" Barakillah Ibrahim !" cried Moorad, " you
shall not want the reward due to your alacrity ;
you are a good servant. By the bye," he conti-
nued, " have you got any provisions ready, for
this ride has made me as hungry as a famished
tiger. I could devour a bullock."

" So please you, Sahib," answered the other,
" they are preparing an excellent pilloulle, and
also some other dishes ; such as would tempt
a Mollah to break the fast of the Ramazan.


We have brought with us the cook Jafner, who
merits good fortune for his skill. "

" Better and better/' observed Moorad.
" Jaffier is a cook beyond all price ; his cabobs
would excite hunger in a dead man. Go, there-
fore, and prepare our meal, while I bear this
girl into the inner cavern. I trust you have
spread a carpet and a mattress there, whereon
I may lay her, for though she has been fast
asleep during our late journey, still she has
unavoidably been kept in an uncomfortable
posture, and must have received some hard
knocks ; it will therefore be by no means amiss
that she be laid upon cushions/ 5

Thus speaking, he raised the senseless form
of the maiden in his arms, and bore her to-
wards a neighbouring rock, and having en-
tered a low passage, in a few seconds found
himself in a large cavern formed by nature,
where a comfortable fire was blazing, before
which a man was busily engaged in the act of


cooking. Hastily passing through this place,
Moorad entered another cave, much smaller
than the former ; in this a mungal(4) was burn-
ing, near which an old woman was preparing
some bedding. Having given some injunctions
to the crone, he laid his burden upon the mat-
tress, and returned to the outer cavern. His
entrance was the signal for the commencement
of festivity ; seating themselves in a circle the
Koords prepared to attack the savoury viands
that were set before them by the renowned

First and foremost, an enormous pilloulle
of snow white rice, stuffed with raisins, va-
nished before the strenuous exertions of the
hungry company ; then sundry cabobs, boiled
meats and chickens were devoted to destruc-
tion ; next followed sweetmeats of various de-
scriptions ; as provocatives to drinking, means
for which were furnished by a large skin of
Shiraz wine, from which the company, regard-


less of their being Mussulmen, took long and
copious draughts.

The meal having come to a termination,
Moorad took his seat at the upper end of the
cavern, and proceeded to relate his adven-
tures ; the recital was received with rapturous
applause by the Koords, particularly that part
which made mention about the strangling of
the attendant, at the entrance of the tent of

"Mashallah \ n cried Ibrahim, "I have
heard tales before, and wonderful tales too ;
but this is the very father of tales. Zaul(4) and
Rustum were heroes, and great heroes: but
they could scarcely have proved a match for
you, Moorad Beg."

" At any rate/' returned Moorad ; il the dead
dog of a pishkidmud proved but a sorry repre-
sentative of the heroes you have named. I
marvel that Mehtee Khan should have pro-
vided such a feeble guard for his daughter ;


however, I was fortunate in one respect, my
grasp fell at once upon his throat, and prevented
his crying out and giving an alarm. I owe
something also to this shirt of mail, for the
cummar of the burnt-father struck so forcibly
against it, that had it not intervened between
my body and the dagger's point, you would not
again have had me amongst you."

" However Sahib," observed Ibrahim, " are
you sure he is dead ?"

u If there is any strength in these forefingers
and thumbs," replied Moorad ; u I would not
give a Shai(5) for the chance of his ever again
drawing breath. Had you heard the gurgle,
and the death-rattle in his throat, you would
not have asked the question."

" Alhamdellillah !" cried Ibrahim, "that it
hath so happened, and also that you have re-
turned safe. The Khan would rather lose his
right arm than you, for are you not in truth,
the right arm and stay of the tribe ; barakil-


lah, Khuddamee shooma mabarak bashad, may
your steps be fortunate."

"Alhamdellillah!" added Moorad; " that I
had my trusty sword with me, and was so
enabled to wipe out the disgrace it underwent
on the Alwend hills with the blood of a Persian
sentinel. By the beard of the Shah, you
should have been near, when his head new
from his shoulders, like the cap of an Iranee
on a windy day. By the bye, Abbas,' 5 he con-
tinued, turning to a Koord who was standing
at the further end of the cavern, " see that you
clean my sabre well, and take care that the
blood of the Persian hound, whose soul I have
sent to grill with his fathers, rust not on it. 5 '

" Bachesm," answered the man, respect-
fully; "provided the steel hath not already
begun to rust, the rising sun shall see his rays
reflected from the blade as brightly as from a

" You are a good servant, 5 ' said his master,


" give heed to it well ; but firstly see whether
the dawn is breaking."

The man quitted the cavern, and returning
after a few minutes, announced that all without
was yet dark.

" Would to Allah it were otherwise/'' ob-
served his master, on hearing the answer to
his injunction ; u I would fain proceed with
all speed ; but it would be too hazardous to
pass with a takteravan over the hills, while the
path was wrapped in obscurity. I shall not
feel satisfied till the girl is safely within our
camp ; for then, let the Shah himself come at
the head of his army and attack our valleys,
would he not wish he had kept away ; here, Ibra-
him, you must help to wile away the time with
a song ; you have a good voice and a round store
of melodies, therefore give us one of them at
present, for I feel no inclination for sleep.' 5

66 With pleasure," returned Ibrahim ; " listen
while I sing to the praise of Shiraz wine, and


to the downfall of the enemies of the Karah
Kaplan/ 5



O cupbearer, linger not long on thy way,
Bring hither the golden wine;
What pleasures, what joys, say Mollah, say,
Than drinking, are more divine.

Then drink, drink, drink away,

By night and by day,

Think not it hurts a mussulman's soul ;

To drain Shiraz wine from a Koordish bowl.


Our prophet forbade us the juice of the vine,

In giving his rigorous laws ;

But surely he ne'er could have dreamed of such wine,

As they make from the grapes of Shiraz.

Then drink, &c.

Here's to Karah Kaplan, our Tiger Lord,
The dread of the Persian hound,
May he rule o'er the tribes, may the Koordish sword
Deal death and destruction around.

Then drink, &c.



May all who oppose the Koordistan bands

Grill and rot for ever in hell,

We'll defile their hearths, and we'll ruin thier lands,

And their children to slavery sell.

Then drink, &c.

give me the liquor that maddens the brain,
While it gladdens the heart of man,

Or transplant the vineyards of Shiraz's plain,
To the valleys of Koordistan.

Then drink, &c.


No wonder the song of our Saadi(6) was sweet,
The language of love and of bliss,
And his thoughts as the wind and the antelope swift,
When he drank of such nectar as this.

Then drink, &c.


1 swear that the soul that is hovering still,
Round Hafiz(7) and Saadi's tomb,

Hath entered the juice that my beaker doth fill,
And lent it, its vigour and bloom.

Then drink, &c.



But by Allah himself and his prophet divine,
Though a thousand times brighter it ran,
There is but one pledge that is -worthy such wine
'Tis the glory of Karah Kaplan.

Then drink, &c.

This song was received with enthusiasm,
and by the manner in which the company
assembled joined in the chorus, it was evi-
dently a well-known and favourite melody.
After the applause had finished, another
vocalist was about to commence one of those
interminable recitatives common to oriental
countries, when the attention of all present
was excited by a shrill shriek issuing from
the inner cave. Gnashing his teeth with rage,
Moorad sprang to his feet, and bidding his
companions remain where they were, he seized
a lamp and rushed into the inner cave, where
he had deposited the sleeping form of the
Hamadanee Maiden.



Is this a dream ?

Ox entering the inner cavern, Moorad be-
held the maiden in a half kneeling, half re-
cumbent attitude on the mattress, and sup-
porting the weight of her body on one hand,
while she held the other over her eyes. That
portion of her face which was visible showed
signs of the utmost terror, mingled with as-

* Merciful Allah !" she was exclaiming,
" what is this ; do I dream, or have my senses
left me. Who are you ?" she continued address-
ing the old woman, who was standing near.
" Speak, am I alive."


At this moment she beheld the countenance
of Moorad, which she instantly recognised as
belonging to the man, who had seized her during
her journey from Hamadan ; upon which leap-
ing to her feet and rushing to the further end
of the cavern, she exclaimed in an agonised

u Monster, fiend, why do you thus persecute
me ? Begone ! or if I am dreaming, O Allah
suffer me to awake/'

" Khanum," answered Moorad quietly,
'•' calm yourself, this is no dream ; but fear
not ; you are in the power of Allah Ver-
dee Khan, generally known as the Karah

** What say you ?" cried Zoraya, horror
struck at the news. " In the power of Karah
Kaplan ? How, when, by what means ?"

Moorad in answer gave a rapid sketch of
the manner in which she had been carried off;


at the same time assuring her, that there was
no cause for alarm. The unhappy girl, at the
recital clasped her hands together, and for a
moment remained motionless ; then approach-
ing the Koord, she threw herself on her knees,
and beseeched him to plunge his cummar into
her breast.

" If you have any sense of mercy left !" she
said, a kill me outright ; death is better than
dishonour. 5 '

cc Khanum r" replied the Koord, u no
dishonour is intended ; surely you cannot
term an alliance with our chief, by such a

" Aye, surely I do !" returned Zoraya. " Is
he not at the head of a band of robbers;
is he not a marauder, a rebel, and a cut
throat ?"

" When you have brought your compli-
mentary epithets to a close," observed Moorad


with something like contempt in his voice
and manner, u you will, perhaps, allow me
to add to the list of appellations you have be-
stowed upon the Khan, that of a Koordish
independent chief, owing alliance to no one,
and therefore no rebel. What prouder situa-
tion think you can there be ?"

" Were your leader the Shah of Iran,' 5
answered the maiden, " he has forfeited all title
to the name of a man of honour. Call you
your present an honourable act ?"

ts Permit me, lady V said the Koord, " to
observe that violent measures were not had
recourse to, until your hand was refused — aye,
refused in a most contemptuous manner by
your father. The love the Khan bore towards
you could not so be baulked/ 5

An involuntary shudder ran over the frame
of the maiden at these words ; wilfully mis-
understanding the cause, Moorad continued,

" Allow me to make a representation Kha-

VOL. II. c


Hum, and to suggest that it would not be
amiss for you to spend in repose, the short
time that remains before we proceed on our
journey. I perceive you are shuddering from
cold. Yonder Geesifid will supply you with
warm covering ; in the meanwhile I will retire.
Should you require any refreshment, you can
mention the circumstance to your attendant.
May your shadow never be less."

With these words, he inclined his figure in
the most respectful manner, and quitted the
cavern. As soon as he had disappeared, Zo-
raya threw herself upon the bed, and gave
way to the most bitter lamentations; the
Geesifid (1) gazed upon her for a while, with
no complacent air ; she had heard the damsel
utter abuse against her chief, and that was
sufficient to excite angry feelings in her bosom ;
for, in unison with the rest of her tribe, both
old and young, man and woman, she enter-
tained a devoted affection for Karah Kaplan.


Her youth and beauty, however, together with
the evident heart-rending grief demonstrated
by Zoraya, seemed to soften the feeling of
rancour, entertained by the old woman; for
approaching her charge in a most respectful
manner, she inquired whether she could do
any thing for her. Zoraya raised her eyes on
hearing the attendant's voice, and looking
earnestly at her, exclaimed,

" You are a woman, and must therefore feel
some kindness towards your sex; say, is it
really true, that I am in the power of Allah
Verdee ?"

" You are, Khanum !" replied the Geesifid ;
" but grieve not thereat, his equal breathes
not ; so cheer up, young one ; and instead of
going into my master's presence in tears, let
him behold you with a smiling face ; your's
will be by no means a hard fate. 5 '

u Are we near the encampment of your
tribe V demanded Zoraya anxiously.

c 2


a A Chupper(2) would go there in less than
five days/' replied the old woman ; " but,
travelling in the manner we are about to do,

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Online LibraryCharles Stuart SavileKarah Kaplan; or, The Koordish chief. A tale of Persia and Koordistan (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 11)