Richard Robert Madden.

The Mussulman (Volume 3) online

. (page 11 of 15)
Online LibraryRichard Robert MaddenThe Mussulman (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

countenance were ascribed to some trivial cause,
while her own conviction rendered every gloomy
suggestion of her sunken spirits a supernatural
foreboding of approacliing death. Sorrow and
disappointment had taken possession of her
heart ; but sorrow of itself hath never, perhaps,
destroyed life, and people " have died from time
to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for
love." That grief was hers which leaves every
organ susceptible of disease, and determines it to
the weakest, where the seeds of the treacherous
malady are sown, which mental excitement is
only required to develope ; to use a figurative
expression, she was broken-hearted.

Her decline was unaccompanied by any de-
lusive hope of amendment, and the rapidity of
its progress was now but too visible to the eyes
of her afflicted friend. But still the stranger
saw nothing in her appearance to create alarm ;
the scarlet hue which mocks the hopes of the
sufferer's friends, was on her cheek, but it was
too bright, too circumscribed, too sudden in its
appearance, and too evanescent when it came,
for the glow of health ; it was the hectic tint of


hopeless illness. The clearness of her com-
plexion was more remarkable than ever, but it
was that pearly white whose waxen transparency
allows the small blue veins beneath it to be seen
meandering here and there, and which gives that
peculiar expression of unearthly loveliness to the
countenance which consumption borrows at the
last, when the fading light of the soul's sunset has
given something to the face of heaven. Even to
life's close, the serenity of her wan features re-
mained undisturbed, and in the midst of lier
sufferings the gentleness of her spirit prevailed
over her anguish ; and even when the angel of
death was hovering over her couch she was a
spectre of beauty, of more melancholy interest
than fancy ever created or enshrined. Patience
might have borrowed her mien to chasten the
regard of Sorrow, and Meekness might have
taken the Religion of her look to sanctify the
glance of Pity on the sepulchre of Hope.

During her entire illness the name of Mourad
only once escaped her lips ; his image was
eternally before her eyes, not as she had beheld
him in the house of the Mameluke in the midst
of cut-throats, stained with blood, disfigured


with wounds, and flashed with the horrible
drunkenness of human carnage, but as slie had
first known him, beautiful in person, gentle in dis-
position, and every impulse of a generous bosom
glowing on his youthful cheek. If the two pic-
tures presented themselves together to her ima-
irination, she tore the former from her view, and
sought to persuade herself that the Mourad of
her early days, the playmate of her childhood,
the friend of her youth, the beloved object of
her matured affection, was not the individual
whose infuriated features she had shuddered
at beholding in the house of the Mameluke.

She had promised her kinswoman to think not
of the unworthy object of her love, she talked
not of him, and the poor old woman believ-
ed he was forgotten ; but the day preceding
her dissolution she called her weeping relative
to her side and pointed to a lute which hung
beside her bed. " This, my dear friend,""' said
she, " was the gift of Mourad ; it is all I have
belonging to him ; his love has been long lost.
This little instrument has been my only solace
in many a long day of misery ; its soft tones
served to remind me of the sweet voice of my


dear Mourad, and in his absence I have sung
over and over to its music the songs he loved
to hear. When he was present, it was seldom
from my side, and when he left me, I still
made my companion of my melancholy lute.
But it has been long neglected ; the chords are
broken, one is only left to be torn asunder, fit
emblem of my poor heart ; the sweet music of
its peace is destroyed, and only one rude breath
is wanting to sunder the last string and make
eternal silence. When I am at rest I would
have it given to him who gave it me : tell hun
it never left my sight since I possessed it ; that
if any thing were wanting to call back the
happy days of our youth, this early token of
his love — love, did I say, fool ! fool ! I believed
it to be such, and it recalled a thousand endear-
ing recollections to my bosom. Tell him, to the
last moment of my life I loved him ; and when
others spoke harshly of him, tiiat I held my
tongue ; when they uttered imprecations on his
falsehood, that I cursed him not; when they
talked of my wrongs in the language of indig-
nation, that I vented my grief in no complaint ;
and when they reviled his beloved name, that


I wished them far away. Tell him the wretch-
edness of years was insufficient to alter my
affection ; tell him, my dear friend, I was broken-
hearted ; but had he been at my death-bed, the
ashes of my hopes should have fallen at his
feet, for my last act should have been to call a
blessing on his head. I conjure you tell him his
poor forgotten Zuleika, in all her misery, suffer-
ed no reproach to escape her lips, and with her
dying breath bestowed on him her full forgive-
ness. I had much to say, but oh "

" Alas, my child !"" cried the poor old woman
interrupting the exhausted girl, " you are
weak and weary ; and to-morrow, if it please
God, you will be better and will tell me all."

" If it please God," replied the dying girl in
a solemn voice, " to-morrow I shall be better ;
but to-morrow, the tongue that now falters will
be motionless for ever. To-morrow, my dear
friend, the hands which now press you to my
bosom will be clasped in death, and the pulse
you now feel throbbing at my heart, responding
to every grateful emotion of my soul, will beat
no more. You have been all kindness to the
last A thousand thanks are swelling in my


breast — deep, deep, my beloved friend, past
utterance ; but words are unnecessary, they are
here in my heart's core, and earth has no power
to (b'aw tliem forth !"

" Oh, my sweet child !" exclaimed her dis-
tracted relative, " for the sake of Allah, do not
fatigue your poor head just now. If not to-
morrow, by and by, my darling Zuleika, you
will be more composed, and have more strength
to talk to me."" The faintness of the smile,
which came over the settled features of the
sufferer, was a dagger to the last hope of her
poor kinswoman. She still stood by her bed-
side, endeavouring to repress her tears, and
seeking to conceal her agitation from the dear
girl, whose dying glance was fixed on her coun-
tenance. Oh ! it was a sad spectacle, to behold
the invalid riveting her death-look on the ve-
nerable face of her poor friend, contrasting, as
it were, the constrained tranquillity of her look
with the overwhelming trouble of her bosom.
For several minutes the old woman preserved
the calmness of her look ; the tear only suf-
fused the eye, but did not trickle over the
cheek ; the lips only quivered, but the accents


of sorrow were subdued ; there was something
struffirhnfr for utterance in her throat, but it
was only the exertion of gulpin^ down the
sighs, whose suppression ahnost choked her.
But the struggle at length ceased ; Nature
triumyjhed over the vain effort to stifle her
emotions — the wretched woman's grief burst
forth — the violence of her sorrow bore down
all restraint — a loud convulsive cry broke from
her lips — the tears gushed from her lids — the
servants spoke of the necessity of commanding
her feehngs — they advised her to be calm.
Fools ! like all the vain counsellors of their
kind, they knew not that the anguish of her
soul was no longer under the dominion of her
reason ; but one who had the understanding to
abstain from arguing with her grief, led her
from the chamber, and remained with her, with-
out augmenting her distress, by the common-
place expressions of insulting pity, or imperti-
nent consolation.

When the vehemence of her grief had some-
what subsided, she returned to the chamber,
and took her station at the bedside: she did
so in time to witness the closing scene. The


last moments of the poor girl were free from
suffering; their tranquilhty accorded with the
gentleness of her bosom ; no violent struggle
convulsed her sweet features : no acronizino; throe
troubled the serenity of her countenance ; the
liquid softness of her eye remained unchanged,
even when the death film had dimmed its lustre,
and the cold white marble of her cheek retain-
ed all its purity long after the hectic flush
had ceased to animate it. The attendants still
saw no symptoms of approaching dissolution ;
it was only the aged woman, who had been
at many a parting scene, and who watched
every alteration in the fading countenance of
her child, and who noticed every change in the
clammy coldness of her hand, who knew that
the last breath was fluttering on her lips.

The ill-judged solicitude of the domestics
only aggravated the affliction of the mourner.
If the lamp flickered in the draft, it was not
the wing of the gloomy angel which dimmed
the light; if a sound during the night startled
the drowsy ear of the attendants, it was the
shriek of no goul, nor the scream of the ill-
omened bird, which flutters over the house of a


departing spirit. If the eyes of their mistress
were fixed on the death-struck features of the
slumbering girl, the half-closed eyelids, with
the pearly white alone in view, however appal-
ling the appearance, was not always a certain
sign of death. If the icy fingers played with
the bed-clothes, it was only a momentary mo-
tion of the hand — if the cold dew-drops of dis-
solution glittered on her brow, it was only a
gentle perspiration, that would do her good ;
and now and then, if the breathing became
hard, and respiration rattled in the throat, it
was nothing, it would go off when she awoke.
She awoke, but it did not go off; she looked
around her, with the wild stare of one awaken-
ing from a confused dream ; but the symptoms
of death did not disappear. To the last, the
settled calm on her lovely features was un-
ruffled ; long before she ceased to exist not a
fibre of the heart appeared to move ; not a
moan escaped her breast ; and once only her
pale lips quivered, her sweet mouth stirred, and
the mourners listened, but they heard no sound.
As she awoke from the slunjber of insensibility
which generally precedes dissolution, the wild-


ness of her regard gradually disappeared, and
all the wonted meekness of her look returned :
she gazed around her till her eye fell on the
dejected features of her kinswoman ; she laid
her cold hand on the trembling fingers of the
old woman ; she pressed them between her's ;
the servants thought she smiled, but the last
cold tear of life trickled over her cheek, when
she withdrew her heavy eyes from the face
of her kind friend. The lute she had spoken
of was the last object her dying glance encoun-
tered. She gazed on the broken instrument
till the fading lustre of her eye grew dim and
dimmer every moment, and the moisture, which
had hardly time to become a tear, suffused
the ball, and spread into a film, and shut
out the last earthly object on which she
looked. Her attenuated hands sunk on her
bosom, and when the last breath of life was
mingled witli universal air, the cold fingers
were found firmly clasped over her heart, as
if the feeble effort were made to prevent its

Without a struggle or a moan, her gentle
spirit soared to the realms of purity and peace.


where the wronged are no longer wretched, and
the broken-hearted are at rest ; where the in-
nocence of every country, and the virtue of
every chme are enshrined in the various forms
of one chosen people, and where tlie chaste
daughters of the Brahmin, the Sufi, and the
Sheik, are gathered together in one community
of love.

The deathless spirit never abandoned a fairer
tenement, nor left " a mortal paradise of such
sweet flesh," so little faded after death. The
last long sleep of all, seemed to those who
gazed upon the corpse, like the light slumbers
of an infant ; and the more they looked, the
more they appeared to doubt the appalling
certainty of death. The remains were placed
on a bier, in the middle of the chamber, decked
in all the finery of an Oriental toilet. Horrible
mockery of the vanity of life ! and the mourn-
ers, who stood round, rending their garments,
throwing ashes on their heads, and filling the
house with their unavaiHng lamentations, ])aus-
ed in their sad occupation to gaze on the
inanimate form of the ill-fated Zuleika. The


living aspect of loveliness had not yet left the
marble features of her corpse ; their freshness
even caused the last sad duty to be deferred ;
for death was altogether swallowed up in



Ham. What is he whose grief
Be.ars such an emphasis ? whose phrase of sorrow
Conjures the wand'ring stars and makes them stand
Like wonder-wounded heavens ? this is I,
Hamlet the Dane.

Luert. The devil take thy soul !


The victim of an ill-fated passion was carried
to the tomb ; the white-robed mourners followed
in procession, wringing their hands and rending
the air with their lamentations. When the bier
was set down in the cemetery and the body de-
posited in the grave, every voice was hushed,
and the sound of the first heap of earth that was
thrown on the corpse was watched for in breath-
less silence by all around. A stranger to the
funeral attendants, who stood by the grave-side
and appeared unmoved during the solemn pro-


cess of lifting the still corpse from the shell and
then lowering it into the grave ; who had taken
no part in the general lamentation, who had
shed no tear when all were weeping, who had
breathed no sigh when all were sobbing, nor
moved a muscle when the commotion of grief
convulsed the features and agitated the frame of
every mourner, was seen to shudder when the
first clod was thrown on the corpse. The hor-
rible sound of the chapless skulls which rattled
on the body seemed to thrill through his soul.
The murmur of grief ran through the mourn-
ers; a thousand exclamations of sorrow were
uttered, but he spake not ; a thousand thrilling-
cries were screamed around him, but he was
mute ; and some of the women threw ashes in
the air, and called imprecations on the head of
the villain who brought so much beauty to
decay, and so much goodness to an early grave ;
but his lips moved at last, and he gave a loud
amen to all their curses.

" Ah, hawadgi," said an elderly woman near
him, who seemed pleased to find a stranger take
an interest in the fate of her young friend, " if
you had known the poor maiden you would say



no malediction was bad enough to bestow on the
niarass who made lier heart miserable. She
was beautiful as the bright moon, hawadgi ;
her bosom was all purity; the innocent gazel
was not more gentle than poor Zuleika ; it was
not in her nature to give the pain of a sharp
word to any human being. Oh ! hawadgi, if you,
who knew her not, stand trembling by her grave,
as if the cold hand of sorrow had seized upon
your heart, what must they feel who were ac-
quainted with her worth, and knew all her

" It was a sad sight, hawadgi, to see so beau-
tiful a being sinking; under the sickness of a
broken heart, yet keeping the secret of her ill-
starred passion to herself. So closely was it
locked up in her bosom that no one suspected
the cause of her dejection. She talked not like
other women, of love ; hers was too deep for
utterance : the weed, hawadgi, floats on the
surface of the water, but the pearl is found at
the bottom of the sea. Are you ill, hawadgi,
that such a deadly paleness spreads over your
countenance, and the blood seems to turn to
ashes on your lips ? Speak, in the name of


Allah ! the perspiration is trickhng over your
wan features ; surely you must be ill ?"

*' I feel rather unwell," replied the stranger,
in a feeble tone; "I have come off a long
journey, and am weary ; your words, too, have
affected me a little, but it is only a momentary
faintness : did you say she loved that wretched
being who robbed her of her peace — loved him
to the last ?"

" Oh, yes,"" said the mourner, " she loved him
too well to have the power of tearing him from
her heart, even when she found that in the rose
she pressed to her bosom she laid a scorpion to
her breast. It is said ' the venomous insect, by
associating with a flower, is carried to the breast
of beauty ;' poor Zuleika found the fatal truth
of the observation."

Grief is voluble ; the good woman's tongue ran
on till the burial was finished, and the last strag-
gler was retiring from the grave-yard. Little
did she imagine that the person to whom she
addressed her animadversions on the conduct of
poor Zuleika''s faithless lover was the subject of
them. At length, after torturing the wretched
man with the detail of all her sufferings, with

M 2


the enumeration of all her virtues, and the
catalogue of all his vices, she went her way.

Mourad was now left to his own bitter reflec-
tions ; the last of the mourners had disap-
peared, and the mortal anguish which filled his
soul burst forth from its confinement and gushed
in toi'rents from his eyes. He flung his wretch-
ed body on the new-made grave ; called in his
frenzy on the name of Zuleika ; pressed his
lips to the rank soil, and prayed to Allah to
terminate his miserable existence on the spot
where he then lay.

A more wretched being was not on the sur-
face of the earth ; if grief left one fibre of his
heart untorn, remorse seized upon it, and wrung
it till the very core was agonised. " Yes, my
beloved Zuleika," he cried in his despair, "your
friends were right to curse me ; let their male-
dictions fall, they cannot make me more aflflicted
than I am ; fate has no ill in store to add to my

It was midnight before the real mourner
quitted the grave of his mistress. Had the
friends of the deceased beheld the wretched



man, as he dragged his tottering limbs from the
grave of all his hopes, they might have spared
their curses, have marked the anguish which
was written on his brow, and felt that a single
imprecation was supei'fluous.

Months passed away, and the same settled
o-loom continued to overhang; the features of
Mourad ; years even elapsed, and the fixed
melancholy of his pale cheek remained unalter-
ed. He had attained the age of thirty, that
most soul-trying period of existence, which
opens the second act of Hfe, and terminates the
first of love : That first sad era of reflection,
when poetry and enthusiasm are no longer the
persons of the drama ; when reason and expe-
rience tread the stage, and fancy flutters from a
scene where feelings are exchanged for facts,
where man " has neither youth nor age, but,
as it were, an after-dinner's sleep, dreaming upon
both :*'"' That sure forerunner of the sear and
yellow leaf, when we endeavour to compensate
the loss of the sunshine of our summer with the
mitigated and mellowed beams of life-opening
autumn, and lay the flattering unction of grow-


ing wisdom to our souls, when often the vain
boast is but the pride of manhood palhating
grief at the obsequies of early ardour.

It is the period when prudence and the pas-
sions go to war ; when reason is not always
an unwounded victor, nor romance completely
worsted without leaving the memory of the
spear and casque behind : when the character is
finally formed; when circumstances confirm the
qualities which education has created ; when he
who has long wavered between vice and virtue,
makes his election ; when the sensitive man,
whose experience has been his curse, loathes
what he once loved, has most reason to dread
the alternative, and to beware, lest misanthropy
influence his choice.

Mourad's state of mind, at the period we have
alluded to, was such as to render every previous
imperfection of his nature, even that which was
incipient, a fixed passion, the fruitful source of
crime and sorrow. He felt as if the world and
the workPs law were his enemy ; and the law of
Islam, which he had hitherto professed to re-
verence, began to cease to have a claim to his
respect. He had, unfortunately, made the ac-


quaintance of a young and opulent Levantine,
who filled the office of Consul in Damietta, and
who was considered by his people, and even by
the Turks, to be a paragon of learning and
philosophy. His knowledge of European
tongues in all discussions gave him a vast ascen-
dancy over his illiterate countrymen. Not only
the poems of Hafiz furnished him with the in-
fidel notions of the Sufis, but he had all the
sceptical opinions of Voltaire, Volney, and Du-
pin, at his fingers.

At the age of nineteen he had found himself
passing from the unruffled stream of youth to
the great ocean of life, in as buoyant a bark as
was ever freighted, with sanguine hopes and
joyous prospects ; but discretion was not at the
prow, nor religion at the helm, and ultimately
the wreck was total. The qualities which con-
stitute what the world calls a youth of promise,

were so many perils in his path. Signor

had every thing to recommend him to society ;
a pleasing person, a plausible manner, and a
talented mind. It was his misfortune to have
been brought up with the idea that education
consists of a competent knowledge of European


tongues, and some slight smattering of the exact
sciences ; but the only light that was thrown on
his moral principles was the feeble ray of super-
ficial philosophy, which served to show the su-
perstition of his sect, and involved in its gloom
the hght of Christianity itself. The dictates of
honour he held to be independent of the doc-
trines of religion ; both were distinct ; the for-
mer only he believed to be intuitive, and that
nothing but education was wanting to regulate
its laws. He talked of the necessity of an edu-
cated man being a moral one, and spoke of reli-
gion as a mere adjunct to the bow-string, or

But the scholar, forsooth, required no such
check ; the poems of his favourite Sufi authors,
the metaphysical disquisitions of his French
philosophers, were sufficient to develope his
innate morality. For the direction of his
honour, the sneering suggestions of human know-
ledge were preferable to the simple precepts of
the Book of Ali ; albeit the one was universal in
its application, while the other applied only to
the limited number of the learned.

His company was sought by the principal


Turkish inhabitants of the town, and even at
the table of the Moslem governor it was no un-
common thing to hear the privileged rayah
broaching opinions which compromised the
truth of " the perspicuous volume "* of his host's
belief. The introduction of theological subjects
into general conversation, a common-place pro-
fanity, which none but the vulgar are guilty of
in European countries, is habitual in Levantine
society. The divan is converted into a meta-
physical Areopagus, and decency forbids not the
infliction of the sceptic's sneer and the profli-
gate's ribaldry on the female ear.

One evening, at an Arab conversaziune in El
Masr, the young Consul was enlightening the
minds of a group of Levantine auditors on the
subject of priestcraft and superstition, when
Mourad, who had been listening to the dis-
cussion for some time, ventured to dissent from of the propositions of the speaker.

" EfFendi,'' said the Consul, " you are not in
a position to form a judgment on the subject;
you know but one system of religion, you read
but one book, you commune with the people

M 5


of but one sect ; you have the Koran by heart,
but the learning wliich embodies the philosophy
of Greece and Rome is to you as a sealed book.
Truth, EfFendi, is universal in its nature, and
not partial, and is to be sought after accordingly ;
and when found by slow and painful steps, the
interests of mankind demand its dissemination.
One day or other its influence must prevail over
the earth, and he deserves best of his fellow-
men who most endeavours to hasten the arrival
of that glorious period. Inshallah, Effendi !

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15

Online LibraryRichard Robert MaddenThe Mussulman (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 15)