Richard Robert Madden.

The Mussulman (Volume 3) online

. (page 9 of 15)
Online LibraryRichard Robert MaddenThe Mussulman (Volume 3) → online text (page 9 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

physician may make an excellent soldier, for ob-
vious reasons; but it follows not that a good
soldier is sure to make a skilful doctor. How-
ever, if you are skilled in the cure of diseases,
I have as much need of your succour, as you
very lately had of mine. Feel my pulse, tell
me what is the matter with me, and whether
it be written I am to get over this malady, or
to leave my bones in this detestable wilderness ;
whatever be the issue, the will of Allah be done
in all things !''

Mourad approached the patient ; he assumed


all the stupid gravity of medical imposition, as
he put his fingers on the pulse, and after a long
pause he delivered his opinions of the malady
in these words. — " Since the beffinnino: of the
world, Effendi, in all ages, and in all countries,
men have sickened, have been doctored, and
have died, and their friends have mourned over
their tombs for a few days, and they have been
forgotten. But of all the maladies that ever
depopulated the earth, a fever in the blood is
the hottest of all diseases, and therefore the
most fatal. Do not be alarmed, Effendi, for
although of the millions who have been swept
away, none of them have had more reason to
tremble for the awful event, yet what is writ is
writ, and if it please God you will yet recover.""

The sick man looked aghast at this porten-
tous intelligence.

"Thehakkim, Effendi,"continued the speaker,
" who derives all his knowledge from human
studies, may impose on the credulity of fools,
and hold the language of delusive hope to the
sick man's ear, while he nauseates his stomach
with unavailing drugs. The firmament, Effendi,
has been my book ; an astrological medicine has


been my stucl3\ During the interval of your
servant's absence, I have consulted your horo-
scope, and not only perused the secret of your
destiny, but made myself acquainted with the
history of your life.""

The dim eyes of the sick man were riveted
on the features of the astrologer. " Juggler !'"'
cried he, in a faint voice, "■ think not to im-
pose upon me with your impudent devices.
Feeble as I am, if you are fool enough to think
to laugh at my beard, I will undeceive you with
a vengeance.""

" EfTendi," replied our hero, " you are a noble
Moslem, I am a poor Bedouin ; but for all the
substance of your haznah, I would not stoop to
tell a lie. If I be mistaken in the interpre-
tation of the stars, the error is not wilful, and
my words ought to give you no offence. If in
the horoscope I have cast, I have found tablets
writ in blood, and names inscribed thereon of
which you have no knowledge, the fault is in
the stars which misled me ; for what malice
have I to gratify in bringing things before you
which appear to give you pain .'"'

*' By the soul of your father r exclaimed


Suleiman, " speak the whole truth ! Wliat
tablets of blood are these you speak of? What
names are written on them ?"

*' It is better, worthy Aga," said Mourad,
"you seek to know no further; I did not mean
to call up the memory of long-forgotten crimes,
to rip up the wounds which time has cicatrized,
and to torture you on your death-bed with
topics which cannot fail to turn your heart''s
blood into compunctious water-drops. My in-
tention only was to prove to you that my words
were those of truth, that the stars were the
unerring sources of my knowledge. But, fare-
well, Eftcndi — I repent of what I have spoken,
since it seems to have disturbed you. Heaven
grant my injudicious attempt to do you service,
tend not to shorten the span of existence which
is already drawing to a close, or to shake the
few sands which are yet left in the glass of
life !"

He turned from the bedside to leave the
tent as he ceased speaking ; but the terrified in-
valid, whose death-like aspect during this in-
terview became every moment more apparent,
called back the Bedouin, and conjured him by


all that was precious to his soul, to terminate his
suspense, and tell him the tablets and their in-

Mourad stood marking with horrible satis-
faction the change Avhich had taken place in
the appearance of the sick man ever since his
entrance ; he hesitated for some time to comply
with the request of the Aga. At length, after
torturing him with innumerable expressions of
his consideration for his feelings, and his state
of infirmity, he begged him to listen with com-
posure, while he explained to him the myste-
rious nature of the tablets of his horoscope.

" They were wi-itten, Effendi," said he, " as
I informed you, in characters of blood. The
name of Michelaki was written upon one, and
that of Emineh on another ; over each was sus-
pended a sword, pointing to an effigy, beneath
which was that of Suleiman of Bournarbashi."

The sick man uttered a loud groan, and fell
senseless on his pillow. Mourad gazed on the
cold, shrunken features of his victim, with the
malignant expression of delight of a triumphant
fiend. The servants, who had heard the groan
of their master, rushed into the tent : they


found the hakkim chafing his cold hands, and
apparently as niucli grieved as themselves at
the sudden change which had taken place
during their absence. A hundred questions
were put to Mourad in a breath, as to the best
means to be employed for restoring their poor
master ; but fortunately, perhaps, for him, the
hakkim had no medicine to administer, and
the only answer they got was a shake of the
head, and a consolatory assurance that God
was most merciful ! and that what was written
in the book of life was not to be wiped out.
But the immediate apprehensions of the do-
mestics were removed by the gradual recovery
of sense and motion, which at length took place
in the patient : he opened his dim eyes, and
looked around, with the vacant stare of one
awakenin": from a dream. The Arabs said he
was exhausted, and that a dish of his favourite
pilau would restore him. A bowl of smoking
rice and burnt butter was laid before him ; but
he waved his hand, and turned away, to have
it removed from his sight. His pipe-bearer
fetched his chibouque ; he made an effort to
put it to his lips, but the odour of the tobacco


was more than he could endure ; he threw down
the pipe, and asked for cold water ; and from
that moment the Arabs despaired of his re-
covery. Mourad kept at a distance from the
bed, and when an opportunity was afforded, he
slipped unperceived out of the tent. All that
night the patient made no inquiry for the doc-
tor ; but at the dawn, the latter was summoned
to his bedside, and from the exhaustion of his
countenance, and the general anxiety of his
features, it was easy to perceive he had passed
a sleepless night.

" How do you feel, Effendi ?" said Mourad,
in a tone of solicitude; "I trust you have
passed a comfortable night, and have been more
calm and composed than when I left you." As
he spoke, he took hold of the damp hand that
was tossmg on the bed-clothes ; the fingers were
cold and rigid, and the pulse was hardly per-
ceptible at the wrist. " Terror and remorse,"
thought Mourad, " have done their work ; a
little more of each will complete my vengeance."

It was with difficulty Suleiman could answer
the inquiry of our hero ; his voice had become
hollow, and his accents broken, and the first


words he articulated showed tlie fatal impres-
sion the prognostic of the astrologer had made
on his distempered imagination.

" Hakkini," said he, " is there no hope left ?
must I surely die .^" — Mourad held down his
head, and made no reply to the question.

" I understand your silence," continued the
sick man : " the die is cast, my doom is fixed,
and it only remains for me to meet it as becomes
a true believer. At my birth, my being was
derived from Allah, and to him it is fitting after
death that my soul should again return. If my
passions have been my master, their reign is at
an end ; if 1 have wandered an exile in the wil-
derness, a stronger arm than the Sultan's has
put an end to my disgrace. Death sets the
slave at liberty, and carries the banished man
home. It opens the door of paradise to the true
believer, and ushers him into everlasting joys.
The shadow of the Apostle, the smiles of a thou-
sand houries," — (the features of the dying man
brightened up as he proceeded,) — " the fruit of
the blessed Tuba, the wine of the sacred foun-
tain, the musk of the delightful bowers, the
kiosks of hollow pearls, and the pavement of


bright rubies— these, O hakkini ! but above all
celestial pleasures, beside the contemplation of
the great throne, the company of the immortal
maidens who throng around the tent of every
Moslem — these, I say, are the rewards which are
destined for those who die, like good Moslems,
in the faith of Islam."

The exertion of recapitulating the joys of
the happy place was too much for the strength
of the sick man. He lay quite exhausted for
some minutes, and from the agony that was
visible in his countenance, it seemed as if the
recollection of the promised blessings of the
Koran had failed to reconcile him to his fate.
With the unavailing earnestness of a drowning
man grasping at a straw, he still clung to the
hope of preserving life ; and turning to Mourad,
he supplicated for relief in the most abject
terms, and besought him, by some exertion of
his superhuman knovvledge, to rescue him from
the grave. Like no small number of his coun-
trymen, he seemed to waver in the doctrines of
predestination in the time of extremity, and ma-
nifested much more unwillingness to leave the
world than nine infidels out of ten would have


done, who had no houries to receive tlicm with
open arms at the gates of Paradise, no dehcious
odours and delectable repasts to gratify their

" Alas ! Effendi, it would be viseless to de-
lude you with the language of hope, when the
words of destiny are written, and the decree is
unavoidable. But how enviable is It to die like
you with the 'consolation of a good conscience,
torn by no regrets, and tortured by no remorse !
How' soothing to the spirit at the moment of its
departure from the body is a consciousness like
yours of having acted justly by all men, and of
deserving the rewards which are promised to all
good Moslems ! Ah ! Effendi, how happy is it
like you to die with all the consolations which
a self-approving bosom can afford, the blood of
no victim to appear on the hands which are
lifted in supplication, the injury of no innocent
woman to bury the hopes of the future in the
horrors of the past, and the wrongs of no orphan
to force their recollection on the sinking heart,
and to make a hell-couch of the death-bed !"

The sick man writhed as if the agonies of
death had already seized on his vitals ; he toss-


ed his tortured frame from side to side, and
held up his poor hands with pitiful entreaty, to
stop the mouth of his Temnianite consoler. But
no entreaty could prevail on the latter to relax
in his zeal : he was called on, he said, to fulfil
the duties of the friendly office he had under-
taken, and through them he must go, whatever
was the consequence.

" Yes, Effendi," he continued, " I am bound
by my calling to give you all the comfort you
stand in need of; and thoroughly persuaded
as I am of the goodness of your life, I feel no
hesitation in pointing out to you the blessings
which are reserved for the virtuous. Had you
been like some wicked Moslems, stained with
crimes, and steeped to the very lips in infamy ;
branded, perhaps, as a murderer, and stigmatiz-
ed as a cold-hearted seducer, bringing madness
and misery on the head of a poor wretched
woman, it might be impious to talk to you
of comfort here or hope hereafter."

The Aga made a dying effort to call his ser-
vants to his assistance, but his tongue was para-
lysed, the cold perspiration of death was trick-
ling over his forehead ; but his tormentor affected


to take no notice of his condition ; and, as his
faculties seemed to fail him, he stooped over the
death-bed, and poured his soul-harrowing words
into the ears of the expiring man.

" The horoscope," continued he, " spoke of
murder and dishonour ; your name was writ-
ten on the tablet of the murderer, and the names
of Michelaki and Emineh on those of the vic-
tims. But the stars were mistaken which fur-
nished the astharlab ; it never could be that
Suleiman Aga was the author of such villainy
as the blood-red tablets imputed to him ? Were
it so, who would condescend to hold communion
with such a miscreant ? who would not spit upon
the beard of the assassin, and throw the burning
ashes of hatred on the head of the destroyer
of peace and purity ? Who would not laugh
at his distress when anguish wrung his breast ?
who would not rejoice at his despair when he
shuddered, on his death-bed, at the prospect of
eternity ? and who would not expect to hear
the imprecations of remorse mingled with the
last accents of mortal apprehension which rat-
tled in his throat and quivered on his lips ?"
Suleiman no longer manifested any outward


signs of internal torture ; the death-film was
fast spreading over the fixed eye-balls, and the
rigid muscles of the drawn features were only
moved by the convulsive twitches of the last
agony. If there were one ray of pity in the
bosom of the tormentor, the spectacle of his
dying victim might have made a pause in ven-
geance : but no human feelings seemed to ac-
tuate his breast ; he prosecuted his unrelenting
purpose to the last gasp, and a few minutes be-
fore the wretched man expired, he abandoned
the tone of irony that had hitherto been his
weapon, and finished his deadly work with the
avowal of his name.

" Yes !" he exclaimed, putting his mouth
close to the ear of the expiring Aga, " Mourad,
the son of Michelaki, the child of Emineh, is
sent by unerring justice to agonize the last
moments of the murderer, to dash every hope
of peace and happiness from his prospect."

The last death-throe followed the terrible
denunciation of the speaker ; a faint motion of
the lips, and a moan, hardly audible even to his
enemy, terminated the struggle.

K 2



' -J'

Away with me all you whose souls abhor
The uncleanly savours of a slaughter-liouse.
For I am stifled with the smell of sin.

King John.

The vehemence with which Mourad clapped
his hands and called for assistance, soon brought
the whole caravan about the tent of the de-
ceased hadgi.

*'Ah, my good friends !" cried he to the ser-
vants, " you have lost a noble master ; the Aga
is dead, and all goodness is gone with him.
There is no stability in the world : last week
the man was in health, yesterday he was in life,
and to-day he is a corpse. As the dew-drop
trembles on the leaf of the lotus, so totters life
on the brink of eternity. Alas, ray friends !
man's breath is like water poured out of a bar-


dac, the earth swallows it up, and it never ap-
pears more. Ah, what a lesson for mor tality
is this spectacle before us ! what a warning
to all of us to walk like good Moslems in the
presence of the Apostle ! But, alas ! nobody
thinks of an hereafter ! the infant is so long un-
conscious of his being ; the boy is so long taken
up with his pastime ; the stripling is so much
engaged with his passions ; the old man is so
occupied with his infirmities, that no one has
leisure to bestow a thought on the Supreme

" Wallah callaam thab !" exclaimed the
Arabs ; " this is a wise saying of the stranger,
he speaks like an Imam."

" The poor Aga was destined to leave his
bones in the desert, and the decree is duly ac-
complished ; it only remains for the sheik of the
caravan to take possession of his effects, and
to prepare the body for the tomb."

The most experienced of the Arabs accord-
ingly stepped forward ; one tied the great toes
together, another pressed down the eyelids with
his thumbs, a third crammed cotton into the
ears and mouth, and another having removed


the apparel, commenced rubbino- the body with
sand ; an allowable ablution in the wilderness
where no water can be spared for the purpose.

As the caravan was setting out that evening,
the burial was performed even while the corpse
was yet warm ; the Arabs scraped up a few
handsful of sand ; the remains of the poor Aga
were deposited in the hollow, and the Sheik of
the caravan having pronounced the profession
of faith over the corpse, the sand was thrown
over it, and in a few hours the funeral attendants
were proceeding on their journey, as heedless of
the hadgi they had left behind, as if such a
person as Suleiman of Bournarbashi had never
existed. One man only of the host forgot not
the ceremony he had witnessed ; the scene of
the death-bed was present to his mind, and if
lightness of step and levity of look be any cri-
terion of the emotions of the heart, it would
seem that the horrors he had beheld had given
little pain to the breast of Mourad. Next
morning he parted with the caravan, and finding
that Suez was only four hours' distant, he imi-
tated the economy of the camel, by laying in a
good stock of water for the journey, and fol-


lowed the route pointed out by the guides,
which he was in no danger of mistaking, as he
found stones piled in the sand at intervals of a
league or so, till he reached his destination. It
was with difficulty he could procure a lodging
in the town ; two caravans of pilgrims had been
waiting there for several weeks the departure of
the fleet for Jedda, so that every khan in Sue/>
was occupied by the hadgis. Mourad rejoiced
at the circumstance, great as was his trouble to
find accommodation for himself and his steed.
He lost no time in making inquiries for the
Delhi he was in pursuit of; and to his no small
satisfaction he found that the Delhi was still in
the town, detained, like the other pilgrims, by
contrary winds.

The warrant he had received from the Pacha
for the head of his enemy he had succeeded in
rescuing from the hands of the Bedouins, and
for security he had sewed it in the crown of his
skull-cap. He was still in his Bedouin costume
when he presented himself before the divan of
the Governor, and solicited a private audience.

The Governor hesitated much before he com-
plied with the entreaty ; he did not altogether


like the appearance of the stranger ; and when
Mourad produced the document, bearing the
signature of the Pacha, the colour fled from his
cheek, and he trembled from head to foot, as if
he fancied his own death-warrant was in the
hands of a disguised Capidgi-bashi. Mourad
observed his consternation, and he hastened
to remove it, by whispering in the ear of the
affrighted officer, that the order was only for the
head of one of the hadgis in the town, whose
name and rank he mentioned in a still lower
voice, in order to prevent any untimely disclo-
sure. The Governor breathed as if his soul was
again his own ; he took the paper in his hand ;
he read it over with a beaming eye of satis-
faction, and when he found the title of byn-
bashi was prefixed to Mourad's name, and that
the Bedouin was even a greater man than a
Capidgi-bashi, he lavished a thousand demon-
strations of respect, and vowed all the heads of
the hadgis in Suez were at the disposal of the
Pacha and his illustrious byn-bashi.

" It was not," he said, " the first hadgi he had
taken off, nor the first man in disgrace who had
been sent to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, but


had got no further than Suez. Do you Avant
his head ?" said he to his visitor, " or is it im-
material to you how he is dispatched ?"

" His Hfe is all I want," replied Mourad,
" and the possession of the woman he has stolen
from El Masr."

" Then nothing is more easily accomplished
than his death," said the Governor : " at sun-
set I will invite him to the divan ; I am inti-
mate with him, and as we have smoked many
pipes together, he will not fail to attend the
summons. The coffee shall be well drugged,
and unless he has ten men's lives in his bosom,
he will sleep more soundly to-morrow than he
has ever done. You must be present, and be
sure to attend, even as you are now attired, at
the asser."

Mourad took his leave of the Governor and
returned to his lodgings, where he found a
courier in waiting, who had been dispatched to
him from El Masr, with a letter from the friend
who had the charge of his affairs. It informed
him, that after his departure the female friend
with whom Zuleika had resided had been dis-
covered, and that upon making an inquiry at

K 5


her abode, to the astonishment of the applicant,
it was ascertained that Zuleika, so far from
having accompanied the Delhi, was no longer
in his power, and had been an inmate in her
kinswoman's harem from the period of his de-
parture from El Masr ; that the health of the
poor maiden, which had long been declining,
had become so much impaired by the terror she
had endured, that her friends were alarmed for
her safety. It finished by acquainting him that
the woman who accompanied the Delhi, and
who had been taken for Zuleika, was a christian
slave from the country of the Roumi.

Mourad was all amazement at the intelli-
gence ; a host of conflicting emotions agitated
his bosom ; the knowledge that his beloved
Zuleika was in a place of safety brought tears
of pleasure to his eyes, but they were frozen in
the lids when he thought of the suffering she
liad undergone, and the shock, perhaps a fatal
one, they had produced on a delicate con-

He cursed the madness which had ui'ged him
on an unprofitable journey, when prudence
might have enabled him to have discovered the


object of his search, and to have bestowed on
her all the soothing attentions which her de-
clining health required.

That night he resolved to return to El Masr ;
the Delhi was to be disposed of, and the woman
who accompanied him was to be seen, in order
to be thoroughly assured of the truth of the
communication he had received, before he re-
turned to the capital.

But ere the appointed hour arrived for meet-
ing the Governor, he began to regret having put
the death-warrant of the Delhi into his hands,
and to think of the means of putting money in
his purse without taking the hfe of his victim.
How Zuleika had obtained her freedom he knew
not ; whether she had been ransomed, or gene-
rously given up to her friends; but however she
had obtained her liberty, the merit of the
manumission pleaded more powerfully in the
Delhi's behalf, than the recollection of the treach-
erous wound he had given did against him.

The muezzins were announcing the hour
of sunset prayer from the mosques, when Mou-
rad returned to the house of the Governor ; he
found the Delhi sitting with his host, discours-


ing familiarly, and smoking their chibouques
like two bosom friends.

The Governor greeted the Bedouin at his
entrance with a friendly salaam ; he bade him
sit on his right hand, and presented him with
his own pipe ; an honour which the Delhi could
not comprehend his motive for paying to a
Bedouin. The darkness of the chamber pre-
vented the visitors of the Governor from distin-
guishing each other''s features. The conversa-
tion turned on arms, and the Governor asked
the Delhi for a sight of his pistols, which, from
the look of them, he had no doubt, he said, were
real English. The pistols were immediately
produced, and the Governor took care to shake
the priming out of the pans as he examined
them, and then returned them to the owner.
He then procured a sight of the sabre, which
he managed, as if accidentally, to keep posses-
sion of while he commenced a learned harangue
on the superiority of Damascus blades. In the
mean time the Delhi had riveted his eyes on the
features of Mourad, and putting back the win-
dow-shutter beside him, which had been half
closed, he stared more intently than ever at the


Bedouin, and after a short pause, he asked him
the last news from El Masr ?

The Governor did not give Mourad time to
answer the question : —

" What, Hadgi," said he, " are you mad, to
ask a Bedouin of the wilderness about the
walled town of El Masr ? This poor Arab is a

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryRichard Robert MaddenThe Mussulman (Volume 3) → online text (page 9 of 15)