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Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine — Volume 53, No. 331, May, 1843 online

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fakir. I have my own notions of the duty of an honest man."

"Really, Ammalát Bek? It were well, however, if you were to have this
oftener in your heart than on your tongue. For the last time, allow me
to ask you, will you hearken to the counsels of a friend whom you
quitted for the Giaour? Will you remain with us for good?"

"My life I would lay down for the happiness you so generously offer; but
I have given my promise to return, and I will keep it."

"Is this decided?"

"Irrevocably so."

"Well then, the sooner the better. I have learned to know you. _Me_ you
know of old. Insincerity and flattery between us are in vain. I will not
conceal from you, that I always wished to see you my son-in-law. I
rejoiced that Seltanetta had pleased you; your captivity put off my
plans for a time. Your long absence - the rumours of your
conversion - grieved me. At length you appeared among us, and found every
thing as before; but you did not bring to us your former heart. I hoped
you would fall back into your former course; I was painfully mistaken.
It is a pity; but there is nothing to be done. I do not wish to have for
my son-in-law a servant of the Russians."

"Akhmet Khan, I once" - -

"Let me finish. Your agitated arrival, your ravings at the door of the
sick Seltanetta, betrayed to every body your attachment, and our mutual
intentions. Through all the mountains, you have been talked of as the
affianced bridegroom of my daughter: but now the tie is broken, it is
time to destroy the rumours; for the honour of my family - for the
tranquillity of my daughter - you must leave us - and immediately. This is
absolutely necessary and indispensable. Ammalát, we part friends, but
here we will meet only as kinsmen, not otherwise. May Allah turn your
heart, and restore you to us as an inseparable friend. Till then,
farewell!"

With these words the Khan turned his horse, and rode away at full gallop
to his retinue. If on the stupefied Ammalát the thunderbolt of heaven
had fallen, he could not have been more astounded than by this
unexpected explanation. Already had the dust raised by the horse's hoofs
of the retiring Khan been laid at rest; but he still stood immovable on
the hill now darkening in the shadow of sunset.




CHAPTER IX.


Colonel Verkhóffsky, engaged in reducing to submission the rebellious
Daghestánetzes, was encamped with his regiment at the village of
Kiáfir-Kaúmik. The tent of Ammalát Bek was erected next to his own, and
in it Saphir-Ali, lazily stretched on the carpet, was drinking the wine
of the Don, notwithstanding the prohibition of the Prophet. Ammalát Bek,
thin, pale, and pensive, was resting his head against the tent-pole,
smoking a pipe. Three months had passed since the time when he was
banished from his paradise; and he was now roving with a detachment,
within sight of the mountains to which his heart flew, but whither his
foot durst not step. Grief had worn out his strength; vexation had
poured its vial on his once serene character. He had dragged a sacrifice
to his attachment to the Russians, and it seemed as if he reproached
every Russian with it. Discontent was visible in every word, in every
glance.

"A fine thing wine!" said Saphir Ali, carefully wiping the glasses;
"surely Mahomet must have met with sour dregs in Aravéte, when he
forbade the juice of the grape to true believers! Why, really these
drops are as sweet as if the angels themselves, in their joy, had wept
their tears into bottles. Ho! quaff another glass, Ammalát; your heart
will float on the wine more lightly than a bubble. Do you know what
Hafiz has sung about it?"

"And do you know? Pray, do not annoy me with your prate, Saphir Ali: not
even under the name of Sadi and Hafiz."

"Why, what harm is there? If even this prate is my own, it is not an
earring: it will not remain hanging in your ear. When you begin your
story about your goddess Seltanetta, I look at you as at the juggler,
who eats fire, and winds endless ribbons from his cheeks. Love makes you
talk nonsense, and the Donskoi (wine of the Don) makes me do the same.
So we are quits. Now, then, to the health of the Russians!"

"What has made you like the Russians?"

"Say rather - why have you ceased to love them?"

"Because I have examined them nearer. Really they are no better than our
Tartars. They are just as eager for profit, just as ready to blame
others, and not with a view of improving their fellow-creatures, but to
excuse themselves: and as to their laziness - don't let us speak of it.
They have ruled here for a long time, and what good have they done; what
firm laws have they established; what useful customs have they
introduced; what have they taught us; what have they created here, or
what have they constructed worthy of notice? Verkhóffsky has opened my
eyes to the faults of my countrymen, but at the same time to the defects
of the Russians, to whom it is more unpardonable; because they know what
is right, have grown up among good examples, and here, as if they have
forgotten their mission, and their active nature, they sink, little by
little, into the insignificance of the beasts."

"I hope you do not include Verkhóffsky in this number."

"Not he alone, but some others, deserve to be placed in a separate
circle. But then, are there many such?"

"Even the angels in heaven are numbered, Ammalát Bek: and Verkhóffsky
absolutely is a man for whose justice and kindness we ought to thank
heaven. Is there a single Tartar who can speak ill of him? Is there a
soldier who would not give his soul for him? Abdul-Hamet, more wine! Now
then, to the health of Verkhóffsky!"

"Spare me! I will not drink to Mahomet himself."

"If your heart is not as black as the eyes of Seltanetta, you will
drink, even were it in the presence of the red-bearded Yakhoúnts of the
Shakhéeds[9] of Derbént: even if all the Imáms and Shieks not only
licked their lips but bit their nails out of spite to you for such a
sacrilege."

[9] Shakhéeds, traders of the sect of Souni. Yakhoúnt the
senior moóllah.

"I will not drink, I tell you."

"Hark ye, Ammalát: I am ready to let the devil get drunk on my blood for
your sake, and you won't drink a glass of wine for mine."

"That is to say, that I will not drink because I do not wish - and I
don't wish, because even without wine my blood boils in me like
fermenting boozá."

"A bad excuse! It is not the first time that we have drunk, nor the
first time that our blood boils. Speak plainly at once: you are angry
with the Colonel."

"Very angry."

"May I know for what?"

"For much. For some time past he has begun to drop poison into the honey
of his friendship: and at last these drops have filled and overflowed
the cup. I cannot bear such lukewarm friends! He is liberal with his
advice, not sparing with his lectures; that is, in every thing that
costs him neither risk nor trouble."

"I understand, I understand! I suppose he would not let you go to Avár!"

"If you bore my heart in your bosom you would understand how I felt when
I received such a refusal. He lured me on with that hope, and then all
at once repulsed my most earnest prayer - dashed into dust, like a
crystal kalián, my fondest hopes.... Akhmet Khan was surely softened,
when he sent word that he wished to see me; and I cannot fly to him, or
hurry to Seltanetta."

"Put yourself, brother, in his place, and then say whether you yourself
would not have acted in the same way."

"No, not so! I should have said plainly from the very beginning,
'Ammalát, do not expect any help from me.' I even now ask him not for
help. I only beg him not to hinder me. Yet no! He, hiding from me the
sun of all my joy, assures me that he does this from interest in
me - that this will hereafter bring me fortune. Is not this a fine
anodyne?"

"No, my friend! If this is really the case, the sleeping-draught is
given to you as to a person on whom they wish to perform an operation.
You are thinking only of your love, and Verkhóffsky has to keep your
honour and his own without spot; and you are both surrounded by
ill-wishers. Believe me, either thus or otherwise, it is he alone who
can cure you."

"Who asks him to cure me? This divine malady of love is my only joy: and
to deprive me of it is to tear out my heart, because it cannot beat at
the sound of a drum!" - -

At this moment a strange Tartar entered the tent, looked suspiciously
round, and bending down his head, laid his slippers before
Ammalát - according to Asiatic custom, this signified that he requested a
private conversation. Ammalát understood him, made a sign with his head,
and both went out into the open air. The night was dark, the fires were
going out, and the chain of sentinels extended far before them. "Here we
are alone," said Ammalát Bek to the Tartar: "who art thou, and what dost
thou want?"

"My name is Samit: I am an inhabitant of Derbénd, of the sect of Souni:
and now am at present serving in the detachment of Mussulman cavalry. My
commission is of greater consequence to you than to me.... _The eagle
loves the mountains_!"

Ammalát shuddered, and looked suspiciously at the messenger. This was a
watchword, the key of which Sultan Akhmet had previously written to him.
"How can he but love the mountains?" ... he replied; "In the mountains
there are many lambs for the eagles, and _much silver for men_."

"_And much steel for the valiant_," (yigheeds.)

Ammalát grasped the messenger by the hand. "How is Sultan Akhmet Khan?"
he enquired hurriedly: "What news bring you from him - how long is it
since you have seen his family?"

"Not to answer, but to question, am I come.... Will you follow me?"

"Where? for what?"

"You know who has sent me. That is enough. If you trust not him, trust
not me. Therein is your will and my advantage. Instead of running my
head into a noose to-night, I can return to-morrow to the Khan, and tell
him that Ammalát dares not leave the camp."

The Tartar gained his point: the touchy Ammalát took fire. "Saphir Ali!"
he cried loudly.

Saphir Ali started up, and ran out of the tent.

"Order horses to be brought for yourself and me, even if unsaddled; and
at the same time send word to the Colonel, that I have ridden out to
examine the field behind the line, to see if some rascal is not stealing
in between the sentries. My gun and shashka in a twinkling!"

The horses were led up, the Tartar leaped on his own, which was tied up
not far off, and all three rode off to the chain. They gave the word and
the countersign, and they passed by the videttes to the left, along the
bank of the swift Azen.

Saphir Ali, who had very unwillingly left his bottle, grumbled about the
darkness, the underwood, the ditches, and rode swearing by Ammalát's
side; but seeing that nobody began the conversation, he resolved to
commence it himself.

"My ashes fall on the head of this guide! The devil knows where he is
leading us, and where he will take us. Perhaps he is going to sell us to
the Lezghíns for a rich ransom. I never trust these squinting fellows!"

"I trust but little even to those who have straight eyes," answered
Ammalát; "but this squinting fellow is sent from a friend: he will not
betray us!"

"And the very first moment he thinks of any thing like it, at his first
movement I will slice him through like a melon. Ho! friend," cried
Saphir Ali, to the guide; "in the name of the king of the genii, it
seems you have made a compact with the thorns to tear the embroidery
from my tschoukhá. Could you not find a wider road? I am really neither
a pheasant nor a fox."

The guide stopped. "To say the truth, I have led a delicate fellow like
you too far!" he answered. "Stay here and take care of the horses,
whilst Ammalát and I will go where it is necessary."

"Is it possible you will go into the woods with such a cut-throat
looking rascal, without me?" whispered Saphir Ali to Ammalát.

"That is, you are afraid to remain here _without me_!" replied Ammalát,
dismounting from his horse, and giving him the reins: "Do not annoy
yourself, my dear fellow. I leave you in the agreeable society of wolves
and jackals. Hark how they are singing!"

"Pray to God that I may not have to deliver your bones from these
singers," said Saphir Ali. They separated. Samit led Ammalát among the
bushes, over the river, and having passed about half a verst among
stones, began to descend. At the risk of their necks they clambered
along the rocks, clinging by the roots of the sweet-briar, and at
length, after a difficult journey, descended into the narrow mouth of a
small cavern parallel with the water. It had been excavated by the
washing of the stream, erewhile rapid, but now dried up. Long
stalactites of lime and crystal glittered in the light of a fire piled
in the middle. In the back-ground lay Sultan Akhmet Khan on a boúrka,
and seemed to be waiting patiently till Ammalát should recover himself
amid the thick smoke which rolled in masses through the cave. A cocked
gun lay across his knees; the tuft in his cap fluttered in the wind
which blew from the crevices. He rose politely as Ammalát hurried to
salute him.

"I am glad to see you," he said, pressing the hands of his guest; "and I
do not hide the feeling which I ought not to cherish. However, it is not
for an empty interview that I have put my foot into the trap, and
troubled you: sit down, Ammalát, and let us speak about an important
affair."

"To me, Sultan Akhmet Khan?"

"To us both. With your father I have eaten bread and salt. There was a
time when I counted you likewise as my friend."

"But counted!"

"No! you were my friend, and would ever have remained so, if the
deceiver, Verkhóffsky, had not stepped between us."

"Khan, you know him not."

"Not only I, but you yourself shall soon know him. But let us begin with
what regards Seltanetta. You know she cannot ever remain unmarried. This
would be a disgrace to my house: and let me tell you candidly, that she
has already been demanded in marriage."

Ammalát's heart seemed torn asunder. For some time he could not recover
himself. At length he tremblingly asked, "Who is this bold lover?"

"The second son of the Shamkhál, Abdoul Moússelin. Next after you, he
has, from his high blood, the best right, of all our mountaineers, to
Seltanetta's hand."

"Next to me - after me!" exclaimed the passionate Bek, boiling with
anger: "Am I, then, buried? Is then my memory vanished among my
friends?"

"Neither the memory, nor friendship itself is dead in my heart; but be
just, Ammalát; as just as I am frank. Forget that you are the judge of
your own cause, and decide what we are to do. You will not abandon the
Russians, and I cannot make peace with them."

"Do but wish - do but speak the word, and all will be forgotten, all will
be forgiven you. This I will answer for with my head, and with the
honour of Verkhóffsky, who has more than once promised me his mediation.
For your own good, for the welfare of Avár, for your daughter's
happiness, for my bliss, I implore you, yield to peace, and all will be
forgotten - all that once belonged to you will be restored."

"How boldly you answer, rash youth, for another's pardon, for another's
life! Are you sure of your own life, your own liberty?"

"Who should desire my poor life? To whom should be dear the liberty
which I do not prize myself?"

"To whom? Think you that the pillow does not move under the Shamkhál's
head, when the thought rises in his brain, that you, the true heir of
the Shamkhalát of Tarki, are in favour with the Russian Government?"

"I never reckoned on its friendship, nor feared its enmity."

"Fear it not, but do not despise it. Do you know that an express, sent
from Tarki to Yermóloff, arrived a moment too late, to request him to
show no mercy, but to execute you as a traitor? The Shamkhál was before
ready to betray you with a kiss, if he could; but now, that you have
sent back his blind daughter to him, he no longer conceals his hate."

"Who will dare to touch me, under Verkhóffsky's protection?"

"Hark ye, Ammalát; I will tell you a fable: - A sheep went into a kitchen
to escape the wolves, and rejoiced in his luck, flattered by the
caresses of the cooks. At the end of three days he was in the pot.
Ammalát, this is your story. 'Tis time to open your eyes. The man whom
you considered your first friend has been the first to betray you. You
are surrounded, entangled by treachery. My chief motive in meeting you
was my desire to warn you. When Seltanetta was asked in marriage, I was
given to understand from the Shamkhál, that through him I could more
readily make my peace with the Russians, than through the powerless
Ammalát - that you would soon be removed in some way or other, and that
there was nothing to be feared from your rivalry. I suspected still
more, and learned more than I suspected. To-day I stopped the Shamkhál's
noúker, to whom the negotiations with Verkhóffsky were entrusted, and
extracted from him, by torture, that the Shamkhál offers a thousand
ducats to get rid of you. Verkhóffsky hesitates, and wishes only to send
you to Siberia for ever. The affair is not yet decided; but to-morrow
the detachment retires to their quarters, and they have resolved to meet
at your house in Bouináki, to bargain about your blood. They will forge
denunciations and charges - they will poison you at your own table, and
cover you with chains of iron, promising you mountains of gold." It was
painful to see Ammalát during this dreadful speech. Every word, like
red-hot iron, plunged into his heart; all within him that was noble,
grand, or consoling, took fire at once, and turned into ashes. Every
thing in which he had so long and so trustingly confided, fell to
pieces, and shrivelled up in the flame of indignation. Several times he
tried to speak, but the words died away in a sickly gasp; and at last
the wild beast which Verkhóffsky had tamed, which Ammalát had lulled to
sleep, burst from his chain: a flood of curses and menaces poured from
the lips of the furious Bek. "Revenge, revenge!" he cried, "merciless
revenge, and woe to the hypocrites!"

"This is the first word worthy of you," said the Khan, concealing the
joy of success; "long enough have you crept like a serpent, laying your
head under the feet of the Russians! 'Tis time to soar like an eagle to
the clouds; to look down from on high upon the enemy who cannot reach
you with their arrows. Repay treachery with treachery, death with
death!"

"Then death and ruin be to the Shamkhál, the robber of my liberty; and
ruin be to Abdoul Moússelin, who dared to stretch forth his hand to my
treasure!"

"The Shamkhál? His son - his family? Are they worthy of your first
exploits? They are all but little loved by the Tarkovétzes; and if we
attack the Shamkhál, they will give up his whole family with their own
hands. No, Ammalát, you must aim your first blow next to you; you must
destroy your chief enemy; you must kill Verkhóffsky."

"Verkhóffsky!" exclaimed Ammalát, stepping back.... "Yes!.... he is my
enemy; but he was my friend. He saved me from a shameful death.

"And has now sold you to a shameful life!.... A noble friend! And then
you have yourself saved him from the tusks of the wild-boar - a death
worthy of a swine-eater! The first debt is paid, the second remains due:
for the destiny which he is so deceitfully preparing for you"....

"I feel ... this ought to be ... but what will good men say? What will
my conscience say?"

"It is for a man to tremble before old women's tales, and before a
whimpering child - conscience - when honour and revenge are at stake? I
see Ammalát, that without me you will decide nothing; you will not even
decide to marry Seltanetta. Listen to me. Would you be a son-in-law
worthy of me, the first condition is Verkhóffsky's death. His head shall
be a marriage-gift for your bride, whom you love, and who loves you. Not
revenge only, but the plainest reasoning requires the death of the
Colonel. Without him, all Daghestán will remain several days without a
chief, and stupefied with horror. In this interval, we come flying upon
the Russians who are dispersed in their quarters. I mount with twenty
thousand Avarétzes and Akoushétzes: and we fall from the mountains like
a cloud of snow upon Tarki. Then Ammalát, Shamkhál of Daghestán, will
embrace me as his friend, as his father-in-law. These are my plans, this
is your destiny. Choose which you please; either an eternal banishment,
or a daring blow, which promises you power and happiness; but know, that
next time we shall meet either as kinsmen, or as irreconcilable foes!"

The Khan disappeared. Long stood Ammalát, agitated, devoured by new and
terrible feelings. At length Samit reminded him that it was time to
return to the camp. Ignorant himself how and where he had found his way
to the shore, he followed his mysterious guide, found his horse, and
without answering a word to the thousand questions of Saphir Ali, rode
up to his tent. There, all the tortures of the soul's hell awaited him.
Heavy is the first night of sorrow, but still more terrible the first
bloody thoughts of crime.

* * * * *




REYNOLDS'S DISCOURSES. CONCLUSION.

We omit any notice of the other written works of Sir Joshua - his
"Journey to Flanders and Holland," his Notes to Mason's verse
translation of Du Fresnoy's Latin poem, "Art of Painting," and his
contributions to the "Idler." The former is chiefly a notice of
pictures, and of value to those who may visit the galleries where most
of them may be found; and in some degree his remarks will attach a value
to those dispersed; the best part of the "Journey," perhaps, is his
critical discrimination of the style and genius of Rubens. The marrow of
his Notes to Du Fresnoy's poem, and indeed of his papers in the "Idler,"
has been transferred to his Discourses, which, as they terminate his
literary labours, contain all that he considered important in a
discussion on taste and art. The notes to Du Fresnoy may, however, be
consulted by the practical painter with advantage, as here and there
some technical directions may be found, which, if of doubtful utility in
practice, will at least demand thought and reasoning upon this not
unimportant part of the art. To doubt is to reflect; judgment results,
and from this, as a sure source, genius creates. There are likewise some
memoranda useful to artists to be read in Northcote's "Life." The
influence of these Discourses upon art in this country has been much
less than might have been expected from so able an exposition of its
principles. They breathe throughout an admiration of what is great, give
a high aim to the student, and point to the path he should pursue to
attain it: while it must be acknowledged our artists as a body have
wandered in another direction. The Discourses speak to cultivated minds
only. They will scarcely be available to those who have habituated their
minds to lower views of art, and have, by a fascinating practice,
acquired an inordinate love for its minor beauties. It is true their
tendency is to teach, to _cultivate_: but in art there is too often as
much to unlearn as to learn, and the _unlearning_ is the more irksome
task; prejudice, self-gratulation, have removed the humility which is
the first step in the ladder of advancement. With the public at large,
the Discourses have done more; and rather by the reflection from that
improvement in the public taste, than from any direct appeal to artists,
our exhibitions have gained somewhat in refinement. And if there is,
perhaps, less vigour now, than in the time of Sir Joshua, Wilson, and
Gainsborough, those fathers of the English School, we are less seldom
disgusted with the coarseness, both of subject and manner, that
prevailed in some of their contemporaries and immediate successors. In
no branch of art is this improvement more shown than in scenes of
familiar life - which meant, indeed "Low Life." Vulgarity has given place
to a more "elegant familiar." This has necessarily brought into play a
nicer attention to mechanical excellence, and indeed to all the minor
beauties of the art. We almost fear too much has been done this way,
because it has been too exclusively pursued, and led astray the public
taste to rest satisfied with, and unadvisedly to require, the less
important perfections. From that great style which it may be said it was
the sole object of the Discourses to recommend, we are further off than
ever. Even in portrait, there is far less of the historical, than Sir



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