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Eastern Tales by Many Story Tellers Part 74

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"I am convinced," cries another, "that this is some dog of an Infidel, and that this happens to be one of their fast-days."

Smaragdine, whom this disturbance had not escaped, gave orders forthwith that the man should be brought before her throne. The people ceased from eating and drinking, and every eye and ear were fixed upon the footstool of the Sultan.

"What is your name?" said Smaragdine, "and for what purpose have you come into my states?"

The wretch, who had clothed himself in a white turban, which of right belongs only to the Moslems, made answer, "My name is Ali; I am a weaver by trade, and I have come hither in the hope to gain my bread honestly by the labour of my hands."

"Well, well," says Smaragdine, "bring quickly hither my necromantic tablet _Romla_, and the steel pen that belongs to it, and soon shall the truth be made manifest."

With that she began, apparently, her calculation, cast her eyes upwards, and after a pause of some moments, said, "Dog, thou liest!

Thou art a Giaour, and thou hast come hither with some wicked intention. Confess the truth, or thy head flies from thy shoulders upon the spot!"

"Pardon! pardon!" cried the stranger, altogether astonished; for he never doubted that the secret virtue of the _Romla_ had detected him: "pardon, great King! It is true I am a Giaour."

Smaragdine gave orders that he should instantly be hung, his carca.s.s thrown into the court of offal, and his head fixed before the gate of the palace. The people witnessed the execution, and applauded equally the astrological skill and the stern justice of their Sovereign.

On the first day of the second month the same festival was repeated.

It was again proclaimed that every one should eat, drink, and rejoice, but that none should on any account touch anything but what happened to be set before himself. The n.o.bles a.s.sembled; the troops stood in order of parade; the people had taken their places in the amphitheatre. The King was on his throne, and surveyed the scene around with attentive eyes. At this moment a foreigner came, all hastily and dusty from his journey, to the door of the amphitheatre, and his loud inquiries as to the meaning of the splendid scene before him were heard distinctly even where the King sat. An old woman, near the entrance, explained to him the meaning of the feast, but forgot to inform him of the regulations as to meddling with dishes at a distance from one's own place. The man took his place, and shortly afterwards stretched out his hand to seize something a little way off. "Hold!"

cried at once a thousand voices; "hold, or you will be hanged."

The man, who had no very pure conscience to sustain his nerves, took it for granted his fate was sealed; and, without a moment's delay, began leaping over the benches, in the hopes to make his escape. The King nodded; he was arrested and placed before the throne. "Who art thou?" said Smaragdine, "and wherefore hast thou come into our states?".

"My name," answered he, "is Osman. I am by profession a gardener, and have come hither to seek for certain rare trees and flowers."

"Holla, there!" cries the King, "bring hither quickly my tablet _Romla_ and the steel pen, and speedily will the truth see daylight."

With this, Smaragdine began to study the tablet attentively: she kept her eyes for some moments fixed upon the sky, and then said, "Hateful churl, thou liest! Thy name is Hirvan the Kurd, and by profession thou art a thief. Confess the truth, wretch!"

The man's colour changed; his tongue refused its office; at length he confessed the truth. The King ordered him to be hung immediately, his carca.s.s and head to be treated as had been done with those of the Giaour. The people returned with quickened appet.i.tes to their dinner, and admired more than ever the wisdom and rect.i.tude of their Prince.

The first day of the third moon brought with it the usual proclamation, the usual feast, and the usual consequences. A stranger appears, who, not knowing the law of the festival, transgresses it grossly, is accused, and finally conducted into the immediate presence of Smaragdine, who puts to him the usual questions.

"My name," replies the stranger, "is Resim, and I am a poor dervish."

"Bring my _Romla_ tablet and my steel pen," cries the King.

They do as they are bid: Smaragdine casts her eyes upwards, preserves for a moment the usual silence, and exclaims, "Thou liest, dog! thy name is Beschadeddin; outwardly thou art a Moslem, but in heart an unbeliever: confess the verity, or thou diest."

It was no one but Beschadeddin. Like the robber, he had, after the loss of the beautiful slave, set out upon his travels in the hope of finding her again, and his ill fortune had conducted him to the same city. Full of dismay, he was constrained to confess the truth, and his head figured forthwith beside those of his brother adventurers. The feast proceeded with redoubled jollity, and louder than ever were the sagacity and justice of the Sultan extolled. Smaragdine alone took no part in the general merriment.

It was the first morning of the fourth moon, as the people were congregated together for the usual festival, when there appeared, at one of the doors of the amphitheatre, a young man, beautiful as the day, but having the l.u.s.tre of his complexion dimmed by the cloud of long afflictions. It was Alischar, and Smaragdine had nigh swooned away with the joy of beholding him.

After he awoke in the street without his turban, and learnt from the old woman what had happened, and that his dear Smaragdine had indeed vanished, though not in his company, his spirit was yielded up as a prey to the bitterest anguish. A sore illness fell upon him, and for a whole year he had lain helpless, nursed carefully by the good old woman. But as soon as he began to recover a little strength, he set out a-wandering though the world, if perchance he might yet once again find his wife. It happened that he came on the morning of this feast-day to the city where she was King, and, being unacquainted with the regulations of the amphitheatre, he fell into a mistake similar to that which had already proved fatal to so many travellers. He was, like them, accused and summoned to the Prince's footstool. He knelt down reverently, and kissed the dust before her; and being asked what was his name and his business, made answer, without hesitation,

"My name is Alischar, and I am come hither, wandering over the whole earth, in quest of the fountain of my life, my dear Smaragdine, whom I have lost."

The King sent for the tablet _Romla_ and the steel pen. "You have said the truth," says the King; "and I perceive that Heaven designs ere long to restore to you your lost love."

With this she commanded them to lead Alischar to the bath, to clothe him in a robe of honour, and treat him in her palace with all respect and consideration.

Smaragdine could scarcely wait until night came, so great was her impatience. When it was dark, she commanded that Alischar should be brought before her, and invited him to partake of the royal supper.

The young man, who was naturally modest, was confounded with this condescension, but constrained himself, and acquitted himself as well as he could. It appeared that his behaviour gave no displeasure to the King; for, supper being ended, the chief of the black eunuchs came into the apartment, and Alischar heard him receive his Sovereign's orders to place him in one of the palace sleeping-chambers.

Presently a whisper was heard close to his pillow, and ere he could make any answer, his visitant revealed herself.

It was Smaragdine: she was out of herself with joy; she burst out into loud laughter, such as could proceed from no lips but hers, and made herself known to the enraptured Alischar.

Next morning the King called together the n.o.bles of the city, and requested them to choose some one to act as Viceroy for a season, announcing the necessity of undertaking a journey to his own country in company with the stranger.

They immediately complied with this request, and escorted the Prince from their gates with all the splendour of royal attendance. But Smaragdine had no intention ever to reclaim their homage: she had found her Alischar, and preferred a life of love and peace in her native place, to a disagreeable disguise and the troublesome magnificence of sovereign estate.

FINIS.

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