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THE HIDDEN ONE
BY L. ADAMS BECK
(The Princess of this story was one of palace, and by his abundant favor the the great Moghul dynasty of Em- health of the Begams (Queens) was perors in India and was born in 1639. . placed in the hands of this suppliant She was granddaughter to the Emperor and I came and went freely and was Shah Jahan and the lovely Lady who enlightened by the rays of his magnasleeps in the Taj Mahal, and daugh- nimity. And my name is Abul Qasim. ter to the Emperor Aurungzib whose But of all that Garden of Flowers, the Moslem fanaticism was his ruin. The Queens and Princesses, there was one Princess's title was Zeb-un-Nissa — whom my soul loved as a father his Glory of Women. She was beautiful child, for she resembled that loveliest and was, and is, a famous poet in India of all sweet ladies, the mother of her and Persia. She wrote under the pen father — she who lies sleeping by name of Makhfi - the Hidden One. Jumna River in the divine white glory Her love adventures were such as I of the Taj Mahal (may the lights of relate, though I have taken the liberty Allah be her testimony!). In the of transferring the fate of one lover to sisters of my Princess I have seen, as another.
it were, a beam now and again of that For her quoted poems I use the lost beauty, but in her it abode as an charming translations by J. D. West- unchanging moonlight and at her birth brook, who has written a short memoir she received the name of Arjemand in of this fascinating poet-Princess. She honor of that beloved lady whose loss was a mystic of the Sufi order, and her so clouded the universe that the day verses, 'The Hunter of the Soul,' of her death is known only by its strangely anticipate the motif of Francis chronogram of 'grief.' And the child Thompson’s ‘Hound of Heaven.' The received also the title of 'Glory of poems not specified as hers are a part Women’ and such this Princess most of my story.)
truly was. Of her might it be said: I
'For the mole upon thy cheek I
would give the cities of Samarkhand The office of hakim (physician) to and Bokhara.' And a poet of Persia, the Moghul Emperors being hereditary catching a glimpse of her in her garden, in my family from the days of Babar cried aloud in an ecstasy of verse: the Conquering Emperor, I was appointed physician to the Padshah
'0, golden zone that circles the Universe of
Beauty, known as Shah Jahan, and when His
It were little to give the Universe itself for what Majesty became a resident in Paradise thou circlest.' (may his tomb be sanctified!) my office was continued by his Majesty Yet this surprising loveliness was the Aurungzib, the Shahinshah, and rooms least of her perfections. But how shall of nobility were bestowed on me in his this suppliant, who is but mortal man, describe her charm? Allah, when he and astronomy as a rose drinks rain. made man and laid the world at his No subject eluded her swift mind, no feet, decreed that one thing should be toil wearied her. Verses she wrote hidden from his understanding, so that with careless ease in the foreign tongue still, for all his knowledge, he should of Arabia, but hearing from an Arab own there is but one Searcher of Secrets, scholar that in a single line the exand this mystery is the heart and the quisite skill betrayed an Indian idiom, enchantment of a woman. For if she she instantly discarded Arabic, bebe called the Other Half of man it is cause she would have perfection, and but as the Moon reflects the glory of henceforward was a poet only in her her lord the Sun, and as a wise Hindu mother tongue, Persian. pundit told me for truth the Moon has On this jewel no pains were spared, a cold and dark side also where alone for the Emperor desired that her name she revolves thoughts secret, silent, and might be splendid throughout Asia. perilous. Therefore to sift her in her And yet he drew her limit and sharply. secret spells is a foolhardy thing, and For in her pride of learning she began not in vain is it written by Aflatoun a commentary on the holy Koran, and (Plato), the wise man of the Greeks, hearing this, he sternly forbade it. that the unhappy man who surprised A woman might in her own sphere a goddess bathing in the forest was do much, he wrote, but such a crearent in pieces by his own hounds. ture of dust may not handle the Divine.
Yet this feat must be attempted for, I, Abul Qasim, was with her when if there is a thing it behooves man to she received the Imperial order, and know, it is the soul of this fair Mystery saw her take the fair manuscript and who moves submissive beside him and obediently tear it across, desiring that surrenders Heaven to him in a first kiss the rent leaves be offered to the Shadow and the bitterness of the Hells in a last. of God in token of obedience. But
Therefore I essay a tale of this those deep eyes of hers were not obePrincess, the Glory of Women, who dient beneath the veiling of silken was an epitome of her sex in that she lashes, and turning to me, to whom she was beautiful, a dreamer, a poet, and told her royal heart, she said, “What at times sweet in gentleness as a sum the hand may not write the heart may mer river kissing its banks in flowing, think, for in the heart is no Emperor. and at others —
It is free. But I write.
Yet the Emperor made amends and
noble, so far as his light led him. Not II
for a woman the mysteries of the faith Seeing her intelligence clear as a of Islam, which he held of all things sword of Azerbaijan, her exalted father the greatest, but, fired by the praises of resolved that his jewel should not be her tutors, he sent throughout India, dulled by lack of polishing and cutting, Persia, and Kashmir for poets worthy and he appointed the wise lady Miyabai of his poet-Princess, bidding them come to be her first teacher. And lo! at the to Delhi and Agra and there dwell. age of seven she knew the Koran by A fitting company he made for her. heart, and in her honor a mighty feast So, veiled like the moon in clouds, was made for the army and for the the Princess Arjemand was permitted poor. As she grew, aged and saintly to be present in the great hall of teachers were given her, from whom the palace at tournaments where the she absorbed Arabic, mathematics, weapons were the wit and beauty of words, when quotations and questions so precious that they might have been were flung about as it might be hand- the bosom adornments of some lesser fuls of stars, and a line given was cap- beauty, and there were palms in tall ped with some perfect finishing of vases brought by the merchants of the moment's prompting and became Cathay, which made a green shade and a couplet unsurpassable; and so the coolness for two fountains, the one of poets and the wits broke their lances the pure waters of the canal, the other on each other, and often it was the of rose water, and they plashed beside a golden voice from behind the veil that miniature lake of fretted marble rocks capped the wisest, and completed the sunk in the floor, where white lotuses most exquisite, and recited verses of slept in the twilight. her own which brought acclamation But of all the jewels my Princess was from the assembly.
the chief. Surely with small pains may 'Not even Saadi (may Allah en- the Great Moghul's daughter be a lighten him!) nor Jalaludin Rumi beauty, but had she been sold naked in (may his eyes be gladdened in Para- the market place this lady had brought dise!) excelled this lady in the perfumed a royal price. Toorki and Indian and honey of words.' So with one voice Persian blood mingled in her and each they cried.
gave of its best. The silken dark hair And this was not homage to the tasseled with pearls that fell to her daughter of the Protector of the Uni- knees was an imperial crown. From verse. No indeed. For death has not the well-beloved lady who sleeps in the washed out her name with the cold Glory of Tombs she had received eyes waters of oblivion; and now that she is whose glance of meditative sweetness no more beautiful, nor daughter to the not even the men of her own blood, exEmperor, her verse is still repeated cepting only her stern father, could rewhere wise men and lovers meet in sist, and of her rose-red lips, half sensutheir own concourses, and the soul of ous, half childlike, might it be said: the Hidden One, still beautiful and veiled, is among them.
Their honey was set as a spare and my heart,
a wandering bee, It will be seen that her life in the
Clung and could not be satisfied, tasted and secret Palace must needs be solitary, returned home no more. for there was none among the ladies who shared her pleasures. But she had Of the soul within that delicious one friend, Imami, daughter of Arshad shrine her deeds must tell. Beg Khan, and this creature of mortality who writes these words was also accounted a friend, though unworthy to be the ground whereon she set her So she sat and frowned with a letter little foot. Day after day did the Prin- from the Emperor in her hand, for cess Arjemand, with Imami, write and again she was thwarted. She had destudy, and the librarians of the Em- sired to read the Memoirs of her anperor had little peace because of the cestor, the Emperor Babar, and, hearing demands for the glorious manuscripts this, her imperial father wrote thus: and books collected by her ancestors ‘Happy Daughter of Sovereignty, from all the ends of the earth.
there is one manner of reading for men Great and wonderful was the new who are the rulers, and for women who Palace of the Emperor, with tall rods of are the slaves another. It seems you go lilies inlaid in the pure marble in stones too far. What has a daughter of our
not taith that bitter a ther might
tastes of Queens wagens were cho the
House to dowith our ancestor, Zahir-ud- know, and my father might know, that din Muhammed Babar, the resident in to be so bitter a saint in our Moslem Paradise? He writes as a man for men, faith that he insults and persecutes all and what profit for a woman? Plant not the others of the Empire is to break the herb of regret in the garden of af- our dynasty to powder.' fection lest I regret what is already T he blood dropped from my face as I given. The request is refused. Recall heard her because had these words been the verses: —
carried to the Padshah not even her ‘Ride slowly and humbly and not in hurrying rank, not even her daughterhood, could pride,
save the Princess, and in the Palace a For o'er the dusty bones of men the creature of bird of the air may carry the matter. dust must ride.
‘Yes,' she went on, laughing coldly What an Emperor writes is not for 'Akbar Padshah had in all ways the the Princesses. His duty is rule. Theirs, tastes of Solomon the Wise, and his obedience.
Palace of Queens was a garden. But Her eyes flashed, and calling for her observe! These Queens were chosen pen she wrote:
from every faith and each had the 'Exalted Emperor, father of the right (like Solomon's — the Peace on body of this creature of mortality, be him!) to worship as she would. There pleased to hear this ignorant one's sup were Indian Princesses who adored plication. I represent that you have Maheshwara, the Great God, and fed my mind on the bee's bread of wis- Krishna, the Beloved. There was a dom, and from your own royal lips Fair Persian who worshiped the Fire. have I heard that the words of our an- There was — But in the zenana of my cestor (upon whom be the Peace!) are imperial Father --'. full of flavor and laughter, generous She paused and Imami continued, and kind, shining with honor and the “The Queens recite the holy Koran all valor of our family. Now, true it is day as becomes the ladies of an Emperthat I am your female slave; yet may or who sighs for the life of a fakir. this worthless one bear one day a son “And would he had it!' cried the to transmit your likeness to the pros- Princess with passion, 'for every day trate ages. And since we do not breed discontent grows among the Hindus lions from lambs, his mother should that are taxed, beaten, and despised carry the laughter and fire of her race because they hold their fathers' faith. like a jewel in her heart. I repeat my Is there one of them employed about petition to the holiest of Emperors the court or in the great offices as in from his suppliant daughter.
Akbar's day? Not one. Yet Akbar 'It will be granted,' said the Princess, Padshah in his deep wisdom built up 'even for the sake of that last word – the empire which my father with holy the “holiest.” He values that title hands destroys daily.' more than to be called the Shahinshah. O, brilliant Lady, for the sake of the And with all my heart I would it were Prophet, be silent,' I said, for she terotherwise.'
rified me by her insight. Better is it for 'And why, great Lady?' cried Imami. a woman that she should not know, or ‘Surely the Padshah is a saint, having knowing keep silence. 'If these words with his own hand written the Koran reached the Padshah – out in full, and his deeds and words 'I should at the least be imprisoned will illumine Paradise.'
and nevermore see the light of day. 'I know little of Paradise, but I But the end is sure.'
nan by her insigh said, for shof the
'What is the end?' whispered Imami. adore the hidden lips like the rubies of
‘Misery for himself, though that Badakhshan, the musk-dark tresses, matters little, for he will accept it, as the cypress form. O Waving Willow the robe of martyrdom, but ruin for the of Beauty, be pitiful to your slave!” Moghul Empire in India, and that mat- But I caught up my lute and sang. ters much, for the astrologers whisper these verses of my own making: of a great white race from the sunset who know all things but God and
'I will not lift my veil,
For if I did, who knows — Beauty, and their heel shall be on our
The bulbul might forsake the rose necks. Oh that I were a man!'
The Brahman worshiper, Her face lit up into such pride and
Adoring Lakshmi's grace, valor that I also wished it, for I knew
Might turn, forsaking her, her words were true as truth. But in
To see my face. India a woman can do nothing, and I trembled for my Princess.
‘My beauty might prevail.
Think how within the flower So I said, salaaming, ‘Princess, when
Hidden as in a bower the happy day comes that you wed, you Her fragrant soul must be, shall make your lord lord of the world
And none can look on it. with your wisdom.'
So me the world shall see
Only within the verses I have writ. She laughed, but bitterly.
'I shall never marry, wise man of 'I will not lift the veil. fidelity. I have had lovers, yes; for one, Suleiman, my cousin, son of the brother “And the fool caught me — Mel and whom my father slew because he would have torn it. And when I flung stood too near the throne. By report him off he swore a great oath that I knew what he was, but I saw him sooner or later he would have my face and spoke with him that —'
to see and my heart in his hand. A ‘My Princess, and how?' I asked in woman in fury as in dress! A conastonishment, knowing that his presence temptible creature, though beautiful in the Queens' Palace was death. as Yusuf, and my own cousin.'
She looked at me with large calm ‘But, Lady of Beauty, what had you eyes.
against him? He is brave as a sword My faithful servant, have you been of steel.' so long about the Palace and know not ‘Do I not know all that goes on in that all things are possible? Prince this city? Do I not know that the Suleiman was veiled like a woman, and Prince spends his nights and days in I saw his face and we spoke together. Shaitanpur (Devilsville), the quarter Should not cousins meet?'
of pleasure, and was I to show my face I trembled when I heard, for had the to a man reeking from the embraces of Padshah guessed, what hope for her? the bazaar? No. I am Makhfi, the His own three brothers had he slaugh- Hidden One; hidden I shall be until tered and Prince Suleiman was doomed, I am won by a deed unrivaled and a if this were known.
heart unfailing. I shall be no rival to ‘And he saw your face, O Brilliant Peri Mahal, the dancer, and such as she.' Lady?'
And, even as she ended, a low voice 'Not he! And not for fear's sake, but at the curtain that veiled the doorway because I liked him not at all. He asked admittance; the heavy silk was stood and sighed, and said: “O Envy of drawn aside and a tall woman entered. the Moon, lift up your veil that I may The Princess scarcely looked up.