'Her slave prays for a word with the 'Exalted cousin, when were you Marvel of the Age whose mind so love. last in Shaitanpur?' ly outshines even her fair face, and It stopped him like a lightning flash. whose face so beautiful is the lamp He stood arrested on the marble before that holds the light of her soul.' her face. 'I know nothing of Shaitan

'Warm for a woman!' said the pur,' he said breathlessly. Princess, and looked straight at the 'No? Nor of Peri Mahal, the dancer, newcomer who stood salaaming with and her house with the courtyard of the utmost humility. She added im- roses and the song she sings?' patiently:

Again she caught up her lute and 'There is no need of this ceremony. sang in a low voice: Remove your veil. The good physician, Abul Qasim, is privileged to see the

'Black bee, strong bee, the honey-eater,

Plunder my perfume, seek my heart! faces of all in the Palace of Queens.'

Cling to me, ravage me, make me sweeter! In a flash the veil was torn off and a Tear the leaves of the rose apart.' man's face appeared beneath it, young, bold, and beautiful, with the hawk He stared, his eyes slowly dilating. features of the Imperial House. A That the daughter of the Emperor splendid, dissolute young man with the should sing the song of the bazaar, the down on his upper lip like the black song of the light women! Then it emastride the swan's bill. Prince Suleiman, boldened him. He threw himself forson of Dara, the Padshah's brother. ward to seize her hand.

'Ha, daughter of my uncle!' he ‘Maker of verses, this is a rose of cried. 'Did I not wager, did I not your own garden. Till now I never swear that I would see the Hidden One? heard it, but it speaks your heart. You And now I see her, face to face. Poets shall not ask me twice, my rose, my have sung you, cousin, and painters pearl, my star.' He caught the hem of have praised you, and their words and her veil. colors were lies, for you are wholly a Now I knew well from her eyes that spark of Divinity. And having seen, I he rushed on his fate, but it was written entreat for love's very sake that your in the book of his destiny and who can beauty may be mine to worship until avert fate? time is no more.'

She drew back a little and looked at He made toward her eagerly, dis- him with soft eyes, wells of delicious regarding Imami and me. I looked to darkness. Her voice was gentle as see her confused or angry, but she moonbeams and caressing, so that a spoke with a most misleading calm. man might well believe she would give

'Exalted cousin, you have won your all to please him whom she exalted wager and your bride. If her embrace with the sight of her. Said I not that is cold it is at least constant and - the Moon has a side, dark, cold, and

'Cold, with those burning lips of perilous ? rose, those eyes filled with sleep? 0 ‘Fortunate cousin, I am a weak loveliest, divinest, grant me one kiss woman. How dare I face the wrath of for earnest if you would not have me the Padshah? He does not love your die at your feet.'

father's son. But if he did — She I saw her sign with her hand to drooped her head as with a soft shame Imami, who glided away, flattening overwhelming her in the deeps of modherself against the wall as if terrified. esty. O very woman, divine, yet a child! Then she spoke serenely.

He, trembling, and with eyes fixed, stammered out, ‘Alas, I have dreamed my life, my soul, are in the hand of my of your sweetness, and what is the slave whose feet I kiss.' dream to the truth? Oh, make it mine A nd throwing himself on the marble that in life and death it may enfold me, like a worshiper, he kissed the flowerand that I may never again behold a soft feet that showed like bare gold lesser light, having once seen the In- beneath the hem of her robe, and so, effable.'

rising to his knee, looked up at her as And very softly, like the breathing of an idolater at his goddess. a flute, she said, 'O my cousin, how But she looked beyond him at the should we face the wrath of the Pad curtain which veiled the door. It lifted shah?' And he, kissing her hands with and Imami stood there, ash-pale, with frenzy, said in broken words, 'Ah, a dish of gold in her hand and standing Moon of my delight, that knows no thereon a great goblet of jeweled glass wane, let me but watch with you with rose-red sherbet of pomegranate through the starry hours of one night, juice brimming in it and rose petals and then, then, if the Padshah's will be floating on the surface, and beside it to slay me, at least I shall have lived two golden cups flashing with diamond before I die.'

sparks, and on her knee she offered it to ‘And I also,' she said, looking down the Princess, who took the goblet and a like the feminine incarnation of mod cup, smiling. esty, so that, enraptured, he kissed her 'Fortunate cousin, since this is so, on the mouth as a man in the desert and I, my father's best-beloved child, grasps the cup nor can sever his lips shall pray him to grant me my heart's from it. And when he would permit her desire, let us drink the cup of betrothal to speak she leaned her head backward in the presence of the Hakim Abul to gain space, and said, 'What is my Qasim and the lady Imami. But I warn lord's will; in what shall I obey him?' you that long and doubtful will be my

Now I, standing half hidden in the suit and if a word too soon reach him marble recess, would have warned him my life will be the price. Heart of my if it had been possible, that not thus – heart, I pledge you.' oh, not thus, does the proudest and And setting the blossom of her lips to wisest of women abandon herself to the cup she drank, and filled the other such as he. For I had pity on his man- cup for him. Even as he set his lips to hood and the Imperial blood that he it, suddenly Imami sprang to her feet. shared with her. But who was this sup- 'The Padshah comes!' she said, and pliant to obstruct the design of the fell again on her knees, hiding her face Princess? And indeed I became at last in her hands. uncertain that I guessed her meaning,

IV with such submissive sweetness did she take his hand in hers and touch it to I saw the dreadful terror that struck her lovely brows. And trembling like a the color from the face of the lover. He man in an ague, he replied:

knelt there with a glassy countenance 'O darling little slave, since you give like a man in the clutch of a nightmare. me the right to command what is But Glory of Women, herself shudderwholly mine- I say this, let my slave, ing, caught him by the hand. whose slave I am, expect me to-night There is but one way from these when the moonlight touches the west- rooms and the Emperor closes it. To ern corner of the Diwan-i-Am, and I the room beyond my bedchamber, the shall come to the hidden chamber, and room of the marble bath, and hide until he departs! Bismillah — in the fections of the Giver who gives unname of Allah — flee!'

asked.' She pushed him from her and he fled. “It is well, sincere daughter. PresThen, most singular to see, she com- ently we shall hear it.' posed her veil, glancing in the mirror I saw his eyes fix on the golden dish set in silver that was a gift from the that lay on the table with one cup empPortuguese priests to the Emperor. The tied and a stream of the sherbet like a curtain lifted and Aurungzib Padshah bloodstain on the marble below. "This entered and Imami prostrated herself was set down in haste,' he said through and I also, but the Princess knelt. clipped lips.

Now I know not how this should be, 'In haste, O Glory of Allah,' said the but in a room where great events have Princess with the cold sweat clamming just taken place it is as if the winds of the silken tendrils on her forehead. passion beat about the walls and waft 'I drank, and was about to drink the the garments of those who have shared second when your auspicious feet them, and to my guilty heart it seemed blessed the threshold. as though the very lilies inlaid on the ‘You are thirsty, happy daughter of marble cried aloud, ‘Majesty - Maj- sovereignty? Then drink the remainesty, there is a man, a man in hiding!' der. Permission is granted.

And certainly the Padshah halted I saw the gleam in either black eye of and looked from one to the other of us him as he spoke, watching her sidelong. with suspicion. He was ever a man of She lifted the cup to her lips with a suspicion, narrow-browed, dry-lipped, hand that shook so that it rattled sharp-eyed. The face of a man who sees against her teeth, though she struggled not life as it is, but either as he hates or to command herself. would have it - whom truth mocks in 'No, do not drink, royal daughter. escaping. Weak; but of all terrible It is stale,' he said, still smiling with his things on earth, beware the strength of mouth but not his eyes. a weak man in the grip of his belief. And the Princess replied with terror

So, looking hard at the kneeling scarcely to be hidden, ‘Will not the Glory of Women, he said coldly, 'In Mirror of God be seated and partake of the name of the most Merciful and refreshmentsfrom the hand of his slave?' Beneficent, what is this disturbance? ‘Willingly, but of that cup - no,' Speak, Princess, daughter of the family said the Padshah. And I knew his of chastity! It is revealed to this sup- thought as if he had spoken it, and pliant at the Throne of Allah that there Imami crawled to the door like a thing is a hidden thing in these chambers. released to fetch sherbet and fruits, and What is it?'

I to the latticed marble window, while She answered, ‘May joy attend my the Emperor walked about the hall exalted father, the adorner of the gar- leaning on the shoulder of the Princess, dens of happiness, the decorator of the and I marveled if Allah would support rose-parterre of enjoyment. There is her lest she should fall and die at his surely a hidden thing in these cham- feet. bers: your unworthy daughter, who is He was later to attend the Am-Khas, known by your august favor as Makhfi, the Hall of Audience, and was attired the Hidden One. And I have read kingly. A chain of mighty pearls hung aloud a poem newly completed which to his knees, and above all these jewels has moved the Hakim Abul Qasim to was his cold repelling dignity as of a great delight since it dwells on the per- King too great to be approached even

by the favored child of his pride. Very seldom we have leisure to relax, and terrible are the Moghul Emperors and yet the olfactory of my soul inhales this most of all, remote and lonely as a with delight the ambergris-perfumed moon at midnight. At length he spoke, breezes of affection and concord. Yes, as if in meditation.

even when absent 'Glory of Women, you have grown into beauty like the virgins of Para

'I sit beside thee in thought and my heart is at

ease, dise. Your long lashes need no anti- For that is a union not followed by separation's mony, your eyes are wells of delight, pain. and in that robe of gulnar (pomegranate red) you resemble that princess ‘Read your verses to me that we may who bewildered the senses of the blend our souls in peace.' mighty Suleiman, King of Israel. (I She swayed as she knelt and leaned saw her eyes quiver as she bowed her against the divan with closed eyes. head under the weight of praise.) Does 'Majesty, the perfume of the flowers not the rose long for the nightingale? and the rose-water fountain have given Does not your heart, happy daughter, me faintness. May I retire with the Haturn to love?'

kim to my inner chamber that he may With her eyes on the ground, she give me a medicine. Then I return.' answered.

He waved his hand and I came for‘Exhibitor of Perfection, my heart is ward making the prescribed salutation, set elsewhere. If I be remembered as a and helped the Princess to rise; she poet I ask no more of destiny save that leaning on my ancient arm, and the the rank of daughter of the greatest of lady Imami, kneeling, unrolled a Emperors be attached to my name for- Persian manuscript splendid with borever.'

ders of illuminations in blue and And he, 'It is well, yet marriage must crimson and gold while the Padshah be considered. Fortunate daughter, composed himself with pleasure to have you bathed to-day?'

listen, being, like all the Kings of his And she, ash-pale, ‘Benignity of the family, skilled in versifying. Creator, no.'

As we moved forward, I supporting He called to Imami, kneeling again her, the Princess breathed in my ear, by the door. 'Hasten, lady, and light 'I meant his death for his insult, but the fire beneath the great water-vessel Allah knows I am guiltless of this in the bathing-room of the Begam and hideous thing. Oh, Abul Qasim, is there I shall hear her verses until it be ready.' aid in earth or heaven?' And Imami, casting a dreadful glance What could I say? Only the Great on the Princess, moved slowly to the Physician of the Hidden Dispensary inner chamber and it is the truth that could avail to that unfortunate! ‘Inmy soul all but died within me, for oh, shalla ta Allah — if the sublime God most terrible was the doom of the Pad wills!' What more? shah, and who could tell that this young Now this inner chamber was all of man, worthless and dissolute, would pearl-pure marble, and in the midst a know how a prince should die to pre- deeply sunk bath of marble, wide and serve the honor of a lady?

long, its sides decorated with lotus So the Emperor, laying aside his aw. flowers and their leaves; and a silver ful majesty, made his presence sweet as pipe led the water to this from a mighty moonlight in the precious chamber, reservoir six feet in height, raised on saying, “Exalted daughter, it is but great claws of silver, and below it a place for fire to heat the water, en- How many hearts, O Love, thy sword has slain, closed and fed with sweet-scented

And yet shall slay. woods and balls of perfumed gums.

They bless thee, nor to Allah they complain

At Judgment Day.' And, O Allah, most merciful, there had the lady Imami set a light and within But here her voice broke, and. could be seen the brilliant blue flames paused. ‘Happy Father and Lord, there crawling like snakes among the cedar is a sweeter verse. Listen. wood. And releasing the Princess I

'O Love, I am thy thrall. stood like a graven image of terror, ex

As on the tulip's burning petal glows pecting that at any moment the Pad A spot, yet more intense, of deeper dye, shah would follow. She laid her hand So in my heart a flower of passion blows, on the silver, and amid the crackling of

See the dark stain of its intensity, the flames she whispered like a dying

Deeper than all. woman, ‘What is your duty, exalted

'O blessed pain, cousin?'

O precious grief I keep and sweet unrest, And from within he answered in a

Desire that dies not, longing past control.

My heart is torn to pieces in my breast, voice — O most Compassionate, grant

And for the shining diamond of the soul that never again may I hear the like! —

I pine in vain. *Silence. Yet because my love has loved me and I die for her, give me one

“This is my pride ~ word to carry with me to doom.'

But her voice died away and she So she fell on her knees as if before sank fainting at the Padshah's feet. the Emperor. 'Keep silence if you love 'Lay the Princess on the divan, and me, for honor is more than death. Yet let the lady Imami continue the readtake this with you. I love you, and for ing,' he commanded, and so it was your sake no man shall kiss my lips. done. She lay there, for a time unOnly you are behind my veil forever.' conscious, death-white and still, and

And he answered, 'On my head and the trembling voice of Imami continued eyes.'

with words so sweet that they might By her command I gave her water have moved the heart of an image of to drink and applied an essence to her stone, and the Padshah sat immovable, nostrils, and she rose and once more hearing and praising for how long laid her hand on the silver. Then we I know not nor shall ever know. came away and, clinging to me, she And at last he rose and said grawhispered, ‘God send he keep silence, ciously, ‘May the tree of hereditary for the Emperor has worse torment in affection watered by this hour of constore than even this.' And the Padshah verse grow in leaf and fruit and overcalled us and we returned to where he shadow us with peace. Go, exalted sat in calm content, and he motioned daughter, bathe your angelic person my Princess to a seat, saying, 'I would and rest with a soul sunned in the hear your verses of “The Lover.” What favor of the Emperor.' is the fate of a lover? It is to be cru- And he went, we attending him to cified for the world's pleasure.'

the door and beyond, and returning, we And taking the manuscript from the carried the Princess like a dead woman hand of Imami, she read aloud: from the dreadful place, and the fire

beneath the great vessel was red and ‘Dust falls within the cup of Kaikhobad And King Jamshid.

silent, and within was silence also. Nor recks the world if they were sad or glad,

Of the days that followed I do not Or what they did.

write. VOL. 134 - NO. 4

« ElőzőTovább »