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Title: A Nobel Queen (Volume II of III) - A Romance of Indian History
Author: Taylor, Philip Meadows, 1808-1876
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  A NOBLE QUEEN:
  _A ROMANCE OF INDIAN HISTORY_.

  BY
  MEADOWS TAYLOR,
  C.S.I., M.R.A.S., M.R.I.A., &c.
  AUTHOR OF 'SEETA,' 'TARA,' AND OTHER TALES.


  'O, never was there queen
  So mightily betray'd!'

  _Antony and Cleopatra_, act i. sc. iii.


  IN THREE VOLUMES.
  VOL. II.


  LONDON:
  C. KEGAN PAUL & CO., 1 PATERNOSTER SQUARE.
  1878.



(_The rights of translation and of reproduction are reserved._)



CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME.


  _BOOK II.--continued._

  CHAPTER                                             PAGE

   VII.   FRIENDS IN COUNCIL                             1
  VIII.   THE NIGHT COUNCIL                             15
    IX.   A DAY IN THE PALACE                           39

  _BOOK III._

     I.   A RAPID MARCH                                 61
    II.   A SUCCESSFUL SURPRISE                         81
   III.   ZUFFOORA-BEE COOKS THE GOVERNOR'S BREAKFAST   97
    IV.   A NEW HOME                                   118
     V.   AMONG FRIENDS                                137
    VI.   A DARING ATTACK                              156
   VII.   THE FIRST ALMS                               175
  VIII.   CASTING OUT DEVILS                           192
    IX.   THE SYUD TAKES TWO DEGREES IN HIS TURREEQUT  211
     X.   BY THE WAY                                   233
    XI.   SAINTLY HONOURS                              242
   XII.   DANGER                                       256
  XIII.   DELIVERANCE                                  271



A NOBLE QUEEN.


BOOK II.--_continued_.


CHAPTER VII.
FRIENDS IN COUNCIL.


At the loud cries of the Mirdhas and silver-stick bearers of "Burkhast,
Durbar Burkhast!" "The durbar is dissolved!" the various masses of
troops filed out of the square before the Hall of Audience in the same
gorgeous array as they had entered. Indeed, the effect was even more
gorgeous, for before the assembly the sun had been slightly veiled with
thin clouds, and had only occasionally shone out with full brightness;
but now the clouds had cleared away, and the sun's rays descended on
the glittering masses with a power which materially enhanced their
splendour. One by one the nobles left the hall, making their humble
obeisances to the Throne, and, joined by their retinues, passed onwards
through the citadel to the gate, and thence to their respective abodes
within and without the citadel. The prospect of immediate service in
the field, too, enhanced the spirit of the many different bodies of
men, and their party or national war cries arose from time to time,
mingled with shouts of "Victory to Abbas Khan!" which, entirely
spontaneous as they were, filled his heart with joy. The Queen again
reminding him that he was to return at the usual hour of council,
attended by the Portuguese priest, left the hall before it was emptied;
and when most of the nobles had gone on, he mounted his horse, and rode
home at a quiet pace.

In truth, his wound was painful, for his shield was somewhat heavy;
and the rapidity and strength of the blows showered on him by the
Abyssinian had required his utmost skill and vigilance to parry. He
had no doubt, therefore, that the Padré's bandages had been strained,
as, indeed, they proved to have been on examination. In the heat of
the encounter, all pain had been forgotten; and it was now great
and increasing, and he longed for relief. But his mind was full of
joyous gratitude, not only for preservation in the ordeal, but for the
establishment of his innocence of cowardice or of treachery; and the
papers found on the Abyssinian might even prove more, since it was
evident, from the addresses on them, that they had belonged to Elias
Khan, and before the night had passed all would be clear.

Thus Abbas Khan rode on through the streets of the fort which led to
his uncle's house, slowly and deliberately, receiving the salutations
of the crowds which filled them with grateful acknowledgments. As the
troops broke up from the durbar, great numbers of them had betaken
themselves to these streets; and the real joy with which they now
greeted the young nobleman, always a favourite, was more real and more
genuine, perhaps, than that evinced before the ordeal. Abbas Khan was
the popular hero of the day: women stretched out their arms from the
housetops and blessed him, and wished him a hundred years of life and
joy; stalwart veterans would not be kept off; and some kissed his feet,
others put portions of his garment to their lips, and with a blessing
turned away. It was almost too much to bear.

At his gate he was met by the whole household, and the usual
ceremonies of welcome were performed ere he crossed the threshold.
Lighted lamps were waved over him, incense was burnt in the name
of the protecting saints, and vows of offerings at their shrines
promised by the venerable Moolla, who was present on behalf of his
aunt. As he dismounted from his horse, he caressed it fondly. As if
he had understood his warning, Sooltan had been steady and perfectly
manageable through the combat, and nothing but his perfect temper, and
the ease and certainty with which he had followed every turn of his
master's wrist or pressure of his knee or heel, could have ensured
victory. As he ascended the steps of the hall of audience all that
were present rose and greeted him; many came forward to embrace
him, and several poets of the city presented addresses in verse, of
a very florid and laudatory description, comparing him to Roostum
and the champions described in the "Shah Nama" with painstaking
fidelity, which, whatever the merits of the composition might be, were
sufficiently tedious. When these were finished, and suitable rewards
ordered, Abbas Khan, fairly wearied out, excused himself to the rest
of the company, and went at once to his aunt, who had already sent
several messages to him to come as quickly as he could; and truly it
was grateful to him to find himself once more encircled by the arms of
one so revered by him and so dear.

"Oh! thou art safe, thou art safe, my son!" she cried, as she clung
sobbing to his neck. "I feared for thee; I wept for thee; I prayed for
thee to the Lord and His saints, and I was heard; and as soon as the
news was brought to me that thou hadst won the combat, I sent Fatehas
to all the mosques and shrines; and to-morrow, Inshalla! I will feed a
thousand poor people in the name of the Imams. And thou art not hurt,
my son?"

"Not hurt, mother; but the old wound needs looking to by the Padré
Sahib: it is sore and stiff. It is he alone that can give me rest and
ease. He is waiting within, and I must go to him; for there are other
matters on which he must be consulted. I will come to thee at the
evening prayers, after which, when I have eaten, I must return to the
Queen for the evening council."

"So soon," she said, "so soon to leave me; and I had hoped to sit and
talk with thee a whole evening! Well, thou must do thy duty to our
Royal mistress; and why should I regret that thou doest it? God forbid.
And she was gracious unto thee, Meeah?"

"Mother, she wept; she could hardly speak as I went up to her; but I
saw that she believed in me, and she was happy. Happy, mother; and
your son was proud, too, when she rose and declared I was to lead the
division that goes to the King's aid. Ah! that was too much honour; may
I be worthy of it!"

"I have no fear, Meeah," replied the old lady. "Go where she sends
thee, and win honour and fame as thine uncle has done; but go now and
get relief."

Abbas Khan found the priest in his own apartment, who, after very
sincere congratulations, helped him to divest himself of the mail shirt
he wore, when he fell to an examination of the wound.

"No doubt, my lord, it is sore and smarting from the weight and strain
of the armour; but it is sound, and there hath been no more bleeding. I
will change all these dressings now, and put on lighter ones, and in a
few days there will be no more danger of relapse."

The new, cool dressings were a delicious relief, and left his arm at
full liberty for action of any kind. Until he reached the King's camp,
he should have no occasion to use it in any but the most ordinary
actions.

"And now, Padré Sahib," continued Abbas Khan, when the operation was
finished, "make yourself ready to come with me to the Palace to-night.
The Queen-Regent desires to see you on a matter of much importance, and
I am ordered to bring you with me."

"Do you know why?" asked d'Almeida. "Nothing in regard to the mission
at Moodgul could have given offence to Her Majesty? I wish we had had
longer notice; Maria might have made some sweetmeats, for an offering,
or some of her work. Yet I remember, she hath an exquisite lace veil,
and it could not be presented to one more worthy."

"The matter is this," replied Abbas Khan. "On the body of the
Abyssinian was found a case of letters. Some of them are in Persian
and Mahrathi, others in your language; at least the writing is in the
Frangi character. No one that she can trust can read it, and assuredly
no one among the Portuguese artisans and gunners could translate the
papers. Do you remember anything which might give a clue to these
letters?"

"I do," he replied. "Was your adversary a very tall, very powerful man,
with hard, black features?"

"He was, Padré; why do you ask?"

"Because, some months ago, soon after Dom Diego came, a man such as I
describe, mounted on a big chestnut horse, and with several attendants,
arrived at Moodgul. They came to me first, but the letter they brought
was addressed to my colleague, and I directed them to him. The man was
so remarkable that, as he rode away, I called Maria to look at him.
There was a renegade Portuguese with that man, who spoke to me in our
language, and interpreted what I said to him."

"Ah! that is valuable, my friend; but you do not know of what passed
between him and Dom Diego?"

"Nothing whatever, my lord. Once only the good Nawab, my friend,
hinted that some intrigue was in progress between my superior and
Eyn-ool-Moolk, but warned me against having any concern in it. But what
could Dom Diego do, even if he has engaged in intrigue?"

"Ah! my friend, you are too simple," returned the young Khan, laughing;
"he could get money; he could promise your nation's troops."

"Those he will never get," interrupted the priest. "Our Government has
declined from the first to mix itself up in the affairs of kingdoms
whom our nation esteems to be heretical. I have heard there have been
many offers by the Emperor Akbar, and others before him, but the policy
of our Government is consistent and friendly to all."

"And yet you are a nation of valiant soldiers. It is strange to see
such without ambition."

"Which might lead to our ruin, my lord. No; wise minds have determined
and guided our course hitherto, and we only defend ourselves when we
are attacked."

"As we know to our cost, Señor Padré; and as they of Ahmednugger found
to theirs in the siege of Ghoul," returned Abbas Khan, laughing. "But
enough now; be ready when I send for you. And your sister is well, and
hath all she needs?"

"All, my lord, and is grateful. She is busy preparing for her school;
and our poor folks are thankful for even the few ministrations we have
afforded them."

"Only be careful, Señor, lest you excite bigotry among mine. Alas!
there is bitterness between Moslim and Nazarene; but you have only to
be careful."

"Yet at Moodgul no one molests us, my lord."

"There are many who would do so if they dared, my friend; but you
are under protection there by order of the State, and here it may be
different. I only say be cautious, and you are as safe here as there."

The priest bowed and retired. What his young friend had said to him
he did not tell to his sister; but some of the castles they had been
building had already been shaken, and caution was at least necessary,
lest they should crumble down altogether.

As the Padré left him, Abbas Khan threw a light sheet over himself, and
slept profoundly. The Lady Fatima stole in several times to see him,
and at last seated herself near him; and, with a light fan, drove away
the flies which would have settled on his face. How proud she was of
her boy. "The Lady Queen is as proud," she said to herself, "I know;
but she could not do this like me. Am I not the happier? for I can
watch him while every mood of his mind leaves its expression on his
features. See, now, there is a frown, and the fingers seem to clutch
something; it is his sword, and he dreams of the combat. And there! now
all is changed, and there is love on the moist lips and in the smiles.
Why dreams he of her? Ah, well! may she be worthy."

So the young man slept, and so his good aunt tended him as she had
done when he was a child. And the time flew rapidly, and the muezzin
from the minaret of the garden mosque began to chant invitation to the
evening prayer, "Allah-hu-Akbar! Allah-hu-Akbar!" and then Abbas Khan
woke, and found his aunt sitting beside him, watching.

"My sleep was sweet," he said, "because thou watchedst over me, mother.
Ah, so sweet! may God reward thee. But I must go to the prayer now."

"There are many who wish to speak with thee, my son," she said; "and
one is very urgent, Runga Naik, a Beydur."

"Bid him wait; he is, indeed, most needful. I will not be long away,
mother, or I will send for him."

Entering the garden by the private door, Abbas Khan performed his
ablutions at the little fountain, whose cool, sparkling water refreshed
him. The garden was refreshing also; and, as he knelt down, a soft
feeling of grateful adoration stole over him. Many of his friends were
assembled there, and their salutations, with the warm grasp of the hand
which accompanied them, were more grateful to him than he had ever
remembered before.

"I will attend ye speedily, friends," he said to them, "but I have some
private affairs to see to first here, and ye must excuse me;" and,
calling to an attendant, he bade him bring in Runga Naik, and seating
himself on the rim of the fountain, awaited his coming alone. Presently
he saw the Beydur chief enter, peering about as though he were in a
thick forest, but, directly he saw his young master, he bounded forward
with a cry of joy, and threw himself at his feet.

"I was not in time, Meeah," he said, as soon as his emotion had
subsided, "to see thee slay that villain. Would I had been! But I could
not travel faster with the prisoners; and it was only at the last stage
that I heard thou hadst reached this the day before, when the Lady
Queen was hunting. What had delayed thee?"

"Only the wound again, friend," said the Khan, laughing. "One day--it
was our second march--my horse, it was one of Osman Beg's, stumbled and
fell with me, the stitches of my wound burst open, and the Padré Sahib
insisted I should not travel till I was well. Notwithstanding his
skill, I could not move for more than a month; but I had good lodging
at Talikota."

"So near to my town; and why did you not send for me, Meeah?"

"I did send; but thou wert gone, they said, to Belgaum, and thou hadst
not returned when I resumed my journey."

"Then you have heard nothing, my lord, of the old Dervish and his
child? Are they with thee?"

"No!" replied Abbas Khan, starting at the question. "Not with me. I
have never even heard of them. By your soul, tell me what you know."

"I had been absent from home, tracing our men who had deserted us at
Kórla, and had three hundred of my best men with me. You were then
in Juldroog, and I heard afterwards you and the Moodgul Padré had
departed. There was one of our Beydur festivals to come on after
that, and I returned home for it, when I was suddenly sent for by the
Dervish, and I delivered Zóra from the palace of Osman Beg, where she
was confined under the charge of two procuresses from Moodgul. Yes,
Burma Naik and Bheema and I did it; and to this day I regret that I did
not slay thy profligate cousin as he slept."

"But, but!" cried Abbas Khan, horrible thoughts rising in his mind,
"she was safe, she had not been dishonoured?"

"Thanks be to the Gods, she was safe, Meeah. There had been an attempt
at a marriage that afternoon; but the stout old Moolla refused to
perform it, and the ceremony was deferred till the morrow. I saw there
was time for me to do what was needed, and we three brought her away,
through the panthers' cave. Who dared to follow us?"

"And then?" cried the Khan, breathlessly and anxiously.

"Only this," continued the simple fellow; "I had a boat ready, and the
old man's property was placed in it as evening fell; and when we three
brought the girl away safely, we crossed the river, and I took them to
Kukeyra, where I have a house, and where I bestowed them safely, with
six hundred of my people there to guard them."

"And they are there now, Runga?"

"No," he replied, "they are not there; and that is what troubles me.
One of the Kukeyra men met me here to-day, and told me that the old
man had grown restless; and though Zóra had entreated him to remain,
yet he had left Kukeyra and gone to our Rajah at Wakin Keyra, who was
protecting him; and that Osman Beg had sent spies across to trace them,
and even attempted to follow with his retainers: but who can cross the
river mother if the Beydurs say nay?"

"Now may God be praised, Runga, for this protection of them! Oh, think,
if that child had come to harm! And it was a foul plot and outrage of
Osman Beg's, for which he shall answer to me as surely as the sun
shines or as the Abyssinian died. But art thou sure it was a forcible
abduction of the child?"

"There is no doubt of that. Jooma and another carried Zóra from the
bastion, as she sat looking at Cháya Bhugwuti; and only that the good
old Moolla refused, Zóra would have been married by Nika, and would
have now been in thy cousin's zenána. Yes, that is true, Meeah; I heard
it from Zóra, and others have told me since."

"He shall answer this before the King and his mother," said Abbas Khan,
fiercely. "Ever treacherous! who can trust him?"

"He has other things to answer for besides this, Meeah," was the reply.
"Look! here are more papers, more letters;" and he took a packet
from his waistband; "and I have secured all Elias Khan's Duftur, and
his scribe. There are plenty of Osman Beg's letters in it--and other
people's too, for the matter of that--quite enough to give him a seat
under the Goruk Imlee trees, and to find the executioner making him a
last salaam."

"Then he should be summoned at once, Runga."

"If you were not to go to your uncle and the King he might be; but as
it is, he had better remain. He thinks he is quite safe; and, indeed,
he is safe, for it is impossible for him to stir; but here he would
intrigue while you are away. He might even learn news of the old
Dervish, and carry off Zóra in spite of us; but now I will send word to
my people, and to the twelve thousand, that her honour is your honour
and mine; and they know what that means. I, Meeah, go to the war with
thee, for the men here who belong to the Rajah are mad to go with us,
and I will not deny them."

"Oh, true friend and brother!" exclaimed the young Khan, with a choking
sensation in his throat, and tears welling up in his eyes; "what can
I render to thee for all this aid, and thy good counsel? Yes, come
with me, Runga; we have fought before together, but none know thee but
me. Now all shall know thee, and thou shalt be honoured and rewarded.
First, let us do our duty to the King, and then," he continued, rising,
"I call the holy saints to witness, our duty will be done to others.
Hast thou eaten food, Runga?"

"No," he said, "not since yesterday; but I have bathed, and am hungry.
Tell them to give me something from thy kitchen, Meeah; and suffer me
to eat here, where I can offend no one, and put my dinner on fresh
plantain leaves. Ah! that will be a luxury, indeed!"

The servants brought to him portions of the savoury food which was
ready in the kitchen, and deposited it on a huge plantain leaf which
he had gathered. They saw him eat as it seemed to them voraciously,
but in truth little food had passed his lips for two days; and when he
had finished, they saw him wrap himself in the sheet which had before
served him as upper covering and waistband, and lying down on the bare
earth fall into a deep sleep.



CHAPTER VIII.
THE NIGHT COUNCIL.


As on the previous evening, Abbas Khan arrived at the entrance
to the council chamber at the usual hour, accompanied by Francis
d'Almeida. They had come in palanquins, for convenience sake; and,
on this occasion, Abbas Khan had dispensed with his inner mail coat
and soldier-like costume, and wore the ordinary Court dress of his
rank--simple white muslin, with a Cashmere shawl; and carried only
a light Court sword in his hand. He felt that there was no danger
now. The priest wore his best cassock and the gown of his order; and,
rejecting the advice of Maria, went in his bare feet, and sandals which
he could easily put off. His dress formed a strange contrast with
the flowing robes of his companion; and the heavy slouched hat made
it even more remarkable in comparison with the turbans of the Palace
attendants. Yet his frank, handsome face, bright fresh colour, silky
moustachios and beard, which, as a missionary, he had allowed to grow,
denoted at once elevated birth and extreme intelligence. Abbas Khan had
given him some general instruction as to his demeanour in approaching
the throne, and the worthy priest appeared by no means flurried or
anxious as to the result. As he knelt down on one knee, doffed his hat
gracefully, and bowed his head as he would have done to his own King,
the Royal lady was satisfied that the priest had seen Courts, and was
well born and bred; and her surprise was not a little enhanced by the
excellent Persian in which he replied to her inquiries after the health
of his sister and himself.

"And you speak Canarese also, I hear?" she said; "and thy sister too?"

"It is the tongue of our people at Moodgul and of our Church there,
which the beneficence of your Royal ancestor, Ibrahim, established," he
replied; "and it is more familiar to our lips than Persian, which we
have seldom need to use. In Canarese, my sister is as good a scholar as
I am, and we are now translating the New Testament, or Unjeel."

"May I be your sacrifice," cried the chief priest, who was in his
accustomed place; "but the Nazarenes have no correct version of the
Unjeel. Did not the Prophet (may his memory be blessed) denounce them?
In chapter----"

"Nay, reverend sir," interposed the Queen, "we are not met for a
religious discussion, but for State affairs; and I pray you to be
silent. Here, in the court of the refuge of the poor, my son, all men
are equal in His and my sight, whatever may be their faith. We leave
that to God, before whom we are all equal. Be seated, sir," continued
the Queen; "we have pressing business to do ere we can enter upon what
thou canst aid us in."

It seemed as if there were no place vacant, except one close to the
chief priest, who evidently did not relish the idea of being touched by
an unbeliever; and he fidgeted in his seat, crowded as much as possible
into his neighbour's, held up his scarf to his mouth, and in every way
expressed his objection to any proximity to the Padré, who in his turn
was much embarrassed. But the Brahmin Minister of Finance, whose heart
had warmed towards the Padré in hearing his own language spoken so
fluently and so well, offered him his own seat, and took that assigned
to Francis d'Almeida. Thus peace was for the present secure, but when
it might be broken by the chief priest's intolerance it was impossible
to declare.

It was a busy scene. Orders for the pay of the troops about to
march had to be signed by the Queen and by the heads of departments
present, to be paid from the treasury next morning; orders also to
district authorities on the road to provide supplies and forage at
each stage, and to have the roads made practicable for the artillery.
Public carriage cattle out at graze had been recalled; but more were
necessary, and Hyat Khan's requisitions were heavy on the city. These,
with the usual revenue and district papers to be signed and made
up, correspondence to be written, and drafts of letters to be read,
occupied a long time, and was watched by the Padré with the utmost
interest; while his neighbour the Brahmin kept up with him a lively
conversation in Canarese. He had heard of the Padré's learning from
other Brahmins, who came periodically for their dues to the Royal city;
and his manner was kind and considerate. At last, as his business was
concluded, and his assistant was tying up his bundle of papers, he
whispered to the Padré--

"I must depart, sir. Sit quietly where you are, and do not stir, unless
the Queen-Mother calls you or sends for you. Above all, beware of the
chief priest; for he would make no scruple of quarrelling with you,
even before the Queen. He barely tolerates our presence, being, as he
calls us, Kaffirs, and is certainly less tolerant of you, a Nazarene.
It would not be wise to cross him."

"Yet if he should revile my Church?"

"I say still, answer him not," returned the other, "nor speak at all,
except the Queen herself bid thee. He is most intolerant, perhaps
dangerous."

"I thank you sincerely for your warning, and I will be very discreet,
you may be sure," was Francis d'Almeida's reply; but he was not the
less determined to bear testimony in the cause of his faith, should
it be needful. Was he not a missionary of Christ, and a soldier of
the Church militant? So he sat quietly, much amused and interested
in the scene passing before him, in the multiplicity of business,
and the ease and regularity with which it was conducted. Abbas Khan
was busy with the details of the force he was to command, giving
instructions to the various leaders of companies and divisions, and
was for the present absorbed in his work, now and then exchanging a
word with the Queen-Mother, and explaining to her what was being done.
Here also he learned more of the political state of the country than
he had ever known before, or was likely to learn elsewhere. Boorhan
Nizam Shah, King of Ahmednugger, who had supported the conspiracy of
Eyn-ool-Moolk, had been defeated by King Ibrahim of Beejapoor and
Humeed Khan. Subsequently his own son Ismail had rebelled, but was
defeated by his father, who, after the battle of Hoomayoonpoor, being
seriously ill, returned to Ahmednugger as his successor, and died
soon afterwards, having nominated as his successor his son Ibrahim,
a fractious and violent youth of sixteen. The Beejapoor army, after
repulsing the attack by King Boorhan, had taken up positions at
Sholapoor and Juldroog, otherwise called Shahdroog, during the rainy
season, and the King was with these troops; but the express received
by the Queen Dowager contained the important news that King Ibrahim of
Ahmednugger was making immense preparations for an immediate invasion
of the Beejapoor territory; and though this might possibly be averted
by negotiations, yet, considering the violence of the young King of
Ahmednugger's character, such a result as was desired did not seem
probable by any means, and troops must be hurried on without delay. The
Padré saw that Abbas Khan had been the best selection possible for the
purpose, on account of his present popularity, ability, and activity;
but the prospect of being left with his sister alone in the great city
was anything but agreeable. He had, however, acquired such entire
confidence in his young friend, that he was sure he would not be left
to the issues of chance, nor unprotected.

At last the long sitting was concluded, and the Queen, rising, excused
herself for a while, and went into an inner chamber for refreshment,
while the courtiers chatted freely among themselves; and d'Almeida now
allowed his eyes to wander over the sides and fretted ceiling of the
beautiful room, to admire its rich Gothic architecture and the elegance
of its proportions and decorations; but there was an absence of light
to show all to advantage, and he thought he might perhaps, through
Abbas Khan, be allowed to see it by day. How he wondered, too, at the
immense blocks of buildings which formed the palace, for all was new to
him; and except the Palace of the Seven Storeys, and the roofs of some
of the edifices which he could see from the roof of the mansion where
he and his sister resided, he knew nothing, all else being hidden by
the high walls and towers of the citadel.

When the Queen re-entered and took her seat, all present rising to
receive her, Hyat Khan, the Kotwal, produced a list of those persons
who had been tracked and apprehended by Runga Naik Beydur, who, he
said, was without, and could give a clear account of them. He was,
certainly, only a Beydur, but might be allowed to stand before the daïs.

"God forbid! God forbid!" cried the chief priest, putting his hands to
his ears, who was evidently brimming over with suppressed fury. "I have
been sitting in this durbar for two reigns of illustrious and pious
Kings, and I never heard of a Beydur being admitted to the presence.
Pah! thooh! an uncircumcised dog--not even a Hindoo--who lives on pig,
and whose breath would taint the air of a whole city. God forbid! God
forbid!"

"And yet he is a good and faithful soldier of the State, and an honest,
God-fearing man," said Abbas Khan, stoutly. "I, for one, do not feel as
if I should be polluted by his presence. What say ye, noble friends?"
and he looked around. "As for our Queen-Mother, ye have already heard
her sentiments; and do we dare to dispute them? One thing is certain,
we shall know nothing of these prisoners unless he explains why they
were apprehended."

"True!" said the chief Kazee; "and to hear evidence is necessary to
attain justice. I care not for pig----"

If there had been any chance of a skirmish between the two learned
authorities, as some hoped who had witnessed such scenes, they were
disappointed; for the Kotwal, at a sign from the Queen, ordered
Runga to be admitted, and as he entered was shown where to make his
obeisance. And he finally stood after his own fashion on one leg,
pressing the sole of the other foot against the calf, and with his
hands joined in supplication.

"You can speak to him, Abbas Khan," said the head Kazee. "Ask him to
tell the Queen who these men are?"

"I represent," humbly returned the Khan, "that I am his commander, and
am interested, beside, in what may transpire. Can the interpretation of
the Padré Sahib be accepted? else some Brahmin might be sent for."

"The Padré's evidence I could not take," returned the Kazee, "it is not
admissible by law; but his interpretation we can accept, my Queen and
my lords, if he swear on the Unjeel. Hast thou the book, O Padré?"

"It is here, my lord," returned d'Almeida, taking a small copy from
his pocket, and removing the clean white handkerchief in which it was
wrapped.

"Place the holy book on thy head, or as thou wilt, and declare that
thou wilt interpret truly," was the Kazee's reply.

"Holy book, indeed!" indignantly snorted the chief priest. "Holy book!
sacred to Satan! Well, times are changed; a Nazarene priest and a
pig-eating Beydur before the Queen, in the Royal palace. What next, I
wonder!"

Francis d'Almeida was burning to reply, but he remembered the words of
his Brahmin friend, and was silent. "I am ready now," he said, simply,
"and I will speak truly."

"Let there be entire silence," cried one of the Court ushers by order
of the Queen, and Runga Naik began his history. We know most of it
already; but the latter portion, relating his rescue of Zóra, his
tracking of the rebel members of Elias Khan's band, the escape of the
Abyssinian after a close pursuit, gave a new interest to the narrative.
Runga himself, though dazed at first by the beauty of the room and the
presence of the Queen, of whom he had heard so much, was now assured;
and the story was told with a simple modesty and confidence which, to
every hearer present, conveyed an assurance of truth and reality. Elias
Khan had endeavoured to tempt him into disloyalty; he had promised him
money and an estate if he would cut off all the Royal outposts on the
north bank of the Krishna. "But I did not do that, mother," he cried
to the Queen in his homely speech, and stretching forth his hands; "my
people have been faithful to Beejapoor since it was a kingdom, and was
I to turn traitor for villains like Eyn-ool-Moolk and Elias? Meeah,
there, and I were old friends, and he was my superior. I went to him as
fast as I could, and three hundred of my people were to follow on foot,
but they were too late; for the day after I reached him was that of the
fight in which he slew Elias, and was well nigh slain himself. I have
heard it whispered he was a coward, but who dare say that now? I could
not bear it, and hunted down most of the men who deserted him, but some
have escaped. Let the Kotwal Sahib tell what they have said to him."

"I humbly represent to the throne," said the Kotwal, "that one and all
have confessed to having been seduced by messengers from Elias Khan,
and humbly beg their lives. They have shed no blood."

"Abbas Khan," said the Queen, in reply, "if it please thee, I give
their lives into thy hands; do with them as it is good unto thee;
unless, indeed, the Kazee demands them for trial."

"They have committed no murder, noble lady, that they should come
before me," returned the Kazee. "If they have offended, it is against
the State, and the State has power over all traitors."

"Then I accept them as our Queen-Mother's gift," said the young Khan,
rising and making three obeisances at the foot of the throne; "Hyat
Khan will help me to arrange about them. I have no fear of them, and
they have been with me in many a fair fight. But we delay, lady; wilt
thou not order the papers to be examined which were found this morning?"

"They are here, my lords," said the Queen, "and first we should hear
those in the Frangi character, and the Padré Sahib can translate them
for us. Approach, sir," she continued to Francis d'Almeida, "sit at the
foot of the throne."

"Touba! Touba!" muttered the Peer Sahib, as the chief priest was
usually designated. "For shame! for shame! an infidel sitting on a step
of the throne! Inshalla!----"

"I advise your reverence to be silent," whispered the Kotwal; "it is
necessary he should do so, and any interruption will not be allowed by
the Queen. You know what she can do if she pleases; and I say let her
alone."

The Peer Sahib made no reply; but it was clearly visible to all, that
what had been said to him had increased his previous ill-humour.

By this time the leather case had been opened by one of the Queens
secretaries, and the contents counted. The letters with the
superscription in Portuguese were then separated from the rest, which
were placed at the Queen's feet. "You will be pleased to read them and
translate them afterwards to Her Majesty. If possible in Persian; if
not, in Canarese, which she understands."

"I will translate them into Persian," was the priest's reply, "for that
is known to all;" and he took up one of the letters and began to read
it. It was of no consequence, however, being from the authorities of
Goa to Elias Khan in reference to several points in regard to transit
duties, of which the secretary made a memorandum on the back. After
several others of trivial import, came one with an elaborate refusal
of the Government of Goa to assist the designs of Eyn-ool-Moolk and
Elias Khan on behalf of Prince Ismail, which it gave the Padré much
satisfaction to expound. He had heard of the refusal of his Government
to countenance the rebellion, but here was ample confirmation under
the signature of the Governor, Don Mathias de Albuqurque, and his
councillors; and threats of denouncing the conspirators to the King of
Beejapoor in case the correspondence was renewed.

Prince Ismail's party, then, appear to have begun an intrigue with Dom
Diego, superior of the Moodgul Mission, imploring his advocacy with
the Viceroy, and offering not only increased powers to the Mission,
but large perquisites to himself; and these terms being recapitulated
from the original Persian letter, Dom Diego's own requests followed,
which the Padré read with astonishment, mingled with terror; for he had
demanded not only the large province of Dharwar as his own perquisite,
but four lakhs of hoons to maintain it and the European troops he
should need. He undertook to obtain presently two thousand Europeans
from Goa, and two thousand more from Portugal as soon as possible,
and with this force and those of the Prince he undertook to deliver
Beejapoor, with all its treasures, into the possession of Eyn-ool-Moolk
and the Prince. It was a cunningly devised scheme, and inside the
letter was found a copy of the Persian reply from Elias Khan on behalf
of his master, Eyn-ool-Moolk, agreeing to the whole, and urging Dom
Diego not to delay, and sending him a thousand hoons as earnest money
by the hands of Yakoob Khan, Abyssinian. Again the correspondence was
continued up to the time when the rebels were attacked by Humeed Khan,
and the death of Eyn-ool-Moolk; and when the translator had finished,
there was a general murmur of approbation and congratulation to the
Queen Dowager on the danger which the State had escaped, and of thanks
for the important services rendered by so able an explanation of the
letters; and the Queen herself was profuse in her acknowledgments,
given with the charming yet dignified manner of which she was so
admirable a mistress.

Little used to such profuse compliments from so exalted a person, the
simple Padré was at first overwhelmed with emotion; but he gradually
took courage, and, rising to his feet, excused himself for ignorance of
Court customs in not having at first presented the only offering he and
his sister had to make, of which he now begged the Queen's acceptance;
and, drawing the small packet of lace from his breast, unfolded the
veil and laid it at her feet. It was at once evident that she was much
gratified as well as surprised at the delicacy and elegance of the
beautiful fabric, and examined the pattern with curious interest. Nor
could she quite credit the Padré's assertion that it was his sister
Maria's own work with her needle only. Having examined it, she passed
it round to those present, but the Peer Sahib would not touch it, and
folded his hands in his robe, as though he might be contaminated.

"We can offer little in return for this priceless work," said the
Queen, when she received the veil; "nevertheless, if you will accept
this"--and she took from a cushion near her a costly Cashmere
shawl--"on behalf of your sister, we shall be gratified." And as she
spoke she handed it to one of the Court ushers, who, with the usual
dexterous flourish, threw it over the shoulders of the Padré, where it
formed a curious contrast with his plain black robe. But he could not
refuse the gift without offence, and again making an obeisance to the
Queen, allowed it to remain.

Meanwhile the secretaries had been separating the Persian
correspondence, and arranging it by names and dates, and the Queen now
desired it to be read. All that related to those who no longer existed
were put aside, but that of Osman Beg contained painful revelations. He
had offered to give up his fort to the rebel troops; he had furnished
them with information in regard to movements of troops from Beejapoor
to the westward, and had advised Elias Khan to attack his cousin's
party, which guarded the main fords of the river, and cut it off before
the floods came, and when the road to the capital would be opened. But
we need not, perhaps, follow a detail which may have been anticipated,
while there was little doubt that the letters he had received from the
leader of the rebel faction were, possibly, still in his possession.
What should be done then? As was usual with her, the Queen left this
point to the determination of the Council, reserving her opinion for
the present, and an animated discussion followed. The treachery of his
cousin in regard to the State, in advising his destruction to Elias
Khan, the treacherous abduction of Zóra, had sunk deep into Abbas
Khan's heart, and declining to be a party in the discussion, he took
his seat near the Padré, who, by this time, had taken his original
place; but he separated the Padré from the irate Peer Sahib, which was,
perhaps, fortunate.

The question most important to be decided was, what to do with Osman
Beg? Was he to be recalled at once, or sent to some distant fortress,
or to Moodgul, for detention? or was he to be brought to the capital,
and imprisoned till the King's pleasure was known? There was no
question that he should be arrested without delay, and his successor,
Meer Kasim Ali, an officer who could be entirely depended upon, was at
once named by several in the council as the fittest person, and Hyat
Khan, the Kotwal, vouched for his leaving the city before dawn. He knew
Juldroog perfectly, and was acquainted with the garrison. There was no
doubt of his surprising Osman Beg, and placing him under detention,
pending further orders; and he was at once sent for, and arrived as
the reading of the correspondence was concluded, and was ushered into
the presence--a fine soldier-like young man, somewhat older than Abbas
Khan, but with equally bold and frank features. He was immediately made
acquainted with the duty assigned to him, and a grateful smile passed
over his features as he felt that his success would involve promotion
to the grade held by Osman Beg, and he received the Royal commission,
putting it to his forehead and eyes, and making a profound reverence.

"And now," said the Queen, "we give our opinion and instructions at
once. We would not have Osman Beg, whose father is honoured among us,
and honoured by the King, imprisoned in a fortress, or sent to Dilawer
Ali Khan, at Moodgul, where intrigue may take place. We would have him
kept in Juldroog, under watchful care, till the King's return, when, in
full durbar, he may plead what he can in extenuation. You will, also,
Meer Sahib, inquire, and report to me, as soon as possible, under what
circumstances the venerable Syud, long known as the Dervish, and his
granddaughter left Juldroog, and where they are at present. Should
their place of residence be known, you are to despatch them to the
presence without delay."

"And," added the Kazee, "with the Royal permission, we ask you to
ascertain from the Kazee and Moollas of the fort whether any ceremony
of marriage, Nika or otherwise, passed between Osman Beg and Zóra-bee,
the granddaughter of the Syud Dervish, and who performed it."

"The Royal orders are on my head and eyes," returned the young man,
"and I am honoured by them. Nothing shall be left undone."

"And your escort?" asked the Queen.

"I have twenty good soldiers of my own, lady," he replied; "and when
one not in favour is to be displaced, a hint is sufficient."

"I would also ask you," continued the Queen, "to ascertain whether one
Dom Diego, the head priest at Moodgul, is still there."

"I think I can answer that question, noble Queen," said the Padré,
joining his hands. "When Abbas Khan was ill from his wound, at the
village near Talikota, I heard that Dom Diego had left Moodgul for
Goa, being succeeded by two humble priests who had taken charge of the
mission; and this was confirmed by some of my flock who came to the
fair at Talikota, who told me they were satisfied with the new comers
until I could return to them."

"And you are a physician, too, sir," cried the Queen, "as well as
a master of languages. Oh, that thou wouldst see the real Queen,
Taj-ool-Nissa, who languishes sorely, and can obtain no relief, though
we have sent even to Beeder for learned men. Will you see her, Padré
Sahib? it is not late even now, and she is still awake."

"Before I entered the Church," replied the Padré, "I studied both
medicine and surgery in my own country and in Spain, from the Moorish
physicians, who are most wise. There I learned somewhat of Arabic also,
which, perhaps, led me to the East; and though I joined the Church as
a humble servant of God, I was not without hope, like many of its
missionaries, I might use my medical skill in its service. Yea, noble
Queen, I am ready to use any humble skill I possess in behalf of the
Royal Queen, your daughter."

"There is no time like the present," returned the Queen; "our nobles
will excuse me while I conduct you to her. Rise, sir, and follow me."

The Peer Sahib could contain himself no longer--

"Astagh-fur-oolla! God forbid! Touba! Touba! Shame! Shame! that I, a
humble priest of Alla and his Prophet, whose name be honoured, should
see this. Touba! Touba! that an infidel should have honour in the
palace of Beejapoor. He a servant of God! He, an eater of pig and
bibber of wine! He, an agent of Satan, a disseminator of the abominable
doctrines which Mahomed Moostafa, Prophet of God, hath cursed! He who
worships images, who----"

It was in vain that Abbas Khan, the Kazee, and others present, strove
to stop this tirade, which, as the priest raised his voice, rose into a
shriek.

"Be silent!" he cried; "hear the words of the Prophet," and he made
a long quotation from the Koran, which we may spare our readers. "I
forbid this! I denounce the lying Feringi! I doom him to hell! I----"

The Queen stood erect on the pile of cushions which had formed her
throne, her slight figure appearing to dilate with excitement and
indignation as she stretched forth her arm and pointed her finger at
the insolent divine--

"Peace!" she cried, "Peer Sahib. This is the first time in my long life
that the piety or the hospitality of this great house was called in
question. Peace! know thy place before the throne, and be silent."

But the Peer heeded not. "It is sorcery! It is sorcery!" he cried. "Was
not she, that woman, accused of sorcery in the time of Kishwar Khan?
Did he not denounce her when he sent her a prisoner to Sattara?"

"This is too much insolence for your Majesty to hear. Pass in, we pray
thee, and leave us to silence him," said the venerable and blind Ekhlas
Khan, who sat nearest to the throne.

"Nay," returned the Queen, "I never fled from man yet, noble Khan, and
I await the Peer's homage and apology;" and she reseated herself with
dignity.

"If I allowed a harsh word to escape me in the heat of argument," said
the Peer, rising and crossing his arms on his breast, "I humbly beg
pardon; but as for that----"

"You have said enough," cried Abbas Khan; "be content The Mother is not
to be trifled with, as you know. See, she speaks."

"I forgive you," she said to the Peer, "because thou art a holy man;
but beware, for thy tongue is apt to transgress the bounds of respect.
And now, my lords, I rise again and take this respectable man of God
with me. I will not long detain ye." Nor did she. The young Queen's
apartments were close to the council chamber, and she was raised and
carried to the archway door, where a screen had been let down, and a
thin pale hand was put forth. D'Almeida feared the worst: there was a
low cough; the pulse was weak and thready, and the girl complained of
want of sleep and thirst. He could not then judge of her case, but he
could alleviate present symptoms.

"Can your Majesty send anyone with me who can be trusted to bring the
medicine? I shall seal it up with my own seal, and it will not be found
disagreeable."

"Certainly," replied the Queen; "I can send one of my own eunuchs, who
is known to Abbas Khan. But you have a messenger whom I desire to see,
that is thy sister Maria. Can she come to this poor sufferer and cheer
her? I will send a palanquin and an escort to-morrow, at noon."

"She shall wait on you with pleasure. Anywhere that she can be of use,
Maria will go, as a point of duty to God and to her order. Yes, I will
send her to-morrow."

"And she speaks Persian?" asked the young Queen, clapping her hands.

"A little," was the reply; "but Canarese better."

"Then we can all speak together, and she shall be my friend. And she is
beautiful?"

"I think her most beautiful, lady; but she is my sister, and it ill
befits me to speak. You will see and judge for yourselves."

"We may now rejoin our companions," said the Queen Regent. "And you
love Abbas Khan?" she continued, inquiringly.

"I do," replied the priest, "as I would a son."

"And have seen no fault in him?"

"None. He is true and gentle, as a brave soldier ought to be. We were
by chance cast together when his wound broke out again, and I could not
leave him till he was fit to travel. He would have died alone."

"And thy sister," asked the Queen, "do they know each other?"

"Not at all, except by hearsay; and she hath never seen or spoken to
him. In the village where Abbas Khan was ill for a month or more we had
a different lodging; and, if abroad, she was always closely veiled.
Since we have been here we lodge with a painter, for whom Maria makes
designs."

"Now may God bless thee for this assurance! I had feared that Maria's
beauty might--might----"

"Nay, lady, she is bound to God by her vow, and he is too honourable
to think of her; but I may tell you, who are as his mother, that from
snatches of his dreams when he raved and occasional remarks, his heart
hath gone out to the child who watched him in his first attack at
Juldroog, Zóra."

"Ah!" cried the Queen, smiling, "it may be so. I saw him start when I
used her name; but keep thy secret, Padré Sahib, as I will keep it, and
we will see to this when he is gone."

"I will be silent," he returned. "Had it not been that my sister hath
the same opinion, and that thou, noble lady, art as his mother, I had
not told thee; but Maria can explain all, better than I can, and I will
bid her make no concealment."

The assembly rose as the Queen entered the council hall, and, as she
seated herself, again took their places. Francis d'Almeida, being
conducted by a eunuch along a side corridor, entered by a curtained
archway lower down, and took his seat as he had done before. Abbas
Khan was completing his business with the Minister of Finance and
various other officers, and the affairs of the sitting seemed well nigh
concluded.

"Let all the officers of the army about to march appear at early durbar
to-morrow," said the Queen. "Inshalla! there need be no delay."

"All is ready, may it please you," returned Abbas Khan. "My intention
was to make a short march to-morrow afternoon, and afterwards to hurry
on as fast as possible to the Royal camp, which lies somewhere between
Sholapoor and Puraindah."

"We shall send to thy shrine at early morning, O Peer Sahib, offerings
to be distributed to the poor, and ask thy prayers for a victory over
the State's enemies. Alas! that they should be our near relatives."

"My prayers and blessing will not avail much, I fear, lady, against
what I have witnessed to-night," returned the Peer Sahib, haughtily and
ungraciously. "Those that ask for them should obey the commands of Alla
and his Prophet; nevertheless, I will submit my poor supplications to
the Searcher of hearts."

It was well, perhaps, that the Royal lady affected not to hear what had
been said, for she merely made an inclination of acknowledgment; and
directing the usual complimentary dismissal gifts to be brought, rose
after they had been distributed, and left the throne.

"Have you been mad to-night, Peer Sahib? Was your afternoon dose of
opium too strong for thee?" asked Hyat Khan, who feared no priest, and
in particular despised the Peer. "It is well she did not order thee to
my humble dwelling."

"Silence!" cried the Peer, furiously. "Begone! and let me pass;" and
gathering up the skirts of his robe, lest they should be polluted by
the touch of anyone, he struggled out of the hall, leaning on his long
staff.

"His jealousy has been aroused by you, Padré Sahib, and he is spiteful;
take my advice and do not cross him again. I will send a guard of my
people to thy lodging, they can both watch and protect."

As d'Almeida made his acknowledgments, Runga Naik, who had been busy
writing in a corner, in a large, sprawling hand, approached the new
Governor of Juldroog, and gave the letter to him.

"Take my advice," he said, "do not attempt to cross by the western
ferry above the fall; turn off the main road at Talikota; make for
Korikul, which belongs to me; ask for one Burma Naik, or, if he be
away, for Kèsama, my wife; give either of them this letter, and they
will give thee men and boats to cross the town ferry to the fort: this
will save thee more than a day's march. Thou wilt be landed privately,
close to the village; and the rest is in thine own hand, with three
hundred of my people to help thee."

"If thou wouldst only go thyself, Runga," said Abbas Khan.

"No, no, Meeah!" was the reply, the tears springing to his eyes; "where
thou goest I follow. If the Meer Sahib follows my advice, he will
secure Osman Beg ere he rises from his bed the day after to-morrow.
The people there will rejoice to be delivered from his insolence
and tyranny. By Krishna! do not send me, I should slay him; and his
life--well, it is in the Lord's hands, worthless as it is. No, not with
thee, Meeah; I must go to my people; I shall meet thee at the early
durbar."



CHAPTER IX.
A DAY IN THE PALACE.


It was late in the night before Francis d'Almeida reached his abode,
but he found his sister awaiting his arrival; and his account of the
events of the evening, after he had made up and despatched by the
Queen's messenger a sealed bottle of medicine for the young Queen, was
in the highest degree interesting to her. Francis had not intended to
tell her of the rudeness of the Mussulman priest, but she told him that
a guard of twelve men had arrived some time before, which had alarmed
the whole household as well as herself. Nor when she had ascertained
that they had been sent for their protection, could she imagine what
danger threatened them; or if there were no danger, were they to be
prisoners in spite of Abbas Khan's assurances? A few words from her
brother soon, however, explained all; and he made light of the Peer
Sahib's rudeness, which he told his sister was only what they must
expect to endure as Christian missionaries.

"We have been spoilt too much," he continued, "by the good old Nawab
of Moodgul and by our friend Abbas Khan; and in a city like this, full
of fanatics and different religious bodies of Mussulmans, we may
hardly expect to escape notice. But we have a good friend in the great
Kotwal, and under the Queen Regent's protection we should have no fear.
You will see her and her daughter-in-law to-morrow, at their special
request, and we shall accompany Abbas Khan to the Palace at an early
hour. I think you may be of use to that poor sufferer, the young Queen,
whom they believe to be under a malignant evil spell; but who is either
weakened by fever, or by some insidious complaint, which I humbly trust
may not be decline, and yet I fear it. I want you to watch, since I may
not see her face; and the eagerness with which she bade me assure her
that you would come proves to me you will be heartily welcomed. Rise
early, therefore, as I shall, and prepare yourself. Take some drawings
and work with you, and I can promise you a happy and interesting day.
You will not see much of the great Queen Regent, perhaps; but after she
has given audience to the officers about to march to-day, she may have
leisure."

Maria had no apprehension. Accustomed as she was to visit the harem of
the Nawab of Moodgul, and to friendly and intimate association with his
wife and children, she felt no embarrassment in visiting another Indian
lady, even though she might be a Queen. Accordingly rising at daylight,
she set aside what she needed to take with her; and her brother having
prepared the medicines he purposed to administer, they partook of an
early breakfast, and were ready when the palanquins sent from the
Palace arrived for them.

More than ordinarily lovely did his sister appear to Francis d'Almeida
that morning. She had selected the finest of her lawn coifs and
kerchiefs to wear, and their exquisite whiteness enhanced the rosy
colour of her complexion, and harmonised with the purity of her fair
neck and arms; while her soft brown hair, in natural ringlets, escaped
from the coif and hung about her shoulders. To anyone who had never
seen a pure European lady, she must, in spite of the sombre robe which
concealed her graceful figure, have appeared a vision of beauty.

Old Donna Silvia, the wife of the painter, took her in her arms as
she prepared to enter the palanquin, and kissed her affectionately
and warmly, and bade her fear naught; and throwing the Queen Regent's
beautiful Cashmere shawl around her head and shoulders, she entered the
palanquin, closed the doors, and proceeded onwards with her old servant
shuffling by her side.

At the gate of Abbas Khan's mansion they joined in his cavalcade,
which, as well from his own retinue as the number of officers by whom
he was accompanied, was of an imposing character. Maria would have
liked to open the doors of her palanquin and look out at the richly
dressed crowd of officers, many of them in glittering mail--at the
magnificent caparisons of their horses, bounding and prancing as they
went, and of the huge elephants which accompanied them, the incessant
clash of whose bells was almost deafening; but modesty forbade it, and
she contented herself with such glimpses as she could obtain through
the small jalousies of the doors which let in light and air. She could
catch passing glances of Abbas Khan, whose noble figure and spirited
charger were remarkable over all by whom he was surrounded, and
inwardly prayed for a blessing on him, and protection in the new scenes
of war into which he was about to plunge. She had not forgotten poor
Zóra, nor her apparently hopeless love. She could discover no trace of
her in the huge city; and far away as she must be, must inevitably,
she thought, be forgotten in the excitement of the young Khan's life.
She had not heard then from her brother the story of Zóra's violent
abduction by Osman Beg, and her strange release by Runga Naik and his
companions.

In this order the cavalcade passed on through the gloomy gate of the
citadel, till their palanquins were put down at the private door of
the female apartments of the Palace. Then, with cries of "Gósha!
Gósha!"--privacy--by the eunuchs, a high screen of cloth was raised,
and the door of Maria's litter was opened by her brother; and entering
the deep archway, she observed the tall figure of Abbas Khan at
the entrance of a wide corridor, beckoning them to advance. At the
curtained archway in front she saw him hold a brief colloquy with one
of the men who guarded it; and the curtain was raised to admit them,
as they entered what the Padré now recognised as the council room of
the previous evening.

Involuntarily Maria started, as, looking up, she cast her eyes around,
and followed the clusters of pillars which led up to the groined and
fretted roof, covered with exquisite arabesque designs in pure white
stucco, the principal lines and rosettes of which were of burnished
gilding. Never could she have imagined so beautiful an apartment from
the plain and almost mean entrance; and her brother, who had only seen
it at night, when partially lighted, was equally charmed and surprised.

"How very beautiful!" she said, in a whisper. "Can all the interior of
the Palace be like this? How exquisitely graceful is the tracery which
covers the panels of the walls, and, mingling with the light clustered
shafts of the corners and centre, leads the eye up to that richly
ornamented ceiling. Would we could linger here, and that I had time to
sketch portions of the designs."

"The Alhambra, which I once saw," returned her brother, "is perhaps
more wonderful, and even more elegant; but this has been designed,
probably, by some Spanish Moor with equal skill; and I hope you will
have many opportunities of making drawings from it; but we must not
tarry now, for the Queen-Mother awaits us;" and, leaving the council
chamber, they entered the corridor by which the Queen had proceeded
the evening before, until Abbas Khan paused before the entrance to
the private apartments, while one of the eunuchs gave notice to the
Queen-Mother of their arrival, and returning immediately bid them
enter. It was an antechamber to the room in which the Royal lady was
awaiting them; and directly they approached her, she rose and greeted
them with evident kindness and interest, bidding them welcome. When
Abbas Khan had made his usual reverence to her, he said--

"I may leave my friends with you, mother, there is no need of me as
interpreter; and it is time I should take my place in the durbar, for
it is filling fast. I will return when your Majesty has dismissed it,
if I am permitted to do so."

"Certainly, my son," she said; "but will not she take off her veil?
We are longing to see the face of one in whom we have so strong an
interest."

"Not before me, mother," returned the Khan, smiling; "but I depart, and
commit them to your care;" and he left the room.

With a modest confusion, Maria now removed the shawl which she had
thrown over her head, and also the embroidered veil by which her
features were concealed, the finely crimped coif of her order, and the
pure lawn handkerchief, being all that remained; but her soft curly
hair had escaped in some degree, and fell over her neck and bosom in
rich tresses, which, now the light touched them, shone like threads of
gold.

"Power of God!" cried the Queen, "was there ever such beauty seen?
Rise, child; let me embrace thee! Wilt thou be to me as a daughter?"

They both rose, and the Queen, stretching forth her arms, enfolded
Maria in a warm embrace, kissing her on the forehead and cheeks. "Sit
down beside me, and do not tremble. If I be a Queen to all, I can be
a mother and a friend to thee. How is it, Padré Sahib, that she is so
lovely? Is this rosy colour real, or is it the custom of ladies of your
country to paint their faces as we hear the Chinese beauties do? Nay,"
she continued, laughing heartily, "I see there is no need to doubt, for
your fair sister's rising colour betrays her, and she blushes."

"She is like our mother," he returned, "who was perhaps more beautiful.
But she is not used to compliments, which confuse her. Besides, she is
vowed to the service of God since her husband's death, and can take no
pride in self-adornment."

"And your mother lives?"

"We trust so," returned the priest; "but she hath other children near
her, who follow worldly callings. We two have devoted ourselves to the
service of the Lord, and are to her as though we were dead."

"And your sister would not marry again, for she might have done so
under your law?" asked the Queen.

"She might have done so to her worldly advantage," returned the Padré,
"for several, both nobles and wealthy, sought her at Goa; but she
preferred the service of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and took her vows
of poverty and relinquishment of the world upon her, joining me in
my humble labours at Moodgul, where we were so happy, till Dom Diego
insulted her, and Dilawer Khan sent us to your protection."

"Ye are brave people," returned the Queen, with a sigh, as it appeared,
of admiration. "And ye desire nothing, and will accept nothing. Is it
not so? Ah! where shall I find such devotion among the priests of our
faith? The higher they are in rank and presumed holiness, the more they
desire--estates, gifts, houses, elephants, money. Have you none like
these in your Church?"

"We have, indeed, lady. We have priests who live like princes, and
who rank as princes; who amass wealth and are greedy of honours. But
we poor friars, and Sisters of Charity, have no part with these great
dignitaries, and are content and happy with what God sends us, though
it be humble food and poor raiment, for are not our souls cheered and
warmed by Him; and care we know not."

"And we honour ye the more for this; and had it been seemly to do so,
we had rebuked the insolent priest who was disrespectful last night.
When my lord the King returneth he shall know of this, and respect
thee, O Padré, as I have already learned to do, in truth. But come,
Maria, I must lead thee to my little Queen Taj-ool-Nissa, and leave ye
together, while I take my place in the great assembly."

"I was about to ask, lady, whether she felt relief from the medicine I
sent last night?"

"Ah! I had forgotten, Padré Sahib; and I fear it is Maria's fault;
or is it that our poor natures too soon forget the highest benefits?
She will tell Maria more than she has told me, I dare say; but her
cough was better this morning, and she rested quietly, and had no evil
dreams, and has eaten well. But come, we must lead thee to her, Maria;
she is sitting in the balcony above the throne, where I must take my
seat presently, and thou wilt see all that passes. Come!" and taking
Maria by the hand, she led her through another antechamber into the
young Queen's presence, bidding her make the same reverential salute to
her that she had done too herself.

Taj-ool-Nissa was a slight girl, about seventeen years old; not so fair
as the Queen Regent, but with an air of good breeding and distinction
that could not be mistaken. Her seat of rich yellow satin cushions
accorded well with her full petticoat and tunic of heavy cloth of gold,
and the filmy brocade scarf of light blue muslin, which, confined
at the waist, passed over her head. Several strings of large pearls
and Venetian sequins hung round her neck, and her wrists and ankles
were ablaze with bracelets and anklets of diamonds. Her features were
decidedly pretty, though the expression seemed vacant. Naturally so,
it was possible, or under the influence of weakness, which was indeed
very visible. The contrast between the girl and the Regent Queen was
most striking; the one loaded with ornaments, yet not remarkable; the
other wearing only pure white muslin, yet with a noble, intellectual
expression which could not be mistaken.

For an instant, while the two ladies embraced each other, Taj-ool-Nissa
did not see Maria except as a black figure taller than either of them;
but when the Queen Regent took her by the hand and presented her, the
expression of wonder and admiration in the young Queen's face was even
more decided than the elder lady's had been.

Maria's expressive, soft blue eyes, her colour, the perfect whiteness
of her skin, her delicate hands and silky hair, were so different from
anything she had ever before seen, that her astonishment was even
ludicrous, for the Queen-Mother laughed heartily, and chid her for
apparent rudeness to a stranger; but this continued only for a moment,
for Maria found herself drawn gently to the young Queen's heart, and
held there.

"I have no one to be a companion to me," she said, the tears rising to
her eyes. "Our beloved mother has too many cares and too much labour to
sit with a weak, ailing girl like me, and you would be as a sister to
me, Maria. And I hear you know so much, and can teach me so much, that
my heart looks to you as it would to a dear sister. Will you be one to
me, and never leave me? See how well I am to-day, owing to your good
brother's medicine; and I slept so pleasantly and did not cough. Oh,
Maria! if he will only make me strong and well ere my lord returns, he
will be rewarded by him gratefully."

"My brother will use all his skill, lady," returned Maria; "but it is
only God who can restore you to health, and we will pray for you, if
Christians may."

"Ye are both devoted to the Lord," she replied with feeling. "Oh! pray
for me, and He will hear; but be seated near me that I may feel and
caress you, and we can look out from the balcony into the great hall
while the durbar is held; for all you will see, warriors and chiefs,
are going to the aid of my lord and King. May God bring him to me
safely!"

"My brother has sent some medicine for you," said Maria; "and if you
will call for the person who is to have charge of it, I will give her
directions."

"It is too precious, Tajoo," which was the familiar appellation of the
young Queen, "to have any keeper but me," said Queen Chand, "and I will
ask your brother, Maria, what to do with it when I return. Till then,
sit here and see what we do, and he can feel Tajoo's pulse, if he will,
meanwhile."

As she passed out they heard her speaking to Francis and a eunuch, who
a moment afterwards summoned them both to the door. Although he could
not see Taj-ool-Nissa, Maria's description of her was sufficient, and
her own assurance that she already felt better was very encouraging.

"She has narrowly escaped the decline which precedes consumption, for
they have been keeping her too low; but as she gains appetite she will
eat freely, and will do well if the Palace doctors and old women will
let her alone."

"What did your brother say?" asked Taj-ool-Nissa, eagerly. And when
Maria had explained it to her, she said, "He need not fear; I will do
faithfully all he directs, and my beloved mother will give the medicine
to me, and I will take it only from her hands. But tell him that I have
always been delicate. I was so at Golconda, of which my dear father
is the King; and he hoped I should be well here, which is a healthier
place. And for a time I was better, and have even been out hunting with
my lord and our mother; but lately I have fallen back again, and I have
mourned in my heart that I should see my dear lord no more. Oh, Maria!
he is so noble and so kind to me; he hath none else to love but me!"

And as she spoke, her large liquid eyes filled, and she laid her head
on Maria's shoulder and sobbed gently, smiling through her tears. That
place seemed to be a refuge to her already. "Hundreds of the ladies
of the city come to visit me, and some pity me, Maria; but there is
no one to whom my heart goes forth but thee. But, hark! the nobut is
beating, and we must take our seats in the balcony." Then, drawing a
warm Cashmere shawl about her head and body, she took her usual place.

They looked out over the wide, lofty hall of audience, which has been
described before. To Maria's perception it was a wondrous sight, both
in regard to the hall itself and its magnificent proportions, and
also as to the level space beyond, now a rich green sward filled with
troops, whose armour and weapons glinted and flashed far more brightly
in the unclouded sunlight than they had done on the day of the ordeal.
The interior of the hall, though in shadow, was brighter by far than on
that occasion; for the sunlight through the noble entrance archway--it
is ninety-two feet in span--reached a considerable distance into the
hall at that comparatively early hour.

All the commanders and officers of the army about to march, attended
by their standard-bearers, had already taken their seats in rank down
the hall, which, as there were no pillars, arches, or other obstruction
to the sight, seemed almost to expand as the crowds of chiefs poured
into it. Then the deep kettledrums of the nobut began to beat; and as
the Queen Regent entered and took her seat upon the throne, all stood
up and bowed themselves before her with profound reverence. Abbas
Khan, who stood near the steps of the throne, as it were, leading the
movement.

"Is it not gorgeous, Maria!" exclaimed her companion, clapping
her hands in joy. "Does not your heart swell at the sight? And
they are all my lord's, and will go and fight for him. Hark to the
shouts, 'Futteh-i-Nubba!' ('Victory to the Prophet!') 'Deen! Deen!'
'Futteh-i-Shah Ibrahim!' Oh, Maria! I feel as though I could go and
fight with them for my dear, my noble lord; and, oh, our mother would
go if she were at liberty, for when her husband was at war she was a
warrior too, and never left his side. But, ah! I have been weak, and my
king would not let me go. And I tell you truly, Maria, my father has as
many soldiers as my lord, but he has no hall like this. Our durbar is
a small place in comparison, but the troops assemble below the black
terrace, and we used to look at them from the terrace of the palace.
When the durbar is over I will take you to the rooms I like best, for
they are higher than these; and if you open the windows you can see the
whole city at your feet. All mine! all mine, Maria! because it is my
lord's."

Thus she prattled on in high spirits, though Maria feared for the
excitement, while the business of the durbar proceeded. One by one, as
the names of the commanders were called, and the amount of their forces
cried out, they presented the hilts of their swords to the Queen Regent
and received her blessing; and many of them, rejoining their men,
marched them forth to the place of assembly. But some remained, and
Abbas Khan was the last to offer his homage and take leave to depart.
As he came up to the steps of the throne the Queen motioned him to
come to her, and with her own hands tied round his right arm a small
light green muslin scarf bordered with silver tissue, in which a coin
had been folded in the name of the Imám Zamin, as she whispered, "Go,
my son; honour and advancement are in thine own hands, and I know thou
wilt not fail me or the King. Go; may Alla keep thee and restore thee
to me as safely as I dismiss thee."

Then, as the Queen rose, the kettledrum sounded again, and Abbas Khan,
stretching out his arm over his head, cried with a loud, manly voice,
"Victory to our Queen-Mother!" which was taken up by those who filled
the hall, and by the thousands without; and in a short time the hall
and plain beyond were empty, except for a solitary court usher, or
other attendant, who, flitting about singly, gave to the vast edifice
an appearance almost of desertion.

As Abbas Khan passed the private entrance he sent word to the Padré to
come to speak with him, and waited in the street for him. "How is the
little Queen?" he asked. "Tell me truly for my lord the King."

"She is very delicate," was the reply; "but I do not fear. If my
directions are fulfilled, she will ultimately recover; and, though she
may never be strong, she will pass an easy, happy life. But if she be
neglected, I fear the worst. My lord, I will see to her as much as
possible myself; and for part of every day Maria will be with her and
direct her."

"And now farewell, my friend," said Abbas Khan, "for I have yet
business at home, and we must assemble at Allapoor before sunset.
Be careful of yourselves, and may Alla keep you. Do not cross the
ill-natured old Peer Sahib; yet do not avoid him, or show any fear of
him, nor, indeed, of anyone, for our noble Queen-Mother is your true
friend and protector. Do not stay long to-day, for she is excited and
wearied, but go every day to her, and take Maria with you; she can do
more for Taj-ool-Nissa's happiness and the King's than she imagines. If
you are at your house soon, come to me once more before I leave; but as
the third watch begins to strike, I must put my foot in the stirrup and
can wait for no one. Maria will often see my aunt at the Palace; let
them be loving friends, as they should be, and may God have you in his
keeping."

"What can I say for your kindness, my lord?" returned the Padré. "Our
humble prayers attend you. Be not too rash if there be war, for a good
leader ought not to expose himself to undue danger. All else I will
remember, and the poor little Queen shall be closely watched. Maria was
once in a similar condition, and I feared for her; but you see how
healthy she is now."

It was no easy matter to get away from the Palace. Taj-ool-Nissa had
taken Maria up to the set of her own private apartments she most
liked to live in. They were under the terraced roof, and were both
lofty and airy, commanding, as she had said, a view over the whole of
the citadel, including the elegant Palace of the Seven Storeys, and
the city, as far as the high ground beyond Tórweh, a wide expanse,
which was filled with noble palaces, terraced roofs, with streets,
mosques, and minarets without number. To the north the huge mass of the
mausoleum of Mahmood Adil Shah towered over all; and beyond the wall
was the broad plain of Allapoor, dotted over with the white tents of
the army.

They were interrupted by the Queen Regent, who appeared weary and
anxious, as she threw herself on a pile of soft cushions and pressed
her temples with her hands. "Alas!" she cried, "alas! and woe that
it falls to-night to despatch our army against my own kinsfolk of
Ahmednugger. Pity me, both of ye, my children! May such necessities as
mine be far from ye. But they are factious and desperate, and would
invade us if they were not checked. Yet I pray they may return within
their boundary before there be blood shed. So grant it, O Lord most
mighty!"

Then she was silent for a while, and seemed to pray; but in a few
moments she looked up more brightly, and rose to a sitting posture. "I
have been taking my instructions from your good brother, Maria, about
Tajoo's medicine, and talking to him about his life, and about the
Dervish of Juldroog, and Zóra. He says you have, or had, a drawing of
her made by yourself. Is it in your book? If it be, let me see it."

Maria feared she had left it behind at her house, but found it in
the portfolio; and as she glanced at it, thought she had never done
anything more correctly. It was a faithful likeness of the girl, with
her sweet lips parted as if to speak; an earnest, glowing face, to
be loved at first sight. She put the drawing into the Queen's hands,
and observed her start visibly. "What a dear, loving face it is!" she
exclaimed.

"Yes, it is all that," returned Maria; "and her heart is the same. I
could show you a letter which reached me only yesterday, which she
has written as she speaks, if your Majesty would like to see it;" and
taking a small case from the pocket of her robe, she placed it in the
Queen's hand. It was that we have already seen.

"It is charming, indeed," she said; "and I think there is a clue in my
mind as to the person remembered."

"Ah!" cried Maria, "I had forgotten that. I ought not----"

The Queen smiled as she interrupted the fair speaker. "Have no
concealment from me, Maria; for he is my son, and I am her truest
friend if she can be found."

"Found!" exclaimed Maria; "why she is at Juldroog, surely?"

"Alas, daughter! man's passion has been busy there also. Osman Beg
offered her violence, but she was rescued by Runga Naik; and her
grandfather and herself are wanderers. Yet she is safe, and we may be
able to recover her. Osman Beg we have removed from his office, pending
the King's arrival and pleasure."

Then Maria remembered the scene of the cataract, and the dead panther
lying beneath the bastion, and Zóra's dread of the libertine Nawab; and
was thankful for her rescue and escape. "He ought to be rewarded, that
brave Runga, for he loves that child, and would give his life for her."

"And he shall be rewarded, Maria; for he is, indeed, a noble fellow,
simple and truthful."

"Who is Zóra?" asked Taj-ool-Nissa; and she looked at the drawing,
which was wonderful in her eyes.

"One who is very dear to Maria, and will, I hope, be dear to thee,
Tajoo; but let Maria go now, for thou shouldst take thy medicine, and
after it thou art ordered rest. I, too, am already weary, and would
sleep awhile before the afternoon sitting."

"And Maria will come to-morrow, mother?"

"Certainly," said the Queen, answering for Maria, who felt as if excuse
would be impossible.

When Abbas Khan returned home he found his aunt cheerful and resigned
to his unavoidable absence. The family astrologer had predicted a
favourable journey, leading to honour; and it was Thursday when the
Rujub-ool-Ghyb pointed to the north, the way he was to go. Other homely
proceedings had removed all doubts. Yet the thought that to stay behind
would have been a disgrace, and the charge of so large a body of troops
would lead to high honour; above all, that her boy would be with his
uncle and his foster-brother, the King, comforted her.

On his own part, he could only commit the Padré and his sister to
her care; and ask her if she heard of the arrival of the Dervish of
Juldroog in the city at any of the shrines to send for him, and offer
him her hospitality till he should return himself, as he trusted
shortly, and perhaps his granddaughter might be with him.

So the dear old lady embraced him, and tied a coin, dedicated to the
Imám Zamin, in a green scarf upon his arm, with a fervent prayer. Her
cheeks were wet with tears, but she had never seen him depart with so
much confidence as now. Then as the Palace gongs sounded the third
watch he mounted his horse and rode out of the courtyard; and the
large nagaras or kettledrums of his household guards beating their
hollow booming notes, they were taken up by those of the force, some of
which through the north or Delhi gate were already in motion along the
Allapoor road.

He had barely departed, when the Padré and his sister reached home,
and sent word to the old lady that they had to deliver a message from
the Palace, and would come, if permitted, through the garden; and a
kind answer being received in reply, they went to her. Maria had not,
as yet, seen the Lady Fatima, and found her just the dear, kindly
person she had imagined, and she was taken to her breast with unfeigned
affection. On Maria mentioning that her brother was without, she
desired a woman-servant to bring him in to her apartment. "I am too old
not to be seen by a man of God," she said, laughing; and as Francis
entered, she rose and saluted him.

"Your sister and I have already dispensed with ceremony," she said,
"and I beg you to dispense with it also Señor Padré. I am a plain,
homely woman, and desire to know one who has rendered such inestimable
service to my son. And his wound is well?"

"Almost," he replied. "I have no fear about it; and he will be careful
now, for it only requires rest."

Then he delivered the Queen's message, that she would bring Maria
with her the next day, which she gladly assented to do; and gradually
leading them to speak of Juldroog and their hosts there, she said
frankly, "Ah! I fear Meeah left his heart there. Can you describe Zóra,
whose name he murmured in his dreams?"

"I can show you a poor likeness of her," replied Maria, taking the
drawing from her portfolio. "This is true, but it is not equal to her
beautiful, innocent face."

"Ya, Alla! thou art merciful," said the old lady. "Such an one I had
dreamed of for him; and I am thankful that such a face lies at his
heart. May she be his in the end. And she loves him, Maria?"

"Nay," she said, modestly, "I cannot say; but her letter, which I may
show to his mother, is, I think, true. Listen, and I will read it. Oh!
that the motherless child could obtain such a protector." Then they
conversed long upon past events, and Francis and his sister returned
late to their home, grateful but wearied by the events of the day. And
till the King's return the intercourse between Donna Maria and the
Royal inmates of the Palace continued to afford deep gratification
to all; while, under the skilful care of the Padré, the young Queen
regained health and strength such as she had not enjoyed for a long
time previously. She had proved an apt scholar in ornamental work, had
made progress in drawing, and in reading Persian under the instruction
of the old teacher who had taught her husband the King. Her former
lassitude, weariness, and petulance had disappeared, and, instead, her
bright, simple, ingenuous nature promised to be the foundation of a
happy and useful life.


END OF BOOK II.



BOOK III.


CHAPTER I.
A RAPID MARCH.


The new Governor of Juldroog was a bold, active young officer, by no
means likely to delay in assuming charge of the first considerable
office with which he had been entrusted. Taking with him ten picked men
of his own retainers, on whom he could thoroughly depend, and relying
on the effects of the Queen's commission upon the present garrison of
the fort, he left Beejapoor not long after midnight; for, accustomed
to move anywhere at the shortest notice, he had little else to do
than order his men to be ready, to give a few simple directions in
his house, and to warn his scribe and secretary, Jewun Rao, an active
young Brahmin, skilled in writing both Persian and Mahratta. All this
was soon accomplished, and before the day broke the little party, with
their lightly-loaded baggage ponies, were some miles on their road
southwards, travelling at a steady pace, as befitted persons who could
not risk failure by too great haste. They avoided, too, the larger
villages and small towns; and, as all knew the country perfectly, they
had no difficulty in following the nearest routes without guides.

The day was cool and overcast, with a fresh breeze blowing from the
south-west, which rendered travelling pleasant; and as there had been
no rain for some days, the roads and the country in general were quite
dry, and easy to traverse. About noon the party halted under a grove
of mango trees, by which a small stream ran, and preparations were
made for a good meal, which, indeed, was needed, and welcome to every
one, for half the journey was already accomplished; and after taking
a little rest they again mounted and pushed on. Here and there, as
they passed near villages, the bastions were manned by matchlock men;
but the Royal flag, which the Governor used as his standard, was too
well known to be disputed, and as the evening closed in, they found
themselves on the borders of the Beydur territory, only a few miles
from their final destination, Runga Naik's town of Korikul. Now a doubt
arose as to whether it would be most advisable to halt where they were
for the night, or to proceed; but, all things considered, and to give
rest to their horses, they determined to stay where they were.

The Patell, or head officer, who chanced to be a Mussulman, and the
other authorities being summoned in the Queen's name, came, humbly
offering forage and shelter and such food as the place afforded, while
the Moolla conducted them to the humble mosque, and bade them welcome.
The hospitality of an Indian village is generally very sincere when
those who need it belong to the ruling Government of the country, and
come in a peaceful cause; and the new Governor of Juldroog was no bully
to extort what he could obtain by conciliatory request. Comparatively
soon, therefore, a sheep was slain, and converted into savoury kabobs,
with the accompaniment of an excellent pilao, to which our friends, we
need hardly say, did ample justice, for their first meal of the day had
only been a very light and unsubstantial one. After it was over the
Patell was summoned, and questioned as to the nearest road to Korikul,
which none of the party had seen.

"Korikul!" exclaimed the Patell, in amazement; "that is not your way
to Moodgul, if you are going there! Runga Naik's people are not used
to the sight of soldiers of the Queen, and are likely to give you a
rough reception, Meer Sahib. Of course I can give you a guide if you
wish one, and my own son shall attend you, who is well known there; but
still I advise you to avoid the place, and go by the high road, where
there are good boats at the ferry, for the river is not fordable yet."

"But we have business with Runga's people; and with this," and he drew
the chieftain's letter from his breast, "we shall, I hope, have no
trouble."

"It is, indeed, Runga Naik's writing," said the Kurnum, or village
scribe, "and sealed by his seal, and addressed to his wife, Késama,
and to Burma Naik, who is in charge of the place; but for all that it
depends upon your business there, Sahib, what sort of a reception you
get; and the Patell's son, whom they know, will be able to explain all
you need. Or shall I come myself?"

"If I can only get speech of them, I will explain my own business,"
said the Governor; "and it is private, so that I have to tell it
myself. Settle among yourselves who had best accompany me, and be ready
before daylight; for as soon as the horses have had rest we ought to
proceed, and there will be plenty of light from the moon."

"Yes, you should leave this soon after the second watch of the night,"
returned the Kurnum; "and while you sleep we will settle who is to go.
There will be no trouble, Meer Sahib. You do not want any of them."

"Not I," was the reply. "Runga and three hundred of his men march
to-morrow with the army, and I am to tell this, and something else,
which is, as I said, private. Now let me sleep, Rao Sahib, for I am
somewhat stiff and tired."

"It is time to get up, Meer Sahib," said the Kurnum, some hours later,
shaking the shoulders of the sleeper. "I am ready myself, and the
Patell, who will not trust his son, is ready also. He and his wife are
seeing to a light meal which you had as well eat before you start, and
your men and servants are taking theirs. So get up, sir; your horses
are already saddled."

"How I have slept, to be sure!" said the Meer Sahib, yawning; "and I
could have lain there till daylight; but I shall be ready directly;"
and a servant entering with a vessel, poured water over his hands and
feet, while the whole ablution was quickly completed, and the slight
breakfast was a savoury and unexpected pleasure. Then the stout old
Patell came ready equipped for travel, apologising for his early
disturbance of his guest. "But the road is long and very stony," he
said, "and I go with you because I know Burma well, better than the
Kurnum, for he hates Brahmins in general, and, if he happens to be in a
bad humour, will open the gate to no one. If he thought you wanted him
or any of his people to account for anything, your first welcome would
be a shower of matchlock balls which would empty some of your saddles."

"I am heartily obliged to you, my friend," replied the Meer Sahib. "By
all means take the matter into your own hand. With any one but a Syud,
as you are, I should be suspicious; but I can depend upon you. Now I
am ready, Bismilla! let us proceed;" and with an echo of the cry from
his men, the party set out at as quick a pace as the narrow path would
allow.

At first it led through fields; but when they ceased, a short thorny
jungle began, while so narrow was the path that only one person
could proceed at a time. This thorny tract was in fact the frontier
of the Beydur district, and was kept as unbroken as possible to
keep out enemies or marauders, as also parties of the clan who might
be returning pursued from freebooting expeditions in the adjacent
countries. Every path that led into the open country beyond was made
or left as crooked as possible, constantly breaking into other smaller
ones, which, unless the right one were known, led into wilder spots, or
ceased altogether.

They were tracks, too, that could easily be defended upon any
emergency. Sometimes small breast-works, like low walls of rough
stones, crossed the road, which could be held against a large number
by a few men; and, again, similar breast-works occupied the crests
or sides of low rocky hills, or isolated piles of granite rock. At
night the tracks, the thorny bushes, and rude fortifications seemed
more formidable than they really were at daylight; and the dim moon,
partially overcast with clouds, made every object indistinct and
mysterious after a strange fashion.

The young leader saw at once that, without a very competent guide, he
and his men might have wandered through these ever-varying tracks and
jungles, which continued for several miles, without a hope of finding
their way to their destination; and it was fortunate, indeed, that he
had chanced to find a friendly village and a hospitable Patell of his
own faith whom the Beydurs of Korikul could trust.

"We could never have found our way, Sheykhjee," said the Governor,
"without you or without torches, and I am grateful to you."

"You would not have discovered it with them, Meer Sahib," returned his
companion. "If torches had been seen gliding about in this jungle you
would have found yourselves beset speedily and helplessly. There would
have been no parleying with you; but, instead, you would have been in
the power of my not over scrupulous friends. It is, indeed, a mercy
that you did not attempt it. But see, the last small pass brought us
out of the jungle and the rocks; and we are now in the open country,
which, as you will see, is fertile and well cultivated; for the Naik
of Wakin-Keyra is careful of his people. Now we can push on faster,
Meer Sahib; and we shall be at the gates of Korikul by daylight, or
soon after; shall we not, Ramana?" he asked of his horn-blower, who was
walking beside his master's palfrey, holding on by the crupper.

"Sooner, perhaps," said the man; "and you need not arrive before the
gates are opened for the day."

So they proceeded, answering challenges from village towns and bastions
by a few notes on the Patell's horn, which seemed to be understood,
for they were not molested. Gradually the chill wind which precedes
dawn blew over the face of the country, and moaned through the trees
they were just clearing. Packs of jackals began their last howlings
before they went to rest, and others took up their cries, which
seemed to extend far and wide. Lapwings and plovers had roused with
the last watch of the night, and piped or wailed to each other as they
took their early flights; or, roused by the travellers, flew up into
the air, and, caught by the wind, flew screaming to leeward. The moon
was fast sinking into a belt of dark grey clouds near the horizon,
while the eastern sky showed a perceptibly brighter tint which spread
gradually over that region, though, as yet, there was none of the
colour of dawn. Then, on the banks of a small stream, the Patell called
a halt, waist cloths were spread, and the early prayer said by all the
Mussulmans of the party; and, after it, hookahs went round with many
a jest and laugh of good companionship. As the cocks began to crow
and the dogs to bark in a village not far off, they mounted again and
pursued their way.

As daylight increased, it would have been difficult, perhaps
impossible, for the young leader of the party to have made his way
through the country without his guide, for at every village men armed
with long Beydur matchlocks manned the bastions and gate-towers of the
villages, as well as the central place of refuge, which, in appearance
and size closely resembling a Martello tower, commanded the village
and adjacent approaches. Drums were beaten, the village horn-blowers
blew quivering blasts upon their instruments, and men shrieked and
yelled in that peculiar manner which, when Beydurs are excited, is not
pleasant to hear; but a few notes from the guide's horn seemed to have
the invariable effect of quieting the commotion, and in most instances
parties of the village guards ran out to hold a brief colloquy with
the old Patell and his companions, only to be assured of peaceable
intentions and the Queen's service. The Governor saw that all the
villages, neatly built of the laminar limestone of this part, and
covered with thinner portions like slate, were evidently prosperous
and thickly inhabited; and that their lands were well cultivated and
bore heavy crops of grain and pulse, while the people were comfortably
clad and cattle were abundant. If the Beydurs were vicious and robbers
without their boundaries, as they had the reputation of being, they
were, at least, quiet and industrious within; watchful and prepared to
resist any irruption of marauders from without.

The sun was just rising when the old Patell, who was leading, stopped
and pointed out smoke, which appeared above a grove of tamarind trees
at a little distance; and as they gained the summit of a slight rising
ground, the town of Korikul lay just before them. In the centre was
a castle, with walls about fifty feet high, and towers well built of
stone, from the highest of which floated the standard of Runga Naik,
being a large green field with a white border, and a figure of Hunooman
(the Monkey God) and patron saints of the Beydurs displayed on it;
while similar flags were flying from the gate towers and bastions. Some
neat buildings in the upper part of the castle, cleanly whitewashed,
were evidently the dwelling places of the family; and below was a large
open courtyard, which led into other yards--all surrounded with stone
walls, with bastions at intervals--and containing large stacks of grain
and forage. The entrance to the outer gate of the castle was intricate,
leading through a succession of narrow traverses between bastion
loopholes for musketry. Before modern artillery such a place could not
be held for an hour; but at the period of this chronicle the Castle
of Korikul was a strong place, and could be defended by a thousand or
more stout Beydurs, many of whom lived in the town and others in the
villages around, who held lands for their services--all forming part of
the numerous militia of the province, which was twelve thousand strong.

The space around the outer walls of the castle, and between them and
the inner wall--which was also of stone, and protected by circular
bastions--was filled with narrow irregular streets, and stone houses
roofed with slate, tiles, or thatch, as it pleased the owners. One
street--broader than any other, and leading from the gate to the
castle, or palace as it was called--was pointed out by the Patell
as the Bazar, in which there were shops of cloth merchants, money
dealers, braziers, and grain and flour dealers. Beyond the inner walls
was a large populous suburb of weavers, each house having its yards
for dressing yarn for the loom; while, mingled with them, were dyers'
yards, where white yarn was dyed of various colours to suit the
manufacturers. A small stream ran past the town, the bed of which was
already crowded by bathers, washers of yarn, cattle drinking before
they went to graze, or standing and lowing in the shallow pools.
Altogether, with the fine tamarind and mango trees around, the low
rugged hills covered with brushwood, stretching into the distance, the
scene was cheerful, prosperous, and peaceful; and a softened beauty
seemed to pervade all the landscape.

Such was the thriving town of Korikul at the period we write of. But
it is sadly different now. The outer walls and bastions as well as the
inner ones, are broken down in many places, part of the castle has
fallen in, and the whole is in a ruinous condition. The town is full
of heaps of stones and earth which once formed substantial houses, and
the Petta, or weavers' suburb, has almost disappeared. The chief, a
descendant of Runga Naik, no longer resides in the ancient castle, but
in one of the outlying buildings, which may have been that inhabited
by Burma. He retains his ancestral lands, and the Beydur militia on
the frontier are under his charge; but heavy oppressions and exactions
drove most of the families of weavers from the town; their places have
not been filled, and though some of the old stock remain, the amount of
manufacture is not a tithe of what it used to be. As to the Beydurs,
they have no forays now, no expeditions into more peaceful lands to
boast of, or wealth of spoil. They are reduced to the condition of
quiet husbandmen and farmers, retaining, however, their pride of race,
kept up by recitations by their bards of the deeds of their ancestors.

From the rough character of the country beyond the town, and, indeed,
surrounding it on two sides, it was evident that the open cultivated
tract did not extend further; and this, we may observe, resulted from
the change from the trap and limestone formation to the rugged granite
hills, and strange piles of rocks, which continued to the ravine of the
cataract and to Juldroog, about eight miles beyond, to the south.

As the strange party stood for a few minutes on the summit of the
ridge, it was evident that they were observed by the watchmen in the
castle towers, for drums were beaten, horns blown, and a general
stampede of people and cattle ensued from the river bed and fields
around. Then some matchlock shots were fired, and a ball from a heavy
wall gun or field-piece which stood upon one of the castle bastions,
which went whizzing over their heads at a high elevation.

"That was not meant for us, Meer Sahib," said the Patell, laughing,
"but only as a warning. These poor Beydurs have many enemies, and they
need to look out carefully against surprises. Blow, Krishna," he said
to the horn-blower beside him; "let us see if that satisfies them."

This time the blast was much longer and more elaborate, and ended with
a wonderful flourish, which did the performer much credit; and almost
immediately was answered by exactly the same blast from the tower of
the castle. "That is Krishnya's horn, and his master is with him. I see
the old man," said the horn-blower "and it was a friendly blast."

"Who, then, are the Mussulman soldiers with him, and what has he to do
with the King's men?" said the head watchman. "Go and tell Burma Naik
or the lady, while I go to the gate and inquire. It seems something
uncommon."

The lady Keysama had been long astir. She was an active, homely woman,
with a decidedly uncertain temper, amenable to none but her husband,
whom she feared as well as respected, and loved, in her own way, very
faithfully. In her Runga Naik had absolute confidence, for fear was
unknown to her; and had there been occasion at any time, she would
have defended the castle while one stone remained on another. The lady
was a practical and active housewife, too; and, on the churning day,
when ghee was to be made, and Brahmins feasted, and the whole house
must be absolutely pure, it was not likely that fresh plastering the
floors with liquid mud would be neglected. This was a duty which the
lazy hussies, who were her slaves, could not be trusted with; and
accordingly the town trumpeter found her overlooking the work, with her
sáré tucked in above her knees, and a chubby child sitting astride on
her hip, in the long front verandah of the entrance to the castle.

"What hast thou been blowing thy horn so much for, Bheema, disturbing
everybody? If thou wantest to blow, couldst thou not have gone into thy
fields and scared away the birds?"

"But, lady, some people are at the gate and demand entrance in the name
of the Queen Chand."

"Tell them to go away. If they don't go, wake Burma Naik, and tell him
to fire on them. Be off, and do not interrupt me! Ah! dost thou dare
to look up at my girls, Bheema," she continued, aiming a blow at him
with the long bamboo staff on which she was leaning. "Away with thee,
impudent, and do what I tell thee."

"Unless Burma comes to her, I might as well talk to a stone," the man
muttered to himself, as he turned away; "and Burma is asleep after the
feast on wild hog he had last night. I hope Arjóona has awoke him, for
I dare not."

That had apparently been effected some time, for as the horn-blower
entered the outer court of Burma's house, he saw him sitting in his
usual place. He was tying a checked handkerchief round his head,
loosely and very much awry; his face was bloated, greasy, and swollen;
his eyes red, and with evident signs that his potations had been
long and deep the night before. He was yawning, and spluttering
out Canarese oaths at every interval, and was, indeed, by no means
pleasant to behold. We have seen him before, a stout, active soldier,
assisting little Zóra to escape; but now he was in a different mood,
and of different aspect. The vermilion marks on his forehead, nose,
cheekbones, and eyebrows, were blurred and partly rubbed off; his hair
was dishevelled, and hung about him in unkempt locks; and the scowl
on his face bespoke impatience of anything he might have to hear, and
vexation that his sleep had been broken.

"The King's soldiers," he said, contemptuously, "what do they want?
What brings the King's soldiers here? What induced that meddlesome old
Patell, Sheykh Abdoolla, to show them the way? By the Gods! he shall
answer for it; let him look to his cattle pens. What does he say? what
does he want?"

"He will not tell me," replied the man, "nor the Chitnees, who is
talking to him from the bastion by the gate. He says the jemadar of
the Royal troops has an order from the Queen, and a letter from Runga
Naik to our lady; but he will give up neither except to you and to her
together."

"Some requisition for forage, or grain, or money, I suppose," returned
Burma, with a sneer; "for the Queen does not write to us except to make
a demand. Why did you not tell me this first, and they would have been
gone before now with a shower of balls flying after them."

"But," urged the man, putting up his hands in supplication, "what about
the master's letter? There may be some order in it."

"If there were," retorted Burma, "he would have sent some of the men
with it, not the Queen's jemadar. It is no letter of his, but only a
decoy. Go, tell the men to give them warning, and if they don't depart,
to fire on them."

Thus it seemed very probable that no message would be delivered, and
the Queen's party and their guide driven away; but the last spokesman
to Burma Naik was pertinacious, and insisted that Runga's letter should
be received, even from the Mussulman leader.

"Suppose there is anything important in it, and you turned it away. I
do not think you would be very safe, master, if my lord knew of it,
though you are Burma Naik."

"Humph!" grunted Burma, "there is something in that; and what does the
lady say?"

"She will have nothing to do with it, and you are to act as you please.
If there is anything addressed to her, you can come and tell her."

"How many want to enter? And how many are there in all?"

"Ten men and their leader, with old Sheykhjee and his Kurnum, and some
grooms and baggage ponies, and a Brahmin."

"Sons of vile mothers!" exclaimed Burma, as he aimed a blow at the
horn-blower. "Could ye not have told me this before? By your long face
one would have thought there had been five hundred of the King's horse.
Go! Admit the leader, his grooms and scribe, old Sheykhjee and the
Kurnum. We shall soon get to the bottom of all. Tell the rest to remain
without."

All this had taken much time, and the Meer Sahib's patience was well
nigh exhausted; but the old Patell kept him quiet. "Burma Naik was
drunk last night, I suspect," he said, "and was not easy to wake, nor
in good humour when awakened. Be patient, and we shall soon know."

Nor, indeed, was it long before the horn-blower and his companion
arrived; and, speaking from the wicket of the gate, saluted the Meer
Sahib and the Patell, and informed them they had permission to advance
and present the letter. The ponderous gate was then opened, and, the
Patell leading, both entered the outer enclosure, and rode up the Bazar.

The residence of Burma formed part of the entrance to the outer court
of the castle, for he was a near relative, and entitled to dwell in
the vicinity of the lord of Korikul. So they were ushered in. They
found Burma Naik more presentable than he had been--now washed, and
with plain but decent clothes. His usual seat had an embroidered cloth
spread over it, cushions were placed for others, and his sword and
shield laid out before him. As they approached he rose and saluted
them with an awkward but courteous gesture, and bid them be seated,
apologising for the precautions he was obliged to take against
marauding parties, which came upon all sorts of pretences. "And where
are the letters?" he asked. "They say there are some from the Queen,
and from my cousin Runga Naik, to me and the lady Keysama. Pray
deliver them. This, indeed, is from the Queen," he continued, observing
the Royal seal, and he put the letter to his head and eyes; "and it is
addressed to the lady Keysama in Persian, which I cannot read, and in
Canarese, which I can read, by Runga Naik himself. There is no doubt
now; may I open that addressed to me?"

"Certainly," returned the Meer Sahib; "you will then see what is to be
done, for Runga Naik wrote it before me with his own hand."

"Sure enough, it is his own seal and superscription," said Burma,
opening the cover, while, unfolding the letter, his eyes ran rapidly
over the contents. "Will I help, O Meer Sahib!" he cried, the whole
of his face brightening with excitement. "Ah, sirs, it is a welcome
service to perform; and you, too, are my lord now," and he rose and
saluted him. "Under Runga Naik's order, this place and all that are in
it are at your disposal. I grieve only that there was any semblance of
rudeness shown to you. I will send for your companions, and ye are all
to be the lady Keysama's guests as long as ye stay, yet ye ought not to
delay."

"We are ready to go on now, sir," said the Meer Sahib, "if it be
advisable."

"Not yet," returned Burma; "the boats have to be prepared, and some
men who are the oarsmen summoned. We require two more boats than are
now at the ford; but they will be all ready by the evening. Meanwhile
rest yourselves and take food; to-morrow we shall break our fast in the
fort, and you, sir, will be its Governor, instead of that false traitor
and tyrant, Osman Beg. What sayest thou to that, O Sheykhjee? Dost thou
not rejoice to hear it?"

"I do, I do, with thanks to the Almighty," said the Patell, "who has
heard the prayers of his servants. If it were only for his violence to
my poor old friend's granddaughter, who should have been sacred in his
eyes, he deserves death. Would I could go with ye."

"Thou wilt soon hear," replied Burma; "and if thou wilt remain till
to-morrow, when we are quiet, come to us. Thou hast done good service
in leading my lord hither direct, for if he had wandered to the upper
ford, Osman Beg would have heard of it, and filled the fort with loose
characters, of whom there are always enough and to spare. To do him
justice, the Nawab can fight, and we should have had much more trouble
than we shall have."

"I will come down to Jumálpoor early to-morrow," was the old Patell's
reply, "and so make no delay. You had better fire a gun at daylight,
that will be enough for me; and perhaps when my lord writes to the
durbar he will mention the little service I was able to render."

"That I will, my friend," said the Meer Sahib; "but come now to the
mosque, and you shall tell me about Osman Beg, and what he has done."

"Certainly," returned the Patell, "I have some business in the fair
to-day, but that does not fall till late; come, and take my blessing,
and prayer for the success of thy good work."

The lady Keysama did not appear. She could not admit strangers, aliens
in faith, while the holy ceremonies were going on, but she sent her
thanks for her husband's letter, and garlands of flowers with her
blessings and prayers for success.

In the afternoon the whole party again set out, guided now by Burma
Naik, who took with him fifty additional men, and skirting the rugged
granite hills which border the Dóne, they reached the hamlet of
Jumalpoor, about two miles from the great river's bank, opposite to the
town end of the island fort, as night closed in. Then they heard that
the boats were being dragged up from below, and would be at the ferry
before midnight.



CHAPTER II.
A SUCCESSFUL SURPRISE.


"It is time for us to go on, Meer Sahib," said Burma, as he reached the
place where the new Governor was lying, under some trees close to the
half-ruined village. "Come."

"And our horses; what is to be done with them?"

"Leave them here, under charge of the grooms, and you can send for them
afterwards; if indeed you care to have them in the fort, where you
cannot ride. They will be quite safe here. At present they would be a
serious embarrassment to us; and if one neighed, the whole fort would
be alarmed, and I cannot tell what would happen."

"And can you tell now, my friend?"

"Pretty well. We shall land at a spot not far from the old Syud's
house. May God have him and his child in His keeping. I will send to
the Jemadar Sheykh Baban Sahib, and tell him to come to you with a few
men on whom he can depend. He has always disliked Osman Beg, but they
have been nearly at open feud since the night poor little Zóra was
carried off, and was almost married to the Governor. Sharp words passed
between them on that occasion, and the act produced such indignation
among the garrison of the fort and our Beydurs who are on duty in it,
that I marvel Osman Beg escaped, or was not put to death. I am taking
thirty more of my best men with me, and, with yours and mine together,
we are more than a match for any who may dare to oppose us. But no one
will draw a sword, Meer Sahib," continued Burma, laughing, "except it
may be the four Abyssinian slaves he has and his actual retainers,
who are not more than ten in number, if there be so many. I spared
him once, the night we, Runga and I, and Bheema, the horn-blower, who
hooted like a horned owl as our signal, rescued little Zóra, for Runga
would not let me go in and slay him as he slept; but if he crosses me
now, by all the Gods, he dies."

"No, no, my friend, it must not be so," returned the Governor,
earnestly. "His life must be spared, for there are many accusations
against him, which our Royal mistress would fain have unravelled."

"Ah! about Eyn-ool-Moolk and Elias Khan, and the Padré at Moodgul, who
is gone to Goa," returned Burma, laughing; "but we know all about that.
Why did not the Nawab send that fierce priest instead of the gentle
Padré, of whom all lament the absence? Then they would have found out
everything at Beejapoor. But it is an old story now."

"Hardly, my friend. It is not three months since Abbas Khan slew
Elias, and Eyn-ool-Moolk was then at his busiest. To me it does not
matter, but the Queen's orders must be obeyed; and Abbas Khan could not
be sent here, as he has taken a division of the array to the King's
camp; and Runga, as you know, has gone with him."

"Yes, so Runga wrote in the letter; and his wife fell to crying about
it, and would not see you. Runga, methinks, is a fool for his pains;
but he loves that boy as if he were his own son, and there is no use
in any of us trying to persuade him that he is a fool for following
him. But we loiter, Meer Sahib. Come! my people are already departing
in small groups, and your men had better divide and follow; we shall
meet them again at the river side, where the boats are." And after a
few directions to their followers, Burma and his companion entered the
narrow intricate path through the then thick jungle which led to the
water's edge.

Very different now was the appearance of the Beydur Naik from that he
presented when he had been awakened that morning. He had bathed and
thoroughly purified himself from the excess of the previous night. He
had put off the gay clothes in which he had dressed himself at Korikul,
and was now attired in the usual war dress of his clan, the conical
leather cap, with soft leather drawers, leggings, and sandals.

For arms he wore in his waistband a long knife-dagger, and a sword with
a long Genoa blade, while a small shield hung at his back completed
his equipment. Nor, indeed, were there many matchlock men among the
party, for the place, if it resisted at all, must be carried sword in
hand. No one spoke except in a whisper, and the Governor felt assured
that the men who were with him knew their work thoroughly, and were
confident of success.

Such was the interest that this stealthy march excited in the young
Governor's mind, that they had reached the bank overhanging the Krishna
before he had thought it even near. He had not yet seen the fort, for
it had been concealed by trees; but he had heard the dull plashing
murmur of the river, and occasionally a deeper moaning sound which
mingled hoarsely with it, and for which he could not account.

Presently the path rose a little, and the broad river and giant mass
of the fort were disclosed. Not clearly, however, for the waning moon
was dimmed with clouds, and none of the details of the rugged hill were
visible. What could be seen of it seemed to blend with the hills beyond
the river, indeed, to form a part of them. But the gloom, the strange
conical hill, and the rushing water of the river, formed altogether the
most impressive scene the young Governor had ever looked on.

"Ha!" said Burma, in a hissing whisper. "Look! our friend up yonder
holds revel to-night, and the Gods favour us. O Krishna! I vow to thee
ten sheep at the Temple of Gopalswami, and to feed a hundred Brahmins,
if thou aid us, as thou didst Arjóona in the field of Kooroo Kshétra;
and to thee, O gentle nymph Cháya, a pooja and a feast to a hundred
Brahmins at thy shrine." And he held up his joined hands towards the
river, while, at the same time, he bowed his head in reverence. "She
lives there, Sir," he said, simply, "up in the rocks yonder, above the
pool; and we, who live here, reverence her, and propitiate her."

"Her! who?" asked his companion.

"Only Cháya Bhugwuti, who dwells in the cataract, which you will see
to-morrow. Now, I know she is placable and kind, as she was the night
we crossed for Zóra; and she is always to be depended upon when justice
has to be done."

"But you said he was at his revels. Who?"

"Who? why Osman Beg to be sure. Don't you see the lights in the palace
up yonder, and torches flitting to and fro?" and Burma pointed to
lights which seemed high up in the sky. "That steady light is in the
palace; and hush! do you not hear music?" The sound was music, of
beating of drums, and of fiddles, and women's voices mingled, which
faintly reached them, as a light puff of wind blew from the fort.

"What fun it will be, Meer Sahib! what fun!" cried Burma, rubbing
his hands and chuckling. "What fun to catch the Nawab Sahib and his
companions altogether. But we must wait awhile till they are properly
drunk. They are pretty well on by this time, and to judge from what I
have seen and tasted, the Feringi wine the Nawab gets from Moodgul is
not weak. Come down to the riverside and watch; I see my people there,
though to you they appear like so many stones," and they descended the
rocky path together.

"Ye have done well, Nursinga," said Burma to a tall, powerful man, who
came forward as they reached the foot of the descent. "How many boats
have ye brought?"

"There are six in all, four large and two small; and we should have
been here earlier but for people who will attend the anniversary
to-morrow, and two companies of dancing women who have vows to perform
and are singing to the Nawab. It took a good while to take them all
across and bring back the boats; but they are all ready. Will you cross
now, master? Cháya Bhugwuti is very quiet at present; but there have
been clouds in the west all day, and if rain has fallen, who can answer
for her?"

"Is there any one in the house of the old Dervish?" asked Burma.

"Not a living creature near it except Zóra's pigeons. I went through
the place before sunset, for some of the dancing women wanted to put up
there; but I told them and their people that since the old man and Zóra
left, ghosts and devils had taken possession of it, and tormented those
who went there. Then some of the girls looked in, and something moved
in a dark corner--I think it was poor Zóra's old cat--and I cried out
'Tiger! tiger!' and they all ran away. Yes, it is quite empty, master."

"Then we will cross as soon as the lights up there are put out, Meer
Sahib; and meanwhile I will send a small boat-load of men across. Go,
thou, Nursinga, send for some of our men from the village; and tell
the Jemadar that he must meet me with a few of his men on the King's
service, for there is some work to do, and that I will meet him in the
Dervish's house; and tell him what it is. Go at once, and, when you are
ready, light a small fire on the terrace roof of Zóra's zenána."

The man made a deep reverence, and stepping into the smallest of the
basket boats, in which six men were lying, roused them, and pushed it
into the stream; and it was anxiously watched over the rapid current
till it entered the backwater beyond, and was quickly rowed along until
it reached the landing-place close to the house we already know.

Nursinga did not delay in his errand. First he ran to the house of
the head of the Beydurs who were on duty in the fort, and roused him.
"There is some work to do, brother," he said, "and the master is
waiting to cross. Take twenty men, and go to meet him at the Syud's
house."

"What is it?" asked the other, anxiously.

"How am I to know? Are we in Burma Naik's secrets? Enough that we
obey. Is Sheykh Baban Jemadar gone up to the palace?"

"Not he, nor any of the men, except a few profligates who would go
anywhere after the women that dance. And they are drinking much; twice
have the cans come down for spirits."

"Come, then; let us take the old man with us to meet the master, and he
will know what he wants."

The house of the Jemadar of the garrison was close by, and the two men
went at once to it. Some persons on guard were sitting in the outer
verandah, near the door, smoking, who challenged them; but taking the
message to their master, he was soon aroused, and understood what was
required; and, having given orders for the assembly, very silently,
of his men at various points, so as to be within call, he, with a few
attendants, accompanied Nursinga to the deserted house.

"May his house become desolate who made this desolate!" said the old
soldier to one of his subordinates. "How pleasant it used to be to hear
the holy Dervish preach the word of the Prophet, and to see Zóra, like
a beauteous flower, among us! I say, Let his house be desolate who made
this desolate; for Alla is just, my friends--just and watchful!"

"Ameen! Ameen!" was the response from several as they sat down in the
verandah so well known to all, and began to smoke, while the Beydur had
proceeded to the roof of the cloister, collected a few dry sticks and
leaves, and, striking a light with a flint and steel, blew some tinder
placed between dry leaves into a blaze, and lighted the little fire,
which flamed up for a moment and went out.

"That is enough, Meer Sahib," said Burma, who had been watching. "Now
we know that Sheykh Baban is there, my men are there, and the lights
have been out some time in the palace. There is no need for delay now;
come. 'Bismilla!' as you say; or, as we Beydurs cry, 'Hari Ból!' Let us
embark and lead, and the boats will follow in turn, one after another.
Bring half of your people with you, the rest can follow, and with me
and some of my folk the boat will be heavy enough. Now, friends, sit
close and sit steady. Jey Cháya Bhugwuti! Jey Krishna Mata!" he cried,
throwing water into the air at each invocation; while the boat danced
down the rapid for a little, and was soon turned into the backwater by
its powerful rowers, who worked with muffled paddles. An instant more
and they had landed, and, under cover of the thick wood, were making
the best of their way to the house, while two of the rowers pulled the
boat up the stream, and fastened it to some bushes near the back of the
old house.

The movement had been so silently effected that those who were
concealed there knew nothing of the arrival of the new party; and it
was not till the burly form of Burma Naik stood among them that they
were aware of his presence. All had started to their feet, but their
apprehension was at once relieved when the Naik, in his hard Canarese
tongue, so that all should understand, said aloud, "Sheykhjee, I bring
you your new Governor from Queen Chand Beebee; come and kiss his feet
and salute your new chief, for he is honourable and worthy."

There was not a moment's hesitation, dark as it was. While the Jemadar
Sheykh Baban offered the hilt of his sword, and grasped the hand of the
new-comer in an earnest "Salaam Aliekoom," his example was followed by
all the Mussulmans present; while the Beydurs, after their own fashion,
touched the Meer Sahib's feet and neck, and thus swore fealty to him.

"Make a torch of straw," said Burma, "and let the Governor read his
own commission and show the Queen's seal before we advance, which will
assure all that this act is done on the part of the Government, and
not as robbers or rebels." The materials were soon found, and as the
twisted grass burst into a blaze, the commission was well read by the
scribe whom the Meer Sahib had brought with him; the Queen's seal, and
the green official paper on which the order was written, were examined
by all.

This brief process formed a strange scene; the figures of those present
stood out from the black darkness beyond with vivid distinctness, while
their faces, in which wonder and excitement struggled for mastery, wild
and strange as many of the Beydurs were, formed a sight which none who
witnessed ever forgot; and a shepherd boy who had paid an early visit
to his fold declared next day that witches and demons were holding
revel like the Nawab above, and that he had seen forms moving about in
a bright flame that was burning, which wonderful story was confirmed in
the minds of many simple folk by seeing that day the black ashes of the
fire scattered about the verandah.

"Now then, Sahib, I humbly represent that I and mine are ready," said
the old Jemadar. "Any one the noble Queen sends to us is as our father
and mother; and, as your face is bright and kind, we hope you will be
good to us, your servants, and protect instead of oppress us; and so
your name shall be honoured while in future our evening lamps will be
lighted in your name. Bismilla! Come on!" and, drawing his sword, he
led the way to the gate of the village.

In the little market-place many men had gathered together, doubtful as
to the real nature of the movement; but it spread quickly from mouth to
mouth, while the three leaders pressed on up the steep ascent without
pausing, being joined by parties stationed in various bastions and
guard-houses, one after another.

At the last division of the ascent, where the party must emerge
from the narrow pathway overhung with rocks, by which they had been
concealed hitherto, there was a brief colloquy among the leaders and
a division of the work made to each. Burma Naik with his men were to
turn in by the broken wall, near the kitchen; the Meer Sahib and the
Jemadar were to carry the front court and verandah of the palace, while
a third party of Beydurs were to prevent all chance of escape on the
north side.

As yet no one had given an alarm; but a man posted on the highest
look-out tower fancied he smelt the smoke of match-rope and heard low
whispers, and looking over the edge of the parapet saw the forms of
men gathered together in groups. His vision was not very clear, for he
had been drinking hard; but there was evidently no doubt, for the men
below him were moving, and he fired his matchlock. Happily the ball hit
no one, or the consequences would have entailed bloodshed; as it was,
and in the condition in which those in the palace were, the report had
little effect in arousing anyone, and the approach of a hostile party
was of all events least expected.

As Burma turned into the rear entrance, the Governor and his men were
in front, and with a sudden rush they leaped upon the basement of the
palace and burst open a door of the audience hall. Johur and another
of the Abyssinian slaves tried to oppose those who entered, but it
was only for a moment, when they were bound and passed outside to
be guarded. The hall itself was a strange sight. As the latter part
of the night had been chilly, the dancing women--when the dancing
ceased--and the musicians and followers lay down where they were,
wrapped in sheets, and had fallen into profound sleep; and now one
and then another of those sleeping figures awoke, rubbed its eyes,
and, in the case of the women, rent the air with piercing shrieks and
cries for mercy. First it appeared as if a band of dacoits or robbers
had surprised them, and the loss of their jewels and ornaments was the
least they expected. There was a dim lamp burning in a niche which
partly revealed the scene, and the agitation of some thirty helpless
women now huddling together on the ground, and imploring mercy. It
was well that the entrance doors were guarded by the Meer Sahib's
retainers, for the Beydurs would have had little scruple in tearing off
all the women's ornaments as their spoil.

Meanwhile Osman Beg lay in his private chamber. He had sat in the
audience hall as long as he could, but the strong European liqueur
and its pleasant flavour had beguiled him, and at last he had rolled
over in his seat insensible, and was carried by his slaves to his bed.
Then it was that the music had ceased, the torches had been put out,
and all, rolling themselves in their sheets, lay down where they were,
like swathed corpses; and it was thus the Meer Sahib had found them.
When the shot was fired from the high tower, the two servants who had
remained by their master, conscious of some imminent alarm or danger,
tried to arouse him, and even raised him up, but with a muttered
curse he fell back again. In this condition--entering from the back
passage--Burma Naik found him. As he entered the chamber, the Nawab's
servants fled, and, conscious of a strange presence, Osman Beg tried
to rise, but with a drunken hiccup fell back on his bed.

"It would be easy to end thy vile life, Osman Beg," said Burma to
himself, "but I leave thee to the Lord. God forbid that my hand should
slay one who cannot help himself. Look here, Sahib," he said, as the
Governor entered the chamber; "there lies this disgrace to his faith
and to his office; do as thou wilt with him, he is in thy hand."

"Let him lie, my friend, his fate is not in my hand; but he is helpless
now. All I want are his papers, and the accounts and moneys of the
fort; and these, especially the papers, must be found. Had he no
servants?"

"My lord," said a man who emerged from a bathing room, "I am one; and
if my life be spared will tell you all."

"Fear not," replied Burma Naik, "I know thee; and your new lord will
not hurt any one who is faithful; but beware if thou attempt deceit."

"Well, then," replied the man, humbly, "the private papers are all in
a leathern case on the floor under my master's head; he would allow
them to be nowhere else. See, here it is;" and kneeling down, he drew
a small leather travelling box from its hiding place. "The key of that
box is round my master's neck, and the key of the treasury is tied to
the string of his drawers; they can easily be removed; and the moonshee
has the accounts. I have charge of all his valuables, and can give an
account of them, or show them if it is ordered."

"We will have an inventory made of them before your master, and they
will be sent with him to Beejapoor when the King's order comes.
Meanwhile they will be under attachment," said the Governor. "I will
leave thee with thy master, and some men of mine to guard him when he
wakes."

"We have done all we can do at present, Burma Naik," said the Governor;
"even to getting the papers, which can be examined presently. Meanwhile
the day is breaking, should not we give the signal?"

"Certainly, my lord; I will see to it immediately. One of the fort
gunners ought to be without, and," continued Burma Naik, "I have sent
word to the authorities of the fort, those who have to recognise all
new governors, and they also will be here before sunrise, or soon after
it. Meanwhile this hall may be swept out, for everyone has departed.
Ho! without, bring the Furashes, and let them lay down the cloths for a
durbar."

While this was being effected, the heavy gun on the highest bastion was
fired with a tremendous report, which rattled from side to side of the
ravine in a thousand echoes, and at last died out among the hills far
away.

"You do not know where you are, my lord, as yet," said Burma Naik;
"come and see;" and he took the Governor down the steps of the
verandah to another short flight that led to a small but elegant
pavilion perched upon a rock, from whence the glen could be well seen
in the daytime. Now, however, it seemed as though they looked into
unfathomable darkness, and the effect was almost painful; but as the
dawn rapidly advanced, the agitated river, the rocks, the rugged sides
of the glen, and the cataract at its head, gradually grew into form,
and the Governor stood gazing at them in a silence which partook of
awe.



CHAPTER III.
ZUFFOORA-BEE COOKS THE GOVERNOR'S BREAKFAST.


Osman Beg's cook, whom he had brought with him when he came, an old
slave of his father's house, was a practical woman, well used to camp
life, sudden alarms, and long marches, and in any emergency was ready
to prepare food for considerable numbers. She and several helpers,
boys and women, had betaken themselves to the shelter of the kitchen,
which, being situated in a yard adjoining the "Palace," had beyond it
another yard, where was a small dwelling house, in which, as her own
peculiar property, the old lady lived. We call her lady, because she
was invariably styled so by all. No one dared, except her master, call
her Zuffoora, which, having been born on a Thursday, had been chosen
as her name--but "Bee," as short for Beebee, or "Lady," was always
added; and those who did not know her well, or were afraid of taking
liberties with her, called her Beebee Zuffoora, which, no doubt, was
most pleasing to her of all.

Zuffoora-bee had been seriously exercised in her mind the day before.
Her master, in one of his wild fits, had, without any previous notice,
taken into his head to invite all the dancing girls who came to the
Saint's festival, with their musicians and attendants, to dinner that
evening; after which the women were to sing all night, relieving each
other. Now the dancing and singing did not concern the old dame at all,
but the dinner did, for her master had sent word by Johur that some of
the dishes were to be of her very best style of cooking, for himself
and the chief singers; and for the rest, pilao and hot kabobs would
suffice.

To do her justice, Zuffoora-bee had done her best. Sundry dishes that
we could name were delicate and delicious, whether fish, flesh, or
fowl; and her master had sent her a present of two rupees as a token
of his satisfaction, an unusual occurrence, which Johur explained by
several of the dancing women having declared they had never tasted such
food before, and insisting that Osman Beg should then and there send
his cook a liberal present, on their behalf, which was accordingly
done. I say, then, if this had been all, Zuffoora-bee would have been
highly delighted, and might even have invited one or two of the girls
to come and eat pán with her in her own house.

But the proceedings of the evening had disgusted her. She was very
strict in the observances of her faith, also regular in the performance
of stated prayers five times a-day. And no Moolla could have possessed
a more perfect knowledge of the details to be observed at festivals,
the ablutions and purifications of women at such seasons, and also
of the needful fasts; or, on the other hand, the cooking necessary on
such occasions. As to strong liquors or palm wine, she held them in the
utmost abhorrence, and would as soon have cooked and eaten a piece of
the abhorred animal as taken a drop of spirit into her mouth.

Her person was always scrupulously clean and neat; her almost white
hair braided so that not a straggling lock appeared, and the rest
neatly tied up in a simple knot behind her head. She had two satin
petticoats for grand occasions, one green, the Prophet's colour, the
other red, and both were striped with white. But for every day wear
she used petticoats of soosi, a common kind of cotton cloth, which was
made everywhere by village weavers, and could be bought in any village
fair or market. This stuff was very neat and durable, and was worn,
in various colours and degrees of fineness, by all Mussulman women of
the lower classes. Zuffoora-bee was rich in possessing four of these
petticoats, three of which were always put by nicely washed and ironed.

On the upper portion of her person she wore, first, a boddice, and over
that a shirt of stout muslin, which descended a little below her waist,
covering the band of her petticoat; and over all a doputta, or scarf,
of tolerably fine muslin, which, tucked in at her waist, was passed
round her head, falling gracefully over her back and hanging down over
her right arm.

Zuffoora was a widow, and therefore wore few ornaments; and what she
did wear were chiefly of silver, such as bracelets for her wrists, a
silver ring round her neck, and silver rings on some of her fingers and
her toes. She had also one very precious massive silver ring, which
she wore over her right ankle. This had been given her by the King Ali
Adil Shah of blessed memory, when, on one occasion, she had cooked a
delicious meal for him after a battle, when his own servants had lost
their way. The old lady was always eloquent on the subject of this ring
of honour as she called it. "To men," she said, "the King gave estates,
and lands, and jewels, and why should he not give them to good cooks?
because if there were nothing to eat, who could fight? and there was
nothing so valour-sustaining as a good pilao and well-spiced kabob."

The proceedings and mode of life and temper of her master had long been
distressing to Zuffoora-bee; and if, by any possibility, she could have
escaped from him and returned to Beejapoor, she would have done so;
but she felt she was virtually a prisoner. When Abbas Khan had arrived
sick and wounded, she had not only nursed him through his illness, but
cooked the most delicate and nutritious food for him; and when the
young man was about to depart, she begged permission to return to the
great city and the old family house; but her master was cruel to her,
abused her in vile language, and called her slave, and had told Johur
to beat her with a shoe. Johur dared not do that, and besides loved
and respected the good dame; but one of the vile eunuchs had done it,
and the insult had rankled deep in Zuffoora's heart, as an act which
years of protection could not atone for.

We have not mentioned Zuffoora-bee sooner in this history, because when
Abbas Khan came to the fort she was incessantly occupied by his needs.
She had a perfect knowledge of his family, and respected it, and most
particularly his aunt, the Lady Fatima, so that she did not go to the
old Syud's house as usual; indeed, perhaps had some misgiving in her
mind as to the presence of Christians there; but, like all others,
she had a great reverence for the old Dervish, and especial love for
little Zóra, to whom she had taught numbers of savoury dishes, such as
it delighted the old man to eat, and which could be made out of very
simple materials.

When the two women we know of came from Moodgul, she did not like
them. She thought Máma Luteefa had more the air of a common procuress
than of a decent God-fearing agent for matrimonial arrangements. Her
clothes were too gaudy, her look too bold, her conversation too free.
She never said her prayers, not even once a-day. She ate too much
pán; the bells on her anklets were too loud, even louder than those
of a dancing-girl; in short, she was offensive to her in many ways;
and finding Zuffoora-bee independent, and by no means inclined to be
dictated to or to be schooled in the manner of cooking her dishes,
sent her orders to the women under the cook, and was gratified in
having garlic and red-pepper enough in her kabobs to suit a labouring
woman; and Zuffoora-bee was obliged to complain to her master that the
marriage agent was insolent and overbearing. But when poor little Zóra
was brought up to the palace by force, the grief and indignation of the
worthy dame knew no bounds. Her master was well aware what she would
think of the act, and set eunuchs and some of his garrison to guard
the kitchen and Zuffoora's house, and not allow her egress, lest she
should come and upbraid him--for we take upon ourselves to say that
Zuffoora-bee's remonstrance would have been neither weak nor timid,
but, on the contrary, unflinchingly bold and defiant.

During the whole of the day Zóra had been confined to the palace
Zuffoora-bee had prayed and wept by turns, but that she knew was
useless; but, when the pán-seller's wife came to her in the evening,
she gave Zuffoora-bee a hint, though others were by, that Zóra was not
without friends; and when the alarm that she had escaped was given,
Zuffoora fell on her knees and thanked God that it had been so, and
that her master's wicked designs had been foiled. She was not afraid of
him. He loved her good food too much to deprive himself of it, either
by putting her in confinement or sending her away.

In either case, who would supply her place? But she had not spared
him; she had appealed to his honour, to that of his noble father,
entreating him to reform his evil ways, and to abandon the vicious
courses into which he had fallen. She who had nursed him as a child,
who had attended on his mother, to see her son degenerating into a
drunken profligate! "Better he were dead, far better that he were
dead," murmured the good old dame. "I could say the last salutation
to the dead as they covered up his body, and wish the peace of God
to attend him, rather than I could join in the adulation which these
miserable men and women pay to him. Touba! Touba! for shame, for shame!"

When the party under the new Governor and Burma Naik, with the Jemadar
of the fort, was passing the wall which bounded her own court, she was
already awake, preparing to rise and perform her ablutions previous to
the early morning prayer, and the shuffling tramp of the men sounded
ominous to her. What can it all mean she thought! Then the shot from
above followed, but there was no response, and in a few moments more
the shrieks of the dancing-women came loud and fast. She was not
afraid, and got up, went through the high-arched kitchen to the door,
unbarred it, and looked out into the yard, where several Beydurs whom
she knew, and Mussulmans of the Governor, were standing, the latter of
whom saluted her civilly as she asked them what had happened.

"Nothing," said one of the men in reply; "nothing, but that the
new Governor is come, and we have a new master. The new Nawab came
from Beejapoor, and has taken possession, and the old Nawab is a
prisoner--that's all."

"And who is the new Nawab?"

"Nay, mother, we know not yet, for we have not seen him. But they say
he is a God-fearing man; and so he appears to be, for when the Azàn
was proclaimed, he spread his waistband, and knelt down and said his
prayers in the little pavilion on the rock before the palace. And his
men love him, and declare he is a true, kind man and a brave soldier,
and that is the reason he was sent here."

"It is a lonely place to come to," returned the old dame; "but he is
married, perhaps?"

"Oh, yes, mother! and has two children; and he will send for them
by-and-by."

"From Beejapoor?"

"No, mother, from Juldroog, where he has been serving."

"I know it well, friend. My lord, that is his father"--and she pointed
with her thumb to the palace--"commanded the troops there, and I was
with him and the Begum Sahiba. Ah! times are changed since then. Well,
such is the will of God. And Osman Beg?"

"He was found asleep, mother, and they did not harm him."

"Asleep! Not drunk, I hope?"

"I fear he was, mother; quite without sense."

"Fie upon him! fie! How can he waken and show his face to pious men? It
were better that he died; but he must fulfil his destiny, good or evil
as it may be. I must, however, see to breakfast for the new lord and
his people. Some things are left from last night; they will do for his
men, but he shall have everything fresh, and as good, too, as Zuffoora
can make it."

The old dame had gathered all the information she needed, and now
retired to her own private room, where she dressed herself in an
entirely choice suit of clothes, braided her hair, and put on her small
stock of ornaments; and, thus prepared, crossed the court, and entered
the women's apartments of the palace. They were quite empty, but
littered with faded garlands of flowers, broken pán leaves, and jars
which had held palm wine, the stale smell of which was very offensive.
Then she rolled up the curtains of one or two of the open arches to
let in the wind, and called to the eunuchs to come to her. No one,
however, replied, and she went on through the passage. The door of
Osman Beg's chamber was open, and she looked in. He was still on his
bed, snoring loudly, and two strange men were guarding him, and his two
personal attendants were by him. They had thrown a warm coverlet over
him, but she could see his face, which was flushed and bloated, and in
Zuffoora's sight he was disgusting.

"Come to me, Boodun," she said to one of the servants, "when he wakes,
and I will send him some kicheri." Then she peeped into the hall of
audience, which was a busy scene; and as it was quite light, though
the sun had not risen, she could see everything. The new Governor was
sitting in Osman Beg's seat, and the Moolla, the physician of the fort,
the old Jemadar of the garrison, and some of the inferior officers,
were sitting near him in their usual places. Others were coming in
and presenting their nuzzurs, or offerings; some seating themselves,
and others, retiring after having made their reverence, went out.
There were two moonshees present looking over papers, of which one
recorded the dates and addresses, and the other read them out to him;
and beside these, there were the agents of the Zemindars who chanced
to be in the fort, the Hindoo Patell and Patwari, and many others;
so that the hall presented a busy aspect. Zuffoora-bee did not very
well know what to do. Who was to tell the new Nawab that the cook was
there, asking for orders; and the question would sound so odd amidst
all the grave business going on, that she hesitated, but not for long.
She was no coward, and she would at least show that she had the means
of sending him food of which he must be in need, of ordering him a
bath, and generally providing for his comfort. She therefore slipped
forward confidently, yet modestly, and watched her opportunity till the
Governor should look up, for he was reading a Persian letter, with a
shade of anxiety upon his handsome face.

"Who art thou?" he said, with a pleasant smile, when he put the paper
down, and looking up saw a neat, respectable-looking woman saluting him
with due reverence. "Who art thou? Thou art not such an one as I looked
to find here!"

"Your slave, Zuffoora-bee, is the cook, my lord, and offers her
services. My lord must be hungry, and she wishes to know what he
prefers, what his usual dishes are, and she will do her best to please
him."

"Thou art thoughtful and kind, Zuffoora-bee," he replied. "Any other
woman would have run away, but thou art here and doing thy duty. Why
dost thou trust me?"

"I can trust one who is kind and gentle, as I hear my lord is. I can
trust one who greets a poor slave with a smile instead of a curse, and
who accepts her homage instead of having her pushed out of the durbar."

"You are a flatterer, Zuffoora-bee," said the Governor, laughing; "but
go now, we are busy; send me anything you like; I am a plain soldier,
and can eat anything God sends me; and if you will show my people where
I can bathe now and sleep to-night, I shall be thankful. When my food
is ready, you can send it."

"I will bring it myself, my lord, and see to the chamber and bath for
you directly, for you must bathe ere you can eat comfortably," and
making another respectful salutation, Zuffoora-bee walked proudly
out. Inshalla! she, at least, had done her duty, and had been kindly
treated, and now she would have her proper place in the new household,
for she held her allegiance to the fallen Osman Beg to be already
dissolved.

The Furashes, who had been witnesses of her reception, were again her
obsequious servants; the women's chambers were washed out and purified
by pastiles; one of the spare beds was set out, carpets were spread,
and the bath prepared; and when the Governor had bathed, put on clean
light clothes, and sat down on the soft cushions prepared for him, he
felt invigorated and refreshed; while in regard to his assumption of
his charge of the fort and its dependencies, there was nothing to be
desired: all had been perfectly successful and satisfactory.

Then when Zuffoora-bee brought what she had prepared with her own
skilful hands, some delicate kicheri, fresh fish from the river, some
savoury kabobs, and an omelette, and spreading a neat dusturkhan, or
dining-cloth, set the viands before him, and encouraged him to eat, he
felt as though his lines had fallen in pleasant places, and that even
among those rugged rocks he could be perfectly happy. He might, too,
hear something of the old physician and his granddaughter, whom he had
been directed to trace if possible, and in regard to whom his first
report to the Queen must contain intelligence. Whether, however, he
could obtain any from Zuffoora-bee or not was doubtful; and if it were
given, it might not be true. Women of her standing were but too often
ministers to their master's worst vices; and though the Moollas and
all respectable persons in the morning durbar gave Zuffoora-bee the
highest character, yet who could speak to her inner life? There was,
however, no time to be lost; and after the excellent breakfast had been
fully extolled, the Governor opened at once the subject of Zóra and her
grandfather.

Now, if there had been one subject more than another on which
Zuffoora-bee desired to open her heart fully to one in power, it was
that of poor little Zóra and the old man, her grandfather; and if her
account were prolix, it was interesting to her hearer, and the details
were given with tears and sobs which attested their sincerity and
truth. Yes, often and often Osman Beg had endeavoured to persuade her
to entice the girl to the palace, and become the means of her forced
marriage and ruin; but since the old Dervish had--in consequence of
his great astrological science and Osman Beg's character--declined to
receive him as a husband for the girl, and as Zóra herself feared and
detested him, nothing was done till the women came from Moodgul, and
Johur and Yacoot carried her up to the palace.

"Then," continued the old dame, "the Nawab confined me to my own
apartments, and the entrance to the kitchen was guarded. Zóra and the
two women lay in this room, and I was near. Oh! to hear her! Yet what
could I do? If she had even sent me a message, I might have helped; and
perhaps she did, for I heard the pán-seller's wife insisting on being
allowed to pass to me, but she was turned out. I warrant, however, that
she it was who sent word to Runga Naik, and then at night Zóra fled
with them. At least some say so, though others believe she fell into
one of the deep holes between the rocks, and will never appear till the
Day of Judgment. But I think she fled; and I, old as I am, would travel
to Delhi if I thought there was any chance of finding her."

"Yes, she fled, Beebee," said the Nawab, with a sigh; "but she cannot
be traced now. Runga Naik has been absent. Burma Naik, who has also
been absent, did not find her on his return; and now no one knows where
she is gone."

"Send me, my lord; send me; I will find her wherever she may be hidden
away. God knows," she continued, sobbing, "she was so beautiful and so
helpless that anyone might have seized her; and as to the old man, he
is not only blind but hopelessly simple, and yet very obstinate. Ah, my
lord! the more I think the more I fear."

"And was Zóra so beautiful?"

"I never saw anyone like her," returned the dame. "I don't know what
it was, but there was a sort of witchery about her ever since she was
much younger than she is now, which no one could resist; and Osman Beg
always said she was his fate, and he would have her even if he went to
hell after her, for that was the wild way in which he talked to me."

"And she escaped free and unhurt, and with her honour?"

"She did, my lord. Osman Beg made a wild attempt to marry her the night
Johur brought her up, but the Moolla protested against it; and though
the buffoon Pundree, who is a Hindoo, my lord, made some pretence to
be a Moolla, and to say the blessing, it was of no use, and Osman Beg
waited till he could get the Kazee from Nalutwar. But send for Johur,
if he likes he will tell you the truth; but you might cut him to pieces
before he would say a word if he did not please."

"I will examine him before you, Zuffoora-bee;" and, calling to an
attendant, he bid Johur, the Abyssinian, be brought in.

The slave's arms had been tied behind his back, because he had made
some resistance, and bound so tightly, that he was in pain; and he
piteously besought relief by loosening of the bonds. Two of the eunuchs
who had charge of him, on being directed to do so, at once loosed the
rope; and the Governor could see the tears spring to the slave's eyes
as he knelt down, rubbed his forehead in the earth, and rising, stood
before him, with his chest heaving and his cheeks wet.

"Why are you kind to me, my lord? Do I not deserve death? Bid some of
thy people behead me, then I shall not see Zóra as I do now."

"It is of her we would speak to thee, Johur; fear not, and tell the
truth."

"My lord," he replied, "your slave will tell everything truly. Often
had I been asked to entrap the child, often to bring her here, but I
would not. I was flogged for that, but never mind, I could bear it;
see, here are the marks of the whip. Then Jooma was ordered to go; and
he, too, refused, and was instantly beheaded before Osman Beg himself;
and I can show you the hole between the rocks where his bones lie,
where the stain of his blood is upon the rocks; even the rains have
not washed it away, nor the sun bleached it. Then, again, when the two
women came from Moodgul, he sent for me, and said, 'Go and bring Zóra;
if not, yours will be Jooma's fate before nightfall.' I was a coward,
my lord; I ought to have slain him; but I trembled and I went; and
Yacoot and I brought Zóra and put her here, with the two women. But I
watched. If he had attempted violence I would have slain him, for I
never quitted his side. When the Moolla refused to marry him, my dagger
was loose in its sheath. I watched him all that day, without taking
food. I lay down at the head of his bed at night, only when all were
asleep stealing out into the court here to see if the child slept. I
was here when the owls hooted, and I watched her steal out silently,
step over the eunuchs, cross the court, and pass on through the broken
wall. I saw her last when she paused once on the top of the gap, and
looked around her, and the moonbeams rested on her sweet face, and it
shone like that of an angel. Oh, my lord, I am only a poor Abyssinian,
and have no proper speech to tell thee all; but that is the truth, and
I would have followed her then, only that one owl hooted again, and
I knew she had friends to help her, and was safe. Harm! no harm came
to her, my lord. Osman Beg was afraid of what the Moollas, the old
jemadars of the fort, and the worthy men who sate in the hall said to
him; and he knew there would be a mutiny if he dared to dishonour the
girl. Indeed, had she not escaped, there would have been one when the
second attempt at marriage was tried. And now, my lord, bid them give
me water, for my throat is dry; and do not have me bound, for I can
be true to thee, my lord, and can help thee to find Zóra, my pearl,
my lily, my Peri. Oh, my lord! how I love her! I, the poor slave, and
would give my life for her. Will you not answer for me, Máma Zuffoora?"

"I will," said the old dame, earnestly. "Let my lord send us both to
find the child and the old man, and we will go. Inshalla! we will bring
them back, and the old house shall be desolate no longer."

"I will think about it, Zuffoora-bee; and when all means here are
exhausted, I will send ye on their track, well believing your faith and
love for the child. But, hark! they are calling me into the audience,
and I must go. Come with me, Johur, and I will make thee over to my
people."

As the Governor entered the hall, he saw that a violent struggle was
going on. Osman Beg had awakened from his drunken sleep with confused
intellects, and seeing strange faces beside his bed and none of his own
attendants, had risen, suddenly pushed away his guards, and rushed,
half naked as he was, towards his usual seat in the hall; but he was
held fast by many of the new and old garrison, and the new Governor
advancing, bade him sternly return to his apartment. Osman Beg, who
was a very powerful man, still resisted violently, and could he but
have possessed himself of any weapon, would have done serious injury.
It was in vain that the new Governor explained who he was, and even
showed him the Queen's warrant. Osman Beg was in no humour to hear or
to understand, and the struggle was renewed. After several warnings,
therefore, and being obliged to listen to all the vile abuse poured
out against him, to being called a coward, and a Kafir, a traitor,
and a slave, the Governor directed the attendants to tie Osman Beg's
arms behind him easily with a soft turban, and to take him back to
the room whence he had come. It was the act of being tied, perhaps,
which first really awakened him to a clear sense of his position,
and after a time he began to weep. No one came to him, none of his
slaves or servants, and he was parched with thirst, with a craving for
food. Now, therefore, the services of Zuffoora-bee were called into
requisition; she had food and some cool sherbet ready for him, and
when he became more reasonable the Governor went to him. They had been
old acquaintances, and knew each other perfectly well; and Osman Beg,
promising to be quiet, was relieved from his bonds, which had only been
loosened when he ate.

"So long as it is not my virtuous cousin, Abbas Khan, who has been
sent to relieve me, I do not care," he said. "The Queen has a right to
appoint whom she will, and to recall whom she will, and you, sir, are
welcome, though you have come in a rough fashion. I think you will find
all the records correct, and I now give you the key of the treasury;"
and he felt in his waistband for it, but neither was it there nor that
of his private papers, and his countenance fell.

"I have possession of all your private papers also, my lord," said the
Governor. "It was for them that the surprise was made, and I already
see that they are important. Nay," he continued, "may even imperil your
life, my lord, and tally sadly with those which were read before the
Queen in council the night that Abbas Khan slew Yacoot, the champion of
Elias Khan, in the combat of ordeal. Hyat Khan, the Kotwal, found them,
and I was present at their examination."

"When did this happen?" asked Osman Beg.

"Three days ago, my lord; I was present on duty at the palace that
night, and I left the city before daylight next morning."

"Then give me my papers, Meer Sahib, and let me depart to justify
myself, and seek my wife, whom Abbas Khan has spirited away."

"Your wife, my lord; who is she?"

"She is Zóra," he replied, "who lived here. Oh, Zóra!" he cried in
bitter pain, "this comes of thy sorcery. Let me go, sir!" he shouted
fiercely. "Let me go! by what right do you detain me?"

"By this, the Queen's warrant," replied the Governor, "which my
secretary will read to you. You will see that your person is to be kept
securely; your papers sealed up and sent to Court, where you will be
summoned when the King's pleasure is known. I am not in the habit of
exceeding my orders, or of using hardly men of rank superior to my own.
Your papers are even now being fastened up, and two of my own men, with
a party of the garrison and some Beydurs, will escort them to the city."

From that time Osman Beg gave up hope, and fell back on his bed with a
groan, covering his face. Had he possessed a dagger he might, perhaps,
in his despair have stabbed himself; but as the first excitement was
blunted, he grew sullen, would speak to no one, and refused for several
days the food which Zuffoora brought herself, and vainly tried to
persuade him to eat.

Meanwhile, Zuffoora and Johur were impatient to be gone. Johur had
discovered that Zóra and the old man had left Korikul, and Burma Naik
had even traced them beyond Kukéra, on the way to Sugger. It was
most likely that they were there; and the old dame, provided with a
comfortable litter, a strong pony for an attendant, and her little
baggage, and Johur, and ten stout fellows of the garrison, were
despatched one day to their great joy with the almost certainty of
recovering the child and her grandfather. They followed them easily
for several days by slow marches. They heard of them at the shrine
of Sofee Surmurt at Sugger, but beyond that there was no trace. A
worthy weaver's wife told Zuffoora that a good matron of Gulburgah,
when on her pilgrimage to the shrine, had taken charge of Zóra and her
grandfather; but as she belonged to a city beyond Gulburgah, who could
tell where she might be? And thus it was that Zuffoora-bee and the
Abyssinian returned to Juldroog weary and disappointed.

Had Abbas Khan spirited away the girl on any pretence? The Governor
could not believe what Osman Beg repeatedly asserted; but still it
might be so, and he doubted. Otherwise the affairs of the fort went on
regularly and comfortably. The Governor received deputations from the
Nawab of Moodgul and the Beydur Naik of Wakin Kéra, and all respectable
neighbours round; but the only thing in which he had failed was not
being able to trace Zóra. We, however, who have much interest in the
child and her old grandfather must endeavour to do so.



CHAPTER IV.
A NEW HOME.


I need hardly take the reader back to the day when, rescued from Osman
Beg's vile designs, Zóra and her grandfather abandoned their peaceful
home. All the incidents relating to that event will, I think, not have
been forgotten, and need not be recalled. It was a piteous sacrifice,
but it was well for the girl that it had been, as it were, forced on
her grandfather and herself, and that no compromise was made with, or
trust reposed in, the unscrupulous tyrant of the fort.

I say it was well that they had abandoned all, and fled. They were
indeed passive instruments in the hands of a more experienced and
powerful person who long before had taken a just measure of the Nawab's
violent and treacherous character, and most especially dreaded his
designs against the orphan girl who, as all knew, had no friends among
her own people, except the poor inhabitants of the village in which
she had lived all her life, and they were helpless to protect her.
The result justified Runga Naik's extreme measure. No sooner was the
escape of Zóra known to the two women who had charge of her, than their
shrill cries aroused the eunuchs, who were supposed to be keeping
watch outside, and instant search was made for her among the rocks in
the vicinity of the palace, but in vain. They then in turn raised an
alarm, and Osman Beg himself, it being now daylight, was roused by his
attendant, and a new search was begun, which, as we know, ended in
disappointment. The two eunuchs who had already been pinioned, and were
expecting no less punishment than death, were put into heavy chains,
and flogged till they could bear no more, and thrust into a dungeon.
There one of them had died of his wounds and of neglect; the other,
worn to a skeleton, being released by the new Governor as soon as his
place of confinement and condition were known.

After the two eunuchs had been disposed of, Osman Beg, attended by his
Abyssinian slaves and some of his retainers, descended from the palace
to the village, where every one with whom Zóra or her grandfather
was known to have associated was flogged, or otherwise tortured, to
disclose the place of their concealment. The old house was ransacked
in vain, and every hiding place among the rocks that was in any way
accessible searched for the fugitives. It was soon known, however, that
they had crossed the river, and that Runga Naik and Burma had carried
them off; and the Nawab would willingly have seized the Beydurs of
the fort if he had dared; but they set him at defiance, and he was
too weak to attempt interference with more than a hundred stout,
well-armed men. Nor, indeed, was the proper garrison of the fort in at
all a placable mood. They were, for the most part, Mussulmans, and were
disciples of the old Syud, and had Osman Beg meddled with them in any
way, he might not have escaped with his life; and he wisely retired to
the palace, while Zóra's friends contented themselves with drawing up
an account of the whole transaction, and transmitting it to Beejapoor,
but not at once; for in Indian subjects of this kind there are always
discussions as to the expediency or otherwise of complaint.

If successful, remedy is obtained; if otherwise, the complainants
fall into an infinitely worse plight than before. In this case the
formal petition of the garrison, the village people, the Moollas of
the mosque, the acting Kazee, and all other respectable persons, had
reached Beejapoor the day after the new Governor had left; and the
Queen Chand Beebee, already in possession of the facts, had given a
very gracious reply to the petitioners, promising them justice as soon
as the officer whom the Government had despatched should make his
report.

From all this it may be inferred that had poor Zóra and her helpless
grandfather not been taken away, very serious consequences might
have ensued. If there had been an attempt to conceal the girl in the
island, and she had been discovered, there can be no doubt that the
last indignity would have been inflicted upon her. If, again, she had
been openly protected by the garrison, much bloodshed might have taken
place; and though Runga was sure of his own Beydurs, he was by no means
so sure of the Mussulman portion of the garrison who might adhere to
their Governor.

For himself and Burma he was quite regardless of consequences. He was
too strong at Korikul and Kukeyra, as well as in every village of the
frontier, to be meddled with. He had no fear of Beejapoor, to which he
was rendering important services every day; and he knew that Osman Beg
dare not complain against him, because of the forcible abduction of
a holy Syud's granddaughter, and the connection with Eyn-ool-Moolk's
conspiracy, the threads of which Runga held in his hands. Osman Beg,
though he would have given all he possessed to be revenged upon Runga
Naik, knew him to be beyond his reach; and perhaps the most unbearable
indignity he suffered on his deposition from power, was the hearing
from Burma's own lips in the public cucherry the story of the rescue
of Zóra, and the means by which it had been accomplished, which was
corroborated in every point, and which, delivered with infinite zest
and humour, caused roars of laughter.

There was, however, one point on which Osman Beg seemed to be
inflexible. He declared that though the Moolla and Kazee of the fort
had refused their offices in regard to Zóra's marriage to him--and
those present on the occasion gave equally clear and convincing
testimony as to the non-performance of the ceremony, and the indignity
put upon all by being asked to partake in such a mockery--in spite
of all this, Osman Beg steadily persisted in asserting that Zóra
was his wedded wife; that he had had means in private of having the
ceremony performed, to which Zóra had consented; and that wherever, and
howsoever, he might meet her or find her, he would claim her as his
wife before the King, the Queen, and all the ecclesiastical or other
courts of law in Beejapoor.

The Governor could not account for this, and he could not obtain
the evidence of the two women from Moodgul. Osman Beg, in his blind
fury, had, without reflection, had the hair of both cut off, their
faces blackened, and mounted them barebacked upon asses; they, with
the money he had given them, which he was too proud to take back,
were sent across the river towards Moodgul. There they had complained
to the Nawab, who declined to interfere; and all that was known of
Máma Luteefa and her confidential servant was, that they had gone
to Golconda, to pursue their avocations in a place where they were
unknown, or at least were not remembered. It is possible, I think, if
Osman Beg had retained them in his service, or had not ill-treated
them, he might have instructed them how to support his unvarying
assertion that Zóra was his wife, though she had escaped from him,
as he believed, to join his cousin Abbas Khan, with whom she had
had communication while he was confined to the fort by his wound.
Day after day did the Governor return to the case, and had gradually
accumulated all the evidence procurable, which was attested by the
Moollas, Khadims of the mosque, and Sheykh Baban, the Jemadar, all of
whom expressed not only their willingness, but their desire, to be sent
to Beejapoor should the case go to trial in the head Mufti's court. Of
this, however, there will be more to say hereafter; and in this seeming
divergence our only wish is that the reader should lose no point of
importance in the thread of this history.

On the night, or rather the morning, of Zóra's escape, she and her
grandfather had been taken from the bank of the river direct first
to Jumalpoor, and afterwards to Korikul. The old Dervish had been a
passive instrument in Runga's hands. He had heard with the utmost
terror of Zóra's abduction; he had cried to the Lord in an almost
perpetual moan for the child's protection, and he had wandered from the
house to the mosque to pray, and, finding no comfort, had returned to
the house and moaned there. He had searched all the women's apartments,
and called her name repeatedly, almost to the weariness of old
Mamoolla, who had chidden him for not putting better faith in God and
in the child's friends. Had not the pán-seller's wife twice come and
declared that as yet the child was safe, and would be rescued before
any harm could reach her. But all in vain. The old man could not be
brought to understand how the Nawab, with all the forces of the fort at
his disposal, could be outwitted by at most two or three men; how his
darling could be brought to him openly through the fort, even though
it might be by secret paths. The poor old man's mind was a chaos of
utter misery and despair, which found no rest or hope in any assurance.
He suffered Runga's men to remove all his property, which they did
carefully and honestly; and, as even Mamoolla said afterwards--for
she, also, was too much excited in her mind to be capable of any
thought--without losing an end of a thread or a bit of string. All the
old Syud's books, his drugs, his medicines, his charms and amulets--in
short, everything that he prized on earth--had been carried away.

And so it was with Zóra, her two cows and the goats, her books and
simple clothes, and the strong box which contained some gold and
ornaments which had belonged to her mother. And when they reached
Korikul, which they did the next day, Runga Naik had all opened in her
presence, and his Brahmin scribe made inventories of what belonged to
both, as also did Zóra at the same time. So far, therefore, all was
well; they had lost nothing, but the change was very sad and very hard
to bear. From the first glance at her, the Lady Keysama had taken a
prejudice against poor Zóra, who appeared to her like a young dancing
girl; and although her clothes were poor, not to say mean, and she
had no ornaments, indeed, presented only the appearance of an ordinary
Mussulman's daughter, yet, with all, there was a look of intelligence
and of superiority in her glorious eyes, in the carriage of her head,
and her figure in general, which at once separated her from anyone of
inferior grade to herself.

The Lady Keysama did not like this. She even felt jealous of poor Zóra
when she arrived and was led in by Runga Naik, preceded by two Beydur
slave girls. Keysama had, indeed, risen to salute her, bade her be
seated, asked a few questions, to which Zóra had replied timidly, for
the fame of the lady's fiery temper was notorious through the country,
and was not unknown to her, and almost immediately dismissed her with
the gift of a new sari, a muslin scarf, and a piece of soosi cloth,
with some pán, hoping that she would find comfortable lodgings and live
happily. In truth, the dame had already entertained a violent jealousy
against Zóra, and, in the course of a day or so, told her husband that
she doubted the whole story of the abduction, and that it was evident
he had brought her for his own purposes.

The Lady Keysama was not, ordinarily speaking, a jealous wife, but
she was suspicious, and mistrustful of anything out of the ordinary
course, such as the rescue of Zóra; and as she said to herself, if the
Nawab had carried off any one from Korikul, would not her lord resent
it; and what did it matter to Runga whether the Nawab married the
pale-faced girl or not, it was no business of his, and his bringing
her to Korikul was, in her estimation, entirely unnecessary and
unjustifiable. I do not mean to say that she openly accused her kind
lord of infidelity to his face, or that he had to endure lectures upon
the subject, but what has been recorded was in her thoughts; and it is
not extraordinary, if the tempers of Eastern women be considered, that
she set herself to watch, and that her ears were open to any reports
and conjectures which her humble friends might bring to her.

Meanwhile for some days Zóra and her grandfather were very comfortably
established by their friend in an empty house which had belonged to a
weaver, who, for reasons of his own, had left the town and established
himself at Sugger; and as the house he had lived in was the property of
the lord of the town, it was now at Runga Naik's disposal. True, it was
not so commodious as that at Juldroog, but it was more than sufficient
for them. It was close to the mosque, and a door from a spacious yard
behind opened into the ground which surrounded the mosque, part of
which was a cemetery overshadowed by some fine trees. The Moolla lived
hard by on the other side, and his wife was a kind, motherly woman,
and paid them frequent visits. As usual with most mosques, there was
a large colony of pigeons attached to it; there were parroquets and
mynas, with other birds in the trees, so that Zóra and her grandfather
were soon at their ease, and rested thankfully under the shelter of
their protector's hospitality, and the old man soon began to find his
way to the mosque at prayer-time; and as Mussulman weavers are for the
most part pious persons, there was always a good attendance, especially
at afternoon prayer, when the day's work was done.

The fame of the sanctity of the aged recluse of Juldroog had for years
past been spread throughout the country even to a distance; and though
he had not assumed the title of saint, or made any pretensions to be
one, yet had he died in Juldroog, there is little doubt he would have
received all the honours of one after that event. Miracles would have
been asserted as proceeding from the worship of his last resting-place,
and there is no doubt it would have risen in popular esteem. Indeed, it
was evident that, even in this strange place, the veneration for the
old Syud was increasing.

As he sat daily in the mosque, and discoursed eloquently upon the
sublime subject of "Turreequt," or path to Heaven, he charmed and
delighted his hearers; and the rank of the old recluse as a Syud, his
eloquence and kindly manner of teaching, had a wonderful effect on his
audience, who had never listened to words like his before--unless,
indeed, they went on some pilgrimage to any celebrated shrine, where
holy and learned men assembled and instructed the people in sermons.
Then the Syud's fame as a physician was perhaps among the lower
orders even greater than that of his learning, and was not confined
to Mussulmans but extended to Hindoos, to whom, although they were
unbelievers, he was as charitable and attentive as to his own people.

Thus between morning prayers and noon, and frequently afterwards, he
was asked for advice; and he wrote charms, amulets, exorcisms, and
the like, with the help of Zóra, who, except when he was expounding
doctrines in the mosque, never left him. Every day at the hours of
prayer, when the muezzin had cried the Azán, or invitation, Zóra used
to lead him forth by the door in the yard-wall; and some considerate
poor folk had made a smooth path from thence to the steps of the
mosque, where there was always someone present to help him up; and Zóra
would either return to old Mamoolla, or, folding her scarf over her
face, say her prayers in some corner of the building where men did not
look at her.

Runga Naik did not come to them very often, he had many things to
look after--his people, and their caste, and other disputes, such as
shares of land and produce--and for this purpose he sat daily on a
chubootra, or platform of earth, which had been made hundreds of years
before, around the trunk of a venerable neem-tree, and where his father
and grandfather, and ancestors long ago, had sat before him. This,
indeed, was his public court, open to all comers; and was simple and
effective, because he was patient and listened to everyone, either
giving a summary decision himself or referring cases to arbitration.
It was a patriarchal mode of proceeding, which was the custom of his
clan; and if there were no lawyers, no agents, no pleaders, nor indeed
anyone but plaintiff and defendant and their witnesses, perhaps the
justice meted out was none the less efficient, and, at all events, the
people desired nothing more. Sometimes Runga was absent for a few days
on business with his chief at Wakin-Keyra; sometimes he went with a
large escort to collect his dues or blackmail in the district west of
his own territory; and whenever he did go, he provided liberally for
his guests during his absence, and they had rations of flour, pulse,
ghee, and vegetables direct from the house, with which the Lady Keysama
did not interfere. She only, and that perpetually, threw out hints to
her husband that "that great girl Zóra ought to be married; that she
was ashamed of seeing her come to the house (for Zóra did pay a visit
sometimes to the Beydur lady, though her castle was an unclean place to
her), and that he ought to insist upon her grandfather's settling her
in life; and no doubt some worthy man might be found who would gladly
marry one so learned and so beautiful."

But Runga Naik had no such intention. I think he remembered that first
night at Juldroog, and that Abbas Khan desired no better blessing
in life than to gain Zóra for his own. Before he attempted to bring
that about, it was necessary to follow up the scattered parties of
Eyn-ool-Moolk's rebellion, especially the members of Abbas Khan's
troop who had deserted him; and, as he thought, allowing ample time
for his young friend to reach Beejapoor, he set out for the western
districts in the direction of Belgaum; and yet at that very time,
within a distance of thirty miles, Abbas Khan was lying in a small
village grievously ill with the return of his fever and the reopening
of his wound, of which the reader has already been informed. But so it
is in life, when a blessing, above all things precious, lies at our
very doors, we often fail to know of it, or even of its very existence.
Runga had no time to lose, he thought, and his desire was to hasten to
Beejapoor direct, should he have any success in his expedition. Should
he have none, he could return and take on Zóra and her grandfather to
Beejapoor, that the old man might lay his complaint of ill-usage before
the Queen, or the King if he had returned. Runga had no idea of who the
old Syud was--that was known only to Abbas Khan, whose intention was,
as we know, to have him sent for; but the gracious message of the Queen
had gone too late, and when all attempts to discover Zóra and the old
man were fruitless.

Before he left Korikul, however, Runga Naik and his wife had come to
extremities about poor little Zóra. We need not detail the gradual
increase of acerbity and jealousy on the part of the Lady Keysama. Now
he was going away (she put the matter in that light), who would be
responsible for the girl? She herself--and she put her hands to her
ears, and called all the gods to witness--would not, and could not.
She had enough to do in attending to her own poor folk, about whom she
knew, or could find out everything, whereas about these strangers she
knew nothing. He might be very fond of the girl, there was no doubt of
that; but an unmarried girl of her age and appearance, with nobody near
her but a feeble old servant--well, she would say nothing herself, but
let him ask the neighbours, let him ask the Choudhree of the Momins,
and hear what they said about Zóra, who, she thought, was only fit now
to become a public dancing girl, and if she took to that profession
she would be welcome. Had she not been heard singing words that no
one understood to unknown tunes? Where did she learn them? As to the
defamatory part of the Lady Keysama's tirade, we decline positively to
enter into it. When a woman of the Lady Keysama's temper, whatever be
her station in India, or whatever her caste or sect, condescends to be
abusive, her words cannot be translated, or even paraphrased; and such
was the excitement the lady worked herself up into, that Runga, who
had never been subjected to the like before from his wife, got fairly
alarmed. "They must go," he said; "but how to tell the old man and
Zóra!"

Yet it must be done. With Zóra and his old friend he must part; but
with his wife, the mother of his children, the admirable mistress
of his house, the respected and beloved of all, he could not part;
and she had distinctly said that if the girl were not sent away, she
herself would go to her father's house at Wakin-Keyra, and tell the
story so that all should hear. Her father was the brother of the Rajah
of the clan, whose enmity Runga Naik dare neither risk nor provoke;
and he knew enough of his wife's determined spirit to believe she
would do exactly as she threatened if he did not do as she requested.
No; on those hard conditions he could not afford to protect Zóra; her
grandfather, whom all, even his wife, loved and honoured, could not be
separated from her, and, therefore, they must go.

So several days before the Brahmin astrologer had predicted one
favourable for the departure of his little expedition, he went
privately to the old man, knelt down reverently at the threshold of his
door, and confided to him what has been recorded, and besought pardon
for the apparent rudeness he was obliged to commit. The tender-minded
fellow's heart, as he said, was broken by his wife, who, without cause,
had put this shame on him privately, and was ready, to her own shame,
to make it public. Now it was known to his friend only, and he might
offer counsel in his extremity.

The old Syud was inexpressibly shocked and grieved. The very last thing
he had thought possible had come to pass. Was, then, Zóra, his little
Zóra, so much advanced in girlhood that it was immodest or dangerous
to allow her to go about unveiled and untended, as she had used to
do? Was she, indeed, of marriageable age, and in permitting her to go
abroad was there even a suspicion of immodesty? He could not see, and
his experience of worldly matters had faded out. Still Runga Naik, and
above all his wife, could not be mistaken. Else why should suspicion
and jealousy have arisen? And now a horrible thought flashed into the
old man's mind. Could Runga have carried off Zóra for his own purposes?
It might be so; otherwise, why did his wife suspect him? "Ya, Alla
Kureem, protect us!" he cried in his misery. "We are but two helpless
creatures, a girl and a blind man, trying to serve Thee! Oh! suffer us
not to fall into misery, which Thou alone canst avert!"

Zóra was visiting the family of the Choudhree, or head of the weavers,
that day; and she was fond of doing so, as his wife was in reality kind
and motherly, and much interested in her helpless condition. That day
she and her children had insisted on bathing Zóra, dressing her hair,
and putting on her a suit of new clothes, for which her husband and
his men had woven the materials, and his wife had made them up. And
when Zóra, duly dressed and anointed, was placed in the seat of honour,
and the children were decking her with garlands of jessamine, and
calling her bride, their mother said gravely to Zóra, "And it is time
thou shouldst be so in reality, darling, to be able to live a decent,
respectable life, and bear children. I was not thy age, Zóra, when I
was married; and what has thy grandfather been doing that he has not
arranged this long ago? It is time thou, child, shouldst no longer have
the mantle of reproach cast over thee."

"Of reproach, mother?" said Zóra, her lips quivering and tears starting
from her eyes. "No one has ever reproached me; no one wants me; no
one has ever asked me in marriage; and many have told me, that one of
the noble Syud race would have honour in putting on the green dress,
and renouncing the world, living a humble and devout life, doing good
works. Oh, mother! speak no more to me about marriage, for I cannot
bear it."

"Well," said the dame, "I will tell my husband what you say; but of
late both he and I have been distressed by hearing things that ought
not to be spoken."

"God help me!" said the girl, "for I trust in Him. I will speak to Abba
when I go home, and pray him to take me away from this. No, mother,
wherever we go we are Fakeers, and the world is open to us, and the
ears of the Hearer of prayer are never shut. Yes, I see it all, mother,
now, and we must go."

"And have you any means of support, my child?" asked the dame.

"Oh, yes," returned Zóra, "God feeds Fakeers as He feeds the ravens and
the wild birds, who cannot work. True, I can embroider, and do many
things for myself if there be need; but Abba can be rich if he pleases.
The offerings he receives every day amount to many, many rupees, and
yet he refuses almost all; and those he keeps are only what I take up
from his carpet, when people leave them. No, mother, there is no fear
of want; only to beg for our daily bread is painful, and we take only
what the merciful Alla sends us." The dame could say no more; and the
children were awed into silence at seeing their mother and Zóra so
grave; and though Zóra tried to be merry, and did what she could to
amuse her little companions, even to singing Maria's songs, her heart
was heavy and sad, and the children instinctively clung to her and
tried to cheer her, when they saw the tears welling from her eyes and
coursing each other down her cheek. Zóra did not rally, and went home.

Meanwhile, Mamoolla had come from the Bazar, and her master called her
to him, and questioned her in regard to Zóra, and as to whether any
remarks about the child had come to her ears. Of course they had. Who
could keep a great girl like that in the house, and allow her to go
about without restraint, and not hear reproach. At Juldroog everyone
was accustomed to see Zóra abroad, but here, in a populous place like
Korikul, it was quite another matter, and people would talk; who could
stop their mouths? As to the child herself, there was not a suspicion
of immodesty about her. She was as pure as an infant, but still that
would not help her if the world were uncharitable.

Mamoolla was talking to her grandfather when Zóra returned, escorted
by two stout journeymen of the weaver's; and as she threw off the sheet
that had covered her, she hastened to her grandfather, and laying her
head in his lap, burst into tears.

"I know, I know, my darling," he said, putting his trembling hands upon
her head, "thou, too, hast heard the foul reports, and may God forgive
those who set them on foot. Ameen, and Ameen."

"Let us go, Abba," she cried, sobbing. "The world will not have us as
we are, but the merciful Lord is our refuge. Let us go, Abba; whither
He guides us we cannot fail or perish."



CHAPTER V.
AMONG FRIENDS.


The next day being Friday, or the Sabbath, there was a larger
attendance than usual in the mosque, for all God-fearing men, and some
women with them, did no work, and attended the stated prayers. After
the noontide devotions, there gathered round the old Syud a great
number of people, and he thought it a good opportunity to take leave of
them. Accordingly, after begging all to be seated, he addressed them
much as follows:--

"You have been kind to me, friends," he said, in a voice much broken
by emotion, "and, had it been the will of the Disposer of all events,
I would have remained with you till I died. But man's will is not
God's will, and my heart tells me, nay, whispers to me unceasingly,
by the Lord's prompting, 'Thou hast not attained what is desirable
and necessary for those who aspire to perfection in the holy calling
of a true Syud. Thou callest thyself a Dervish, and some call thee
Musháekh, or holy one, but thou hast not attained even the rank of
a Fakeer. Thou hast never been elected; thou, old as thou art, hast
never chosen a leader in the way of heavenly life (Turreequt), and
that above all things is needful for thy acceptance before God. Thou
hast led an easy life, never undergoing privation, and it is only in
relation to thy charity and good works that thou hast been protected
so far; and thy removal here was an act of divine mercy, and thy first
step in the Turreequt, which thou must fulfil. Seek, therefore, some
godly saint of great knowledge and experience in holy mysteries, and
tarry not till thou hast found him.' 'Tarry not! tarry not,' my heart
cries to me day and night. 'Thou art old and growing feeble, and if
thou delayest, a blessed portion may not be thy lot. Death may claim
thee, and after this warning what answer canst thou make to Moonkir and
Nukeer, the angels of death, who will examine thee in the tomb? and
how wilt thou be enabled to cross the bridge Al Sirat, sharper than a
sword?' Therefore, O beloved friends and brothers, my soul trembles as
it dwells on these divine truths. I cannot rest under them; I must seek
rest; I must follow the path of eternal life which has been opened to
me. I must not fear to meet the angels of death.

"I have been spared nearly eighty years, and have been idle and
slothful. True, I can plead that I was a prisoner and had no free will
of my own; but I am a prisoner no longer, and must go forth and speed
on ere it be too late; and therefore I go as I am, guided by the Lord,
and must not tarry, lest I be too late and fail."

Then the whole congregation burst into passionate weeping, and many
cries arose of "Stay, stay with us, and fear not, for thou art holy
and aged, and the Lord will have mercy on thy infirmity! Thou art
leading us as no one ever led us before. May the Lord reward thee!"

But the old recluse had prepared himself for all this. If it were
necessary for him to leave the town on Zóra's account, and that
seemed to him imperative, he had for some years past meditated the
assumption of the order of a Fakeer leading to that of a Musháekh.
He had applied for permission to visit some holy shrine and make
his public profession, but in vain; no one had had the authority in
Juldroog to grant such permission to a State prisoner, even though
his name and rank were unknown; and the Nawab Osman Beg's denial, on
his application, had been peculiarly offensive and discourteous. Now,
however, he was free; and, although that might have been a matter of
accident, the old man had come to the conclusion in his own mind that
it had been appointed by the Lord, and he reproached himself bitterly
that he had ever murmured against the seeming violence, and, indeed,
dishonour, which he had had to undergo on his sweet child's account.

The people saw it was no use to urge the old man further. He had
determined upon his own course, as most believed, by divine influence,
and who dared to oppose that? He told them finally that his friend,
Runga Naik, their lord, had provided him with a residence at the quiet
village of Kukeyra, where he should rest for a while in solitude, and
that any of his friends who desired ghostly council, or medicine, or
amulets could visit him there. Then he got up, and placing his hands
upon the heads of the children who were brought to him, and on those
who surrounded him, he departed amidst the prayers, blessings, and good
wishes of all.

On his return home he found Runga and Burma without, sitting under the
tree in the court-yard, who came forward and touched his feet with a
lowly reverence.

"I have taken leave of them all," said the Syud, with emotion; "but it
is well, it is as God wills, and whatever our destiny may be, it must
be fulfilled. The Lord has vouchsafed to me a much clearer view of my
duty than I had at Juldroog, and that, whatever betide, I must follow.
My only anxiety is about Zóra; and I have no fear, for the Almighty
will raise up friends to her; the orphan will not be deserted. To Abbas
Khan I have confided who I am, which even you must not know yet; and, I
think, he will help her, wherever she may be, when I have passed away."

They could only weep, for the old recluse was dear to them both,
notwithstanding their difference of faith. And the old man continued--

"To you, Runga Naik, I commit what worldly property I possess, which
is all in the box we have sealed up; and I pray you to keep it, to be
reclaimed by Zóra if ever she is in a condition to do so. Keep it
in your own treasury. There is not much in it; some ornaments of her
mother's, some gold that belonged to her, and such jewels as I was
presented with when I was at the King's court in honour. If I die, my
child's rank would be known by them. Now she shares my condition of a
Fakeer, and we can live on the alms the faithful may bestow upon me.
And you spoke of a temporary resting-place at Kukeyra, is it ready for
us?"

"Burma has been arranging it, and it is now ready for you, Huzrut; but
it is a poor place, only a thatched dwelling, in which an old Fakeer
lived for many years, and died lately. It is in a little garden by
itself, just outside the village gate; but my men there have orders to
watch it day and night, and no harm can come to you. You will be nearly
alone, for except the Moolla, who is very ignorant, there are but few
Mussulmans, and they are only poor weavers and cultivators. Ha! who
are these? Some visitors to ask your blessing, Huzrut; are they to be
admitted? By the Gods! I see men from Juldroog, and one of the Nawab's
slaves, what can it mean?"

"Has Zóra returned?" asked her grandfather. "Mamoolla, is the child
there?"

"I am here, Abba," she replied, coming to the door of the house. "What
need you?"

"Runga tells me that some persons have come from Juldroog, thou hadst
better keep thyself close;" but, as he spoke, the women entered by the
outside door; and as she slunk back into a dim corner, she saw that the
arrivals were Máma Luteefa and Shireen-bee, her servant, who saluted
the old man with respect.

"We have a letter from the Nawab," said Máma Luteefa, "and he has sent
us to deliver it and to plead for him."

"As-tagh-fur-oola! God forbid!" cried the Syud, putting his hands to
his ears, "that any message should reach me from that bold, bad man.
Leave me; I will not hear you."

"He is penitent now," returned the Máma, wiping her eyes. "He will do
whatever you please."

"He is worn to a shadow," said Shireen-bee, sniffling and blowing her
nose. "He will die of grief, Huzrut, for Zóra-bee. Will she not relent?
Osman Beg will have the grandest marriage performed."

"Here," interrupted Máma Luteefa, "if Zóra wishes, in the midst
of her friends. He will come without a following, and place
himself--he--he--in voluntary captivity to the beauteous Zóra. He will
settle on her a dower of fifty thousand rupees, and an elephant could
not carry the clothes he has provided. If my lord will read his letter
he will see that I tell the truth."

"Let Zóra open and read it," said the old man, gently. "She can choose
for herself. I will say nothing, for rank and wealth may have favour
in her sight, though they have none in mine. Zóra! Zóra!" and she came
forth, veiling her face, and sat down beside him.

"Read this," he said; "it is from Osman Beg; and I would that these his
emissaries heard thy decision from thine own lips. Open the letter and
read it to me."

The epistle was from Osman Beg himself, whose orthography and spelling
were none of the best. He had evidently not trusted his moonshee to
copy it. It contained all that Máma Luteefa and Shireen had enumerated,
and much more in a fulsome style of flattery; and he would come to
Korikul, with his body servants only, to celebrate the marriage at any
time, or by any person, that might be approved of.

It was as much as she could do to read the letter. Zóra's face flushed,
and her eyes glowed at the remembrance of the insult and indignity
which had been put upon her; and when she had read it and put it down,
she burst into a violent flood of tears. "He might have spared thee
this last indignity, Abba," she sobbed, "knowing, as he does, that we
have been obliged to fly from his tyranny and become wanderers. And
these women, who failed to persuade me once when I was in their power,
might have guessed what the result of their mission would be when I
was free. Yet you are not to blame, Máma Luteefa. You were following
your trade, and he was giving you gold. He has even bribed you again.
Enough that you think it honourable and good. Now hear the last words
I will speak to either of you. Go! tell your master that I am now,
even as I was then. No wealth can tempt me, no threat can terrify
me; I go whither he cannot find me, and am henceforth a Fakeer with
my grandfather, whose lot I share, whatever it may be, till he passes
away. Go! and trouble us no more."

"And that is your answer, Zóra-bee?" said Máma Luteefa, somewhat
scornfully. "You refuse, child, all that I had contrived for you."

"I have spoken," returned the girl; and she sat still, idly picking up
pebbles from the sand.

"And how didst thou cross the river, Mámajee?" asked Runga, in his
rough Dekhan dialect.

"What business is that of yours?" said Shireen-bee. "My mistress does
not speak with Beydurs."

"Perhaps she would speak; perhaps she would be made to speak if I had
her head shaved and she were set on an ass. I am master here, and can
do justice after my own rough fashion. Will ye answer the question?"

If it had not been painful to witness, the terror of the two women
would have been ludicrous. They looked hither and thither without
seeing the possibility of aid, and at last fell down before the old
Syud in an agony of alarm. "Mercy! mercy!" they cried frantically.
"Spare us; we are only poor women earning our bread. There in the fort
he threatened us; here we are also terrified. Mercy! mercy! let us go,
and we will hasten away."

"Ye have not answered my question, Mámajee," rejoined Runga. "How did
ye cross the river?"

"The Nawab sent us by the lower ferry, and we said we were on a
pilgrimage from Moodgul. We went round a long way before we could reach
the place. They would not let us cross from the fort."

"Good," said Runga, with a smile of content. "Then our people are not
to be tempted; and we must secure the boats below, Burma. As ye did not
come by the upper ferry, ye shall return by it," he continued to the
women; "and when ye get back offer fatehas that your hair is on your
head. Take them, Burma, and despatch them by Jumálpoor; and if ever I
see you again here, or hear of any of the Nawab's people being on this
side the river again, I will have their ears cut off and tied about
their necks."

"And there is no answer to our master's letter?" said Shireen, somewhat
impudently. "And what shall I say to him from thee, my fairy?"

"Begone!" shouted Runga. "Up, and begone! Else beware! I am not used to
have my will disputed;" and seizing them by the shoulders, he pushed
them out of the door into the street; and in a few minutes more, with
fresh bearers for Máma Luteefa's litter, they had passed the gates
under an escort of Beydurs, and were on their way. We need not detail
their reception in the fort; suffice it to say that two days after
Osman Beg directed their hair to be shorn, and, riding on asses, as we
have already mentioned, they were expelled the fort.

"Shookr! Shookr! Thanks, a thousand times, that they are gone. Runga,
I owe this to thee; else they had persecuted me, and Zóra, too, poor
child. Do not weep; you are safe now. Blessed be the Lord! Safe from
persecution! Hast thou the letter, Zóra?"

"It is here, Abba. What shall I do with it?"

"Keep it for me," he replied; "I would fain have it shown to Abbas
Khan. Wilt thou take it, Runga?"

"Nay," he replied, "I should but lose it; let Zóra keep it safely. And
now, Huzrut, be led by my advice. Meeah must have reached Beejapoor
before this, and some of my people are going for their yearly State
services. As I have told thee, I am obliged to go westwards; but they
will escort thee safely, and make ye both over to Meeah if he be there;
and if not, get ye a lodging near the Chishtee Saint, in the quarter of
the Dervishes."

The old Syud shook his head. "No," he said; "the path of my salvation
lies to the east, and the Murdan-ool-Ghyb points thither on Monday,
when we must depart. I cannot, under the revelations made to me, change
my direction or my purpose; and after what has happened to-day, I feel
as if there were additional pressure put upon me to depart speedily."

"As you will, Huzrut, as you will," said Runga, kindly; "only I wish
it were otherwise. I wish you would go direct to Beejapoor, and sit
down at the palace gate till you are recognised and relieved. This
travelling is a sore trial both to you and the child; and who have you
to help you?"

"Do not care for me, Abba," said Zóra, with a sweet smile. "Now they
are gone I have no fear--none. And you know we shall have Ahmed with
us, Runga Naik; he refuses to leave us, and says he will become a
Fakeer with Abba. So we shall not be alone. And perhaps I shall become
one also, if Mamoolla does; but I have not felt the call yet, and shall
wait awhile."

"Take my advice, my child," said Runga. "If I am not wrong, and my
Brahmin astrologer is not wrong, there are better things in store
for thee than the skirt of a Fakeer, even if there be some pain in
attaining them; and Vishnu Punt is a strangely wise man, who can tell
everything. Shall I bring him to thee?"

"No," she said, quietly. "That might not be lawful for me. Nothing can
possibly turn Abba from his purpose, and I should only be perplexed and
terrified if your Brahmin's directions were different from his. No; let
me be. I do but follow my fate, Runga Naik; and be the way rough or
smooth, it must be travelled in faith and trust."

No more remained to be done. All Saturday and Sunday there were other
sad services in the mosque, and during both days visitors were
constant, begging for charms, amulets, and medicines; and by many small
gifts of money, vermicelli and other simple necessaries were provided.
Finally, early on Monday they left Korikul, soon after daylight,
after partaking of an early meal which the Moolla and his wife had
prepared. Burma Naik, with an escort, accompanied them, the old Syud
and Zóra riding easy ponies with saddle-bags, which Runga had procured
for them, with Mamoolla mounted on another, which carried their small
amount of cooking utensils, while the simple Ahmed drove another pony
laden with their worldly goods. So the little procession was formed,
which went out of the gate of the town eastwards to Kukeyra, and which
was followed with dim, tearful eyes by Runga. "When shall I see them
again?" he murmured. "Whither may not the old man's new projects lead
him? Free, after years of seclusion, he will not now readily settle
down, even for Zóra's sake, and in respect to her is as simple as a
child. May the Gods protect them, and lead them safely."

It was a fresh pleasant morning when the little party left Korikul, and
the strange, novel motion was delightful to Zóra. All her life she had
been confined to the gloomy fortress and its rocks, with the roaring
or murmuring river ever in her ears. Now there were green fields and
luxuriant waving grain; cotton with its bright yellow blossoms, and
wayside plants and flowers all new to her. In place of the frowning
rocks of the ravine of Juldroog, there was an open fertile country,
with some low hills on the left hand, and a level plain to the right
which sloped gradually down to the great river, which could be seen at
intervals gleaming in the sun, while the rugged peak of the fortress
seemed to rise out of the basin of hills and rocks; and Zóra could
even see the small white pavilion on the high rock before the palace,
where, in days gone by, she had often sat to watch the cataract and
the boiling foaming river beneath it. Should she ever see them again?
Even her grandfather, generally so silent, was stirred by a new sense
of freedom which he had not known for years. Ah, so many now! Aged as
he was, he felt a new strength and power as the stout beast he bestrode
with the air of a cavalier walked on firmly and speedily. "This is
delicious, Zóra!" he cried. "No longer the few steps between the house
and the mosque, no longer the close stifling air of the narrow ravine
of Juldroog, but the free fresh air of the country and the fields. I
cannot see them, child, but their perfume refreshes me, and I feel new
life and vigour. Surely it is a blessed beginning of the path we have
chosen; and thou, be thankful then in thy heart, child, as I am."

"I am thankful, Abba," she replied, urging her pony up to his side.
"And I am free, too, from the danger that threatened me. I could never
have been at peace in Korikul after those women had found us out; and
Burma tells me there is no danger now, for there are Beydurs in every
village, and there will be orders given to pass us on from stage to
stage, and to guard us always. So we can go miles and miles, further
and further; and he will take care of the cows and the goats while we
are away, and send them to us when we return, or wherever we may be."

And thus they travelled on their first stage of a few miles, chatting
with each other, while the old man every now and then recited portions
of the Koran, or from Persian poets that he remembered, and even
passages in Arabic of the Turreequt, which at last he had undertaken.
Presently Burma Naik, who had been riding in advance, stopped and said
to them, "Yonder is the village, and my horn-blower will sound a signal
that we approach. It is my own village, the Beydurs there belong to my
division, and my wife and family live here, but when Runga is away on
his duty I reside at Korikul. Is not my home pretty? I think it the
most beautiful of all our villages, and there is not one empty house in
it. But you will see it better when we get nearer."

Even from the distance they were, the appearance of Kukeyra was very
inviting. It seemed like a large cluster of houses rising towards the
centre, and was embosomed in trees and gardens. To the left the low
range of hills rose considerably, and were covered with wood, part
of which extended along the road by which they were travelling, and
being without underwood or jungle, looked like a park. Cattle were
grazing in large numbers on the short green sward, or lying under the
shade of large trees. "This is our hunting ground, lady," said Burma
to Zóra, "and there are plenty of wild hogs in the small ravines up
there; and when they are driven from thence they take to the islands
in the river, so we always know where to get them when we have a hunt.
And look! yonder are antelopes grazing in a herd, and there are hares
and pea-fowl among the grass, and my people protect them all. You have
never seen these things before."

"No, indeed," replied Zóra; "how could I in the fort? But I have seen
panthers and bears climbing about, and pea-fowl sometimes came down to
the river side to drink, and I and other girls used to look at them."

"Well, you shall see all here, if you like--that is, if Abba does not
object. But here no one is veiled, for we are all Beydurs, except a few
farmers and weavers, and but seven families of Mussulmans, one of whom
is the Moolla; but he is not like Abba; he cannot read or write, and,
indeed, is not very different from a Beydur, and he is a capital shot."

Zóra's eyes opened wide at the idea of a Moolla who could only shoot
well. "And there is no mosque, then?" she asked.

"No, lady, not even one; there is only a thatched shed which is used
for the Mohurrum, which the Beydurs keep as well as the Mussulmans; but
you will see all yourself. Now blow thy horn, Bheema," he said to the
trumpeter, when they had reached the summit of a slight elevation,
which gave them a better view of the village. "Blow stoutly, that
they may hear;" and the blast was long and varied, with a peculiarly
strange cadence at the close. It was evidently heard, for after a short
interval, during which they remained where they were, a similar blast
was blown from one of the towers of the gate, on which there was a red
flag with a figure of Hunooman, the monkey-god, on its field in white.
"Well blown, Krishna," said Burma, laughing; "'tis a hearty welcome to
you, Huzrut. If the Rajah himself had been approaching it could not
have been more complete; and hark! there are the pipes."

As they neared the village, Zóra saw how prosperous it looked. All the
houses to be seen were perfect, and the wall itself was perfect too,
and its bastions firmly built of stone. Gardens filled the space up to
the wall, among which were some graceful clumps of bamboos, with mango
and tamarind trees, with gardens of lemon trees for supplying the dyers
at Korikul with the juice of the fruit, as well as the population for
domestic use. Here and there, too, a solitary cocoa-nut tree waved its
graceful foliage in the air; and as to date palms, they were numerous
in groves to the south. Zóra expected to see their new home at every
turn, but there were only solitary huts in the gardens, for watchers
and labourers.

At last, near a large bright green sugar-cane field, they met the
village procession and the musicians, who kept up a spirited but
shrill piece of music intended for a welcome, accompanied by their own
drummers; and four Beydurs, with their large tambourine drums, leaped,
strutted, circled round and round, and performed their most elaborate
exercises. The din of the music prevented Zóra from asking questions,
and the party could only follow the lord of the place, who rode first.
At the gate of the village, however, was the real reception. Pointing
out the venerable Syud to all, the authorities, that is, the head man,
or Patell, who was not a Beydur, the Kurnum or accountant, a Brahmin,
the blacksmith, the carpenter, and many others, touched the old man's
feet and Zóra's, and bid them welcome; and they waved trays with
lighted lamps in them, and flowers over their heads; and when this was
all done, the little procession formed once more, and proceeded through
the main street of the village, which was cleanly swept, and the houses
ornamented with bright cloths which hung over the parapets of their
roofs.

The street was lined with men and women, holding up their children to
see the holy man; and Zóra already saw several faces among the women
that she knew, who had come to Juldroog for medicine for their children
or their husbands; and it was evident she was not forgotten. Every one
was dressed in their best, and the whole place seemed what it might be
at a festival. Thus they passed out of the eastern gate of the village,
and almost close to it, a little withdrawn, was the Tukeea, or "Pillow
of residence," which was to be their abode.

It was a low, long thatched cabin, whitewashed without, standing in
a small piece of ground by itself, and shaded by a noble banyan tree
and others about its precincts. A cloud of parroquets, green pigeons,
mynas, and other birds, rose from the giant branches, and flew
screaming into the air as the music passed from under the gateway, and
gladdened Zóra's heart. When had she not had birds about her? Then
Abba was lifted from his pony, and a carpet spread in the shade, and
everyone came and bowed before him, and bade him welcome. Even little
children were held out by their mothers, that the old man might lay
his hands on them. And the Moolla was there, who looked like a Beydur
soldier more than a priest, and besought Abba to teach him something.
Then the time came at which they might enter the house, which, it must
be told in secret, had been fixed by the Brahmin astrologer, as there
was none other; but he was present also, as were others belonging to
the temple, to welcome one for whom all the country round had respect
and affection. Indeed, it was a moving sight to see all these people,
strangers in faith and previously unknown, receive the venerable Syud
as they did, and pay him honour; and Zóra's heart was stirred within
her, and she wept tears of joy as she sat behind part of the trunk of
the giant tree and heard women calling to her, "We bless you because
you helped the sick and denied no one."

Then her grandfather was led into the house by the Moolla and the
Patell, as accepted by the whole community; and Zóra and old Mamoolla
followed, and found the place neat and clean and very commodious,
for there were three comfortable rooms, that in the centre being the
largest. There was a kitchen behind, a shed for the two cows and the
goats, and a verandah along part of the front, in which her father
could sit. There was a well near the house, where many people from the
village came to draw water. Above all, it was very quiet, fitted for
religious meditation, and, as Zóra thought, the very place for her
grandfather in his present frame of mind. And when all had retired, and
the beds they had found ready for them were covered with their thin
mattresses and quilts, and the old man lay down to take rest after his
unaccustomed exercise, he called Zóra to him, and she went and put her
head into his lap, and he said, with a quivering voice, "The Lord has
been good to us, my child, forget not this in thy thoughts;" and he
lay down, and slept peacefully. Without were the songs of birds; the
cooing of ringdoves and pigeons in the great tree; the fresh breath
of the sweet air came through the doorway, and the murmur of voices
in the village seemed assuring. Without, a bed of purple amaranths
and marigolds glowed in the sun, and pretty lizards basked in it, and
chirped, or sometimes looked towards the house as if to say, Who have
come to disturb us? Yet it was a pleasant place, and full of rest and
peace; and she was thankful, very thankful.



CHAPTER VI.
A DARING ATTACK.


It is very probable that the readers of this tale have never even
heard of the Beydurs who have some part in it; but their history and
position are interesting, and at the risk of a short digression we will
endeavour to explain enough of both to help to assure the reader that
they are real people, and not mere invention.

The Beydurs, under the name of Veddur, still used by the wilder part
of the tribes who inhabit the mountains and forests of south-western
India, are what is termed ordinarily one of the aboriginal races, as
seen in their native condition in the forests of Travancore and Mysore.
They are savages, wearing little or no clothing, cultivating no land,
except in isolated instances, and subsisting upon fruits, roots, and
the like, and collecting honey, bees-wax, and other forest produce,
which they exchange for such articles of clothing and such necessaries
as are indispensable. These portions of the tribe are now comparatively
few in number, and altogether unimportant. They have been driven at
some ancient period from the plains into the mountains of the west, and
have not emerged from their original barbarism.

Other portions of the tribe which remained, in the plains of southern
India and in Mysore became, in some respects, civilised, and at one
time attained a considerable degree of power, which, however, was
shattered by the great Hindoo dynasties that gradually arose long
before the Christian era, and the Veddurs, now adopting the appellation
of Beydur, became soldiers and tillers of the soil, but never artisans,
or reaching any degree of education. Under chiefs of their own, some
small principalities were formed westward of Madras, some of which
still exist, but most have disappeared in wars with the first Mussulman
invaders and with ourselves. In North-Western Mysore, also, the Beydurs
attained considerable power. They held many strongholds, and were
feudal vassals of several Hindoo dynasties before the arrival of the
Mussulman invaders in the twelfth century; and although the last of
these dynasties, that of Beejanugger, fell to the Mussulman arms after
the battle of Talikote in A.D. 1564, yet the chiefs of the Beydur
tribes submitted to them, and became powerful feudal vassals.

The wars between the Hindoo kingdom of Beejapoor and the Mussulman
kingdoms of the Dekban had continued for several centuries, and their
great field of battle and object of contention was the province which
lies between the rivers Krishna to the north and Tamboodra to the
south, the capitals of which are Moodgul and Raichore. It was sometimes
in possession of the Hindoos and sometimes in the Mussulmans';
thus the allegiance of the Beydur clans became divided; and as the
Mussulmans confirmed their hereditary rights and privileges, many of
the Beydur chiefs entered their service; and, as the tribe at large
were the best infantry soldiers of the period, their service was always
valuable.

This portion of them were the allies and servants of the great Bahmuny
Mussulman dynasty of Gulburgah and Beedur, and rendered essential
service in guarding these southern frontiers, as well as in many
general actions; and from having in the early period been confined
to the frontier of the Tamboodra river, they gradually extended
themselves over the Raichore Dooab, and their chiefs formed small
principalities which originally must have been independent, or held
in feudal service, but which how exist only in name. In northern
Mysore, the chieftainships of Chittledroog, Hurpunhully, once powerful
minor states, were overwhelmed by Hyder Ali and Tippoo Sultan, and
the present representatives are now pensioners under the British
Government; and the last Beydur state, Shorapoor, situated in the
Dooab, which lies between the Bheema to the north and the Krishna
to the south, having rebelled in 1858, was attached, and is now the
property of the Government of His Highness the Nizam.

At the close of the sixteenth century, however, the period of our
tale, this Beydur principality held a high position. A portion of the
tribe had at first, probably about the fourteenth century, crossed
the Krishna, and their earliest settlements were at Korikul, Kukeyra,
and the villages on the left or northern bank of the river; thence
they spread all over the province, their chief or naik selecting
Wakin-Keyra, a village at the extreme end of a rugged chain of
hills, where there was a strong position, as his capital, which he
fortified. The tribe then could muster twelve thousand well-armed
infantry militia; and beside these the Rajah had a force of other
soldiers, horse and foot, amounting to about four thousand more. His
revenues were not derived from the land only, but from dues in various
provinces, being a percentage on the revenues--this, in most instances,
being literally the Beydur's black mail; and as the militia not only
assisted the reigning King of Beejapoor, but protected the whole of his
eastern frontier against aggression by the King of Golconaa, the tribe
was held in high estimation, and certainly fought bravely wherever they
were employed.

Thus, in this history, we find them not only at Juldroog but at
Beejapoor, and marching under Runga Naik to the King's camp, which was
in the field north of the Bheema. These intimate relations between
the Beydurs and the kingdom of Beejapoor continued till its fall
before Aurung Zeeb; and almost the last resistance the great Emperor
encountered in the Dekhan was at Wakin-Keyra, which, after a noble
defence, through several separate sieges, fell at last under the
attack of a very large army which had been summoned from the south of
India for the purpose; and the Rajah, finding Wakin-Keyra too weak and
too confined for a permanent residence, took up a new position in a
secluded basin of the range, and founded the town of Shorapoor, which
is the present capital of the district. Shorapoor had held its own
against the Nizam, the Mahrattas, and Tippoo Sultan. It had avoided
collision with any one, and had increased in wealth; but of late years
it had been misgoverned and oppressed, and the name only of its former
power remained, and it at last fell to rise no more, under the effect
of a foolish attempt on the part of its Rajah to attack a British
force, in which he suffered a disgraceful defeat.

The Beydurs as a people are essentially different from ordinary
Hindoos. Some of them attend Hindoo services and conform to the
ministrations of Brahmins, but for the most part they are followers
of the Lingayet doctrine, or hold to their ancient aboriginal worship
of natural objects, glens, water-falls, rocks, trees, and the like.
They do not accept or desire education in any form, and are of a
freer, bolder type--both in manner and customs--than ordinary Hindoos.
They are great sportsmen in all respects; bold in following tigers,
panthers, and bears on foot; and ordinarily they live upon whatever
game they can shoot or snare. In person both men and women are
remarkably neat and clean, and their homes and villages well kept.
They are also industrious cultivators and farmers, and own a great
quantity of land in their province. They are likewise public carriers
of cotton and salt to and from the coast; and, in short, are rarely
idle, and by no means dissipated. Formerly they were dreaded for raids
on their neighbours, and in cattle-lifting especially were most daring
and expert; but those times and deeds have passed away, though their
memory lives in many a song and legend.

Beydurs hold themselves to have no caste, and they eat everything
except carrion, and such birds or beasts as feed upon it. They also
object to beef, because the slaughter of kine is offensive to Hindoos,
and especially to Brahmins. They marry exclusively into their own
tribe, and rarely have more than one wife, though their chiefs take as
many as they can support.

Perhaps we need not follow the Beydur clans further, and we have
recorded enough to explain the position they occupied at the period of
our tale in the country in which its action is laid, and where the clan
still exists, not in its former rude splendour and strength, but as
peaceful and industrious inhabitants. I may mention that I had intimate
experience of them for eleven years, when, during the minority of the
late and last Rajah, I ruled over them and their province alone. But to
resume.

The time passed pleasantly and quietly in the new home, and there was
no jealous wife to disturb it. Burma's wife was his second, a fine
young woman of hardly twenty as yet. His first wife had died while yet
very young, and had born him no children. The present, Enkama, had
two, and her home was a happy one. She managed her great good-natured
husband admirably; and so long as she did not interfere with his office
as part guardian of the frontier and head of the Kukeyra portion of
the tribe, she had full liberty to do as she pleased with household
and farming affairs. She had many buffaloes and cows, and her dairy
produce was large. She was fond of her gardens, in which all kinds of
vegetables abounded, which she sent regularly to the market at Korikul;
and when the river was fordable, even across the river to Goorgoonta
and other towns. She superintended the ploughing of the land, sowing,
weeding, and gathering in of the crops, with a delight she did not
conceal; and while ready to punish lazy labourers, men or women, was
kind and considerate to those who served her well. Most charitable was
she, too, and kind to all; and, as the people said, there was ever a
blessing following her, and increasing her store. In the house or out
of the house she was never idle. When the morning meal had been served
to all, consisting of piles of jowarree bread, pots full of boiled
pulse, and vegetables, of which she and her husband partook also,
and the floors were plastered with liquid clay, she sat down to her
spinning wheel with her servant, and so worked till it was cool enough
to go out again. Sometimes she rode a strong pony; at others, with a
long staff in her hand, trudged over ploughed fields, or watched the
weeding of crops which, without her supervision, would be carelessly
done by the lazy hussies who were hired to do it. A clever cotton
picker, too; not ashamed to work all day in the field, and carry home
a bundle on her head bigger than any one else's. Withal a pleasant,
cheery woman, of no particular beauty, truly, but of an upright
graceful figure, whose lines were like those of a Grecian statue, with
a pleasant good-natured expression of face, and the whitest teeth. Not
fair in colour, but a rich ruddy brown, which had strong healthy blood
coursing under her skin.

Here was a new friend for Zóra, for whom she took a great liking, and
whom she constantly came to see, bringing with her whole baskets full
of household sweetmeats, vermicelli, fruits, vegetables, and whatever
she thought would be liked; and she always enjoyed a short chat with
the girl under the verandah, or most generally, when the ground was
dry, under the great banian tree. Enkama knew nothing, so to speak,
except tales of the deeds of the Gods, especially of Krishna, and
scraps of the Mahabharut and Ramayun, as she had heard Brahmins and
bards recite them; but she was a great authority upon the subject of
the old wars between the Hindoos and the Toorks, as she called the
Mussulmans, and could recite the ballad legend of King Firoze Shah and
the Goldsmith's Daughter of Moodgul, and the death of King Majahid
Shah, who had broken the image of Hunooman at Humpee. She was thus
a pleasant companion to Zóra, and Zóra in turn appreciated the good
dame's sound practical sense, industry, and kindness. They could not
be intimate friends, because Enkama saw how much she was below Zóra
in knowledge, and how different were the courtly manners of the girl
from those of her own Beydur class; indeed, Zóra's language in ordinary
conversation was so refined in comparison with her own, that she felt
birth and intelligence had separated them very far. Very often she
sent her children with the servant to play under the great tree, and
would find Zóra with other girls, making dolls'-houses or dressing up
dolls, and making dolls' feasts to amuse the little ones. Reader! there
is the same common humanity everywhere, and a Beydur child with a rag
or wooden doll and a pennyworth of sugar to feed her companions is as
proud and happy as the aristocratic child whose doll has cost, we will
not say how much, and whose cradle is trimmed with lace and covered
with eider down.

Then there were a few Mussulman girls in the village who, though
young, could learn something; and their mothers, who knew nothing,
gladly brought them to Zóra, who could teach them sewing, to mend
their father's clothes, how to knit his drawers-strings, and to
begin embroidery. Zóra had sold all her stock of embroidered caps
and boddices, and had gained a good many rupees by them, and she
was working others as fast as she could to get more. So these were
pleasant occupations, and she had pleasant, innocent company; and,
besides all this, she had to help Abba in his "Turreequt, or path to
Heaven;" and, as he could not read, and the books he had were Arabic,
she had to follow his recitation, and when he missed a passage or a
word, to spell it for him as well as she could, when he would give her
the proper pronunciation and explain the meaning, and thus she felt,
if he persevered, that she should gain some superficial knowledge of
that language which might be of use to her hereafter. And was Maria
forgotten? Ah, no! but was the more preciously remembered; and when
Zóra was tired of reading or working, and lay back on the little carpet
she had spread under the giant tree, she could look up among its
interlacing branches and watch the doves and wild pigeons, the flocks
of paroquets, flying in play from branch to branch; the old horned owls
come out of the holes in the tree and peer about, the little grey owls
twitting and constantly on the move, and the beautiful lizards chasing
each other from hole to hole along the deep furrows of the bark; and
listen, too, to the pleasant singing birds, who, though seldom to be
seen among the deep foliage, yet twitter songs of their own which were
pleasant and soothing to listen to. Yes, those were happy days, and
they passed smoothly and uneventfully for some weeks, and as if they
were never to come to an end. But Zóra knew better than this. She
knew that her grandfather's restlessness would again come on him, and
that the Turreequt could not be fulfilled in Kukeyra. Meanwhile, her
dreamy life continued; nor will we say how much the night scene with
the wounded and delirious Abbas Khan mingled with it. Had he forgotten
her? Ah, no! she hoped not, for he seemed ever present with her; but
their lives had drifted so far asunder. And Maria had not replied to
her simple little letter, to which an answer might have arrived by one
of the messengers who constantly brought letters from Beejapoor before
she left the fort. Yet still she trusted and hoped, and the faith of
the girl was not shaken.

Nor was her grandfather idle; and though he was evidently becoming more
and more absorbed in his religious meditations, he had not given up
the concerns of the world. There were only a few families of ignorant
Mussulmans in the village, most of the members of which could not even
repeat the Belief; but these were gathered together on Friday (the
Sabbath) for instruction such as they could comprehend; and as Friday
was the weekly market-day of the little town, many Mussulmans came with
their field and garden produce, and weavers with their manufactures;
and then the old man had larger gatherings and regular prayer services,
and preached to them on simple subjects, most especially against
drinking palm wine, which, not being wine or spirits, was held to
be excusable and allowable. So the residence of the Syud and his
granddaughter at Kukeyra was not devoid of usefulness; and, in spite of
its being a Beydur town, and therefore held to be generally unclean,
their lives were peaceful and undisturbed. But this was not to be of
long continuance.

Huleema, the eldest daughter of the Moolla, a handsome and intelligent
girl, and Zóra's most advanced pupil, had long been betrothed to the
son of the Moolla of a town some miles to the north, where resided the
only Kazee of the province, and where a number of Mussulman weavers
lived. Now, the period of marriage was fixed, the Kazee had consented
to perform the ceremony, and had appointed the day. Invitations had
been issued to all friends, but that to the old Syud was brought by the
girl's father and mother, who besought of him to come to their house
and pronounce the final blessing. There would be such amusement in the
course of the evening as poor folks could provide, and there was an
empty room at his service, while Zóra could remain with the women of
the family.

The old man demurred at first, but Zóra pleaded that he should go. She
had promised the girl to be with her at her marriage if her grandfather
remained at Kukeyra, and as yet he had not signified his intention of
travelling onwards.

The day arrived, and in the afternoon Zóra, casting a sheet about her,
led her grandfather through the village gate and small Bazar up to the
Moolla's house, which was in one of the principal streets, and from
the high roof of which there was an extensive view to the south, west,
and east. A screen of bamboos, covered thickly with date palm leaves,
had been erected as a sunshade, and here most of the women guests
were assembled, who received Zóra with homely courtesy and welcome;
but Huleema could not spare her friend, and Zóra was soon engaged in
the preliminary ceremonies of bathing, anointing with ground turmeric
and sandal wood paste, similar offices being performed by men for the
bridegroom, and these ceremonies, of which we spare the reader the
detail, necessarily occupied some hours.

Meanwhile the old Syud was very happy. The men, and especially the
Kazee of Kembavee, had received him with affectionate courtesy, and
they had placed him in the seat of honour, and offered him sherbet to
drink. Of course there was no one so learned as himself, but the Kazee
was a man of some education, both in Arabic and Persian, and had read
some religious books of an easy character. He had also a knowledge
of law and logic, and a slight acquaintance with ordinary works on
medicine. He had studied in the colleges of Beeder and Beejapoor,
and from the high court of the latter held his diploma as Kazee. The
appointment he occupied was a lucrative one, as his dues extended all
over the province. Some other intelligent guests were present, and
the evening passed pleasantly enough. Then the Shubgusht, or marriage
procession, formed before the house, and the bride being seated in a
palanquin, her husband followed on a stout pony, both being dressed in
red muslin garments as gaily as possible. It was a public procession,
the gates of the village were open, and strangers from other localities
mixed freely with the crowd that thronged the streets. Burma Naik, who,
being a Beydur, could not take a part in the ceremony, nor sit among
the chief guests in the house, had nevertheless held a court of his
own in the outer portion of it, now headed the procession on his fine
horse, and was accompanied by a number of his men, who fired their
matchlocks and cheered the bride with those strange shrieks and yells
in which the Beydur youth delight. Thus, what with these, the blasts
of many horn-blowers, the pipes and drums of several villages, and the
general noise and clatter, nothing could be distinctly heard, and all
was merry confusion.

The procession was to pass along part of the Bazar, then traverse the
main street to the west gate, and, returning by the only other wide
street to the Bazar again, proceed as far as the east gate, whence a
deputation would convey an offering to the old saint's tomb, which was
under the Banian tree. Such had been the programme, which was rudely
interrupted. As the procession had reached the western gate, a sudden
shouting of "Thieves! Thieves! Dacoits!" was heard, and several shots
were fired. There had been strong guards posted at both entrances, and
some of the armed men ran up the Bazar to reinforce the eastern gate,
while Burma and about fifty of his men dashed through the western gate,
and guided by the shots and shouts, passed down a lane which ran round
the south side of the village among the gardens. Here was a point at
which several roads separated, and here he stationed some of the men,
posting himself opposite, so that no one could escape. It was evidently
an attack by Dacoits, under cover of the noise and merry-making of the
marriage procession, but against whom? And he set his teeth, drew his
sword, and awaited the approach of the fugitives and their prisoners,
and in a few moments they had arrived, some twenty men, a strong band,
who might have overpowered by their sudden rush any weaker persons
than those who now met them face to face. Crying to his men to spare
none, he attacked the strange party, and in a few moments several were
wounded, two killed outright, and six taken prisoners. The rest, many
or few they knew not, escaped through the hedges which lined the road
into the thick gardens and sugar-cane fields, and were beyond pursuit.
But Burma had as many as he wanted, and the men's hands being tied with
turbans, they were escorted to the village gate, where the Chaoree, or
town hall, was situated. This was common ground, and Beydurs, as well
as others of all castes, crowded into it. Among those who had come down
from the Moolla's house were the Kazee of Kembavee, some respectable
Moollas and weavers, with Brahmins, and generally most of those who
had not joined the procession. A few, however, remained with the old
Syud.

"I was about to send for you, Kazee Sahib," said Burma Naik, "and you
must help me to inquire into this. And do ye all, sirs," he continued
to others, "assist me to do justice. One of my men, a fine young
fellow, first in the pursuit, has been speared by one of the Dacoits,
and is already dead; another, I fear, is dying. This is murder, and
justice must be done. Were I alone, indeed, I should dispose of them at
once without mercy; but as the representative of the King is present,
I shall do nothing till he has spoken. Bring up the prisoners. Ha!"
he continued, as one was led forward, "thou, Kalloo! Methought thou
wouldst not have tried thy hand here."

"Be quick," said the man, a tall, powerful fellow, who still held a
spear shaft in his hand, from which the blade had been removed, "be
quick; hear what I have to say, for I am dying. Give me a drink of
water;" and someone handed a vessel full to him, from whence he drank
greedily. "Enough!" he said, as he gave it back. "Listen, Burma Naik,
you know me, Kalloo Jutt, and I deny it not. I have done my last deed.
There, read that, and you will see why I did it, and what it was to
have been. Ah! I was a fool to disobey the omens, but there was no time
to delay. I can speak no more."

Then the Kazee opened the paper in which a letter was wrapped, and
which the robber had taken from his waistbelt. It was in the Mahrathi
character, and the village accountant was called upon to read it. Twice
he cast his eyes over it, and seemed as if afraid to do so, when Burma
Naik snatched it from him, and said, "Now come and read it, while I
look over it with thee. But, Kazee Sahib, it bears the seal and the
signature of Osman Beg, the Governor of Juldroog, and I can guess what
its purport may be." And the document ran thus:--

"To Kalloo Naik Jutt, from Nawab Osman Beg, Bahadoor, greeting, and
health and grace from Alla attend you.

"Whereas Zóra, the granddaughter of the Syud Dervish who lived here,
has escaped, and is now at Kukeyra, under the protection of the rebel
Burma Naik, and lives in a house outside the entrance gate of the
village, you are therefore to go there with your men and take her up
and bring her to me, without hurting even a hair of her head. I do
not want the old man, he is useless to me; but if he resist he can
be slain. These are my orders; and if this service is well done, and
without hurt to Zóra-bee, who will belong to my harem, I will hold you
free from all question by the Government in case any trouble shall
arise; and I will give you, on receiving Zóra-bee aforesaid from your
hands, the sum of five hundred hoons of gold.

"You are to believe this fully, and act on it fully, and without fear.

    "The seal and signature of Osman Beg,
    son of Heidur Beg, Toorcoman."

"How strange!" cried the Kazee; "I received a letter from him only
yesterday, asking me to come to Juldroog to-morrow, and having rested
here to-night, should have gone to him."

"Yes!" said the dying man, faintly, "Mother Bheemee, from Raichore, was
to have received her; and I sent my aunt Chimee to find out about the
marriage here."

"I thought I had seen the old witch once in the Bazar, and only that it
is not safe to cross her, would have had her head shaved."

"It was a narrow escape," said the Kazee; "the Lord be praised for it,
and that I am delivered from seeming connection with this sin."

"And I say," continued the robber, who sat up, with staring eyes, as
if making a supreme effort, "I say, and bear ye all witness, that the
Nawab told me to get the child to him before morning, and he would
dishonour her. That the Kazee was only a sham, and would not be allowed
to cross the river;" and then, with a violent effort, he tore away the
bandage which had for the time restrained the bleeding from the wound
in his neck; the blood rushed forth, and with a shrill scream he fell
back and died.

"A sad event for a merry marriage," said the Kazee; "but it is evident
to us that the innocent are protected by the Almighty. Let no one tell
the lady or her grandfather; let them sleep in peace. As to the rest of
the prisoners, deal with them according to border custom. There is no
law in the case."

"Yes," said Burma, grimly, "I will deal with them; and see, this has
been brought from beneath the banian tree."

It was a common rough bedstead, with bamboos at each corner tied
together. Underneath the place where they joined one large thick pole
had been introduced to carry it by, and over all a thick black blanket
was cast, which would have at once concealed and secured the inmate;
and had anything occurred to prevent Zóra going to the marriage, the
expedition of the Jutts might have been successful.



CHAPTER VII.
THE FIRST ALMS.


The old Syud had heard nothing of the alarm of the previous night,
which had been carefully concealed from him and also from Zóra; and
after early morning prayer, they took their leave and returned home
with Ahmed and their old servant, Mamoolla; but as soon as they
arrived, Mamoolla's tongue was at once loosened when she saw that the
chain and padlock of the door had been cut in two, and two of the
Beydur guard at the gate followed them to ask if anything were missing.

"Oh, Zóra-bee!" cried the old woman, who seldom spoke except on small
domestic matters, "only to think that robbers attacked the house
last night, and have carried off my two best cooking pots that were
tinned newly last Bazar day, and were as bright as silver. How shall I
cook your breakfasts? Where shall we get others? Alla! Alla! And the
master's quilt and mattress are gone, and your petticoat and scarf that
I had washed and hung up to dry! Oh, Zóra-bee! And they have taken
everything, perhaps, and we are Fakeers in earnest. Oh, child! ask Abba
to return thanks for our deliverance, for had we been here we should
all have been murdered. What would have become of thee, my child?"
And the old dame flung her arms about Zóra and wept plentifully; nor
was Zóra herself less affected. She saw at a glance that violence had
been done; but the door of her own chamber, which had been locked also,
had not been disturbed, and all her grandfather's books, papers, and
medicines were safe.

"Why are ye both wailing?" cried the old man, petulantly. "What is
there to cry about? Where are my quilt and mattress, and my prayer
carpet?" he continued, feeling for them in their accustomed places.
"Who has taken them? Cannot that meddling old dame let them alone?
Bring them to me quickly, I need them."

Then Zóra went to him, and put her arms round his neck, and sobbing as
she was, said to him, "Abba! why have we enemies? We have been robbed
while we were away last night. Let us return thanks to God that we were
not here when they came, or we might have perished."

The Syud was soothed at once. "In the path to Heaven," he said,
reverently, "there are many dangers to be encountered, child; pitfalls
everywhere to the soul and to the body; weary rocks and stones to
travel over; and whatever happens must be endured. O Alla Kureem! I
thank thee," he continued, raising his joined hands, "for this thy
deliverance. The enemy truly came, but thou hadst provided us with
help, and in thy name we will distribute Fatehas."

"What enemy, Abba?" asked Zóra, trembling, as her heart suggested only
one.

"I may be wrong," replied the old man; "but my heart tells me plainly,
nay, as if that bad man had said it to us, that none other can have
done it but Osman Beg and his men; or perhaps he himself came, under
cover of the noise, and shouting and firing of guns last night."

"Let us go, Abba; let us go wherever God leads us; we are ever safe
with Him; but not so near our persecutor. Let us go now, to-day. Oh,
Abba, do not stay!"

Just then there was a sound of many footsteps near the door, and Burma
Naik cried in a cheery voice, "Is all well with thee, Huzrut?" and
the Kazee of Kembavee and others cried out, "Is all well with thee,
Huzrut, and the child? Arise, and come to us, for we have much to
say to thee." And the old man, led by Zóra to the door, went and sat
down in his accustomed seat, while all present crowded round him with
congratulations. "And see," said Burma, "here are thy mattress and
pillow, and quilt, and two cooking vessels, and some other things which
the robbers dropped in their flight. Here, Ahmed, carry them inside."

They were, indeed, all that had been taken; and old Mamoolla hugged
the vessels to her heart, kissed them, and cried over them like one
distraught. No, they had lost nothing but Zóra's muslin scarf, and that
was an old one.

"Now shut the door, Zóra-bee," cried Burma, "for we have that to say
to thy grandfather to which thou must not listen. He can tell thee
afterwards if he lists." Then Burma proceeded to relate how, when the
bridal procession had passed out by the west gate, some men had been
observed by the guard on the east gate bastion moving about the trunks
of the great banian tree, but were not noticed at first; but when the
door of the house was broken in, and a torch lighted, it was certain
they were Dacoits, and the whole of the guard rushed upon the robbers,
firing their matchlocks at them to give an alarm. Then one Beydur
related how the gang had fled, and were pursued and overtaken, on which
a combat, hand to hand, took place, and one of the Beydurs had been
speared to death and another badly wounded, and several of the robbers
were wounded and two killed. How, then, the gang, which consisted of
about thirty men, again fled, and was met by the Naik himself, and all
was soon over.

"My men at the gate were watchful and brave," said Burma; "and when any
man of mine does a gallant act I reward him after our simple fashion.
Is it your pleasure, Huzrut, that they should receive what I have
prepared for them? and will you honour the poor fellows by giving it to
them with your own hands?"

"Surely, surely," said the old man, much affected. "Where are they,
that I may bless them?"

"Here are four silver armlets for those who fought best, and here are
the men; put your hands on their heads, and give each one." When this
was done, a bundle of new turbans and scarves was brought, and one of
each being laid together, some twelve or fourteen sets were distributed
as the armlets had been.

"I have to feed them, too, Huzrut," said the Naik, laughing, "and give
them plenty of séndhee (palm wine) to drink; and they will all be happy
after the poor lad who died has been burnt. Now, away with ye all!"
he cried to the crowd of Beydurs assembled. "Away!" And the pipes and
drums struck up a wild march, and played them into the town.

"We are now alone, Huzrut; and the Kazee and I would tell thee what we
have discovered. The duróra was one planned by Osman Beg."

"Ah! if that could only be proved," interrupted the old man, sadly, "I
could take it before the Queen, and pray for justice."

"We have proof enough," said the Kazee; "proof that I, a humble
servant of God and the State, can testify to, if needs be. But it is
hardly required, for we have a document, signed and sealed by Osman
Beg himself, addressed to Kalloo Naik, who died before us last night,
and which he gave up of his own free will, else we had not, perhaps,
discovered it. I have appended a Persian translation to it, and a
certificate as to the manner in which it was found; and before the
King or the Queen, or the Mufti at the court, that testimony cannot be
shaken."

"Ajáib! wonderful!" exclaimed the old Syud. "When we see the finger of
the Lord following us and directing us, O Kazee Sahib, can we doubt?"

"Indeed no, father," returned the Kazee, simply; "but there is still
more. Here is a letter from Osman Beg to myself in his own handwriting,
bearing his seal, which is exactly similar to that on the other paper,
and the writing, too, of the Persian letters agrees perfectly. This
is an invitation for me to come to Juldroog to-day, and perform the
ceremony of marriage with one Zóra-bee. But how was I to understand
who that might be? So it is clear, if the Nika was to be performed,
Zóra-bee must have gone from hence, for there is no other Zóra-bee
that I know of, and it is not a common name in these parts. But if I
had even gone," continued the Kazee, "as we all heard from the man who
died, it would have been too late, for the last dishonour that woman
could suffer would have been inflicted upon her. Nay, even a litter had
been provided to carry the child away."

"And it shall be hung up in the Chaoree as witness against him," said
Burma, "just as it is."

The old Syud turned from one to another of his informants with wonder
and thankfulness expressed in his aged features, and the tears were
coursing down his cheeks as he listened to the details of the affair
as given to him by the speakers. "Alla, the merciful and ever-present,
protected the child before, and will ever protect the helpless and the
orphan; and we owe our lives and honour to Him, and, next to Him, to
thee, O Burma Naik. Wouldst thou belonged to Islam, as we do!"

"My ancestors were Beydurs, Huzrut, before Islam existed," returned
the Naik, proudly. "No, Huzrut, we are better as we are. But now, what
shall we do for thee and Zóra, whom all love here, as she is loved
everywhere? What dost thou think, O Kazee?"

"If I may speak, and advise one so superior to me in wisdom and
learning, I should counsel thee, O Syud, to proceed at once to
Beejapoor; lay thy complaint, and Zóra-bee herself, at the foot of the
throne, and cry for justice. Our noble Queen Chand Beebee would not,
could not deny justice to an old man, and a holy Musháekh like thyself,
O Syud! Consider this, and go. To remain here is only to run a fearful
risk; and worse than that, to endanger strife between the Juldroog
troops and the Beydurs, and so lead to reprisals and blood feuds. It
would be well to prevent any chance of bloodshed, Huzrut."

Had not the worthy Kazee used the title Musháekh it is most probable
perhaps that the Syud, thoroughly alarmed, might have proceeded at once
to Beejapoor, where he knew Zóra desired to go--if only to meet Maria
once again; and he felt sure of justice whenever he might appeal for
it. But the mention of the title sent his thoughts on their old errand.

"Sir," he said, "for many years I have been preparing myself for the
Turreequt, and without that I can be neither a poor Fakeer or rise to
the dignity of one of God's divines, a Musháekh. The Lord has directed
my path hitherto by wonderful events, and I follow the Eastern way;
but I see the need of changing it; and you, Kazee Sahib, to whom such
mysteries are known, can direct me to the proper course."

"I see but one," he replied. "There is no saint in all these provinces,
but the descendant of Syud Geesoo Duráz of Gulburgah, to whom thou
couldst go for reception into the Divine order. All other shrines are
inaccessible to thee, Huzrut, on account of their distance and thy
venerable age. Within a short time is the oorus (anniversary) of the
holy saint, Syud Sofee Surmust, at Sugger; and there thousands of
Fakeers assemble, of whom many go on to Gulburgah. I can direct thee to
Sugger, where I have many friends and some humble disciples; and they
will guide thee, and further thee on thy way. Let me see! Thy route is
changed to the north, therefore--

    Kunujgin Bamshin, Kunujgin Bisma,
    Kunujgin Bamshin, Kunujgin Bimash.[1]

"And then"--and he counted rapidly on his fingers--"Wednesday will be
your day for proceeding on your journey, and the Rujub-ool-Gyb will be
in the northern quarter, which is good for thee, at the first watch of
the day, which is convenient. And if ye all eat a little sour curds for
your breakfast, the journey will lead to a happy result. But there is
no other good position of the Rujub-ool-Gyb for many days after that,
and in a strait like this ye should risk nothing."

The Kazee was an experienced director of journeys and well versed in
casting nativities, selecting proper days for marriages and betrothals;
and in these respects there was no one who could compete with him;
and as the old Syud saw that he was not a pretender, he put the more
confidence in his directions.

"I would you could see my granddaughter's horoscope which I cast at her
birth myself, or perhaps you have not leisure?"

"I have leisure before me ere it is time to depart, and you will do me
a favour if you will show it to me, Huzrut. I will return after I have
broken my fast; and the food is even now ready in the worthy Moolla's
house, and I must not disappoint his hospitality."

"I have been thinking," said Burma, "how we can best convey the holy
Syud to Sugger; and I have a plan in my mind which, if it is approved
of, I will put in execution. Syud Moostafa, the Persian secretary of
the Rajah, is my friend, and Daood Khan Bhylmee, the leader of the
Bhylmee division of horse, is a chief to whom my force is attached.
I will write to them now, if I may, and beg that an escort of horse
may be sent to meet Huzrut at Hoonsigee, where he should sleep, and,
rising early, go on to Wakin-Keyra; and this could be done without any
fatigue. From hence I can send my own palkee, and a litter for the
child, and my people as escort."

"A good thought," said the Kazee; "I do not think Huzrut will make any
objection."

"Indeed, no," returned the old man; "ye are only too kind to one who
has been a trouble to you both. But before we proceed to make other
arrangements, may I inquire whether any of the Dacoits are here, I
should like to ask them some questions. Who were they?"

"Jutts and Káikarees," replied Burma; "the boldest of all Dacoits and
robbers; and who would not be tempted by the sum assured? The leader
was Kalloo Naik, a bold, reckless fellow, whom I wounded last night in
the scuffle; and, as the Kazee Sahib knows, when he had thrown that
paper to us, he tore the bandages from his wound, and died at once. The
rest the Kazee Sahib gave over to me, and as one of my people had been
slain, they were all hanged but one. It will be a lesson to the tribe
not to attempt dacoity here, and recently there has been more than we
liked I only sent away one, a boy, who was, perhaps, a spy; and I wrote
a letter to the clans that for every duróra they committed inside
our boundaries, I would hang two men, one Jutt and one Káikaree; and
this will keep them quiet for some time, for they know that Runga and
I always do exactly as we say. If we did not, none of us could sleep
safely in our beds. Care for nothing, Huzrut, all shall be prepared for
ye, and my wife will come to Zóra presently, and comfort her."

After a while, therefore, the good lady came, bringing with her bags
of rice and vermicelli, baskets of sweetmeats, and provisions enough
to have lasted them for months. She told Zóra all that had happened,
and other women dropping in, related every event of the night with
wonderful increase of incidents at each narrative. The Kazee, too,
returned, and Zóra's horoscope was produced and discussed. We will
not trouble the reader with particulars of astrological predictions
in regard to her, but no doubt certain dangers, as well as strokes of
good fortune, troubles, and joys, were set forth, which, as they will
have their places in this history, need not be anticipated. On taking
his leave to depart, the worthy Kazee gave the Marathi letter of Osman
Beg to the robber, and that to himself in Persian, to Zóra, bidding her
keep them about her person, for the time might come when they would be
of use.

Although they had been in Kukeyra less than two months, yet they left
the place with regret. Zóra and her grandfather had both established
separate interests in the place. It was one in which Zóra could
go about at all times of the day as she had done in the island
fortress, and all her old vocations found ample scope for exercise;
for in attendance on the sick, and in distribution of medicines, her
charitable heart knew no difference between Beydur and Hindoo, or
Mussulman. Then it was pleasant to stroll with Burma's wife to her
pretty garden, and sit among the cool plantain groves, and under the
shade of great mango trees, and hold her little school there, when Abba
could spare her; or, when at home, to dream in her seat by the old
saint's tomb, under the great banian tree, and watch the lizards and
grey squirrels at play, and the shy and pretty tree birds hop silently
from branch to branch. But Zóra would not have remained after the
incidents of Friday night; she dared not. The unscrupulous attempts of
her enemy to possess himself of her, the narrow escape she had had of
capture--perhaps death, or worse--caused her to shudder as she thought
of them; and all she wished for was to be at rest, far away; where she
cared not, so she and Abba were safe.

Even Beejapoor, Burma said, was dangerous, so long as her position was
unassured; and he explained to her how lawless bands of men existed
there who were ready to undertake any villainy for money, and who, in
any number, might be hired by Osman Beg, and prove more successful than
the robbers had been where she was. It had been a weary thought, this
wandering of her grandfather's, but under the terror that possessed
her it had even become welcome now, and Zóra accepted it as part of
her fate which could not be averted, and must be endured. Every hour,
as the day of departure drew nigh, her grandfather grew more and more
petulant and doubtful. They must walk, he said, for they were Fakeers,
and had no right to ride. They must beg their daily bread, for they
had no need to care for food, and the good Alla would send them what
they wanted. At every village they should sing an invocation or a
hymn, and he had by heart a great number of these; or they should go
about villages and towns with a wallet collecting handfuls of meal, or
rice, or pulse. And the old man's determination on this subject seemed
unalterable. He even one day sat down at his gate, and spread a sheet,
and blessed the passers by, and some threw pice and others cowries,
and in the evening Zóra came and took them up; but there was hardly
a rupee's worth in all. That, however, was only a trial, the old man
said, in a place where they were known to be well provided, and they
would do better elsewhere. Still it was a dreary prospect.

They had not to walk, however. During the night before the day of
proposed departure, a small party of horse arrived from Wakin-Keyra,
and informed Burma that two litters with bearers would meet them at
Hoonsigee. So Burma provided his own palanquin for the old man, and a
light litter for Zóra, and the ponies were driven on by Ahmed, and the
little baggage was distributed as before; but Zóra gave the two pet
cows and the goats to Burma's wife, with many tears, and that good lady
kissed her feet, and the children wept aloud at parting with their kind
friend. Finally, before noon of Wednesday they set out, and travelled
to the end of their stage comfortably; nay, so luxuriously, that the
old Syud declared it was more like a nobleman's journey than a poor
Fakeer's, and would have no more such after he reached Wakin-Keyra.

So, passing low hills and rocky ground, but with many pretty villages
surrounded by green fields and gardens, they reached their destination;
and the old Syud, who had been thinking about it all the way, as soon
as they arrived at the gate of the little town, desired his litter to
be set down. Zóra spread a sheet before him, and seated herself on
one side, but rather behind him; and Ahmed, giving up charge of the
ponies to Mamoolla, bid her go into the mosque, where they were to put
up, and unload the animals, with the help of some of the horsemen's
grooms. Then, to the astonishment of the horsemen, one of the little
invocations was sung every now and then by all; and, as people began
to collect, small contributions were thrown upon the cloth till it was
fairly covered; and after her grandfather sung a thanksgiving, though
his voice was thin and quavering, Zóra gathered the ends of the cloth
together, and, leading him, she carried it to the mosque, where he
first took the cloth as it was, and, kneeling down before the pulpit
steps, offered the whole to God, and then sat down to count it. There
were more than seven rupees in all, and he gave two to the Moolla and
Patell of the town to distribute in charity. "We can live on less
than five rupees a day," he said, chuckling, "and we can save two for
the expenses of the Turreequt. Oh, blessed day that I departed from
slothfulness and idleness; and blessed be Alla, the gracious, who thus
leads me, a poor sinner, to his salvation."

It was pleasant, too, in the evening to find people gather about him
in the mosque. Zóra and Mamoolla, with Ahmed's help, had nailed up a
carpet across a corner as a screen, and sat behind it close to him,
and warned off those who would have disturbed his meditations by idle
questions; but after he had gone through his daily exercise on the
points of salvation and the means of its attainment, people came in,
and the conversation became general, and to the Syud delightful, for
several of the horsemen belonged to Beejapoor, and some had family or
clannish surnames which were familiar, and it was difficult to preserve
the entire _incognito_ which he had assumed. Presently the call to
evening prayer was well sung by the muezzin, and after a plentiful
meal they lay down and slept. Not for years past had Zóra remembered
her grandfather so cheerful or so full of hope. He woke early, for
the azàn was proclaimed; and they prayed together, for none else had
arisen. Then he said to Zóra, "Come, child! we must do our duty;" and
taking a long piece of strong cloth, used to make a bundle, she held
it by the four corners, and they went their way through the streets,
with the simple cry of "Alla diláya to leónga"--"if God gives I will
take." Now and then they stopped to sing an invocation, and the clear
voice of Zóra sounded sweetly in the fresh morning air. Good housewives
were grinding at their mills with many a rough unmelodious song,
but none refused to put a handful of meal, or pulse, or rice, into
the extemporised basket, which soon became so heavy that Zóra could
scarcely carry it, and they returned. When it was all poured out, it
formed a goodly heap, and the Syud patted it with his hand and was
thankful for it. "We could not eat it all in two days, child," he said;
"and we have the money besides. Why need we fear, so long as we put our
trust in the granter of prayer?"

After they had all eaten they proceeded as they had done the day
before, and the road was less stony and rugged; and when they had
passed through a small range of rocky hills and over the embankment of
the pretty irrigation lake of Bohnal, with the widespread waters to
the west sparkling in the sun and the green rice fields to the east,
the fortifications of Wakin-Keyra at the termination of a high and
rugged mass of mountains fell on Zóra's sight; and one of the horsemen,
dashing up to the Syud's palanquin, told him that he was going on, and
that if he would remain for about an hour under the shade of one of the
great banian trees of the embankment, and then follow, he would find
all prepared to receive him. So the litters being placed together, they
got out of them and sat down, while the waves of the lake dashed among
the stones which formed the facing of the earthen bank, with a pleasant
refreshing murmur.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] Letters which denote points of the compass.



CHAPTER VIII.
CASTING OUT DEVILS.


It was but a short distance, barely more than a mile, to the entrance
to the strange fortress in which Pám Naik, the Beydur Prince, held his
Court. All that could be seen from a distance were two separate forts
on each side of what might be called the gate, well built of granite,
and picturesquely and commandingly situated on the summits of high
rocks, much after the fashion of the bastions of Juldroog. From these
forts, and from bastions below them, two lines of fortification had
been carried along the face of the hill to the top, where they were
lost in woods that crowned the summit. Flags were flying on all these
towers and bastions, which gave the grim-looking works a cheerful
expression; and the great standard of the Beydur flew out from the
highest tower, fluttering in the western breeze. At the barrier itself
the friend of Burma Naik, Syud Moostafa, the Naik's Persian secretary,
with others, were in attendance, who received the old man with profound
salutations, while some respectable-looking mamas in like manner
saluted Zóra, and bid both welcome. They were to remain in the Syud's
house, where apartments had been prepared for them; and while her
grandfather was carried off, much against his wish, to visit the great
Naik himself, Zóra was conducted to the house in which they were to
stay.

Wakin-Keyra was a strong place. Inside the second barrier of huge
natural rocks the valley extended into a considerable bay or basin,
filled by a small artificial lake formed by damming up a stream which
descended from the hills. This lake was nearly circular, or perhaps
more of an oval shape, and was surrounded by a short sward, always
green, except where rocks jutted out from the mountain side, and dipped
into the water. All round the sides of this natural basin were the
houses of the inhabitants, of all castes, built of stone, cemented
with clay or mortar, according to the ability of the builder, and with
terraced roofs of lime or clay. The houses seemed to end with a level
piece of ground at the eastern end, but from its height, the houses
that covered it, and extended to some distance among the woods, could
not be seen. The Naik's house, or palace, occupied the greater part of
the south side of the amphitheatre, and, though it consisted of a great
number of separate buildings and courts, could hardly be distinguished
from other private houses that adjoined it, being built in the same
manner, in very homely fashion.

The old Syud's account of his reception by the Beydur Rajah Pám Naik
was amusing. He had accompanied the Persian secretary to the palace,
as it was called, and had been ushered into the presence of the
Prince, to whom he made his salutation. "I would have given much to
see him, as he spoke kindly to me in Canarese--his own language--but
that was impossible; so I had to listen only, and the secretary and
a Brahmin Moonshi, who spoke good Persian, interpreted for me. The
Rajah had a number of wants, which I must try to satisfy. In the
first place, the new part of his palace, where he wishes to live, is
at present haunted by sprites and demons, who must be exorcised and
sent away. He has tried many Hindoo exorcists, Brahmins and Bairagees,
and some Mussulmans, of whom a saint, who is called the Kala Peer, or
Black Saint, was partly successful in one building; but in the others
the spirits answered that they would not depart, as they were very
comfortable, and they remained. Then the youngest Ranee is troubled
with bad visions and dreams at nights, and has become thin and weak,
and several children in the house are ailing and the Prince himself has
low spirits; and I found his pulse very irregular. So all these things
have to be looked after; and thou wilt have many amulets, charms,
puleetas, and exorcisms for the house to copy for me, Zóra, and I shall
be several days at the work. I have told the Rajah that I cannot begin
so arduous and delicate a task without purification and some fasting
for three days; and our host, who knows a little of the science, will
afford me every facility. And besides, Zóra, he is rich, this Prince,
and will give me a great donation, and that will help me in the
Turreequt. Ah, child! we shall win that, by the blessing of Alla, and
live happily till death."

"If you will show me which figures you wish for," replied Zóra, "I will
get the book, and copy them for you."

"Not yet, not yet," replied her grandfather. "I have to ascertain
what sort of spirits they are who have taken possession of these poor
people, who are but low caste infidels; and they must be questioned in
order that they may declare themselves. And thou wilt have to come too,
Zóra, to help me with the women, for they are in private, it seems, and
cannot see a man, though I am old and blind; which is foolishness. But
they are very ignorant, I fear. And how hast thou been received and
cared for, my child?"

"Very kindly, Abba," replied Zóra; "and we have several rooms, and this
open verandah to sit in, from which we can see over the whole of the
strange city which lies before us--the strangest I ever saw or heard
of. There are not so much as ten ells of level ground in it, and the
streets are mere paths up the mountain side, and they rise from the
pretty tank which fills the bottom. All appears to be a mass of houses,
tier above tier; and there is no level ground except at the top, where
I see more houses and trees, and green grass. But they are all Beydur
houses, they tell me."

"Then where can we go for our evening and morning begging, child? Once
we have begun that, we must not abandon it."

"I know not, Abba; but why beg now? More food has been sent from the
palace than would last us a week; and the Brahmin clerk who came with
it said the same quantity would come every day."

"I tell thee, child, it must be, even if we sat at the door in the
street. Once a vow is vowed to the Lord, can it be recalled? God
forbid! Our host is too pious a person to object to it, and I will
explain all. Now I must bathe. Tell Mamoolla and Ahmed to prepare the
hot water while I lie down for a while to meditate, or perchance sleep.
At the time of evening prayer the secretary will return home, and we
can go together, for it is but a step from hence. Perhaps letters may
be sent for us."

On her own part Zóra was curious to see the ladies of the Beydur
Prince's family, and the deportment of a perhaps barbarous Court; and
as she arrived at the palace in a closed litter, several women servants
took charge of her, and she was conducted up a flight of stairs which
led to an open gallery, fitted with transparent screens of fine bamboo
work, about the middle of which sat the Ranee of the family and several
children, who rose courteously to receive Zóra, and--owing to her
perfect knowledge of Canarese--put the girl at her ease at once. Never
had she met with any persons so loquacious and inquisitive.

They had heard of Juldroog; and an elderly woman present had even paid
a visit to Cháya Bhugwuti in fulfilment of a vow, and seen the river
mother in her fury. And Zóra had lived within sight and sound of it
all her life. Was she married? Was she even in seclusion? And why not?
She was too old and too beautiful to be allowed to go abroad into the
world. Had she no jewels, no fine clothes? nothing but the coarse
soosi she wore, and coarse muslin over it? No, Zóra had replied, they
were Fakeers, and every day they begged for alms in the name of Ali,
the commander of the faithful. Long they had talked thus, and in the
evening lamps were lighted, and Zóra could see how homely everything
around her was, except the ladies' persons, for they were covered with
valuable jewels and diamonds, which flashed in the lamplight, while
they wore magnificent saris of silk, with rich gold borders and ends,
very valuable.

Then, after a while, her grandfather's approach was announced, and the
ladies rose and retired into an inner room, and the Rajah entered,
followed by the old man, led by the secretary and some Brahmins and
Beydurs. He did not notice Zóra, who had retreated into a corner with
some of the women servants or slaves, and was awaiting the result of
her grandfather's visit with some anxiety as to what would happen.
Presently he sent for her, and bade her sit by him, and observe for
him.

The Rajah, a short, stout man, of fair complexion for a Beydur, seated
himself, after a proclamation of his titles by his silver mace-bearers,
who then withdrew; and the girl who was possessed by the evil spirit
was sent for, Zóra having been cautioned to observe exactly what
happened. As he had seated himself, her grandfather had called for
a censer and some incense powder; and as Zóra told him the girl was
entering the room he threw it on the live charcoal with a paper charm,
and a great smoke arose; during which time he was muttering Arabic to
himself. Zóra noticed that the girl, who might be about her own age,
now trembled violently, and seemed slightly convulsed. She had made
efforts with her arms and hands as if to put away the censer, and even
to cry out and escape; but she was held firmly by her attendants.

"Bring her to me, that I may breathe upon her," said the old man. "I
will not hurt her, but that evil spirit must come out of her, else she
will suffer and die. At present it is living in her life."

But the girl would not move; and though they raised her to her feet,
she sank down again, shivering and screaming; but the women took her
up, and laid her on the carpet before the old man, so that he could
place his right hand on her head. Then he said to her in a gentle
voice, after repeating another charm, and casting more incense into the
censer,--

"Who art thou that possesseth this girl? Speak!" But there was no reply.

"I adjure thee, in the name of Solomon, son of David, of Jibbreel and
Azraeel, and of ye, O Abd-ool-Zadir, Zadir Jillaneo, Bhytab, Hunmuntoo,
Nursimha, and Bhyraon; speak, and give me thy name!"

Then the girl foamed at the mouth and cried with an exceeding bitter
cry, "I am Bassuppa! let me dwell in peace. I love this body, and
will remain." The voice was hoarse and deep, like that of a man,
and contrasted fearfully with the slight girlish form from which it
proceeded.

"Who was Bassuppa?" asked the Syud, but the girl did not answer; she
only groaned and sighed bitterly, "Let me alone, let me alone, lest I
kill her."

"Who was Bassuppa?" asked the Syud of the Rajah.

"He was her attendant bearer when she was young, and he loved her much,
as she did him. He died, and they carried him on a bier down from his
home to the burning place, and she saw his body from this balcony
over the gate, where the nobat plays. She was immediately attacked by
convulsions; and when again she became sensible, declared that Bassuppa
had turned his head, opened his eyes, and looked at her, and had
remained in her ever since."

"Enough! I understand now what is to be done," said the old man to the
Rajah. "It is a powerful spirit, but one over whom I have command. Fear
not, thy child shall be well in three days, and restored to thee."

"She is my pet, my darling," replied the Rajah, with emotion, "and her
mother's too. If thou drivest this spirit from the child thou shalt
know that a Beydur Prince can be grateful."

"Speak not, my lord, lest you break the spell; it is already working,
as I see the child's lips moving. Listen!"

"I must have time to think," she said. "Let me alone till the third
day, then I will answer thee."

"Keep her very quiet," said the old man; "let her be amused; make a
doll's feast for her, or take her to some garden where she can play,
and I will send my granddaughter with some powders that must be given
to her as she goes to sleep at night, and as she rises in the morning.
And now, Rajah Sahib, may we depart?"

Then pán and uttar were brought, and garlands of flowers; and on a
silver tray, covered with brocade, were a few pán leaves with five
large gold coins on them; and the old man, when Zóra whispered to him,
took them up and tied them in the end of his scarf. But in regard to
his vow of begging he would not relax, and when they reached their
house her grandfather called to Zóra and said, "We must go, my child,"
and she led him into the street, along which he walked with difficulty
nearly to the palace gate, where they stopped to sing one of the
invocations; and Zóra's voice was so sweet, that many of those who
came to the evening Court dropped money into her bag; and after a while
they returned, and she found that there was more in it than had ever
been before.

Zóra saw little of her hostess, who was a proud woman of a high Syud
family, relations of the Wallee, or saint, of the city, and she had by
no means approved of her husband inviting the old Dervish to her house.
"Thank the Lord we are people of family," she said to him, "and in my
father's house. I never heard of a Fakeer being invited to reside in
it, or to be attended by our servants as if he were a Nawab. They used
to live without, and take what was left of our meals, and that was good
enough for them. But this old Syud has very fine notions; his servant
and grandchild must cook for him all sorts of dainty dishes, which, I
own, they do very well; but they are Fakeers all the same; and though
they earn riches, ay, riches every day, they go out at night when that
great girl ought to be shut up, and go and sing and bring back a bag
of money. I saw them count what they had gained, and there were many
rupees, and even some hoons among the coppers. Can this be right?"

"Peace!" said her husband; "thy mouth is bitter, Sitara-bee. Thou
shouldst not complain, for all that comes from the palace goes to thee.
I tell thee, learned as I am esteemed to be, I have never met his
equal yet, whether in medicine or exorcism. Peace, therefore! the time
will come that thou wilt esteem it an honour to have had such a guest
beneath thy roof."

"And the girl embroiders caps and knits drawers-strings," cried the
dame, with a sneer, "and sells them; and bodices too. Is that a holy
occupation?"

"Peace, I say again, Beebee! Thy mouth is bitter and thy tongue long,
and it is not good to speak evil of a holy Syud;" and he went out
before his wife could reply, as he saw she was determined to have
the last word; but she sat down to her spinning-wheel and grumbled
notwithstanding. "Shall I ask the girl to get me an amulet against
barrenness?" she said to herself, after a while. "I am yet young
enough. I wonder what it would cost, or whether the Dervish would give
it in exchange for his lodging. I must see about this, for such things
are." And she stopped her wheel and sat meditating, with her forefinger
between her teeth; while, by the smile that spread over her face, her
thoughts were apparently pleasant ones.

The Ranee and the children had departed to the garden at Bohnal, where
they were always glad to go to escape the confinement of the palace.
There they played about, sat under the shade of the fine trees, went to
fish in the lake, and had a play performed by some strolling weavers
and stone-cutters, who had joined together for the occasion. They
represented scenes in the life of Krishna, the tutelary divinity of
the Rajah's family, and their performance always afforded a great
treat. The girl who had been affected by demoniacal influences was
now the merriest of the party, and her mother, with a thankful heart,
recognised the improvement with gratitude. But what would be the final
result? Would the science of the Dervish prevail over, as she believed,
the Satanic influence? Well, the third day had arrived, and they
returned early in the morning; and soon after a message was brought to
the Dervish that the child had fallen down in a fit, and was talking
and raving incoherently. A palanquin had been sent for him, accompanied
by the secretary, and he was to come directly. But he did not go. He
sent word that he had to keep himself pure during the day, and must
remain in prayer till evening, when he would come. Meanwhile the child
was to be kept quiet, and would most likely sleep.

Zóra heard him during most part of the day repeating incantations, or
verses from the Koran, but he would eat nothing. Altogether Zóra was
anxious; and though she continued at her embroidery all day she was
not the less disturbed, for how many stories had not her grandfather
told her of failures in exorcism when the demon had, in spite, entered
into the body of the exorcist. "What charm would her grandfather use?"
and she had the book on the science, written by His Excellency Mahomed
Ghous, upon her knee, when her grandfather called to her.

"Child," he said, "my soul is troubled, for I do not remember a passage
in the holy book that I need to recollect. Refer to it, and follow me
while I repeat the exorcism entirely. If I fail anywhere, stop me. The
puleeta to be used is one where the demon is strange and unknown, and
begins, 'Whoever ye are.' It is a square, with a smaller square at the
right hand upper corner, which is divided into sixteen even portions."

"I have it here, Abba; say on."

We need not quote the incantation, but the old man repeated it
correctly, and was pleased. "Inshalla, child!" he said, "we shall gain
the victory. I ought to wield the charm myself, but there is no help
for that, blind as I am; thou must do it for me, and as I shall recite
the incantation very slowly, thou canst copy the figures, which must be
burned while the ink is wet. Meanwhile study it well, that thou make no
mistake."

In the evening they proceeded to the palace, where the girl was still
moaning in her heavy sleep. All those around her could distinguish,
were the words, "He must not come! I will not depart!" The old man
had prepared an earthen pot with a cover, which contained some fruits
and seeds, and placed some silver pieces of money in it, and smeared
the inside with ground sandalwood paste. Then he passed his hand over
the child several times from head to foot; and as the earthen lamp
placed on the top of this vessel was lighted, three kinds of oil being
used, those sitting around observed the girl become restless, flinging
about her arms and sighing deeply. Her mattress, which had been laid
on the floor, was now removed, and the place washed with liquid red
clay and cow-dung, and she was taken up and laid upon it; then the
exorcist passed his hands over her again, and incense and perfumes
were lighted, which cast up volumes of smoke, so that the old man's
face as he sat at the girl's feet could hardly be seen. When this had
subsided a little he told Zóra to be ready; and she, taking up the pen
that had been provided, rapidly drew the outline of the charm large
enough to admit of her writing the incantation. The group formed a
strange and solemn picture. The girl, lying restless and insensible,
extended on the floor, with the venerable old Syud, with his anxious
yet benevolent face and long white beard, sitting at her feet, with
Zóra by his side. At the patient's head were her mother and several
other ladies and servants, weeping bitterly, while the Rajah himself,
with the secretary, who was a privileged person, watched the result
with intense interest. The room was dark; except where the lamp cast
a dim yellow light upon the group, and wreaths of smoke still eddied
about the ceiling and walls, seeking egress. The only sounds were the
sobs of the women, the occasional low moans of the patient, and the
grating sound of Zóra's pen as it passed over the paper. At last the
old man, with the usual invocation, "In the name of God most clement
and merciful," began the incantation, "Whoever ye are;" while Zóra
plied her pen as fast as she could, copying from the book before her.
Every name pronounced was cried with a loud voice, and a considerable
pause made, so that Zóra was not hurried, and the whole ceremony being
repeated three times, her grandfather took the pen, and Zóra directing
his hand to the place, he wrote the concluding words and breathed over
the whole. Then the paper was sprinkled with some scented powder, and
rolled up tightly, a thread of fine cotton being passed round it; then
it was lighted, and as the old man recited passages from the Koran,
green and red-coloured flames issued from the burning roll, which all
could see; but the girl opened her large eyes, shuddered, and tried to
hide her face in the floor. As the paper burned out, she was convulsed
for a short time, and then lay still; finally she sat up, opened and
rubbed her eyes, and stretching out her arms, said quietly to them all,
"Where am I? What has been done to me? There was something sitting on
my chest," she continued, innocently, "and it is gone!"

"Shookr! Hazar shookr! Thanks, a thousand thanks!" exclaimed the
Dervish. "Lord, thou hast heard my prayer. Friends, he that possessed
the child is gone, but he is here among us!"

At this announcement every one shuddered, and the old exorcist called
to the spirit to reply; but there was no answer. He then asked the
girl whether anything had been said or whispered to her, and she
replied innocently, "Yes. Bassuppa told me he was going away for ever,
and would never return; he could not remain, because some one was too
powerful, and he cried very much, and I saw him no more. Then I awoke
and saw you all;" and she arose, went to the Dervish, and prostrating
herself, kissed his feet, and laid her head against them, and then
kissed Zóra's feet, and then her father's and mother's, and sisters'
all round; and all of them wept tears of joy, while her mother became
so excited and hysterical that she was led away for awhile, and the old
man gave directions as to where a strong charm was to be pasted up over
every door and window; and, calling the girl, he placed another amulet
in a handkerchief, and bound it round her arm, till a proper silver
case could be made for it; also one to be worn round her neck, attached
to her necklace. And he put his hands on her head, and wished her joy
and peace in her life, and children to cheer it.

(Perhaps some of my readers will say, Why was this piece of
superstitious observance introduced? To which we reply, that it is
only as one instance of the many strange beliefs in supernatural
effects which exist among Mussulmans and other classes of the people
now, and have done so from the earliest times. Many curious and
interesting episodes of lives turn upon them, and the belief in them
is universal, with exorcisms of evil, mischievous and malignant demons
and spirits. There are charms supplied against every mischance of man
or womanhood, youth or age, against haunted houses and the evil eye. On
the other hand, there are charms for evil purposes, which are believed
and practised as much as the others. The incidents of the exorcism
described here took place in presence of the writer of this tale when
in India, and he could adduce many equally strange and affecting, or,
in some instances, detestable.)

"We can ill repay this kindness, Huzrut," said the Rajah, as they
adjourned into the hall of audience, and sat down; "but if you will
accept of what I offer, and keep it in remembrance of me, I shall be
thankful."

"I would rather, my lord, wait till I am assured that what I have done
is effectual," replied the old man, respectfully; "and I must see your
daughter every day."

"As you please," returned the Rajah. "I will have my gifts sealed up,
and the day you have to depart they shall be given to you. As to your
granddaughter, I must leave her to the Lady Ranee, and you must promise
me not to interfere with her."

"But at least you cannot refuse this to shield you from the chill
night wind," he continued; and he threw a delicate white Cashmere
shawl of some value over the old man's shoulders. As to Zóra, she
was newly dressed by the good Ranee; and when she emerged from her
palanquin at the secretary's house, she appeared in a gorgeous green
silk sari, delicately shot with crimson. She had a valuable gold ring
round her neck, and a gold pair of bracelets, and the whole formed
a very costly gift. "Would that I could see thee, Zóra," said her
grandfather, as he felt the soft rich silk and its heavy gold borders,
and touched the ornaments; "but they befit thee, and some day----"
and here he broke off suddenly, and was silent. As to Zóra herself,
perhaps, there was a touch of vanity as well as gratification in her
mind, for she did not take off the grand clothes immediately; and old
Mamoolla came and peered at her all over, and went and lit another
lamp; and the secretary's wife came and looked also, and cried aloud
her congratulations in wonder; but she was jealous and envious in her
heart, and I am afraid her husband had much to bear in her accusations
of idleness, in that he was not so good an exorcist as the venerable
old Dervish. "Those people get money by their work," said the dame,
with a sneer. "The girl has presents worth hundreds of rupees; when
wilt thou give me a gold neck ring and bracelet, or a sari like hers?
And who knows what the old Syud has got besides. Touba! Touba! Thou a
Syud, and a man of letters, shouldst be able to do as much as he."

The secretary did not vouchsafe a reply. He had been looking at Zóra's
glorious eyes and expressive face all the evening, as they sat around
the ailing child, and I think that more beautiful visions than his
wife's shrewish face excluded thought of her more than she would have
liked.

The fame of the old Dervish's cure, or, as some now called him, the
Hukeems, or Physician, spread not only through the town but through the
country, and applicants for relief thronged upon him, making offerings
which were sometimes considerable; but from most people he would take
nothing; yet to Zóra's perception they were growing rich, and, as
Abba said, with a look of satisfaction, there was enough to make the
Turreequt easy; and, after that, to settle in some pleasant place and
to become a Wallee, or saint, at whose tomb people should come and pray.



CHAPTER IX.
THE SYUD TAKES TWO DEGREES IN HIS TURREEQUT.


For a few days there was nothing more to be done. The Rajah's child
was well, and her complexion was already changed from the grey, livid
colour which had before existed to a healthy ruddy tint, and she
slept without waking. Every day the old Dervish visited her; and the
child, now fearless, nestled in his lap. What if she were a Beydur!
The haunted rooms had been freed of evil spirits; and by way of giving
assurance to all, especially to the servants, the family went and
slept there without being disturbed. A packet of medicines was made up
for the Rajah by the old man and Zóra, and the use of them explained.
Finally, the day arrived on which they must depart. The oorus or
anniversary, of the Saint Syud Sofy Surmust would take place on the
third day; and among the crowds present, it would be difficult to find
lodgings. Finally, the Rajah proposed that his secretary should attend
the old man, and see him safely through the festival. "And," added that
worthy person, "if your friend the Kazee of Kembavee is there, so much
the better." Then the presents to the old Syud were brought from the
treasury; and the seals, as they had been made on them, were inspected
by the Rajah and broken, and the list that had been placed inside
read out. It was, indeed, a princely gift, suited to the age and holy
profession of the recipient; and with a bag of five hundred rupees the
list closed.

"Nay, but I protest against this," said the old man, earnestly. "I
exercise my art not for gain; but for the love of God and His name."

"Well," replied the Rajah, "if thou wilt, give it away in charity. A
gift cannot be recalled; and so I pray thee take it for the remembrance
of one who, though he is only a Beydur, can at least prove grateful."

And after this no more objection was made; it would have been an
insult. Then, as the Syud rose, the Rajah rose also, and went and
touched the dear old man's feet; and the Ranees were called and did
the same; and the child, with many tears, hung about his neck, and her
hands wandered over his face; and it was with difficulty that he and
Zóra got away, under the blessings showered upon them. But all was
finished, and the secretary's wife had obtained the dearest wish of her
life, and drank a charm, which was washed from the paper on which it
had been written into a silver cup filled with water, in entire faith
in its efficacy. And now the Turreequt awaited them at Sugger, and
they must go. The money that had been given them was converted into
the small gold coin called hoons, which were then in circulation,
and could easily be carried; and Wednesday being the proper day for
proceeding northwards, according to the Rujub-ool-Ghyb, and a fortunate
conjunction of planets to boot, they took leave of their hostess and
departed. The day before, when they had gone to pay their respects to
the Rajah, he said he had provided two palanquins for the old Dervish
and Zóra; and though this interfered with the vow to walk the whole
distance, yet it had become evident to Zóra that her grandfather's
life would be endangered by fatigue; and, after much remonstrance, she
agreed to a compromise, that on approaching Sugger or any other town he
should alight from his conveyance, spread a sheet on the ground before
him, sing the invocation, and await the alms of the passers by. So with
Ahmed and Mamoolla mounted on their ponies, the baggage animals loaded
and led behind, a guard sent by the Rajah, and the secretary mounted
on a palfrey of his own, the little procession passed out of the gate
of Wakin-Keyra amid the blessings and prayers of a crowd which had
assembled there.

The road to Sugger lay through some low rocky hills for a while, and,
passing through a natural gap in them, the valley and town of Sugger
came in sight, at the distance of a few miles; a pretty scene, for
the town seemed embosomed in trees; several considerable tanks for
irrigation lay blue and still in the hollow, and the bright green
rice-fields below them formed a pleasant and remarkable feature in
the landscape; while the newly-erected mausoleum of Ankoos Khan, a
late Minister of Beejapoor, rose in an imposing mass above all. To the
right were high, rocky hills, which seemed to increase in height till
they broke suddenly into the plain a few miles to the east, and were
composed of rocks like those so vividly remembered by Zóra at Juldroog,
piled on each other in huge masses. On the north side of the valley
was a still higher and more massive range, which the secretary pointed
out to her as he rode by the side of her palanquin, and told her that
the great fortress of Shahpoor occupied a portion of it. All over the
valley between the two ranges the land was well cultivated, and the
early crops were now ripening, while others were still green. To Zóra,
who had never seen such a sight before, the whole valley appeared a
perfect paradise; and, indeed, under the glowing sunlight, it was no
doubt very beautiful.

A strange feature in the latter portion of their journey was the
number of touters who now met them, crying the praises of the rooms
they had to let; and these soon increased to a crowd. The occurrence
of the annual festival was a source of profit to all in the town, and
everyone who had even a vacant cowshed to offer, cleaned it out and
proclaimed it a palace. Lodgings had, however, already been provided;
and the Moolla of the great mosque hearing from his friend, the Kazee
of Kembavee, of the proposed visit of the old Dervish and Zóra, had
kindly offered such accommodation as his house afforded. Now, as they
approached the town the procession halted, and the arrangement Zóra
had proposed was carried out. Near the great mausoleum of Ankoos Khan
was a grassy bank shaded by a large tree, and they sat down and sang
the invocation, while on the sheet spread out cowries and copper coins
soon began to rattle as they fell; and the result, as the old Dervish
declared, as he stroked his long beard, was evidence of the goodness
of the Almighty. "There will be many poor folks at the evening prayer,
child," he said to Zóra, "and thou art to distribute all there is to
them." Then, after a while, he rose, and led by Zóra, for he would
allow no one else to perform this office, he walked slowly on.

The Bazar, and indeed the whole of the town, was full of people; and
the sight of the venerable old man, led by his beautiful grandchild,
created no little excitement. "Who is the holy Dervish?" cried some.
"We welcome your holiness to our town in the name of His Highness the
Prophet and Sofy Surmust, on whom be peace!" cried a body of Mussulman
weavers, all with long beards as though they were Dervishes. "That is
the holy saint who cast out devils at Wakin-Keyra," cried others; "may
he live a hundred years! And that is his grandchild, who leads him
everywhere, bless her sweet face!" And it was, indeed, sweet to look
upon.

Zóra had had a green dress made for herself at Wakin-Keyra, and this
she wore that day. It was a tunic like that of a man, with loose
skirts. She wore a turban of green muslin, into which her beautiful
hair was gathered and bound up. Her loose trousers were also green, and
the scarf which was tied round her waist, crossed over her head; so
that, if needful, she could at any time conceal her face. Women, as she
passed them, held out their children to her, and, stretching out their
own hands, kissed the tips of their fingers, or cracked their knuckles
against their temples. "God defend thee from evil glances, holy one,"
cried some. "Ah! she has taken the vows of a Syudanee," said others,
"and is not ashamed." Ashamed! no, indeed. Zóra seemed triumphant. She,
too, had her humble place in the Turreequt, and, God willing, would
go on with it, leading her beloved grandfather to the last. No wonder
she was admired, nay, almost reverenced, as, with a firm, confident
step, and a look of modest reliance in her great brown eyes, she passed
through the thronged street. Even the soldiers who were lounging about
respected her, rose at her approach, and saluted her humbly. Thus they
passed on till they were near the mosque, where their friend the Kazee
awaited them, attended by their host the Moolla; and they were led into
the great court of the mosque, and then through a door into a private
enclosure, which was always kept, as the Moolla told them, for visitors
of distinction; and Zóra at once saw that there was ample room and
privacy for all. While behind was a yard which would contain their
ponies, Ahmed, and the men they had hired to accompany them.

Presently the call to afternoon prayer was sung from the roof of the
mosque, and crowds began to assemble--Fakeers, weavers, soldiers,
and many strangers. The Kazee had requested the old Dervish to give
a discourse, such as might suit the people assembled, and he had
consented; and after prayer was ended, he recited a verse of the Koran,
and began his sermon on the Turreequt, or path of salvation. Never had
such a discourse been heard in that mosque. It seemed as if, translated
by his enthusiasm above the ordinary life and occupations of men, as
indeed by his blindness and reverential spirit he had been for so
many years, the Dervish was like one inspired, and his eloquence, so
pathetic, so practical, and so truly fitting his subject, powerfully
affected his audience, and many groaned, many wept; and at the close
of the address all his hearers crowded round him to interchange the
salutation of peace which is exchanged among Mussulman worshippers.

Thenceforward the afternoon services at the mosque were attended by
crowds; and when she led her grandfather to his apartment, to take
rest, Zóra could not help exclaiming, in ardent tones of love and
admiration, "Oh, Abba! I never heard thee speak as thou hast done
to-day. May the Lord bless and sustain thee to make the people like
thyself." But he could not reply; his own heart appeared too full for
words. That evening, too, he performed his vow of begging, and people
said, "That is the Dervish who preached to-day, and his child; they
have a vow to beg." And so no one molested them as they sang their
invocations; and Zóra carried her wallet on her arm, receiving alms
from those who heard her sweet thrilling voice, whether they were
Mussulmans or Hindoos.

But it was necessary to choose which association of Fakeers the old
man should belong to. What had he to hope for in the world? What had
Zóra? Her religious enthusiasm had been aroused, and she, too, would
fain have made an open profession of her faith, but her grandfather
objected. "It is not in thy horoscope, child," he said, as she urged
him to consent with sobs and tears. "In that are children, and the
rank thou art entitled to. These cannot come through profession as a
Fakeer; and shall we, who have given ourselves up to the guidance of
the Lord, dare to misinterpret His will? Be patient, then, my child,
and fear not, for I believe that what will come to thee will come out
of thy faith and thy endurance." So she was silent, and wept no more;
but, instead, dwelt upon his form whom she had once watched, and which
seemed to rise to her mental vision more vividly than ever.

It was, however, necessary to decide this serious question of election.
Our old Dervish, by his first and subsequent discourses, had given
proof of his fitness for any grade, even the highest one of Musháekh,
beyond which only remained that of Wallee, or saint, and, in concert
with his friends, a whole day was spent in deliberation on the subject.
At Sugger were assembled representatives of all the hundreds of sects
of Fakeers existing in the country, of which we spare the reader the
enumeration of, to him or her, unpronounceable names. There were some
who sung odes and hymns, some who danced, some who played instruments;
many who led lewd, riotous lives, and pretended to do miracles;
others who walked through thorns and danced on hot embers, or took
red-hot chains or ploughshares in their hands, and, dipping them in
powdered resin, wiped off the blaze with naked hands. Some kept bears,
or tigers, or monkeys, which they had tamed and taught to perform
ingenious tricks; others had tame snakes living in their sleeves or in
the breasts of their tunics. Again, there were others who seared their
tongues with hot wires, or scored their arms or breasts till the blood
flowed, or put live scorpions into their mouths.

In short, if I, the writer of this chronicle, enumerated all the sects
and their particular professions and means of getting their livelihood,
my readers would see plainly, as the old Dervish did, that these were
but contrivances to get money, or to lead dissolute lives under the
pretence of a godly vow. "And what," he said, "could a quilted cap and
an iron rod like the Kullundurs, or black turbans and clothes like the
devotees of Shah Zinda Mudar, signify as aids to the Turreequt?" He
therefore said to his friends,--

"All these divisions of Fakeers are delusions, my brothers, and many
of them are delusions of Satan, and work for the ruin of souls. My own
faith is simple, and my course of life is also simple. Whatever I have
been able to do, either in the relief of the sick or the casting out of
evil spirits, I have effected under the invocation of the noble Saint
Peer-i-Dustugeer, the Prince Syud Abd-ool-Qadir, on whom be peace!
Should there be any professors of his doctrine or ceremonies in this
great assemblage, I pray ye, friends, bring him or them to me, that
I may make a public profession, and be received into the sect as a
Moorsheed (scholar, or novice). I shall henceforward be a Fakeer, and
fight for the faith under the banners of my chosen Lord."

The Moolla of the mosque, the secretary, and the Kazee, who had each
become devotees of other sects, would fain have had the old man join
that which they themselves had professed; but after much earnest and
learned discussion they could not succeed in weakening their guest's
resolution, and they let him have his way. A professor of the Qadirea
doctrines was soon found, who was a respectable and learned man from
Golconda, who had taken the degree already, and, in conjunction
with our old friend, a fitting day was soon named and fixed. What
a pleasure, too, it was to receive visits from the officers of the
troops stationed at Sugger, who were mostly Dekhanies! How pleasant
to hear the old surnames, which he had not heard for years! For here
were Bylmees, Alla-ool-Moolks, Siah-poshas--white standards, black
sunshades--and many others, whose familiar war cries he had heard
in the field. And the commander had the Akhbars, or news-letters of
Beejapoor, and left them for Zóra to read to her grandfather.

How pleasant it was to hear of old names, and of the King's progress
against the armies of Ahmednugger; watching every movement of the
enemy, yet not striking a blow; but striving to bring them to reason.
Then in one of the latest, the arrival of Abbas Khan was mentioned, and
the accusation against him and the trial by ordeal, and the praises of
the young man and description of his noble bearing before the Queen, a
stripling as he appeared before a giant, were, you may be sure, dear
reader, read by Zóra with feelings of exultation she could not repress.
She even set to work and copied the whole passage. Then also Meeah's
appointment to command the reinforcement for the King, and his march
out of the city; and that Runga Naik accompanied him. So he was well,
Zóra thought, with glistening eyes and beating heart, and has cleared
himself before all, even his Queen. I think her grandfather was too
much bound up in his Turreequt to care much about the Beejapoor news,
though he appeared to rejoice at Abbas Khan's victory; but in the
Akhbar of the next day, in which the discovery of Osman Beg's treason
was detailed, and read by Zóra with emotion, and that he would be tried
before the Queen, the old man suddenly burst out into an unexpected
display of feeling. Hitherto he had not complained of the outrage to
Zóra, except at first, but now he was passionately excited. "Spare me,
O Lord!" he cried, raising his hands to heaven. "Spare me to help thy
justice before men; then Thou wilt give me tongue to speak his shame
who purposed shame to my child--yea, shame and insult. Ameen! Ameen!"
and again he relapsed into silence. "Thou dost not say Ameen, girl," he
said at length.

"The Lord, who forgives our sins, can do as He wills, Abba, in this
matter, and forgive if it be good," replied Zóra, gravely. "Yet I can
say in truth Ameen and Ameen to whatever He willeth. Doubt not, Abba,
that truth will be declared, for so my heart tells me daily, and that
this our journey is the way to its attainment."

He was again silent for awhile, and then said, "And hast thou forgiven
him, Zóra?"

"I have forgiven him," she replied, humbly. "He can do me no harm; and,
under the protection of the Lord, he did me none. For what he purposed
to do, Alla will judge."

"And where didst thou learn this, child?"

"From your own lips, Abba," she said, humbly; and going to him, bent
down and kissed his hands and his feet. "From your own lips, Abba. Dost
thou think I forget thy teaching, when all who hear remember it?"

"I am rebuked, Zóra, and justly so. If I do not what I bid others do,
of what use is this Turreequt? Let him be mentioned, no more between
us. No, he cannot harm thee now; and let the Lord deal with him as He
pleaseth;" and the old man lay down and fell asleep.

Everything had been arranged as to the initiation. The Musháekh from
Golconda, who was a learned and wealthy man, who lived in an ancient
saint's garden and shrine near that fort, and was much respected by
the King, had been one of the audience when the first of the Dervish's
sermons was preached, and he had continued his visits to the mosque
every day, and after the last he was brought into the old man's
apartments, and introduced to him. He had believed that the venerable
preacher was already a Musháekh of high degree, and was considerably
surprised by his request to be now allowed to enter the order, and
fixed the second day afterwards for the ceremony, giving a detail of
what would be needful. And we will not say what culinary preparations
were made under old Mamoolla and a staff of cooks, who were hired and
put under her orders; but there were sundry pilaos, birianees, kabobs,
and other savoury and delicate viands.

The cooking, which was for over a hundred Fakeers of all
denominations, had begun early in the morning, and before noon the
Musháekh arrived, accompanied by his friends, and took his seat in
the mosque. Then our old Dervish came forth, and many wild-looking
Fakeers, who had assembled, were led by the Kazee and the secretary,
and being presented to the holy man, they placed their hands on his
head and bade him welcome. Being asked whether his choice of the Saint
Peer-i-Dustugeer was a true one, the old man produced a diploma he
had received in Tunis, where he had become a disciple, and which had
been sealed with the seals of eminent men. This the Musháekh put to
his forehead and eyes, and kissed it; and it was handed round for the
edification of all who were present; and no other certificate of the
performance of the first ceremony being needful, the admission to the
second was proceeded with.

Strictly speaking it would have been advisable to have had all the
hair shaved from the old man's head, beard, eyebrows, and chest; but
because of his age this was dispensed with, and a few hairs were cut
from each with a pair of scissors, and his nails pared. Then he was
bathed carefully, and his new garments, carried before him, accompanied
by chaunts from the Fakeers, were given to him one by one, and certain
texts of the Koran repeated. Lastly, his crown, or cap, which had been
beautifully embroidered by Zóra, was placed on his head. It was of
green velvet, and his new tunic was of green muslin, with a green scarf
over all. After that he had to recite the four forms of belief. He was
asked three times whether he acknowledged the Musháekh his spiritual
leader and guide, and the whole of the assembly as brethren, and he
replied he did. Whereupon a loud shout arose that he was welcome in the
name of all the saints, each man calling out that of his own.

After that the crown, which had been removed, was solemnly put on his
head again; his grave cloth was hung about his neck with spices and
perfumes; a new loongee, or waist cloth, was put on, and a round piece
of mother of pearl tied round his neck. When all this was completed,
the Musháekh took several sips out of a cup of sherbet, handing it to
the old man, who drank it all, while the Musháekh at the same time
bestowed the new name which he was to bear hereafter. This was Luteef
Shah, or King, every properly elected Fakeer bearing that title; and
when the new name was pronounced, every one greeted it with a joyous
shout. Then the feast began, which had been so liberally provided, that
hundreds of the poor of the town were satisfied as well as the Fakeers,
and the installation of Luteef Shah was long remembered.

"When you have remained three days in your present grade," said the
Musháekh, "we will raise you to our own, for we are more in number
here than is needed by the order; but it will be a simple matter
in comparison with this, and confined to our degree alone." We may,
however, spare the reader the detail of these ceremonies, which were,
in truth, simple enough. They all paid a quiet visit to the tomb of
Sofy Surmust, which is a short distance to the north of Sugger, and
is a most unpretending earthen mound, whitewashed; and a carpet being
spread, the head Musháekh delivered a short address to the old man,
requiring him not only to repeat the confession of faith, but confess
all the sins of his life to be known to God, and to declare in the
presence of the Almighty and that assembly that they would never again
be repeated.

After this had been done, the instructor repeated all the names of
the chiefs of the sect as they had descended from the founder and
inherited; and a copy of this, which is called "Shujra," was given
to the novice, who was asked whether he acknowledged. A few gold
pieces, as part of the ceremony, were presented to the Moorsheed, for
the old Dervish was still rich; and the sale of Zóra's pretty caps,
drawers-strings, bodices, and other articles, had produced much more
than she anticipated, and the evening collection more than sufficed
for their maintenance. In any case they had still enough to bear the
heavier expenses at Gulburgah, for the highest order of all, which the
old Dervish, under his new title of Luteef Shah, was determined to
attain from the descendant of the most celebrated saint in the Dekhan,
Syud Geesoo Duráz, the lineal descendant of the original Wallee, who
had come from Northern India years ago, and become the spiritual leader
of the Moslems' Bahmuny Kings.

"I am going there myself," said his new friend, "for the Syud is a
great man, and what is more, a truly devout man, which some of his
race have not been. He will welcome you warmly, I know, for he is,
besides being my superior in a religious sense, my truly loved and
intimate friend. I think he will not object, and I have met with none
so worthy of the highest honour as yourself. The representatives of the
Saint Syud Abd-ool-Qadir, of Oodgeer, and of Sheykh Fureed, of Gooty,
and perhaps others, will be present, who knows? The anniversary at
Gulburgah is a very world of religious zeal, where, if I mistake not,
your daily discourses in the mosque will be attended with the best
results; you had better therefore come with me, for my hareem is with
me, and your child may need both society and protection. We are well
guarded, too, for your kind Sovereign sent soldiers with me, who are
enough to protect us both."

The proposal was a welcome one, and, after explaining the vow he had
made to beg his way to his destination, wherever that might chance to
be, our old friend finally agreed. It was impossible for him to walk
long stages day after day, but he could at least do as he had done when
he and Zóra entered Sugger. "Yes," he said, "the Lord carries us on,
and finds new friends and protectors as we go; we desire He will lead
us to some resting-place, where, like our friends from Golconda, we may
find peace."

As to Zóra, she was supremely happy. The wife of the Musháekh who had
performed the ceremonies was a comparatively young woman, related to
the Saint of Kullianee, a man of the highest temporal and religious
distinction. She had heard of Zóra through her own women, and welcomed
the girl kindly. Zóra had gone to her in her Syud's dress at first, and
was shy, as she always was; but when her Abba was in the mosque, and
when she could gain time, she ran across the street to the Musháekh's
lodgings, and soon became intimate with her; nor was it the less
pleasure to the lady that during the journey onwards she should have so
pleasant a companion.

Gulburgah lay to the north, and, therefore, the day of the
Rujub-ool-Ghyb was again Wednesday. Before that, however, a curious
scene occurred between the secretary and her grandfather, which Zóra,
who was seated in the inner chamber of the house, working diligently
to complete an order for some new caps, which she had to finish before
she left, overheard involuntarily. The worthy secretary was speaking
with her grandfather on the subject of the Turreequt generally, and,
indeed, as was his wont, using gross flattery, which the old man always
detested, and checked sometimes in not very mild language.

"If I were the blessed messenger of the Lord Himself you could not
flatter me more," said the old man, roused out of his ordinary
submission to such inflictions. "I pray you cease, and be silent, as it
behoves a modest man like you to do, Meer Sahib. If you want to pray,
why not step into the mosque, and offer your prayers to the Most High?"

"But your holiness can assist me in my desire. You can intercede for
me, and without you my prayers will gain no favour."

"I object to two things in your speech, Meer Sahib. First, that I
should be called your holiness, which is a title for Wallees and Owleas
only; and secondly, to knowing aught of your prayers and desires, which
I cannot assist."

"But you can assist them," persisted the secretary. "Huzrut, Huzrut, I
am beside myself; unless you help me I shall go mad."

"Now, God help thee, poor man," returned our friend. "Why shouldst thou
go mad? Art thou poor, I cannot help thee; art thou rich, pray Alla to
send thee grace to spend it. Thou hast no children! Well, I have given
thy wife a powerful charm, and I pray it may be efficacious; but still,
once more, if any fair one hath captivated thee, go to the gipsies, and
others who sell charms, and they will take thy riches for them; but
come not to me, my friend, for in that case thou wilt become my enemy."

"Oh! say not so Huzrut; say not so," said the man, prostrating
himself. "We are alone, and I fear, yet I would conceal nothing. I love
Zóra-bee, your grandchild, and I cannot live without her. Pity me,
and grant my prayer. See, I eat dust, I cast it on my head; I am your
supplicant, and our friend the Kazee is here, and we could at least be
betrothed, and I would follow you till----"

Now, while Zóra within was bursting with suppressed laughter at
seeing the little fat secretary sprawling on the ground before her
grandfather, she saw too, through the screen, ominous signs of a storm
gathering upon the dear old man's face; nor was it long before it broke.

"Thou, Meer Sahib, thou, to ask for the only child of one who is vowed
to God. Hast thou considered her birth, her position, and thine own?
Hast thou no perception of thine own meanness? Oh, good man, verily
thou hast eaten dirt, much dirt, and I feel the helplessness of age and
blindness to be a bar against thy chastisement for the insult. Hast
thou said aught to her? Get up and speak!"

"I--I--I. No--no. I could not be so rude; but if thou wilt permit me,
I will send a vakeel to her to-morrow."

"Thou shalt do no such thing; she can tell thee herself. She hath seen
thee often, and is not afraid of thee. And thou hast another wife, O
mean blockhead! Zóra! Zóra!" he shouted, "come hither. God forgive me
if I have been rough with him," he continued, as Zóra approached the
screen hanging across the door, and said, "I am here, Abba, but I must
stay within."

"Nay, I cannot tell thee," said the old man; "it is too ludicrous.
Let the Meer Sahib speak for himself." And without further ado, the
secretary got up, adjusted his turban, which had become awry, pressed
his waistbelt down on his hips, twisted up his moustachios, and, in
short, improved his appearance as much as was possible, and began to
address the girl in the most high-flown language he could command. He
quoted line upon line of Persian poetry, comparing her to the rose
and himself to a nightingale. He discoursed on the loves of Joseph
and Zuleeka, Potiphar's wife, of Abraham and Zuppoora, and would have
proceeded after the same fashion, but the old man burst into a peal of
laughter so hearty that the tears rolled down his cheeks.

"Enough, enough!" he cried, "O Meer Sahib; I am not used to laughter,
and thy speech is irresistible. What sayest thou, Zóra, wilt thou have
this jewel among secretaries, whose tongue is sweet as honey, to be thy
husband, and share his love with the lady we have left?"

"He is very kind to me," said Zóra, with a mischievous tone of raillery
in her voice. "Very kind, and I am utterly unworthy of him. Should so
great a man as a Rajah's secretary stoop to a Fakeer's granddaughter?
Touba! Touba! Fie! Fie! And what would his wife say?" And Zóra could
hold out no longer, but laughed in her turn.

"Come, Meer Sahib," said the old man, "let us be friends again, and
forget this folly. Return to thine own wife and comfort her. Thou
knowest thy life would not be pleasant if she heard of this. Go,
now, lest others tell her. Go, and God's peace be with thee, and my
blessing, though it is little worth. Go."

So the poor man departed not a little chagrined. But there is an old
proverb, that men with small round heads, and thin, long beards, do
foolish things, and in this case, at all events, there was no error.

Zóra was coming in to speak to her grandfather when the Kazee entered
the court. "What have you been saying to the Meer Sahib, Huzrut? I met
him in the street crying. I think I can guess; but no matter."

"What did he tell you?" asked the old man.

"Well, that my services might be required, and I was not to return
home."

"Indeed! It is a strange conceit," returned the other, and the
conversation passed into other subjects. They were to set out on the
morrow, and it had been arranged to travel by Shahpoor and Gogi; for
when the old Syud had heard that that town was so near, he could not
resist the opportunity of paying his devotions at the tombs of the
Kings he had served; and in the morning the whole party mustered by
the mosque and set out on their way northwards. Next day he would
be at Almella. Would anyone be alive who could recognise their once
prosperous master?



CHAPTER X.
BY THE WAY.


At the gate of the thriving town of Shahpoor, a few miles distant,
they were met by the Governor of the fort, an officer of the Beejapoor
Government, and pressed to stay to dinner and such entertainment as
he could provide in the evening; and they consented, and an excellent
house was placed at their disposal. The town lay at the north-east
corner of the great mass of hills which Zóra had seen from the pass
by which they had entered the valley of Sugger; and the curious fort,
surmounting enormous bare masses of granite rock, stood out with
wonderful effect against the sky. Groups of soldiers appeared on the
bastions; the Royal flag of Beejapoor waved from the citadel, which
contained the excellent house of the Killadar, or commander, and it
was evident the place held a numerous garrison. Shahpoor had been
originally built by the Bahmuny Kings of Gulburgah, and contains many
of their inscriptions; and being a natural position of great strength,
in fact, impregnable, it served at once as a frontier fort and to keep
the Beydur population in check. There was a nautch in the evening, at
which our friends excused themselves on account of their religious
duties; and the long wide streets of the town being level and well
kept, Zóra and her grandfather had no difficulty in following their
hitherto practised vocation; and, as before, the invocations were sung,
and the wallet, now a consecrated one, carried from one end of the town
to the other.

The day following, they all went on together to Gogi, where the
mausoleum of the earlier Beejapoor Kings was situated. They found
it a thriving place, full of weavers, and the station of a large
body of cavalry, on account of the excellent forage with which the
neighbourhood abounded; and though by far the greater part were absent,
there were enough to form an imposing force, which received the holy
men as they arrived. Very interesting to them was the cemetery of the
great Kings, and the college attached to it, which was in daily use.[2]
It consists of one large interior, with chapels at the junction of the
sides of the octagon; and the architecture of this, as well as the
gateway and front of the building, is, perhaps, the finest specimen
of florid Gothic in the Dekhan, built entirely of black basalt,
exquisitely ornamented and finished. One by one the graves of the Kings
behind were shown to them by the attendant priests, and these, with the
tombs of their wives and some dependants, occupy a considerable area
enclosed by a wall. When they came to that of Ibrahim Adil Shah, under
whom our old friend had served, he kneeled down beside it and began to
sob and beat his breast. Zóra tried to soothe him, for not, even as
yet, knowing his history, she feared he had been taken suddenly ill,
and would fain have run for medicine; but he put his hand on her arm,
and said--

"I have not forgotten what you said to me when I called for vengeance
upon Osman Beg. Here lies one who did me injury more than thou knowest,
Zóra; at the remembrance of which all my worst passions rise into
active being. And yet I thank Thee, O hearer of prayer," he continued,
reverently raising his turban, "that Thou enablest me to say here I
do forgive thee, O King and Royal master, and pray thou mayest have
been accepted through His grace for all the good works thou didst to
thousands. Peace be with thee, and the blessings of the Most High!"

"What was he to thee, Abba?" asked Zóra, in wonder. "The attendant
tells me that there have been many Kings since he died."

"What he was to me, child, thou wilt know hereafter, perhaps soon now;
but no matter! In the great King Ibrahim I had a friend who loved me.
Since him there have been two Kings, and the present one, whom I may
be spared to see, bears his name. And yet, O once beloved master, my
heart is even now with thee in the grave, where I must follow thee; and
I bless Thee, O my Lord, that I have learned to forgive even through my
child."

On the western side of the cemetery was the embankment of an irrigation
lake of some considerable area, and the rain having fallen plentifully,
it was full of water. Then they went and sat by it, and the soft
south-west wind brought the tiny waves to their feet, and sighed in the
noble trees which shaded the cemetery and the college. They had brought
a slight refection with them, and ate it together, while the old
Dervish discoursed on the mysteries of holiness, or told many a tale of
the past, when he, in King Ibrahim's suite, had halted for the day and
performed ceremonies at the tombs of his ancestors, while the ground
for the college was being measured and the architect explained the work
he proposed to undertake. They attended the afternoon prayer in the
college, which was filled to overflowing with the people and soldiers
from the town; and our old friend addressed them in one of his loving,
persuasive sermons, in which, perhaps from the unlooked-for occurrences
of the day, he was even more eloquent than ever.

The Fatehas at the Kings' tombs could not be made ready that day, and
as their companions had no objection, but, indeed, the contrary, they
remained and formed a little procession to the cemetery, spending a
day of quiet peace, such as Zóra thoroughly enjoyed. She used to say
long afterwards, when she was an old woman, that her second day at
Gogi was one of the happiest of her life, because one of the most
thoughtful and impressive; and how sweet it had been to her to find her
beloved grandfather's mind softening to an habitual cheerfulness and
submission. "Truly," as he said constantly to her, "truly, child, I
feel as if the Lord were leading me in this Turreequt, and that, too,
by means of thee, O beloved! from the first."

The country from Gogi to Gulburgah is uninteresting, but very fertile
and well cultivated, and for some portion of their first march many
of the Royal cavalry and townspeople escorted them; for the fame of
our old friend had gone before him, and all were desirous of paying
him honour and receiving his blessing. Crossing the Bheema river by
the ferry at Ferozabad, Zóra saw the palace fort of the famous King
Feroze Shah, situated on a high bank of the river above one of its long
deep reaches. But it is now only a ruin, and was even then in poor
condition; and towards the close of the following day the minarets and
domes of the holy city of Gulburgah were in sight, and it was quickly
reached.

Nothing could persuade our old friend that it should be treated like
an ordinary town. His heart was full of reverence and thankfulness at
having reached the end of his pilgrimage in safety and honour, and his
new friend was equally reverential. So within a mile of the entrance
gate they dismounted from their litters and performed a prostration
ceremony by the wayside, and walked on together, Zóra, as was her
wont, dressed in her pilgrim's dress, leading her grandfather. Near
the gate the old man had his sheet spread for alms, and it was not
till the time for evening prayer was nigh that he arose and, guided by
one of the Musháekh's servants, followed his friend to the final place
of destination, which was in a suburb which belonged to the spiritual
Prince of the place, the descendant of the Geesoo Duráz family, who
reigned. The noise and bustle of the crowded Bazar was therefore
avoided.

Zóra, whose ideas of a city were of the most limited practical nature,
and to whom Sugger, Shahpoor, and Gogi had appeared immense, was
fairly confounded when, in company with her new friend, they ascended
to the terrace of the house which had been assigned to them by the
Prince. Before them were the fine mausoleums and domes of the original
Geesoo Duráz, and the cemeteries attached to them, the Prince's palace
and pretty gardens, with their fine rows of cyprus trees. In the
middle distance the massive group of the mausoleums of the Bahmuny
Kings, standing apart on an elevated piece of ground, and forming a
picturesque group, with the still populous city lying at their feet;
while to the left was the strong fort, with its regular fortifications,
and beyond a considerable artificial lake, which the King Feroze, the
merry Monarch of Dekhan history, had had constructed for his aquatic
amusements.

Gulburgah was, however, an ancient city, for when Zuffir Khan, the
Viceroy of the then Emperor of Dehly, Mahomed Toghluk, founded the
Bahmuny dynasty in A.D. 1347, the old Hindoo city was selected by him
as his capital in the Dekhan, and continued to be so until, in 1435,
nearly a century afterwards, a new city was built at Beeder, which was
finally adopted as the seat of the Royal Government. During a hundred
years of prosperity, however, under the early portion of the dynasty,
Gulburgah had become a rich and thriving city. It was the mart for
local produce and importations from the coast. Merchants of Arabia and
Persia, nay, of Turkey and the Levant, resided there, and the courts
of the early Bahmunies were magnificent and wealthy. Thus the city
was ornamented with many public buildings, caravanseras, and mosques,
almshouses, hospitals, and the like, and the fort constructed there was
by far the strongest and most regular in the Dekhan; and within it the
great mosque, which was to have been the exact counterpart of that at
Cordova, in Spain, was begun, and roofed in; but never completed.

All these principal edifices are still extant, but much decayed and
ruined. King Feroze's once superb palaces in the fort are masses of
shapeless ruins; but the mosque is as it was left by the masons and
architect, and could be finished were there anyone to undertake it, and
the fort is perfect. The mosques and other buildings in the city are
tolerably preserved; but the mausoleums of the once haughty Kings are
deserted, except by grazing cattle and goats, which shelter there from
the noon-day heat; and no one lives who bestows a lamp and its oil to
light at night the interior of these noble edifices.

At the period of the visit of our friends, the city belonged to the
kingdom of Beeder, which, after the extinction of the Bahmunies,
remained in possession of the capital. Gulburgah was one of the chief
cities of the kingdom, and was garrisoned by a large body of its
troops to guard the frontier of the Bheema river against the armies of
Beejapoor. If not, therefore, equal to its former prosperity, the city
was yet in good condition, and the religious and other edifices were in
perfect preservation and in constant use.

Nearly three hundred years have elapsed since the time we write of, and
Time, the spoiler, has been busy. The city has dwindled to a provincial
town; the buildings are extant, but many of them in decay. The tombs
of the Kings, so solidly built, are, perhaps, with the fine old fort,
the least changed of all, and the lake below the palace of King
Feroze sparkles as brightly as ever in the sun. The only building and
premises as perfect now as they were three hundred years ago are the
mausoleums of the Geesoo Duráz family, for their possessions have been
continued to them, and they live in their old prosperity and religious
honour, and the attendance of pilgrims at their shrine is as large now
as perhaps it ever was--as devout and as full of faith. But Gulburgah
has a new honour never dreamed of, truly, in the dim past. It is now
a station of the railway line from Bombay, and from it diverges one
branch to Madras and one to Hyderabad--the old capital of the Golconda
kingdom.

FOOTNOTE:

[2] The college and cemetery are still perfect, but the former is used
no longer, and is forsaken except at the anniversaries of the several
deaths, when prayers are said in it. The tombs of the Kings are covered
by printed cotton cloths, which are renewed annually. Certain families
of weavers and printers in the town, descendants of the original
executers of these articles, still contribute them, and are paid by
the proceeds of certain lands and rice fields with which the tombs
were endowed at first, and certain payments from the Customs dues; and
to the last the Rajahs of Shorapoor were the hereditary almoners of
this bounty, and disbursed it regularly on every anniversary either in
person or by deputy. Gogi now belongs to the Government of His Highness
the Nizam, and it may be hoped that the ancient custom has not been
discontinued, and that the interesting and beautiful remains have been
kept in repair.



CHAPTER XI.
SAINTLY HONOURS.


The sun was just rising as Zóra and her companion, the Musháekh's
wife, looked forth on the splendid scene spread out before them. Thin
blue smoke was hanging over the distant portion of the city, veiling
the details of terraced houses, minarets, and mosques, and other
pretentious buildings, and then passing into the grey distance which
melted into blue and violet lines up to the horizon. Nearer objects
were more defined, and the mausoleums of the Kings, the fort, and the
blue lake, were clear and beautiful as the sun's rays touched the white
and glistening surface of the massive domes, the slender spires of the
minarets, and the tops of the noble trees which stood around in almost
every direction. From a higher elevation the view might have been
more complete and extensive, but it would have lost the charm of that
lovely combination of objects of all descriptions which their present
situation afforded.

Zóra's face was flushed and excited, and her large brown eyes were
half filled with tears as she looked around. "Abba cannot see it," she
murmured to herself; "but he may have seen it before, when he was
young, and I will ask him; but, oh! it is so beautiful."

"I used, lady," she continued to her new companion, "to think our
old grim fort and its rocks beautiful; and the deep ravine, with the
cataract, was beautiful, too, only so wild, that they used to make me
tremble very often; but this is more soft and loving, and one seems to
be wrapped in all around, and to feel it in one's heart. I shall be
sorry when we can stay no longer."

"So shall I," returned the lady. "When I was a barren woman, with no
hope, my husband brought me here, and the saint blessed me, and my
firstborn followed. He is now four years old, and we have come, as we
vowed, to return our humble thanks for him, and to pray for his welfare
always in the future. When thou hast one like him, Zóra, the only thing
thou wilt ever care to look at will be his eyes; and thy time will
come, too. If thou hadst a mother, she would have arranged this long
ago."

"Perhaps," said Zóra, timidly, a manly face she well remembered rising
to her thoughts. "Perhaps; and what is written in my fate will come to
pass."

"True, child," returned the lady, "but fate needs help sometimes,
though truly before fate contrivance can do but little; still it may be
tried. Now, my husband and I have a little plot against you both, and
that is to take you with us to Golconda, where our lord the King is, a
devout and learned man, who hath great veneration for holy Musháekhs
and Dervishes; and he would be charmed with your grandfather, and would
never let him depart; he would give him estates, and he would take the
rank that is due to him. What think you? As to yourself, I have the
noblest husband for you. He is commander of ever so many horsemen, and
holds estates and lands for their maintenance; and so he is very rich,
and has a beautiful palace in the fort, and gardens. When I parted with
him, he said, laughingly, 'Oh, aunt, bring me the most beautiful woman
you can see, for I have had every girl in Golconda inspected, and I
love not what I hear of any of them.' I said, 'You are laughing at me,
Shere Khan;' but his face changed, and he said, 'I am not; I swear to
thee, by Ayesha, that I am entirely in earnest.' And who do I know, or
ever saw, but thee, Zóra, who would be worthy of him? Dost thou know
how lovely thou art, with that soft curly hair of thine hanging about
thy neck, and the ruddy glow in thy fair, sweet face? Did no one ever
tell thee how beautiful thou art? Hast thou had no friend in thy young
life?"

"Maria used to tell me so," replied Zóra, shyly, "and I used to chide
her."

"Maria! Who is Maria? That is a Nazarene name, surely."

"She is a Christian lady, one of God's servants, whom chance sent to us
at Juldroog, and she and her brother lived with us."

"And she wanted thee for him, and made thee a Christian?"

"No," said Zóra, gravely, "she did not make me a Christian; and for her
to think of me for her brother would have been foolish. He, too, has a
vow to God, and could not marry even among his own people. No, she was
only a dear friend, and I owe to her all that I know, and all that I
can do."

"And where is she now, child?"

"I know not, lady; alas! I know not. She went from us with her brother
to Beejapoor, and perhaps has gone on to Goa."

"Thank God!" said the lady; "then there is the better chance of my plan
succeeding, and I will ask my husband to apply to your grandfather."

"I know he hath urgent business in Beejapoor, lady, and hath urgent
need to see the King; but what it is he never told me, and I know
nothing of his life."

"Well, then, as God wills," said the lady; "but if I told Shere Khan
of thee, he would follow thee, I know, as long as he could trace thee
through the Dekhan."

I will not describe the ceremonies as the travellers paid their
devotions at the mausoleum of the departed saints, or their respects to
the present reigning incumbent. These were no places for our old friend
to display his genius, his eloquence, and his learning. These and the
doctrines of his teaching only shone forth in addressing crowds in
mosques, and on special occasions, when, as it seemed, inspiration came
on him; but one day, when he was in the large mosque for prayer--it
was some minor festival day--and there was a crowd of worshippers, and
the Prince was present, he asked leave to deliver the sermon, and the
service was thankfully accepted.

As the old man took his place on the upper step of the pulpit, clad in
his green dress, and, leaning on his staff, stretched out his arms, a
murmur came from the assembly which cheered and excited him; and with a
short text on the love of God, his words poured forth in a stream, not
in the soft Persian he had adopted of late, but in the rugged Dekhan
tongue--which had little of ornament or hyperbole in it--which became
a torrent of alternate entreaty, reproach, and assurance, the like of
which had never been heard before then by any. There were no sophisms,
no mysteries, no display of profound erudition, incomprehensible except
to a few; but there was instead instruction on the true Turreequt,
the true path of salvation. He pleaded humility before God; charity,
pity, and love to God and man; absence of any spiritual arrogance,
which was but too prevalent, and of self-conceit and display. He
spoke of the softer graces of habitual piety, of truth to man and to
God, and of sobriety, patience, and endurance; tenderness in home
duties and abroad; in short, attention to all the godly precepts of
the book of God's messenger, who had inspired it, as he believed, and
enjoined constant thought of the day of judgment, and the trial then
of all profession. Be not offended with me, O Christian reader, for
such things can be taught out of the book you have been told to hold
in scorn, apart from the mystery and sensual doctrines which are so
strangely mingled with them.

When he concluded, and the blessing was delivered, those present did
not form into knots, to shake hands and give the salutation of blessing
one to another as usual, but, as if by inspiration, shouted, "A saint!
a saint! a miracle hath been done, for such words were never heard!"
and the Prince was as much excited as any one else, and joined with
the rest. Then he called for his own conveyance, which was a nalkee,
or sedan chair, with two poles and eight bearers, and our old friend
was put into it, and accompanied by the multitude, with torches and
blue lights, and firing of guns, for it was now dark, the procession
passed on to the palace of the Prince, with cries of "A saint! a
Wallee! A miracle, a miracle! Deen, Deen!" burning clouds of incense,
throwing handfuls of perfume powder over him, and in every way possible
testifying their respect and admiration. Then the Prince took his seat,
and called up the dear old man, and in a voice full of emotion said to
him, "Come hither, for I salute you in the title of Wallee. Thou hast
done a miracle, and the people have seen and acknowledge it, and the
Lord accepts it. Listen while I repeat the sacred words of the order.
And now drink of this cup of sherbet, which, sipped and breathed on
by me, becomes to thee the sherbet of salvation. Verily, the Lord hath
brought thee to the end of the Turreequt, and all ye who are present
are witness to this. Ameen! Ameen! It is the Lord's will."

And all cried aloud, with a hoarse shout, "Ameen! Ameen! So be it!"

During this time our old friend had been in a state of which he
remembered very little. He recollected, and afterwards repeated, the
last words of his sermon, and he remembered his being carried out of
the mosque and seated in the nalkee; but of the wild procession, the
shouts, the torches and blue lights, and the Prince's address, he
recalled very little until he received the cup of cool sherbet, which
tasted as if from Paradise itself. Now he was weary of the excitement;
and after attempting to utter his thanks he seemed to waver to and fro
as he sat, and while the Musháekh and others supported him he stooped
heavily forward and fell to the ground. Then a palanquin was brought,
and they carried him to the house where he lodged; and, revived by the
fresh air, he was able to alight and walk slowly to his chamber, where
Zóra, already made anxious by the sudden rumour that her grandfather
had fainted in the great assembly, received him in her arms and laid
him down on his cushions. As he had been carried out of the assembly
the Prince rose, and cried with up-lifted hands before all--

"Pray God that He do not take the saint from us in this his present
ecstasy!" And all present cried "Ameen!"

"Pray God that he may live to lead and instruct many." And again they
cried "Ameen!"

Then the Prince gave the blessing to all, and they departed; and the
precincts of the palace and cemetery soon resumed their quiet, peaceful
character, as the stars shone out in the calm and fresh atmosphere of
night. And Zóra sat and watched.

For a time her grandfather seemed to sleep calmly; but he became
gradually restless and feverish; and from time to time she gave him
sips of a sherbet of pomegranates, which he took eagerly. Still he
did not appear to recognise her, which much distressed her. It was
evident that the events of the evening had been too exciting; and his
impassioned sermon, followed by the procession from the mosque, the
glare of torchlights and noise of guns, the clouds of incense smoke,
and the final acceptance as a Wallee, had been altogether more than he
could bear. From time to time he muttered sentences of the Koran, and
seemed to pray. Again he cried aloud, "Karamat! Karamat! A miracle! a
miracle!" and tried to lift himself up from his pillow, and wave his
arm.

Zóra could not weep, her eyes were dry and burning with anxiety; all
she held most dear on earth lay helpless before her, and if he passed
away in this ecstasy what would she do, whither could she go? Who
would care for the obscure, friendless girl who did not even know her
own origin? But she could not wish they had never come. If Alla pleased
to take him, it would be at the crowning point of his earthly life;
that which it seemed his only desire to reach, and which had been
attained. Her new friend, the Musháekh's kind wife, came to her and
sat with her, and told her freely and compassionately that she must be
prepared even for the last; and taking her in her arms, laid her head
upon her breast, and told her she would be a mother to her, and she
was not to fear; and her husband, who also came, bade her not to fear,
for if the Lord took her Abba she would be his and his wife's child
thenceforth. But all these alarms of that strange night disappeared
by the early morning. For the latter part of it the old man had slept
peacefully, like a child; and as the muezzin was crying the invocation
to early prayer, and the sentence, "Prayer is better than sleep! Prayer
is better than sleep! God is victorious!" he woke, and, to Zóra's
infinite joy, sat up with a gentle, smiling face, such as she had not
seen for a long time, reminding her of earlier days. Then she assisted
him to rise and to perform his devotions; and as he again sat down, she
crept to him, and very timidly congratulated him on his new dignity,
and the honour he had received.

"Then it was not a dream, child?" he said.

"No, Abba; it was a blessed reality. Zeenat-bee (that was the name of
the Musháekh's wife) and I were sitting on the terrace above, after
evening prayer. The air was so cool and fresh, and the city looked so
quiet and peaceful; and suddenly we heard a great hoarse cry arise,
and we looked, and blue lights were burned, and the tombs of the Kings
flashed out of the dusk brighter than day. Then gradually the crowd
appeared, and the tumult was fearful--men struggling with each other
to approach the nalkee; and other palanquins and open litters were in
front and behind, and we thought it was only the customary honour done
to the Prince. But as the procession passed beneath us, and I saw it
was thee, O Abba, to whom they were doing honour, I cried with all the
rest, and Zeenat and I embraced each other. But when they brought thee,
and I looked at thee, and laid thee down, I feared, yea, I feared thy
time had come; yet the Lord hath spared thee, and thou art a saint now,
one that men may worship without sin."

There was, indeed, no doubt on that score. All the day, the highest in
holy rank, the Wallees, the Owleas, the Musháekhs, doctors learned in
the law, and private persons in crowds thronged about the house and its
courtyards, and would be content only by the assurance that the new
saint would once more preach to them in the mosque, and return thanks
to Alla the Most High. And on the third day the old man went in company
of the Prince, and took his place, after prayers, on the upper step
of the pulpit. To those present it appeared that he was taller and
more dignified than before; but the Wallee's sermon was not the less
passionate that day. It affected him less, though it seemed to affect
his hearers more; and after it was over, his friend, the Musháekh, led
him about, and he shook hands with many and gave them the blessing.
Then the great procession of the Prince's anniversary followed; and
though on the grandest scale, accompanied by the troops, and midst
the firing of cannon and matchlocks, and blare of sonorous trumpets
and horns, with rockets and blue lights continually discharged, yet
it had not the excitement of the sudden frenzied rush of the Wallee's
recognition, nor the spontaneous enthusiasm of the crowds that had
accompanied him; and their journey to the mosque, and subsequent
return, were of the same majestic but monotonous character.

As they were all sitting together quietly after they had returned home,
Ahmed entered somewhat abruptly, and cried out, "I have heard news. Our
King has won a victory, and the King of Ahmednugger was killed." And on
being further interrogated, he said he had heard it from some soldiers
of Beejapoor, who had a vow to be present at the Prince's procession,
and had obtained leave to come the day after the battle, and the dead
were being buried.

"Go early," said the old man; "see those men, and bring any that
will come to me;" and before mid-day several men came and gave a
circumstantial account of the whole action. Abbas Khan and some
Beydurs had been foremost in carrying the guns. The young King of
Ahmednugger had charged madly to recover them, but had been shot dead,
and the whole army fled to Puraindah and sent ambassadors for peace;
and when all was completed, the King would return to Beejapoor--he
might even now be on the way.

"This decides me at once, Zóra," said her grandfather. "The Musháekh's
intentions were truly kind, and I will acknowledge them; but thy proper
home is with Queen Chand, and till I give thee to her my mind will not
rest. After that let it be with us as God willeth. Let us prepare to
go."

There was yet one ceremony to perform, which was a solemn leave-taking
of the Geesoo Duráz and his fellow spiritual princes who were at the
festival, and many others; and Zeenat-bee had to present Zóra to the
Prince's wife and other great ladies who would be with her. But poor
Zóra's wardrobe, if plentiful for her wants, was not that of a fine
lady. The valuable clothes given to her by the Ranee of Wakin-Keyra
were of Hindoo form, and, therefore, for the present useless. Her best
petticoat was of fine soosi, her best scarf only plain muslin, not over
fine; and the new friend looked over the clothes in despair. "None of
these will answer," she said; "thou shouldst have satin at least, but
it should be cloth of gold."

"I have no better," Zóra said; "I have never known better. What is
cloth of gold (kumkhab)?"

"And thou hast never seen it, O simple child? Stay, I see it all now."
And she went to her apartments, and her servants returned with her,
bringing a bundle. "That is kumkhab," she said to Zóra, shaking out
a gorgeous petticoat of the material, "and thou shalt wear that, my
child; the grandchild of Luteef Shah Wallee is a princess, and should
be clad as one." It was in vain that Zóra protested she ought not to go
at all; but there was no escape.

How beautiful she looked when Zeenat-bee came and dressed her. The
cloth of gold, the delicate scarf of brocaded muslin, and all beside
seemed, indeed, as the natural costume of the sweet girl; and as she
entered the assembly of ladies with a modest yet dignified grace, there
was not one present who was not struck with her beauty more than they
cared to acknowledge. Nor would her kind friend receive the clothes
back from her. "If my Shere Khan cannot see thee in them," she said,
"you will need them for your Queen, and they will remind thee of me,
Zóra. I see thou canst not come with us, for thy grandfather's business
with the King is urgent, so I will send thee away, though my heart
aches as I do so."

And when the time came, for the day of the Rujub-ool-Ghyb was Thursday,
for the march southwards, they took leave of all with much emotion;
and, after paying for what they had used, the balance was invested
in an order by a local banker on Beejapoor, for they had been warned
of robbers, gangs of whom frequented large assemblies like that at
Gulburgah, and dogged the footsteps of the returning pilgrims.

Nothing was wanting on the part of the local authorities to do honour
to "Luteef Shah Wallee," the humble Syud and Dervish of Juldroog, now
the new and accepted saint of the faithful, to be worshipped whenever
he might give up his spirit to the angels of death, and henceforth to
live in Dekhan history, as many as humble as he had done before. With
all his yearning for Beejapoor, he had yet longings after Golconda, and
should his petition be rejected, there was at least that refuge to be
looked to for Zóra as well as himself. Well! they would soon see, and
it could not be many days before he knew his fate. As before, the four
baggage ponies were laden by Ahmed; and as the "Geesoo Duráz" insisted
on supplying one palanquin and the Governor of the town another,
besides a few horse and foot soldiers as far as Almella, where there
was a station of Beejapoor troops, they were to travel in comfort and
security. But the old man said to Zóra, as she was making her last
preparations to depart, "Child, we have been dazzled by our prosperity;
may Alla forgive us for having neglected our duty as Fakeers. This we
must resume, and therefore keep our old dresses ready for us."

"I have already prepared them," she said; "and whenever thou wilt we
will sing the invocation again." Then they set out for Afzulpoor, near
the river Bheema.



CHAPTER XII.
DANGER.


The journey from Gulburgah to Afzulpoor was altogether a pleasant one
to the travellers. The morning they left the city was cloudy and cool,
and the soft south-west wind blew refreshingly in their faces as they
proceeded. The plain, after the stony environs of the city was passed,
was rich and fertile, lying on a gentle slope towards the river Bheema,
which ran through its broad valley in a tortuous course; but unseen,
as the floods had declined, on account of its high, steep banks. The
soil was rich and fertile, and luxuriant crops of jowaree, bajree, and
other cereals, with pulse, oil seeds, and mustard, now in bright yellow
flower, were pleasant to behold, while the air resounded with songs
of the cultivators, who were ploughing and otherwise preparing their
fields for the autumn sowing of cotton, the larger jowaree, and other
products. With the husbandmen it was the busiest time of the year, and
to travellers almost the pleasantest, for the rains had given place to
occasional light showery weather, which did not affect the roads, while
the fleecy clouds tempered the sun's rays, and the climate was hardly
warmer than that of an English summer day. Larks were singing in the
air, birds were chirping in every tree, flocks of mynas and paroquets
flew cheerily about, and the whole face of nature was joyful. Our old
friend was very happy. His excitement was gradually subsiding, and his
thoughts were assuming the serenity of his ordinary life. Though he
had been raised to the highest spiritual dignity he could receive, yet
there was nothing of the zealot or bigot in his nature. If it pleased
God, he prayed mentally, to let him remain at Beejapoor, he might by
his teaching temper some of the fierce intolerance which he knew used
to exist there, and might still continue. He could select some quiet
place in which he might make a garden and build a dwelling sufficient
for his small requirements; and by services at the great mosque, by
public alms, and the donations of the King and nobles of the city,
he hoped even to build a small mosque, and establish a school and
college, in which he could teach himself, and thus employ his spare
time pleasantly and profitably to others. Possibly, also, some quiet,
respectable family might propose marriage with Zóra. "They tell me,"
he murmured to himself, "that she is growing up and is beautiful; but
when I asked her whether I should accept the Musháekh's offer on behalf
of his nephew at Golconda, which, indeed, appeared to be an offer in
every way worthy of her and of me, she wept, and said, 'No! no! no!
Abba. Not away from you; I could not leave you. But if it be the will
of the Lord that thou stay not at Beejapoor, then do with me as thou
wilt.' No, she hath no tie to Beejapoor, no expectation there; so let
the issue be as the Lord willeth!"

Perhaps, however, the fair Zóra's thoughts were of a different
character. Beejapoor had to her always seemed the goal of her desires.
Every one around her, even at the old fort, had always spoken of the
city as though they belonged to it. She knew that her father had
been an officer in its army, and she had gathered enough from her
grandfather to believe that he had once served there, though in what
capacity she knew not, and she dare not risk the chance of vexing
him by asking. He had promised that one day he would tell her all,
and she had left the time to his own inclination; now, however, that
they were going there, he might break, perhaps, the long and painful
silence. But this was not all. Despite of apparent hopelessness, and
no knowledge whatever of Abbas Khan's circumstances, her heart was
with him always; and from the news of him she had heard at Gulburgah,
she appeared to have gained new hope. He was evidently a man of rank;
he was near the King, and if her grandfather went to the King, Meeah
would hear of her and inquire about her. She had no idea that he could
have forgotten her; that the excitement of war, possibly of some other
attachment, might have driven her from his thoughts altogether; or
that he might already have been betrothed in his youth. Any or all of
such contingencies never occurred to her, and she still believed that
she was not forgotten. If it were so, indeed, she would continue as she
was, and in the vow of the green dress would be her refuge. Had she not
seen others take it at Gulburgah? And Maria, too, she might be there,
and be able to direct her. In short, more than ever her goal appeared
to be Beejapoor; and though anxious and excited, Zóra was full of hope;
which, if it was vague and undefined, still was hope at her heart, that
had of late grown more vivid than before.

Mid-day was past, and near a small village there was a garden field,
and a well, overshadowed by a huge peepul tree, where the party halted
for rest and refreshment. Zóra and Ahmed drew the Syud's small mattress
and carpet from the palanquin, and spread them in the shade; and from
her stores old Mamoolla produced a cold refection she had prepared at
Gulburgah over night. The cool, fresh air and the easy journey had
made the old man hungry, and he enjoyed what had been provided very
heartily. Zóra had not seen him so cheerful for a long time past, not,
indeed, since they had left Juldroog; and it was evident to her that as
he neared Beejapoor his hopes grew brighter and clearer; but of what?

"They say, Huzrut," said the leader of the little party of horsemen,
"that the ferry-boat at Afzulpoor makes only two trips across the
river on each day; one from this side, when travellers arrive about the
third watch, and the other from the further side before noon. Now as we
cannot reach the town in time to-day, I have, therefore, sent on two
of the horsemen to arrange that the boat should wait till you arrive
to-morrow, and to send word by the first basket boat crossing that you
are coming, and that lodgings are to be prepared for you in Sinnoor, a
considerable village, where you will be very comfortable."

"Then we had better move on, perhaps, sir," returned the old Syud. "I
am grateful for your thought of me, and the mid-way stage cannot be far
distant now."

"It is only a few miles; there is no need to hurry, my lord," was the
reply. "It will be only my infinite regret that I shall not be able to
take the whole of my party with you to Beejapoor; but it is difficult
for horsemen to cross the river when it is full, and we belong to a
different Government; the foot soldiers will, however, accompany you.
You can get them relieved at Almella, which is customary."

"Once I am there, sir, I think I can send your men back, for I am
known, or--or--used to be."

At Almella, thought Zóra; who can remember him there?

"Zóra," said her grandfather, when they were alone, as Ahmed and the
old woman were packing up what had been used, "Zóra, listen to me,
child, for it will relieve me to tell you. We have not preserved our
faith with the Lord; we have been exalted by spiritual pride; we seem
to be no longer humble Fakeers, but to have changed into princes.
Though I cannot see, yet I feel that everyone salutes me. I am called
'Your Holiness,' or 'My Prince,' or 'My Lord,' and this I regret. We
have not begged alms as we should have done, and as I vowed to do; and
I fear that the Lord will punish me for this great omission."

"True, Abba," said Zóra, laughing, "we have not begged every day,
for at Gulburgah you said you could not take me among the crowds, it
was not safe; but did I not spread the sheet for you at the gate of
the Prince's palace, when the worshippers were entering, and in the
cemetery, near the grave of the old saint? And when Ahmed spread it for
you in the mosque, was it not always full? and when people came to the
house to get charms or amulets, and ask for your blessing, did they not
leave alms? Then, grandfather, we have much money, much more than we
need, besides the order on Beejapoor. Why should we beg for more? Is
it not avaricious to do so? Thou hast only to say Luteef Shah Wallee
wants, and riches would be bestowed upon thee. But, O Abba, we do not
want them; we were quite happy when we were poor."

"Nay, I am not avaricious," returned the old man, humbly; "but for
my breach of vow I fear. Let us resume our wonted habit, Zóra, from
this evening where we rest for the night, and give all we get in the
wallet to the poor; and to-morrow, as we wait for the boat, we may
as well sing an invocation, and spread the sheet, and we can make a
distribution there also."

So it was arranged, and they went out to beg that night, and proceeded
next day to Afzulpoor. The people came out in crowds to see the new
saint, whose fame had preceded him, for there were many Mussulman
weavers and husbandmen at the little town, and some of them had heard
the Syud preach, and been witness to the wondrous excitement when he
was taken up and carried in procession. They would fain have had him
stay with them and preach, for the next day was Friday, the Sabbath;
but he could not be persuaded to break his journey, and must go on as
had been arranged. When he came to the river side, and his sheet was
spread on the green turfy bank, he addressed the people for awhile
in his own homely way, and the sheet was rapidly covered with small
contributions. Then he took a kind leave of all, and delivered the
amount of the collection to the Patell and authorities of the village
to be distributed in charity to all the poor, and applied to the
expenses of the festival which he knew was at hand. Thus his mind was
assured that he had at last done right, and he would continue the
custom; and when he landed on the other side, it was with a silent
prayer that thenceforth to his destination nothing might interfere with
the tenor of his vow.

The men who had been sent forward had been able to make arrangements
for our friends, and they were soon comfortable. They had arrived
before the time for evening prayer, and their dwelling-place adjoined
the mosque, where most of the men and some women of the village had
assembled; and now, too, came an opportunity of saying a few kind words
to them all, and the lights were being lighted in the village before
they got up, and Zóra led her grandfather back to their apartments. He
was quite cheerful then and quite satisfied with what had been done.
Zóra and old Mamoolla pressed him to take his dinner, but he laughingly
said he had eaten so much of the old woman's good kabobs at the well
that he needed no more, and as soon as the cattle had all come in he
would go with Zóra, as the streets would be quiet.

Gulburgah during the festival had been full of thieves of every
description; indeed, the place had an evil reputation for robbers
at all times. There were not only the ordinary cut-purses and
pick-pockets, pilchers, and night prowlers of such gatherings; but
there were Thugs from the neighbouring counties of Allund, Gunjooty,
and Kullianee, as well as those who lived in the city itself, carrying
on apparently honest trades and occupations, who marked parties for
plunder, joined with them as they departed homewards, and slew them
when they had gone a little distance with them. For miles, indeed, in
every direction were the unhallowed graves of hundreds, and thousands,
perhaps, of those who had been thus decoyed and destroyed. There were,
too, Dacoits who attacked the lodgings of pilgrims, or waylaid them on
the high roads, and plundered with little regard to consequences. Among
the latter were many Jutts and Kaikárees, peaceful-looking people by
day, but terrible by night.

Our readers will not have forgotten, perhaps, the attack on the old
Syud's house at Kukeyra, with the intent to carry away Zóra; and some
of that gang who had escaped, and who lived in small villages somewhat
to the south of Almella, were pursuing their usual avocations in the
festival; by day selling small prayer-mats to pious Mussulmans, or
their women worked bodices, new and old, or made winnowing fans for
cleaning rice and other grain; but both by night and by day pursuing
their hereditary avocation of thieving. Among these was the boy who
had been released by Burma Naik and sent back to his people with the
grim notice already recorded. He had seen the old Syud at the public
mosque on several occasions; also at the gate of the Prince's palace,
when Zóra and her grandfather spread the sheet at night, and had dogged
them to their lodging. There nothing could be done, for they were well
guarded; but the determination to exact a heavy revenge for their
leader's death and the execution of their comrades had not lessened;
the only point undecided being how it was to be carried out. Some of
the gang were in favour of a sudden attack in a village where the Syud
should rest for the night; but when they found out that the old man
was proceeding to Beejapoor, their plan was formed rapidly. They would
not rob the holy man; that would be a sin, and bring misfortune on
them; but they could carry off Zóra, and give her up to Osman Beg, whom
they believed still to be at Juldroog, and demand from him the reward
he had promised. Some of the gang had crossed the river by a basket
boat early in the morning, with a small litter they had prepared, and
which could be easily carried. Several actually crossed in the great
ferry-boat (who could have suspected them?), and watched our travellers
to their resting-place. Their habit of begging through villages on
their journey in the evening was the best opportunity afforded to the
robbers' plans, and they were determined to follow them up, even to the
gates of Beejapoor, rather than forego their chance. The village had
one large gate to the south, that which opened on the Almella road,
and was in a direct line with the centre street. Two men had usually
charge of this gate, who could be easily overpowered. It would be
impossible to make a rush through it so long as the village cattle were
coming home; but, after that, there would be no obstacle, and it was
with secret satisfaction that the scouts watched the old man and Zóra,
dressed in the Fakeers' garb, leave their lodging alone, and wander
about the streets, singing their appeals for alms, receiving such as
they were given, and so passing on. At first they had walked through
side streets, Zóra always leading her grandfather, and warning him of
stones and other obstacles; and at last they emerged into the broad
way, not far from the gate, where there was a space without houses,
which appeared to Zóra very lonely and desolate, and there were no
persons moving about as in other parts of the village.

"I do not like this, Abba," said Zóra; "it is so lonely, and you would
not let me bring Ahmed with us. Let us turn back towards our home. The
wallet is already heavy with meal and rice."

"Why fear, child?" returned the old man, gaily. "Who ever molests the
Fakeer?"

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when about twenty men, some
of them carrying a small litter, emerged from behind a wall which
concealed a narrow lane, and came running towards them, crying out,
"Clear the way for the bride!" Zóra thought they were part of a village
marriage procession, especially as there were two torches lighted; and
drew her grandfather aside to let the people pass; but almost before
she could think, she found herself seized, a gag thrust into her mouth,
and her grandfather prostrated by a severe blow from a staff. She was
then swathed in a saree and lifted into the litter, the bearers of
which hurried on at their utmost speed. No noise had been heard of the
slight scuffle; no alarm was given. The two door-keepers were in the
act of shutting to the ponderous gates, which required their utmost
strength, and were taken completely unawares. One of them tried in
vain to stop the foremost of the robbers, and was pierced by a spear
before he could cry out; the other, who attempted to gain the bastion,
was struck down on the first step, and there died. Then the whole gang
extinguished their torches, rushed on down the main road till they came
to a side path which turned more to the east, among the tall fields of
jowaree, pursuing their way in utter silence for the most part, only
interrupted by occasional whispers among the gang.

Poor Zóra was utterly helpless. The gag which had been stuffed into her
mouth nearly choked her; the cloth by which she had been swathed up
to her throat prevented her moving her hands. She remembered when the
slaves of Osman Beg took her up at Juldroog they had done it gently,
and she could at least breathe freely and scream for help; but this
attack on her had been more savage, more determined--was this also her
enemy's contrivance? She could not but think so; and his emissaries
must have followed her even from Kukeyra. Whither were they taking
her? She could see nothing, for the cover of the litter was of black
coarse blankets, and was tightly fastened down. Without, too, the night
was dark, and a drizzling rain had set in. She felt stupefied by her
position, and her thoughts could take no coherent form whatever. For
several hours the gang pursued their first rapid pace, not halting to
relieve each other under the pole of the litter, but one displacing
another, as necessary. The men were not professional bearers, with
their regular step; but persons unaccustomed to carry loads, and, in
consequence, the poor girl was sorely shaken and bruised against the
sides of the narrow crib. She could breathe, but that was all; and any
chance of making herself heard was impossible. At last they stopped and
set down the litter. Zóra could hear the gentle rushing of water, and
supposed the gang had halted to drink, as one of them, slightly opening
the side of the litter, felt about until he found her face, and, to her
infinite relief, drew the gag out of her mouth. To her surprise the man
was civil, and said in good Canarese,--

"You will be thirsty, lady, and here is water; drink. But if you
attempt to call out, I cannot answer for your life; you must die. Do
you understand?"

"Where am I?" she asked, faintly; "and what have you done with my
grandfather?"

"Make yourself easy about him," said the voice; "he is safe where you
left him. Ask me no questions, for I cannot answer you; and you will
know the rest in time. No harm will come to you, and we dare not injure
a hair of your head; but you must save yourself by being perfectly
passive. If you cried out so as to cause alarm, my brothers would spear
you, and leave you as you are."

Zóra drank eagerly of the water, and felt refreshed and strengthened.
The gag was not renewed, and with her teeth she contrived to bite
a small hole in the blanket covering. She saw the gang at a short
distance sitting together, and their hookah passing round among them.
It was too dark to distinguish individual figures, but the sound of
the gurgle of the hookah, and its bright light when drawn, showed her
their position, and occasionally flashed upon the water which flowed
by. Again the man who had before spoken said, "Wait till daylight, and
I will bring you some roasted corn. The grain is full and sweet now.
You are likely to get little else for two or three days, and if you are
quiet you may be let out for a few minutes."

Zóra could not reply. With the drink of water her senses had revived,
and the agony of her position became more and more clearly realised.
She did not lose her presence of mind; but the impossibility of
escaping from so many active and unencumbered men was not to be
thought of for a moment. All she could do was to commend herself to
the merciful Alla, who alone could effect her deliverance. Strange to
say, she had still hope, which her faith served to increase; and if she
sobbed and wept almost unceasingly, there yet seemed to be something
whispering at her heart, "Fear not, for I, the Lord, am with thee!"

Presently the men took up the litter and moved on, but more slowly than
before. They were unaccustomed to carry such a burthen, and already
some were complaining of chafed shoulders. Would they put her down
and disperse? Then daylight broke; but the rain did not cease, and the
fields of corn and cotton, through which they held their way, grew
muddy and soft, and the men could proceed with difficulty.

"We must seek for some shelter," said a voice, which appeared to have
authority among the gang. "We are now on the lands of Kohutnoor, and we
may find a shepherd's hut somewhere; and two of you run to Hippurgah
and see if some of our people will come, for we must go on again at
nightfall."

After this speech Zóra found her litter put down, and the opening of
the covering was untied; then she was taken out, and carried into
a rude field hut and laid on the ground, but the bandages were not
loosened. There we must leave her for the present, and relate what had
befallen her grandfather.



CHAPTER XIII.
Deliverance.


As we have already stated, there was no alarm at the gate of the
village when the Syud was struck down. Of the two watchmen, one was
dead, the other senseless from loss of blood. Ahmed and old Mamoolla
were, however, now anxious about their master and Zóra, and Ahmed went
to the village Chaoree to ask if they had passed that way. "Yes," said
the watchmen on duty for the night; "we heard them singing a long
time ago, and supposed they had gone home, as the singing ceased all
at once; but we will come and look--some one has doubtless asked them
to remain." But they could not be found or heard of, and all were in
much fear and perplexity. Could Zóra have stepped incautiously into a
well, and drawn her grandfather after her? But no, there were only two
wells in the village, and though lights were lowered into them nothing
was seen. At last a cry was heard near the gate, and then someone,
who had wished to go out to his field, gave the alarm that murder had
been done; and Ahmed and the rest ran with lighted torches, saw the
two bodies of the watchers, and looking about, found the old Syud,
lying where they supposed he had fallen, near the wall. At first,
as blood had issued from his head, they all thought he had died, and
they took him up reverently and carried him to his lodgings, where
they discovered signs of life; still he had no perception of anything,
and was not able to speak. The barber, who had been summoned, said
the wound was slight, but that the blow had caused insensibility, and
fomentation must be continued.

So the night passed, and the whole of the village was disquieted and
alarmed. The idea of so holy a person as Luteef Shah Wallee, the
new saint, being killed in the place, and his granddaughter carried
off, was almost beyond belief. Several parties of the villagers,
accompanied by the Gulburgah escort, went out to search in the fields,
but returned. What could be done in the darkness and rain among the
tall heavy crops? They must wait till morning; and in the morning
consciousness came to the old man, though it seemed to those around him
that it would have been more merciful if he had died. Who could console
him? Who could satisfy him about Zóra? Who had taken her, and why? Not
for her ornaments, for she had put on only those she usually wore, of
small value, all the rest were packed up. When the day dawned some
light was thrown on the affair by the tracks of a number of men in the
corn-fields, and by broken stems of the corn, and they continued as far
as the boundary of the next village, through which they evidently went;
but it was no concern of the watchmen of that village to trace the
thieves unless they were well rewarded; and who was to pay them?

Meanwhile the old man raved, and called on Zóra without intermission.
At times he even became frantic, and with difficulty could be
restrained from attempting to proceed on foot. "Take me to Zóra! Take
me to the child! Take me to Almella! Lay me at the feet of Chand
Beebee, she will give me justice for my child. Oh, Abbas Khan! she
watched by thy side; go to her, save her, and give her into my arms. Am
I not Luteef Shah Wallee now? and my blessing or my curse are at least
powerful. Yea, I will bless thee!"

"It is no use keeping him here," said the barber; "his case is beyond
my skill. They have a surgeon and a doctor with the soldiers at
Almella, take him thither;" and the litter was soon made ready, and the
sad procession departed. It was nearly evening when it reached Almella,
where it was met by a crowd of people who had heard of the outrage;
and a comfortable lodging had been prepared, where the old man was
reverently deposited. He was now calmer, but grief lay heavy on him,
very heavy; and what could console him? When he could think coherently,
he accused himself of neglect of his vows; he accused himself of
incautiousness; and if she returned not, he prayed for death, Here,
whence the Lord had taken him in his prosperity to blindness and
poverty, would be the fitting place for him to die. Towards evening he
became calmer, and asked if any of the people of Almella were present,
and the Patell, and the Putwari, and the Moolla of the mosque came to
him.

"Are any of ye old?" he asked; "as old as I am?"

"No!" replied the Moolla; "but my grandfather, who is very old, can be
sent for."

"Ay, that will be Sheykh Oomur, perhaps; yes, send for him." They
wondered why the name should be remembered, but sent for him. When he
arrived, the Syud, taking his hand, said, "If thou art Sheyhk Oomur,
thou wilt not have forgotten Syud Ahmed Ali."

"Syud Ahmed Ali, the physician!" cried the Moolla, peering into the
other's face, for he was nearly blind himself. "Yes, it is he! it is
he! Oh, master! I, thy pupil, have not forgotten; and to see thee here,
and in this sore plight. Ah! it is the Lord's will."

"Tell them all--all," cried the old Syud, with fresh vigour, "that I am
here once more. God, the Highest, hath brought me to recover my child
and my honour. Go! arouse all to bring Zóra back to me or I shall die."

"It is the Syud, surely," said many old people who looked on the aged
features with compassion, and well remembered them; and the authorities
of the little town and of the detachment of soldiers sent out parties
in search, one of which found the track, many hours old, as they
knew from the state of the broken herbage and corn, and returned
unsuccessful. And the old Syud, becoming hopeless in his grief, though
relieved of much of his pain by the doctor who had been summoned, was,
they thought, going to turn his face to the wall and die. But still
he had not asked for the prayers for the dying to be recited, and was
constantly crying out, "He will not take her to shame or death; he will
restore her to me. Zóra! Zóra! come soon, else I die; and I have told
thee nothing." Once he said to the Moolla and others who sat nigh him,
"Oh, friends, if I die, bury me here; but take my child to the Court,
lay her at the feet of Queen Chand, and say I, Luteef Shah Wallee, sent
her for justice." Then, as if he had no more to say, he turned on his
side and appeared to sleep.

Just as day was breaking he sat up suddenly, but with vigour, and
putting his hands to his ear, said, in a strong voice, "I hear a
Beydur's horn; I hear the Beydurs' drums; and they bring me my Zóra!
Oh, my child, come quickly, lest I die of joy!" At first those who
heard him--the kind doctor, Ahmed, old Mamoolla, and others--thought
what he had said was part of his delirium; but Ahmed rushed out, ran to
the top of the house, and looking southwards, saw the blaze of torches
and about fifty dusky forms approaching at a rapid pace, while the
creaking of the gate of the town showed that it was being opened. As
the procession approached nearer, the sonorous drums of the Beydurs
beat a joyful march, their horns blew a victorious blast; and Ahmed
ran down again to the apartment, and cried out, "It is true! it is
true! Rejoice!" and fled forth to meet the lost girl, weeping like a
child. And onwards came the body of men encircling a good palanquin,
and the town musicians had mingled with the Beydurs, and the din and
clamour were deafening. Then, as they put down the litter at the steps
of the house, Zóra stepped from it, and standing erect on the highest,
cried out, "The Lord bless ye all, friends, for I am safe. By your aid
ye have saved me from dishonour and from death." But she could hardly
speak, and her cheeks were wet with tears, which glistened in the
torchlight. In an instant more she had crossed the little courtyard,
reached her grandfather's bed, and exclaiming, "Abba! Abba! God has
saved me, and brought me to you again when I had no hope left!" But the
old man could not speak coherently; indeed, the revulsion from a dim
hope to a blessed reality had almost cost him his life.

They sat together the whole day, Zóra scarcely stirring from his side,
and only urged by pressing hunger to leave him at all; for Mamoolla had
said, "Poor dove, they only fed it with green corn and milk, and that
was not food fitted for her; and the best I can cook shall be hers and
the master's, who, after all, has only a broken head; but then he is
not a wrestler or a sword-player." Zóra's story was not a long one.
When she was put into the hut with only two men to guard her, the rest
of the gang dispersed into the corn-fields to hide themselves, as the
husbandmen would soon be abroad. Now the hut was nearer to Kokutnoor
than Hippurgah, and a shepherd boy who had been watching sheep all
night had seen the procession, and saw where something, he could not
tell what, had been deposited. Over night a large body of Beydurs, on
their road from the King's camp by Sholapoor to their homes, had put
up at Kokutnoor; and the lad, well knowing their habits, went to the
leader and told him that Dacoits had halted in the fields and hidden
their booty in a solitary hut. "They are Káikarees and Jutts," said the
lad, "and the brother of Kulloo Naik, who was killed at Kukeyra, is
their leader."

The Beydur chief who was in command of the party was soon aroused, and
among his men were some of Runga's and some of Burma Naik's people;
and it was at once determined that the Dacoits should be surprised and
their booty captured. So, through the cover of the tall grain fields,
they were guided by the lad until they came close to the hut. The two
men who guarded it were speared without mercy, and, said Zóra, "I
expected no less than death, when several of the men who had served at
Juldroog found me, bound as I was, and were distraught with joy. They
took me into the air, unbound me, and chafed my arms and my legs. They
carried me into Kokutnoor; then bearers were sent for from Hippurgah,
and I was fed, and had milk to drink, and I am quite well, and it is
like a new birth to see your dear face once more."

What could he reply? What more could Zóra say? And so they sat without
speaking much till the day waned, and the fatehas they had ordered
were ready, when Zóra arose to distribute the money offerings to the
poor, and the alms that had been in the wallet were part of her liberal
donation.

The next day, the Beydurs having remained as their guests, and enjoyed
a great feast, all those that belonged to Runga and Burma's divisions
declared they would attend the Syud to Beejapoor. Runga would never
forgive them if they did not; and there was no hurry about moving, as
the King was yet detained north of the river. In the evenings, then, as
the old Syud sat in the porch of the house, under pretence of begging,
for he was weak still, and could not walk, the Beydurs came and told
him tales of the war, and how Abbas Khan, Runga Naik, and his men had
carried by storm the great battery of Ahmednugger guns, and Runga had
been made a noble on the spot, while the blood was yet wet upon his
sword. Poor Zóra! how her heart swelled at the narration, and how hope
was revived, which for a time had appeared dead.

When the time came they moved from Almella, and reached Allapoor the
day before the King was to enter the city. Thousands were passing on
horseback, thousands were going to meet friends long absent, and no one
noticed the blind old man and a girl, dressed in pilgrims' clothes,
who, as they entered the gate of the great city, kneeled down, and
gave thanks to God. The old Syud's face beamed with gratitude and joy.
As to Zóra, the splendour of what she saw almost overpowered her; but
she led her grandfather forward in the direction of the citadel, and
on a piece of close green sward, near the open road by which the King
would pass, they spread their sheet, and began at intervals to sing the
best of their holy chants; and passers-by threw alms to them liberally
and freely, begging the old man's blessing. Gradually the booming sound
of the King's kettledrums, and the huge pair which were carried by the
standard elephant, were heard, and the old man remembered them, and
said to Zóra, "They are near now; let Ahmed keep the sheet, dear, and
you will see the King." Not long afterwards the people on the towers
of the gates, the bastions, and in every available place they could
get to, began to shout and wave scarves; and every house within sight
hung out costly shawls, cloth of gold, and rich garments out of windows
and over the parapets of their houses, till the city was like a garden
of tulips. Following the procession were hundreds of war elephants,
dressed in their richest caparisons, their bells jangling with a
strange clamour, and the music of the nobat playing a march of victory.

These, however, were of little interest in comparison with the King's
own circle, which occupied nearly the centre of the procession, and
having entered the gate, advanced more slowly. In the midst rode the
young King, wearing, like the Queen, a tunic of dazzling white cloth
of gold, and a morion with a crown of flashing jewels. He was smiling,
as he greeted the people with constant waves of his hand, while his
beautiful horse caracoled beneath him. Near him rode Abbas Khan, and
other officers of rank; and Zóra could see Runga Naik in his new
uniform of cloth of gold. The horses pranced and curvetted, tossing
their heads and neighing; and the King, drawing rein for a moment,
pointed out the Syud and Zóra, asking apparently who they were, when
Abbas Khan, who now saw them also, dashed up to the King, and said, "It
is Syud Ahmed Ali, of whom I spoke." At the same moment the old man,
who had been standing, rushed forward over the sheet, and with a loud
cry of "Daad! Daad!" tottered and fell on his face, nearly across the
Royal path.

"Bring him on with you, Abbas," cried the King; and the young man
turned at once to his old friend, throwing a glance at Zóra, which
rested on flashing eyes bedewed with tears of joy, and cheeks burning
with excitement, as he cried to her, "Zóra! is it thus we meet? Fear
not now, for all will be well!"


    End of the Second Volume.


    _Spottiswoode & Co., Printers, New-street Square, London._



Transcriber's Notes


Obvious errors of punctuation and diacritics repaired.

Hyphen removed: waist-band (p. 14), waist-belt (p. 231), white-washed
(p. 226).

Hyphen added: horn-blower (p. 72).

P. 7: "chesnut" changed to "chestnut" (a big chestnut horse).

P. 28: "obesiance" changed to "obeisance" (making an obeisance to the
Queen).

P. 47: "to" changed "too" (that she had done too herself).

P. 69: "irrruption" changed to "irruption" (resist any irruption of
marauders).

Pp. 75-76: "Shekh" changed to "Skeykh" three times.

P. 139: "a" added (might have been a matter of accident).

P. 160: "seiges" changed to "sieges" (through several separate sieges).

P. 186: "villany" changed to "villainy" (undertake any villainy).





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