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Title: A Nobel Queen - 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 'SEBTA,' 'TARA,' AND OTHER TALES.

              'O, never was there queen
  So mightily betray'd!'
  _Antony and Cleopatra_, act i. sc. iii.

  IN THREE VOLUMES.
  VOL III.

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



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



CONTENTS
OF
THE THIRD VOLUME.


    _BOOK IV._

    CHAPTER                                       PAGE
       I. THE KING'S ENTRY                           1
      II. PARDON                                    11
     III. THE TRIAL                                 25
      IV. FREEDOM                                   50
       V. CHANGES IN SOME POSITIONS                 68
      VI. PROCEEDINGS AT GOA                        85
     VII. THE INQUISITION                          104
    VIII. A DEATH, A MARRIAGE, AND A DEPARTURE     126


    _BOOK V._

       I. A SKETCH OF LOCAL HISTORY                148
      II. A PLEASANT JOURNEY                       154
     III. THE PROGRESS OF THE SIEGE                168
      IV. THE ASSAULT                              187
       V. DIEGO'S DEATH AND THE BISHOP'S EMBASSY   208
      VI. PEACE FOR AWHILE                         228
     VII. THE SECOND SIEGE OPENS                   244
    VIII. THE LAST TRAGEDY                         257
      IX. CONCLUSION                               273
          NOTE                                     286
          GLOSSARY                                 287



A NOBLE QUEEN.


BOOK IV.


CHAPTER I.
THE KING'S ENTRY.


The triumphal entry of King Ibrahim II. into his capital was not only
a glorious sight to its people, but an assurance that the long and
disastrous wars between the rival States of Beejapoor and Ahmednugger
were at an end. King Ibrahim had kept the field against the conspiracy
of his cousin, the Prince Ismail, who was supported by a large portion
of his own army under Eyn-ool-Moolk, and by his uncle, Boorhan Nizam,
Shah of Ahmednugger; and against the possible advance of the Portuguese
of Goa, whose skill in war was well known in the Dekhan. The King
of Ahmednugger, however, could make no impression on the Beejapoor
troops, who defended the frontier stoutly, and, falling ill, died in
his camp at Puraindah. His son Ibrahim, a youth, was placed upon the
throne, and soon after again pressed the war against Beejapoor, which
brought on the general action in which Humeed Khan, the uncle of Abbas
Khan, had proved victorious; and as the troops of Ahmednugger fled
from the field with the loss of the whole of their artillery and war
elephants, the long continued struggle came to an end, and the Royal
army returned to Beejapoor, escorting their King in triumph. "On the
18th Mohorrum," writes the historian of the period, "the King made a
triumphant entry into Beejapoor amid the acclamation of the people, who
on this occasion had adorned the streets with gold and silver tissues,
velvets, brocades, and other rich cloths and ornaments." But it was
not the splendour of the spectacle which gratified the people; it was
the assurance of safety and security from further disturbance, for
which all were thankful. Those who had wavered in their allegiance now
declared a hearty loyalty; and the southern invaders, under the Hindoo
Prince of Penkonda, who had joined the conspiracy on the assurance of
the conspirators that they might thus regain the dominions they had
lost, having been defeated and driven back, there remained no part
of the Beejapoor dominions that was not in profound peace after a
long series of years of rebellion; and the people rejoiced in a real
gladness which had not been felt for several generations.

As we already know, the force under Abbas Khan had marched northwards
to the aid of the King; but as the rainy season was at its height,
King Ibrahim had taken up his position at the fort of Shahdroog, or
Nuldroog, and had left Humeed Khan with the main body of the army to
watch the frontier and repel incursion should it take place. Abbas
Khan, therefore, on receiving orders from the King, had marched to join
his uncle, and arrived in time to take part in the finally victorious
battle.

From his uncle he had received a very hearty and affectionate welcome,
the particulars of which need not be recorded here; and it was with a
great satisfaction that the veteran commander heard the details of the
combat in the presence of the Queen Dowager, and the discovery of Osman
Beg's treason. Abbas Khan had, indeed, to recount all the passages
in his life which we already know of, which to his uncle had been so
grievously misrepresented. There was nothing left but for Abbas Khan to
show his valour in the next engagement that ensued, which proved to be
a very severe one, for the left wing of the Beejapoor troops was broken
by an impetuous charge of ten thousand of the Ahmednugger cavalry. Many
nobles and high officers of rank were slain, and many fugitives rode at
once to the King's camp declaring that the whole army had been routed.
For three days the King was in the last degree of anxious uncertainty,
till a despatch from Humeed Khan, sent by the hand of his nephew, who
could describe the action, assured him of the most perfect victory.
Then it was, too, that the day might have gone hard for the Royal army
but for the exertions and daring bravery of the fresh force under his
nephew; and he related, also, how bravely the enemy's heavy battery had
been stormed by the Beydurs, who appeared unconscious of danger, and
how both Abyssinians and Dekhan cavalry had vied with each other under
their young leader. In a few days the King's forces joined those under
Humeed Khan near Sholapoor, where public thanksgiving was made for the
close of the war, and some rewards and honours were publicly bestowed.
But the grand ceremony of all was to take place at Beejapoor on the
day of entry into the capital; and the King, carrying with him the
whole of his army, with the trophies in artillery and elephants, Royal
camp equipage and treasure that had been won, crossed the Bheema river
slowly, and, as we know, safely reached his destination.

While in camp together, our friends Runga Naik and Abbas Khan had held
many an anxious conversation on the subject of the old Syud Dervish and
Zóra. Runga had told him of the forcible abduction of the girl, and
of her rescue by himself and Burma; how, when he was obliged to leave
Korikul, he had made her and the Syud over to Burma's care, but from
that time he had no news of them.

If they had left Kukeyra they might be at Sugger, or, possibly, had
gone on to Gulburgah; but nothing could be known for certain till
the men who were returning from his own force should reach their
territory, and either bring the old man and Zóra with them to camp or
to Beejapoor. It was this very party which, crossing the country direct
from the Royal camp, so providentially rescued Zóra, unharmed, and took
her to her grandfather; and regulating their movements by those of the
King himself, arrived in time to witness his triumphal entry. I trust
this slight digression will be pardoned, for, indeed, without it the
position of the parties would hardly be understood with exactness.

After the slight interruption caused by raising the infirm old man, the
grand march was resumed; and the young King rode on, with the bitter
cry of the old Syud, "Daad! Daad! Justice! Justice!" ringing in his
ears, and the sightless eyes and feeble arms raised to heaven. Abbas
Khan's tale had distressed him seriously; but he was here face to face
with one instance of the first King Ibrahim's cruelty, and the sin
of it rested on his house. Well, it could be condoned, perhaps, for
the curse of a holy Syud could hardly be averted even by penance; but
he would do, as he had vowed to Alla, what it was possible to do ere
the sun set. So the young Monarch rode on in his pride; Humeed Khan
on his right hand, Soheil Khan and the brave commander on his left,
preceded by his gold and silver mace-bearers shouting his titles, and
followed by the crowds of nobles and officers who composed his train.
The day was as yet young, but it was bright and clear; and the flood of
light glittering on morion and coat of mail, on cuirass and greave,
on trappings and housings of gold and silver cloth, on banners and
standards, and the great white buildings and palaces which stood out
against the clear, deep blue sky, formed a combination of splendour
which the mind can hardly realise, and which was well-nigh overpowering
to all who saw it.

As to Zóra, she--who had seen nothing in all her life of splendour
such as that--was fairly overpowered. She trembled, and her cheeks
flushed as the first portion of the troops issued from the gate and
passed them, drowning the feeble chaunt she and her grandfather were
raising. But alms were showered upon them, and Ahmed had gathered up
several times already what lay on the sheet. When the hoarse cry arose
of "The King cometh! The King cometh!" and all heads bowed to the earth
as he passed on, she did not think of him, but of one that might be
with him. And yet, if he were, would he remember her? Would he even
see her? Ah! it was an anxious moment, and her beating heart fluttered
till she could hardly breathe. As the glorious pageant went slowly
past, she could see the face she sought distinctly. Abbas Khan was
riding near his uncle, conversing joyously with him and others around
him; and the appearance of the gallant cavalier, dressed in glittering
armour and cloth of gold, was almost too dazzling to look at. There
were hundreds of Fakeers lining the road, crying for alms in stentorian
voices. How would the faint chaunt of an infirm old man and a girl be
heard amidst the din--the jangling bells of elephants, the neighing of
excited horses, and the cries of the Royal titles? And Abbas Khan must
have passed the group but for the sudden action of her grandfather,
who threw himself forward with his shrill cry. Even then the grooms
who ran by the King's horse, which had been somewhat startled, would
have removed the old man, roughly enough, perhaps, from the Royal path;
but the action of Abbas Khan had been rapid, and instantaneous, and
decisive. What he had said to the King she could not hear; but the
King's reply, "Bring him to the palace instantly," at once gave her
the assurance she needed. Now Abbas Khan had dismounted, and stood
embracing her grandfather; and was telling Runga Naik, who had seen
all, to seek for his litter, which was under some trees at a little
distance. Poor Zóra had not been able to obtain one at Almella, and she
had ridden her own stout pony, which was also brought up; and she was
preparing to mount it when Abbas Khan cried, "Stay, Zóra! not in this
crowd; here is a palanquin of the King's for thee." So she entered it,
shut the doors, and was carried on. There was no time for words. The
whole scene was to her so altogether strange and unexpected that she
could not find speech to thank any one; and as she shut the doors of
the palanquin, and was safe from observation, her overcharged heart
found relief in a burst of grateful sobs and tears.

As the King's procession went on towards the city, outside the walls,
for he had to receive the blessing of the Chishtee priest whom we know
of, it was easy for Abbas Khan to turn off with his charge into the
gate of the citadel, while Runga Naik brought up the baggage ponies
behind. All was comparatively clear in the citadel, and would be till
the King arrived; so that Abbas Khan had no difficulty in speaking to
one of the chief eunuchs of the private apartments, whom he knew, and
putting his old friend and Zóra under his charge. He could not stay;
and galloping after the procession soon overtook it, and resumed his
place by his uncle's side.

"Who was the girl beside the old man who helped to raise him up, and
whom my horse well nigh trampled down? I never saw a more beautiful
and expressive face in my life," said his uncle with, as it seemed, a
peculiar smile.

"She is the old saint's granddaughter, sir; and has devoted her life to
him. Yes, she is beautiful."

"Then thou hast seen her, Abbas?"

"I have, uncle. The night I was in delirium at Juldroog she watched
me, and gave me medicine and cool sherbet; but I could only see her
face as that of one in a dream, and I have never looked on it since but
once, and that only as a passing glance, till to-day, when I could not
help seeing her, for the handkerchief she had tied over her turban had
fallen off. It is evident that the Syud hath taken the vow, perhaps at
Gulburgah, where His Highness Geesoo Duráz made him a Wallee."

"Was he a Fakeer before then?" asked his uncle.

"No, sir. Though he called himself a Dervish, yet he had not taken
any degree as a Fakeer, and people only called him Dervish. When he
confided to me his identity his chief prayer was to be allowed to go
free, that he might pay his vows at Sugger and Gulburgah, where, it
appears, he was raised at once to the highest rank; and his title now
is Luteef Shah Wallee. His is a sad story, uncle. Dost thou remember
it?"

"I was a mere boy then," was the reply, "and used to attend the durbar
with thy grandfather; but I quite remember the sadness with which all
the city heard that Syud Ahmed Ali, the physician, had been blinded
and sent to Juldroog. Everyone grieved for him, for he was not only
the most learned of all at Court, but the most charitable. Many will
remember him, and Ekhlas Khan was an intimate friend. Yea, it will
cause a murmur in durbar when his name is mentioned, for he has been
clean forgotten; and it was believed he had died soon after he was
imprisoned. And thou hast told the King all?"

"All," replied the young Khan. "As the old Dervish told the tale to
me, so did I repeat it faithfully; and I told him, too, how, under the
Lord's will, he had saved my life."

"And what said he?"

"He wept, uncle; and said that the curse of a Syud should never rest
upon the Adil Shah's realm or people; that search should be made for
the Dervish. Then one day there came a holy man with a great retinue
from Gulburgah, and told him--I was there--how a Fakeer had preached in
the mosque, and a miracle had been done, and the heretofore Dervish had
been made a Wallee at once, as the people demanded. And the King said
to me, 'Thou art witness, Abbas Khan, that if I ever am blessed by the
old man I will restore to him and his all he has lost.'"

"And he will do it, too," replied Humeed Khan. "And amidst the
rejoicings of to-day one heart will be gladdened."

"Ameen! Ameen!" was the reply; and the conversation dropped.



CHAPTER II.
PARDON.


Meanwhile Zóra and her grandfather had been conducted by the eunuchs
through the entrance corridor into a suite of small but elegant
apartments, which opened into a court and garden behind the palace.
Their servants were brought in by a separate passage into a little
kitchen and adjoining room; and there were baths and everything
necessary for a pleasant, though necessarily confined residence. Here
Zóra and old Mamoolla soon spread her grandfather's carpets, and they
found cushions and bedsteads already provided. Presently, when all was
arranged, Zóra led the old man to the cushions, and he sat down with a
sigh of thankfulness.

"Where am I?" he said. "Surely I heard Meeah's voice? Where has he
gone? Bring him to me."

"You are in the King's palace," said Zóra, throwing her arms around
him. "Be thankful, Abba, that all thy sorrows and trials are over. We
are safe in our refuge at last."

"Yes," he said, "at last! More than forty years have passed over me
since they sent me away to exile, blinded and in torment. Dost thou
think I have forgotten that?"

"O, Abba!" cried the girl, putting her hand over his mouth, "didst thou
not tell me when the Fateha was said before the tomb at Gogi that thou
hadst forgiven King Ibrahim? Was it for thy blindness, Abba?"

"I am again rebuked, Zóra, and will forgive still; but it is hard to
forget the past, and the joy with which I came forth from Almella, and
within an hour was taken out, blind and bleeding! Forgive me, child!
that I am false to thee. And forgive me, O Ibrahim! who hast received
me back, that this bitter thought should have come into my mind. Yes,
as I entered, I felt I was within the palace. This I am sure, by the
turns we took as we entered, was the very apartment which I used
to dwell in whenever my visit was prolonged. I even now scent the
jessamine and tube roses of the little garden, and I feel as though I
were in my old seat, with the soft south wind blowing on me. Methinks I
see the blue Damascus tiles which are inlaid round the arches, and the
carved window of the Zenana beyond."

"It is even so, Abba," said Zóra, much moved, as her grandfather
pointed out the several objects with his finger. "Nothing has been
changed; everything is as perfect now as it was then, and looks as
quiet and peaceful as our little Zenana used to do at Juldroog."

"But it is only a gilded cage, my child; and I shall long to be free
again, and to teach and preach, ay, and beg as I used to do even at
Juldroog. And here there is more to do, else the Lord had not brought
me."

"But, Abba, dear Abba!" began Zóra; and he interrupted her with, "Be
patient, child! Dost thou think I do not welcome this as a place
of rest, even as thou dost? And when Meeah comes he may bestow us
elsewhere, when we can go and come with freedom. Then we shall have
our own house, and our own servants, and palanquin, and bearers; and a
sweet garden where I shall love to sit and discourse on the mysteries
of holiness with the learned of the city, and on medicine with the
physicians; and thou wilt have thy pigeons and flowers, and find out
poor people and relieve them."

"Enough, enough, Abba!" cried Zóra, laughing and crying at the same
moment. "Thou wouldst make a princess of me at once, and art tempting
me by a hundred delightful anticipations fit but for the noble and
great. But I see only my Fakeer's garments, and think of my uncompleted
vows. And after all, am I not your humble little Zóra?"

"Thou art my precious treasure, child!" replied the old man, with
emotion; "and the most noble house in Dekhan cannot produce one like
thee."

Almost as he spoke, the curtain, which was drawn across the entrance,
was partly raised, and a man's voice said hurriedly to a companion,
"The rooms are occupied by strangers, Maria; we must retire."

Zóra started to her feet, and rushed hastily forward. She saw two
figures she at once recognised retreating into the corridor, and cried,
"Maria! Maria! it is only your little Zóra; and Abba is here. Oh, come
to us, we are alone."

In their turn Maria and her brother started. There was no doubt left
when they saw the slight figure stretching out its arms with a low cry
of joy, and the soft, flushed cheeks wet with tears; and a moment after
they were locked in each other's arms, and approached the old man's
seat, who was crying out joyfully, "Come! come to me, my friends; we
are, indeed, with you at last. O Padré Sahib, thank the Lord with me
that we are here safely, and in honour, for of a truth we have endured
much."

Maria was not changed, save that the bright rosy colour of her cheeks
had increased under the effects of better health; and she had attained
a true majesty of beauty which far exceeded that which Zóra used to
look on with wonder at Juldroog. Zóra seated her beside her on the
cushions, but she could not give vent to her feelings of delight. Her
loving brown eyes looked up like those of a dog to her friend; she
threw her arms round her, and kissed her forehead, her eyes, her lips,
passionately, hardly able to speak, except to say, "Thou art here,
Maria, and restored to me. Oh, yes, to me, who in all my troubles and
tears have never forgotten thee; and this which thou gavest me," and
she drew the little silver cross from her bosom, "has never left me,
and has been my charm and deliverer of my honour when all hope of my
deliverance seemed gone. And thou hast been happy, Maria?"

"Very happy, my darling," returned her friend, "longing to hear of you
and Abba, but could obtain no news of you. Your little letter and the
feather reached me safely, and I have them still at home. And I wrote
a reply to you, Zóra, and my brother gave it to Abbas Khan, for I was
able to write that the Queen had ordered Abba and you to be sent to
her, and that he would be restored to his old rank; and I knew you
would like to hear the good news from me, Zóra. But we had no reply,
and then I heard of the Nawab's ill-treatment of you, and that you had
escaped, and the Queen thought you might come direct to her."

"And I would have done so had I heard from Meeah," said the old man;
"but I soon learned he had reached the city, and what could I have done
alone?"

"Yes," observed the Padré, "we were more than a month detained on the
road, as Abbas Khan's horse fell, and his wound opened again. He had a
severe return of the fever, and I feared for his life. Nor did he stay
when he arrived; after the combat with the Abyssinian champion, whom
he slew, the Queen sent him to the army, and I hear he has returned
to-day."

"Yes, and we have seen him," said Zóra; "and he brought us here. And
thou art with the Queen, Maria?" she continued.

"I am with both of them, Zóra; but chiefly, by desire of Queen Chand,
with the Queen Taj-ool-Nissa, whom my brother hath restored to health,
and she is now strong and well. It is such a change, Zóra, and we
laugh, and say the King will not know the miserable wife he left. And
she has grown very dear to me, and loves to talk of you, who, she says,
must be her sister. Come, shall we go to Queen Chand, she will be vexed
with me if I take you not?"

"But I must change these clothes, Maria; it is not fitting for me to
appear before her with these Fakeer's garments."

"On the contrary, child, she will love thee the more, and honour thee
for wearing them. See, Abba, I am carrying off Zóra already," she
continued, "and my brother will be security for me that I bring her
back safely."

It was a strange thing to Zóra to feel herself guided through the
intricate passages and corridors of the huge palace, and to see the
strange deference and respect shown to Maria by all the eunuchs and
Mámas on duty. At length they reached the entrance to the private
apartments of the Queen Dowager, and after a brief colloquy with the
eunuchs at the door, were admitted, and led to the Queen's seat by one
of the women in attendance.

"Thou art welcome, Maria," she said, kindly; "but who is this thou hast
brought with thee?"

"It is Zóra, your Majesty, of whom I have so often spoken. She would
have taken off her Fakeer's dress; but I said I was sure she had better
come as she was."

"And you were right, child. I welcome thee in the name of the King,
thee and thy grandfather. By the blessed Prophet, how lovely thou art:
come hither and embrace me."

What idea Zóra had previously entertained of a real Queen it is
difficult to say: something very awe-inspiring, no doubt, and
magnificent; but at the sight of the slight girlish figure and plain
muslin dress of the great Queen whose praises were in every one's
mouth, and who had held the power of the whole kingdom, Zóra became
assured, and advanced to kiss the Royal lady's feet, and embrace her as
she desired.

"Power of God!" cried the Queen as, having embraced Zóra she took both
her cheeks in her hands and turned them alternately to the light,
and looked into her soft glowing eyes; "Power of God! she is lovely,
indeed, even in this poor dress. But thou hast not taken the vows,
Zóra?"

"No, my Queen, not yet; but when my grandfather was exalted in rank at
Gulburgah I would have done so, but for a worthy lady of Golconda, who
would not allow me."

"And she was right, child," returned the Queen; "such vows only
belong to widows and devotees; but thou, may God forgive the thought,
art neither one nor other; and if the blessing of Chand Beebee
avail aught, she will live to see thy children about thy knees;"
and, stretching forth both her hands, she placed them upon Zóra's
head, praying for her welfare. Then Zóra sat down and told her what
had befallen her since the time that Osman Beg carried her off, and
the escapes she had had, particularly the last. How her grandfather
attained the rank of Wallee; and, in short, all the story we know up to
the events of the morning.

"Remember that thou art my guest," said the Queen, as she dismissed
Zóra; "and thou shalt want for nothing. Perhaps," she added, "thou
mayest be required to-morrow at the durbar, for Osman Beg hath arrived
in custody, and there may be need of thy evidence, should he deny what
is alleged against him. Thou wilt not be afraid of the King's presence
and the durbar?"

"I am only a poor weak girl," said Zóra, casting down her eyes; "but
I have never yet been ashamed before God or man, and have no reason
to fear the King or the durbar. But I have forgiven the Nawab freely.
I have no claim upon him or against him; I have left all to the good
Alla to judge between us. Yet, lady, had not my poor friends Runga and
Burma Naik, whom I have known since I was a child, rescued me, I had
surely been despoiled of my honour, and become an outcast. Now, blessed
be the Lord, I can stand before my lord the King, or you, gracious
lady, without shame, or a thought of shame. Forgive me that I speak
so freely, lady; but thou art as a mother to me, and my tears and my
thoughts well up together without restraint. I know none of the manners
of a court, for hitherto I have been secluded, and my speech may appear
curt and abrupt; but my thoughts are not so--indeed, indeed, they are
as a child's before its mother."

"Thy speech is good courtly Persian, at which I marvel, child,"
returned the Queen, "and thou needest not be ashamed of it, Zóra; and
thy fearlessness doth thee honour. Yes, I will be thy mother truly; and
though thou mayest have forgiven thine enemy, the State hath not, and
it is not seeming that such acts as Osman Beg's should be passed by
unnoticed. Now depart, both of ye, for I hear the kettledrums from the
city, and I have much to do ere the King enters. Bid thy grandfather
eat something and be ready, for I have no doubt he will be sent for
soon after His Majesty arrives."

As they passed the entrance to the young Queen's apartments, Maria
asked whether they might be admitted; but it was too late; the Queen
was in the bath, and her attiring would scarcely be finished before
the King arrived. Then they went down to the old man and his friend,
whom they found deeply engaged in the discussion of the young Queen's
ailments; and in the Padré's treatment of the case the old physician
heartily agreed. Zóra delivered the Queen's message, and after a bath,
which Ahmed had prepared, the Wallee's costly robe of honour and his
crown were put on him. Zóra had changed her tunic for one of her
simple woman's dresses, and they sat enjoying pleasant converse in
regard to the past, while the salvoes of cannon, braying of trumpets,
and loud nobat music playing on the terrace above, announced to them
the arrival of the King.

Nor had they to wait long. Another salute from a battery of cannon
before the Hall of Audience announced that he had taken his seat;
and two of the gold mace-bearers in waiting arrived to request the
attendance of His Holiness Luteef Shah Wallee as soon as possible.
And then the old man rose, and, led by Zóra, whom he declared must
guide him, passed by the lower corridors into the great hall. It was
a strange sight to the nobles and commanders assembled there, to see
the venerable man led by the simply, not to say coarsely, dressed girl
to a seat apart from the rest, and near the group of holy men who had
already taken their places. All rose in deference to the new comer,
whose rank was indeed superior to that of any there; but he was spared
the difficulty of performing any act of reverence to the King himself,
who, rising, went to him, while Zóra fell back under charge of one of
the mace-bearers, an elderly eunuch, who took care of her; but she
could see and hear perfectly whatever passed.

"We have sent for thee, illustrious Syud," said the King, as soon as
silence was enforced--for the murmur of astonishment and pity had
been loud and full of emotion--"to do an act of justice, which shall
mark this happy day with a deed peculiar to itself. We had heard
of the illustrious Syud before from Abbas Khan, who was for a time
at Juldroog, and we had vowed to send for him. But, lo! as if by a
miracle, or the direct interposition of the Most High, as we entered
the city gate, we found him present before us. In the humble garb of
Fakeers he and his granddaughter appeared by the wayside, and he fell
at our horse's feet. The just and Almighty Alla had, by a strange
course of circumstances, guided them to our feet, not as they were in
their exile, but with increased glory and honour; for at Gulburgah the
Prince Geesoo Duráz, with other princes and learned doctors of Islam,
had conferred upon him, in regard to his power over men's minds, his
learning, and piety, the spiritual rank of Wallee; and as such, we
ourselves, as we vowed, present him to you, O friends and brothers in
the faith, and pray you to do him reverence, as we ourselves do, in the
presence of ye all; for the Lord hath brought to us in honour one whom
our ancestor Ibrahim--may peace be on his memory!--blinded and cast out
to exile, where he was forgotten and might have died, but for the aid
of Him in whose service his life had passed."

Then many wept. Many who had known the old man in his prosperity, and
thought him dead, pressed forward with tears and quivering features
to grasp his hand once more, and kiss his feet; while cries of "Deen!
Deen! A miracle! a miracle! May the saint live in peace and honour!"
rose from all parts of the vast hall, and were taken up without with
an enthusiasm which spread among the people even to the far ends of
the city; and men saluted each other with the message of peace and the
blessing of God, and the cry, "The sin of the State has been removed,
let us be thankful."

When the tumult had subsided, the King, standing on the step of the
throne, cried again with a loud voice, and said: "Know all men, and
brothers in Islam present, that before food or water hath passed our
lips to-day, we freely and entirely revoke the cruel sentence passed
on the illustrious Syud Ahmed Ali, now Syud Luteef Shah Wallee. We
implore, in the name of our ancestor, forgiveness for the shame and
pain he hath endured for forty years, and pray him to intercede with
Alla the Most High, and His holy messenger, to wipe out this sin, and
remove it for ever from us and our people. We further establish this
our illustrious saint in all the possessions and estates which were
granted before; and we give, in addition to these, the pergunna of
Kokutnoor, the scene of his child's delivery from violence. So let
it be, Ameen! Ameen!" Nor was a soul present who did not cry "Ameen!
Ameen!"

"Zóra! Zóra!" cried the old man, who was trembling with excitement,
and feeling about with his hands, "raise me up and support me, else I
cannot speak. Zóra, the Lord hath won the victory for us, and there
is no longer aught hid from thee, O my child. Let her come to me,
Sir, for I need her aid;" and there was a way opened for her, and he
felt the soft warm hand steal into his, whilst her gentle "I am with
thee, Abba," assured him. A strange sight was it to all that gorgeous
assembly; the venerable old man leaning on the shoulder of the slight
girl. He, clad in his rich saint's robe, and his crown with which he
had been crowned; Zóra in her humble dress of soosi, and her plain
muslin scarf now covering her face. But she was calm and dignified, and
her modest self-possession struck those who saw her with wonder and
admiration.

Then the old man stretched forth his hands and blessed the King, and
the Queen who sat above, and all the people. "What can I say, my King?"
he cried; "what can I say? My poor speech is dumb, but my heart goeth
forth to thee and thine, and to all present who behold me. As I came
hither, O King, I rested at Gogi, and distributed Fatehas at all thy
ancestors' tombs; but my heart was hot and hard and sore within me, and
I was about to pass King Ibrahim's tomb, when God sent me a rebuke by
the mouth of this poor child: 'Forgive him,' she cried, 'forgive him;
go not away from this place till thou hast forgiven him;' and I kneeled
down by his tomb, struck by remorse, and bared my head, and cast dust
upon it, and cried, 'I forgive thee, O Royal master, all thou didst
to me, and may it be forgiven to thee in the day of judgment.' And my
heart was softened, and I was accepted at Gulburgah because I preached
peace to the people, as, Inshalla, I will do here, and there will be
no more war or trouble. And now, O King, bid me depart home to rest,
for I am old, and the events of this day have overpowered me."

Then the King ordered the ushers to bring a robe of honour, and he
put it on the old man with his own hands, and hung a valuable string
of pearls round his neck, to serve as prayer beads, while the people
around the hall still cried blessings on them! and Zóra heard voices
in the Queen's balcony crying, "Ameen; Ameen!" with, as she thought,
Maria's blending with them, and sobbing too. While she led her
grandfather back towards their apartments, Zóra hitherto had been able
to repress her emotion, but finding Maria already there, she fell on
her neck and wept passionately. She felt not only thankful for the
honour accorded to Abba, but for what spoke to her heart more deeply
and fondly, that Abbas Khan, and a noble old officer, whom she supposed
to be his uncle, had been looking at her all the time. Nay, had she
not heard their cries of joy and congratulations rising high above all
others! And, late in the day, Meeah brought his uncle, and they kissed
the old man's feet, and delivered the King's command that he should
attend the great durbar on the morrow at noon. But Zóra had retired;
she dared not look on them.



CHAPTER III.
THE TRIAL.


Somewhat before noon on the following day the tall, burly figure of
a man, who wore a dress of red cotton cloth, advanced slowly over
the short turfy sward which lay beneath some huge adansonia trees in
the fort. They were situated at some little distance from the gate
of the citadel, by themselves, with no buildings near them, for the
spot was considered impure and unholy, being, in fact, the usual place
of execution in Beejapoor. A few persons were following him, and as
he stopped and seated himself in the shade of one of the trees, some
of those who had gathered round him began to question him as to what
was to happen, for the executioner rarely made his appearance in his
official costume unless some event were to follow.

"Who is it to-day, Khan Sahib?" asked one of the bystanders, with an
expressive jerk of his head. "Who is to be sent to Paradise or to Hell?
Nothing has happened for a long time past, but now the King has come
again, thy hands will be full of work."

"Yes, brothers," returned the grim functionary; "while Queen Chand
was in authority, there was no business. She is a great deal too kind
and compassionate, and she cheated me out of one fellow who was bigger
than I, and the greatest bully and villain in Beejapoor, by letting
that brisk young fellow, Abbas Khan, kill him. Now I should like to
have slain that devil, because he was too mean for the young Khan to
meddle with, and he was always mocking me and scoffing at my sword,
which, he said, was nothing in comparison to his 'kussab,' as he called
it, which I ought to have had also, but the Kotwal has taken it. Now
look, friends, can anything be more beautiful than this?" and, rising,
he drew from its scabbard a broad-bladed sword, rather broader at the
point than at the hilt, with a point nearly square, with some, to him,
strange-looking letters upon it, which he believed to be a charm. The
motto, indeed, was--

  "Inter arma silent leges,"

and the sword had been forged in Germany. "All I know is, friends,
that the blade is a true 'Allemagne;' and though it is as sharp as
any razor, and I got Daood Sahib, the King's armourer, to retouch the
edge to-day, there will not be even a notch in it when I have done my
work, and not a cloud on its fair polish. Ah, sirs, that 'kussab' of
the Abyssinian's is a brutal weapon, to be used but by main strength;
whereas this, my Allemagne, requires only skill, and when any great
person is made over to me, I use it and no other."

"Then it is some great person, Khan Sahib, who will go to judgment
to-day?"

"Nay, friends, I know not," returned the executioner. "Some one
belonging to the Prince Ismail's affair was brought from the south in
a palanquin which was fastened up; and I know pretty well, when Hyat
Khan sends me word to go to the trees and remain there, what that
means. Now, go away, all of ye, for no one must see this put into its
scabbard, lest an evil glance fall on it. My art is vain, unless the
edge be keen and firm. Away with ye all, I would be left to my prayers
and meditations. When ye see the palanquin come out of the gate yonder,
ye can return if ye will, and see what I do." And when all around him
had gone, the man put the blade of his sword to his forehead and chest
reverently, made a salaam to it, and slowly and carefully replaced
it in its richly embroidered velvet scabbard; and as the muezzins of
the neighbouring mosques sang the midday call to prayer, spread his
waist-belt on the green sward, and performed his devotions, for the
executioner was a devout man, careful in the stated observances of his
faith.

The citadel was now a busier scene than when Queen Chand acted as
Regent in the absence of the King. There were so many more dignitaries
to be received, so much relating to the army to be arranged, so many
rewards and dresses of honour to be distributed, that the approaches
to the palace were always crowded. This did not affect our friends in
the least, as they were not only pleasantly secluded, but at such a
distance from the exciting crowds and turmoil, that they saw none of
it, and heard only a little. At the council of the night before, all
the public accounts for the period of Queen Chand's administration,
which had been prepared beforehand, were read to the King, and duly
audited. Many new patents of nobility as rewards for service, and
grants of estates, were ordered to be drafted, Syud Luteef Shah
Wallee's among the number. And we are glad to record also, that not
only Abbas Khan, now created Khan Bahadoor, and commander of five
thousand, but Runga Naik was received into the lower grade of nobility,
and created lord of twenty villages near his own ancestral estate of
Korikul, and was to receive a dress of honour in full Court. Assuredly
his service had not been in vain, while other rewards, in proportion to
their merits, were allotted to his brave followers. But all these were
minor points; the business assigned to the morrow was of a much more
important nature, for as they sat in the councils hall, Hyat Khan, the
Kotwal, announced to the King that Osman Beg, the Governor of Juldroog,
had arrived as a prisoner, and asked how he should be disposed of. The
Queen Chand, who was sitting beside her nephew, said, "Son, I claim thy
attention to this case first, for it is of grave importance to many
that the truth should be made manifest to all, and justice be done. We
would have seen to it ourselves when you were absent, but we thought
thou shouldst decide upon it. It is a painful case, but justice must be
done."

"Certainly, and without favour, aunt. Yet why not by thee? Is there any
power thou dost not share with me? Is there any order of thine to which
I do not bow? Yet"--for the Queen was waving her hand in deprecation
of his expressions--"yet, if thou wilt, I will be present with thee,
and we will share the task together. Let the prisoner be well lodged
and cared for, Khan Sahib," he continued to Hyat Khan; "let his arrival
be announced to his father, who may visit him, and let him be present
to-morrow at the afternoon durbar, when we shall be at leisure."

And now the time had come. The King as he rose had received many
persons of rank, and transacted his usual business with the Ministers.
He then retired for awhile; but, after the noonday prayer, had entered
the great hall of audience, and, due proclamation having been made
within and without, he took his seat on the Royal throne, which had
now been properly arranged. This was, in fact, a broad, low, wooden
stool, with cushions of rich velvet, with a back also of wood, both
being covered with thin plates of gold, inlaid, especially the back
and canopy, with very rare and valuable precious stones, arranged in
ingenious patterns. Queen Chand sat by her nephew, on her usual seat
or cushion of velvet, and dressed in her usual simple fashion; but the
King, though he wore white muslin only, had a precious jewel in his
turban, and a necklace of large diamonds and emeralds, which flashed
brightly whenever he moved. Before him lay a light Court sword, in a
purple velvet sheath. He looked younger, as indeed he was by three
years, than Abbas Khan, who, with other officers of the private Court,
stood rather behind and to one side of the Royal daïs; but he was of
slighter make, while his features, though delicate, were of darker
colour than those of Abbas Khan, whose complexion was almost ruddy.

A little lower, on the first broad step or platform of the daïs, sat
the old Syud, Luteef Shah Wallee, in the place of honour nearest to
the King and Queen; and just behind him, indeed touching him, the
slight form of Zóra, dressed in her ordinary coarse garb, was seen
covering her face as well as she could from the earnest and curious
glances of those who, were wondering, as before, at her presence
among so large a company of men. Behind her was the priest, Francis
d'Almeida, who cheered her every now and then; but his sister, for
whom Zóra was longing, sat above in the Queen's balcony with the other
ladies-in-waiting and servants. The hall itself appeared the same as on
the first day we saw it, except that the dresses of the courtiers were
not of a military character, but of simple white muslin, crossed by a
baldrick of gold lace or tissue, which was intended to hold a sword;
but such weapons were carried in the hand, while a knife or dagger
with jewelled hilt was stuck into the muslin girdle.

When all the presentations had concluded, the King, having had silence
proclaimed, spoke with a firm voice, and said, "Listen, O ye nobles and
Ministers of the State! Sundry accusations have been made against Osman
Beg, son of the brave Sooltan Beg, and we have caused him to be present
here, before us, before the law officers of the State, and before his
equals and superiors in rank. Let no one, therefore, say that this
investigation was held secretly, or otherwise than in the sight of the
Lord on high, and the day-beams of justice. Let, therefore, Osman Beg
be brought hither, and let him reply to these accusations."

The old Syud could not see him, we know, but he stood directly in front
of Zóra as he entered, accompanied by a party of the Kotwal's guards,
and proclamation was made by the Mohur that Osman Beg, Turcoman, stood
before the throne. The prisoner then made a deep obeisance to the King
and Queen, which was not returned by either, but to those assembled he
made no gesture of salute. He looked round defiantly as he crossed his
arms, and then, letting them drop to his sides, again saluted the King
slightly, and said with a firm voice, "I am present, O King, to hear
any accusation."

At the sound of his well-remembered tones Zóra shuddered, for the
events of the last night she had seen him were too fresh in her memory
to be forgotten. But it was not a shudder of fear, it was rather a
repellent action as against a foul reptile, and her cheeks flushed, and
her tiny white teeth were set as if in resolution.

Then the chief Kazee spoke from his seat, and said, "This is a case of
treachery, O King, against thee, and thy person, kingdom, and security.
These letters were found on the person of the Abyssinian slain in the
combat of ordeal, and are addressed to Elias Khan, who died in battle.
Osman Beg, in the name of the King, I ask thee if these are truly thine
own; look at them."

Osman Beg was not allowed to touch them, but they were held near his
face and turned in every possible direction. There were many of them,
the date and purport of each being read aloud by a scribe present.

What could he do or say? the writing was sometimes his own, sometimes
that of his confidential scribe. All the seals were his, and
corresponded exactly with that he wore on his finger as a ring. He
appeared to become weary of these documents being read, and handed
about to receive the criticisms of others; and, with an impatient
exclamation, for which he was reproved by the ushers, and admonished to
be more respectful, he said, "Do not trouble yourself, Kazee Sahib, the
letters are all mine; I deny them not."

"Then I will read one, only one, for His Majesty to hear," was the
reply; and, standing up, the Kazee selected one and read it so that all
could hear. It was to Elias Khan, stating that the Padré at Moodgul,
Dom Diego, had agreed to all conditions; that three thousand Europeans
were ready at Goa; and that when Eyn-ool-Moolk was prepared he should
deliver over the fort to any officers they might send, when he would
join them; and, having overpowered Abbas Khan's detachment, they would
march rapidly upon Beejapoor, put Chand Beebee to death, and take
possession of the treasury and the capital; while another party, led
by himself or Elias Khan, should pursue the King and bring him to
Beejapoor, or execute him in camp, as might be most expedient.

The Kazee could read no more, for there arose a shout in the assembly
of "Let the traitor die! Send for the executioner! Away with him!"

But Osman Beg turned in defiance to them all. "Dogs!" he cried, "all
this would have been, and more, had Eyn-ool-Moolk not been slain, as
Elias Khan was, by treachery. Ay! and ye know it, one and all of this
assembly. What I have done, I have done; and what has happened is my
fate. Yes, if ye wish to know what the Padré at Moodgul did, and wanted
to do, get some one to read his letters. He was a brave fellow that,
and would have struck in for us. Very different from the other, who, I
hear, is in Beejapoor; he was too great a coward to be a traitor."

"He confesses before the King, and before God and men, that he was
prepared to do all that is written in these letters by his own hand;
and the law is that the punishment is death," cried the Kazee.

"My lord! my King!" cried Abbas Khan, as he saw the King was about to
speak; and had he declared judgment, there would have been no delay
in execution, "I cry for mercy and pardon. When I was ill and near to
death in Juldroog he was kind to me; he not only gave me protection,
but attended me as a brother. My King, he is my cousin, and we have
played together when we were children; nor was my King absent. For the
sake of his noble father, spare his life!"

Osman Beg answered not a word. He stood, as he had done hitherto, with
his arms crossed defiantly, looking now to the Kazee, now to the King,
and now to his cousin, apparently defying all.

"Of a truth thou deservest death, Osman Beg. Thou wouldst have, by
thine own writing, put my venerable aunt, beloved of all"--and the
people cried "Ameen! Ameen!"--"to a cruel death. Thou wouldst have
slain me and thy cousin, Abbas Khan; and thou wouldst have prolonged
war and misery in our kingdom. But it pleased Alla, the just and
merciful, to frustrate all thy plots, and to bring them to naught; and
for the sake of thine aged father, who fought beside Humeed Khan in the
last desperate fight, and, when others fled, refused to fly with them,
and still rallied men round his standard, we, in the name of the Most
High, whose Regent we are over this people, give thee thy life; for He
hath spared His servant through fields of carnage; and we would not, on
the first day of taking our seat on the throne of our ancestors, stain
it with blood. But thou art disgraced; thy rank and thy estates are
confiscated; and thou canst stay here no longer. If thou, Osman Beg,
returnest under any pretence, remember, the Kazee's just sentence shall
at once be carried out. Hyat Khan, see that he be removed and banished,
conducted ten coss beyond the frontier, and let to go whither he will."

Osman Beg did not move. He glared around him with defiance still, and,
looking at the King, cried out, "I go, as thou wilt have it, King
Ibrahim; nor will I return to disgrace and dishonour. But, before
I depart, I claim justice at thy hands, justice which thy meanest
subjects may claim from thee. Give me my wife. Take honour, rank,
estates, what thou wilt, but give me my wife whom I see sitting there
with the Dervish of Juldroog. There!" he shouted, as he pointed his
finger at Zóra; "there! she is mine by the law, and I claim her under
the law. Give her to me and I depart, and leave only my curse behind
me."

Then arose another shout, more fierce, more prolonged than the first.
"He has forfeited clemency; he has insulted the holy saint. Let him
die!"

"Is it so, Huzrut?" said the King, addressing himself to the old Syud,
as soon as silence had been proclaimed; "is it so? Speak, or let the
child speak. Fear not, maiden," he continued, in a soothing voice
to Zóra; "thou art in God's presence, and the King's; speak as thou
wouldst do, and wilt do, in the day of judgment."

"I have no complaint against him, my lord," replied the Syud. "For what
he did to my child when we were under him at Juldroog, he will answer
to God, who mercifully protected and delivered my child and me from
cruelty and insults. All that is past now, and we are here in safety;
and, for my own part, he is now forgiven. I say, then, leave him to the
Lord's will. Ask her, she will not be ashamed to say the truth, even in
the midst of thousands of men. Rise, then, Zóra, and the Lord will give
thee strength, my child. Thou art a Syud, and a Syud's honour trembles
not before righteous judges. Men will not so much as look at thee,
child; for a Syud's honour is as precious to them as it is to me and
thyself."

"Fear not, Zóra-bee," said the King, gently, "we are all thy
grandfather's friends and thine; but Osman Beg hath demanded thee as
his wife, and should have his reply from thyself, for thy honour's
sake. Speak, and fear not."

Zóra had trembled with shame and indignation as Osman Beg made his
demand, at once so appalling and disgraceful to her. Her breast heaved
with sobs, her eyes grew hot, and scalding tears fell from them over
her burning cheeks. She felt as though she would have choked and died.
But the girl's undaunted courage did not fail her even in that dire
extremity, and the solemn adjuration of her grandfather and the gentle
words of the King stimulated her and assured her; and hastily brushing
away the tears which still glistened on her cheeks, and murmuring a
silent prayer, she rose to her feet with a calmness she had little
expected, and a kind of dread silence fell on the assembly at a scene
so novel and so strange. Above, in the Queen's balcony, she heard a
low clapping of hands, which gave her courage; and the Queen Dowager's
encouragement of "Fear not, daughter, no harm can come to thee," was
timidly acknowledged by a grateful look and reverence.

As she cast her eyes around, she saw that men's faces were averted from
her, and many heads bowed down; but opposite to her stood Abbas Khan,
his features quivering with excitement, and his eyes as if striving to
catch hers and give her strength; while near the centre of the hall
stood Osman Beg, glaring on her defiantly, with a horrible expression
of anticipated triumph, which thrilled through her, but from which she
did not blench.

Those who saw her remembered for years afterwards the simple, modest
figure, dressed in clothes hardly better than those of a peasant, and
the beautiful but excited face of the maiden. And those who did not
dare to look on her, heard only the tones of her soft musical voice,
which penetrated to every ear, and, indeed, to every heart of the many
who heard it.

"Before the Lord God, and ye who hear me," she said, slowly, "I am
not his wife; and I have witnesses that I am not. I see the Moolla
of Juldroog, who has known me from my birth, sitting yonder. Let him
speak, if he be allowed." And as the King assented and signed to him,
the old man rose.

"It is the truth, O King and brethren. I was summoned before the
Nawab one evening to perform a nika between him and Zóra-bee, which
I thought strange. But I found the whole affair a mockery, and a
shameful violation of all law and custom. Zóra was imprisoned under
charge of two women from Moodgul, and I called for her in vain. Osman
Beg dare not produce her. There was no one to represent her. And to
expect me, a humble priest of God, to perform a mock marriage to cover
his violence, was an insult to me; and I rose and left the assembly,
every respectable person in it accompanying me and guarding me. Next
day messengers were sent in every direction to obtain a Moolla, but
none arrived until Zóra-bee and the old Syud had escaped. There was no
marriage, O King and brethren; and he lies before God who says there
was."

"He lies!" cried Osman Beg, furiously; "he lies. She, standing there
shamelessly, had come to me before, and what I did was to save her
shame--the shame of a holy Syud, whom I respected."

This pitiless speech affected the assembly deeply. The Moolla's
evidence had carried conviction to every heart; but was this terrible
accusation true? Some even seemed to lose faith in the girl, but her
faculties were now strung to the highest tension, and her spirit seemed
to rise with the increasing danger of her situation, as she cried,--

"He says I am shameless, and that I came to him of my own will. Let his
slave Jooma, who stands yonder, say what happened."

Jooma, who with other witnesses had been brought from Juldroog, being
now called by the usher, stepped forward and made a humble prostration;
then rose, and joining his hands, said,--

"Let my master do me no harm, O King, and I will speak the truth."

"No one can harm thee," replied the Kazee for the King. "Speak truly,
and without fear."

"He," and he pointed to Osman Beg, "had often asked me to bring
Zóra-bee to him; but I had played with the child, and gathered flowers
for her, and I always refused; and he threatened me. One day he ordered
two other slaves like me to bring her, and when they refused, he
drew his sword and slew one, and a eunuch, who has run away, killed
the other; and their bodies were flung into a hole in the rocks, and
are there still. Their blood was wet on the rocks when he sent for
me, and he had his bloody sword in his hand. 'Go, and bring Zóra,'
he said, 'else thou shalt die!' And I was afraid; God forgive me for
being afraid, and I bowed my head, and said, 'On my head and eyes be
it.' And I took another slave with me, who knew nothing about it; and
we went to watch for the girl, and saw her come to the bastion she
loved, with Ahmed. Then we went down to them, and I sent Ahmed away
on a false message. Zóra was never afraid of me. When Ahmed was gone,
I seized her, and she screamed; and I tied her up with my waist-band,
and we took her to the palace in a black blanket; and I carried her in
my arms, and laid her down on a bed where the Mámas were. Oh, my lord
King, I did wrong," continued the man, blubbering, as he cast himself
on the ground; "and if Zóra is to die, kill me also, for it was I that
did all the mischief. Not anyone else but me, because he said he would
slay me as he had slain the others. Their bones are in the hole, and
the new Killadar tried to get them out, but he could not. Ask him."

"As if a master could not slay an insolent slave whom he had bought
with his own money," cried Osman Beg, scornfully. "And can such as he
be believed against a true Moslem's word? I say he lies, there was no
force; and she came when I sent him to call her."

It was well for Zóra, then, that Osman Beg's cook, whom we may
remember, had also been brought. She now stepped forward, and said,
simply, "Jooma speaks the truth; Zóra-bee was brought into the harem
tied up in a blanket, and I saw Máma Luteefa and her servant untying
her. I went from the kitchen to look, as every one was saying the Nawab
had had Zóra carried off, and was going to marry her; and I was ordered
to cook pilao for the company. And, for the matter of that," continued
the old woman, as she looked round confidently, as many cries of
"Shahbash! well done!" fell on her ears, "every one in the palace knew
it; every one in the fort. Why, I could name a score, yea, a hundred,
who knew it too. Why don't they speak out like me? His wife, indeed!
She was as much married to him as I was; and she is as pure now as
when she was born. Does the Nawab think any one could have come to him
without my knowledge? Shookr! he should be beaten on the mouth with a
shoe for all he is a Nawab. Ask Goolab-bee, the pán woman; she was with
Zóra and the two Mámas of Moodgul all the night Zóra was carried off by
Runga Naik, and kept her safely as her own child."

"We need hear no more, my friends," said the King. "For my own part I
am satisfied. Yet I ask her once more if she hath aught to adduce?"

"Only these papers," she said, timidly, "which my grandfather told me
to preserve. This is the letter he wrote, and sent by Máma Luteefa to
Korikul. It bears his seal, and is in his own hand; and he says he will
come to us and have the marriage done. The second is the deed he gave
to the robber who had instructions to carry me off from Kukeyra, and
who was killed; and with it is also the letter he wrote to the Kazee
of Kembavee, asking him to come and marry me to him. Oh, my King and
my lord, why should he have selected me, a poor orphan and a Fakeer,
for this persecution, from which the Lord saved me many times? Even at
Kokutnoor I had not escaped from the robbers but for the heavy rain
that the Lord sent. If I had been guilty and shameless, as he declares
I was, would the Lord have helped me? If I had been married to him, as
he declares, why ask for me again? Why ask the good Kazee of Kembavee
to marry him to me? I am ashamed to speak so much," she continued,
timidly, "but her honour is dearer to a Syud's child than her life. I
had not thought to complain, and I make no complaint. I have forgiven
him freely, as I forgive him now; and I would have been silent, but
when he said I was shameless, could I be silent? I have no father, no
mother, my lord, but you and the Queen. I am but a poor orphan crying
to you both for justice before the Lord."

The reading of the several papers produced had, to all appearance,
silenced Osman Beg, and his head drooped on his chest despairingly; yet
still, beaten back on every point, he made one more last effort.

"If I produce the Moolla who married me," he said, scornfully, "will ye
be content? Stand forth, Moolla Aboo Bukr, and speak for me."

"I, your slave, will speak the truth, master," he said, removing the
false beard he wore; and then prostrating himself before the King,
cried, "May I be your sacrifice, O King, but I am not even one of the
faithful; I am only a Hindoo, a poor buffoon, who frequents marriages
and festivals, and tries to amuse people. The night Zóra-bee was to be
married, and when thy servant found the Moolla walked away in a huff,
and we sat looking at each other like owls, I clapped on my beard and
wagged it, and said, 'Good people, let me marry them;' and, God pardon
me, I tried to recite----"

"Enough! enough! this is no time or place for thy buffoonery," cried
the King, who, however grave the occasion, could hardly keep his
countenance. "Away from the presence. Is the Khan mad, mother, that he
tried this last resource?"

"I know not," said the Queen; "but I long to embrace that brave child,
who shall be as a daughter to me henceforth." The Queen had been
sobbing as she sat, and her face was wet with tears. "Come to me,
Zóra," she said gently to her, "and I will acknowledge thee before
them;" and the girl, who had sat down weeping tears which soothed and
relieved her, whispered to her grandfather that the Queen needed her,
and rising, passed behind the throne to the Queen Dowager's seat; and
the Royal lady, placing her hands on the girl's head, rose up, and said
to all present, as Zóra stood beside her, "This child the Lord hath
preserved from danger and ruin, and she is pure, and a holy Syudanee.
She is an orphan, moreover, and her revered grandfather, Syud Luteef
Shah Wallee, is old and infirm. Therefore, we, our lord the King and
myself, adopt her as our daughter, and will marry her honourably in
her own rank. As for that man," and she pointed to Osman Beg, "my lord
the King will deal with him as he deserves." And then once more the
great hall rung with cries of "Justice is done! May Chand Beebee live
a hundred years!" "Hear the gracious words she speaks!" and the like;
till, at a signal from the King, the usher again enforced silence.
But before he could speak, an aged man, whose figure was still firm
and erect, rose, and advanced to the foot of the throne, where, after
prostrating himself and kissing the King's feet, he took the sword he
had carried in his hand, and laying it in his muslin handkerchief,
offered it to the King. It was Adam Khan, Turcoman, the father of
Osman, who thus spoke in broken accents,--

"Say no more, my lord and my King. Spare me, the aged servant of thy
house, one who was serving Ibrahim Adil Shah when the venerable Syud
suffered. Say no more, for my honour's sake, for I have fought and bled
for thee. I speak not for him, my unworthy son; but I admit his guilt
against you, my lord, and my Queen, and against that poor orphan, whose
father served under me, and died in battle. Yea, my lord, and my Queen,
I admit the guilt freely, and ye have been witness to its proof. So
justice has been done before the Lord, and though I suffer, I rejoice.
Now, therefore, my King, if thou hast given this wretch his life, let
us go. I have no tie to life, nor children, nor wife, nor any one. Let
us go, then, to Mecca, where he may pray for pardon to the Messenger,
who will accept his penitence. The ship from Choule is about to sail,
and we will depart, and our shame and dishonour may be forgiven. But
take this poor memorial of the service of one who hath been faithful,
whom thy Royal mother knoweth to be faithful. I leave to thee the
estates I hold, but, with permission, all my command with the horses
and men I give to Abbas Khan, nephew of the brave Humeed Khan."

"Peace, father!" said his son; "humble thyself no more. One more chance
of justice is open to all. Hath this girl any champion to undertake her
defence? Men's tongues are swayed by a breath of opinion, but sharp
steel is the true arbiter. Again, therefore, I claim her as my wife,
let who will be her champion."

Then a number of fiery young men started up; but among them all Abbas
Khan was the calmest, stateliest, and most remarkable. "I owe my life
to that poor orphan," he said, "and I should be unworthy if I refused
her aid in her need. Listen, Osman Beg; though I have partaken of thy
hospitality, thou must accept me in the ordeal if thou persist in
claiming her."

"I accept!" cried Osman Beg, "On foot or horseback, with armour or
without, I claim thee, and thee only. The day is yet young, the field
where the Abyssinian died is open. Come! thou art welcome; and if thou
refuse, thou art a coward and a liar!"

"Silence!" cried the King, angrily; "an honourable man can only fight
with one of equal honour. Thou, Osman Beg, art one whose life hath been
far-famed for treachery; whose honour hath yielded before falsehood,
and become a thing for honest men to spit on. Away! go to the holy
Kibleh with thine honoured father; haply the Lord may give thee grace
to repent. Champion! nay, she needeth none; hath not the Lord been her
champion in preserving her from thee? Hyat Khan, remove him; see that
he is guarded and escorted with his father to the ship for Mecca."

"It is my destiny," murmured Osman Beg, as he retreated. "Must I go?
But I will not cease to pursue her while I have life; and my revenge
will only sleep, only sleep."

"And now, sirs, we have detained you long," said the King; "but we
dismiss ye with our thanks, and grateful to the Lord, also, that He
hath manifested His justice in the protection of an orphan child."

Till the Queen rose, Zóra had been sitting beside her, but her mind was
in a strange condition. What she had said, how the people had clapped
their hands and shouted for her; how she had escaped from the deadly
danger, worse than death, which had threatened her; what the King and
Queen Chand had said to her, of all this she knew very little; but
when Meeah, as she loved to think of him, rose up, and before all the
assembled people declared he was her champion, her heart swelled almost
to bursting, and she could only look at him with wistful eyes, while
her cheeks burned painfully and her breath came in gasps. Meeah! he was
true; he had not forgotten the night watch. Meeah! he would have risked
his life for her honour. Oh that she could throw herself at his feet
and clasp his knees, and say----Ah! what could she have said, but that
she loved him, that she would die for him, if needs be.

She was anxious to be alone, to pray and thank God in her own simple
fashion, to send Fatehas to all the saints' shrines; and pleading her
duty to her grandfather, the good Queen, perceiving the girl was well
nigh distraught, bid her go, and she would send for her presently. And
Zóra, leading the old man forth, regained their apartments quietly. And
when he was seated in his old place, and had drunk some cool sherbet,
he drew her to him, and said, "Child, remember this day; 'tis the end
of my Turreequt, except the last when the angel calls me; but it is
the beginning of thine in honour and joy. When that youth spoke, my
heart leaped towards him; and, if the Lord will, he may lead thee to
eternal peace."

Zóra could not reply, her heart was too full; and how could she mention
Meeah? Maria came in soon after, with her brother; and while the good
Padré stayed with his old friend, Zóra and Maria withdrew to Zóra's
apartment, and in a burst of softening tears, the girl's overcharged
spirit was relieved. Never before had Maria heard the history of Zóra's
abduction and escape, and she was amazed at the girl's endurance and
bravery. Then Maria took her to the Queen Chand, who laid her head on
her own bosom, and comforted her.

"Thou art my daughter, now," she said, "for thou art brave and true;
and I will be to thee a mother, grateful that God hath sent me such a
child to love, and to be beloved by. Nay, I will not take thee from thy
Abba, for without thee he cannot live; but I shall see thee daily, and
there need be no reserve between us." Nor was there from thenceforth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Under the adansonian trees the executioner had sat waiting, until their
broad shadows stretched across the sward and were becoming longer. At
last a messenger came and said--

"Get up, O Khan, no one comes to thee to-day, and Hyat Khan bids thee
go home."

"Hai! hai! alas! alas!" said the functionary, with a sigh. "And thou
wert so sharp, my son;" and he once more drew his weapon from its
sheath. "He would never have felt it. Well, so let the King have mercy;
and yet thy time will come again some day or other, O my son. Well,
thou shalt be ready;" and with a sigh he made a deep salaam to the
glittering weapon, and, returning it to its sheath, covered the sword
with his scarf, and walked slowly towards the city.



CHAPTER IV.
FREEDOM.


And now there was rest and peace; but how different to that in the
old fort, to which Zóra's mind often wandered. How different grew on
her day by day, more and more. Instead of the dreamy, uneventful life
she used to lead, there was now excitement and active employment.
Her constant attendance on her grandfather never relaxed; and he was
perhaps more exacting than before--partly on account of his increasing
infirmity, and partly because of the strange and new consciousness
of increased dignity and importance which was growing upon him, and
which was foreign to his naturally humble temperament. His devotional
exercises, too, in which he was assisted by some of the priests of the
city mosques, were much prolonged; and he was often weary and peevish,
and on such occasions the presence of old Mamoolla and Ahmed only
provoked him, and Zóra became indispensable. Had he not, also, been
invited to preach in the Jooma Mosque, where six thousand men of all
ranks sat with the King to listen to him on the occasion of the King's
first visit to that noble building, when he went to return thanks for
the close of the war? He knew that he had moved many hearts; for
though he lauded patriotism and bravery in war, yet he dwelt more
strongly and more earnestly on the blessings of peace, industry,
sobriety, and devotion; and these were themes which flowed from his
lips spontaneously and with fervid eloquence. Many men who listened
then, and afterwards, thought him inspired; and whether he spoke in
the rough Dekhani dialect, or in the softer Persian, he was equally
impressive. Hundreds became his devoted followers, and I fear the burly
high priest's influence decreased in proportion.

From the high priest issued the hardest doctrines of Islam: the most
difficult metaphysical arguments that learned commentators had ever
supplied. The learning and study they displayed were wonderful, and
immeasurably exceeded that of the old Dervish; but they were hard to
comprehend, and to the uninitiated utterly unintelligible, whereas
those of our old friend were sweet and consoling, encouraging to good
works and love to men, as well as to love to God. Hence there arose
two factions, as it were, in the city, which on any and every occasion
were ready to divide into opposing portions; and Luteef Shah Wallee was
denounced as an heretical and misleading preacher, not belonging to any
saintly family, who neglected to preach damnation to unbelievers, but
sought to win them by kindness, which was contrary to the texts and
doctrines of the blessed Korán; and thus, when he had expected peace,
our old friend found strife, which as time passed grew more bitter.

But it was pleasant, nevertheless, after such services, to receive the
visits of his friends. And even some of his contemporaries, Ekhlas
Khan, the blind old minister, several of the physicians and lawyers,
some of the local nobility, and men of learning, enrolled themselves
among his disciples, and sat at his feet, enjoying the words which fell
from his lips with true zest. And as to the common people, there were
many likewise, but the majority still adhered to the old _régime_; and
the precincts of the Chishtee Palace and cemetery, which were in the
centre of the city outside the walls, were as crowded as usual. The
Chishtee priest had, too, many subordinate ministers, who gathered in
his revenues from vows, oblations, and performances of ceremonials in
thousands of families; and the shrine was richly endowed besides by
estates and charged on many collections of revenue. But our old friend
had none of these, and desired none. All he received he gave away in
charity to the poor at the great mosque, and sent to other mosques
in the city, and to the almshouse, and the public hospitals, and
travellers' rest houses. And he had no ambition to do more; certainly
none to become rich; for the King had enriched him far beyond his
requirements, and collections from the estates were beginning to come
in. What was he to do with them? He had no wants, for the ordinary
allowance at the fort was sufficient for food and clothes, and the
expense and maintenance of a household were unknown both to him and
Zóra.

Zóra, too, had her separate duties, apart from those connected with
her grandfather. Rising early, she frequently joined Queen Chand for
the first morning prayer, and then assisted her by writing fair copies
of the drafts she had made over night; and when Abba rose, she was
informed of it, and was allowed to go to assist him. Sometimes she
sang to the Queen the few things she knew, or did embroidery for her.
And the Queen liked Zóra's beyond that of all her other maidens, and
entrusted her with the finishing of a precious and costly piece in seed
pearls on velvet, which was to be sent as an offering to Mecca, some of
the most delicate parts of which had been done by herself. Sometimes,
too, she read aloud, while the Queen worked, from such books as she
had studied under her grandfather, and learned from him the proper
rhythm and emphasis. And Zóra's ear was so correct, and her cadence
so musical, that it was like a sweet song, or a chaunt, or a spirited
declamation, as the subject required.

Every day, too, while the Queen took her noonday rest, Zóra's time was
her own; and Maria came to her, and they sat under a great fig-tree
which flourished in the little garden, and held sweet communion with
each other, or worked. Zóra, though comparatively little time had
passed, was not now the shy, simple child Maria had loved at Juldroog.
She found the girl's character developed and strengthened by contact
with the world without, and by the experience, rough and sad as it had
been, that she had endured in the wild persecution of Osman Beg, and
the society of those with whom she had come in contact since she had
left the fort. Over and over again had Maria requested her to tell the
story of her escape from Osman Beg's treachery and violence; and she
could follow it all, from the seat on the well-remembered bastion,
with the grand ravine and cataract before it, to the final scene of
the trial, of which she had been a spectator from the Queen's balcony,
and estimate with wonder and admiration, and with many a sympathetic
tear and sob, the young girl's fortitude and endurance. She could
estimate, too, Zóra's dread that she might still, by some unknown
chance, fall into this ruthless man's hands; and Maria would soothe and
calm her, bidding her trust in the Lord, and in the powerful friends
that had been given to her. The one was a humble Christian, the other a
Mussulman girl. Yet, in the sympathy and love that united them, there
was nothing wanting. Sometimes, too, they now spoke of "Meeah," for
Maria could not but discern, from his behaviour at the trial, that the
young man loved Zóra fondly, and even passionately; and Zóra would
listen to the few words Maria said on the subject with a fond and even
sad interest, hiding her burning face in Maria's bosom, with secret
hope and yet with trembling dread. Her one hope in life lay with him,
for Abba was declining in strength, and he was over-taxing a mind and
frame which had been so long unexercised, and that she knew must bring
with it the inevitable consequence of death. Till that time came she
declared that not even Meeah should separate her from the fondly loved
old man; and Maria could understand, however great the temptation, that
her vow would not be broken.

But Abbas Khan himself was not free from embarrassment in regard to
taking any formal step towards Zóra. Years ago, when his uncle was by
no means so rich as he was at present, and his brother, Abbas Khan's
father, had been only a Silladar, or owner of a few horses in the Royal
Dekhani cavalry, his little son had been betrothed to the daughter
of a comrade of the same rank as himself in the army, of Abyssinian
descent, but whose estates rendered his daughter, Sukeena, a desirable
connection in the consideration of many families of Beejapoor,
notwithstanding the report that Sukeena-bee was very forbidding both
in person and features. She was, indeed, both lame and deformed; and
was in addition so ugly, that she was known by a sobriquet by no means
complimentary. Sukeena's mother was descended from a Nubian family,
which had again intermarried with Abyssinians. But it was not from this
cause alone that Sukeena's appearance was forbidding; her father was a
very plain and somewhat humpbacked man; her grandmother, the daughter
of one of the Abyssinian noblemen, had been only too glad to dispose
of a singularly ugly daughter to a respectable man, and gave with her
a dower of property which, as he said, endowed the Lady Fyzun with
a beauty more precious and more lasting than that of a pretty face.
From this union had resulted one daughter only, the girl who had been
betrothed in her early childhood to Abbas Khan.

Neither Humeed Khan, Abbas Khan's uncle, nor his wife, the Lady Fatima,
had been parties to this early betrothal. When it took place they
were at a distance; but when the Lady Fatima returned to Beejapoor,
her nephew's father and mother had both died. For a time, the Queen
Chand had adopted the orphan boy, and he shared in the instruction
of the young King; but afterwards Abbas Khan had returned to his
uncle's house, and taken his place in the Royal service. Considering
the connection which already existed by betrothment, it would have
been impossible for the Lady Fatima to have avoided the Lady Fyzun
and her daughter. Both husbands were absent at the war, with the
King. Sukeena's father, notwithstanding his partial deformity, was,
as is often seen to be the case, a man of immense strength and ever
conspicuous bravery, and he had risen to a rank considerably higher
than it was at the time of the old betrothal. In point, therefore, of
social condition the families were pretty equal, though the Abyssinian
lady claimed precedence in consequence of her descent from a long line
of ministers and generals, who had attained rank and power in the days
of the Bahmuny dynasty at Gulburgah and Beeder.

From the period of her return to Beejapoor, the Lady Fatima had been
obliged to offer civilities to the Lady Fyzun, which, of course,
included her daughter; and the Lady Fyzun was a woman not only of
excessive pride, but of extremely sharp, disagreeable temper, and,
moreover, very parsimonious. Her husband, poor man, was especially mild
and good-natured, and, if he could have managed it, would have got away
as far as was possible from his wife at all times. But at a season like
the present, when the whole army had returned from a campaign, and
there seemed to be neither possibility nor probability of the renewal
of war, Zyn Khan, for that was his name, was obliged to remain at home,
and to submit to his wife's conduct and remarks with all the patience
and equanimity he could command. After more than two years of respite,
his trials recommenced the day of the King's triumphal entry.

The Lady Fyzun was, as I have already remarked, very economical. The
house-steward and the clerks who kept the house accounts could never
satisfy her as to the expenditure of the cook, or the daroghas of the
kitchen and stables. She was at perpetual war with them. Too much
butter, or meat, or onions and garlic, or vegetables, were surely
used for cooking the domestic daily food. The horses ate too much
grain and fodder; the slaves and eunuchs wore out their clothes too
fast. In short, these were, and had been, subjects of altercation for
years, and were by no means worn out. Now the morning of the King's
arrival was a fast day, though not one of a rigid character, and few,
especially on an occasion like this, would have observed it at all;
but Fyzun-bee had no idea of allowing laxity of religious observances.
She kept the Rumzan and Mohorum with a positively fearful exactitude,
and starved herself, her daughter, and her household to the very
verge of endurance. On the other hand, on joyful anniversaries, when
a liberal addition of savoury food was made to the daily allowance
by every, even the poorest, housewife, Fyzun-bee's feast was of the
smallest dimensions and humblest character. Sweetmeats were not made
in the house of good sugar-candy and fresh butter, but ordered from
the confectioners, who sent, according to order, the coarsest, and but
little of them. In the pilao, the cook was restricted in the use of
ghee, spice, and meat; camel and even buffalo flesh was used instead of
good fat mutton; and the cook, who was really a mistress of her art,
would, had she not been a slave, have no doubt sought a more liberal
mistress in sheer vexation.

Zyn Khan had ridden with the King's throng of courtiers and officers in
the entrance procession. He had attended the durbar, and had been thus
detained till late in the day; he was, therefore, not only extremely
tired, but hungry to boot; and though he expected no delicacies at
home, yet he felt sure that there would be food at least, and perhaps
the cook might do something special for him. He had left the durbar in
company with his friends Humeed Khan and Abbas Khan, and at the gate
of their mansion had parted with them. Then, as they separated, Humeed
Khan had said to him, good humouredly, "If the fast is observed to-day
in thy house, come to us, brother; nay, stay now if thou wilt, with a
hearty welcome."

Now, though only at the gate, the fragrant scent of savoury food had
already reached him, for it was to be a feast for many of the inferior
officers and men of Humeed Khan's household troops, which would be a
warranty that there were better dishes beyond that; and Zyn Khan's
hunger increased, while his mouth fairly watered. But to eat in a
stranger's house just after a long absence would be a positive affront
to his wife, of whom he stood in awe, and he passed on to the reception
that awaited him. Certainly all the servants were at their posts. There
were trays of offerings, and lighted lamps waved over him; the women
servants and eunuchs chaunted a discordant welcome; but his nose was
regaled by no savoury smell; and, on passing the door of the kitchen
court, he looked in, and beheld the old cook and her two assistant
girls sitting dolefully on the step of the kitchen itself; and as
they got up and waved their arms towards him, cracking their knuckles
against their cheeks, he returned the salute by crying out, "The peace
of God on you, Máma Leila; I trust you have something good for your
hungry master."

"On the contrary, my lord," returned the woman, with a spiteful accent;
"no firewood and no food have been allowed me to-day, else thou
shouldst have eaten well."

Zyn Khan was really angry. "No firewood and no food have been given
Leila-bee to-day," he cried, regardless of the approach and salutation
of his wife and daughter. "No food! and I have this day ridden ten coss
(twenty miles), and been out in the hot sun all the time, and attended
the King's durbar, without a morsel to eat. And this is my welcome
after two years' absence. Fyzun! art thou not ashamed, O wife?"

"I ashamed! I, the descendant of Princes and Ministers, ashamed of
keeping the holy fast, and of the service of Alla, instead of thy
greedy belly. Touba! Touba! As-tagh-fur-oolla! Shame, and God forbid
that I should hear such words from the father of thy daughter Sukeena!
No; there is no food and no fire in the house to-day for gluttons; let
them meditate on the saints, and feed on spiritual food, like true
men of Islam. Be satisfied, O Khan, that I, thy wife, and thy beloved
daughter, are in the same condition as thyself, fasting for the love
of Alla and the saints. Thou canst bathe and refresh thyself, for hot
water is ready for thee in the bath, and I will see (for the expression
of his face was far from amiable) and get some confection which may
stay thy hunger till night."

"Till night!" groaned Zyn Khan; "till night! Is this how thy mother
teaches thee, Sukeena-bee? I would not be thy husband, girl." These
were the first words he had spoken to her, and as he uttered them he
looked over the ungainly, crooked form, the sour, ugly features, and
the really mean clothing of his daughter. In his heart he compared her
to the simple, lovely girl he had seen with the old saint who had so
mysteriously reappeared. "Were I Abbas Khan," he thought, "they might
cut me in pieces ere I would consent to mate with one like Sukeena,
while a girl like the saint's granddaughter was within possibility of
attainment. No, it can never be. And what does it matter to Sukeena;
her money will attract some one."

"What art thou saying, father?" asked his daughter. "Thy lips move, but
no words come forth."

"I was saying," returned her father, bitterly, "that if thou hadst met
me with a cheerful face, brought me a pleasant breakfast, and behaved
thyself like a loving daughter, I should have patted thee on the head
and become more reconciled to thy ugly face. Well! ugly it always was,
and that is no fault of thine. Nay, do not cry; but two years have made
it sour and forbidding, and all thy wealth would not reconcile it to
constant companionship."

Then he got up suddenly, put the girl aside, and went into his bath.
I am afraid matters there did not improve the good man's temper. The
water had been hastily heated lukewarm, instead of hot; and it had
been smoked with the smoke of cowdung cakes till, as the poor Khan
said, it would take all the perfumes of a perfumer's shop to take the
evil smell from him. He took off his armour, however, and his heavy
riding clothes, put on a light muslin suit, went out, and sat down in
his accustomed place.

No one was there, but presently his wife appeared, leading a small
procession, at the head of which was his daughter bearing a silver
plate, and several women with others also covered.

"Spread the cloth," said the Lady Fyzun, "and put down the dishes. Now,
Bismilla! Khan Sahib, eat thy fill, for it is consecrated to the Lord,"
she said with a sniff. "It was about to go forth to the shrine of the
Chishtee saint, but I have saved some for thee."

"Bismilla!" he said, as a servant removed a cover, and he expected to
find some delicate rice milk or vermicelli, with which he would have
been content, hungry as he was; but instead, he saw three "julaybees,"
very old and leathery, and, moreover, much fly-blown, on the first
plate; and on the next, two large coarse "luddoos," which smelt rancid,
and were covered with dust, a few very dry hard dates, and two oranges
of the peculiarly sour description used by dyers; and on the last, two
shrivelled coarse plantains, bruised and black.

"Ul-humd-ul-Illa! Praise be to God!" he exclaimed, "that my wife and
daughter worship the saints, although they need not send them stale
sweetmeats and sour and rotten fruits. Do not deny these delicacies to
holy men, lady wife; but for me they are much too good, and I must seek
plainer food elsewhere," and having delivered this speech with a kind
of grave mock solemnity, he took up his sword, tucked it under his arm,
and walked away.

"If you are going to Humeed Khan's house to eat," cried his wife, not
a whit abashed, "give my humble respects, and say, that when it may be
quite convenient, I should like the matter of Sukeena-bee's marriage to
be settled."

"Oh, mother!" cried the girl, when her father had departed, "I saw
Meeah in the procession to-day, and he is as beautiful as Yoosuf. If I
do not marry him I shall die."

I think it is very possible, if Zyn Khan had had a better reception at
home, he would have made an attempt to carry this point. As it was,
he arrived just as his friend Humeed Khan's cloth was being spread.
Nothing was said but a welcome, and the hungry man sat down to a
dinner of many savoury courses, which he enjoyed heartily, and felt
truly grateful for. And after this, when the three men were alone, and
pleasant fumes of fragrant tobacco were being inhaled, they discussed
the subject of the marriage in a friendly manner.

"The last words my wife said to me were, that I should settle something
about the marriage of your nephew and my daughter; and as we can talk
it over in a friendly manner among ourselves, perhaps we had better
make some arrangement."

"Well," said Humeed Khan, "you know it is now a very old matter, with
which neither I nor my wife had anything to do; and we have long
thought that, as we were not parties to the agreement, and refuse to be
so, the issue rests with Meeah alone, who, of course, can claim your
daughter if he chooses, and he is now responsible for his own actions.
You had better, therefore, ask him, Khan Sahib, and I will withdraw
while you discuss it."

"No, no, no!" cried both, "stay with us; and," added Abbas Khan,
gravely, "I have fully considered the matter, and have come to the
conclusion that it would be better for us both that we continue to be
separate."

"And what is to become of Sukeena, Meeah? Is she never to have a
husband?"

"She has, or will have, much wealth," replied the young Khan; "and,
as flies to honey, so, when it is known that she is free, a hundred
suitors will send in their proposals, and you can take your choice.
Besides, you are Abyssinians and we are Dekhanies, and such marriages
never prosper. Have not a hundred bloody feuds arisen out of such
affairs?"

"That is true," said Zyn Khan; "and there is no saying what feud might
not arise even at the very marriage itself. All the hot bloods of my
people declare that as Meeah slew Elias Khan and his champion, Yacoot,
there is a blood feud between the Dekhanies and the Abyssinians which
may break out at any time."

"Of course it might," said Humeed Khan; "and of all occasions that of a
marriage is the most probable. My friend, not only for our own sakes,
but for that of the State, we ought to forbid this matter; and I, for
one, shall forbid it, leaving Meeah to pursue his own course."

"Well," returned Zyn Khan, "I can guess what that will be. Sukeena-bee
has not grown more beautiful since I left her, and I love you, Meeah,
too well, and her too well--for is she not my only child?--to join you
together to hate each other all your lives! The old adage, 'Pigeons
mate with pigeons, and hawks with hawks,' suits you exactly. My dame
can look about for one of our own clan, who are poor enough, but they
have the breeding she likes best, and Sukeena will be rich. Now,
Humeed Khan, do not be offended if I speak bluntly. My lady is fond of
money, and so is Sukeena. Suppose you offer something for the marriage
expenses, and I think it will be accepted."

"Good!" cried Humeed Khan, laughing. "I will send five thousand rupees
gladly."

"And I," added Abbas Khan, "a pair of gold anklets and a pearl
necklace."

"Enough, O generous friends!" cried Zyn Khan. "There may be some
difficulty, perhaps; but, after all, Inshalla! a man is master in his
own household."

But when he returned home, Zyn Khan did not find the matter so easy as
he had imagined. His daughter declared she should die, and would eat
no food. Her mother only pointed to her as she lay, and said, "Let her
die, since thou hast not spirit enough to help her." And it was only
when the last temptation was offered, the money and the jewels, that
mother and daughter seemed to yield before the persistence, not to say
obstinacy, of the master of the house.

The affair, however, took nearly a month to arrange, until one day the
parties concerned attended at the Kazee's office, in the great Adalut
Palace, and mutual deeds of release having been interchanged, Zyn Khan
took away with him on his elephant five bags of a thousand rupees each,
and the beautiful anklets and pearls which Abbas Khan had presented.
The whole had been well managed, without either public scandal or
offence to either party. There was nothing in it which was against
custom or law, and Abbas Khan was at last free from a connection which
he had always dreaded. On the other hand, Sukeena-bee put on her gold
anklets and walked about, rejoicing in the music of their tiny bells,
and fastened on the necklace, which was declared free from defect;
while her mother, for a time very busy among her female friends,
at last found out a young man descended from an ancient and noble
Abyssinian family, and the betrothment of the pair quickly followed.

"If I had not fasted that day," said the Lady Fyzun, "we should not
have secured that happy deliverance from low-bred Dekhanies."

"If I had not taken the affair out of thy hands, O wife, we should have
gone on as we were, for Abbas Khan could never have been persuaded."

"Ul-humd-ul-Illa!" ejaculated the husband.

"Ul-humd-ul-Illa!" echoed the dame. "Ameen! Ameen!"



CHAPTER V.
CHANGES IN SOME POSITIONS.


For some weeks there was no change in the positions of the several
characters of our history. The Queen Dowager gradually withdrew herself
from public duties, for she found that her nephew, the King, had
developed strong talent both for political affairs and internal civil
administration. Rewards and dignities had been freely distributed by
him; and the troops, satisfied with his liberally granted donations,
were serving loyally and steadily throughout the kingdom. There were
no rebellions, insurrections, or feuds, nor a spot on the political
horizon, from which there was cause for anxiety, except Ahmednugger,
whose local affairs were by no means in a settled condition; but with
these there was no present or pressing reason to interfere. With his
good aunt, King Ibrahim continued on most affectionate terms. Always
considered by him as a mother, he resorted to her for advice and
counsel in many affairs, of which she had more experience than himself;
and as she never displayed the least desire for interference of any
kind, the entire harmony between them was never disturbed. The King's
fine taste for architecture had full scope in the decoration of his
own mausoleum, and the works attached to it, in which Francis d'Almeida
and the humble painter often assisted him by suggestions; and with
these, and other public undertakings, occasional hunting parties and
short excursions, constant durbars and current business, his time was
occupied fully and usefully.

Beejapoor was then at its greatest. Owing to the presence of the
principal portions of the army, and the cessation of war, trade had
increased rapidly, and the general prosperity of the kingdom was as
assuring as it was gratifying. Congratulatory letters arrived in due
course from Golconda, Beeder, Penkonda, and other kingdoms, accompanied
by embassies, which gave rise to many superb entertainments; and, in
the words of a local historian, "the songs of revelry and thanksgiving,
which the people had not heard for many years, now resounded through
the land, and weeping was heard no more."

Zóra's usual life had undergone no alteration. The King would not hear
of her grandfather's proposal to change his residence, or to build a
house for himself in one of the Royal gardens at Torweh; and indeed,
to Zóra's great delight, he made no objection to remaining where he
was, under the Royal roof, partaking of the King's hospitality. An
additional court, cells, cloisters, and rooms behind them had been set
in order for him, and in the enclosure was a small but elegant mosque
or chapel for worship, where the old man could give his lectures to
many scholars, both in divinity and medicine. He rarely preached in
the great Jooma mosque now; the doing so was too great an effort for
him, and, on every occasion, the exhaustion which followed was but too
evident to all; and Zóra was thankful when, after a more trying sermon
than usual, the old man put his hand upon her head, and said, with a
sigh, "Child! I can do no more abroad. I will reserve what strength is
left to me to teach here."

From that day he went forth no more, except on festival anniversaries,
when, attended by his faithful Ahmed--for the Queen now objected to
Zóra's appearing in public--he took his place among the worshippers.
Even the great Kureem-oo-deen Chishtee was softened, and paid "the
saint" many visits, with a display of kindly feeling which was in
strong contrast to the bitterness he had once shown.

Zóra had, therefore, more leisure, and there were now other servants
to share Ahmed's and Mamoolla's duties. She remained most of her
time with the Queen, as has been previously explained, who grew more
and more attached to her day by day. Who, indeed, could resist her
cheerful, winning disposition, her genial kindliness, and her entire
unselfishness and devotion? while every little accomplishment she
possessed improved by quiet exercise and study, under one of the
Persian secretaries who, in days past, had been the King's, as well as
Abbas Khan's, instructor.

She saw little of the Queen, Taj-ool-Nissa. At first, she had been a
constant visitor and attendant with Maria, but the Queen was afraid
of Zóra's beauty. She knew that in point of manner and of cultivation
she was by far inferior to Zóra; and she sent her a kindly message,
through Maria, that she must not visit her except on special occasions,
when there were entertainments to ladies at which the King could not
be present, or when the Dowager Chand Beebee came privately to see
her. And the Queen was right. Though her health had improved vastly
under the priest's treatment, yet she was still a slight, perhaps
insignificant-looking girl--pretty, now that health had given roundness
to her form and lustre to her large dreamy eyes; yet she could not be
compared for a moment with Zóra, who, with rest, peace, and entire
freedom from the anxiety which had hung over her till her innocence
was proved before all, was fast attaining her full development of
beauty; and it was impossible to compare the now handsomely dressed,
well-cared for girl, the beloved companion and attendant of her Royal
mistress, with the poorly, coarsely clad and uncared-for girl of the
Fakeer's house at Juldroog. Runga Naik, too, had safely transmitted
the box of precious articles which had been deposited with him, and in
them Zóra found many ornaments which had belonged to her grandmother
and her mother, with some garments of cloth of gold, and handsome
scarves; but, indeed she hardly needed them, for the kind Queen
provided her liberally with all she required; and her grandfather was
constantly asking her why she did not buy clothes and jewels, for were
they not now rich? But I think the simple, natural tastes of the girl
predominated over all love of display or of finery, and she had enough
of the latter already.

The Lady Fatima was perhaps more constantly with the Queen than any
other lady of the city. They had been intimate friends for years, for
the Queen's care of Abbas Khan after his parents' death, and while the
Lady Fatima was unavoidably absent, was a strong bond between them.
Thus the good lady had many, almost daily, opportunities of seeing
Zóra, and observing her disposition in all respects. Her husband and
her nephew had enrolled themselves as disciples of the aged Syud, and
thus there were already strong bonds of mutual attachment growing up
between the families. How well did Fatima Beebee remember Meeah's words
in his sleep after the combat; his sweet smile and sigh as he uttered
"Zóra! Zóra!" in his dream. Now her husband had seen Zóra. He returned
from the durbar of the trial full of Zóra's bravery--her indomitable
spirit, and yet of her modesty. "Any other girl," he declared, "would
have lost heart, would have sat down and wept, would have flinched from
the sore ordeal to which Zóra had been subjected, and out of which she
had come forth so triumphantly." Yes, she was satisfied that her nephew
had yielded to no unworthy passion, and that his love was as pure as
her utmost hope could desire.

When the trial was over, she told what she had heard to her husband,
for Abbas Khan had not dared to tell his uncle, while they were in
camp, more than of the sad situation of the old Syud, who had been so
kind to him, and had left all else to chance, or, as he more reverently
expressed himself, to the will of God; and the sudden appearance of the
girl by the wayside with her grandfather, as the King passed them, had
aroused all the feelings which had been his companions from the night
Zóra had watched him till the present. Still, he had said nothing. He
knew how deeply he was involved in the old engagement of childhood,
which could not be dissolved rudely or suddenly; but the matter should
be arranged by the family of Zyn Khan.

After a decent time had passed, and the newly arranged marriage of
Sukeena Beebee was proclaimed, and when, in fact, her marriage day
was fixed and invitations to it distributed, there was no occasion to
delay; and one day, which had been chosen by the family astrologer,
the Lady Fatima, urged by her husband, went to the Queen to ascertain
whether Zóra loved Abbas Khan, and to ask advice as to how she was to
proceed. She did not even mention her intention to her nephew; it would
be time enough to speak to him should all be favourable to her design,
for she felt certain that his heart had not changed.

Long before the good lady's visit, Queen Chand had discovered as much
as she needed to know of the condition of Zóra's heart. She had hardly
entered the audience hall on the day of the King's entry, and taken
her seat, than she saw the eyes of Abbas Khan eagerly fixed upon Zóra,
and the attempts of Zóra to conceal her face; and during the events
of the succeeding day the impression was still more vivid, rising to
its fullest height when Abbas Khan accepted the traitor Osman Beg's
challenge. Then, indeed, the Queen had read Zóra's heart completely,
for her wistful, earnest gaze, which she had no thought to conceal, the
flush on her cheek and her now trembling form, betrayed emotions which
it was impossible to hide; and from that moment the girl found a place
in the Royal heart which filled a long existent yearning. Yet still
she never spoke on the subject to Zóra herself. She knew there was a
serious obstacle, and whether it could be smoothed away or not seemed
very doubtful. But the Queen's mind was more at ease after she knew
that Abbas Khan's marriage was broken off. She could not, by reason of
her rank, take any steps herself in what she wished; but she was ready
at the same time to assist the union of her two children, as she called
them, by any and every means in her power.

The Lady Fatima's visit was, therefore, a joyful one to the Queen as
soon as she understood its purport; and being a woman of practical
mind, she did not use any circumlocution. Would there be any objection
on behalf of Zóra's grandfather, or would there be any from the girl
herself? Had Her Majesty any other arrangement in view for Zóra, or had
the King? These formed the pith of the good lady's communication. To
the latter, Queen Chand was enabled to give a decided and favourable
answer. Not many days before, the King had said to her laughingly, "It
is time, mother, that Abbas Khan was married and settled. Would not
Zóra-bee suit him exactly? They are both clever, both handsome, and
thou wilt have the most beautiful grandchildren in Beejapoor. For my
own part, though I have held my peace, I have been of the same mind
ever since Osman Beg's trial; but it is thou as Meeah's mother who
should make the first move in the matter; I can but aid thee by giving
it my perfect approval."

So, then, the first point was gained. The second was to ascertain
whether the parties would be fortunate, and this was decided by the
most celebrated astrologer in Beejapoor, who discovered that Abbas Khan
was Fire, and Zóra was Air, and the result would be that the utmost
degree of love and happiness would reign between them; that Zóra would
submit herself to her husband, and that her husband would treat her
with great kindness and affection. Such was the decree of the wise
man; and then, horoscopes being cast, the result was that a favourable
prognostic of the planets occurred in the course of a few days, and it
behoved all concerned to make due preparations for the betrothal.

So far the proceedings of the confederates had been eminently
successful, and with the dear old Syud there was no difficulty. He had
gradually become impressed with the necessity of confiding Zóra to the
care of some one whom he could consider worthy of her. In the Queen
he knew she had obtained a kind and powerful friend and even motherly
care and interest, but that she should be a wife was a higher desire in
the old man's mind; but it was coupled to an almost selfish wish that
she should not leave him alone. What should he do without her gentle,
loving ministrations? How should he find his charms and amulets, or
his medicines? Who could read to him or write for him? Who could
lead him about, even in the precincts of their present home? Who, in
short, could be the companion to him that Zóra was, with her intellect
unfolding more and more as weeks passed? He knew no young man but Abbas
Khan--Meeah, as he always called him--and his love and respect for him
were deep and sincere. But when Abbas Khan went to him with his uncle,
and pleaded hard for Zóra, the dear old man grieved bitterly; it seemed
as though Zóra were to be taken from him immediately, and he moaned in
bitter grief as he rocked himself to and fro in his seat.

"Does Zóra know of this?" he asked. "Does she desire of her own
free will to leave me, old and infirm as I am? I will not believe
it; I cannot think that she has a hard heart--she who has been so
compassionate and so devoted all her life." And it was long ere the
young Khan and his uncle could persuade him that she was not to leave
him, but that the betrothal would be an assurance to him that Zóra's
position would be all that he could desire after the Lord's message
should come to him; and so, gradually, he consented, and putting his
hands on Meeah's head blessed him and Zóra, who was to be his wife.

And Zóra? She knew nothing of the pleasant plot against her. She had
not known even of Abbas Khan's freedom from his former contract, much
less of his present intentions; but her love had never changed. From
the scenes at Juldroog up to the present time it had grown stronger. No
one mentioned Meeah to her except Maria; but why was he ever present
in her mind? "Well," She would say to herself, "let it be as the Lord
wills!" and so waited the issue. Her grandfather and the Queen were too
awful in her estimation to confide in on a subject like this. She dared
not mention it to the Lady Fatima; that, indeed, would be like asking
for Meeah, and would be bold and immodest; and, for the present, the
girl waited quietly and patiently. But her suspense was not to be for
long. The day Abbas Khan and his uncle came to her grandfather, the
Queen, to whom she was reading, bid her put down the book and come to
her; and, wondering, she rose and knelt by her mistress. The suddenness
of the request had called up blushes to the lovely face, and the eyes
of the girl were cast down. Had she offended in aught?

"No, child," said the Royal lady; "but I have been thinking it is time
thou wert married. Hast thou any preference for any one of the youths
thou hast seen or heard of? If thou hast, tell it to me, thy mother.
Lay thy head on my breast, and tell it to me. Thou canst trust me,
Zóra." And she held out her arms.

The child was too truthful to be a coquette, and she could not resist
the appeal. Lying in the Queen's arms, and sobbing with excitement, she
told all, from the night of the watch to the scene of the trial, and
how she thought Meeah would never leave her. "And many have asked Abba
to give me away" (and she thought of the Rajah's poor secretary with
a smile), "even the great and rich; but I refused, and Abba did not
press me. O mother, I love Meeah! I do love him! Is it unmaidenly? Is
it wrong? Often I have thought it was, and longed to put on the green
dress and take its vows, but Abba always prevented me. Now do as thou
wilt with me."

"It is enough, child," returned the Queen, stroking her soft round
cheek and kissing her forehead. "Enough for thee, and for those who
love thee; and may the Lord bless thee, my darling! I would retire now,
and thou wilt go to Abba and Maria." And Zóra rose and went to them.
Entering her own apartment, she found Maria there; and, falling on her
neck, told her, with many a choking sob, what the Queen had said. Nor
was her suspense continued. The Lady Fatima had followed her husband,
and being announced, at once opened the subject of her visit. But Zóra
could not reply till she had seen her grandfather; and as Humeed Khan
and his nephew had departed, and Abba had taken his noonday sleep,
there was no one to interrupt them.

I do not think I need follow the scene longer. Under their mutual
explanations, and there was no needless reticence, Zóra confessed her
love, and was blessed by her grandfather, whom she soothed by the
assurance that she would not leave him while he lived. As to the Lady
Fatima, she filled Zóra's mouth with sugar-candy, half smothered her
in flowers, rubbed her hands, feet, and neck with fragrant paste of
sandal-wood; and finally cast over Zóra a rich sheet of brocaded gold
tissue, and hung round her neck a costly necklace, as she whispered,
"From Meeah." No professional women had been employed, and perhaps
they were the only disappointed parties in Beejapoor; but when the pán
leaves and spice were distributed from house to house to all the mutual
friends of both parties, hearty congratulations followed; and even the
female gossips of the city--who, as elsewhere, were very numerous--were
satisfied that it was a good match.

There are nearly as many ceremonies to complete a Mussulman betrothal
as there are in a marriage; but I do not think my readers, even my lady
readers, would care to follow them through perhaps two whole chapters,
and will rest content in being assured that Zóra's happiness and state
in life have been secured as far as human foresight could provide, and
that there were no more hearty or more loving wishes for her than those
of Sister Maria and her brother Francis. We, therefore, can leave our
old friends the Syud and Zóra, now familiar with new positions and
new hopes, full of contentment and joyful anticipation to both--more
especially to Zóra, whose mingled feelings of love, gratitude, and
faith could perhaps have been hardly definable.

Among the various letters of congratulation which reached the King
Ibrahim was one from the Viceroy and Captain General of Goa, Dom
Matthias de Albuquerque, which--with a valuable present of various
kinds of arms, European manufactures, and valuables--was brought by
a special ambassador, the Captain Don Miguel de Gama, an officer
of respectability and consideration, well acquainted with the
Persian language, and therefore most fitting for an ambassador. The
ambassador's suite was not numerous; but as he rode into the city early
one morning in a full panoply of bright steel armour, and presented
his credentials at the public durbar in the same equipment, he created
no little excitement. The captain, too, was of a noble, commanding
presence, and had fought well against the Moors in many battles; and
this specimen of the local chivalry of Goa was in every degree a good
representative of its renown.

The letter was in Portuguese, and could have been translated by the
ambassador himself, but the King decided that our friend Francis
d'Almeida should act as secretary and interpreter; and at the early
durbar of the morning, after the ambassador's arrival, the worthy
captain, in no degree abashed by the splendour around him, marched up
the great hall, his armour clanking as he moved, and saluting King
Ibrahim gracefully, laid his packet of letters at the King's feet.

The captain had come direct to the house of the painter, and had been
comfortably lodged. And how much had Francis and his sister to hear
of their friends at Goa, of the proceedings of Dom Diego, and of the
innumerable changes in the local society; but withal, there was the
certainty that they would have to return to Goa, whether in his company
or apart, to answer the charges which had been preferred against them
by Dom Diego in the inquisition.

And when the Viceroy's letter was read aloud by the priest, after
congratulations upon peace and prosperity of Beejapoor since the
detection and destruction of the conspiracy and insurrection of the
Prince Ismail, a passage followed which related to Francis d'Almeida
and his sister, which may be quoted:--"And furthermore, it hath been
represented to us that a certain priest, Francis d'Almeida, and his
sister Doña Maria, were detected in intrigues with the rebels, and
received from them sundry large sums of money for the supply of
European troops and cannon, which would have been an act beyond the
bounds of goodwill and peace between us, and for which they have, very
justly, been detained by the Government of our friend and ally, yet, as
subjects of the kingdom of Portugal, and as Francis d'Almeida and his
sister belong to religious orders of the Church of Christ, they should
be permitted to answer the charges that have been made against them;
and we, in the name of the King, our master, request that they may be
sent to us in company with our envoy."

When they returned home, Francis learned from his sister that she had
heard all from the Queen's balcony. She was weeping, but was not cast
down. "I knew it would come upon us sooner or later. The Church never
sleeps, and we cannot delay compliance with this order;" for a fresh
citation had been delivered to them requiring instant obedience. "We
must go, brother, even to the stake, if it be the Lord's will."

"I fear not, Maria. I have always thought from the first that it would
have been best to go to Goa; and yet the inscrutable ways of Providence
who can follow? Should we have discovered Dom Diego's letters to Osman
Beg or Elias Khan, which on the political charge will acquit us? As
for the rest, conscious as we are of innocence, I fear nothing. Those,
too"--and he pointed to the translations he had made in company with
the Brahmins of the old college in the fort--"will prove that I have
not been lax in my work, though we have been here. No, sister, let
us go. I am to attend the night council, and the King's reply to the
Viceroy will be drafted."

And it was all the good priest could have wished for. The King, the
Queen Dowager, Kureem-oo-deen Chishtee, Ekhlas Khan, the Kazee, and
some others, discussed every point of the Portuguese letter, in the
ambassador's presence (who, divested of his armour, and dressed in
a suit of black Genoa velvet, looked, as he was truly, a courtly
gentleman), and every incident that had occurred at Beejapoor was
detailed. At first the priest of Moodgul had been under suspicion; but
that had passed away owing to the discovery of the treachery of Dom
Diego, and he was left to be dealt with by the laws of Portugal; but
the money he had obtained from Beejapoor subjects ought to be restored.

The Queen Dowager and the King's wife, as well as Zóra and the good
Lady Fatima, were sincerely grieved by the necessity of the absence of
their friends, and the old Syud, Meeah and his uncle, no less so. "I
shall see thee no more, O friend," said the Syud, grasping the priest's
hand, "Christian and Moslem we have lived together in amity, and I am
thankful. If God will, and thou return hither, we may meet again; if
not, the blessing of Allah be with thee and thine."

And Maria, though her fortitude and her faith supported her in the
trial, yet was sorely pained to leave her friends. Taj-ool-Nissa, who
had become deeply attached to her, and also Zóra, were in despair;
but Maria had her own sources of comfort which never failed her, and
a few days after, with the tears and blessings of all, she and her
brother, well provided with palanquins and tents, and under the charge
of an officer of the Court, who spoke Portuguese, though after a rude
fashion, departed from the Royal city in peace.



CHAPTER VI.
PROCEEDINGS AT GOA.


It was now the beginning of October, and the rains had ceased; all
but those occasional slight showers which lend freshness to the air,
maintain the verdure of the later crops of grain, and furnish those
magnificent sunsets which form the glory of the month. Supplied with
comfortable palanquins, and well provided with horses from the Royal
stables, Maria, her brother, and their friend the envoy, often rode
together in the cool morning air; and Maria enjoyed heartily the
healthful exercise to which, in the crowded city of Beejapoor, she had
long been a stranger.

And thus they sped on from day to day, accompanied by old Pedro
and his wife, who were overjoyed at quitting the great city of the
Moors, and beholding once more their beautiful and beloved Goa. On
the plateau above the Gháts the scenery had been tame and monotonous;
fine undulating plains covered with luxuriant crops of grain and
cotton presented little for admiration or for interest; but near the
crest, heavy forests and broken peaks of mountains furnished beautiful
combinations of wild scenery, and the view over the broad districts
of the Concan was inexpressibly lovely. Away in the west, the sea
stretched to the dim horizon, and here and there the tiny white speck
of a sail could be distinctly seen. Nearer, however, a dense white
mist filled all the valleys and covered the plain, until the sun,
just rising, fell upon it, causing it to glitter like a sea of molten
silver, with occasional rugged peaks rising out of it like islands.
Then all seemed to break up; and while some of the mist clung to the
sides of the greater elevations, the rest gradually rose into the air
and disappeared.

From the last stage the captain envoy left them to give notice of their
arrival. He would fain have taken the King's letter with him, and the
presents by which it was accompanied, which consisted of vessels inlaid
with silver and gold, cloths of gold and silver, four fine Dekhan
horses, and an elephant; but Francis d'Almeida claimed the privilege
of presenting these himself, especially as they were accompanied by
Dom Diego's letters, and he was doubtful as to what use or misuse
might be made of them. He sent, however, by the captain a letter to
the head of the order to which he belonged, and Doña Maria another to
the Lady Abbess of the convent of which she was a lay sister; and on
their arrival in the city, Francis consigned his sister to the care of
the Abbess, who received her with warm affection, for she had been now
several years absent, and she felt in a short time at rest and at ease
among many of her old friends and associates. In like manner Francis
took up his residence in his old quarters; and it seemed to him that
nothing had changed there, and that all was as peaceful as when he had
left it several years before his sister's arrival.

But within the religious society of Goa there was not peace. There were
strivings between the orders, which the Archbishop strove to reconcile;
and the present Viceroy, Don Matthias de Gama, a kind, benevolent man
in the main, and an excellent and brave soldier, found it difficult at
times to control all and keep up his own authority. Since Dom Diego's
arrival, contention had increased. The Archbishop had been appealed
to by the Superior of the Jesuits, to demand the surrender of Francis
d'Almeida and his sister as contumacious heretics. Nothing less than
their trial and execution would, he declared, satisfy the demands of
the Holy Church, and preserve discipline in the distant Churches over
which only a very partial supervision could be exercised. Dom Diego
preached several public sermons in the Church of his order, in which
the apostasy of Francis, and his sorceries and evil consorting with
heathens and Moors, were set forth with violent eloquence; and these
excited his hearers to a powerful degree, so that even in the Church
they cried out, "Death to the wretch! Death to the apostate!"

On the other hand, the Archbishop, who well knew Francis d'Almeida's
value as a missionary, his power of language in addressing the
heathen, his knowledge of native dialects, and the practical use of
his translations and ministerial offices, defended him, and there were
many others who followed his example. In process of these disputes,
the Viceroy was appealed to, who declared that the case was one of
ecclesiastical interest only; and though he was bound to assist the
Church, yet the parties accused were beyond his jurisdiction, residing,
or perhaps prisoners, in a powerful kingdom, with which Portugal was
at peace; and, moreover, that in regard to the allegations against the
priest and his sister, the Church itself was by no means unanimous
in opinion. He declined, therefore, to take any steps in regard to
them. If they were contumacious it was no affair of his. The Church
could excommunicate them if it pleased. At last, however, yielding to
pressure, the Viceroy had written, as we know. The Viceroy had sent
a complimentary letter to the King of Beejapoor, despatched it by a
trustworthy soldier, and awaited the issue with considerable interest
as to whether the accused persons would in reality make submission
and appear, or whether, becoming renegades, as many had done, they
would altogether defy the Church and become Moors. But the arrival of
Francis and his sister, escorted by a Beejapoor officer and a guard of
the King's troops, was proof to all that no contumacy was intended;
and he appointed an early Council, at which the Beejapoor letter
should be read, and necessary consideration made of the whole of the
circumstances.

A few days afterwards the Beejapoor envoy and Francis d'Almeida
received their summons from the Viceroy to attend his Council and the
Court, and they went together, the envoy being attended by his escort,
which, in their suits of chain mail and rich apparel, made an imposing
appearance in the thronged streets of the city; and on their arrival at
the palace were ushered at once into the presence of the Viceroy, who,
with his staff about him, was seated on the viceregal throne.

An artillery salute was fired in honour of the envoy, who was
graciously received; and after some general and kind inquiries after
the health of King Ibrahim, to which he replied in indifferent
Portuguese, the rest of the conversation was carried on through Francis
d'Almeida, who acted as interpreter. Then the Viceroy, receiving
the King's letter, said, "As this contains matter for political
consideration, we will adjourn, Sir Envoy, to our Council Hall, where
it shall be read before all my councillors of State and dignitaries of
the Church, who are our advisers." Then, rising and taking the envoy's
hand, he led him into the adjoining apartment, which was the Council
Chamber.

It was a fine room, though to the envoy's idea somewhat bare of
decoration. A large Turkey carpet was laid upon the floor, and in the
centre was a long table covered with red cloth, with inkstands and
writing paper ready for use. The Viceroy seated himself at the head
of the table, placed the envoy in a chair on his right hand, and the
dignitaries of the Church, military and naval commanders, all wearing
their rich uniforms and decorations, took their seats with the civil
officers, according to precedence and custom. The whole formed a
dignified and, indeed, august assembly, well befitting the powerful
kingdom it represented.

Then the letter of King Ibrahim was read, and the Viceroy remarked
that it was written in excellent Portuguese, and asked his envoy to
Beejapoor who wrote it, and the captain said--

"In my presence was it written by the priest Francis d'Almeida. The
King himself dictated the letter in Persian, in my presence, and the
purport was fully known to me; and the priest and I compared the
Portuguese version with the Persian, and they corresponded exactly.
Moreover, your Excellency will observe that the original Persian is
written below, and signed by the King himself. There can be no doubt of
the authenticity of both."

"But," continued the Viceroy, "in the latter portion of this document
grave charges are made against Dom Diego di Fonseca, an eminent servant
of the Church, who is now the accuser of Francis d'Almeida and his
sister Maria, and at whose instance, and that of the Holy Father of the
Inquisition, their presence was required in order to answer the charges
brought against them, and we ought not to enter into this subject
without his presence. As it is a political affair entirely, involving
the risk of disagreement between our Government and that of our friend
King Ibrahim the Second, we, the representatives of Portugal, have full
authority to investigate it, leaving the alleged offenders against the
Church to be dealt with by the Holy Inquisition. Let, therefore, Dom
Diego be summoned instantly; and till he arrives we call upon Francis
d'Almeida to give an account of his apparent flight from Moodgul, and
his evasion of the summons of the Inquisition."

"I was not a free agent, may it please your Excellency and the members
of this Council," said Francis d'Almeida. "I was preparing to leave
Moodgul after the citation was publicly read by my colleague when I
was arrested, by order of the Queen Regent of Beejapoor, and forwarded
by Dilawar Khan, the Governor of Moodgul, to the fort of Juldroog,
where we were confined for more than a month on charges of having
conspired against the State in assisting the conspiracy of the Prince
Ismail and Eyn-ool-Moolk, and obtaining large sums of money for the
purpose of engaging European soldiers and cannon. Finally, we were
sent to Beejapoor, where we remained under surveillance until the King
should return, as the Queen Regent did not consider she had authority
to try so momentous a question herself. Then suddenly, and as by
special Providence, certain papers fell into the hands of the Queen's
Government, by which it appeared that my colleague, and not I, had
been in correspondence with the rebels, partly independently, and
partly by means of Osman Beg, the Killadar or Governor of the fort of
Juldroog, who was arrested, tried on the evidence of papers found in
his possession, convicted of treason, and sentenced to death."

"And he was beheaded, Francis d'Almeida?" asked the Viceroy.

"Not so, my lord; his life was spared on the intercession of his
cousin, Abbas Khan; but he was banished from the kingdom, and has taken
his departure for Mecca with his father."

Francis d'Almeida's address had continued for some time, for he
described minutely and concisely all that had occurred, with the
particulars of which we are fully acquainted.

"And where are the papers you allude to?" asked the Superior of the
Inquisition tartly. "Who can vouch for their authenticity if they are
produced?"

"My lord," returned the Beejapoor envoy, "we are not careless in regard
to papers of importance at Beejapoor. At the first discovery of them,
after the death of Yacoot, the Abyssinian, I, as knowing somewhat of
your language, was asked to read those in Portuguese; but I could
not, and the Padré Sahib was directed by the Queen to do so, and to
translate them into Persian; then her seal was affixed to each one of
them, and she added her private signature, and all the Ministers signed
and sealed them. Then the packet was sealed until opened by order of
the King, and sealed again with his seal, which all men know, and which
is appended to his letter."

"You were all very careful," said the chief Inquisitor, with a sneer,
"but where are these letters?"

At this moment Dom Diego was ushered in. He wore the religious dress of
his order, but he at once threw back his cowl, and his eyes and those
of Francis d'Almeida met once more. In the one was a scowl of bitter
hate, and the brows were almost knit together; but those of Francis
wore their usual mild expression, and betrayed no emotion; nay, their
look of innocence seemed to make a favourable impression upon all
present.

After bending his knee to the Archbishop and the Grand Inquisitor,
Dom Diego drew his fine figure to its full height, looked round the
room towards all, and then said to the Viceroy, "For what purpose am
I required here, most illustrious Sir? I have not been apprised that
matters which are under the cognisance of the Holy Inquisition could
be transferred to a Council like this; and I request that my protest
may be entered against any interference with what has been already
arranged."

"There is no intention, Dom Diego, on our part to interfere with the
proceedings of the Holy Office. This is a political question, which
thou wilt know of when thou hast heard the letter of the King of
Beejapoor. Let it be read to him," he continued, "as also the minutes
of Francis d'Almeida's statement."

Dom Diego heard all without reply; but it was easy to see that his mind
was far from tranquil. A nervous tremor appeared to be irrepressible;
his mouth twitched as if by convulsion, and he twisted his hands
together in continuous action, which could be seen even under his robe.

"And now, my lords," said the Viceroy, rising, "the most important
part of our sitting is to commence; and I have to beg, in the name of
justice, that your utmost vigilance may be employed to clear up what
has been alleged. The papers alluded to in the letter are in possession
of the envoy from Beejapoor. Let him produce them."

"They are here, my lord," returned the envoy, producing two small
bundles tied up in waxed cloth, which was sealed with the King's seal.
"First, I ask you to bear me witness that these seals are intact; and
particularly you, O most illustrious Sir, into whose hands I commit the
packets."

The Viceroy examined the papers carefully, and said, "I see no reason
to doubt what has been said. The seals are undisturbed; but judge
for yourselves, noble sirs." And when the packets had passed round,
the Viceroy demanded to know whether they were to be accepted, and a
general reply was given that they were.

"These are the letters which were found on the body of Yacoot, the
Abyssinian. Let them be first examined," said the Beejapoor envoy;
"and my lords will please to remark that all have the Queen's seal, as
those first found were examined by her; and that there are forty-two
documents which, with the exception of those required by the Council,
should be returned to me, and a receipt given to me for the remainder.
And now, noble sirs, have I your permission to open the first packet?"

"I again protest," cried Dom Diego, rising suddenly, "against any
examination of those papers here. Let them be given over to the custody
of the Holy Office, which will examine and authenticate them, and
produce such as it considers necessary for the elucidation of the
truth."

But the pretence was too shallow to escape the detection of many of
the experienced men who heard the protest, and the majority at once
declared that they should be opened, and publicly read and registered.

Then the Viceroy took the first packet and handed it to his own
interpreter, a fine-looking Mussulman gentleman, who had just entered
the room, and who spoke not only Arabic and Persian fluently,
but Portuguese, for he had lived for some years in Portugal,
acting as interpreter of documents sent by the Indian Government.
Abdoolla-bin-Ali was a man held by everyone in the highest esteem and
honour, and his presence carried assurance with it to all the Council,
and very especially to the Beejapoor envoy and Francis d'Almeida, whose
personal explanations would be needed no longer.

"On the cover is written," said the Moonshee, "'This packet contains
forty-two documents, eighteen in Portuguese and twenty-four in Persian,
and bears the King's seal.'" Then he broke the seal carefully and
unwound the silken cord with which the parcel was fastened. There
appeared within several other coverings, two separate packets, one
of which was labelled in Persian, "Eighteen Portuguese papers and
letters," and bore the Queen's seal, which was shown to all.

"I think, my lords," said the Viceroy, "that to prevent doubt I had
better read these aloud to the Council, and they can examine each
separately afterwards, if they please;" and, this being assented to,
he took up the first, which was addressed to the most illustrious
the Vizier Eyn-ool-Moolk, Bahadoor, and dated from Moodgul. As the
letter was opened, everyone could see the strong bold characters of
the handwriting of Dom Diego, which were known to all or most present,
and a general murmur ran through the Council, as if of wonder and
astonishment; but no one spoke, and, in breathless silence, the Viceroy
read on.

It was a long letter, and we may be pardoned for not following it in
detail; but the writer acknowledged the receipt of Eyn-ool-Moolk's
"letter offering the Padré Dom Diego de Fonseca a command in the
new Royal army. That if he joined it with a force of one thousand
Europeans, his pay would be at the rate of one lakh of rupees per
month, and the same for every thousand more brought to the Royal
standard." It then proceeded to state, that considering the expense
of European troops in the field, the pay would be insufficient; and
that, in case of the force capturing Beejapoor, there was no mention of
prize shares in the treasure and jewels that would become the property
of the army. It would be necessary also to confer upon the writer the
district of Bunkapoor, with all its forts and dependencies. That as the
cowardly and imbecile Government of Goa would never be induced to take
part in the war, or to send any of its soldiers, the writer must be
provided with funds to go to Portugal to raise as many men as possible,
with whom he pledged himself to return at the expiration of a year, and
disembark them at any port on the coast that might be chosen.

In conclusion, the writer professed his high admiration for and
sympathy with, the movement to substitute the virtuous Prince Ismail
for the tyrant who now ruled over Beejapoor, and ended by praying that
the measure might receive the blessing and guidance of the Almighty;
and at the end was written,

  "By mine own hand,
  "D. DIEGO DI FONSECA."

"Are there more like that?" asked the Grand Inquisitor of Dom Diego, in
a whisper; "if so, thou art lost!"

"Let them read what they will," he answered. "I will satisfy my lord
presently."

More! yes, there was much more. Every one of the letters contained
sketches of arrangements to be made, estimates of cost, professions
of good faith and sincerity. Several of them contained receipts for
large sums of money, partly in gold, partly in bills; and by his own
admissions Dom Diego had received upwards of three lakhs of rupees in
cash, while assurances of payment as far as ten lakhs, beside a fourth
share of the plunder of Beejapoor, was promised and accepted.

Then followed letters to Elias Khan, as the lieutenant-in-chief of
Eyn-ool-Moolk, which were in a more familiar strain; which spoke of
revelries they had enjoyed together; of the pleasures they would share
when they met again; complained that he could not absent himself
without suspicion, but that he was about to rid himself of his
coadjutor, whose sister Maria he would bring with him, a lovely girl
of his own country, who would put to shame all the dusky beauties of
his friend's harem; and wine from Portugal of the choicest kind, which
should enliven them. In another, the gold sent by the company under
Pedro di Diaz, that is, twenty thousand "hoons," had arrived safely;
with many other details, all written in the same bold hand, and signed
with the same very remarkable signature. As they were read, minutes
were made of them by the secretary. Every paper was compared as to the
seals of the Queen Regent and the Beejapoor Ministers, and that every
precaution had been used to prevent any chance of their being tampered
with, was a fact which was not without significance in the assembly.

And the Persian letters to Elias Khan from Eyn-ool-Moolk, with one
from the Prince Ismail, bestowing an honorary title as commander of
five thousand in the Royal army, with an estate of twenty villages in
the district of Bunkapoor--all confirmed the tenor of the Portuguese
letters of Dom Diego; while, with the transmission of money through
Elias Khan, assurance was given that as soon as the Europeans appeared
in the field, the whole of the Talooq of Bunkapoor would be made over
to him as stipulated. There were others from Osman Beg to Elias Khan,
descriptive of private revels at Moodgul, in a house in the town
hard by the Padré, where wine of the choicest was stored up, and was
plentiful, and the most beautiful dancing women of the country round
were assembled. And he wrote of the Padré as being a jovial fellow, who
winked at everything, and who had shown him at the chapel, privately,
the beautiful Doña Maria, whom he was to bring away with him when he
came with his troops. "She is more lovely than anything on the earth's
face, and no Houri of Paradise could be more beautiful;" and much more
to the same effect, written in the loose, not to say indecent, style
prevailing among those like Osman Beg at Beejapoor. Then the letters
seemed suddenly to come to an abrupt close. After May of that year none
had passed between the parties; and, indeed, by this time, the whole
conspiracy had collapsed in the defeat and deaths of the principal
conspirators. There only remained the exposure of the guilt of all by
the discovery of the letter on the person of the Abyssinian.

The second packet contained, for the most part, letters from
Eyn-ool-Moolk to Elias Khan; but they gave particulars of the agreement
with the illustrious and learned Padré D. Diego di Fonseca; of the
moneys transmitted to be paid to him; and in one, the Padré's receipt,
in Persian and Portuguese, of the twenty thousand hoons, and for other
sums, amounting to about two lakhs of rupees.

"Hast thou nothing to reply, brother?" said the Inquisitor, in an
earnest whisper to Dom Diego. "Thou art condemned by thine own hand;
would it had been cut off and burnt before those letters were written."

Diego did not reply. He rose, and those who were watching him saw that
his lips were white, and his dark complexion had assumed an ashy hue,
and that he spoke as if he were choked by thirst. Yet he drew himself
up bravely, and said with an assumed air of unconcern and bravado, "I
am not on my trial, most illustrious Señor, else my reply would be
sharp and certain. In these letters, which purport to be mine, I only
see the cunning toils with which Francis d'Almeida strove to entangle
me, and failed; and when they had nothing to fall back upon they fled.
Their being arrested is a mere mockery. As to the handwriting of the
letters," and he took up one before the Inquisitor, "they are all like
this, forgeries. The fair Maria is an accomplished scribe, and can copy
any style of writing, even that of heathen characters; and I do not
at all marvel at her excellent imitation of mine. But, my lords, as I
said, I am not on my trial; and no opinion can be given on the subject
either till I am, or till that shameless priest and his sister are
pronounced guilty of heresy and conspiracy by the Holy Inquisition, and
perish for their heresies at the stake."

"Let that be as the good God wills," said the Viceroy, calmly.
"Meanwhile, these papers are so strong against thee, that we, in virtue
of our authority, declare thee to be a prisoner, and arrest thee in the
name of our gracious King. Thou shalt have honourable treatment as a
gentleman, and thou shalt be lodged in this palace, till the time when
the trial of Francis d'Almeida and his sister comes on. When may it be,
Holy Father?"

"It is fixed for Friday," answered the Inquisitor, calmly; "that the
guilty may be ready for the _auto-da-fé_ on the Sabbath. But your
Excellency, pardon me, errs in keeping a son of the Church in arrest
till then, and I will gladly be security for his appearance when
needed."

"Impossible," replied Don Matthias de Gama. "Nevertheless I will take
the votes of the Council." And he did so; but none supported the Grand
Inquisitor's proposal except one, another priest, and Dom Diego was
consigned to the care of the men-at-arms, who conducted him to an upper
chamber luxuriously furnished, and told him that his servants would be
sent when they could be found to attend to his comfort.

What were the thoughts of this man as he heard the door of his large
airy apartment locked after him and bolted outside. All his reliance
on the comparative insignificance of Francis d'Almeida had given
place to a fearful sense of his power with those terrible documents
in his own handwriting to appeal to. Forgeries! who would believe
that, with all the evidence of his handwriting in the Holy Office, and
the Archbishop's records to appeal to for comparison? His accusation
against Francis and his sister had depended for success upon his words
only, which he believed would overwhelm those of the modest, unassuming
priest; and in the death of him and of his sister would be future
safety. But the revelation of his own conduct, of the moneys he had
obtained, of his treasonable plots, denounced by the King Ibrahim, had
rendered his malignity abortive. And now the grim trial, the horrible
torture, the death by fire, like that he had witnessed of hapless
victims writhing in agony at the stake----

Escape! was it possible? He went to one of the windows and looked
through the jalousies, for he could not open one of them. Impossible!
his room was over fifty feet from the ground, and the wall was smooth,
without a projection; and he turned away with a shudder.

Presently his servant came. "Have you seen Pedro di Diaz?" he asked.

"I have, Señor," was the reply; "and he is now waiting for me at the
quay. He wants to know whether he is to stand out to sea or remain."

"Tell him," replied Dom Diego, "that he is to leave the ship's boat
with six of the best of the men in it, and to take the brigantine to
the mouth of the harbour, without exciting suspicion. I will be with
him on Friday night; but if I do not come by Sunday, I shall be dead."



CHAPTER VII.
THE INQUISITION.


The appointed day arrived. The sudden arrest of Dom Diego, his
confinement to the Viceregal palace, and the refusal of the Grand
Inquisitor's security for him, had created a sensation in Goa which
had only one chance of solution--the trial by the Inquisition. On the
other hand, the well-known character of Francis d'Almeida, and the
devotion of his lovely sister, gave to the case an interest such as
had been rarely felt, and never exceeded, in the city. All had many
personal friends, Dom Diego especially among the Jesuits, to whose
order he belonged; Francis d'Almeida among those of his own order,
the Dominicans, and among the ordinary clergy of the province, headed
by the noble Archbishop; and in his sweet sister every lady in Goa
was interested. Could so holy and learned a woman be actually tried
on charges of sorcery and conspiracy with Moors and heathens? And yet
it was to be; and many thought that the interference by the Viceroy
with the acts of the Holy Office was at once presumptuous and wicked.
From early morning the principal street of the city and the square
of the Inquisition had been thronged with eager inquirers, and the
most conflicting rumours were prevalent; some, that Dom Diego had
confessed his guilt, and would be made over to the Inquisition, to be
formally condemned; others, that Francis d'Almeida and his sister had
made similar confessions, and that all parties had been originally
bound in one confederation, but had split upon the division of money
of which they had become possessed. In short, the wildest rumours
prevailed, particularly as to the sorceries of d'Almeida and his
sister, which they had learned from heathen priests and exercised upon
their coadjutor to drive him away from the place he had usurped. All
these opinions, however, were set at rest by the appearance of two
processions: one, that of soldiers of the Viceroy having Dom Diego in
their charge; the other of monks and holy nuns, who escorted Francis
d'Almeida and his beautiful sister. Among the soldiers Dom Diego
marched firmly and proudly, his tall, martial figure being conspicuous
from his general bearing, and the haughty manner with which he regarded
the crowds who gazed upon him; the others, from the apparent simplicity
of the brother and sister, who walked hand in hand, with a calm and
submissive demeanour which deeply affected many. No one dared to
speak, but whispered comments passed among the crowd; and women, and
men too, wept that such servants of God might be condemned ere the day
passed, not only to torture, but to the horrible death by fire in the
_auto-da-fé_ of the next Sabbath, which promised to be one of unusual
interest.

So, passing on, both parties entered the portal of the great gloomy
building, Dom Diego being the first. And when a short colloquy had
passed between the officers of the Viceroy's guard and those of the
Inquisition as to the delivery of the prisoner, he was taken on by
the familiars. Before the monks and sisters, with the two others, had
entered the gate, they had recommenced a hymn which had been sung at
intervals during their progress, the sweetness and solemnity of which
had had a profound effect; and it again arose steadily and sweetly,
with a rich and fervent melody which penetrated every heart, as knees
were bent and hats doffed reverently as the processions passed, while
the simple words caused many a silent prayer to arise to the Throne of
Grace.

    When in trouble and in fear,
    To thee we cry, O Mother dear!
    Behold our sorrows, bitter weeping,
    Yet in all trial humbly keeping
                Trust in thee, Maria!

    Mother of Jesus, lowly born,
    On earth by human sorrow torn;
    Yet in thy glory resting now,
    Heedful of all thy creatures' woe,
                Hear our prayer, Maria!

    Those who have daily died the death
    Of those who suffer slander's breath;
    Those who in dread judgment's hour
    Their simple hearts to thee outpour,
                Pity them, O Maria!

    Support them in their hour of need,
    To cheer them with thy comfort speed,
    Lest without thee they go astray,
    Mother, with thee all bright their way,
                Having no fear, Maria!

While the chant proceeded, the procession entered the door, and its
sweet melody was heard faintly as it passed up the broad corridor which
led to the great hall of the Inquisition.

It was a bare, whitewashed room, with narrow windows near the ceiling,
which let in the cool air and a small degree of light; but when the
eye, dazzled by the glare without, had become accustomed to the
dimness within, everything--nay, even the emotions in every face--were
distinctly visible. There was a separate place for the accuser; another
for the prisoners; and a third for any witnesses that might have to
be called. In the centre was a long narrow table covered with coarse
black serge, with inkstands, pens, and paper at intervals; and the
Inquisitors sat in tall, straight-backed, wooden chairs around, the
Grand Inquisitor's position being in the centre of the right hand side,
in a raised chair, so that he could overlook all. There were no guards
near Dom Diego now; and his cowl being thrown back, his grim, swarthy
features and bold flashing eyes were distinctly visible. The prisoners
were directed to stand in their allotted space; and the venerable
Archbishop, in his robes, with a number of clergy, sat on one side, but
took no part in the inquiry.

After the proceedings had been opened by a prayer and a solemn chant,
the Grand Inquisitor rose from his seat, and said--

"Holy fathers, we have heard with unfeigned sorrow, grief, and
amazement the scandal to the Church which has arisen under the unseemly
contentions in the Mission Church at Moodgul, where, in the midst of
Moors and Pagans, the Lord Christ hath graciously hitherto supported
our poor measures for making known His gospel to those otherwise
benighted and damnable peoples. In process of years many hundreds have
been gathered to the foot of the Cross, and hundreds have died in a
steady belief in the sacraments of the Holy Church, while many live in
the exercise of a devout Christian faith and good works. Within the
last few months, however, grievous troubles have arisen, as is known
to our Father in God the illustrious Archbishop; and on the direct
accusations of Dom Diego di Fonseca, the local vicar, we summoned
Francis d'Almeida and his sister Maria to answer his charges. This
citation was publicly made known to them both by being read in the
Mission Church; but, instead of obeying it, both departed from Moodgul
under the escort of Moorish soldiers, and went or were conveyed to
Beejapoor, where they resided until a demand from His Excellency the
Viceroy was made for them, and they were sent hither.

"Thus, holy fathers, ye have to determine in what manner the priest
Francis d'Almeida is guilty, as also his sister, of the formal
charges which I now read. Then you will hear the justification of
the prisoners; and you will, with prayer to the Almighty, pronounce
judgment upon them. Diego di Fonseca, in the name of the Holy Trinity,
I call upon you to swear that what you are about to say is true;" and
on the formal oath being administered to him, he stood erect, and with
all the energy and musical tone of his fine voice, he spoke to the
following effect.

I think, however, that I do right in refusing an attempt to detail all.
In the outset of his oration, he referred to his services in China, in
the Spice Islands, in Bengal, among the savage tribes of Malays and
Moors; of perils by land and sea, and of the many human souls he had
rescued from everlasting destruction.

"I was a humble follower of St. Francis Xavier," he continued, "and
strove to follow his example. Then, worn out and weary, I came to Goa,
and would have returned to Portugal for a season, but new work at
Moodgul was opened to me, and in my zeal I accepted it.

"Holy fathers, when I arrived there I found a mockery of a Church.
My coadjutor, more a heathen than a Christian, had suffered the
most ordinary offices of the Church to be utterly neglected. He was
incessantly employed in the study of Pagan languages, mythology, and
Scripture, and of Moorish languages, and infidel books. To the people
he invariably preached in a tongue they call Canarese. He read the
services of the Church in the same tongue, and he desecrated the holy
service by using it even in the mass. Instead of our own language,
his sister taught it in the schools, and thus perverted the minds of
children, who might have been made wise unto salvation.

"It was all horrible! horrible! this perpetual study of books, which
contain besides damnable theological dissertations; works on sorcery,
divination, astrology, and all the evil sciences denounced by the
Church, for which so many have suffered; and I warned him on many
occasions, for I was willing to save them both, to abandon these evil
courses and damnable heresies. And at first Francis d'Almeida strove to
justify himself by declaring that he read Hindoo books to understand
best how to controvert their doctrine; and declared that he was even
translating the holy gospels and services of the Church into the
language of the people, that they might understand what they profess
to believe. Was any heresy ever so complete? Ye, O reverend fathers,
know how the Scriptures are forbidden to be read except under ghostly
direction and counsel, and how corruption and unbelief must needs
arise under such proceedings as those of Francis d'Almeida towards his
ignorant flock. I found remonstrance of no use; he avoided me with
disrespect; and in the congregation a party was growing up against him
which it was impossible for me to overcome; I therefore complained to
the most reverend the Archbishop and the Holy Office, and a citation
to Francis d'Almeida was sent.

"Meanwhile a strange numbness of mind was stealing over me. I never saw
Doña Maria without trembling and confusion. I could not pray; I could
not think. I could not even eat; and I knew that her satanic influence
was exerted after the heathen manner, to lead me to perdition. But from
this I was mercifully preserved. On the day I delivered the citation,
she and her brother left their house at night and took refuge with the
Moorish Governor, who at once sent them to Juldroog, and thence they
were taken to Beejapoor. I was then free; a great weight seemed to be
removed from me, and I came hither to lay all before the Church and
seek ghostly counsel. Fathers, my short statement is ended; but of
heresy and sorcery of the most devilish kind I accuse them both, and
demand that in consonance with the laws of the Holy Office they suffer
death by fire, and that thus the Church be purged from their spiritual
uncleanness. I could extend this address to a vast length, but it
would needlessly occupy time. The books in Francis d'Almeida's and his
sister's handwriting will satisfy you of the character of their work,
and I have brought such as I could find; the rest were concealed before
their departure."

"Have you any witnesses to the truth of the accusation?" asked the
Grand Inquisitor.

"I have none," he replied, "but God, and one of the deacons who
accompanied me, who has charge of the books. How was I to confide to
anyone the misery I endured?"

"Dost thou object to these being produced, Francis d'Almeida?"

"No," he said, mildly. "If they are in my own or my sister's writing,
they are homilies of the Church, the Vulgate as allowed to the people
even here in Goa, and some extracts from the Scriptures such as are
given to children."

"Look at these," said the Archbishop. "Are these the same as thou
sentest to us for approval?"

D'Almeida opened the books one by one, and looked over the contents.
"These are the rough drafts in my own handwriting of the translations
as I made them, and here and there I find a small portion of my
sister's manuscript. These are the drafts from which she made the
fair copies, which in her beautiful characters and ornamented with
initial letters are now at Moodgul, in the keeping of one Ramana and
other deacons of the mission, and have the illustrious Archbishop's
imprimatur on them."

"Yes," said the Prelate and the Grand Inquisitor, "for we had them
checked by the Fra Don Francisco da Pinto, who was the best scholar
then in Goa. He is now in Madagascar; but, if I remember right, we all
signed them."

"They are here, fathers," cried a venerable old man, with long white
hair streaming over his shoulders, who, with several others, now made
their way into the room, and prostrated themselves on the floor.
"Listen to our cry for justice! When our beloved Padré was threatened,
and when the pure Señora Maria was insulted, and the Governor of
Moodgul sent them away as prisoners, the books were given to us, and
we hid them; but when the great Padré was going to Goa, to accuse our
beloved friends, I and these with me followed him, and we arrived this
morning, O holy fathers, that we may be in time yet to speak the truth
before ye! Day and night we have travelled, and we have had no fear
save of delay."

"And who are ye?" asked the Grand Inquisitor. "Do ye know what ye have
risked in intruding here unbidden? What do ye know?"

"I know everything," replied the old man who first made his way in,
speaking through the interpreter, and prostrating himself on the floor.
"Let me speak! Let me speak for the love of God! There are a hundred
more ready to say the same thing, and the Syud has sent me in time. Oh,
my fathers, let us speak!"

"I protest against him" cried Dom Diego, with a hard, shrill voice,
very different to his usual tone. "I denounce this as a conspiracy."

"We are the best judges of that," returned the Grand Inquisitor. "You,
Diego di Fonseca, have already stated that you have no witnesses;
and now, by a miracle as it were, one hath appeared suddenly, to whom
credit may be given, a deacon of the Church. You can hear his statement
and reply to it if you will. Let the Deacon Ramana be sworn and
cautioned."

Meanwhile the old man was sworn, and his first act was to lay open the
books he had brought and point to them as Maria's writing.

"Can you read these writings?" asked the Archbishop. "They are, I see,
those which were confirmed by us after examination. I see my initials
on every page."

"Surely, my Prince," replied the deacon. "When the priest is absent
it is my duty to read such prayers and passages of Scripture as have
been marked;" and, opening one of the books at random, he put on his
large spectacles and began to read from the fifth chapter of the gospel
according to Saint Matthew:--

"'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'

"'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.'

"Shall I go on, my Prince? These words are so holy and comforting that
few of the flock hear them without tears. I trust they are understood?"

"They are," replied the Grand Inquisitor; and, turning to Dom Diego,
in a severe tone he continued, "and if this is the sorcery thou hast
charged the prisoners with, thou hadst better be silent."

"And now," continued the old man, "I will speak for our blessed
Padré, and tell what happened on the day that he took refuge at the
Governor's. I have no fear of him," and he pointed to Dom Diego, "and
have no charge to make against him; but the Lord and the blessed Virgin
give me power to speak, and I am not afraid before them or you."

Then he related what he knew of the priest's plot. How he had engaged
Beydurs and other lawless ruffians to carry off Maria; how on that
Sunday night many of them had assembled at Moodgul, and one of them,
being a friend of one of the shepherds, had told him what was to be
done, and he went with some armed men to watch the Padré's church and
house; how he heard Maria scream as she was alone singing vespers,
and, looking in, saw her lying on the steps of the altar, and gave the
alarm. We need not recapitulate all we already know; but the firmness
and boldness of the narrator carried conviction with it to those who
heard him. "And not only did I hear and see it all," he continued, "but
these, my companions, know of it too, and will confirm it."

"God of heaven!" cried Dom Diego, casting up his hands, "I declare this
to be a conspiracy against me, instigated by the prisoners! Can it be
believed in Thy holy sight? Surely Thou wilt blast their tongues ere
they utter malignity against Thy servant!"

But the Court heeded him not; and the letters of Dom Diego were now
laid out for all present to see them, and read, one by one, in a
sonorous voice by the secretary; while the Archbishop and the secretary
of the Holy Office brought forward large packets of documents from
various parts of the Indies, of the handwriting of which there was no
doubt, and which exactly corresponded with the Moodgul letters. That in
relation to Doña Maria and her seduction caused a profound sensation
through the assembly, and there were cries of "Let her explain! Let her
explain!" from many.

"Let her swear what she likes," said the priest. "I only say these are
forgeries made by herself to cover her own shame."

But this assertion, vague as it was, had no effect upon the tribunal.
One by one the members compared all the letters with former documents.
Many of them had maintained correspondence with the accused, and
after an impressive silence, only broken by occasional whispers and
communications among the members themselves--

"Do you know any of the associates of Dom Diego?" asked the Grand
Inquisitor of the old deacon. "Speak truly and freely, but beware of
slander or falsehood!" And this being interpreted to the old man, he
broke forth at once.

"Know them? Yes; I know many. I know Pedro di Diaz, who used to come
from Elias Khan, before Eyn-ool-Moolk, with money and letters, and
I and many other people have seen him drinking with the Padré there.
There was another man called Bartholomew, who sometimes came with
him, and sometimes with others. All were rude, violent men. Diaz had
the name of 'Pirate' among them. All of them kept out of our good
Padré's way; and perhaps he never saw them--he was too innocent; but
among ourselves we wondered at the profligacy that was carried on;
not near the church, but in the bazaar of the town, where the great
Padré used to come. One day one of the bankers in the city said to
me, 'Your great Padré is very rich; I have exchanged fifty thousand
rupees for him for bills on Panjim (Goa), and other bankers have also
made remittances privately for him. 'Where does he get this money?' I
said I could not tell, but it was reported everywhere that the Padré
was a soldier in disguise, who was going to bring up Feringis and guns
against Beejapoor. If that was to be kept secret, he had better not
have trusted Pedro di Diaz, for he used openly to boast of it to many,
and it became public talk. Does the Padré wish to ask me any questions?
I will answer them, my princes, as truly as I have sworn to do upon the
holy books and the holy water."

But Dom Diego made no reply. He had become ghastly pale, and his hands
trembled.

"What did I or we care about all this?" continued the old man,
excitedly; "but what we and every Christian man in our Church did
care for was the insult to our poor, kind, blessed, saint there, who
ministered to our sick, taught our children, and helped her brother
to write those blessed books. Ah, sirs! though we are but simple
shepherds, yet our people have fought in many a frontier war; we have
maintained our faith against Moslem and Hindoo, and in the cause of
right fear no man. And I tell you, my princes, that had not Padré
Francis enjoined peace upon us, we would have followed up Dom Diego
that night, and brought him here to make him over to you."

"And why did Francis d'Almeida and his sister leave so suddenly?" he
was asked.

"The citation to him had been read," replied the old man; "and after
the service he told me he should have to go, and asked me to get him
ponies to ride. In the evening, after the Señora's cruel insult, I took
them temporarily to the palace of the Governor, Dilawar Khan, for I
feared the Padré might return with the Beydurs and attack the Señora.
Then, after a time, came an express from Beejapoor, and Dilawar Khan
told them they must obey the Queen Chand's orders; and before daylight
they were sent off to Juldroog in closed palanquins, whether they
would or no. But for this they would have gone to you, for twenty-five
well-armed youths of the congregation had volunteered their escort. Ah,
sirs! it was a night of terror and alarm; and it was only when the
Governor sent and put seals on everything, except these books, that we
felt safe."

"We had not heard of this alleged insult before, daughter," said the
Inquisitor; "and thou must speak to it, however painful, on pain of
torture, to extort the truth, for this is a point which cannot be
overlooked."

"My lords and illustrious fathers," said Maria, modestly, "if this
truth had not transpired through the deacon I would have been silent,
for I have innocence and my trust in the blessed Queen of Heaven to
rely on; and whatever shame may appear in the narration belongs to him
who caused it, not to me. We had never been intimate, as servants of
the Church should be. My brother did not like what he heard, things he
would not tell me of. I was pained by Dom Diego's licentious looks, and
even, when in the Church, always sat near the children of my school.
But one Sabbath evening he found me alone, teaching the children a
hymn; and when they had gone he advanced towards me, and offered me
such insult as no virtuous woman could endure, pressing his vile
intentions with proposals to fly. And I sank down and fainted. I know
not who rescued me, but when I was aroused I was at home again, and my
brother, seizing his sword, rushed out to seek revenge, and was brought
back; and I lay at the foot of my cross, praying that his hand should
be withheld; and that was granted mercifully."

Bravely and calmly had Maria upheld her dignity and composure up to
this period; but now she failed, and burst into hysterical sobs and
tears, upheld by the abbess of her lay order, who had, with other
sisters, accompanied her. But presently, and while all awaited her
recovery, she rose, and holding out her pleading hands, cried--

"O fathers of the Church, as her child I come to you; as a woman who
has been wounded in her honour I plead to you! There is not one spot
of shame to my own perception upon my heart, and she can deliver me if
I am true. If not, let the flame purge me, and may I be accepted! But
leave me not to that vile man's machinations in after years."

She was not immediately replied to, and the tribunal took up the
examination of Francis d'Almeida with new interest. He described their
happy life at Moodgul, the affection and docility of the people,
the progress he was making in Canarese with learned scholars of the
place, his first essays in translation, and which he had sent for
confirmation; and lastly, the insult to his sister. "If I could then
and there have proceeded to you, holy fathers, I would have come; but
a long journey needs several days' preparation, and I was without any
notice considered a prisoner and sent to Beejapoor, where my innocence
was proved to the satisfaction of its noble Queen by these letters of
my coadjutor, which, she and her nephew, the King, have forwarded by
their envoy. They are before ye, O fathers, and ye will judge whether
the writing is mine or not."

Just then a messenger, who had been sent for Pedro di Diaz, returned
and reported that his vessel had fallen down the river in the afternoon
of the previous day, bound for Choule and Surat, and that Bartholomew
Pinto, and others, with Diaz, were serving on board.

Then the Court was cleared for about an hour, for the day was fast
declining; and, on the prisoners being again admitted, the Inquisitors
rose as one man, while their chief cried with a loud voice, "Ye,
Francis d'Almeida, and Maria de Pereira, we acquit and expurge ye from
all accusation of heresy, sorcery, contempt, and other crimes with
which ye have been charged; and ye go forth without shame or reproach
to continue your labours as ye have done among the heathen.

"You, Dom Diego, member of the holy Society of Jesus, are found guilty,
under your own handwriting, of falsehood and profligacy. You have
insulted a virtuous and worthy daughter of the Church with infamous
proposals. You have entered, as appears by your agreements, into an
unholy and corrupt alliance with Moorish rebels to this kingdom; and
you, by these papers, have acknowledged the receipt of vast sums
of money. We condemn you, therefore, unless you make confession
previously, to trial by the rack; and afterwards, on Sunday next, to
death by fire, in order that the holy Church may be purged from your
iniquity. Familiars, lead him forth; till the morrow he will have time
to repent."

Dom Diego replied nothing. He well knew it was of no avail to
appeal to those stony hearts which, whether just or unjust, never
changed. He only bowed his head, muttered something that could not be
distinguished, and was led into the great corridor whence the cells
opened.

Can we describe the boundless thankfulness of the two who so lately
were captives in the hands of that ruthless tribunal! As servants
of God in their degrees, the brother and sister received the public
blessings of the Archbishop and Grand Inquisitor; and, after that,
falling into each other's arms, they wept like children before all.
Before this, their feelings had been too highly strung to fail, but now
they were weak with very excitement, and were considerately led back to
their dwellings, to rest and receive those spiritual comforts in which
their souls could now seek repose.

       *       *       *       *       *

"And thou wilt come at last, Balthasar," said Dom Diego, as having
arrived at the end of the corridor, he turned into a door which was
open, and revealed a small bed, with a loaf of bread and a jar of
water. "Thou wilt not be long." Balthasar was Dom Diego's cousin, who
had been with him when he was formerly an officer of the Ajuba, and had
taken charge of him.

"I will come," he said, "though I risk my life and brave the fire. I
will come, and bring the rope for thee. If thou art strong and brave,
as thou used to be, yon miserable window will have little terror for
thee."

But Dom Diego had a surer plan in his mind than that.

"Oh, you need not bring a rope," he said; "I can manage without it, and
it would betray you."

As his cousin entered shortly before midnight, and all the building
was still, except for the wailings of wretches who sat alone in their
misery, he closed the door, locking it inside. "Perhaps I can help
you," he said, cheerfully.

"Yes," said Dom Diego. "No one can move those iron bars. You dare not
leave the door open, but you can submit to be bound, and I will do it
gently. Lie down there. Ha! thou wilt not," he said, from between his
teeth. "Thou, too, a traitor!" And he then threw him down on the bed,
and stuffed a large portion of his dress into his cousin's mouth. "Dare
to stir, and I will kill thee. See, here is my old weapon!" and he drew
a keen poignard from his breast. "Nay, that would be the surest way,"
and he seized the familiar by the throat.

"Mercy! Mercy! Diego!" gasped Balthasar. "Spare my life! Oh, spare my
life! Unshriven and unrepented, wouldst thou murder me?"

"Be still, then. If thou stir hand or foot, I will slay thee,
Balthasar, as thou liest there; but be still, and I will not harm
thee." Then Diego took off his cousin's robe, swathed the upper part of
his person in the coarse sheet of the bed, and tearing his shirt into
strips, with them and two handkerchiefs tied his legs together, so that
they could not be moved. "There!" he cried, "that is the way we used to
tie up the captives whom we carried off for ransom. Rest quietly there,
my son, till some one finds thee in the morning; and thou must tell
them they did not make so much of me as they might when I was here;
they may find it hard to take me now. Addios, brother, I know my way
out, and have a vow to attend midnight mass in the cathedral. How well
thy robe fits me; perhaps thou wilt take mine in exchange. Addios! and
pleasant dreams to thee this night, Balthasar. When thou wakest, tell
Francis d'Almeida and his sister that I go to pursue them. Not till he
is dead at my feet, and she grovels there in a shame worse than death,
will I cease to dog them, hide where they may. Forget not!" and taking
up the small lanthorn, he locked the door behind him, delivering a
solemn benediction as he entered the corridor.

He knew his way perfectly. In years long before he had been one of the
familiars, and knew every secret dungeon and torture chamber of the
great building, every secret sign and password; and he made his way to
the gate without opposition. The men on guard rallied him on going out
so late; but he declared his vow of midnight mass, and passed on into
the open air, unchallenged and unsuspected by his voice, for he had
kept his cowl over his face, and his height corresponded so exactly
with that of his cousin, that the detection of the imposture was
impossible.

There was no one else in the square before the Ajua but a few
stragglers, and Diego quietly found himself on the quay. One sailor was
lying in the stern of the ship's boat, who was at once aroused, and
slipped over the priest's shoulder a rough sailor's dress, and for a
few moments was absent seeking his associates. One by one they emerged
from their hiding place, gained the boat unobserved, and lay down in
its bottom; and when the last one came he loosed the painter, took one
of the oars, and sculled off leisurely towards the opposite shore. Near
that, the men started up, took the oars, which were muffled, and rowed
with all their power, and with a strong ebb tide made rapid way down to
the sea, passing the forts without observation. The brigantine was not
at anchor, but cruising to and fro, as if about to enter the river with
the flood; but Dom Diego was soon on board, and before the fresh land
wind the beautiful little vessel heeled over to the breeze and sped
swiftly northwards.



CHAPTER VIII.
A DEATH, A MARRIAGE, AND A DEPARTURE.


When morning broke there was much confusion in the great building.
Balthasar, whose duty was to open the doors of the cells, was not to
be found, nor were the keys hung up in their accustomed place. The
door of Dom Diego's cell was, however, locked and bolted without as
usual; but, on listening, a faint moaning sound was heard, and after
some difficulty the massive door was opened, and Balthasar found as he
had been left, though nearly suffocated. He had contrived to wriggle
from the low pallet, but to free his hands and to release himself from
his cousin's bandages had been impossible; nor could he loose the gag,
for it had been tied securely behind, putting him to great pain and
distress. Even to the suspicious Inquisitors there did not seem to be
the least indication of complicity, and after a severe and prolonged
examination, Balthasar was released. All that he could say was that
he had been suddenly overpowered by his cousin, whose strength far
exceeded his own; that he had been threatened with death, and even
slightly wounded in the breast; that, on account of the gag, he could
not cry out for aid. And even had he done so, who could have heard
him among the wailings of other prisoners, and the cries and groans of
those that were to endure the torture on the day following?

Then, under the information given by the old deacon, the transactions
of the bankers of Panjim were examined by the civil and ecclesiastical
authorities in conjunction. But no assets were found. They produced
letters from Dom Diego remitting large sums by bills from Moodgul,
and a considerable quantity of gold, and directing the whole, except
a small portion to be kept for himself, to be paid to Pedro di Diaz,
whom they knew as a trader to the East, and the owner of a remarkably
fast-sailing brigantine, which he commanded. Some months before he had
gone on a trading expedition with the Moors, and while some of the
remittances belonged to him direct, others might have been the property
of the Padré Sahib. It could only be conjecture, for it was no part of
their business to inquire into their constituents' affairs; and for the
rest, their books and vouchers were ample evidence. Finally, about four
days before, the Captain Di Diaz had taken away all his money, partly
in bills at sight, on Surat and Oman, but by far the greater part
was in coin of various kinds, the majority being in gold. There was
nothing to be made out of all this; nothing to afford the least clue
to the course of the vessel Diaz commanded; or, indeed, that Dom Diego
was with him, though it was supposed he might be; and he was never
afterwards seen in Goa, nor did it ever transpire to the authorities
there what had become of him. There was, however, long afterwards,
a report prevalent that he had become a renegade from the Christian
faith, and joined the ranks of the Mussulman army, and had fallen in
some obscure battle.

It was a pleasant duty for the Archbishop to reward Francis d'Almeida
for all the trials which had arisen out of his association with the
bad man who had so narrowly escaped a horrible fate. But the more the
prelate saw of the zealous missionary the more he appreciated his
singular, and at that period nearly unknown, powers of translation, and
the evident love and veneration in which he was held by his devoted
flock. Could there be a greater proof of that than in the sturdy old
deacon's journey from Moodgul to Goa unasked, on the mere supposition
that the long threatened proceedings against his priest were to take
place? This more, perhaps, than any other circumstance touched the
prelate most deeply, and he was not slow to confess it.

In the cathedral a splendid high mass was solemnised for the delivery
of Francis d'Almeida and his sister from the wicked machinations
against them. Sermons were preached, setting forth their labours for
many years, and the translations were exhibited on the altar steps to
the public at large. The Viceroy bestowed a high order upon the priest
at a banquet which was held in his honour; entertained the Beejapoor
envoy very sumptuously; and, from the simple communications of Francis
d'Almeida, grew to have a higher respect for the kingdom than had ever
been held by any Portuguese before.

Many arrangements about duties and trade generally were proposed; in
fact, it appeared as though the present opportunity would throw open
the two kingdoms to each other in a far more effectual and friendly
manner. As to Doña Maria, we lose sight of her among her old friends,
and the crowds of religious women who visited her. Many, indeed,
volunteered to accompany her in her mission work, and teach in her
schools; but European Portuguese, ignorant of any language but their
own, could be of little use; and finally, before she left, she made
choice of two of the sisters of her own convent, who, having been born
in India, could speak the ordinary language of the western country with
fluency.

Finally came the grand distinction, so unexpected, that Francis
was completely overpowered by it. The Archbishop, having consulted
privately with his council, considered it very advisable to extend
the mission, and to consolidate its several points under one head. At
present there were but four churches, two under Moodgul, and two under
Raichore; but there was a good chance of the establishment of one at
Beejapoor, and perhaps another at Ahmednugger, under the auspices
of Queen Chand Beebee. It was advisable, therefore, that Francis
d'Almeida should be created bishop, with permission to travel and
preach wherever he thought most advisable.

At first, as we have said, the worthy priest was overwhelmed, and
requested time for consideration; but it appeared both to him
and to Maria, and to their best friends, that the honour and the
responsibility could not be evaded. And again, if he declined it,
neither of them would be sent to carry out the Archbishop's plans.
Now, there was no one who knew the people or their language, manners,
and customs, at all so well; no one who could compete with the
Mussulmans and Brahmins on their own grounds of theology. He was, too,
used to the courtly manners and modes of life of the Mussulman who
ruled the country, and was the intimate friend of Queen Chand and her
nephew, the King. What would not Taj-ool-Nissa do for the physician
who had aided her recovery, or for the beloved companion who had
cheered her loneliness? Then, again, there were Meeah and Zóra, the
old Syud, and their new schools at the painter's, and great numbers
of other countrymen who had been absent with the King's army, and
were altogether fallen into neglect. All these were new ties which
a series of strange events had created, but which, nevertheless,
were precious and binding. And these, with the boundless expanse of
country before him, in which he should be free to act, caused Francis
d'Almeida's heart to swell in grateful anticipation. He, therefore,
submitted himself to the Archbishop's will, with earnest and sincere
feelings of gratitude; and as soon as the ceremony could be arranged,
he was consecrated in the cathedral at high mass, before all the
ecclesiastical, civil, and military authorities of the city, and his
patent made out and delivered to him. Nor would the Archbishop suffer
him, poor as he knew Francis was, to pay any of the costs of the
elevation, which were considerable; not even that of his robes, which
were of their kind splendid enough.

The Beejapoor envoy was a delighted spectator of all the pomp of the
Church on the occasion, and the joy with which he greeted his former
humble companion was very genuine. We are bound to say also, that once
they were free from the terrors of the Inquisition, Maria, like a
practical woman as she was, insisted upon making a complete inspection
of her brother's wardrobe, and found it in a very dilapidated and
defective condition. The patchings and darnings of old Pedro, who
nominally united the office of tailor to that of cook and valet, were
by no means of a distinguished order, and were, to say the least of
them, in the last stage of decay; and in the cold weather of the
Dekhan, her brother, though enjoying wonderfully good health, was often
distressed by the cold. Materials, however, and makers of all kinds
were plentiful at Goa. The ladies of her convent set to with vigour to
make such portions of both their clothing as they could, and the result
was so far beyond the good Padré's ordinary ideas of comfort, which
were limited, that he could barely be induced to cast away the old and
to adopt the rich new suits with which he was furnished.

They were pressed much to remain for the great Church festival of
Christmas. But this was impossible; time was precious; the Beejapoor
envoy and his people were anxious to return, and the journey back was
commenced. What peril they had endured and escaped, what new honour and
love they had gained, was indeed wonderful to think on, and for which
their thanks were due to Him whom they served; and their hearts were
full of gratitude and hope for the future. And the reception they had
at Beejapoor, when Humeed Khan and his nephew, with a host of other
friends, one of the King's nobles of the court, ushers and others,
were sent out to meet them and conduct them into the city, was almost
overwhelming; and many people ran before their litters, crying out
that the good Padré had come back, and was welcome. As to the children
of the schools, they and their parents erected a triumphal arch of a
humble character at Pedro the painter's gate; and, dressed in their
best, sang a hymn of welcome very prettily, and were introduced to
their new preceptresses. Pedro had made a great feast for the occasion
too, and all were very happy; but they were grieved to hear that their
dear old friend the Syud was rapidly sinking to his rest, and that
the physicians had no longer hope of his life. Prayers had been made
for him in every mosque, and supplications sent to all other shrines
around, particularly to Gulburgah. But these were of no avail; the
angel of death, the old man said, was already nigh, and he should soon
receive his last summons. Weary nature was exhausted; and though the
few last months' excitement had caused the lamp of life to flicker up,
and even to shine brightly for awhile, it was now sinking daily, and
must soon be extinguished.

They did not delay further than to make a few arrangements. The King
and the Queen had already sent kind messages, begging them to come
as soon as possible; and in the afternoon they went when the usual
palanquins arrived for them. They found Abbas Khan, his uncle, and
a number of Mussulman priests, sitting in the ante-room of the old
Syud's apartments, the latter chanting passages from the Korán in a
low monotonous tone; and while Maria passed into Zóra's rooms, Abbas
Khan rose, and led the bishop, as we must now call him, into the place
where the dear old man lay. He seemed to be dozing as they entered, but
hearing the sound of a strange voice, he looked up and asked who had
come.

"I, your old friend, Huzrut," said the bishop, kneeling down. "I have
returned to you safe from my journey and its consequences."

"Oh, give me light that I may see you once more ere I pass away," he
said, eagerly. "Give me light!" and when a corner of the curtain was
lifted, the old man raised himself, stretched out his hands, and fell
upon his friend's neck. He seemed to have forgotten that he was blind.

"The darkness and the day are all one to me, my son," he said, feeling
all over Francis' face; "all one now--so they are always to those
who are trembling on the brink of eternity. Yet I shall see brightly
presently, when these scales of death fall from my eyes. Fear not for
me, dear friend; my time is run, my work on earth is finished, and I
go to partake of that I have believed in. And thou hast escaped that
fierce evil priest? Tell me how it was. First lay me down, for I have
no strength."

"You must not speak," was the reply; "it excites you too much;" and
d'Almeida placed his fingers on the old man's pulse, which he found now
weak and fluttering. "Rest awhile, and I will tell thee."

"Is he dying?" asked Abbas Khan.

"No," returned the bishop; "he will yet live some days; and I will send
him or bring him early some cordial I have brought with me. Now no one
can get at it."

"Now tell me all, Francis; and how thy dear sister, Maria, hath fared.
Is she well?"

"She is well," returned the bishop; "but I have said you must
be silent;" and he then related briefly the particulars of the
investigation of the tribunal. "I could have done nothing," he said;
"he was more powerful than I; but I had truth with me, and out of his
own vile letters he was condemned; nor could he make any defence. He
was sentenced, and would have suffered, but he escaped."

"Escaped! Protection of God! he may follow you and Maria."

"I do not fear him, Huzrut. The same power that defended us at Goa will
defend us should we meet hereafter. Meanwhile, he fled in a companion's
ship to sea, and is believed to have gone to Persia, where we have
churches. He escaped, too, with all his wealth."

"Shookr! shookr! thanks, thanks! and praise to God that our poor
prayers were heard; prayers in which Zóra joined, as for brother and
sister. Hast thou no thanks, no congratulations, Meeah?"

"I said them at first, Abba, when he told me on the road. But see the
justice of God! On all that number of vile conspirators justice hath
descended. And on this priest last of all, though he hath life and
wealth, yet shame hath fallen upon him among his people; while this,
our honoured friend, hath been exalted by them to high rank, and is now
a noble of the Church."

"He is no greater now before me than he used to be, nor before God. Is
he, too, a Wallee?"

"Not a saint, Abba," returned Francis, smiling; "but I have the
overlooking of all the churches from Ahmednugger to Raichore and
Moodgul, and can reside where I please. Before God I cannot change, but
before men I have that dignity in the Church which it hath pleased my
fathers in God to bestow upon me."

The old man smiled happily, and they saw his lips moving silently
in prayer; but he did not speak, he only held out his hands once to
Francis, as if to bid him farewell, and turning round seemed to sleep
easily and comfortably.

Zóra and Maria were together once more, and what could exceed their
happiness? Zóra's great brown eyes looked wistfully at her, like a
dog's, as after the first weeping and thankful embrace they sat down
together. But this did not suffice, and as Maria held out her arms
once more, Zóra fell into them, looking up every now and then with her
happy, loving face, though her eyes were constantly brimming over, as
she heard Maria's history, as Abba had heard her brother's. Only about
three months had passed, yet Zóra's figure and countenance appeared to
have expanded under the influence of the certainty of Meeah's love.
At last her own, her very own. "And he loves me, too; for one day I
was coming from the Queen Mother's apartment alone, and I met him on
the stairs, and he told me so; and though I could not answer him, I
remember all he said, and now I can tell it to you, Maria. We have
never spoken again; and I dare not if I could, for it would not be
modest in a girl betrothed to do so. Then Abba began to fail after you
left, and yearned for your brother; and we thought he would pass away
from us. But he is still here, though they tell me he may be called
any time; and we must let him go. Day and night Meeah watches him, and
when he is tired he sends me word by a servant, and I go to him. But
he seldom speaks, only prays; and all he has been saying for several
days has been: 'It is time they returned. Why do they linger away? Have
they escaped?' But we could not make out then, though we now understand
your peril." And then Zóra's tongue ran on almost without intermission,
until a message came from the Queen Mother that they should go up to
them, as she and the young Queen were both ready to receive them.
And they went; Maria kissing the feet of both the Royal ladies, and
making her obeisance, as she used to do. They, too, had to hear of her
trial and her deliverance; and Zóra said plaintively, "We were sisters
together from the first, though we belonged to different faiths; and
God appointed me my trial, when I did not fear Osman Beg, and she
had her own with the wicked priest we used all to hear so much of in
Juldroog; and she was not afraid of him. And now God hath brought us
together again; and we will never separate."

Then the Queen had to hear of Francis d'Almeida's new dignity; and it
was very clear to Maria that he, perhaps both of them, had acquired
additional honour in the Royal eyes.

"My King will be glad, indeed, to hear this, for Beejapoor hath never
had an ambassador from your nation, or any accredited person on whom
reliance could be placed; and much mischief has been the consequence.
Now things will be different."

"I know," said Maria, smiling, "that he has been entrusted with a
whole budget of matters to lay before His Majesty; and he will do this
to-night, perhaps, at the durbar."

"And," added Zóra, with a merry twinkle in her eye, "bid him, mother,
to come in his new robes, for Maria says they are magnificent; and
then he can come and make his obeisance here also to you and his old
patient."

So, after a while, Maria took her leave, and went home to carry out
this little plot, and to set out her brother's finery; and, after much
persuasion, the simple bishop did as he had been requested, and went in
his grandeur of gold embroidery and purple satin, and lace, and biretta
instead of a mitre, which, with his staff, was not ready when he left
Goa. He was, however, sufficiently splendid to attract the attention
and admiration of all the nobles of the durbar; and even the Chishtee
priest, who had been so uncivil to him at their first meeting, but who
had gradually learned to respect his character, now welcomed him with
sincere congratulations.

It was a pleasant evening for the Bishop. He felt himself to be now
more on an equality with all the nobles by whom he was surrounded,
and their respect was unmistakeable. He was the representative of his
nation, too; there was much to be settled between his Government and
the King's; and in all respects, in outward circumstances, he felt
he was a very different person at the King's Court than the obscure
priest and physician that had come there at first. The schools were
flourishing, and Maria felt the help of her new assistants to be very
material. The Bishop, too, found ample occupation among the Portuguese
artificers and gunners, and the time was fast approaching when he must
seek his new flocks at Ahmednugger and elsewhere. Would it be safe or
prudent to take his sister with him? What he heard of the condition of
Ahmednugger was not satisfactory. The place was not at peace within
itself, and many reports were abroad. He had a refuge for her already
at Beejapoor, or he might send her to Moodgul, to the old deacon's
charge; but the last message of Dom Diego to his cousin, which had
been duly repeated to him as a warning, though Maria knew not of it,
often weighed heavily upon him. Dom Diego was free; free to join any
lawless bands in the country; and he had wealth, too, to further any
plan he might form. In Beejapoor Maria would be safe, under the King's
protection; but then the dire separation, distressing alike to both,
was hardly to be contemplated. Maria would not hear of it; whither he
would go she would go with him, and in her opinion the better plan was
to wait till Ahmednugger was once more settled.

But all these plans were destined to come to a more rapid end than
either thought; and the first link of the chain broken, was the dear
old Syud's death. For several days the new medicine which Francis
had brought with him appeared to give new energy, and they all hoped
he might rally; but he was not himself deceived. "I have received my
warning," he said, "and do but wait the angel's coming--be that when it
may." He made his will, bequeathing to Zóra all his worldly goods and
such of his estates as the King might permit. He also made provision
for the religious ceremonies at his tomb, the site of which he had
selected when he first came, in the Roza, or garden, in the precincts
of the great mausoleum of the King, and had appointed a poor disciple,
who had followed him in his wanderings from Gogi, to the charge of it.
A small tomb or mausoleum, with a vault, had been prepared, and was
nearly finished; and the old man on one of his best latter days had
been gently taken there in a palanquin, having a particular desire
to see it. To the last he preserved his faculties entire; and after
hearing portions of the Korán read one night, he repeated the two
creeds with a firm voice, and lay down quietly. But his breath came
heavily, and Abbas Khan saw that the end was near; and Zóra came to
him with Maria, who was sitting with her. The physicians and Francis
felt his pulse, but it was fluttering; and one of the Moollas raising
him up, poured a little sherbet into his mouth, which he swallowed
and lay down again, saying, "It is enough," and seemed to sleep; nor
could those who watched by him tell when the humble, loving spirit
left its earthly tenement. There was no struggle, or even a sigh; and
again and again during the day he had said he had no pain, and could
see the flowers of Paradise and the river flowing among them. Finally
the chant of the Moollas without ceased, and those who perform offices
for the dead came in and did their ministering. Crowds followed him to
his last resting place. Nothing that love or respect could suggest was
wanting to the end; and as the Moollas chanted the peace of God to the
thousands who had gathered round, they separated sadly, many weeping,
and with a conviction that a faithful disciple of their faith had gone
to his rest in Paradise.

For a time, during the forty days of ceremonial and mourning, Zóra
remained with the Queen Dowager, though apart, so as not to cause
inconvenience; and for the first few days Maria had not left her except
at short periods, and to carry on her own duties. She had now many
friends; and the grief at her loss, which at first lay heavy on her,
gradually gave place to brighter thoughts. Often and humbly did she
think on the few months that had passed, on the hopelessness which must
have been her lot if her grandfather had died at Juldroog or during her
wanderings. Yes, she had been mercifully protected, and was grateful
to her heart's core; and as she wept out her grief on Maria's breast
or that of the Queen, who had adopted her, there was ever present
the secret hope and trust that she had found a true refuge, which
was not far distant. For as the forty days of ceremonial were about
to conclude, the Lady Fatima, urged by her nephew and husband, again
protested against further delay. Zóra should have one who had a right
to protect her, and in whose love a new life would open to her, and she
put herself unreservedly into her friends' hands. She had pledged her
faith, and had she needed to do so a hundred times over, or under any
trial, she would have only been more confirmed in it. Enough that the
time was come; and with all the pomp that her Royal patrons and the
wealthy house of her husband could furnish, all the dressing, feasting,
merry-making, processions, and distributions of charity practised on
such occasions, the marriage ceremonies were at last concluded. Are
not the loves of this happy pair sung by bards and dancing-women to
this day? For the poets of the Court poured forth their amatory lays
and epithalamiums without stint, sure of ample largesse. Many of these
were set to music, and linger still to charm others, though even the
traditions of the nobles of Beejapoor have passed away.

And still the good Bishop and Maria remained. Maria pleaded that she
had promised Zóra to stay with her till the ceremonies were completed,
and she, with much interest, and not without amusement, had helped
her through all the events of each day. But when all was over, when
the bright, radiant, happy girl had been carried away in a grand
procession, with fireworks, torches, and firing of guns, escorted by
the whole of her husband's and his uncle's household troops--the play
played out, and the curtain dropped--then they turned to their work
again.

Meanwhile the Queen's letters from Ahmednugger grew more and more
uneasy; and she received a petition, which was signed by all the
principal nobles and officers of the State, asking her to come to them
and assume the administration during the minority of the young and
rightful Sovereign, who as yet was little more than an infant. This
was necessarily a much more serious subject for contemplation than the
heretofore task of assuaging national disquietude, and uniting the
power of the State under one regency, not her own, which should have
the goodwill of the people. But this was put before her as a solemn and
patriotic duty, which could be effected by no one but herself. At her
name, they wrote in her native city, every well affected person would
unite to support her; the few malcontents would disappear or fly the
kingdom, and peace and prosperity would reign once more. Day by day, by
special messengers, and by every other possible means, the frequency
of these communications, as well as their urgency, increased. They had
commenced before Francis and his sister had returned from Goa, and were
much more frequent and more urgent now.

She had concealed nothing from her nephew, the King, or from his long
tried and faithful Ministers of State. Every letter, every despatch she
received, was laid before them; but the last general petition seemed
to leave no loophole of escape. So long as Ahmednugger was disturbed,
Beejapoor could not be at rest. The frontiers were uneasy, and events
took place which no precaution could avert, and which might at any
time plunge the kingdoms into one of those interminable and bloody
wars which had often nearly brought both to the brink of ruin. The
last war was finished, peace everywhere prevailed, and under ordinary
circumstances, there was every prospect of its maintenance; but if
misrule at Ahmednugger continued, there was no surety. Again, the
Moghuls of Delhi were gathering in ominous clouds in Malwa and Guzerat,
without apparent reason; and were they to march upon the Dekhan, there
was no one to resist them on its frontiers; while at Ahmednugger each
party seemed ready to sell their country to the enemy, so that a
temporary local advantage might be gained.

It was a perilous time for the whole Dekhan; and the Queen, with her
habitual fortitude, determined to meet it, as she had done every
political and public danger of her life. She would devote herself to
her native State, for her presence was no longer needful at Beejapoor,
and her Regency had closed in thankful peace. Nay, there was no time
to be lost, and it was at once known, by the preparations ordered,
that Queen Chand was about to proceed to her native place. We need not
say that Abbas Khan and Zóra were to accompany her. They would take
no denial, and Abbas Khan, in public durbar, claimed the command of
her escort, as a point of right and duty. Could he leave his adopted
mother, and idle away his time in inaction at the capital? Even that
he had endured since the King's return had been in the last degree
irksome. We know why the Bishop and his sister desired to go too; and
even had that reason not existed, Maria must have gone, for the Queen
had become alarmed, and she viewed with pain a revelation the King had
made to her that he loved Maria.

As the time drew near for her departure, the Queen Chand had received
many visits from her nephew the King, and had observed his listless
manner and his evident anxiety in regard to some subject. He did not,
however, complain of being ill, and his Queen, Taj-ool-Nissa, had, as
well as the Queen Dowager, pressed him to consult the good Bishop on
the subject. To both the Queens, the departure of the elder one, on
whose counsel in all affairs he had so firmly relied, appeared to be
the cause; but it lay deeper than that.

One evening, just before the march began, the Queen, Taj-ool-Nissa and
Maria were sitting at the great window alone, and Maria was putting the
last finishing touches to a drawing of flowers for her Royal companion,
when she observed the tears well up in her eyes; and, with a sudden
impulse, she put the drawing aside, and cast herself upon Maria's
breast, sobbing piteously. It was in vain that Maria asked her to
explain the cause of her grief, or tried to soothe her with assurances
of speedy return, the Queen only wept the more passionately.

"He does not love me, Maria," she said, between her sobs, in broken
words. "My lord the King does not love me. To thee, O sister, he has
given his heart, and he will die without thee. I am but a child,
Maria, and have no beauty or talent to charm him; but thy loveliness
and accomplishments fit thee to become his Queen. Oh, do not hesitate,
darling sister; consent to be mine in reality, and we shall be joined
in his love till we die. Maria!" she cried, looking up through her
tears, and brushing them away, "dost thou hear? He dreams of thee; I
hear thy name on his lips as he sleeps, murmured in love. It is no
deception, and I say it before God; and I know how essential thou art
to his happiness. Kiss me, and say thou wilt consent, and I shall be
happy. A few quiet prayers and some preparation, and thou art his wife
as well as I."

"It cannot be, it cannot be, my darling!" said Maria, very sadly, and
kissing the gentle, patient face upturned to her. "I am vowed to God's
service; I repeated and confirmed those vows at Goa, and I go forth,
with my brother, to perform them. A little while and he will forget me,
and thou wilt live with thy child to come, happy in his love as thou
hast been. Nay, urge me not," she continued, as Taj-ool-Nissa was about
to speak again; "by the love that is between us urge me not again, but
let me depart in peace, and with thy blessing, on my way. Keep this,
and all I have left, in memory of me; and hope, as I do, that we may
meet again in happiness." Then, placing the picture in the Queen's
hands, she kissed her fervently, with a silent prayer, and, rising up,
departed. Yet ere she reached the door, she looked back once more. The
girl was lying with her face among her cushions, weeping bitterly,
while the sun's light, falling upon her rich brocaded dress, covered
her as with a glory of gold.

END OF BOOK IV.



BOOK V.


CHAPTER I.
A SKETCH OF LOCAL HISTORY.


Out of the disruption of the great Bahmuny dynasty of the Dekhan
in A.D. 1489, four independent kingdoms arose. The first secession
was that of Yousaf Adil Khan, who founded the Adil Shahy dynasty of
Beejapoor in that year; the second, that of Nizam-ool-Moolk Bheiry,
in the same year, and Berar had even preceded them. Golconda followed
in 1512, thus completing the alienation of the four largest and
most important provinces of the Bahmuny kingdom, and leaving only a
comparatively insignificant portion in the hands of the remaining
representative of the Bahmunies, who lived and reigned at Beeder, and
whose successor was afterwards set aside by his Minister, Ameer Bereed,
who usurped the throne, and the great Bahmuny family became extinct.

Nizam-ool-Moolk Bheiry had been Prime Minister of the Bahmuny kingdom,
and his son, Mullek Ahmud, was Viceroy in the large western provinces.
After the act of dismemberment had been accomplished, Nizam-ool-Moolk
Bheiry died, and his son, relying on his local power, and possessing
the requisite boldness and ability, ably maintained his position; and
there being no capital to the province except the hill fort of Joonair,
which was inconvenient, as well from position as construction, he
founded a new city and capital near the village of Bingar, which lay
between Joonair and Dowlutabad.

Here he built a fine fort and several palaces, laid out gardens, and
named the place Ahmednugger--or the fort of Ahmud--which appellation
it still bears. Ahmednugger is now one of the large military stations
of the Dekhan and of India, and is deservedly celebrated for its
salubrious climate. It is, in fact, situated near the crest of one of
the great trap waves of the Dekhan, which breaks into the valley of the
Godavery, a few miles distant. The country around is open, fertile, and
free from jungle; and in the times we write of, the position commanded
the passes from Khandeish, and Guzerat, and Berar, into central Dekhan.
It had been most judiciously chosen, and, while the kingdom endured,
it ruled a fair country which stretched from the sea to the confines
of Berar and Golconda, and was possessed of an ample revenue. Its
people, too, were the sturdy Mahratta peasantry, who made excellent
soldiers; and it maintained considerable bodies of Abyssinians, as well
as Turks, Arabs, Persians, and Central Asians, and their descendants
of mixed blood, who, as at Beejapoor, were called Dekhanies, and held
much power in their hands. In this point therefore the two kingdoms
were very similar, though local customs and parties might not be in
all respects precisely so. The Ahmednugger State also employed the
indigenous Mahratta soldiery to a much greater extent than Beejapoor,
especially as cavalry, and frequently found them of great use in
checking the turbulence of the foreign levies. They were considered a
portion of the regular army, and thus the hereditary native chieftains
of the Mahratta people rose to power, which was afterwards rendered
conspicuous when the Mahratta people, living upon the ruins of the
local Mussulman kingdoms, became a nation in themselves.

We do not purpose to write the history of the Nizam Shahy kingdom.
The Kings were rough, warlike, and quarrelsome with their neighbours
beyond any others, and were very rarely at entire peace with any of
them. And while in some of these wars the kingdom had narrowly escaped
annihilation, yet because a balance of power among these kingdoms was
necessary for mutual existence, no one of them could be annexed by
another, and for more than a hundred years they had existed in pretty
much the same condition as that in which they had commenced in 1489.

They had of course intermarried, and the families for the most
part were nearly related; but the principal event of this kind was
the marriage of Chand Beebee, daughter of Hussein Nizam Shah, of
Ahmednugger, in 1564, to Ally Adil Shah, of Beejapoor, in order to
cement the political alliance between the States, on the occasion of
the crusade against the Hindoo powers of northern India. And though the
object of that coalition and campaign was fully carried out, yet the
peace of the two kingdoms was by no means assured; and we have already
had to trace the cause of wars which ended in the death in action of
King Ibrahim Nizam Shah, the seventh King, in the field of battle near
Puraindah. After this event the affairs of the unfortunate kingdom fell
gradually into greater and greater confusion. There was no successor of
mature age to succeed; and a boy, said to have been of Royal birth, was
sent for from Dowlutabad and placed on the throne under the auspices
of the Dekhany party and their chieftain. But this was opposed by the
foreign faction, who claimed that the infant son of the late King
should succeed. As usual, both parties betook themselves to arms, and
many lamentable and bloody engagements took place, not only in and
near the Royal city itself, but also in other parts of the Ahmednugger
dominions; the result of which was the general appeal to the Dowager
Queen, Chand Beebee, to come to Ahmednugger, assume the Regency,
and govern the kingdom with her well-tried ability and sagacity on
behalf of the minor Prince; and, as we know, she had, after many deep
considerations, consented to do so.

There was, however, a more pressing, and, to the Queen's perception,
more dangerous crisis at hand. The Emperor Akhbar, of Dehli, who was
gradually annexing all smaller independent dominions to his own empire,
had already shown a desire for interference in Dekhan affairs. He had
despatched a large army under his son the Prince Moorad to Guzerat
and Malwa, to watch the course of Dekhan events, and to invade the
country should he find pretext or opportunity for doing so; and of this
invasion the Queen was in dread. Domestic broils and disagreements had
before on many occasions been adjusted, but the presence of so powerful
a force as the Great Moghul's army, in the distracted state of local
politics, was an evil which could not be overrated. Already the leader
of the Dekhany party was known to have addressed letters to the Prince
Moorad, imploring his intervention to uphold the claims of the boy whom
he had placed on the throne; and it was impossible to conceive that
the astute Prince would neglect the very opportunity he had so long
waited for. True, afterwards the Dekhany leader perceived and bitterly
regretted the false step he had taken, more especially when the boy
whom he supported had been discovered to be spurious. But the mischief
done was irreparable, and the Queen Regent now knew that she should
not only have to subdue local disaffection, but oppose the progress of
the Imperial Prince with all the force and all the energy she could
command. She had undertaken the duty, however, and cast ease and other
personal considerations unselfishly aside. She had done what she could
for Beejapoor, and was wanted there no longer, except to make part of
her nephew's happiness and share in his prosperity. And now, if in days
of advancing age she was again to be thrown into those scenes of war
which had accompanied her early life, it was, she said, the will of God
and her duty; and she bowed to both with a submission and fortitude
which never deserted her to the last.

We trust the foregoing sketch of the period, as far as Ahmednugger is
concerned, will not be out of place. Without it, indeed, the course of
this tale would hardly be intelligible.



CHAPTER II.
A PLEASANT JOURNEY.


The first halt made by the Queen was at Sholapoor, which, formerly
belonging to Ahmednugger, had been given to Beejapoor as part of her
dowry on the occasion of her marriage; and the Royal lady once more
took possession of the small but elegant suite of apartments which look
out on the lake or tank which washes the eastern side of the fort,
and was evidently intended as part of its defences. Sholapoor, for
the most part, has even now no pretensions to beauty, and the country
around it, and that which had been traversed since the Queen left
Beejapoor, is bare and monotonous; but the immediate vicinity of the
fort, including the lake, with its island covered by a large Banian
tree and a Hindoo temple, is undoubtedly pretty; and the pleasant sound
of the tiny wavelets as they plashed against the walls and bastions was
refreshing to hear, while the wind which played over the water came
through the windows which looked over the lake very refreshingly. The
Queen did not, however, tarry here, nor did she take the direct road
from Sholapoor by the valley of the Seena to Ahmednugger. It was not
only hot, but the country had been wasted by the previous war, and had
not had time to recover; she, therefore, turned eastward to Nuldroog,
or Shahdroog, as it had been called by her husband, Ali Adil Shah, and
which he had improved by new fortifications and a noble dam of masonry
across the river, a place in which many of the happiest hours of her
life had been spent while the great works were in progress.

Nuldroog, for it has reverted to its own old name, occupies a crest
or knoll of basalt, which juts from the main plateau into the deep
valley of the small river Boree. After passing the narrow neck which
connects it with the plateau, the knoll spreads out with a tolerably
level surface, the north, east, and south sides being for the most part
perpendicular; while the neck, through which a wide and deep ditch has
been cut, is fortified by a heavy wall with curtains and bastions.
These walls and bastions continue all round the crest of the precipice,
and the result has been a very strong fort of an eminently picturesque
character, which might not make much defence against modern artillery,
but which at the time we write of was considered one of the strongholds
of the country, and usually held a large garrison, especially of
cavalry. And it was an important military position, too, serving to
check the forces of Ahmednugger on the one hand and Golconda on the
other.

King Ali Adil Shah had done much for the place. Besides the
strengthening of the fortifications, and building near the east end
a huge cavalier upwards of ninety feet high, ascended by a broad
flight of easy steps, he had built a dam of stone and mortar of great
strength and beauty across the river, which held back the waters, and
created a long, narrow, but deep lake, which gave a plentiful supply
of water to the town and both ends of the fort. Before this the only
water procurable had been from the bed of the river, which flowed in
the bottom of the deep ravine below the fort, and which in the hot
weather was very scanty and impure. The new dam, therefore, gave a
new value to the strong fort, and water became not only plentiful but
easy of access. It is a noble work, stretching from one rocky point of
the valley to another beyond, upwards of a hundred yards in length,
and upwards of ninety feet in height. Over this the river falls in an
unbroken sheet when in flood; at other times, the surplus water is
carried off by a channel formed in the crest of the dam, which falls
into the large deep pool that has been hollowed out at the foot. By an
ingenious contrivance, a pretty Gothic apartment has been left in the
body of the work, over the windows of which the waters in the highest
floods can pass without entering, as they are diverted from the top
down a tunnel, and escape at the base. At the northern end of the
dam is another fort, or _tête-du-pont_, formed by the fortification
of a considerable knoll, which is in itself a strong position, and
materially assists the other defences.

It was a great delight to the Queen to revisit the place. The
Governor's house was cleared out for her, and for several days the
whole fort was made private; and she wandered from place to place with
her companions and attendants every day, pointing out to Maria and Zóra
where she had sat for hours together with her lord the King, watching
the works in progress, breathing the pure fresh air, and taking their
simple meals on the top of a bastion, or on the high cavalier when
it was finished, where a great canopy used to be pitched. Nor was it
possible for the two girls not to be interested in the place itself.
It was, indeed, very beautiful: the lake shimmering in the sun, with
the black precipices, hung with many-hued creepers, reflected into it;
while, after it had shot through the arch on the dam, the river brawled
down the valley till it was hid from view by the projection of the
hills below. The air here was cool and refreshing, for they had risen
to a considerable height above Sholapoor: and this was another reason
why the Queen had chosen the upper route instead of the lower. Here and
there, from points on the table land without the fort, where the Queen
took her companions, the dim blue plains of Beejapoor could be seen
stretching to the horizon like a sea, and the fresh cool wind would
come to them freely and soothingly. These, too, were old haunts of her
husband and herself; and it seemed often to Maria and Zóra that, in the
dreamy mood of mind in which she often sat alone, she appeared like
one who had a consciousness of seeing these well-remembered scenes for
the last time, and carrying away every possible recollection of them in
her loving heart. Often, indeed, she would draw one or other, or both
of them, to her side, and with her eyes brimming with tears, would say,
"Look, children! here my lord received such a letter, or told me such
a thing, and you must not forget even a stone of it; but, should I ask
you even when my eyes are dim in death, you must describe it all to me
as you see it now in the bright glowing sunlight."

I need not follow minutely the daily march in early cool morning, nor
the succession of beautiful mango groves in which the party rested
every day, affording cool shade and refreshing rest. They were, indeed,
seldom in their tents till nightfall, for around the enclosure was a
screen of tent walls, which made the whole private. The tent pitchers
selected the shadiest portions of these groves, and usually contrived
to enclose a number of large leafy trees, beneath which carpets and
soft cushions were spread; and reading, or the Queen's business, with
her clever secretary, Zóra, who had gained confidence by experience,
went on as usual; and embroidery, too, and Maria's paintings, except
when she retired to her own tents to share her devotions with her
brother; while overhead the birds chirped, or sang, or cooed, and
screamed in their glee and freedom.

To Zóra in her new happiness this march was a perpetual elysium. Abbas
Khan could not always be with her, for he had his own work to do in
the regulation of the camp, the obtaining of supplies, and the payment
for them, and all other current business. Sometimes, too, and indeed
generally of an evening, the large Royal tent was opened; and the Queen
received in durbar all the officers, zemindars, and chief inhabitants
of villages around. The Queen had quitted the dominions of Beejapoor
soon after leaving Nuldroog, and passed into those of Ahmednugger.
Abbas Khan by no means liked what he heard from all quarters in regard
to the position of Ahmednugger and the parties there, who seemed to be
at constant and bloody feud; and he earnestly strove with the Queen to
induce her to turn back. But she upbraided him. "Would she have the
world think her a coward? and had she not brought Beejapoor through
worse troubles than those?" So he was silent thenceforth. It was her
fate, and whatever was to be, would be fulfilled.

The leader of the Dekhany party, Mean Munjoo, who had set up the
spurious prince, was not at Ahmednugger. He had taken the boy with
him, and gone beyond Owsa, towards Golconda, to urge the necessity
of supporting Ahmednugger; and he was bitterly repentant that he had
invited the Prince Moorad. He wrote to the Queen for forgiveness, and
declared he would not return except with troops from Golconda and
Beejapoor, to drive the Moghuls back. The Queen, too, wrote to her
nephew, King Ibrahim, to send a heavy force of cavalry, in which the
Moghuls were said to be weak, and to watch affairs from Nuldroog;
and subsequently as many as twenty-six thousand of the best cavalry
of Beejapoor, with six thousand from Golconda, assembled there, and
occupied the crests of the plateau which stretched northwards.

With these precautions taken, which had occasioned several days' delay
at Patoda, the Queen now marched on, faster than before, for it was
impossible to overrate the importance of her presence at Ahmednugger.
But it was the same pleasant journey throughout, the same succession of
cool, shady groves and crisp bracing air. Often would the Queen wile
away the march with her hunting leopards and falcons with her, and
enjoy many a gallop over the undulating downs, where Abbas Khan and
the officers of his small force, and even the good Bishop, would ride
with her and enjoy the sport. Sometimes, too, Maria, when the march was
a quiet one, rode with her brother, to the great envy of Zóra, who,
from an elephant allotted to her, looked after them as they cantered
past her, longing to be with them. If there were anything remarkable
to be seen, the Queen would diverge from the beaten track, as she did
at the temple of Pukrode, and, looking over the crest, could follow
the line of hills to Ahmednugger itself. There she had stayed an extra
day to wander about, as was her wont, and enjoy the keen air of that
elevation, which, while it put roses into Maria's cheeks, and made
Zóra ruddy, tinged even the Queen's pale countenance with pink, and
restored the bright beauty of her youth. Again from Patoda they made a
day's excursion to the waterfall of the Incherna and its gloomy abrupt
ravine; and they would sit for hours on the short smooth sward above,
and watch the rainbows playing over the pool, nearly four hundred feet
below them, and those which seemed to start out suddenly from the
column of water, flash for an instant, and disappear. How glorious it
all was! Even the heavy state cares which weighed upon the Queen seemed
to be put aside for the time; and the noble lady's cheerful, nay, even
playful disposition diffused a joy among her little party which they
had never felt before. To Zóra it was perfect elysium, as she told her
husband in their quiet hours; she often felt her heart too full for
speech. "I had hoped, dear lord, to be happy with thee, and to make
thee happy; but this reality transcends all my expectations, for you
are all too kind and too indulgent to me."

"No, Zóra; all the love which inspired me as thou watched over me that
first night doth but heighten by time. When I had it not, I hungered
and thirsted for it. Now I have it, it groweth fresher every day, and
more precious to me. Enjoy these happy days, therefore, to the full,
for the time cometh, I fear me, in which there may be weeping and woe."

"Why dost thou think so?" she asked.

"I read much in the mother's sweet face," he returned. "When she gazes
on these scenes of her old happiness, there is a wistful, lingering
look in her eyes which seems to say, 'I am looking at ye for the last
time.' When she rises to depart, it is not with a merry remark, as it
used to be, but with a sigh and a silent tear, which I can read, though
you may not be able to do so. But it may be only one of those gloomy
forebodings which torment us sometimes without real foundation, and
from which the Lord, if He finds us faithful, delivers us happily; and
so may it be with our beloved mother. There will be lip service enough
to her when we go; but there are, of all about her, only ourselves upon
whom she can depend. O wife! when I think on all she hath been to me
since a child, I could give my life for her, even though I were to lose
thee, my darling."

"And I would follow thee, my lord. Life would be death without thee;
for, besides thee and our mother, whom have I in all the world to
protect me against that bad, terrible man, whose last threatening still
often seems to ring in my ears?"

A few days more, and through a pass in the Manikdown Hills, they
reached the considerable town of Ashtee, and thence Bhatoree, a pretty
village lying at the foot of the mountain, which is crowned by the
noble mausoleum of Sulabut Khan. There was a comfortable summer palace
there, now much decayed, but still habitable, which was then perfect,
and the Queen found it ready for her reception. Groves of mango trees
around afforded ample shelter for her followers and escort; and the
situation was so beautiful that many from Beejapoor, who had expected
to find only a savage wilderness of mountains, were now charmed with
the prospects before them. One more march, and the Royal city would be
gained in safety.

Here, too, all the officers and functionaries of State, with their
followers and troops, came to pay their respects and offer their
"mezzins" to the Royal lady. And though some had never seen her, yet
there were many who remembered her marriage; and by none was the
glorious campaign of 1564 forgotten, and all--old or new--were charmed
with her grace and dignity, the wisdom of her counsels, and, as far as
she could decide them, her own intentions; and she assured all that she
should leave them no more until God willed to take her, and exhorted
them to be faithful and true. So as soon as the palace in the citadel
could be prepared for her, the Queen made a triumphal march into the
city and fort.

Outwardly Ahmednugger presents no imposing appearance like Beejapoor.
There are no lofty palaces towering over the walls, no tall minarets
or domed mosques like those she had left behind her; but the city
had an aspect of comfort and peace, and the gardens of the Furhat
Mahal, the Bihishtee Bagh, or Garden of Paradise, were inviting and
pleasant to view, and though comparatively low, the Royal palace in
the fort was full of comfort. The faithful Mullek Umber, governor
of Dowlutabad, had sent from his new capital, Kirkee, large baskets
full of oranges and delicious grapes, writing that in the course of
a few days he would come himself; and there was no person whom the
Queen more earnestly desired to see, or in whom she reposed higher
confidence. Mullek Umber was, indeed, a remarkable man. From the
condition of an Abyssinian eunuch he had raised himself to the rank of
a viceroy of the kingdom, and governor of one of the largest provinces
of the Ahmednugger dominions. He had--following the example of the
Emperor Akhbar--surveyed and assessed all the lands in every village
of the country, and reduced the whole to a system which operated most
beneficially to the State as well as to the people. To this day the
original settlements exist in many a village record, and are proof
of the skill and patience with which they were executed, requiring
little alteration to suit modern demands. A humane, devout man, as well
as charitable and just, but not one to be drawn into the intrigues
and dissensions of a Court. Whatever happened there, he preserved a
dignified neutrality; too strong in his local position, and in the
devotion of his numerous troops, to be meddled with by anyone. He had
infinite respect for Queen Chand. He had followed the events of her
career with profound interest, and he could see that except through her
the affairs of the State had little chance of settlement or indeed of
salvation from ruin; and he watched with much anxiety what the result
of Queen Chand's first acts would be, though his counsel, when asked,
was given freely and honourably.

For the first week or more events at Ahmednugger were without
excitement, and nothing occurred to disturb their even current. The
Queen and her companions made excursions to the Royal palaces and
gardens without the fort; and even to one at some little distance,
in a ravine of the eastern range of hills, built near a pretty
cascade, which is well known to all present inhabitants of the English
cantonment as the "Happy Valley." There the broad plain of the Godavery
lay out before them; and even the grim rock fort of Dowlutabad, and
the tall white minaret of the Emperor Mahomed Toghluk, were distinctly
visible on a clear day. Maria and her brother were already longing
to proceed thither, and visit the Portuguese who had settled there,
many of whom were vine-dressers and orange cultivators; and the Queen
promised that when Mullek Umber should arrive she would despatch them
with him. Meanwhile, among the gunners and artificers of the local
army the Bishop and Maria had found many fellow-Christians; and as
no feeling of bigotry appeared to exist against them, they promised
themselves much success in their mission work; while some of the
Aurungabad Christians came over to partake of the sacraments of the
Church, and were heartily welcomed.

Thus passed many weeks. The Queen had received answers to all her
despatches. The Dekhany leader had not returned, but remained with the
Golconda troops, who were to take up their position at Owsa, while
those of Beejapoor occupied Nuldroog. Although some pretenders to
support the party of the spurious new King were known to exist, yet
for the most part the succession in the right direct line, by causing
the child Prince Bahadur to be crowned, and appointing the Queen Chand
formally to be Regent during the boy's minority, as she had been at
Beejapoor, was the desire of the majority. And of this course the sage
Mullek Umber entirely approved. There was no doubt of the purity of the
boy's descent, who, with his mother, had been confined in the fort of
Chawund; and when he arrived he was welcomed with joy, and on a given
day was crowned King in the great audience hall of the fort, with every
demonstration of satisfaction.

There is no doubt, however, that this bloodless revolution gave secret
umbrage to many, and some severe measures had to be taken. Ansar
Khan, the governor of the fort, was detected in active correspondence
with the Prince Moorad, representing the Queen as an abandoned woman;
the boy she had adopted as the son of a minion of her own; and that
the people, though they dare not complain, were in the last state
of discontent; and Ansar Khan being arraigned before the chiefs and
nobles, was convicted and suffered death. Secure in her position, the
Queen wrote to the Prince Moorad, recapitulating the past, quoting
the recantation of the Dekhany leader who had invited him. As a noble
and an honoured guest of the son of the great Emperor, whom it behoved
to protect an infant minor--he would be welcome, most welcome, and a
friendly embassy and escort would be sent to meet him; but if hostile
intentions still filled his mind, and force were resorted to, she was
well supported by her neighbours, and had made every preparation to
repel what she could not avert by conciliation.

But the cloud afar off only thickened, and became more and more
threatening week by week, and the Queen strained every nerve to
preserve the fort to the utmost, and prepare for what could not be much
longer averted.



CHAPTER III.
THE PROGRESS OF THE SIEGE.


The rainy season had ceased, and operations could now be undertaken
without danger of interruption from the weather. For some months
past the Prince Moorad Mirza had watched the progress of events at
Ahmednugger with the keenest interest; and had the Dekhany leaders been
united in regard to the election of the first King, it is probable
he would not have sought to disturb it, but would have made his
own terms with them. But their withdrawal from their position, the
spirited movement of the Queen Dowager in the coronation of Bahadur,
the infant King, and the rallying about her of parties who had before
been disunited, promised a very formidable coalition for defence. And
when, in addition to local unity, it became certain that the very
formidable cavalry of Beejapoor and Golconda had taken the field to
cover Ahmednugger, the Prince saw it was time, if he was to strike in
at all, to do so at once, before the eastern and southern forces could
arrive at their purposed destination. He had with him thirty thousand
of the flower of the Moghul cavalry, a large body of Rajpoot infantry
and artillery, and several of the most celebrated generals of his
father's army led different portions of the troops; and the prospect of
a campaign in a new country, and with the celebrated cavaliers of the
Dekhan, infused the highest spirits into all classes.

Two men had joined the Prince, in whom he had now much confidence.
Not long before, as he was hunting, a cavalier, well appointed, and
attended by a small body of spearmen, rode up to him, and offered his
services for the Dekhan campaign. He and his family had been, he said,
in the service of Beejapoor for some generations; but enemies had
prevailed against him, and he had left a service in which he could not
stay with honour. He knew the whole country of the Dekhan, and most of
the leaders of parties, Dekhanies and foreigners, and could direct the
Prince to means of success to which he would, with his own people only,
remain a stranger.

This brief colloquy had been followed by a private interview, in which
Osman Beg--for it was the man whom we have already seen degraded and
dismissed from Beejapoor--laid before the Prince and some of his most
esteemed councillors the condition of the whole of the Dekhan, that
of its armies and parties, and the position of the Queen Dowager at
Ahmednugger, which he did not undervalue. He told them that they should
not despise the power of a woman like her, whom no danger could appal,
nor ordinary resistance overcome; and that in the Dekhan there was
no commander to equal her in the field; while the people loved her,
and would, most of them, support her to the last. The great object,
therefore, should be to shut her up in Ahmednugger before she could
withdraw the infant King to the protection of Beejapoor, which had
ample means for defence.

"And what, sir, may be your motive for offering your services to me?"
asked the Prince, doubtingly.

"Revenge," returned the other. "Ask me not for what; that may appear in
time even to thee. And, for the rest, accept this poor sword, or reject
it, as seems best to your Highness. To serve in the army of the King of
kings, under his famous son, has long been a dream of mine, wherever
that service might lead me. And now that it turns upon my enemies,
can I refuse? If my star is not fortunate to gain a place under your
Highness, I will seek my fortune elsewhere. I am a soldier, and know no
occupation other than my sword gives me."

"Such men are among the necessities of war," said the Prince to Khan
Khanan, his commander-in-chief, when they were alone. "What think you
of him?"

"I see deceit and treachery in his face," was the reply. "But what can
that signify to us? He has some scheme of private revenge to carry out,
and he will be faithful to that if not to us. Give him a command, for
he has undoubted knowledge of the country which no one else possesses,
and in this he will be of use."

So Osman Beg was attached to the division of Khan Jehan, and
accompanied the army in the capacity of guide and director of the
marches towards Ahmednugger.

Meanwhile Dom Diego had not been idle. Acting under the advice of his
banker at Surat, he had written a petition to the Prince, representing
himself as a soldier of fortune, recently arrived from Europe, who
had knowledge of the attack and defence of fortified places, and the
direction of artillery in the field; and, anxious for employment,
offered his services to the Royal army. While at Surat he had heard
from his cousin at Goa of the appointment of Francis d'Almeida as
Bishop of Ahmednugger, and subsequently, that he and his sister had
accompanied Queen Chand to her destination. What better opportunity
could be afforded for carrying off Maria than the turmoil of a siege
and assault. He had seen much service as a soldier in the East.
Personally he was brave, and in his own land had studied for the
profession of artillery and fortifications. There was no doubt as to
his probable usefulness. European adventurers had often rendered very
essential service to the Royal armies; but the best of them were at
Dehli, and should the applicant be what he described himself, his
presence against one of the most celebrated forts of the Dekhan,
improved, it was said, by the Portuguese, would be invaluable.

A few days after this, Dom Diego, accompanied by Pedro di Diaz and a
party of his sailors accustomed to the use of large guns, arrived in
the Royal camp, and was heartily welcomed. The fine martial figure of
the new comer made a favourable impression upon the Prince; and the
complete suit of mail in which he made his entry into camp, seated
on a noble Kattiwar charger, was remarkable and imposing. As before,
Pedro di Diaz was his interpreter, but he found the Prince to possess
a considerable knowledge of Portuguese, which he had learned at his
father's, the Emperor's Court; and Dom Diego, after a short interview,
found himself not only much more at his ease than he had expected to
be, but appointed to a lucrative post, as inspector and regulator of
the artillery.

As he was leaving the Prince's tent, an officer, apparently of the
Royal army, came up to him and said, "I ought to know that face. Hast
thou forgotten the mission of Moodgul and the plan of Eyn-ool-Moolk?"

"No; thou art Osman Beg," was the reply, "and I have not forgotten. But
thou here, my friend? Methought the fair Zóra, whom thou used to tell
me about, would have more charms for thee than war?"

"What has brought thee, O friend," returned the other, "has brought
me, strange as it is. There are two women in Ahmednugger whom we would
have. Nay, deny it not; and we may easily take them when there is none
to defend them. Your Maria is there; and what matter if you appear as a
soldier to gain her?"

"Thou hast guessed shrewdly, friend," was the reply; "it is even so. I
find my life dull without her, and such devotion as I offer to her may
be accepted at last. And if not--well, we shall see. I have no relish
for priestly offices, and war and its excitement suit me much better.
Will the Queen fight?"

"As far as a woman can, she undoubtedly will fight. Men may feel fear,
but she does not even in the face of imminent danger. If the people
with her are only true to her, you will see that the result will
flutter some of these silken love-birds of Dehli. Our Dekhan ways are
rough, but the men of Ahmednugger are roughest of all; and some of thy
countrymen made the fort what it is."

"Then it will require one of them to open the casket. Who knows where
to find the key? And if my old knowledge has not departed from me, I
may be able to do what force cannot do, or these wretched guns which
the Prince thinks so much of."

"And the guns of Ahmednugger foundries have ever been famous since the
days of Chuleby Roomy Khan, the Turk, and many have been bought from
your countrymen. I would advise caution, Señor; and may Alla send us
a good deliverance! When the time comes, we may be able to help each
other; till then we may meet seldom, or not at all, for my place will
be the advanced division."

"And mine with the main body and the Prince, where you will always find
me, Osman Beg, at your service. If you will keep your own counsel, I
can keep mine; and though we care for what we hope to win, there are
many here who would laugh at us if they knew our desires; and, from
what I hear, the Prince sets his face against any abduction of the
enemy's women."

"I, at least, can demand my wife, after the custom of our law," said
Osman Beg, with a swagger.

"When she is the wife of another? Ha! ha!" returned the priest, with a
sneering laugh. "You are not particular, perhaps, though I am. But we
need not interfere with each other; and so, farewell!"

While the great army was in slow but certain progress towards the goal
of its desire, we must return for a brief while to the personages
in this tale whom we left there. Since the coronation of the boy
King, Bahadur, there had been no violent disturbance of the public
peace; and though some of the leaders of parties still held aloof,
watching the course of events, others had frankly joined the Queen
and declared for her policy. The fort was now full of men, and one of
the best soldiers of the State, Nihung Khan, who had been confined
at Dowlutabad for several years, was released by Mullek Umber, and
sent, with six thousand good cavalry, to keep the frontier, and, if
necessary, to join the Queen. The Queen herself, with calm fortitude,
collected provisions till the fort granaries were quite full. Every
piece of ordnance was thoroughly inspected, and made fit for service.
Shot, powder, entrenching tools, and gabions were prepared; nor,
in consultation with her artillery officers, was any measure left
incomplete for defence. All walls, huts, and some houses which had
encroached upon the esplanade were levelled, and nothing existed to
obstruct the fire of the place. She was fearful of exciting jealousy
in the minds of her troops, and did not therefore appoint Abbas Khan
to the command of the fort, as she wished to do; but he was her
indefatigable assistant in every department; nor was there a day in
which the Royal lady did not visit works in progress, or go out on
visits of inspection to points where it was suggested trenches might be
made, or other hindrances to the enemy's advance contrived.

There continued, however, one permanent source of disquietude and
anxiety to her, which was the inactivity of the Beejapoor and Golconda
forces, for as yet they had made no forward movement; and as the
weather was now open, they ought to have taken up the positions she had
suggested. Once, indeed, when she wrote to Soheil Khan, the Beejapoor
officer in command, that the Moghul cavalry were about to make a
movement to turn the flank of the general defences of the kingdom,
twelve thousand cavalry were despatched from Nuldroog, by way of Bheer,
to hold them in check; but the movement proved futile, the Beejapoor
force was defeated and routed by six thousand Moghuls, under Khan Jehan
Lody, one of the best generals of the army, and the Beejapoor troops
fled back from the Godavery in confusion, to tell tales of Moghul
prowess, which considerably added to the existing alarm. In truth,
Osman Beg had rendered essential service in this movement. By a rapid
march he had turned the flank of the forces which covered Dowlutabad;
he had prevented the junction of Nihung Khan's troops with those of
Beejapoor; and by the defeat of the latter, the rear of Ahmednugger,
the fertile plain of the Godavery, and several easy passes up to the
very precincts of the fort, were left in almost perfect tranquillity
to the invaders. Thenceforth the Queen knew she had no one from whom
she could expect aid, but she did not relax her preparations or her
vigilance. She knew her nephew could not leave Beejapoor, for without
one or other of them the capital could not be trusted; and Soheil Khan,
the general who had been sent with the cavalry, though a brave man, was
by no means an enterprising officer, or one on whom she could depend
in an emergency. Oh! that it had been Humeed Khan, or anyone of the
devoted friends who had ever supported her, then there would have been
neither doubt nor hesitation. Soheil Khan was a calm, reflective man,
and it was on this account, perhaps, that he had been sent. He could
perceive clearly enough that if Beejapoor took any open part in the
war, the Moghuls, when Ahmednugger fell, would infallibly declare war
against it, and that, under all considerations, would be the safest
policy.

At first, our friends the Bishop and his sister had thought that peace
would not be broken. The Queen seemed so firm in her position, the
fort was so strong, and the enemy so distant, that Francis d'Almeida
did not like to defer taking up the charge he was responsible for to
his Church; and, taking advantage of the arrival of Mullek Umber, they
travelled in his suite on his return; but they found only comparatively
very few Christians at Dowlutabad, who were cultivators of grapes
and oranges, and a few at the new city of Kirkee, which was then
being built--who were gunners and soldiers. Many years before, a lay
monk had settled among them from Goa, and had contrived to keep the
little flock together; but both Francis and Maria saw that it could
not readily increase, and that it would be a waste of time to remain
there longer than would be necessary to establish the foundations of
what might arise hereafter; and when a small chapel in the city of
Kirkee was completed under Mullek Umber's assistance, who, it was
believed, had greater reverence for his old faith than was consistent
with his profession of Islam, they took their departure, and arrived
at Ahmednugger shortly before the irruption of the Moghuls and the
defeat of the Beejapoor forces had closed the valley of the Godavery to
general travellers.

The Queen was rejoiced at her friends' arrival. If for a brief
time she had doubted whether the comparative quiet and security of
Dowlutabad would not prove more attractive to them than the imminent
risk of war which menaced her, their arrival dispelled all such
thoughts, and she estimated at its full worth the devotion and good
faith of the Bishop and his sister. They had not only returned to their
flock, but were prepared to render such assistance as their peaceful
calling enabled them to do very usefully and practically. As there
was no apparent chance of being relieved by Beejapoor, and an attack
by the Moghul army appeared more and more imminent every day, from
the reports of progress by the enemy, the worthy Bishop set himself
to organise something in the form of a hospital, in which Maria, from
former experience at Goa, was able to render her brother very essential
service. A large magazine was cleared out, and fitted as well as
circumstances would allow for the purpose. Bandages, splints, and such
other necessaries as could be obtained, were stored in it; and while
the result was watched curiously by the garrison, yet it gave assurance
in no small degree that the wounded would be cared for, and not left to
chance, as was too often the case.

We need not, perhaps, follow the daily routine of lives which had no
change, nor any alleviation of anxiety common to all. The Queen held
her accustomed durbars, and received reports; she visited the posts as
often as was possible, especially at night, to guard against surprise;
and with the danger growing nearer and nearer, appeared to display
increasing fortitude and resignation, and this demeanour had incited
in her garrison the highest spirit of devotion and loyalty. Maria
and Zóra, her indefatigable assistants, had their hands full of work
of their own; but at times of comparative leisure they met together,
read to or conversed with their Royal mistress, or often in the still
evenings sat with her on the terrace roof of the palace, looking over
the wide country, and watching the bodies of troops marching to their
posts, or exercising in the open space in the centre of the fort, till
the evening watches were set, and all at last was at rest.

If Nihung Khan and his Abyssinians could but arrive, the accession of
strength would prove an additional security. But day after day passed,
and he came not. There were no means of communicating with him, while
messenger after messenger was captured or cut off by the force of Khan
Jehan Lody, which seemed to be as ubiquitous as it was vigilant. But
the Queen did not abandon hope, she knew Nihung Khan to be wary and
vigilant, and should he confine himself to the duty of harassing the
besiegers and cutting off their supplies, important services would be
rendered.

And at last no doubt remained. On December 12, according to the local
history, the leading troops of the Moghuls advanced within sight of the
fortress. All the morning their kettledrums and trumpets had been heard
in the distance, and by a little after noon the crowd of officers, of
cavalry, with the Prince's royal canopy in the centre, borne upon a
lofty elephant, appeared in the vicinity of the Hushti Bihisht Gardens,
which had been the scene of many a pleasant day's festival for the
Queen and her companions. It was in vain that Abbas Khan, and spirited
young leaders like himself, pressed her to allow them to make a sally
and endeavour to throw the enemy into confusion; the Queen positively
forbade the attempt. If Nihung Khan did appear, they might advance
to assist him; but any reverse now would make her situation more
desperate, and render the defence of the fort--in which she, perhaps,
placed too much confidence--out of the question altogether.

Early next morning they watched the great army form in line--a
magnificent though terrible spectacle--and the Royal Prince,
accompanied by some officers, rode round the fort, out of reach of
shots, pointing out to the leaders of each division the ground it was
to occupy. One officer, who acted more boldly than the rest, advanced
near enough to be within reach of shot, but escaped unhurt. As they all
watched him from the roof of the palace, Abbas Khan felt sure he was a
European; but the Royal army contained many such adventurers, and the
Bishop, though he could not distinguish the features, felt a conviction
that it could be no other than Dom Diego. He, however, kept his own
counsel, and said nothing to his sister.

During that day and part of the next the investiture of the fort was
completed on three sides--north, west, and south; but the east side
was not closed. Now Nihung Khan, whose advance had been so eagerly
looked for, had made a rapid march to Beejapoor, and had represented
to the King Ibrahim the extreme danger of the Queen's position. He had
succeeded in obtaining some cavalry, which with his own levy made up
about seven thousand men; and with this he had hoped to arrive before
the fort was invested, but if not, to cut his way through the enemy's
lines. He had also, when within twelve miles of the fort, sent out
spies, who not only reported to him that the east side was as yet
unoccupied, but contrived to inform the Queen that he was at hand, and
would, God willing, be with her next day; and we may imagine with what
intense anxiety he was expected.

The Queen had arisen before daylight, and was watching with Zóra from
their usual place, when they heard suddenly a great but distant clamour
arise to the eastward of the fort, which continued for some time. At
last a body of horsemen, some few hundreds only in number, emerged
from under cover of some hedges, and at headlong speed crossed the
esplanade. It was Nihung Khan, who had marched during the night with
his whole body, but found that, instead of an open passage to the fort,
he became engaged with the Khan Khanan's powerful division of the Royal
army. He himself, with his immediate body-guard, had cut his way
through the enemy to join his Royal mistress, leaving the main body,
which had retreated, to retire upon the Beejapoor forces. Welcome as a
gallant soldier like Nihung Khan was, even with a comparative handful
of men, yet, on the other hand, there was no longer any doubt that the
investiture of the fort was complete, and that the siege had commenced.

The enemy's operations were conducted with skill and military science.
No other measures would have been available against such a place
as Ahmednugger. Dom Diego, after several feints, established his
head-quarters and trenches on the south-west side of the fort, and
thence continued his approaches by regular parallels to the crest of
the glacis, or as near as possible to the point, whence, eventually,
the breaching batteries were established; but the defenders' artillery
was infinitely superior to his own, and the operations had been slow
and difficult. Not only did the artillerists of the fort maintain their
ancient reputation, but the practice of the Arabs in the garrison
was very fatal. With their excellent matchlocks nothing could show
itself in the Moghul trenches without being hit, and the real terror
they inspired was very great. Then the garrison became more and more
confident, and their courage rose in proportion. Day and night the
Queen herself patrolled the fort, watching the terrible game with a
kind of fascination. Nor could her ordinary companions be restrained
from sharing the danger with her; while, at night, the well-known
slight figures, passing from post to post, were greeted with many a
fervent blessing and prayer for their safety. And who shall tell of
the gentle ministrations of Maria and her brother; the care and skill
with which wounds were dressed; the soothing and thirst-assuaging
drinks that were composed and ministered? Sometimes the worthy Bishop
would accompany Meeah in his rounds, or sit with him at his post,
offering a hint here, a suggestion there, as far as his small military
skill enabled him to do; and when the point of attack was finally
established, his directions as to the flanking fire to be maintained,
in case any breach was made, were eminently useful. "Priests," he
said one day, laughing, "need not be soldiers; yet in my country many
a Bishop has been obliged to fight for the cause of his Church, and
why not I for my little flock?" Thus, in the semi-circular bastion at
the angle, which was large and roomy, and held a number of guns, he
succeeded in placing two of the best pieces in the fort; and for the
defence and the cover of the gunners he used large gabions filled with
earth, which afforded complete protection. It was in vain that Dom
Diego directed his guns upon this and other large bastions defended
in the same manner. The nearer he approached, the more deadly was the
defenders' fire. His trenches were raked by it, and by no means could
it be silenced. Nor were the Ahmednugger gunners forgetful of the
legend of the employment of bags of the heavy square copper money of
the country, and occasionally a shower of it was sent hurtling through
the air with a screaming noise which inspired more terror, perhaps,
than it did actual mischief, except at very close quarters.

In truth, Dom Diego's position was not an enviable one. The Prince had
looked to him to discover some easy manner in which the fort might be
at once assaulted and taken by storm. Any sacrifice of men he would
have considered of no consequence; but the admirable construction of
Ahmednugger forbade any attempt at escalade with hope of success. Its
lofty walls, its deep and extremely broad ditch, the height of the
counterscarp and defences for musketry were unapproachable. The Moghul
artillery, too, was none of the best, and was too light for siege
purposes; very little effect had been produced upon the lower part of
the fort. Here and there a few stones had been broken and displaced,
but the facing only covered and marked the real strength which was in
the earth, solidified by age, of which the rampart was composed. Day
after day guns melted at the vent or at the muzzle, and became useless,
and no progress was made.

On the part of the commanders of the Royal army, two anxieties of a
very serious character were ever present. Provisions were getting
very scarce, scarce enough to reduce the ordinary rations of the men
and horses. For although the Beejapoor troops did not advance to the
capital, they had command of the most fertile districts, from which
grain and forage could be derived; and the circle grew narrower. This,
however, was kept a profound secret, and the operations were continued
as usual.

The beginning of February had now arrived, and progress in the siege
was as dilatory as ever; and at a council of war the whole chances of
success were discussed calmly. Should the Beejapoor troops advance, the
siege must be raised; and in regard to the siege itself all seemed to
depend upon the success of mining, which Dom Diego had counselled from
the first, but which the native excavators declared to be impossible
on account of the firm, stony nature of the soil. If mines could be
carried under even one of the central bastions, and a breach made,
there would, it was considered, be no doubt of success.

Just then the Queen wrote in the most urgent terms she could to the
Beejapoor officers. If they advanced at once, and operated against the
rear of the Moghul lines, nothing could save the enemy from defeat,
and most likely destruction, for their cattle were already dying of
starvation; the fort was still intact, and there had been but few
casualties; in short, that victory was within their grasp if they would
but take it. These letters were intercepted by Osman Beg, who took them
to the Prince, who added a few lines of his own in a chivalrous spirit,
to the effect that he had marched from Dehli on purpose to cross swords
with the cavaliers of the Dekhan, and was waiting for them, and
trusted they would not delay the opportunity he had so long desired.

But no result followed on these letters, and the Queen almost began to
despair of the good faith of Beejapoor. Why should they allow such an
opportunity to escape? Again and again did Abbas Khan and Nihung Khan
press her to allow them to depart secretly and make their way through
the hills; but the Royal lady felt that the danger to the fort must
draw to a head, and whether the Moghuls raised the siege and departed,
or whether the crisis of an assault arrived, their presence was alike
indispensable.



CHAPTER IV.
THE ASSAULT.


For several days the fire of the besiegers had much slackened, and the
spirits of the besieged rose in proportion to the highest pitch. Were
the Moghuls in reality preparing to abandon the attack and retire?
It might be so, indeed, for a considerable body of Beejapoor cavalry
had at last moved forwards and taken post in the Manikdown Hills,
from whence their operations against the Moghul supplies and distant
outposts were beginning to be seriously felt; but they were by no
means strong enough to effect any considerable diversion, and, up to
the night of Feb. 20, affairs continued in the same position. But the
inactivity of the enemy appeared unaccountable to the Queen and her
council. Upon what could they be relying? The allied armies were at
Bheer, and by a sudden and energetic march might be with her in three
days; but it was impossible for the Queen to communicate with her
friends, every egress from the fort being so vigilantly watched night
and day. But the suspense only lasted till the night of the day we have
named, when, as all were watching on the walls, a loud manly voice was
heard from the opposite side of the ditch, which cried out--

"O ye brave friends and brothers in the faith, no longer make a vain
resistance. Ye have fought well for your honour, and may save the
shedding of more blood. Under the five bastions whereon ye stand five
mines have been silently driven. They are loaded and ready, and they
will be fired to admit the army of the King of kings. Beware, then, for
I have warned ye; and your fate cannot be averted but by surrender."

Then, amidst the profoundest silence, the voice ceased. No figure was
seen, for it was a profoundly dark night, and some, overcome with awe,
cried, "It is a warning from the Lord; it is the voice of an angel;
who shall resist it?" and a great fear fell upon all. But the strange
incident only seemed to inspire the heroic Queen with new courage, and
mounting a slight elevation of the parapet, her clear, sweet voice was
heard above all murmurs.

"Shall we who are unhurt, and have victory in our grasp if we
persevere, give up our swords, and like frightened women betake
ourselves to the feet of the invader and beg for our lives? Shall we,
with arms in our hands, cease to use them to protect all dear to us.
Your women and children, O my sons, will hardly thank ye for abandoning
them to the brutal violence of the Moghul soldiers. Behold! I am but
a woman, and a weak one; but I leave not this spot with my life; and,
come what may, I rely upon the most just Lord to deliver us and ye all
from this tyranny. Away, bring up the miners; we know the places, so
there is no doubt. Bring tools, and set to work. I would rather tear
up the earth with my weak fingers, than suffer this danger to exist
while we have the time and the means to avert it."

Then arose a hoarse cry of "We will not desert thee, O Mother. We will
die if it be God's will, but we will not yield. Fear not then, but see
what we do."

At first there was some little confusion, but gangs were speedily
organised, and with a hearty good will they set to work, led by the
Queen, who, with a pickaxe in her hand, descended into the shaft, and,
with those dearest to her about her, worked like the rest; going from
shaft to shaft, distributing draughts of cool water and sherbet to
those who suffered thirst. It was impossible to exceed the enthusiasm
which her heroism inspired.

Nihung Khan, Abbas Khan, and even the pacific Bishop, excited by the
turmoil, ran from place to place and encouraged all. Nor was the result
disappointing. While they were thus employed, another voice called to
them from the bottom of the wall to surrender, for that at daylight the
mines would be sprung. But the warning passed unheeded; two mines had
been laid bare, and the charges of powder removed after sharp contests
under ground; and the Queen was in the act of distributing rewards
for the removal of the charge of a third, when, with a fearful report
and crash, a fourth mine, as yet undiscovered, was sprung just as day
dawned on the scene, and a few yards of the wall fell.

When the first mine had been struck by the counterminers, and the
persons driven out of it had gained the trenches, the alarm was at
once given in the camp, and the Prince Moorad hurried to the spot at
a moment of extreme peril to the Moghul army, for the first mines had
occupied the better part of a month. But the skill of the counterminers
was so evident from the rapidity with which they had discovered and
disarmed them during the night, that it seemed hopeless to continue
the work, as well on account of the nature of the ground as because
provisions were on the point of exhaustion. His adviser, Dom Diego, had
not foreseen such a catastrophe as failure. He had visited the mines
the evening before while they were being charged; he had watched the
skill with which the native miners laid the charges and tamped them;
and the result would, he thought, inevitably be that three at least
of the mines must destroy the bastions under which they were placed,
and furnish three practicable breaches for the stormers, who would be
composed of the flower of the Royal army. But these plans had failed.
All that remained was one small mine under a part of the curtain, which
had been intended to enlarge another of the main mines. It might make a
practicable breach, but it would be a narrow one, and it might possibly
fail altogether.

The Prince and Dom Diego stood together on one of the parapets of the
temple looking over the fort, the interior of which, as the day was
breaking, could be seen distinctly, with the thousands of men like ants
hurrying to and fro, carrying earth in baskets, in cloths, and as best
they could, from the countermines. Parties of them were collecting, and
even breaking the surface of the ground near the small mine we have
mentioned. Dom Diego pointed out the place to the Prince.

"There is our last resource, for the other mines are not charged; and
they would be useless if they were. Shall I fire it? We shall at least
see what sort of a heap it makes; and I, for one, am ready to lead any
party your Highness may appoint to storm it."

"Well said, sir," exclaimed the Prince, "and like a gallant soldier.
When thou art within thou wilt have the treasury and Royal jewels to
help thyself from, and I hear they are both rich."

"My treasure is of another kind," replied Diego, "and I do not intend
to neglect it. Shall the mine be fired?"

"Bismilla!" cried the Prince. "Lose no time."

"I have laid the train," said Pedro di Diaz, who came up at the
instant; "but the chamber is not half charged, not enough tamped, but
it will do something."

"Then fire it in the devil's name," cried Dom Diego. "I will watch."

A few moments more, and two thin columns of smoke issued from the fort
wall, and from that part of the counterscarp which was opposite. These
places heaved slightly upwards, and earth and stones arose with a
muffled sound, casting into the air the bodies of a number of men who
had been walking on the fort wall. The effect of these explosions was
a clear road into the ditch from the counterscarps, and an apparently
practicable though steep breach in the rampart of the fort.

"It is done!" cried Dom Diego, with a wave of his plumed hat to the
Prince. "If your Highness will send for the stormers I will lead them
at once, if they will follow me."

In the fort, as the smoke and dust of the explosion cleared away, some
of the garrison seemed to have given up hope, and were girding their
loins for flight; but the Queen was equal to the emergency. While she
called to those about her to remember their oath to her, to rally their
men, for the gates were closed, and there was no egress for flight,
she cried, "And whither would ye fly, O sons and brothers? To the
plain yonder, to perish by the swords of your enemies? Nay, for your
honour's sake, desert me not now; and to the latest day of the Dekhan
your deeds shall be sung by bards and minstrels. See, we women blench
not from the storm; and she who brings my armour and my sword, a holy
Syud's daughter, will die here with me, and her husband, my children
both, rather than yield while we have life." Then, as Zóra, clad in the
old green dress of the Turreequt, approached, the Queen withdrew for
an instant, and putting on her morion and a suit of light chain mail,
with gauntlets, and waving a naked sword, came forward among them,
crying the old battle cry of her husband. Over her face, as it was
becoming light, she had cast a transparent veil, but every feature was
visible, glowing with a rapt enthusiasm and confidence.

"To the breach, my friends, with me!" she cried. "Who will follow my
veil? Behold it will lead you to honour, if to death; never to infamy.
If we die, we shall sip the nectar of Paradise ere night."

No one attempted to resist this appeal. With passionate cries of
devotion, with tears and sobs, the leaders and men, with her beloved
Abbas Khan, pressed forward to do their best in her defence. The rough
veteran, Nihung Khan, with tears flowing down his cheeks, besought her
to retire to a place of safety, but she cried the more that she would
remain; and in her own Battle of the Veil it behoved her to lead, and
no other.

But it was yet some time before the Moghuls advanced to storm, and
the delay enabled the besiegers to make some defence for the breach
available. A double row of gabions was placed over the crest, and
filled with earth; the best marksmen among the Arabs and the garrison
were posted on the wall above its sides; wall pieces were brought from
other parts of the fort; rocket-men plied their rockets on the crest of
the glacis opposite, through which a road had been sloped from above.
Behind the gabions, and sheltered by them, dense bodies of spearmen
stood in serried ranks. In short, no precaution that Abbas Khan and
his companions could bethink themselves of was neglected. Even the
Bishop, who the whole night through had been at work, ran from his post
on the large bastion to see that all was in proper order, and his few
directions were practical and useful.

Every preparation had been made that could be contrived. Every gun
that the fortifications allowed of had been trained on the breach and
the enemy's road thither. The garrison had been divided into bodies,
so as to relieve each other as quickly as possible without crowding;
and though the enemy fired occasionally from the trenches against the
breach and the parapets of walls, the precautions which had been taken
of covering the men with gabions and sandbags almost entirely prevented
casualties. As to the breach itself, though the enemy fired continually
at it, they produced no effect, as their shot, knocking up a cloud
of dust, only sank into the earth harmlessly. Presently, also, Abbas
Khan and some of the boldest Arabs contrived to let down some gabions
below the crest of the breach, where they established themselves,
thus affording increased matchlock fire of a fatal character, besides
opposing an additional obstacle to the stormers.

"He is sending us his best soldiers, mother," said Abbas Khan, settling
his turban more firmly on his head, as he prepared to descend to his
post; "but fear not, none will come near thee."

"Rather let one blow of thy good sword release me, son," she said.
"'Twould be but kindness, if God will."

He made no reply; but the tears welled up in his eyes as he left her
and his beloved wife together, and heard their cries of "Deen! Deen!"
as he entered his perilous position.

Still they waited and no advance was made; and the Queen was not
unmindful of the necessity of furnishing food for the men who had
watched with her all night. Since very early, before daylight, the
cooks had been busy preparing pilaos and boiled meats, which now
began to arrive in huge cauldrons, and was distributed to the men by
companies; and all sat down and ate their plattersful, or gathered
round huge dishes, and ate their fill; but no one moved from his
appointed station; while the Queen and her attendants, disdaining more
delicate viands prepared for them, partook of the general mess of
camels' meat and rice, plentifully seasoned with pepper and onions, and
which was by no means to be despised by hungry folk. Indeed, for the
time, the area of the fort in the vicinity of the breach was a place of
feasting. Elephants moved to and fro with large water-skins, and men
bearing jars of cool sherbet gave freely to those that needed it; and,
taking example from the Queen's forethought, every private house in the
fort sent its quota of food or of drink.

So noon came, and the voice of the muezzin chaunted the call to prayer
from different quarters of the fort, as if no deadly strife were
imminent, and the Moslems spread scarves or waist-bands where they
stood or sat. The Queen had not stirred since the morning from the
place she had taken up near the gabions; and the only protection she
would allow the people to make for her and Zóra against the sun was
a few cloths tied to spears. Once Maria had come to see her from her
own post, the hospital, but there was no time for much speaking; and,
committing them to the care of God, she returned to her post with her
brother, the masses of rough soldiery making way for her with the most
profound respect. One look with her brother she took from the great
flanking bastion along the side of the fort attacked, and it gave her
an assurance she could hardly have expected.

The whole side of the fort was uninjured, except near the breach, where
there had been much pelting by the enemy's shot, but no fracture.
The _débris_ of the mine had spread out as far as the bottom of the
ditch, and partly lay on its level floor; but it seemed, even to her,
a perilous place for people to ascend. Some part of the counterscarp
had apparently been dug down or blown in, and it was evidently the way
by which the enemy would approach. All along the wall, every gun that
could be aimed was directed upon the breach, and the two beautiful
bastions which formed the Queen's post.

One reason for delay was the indecision in the Moghul camp. Many
experienced veterans declared that it was waste of life only to
attempt to storm Ahmednugger by such a breach as had been made.
Reproachful epithets were freely banded about, and it seemed a question
whether any attack would be made that day. But Dom Diego's savage
temper would brook no control. "I will take the place with the five
Europeans I have," he cried, "and cowards can follow at their leisure;
as if breaches in fort walls were to be made like beaten highways for
dainty fops to strut upon." Dom Diego was, in truth, weary of the
idleness of the Moghul officers. There was not a true soldier among
them, and he often thought failure imminent; but Maria was there, and
while it was possible to win her, even a soldier's death would be
better than the hell of tumultuous feeling which raged within him.

At last the signal for assault was given from the enemy's camp. First,
the huge imperial kettledrums sounded a march in their deep booming
notes, and a general discharge of all their artillery in the trenches
followed; while, in the bastion of the fort, the Portuguese and Hindoo
native gunners stood or lounged among their piles of shot and bags of
copper coin. Many of them were known to Maria; their wives were helping
her in her own work, and all saluted her reverently and affectionately
as she left them with a prayer that the Lord would protect them all.

All through the Moghul trenches the silence was almost oppressive. The
muezzin's call to prayer was proclaimed like that in the fort; and,
for a brief space, only a distant hum from the town and camp could be
heard. As Maria stood on the steps of the great bastion, she could hear
flies buzzing about her, the birds chirruping in the trees near her,
and even the lowing and bleating of the cattle and sheep which were
grazing in the broad ditch on the sheltered side of the fortress. The
sun shone through the thunderous air with a fierce hot glare over all,
and the plain and glacis were quivering in the trembling light. The
wind had fallen, and the stillness and heat were so oppressive that she
was glad to gain the cool shelter of the large vaulted building. Many
fresh guns that had been brought to bear upon the breach aroused the
echoes even of the distant hills; but the shot had little effect upon
the extemporised defences of the breach, or upon the parapets anywhere;
and the Queen and Zóra, looking through a loophole that commanded the
breach, saw, with a thrill of delight, that Abbas Khan in his perilous
post was safe.

Suddenly, on the crest of one of the trenches beyond, a tall, powerful
figure, dressed in European costume, stood forth, waving a naked sword,
which flashed in the sun; while with the other hand he removed a plumed
morion from his head, and made a courteous salute to the fort. He wore
a bright corselet of steel, with gauntlets, and a buff coat and boots,
richly embroidered. In his left hand he carried a stout stick, but no
shield or other defence whatever. For an instant there was a shout of
"Shabash! Shabash Feringi!" and, instantly, a crowd of men scrambled
over the trenches, and, as he pointed to the breach, followed him.
And these, some hundreds in number, Europeans and native volunteers,
formed the forlorn hope. Again, others came on in denser array: Arabs,
Pathans, Afghans, Rajpoots, dressed in yellow tunics; and other tribes,
many singing their war song, others shouting their national war cries,
armed with matchlocks, sword, shield, and spear, flashing in the
afternoon sun, which poured its hot rays on all. It was now somewhat
past four in the afternoon, and the sultry heat of the day had become
almost sickening, when a slight breeze from the west waved the banners
of the advancing host, and slightly displaced the cloud of dust which
had arisen over them. It was a glorious, awe-inspiring spectacle truly;
but the defenders blenched not from it; every man grasped his weapon
more firmly, and stood at his post prepared for the worst, should it
come. On the far side of the ditch, along the crest of the counterscarp
and covered way, clouds of skirmishers spread themselves, pouring their
shot upon the defences; but the fire had little effect, and gradually
slackened.

Scrambling down the road prepared for them by the mine, and without
order, large bodies of stormers now poured across the ditch, the tall
figure of the European bounding before them all to the very foot of the
breach, when suddenly one of the large guns on each of the flanking
bastions sent its deadly discharge of round shot and copper hail
among the crowds beneath with fearful effect. Hundreds fell, writhing;
while from every bastion rockets, fire-balls, and musketry smote them
as they lay or straggled onwards. There was no chance of retreat, for
the masses in the rear, which came on in a continuous stream, were
not checked, and any of the foremost who faltered, or turned to fly,
were thrown down and trampled into the dust. Again and again did Dom
Diego attempt the breach, but the earth was so loose that footing could
hardly be maintained; and the grim serried ranks which covered the
crest of the breach gave little hope that could he and those with him
reach the bristling ranks of broad spears beyond, they could force an
entrance, while Abbas Khan and his body of Arabs plied them with shot,
few of which missed their mark.

But still none of the stormers turned; on the contrary, thousands of
men charged down the counterscarp, to be met with the same volleys from
the great guns, which proved so deadly and so effective. Once Dom Diego
and some hundreds of men, collected hastily, made a rush up the breach,
and interchanged blows with its defenders; and Abbas Khan, struck with
his devoted bravery, called to him to take quarter, and come to his
post; but the humane effort was rejected with an oath, and he fell back
among the struggling masses to seek volunteers for a task which was
beyond the power of man.

Can we, even in imagination, realise in any degree that fearful
maddening scene--the discharges of the great guns at intervals carrying
destruction to hundreds at every shot, assisted by the rockets, the
musketry, and the fire-balls from the walls? Even these were little
in comparison with the frantic struggles of the masses as they were
urged on by the Prince in person and his generals--the shouts, the
screams, and cries of wounded and dying men, the fierce thirst which
consumed all! The ditch, from the first almost covered by the dead
and dying, was now rising under the heaps beneath, which every moment
augmented. There was no escape and no progress; the masses contrived to
descend, ignorant of what was before them; and as it was industriously
circulated by the Prince and his advisers that the breach had been
stormed and the fort was being plundered all rushed on to gain a
share of the riches it was supposed to contain--only to be met by the
withering fire which destroyed them, and the horrible heaps of carnage
grew higher and higher as the evening wore on.

As to Queen Chand, we read in the old chronicles how--fearless among
the storm of shot, dauntless among the horrid cries and shrieks which
filled the air--she was seen everywhere, distributing rewards, giving
water to the wounded and thirsty, and encouraging all. Nor was the
green figure beside her less active or less useful. Sometimes they were
at the breach, down which they looked, with a fascination which could
not be repressed, upon the masses of struggling forms beneath them.
But still Zóra saw her brave lord safe; and he even smiled and waved
them back, as the Queen, mounting the parapet of the gabions, spoke
a few words of encouragement to their defenders. All saw her as she
defended the breach in person; and the flutter of the "standard of the
veil," which she still wore over her bright morion, was watched by many
an one of the enemy's officers, and even by the Prince himself, with
unqualified admiration of her heroism.

At last night began to fall, and here and there a star peeped out from
the pure ether through the thick, heated vapour from the combatants
which filled the air; and the baffled Moghuls, leaving their heaps of
slain as they were, retired beyond the crest of the counterscarp into
their own lines. They had lost thousands, for the ditch was a mass of
carcasses which no one could reckon; they had lost arms, standards,
officers, and, above all, reputation. That the hosts of the King of
kings should have been repulsed from a Dekhan fortress commanded by a
woman was a result which none had anticipated, much less the haughty
Imperial Prince who had urged on his devoted troops to destruction.
Gradually, those that remained of the invaders retreated up the slope,
harassed to the last by the rain of copper hail with which they had
been tormented; and the Queen and Zóra, with some of the bravest of the
women and eunuchs, watched the last retreating figures which staggered
up the slope beyond; or a man here and there extricating himself from
the horrible masses like one rising from the dead, followed them alone,
or sank down and perished with the rest. And then, as if seeing each
other for the first time during the fearful day, they cast themselves
upon each other's necks and wept for joy. Then, too, Abbas Khan came
up from his post bearing in his hand a standard he had taken from an
Afghan, who was almost the only man who had reached the little fort.
"He was a brave fellow, mother, and would take no quarter, and there
was little time for thought; but he died like a brave man under my
weapon, and departed to Paradise. O Mother! what can we render to the
Lord for these mercies? for ye are unharmed, both of ye."

"Yes," said the Queen, with her eyes overflowing, "thousands and
thousands lie yonder dead and dying; but we are safe, and have lost but
few; and the good Padré and Maria tend those who suffer."

"If I may, I will go and see Maria," said Zóra, timidly. What would
she not have given to fall into her husband's arms and weep out her
thankfulness, but that was not the time or place.

"Go, child," said the Queen. "Go! greet her from me, and say all is
safe and well; but do not let her see that," and she pointed to the
ditch, "it might appal her tender nature." And Zóra went, attended
by Yasin Khan and some others to fulfil her tender mission, and gain
relief for her overcharged mind.

"And now," said the Queen to Abbas Khan and those near him, "let us
leave nothing undone. The breach has, indeed, been saved; but it must
be made sure. I, for one, will not leave it till it is built up against
any chance of surprise, or even of attack. Do not talk to me of sleep
or rest. My best sleep would be here beside the workers. My best rest
can only come with security. Ye will see what endurance this weak body
hath when danger is present. It is an old employment of mine repairing
breaches; but at Beejapoor I worked three days and nights without sleep
and here, with so many men, all should be ready by daylight; and then
when the Moghuls see their labour has been in vain, they may leave us
in peace. See and get Zóra some food and rest," she whispered to Abbas
Khan, "she will need it."

"Not while thou art here, O Mother," was the reply. "She is young and
strong, and can bear it better than thou. But why remain? Canst thou
not trust Nihung Khan and myself to do all?"

"No!" she replied, firmly; "it is my work and I will do it. Nor shall
Zóra leave me; she will be better for seeing Maria. But my turn has not
yet come. Hark! there is a cry from the heap of dead. 'For the love of
God! for the love of God! water!' it cries. Does no one hear? It is
some Feringi."

"It may be the cavalier who led the assault," said Abbas Khan. "I saw
him sink down, but he may have survived."

"A gallant fellow," said the Queen. "I, too, watched him. Go, one
of ye, for the Padré Sahib; tell him to come with his bandages and
medicine. Quick! quick!"

Abbas Khan, and some men with blankets, descended the breach to the
foot, but among the dead on the slope they could find no one living.
They dare not take a torch for fear of drawing upon them fire from the
counterscarp. They listened, and at last the faint cry of "Aqua! Aqua!"
was repeated, but in a fainter tone.

"He is here," cried one of the men, "lying under others, and he is
warm. I see his face now; it is the Feringi."

The Queen was right. Her quick ears had heard a low cry in a strange
accent, which had escaped all others around her. It was from Dom Diego,
who, as we know, had led the forlorn hope. When the mines had been
sprung, he would have advanced at once under the cover of the smoke and
dust which hung over the wall and ditch, but he found to his vexation
that the men were not ready. The hour was not propitious, and the Court
astrologer could not discover a fitting time till the afternoon. No one
would follow him till the signal was given from the Royal pavilion. And
though Dom Diego cursed the delay, he had no alternative but to await
the general order, which came at length.

Dom Diego had done his part bravely. He had led three separate assaults
of the breach, but was as yet unwounded. Nor was his example lost
on the brave men who, as one party was beaten back, or sank down to
make a fresh portion of the horrible bridge, still formed afresh,
and, reinforced by others crowding on from behind, were led only to
perish in their turn. At last, in one of the desperate rushes up the
breach, Dom Diego fell from a matchlock shot, but for a moment only.
He rose to his feet, and strove to rally those with him, when his leg
was shattered by a round shot, and in the discharge of copper hail
which came with it, his left arm was broken, and he fell insensible
among the heap of dying and dead, and was trampled down with the rest.
Presently, however, his consciousness returned; but it only revealed to
him more certainly the hopelessness of his situation. Extrication from
the mass of dead and dying was impossible, and he must die--unshriven,
and without hope. We dare not follow his thoughts nor his cries, now
defiant, now despairing, nor the struggles of a Christian soul which,
believing in the hell which seemed opening before him, saw no hope of
repentance or forgiveness. At first it was beyond his power to move;
but several men above him in their death agonies had loosened the pile
he lay under, and with his right arm he had been able to push aside
the dead who most oppressed him, and thus he gained space to breathe.
It was, however, but a prolongation of his misery, for he felt that
his leg was shattered, and even to crawl, could he be freed, would be
impossible. He could see the forms of men on the ramparts and in the
breach moving about, and even hear them as they spoke one to another;
but his cries for help and for water had grown fainter and fainter till
the Queen's ear had distinguished them.

Then Abbas Khan, and the rest who had gone down the breach, lifted away
the dead from above him and raised him up, placing him in a blanket,
and carried him up into the fort. At the top they laid him down at the
foot of the Bishop, who anxiously looked at the face of the sufferer,
who was now insensible.

"Merciful God!" he cried, lifting up his hands to heaven; "it is Dom
Diego, and he still lives! Bring him to the rest of the wounded. Quick,
quick!" he continued, to Abbas Khan, "or he may die without help."



CHAPTER V.
DIEGO'S DEATH AND THE BISHOP'S EMBASSY.


They carried the wounded man gently in the blanket as he lay. It was
impossible to attempt a palanquin, as the motion would have caused him
additional agony. But he was now more sensible than at first. He had
drunk greedily from a cup of the Queen's own cool sherbet, which she
had kindly sent him; water had been plenteously sprinkled on his face
and hands by the Bishop; his pulse had somewhat rallied, and he was
even endeavouring to speak, but was forbidden. "Maria! forgive!" were
the only words he could utter. Thus they took him on, nor was it far
to the place. There were lamps lighted inside, and wounded men lying
on mattresses on the floor; and some, which were the worst cases, upon
small truckle beds; and on one of these they placed the dying man,
supporting him by pillows. There were several Portuguese soldiers there
also, who were tending wounded comrades, and all gathered round to
assist. Then they carefully unfastened the morion and steel corselet,
took off the heavy boots, and the coat of buff leather soaked in blood;
and the Bishop supplied some soft underlinen from his own stock with
which to dress the wounds. But this seemed hopeless, for several were
fatal in their nature, and the loss of blood had been enormous. Maria
had been busy at the other end of the wide, long room, and had not
seen the new comer; but her brother sent word to her not to come till
he sent for her, as the sight would be too shocking. All that she had
heard was that the sufferer was a Portuguese officer, and she knew
there were some such men in the Prince's army.

D'Almeida's cordial, which had been administered at once, had revived
the sinking man in some degree, and for the first time he opened his
eyes and stared vacantly about him. Some of the men were bathing his
wounds, and this, and the removal of his armour and heavy clothes,
had somewhat restored him. Francis d'Almeida was bandaging one of the
wounds, which was bleeding afresh, and Dom Diego recognised him, and,
with a wan smile, put away his hand and said faintly,--

"It is of no use, brother Francis, I bleed within me, and I am dying.
Hear my confession, which I will make to thee truly as long as I can
speak; and then let me die."

"It is, indeed, needful, my poor brother," said the Bishop, gently,
"for no man living could help thee now, and a brief time must close all
thy earthly sufferings. Take this cordial, and it will revive thee. Is
there aught that should be written?"

"Something," he said; "that my wealth may be secured to the Church.
But write quickly, or I faint. Can masses be said for my soul, that I
may be forgiven? The writing should be in Persian, for the banker at
Surat to read."

Who could write Persian there except himself? But the Bishop had seen
Zóra with his sister, and he sent word to her to come to him, but
not to bring Maria. And she came. A sheet had been spread over the
sufferer, and his ghastly wounds were not apparent.

Writing materials were at hand, and seating herself by the bed-side,
the girl looked up with a scared face, and asked what she was to write,
while Francis interpreted the words as they dropped slowly from his
patient's mouth.

"Write," he said, "to Hemchund Premchund, banker of Surat, 'I am dying,
my friend, and I will that all my effects in your charge be made over
to the illustrious Archbishop of Goa, or whoever he may depute to
receive them. Pedro di Diaz is dead, and all there is belongs to me.
The ship is to be sold, and the crew paid their wages. Five thousand
rupees are to be remitted to my brother, Francis d'Almeida, of this
place, for the use of his Church. I am in my full senses, and have
this written in Persian that thou mayest comprehend. Be faithful, and
discharge thy trust honestly.'"

Zóra's rapid pen soon traced these words, and it was put into Dom
Diego's hand by the Bishop. "It is complete," he said; "sign it."

For an instant the dying man rallied, passed his hands across his eyes,
and then, taking the pen, wrote in his bold hand,

    "D. DIEGO DI FONSECA, S.J.
    "My own writing.

"Written at Ahmednugger by Zóra, the wife of Abbas Khan.

"Witness, Francis d'Almeida, Bishop of Ahmednugger, &c.
Before us, 3rd Rujub, A.H. 1004, 22nd February, 1596."

"That will do, my brave child," said the Bishop, patting Zóra on the
head. "Go back to Maria, and tell her I will send for her soon." And
Zóra rose, ran quickly to Maria, and delivered her message.

"Who can he be?" she asked. "Didst thou see his face?"

"I dared not look," Zóra said; "he was too terrible to look on; and
thou wilt soon be told. But the Padré Sahib seemed to know him."

"Blessed Mother of God!" exclaimed Maria, sitting down hastily; "it
cannot be Diego. What could have brought him here?"

"Diego! Yes, that was the name thy brother called him. But why dost
thou ask?"

"He was my malignant enemy, sister."

"And Alla hath delivered thee from him. And thou wilt forgive him,
Maria, even as I forgave mine."

"Yes," she replied, slowly, "I will indeed forgive him. See, my brother
hath put on his vestment; he is holding up the cross, and the men
about are kneeling, and the dying man is confessing his sins. Look!"

It was as she said. And the ghostly confession was proceeding, one of
the men holding a cup of cordial to the sufferer's lips as he made
motions for it--a broken tale of sin and crime, which we dare not
attempt to record. Yet it came forth from the dry, parched lips hardly
without a break till its close. Francis d'Almeida had not missed a
word; though, from his extreme weakness, Dom Diego had sometimes spoken
in low, broken whispers, gasping for breath.

"There is no more to tell," he said, faintly, at its close. "As I shall
answer in the judgment, no more. I have hidden nothing; but, with the
absolution of the Church, I pray thee let thy sister say, while I can
hear and see, 'I forgive thee, Diego,' and I shall then die happy."

Then Francis sent for his sister, and whispered, "It is he. Dost thou
forgive him, Maria?"

"Freely and truly," she said, firmly, "as I may be forgiven."

Dom Diego could not speak now, but he could hear the words which fell
from the woman he had loved so madly and with so sinful a purpose. He
tried to raise his hands, but they fell back on the sheet helplessly
and his large bright eyes were glazing fast, and becoming dim. "Maria!
Maria! forgive--pardon!" they heard him say in a whisper scarcely
audible. And while the Bishop was holding up the cross before him, and
preparing to recite the _Beaticum_, she could not resist the impulse,
but took the cold hand of the dying man, and said, "I forgive; fear
not." Then a soft smile of peace and resignation seemed to pass over
his features. "Forgiven," he murmured; and as the words of "Depart,
Christian soul, in the name of God the Father Almighty who created
thee," were spoken, the spirit passed away with a slight shivering
convulsion, and the body lay still in death; and the Bishop and his
sister, their sweet voices mingling, chanted the Litany for the dead,
which seemed to linger amidst the small domes and grooves of the high
roof, echoed, as it were, by angels.

Zóra had stood by spellbound. She had never seen a Christian die; and
Maria, who had taught her many hymns, had never chanted to her the
Litany for the dead. "Come away," she whispered, when silence fell on
all; "come away, and weep in my arms as I have done in thine. Yea, art
thou not my sister? and he knew that he was forgiven, and died happy.
Surely it was the Lord's doing, and his fate brought him to thy feet.
Come away." And Maria, weeping passionately, suffered the girl to lead
her to the chamber she had fitted up, and saw her cast herself at the
foot of her cross and pray fervently.

Yes, it had been a vast relief to Zóra to go, as her husband and
the Queen told her to do, to Maria, and endeavour to keep out the
impression which the horrid sights she had seen and the fearful bridge
of human carcasses had caused. All day long the girl had never left
her Royal mistress's side, and the green dress of the Syud's child
had shared the honour of the day with the armour of the Queen and the
"standard of the veil." But she hardly in truth knew what she had done;
and when, after her prayer, Maria rose calm and at peace, and, taking
Zóra to her heart, told her what the wounded who were brought in said
of the slight lad who gave cups of water to wounded men, helped them
into litters, and still cried his boyish war cry, Zóra hid her blushing
face in her sister's breast, and said, "It was not I, Maria; some
other, perhaps." But Maria said she need not deny it, for that Abbas
Khan would tell her more, and be proud of her to the end of his life.
Then Maria bade her return to the Queen; and she departed, saying, "If
he will let me come to-morrow, and the Mother does not want me, I will
help thee to tend these poor fellows."

Zóra found the Queen where she had left her, but she was more at
rest. Her attendants had brought her a small carpet and a pillow,
but she had not laid aside her morion and shirt of mail, and she was
sitting close to the breach, where the relays of masons were working
by the now bright starlight; and the broken wall was rising rapidly
course by course. Fortunately the old wall had not been shaken to its
foundation, and on clearing away the rubbish the firm portion was soon
struck. All through the night the work proceeded steadily; and as
day broke about twelve feet in height of the wall had been filled in,
and the breach was secure against all chances of sudden attack and
surprise. The trenches were not even manned by the enemy; and as day
dawned messengers came from the Prince Moorad with a flag of truce,
congratulating the Queen on the heroic defence she had made, and
informing her that she would hereafter be addressed by the Emperor as
Chand Sooltana, the Queen Chand, instead of, as before, the Beebee,
or Lady Chand, and begging her permission for the dead to be removed
without molestation. And this was granted at once without hesitation.
It had, indeed, become necessary to do so, for a sickening stench
had already begun to arise from the festering mass, which would have
become insupportable had the operation been delayed. But it was a heavy
labour. Large gangs of men came by relays; and it was not till the day
after, though they worked unremittingly, that the ghastly contents of
the ditch were cleared away.

At last, as day was breaking, and a cold fresh wind arose refreshingly
from the north, the Queen was persuaded to retire and take rest.
What she had gone through, both in body and in mind, during the last
two days and nights of the siege and assault, was almost superhuman;
but the heroic spirit had never quailed, and she appeared to have no
sense of fatigue or want. There was no exultation in her manner, but
to Nihung Khan, to Abbas Khan, and the crowd of officers who poured
forth their congratulations, she simply said, "I thank the Lord, on
whom I depended, and who, by the bravery of ye all, has given us the
victory. Be ye as humbly grateful as I am." Zóra helped her to lay
aside her armour, bathed her, and clad her in cool garments, and led
her to her little King, who was awake, and asking for her. Then as the
boy stretched out his arms to her, and she took him, and he stroked her
face, with a child's compassionate fondness, the emotion which had been
so long pent up in her loving heart burst forth with a violence which
terrified those about her. But Zóra laid her down, and soothed her as
she would have done an ailing child, till she fell into a deep sleep.
There was no tumult of shouting, and cannon, and musketry to arouse
her, and peace seemed to have fallen gently upon all.

But for a while only, for the Queen was soon in her accustomed seat
in the hall of audience, doing her usual work; and she again wrote to
the Beejapoor commanders, informing them of the repulse of the attack,
the safety of the fort, and the perilous position of the Moghuls. She
urged and entreated her friends to advance at once, when she should
be able to make a sally to meet them; and she sent these letters by
bold, careful messengers, who, dropping from the fort wall, mingled
with the crowds who were removing the dead from the trench, and gained
the Moghul lines. Here, however, they were intercepted, and taken
to the Prince, who read the letters, adding what he had done on a
former occasion, and inviting the reinforcements to hasten to their
destination, as he was most anxious to meet them. "The sooner the
better." And they did march at last.

But so slowly. The impetuous Queen, who knew they were near enough
to be with them in three days at most, would fain have had them
arrive even sooner, and would have helped them to drive the enemy
ignominiously from their position. But they scarcely moved at all;
certainly not with the desire of crossing swords with their enemies,
and it still seemed as if they overrated the power of the Moghul
cavalry.

And perhaps they were right, for the cavalry much outnumbered the
whole of the Beejapoor forces in advance, and there had been few
casualties comparatively out of the thirty thousand horse with which
the Prince had left Guzerat. The effect of the nearer approach of the
southern forces told, however, seriously on the Moghul camp, which
was more straitened than ever for provisions. Prince Moorad would
have welcomed heartily any attack by the Beejapoor forces; he could
have beaten them easily in the field, and the scope of his action
would have been enlarged. He might have gained possession of the upper
valley of the Seena, now teeming with plenty--nay, he might have
pushed on to Purenda, and established an advanced post there; but it
is most probable that the Beejapoor commander had foreseen this, and
preferred guarding the approaches to a weak point, rather than obeying
the Queen's hasty summons to attack. The Mussulman historians of the
period blame the Beejapoor troops heavily for not attacking the Moghuls
the day after the assault, or during the assault itself; and their
sympathies are entirely with the Queen, who chafed sorely at their
delay. But the probability is that their officers were better generals
than the Queen, and could see where hidden danger existed clearly
enough to avoid it. When she wrote her despatches, however, the morning
after the assault, she was in the highest degree sanguine; and when she
received her officers at the afternoon durbar there was not a sign of
fatigue or care upon her cheerful countenance.

Among others was the Bishop, who, with Maria, had come up to see her
before the durbar should commence; and they told her of the death of
Dom Diego, in whose gallant advance she had been so deeply interested.
Of course the Queen remembered the tale, as she had heard it before
her friends went to Goa; but she could hardly be brought to believe
that the man who had been mortally wounded in the assault was the same
person, until the general outlines of his confession had been related
to her. Then, indeed, she took Maria into her arms and congratulated
her on her escape. Surely God had specially preserved Maria's honour
and her own, and Maria's gratitude had not been lack of expression.

"And now," said the Bishop, "I must acquit myself of my duty to the
dead and to the Church and State I serve. I cannot go to Surat myself;
but the Prince, who has the reputation of being frank and honourable,
may be induced to interest himself for my Government, with whom he
is on friendly terms, and receive my explanation of these affairs. I
would, therefore, solicit a note to him from your Majesty, and be the
bearer of it while the truce lasts."

"It is dangerous, Padré Sahib," returned the Queen, musing. "My own
opinion is that he would extort the money, which you say is very
considerable, from the banker, and appropriate it to his own use; or
that his people, who are notoriously corrupt, would make away with it.
But let not this rest on my opinion alone; let us send for Abbas Khan
and Nihung Khan, on whose ability and discretion you can depend, and
hear what they advise." And they were sent for. Both were hard by,
still working at the breach, and they came directly; and the Bishop
related to them the facts we already know.

They did not apprehend any personal danger to the Bishop in his
proposed visit to the Prince Moorad, but they were decidedly unanimous
in advising that he should not be told of Dom Diego's hoard of wealth.
The Imperial Government, they said, is, by long established law and
usage, heir to all the property of persons who die or are killed in
their service, particularly if they are foreigners; and the issue
would be that this treasure would be lost for the purpose for which it
is designed. There would be no hope of saving it.

"But suppose," said Nihung Khan, whose opinion, being the elder,
carried the most weight, "that you ask the Prince for the horses,
arms, and moneys of the deceased now in camp. That will only be a
fair demand. If granted, it may open your way to a disclosure of the
remainder at another audience. But you will see, Señor Padré," he
continued, laughing, "that that will be refused on the grounds I have
mentioned. And it is better you should be prepared for the truth,
though it may be told in fair words which will give you no offence."

"I dare say you are right, Khan," returned the Bishop. "Dom Diego was
buried early, with the rites of the Church, and I am at liberty. There
is no time to be lost; and if I go at all, I would beg that the flag of
truce be prepared, and that a palanquin be got ready for me."

Maria was very anxious, and now could not restrain her feelings. "Go
not, Francis," she cried; "go not among those savage men. Why not wait
a few days, and when they are gone thou canst write to the authorities
at Goa, and send the letter to King Ibrahim, who will forward it, when
the necessary steps can be taken, through the bankers of Goa, to obtain
the effects of brother Diego from Surat without giving any power to the
Moghul Government to interfere."

"Thou art the wisest counsellor among us, Maria," said the Queen,
smiling kindly on her, "and I will send thy brother's despatch to King
Ibrahim myself; there will be no doubt he will do what is needful.
Bankers are always true, and I see no difficulty whatever. Go, Padré
Sahib; my mirdhas shall attend thee with honour, and it may be that
the Prince will make political disclosures to thee which may be of
importance. Go, prepare thyself, and lose no time, for the day is yet
ample for thy purpose."

So the good Bishop set out. No armed men were sent with him, but only
four silver mace-bearers, as a sign that he was a Royal ambassador.
They were stopped at the first picket near the west end of the
trenches, and thence passed on cautiously through the busy camp to
Furhut Mahal, where the Prince had taken up his residence, to which a
bridge of rough pontoons, or boats, had been thrown across the moat.
He had to wait at the head of the bridge till permission was given to
advance, and, attended and preceded by the mirdhas, he was ushered
into the entrance hall, and thence, following the officer on duty, he
ascended the steps which led to the upper storey where, for the sake of
its coolness, the Prince had taken up his quarters.

The Prince Moorad, a fair young man of pleasing appearance, but plainly
dressed in white muslin, was seated on a pile of cushions, accompanied
by three elderly officers, who were evidently of high rank. He partly
rose as the Bishop bowed low before him, returned the salute, and
bidding him be seated, said, "You speak Persian, sir?"

"Imperfectly," was the reply; "but I am used to speak it to my Queen
and in the Court at Beejapoor. I can write it also as I speak it."

"Good," said the Prince; "then tell me why you have come. Are you the
ambassador of the Sultana?"

"I have the honour to bear a note from her," and he withdrew it from
the sash of his robe, "which will explain the object of my intrusion
upon your Highness. Will you be pleased to read it?"

The Prince took the envelope. After having examined the seal, he
carefully opened it and read the contents.

"This only states that thou art a Bishop of the Christian Church at
Goa; and, as such, thou art welcome. Wilt thou proceed to tell thy
business? Is it secret or political?"

"Neither, my Prince," was the reply; "but personal only as regards the
effects of one Dom Diego di Fonseca, who was a priest of the Christian
Church, and who died of wounds received in the assault yesterday."

"Dead!" cried those present. "Dead! and thou knowest this of a
certainty?"

"I dressed his wounds during the night, my lords; but it was hopeless;
and I buried him this morning before the sun rose.

"He was a gallant soldier, if a Nazarene priest," said one of the
elder officers. "Peace be with his memory, and the peace of God rest
upon him."

"Ameen!" murmured the others. "With a hundred like him we had won the
fort."

"And thy business, Señor Padré?" asked the Prince.

"The effects of the deceased; his horses, arms, pay. These are for
masses, which he willed should be said; and to give peace to his soul,
it is necessary they should be performed."

"Yes," said the Prince, smiling; "the Padrés do that at Agra, where the
Asylum of the World has built them a church. It is called mass. But
what effects had he, Señor Padré?"

"I know not, your Highness; but, he said, though only a humble priest,
he had attained rank. He had not speech to tell me what he had, and was
too weak to be questioned."

"It is against the law, your Highness," observed one of the secretaries
present, "to surrender the effects of one who has died in the State
service; but it is competent to you to give any gift in recognition of
his death as a gallant soldier, and that will be more acceptable to the
good Padré than horses, arms, tents, or elephants, all of which have
been appropriated to the Government use."

"I demand nothing," said the Bishop; "but whatever His Highness's
generosity may dictate I will take thankfully, be it the smallest sum."

"Nay! the son of Akbar Padshah knows how to be generous," said the man
who had just spoken. "Permit your slave to send for two hundred mohurs,
which will be equal to the value of the Christian's effects;" and,
writing a few lines on a slip of paper, the Prince's seal was affixed
to it, and calling an attendant it was sent to the treasury.

Most profuse were the Bishop's thanks for, in his estimation, the
princely liberality with which he had been treated; and for an instant
he thought he had better have brought Dom Diego's document; but the
other course, suggested by Maria, was most feasible, and freed him from
all responsibility.

"And now," said the Prince, "as thou art a discreet and well-spoken
person, and accustomed, no doubt, to the political affairs of Courts,
we have a proposition to send, through thee, to the heroic Chand
Sooltana, whose fame is spread over Hind, to which we invite her
serious consideration." Then he paused for awhile, and resumed--

"Although," he continued, "by the fortune of war we have suffered a
repulse from the fort with heavy loss, which has deprived us of many
brave comrades and soldiers, yet the might of this army is unimpaired;
and I am prepared to resume the siege as soon as the present truce is
expired. The Sooltana, we know, is relying upon succour from Beejapoor;
but we have read her letters, written only this morning, and forwarded
them to their destination. But she will see that it is impossible
for the friends she expects to arrive in time to save her. They do
not exceed six thousand horse, without artillery; and we have with
us thirty thousand of the Imperial cavalry. But we are without cause
of war with Beejapoor; and those who watch us we have respected, as
they have respected us. If we attack the fort again, which we have
determined to do if our proposal is refused, the consequences will be
deplorable; for our soldiers, remembering the events of yesterday, will
allow none to escape from it, and all must inevitably perish, including
the Queen herself and the boy King. The consequences, therefore, rest
with her alone; and as a humane and merciful woman she will not provoke
them by a false estimate of her own power.

"Listen, therefore, Señor Padré; and you, a man of God and of peace,
will not refuse to exert your powers of persuasion with her, too. My
generals and myself, that is the Khan Khanan and Khan Jehan Lody--and
he introduced them--have this morning, with the aid of my learned
secretary, drawn up the draft of a treaty between the kingdom of
Ahmednugger and the Imperial Government of Hind, which, if executed,
will not only perpetuate the mutual good will of both States, but
cement their attachment to each other as long as the Sun and Moon shall
endure. This is it," he continued, taking a roll of paper from the
secretary's hand; "and I will briefly explain its purport to you.

"We demand no expenses of the war. All the treasures and jewels of
Ahmednugger remain in the young King's possession.

"Our Royal army will quit its present position, and retire to its own
territories, on guarantee by the Queen of no molestation, and orders
for grain and forage to be paid for on delivery.

"In return we demand cession of the province of Berar, which
Ahmednugger cannot defend, and which is a scene of disorder and
rapine, and a cause of suffering to the country at large. It is not an
ancient possession of Ahmednugger, whose proper hereditary dominions
are guaranteed, it is a province retaken by treachery from Duria Imad
Shah, who asked for aid against an usurping Minister, was imprisoned,
and foully murdered. No one can deny this, Señor Padré, for it is as
notorious as the Sun at noonday, and has long cried for justice at the
hands of the Asylum of the World, my father.

"And now, Señor Padré, you have permission to depart. Take these in
memory of the son of Akbar Padshah, who presents them to you;" and,
taking a small rosary of pearls from his neck, he hung them round that
of the Bishop, while a mirdha in attendance threw a light Cashmere
shawl over his shoulders. "And my good wishes for your success with the
Sultana, to whom I forward by you my sincere admiration and respects.
The sum on account of the Christian cavalier you will find in your
palanquin."

Then the Bishop rose, and took leave. "I will do my best to stay
further carnage, O Prince," he said, "but the question must rest with
Her Majesty the Queen and her advisers." Then he was conducted to his
palanquin, and passed out of the camp as he had come.



CHAPTER VI.
PEACE FOR AWHILE.


It was yet day when Francis d'Almeida again reached the fort; and,
after giving an account to Maria of the result of his embassy, and the
liberal conduct of the Prince Moorad, he looked round his patients, and
sent word to the Queen that he had been entrusted by the Prince with a
political message which he could deliver to no one but herself; and, if
she were at leisure, he would come to her presence directly, and would
prefer seeing her alone at first. The result of the Bishop's mission
had been what the Queen expected, and she did not hesitate to request
his attendance as quickly as possible.

"I have only Zóra with me," said the Queen, when the Bishop was ushered
into her presence. "There has been much to dictate, and I always feel
more confidence with her, and more at my ease than with the men. But
what news hast thou brought, Señor Padré? and how didst thou succeed in
regard to the effects of the cavalier?"

"They would not give them to me," he replied, "as I was told they would
not; but the Prince gave me a heavy purse of gold instead, which is
amply sufficient--nay, a munificent gift; but methinks," continued the
good man, simply, "if I had told him of the rest, it would have been
confiscated. I had better obtain it through the banker with whom it is
in deposit. But that is a minor matter altogether; I have much more
important news to communicate to your Majesty, which relates to peace."

"Ha!" cried the Queen, clapping her hands; "so they are tired of war
after the game they have played, and its consequences."

"No; your Majesty must not be deceived nor deceive yourself," returned
the Bishop. "They are determined to renew the war, to reopen the siege,
and to continue it until the fort is taken, and every one in it put to
the sword. This is what the soldiers demand, and cry out for almost to
mutiny."

"Yes," said the Queen, sadly; "we might perish, all of us, but never
yield; there the Prince is right. But what terms of peace does the
Prince offer?"

"He gave me this memorandum, which hath his own seal," was the reply.
"Perhaps you had better read it yourself."

"Let Zóra read it, Señor. I have not patience to think of it. Remember
how unprovoked this war was, and how I strove to avert it. But read,
Zóra, and let us hear the worst."

Except for an expression of impatience now and again with her hands,
the Royal lady heard the document to the end. "Some of it is fair,
and some unfair," she said at length. "It is true we have no hope of
aid from Beejapoor. When its troops might have struck in and made the
Prince's position untenable, they kept aloof, and abandoned me to my
fate. Oh, that Abbas Khan had led them! or why not the King himself?
Has he forgotten the many times this poor life has been imperilled for
him and his? But now," she continued, bitterly, "a new building, a
new ornament to his palace, a new falcon or hunting leopard, has more
attraction for him than his mother who made him what he is. Let it
pass, it is my fate; and we have--thanks be to Thee, just and merciful
Alla!--been able to defend ourselves hitherto, and may defy the worst,
even death."

"If it were thine own only, noble Queen," said the Bishop,
respectfully, "it might be welcome to thee amid all the factions,
intrigues, and perils thou hast to endure; but, remember, thou art
accountable to God for the lives of all who are entrusted to thee as
His viceregent, and there are thousands here who look to thee."

"Death!" she cried, excitedly; "did I not court it in the assault? Can
anyone say that I blenched from it, or hid myself in my zenana?"

"No one, lady," returned the Bishop. "On the contrary, thine enemies do
thee ample justice, and were even full of praise of thy heroism; and
they would not have it subjected to the last trial in death. Consider,
honoured lady, how many lives may be saved if terms can be made. But
forgive me if I have spoken too freely on this matter."

"Nay, but only as a peaceful minister of the Lord," she returned,
gracefully. "As to the cession of Berar, I for one would not oppose it.
Its annexation was the act of a madman. He who murdered his own father
cruelly, to whom massacre was familiar, and who destroyed the Royal
family of Berar, was hardly accountable for his actions upon earth; and
I for one would cheerfully resign all pretension to Berar, which from
the first hath carried the consequences of its sin-laden possession
with it. The country never belonged to this kingdom, and its retention
only embroils us with other parties, and it also lies too distant to be
defended as it needs with these troubles to meet at home."

"And were Berar ceded, your Majesty will observe that the King Bahadur
will be guaranteed his throne, and there will be no interference
with any part of his ancient dominions--which is worthy of especial
consideration."

"It would be if I could trust those that make it; but my soul tells me
that the lion has only tasted blood, and would have more. Nevertheless,
I will lay all before my council in durbar this evening, and will not
delay an answer."

The evening durbar was numerously attended; all the principal officers
and Ministers were present, and brought forward their recommendations
for rewards to those who had distinguished themselves by acts of
valour; and these having been granted, the general assembly was
dissolved, and those only remained whom the Queen specified.

"First, my lords," said the Queen, "I desire to know from you all,
unreservedly, in what condition you find the fort to be after the
siege, up to the present time. My reasons for the question are urgent,
and I will state them presently."

Then every department was reviewed. Except at the breach where the mine
had been sprung, the fortifications were uninjured, as there had been
no attack on three sides; but the mine, though but little of the wall
had fallen, had shaken it for a considerable distance on each side,
cracks were opening in it in various places, and it would require to be
taken down and built from the foundation ere it could bear any fresh
cannonade, even from smaller guns than had been employed; "and," added
the engineer (for so we may call him), "any chance shot might strike a
weak part and bring down masses of the masonry, which would render the
fort defenceless on the side that has been attacked. I and the chief
builders have examined the whole, and that is our decided opinion."

Many others followed. The powder and shot were much expended, and most
of the new powder had been used. The old was not sound, and must be
renewed, and shot was needed, but all the guns were in good condition.

The already long-continued siege had caused the expenditure of much
provisions. About two weeks' supply remained, which might be extended
for some days more, but there was no possibility of receiving any from
without, as the enemy guarded the approaches to the fort so closely,
and had already intercepted several large convoys of grain and ghee.

In fine, the general result of the report was unsatisfactory. If half
the garrison could be dispensed with, provisions might hold out; but
the condition of the wall was a peril which could not be remedied, and
in regard to it there was not one dissentient voice. Then the Queen
produced the draft she had received from Prince Moorad. "If," she
said, "our condition for defence had been what I hoped it would be, I
would have destroyed this paper, and allowed affairs to go on as they
have begun; but as it is, ye, my lords, should know of it, and bear me
witness that I have concealed nothing from you. Had my unworthy people
of Beejapoor behaved as I expected they would, we should not have been
reduced to these straits; but as they are, they are of no use to us,
and the few that watch the Manikdown Hills are too weak to advance
against thirty thousand Moghuls."

"It is true," said Nihung Khan, with a sigh; "they are too weak to
effect more than they are doing now, straitening the supplies of the
Moghul army. Yet that cannot be depended upon, since the King of
Khandesh, it is well known, is now sending up large convoys from his
dominions by the northern passes, which we cannot prevent, and with
them come some heavy guns. All these will arrive in the course of a few
days at furthest, and the Prince does not exaggerate his resources to
prolong the siege. And how could we repair the wall to meet it?"

"They are clever men, these Moghul engineers," said the engineer
officer who had before spoken. "We found, this morning, as we examined
the counterscarp, that five other places had been mined to be blown
in. There was not time apparently to complete or load the mines, else
we should have been attacked in several points at once. They depended
upon the effect of the five mines, which, but for the humane man who
proclaimed them, would have been fired at once, and the side of the
fort blown completely open; and they can do the same again."

These ominous words fell with terrible effect on the ears of all that
heard them. The question was no longer one of opinion, it was one of
necessity. Was the fort tenable at all?

"Let your servant," said Abbas Khan, "go to Soheil Khan, who commands
the forces at Shahdroog. If he could be persuaded to march to our aid,
all these proud Moghuls might be chased from the field."

"But that would involve a delay of nearly a month, even if he marched
at once," said the Queen.

"And in the condition of the wall, I could not guarantee it to stand
under fire for two days," said the engineer. "I have no thought of
life, as I say this; but I think on the helpless women and children,
and the men who must perish before a ruthless assault which the Prince
suggests, and which we, were we in the place of the Moghuls, should
make. Remember that though the fort is hard of access, yet it is
impossible of egress. No one can escape from it."

The Queen then laid before all assembled the question of Berar. For
her own part, she desired not to retain it. Ever since the kingdom had
possessed it, misfortune and war had come with it, as was known to all.
It need never have been taken; and cruel murder had been necessary to
its retention.

Thus the subject was debated for some hours with animation. The Bishop
was called and asked whether he had been directed to carry any message
to the Prince Moorad from the Queen; but his account of the object
of his mission and its results, and his assurance that the draft of
the treaty must have been prepared beforehand, as the Prince's seal
was only affixed in his presence, assured all that the proposal was
spontaneous; and after a further brief consultation, it was accepted,
with some slight modification, and despatched by the hands of Abbas
Khan and Nihung Khan the next day. And no further objections being
made, the treaties were mutually exchanged the day following, when a
great portion of the Moghul army had already marched.

What a relief their departure was to all! How quiet the fort was now!
No discharge of cannon night and day; no danger from missiles; no
distress for water, which had before become serious, and for which
there was no remedy. The people of the city, who for the most part had
all retired to the villages at some distance, flocked back, opened
their shops and secret stores of grain, and all was once more as it had
been; while the public rejoicings at the victory of the assault and
the departure of their bitter enemies were splendid, and attended by
munificent distributions of charity in every portion of the kingdom.

The Queen's first care was for the wall, which was found, as the
engineer officer of the fort had declared, in a perilous condition, and
was taken down with difficulty, and not without risk to life. It was
rebuilt, wherever necessary, from the very foundation. All the mined
galleries of the Moghuls were traced, and inspected by the Queen in
person, who could the more perfectly understand, with gratitude for the
escape, the danger that the fort and all within it had escaped. In the
guarantee of the dominions of the kingdom, too, she felt an increased
assurance for the future; and could she only avert the misery arising
from domestic faction, a terror always present, she might expect a
peaceful minority, and the respect and sympathy of all surrounding
kingdoms. Of the Moghuls she had no dread then. The man who had
originally written to the Prince Moorad to invite his interference was
detained at Beejapoor, and evinced no disposition for fresh intrigue.
She therefore caused the young King Bahadur to be crowned again, and
his further residence at the fort of Chawund was no longer necessary,
the Queen herself taking charge of him.

It was wonderful to see, too, how rapidly and surely the internal
administration was reformed--in fact, re-created. The revenue survey
and assessments that Mullek Umber's great genius had suggested were
carried on as fast as possible, to the satisfaction of the people, and
the revenues were collected without unequal pressure, and were ample
for all expenses of the State, affording, indeed, a large surplus.
Outwardly, therefore, and to all appearance, the kingdom was at peace.

Nor was there any change in the circumstances of the persons whose
affairs have supplied the events of this tale. The Bishop and his
sister, as the country became quiet, were able to make excursions to
Aurungabad, always a source of gratification. And once the Bishop,
taking advantage of the return of some cavalry to Beejapoor, visited
his flock there, and was satisfied at its progress. He found the Queen
Taj-ool-Nissa the mother of a fine boy; and as she put it into his
arms, she besought his blessing on the child, which he gave solemnly.
All his old friends welcomed him; and even the bitter priest had many a
kind word for the man who, as all believed, had fought valiantly on the
side of the truth of Islam in the battle of the "Standard of the Veil,"
for so the defence of the fort against the Moghuls had become known
among the people of the country.

With the King he had many earnest private conversations in regard to
the future, which to his view was full of apprehension and danger. "It
was not that I would not, but that I dare not provoke a war with Prince
Moorad which would set the whole of the Dekhan in a flame. One by one
the kingdoms of the north--Guzerat, Malwa, and Khandesh--have fallen.
The Queen-Mother does not see her danger; but the Nizam Shahis and
all that belonged to them have ever been treacherous, and she may yet
rue the hour in which she trusted them. But I know--we all know--her
heroism and self-devotion, and she will die at her post rather than
abandon it. And yet, Padré Sahib, if she could be persuaded to leave
Ahmednugger and come to us she would be received with all our old
affection and loyalty."

"I will do what I can," was the invariable reply to many such
conversations; "but your Majesty knows her inflexible and honourable
nature, and nothing less than being driven from her position would
induce her to abandon it." I think, however, that had it not been for
what had transpired in regard to his sister, that the Bishop would
have been well content to have settled finally at Beejapoor, visiting
Moodgul and a new mission at Cheetapoor, among the distillers and
saga makers, which his zealous coadjutor had organised; but there
was no mention of his sister, nor any invitation from the Queen
Taj-ool-Nissa, and it was evident that for some time to come Beejapoor
was no place for her.

Of Osman Beg the Bishop could hear nothing. His father had returned
from Mecca, and, at first, resided on a small property which he had
retained; but he had died, and his possessions had lapsed to the State.
Osman Beg had, it was supposed, joined the Moghul army, but where he
was serving in its wide empire no one seemed to know or care.

There was no change whatever in the situation of Abbas Khan and Zóra.
He continued to hold the command of the fort and the troops within
it, and so long as the Queen lived, or remained there, he determined
to abide with her. He was not ambitious of employment in civil or
political affairs, and he had an instinctive dislike and mistrust of
all the hereditary offices of the Ahmednugger State; of those constant
petty and vexatious intrigues against each other which seemed to him,
though peace from without appeared more and more confirmed, to be
dangerous in their machinations, and which must, ere long, burst into
open contention. Except this, nothing occurred to disturb the serenity
of their lives. Their little excursions to villages round about, such
as Bhatoree and others, to the Royal gardens, and to the pretty little
country palace, which is known now by the name of "The Happy Valley,"
all served to pass the time pleasantly; and the Queen Regent had ever
work for Zóra to do in the drafts of private correspondence which she
carried on. Zóra, too, was now the mother of a fine boy, and the pride
of her husband and herself in the thriving, crowing, little fellow
cannot, I think, be exaggerated. They were lovers in the truest sense
of the word, cheering and supporting each other: she, a companion to
him, whose bravery and work had been amply tried; he, to her, the same
as she had watched over first in the fearful night at Juldroog, which
had had so deep an influence over their lives. But the political events
of the time were more and more threatening, and were not to be averted
either by former treaty or by the wisdom or heroic perseverance of
the Queen; and the details of the local historian, Ferishta, form a
melancholy record of the last struggles of the unhappy and distracted
kingdom. Without entering too much into historical details they may be
briefly sketched, so as to render Queen Chand's position intelligible.

Retaining Nihung Khan as commander of the forces, as he lacked
administrative ability, she had appointed Mahomed Khan, an hereditary
officer of much experience, to the general direction of affairs, and
for a time all went prosperously. But the ambition of Mahomed Khan
was not proof against the temptation to increase his power, and he
confined Nihung Khan, aspiring himself to become Regent, and to deprive
the Queen of all authority whatever. This the Royal lady resisted,
and wrote urgently to her nephew, King Ibrahim, to send her such a
force as would keep the rebellious Minister in check. To no one better
than Abbas Khan, whose friendship for Nihung Khan was sincere, could
she entrust this delicate negotiation. The King would hear from him
the true state and danger of affairs at Ahmednugger; nor would he,
she knew, be slow to urge, or lack eloquence in urging, the necessity
of interposing to prevent further pretext for intervention by the
Moghuls, which was the point most especially to be dreaded. We need
not describe particulars of this journey to Beejapoor, nor of the
political discussions there; nor yet of Abbas Khan's happy meeting with
his uncle and aunt, and many old friends; but he was successful in the
object of his mission. Soheil Khan was despatched with a sufficient
force, which arrived at Ahmednugger in safety; but the Beejapoor
troops found that their entry was opposed by the usurper, but the
garrison, being faithful, seized him and made him over to the Queen.
Meanwhile, however, Mahomed Khan had despatched letters to Khan Khanan,
the Moghul general then in Berar, praying for assistance, as he was
holding the country in trust for the Emperor of Dehli. Had this been
discovered at the time, it is hardly possible that the usurper would
have escaped with his life; but he was spared, Nihung Khan was released
and appointed to the chief authority, and the Queen's power being
reestablished, the troops from Beejapoor were dismissed with handsome
presents and grateful thanks.

The Moghuls, however, as Soheil Khan learned on his way back, had
occupied districts much to the south of Berar, and he wrote to the King
of Beejapoor for instructions. The King ordered him to stand fast on
the Godavery river, and sent a large reinforcement aided by troops from
Golconda. These allied troops advanced against the Moghuls; but after a
bloody general engagement, which lasted for two days, victory remained
with the Moghuls. Now the Queen Chand had sent to the assistance of the
Beejapoor troops a number of her own for defence against aggression,
and it is possible this was considered a cause for the new war which
had commenced so inauspiciously.

Strange as it may appear, Nihung Khan, regardless of danger from
without, now endeavoured to destroy the power of his benefactress.
Indeed, he had attained so much local power that, inflated by pride, he
sent a force to invest the town of Beer, which is situated to the south
of the river Godavery, and to which the aggressions of the Moghuls
had extended. He also made an attempt to invade Berar, but both these
movements being unsupported, failed of effect, and he returned to
Ahmednugger.

These continued disturbances naturally attracted the attention of the
Emperor Akbar. His son, the Prince Moorad, had died during their
continuance, not long, indeed, after the victory over the combined
forces of Beejapoor; and the Emperor, now determined to prosecute the
war in person, marched to the south, captured the important fortress of
Asseergurh, and directed his second son, Prince Daniel Mirza, with Khan
Khanan, his chief general, to undertake operations against the fort and
kingdom of Ahmednugger.



CHAPTER VII.
THE SECOND SIEGE OPENS.


The political events sketched in the last chapter occupied upwards of
two years, and bring down the action of this tale and the Queen's life
to the close of 1598, or commencement of 1599. Nihung Khan, foiled
in his ill-considered attack on Berar, in which he had been entirely
unsupported by the allies of Ahmednugger, and out-manoeuvred besides by
the General Khan Khanan, burned all his heavy baggage on the borders
of Berar, at the head of the pass he was unable to descend, and fled
back to Ahmednugger. Here he vainly tried to make terms with the Queen
and regain his old place. But she refused to admit one to her councils
who, though a man of high renown, was fatally rash and untrustworthy;
and having no other place of refuge, he fled the country and was seen
no more. After their bloody defeat in the Godavery, the Beejapoor and
Golconda troops made no further attempt to check the advancing enemy;
and that defeat had, there is no doubt, already decided the fate of the
Ahmednugger kingdom; and as the monsoon of 1598 broke up, the Emperor
Akbar ordered the forces under his son Daniel and Khan Khanan to
advance without delay. With Queen Chand no commander of note remained
in the field. All the troops on which she could have relied to check
the enemy's advance were broken and much separated, and to bring them
together would be a work of labour for which there was no time, and
neither Beejapoor nor Golconda were in the humour to risk further
collisions with the Imperial army by an advance. What troops it was
possible to collect and organise, Abbas Khan, ever steady and faithful,
collected about the city, and the fort was put in as complete order as
possible, and provisioned liberally for six months.

To the command of the garrison Humeed Khan was appointed, originally
a Beejapoor eunuch attached to the Queen's palace for many years. She
had brought him with her on the last occasion; and, as he had been well
educated and displayed soldier-like qualities, he had been employed in
the field, and had on all occasions distinguished himself by valour
and sagacity. In the first siege of the fort he had been selected
both by Nihung Khan and Abbas Khan for command of a large portion of
the garrison; and his valour on the repulse of the attack and in the
general defence was as valuable as it was remarkable. Nor with these
antecedents was it at all strange that he should be selected for the
post he now held, with the approval of all, for he was popular with the
soldiery; and had succeeded in uniting all in a determination to stand
by the young King to the last, and defend their fortress to the utmost.

But it was seen and observed by all that a tone and manner of
despondency possessed the Queen which was new to her character. Her
only solace seemed to be the boy Bahadur, who, now about five years
old, returned her affection with tenderness and a child's, loving
consideration; and as she often strained him passionately to her
breast, would cry, "Weep not, O grandmother; when I am a man I will
make all bad men thy slaves; and we will be so happy, and no tears
shall come again." Yes, the little fellow seemed to be a great solace
and comfort to her. Not that she put Zóra aside, or Maria, for they
were her daily companions as before; but she made no new friends,
and the old ones she felt had their own vocations and cares in life,
which occupied and interested them more than those of, as she said, a
worn-out old woman.

Yet it was not so. Never at any period of their lives had Maria or Zóra
loved her more devotedly or fondly; and the patience and submission
with which she endured all her vexatious troubles, and the heroism and
cheerful trust with which she now prepared to meet new perils, gave
her additional interest in their eyes. To all others she preserved
her old calm demeanour. She held her durbars as usual. Every point of
the administration was reviewed and checked as of old; Zóra had her
appointed private tasks allotted to her, and, with Abbas Khan and his
officers, every question regarding the completeness for defence and
organisation of the defenders was discussed with her usual wisdom. But
in the quiet hours, when business did not occupy her, it was plainly
visible that anxiety very often cast her down, almost beyond the power
of raising herself again. At such times, if they asked her why she
wept, she could not tell them, except that it seemed to her she was
being drawn away from earth and all she most loved, and so the Lord was
preparing her for Paradise; and as the present was her true Paradise,
it grieved her to change it, and so she wept. Before her was a mystery;
here there was no mystery, only the homage of loving hearts. They
are wrong, she used to tell them, who prayed for death as a release
from trouble and suffering. Rather let all live on that life may be
purified, and the spirit exalted, till God sees fit to take it, as He
will when He has purified and chastened it. And thus, she said to all,
she was being prepared, and they were to rejoice when she wept rather
than sorrow.

How thoughtful was she for them all! She was evidently most anxious for
Maria. "Thou art more tender of heart," she would say, "than we tough
Moslems. Thy faith is more tender; and the scenes thou hast endured
with us here are not fit either for thee or thy brother, and ye must
leave me till the peril be past. If it pass, and we have peaceful lives
before us till my boy grows up, thou and thy brother shall roam where
ye will, and preach as ye will; for who does not love and honour ye?"

It was a bitter parting; but the Queen sent Maria and her brother
away. A body of men came from Dowlutabad, sent by Mullek Umber to
escort treasure for the pay of the troops with the Queen; and the Queen
sent the Bishop and his sister with them to her faithful friend. It
was the only opportunity there might be for many weeks; and if peace
ensued, they could at any time return again in a few days. And Maria
had been absent before, and had returned safely; so Zóra was comforted,
but not the Queen.

The evening before the small force marched, Maria and the Queen were
alone together, and the Royal lady, taking Maria's head on her breast,
said gently, "Thou hast been a true and loving daughter to me, child.
All the women of my country are feeble and impetuous; but from the
first even unto the last thou hast been the same. Thou hast borne with
a weak old woman's waywardness; thou hast put sweet loving thoughts
into my heart, and told me truths which well up, and teach me mercy.
And oh, Maria! though I have never mentioned it to thee, how can I
thank thee for thy conduct at Beejapoor; so gentle, yet so firm. Thou
dost not know, thou never canst know, how he pleaded with me for thee,
or what he offered me for thee. And he, too, is loving, and would have
been kind and faithful to thee; and at first I grieved that it could
not be. But thou wast right. The Lord vouchsafed wisdom to thee, and
thou art blessed with that thought, O, my daughter; for when ye meet,
all will have passed away in peace. He is the father of children now,
and is happy; though he hath not forgotten her who was a joy to him.
I would often fain have spoken to thee about that eventful passage in
thy young life; but these are my last words to thee, and thou wilt not
forget them."

"Never, never! my more than mother," she returned, sobbing bitterly.
"And may the Lord grant that we meet again in peace." She would have
said more, for her heart was full of gratitude; but the Queen said
gently,--

"It may not be, daughter. My message is coming nearer to me; nearer,
nearer, day by day, and I am content. Go now, and leave me, with but
one embrace--the last. I shall think of thee in safety, till the angel
summons me. Lo!" and she stretched her hand on high, while a smile of
triumph spread over her features, and her still lustrous eye glowed
brightly, "Lo! he is near me, even now."

       *       *       *       *       *

We have already said there was no force in the field which could
pretend to check the advance of the powerful army which was now
approaching by safe and easy stages. The siege train was especially
powerful and its equipment complete, and the Emperor had sent a large
body of the famous miners of the northern provinces, who in their
peculiar vocation were unsurpassed in skill and daring. Khan Khanan,
who knew the ground perfectly, had determined to risk as few of his
own troops' lives as possible, and he had already seen proved how
comparatively easy and how certain it would be to destroy the fort with
gunpowder.

Osman Beg was in his place as general leader and director of the
marches, and he had gained the confidence of the commander-in-chief
with singular adroitness and plausibility. All these intervening years
the mad craving of his heart for Zóra had never diminished, nay, it
had fed on its own imaginings. What would she not be now in the full
possession of her matured beauty? How different to the poor Fakeer's
daughter of Juldroog, whom he had so madly loved. No one, he believed,
knew that he belonged to the Moghul forces at all. His name was a
common one among the bodies of Turcomans who served in the Imperial
army, and in the first siege he had kept himself aloof from the camp
and the siege operations. Dom Diego had asked him to command a portion
of the storming party, and even taunted him with cowardice when he
refused; but Osman Beg had laughed at the possibility of taking the
fort as the priest imagined, and he heard of his death without surprise
and without regret. "Mine shall be a sure game," he thought; "one in
which the risk will be small and the reward certain. Then I shall gloat
myself with revenge, and my virtuous cousin shall die at my feet or be
hurled into the air to feed the vultures. Let but our position become
securely taken up before the fort, and I will see what Moghul gold may
not effect within."

The last march was made. The people of the city and its environs,
warned by previous experience, had deserted their homes for some days,
and nothing was left in the streets but starving, homeless dogs, who
howled piteously night and day. There was nothing on the plain but
the grim old fort and its defences, which the Moghul commander could
see were in much more complete order than they had previously been.
The wide esplanade was cleared of every vestige of cover; trees all
around had been cut down; the defences of the parapets had been newly
topped with clay; loopholes had been narrowed, and embrasures protected
by sandbags and gabions. Even the covered way at the crest of the
counterscarp had been cleared out and fitted for musketeers, and larger
guns than before mounted in many places on the broad rampart and the
bastions. The work had been that of months, and Abbas Khan was not one
who would trust to others to see it performed. He and the Queen had
passed their days on the ramparts, and during working hours the red
umbrella of the Queen could be seen by the whole garrison, moving from
point to point; while at night she went the accustomed rounds in her
turn, with other officers, generally accompanied by Humeed Khan. So
far as human means and the science of the time could ensure security,
Ahmednugger was safe.

And the Moghul commander felt that it was so, and that all the skill
of his own engineers would be needed to meet the preparations. After
the first reconnaissance, in which he lost many men from the combined
fire of the fort and the garrison of the covered way, the trenches were
carried on by sap as before. But the defenders of the covered way, led
by brave and enterprising officers, attacked the trenches at night, cut
off the workmen, and vexed the whole operation until it made very slow
progress in comparison with what it had done on the first occasion.
These skirmishes, too, cost the defenders little in comparison with the
terror they inflicted. The hardy Mahratta Mawalees, from the western
ghauts, who afterwards became so famous under Sivagee, fell on the
enemy with their national shouts of "Hur! Hur! Mahadeo!" sword in hand,
and seemed insensible to danger. Showers of arrows were shot into the
trenches, and if pursued by the Moghuls, the lightly equipped Mahrattas
ran back into their galleries, and crossed into the ditch and fort by
the sally ports which had been opened. As yet no attempt had been made
upon the defences of the fort, and the garrison grew more confident
even than before. The siege did not progress, and the young Prince
Daniel and Khan Khanan grew impatient, for they well knew if there were
the least sign of failure the Beejapoor and Golconda armies would be
again in motion.

One of the chief leaders of these daring night attacks was a young
Mahratta chief, one of the Sirkay family, who, with his cousin
Peelagee, were hereditary officers of the Nizam Shahy kingdom, and
had brought their own retainers to the defence of the fort. Both were
famed for personal valour of no ordinary kind, and the Sirkay Mawalees
had established a reputation for boldness in their peculiar manner of
attack, which had gained them deserved fame. Their post was in the
covered way in the south-east angle of the ditch, which enabled them
to make flank attacks which were most annoying to the enemy; and this
being part of the particular command of Humeed Khan, he had several
times brought them to the Queen's notice, and had them rewarded by
rings and anklets of gold, and other valuable gifts. As if to vex
Abbas Khan, with whom he had had some slight difference, he said to
Sirkay one evening, "Let me come with ye to-night, and witness what ye
let Abbas Khan share in, but not me." So it was arranged, and taking
as few of his followers as possible, Humeed Khan went to the post at
night, and, led by Sirkay, the Mawalees were soon on the crest of
the glacis, crouching like wild animals, to watch their opportunity.
That night, however, the breaches seemed deserted. The men had been
withdrawn, probably expecting an attack; and Sirkay would have
returned, but Humeed said, laughing, "As we are here, we may as well
see for ourselves what is doing, and whether the general is mining, as
I shrewdly suspect he is."

So they proceeded warily and cautiously, leaving the men behind; but,
on turning the angle of a trench, a party of men burst upon them
and secured them. Both gave themselves up for lost, for under such
circumstances life was little worth; but, instead of putting them to
death, they were taken roughly to an officer who sat near a covered
way, which some men by the light of torches were driving on. It had
been Osman Beg's turn of duty that night in the trenches, and he had
taken up as secure a position as possible; and he recognised Humeed
Khan in an instant, who at once saluted him wonderingly.

"Dost thou know that I could behead thee at once as a spy?" said Osman
Beg.

"I know it," returned the other; "and there would be one man in
Ahmednugger the less, that is all. Nor would Abbas Khan, perhaps, be
sorry to lose me."

"Then ye are enemies?"

"Not so, openly; but he hates me. He it is who hath vexed ye with
sallies; and as I would not be sent on one by him, I have come myself
to-night."

"And the Queen?"

"She is much what you remember her, but, methinks, weary of the war.
She would like to get safe to Joonair, and give up the place. She does
not say this openly, but that is in her heart."

"We shall take it from her, brother."

"Never," replied Humeed Khan. "She will perish in the ruins, but she
will never yield."

"And Abbas Khan?"

"You know what he is, Meeah, only prouder and haughtier than he was;
and he will never leave the Queen."

"And his wife, Zóra? Dost thou see her?"

"I see her, Meeah! She is more beautiful than ever she was; and he
dotes on her like a fool."

"I owe him revenge for what happened at Juldroog, and for what happened
in the Palace."

"And thou sayest she is thy wife. What wouldst thou give me for her?"

"I have little to give; but hark! ere we part. Give me the fort by any
means thou wilt, and we may both be rich and free. Canst thou come
again?"

"Not as I have done to-night; but I may be able to send a message. Now
let me escape, and pretend to pursue me;" and Humeed Khan dashed on
at his utmost speed, striking down one of the men who had held Sirkay
apart. Sirkay shook himself free of the other, narrowly escaping a
sword cut, and they soon rejoined the men they had left behind, who
fired a volley of arrows to check the pursuers, and made their way into
the fort.

"That was a narrow chance, my friend," said Humeed Khan, when he had
regained his breath; "but the fellow was too busy asking me questions
to see that his men held me fast. But they seemed half asleep, and I
watched my opportunity to shake myself free."

"I had given up hope, my lord," was Sirkay's reply; "and I have to
thank you for your part in my escape. We must be more cautious in
future."



CHAPTER VIII.
THE LAST TRAGEDY.


The eunuch reflected deeply on the strange adventures of the night. He
had known Osman Beg from boyhood, when he was the companion of Abbas
Khan. He knew the story of Abbas Khan's love for Zóra, and was present
at Osman Beg's trial before the durbar at Beejapoor, when Osman Beg was
banished, and it was strange that he should meet him again under such
circumstances. But he was not surprised that his hate for his cousin
continued in all its bitter virulence. The eunuch had been jealous
of Abbas Khan from the first, and he was now compelled to bear his
authority and submit to his directions; and such jealousy soon turns
to hate. He might make his own terms, perhaps, through Osman Beg, with
the Moghul general about the fort. Its possession would be an immense
assistance to the Emperor's plans, and its betrayal would be richly
rewarded. As to the Queen, he hated her because she had placed him in
a subordinate position under her minion; and what would it signify
what became of her? She was out of place now. There would be no great
difficulty in communicating with Osman Beg, and he trusted to his good
luck to carry on the intercourse that had been so strangely begun.

At his morning audience of the Queen the eunuch detailed the events of
the night, which were entirely corroborated by Sirkay. Both the Queen
and Abbas Khan, while they rebuked them for rashness, none the less
praised them for their act of valour; and the eunuch gave his opinion
that what he had seen was either the head of a new mine, or a shaft
into one which had been begun at a greater distance; and this was what
Abbas Khan dreaded. This was no noisy siege. On the contrary, the
silence was often oppressive; and the hum of thousands which filled
the enemy's camp, the boom of kettledrums, and the music which played
before the Royal pavilion, were for the most part the only sounds heard
from without; while from within there was nothing to fire at, and the
large stone shots from the mortars, which were dropped at random in the
direction of the enemy's camp, were frequently the only shots fired by
the gunners of the fort. It appeared to the soldiers of the garrison
as if the enemy were afraid to attack the fort as they had done on the
first occasion, and their vaunting and self-confidence were unbounded.
Whenever the Queen went abroad on her usual rounds on the walls, she
was met with assertions that the enemy were afraid; that the Moghuls
would some day abandon their fortress and march back as they came. But,
though she did not undeceive them, she became more and more anxious;
and, on his part, Abbas Khan well remembered what Khan Khanan had
impressed upon him at his interview with the Prince Moorad regarding
the first treaty, that if the siege were renewed, it would be by mines
under the fort itself, which would be destroyed with all it held; and
that this operation was now in progress there could be little doubt.

Alas! there was now no friendly voice to give them warning, as before,
of existing danger, and implore them not to make a useless sacrifice of
their lives. The proceedings were of the stern character of the eminent
soldier who directed them, who never knew sympathy for an enemy who
defied him.

How often Abbas Khan besought the Queen, even with tears, to save
herself and the King. It might be done; he felt assured that no
enterprise would be more welcome to the Mahratta Mawallees than
to carry her with them in a night sortie, and to conduct them by
bye-paths, and after their own fashion, to Joonair. Then it mattered
little what became of the fort. Those who remained could make terms,
and, in the western fastnesses, the King would be safe against all
attacks from without, and could rest securely till happier times. "As
to all you would leave behind, we should be in the hands of the Lord,"
he pleaded; "for as soon as you and the boy were gone, we might hold
out for a time as a point of honour, and make terms by which every life
would be saved. As to the treasure, let it perish, mother, if I could
not, as I might, offer a ransom for the fort. I say, let it perish.
Is there not enough for all in Chawund and Joonair to suffice for many
years?"

Thus, day by day, he pleaded, but still she would not listen. It seemed
to her a dishonourable act to desert those who had stood by her with
such valour and devotion all through her trials. What care or wish had
she for life, except with honour? What would be said of her, but that
the Queen who had fought the fearful "Battle of the Veil" had absconded
secretly from her people at night to save her own life, leaving all to
perish! No! if death were nigh, let it come to her there; she should be
blessed.

But there was restlessness in her mind which she could not overcome.
Zóra felt she had no longer power over her. She, too, had implored her
Royal mistress to save herself and the boy she now loved; and the boy's
mother, feeling that with the Queen he would be safe, had besought
Queen Chand not to think of her, whom no one would molest by herself,
and to carry him away to Joonair, which, against all attacks from
without, was impregnable. But, as we have said, the Queen's mind was
restless. She felt unable to decide on any course, and many arguments
on both sides impelled her first in one direction then, in another,
which were alike impossible to her on further thought; and she had only
to go out among the garrison to hear the old war cries of Beejapoor,
and her own country, to feel that she was yet a Queen, and, before God,
responsible for all, and no steps were taken either for flight with the
Mawallees, or to obtain terms from the Moghuls.

During this period Osman Beg had not been idle. He had contrived to see
the eunuch many times at night; and, after the first chance interview
with him, he had gone boldly to Khan Khanan, and had privately
communicated to him that he had an old Beejapoor friend in the fort,
who was, in fact, its commander, and that, if he were authorised, he
could enter into negotiations with him for its betrayal, or its capture
by surprise. Khan Khanan felt no scruple as to the means of attaining
possession of a place which had already cost him so dear, and the
capture of which by siege would probably extend so long; and the miners
were already complaining of the hardness of the ground in the mines on
which they most relied, which were to be sprung inside the walls, and
not without much risk and difficulty. Humeed Khan was brought to him
once, at night. Khan Khanan was then assured of the perfect condition
of the fort, the high spirits of the garrison, and the inflexible
determination of Abbas Khan to defend the place to the last extremity.
"He is searching for mines daily," said the eunuch, "and should one be
discovered, your whole work would be checked indefinitely."

"The difficulty, then, lies with the Queen and Abbas Khan," said the
general.

"It does," replied the eunuch; "but it is not insurmountable; and
I know for certain that if they are offered honourable terms of
capitulation, and permission to remove all property from the fort,
except guns and arms, they would agree to them."

"That would be impossible," said the general; "we have the game in
our own hands, and we are ready to play it out. What is a month, or
even more, to us? To them it is life or death. Were they to propose
terms, indeed, it would be very different; but I know nothing less
than unconditional surrender would satisfy the Emperor, and I am not
prepared to modify that. I suppose," he added with a sneer, "your
valiant Dekhanies would not give up their arms."

"They would not," said the eunuch; "and no one dare propose that to
them."

"Not even the Queen?"

"Not even she. Her life would be the instant forfeit."

"Now," continued the general, grimly, "suppose that such a report were
spread as would raise a tumult among your Dekhanies. We might take
advantage of it."

"You might, my lord."

"And we should be successful?"

"That I cannot answer for. It would depend upon yourselves."

"Not entirely, sir. You who command the Dekhanies might persuade them
to be neutral; to--to--in fact to throw themselves on the Royal
clemency. And suppose I assured you personally two lakhs of rupees for
the service, and through you all arrears of pay to your party, would
that suffice?"

"Take it, friend," said Osman Beg. "My lord will give the amount in
bills on Dehly or Guzerat, unless thou wait the issue and receive it
here in cash. Thou canst not carry away the coin, and we cannot send
it."

"I am content," said the eunuch, "for the service I shall render to the
Emperor, whose name be honoured, to receive whatever may be given of
his own gracious bounty."

"And remember," said the general, "that I have nothing to do with the
results if the Dekhanies rise in mutiny. All that rests with them and
you."

"I take the responsibility, my lord. I wish only for peace."

"You have forgotten me, Humeed Khan," said Osman Beg angrily, as they
left the tent.

"Not so, friend," said the eunuch. "What I purpose will cause much
confusion. The gallery of the counterscarp will be deserted, and thou
knowest the way into the sally ports. Who will distinguish friends
from enemies? Thou must do thy part, and I shall be able to aid thee.
Fear not, one who desires a fair woman must needs do something to get
her. More I cannot say; be ready on my signal, and join me. There will
be enough of screaming women, and who will heed if one among them is
carried away in a blanket? Surely thou hast some of thy old dare
devils to help thee. If not, give up the girl."

"I cannot, and will not; she is my fate," returned Osman Beg, moodily;
and for the time they separated.

For several days Abbas Khan had been diligent in his search for mines.
Shafts had been sunk, and one was at last discovered which led directly
under the palace. It was not loaded, and no one was guarding it; but
the chamber was ready, and it could have been charged at any time.
Abbas Khan, and some others with him, explored it; and, covered with
dust and dirt as he was, he went direct to the Queen to tell her of it.
"It will be destroyed," he said; "and even now the masons are at work
building up the gallery with stones. But who can say, Mother, how many
more there may be, or where they are? I have ordered cross cuttings to
be carried on; but the ground is nearly rock, and the Moghul miners
have skilfully followed a soft vein which they discovered, and have
never quitted. Mother! Mother! hear my last prayer to thee. Arise, and
flee the place with the boy. When night falls, I will be with ye and
guide ye forth."

"And leave ye all behind to perish? I cannot do it!" said the noble
Queen, with a calm, serene expression on her countenance; "but if all
could be saved, I should be grateful. I have thought over the subject
night and day since it was broken between us, and this is my final
determination. I am prepared for death if it should come, but not for
flight, and, to my perception, dishonour. Go, see to the mine; trace
others if it be possible, and to-morrow I will save all if I can. And,"
she added, with a confident smile, "I think I shall be successful.
There is no dishonour in what the Lord hath put into my mind, and all
our dear ones may be happy. Where is Zóra? Does she know of the mine?"

"No," he said, "and I will not tell her, since that danger is past."

"Then send her to me, Meeah; I would speak with her;" and he went out.

The Queen was alone in her private chamber, musing over what she
purported to do. She would address the Prince Daniel himself, laying
before him her desire to prevent the sacrifice of life, and offering
him possession of the fort and all public property, on the condition
that the garrison should march out with the honours of war.

Zóra entered as the Queen had reviewed all this in her mind, and her
mistress could not help being struck with her unusual beauty and
brightness. Her hair had escaped, and hung in massive waves about
her shoulders; her cheeks were glowing, and her eyes sparkling with
excitement.

"Oh, we have had such fun, mother; the children have been romping
together, and I and some of the girls were as mad as any of them. I
would thou hadst been there. But why art thou so grave: there is no bad
news?"

"I have a grave task to do, daughter," she replied. "Get thy writing
materials, and I will dictate. Thou canst be trusted; but I fear the
secretaries, and what I tell thee must be secret till all know it." And
Zóra wrote.

"And now read it all over to me again, child. While it was in my mind
the purport seemed uncertain; but now that it is on paper, methinks it
is clear enough." And when Zóra had read the paper, which was only a
few short paragraphs, the Queen bade her make a fair copy.

"What should I do without thee, darling?" she said. "Now go and play
with the children again; but be within call."

"Is Humeed Khan without?" asked the Queen of an attendant eunuch. "If
so, tell him I wish to speak with him;" and he entered soon after, and
sat down, making his usual salutation.

"And the mine hath been discovered," said the Queen, "under the very
palace. Hast thou heard of it?"

"I have," he said. "It was dangerous; but Abbas Khan has already
prevented mischief, and is searching for others."

"And the garrison; what said they?"

"There was some excitement at first, but it has subsided. All they
cried was that they would defend the fort to the last, and you should
lead them to victory, as you did when they followed the Standard of the
Veil."

"Ah!" said the Queen, with a sigh, "those were different times. Many
were with me then who have since become traitors, and done the State
irreparable injury. I have, I know, many faithful about me, but can I
trust all?"

For an instant Humeed Khan thought that the remark was made for him,
and the blood rushed to his dark face, almost causing it to glow. But
the Queen continued--

"As I was musing upon this, Khan, it occurred to me to write a draft
of a proposal to the Prince, to allow all here to pass free with their
effects, and to give up the fort, which appears no longer tenable, to
him, on behalf of his father. And we would fain have your opinion, as
that of one of the most faithful of our officers, wise in counsel and
brave in action. Read this draft, which no one but myself knows of,
except her who wrote it fairly for me, and give thy opinion freely. I
would save life if I can, and this appears to me the only course to
pursue. Those who know me, even my enemies, will not charge me with any
other motive."

Humeed Khan took the paper with a reverential gesture, and carefully
perused it. As he read it he could hardly conceal his exultation and
agitation. What it would have taken me days, nay weeks, to effect, he
thought, she has done with her own hand, and of her own device. Surely
now her time is come. Let her perish.

"It will be dangerous, lady," he said, with an affected calmness. "In
their present temper the Dekhanies are not safe, and the last thing
they think of is surrender. If they were to mutiny, who could stay
them?"

But the Queen shook her head. "They know me and have trusted me, and I
know them and trust them now. Believe me, when they know all, they will
be satisfied I have done the best; but if--"

"I hear some voices without," he said, hurriedly, interrupting her.
"Perhaps another mine has been discovered; perhaps----, but your slave
will return immediately." And he hastily quitted the room.

The Queen could hear no voices then without, and she sat thinking on
what she had heard. There was danger, then, even from within; and those
on whom she most relied might indeed, if excited, be her worst enemies.
"If it be so," she said to herself, "I need not send this letter; but
meet death here, or do as Meeah wishes me. And yet, no. Not that--not
that; better death than flight!"

Suddenly a loud tumult of voices arose, and seemed to be approaching
the palace by the plain in front. "It is this he heard," she said, and
waited, with her heart throbbing. "They come close now."

It was Humeed Khan who had rushed out, as he left the Queen, into the
great square where soldiers were exercising, and casting his turban
on the ground, took up handfuls of dust, flinging it into the air, and
crying, "Ye are betrayed! ye are betrayed, brothers! The Queen Chand is
in treaty for the surrender of the fort! Deen, deen! She is not fit to
live. Deen, deen! Follow me to her presence!" And he fired the rocket
which was always ready for signals at the entrance.

There was no hesitation. At once, and with infuriated cries of
"Treachery! treachery!" the mass surged into the great hall of audience
with drawn swords, crying, "Where is the Queen? Cut her to pieces!"

The Queen had not moved except to rise from her seat, and she stood
with her lips parted and her eyes distended with an absent fascination.
How often in her life had a word from her quelled the wildest
tumult--how often had her excitable people calmed down; but now? And
yet for a moment the foremost were awed by the presence all had loved
and venerated; but only for a moment. Humeed Khan, with a vile oath,
rushed on and cut furiously at her with his sword, and others followed
his example.

The noble woman fell covered with desperate wounds, but she still
breathed; and Zóra, who had been at first appalled by the tumult,
caught up her child in her arms, gave him to his nurse, and rushed to
her beloved mistress's side. One ruffian would have struck her; but
another said, "It is Abbas Khan's wife; let her be."

She raised the Queen's head and tried to give her water from the vessel
which always stood at her side, but the Queen put her hand aside
gently, and smiled. "This is death, my child. I hear--I hear--the
angel--call," she gasped. "Lord!--I come;" and murmuring the Belief her
head sank, and with a last sigh she breathed no more. The noble Queen's
spirit was gone for ever.

Just then a number of other men rushed into the small apartment with
their faces tied up, and in a moment Zóra found herself covered by a
blanket and borne away among the crowd which was roaming through the
palace, plundering all that could be found. She screamed, but what
voice could be heard in that tumult? for there were thousands there,
and still others swarmed into the great hall; but rescue was at hand.

Abbas Khan, when he had left the Queen, went back to the shaft of the
mine; but as the workmen told him there was nothing more to be done
at present but to continue the work that had been begun, he sat there
encouraging the miners, and a number of his own guards, his faithful
Beejapoor men, gathered about him. He heard the first shouts of the
tumult, and all ran to the wall thinking there might be a sudden
assault, but a man ran up, and cried, "To the palace! to the palace!
The Queen is attacked!" and, led by their master, the whole body ran
thither at their utmost speed. It needed but a glance to see what had
taken place.

"Who did this?" cried Abbas Khan. "What vile traitor did this foul
deed?"

"Humeed Khan," said a eunuch boy, who was sitting by the body of the
Queen, weeping; "I saw him strike her first. And they have taken away
Zóra-bee, and little Meeah is crying. Bring her back."

It hardly needed these words to urge the Khan on. Near the entrance of
the audience hall he saw something covered with black being carried
along, and the mass of his powerful men charging through the crowd soon
came up with it. Osman Beg's covering had fallen from his face, but
he did not see his cousin at first, nor till he was suddenly pulled
back did he think he would be recognised; but he immediately attacked
Abbas Khan with his sword. Neither spoke a word, but the ruffian had no
chance of life, and lay dead at his cousin's feet almost before he had
realised his presence.

"My poor darling," said the Khan, as he released Zóra from her bonds,
"this is no place for thee. Go to Meeah. But thou art safe--blessed be
Alla, thou art safe!" Truly it was no place for her. The floor around
was a pool of blood, and the bodies of some strangers, among whom were
several negro slaves, lay there in ghastly death with their master.
Zóra cast one shuddering glance on the horrible group, and, covering
her face, hurried back to her child, trembling and terror-stricken.

Meanwhile Yasin, with another body of the guard, had found Humeed Khan
hiding in an ante-room, and brought him, with his arms tied together at
his back, to the spot where Abbas Khan stood. "He did it! He did it!"
cried a thousand voices. "Let him die!"

"Thou art not worthy of a soldier's death," said Abbas Khan, "but of a
felon's. Yet, if thou wilt, say why thou didst this foul crime? What
had she done to thee, who was thy benefactress for years?"

"It matters not why I did it," was the sullen reply. "I did it, and rid
the world of one who had vexed it too long;" and he spoke no more. Then
some men, taking him up, put a noose round his neck, and, throwing the
end of the rope over the branch of a tree, left him to wrestle out his
life in the air.

By this time the rest of the Abyssinians, the Arabs, and other
foreigners, had assembled in the square, and the majority of the
Dekhanies, who were deploring the Queen's murder with passionate
weeping, separated quietly, crying to Abbas Khan to lead them against
the Moghuls, for they were true to their King, of whom he was now the
only protector.



CHAPTER IX.
CONCLUSION.


By the time Abbas Khan could reach the room to which the body of the
murdered Queen had been taken, it had been laid out with the usual
formalities. He could have done nothing there, and it was necessary
for him to satisfy himself that no deep-laid treachery or disaffection
was at work. And of these there appeared no traces. All the leaders of
Dekhany parties came forward and made their salutations, as usual, and
the men crowded round him with professions of attachment and devotion,
which left no cause for doubt that the dreadful act that had been
committed was one of sudden frenzy, enacted by the eunuch, whom he had
long suspected, though undefinably, of sinister designs. He was a man
in whom the Queen had reposed as great confidence as in himself; and to
breathe idle suspicion to her would have been only to excite suspicion
of himself, and he had not attempted to do so; but since the flight
of Nihung Khan, the eunuch's manner had been changed, and the former
unreserved confidence that had existed no longer continued at heart,
though outwardly the two men were apparently as cordial as ever.

Satisfied that all was tranquil, and that the fort and garrison had
subsided into their usual calm, Abbas Khan returned to the palace, and
reverently visited the remains of his beloved mistress and mother, for
he had always looked on her in the place of one; and as such, and his
Queen, paid her reverence. Outside, in the hall of audience, and in
the ante-chamber of the room in which she lay, were Moollas, reading
and chanting the stated portions of the Korán. Incense was burning,
and its smoke hung about the clustered pillars, niches, and fretted
ceilings; and within, the women and eunuchs of the household were
wailing, moaning, and occasionally breaking into passionate cries and
adjurations. Zóra and the young mother of the boy King were sitting at
the head of the Queen, with their faces covered, and heads bowed down,
wailing like the rest; and as Zóra looked up, her husband saw her face
and eyes swollen with weeping, and full of unutterable woe. She could
not speak, and longed to throw herself into his arms. But that was not
the place for such an action, and she remained kneeling.

Nor could Abbas Khan say more than the usual salutation to the dead.
"Peace be with thee, and the blessing of the Lord," and burst into an
almost uncontrollable passion of weeping. All the majesty, all the
heroism, all the benevolence, all the political ability of the noble
woman lying there, in the last sleep of death, surged up to his memory,
mingled with tender thoughts of her loving kindness, her bearing with
all his waywardness from boyhood; and now a traitors sword had closed
that noble life, without a warning or a suspicion.

The Queen's face was not changed, except to wear the expression of
a glorious death. A soft smile, as if of peace in the last supreme
moment, lingered on her lips; and though her poor slight body was
covered with wounds, the face had escaped mutilation, and had become
more beautiful, if possible, in death than in life. Who could forget
it? and long they gazed and watched. Who ever would forget it? Zóra
would fain have had him stay, for she needed comfort; but with a few
soothing words he said, "I must not sleep to-night, darling; but watch,
too, over ye all, as is my duty. It may be that the enemy may be
unquiet, and the people need all my vigilance." Then he took up his boy
and kissed him, and blessed them both.

At the earliest dawn he was with the mourners again, and what remained
of the Noble Queen was reverently taken up and carried to a little
private cemetery in an angle of the fort, and there laid in the earth.
Abbas Khan had sent a flag of truce to the Moghul trenches to say
that unshotted guns would be fired for the Queen; and the salvoes of
artillery which mingled with the chants of the Moollas and the wailings
of the people, who crowded every point from which the last procession
could be seen, were not noticed; while during the day a letter of
condolence, in the name of the young King, was sent by the Prince
Daniel, an act of unexpected courtesy.

We cannot linger on the sadness that fell over all. Under such
circumstances a public calamity has greater effect than at any other;
and sadly were the noble lady's cheering smile and hearty words of
encouragement missed by all to whom they had become familiar. What
was Abbas Khan to do? Who was to undertake the Regency on behalf of
the young King? Zóra entreated her husband not to do so. Then, too,
Ahmednugger was severed, and she longed for a peaceful existence at
Beejapoor. Her life had been one of continual alarm, danger, treachery,
and war, and still danger most imminent surrounded them; and yet she
could not counsel flight.

The suspense was not of long duration, and after consultation with the
officers of the fort, it had been determined to send a flag of truce
into the Royal camp--not to write--to ascertain what terms would be
given for the surrender of the fort, and the conveyance of the young
King to Joonair. But the proposal was never made. Encouraged by the
death of the Queen, and convinced that the garrison had lost heart,
Khan Khanan redoubled his exertions, and though the great mine was
disabled, yet those in the counterscarp and under the ramparts, five in
all, were ready, and were loaded during that day and the next.

On the day following, masses of the Moghul troops were seen from the
cavalier to be marching upon the fort, and taking up new positions
during the morning. It seemed as though new ground was to be broken to
the east and north; or a feint made to cover some operation outside.
A few shots were fired at them, but they were too distant to have any
effect. The movement was, however, a feint, and a successful one,
for under cover of it the enemy had lodged a heavy mass of infantry
as a storming party in the trenches, and soon after midday, at the
hottest period, the mines in the counterscarp and rampart were fired
simultaneously; and the effect was so sudden and so unlooked for, that
the enemy made his way into the ditch and up the breach, now a wide and
easy one, without much loss and without check, and a scene of massacre
ensued which we have no need to describe.

Abbas Khan had been sitting on the rampart, watching with several of
his men, when the mine nearest them was sprung, hurling the guard of
one of the smaller bastions into the air, when he felt himself struck
with a large piece of stone, and remembered no more. Some of his men
took him up at once, and led by the faithful Yasin, carried him to his
apartments in the palace, and laid him down. But he still breathed, and
Zóra, who knelt by him, could see no blood; and through the terror of
assault, and the shouts and shrieks of the combat at the breach, she
continued to bathe his face and hands with water, and to rouse him to
consciousness. But nearer and nearer grew the tumult, spreading on all
sides; and, expecting momentary death, she knelt with her boy beside
his father's body and said the last prayers of the dying. While she
was thus employed a Rajpoot officer of rank, accompanied by a crowd
of men, rushed in pell-mell with uplifted swords, but their commander
restrained them; and Zóra, seeing his action, fell at his feet,
beseeching her husband's life.

"My name is Bénee Singh," he said, "and I have led the assault. To me
and my Rajpoots is committed the charge of all the treasure of the fort
and the command of the palace, and we have orders to spare those we
find and to protect the young King. Direct us to him, and I will leave
some men to guard you and yours. Do not fear, you are safe; and we bear
no enmity to wounded and helpless men. See to him, Hurpul Singh," he
continued to a sub-officer; "let him not be disturbed, or the lady; and
keep people out--perhaps he is dying."

But Abbas Khan was not dying. He had only been struck senseless by
the blow of the stone; and after a while, to the infinite joy and
thankfulness of his wife, he opened his eyes, and would have stretched
out his arms to her, but one--his left--was powerless.

"What has happened, Zóra?" he said. "Why am I here? And who are these
men?"

"Be still," she said, gently. "Thou art safe, and the child is safe;
but the fort is taken by the mines. Dost thou not hear the tumult
without?"

"And I was not with them to strike a blow in our defence! O cruel
fate!" And he tried to raise his arm again, but it fell back.

"Be content, my lord," said the man called Hurpul, "It was your luck
the first time, it is ours now; and we have won. Even now the gates
are wide open, and masses of men are entering. Presently the Prince
and Khan Khanan will come, and a salute will be fired. But is thy arm
broken? Let me see. No," he continued, "it is sound, but the bruise
is a bad one; and thou art as helpless as a child. Thank God for thy
life as thy lady doth. Get her to make a fomentation of meem leaves and
turmeric and thou wilt be relieved. When the Khan Khanan comes I will
bring him hither."

Zóra hid herself when the great general came in soon afterwards, and
spoke kindly to her husband. "I have not forgotten thee, Abbas Khan.
From the time the treaty was executed I have wished thou wert among us,
as friends of Beejapoor, rather than these faithless, fickle murderers;
and thou might be so yet. Thou hast held the command here?"

"Yes, my lord," returned the Khan, "since Nihung Khan, the Abyssinian,
fled. After his defeat by you I have had to do my duty."

"Well, I cannot stay, sir, now, but will come to you hereafter. I have
ordered apartments for you and your household in the palace, close to
the city, where you will be removed this evening, and promise that all
your private property shall be sent after you. The eunuchs will, no
doubt, know what it is."

That evening, in closed palanquins, Abbas Khan and his wife, the
boy King and his mother, were removed to the convenient and elegant
structure we have mentioned, which has been converted now into an
English residence. The cool, pure, untainted air, and the pleasant
shady garden, soon effected Abbas Khan's recovery from the dangerous
and painful contusions he had received, and all he now desired and
besought from the Prince and his general, who came frequently to
converse with him, was permission to depart with his effects to
Beejapoor. Both the Prince and Khan Khanan had been greatly struck
by his ability and intelligence, and would fain have had him enter
the Moghul army, and assume a high command, but he respectfully
declined the honour. His estates in Beejapoor, with Zóra's, were very
considerable. The Queen had much enriched him, and all the contents
of his private treasury in the fort had been scrupulously made over
to him. He had afforded all the information possible as regarded the
State affairs, and he and Zóra had visited the humble grave of their
beloved mistress to perform some necessary ceremonies there; but Zóra
could never enter the palace; from her mind the visions of blood and
slaughter it brought back would require many years to efface.

So, when a suitable opportunity offered, Abbas Khan and his family,
accompanied by all his retainers who had escaped the siege, set out
for Beejapoor, travelling by the route by which they had come, past
Nuldroog and Almella, where they were welcomed with joy. We may
imagine, too, with what hearty rejoicing his uncle and the Lady Fatima
welcomed their long absent ones, and with what profuse entertainments
the little Meeah, now a sturdy little fellow, was inducted into the
general heirship of the house. But Abbas Khan's most impressive
reception was from his King, who, grateful for his devotion to Queen
Chand, received him in a grand durbar, and raised him to the highest
rank of nobility, and conferred upon him other substantial proofs of
his gratitude. Not long afterwards, Dilawar Khan, Viceroy of Moodgul,
whose health had failed, gave up his viceroyalty and military command,
and, to his wife's infinite delight, Abbas Khan accepted both with
gratitude.

Before Abbas Khan had been allowed to leave Ahmednugger, the boy King,
Bahadur Nizam Shah, with his mother and other female relatives, had
been taken away as prisoners, and were confined in the fortress of
Gwalior. All the treasures and regalia of the kingdom were confiscated
and removed thither with him. Thenceforth the greatest portion of the
kingdom was annexed to the Moghul empire; but for some years after,
the remainder, up to the frontiers of Golconda and Beejapoor, was ruled
over by Mullek Umber, on behalf of a descendant of the Royal family,
who was crowned under the title of Moortuza Nizam Shah, but the family
finally became extinct about the year 1607.

The Bishop and Maria were miserable until they heard the real facts of
the capture of Ahmednugger. The Queen's murder had been repeated with
endless exaggeration, and Abbas Khan was said to have perished with
her, or in the last assault; while of Zóra nothing was known, but it
was believed she had been carried away into captivity. Still they had
hope, and Mullek Umber bid them hope, and despatched a trusty messenger
to the city, who soon found out Abbas Khan and his wife, and brought
letters from them. "We are safe," Zóra wrote to Maria, "and are going
to Beejapoor. You must come too, and live together again." But the
country was hardly safe yet for travelling, and they were detained till
Mullek Umber could send them to Nuldroog by the way they had come. At
Beejapoor they found that Abbas Khan and Zóra were already established
at Moodgul, and after a short stay at the capital, they proceeded to
their destination. The Bishop had applied to the King for a letter to
Goa, in relation to the wealth of Dom Diego, and it was satisfactory
to the worthy man that the affair had been arranged by the banker, and
that the Church was the richer by several lakhs of rupees.

How thankful and how happy they all were. Nor was it long before Maria
and Zóra revisited the scene of their first meeting. The old house
was cleaned out for them and purified, and their first excursion from
Moodgul was to that well-remembered place. Even the Lady Keysama was
not above meeting the Lady Zóra Khanum, and they talked over bygone
events with interest. As to Runga Naik and Burma, they were beside
themselves with joy; insisting that the ladies should see the cataract
from the palace at the top of the fort; that Zóra should revisit the
fearful scene of her abduction and escape; and she pointed out, with
eyes swimming in tears, where she had been confined, and how delivered.
"Your slave only regretted that he did not go in and slay that vile
ruffian in his sleep," said Burma Naik; "but the Lord reserved him for
your hand, Meeah, and we rejoice that he died at your feet like a dog."
This, however, was a subject which the Khan rarely alluded to, and the
Beydur saw that it had better be avoided.

They revisited the place many a time afterwards, but on the first day,
neither too full to be frightful, or too empty to be meagre, the noble
cataract was in its full beauty; and they descended from the palace
by the small path by which Zóra had been carried by Jooma, the slave,
and sat down on the gun in the bastion, as they had done before. In
the distance the giant fall sparkled with rainbows, and the spray at
times was full of golden light, which, from the evening sun, spread
itself over the rugged sides of the ravine, over the feathery foliage
which clothed the crags, and the plashing water which fretted against
the rocks at their feet far below. While the little Meeah, in his
father's arms, pulled handfuls of flowers from the creepers which hung
everywhere around, Zóra and Maria sat hand in hand without speaking;
and perhaps their hearts were too full for aught else than loving and
reverent memories of the past. Nor was the place ever left unvisited by
Zóra in after days, when the little mosque was repaired, and prayers
were said by an old Syud whom she placed in it; and she came there with
her children on the sacred anniversaries of her grandfather's death.
But he is forgotten now; and of the "Peer," who receives a traditional
anniversary worship to this day, no name has been preserved. We may
be sure that on these anniversaries no more delightful subjects for
stories for the children arose, than their mother's accounts of her
early perils and escapes. Once little Meeah said, looking earnestly in
her face, "Mother, how didst thou escape from all these troubles?" And
Zóra answered, gently, "I trusted in the Lord, my child."

Reader, who hast followed us in the course of this old world tale, we
need hardly tell you that all are forgotten now; and there are traces
of none except the two Beydurs, whose descendants still inhabit Korikul
and Kukeyra, and are unchanged from what they used to be in the times
of which I have written. For the rest, Beejapoor is a magnificent ruin,
but Ahmednugger flourishes as an English station and cantonment, and
the stout old fort is in perfect preservation. In both, and in the
country round, nay, in all Dekhan, the memory of Chand Beebee, who
defended the fort, and was murdered by her ungrateful people, and her
heroic deeds and devotion in the battle of the "Standard of the Veil,"
are still sung and recited as the fittest memorials of

    "A NOBLE QUEEN."



NOTE.


There are no records traceable at Moodgul of the worthy Bishop and
his devoted sister, but they are believed to have remained there
some years, and to have eventually returned to Portugal. But the
small Christian Churches so strangely preserved under the continuous
Mussulman Governments of the Dekhan still survive, and are steadfast
to their faith. They are still as they existed at the period of this
tale--Moodgul and Raichore, with their dependencies, Chittapoor on the
Bheema, and Aurungabad, and they are ministered to by priests under the
jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Goa.



GLOSSARY.


  Adalut, _Court of justice._
  Ajaib! _Wonderful!_
  Ajuba! _Extraordinary!_
  Akhbar, _News letter._
  Alla dilaya te leonga! _If God give, I will take!_
  "Alla hu Akhbar!" _"God is victorious!"_
  Amán! _Mercy!_
  Ameen, ameen!_ Amen, amen!_
  Astagh-fur-oolla! _God forbid!_
  Azán, _Evening prayer._


  Bairagees, _Hindoo mendicants._
  Beebee, _Lady._
  Beydur, _Tribe of aborigines._
  Bhylmees, _Tribe of Mussulmans._
  Birianees, _A kind of Pilao._
  Bismilla! _In the name of God!_
  "Burkhat, Durbar Burkhat," _"The Durbar is dismissed."_

  Chabootra, _Earthen platform used for assemblies._
  Chaoree, _Village place of assembly._
  Chaya Mata, _The nymph of the fall._
  Chistee, _The designation of a tribe of Fakeers._
  Chitnees, _Correspondence clerk._
  Corus, _Anniversary._
  Cucheri, _Office for public business._


  Daad! daad! _Complaint! complaint!_
  Dacoits, _Gang robbers._
  Dall, _Split pulse._
  Darogah, _Superintendent._
  Deen-deen! _For the faith! for the faith!_
  Dohai! _Cry for justice._
  Doputta, _Scarf._
  Duffadar, _Inferior officer._
  Duftur, _Record Office._
  Durbar, _Court._
  Durora, _Gang robbery._


  Fatehas, _Thank-offerings._
  Feringhi, _European._
  Furashes, _Sweepers and tent pitchers._
  Futteh Mydan, _The Plain of Victory._
  Futteh-i-Nubber, _Victory to the Prophet._


  Geesoo Duráz, _"Long Locks"_--title of saint at Kulburgab.
  Ghee, _Boiled butter._
  Gopal swami, _Appellation of the god Krishna._
  Goruk Imlee, _Adansonia._
  Gosha, _Privacy._


  Hai-hai! _Alas, alas!_
  Hakeem, _Physician._
  Harem, _Women's apartments._
  Hari Ból, _Hindoo war-cry._
  Hoons, _A gold coin._
  Howdahs, _Seat on elephant._
  Humeenas, _Thin bag of leather worn at the waist._
  Huzrut, _Prince._


  Imáms, _Religious officers._
  Inshalla! _Please God._


  Jamahs, _Loose trousers._
  Jemadár, _Native officer._
  Jerreeds, _A game played on horseback with javelins._
  Jey mata! _Victory to the Mother!_
  Julaybees, _Kind of sweetmeat._


  Kabob, _Meat roasted._
  Karámat, _Miracle._
  Kazee, _Mohamedan law officer._
  Khan, _Title of respect._
  Khanum, _Wife of Khan._
  Khedive, _Head of sect of Mussulmans._
  Khoda Hafiz, _God protect you!_
  Kibleh, _Point of attraction._
  Kicheri, _Dish of rice and pulse._
  Killadar, _Governor of fort._
  Kooroo Kshetra, _The great battle between the solar and lunar races,
                   described in Mahabarut._
  Kotwal, _Town magistrate._
  Kullunders, _Tribe of Fakeers._
  Kumkhob, _Cloth of Gold._
  Kurnum, _Village accountant._
  Kussal, _Butcher._


  Lakh, _A hundred thousand._
  Loongee, _Man's waist cloth._
  Luddoos, _Kind of sweetmeat._


  Mahabarut, _Sacred epic of the Hindoos._
  Máma, _Confidential female attendant._
  Mawallees, _A Mahratta tribe._
  Masháek, _Religious devotee._
  Mashalla! _Praise to God!_
  Meeah, _Familiar title of eldest son among Mussulmans._
  Mirdha, _Court usher._
  Mohurrum, _Mahomedan festival._
  Mohurs, _Gold coin._
  Momins, _Weavers._
  Monsoon, _Rainy season._
  Moolla, _Religious teacher._
  Moonshee, _Secretary._
  "Moonskir and Nakar," _"The Angels of death."_
  Moorsheed, _A disciple._
  Muezzin, _Caller to prayer._
  Mufti, _Law officer._
  Mundan-ool-Ghyb, _Spirit supposed to protect travellers._
  Mynas, _Starlings._


  Nagáras, _Large kettledrums._
  Naik, _Head of Beydur tribe._
  Nalkee, _Sedan chair._
  Nawab, _Lord._
  "Neem," _"Melia ardizarachta."_
  Nika, _Marriage of the second order._
  Nobut, _Band of music attached to persons of high rank._
  Nuzzur, _Offering._


  Owleas, _A saint._


  Palkee, _Litter._
  Pán, _Betel leaf._
  Patell, _Head officer of village._
  Peer, _Saint._
  Peer-i-Dustugeer, _Respectful address to a saint._
  Peshkar, _Minister of Finance._
  Pice, _Copper coin._
  Pilao, _Savoury dish of meat and rice._
  Pooja, _Hindoo worship._
  Puleeta, _A lamp charm._
  Punah, _Protection._
  Putwari, _Village accountant._


  Rámáyan, _Hindoo epic poem._
  Ranee, _Hindoo princess._
  Roostum, _One of the heroes of the Shah Nama._
  Rujub-ool-Ghyb, _A spirit supposed to watch over travellers._
  Rumzan, _Mussulman fast._


  Salaam aliekoom! _Salutation of peace._
  Sari, _Woman's garment._
  Séndhee, _Fermented palm juice._
  Shabash! _Well done!_
  Shah, _King._
  Shookr, shookr! _Thanks, thanks!_
  Shoolka, _Scones._
  Shubgusht, _A marriage procession by night._
  Shytan, _The Devil._
  Siah Chuttree, _Tribe of Mussulmans_--called "black umbrellas."
  Soosi, _A kind of cotton cloth._
  Synd, _A division of Mussulmans._
  Syndanee, _Female Synd._
  Swami, _Title of Hindoo religious princes._


  Touba! touba! _Shame! shame!_
  Tukeea, _Abode of a Fakeer._
  Turreequt, _Path to salvation._


  Ul-humd-ul-illa! _Praise be to God!_
  Unjeel, _The New Testament._


  Vakeels, _Agents._


  Wallee, _Saint._


  Ya, Alla, Kureem! _O Lord, most merciful._
  Ya Kureem! _O merciful!_


  Zemindars, _Land owners._
  Zenana, _Women's private apartments._
  Zools, _Portions of the Korán._


THE END.


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



Transcriber's Notes

Obvious errors of punctuation and diacritics repaired.

Hyphen removed: "goodwill" (p. 82), "handwriting" (p. 96),
"kettledrums" (pp. 179, 197), "midday" (p. 27), "noonday" (p. 29),
"overcharged" (p. 7), "sally ports" (p. 252), "sandbags" (p. 194).

Hyphen added: "to-night" (p. 275).

"D'Almeida" changed to "d'Almeida".

P. 80: "Dom Matthias de Abuquerque" changed to "Dom Matthias de
Albuquerque".

P. 220: "Mogul" changed to "Moghul" (the Moghul Government).

P. 228: "A" added (A kind of cotton cloth).





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