Imatges de pÓgina

of his seraglio at Erivan. Thither then I bent my steps, hoping that something might turn up for my advantage.

Upon my arrival there, I posted myself at the bridge over the Zengui, from whence I had a full survey of that part of the Serdar's palace which contains his women; and as the troops were crossing it at the same time in constant succession, I was unnoticed, and passed for one of the camp followers. The building is situated upon the brink of a precipice of dark rock, at the foot of which flows the Zengui, a clear and rapid stream, foaming through a rocky bed, the stony projections of which form white eddies, and increase the rush of its waters. A bridge of three arches is thrown over it just at the foot of the precipice, and forms part of the high road to Georgia and Turkey. The principal saloon of the palace, in a corner of which the Serdar is usually seated, opens with a large casement on the river, and overlooks the precipice. At some distance on the same surface of build. ing are the windows of the women's apartments, distinguished by their lattices, and by other contrivances of jealousy. However, I observed they were not so well secured, but that objects passing and repassing the bridge might well be seen from them; and I imagined that if Mariam was a prisoner there, she might perchance make me out as I stood below. • But if she did, what then ?' said I to myself in despair ; seeing me there would only add to her torture, and to my desperation. To escape from such a height appeared impossible, for a fall would be instant death; and excepting a willow tree, which grew out of the rock immediately under one of the windows, there was nothing to break the descent. However, having remained in one spot so long in meditation, I feared to be observed ; and left my post for the present, determining to return to it at the close of day, and indeed at every hour when I could appear

without suspicion.

I had been watching the windows of the seraglio in this manner for more than a fortnight, and had not ceased to parade up and down the bridge at least three times every day, when one evening as the day was about to close, I saw the lattice of the window over the willow tree open, and a female looking out of it. I watched her with breathless suspense. She appeared to recognise me.

I extended my hand; she stretched forth hers. It is she !' said I ; 'yes, it must be her! it is my Mariam !' Upon which, without a

moment's hesitation, without thinking of the consequences, I plunged into the river, and having waded through it, stood at the foot of the precipice, immediately under my beloved wife. She stretched her arms several times towards me, as if she would have thrown herself out. I almost screamed with apprehension; and yet the hope of pressing her to my heart made me half regret that she had not done so.

We stood there looking wistfully at each other, fearing to speak, yet longing to do so. ' At length, she shut the lattice suddenly, and left me in an attitude and in all the horrors of suspense. I kept my post for some time without seeing any thing more of her, when again suddenly the lattice opened, and she appeared, but with looks that spoke intense agitation. I scarcely could tell what was about to happen, but waited in dreadful anxiety, until I saw her lean forward, retreat, lean forward again then more and more, until, by a sudden effort, I beheld her fair form in the air, falling down the giddy height. My legs refused to perform their office, my eyes were obscured by a swimming, and should have probably sunk under the intenseness of my feelings, when I saw her half suspended, half falling from a branch of the willow tree. I bounded up, and in an instant had mounted the tree, and had clasped her senseless in my arms. I seemed to be impelled by new vigour and strength ; to reach the ground, to recross the river, to fly with my precious bur• den from the inhabited outskirts into the open country, appeared but the business of a second. I was perfectly drunk with the thousand feelings which agitated me; and although I acted like one bereft of his senses, yet every thing I did was precisely that which I ought to have done. Nature guided me; the animal acting only from instinct would have done like me. I had saved that which was most precious to me in this world.

When I had worn out my first efforts of strength, and had felt that my hitherto senseless burden showed some symptoms of life, I stopped, and placed her quietly on the ground, behind some broken walls. She was terribly bruised, although no bone had been broken. The branches of the tree, upon which she had alighted, had wounded her deeply in several places, and the blood had flown very copiously. But she was alive; she breathed; she opened her eyes, and at length pronounced my name. I was almost crazy with joy, and embraced her with a fervour that amounted to madness. When she had reposed herself a

little, I snatched her up again, and proceeded onwards with all the haste imaginable, in the determination to strike at once into the mountains ; but recollecting that I had the river of Ashtarek to cross, and that with her in my arms it would be impossible to do so except by the bridge, I at once directed my steps thither. We were reposing at the foot of the bridge, when I heard the footsteps of your horses. Although nearly exhausted with my previous exertions, I still had strength enough left to clamber up the bank, and take refuge in the ruined church, where you first discovered us; and there I watched your motions with the greatest anxiety, concluding that you were a party sent in pursuit of us by the Serdar. Need I say after this, that if you will protect us, and permit us to seek our home, you will receive the overflowing gratitude of two thankful hearts, and the blessings of many now wretched people, who, by our return, will be made supremely happy ? Whoever you are, upon whatever errand you may be sent, you cannot have lost the feelings of a man. God will repay your kindness a thousand times; and although we are not of your faith and nation, still we have prayers to put up at the Throne of Grace, which must be received when they are employed in so good

a cause.

The Armenian youth here finished his narrative, and left me in astonishment and admiration at all he had related. With my permission he then quitted me to visit his wife, and promised to return immediately with the report of her present state, and how she felt after her

repose. I kept turning over in my mind whether I should release him or not, and was fluctuating in great perplexity when Yûsûf returned. He told me that his Mariam was considerably refreshed by repose ; but, weak from loss of blood, and stiff by the violence of the contusions she had received, it would be impossible for her to move for several days; 'except indeed we were pursued by the Serdar,' added he, « when I believe nothing but force could hinder us from proceeding. He said that not until now she had had strength enough to tell him her own adventures from the time she left him at Gavmishlû. It appears, that the instant she had darted from the nuptial chamber, only covered by her veil, she had been seized by a Persian, who discovering by the glare of the lightning that she was young and handsome, ran off with her to some distance, and there detained her, until, with the assistance of another, she was

mounted on a horse and taken forcibly away ; that these two men carried her straight to the camp at Aberan, and offered her for sale to the Serdar ; who having agreed to take her, ordered her to be conducted to his seraglio at Erivan, and there put into service ; that the horrid plight in which she stood, when exhibited to the Serdar, her disfigured looks, and her weak and drooping state, made her hope that she would remain unnoticed and neglected; particularly when she heard what was his character, and to what extent he carried his cruelties on the unfortunate victims of his selfishness. Mariam alluding to herself, then said, Hoping, by always talking of myself as a married woman, that I should meet with more respect in the house of a Mussulman, than if I were otherwise, I never lost an opportunity of putting my husband's name forward ; and this succeededfor little or no notice was taken of me, and I was confounded with the other slaves, and performed the different tasks of servitude which were set me. But, unfortunately, I did not long keep my own counsel : I confided my story to a Persian woman who pretended to be my friend ; hoping by that means to soften her heart so much as to induce her to help me in regaining my freedom ; but she proved treacherous; she made a merit of relating it to the Serdar, who immediately forced me to confirm my words with my own lips, and then the extent of my imprudence became manifest. He announced his intention to avail himself of situation, and ordered me to prepare for receiving him. Conceive then what were the horrors of my position. I turned over in my mind 'every means of escape, but all avenues ,to it were shut. I had never before thought of looking over the precipice upon which the windows of our prison opened; but now I seriously thought of precipitating myself, rather than submit to the tyrant. But a few hours after I had had the blessing to discover you on the bridge, I had been ordered to hold myself in readiness to receive him; and it was then that I had positively determined in my own mind to throw myself headlong out, either once more to be joined to you or to die in the attempt. When I shut the lattices in haste, several women had just come into the room to conduct me to the hot-bath previously to being dressed ; and when I had made some excuse for delaying it, and had sent them out of the room, it was then that I opened the lattice a second time, and put my resolution into practice.',

Yûsûf having finished the recital of his and his wife's


adventures, was very anxious to know what part I would take, and earnestly entreated me to befriend him by my advice and assistance. The morning was far spent. My men were already mounted, and ready to proceed on our reconnoitring expedition, and my horse was waiting for me, when a thought struck me, which would settle every difficulty with regard to the young Armenian and his wife. I called him to me, and said, ' After what you have related, it will be impossible to leave you at liberty. You have, by your own account, run off with a woman from the Serdar's seraglio, a crime which you perhaps do not know, in a Mussulman country is punished with death, so sacred is the harem held in our estimation. If I were to act right, I ought not to lose a moment in sending you both back to Erivan ; but that I will not do, provided you agree to join us in our present expedition, and to serve us as guide in those parts of the country with which you are best acquainted. I then explained to him the nature of my office, and what was the object of the expedition. If you are zealous in our cause,' said I, you will then have performed a service which will entitle you to reward, and thus enable me to speak in your favour to the Serdar and to my chief, and, Inshallah! please God, to procure your release. In the meanwhile, your wife may remain here, in all safety, in the hands of the good folks of this village ; and by the time we return, she will, I hope, have been restored to health.? The youth, upon hearing this language, took my hand and kissed it, agreed to every thing I had said, and having girt on his arms, he was ready to attend us. I permitted him to go to his wife, to give her an account of this arrangement, and to console her, with proper assurances, that they would soon be restored to each other. He again thanked me; and, with the agility of an antelope, had already gained the summit of the first hill, before we had even began to ascend it.

We proceeded towards the Georgian frontier, shaping our track over unfrequented parts of the mountains, in which we were very materially assisted by Yûsûf. We were not far from Hamamlû when I became anxious to acquire some precise intelligence concerning the numbers and the dispositions of the enemy. A thought struck me as I pondered over the fate of my Armenian protegé-I will either save this youth or lose him, thought I, and never was there a better opportunity than the present

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »