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with jasmine buds a gaily-coloured kerchief. Near her, as if envying her sweet employment, a little honey-sucker balanced its tiny form upon a fragile spray, turning from side to side, and trilling its tender lay, with an apparent consciousness of its own beauty, as at every turn the glancing sun-beams revealed the green, and gold, and purple of its plumage. Now, as weary of a moment's rest, the little creature would dive into the very heart of some blossom, and, disappointed of the expected sweets, would, with mimic passion, tear the poor flower to atoms, and flit away to a distant bud. It was a little picture of beauty in a petulant and capricious mood, and the lady paused to gaze at it, as it lightly sprung from leaf to leaf, itself like a winged flower.
"Sweet bird," said she, "well may you be gay in these pleasant shades, where love and liberty rejoice thy little spirit! but I fear that you have gazed upon the reflection of your pretty person until you are half spoilt by your conceits, for see, your friends the butterflies are as brilliant as yourself, and more harmless too, for they can flit around, charmed with the sun, the shade, the perfumes, but do not scatter with such naughty passion the painted leaves of the blossoms; go-you shall not tear my pretty chumpa buds, for they remind me of the days when I sighed to share with thee the joys of liberty and love. Look, Yussuf," continued she, as a handsome youth approached her from the temple, "look what ruin that tiny marauder has already made among my favourite flowers."
"Dearest !" replied her lover, "little can you know the happiness I feel, when I find you thus dwelling on the memory of those hours which made you mine. Tell me, Raena," continued he, drawing the fair girl closer to his side, "do these birds and blossoms, these leafy shades and flickering sunbeams, indeed repay thee for the loss of ease and luxury in thy father's harem ?"
“Ah, Yussuf,” and, as she spoke, her eyes beamed with a more lustrous light, "all that to me is bright and beautiful is centered here. I could almost fancy, love, that such a life as this, so bright and free, the favoured of the Prophets live, in their eternal bowers of bliss."
"And I might think so too," said Yussuf, with a smile," with such a houri by my side; and in truth," continued he, "it makes me hold but lightly these promises of our creed when, on the earth, its fairest dreams are realized. But you have little womanly ambition, my dear Raena, to prefer the proscribed chief to the princely khan; the tomb of Peer Hajee to the terraced palace, and the twittering of these feathered warblers to the natch-girls' songs."
"Ah! speak not of the khan," replied Raena; " and how can it be better to sit in sumptuous rooms, watching the growth of candied fruits, instead of these sweet orange buds? Is it not pleasanter to behold these roses glow beneath the setting sun, than to see the dyeing of the slave-girls' garments? Ah! how angry old Zeba used to be when I would neither help her to make her attar, nor yet hearken to Ameena's songs! Far rather would I listen to the gurgling note of the rose-loving bulbul, than to all the Taza bi Taza's' of the harem's minstrels."
"And so, sweetest, you do not indeed regret," said Yussuf, pressing his lip on her cheek, and smiling archly as he did so, "that, in the full bloom of your beauty, you are thus transplanted to my garden of happiness? Believe me, the rich dyes of the merchant and the songs of the poet are as nothing to the voice of my Raena, and the blush which tells me of her love. But hush," continued Yussuf, as a sound was distinctly heard in the depth of the surround
ing foliage; "do you not hear?-see you nothing in these shades?-theremoving-away, by the old mangoe tree?"
"'Tis only old Timour, cropping the young grass," replied Raena; "indeed it is not ;" and she threw her arm playfully around her lover, as, with heightened colour he seemed about to push into the leafy covert. "Nay, you shall not leave me-you have played truant half the day, and I am growing jealous of black Timour; see now, 'tis he; see how he moves quietly away.”
“In truth, I think it is my noble steed," replied Yussuf, as he gazed; "but say, Raena, have I not reason to love my favourite, when to his speed I owed your safety on the happy eve that made you mine?—But ah !-look, 'twas not black Timour that lurked among the foliage,-see how that horse crosses with speed the plain, and he has a rider-great Allah save us! grant that it be not so!-but-see how he lowers his glittering spear, and presses fiercely on the flanks of his straining steed-it is-it must be Lutuf."
"My brother! are we then lost?-oh Yussuf! kill me-now-delay not, lest they come and tear me from thee;-kill me, and lay me beneath these chumpa trees, then-say that I have fled you know not where, and, when they are gone to seek me, then remember that thy Raena still is here."
"Dearest," replied Yussuf, folding the excited girl in a fond embrace," fear nothing; am not I with thee still? We must hasten to quit this spot, Raena; but weep not-whither we go, we shall find stars as bright, and flowers as fair— and a love which, like the firefly, will glow the more intensely for these passing clouds."
Time passed swiftly, and love shed its brightest joys upon that happy pair; but the father's wrath and the brothers' vengeance burnt with a fiercer flame. The disappointed Kureem Khan was from far and near collecting his adhe rents for an attack on Sultanpoor, and the brothers, Lutuf and Rooknadeen, had sworn upon the Koran to discover and destroy that early friend who had now inflicted disgrace upon their house and name. Hitherto, indeed, pursuit was baffled; true, Lutuf had traced the fugitives to their temporary restingplace; but again they had escaped his vigilance.
In the apartments of the harem, all was doubt and sadness. Old Zeba, who had loved her young mistress, and tended her from earliest childhood, sat listlessly, in dark corners of the now undecorated rooms, muttering indistinctly to herself; or if she spoke, it was in a tone so harsh and shrill, that the slave-girls hurried from her presence. Ameena, the favourite and sweetvoiced slave-girl, now sang no more, but her sitarr, with loosened strings, rested upon the cushions on which her lady had reposed when listening languidly to its oft-heard tones. In the chumpa grove, and on the moonlit terrace, strolled the little Karishma, but it was with a step less light, a smile less frequent, than before; she thought the bulbul's note no longer sweet, and she grieved at the fate of her friend, poor Lala, who had been sacrificed to the vengeance of the Aga: so Karishma wreathed no more jasmine and pomegranate buds, to scatter on the embroidered couches of the harem.
Alone in his halls sat Mirza Aga, meditating upon his daughter's crime, and upon the foul stain it had cast upon his dear-loved honour. Torn from him were all the prospects of his high ambition; sunk and lost for ever the pride of his house. All that a Moslem values, as dearest to him on earth, was now wrested from his grasp, and the poorest man, richer than himself in the honour of his family and the pure sanctity of his harem, might point with
scorn to the degraded Governor of Sultanpore. And who had thus humbled the proud Aga? Alas! his gentle daughter; she who, like her lovely mother, could alone soften his stern nature, and light his eye with tenderness and joy. But of soothing memories, and happy scenes of domestic love, urging pardon, and forgiveness, and mercy, to the erring, Mirza Aga thought not. Upon the crime and upon the doom alone he dwelt, and his haughty brow grew dark with passion.
"Would God," said he at length, "that she had died ere the light of heaven beamed upon her, who thus has cursed my age with bitterness! And Yussuf-destroyer of all we hold most sacred, vile seducer of a Moslem girl, renegade to his Prophet and his prince-may the curses of the desolate and degraded light upon him! May his father's grave be defiled, and his own be with the dogs of the city! But ha! my sons," said he, with a start, as Lutuf and Rooknadeen stood suddenly before him; "say, have you found him? Is he slain? Speak-one word-answer me-is the blood of him my soul curseth fresh upon your swords ?" "Father," replied Lutuf, in hurried accents, “it is: Yussuf has paid the forfeit of his crime. We found them but yesterday, Raena seated by the side of Yussuf, weaving some chumpa flowers. They had fled from the tomb of Peer Hajee, and taken refuge in those columned grottoes in the hills. On seeing us, Raena clung with shrieks to Yussuf, who, clasping her in his arms, entreated us to leave and spare them. Instantly, I cut the villain down, who fell bathed in his blood at our feet, refusing to return the blow. Seizing Raena, I placed her upon my horse, and brought her hither. She is now in the harem; but remember, father, she too is doomed; the light of another sun must not shine upon her guilt."
"My son,” replied the Aga, "you have done well; fear not to leave to me the further vengeance due to our fallen honour. She, who has brought pollution to her mother's grave, and has made me a scorn to the lowest of my people, shall perish in her sin; her fate is sealed." He waved his hand impatiently, and, in another moment, the Aga was alone.
In the harem's quiet, on a pile of cushions near the terrace-window, which looked forth upon the chumpa grove, sat the miserable Raena; her head had drooped forwards, and now rested upon her knees, and but that, at intervals, deep sighs and rending sobs convulsed her frame, a stranger might have deemed she slept.
A step approached, and a stately man looked down upon that fair but stricken form. "Raena!" said a voice, hoarse with constrained emotion. The face, streaming with tears, was raised to his. Raena spoke not, but with an effort which gave to her light form the effect of a senseless statue, acting from some hidden spring, she stood erect and motionless before the Aga.
"Vile, polluted, miserable girl, darest thou think that now, while thy accursed paramour lies weltering in his blood, where jackals batten upon his unclean carcase, that thou art to feast it in thy father's harem, and pamper thyself with love-songs? Know that thy doom is fixed; hope not for mercy; prepare to wash out with thy blood the stain thy crime has cast upon thy mother's house; for the moment comes speedily which shall be thy last."
"Father!" said Raena. She paused, powerless to utter more: a shudder passed over her frame, and, sinking at the Aga's feet, she buried her face in the full folds of his sweeping robe. A moment passed; the Aga looked upon his daughter, as she lay thus like a senseless heap of drapery, and a dagger gleamed from within his grasp. He stood irresolute. This room had been
the favourite apartment of a wife he loved-the mother of Raena; here he had seen her look with fondness upon their cherub child; through the open windows of the terrace the moonlight streamed upon that mother's grave, and he, who had cherished her in life, and mourned her loss in tears of agony, now stood ready to become the murderer of their child! But now another scene appeared. He remembered that night when, returning in pride and joy from the betrothment of this child, he had placed, and she had accepted, the jewelled star, which bound her the promised bride of Kureem Khan. She had broken that vow; she had played him false, she had fled, she had fallen-and now the thought came stronger-she must perish!
The voice of Raena startled him from his reverie. "Father," said she again, "call me not vile-have mercy upon your child. Oh, my father! had you seen him weltering in his blood-had you seen him turn even in death his noble countenance, with a forgiving smile, upon my brother Lutuf, you, father, would have stayed his sword in mercy. Oh! kill me not here! Pollute not the room my sweet mother loved with the blood of her child! Take me away-kill me on the desert sands-bury me in the deep waters-but not here, father-not here!"
"Girl," replied the Aga, "is it for you, steeped as you are in sin, to talk of that which thy very breath profanes? Know, wretched one, that thy mother was pure: would to Allah her grave was now unpolluted by the crime of her fallen child !"
"Oh! my father," sobbed the unhappy girl, "had she but lived, I had not erred. I dared not tell you how I feared the khan; but my heart was breaking; and, had I not loved Yussuf, I should have died ere this. Fatherfather, you know not all; I am guilty, but not so guilty as you think me. Have mercy upon your miserable child. Oh! let me live; send me, if you will, away-far, far away-but stain not with my blood the dear and honoured hand which has so often rested affectionately upon my head. Father, we are alone; how can they know you have not killed me? Take me away, through those shaded paths; let me but seek some solitary shelter, until my brothers' hearts are softened towards me, and in the lonely sanctuary of some holy place, live in prayer and penance, till forgiven by them and Allah! Spare me, my father; spare me-and none but you shall know the mercy you have shown!"
Still lying prostrate at her father's feet, Raena cast back her head, from which the long hair fell in matted tresses, torn and dishevelled by the violent scenes of the past hours, and gazed eagerly in her father's face, clasping his feet closely to her bosom. Again his heart was softened. Was that the face now raised to his, and convulsed with agony, which had in its young beauty so often soothed his heart in other days by its likeness to his gentle wife? Could he think of her, could he remember his loved one fondling that rosy babe, and now should he stain with her blood the locks which she had so often playfully adorned with fresh flowers to charm him, when he came within that once happy, sacred room? Raena had said well-he could not kill her there.
Raena saw her father's struggle. Raising herself from the ground, she cast her face upon his bosom; his arms closed round her, and the parent and the child wept together.
"Unhappy child," at length said the heart-broken father, disengaging himself from this sad embrace, and placing Raena gently upon her cushions, "from me your life is safe; but your brothers' vengeance will not be so
appeased. I will now seek the means, for, before to-morrow dawns, you must be sheltered from their pursuit."
Mirza Aga left not the harem of his daughter unobserved; his watchful sons read in his noble countenance that the deed he had purposed was yet undone. Few brothers could, from early life, have loved their sister better than Lutuf and Rooknadeen; but the pride of a Moslem family is proof against the influence of even this affection, when the guilt of an erring woman casts its shade upon their honour. As the young chiefs of a noble house, both Lutuf and Rooknadeen were actuated strongly by the prejudices and cruel customs of their country; but their natures differed; and while the same opinions were held by both, in one they biassed only the judgment, while the heart disowned them; whereas, in the other, they hardened the heart and expelled all gentle thoughts.
Mirza Aga had scarcely passed them, ere a look of deep meaning was ex changed between the brothers. "His heart is softened," said Rooknadeen, "and he may, perhaps, purpose to save Raena; Yussuf's death he may consider sufficient atonement for our sister's crime." "I have sworn upon the Koran,” replied Lutuf, passionately, "that from the hour in which I found Raena and her paramour, another sun should not rise and find them living; and my oath shall be fulfilled. If the purpose of our father has been turned by her tears, she will find a brother who, at least, will vindicate the honour of his family. One portion of my vow I have kept: to the Prophet I am accountable for the rest."
"But the time," said Rooknadeen; "surely the Prophet will not mark at what hour the sacrifice is made. Let her live now, and to-morrow "She will be safe. Is it so ?" said Lutuf, sternly. "Are the customs of the Moslems vain? Is the purity of our harems to be invaded, and shall our warriors and nobles say it is nothing? Is a polluted woman to return to the home of her youth, where all was pure, and is a father, is a brother, to cherish and love her, instead of washing away the stain her guilt has cast upon them, in her blood? I thought, till now, that even Rooknadeen possessed a spirit to protect our honour; but, thanks to Allah, my own heart and hand are unshaken." Turning from his brother with a hasty step, Lutuf sought his own apartments, and when he again left them, his brow was dark, and in his hand he held a silver cup, filled with those sleep-inducing and deadly drugs, which, in Eastern harems, so often quench the life both of age and infancy.
On the departure of Mirza Aga from the harem, Raena, overpowered by excitement, fell into a deep slumber, and fancy, more merciful than reality, filled with happy visions her now untroubled brain. They were of short duration; she awoke, and Lutuf stood by her.
"I have disturbed you," said her brother, in accents which chilled her to the heart; "but drink, girl, and you will then sleep soundly-you have need of rest;" and he held towards her the silver cup.
Raena felt that she must die. She essayed no prayer-no word of supplication. She saw the poison-cup offered to her by the hand stained with the blood of her lover, and recoiled instinctively, but rather from the hand than from the doom it brought.
"Raena," continued Lutuf, "think not that you can now escape me; I come not here to be trifled with by one whose fate shall, as I have sworn,