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wilds of Missouri; but a further search discloses, in the recesses of the hidden windings of the valley, circular staircases of marble leading to secluded baths, now filled with leaves and neglected, but evidently on a scale of the most imperial sumptuousness. From the perishable construction of Turkish dwelling-houses, all traces even of the most costly serai may easily have disappeared in a few years, when once abandoned to ruin; and I pleased myself with imagining, as we slackened bridle, and rode slowly beneath the gigantic trees of the forest, the gilded pavilions, and gay scenes of Oriental pleasure that must have existed here in the days of the warlike yet effeminate Selims. It is a place for the enchantments of the “ Arabian Nights” to have been realized.
I have followed the common error in giving these structures in the forest of Belgrade the name of aqueducts. They are rather walls built across the deep valleys, of different altitudes, to create reservoirs for the supply of aqueducts, but are built with all the magnificence and ornament of a façade to a temple.
We rode on from one to the other, arriving at last at the lowest, which divides the valley at its wildest part, forming a giddy wall across an apparently bottomless ravine, as dark and impracticable as the glen of the Cauterskill in America. Our road lay on the other side, but though with a steady eye one might venture to cross the parapet on foot, there were no means of getting our horses over, short of a return of half a mile to the path we had neglected higher up the valley. We might swim it, above the embankment, but the opposite shore was a precipice.
“ What shall we do?” I asked. Job made no answer, but pulled round his beast, and started off in a sober canter to return.
I stood a moment, gazing on the placid sheet of water above, and the abyss of rock and darkness below, and then calling to Maimuna, who had ridden farther down the bank, I turned my horse's head after him.
“ Signore !” cried the gipsy from below.
Silly child !” I answered, “ you are not going to cross the ravine?” “Yes!” was the reply, and the voice became more indistinguishable as she galloped away. “ I will be over before
I was vexed, but I knew the self-will and temerity of the wild Asiatic, and, very certain that, if there were danger, it would be run before I could reach her, I drove the stirrups into my horse's sides, and overtook Job at the descent into the valley. We ascended again, and rode down the opposite shore to the embankment, at a sharp gallop. Maimuna was not there.
“ She will have perished in the abyss,” said Job.
from my horse to cross the parapet on foot, in search of her, when I heard her horse's footsteps, and the next moment she dashed up the steep, having failed in her attempt, and stood once more where we had parted. The sun was setting, and we had ten miles to ride, and impatient of her obstinacy, I sharply ordered her to go up the ravine at speed, and cross as we had done.
I think I never shall forget, angry as I was at the moment, the
appearance of that lovely creature, as she resolutely refused to obey me. Her horse, the same fiery Arabian she had ridden from Sardis (an animal that, except when she was on his back, would scarce have sold for a gold sequin), stood with head erect, and panting nostrils, glancing down with his wild eyes upon the abyss into which he had been urged,—the whole group, horse and rider, completely relieved against the sky from the isolated mound they occupied, and, at this instant, the gold flood of the setting sun pouring full on them through a break in the masses of the forest. Her own fierce attitude, and beautiful but frowning face, the thin lip curled resolutely, and the brown and polished cheek deepened with a rosy glow, her full and breathing bosom swelling beneath its jacket, and her hair, which had escaped from the turban, flowing over her neck and shoulders, and mingling with the loosened fringes of red and gold in rich disorder—it was a picture which the pencil of Martin (and it would have suited his genius) could scarce have exaggerated. The stately, half-Arabic, half-Grecian architecture of the aqueducts, and the cold and frowning tints of the abyss and the forest around, would have left him nothing to add to it as a composition.
I was crossing the giddy edge of the parapet, looking well to my feet, with the intention of reasoning with the obstinate being, who, vexed at my reproaches and her own failure, was now in as pretty a rage as myself, when I heard the trampling of horses in the forest. I stopped mid-way to listen, and presently there sprang a horseman up the bank in an Oriental costume, with pistols and ataghan flashing in the sun, and a cast of features that at once betrayed his origin.
“ A Zingara !” I shouted back to Job.
The gipsy, who was about nineteen, and as well-made and gallant a figure for a man, as Maimuna for a woman, seemed as much astonished as ourselves, and sat in his saddle gazing on the extraordinary figure I have described, evidently recognising one of his own race, but probably puzzled with the mixture of costumes, and struck at the same time with Maimuna's excessive beauty. Lovely as she always was, I had never seen her to such advantage as now. She might have come from fairyland, for the radiant vision she seemed in the gold of that burning sunset.
I gazed on them both a moment, and was about finishing my traverse of the parapet, when a troop of mounted gipsies and baggage-horses came up the bank at a quick pace, and in another minute Maimuna was surrounded. I sprang to her bridle, and apprehensive of, I scarce knew what danger, gave her one of the two pistols I carried always in my bosom.
The gipsy chief (for such he evidently was) measured me from head to foot with a look of dislike, and speaking for the first time, addressed Maimuna in his own language with a remark which sent the blood to her temples with a suddenness I had never before seen.
“What does he say?" I asked.
“ It is no matter, Signore, but it is false !” Her black eyes were like coals of fire, as she spoke.
“ Leave your horse," I said to her, in a low tone, “and cross the parapet. I will prevent his following you, and will join you on your
own before you can reach Constantinople. Turn the horses heads homeward !” I continued in English to Job, who was crying out to me from the other side to come back.
Maimuna laid her hand on the pommel to dismount, but the gipsy, anticipating her motion, touched his horse with the stirrup, and sprang with a single leap between her and the parapet. The troop had gathered into a circle behind us, and seeing our retreat thus cut off, I presented my pistol to the young chief, and demanded, in Italian, that he should clear the
way. A blow from behind, the instant that I was pulling the trigger, sent the discharged pistol into the ravine, and, in the same instant, Maimuna dashed her horse against the unguarded gipsy, nearly overturning him into the abyss, and spurred desperately upon the parapet. One cry from the whole gipsy troop, and then all was as silent as the grave, except the click of her horse's hoofs on the marble verge, as, trembling palpably in every limb, the terrified animal crossed the giddy chasm at a half trot, and, in the next minute, bounded up the opposite bank, and disappeared with a snort of fear and delight amid the branches of the forest.
What with horror and wonder, and the shock of the blow which had nearly broken my arm, I stood motionless where Maimuna had left me, till the gipsy, recovering from his amazement, dismounted and put his pistol in turn to my breast.
Call her back!” he said to me, in very good Italian, and with a tone in which rage and determination were strangely mingled, “ or you die where you stand.”
Without regarding his threat, I looked at him with a new thought stealing into my mind. He probably read the pacific change in my feelings, for he dropped his arm, and the frown on his own features moderated to a steadfast and inquisitive regard.
“ Zingara !" I said, “ Maimuna is my slave.”
A clutch of his pistol stock, and a fiery and impatient look from his fine eyes, interrupted me for an instant. I proceeded to tell him briefly how I had obtained possession of her, while the troop gradually closed around, attracted by his excessive look of interest in the tale, though they probably did not understand the language in which I spoke, and all fixing their wild eyes earnestly on my face.
“ And now, Zingara,” I said, " I will bring her back on one condition—that, when the offer is fairly made her, if she chooses still to go with me, she shall be free to do so. I have protected her, and sworn still to protect her as long as she should choose to eat of my bread. Though my slave, she is as pure and guiltless as when she left the tent of her mother, and is worthy of the bosom of an emperor!”
The Zingara took my hand, and put it to his lips. “You agree to our compact, then ?" I asked.
He put his hand to his forehead, and then laid it, with a slight inclination, on his breast.
“ She cannot have gone far,” I said, and stepping on the mound above the parapet, I shouted her name till the woods rang again with the echo.
A moment, and Job and Maimuna came riding to the verge of the
opposite hill, and, with a few words of explanation, fastened their horses to a tree, and crossed to us by the parapet.
The chief returned his pistols to his girdle, and stood aside while I spoke first to Maimuna. It was a difficult task, but I felt that it was a moment decisive of her destiny, and the responsibility weighed heavily on my breast. Though excessively attached to her-though she had been endeared to me by sacrifices, and by the ties of protection—though, in short, I loved her, not with a passion, but with an affection—as a father more than as a lover-I still felt it to be my duty to leave no means untried to induce her to abandon me, to return to her own people and remain in her own land of the sun. What her fate would be in the state of society to which I must else introduce her, had been eloquently depicted by Job, and will readily be imagined by the reader.
After the first burst of incredulity and astonishment at my proposal, she folded her arms on her bosom, and, with the tears streaming like rain over her jacket, listened in silence and with averted eyes. I concluded with representing to her, in rather strong colours, the feelings with which she might be received by my friends, and the difficulty she would find in accommodating herself to the customs of people, to whom not only she must be inferior in the accomplishments of a woman, but who might find, even in the colour of that loveliest cheek, a reason to despise her.
Her lip curled for an instant, but the grief in her heart was stronger than the scorn for an imaginary wrong, and she bowed her head again, and her tears flowed on. I was silent at last, and she looked
face. “ I am a burthen to you,” she said.
No, dearest Maimuna! no! but if I were to see you wretched hereafter, you would become so. Tell me! the chief will make you his wife; will you rejoin your people ? '
She flung herself upon the ground, and wept as if her heart would break. I thought it best to let her feelings have way, and walking apart with the young gipsy, I gave him more of the particulars of her history, and exacted a promise that, if she should finally be left with the troop, he would return with her to the tribe of her mother, at Sardis.
Maimuna stood gazing fixedly into the ravine when we turned back, and there was an erectness in her attitude, and a fierté in the air of her head, that, I must acknowledge, promised more for my fears than my wishes. Her pride was roused, it was easy with half a glance to see.
With the suddenness of Oriental passion, the young chief had become already enamoured of her, and, with a feeling of jealousy which, even though I wished him success, I could not control, I saw him kneel at her feet and plead with her in an inaudible tone. She had been less than woman if she had been insensible to that passionate cadence, and the imploring earnestness of the noble countenance on which she looked. It was evident that she was interested, though she began with scarce deigning to lift her eyes from the ground.
I felt a sinking of the heart which I cannot describe when he rose to his feet and left her standing alone. The troop had withdrawn at his command, and Job, to whom the scene was too painful, had re-crossed the parapet, and stood by his horse's head waiting the result. The twi
light had deepened, the forest looked black around us, and a single star sprang into the sky, while the west was still glowing in a fast purpling gold and crimson.
“ Signore !” said Maimuna, walking calmly to my hand, which I stretched instinctively to receive her, “I am breaking my heart; I know not what to do."
At this instant a faint meteor shot over the sky, and drew its reflection across the calm mirror whose verge we were approaching:
“ Stay!” she cried ; “ the next shall decide the fate of Maimuna ! If it cross to the East, the will of Allah be done! I will leave you !”
I called to the gipsy, and we stood on the verge of the parapet in breathless expectation. The darkness deepened around us, the abyss grew black and indistinguishable, and the night-birds flitted past like audible shadows. I drew Maimuna to my bosom, and with my hands buried in her long hair, pressed her to my heart, that beat as painfully and as heavily as her own.
A sudden shriek ! She started from my bosom, and as she fell upon the earth, my eye caught, on the face of the mirror from which I had forgetfully withdrawn my gaze, the vanishing pencil of a meteor, drawn like a beam of the sunset, from west to east !
I lifted the insensible child, impressed one long kiss on her lips, and flinging her into the arms of the gipsy, crossed the parapet, and rode, with a speed that tried in vain to outrun my anguish, to Constantinople.
WEEDS AND FLOWERS.
By BARRY CORNWALL.
A SUDDEN CONVERSION.
(A Banquet-room-Guests entering. The Countess is seen at a distance.)
Who comes ? Why Ruin comes ; all armod, all crown'd
And flew to prey on Eden.
As at a tempest. Look, how sin survives
[The Countess enters.]
Have ye no tongue? no sting? How is't I stand