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concerned the welfare of the Persian monarch, and which her master was unwilling to entrust to his ambassador for fear of betrayal; that she was her sovereign's chief confidant, and had assumed this disguise that she might pass to the place of her destination unnoticed and unmolested. She concluded by thanking them for their hospitality, which she said should be richly rewarded upon her return from the palace; when a very different garb from that in which they then beheld her would be her portion; and moreover that a numerous retinue of attendants would be at her command. Before she departed, however, she requested leave to present to the little Narina the only gift she had at that time in her possession. It was a whistle of very ordinary appearance, but its qualities were described as greatly surpassing its humble pretensions. By the use of this instrument, the possessor would be able to charm the fiercest beast, or the most deadly human foe; and if at any time she wished to know the true thoughts of any person who might address a speech to her, one simple note on this ill-favoured little pipe, would explain to her the secret intention of the speaker. By means of it, also, she could hold conversation with any friend, though separated from her in the most distant part of the world.
All this while Ben Hafiz had never withdrawn his eyes from the stranger, and consequently had observed that, from the moment she had taken her seat, her glances were from time to time directed towards Narina with a strange expression of fierceness and malignity, although all the time the other features of her face assumed a smiling and alluring form. When, therefore, at the close of her description of the virtues of this whistle, she reached forward to give it to his little darling,
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he put forth his hand to receive it of 'her. The stranger, however, withdrew the present, saying that it must be placed in the hand of the person for whom the gift was intended. “ Then," answered Ben Hafiz, “it shall be equally useful to her, for as we are never separated, I can give her all the knowledge she may wish, respecting those who are removed from us, as well as the secret thoughts of her foes: and if ever we should be surprised by any wild beast coming into our valley, I can equally well protect her as she can herself.” Still the beggar woman sought to urge the gift upon the little Narina, and her kind protector as steadily and firmly resisted her endeavours. “Nay, then," said the stranger, “my purpose must be fulfilled ;” and with these words she darted forward to seize the child, but the worthy Ben Hafiz was prepared for her, and at that same instant he had slipped the ring on to the finger of his foundling. With this action, the whole scene in their cottage underwent a total change. The apartment was instantly filled with a blaze of light, and between the child and the stranger stood the form of the silver dove glittering in the golden flood, while that again was instantly transformed to the same heavenly attendant who had constantly answered their summons. The countenance and habit too of the beggar woman vanished, and instead of them appeared the figure of a man with fierce grey eyes, and yellow hair and beard. The spirit, with a face of deep anguish and resentment, uttered some words in a melancholy tone not understood by the shepherd and his wife. And all the while the countenance of the stranger (who against his will was compelled to look at the vision) was alternately filled with rage, disappointment, and shame. When the strange words were ended, the light increased to a more intense degree, accompanied with a roaring as of a great conflagration, and in the midst, a loud yet mild voice was heard, which dismissed the enemy of the little Narina; for although neither door nor window of the cottage had opened, the three inhabitants found themselves alone with their heavenly guardian, who, turning upon them a countenance glowing with love, gentleness, and approbation, again comforted the shepherd with these kind words :
“I now find, good Ben Hafiz, that you are to be trusted with the preservation of the little Narina. You have followed my instructions, and it is well that you did so. The stranger whom you received and kindly entertained this night, has been the bitterest enemy of my life, and is now, if not the only one, the cruellest persecutor of your lovely charge. Keep your faith with me, and hereafter you shall know more of our history. Happy was it for her and for me, that you so steadily followed my commands. Had you allowed that stranger to present the whistle to the child, he would have touched her; and from that moment she would have been in his power; and then my spirit shrinks to think what her fate would have been. You would have lost the comfort of your old age, your worldly prosperity would have departed from you; and what is worse than all, you would have forfeited your honour, and lost your own self-respect; and then, good Ben Hafiz, you could not have been happy. You have been too long in communion with the good Being that gave you life, and from whom you have received every gracious and holy thought, not to know that they are the happiest people who are the most virtuous and kind. Had your little charge re
54 ceived the stranger's present without being touched by him, the gift would still have proved fatal to her; for, at the moment of using it, she would have been transformed to some loathsome reptile, and been doomed to inhabit that shape one hundred years; and so to creep about the earth doing nothing but whistling. The same misfortune would not have happened to you, because the malignity of the enemy is not directed against you; on the contrary, had it once come into your possession, you would in an instant have discovered the character of the giver of it. The full extent of its power can injure those only who are the objects of its maker's bitterest hatred. Well, therefore, have you acted, Ben Hafiz, in following my injunctions so strictly, and great shall be your reward if you remain faithful to the end. Farewell !—again I say, be faithful-be happy."
With these words, the glory of the vision suddenly diminished; the heavenly form had departed, and the room was lighted only by the sinking embers of the wood-fire, and the small flame of the table-lamp, which, from the contrast, scarcely relieved their eyes from a feeling of total darkness. The little Narina covered her face for some time with both hands, and then gravely and silently returned to her supper: and when the meal was finished, Ben Hafiz closed the labours of the day with a hymn of praise and thanksgiving.
Two more years in the life of Narina had passed since the last adventure, during which time she had increased—if that were possible--in beauty of face and person, as well as in gracefulness of action. The powers of her mind, too, had considerably augmented: with the slender assistance that the old shepherd and his wife could render her, she quickly attained the means of reading their language, and with this advantage at her command, a week rarely passed without her persuading her kind protectors, one or the other, to accompany her to the neighbouring town, that she might select some new book of poetry, or history of a great and good king and queen; and these she would read over and over again, learning by heart favourite passages of the poetry.
By the assistance also of such instruction, added to her own pretty taste and search, she had become perfectly acquainted with the forms, names, and different virtues of the flowers and herbs which in profusion adorned the valley where she dwelt. Her sweet and harmless manners had charmed the wild natures of the most unsocial birds; and the timid quadrupeds that haunted the most inaccessible precipices encircling the valley, had become accustomed to her approach, and only flew away in sport, to lure her on to the race. The previous adventure of the pedlar had taught her the virtue of her silver-feathered shoes, and she would now turn them to constant use: by their means she would cross the plain with the fleetness of a ring-dove, and lead on, or pursue