Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

me the heart of the most generous and tender husband that ever blessed the days of mortal woman. This bitter change in the affections of one so loving, and who had been so beloved in return, preyed upon a slender frame, and brought me to the grave. A short time before I left him for ever, I gave birth to yonder child; and, being warned by my godmother, who was a good fairy, of the evil intended her by her wicked uncle, an evil and powerful magician, and who sought to inherit the kingdom after the death of his brother, I caused her to be conveyed away from the palace, and committed in that black cedar chest to the mercy of the waves. My spirit had left its earthly dwelling before my little offspring bad been many hours upon the waters. I need not bring to your recollection the vision of the silver dove hovering over the little ark, when you discovered it; and which contained all that bound me most strongly to earth.

“ Thus, accompanied only by the silver-feathered shoes, the ring, and the dagger (gifts of my godmother), and the tender blessings of a heart-broken mother, did my infant, my babe, my young firstborn, leave her royal home on her perilous voyage of life. The Good Spirit, whom now I adore in company with blessed angels, guided my precious burden to your sheltering care, my good and faithful Ben Hafiz, and worthy instrument are you of his great goodness.

“And now, only one thing more have I to communicate. Should you hereafter be questioned by a tall and dark man, of melancholy but handsome aspect, concerning my child, observe him narrowly while you repeat to him my tale. Should he preserve a stern, unmoved countenance, then keep my child for ever, and let her not depart from your protecting care; but if he betray emotion and sorrow for my fate," here the spirit's voice trembled with a mortal tenderness and faltering,—“then surrender my child to his bosom, for he is her father.”

With these words the form melted into air, and the shepherd, drawing a deep breath, turned towards his little charge, who was kneeling in the entrance of the porch: her hands were firmly clasped: her countenance was deadly pale, but a serene and happy smile played on her lips, as her eyes, beaming with affectionate devotion, were bent forward towards the spot lately occupied by her angel-mother.

CHAPTER V.

Upon her return one day from the market in the neighbouring town, Dame Sherzaran brought intelligence that some famous king from the other side of the sea was coming in great pomp to the Persian court. “And if he be a young king, and a handsome one,” she added, “who knows but he may make our dear Narina his queen; for you know the good spirit told us she was the daughter of a queen, and would be a queen herself.” “You women,” said the old shepherd, “ always have your heads running upon love and matrimony. So, forsooth, because you have found out that our little darling is a princess, and that a stranger king is coming among us to pay his court to our king, nothing less must come to pass but he must make a queen of her.” “Many greater wonders than that have happened,” said she; “but, queen or no queen, we will all go and see the show when he arrives.”

Some days after the above announcement on the part of Sherzaran, as the little Narina was at her favourite play with her pretty four-footed companions, on the summit of a mountain that looked immediately over the sea, she suddenly ceased from her sport, and came tripping down towards the cottage to inform her friends that, a long way off in the sea, a number of beautiful ships were sailing along, and that they appeared to be coming to the part of the coast nearest to their habitation. Ben Hafiz set forth as fast as his old legs would carry him, to a pathway in the cliffs, that led straightway down to the beach ; from whence he could catch a sight of the sea, and from which spot he first saw the chest that served the little Narina for her early cradle, and in which she was rocked by the waves.

A gay scene was here presented to his view ; for the time he had occupied in arriving at this place had brought the fleet much nearer to the land. It consisted of many vessels, some of them covered with burnished gold, mingled with the brightest colours, that mixed with the sun's rays, and cast beautiful reflections upon the blue and green waves. The masts were silver, and the sails were variously ordered; some of bright purple and gold, some orange, and some rose-coloured and silver. One alone was different from all the rest; it was a dark and melancholy ship; the sails, too, were of the same dismal hue; and the flag was black, bearing upon it a white heart with one half cut away.

The shepherd and his little darling were all the while the only spectators of this strange sight. After a short time, however, when the fleet had all drawn nearly close to the shore, they observed a few people running from the opposite side of the valley, to the spot where they were standing; these also had seen the fleet out at sea, and were come from the neighbourhood of the city to witness the landing of the crews. In a short time after, a large crowd was flocking to the same spot. Meanwhile the crews of the different vessels were busily engaged in landing and bringing to shore various articles of value, with rare animals of great beauty and stateliness; horses also, richly caparisoned and of elegant figure. When the whole were landed, and drawn up in order of procession, one majestic figure, followed by his horse, came from the black ship and, having mounted, the order was given for the whole company to move towards the city.

The little Narina and her protector were lodged in a narrow recess of the cliff enclosing the passage, and above the road through which the procession was to pass, and were curiously contemplating the variety and splendour of the array. First came a troop of soldiers, clad in scarlet and gold, upon milkwhite horses; the foremost twelve of whom bore silver trumpets which, from time to time, they blew. Then came six horses of the most perfect shapes, and of different colours, each horse being led by a page in green and gold. These were followed by six yeomen dressed in gold tissue, each bearing a steel bow of extraordinary length and exceeding brightness. After these, six others succeeded, clad in blue and silver tissue, holding silver shields, richly embossed with gold. The same number of foot pages followed, in orange robes lined with purple, who bore spears of jet black ebony shafts, inlaid with gold figures. Then walked alone, and at a short distance, a single attendant in a tunic of white and silver, bearing a vase formed out of the largest ruby in the world, and mounted upon a golden pedestal. Four came after the last, dressed in crimson and gold, each holding on his fist a milk-white eagle. Then followed four golden peacocks, each one led in a silver chain, by a little boy dressed in satin of sky blue. All these fair things were intended for presents to the King of Persia. Then came a company of twenty-five Ethiopians, tall men, and of the most swarthy skin ; these were clad in white silk dresses, descending no lower than the knee, and fastened above their hips by golden girdles, inlaid with rubies and emeralds. These last were succeeded by a troop of archers in light armour. Then came the king, riding alone at a considerable distance; and the whole procession was completed by a company of spearmen, in red and gold, on grey horses.

The king was habited in a suit of coal-black armour, and his horse was of the same doleful complexion. As he rode at a sober pace, with the beaver of his helmet up, he displayed to view a pale and handsome countenance, sadly thoughtful, yet mild, and adorned with a short and curly black beard. He appeared to take little notice of the admiring multitude, but as he passed the spot in the cliff where the little Narina and her friend were standing, level with his own figure as he sat upon his lofty steed, his eyes suddenly rested upon the face of the child, and he involuntarily drew up the horse's rein, while a blush started to his cheek. He paused a moment, attentively considering the object of his notice, then passed on, at the same time beckoning to him an officer from the front rank behind him, whom he charged to inform himself of “the name and residence of the old man and child standing in yonder niche of the rock.”

Shortly after the whole cavalcade had passed, and when

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »