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THE ADVENTURES OF KHODADAD.*-No. I.
A Tale of the days of Nadir Shah of Persia, founded on his
BY TIIE HONOURABLE CHARLES STUART SAVILE.
They say the tongues of dying men
RICHARD II., Act II., Scene 1,
KHODADAD was the only son of a distinguished Serdar,+ who had been the constant and favourite companion of Nadir Khant during the earlier campaigns of that far-famed hero of the East.
Agrarees Khan, the father of Khodadad, was a soldier of the most undaunted courage, combined with extraordinary skill in military tactics, and so highly was his character esteemed by his illustrious master, that whenever an expedition was planned which required more than ordinary science and valour in its execution, Agrarees was invariably the general selected by Nadir to conduct the enterprise.
In one of these engagements fought by the Persians against the Turcomans, Agrarees Khan, whose courage had drawn him into the thickest of the fight, was separated from his comrades, and being surrounded by the enemy, fell mortally wounded, among a heap of slain raised by his solitary arm.
He died, however, in a glorious hour; for, ere his gallant spirit had left its tenement of clay, victory had declared itself on the side of the Persians, and the last moments of the dying warrior were cheered by the friendly voice of his beloved master, who having been informed of the fall of his follower, hastened to the spot where Agrarees lay, and springing from his horse, gently grasped the hand of the wounded Serdar and requested him to name his last request, at the same time pledging his word for its performance.
“ I have an only son,” replied the hero, “ who —” here the voice of the dying man failed to give utterance to the words which trembled on his tongue.
“I understand, my trusty and excellent Agrarees,” said Nadir; “ I
The name Khodadad, when literally translated, means “ The Gift of God." + General. # Afterwards Shab of Persia.
will adopt the boy, who shall never want a parent's care; rest assured of that! 'Tis Nadir promises."
The fallen general's eye gleamed with a momentary brightness, and pressing his chieftain's hand, he expired.
Nadir cast a lingering look of anguish on the remains of the gallant hero, and it is asserted that a tear for an instant dimmed his eye ; it was a solitary tear, a tribute to the memory of one who had been the partner of his toils and the associate of his earlier days, and whose loss to his country was irreparable; for a more gallant spirit had never burned within a Persian bosom.
On arriving at his tent, Nadir Khan commanded the son of Agrarees to be brought to him, and taking the child in his arms, repeated aloud the promise he had given to the father on the field of battle, and called Heaven to witness his intention of fulfilling the same.
It was a fine and touching spectacle to behold the rough and hardy warrior caressing the young child; Nadir, who amid scenes of bloodshed and horror, had remained stern and immovable ; Nadir, on whose breast the cries of the wounded, or the groans of the victims of the battle's rage had never appeared to take the slightest effect, was melted even to womanly softness, as he gazed upon the face of the little cherub, for he called to mind that this was all that remained of the blood of Agrarees.
After his eyes had been fixed for the space of several minutes in silence on the child which he held in his embrace, Nadir called to his Nazir,* and having given instructions concerning the young Khodadad mounted his horse and proceeded to examine the state of bis troops, after the great, but dearly-purchased victory that had accrued to the Persian arms.
Khodadad was brought up near the presence of his patron, and received an education suitable to the high rank his father Agrarees had held. As years flew by in rapid evolutions, the youth gave tokens of surpassing quickness of intellect and activity of body ; before he had arrived at the age of fourteen, the royal stable contained no steed, however stubborn or intractable, that he could not manage with the most perfect ease; and by the time he had attained his eighteenth year, not a youth throughout the kingdom was his equal in martial exercises. In the manly sport of the jereed, or the unerring aim with which he could fire a rifle from the back of his horse, while the animal was at full speed, few could compete with him; indeed, in all the qualities requisite to form an accomplished soldier, namely, courage, skill, strength, and activity, Khodadad bid fair to excel the most practised warriors of Iran.t As he approached the years of discretion, he increased in favour with Nadir, who, during the interval of time that had elapsed, had been raised to the throne of Persia, and extended his conquests to the Indian dominions.
One morning the monarch having called Khodadad into his presence, addressed the young man in the following terms:
• Chief of the household ; literally, overlovker.
“ Khodadad ! above fifteen summers have passed over your head since the death of your father Agrarees, in the moment of victory, and it is now time that the promise I made to that excellent man be fulfilled. A week hence I shall lead my army against the rebellious Afghans, who appear to have buried in oblivion the severe discipline my powerful arm dealt among them in former days; and as it is my desire to afford you an opportunity of distinguishing yourself, I appoint you to the command of a regiment of horse. Go, emulate the actions of the gallant Agrarees, and do not forget you are his son; but mark me, Khodadad, let not your present elevation dazzle your understanding, and cause you to neglect your duty. Remember, Nadir's eye is every where, and that the king can punish as well as reward. Ġo!; waste not your breath in thanks. Let your actions prove you worthy of the trust imposed upon you.”
Elated with joy, the young aspirant for military fame quitted the royal presence, and proceeded to take command of his regiment, which was composed almost entirely of warriors chosen from his father's tribe, and the week that remained, ere the army directed its march towards the enemy's frontier, was employed by the young Khodadad in drilling and exercising his soldiers. His zeal therein did not escape the Shah's observation, who, during a review which took place on the day previous to the army's departure, exclaimed,
“ Barakillah !* Khodadad, you promise well; if in the field of battle you perform your part as perfectly as on the parade-ground, you will rival the deeds of your father ; keep the name and renown of Agrarees in your memory, boy! and it will go hard if you imitate not the example he has afforded you."
The heart of Khodadad beat with rapture at this compliment, coming from so high a quarter, and he secretly vowed that no want of valour on his side, should screen the Afghans from feeling the power of a Persian arm. Every hour seemed insupportable until the enemy were in sight.
The engagement commenced, the youth perceived the penetrating eye of Nadir fixed upon him, and eager to distinguish himself rushed to the conflict; his soldiers followed, and after a desperate struggle, victory declared itself for the Persians.
Khodadad had performed prodigies of valour, and when bleeding from many wounds and covered with dust he stood before the Shah, the grateful words of commendation (spoken by the mouth of Nadir), together with the gaudy Kalaat,t and title of Khan, and the rank of Serdar, which were bestowed upon him by his royal master as rewards for his gallant conduct in the field, made him forget his bodily sufferings and bless the auspicious day on which he first beheld the light.
Nadir Shah was giving audience in one of the palaces at Ispahan, to his ministers and officers of state, when suddenly directing his discourse to a courtier who was standing near, he addressed him with,
“ Meerza Kerbelah, you are a good subject and a clever man ; Allah has bestowed a proper quantity of brains upon you, and your face is at present white before the Shah ; the governorship of Azerbijan is vacant, and must be filled.”
+ Dress of honour,
“So please your gracious majesty, the asylum of the universe is right,” replied the Meerza, who believed it was the Shah's intention to confer the situation on him. “ Ibrahim Khan is dead, the will of Allah must be fulfilled."
“Well,” continued Nadir,“ we have found a successor to the office, one in every way fitted for it. Look you, Meerza Kerbelah, you are well read in state affairs, and no one understands financial questions better; and although you are not, perchance, as brave as a servant of the state ought to be, still it is scarcely to be expected that a man of the pen should possess the heart of a lion.”
“So please your majesty,” observed the courtier, “your slave is your sacrifice.”
“ 'Tis well,” said the Shah,“ we have conned over your merits, and are about to reward them. Know that it is our gracious intention to appoint you to the viziership of the government, therefore you must prepare to proceed to your post, and look you well to your duty; remember, the Shah is not to be trifled with, and any neglect on your part, will be severely punished.”
The Meerza was thunderstruck as Nadir pronounced these words, which proclaimed that he was merely to be the second' instead of the first in command; but dissembling his disappointment, he bent his head on his breast, and with true Persian duplicity, extolled the benignity of the king in thus showering down honours on the head of such an humble object, who was not even worthy to sweep the steps in front of the palace.
Nadir heard these phrases with impatience ; for his was a noble nature, more easily propitiated by gallant actions, than the smooth sentences of a courtier.
The wily Meerza observing the displeasure occasioned by his manner of speaking, quickly changed the strain of his conversation, without, however, his words losing their flattering tone.
“ May your majesty,” he said, “ live for ever. Is your slave allowed to inquire who is the fortunate mortal whom your infinite wisdom has appointed to the situation of Governor ?”
“ Ha! I had forgotten to inform you of the name of your commander,” observed the monarch. “ T'he governor we have chosen to represent us is Khodadad Khan ; it is true he is young, but he evinces a mind superior to his years, and with a vizier of experience, like yourself, at his right hand, cannot fail to give satisfaction in his new employment. Go! prepare to accompany the Khan to the seat of his government—you are dismissed.”
At these words, Meerza Kerbelah made the proper obeisance and withdrew.
The new vizier was a man of middle age, who had laboured hard for many years to arrive at the highest dignities of the state. Of great natural abilities, he had improved them by deep application, and had it not been for one failing, most probably would have succeeded in his most sanguine expectations. But this failing, or rather foible, retarded his progress on the highway of ambition.
Meerza Kerbelah had commenced life as a soldier, but before many months had elapsed, it was unfortunately discovered that he had the greatest antipathy to face a cannon, and, alas! we must fain confess, to his shame be it spoken, Kerbelah had been known to trust several times for safety, more to the swiftness of his steed, than the weight of his sabre.
Nadir, whose heart had never known fear, could little brook such a feeling in the breast of any of his followers; however, Kerbelah, possessing most fortunately for himself, some friends at court, escaped the punishment of death, which his master had originally intended to have awarded to his cowardice, but was degraded from his post in the army. His rise in this line, being thus summarily terminated, Kerbelah turned his acquirements into a channel where they were better suited to shine. He became a man of the pen, and prefixed the euphonous title of Meerza to his name. Nadir Shah fully appreciating his erudition, had found employment for him in this peaceful occupation, and having taxed his talents in several capacities, at length appointed him to the post of chief secretary:
Meerza Kerbelah, elated at his promotion, remained in continual expectation of being appointed governor of a district, notwithstanding he was aware that the Shah considered skill in the use of arms, and courage indispensably requisite for such a situation; consequently, when the government of Azerbijan was vacated by the death of Ibrahim Khan, his expectations of the post being conferred on himself became most sanguine : and when the Shah commanded his presence, and praised his wisdom, he was convinced that the happy man whose face was to be whitened could be none other than himself. But when Nadir pronounced the word “viziership,” and it became evident that the Meerza was only to have an inferior situation, it was with the utmost difficulty his chagrin could be concealed; but when he understood that the youth Khodadad Khan was to be his commanding officer, he could scarcely refrain, notwithstanding his long practice as a courtier, from giving visible signs of the rage which took possession of his breast; and, as he quitted the royal presence, he determined to revenge himself on the new-made governor on account of his disappointment; for the preferment of a mere youth to himself was by no means the smallest source of his disquietude.
On returning to his house, Meerza Kerbelah planned a scheme for the ruin of Khodadad, which appeared so secure of success, that the archplotter already conceived himself governor of Azerbijan ; as his hopes led him to suppose that if the disgrace of the young Khan could be effected, the sole bar to his own promotion would vanish.
Lorely wert thou, O Flower of Earth,
KHODADAD received from the hand of his royal master the firman which consecrated him the Shah's Vakeel,* and having been instructed in the duties of his office, proceeded to the city of Tabreez, the capital