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keep me from such experiences in future!"
"My dear boy," said the magician, kindly, "it is easy to see you have never been in love before. The first parting of lovers seems eternal. But come; the daylight is going. We must finish our work."
He then replenished the fire, and, while the sticks were being reduced to coals, stood, as before, apparently in deep thought, with his head bent forward and his arms folded. Then, throwing on the fire a powder that gave a very different cloud, both in appearance and odor, from the first, and watching the incense as it slowly rose, he waved a black wand over it gravely, repeating to himself a number of words in a mysterious language. He uttered the phrase thrice; and each time as he reached a certain word, near its close, Ahmed felt the ground tremble. Then, standing upright, with an air of majesty, he paused a moment, and pronounced the word by itself in a loud voice. Instantly, accompanied by a fearful shaking of the ground, a gigantic figure shot up from the earth, black as night, with angry eyes that blazed like the sun. In his hand was a huge club of ebony. "What wouldst thou?" he said, in a voice so terrible, though subdued by respect and fear, that the listener quaked to hear it. "I am thy slave, and the slave of all who command in that name."
"Ahmed," said the magician, "this spirit can give you instantly any thing you may choose to ask. But if you would prefer to earn a fortune by your own exertions, I can summon another spirit, who will gladly point it out. Decide!"
"Love decides!" answered Ahmed, eagerly, having partially recovered from his fright. "I will have a hundred thousand pieces of gold, in ten chests, each with a different key. Let them be set down before the door of my mother's cottage, and the keys given to me here." "Nothing more?" inquired the demon, apparently astonished at Ahmed's moderation.
'Oh, how lovely!" exclaimed Ahmed. "How can I prove my gratitude for these princely favors?"
"By withholding your censure should they cause misery instead of happiness," replied the magician. "Open not the other box. It contains the powder I requested for you. The time to open it is when the powder is needed.”
"But do you think that, with all my riches, I can ever need this powder? asked Ahmed, as they set out to return. "How can I tell?" answered the old man, with a grave smile. "It is well, however, to be prepared. And that it may be on hand when it is needed, I advise you always to keep it about you. And now, dear youth, a few words before we part. So soon as I saw the apparition of your beloved, I remembered her. I have known her for years, and can testify to her charms both of mind
and person. You may indulge your wildest dreams of perfection; you will most certainly fall behind the actual truth. How important, then, that this high and noble creature should be properly approached and most considerately treated! How necessary, for your mutual happiness, that your own character should be high, and your views of life of a corresponding nobleness! Do not think to dazzle her with display. Being used to wealth, it has no particular importance in her eyes. But, to such beings, character is every thing. I would not advise that you should go to her in rags, or with any other sign of abject poverty; but one may dress neatly and becomingly, and acceptably to all sensible persons, for very little money. What you need, far more than rich attire for the body, is suitable clothing for the mind. By this I do not mean to reproach your ignorance, for by your language I know you have been well taught; but to be permanently acceptable to one so highly gifted as Nourmahal-for that is her name -your acquirements must correspond to hers; not fully, perhaps, but you must be qualified to breathe the same air, to feel the sunshine as she feels it, to look on the charms of nature with the same eye of loving intelligence, and to behold the triumphs of art with a kindred enthusiasm; else she will quickly discover that, after all, she is alone, and love will give place to indifference, indifference, finally, alas! to contempt, if not abhorrence! Do you appreciate this?"
"Yes, entirely and humbly," murmured Ahmed.
"You rejoice me," said the magician. "Now you are prepared for the advice I have to give you."
"Believe me, I will follow it to the letter!" exclaimed the grateful youth.
"Well, then; I impose no hardship. You will one day be glad to have done as I now direct. Go into the city; purchase a small but not mean house, in an agreeable quarter, with ample grounds. See that the place is well supplied with trees and shrubbery. Remove thither
at once. First place your chests of gold in rough boxes, which you can have sent to you from the city. Obtain no assistance until the gold is safely concealed in them. Employ two or three different wagoners, on different days, that the inconsistency between so small and mean a house and so many goods may not provoke suspicion, and lead to the discovery of your wealth before it is fairly secured. When you have neatly and comfortably furnished your new house, and feel at home, enter the college as a regular student, and set yourself seriously to the work of making the most of your natural talents. Do not seek the fair Nourmahal till all this be done. Once you are fairly a student, really on the road to something, you will be able to respect yourself, and may venture to tell her who and what you are. But reserve the secret of your sudden riches. Rather prefer to seem to her, and every one, worthy to have riches and honor, as a kind of necessary complement to your qualities, than, by a vulgar display, to tempt the world to find how much below your assumed station you really are. If, however, it should finally be apparent that nothing but the revelation of your riches will induce the parents of Nourmahal to consent to your union, then you may devise some way of conveying the fact to them that may leave it in a shape consistent with their good opinion of you. Meanwhile, secure an honest and capable man for steward. When you are fully satisfied that he is trustworthy, let him trade with a part of your capital. If it be not improved, of course it will finally decrease to nothing; and having been accustomed to ease, you will then find poverty a bitter morsel. Lastly, if, in spite of all your prudence, you should, some time, find yourself reduced to poverty, and would learn how to retrieve your fortunes, let me know your wish, and I will befriend you. When the time comes to make yourself known to Nourmahal, I will send you a friend of her family, who will introduce you properly."
They were now arrived at the cottage, where they saw the ten chests neatly piled at the side of the door, where stood Ahmed's mother, dazed by the spectacle. Making known his domicile to Ahmed, and bowing courteously to the mother, the magician excused himself from entering, as night was approaching, and departed, expressing kindest wishes for their welfare.
With his mother's assistance, Ahmed moved the heavy chests into the cottage; and not till they were all fairly secured the elegant wood, richly carved, glistening in the lamplight-would he tell her a word of his adventure. Then, while she nervously prepared his supper (for he was almost dying of hunger), he told the story, omitting nothing. He showed the keys, produced the two gold boxes, and, finally, that they both might realize their wealth, he applied one of the keys to the lock that bore the same number, and, turning the massive bolts with ease, opened the precious chest with trembling hands. It was full to the brim with bright and glistening gold!
"Yes, it is no dream; there is the gold, sure enough!" exclaimed the mother, with a kind of awe. now, may the good Shigemooni give us grace to use it properly !”
Ahmed almost forgot his hunger, and for some time could scarcely eat a mouthful. He played with the gold, and was delighted with its loud, clear ring, as he let the pieces fall. Then he displayed the necklace, which his mother pronounced the loveliest thing she had ever seen. "What do you think of the magician's advice?" he asked, returning to the table.
"You should follow it implicitly," was the reply. "In these things you owe allegiance to so munificent a benefactor."
Accordingly, the next morning, filling a small bag with gold, Ahmed went to the city. After long search, he found and purchased such a house as the magician had suggested. Then he bought a neat but modest suit of clothes, a beautiful shawl and dress for his moth
er, and some small luxuries for the table, and proceeded homeward.
The next day he followed his friend's advice as to transferring his riches to the new abode.
And now, being eager to resolve his fate, he at once enrolled himself as a student at the college, and began his studies with the utmost diligence. The professors were pleased with him, and took every pains to smooth the paths of the rugged steep; for they honored his modesty and appreciated his zealous application.
Impatient of further delay-which, according to strict interpretation of the magician's advice, was quite superfluous-Ahmed now wrote to his benefactor, asking the promised introduction to Nourmahal's family. True to his word, the magician the next day sent an elderly gentleman, who with much good-humor announced his readiness to fulfil his commission. Not deeming it necessary to affect an ignorance of the circumstances that occasioned his visit, he spoke freely of the fair Nourmahal, and seemed to enjoy Ahmed's confusion. "Cheer up, friend Ahmed!" he laughingly cried; 'you are the most lugubrious of lovers! I never knew a young lady of sixteen-or, indeed, of any other age-who didn't prefer sunshine to gloom."
The two friends now set out, the elder constantly amusing the youth with agreeable anecdotes or lively descriptions of the peculiarities of those whom they were presently to meet. He observed that Nourmahal's father was one of the most eccentric of men; a warm friend, but the most bitter and violent of enemies; a bigot in theory, self-indulgent in practice, but tempering his laxity with traits of rigorous self-discipline. One of these penitential peculiarities was a habit, inflexibly pursued, of bathing in very cold water every morning-ice-water, if possibleand then of running races in a long covered way, with the servants, or any one who could be induced to enter the course; and, what was certainly odd, if he chanced to be beaten, he applauded the victor heartily, and from that moment became his friend. He was also fond of other gymnastic exercises -feats of strength and daring, especially of such as demanded fortitude and endurance; and in these he was also generous to those who were so fortunate as to excel him. This, however, was not often the case, for he was very skilful. Indeed, this gentleman was a monomaniac on gymnastics.
"Now, my lad," said Ahmed's friend, "I must tell you one thing. You must do your best in showing your agility. Are you used to running, leaping, and climbing? Can you turn yourself inside out, swallow your own shadow, and jump over the moon? If not, I tremble for you!"
"I tremble for myself!" was Ahmed's laughing reply.
"Young man, I like you!" exclaimed his elderly friend. "Keep up courage, and you're sure to win. It is delightful to see you approach your fate in such a cheerful spirit. Remember, no knuckling to him! He is rough; be rough yourself."
"Oh, ho, Noureddin! Oh, ho!" shouted a voice, apparently just over their heads. Ahmed's companion started to observe that they were already at
the palace-gate. Glancing upward, he espied his noble friend on the top of
the building with a quoit in his hand. Near him stood a youth, of about Ahmed's age, also with a quoit. "Oh, ho, yourself, Almansor!" he shouted.
While Noureddin. was engaged in a vociferous conversation with their host above, Ahmed suddenly descried the fair Nourmahal, who was attracted to a window by the shouting. On discovering Ahmed, she looked as conscious as though she had really participated in that blissful scene which he had supposed to have been merely a kind of enchanted dream of his own, He had barely time to kiss his hand to her, for they passed on, obedient to the summons from above. A servant had hastened down to conduct them to the scene of the game, then in active prog
"Who is that boy, kissing his hand to my daughter?" roared Almansor. "He's coming to see you," roared Noureddin in return.
It was a fatiguing ascent; and when they reached the palace-roof-which in that place was quite level, and covered with earth-Noureddin was breathless, and for a moment could scarcely gasp. "In the name of all the Lamas, and the hundred and eight Boorchaus,* and heaven and earth in general," he at length exclaimed, "what do you mean by making your guests go through so much to see so little!"
Well," said the laughing host, “if they will come when I am only throwing quoits, why, that's all they can see, of course. I can't leave my game for such a frivolous purpose as showing courtesy to a guest." This nonsense being properly taken, the noble quoitthrower was now pleased to make young Ahmed's acquaintance, and in turn presented him to the youthful stranger, whose name was Ganem. "Come," cried the lively host, "now for a royal game, two on a side-Ganem and I against you two."
Now it so happened that quoits was
The Boorchaus, or idols, are created beings who existed before the creation of the present world, and were deified for their holiness.
a favorite recreation of the college-students, and Ahmed had quickly mastered its difficulties. The quoits were discs of brass with a hole in the centre. The throw was perfect when the quoit so descended as to encircle the upright stick which at either end of the ground marked its bounds. Every time a player succeeded in doing this he was entitled to an extra cast.
The eye of a lover being very sharp, Ahmed had quickly detected in Ganem signs of a sudden dislike, which he instantly attributed to the jealousy of a rival. For the first time in his life the demon of hatred entered his soul. Under this influence his senses quickened, and he felt conscious of his superiority. Among his fellow-students was the son of a Hindoo conjurer, a subtle youth, who had taught him how to train his muscles and faculties. On this he now congratulated himself, leisurely watching the style of his adversaries. host played neatly, but rather too eagerly; Ganem carefully, but inexpertly. Ahmed was for a time content to accustom himself to the weight and shape of the discs; though his superior style did not escape the noble's eye. At length, feeling sure of his cast, he threw both his quoits over the stake, and, calling for others, finally strung it full of them. And so that game was won.
Ganem evidently was annoyed; but Almansor became more and more excited as the discs continued to settle upon one another with a loud click; and at last, unable to control his enthusiasm, he rushed up to Ahmed and embraced him heartily. "Splendid! splendid, my boy!" he cried; "you're an artist! Come, gentlemen, let us now go down and make ready for dinner; and if you're all as hungry as I am, I gratulate you. If you don't enjoy your meal, I'll give you my head for a football. My new cook is worth her weight in gold. I defy all Thibet to match her!"
As Ahmed and Noureddin had not been honored with a previous formal invitation to dine with their host, the former now felt some delicate scruples,
which he privately expressed to Noureddin; but he was greatly comforted by his friend's assurance that this invitation should be considered quite as sincere and cordial as though it had been extended a week beforehand. Ceremony Almansor regarded as the surest mark of effeminacy.
Dinner was announced. It was a trying moment to Ahmed; but, summoning all his firmness, he quietly descended, and, while his heart beat fast, received the introduction to Nourmahal and her mother with grave composure. As a mark of favor-earned through his skill in the game-he was placed between the two ladies, with the other guests opposite. Considering all the circumstances, this was a difficult position for the modest Ahmed; but he sat out the meal with credit, though an occasional word or glance from Nourmahal would almost overwhelm him.
State dinners of many tedious courses did not suit the impetuous temper of the host; the dishes at his table were always few, and rapidly served; but every thing was exquisitely prepared, and there was always enough.
Having matters of greater importance awaiting our notice, we must pass over this hospitable meal, which the boisterous spirits of Almansor and the more refined liveliness of Noureddin served to carry off with success. Nourmahal scated herself on an embroidered mat, and sang the following song, accompanying herself skilfully on the lute:
Sad was my heart (sweet love denied)
Cold, biting winter comes apace
I care not, when I see thy face;
As the ladies left the table, Noureddin placed himself by the side of Ahmed.
"Did you notice the words of the song?" he asked, quietly.