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The excited youth was for a moment promising a speedy repetition of the unable to trust himself to speak. 66 Yes," ," he finally replied; "and did you notice her impassioned and delicate interpretation of their sentiment?"
"To be sure I did," said Noureddin; "but the words are her own."
The company now repaired to the garden. While the other gentlemen disposed themselves for a siesta, Ahmed, who had heard much of Almansor's elegant grounds, which invariably filled the stranger with agreeable surprise, roamed about admiringly, pausing every few moments to examine more attentively some fine plant or flower. He at length came to a huge fountain, that some way reminded him of the one he had seen in the vision. As he stood before it, listening to the sweet pattering of the water, and half lost in thought, he heard behind him the rustling of a dress. Turning quickly, he started with surprise to discover the beautiful Nourmahal, dressed precisely as then, her face wearing the same look of sweetness and trusting love. That instant he felt drawn to her with mysterious force. Kissing her hand with respectful tenderness, and observing her modest confusion, he said, "Dear Nourmahal, is it possible that this pleasure, so often dreamed of, is at length really mine? Believe me, I love you dearly! What happiness to be in this charming place, with you!"
Ahmed's joy almost made him insane. His late tender experience, with the sweet assurance of Nourmahal's love terminating all his anxiety, rendered him for a time extravagantly happy. His unfitness for study occasioned much wonder among the faculty. But, commanding himself, he at length succeeded in fixing his attention, and even his companions soon ceased to observe any thing unusual in his conduct.
The eccentric noble by degrees grew so fond of Ahmed, and so resigned to the idea of being excelled by him in all his favorite amusements, that he sent for him almost every day. Encouraged
by this partiality, Ahmed one day decided to make known his passion. On this occasion they were alone. So soon as Almansor comprehended Ahmed's meaning, he began to laugh. "Ho, ho! my friend-ho, ho! ho, ho! I've been expecting this!" he cried. "And now, let me tell you that, if you can show me you are able to support a wife handsomely, you are the very son-inlaw I want a man of skill and courage, sound in head, heart, and stomach!"
Overwhelmed with his good fortune, Ahmed seized his hand and kissed it. "Thanks, noble sir!" he cried. you will accompany me, I will show you whether I am in a condition to maintain your daughter properly."
The noble consenting, they went to Ahmed's house.
These were the very words he had uttered in the mountain; and Nourmahal's reply-which he remembered word by word-was also the same. The vision was perfectly reproduced in blissful inner apartment, where, after raising reality.
The interview was interrupted, as they stood hear the fountain, by the mercurial Noureddin, who came to apprise his friend that their host was calling for him. This errand, however, he did not announce till he had paid the most humble deference to the blushing Nourmahal. They now rejoined the rest of the company.
Coffee was served in a charming summer-house; and, soon afterward, Ahmed and Noureddin departed, after
Ahmed conducted their guest to an
the loose boards of the floor, he displayed the ten chests, which he proceeded to open. Almansor was astonished, of course. "Why, my dear Ahmed," he exclaimed, "you are the richest young man in Thibet! Yet, I value your personal qualities more than all this gold. Nothing but the natural concern of a father for his daughter's welfare could have made me think of asking any other qualification in her husband than those I already knew when you made your proposal. I was
not aware, Ahmed, that your father was a rich man."
This remark was embarrassing. But, after some reflection, Ahmed told the amazing story of his enrichment.
"Well, I must say, Ahmed," the noble exclaimed, smiling good-humoredly, "the magician has found a deserving beneficiary. He was right in supposing that the son of so excellent a father and so admirable a mother could scarcely prove an unworthy recipient of his bounty."
The two friends now rejoined the mother, whom they pleased with the announcement of the intended marriage. After a long discussion, they concluded that, as both Ahmed and Nourmahal were quite young, and the former had but just begun his scholastic career, the marriage should be deferred two years. Before his guest departed, Ahmed placed in his hands the gold box that contained the beautiful necklace of pearls, as a present to Nourmahal.
It now occurred to Ahmed that it would be well to carry out the advice of the magician in respect to a steward. He therefore made inquiries among his friends; and Ganem-who of late had been very friendly-recommended one Calcar so warmly, that he concluded to engage him.
Son, I do not quite like his looks," said the mother, after the first business interview with the steward. "But, since so excellent a friend as Ganem has guaranteed his capability, it is perhaps wrong to feel suspicious."
"That is just my own impression, mother," said Ahmed; and there it rested.
The two years quickly passed. The lovers became more enamored of each other day by day. Such was his devotion to his studies, his passion, and his gymnastics, 'that Ahmed found little time to investigate the affairs of his steward, who by degrees engaged more and more deeply in mercantile speculations; and, to further them, founded immensé bazaars, or dépôts of miscellaVOL. VI.-33
neous merchandise, in various parts of the empire. It would have been well for the youth had his tastes been more business-like. Even his mother remonstrated vainly. The gold was going by degrees; but he knew that Calcar had a "genius for grand designs," as Ganem expressed it, and was aware that these huge magazines of goods could not be founded and maintained without money.
The wedding-day approached. Ganem volunteered in the kindest manner to act as esquire and general manageran office that should include the purchase of jewelry and works of art, and other suitable gifts; in short, his fine talents seemed to be wholly bent towards the spending of Ahmed's gold.
Just before the wedding-day, Ganem went to Almansor, and, intimating that he had a matter of serious importance to communicate, was granted a private interview. "Kind sir," he said, with an air of the utmost gravity and sorrow, "it pains me to say it, but the truth is, your intended son-in-law is a beggar!"
"A beggar!" exclaimed the noble, with the greatest surprise. "Why, how long is it since I myself saw almost uncountable gold in his possession! Is it possible it is all gone?"
"Not only possible, but true,” replied Ganem. "Even if it were not altogether squandered, it could last but a little while in the hands of such a spendthrift. Have you heard of his business enterprises?
"Not a word," was the reply.
Upon this, Ganem proceeded to make known that imprudent investments and wild speculations had actually made way with Ahmed's property, and that even his house could hardly be pronounced safe from his creditors.
This intelligence deeply affected the noble, who had often pictured to himself the felicity of the happy pair, soworthy of each other and so fond, and could not without pain reflect that his own estates were so far depreciated, through long neglect, that, at present, he was quite unable to repair the disaster. Moreover, he could not avoid some
indignation with Ahmed for his culpable negligence, which certainly was the immediate cause of his ruin. "Of course, the wedding can't take place," he said. "Nourmahal must not be given to a beggar, even though that beggar were a prince."
Sad as was the blow to Almansor, it was naturally much more terrible to the young and innocent lovers. Ahmed was prostrated by it, and thrown into a delirious fever. "It is Ganem's work!" said poor Nourmahal, in so calm a voice that all were deceived; but presently, with a faint cry, she fell to the floor, and was taken up for dead.
By the time that Ahmed was himself again, his mother, who had meanwhile dismissed the steward, was ready with a statement of his affairs, quite clear and thorough, which she had prepared with the assistance of Noureddin. appeared that a sale of his remaining property would suffice to balance all accounts with his creditors, leaving him nothing but the consciousness of having acted honorably under circumstances that strongly tempt a man to trickery. He decided to pay his debts. His servants, who loved him, felt the separation keenly, and expressed their grief in loud lamentations. Several of his creditors, touched by his courageous spirit of self-sacrifice, made up among themselves a small sum, which they presented to him, with such expressions of regard that he could not persist in his determination to refuse it. With this money he was able to redeem the little cottage on the mountain, and to purchase a few simple articles of furniture, with some books and other comforts which his late studies and habits had rendered indispensable.
Just before removing, he sought the noble, who kindly consented to see him. "My misfortunes," said Ahmed, when the first constrained greetings were over, "are severe, but not unmerited. My wealth, to begin with, was meanly acquired; for, when I so tamely accepted it, I had the choice of earning a competence by steady labor, and declined it. I had just begun to love Nourma
hal, and was eager to place myself at once in a position that might justify an application for her hand. Next, I allowed myself to become absorbed in schemes of exercise and thoughts of love, to the neglect of my studies and my business. The operations of my steward were so extraordinary, that they should have had my attention long ago. My mother spoke of it repeatedly, but I had no time and no taste for such things. But one word from you will decide whether my errors are to be my final ruin."
Explain yourself, good Ahmed," said Almansor, kindly; for, in spite of himself, he was affected by these simple and honest words.
"Most willingly," said Ahmed. "Two years ago you said that you had considered me a suitable husband for your daughter, even before you knew of my riches. How am I now less worthy? Now, what I ask is this: Give me a year to work in; meanwhile, let it be understood that Nourmahal and I have not resigned each other. If, at the end of that time, I cannot show an improvement in my fortunes, with reasonable prospects, I shall be willing to resign my claims; and, whether willing or not, shall justify you in considering the engagement at an end.”
"Why, that is but justice, Ahmed," answered the noble. "It is true, Ganem has made advances; but Nourmahal detests him, and has utterly refused to see him more. A good father is tender to his child. She loves you, that is certain. Yes, I consent."
Thanks, kind sir!" exclaimed Ahmed, kissing the extended hand; "you shall see that your confidence is well founded." Taking his leave respectfully, he returned home with a light heart, for he felt that, with health and strength, he could easily make good his pledge.
Upon entering, his mother asked if he had brought any thing to eat, for there was nothing in the house. He felt for his purse; it was gone! "Shade of my father!" he exclaimed; "this is misery !—nothing to eat, and no money to buy with !"
"What! have you lost your purse?" gold box, receiving a liberal sum. With asked the mother, in alarm.
"I fear I have," he replied, trying rapidly one pocket after another.
In their excitement and distress, for some days they had eaten barely sufficient to keep soul and body together. Pride forbade the disclosure of their condition to the neighbors; but food they must have. What was to be done? At length, as Ahmed was walking to and fro, thinking sadly of their hard fate, and beating his breast with violence, his hand happened to strike the little gold box which, in accordance with the magician's advice, he had always carried about his person. With an exclamation of delight, he eagerly drew forth the tiny treasure, and, hurriedly raising the lid, presented it to his mother. "Taste of that powder!" he cried; "it was intended for just such
a case as ours.
'Ah, dear son," said the mother, taking the box, "little did we think how useful this powder might one day be to us. We thought it only a grim joke of our friend, the magician.”
"But taste it, mother," said Ahmed; "and may its virtues lead us to forgive the joke!"
They both now partook freely of the powder. The pangs of hunger were instantly allayed, and they bad the sensation of having just eaten a hearty meal. Closing the box to replace it in his bosom, Ahmed felt something rattle within. Opening it once more, he found several small gold-pieces, that had lain under the powder, and also a paper, that contained these words:
"If more is needed, sell the box. The powder, having once being exposed to the air, will presently lose all its virtue. If still further relief is desired, the ten empty chests may also be sold. They are made of the rarest woods, skilfully matched and carved, and will produce a handsome sum."
They raised the chests, and a careful inspection fully justified the language of the paper. The chests were indeed exquisite. The next morning Ahmed went to a jeweler's and sold the little
part of this money he hired several porters to convey the chests to the marketplace, where they soon attracted the eye of a curiosity-fancier, who at once offered two hundred pieces of gold for them. Unwilling to risk the loss of this customer by haggling, Ahmed closed the bargain, and hastened homeward-happier, in that hour, than he had ever in his life been before.
By the middle of the afternoon every thing he possessed was once more under the roof of the little mountain cottage. At first it looked mean enough; but there was consolation in the thought that now they were able to make it thoroughly comfortable. Already, in imagination, he saw and delighted in the improvements that were possible. And not alone inside; he would beautify even the out-houses and the garden.
As he was standing before the door, turning over in his mind a plan for this latter reformation, he suddenly descried the magician ascending toward him. The sight gave him so much pleasure, that he hastened to meet the good man who had tried so well to benefit him. Truly, it was not the magician's fault if things had turned out badly. Did he not advise Ahmed to satisfy himself fully in regard to the steward's honesty and capacity, before trusting him? Had that caution been heeded, all would now be well. And even had he been deceived, at last, in regard to the steward's character, the advice was to risk but a part of his capital; whereas, he had risked the whole.
"Well, friend Ahmed," said the magician, smiling kindly, "and how do you find yourself, after all your trials?"
"Much more cheerful than you may suppose," said Ahmed, pleasantly, as he pressed the magician's hand. He then described the sale of the chests and the box, and what led to it.
ed all hope of further aid from the other world—and, indeed, no more gifts can be yours-still, it is in my power to put you in a way to earn a fortune, in the way that would have been pointed out two years ago, had you but decided for it."
"Ah, if I had only been so wise!" sighed Ahmed. "But I have the wisdom now, and the courage."
Nothing but the conviction of your real worthiness could have induced me to come to you again," said the magician, with seriousness. "Now, then, if you are ready, come up the mountain once more, and we will take a new start."
"With all my heart," replied Ahmed. As they proceeded in silence, following the path which they had once before trodden, Ahmed had leisure to collect his thoughts. More clearly than ever, now that he was with the grave and serious man who had so signally befriended him, did he perceive his errors, and the damage to his character that had resulted from the enjoyment of wealth too easily gotten. "The great Shigemooni be thanked," he said to himself, “I have one more opportunity of proving myself a man!"
They had now reached the scene of the former enchantment. "We shall need a fire once more," said the magician. The young man promptly obeyed the hint, and soon had collected a goodsized heap of small sticks, bushes, with several bones that he had found bleaching by the wayside. The latter material the magician at once rejected, saying that, in summoning the powers whom he intended to invoke, no matter that had ever had sentient life must be employed. Not to mention other and more abstruse reasons, the odor from such material when burning did not harmonize with that of the incense to be used, and genii of all classes were particular on this point.
The stones were then placed as before, and the fire kindled in the same mysterious manner. The magician, pausing till the smoke of the fire had quite ceased to rise, sprinkled a white
powder over the coals, and once more waited calmly while the incense was diffusing itself. So subtile was it, that it was quite invisible; yet Ahmed was soon aware of a delicate, delicious odor, finer than flowers can yield-something every way exquisite, possessing moral qualities, one might almost say. Such was the effect it produced in him, that he felt certain something unusual was about to happen. Under its influence every object he beheld seemed transfigured; and the sense of expectation and of waiting was strongly excited. The magician now produced a white wand, and waved it, at first slowly, afterward more rapidly, over the fire, at the same time uttering strange words, in a tone which grew louder by degrees, and became imperative. On a sudden he stopped, turned to the East, and looked upward, as though expecting something from the air. Immediately, without warning of any kind, a bright form stood before them, as though just alighting from some kind of aerial car. Her eyes beamed graciously, and a most enchanting smile parted her lovely lips. In her right hand was a branch of myrtle.
Never had Ahmed dreamed of so marvellous a sight. Knowing that so much beauty and beneficence, and withal such an air of majesty, could not belong to a mere mortal, he knelt to her, that he might pay the homage due to a superior being. At this she frowned, and, all the while looking at the magician alone, made a slight gesture of impatience with her myrtle wand toward the kneeling figure. Worship God alone!" said the magician to Ahmed, in an offended tone. Much abashed, the youth arose from his knees, and awkwardly awaited the pleasure of his superiors.
"What is thy pleasure, good mortal?" asked the fairy of the magician, in a voice of wondrous sweetness.
"Fair lady, pardon my boldness in summoning thee," said the magician. "Thou knowest I have not abused my gift. I greatly desire to serve this youth, who of late has given many