Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, No. CCCXXXVI. October, 1843. Vol. LIV.
Author: Various
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[9] Most of the principal cities of India, in addition to the ancient name by which they are popularly known, have another imposed by the Moslems:—thus Agra is Akbarabad, the residence of Akbar—Delhi, Shahjehanabad; and Patna, Azimabad. In some instances, as Dowlutabad in the Dekkan, the Hindu name of which is Deogiri, the Mohammedan appellation has superseded the ancient name; but, generally speaking, the latter is that in common use.

A place so often described as the "City of Palaces," presents little that is novel in the narrative of the khan; but he does full justice to the splendour of the architecture, which he says "exceeds that of China or Ispahan—a superiority which arises from the immense sums which every governor-general has laid out upon public works, and in improving and adorning the city: the Marquis Wellesley, in particular, expended lakhs of rupees in this way." The account which he gives, however, from a Mahommedan writer, of the disputes with the Mogul government which led to the transference of the British factory and commerce from its original seat at Hoogly to Kali-kata,[10] or Calcutta, differs considerably from that given by the British historians, if we are to suppose the events here alluded to (the date of which the khan does not mention) to be those which occurred in 1686 and 1687, when Charnock defended the factory at Hoogly against the Imperial deputy, Shaista Khan. Our traveller's version of these occurrences is, that the factories of the English, which were then established on the Ghol Ghaut at Hoogly, having been overthrown by an earthquake, "Mr Charnock, the head officer of the factory, purchasing a garden called Banarasi, had the trees cut down, and commenced a new building. But while it was in progress, the principal Mogul merchants and inhabitants laid a complaint before Meer Nasir, the foujdar, (chief of police,) that their houses and harems would be overlooked, and great scandal occasioned, if the strangers should be allowed to erect such lofty buildings in the midst of the city.[11] The complaint was referred by the foujdar to the nawab, who forthwith issued orders for the discontinuance of the works, which were accordingly abandoned. The Company's agent, though highly offended at this arbitrary proceeding, was unable to resist it, having only one ship and a few sepoys; and, in spite of the efforts of the foujdar to dissuade him, he embarked with all his goods, and set sail for the peninsula," (qu. Indjeli?) "having first set fire to such houses as were near the river. At this time, however, the Emperor Aurungzib was in the Carnatic, beleaguered by the Mahrattas, who had cut off all supplies from his camp; and the Company's agent in that country, hearing of this, sent a large quantity of grain, which had been recently imported for their own use, for the relief of the army. Having thus gained the favour and protection of the Asylum of the World, the English were not only permitted to build factories in various parts of the country, but were exempted from the duties formerly laid on their goods. Charnock returned to Bengal with the emperor's firman; and the nawab, seeing how matters stood, withdrew his opposition to the erection of the factory at Hoogly. The English, however, preferred another situation, and chose Calcutta, where a building was soon erected, the same which is now called the old fort." This account, which is in fact more favourable to the English than that given by their own writers, is the only notice of these transactions we have ever found from a Mahommedan author; for so small was the importance attached by the Moguls to these obscure squabbles with a few Frank merchants, that even the historian Khafi-Khan, who acted as the emperor's representative for settling the differences which broke out about the same time in Bombay, makes no allusion to the simultaneous rupture in Bengal.

[10] "So called from Kali, the Hindu goddess, and kata, laughter; because human victims were formerly here sacrificed to her."

[11] From the sanctity attached by Oriental ideas to the privacy of the harem, it is a high crime and misdemeanour, punishable by law in all Moslem countries, to erect buildings overlooking the residence of a neighbour. At Constantinople, there is an officer called the Minar Aga, or superintendent of edifices, whose especial duty it is to prevent this.

Our author, like Bishop Heber,[12] and other travellers on the same route, is struck by the contrast between the robust and well-fed peasantry of Hindustan Proper, and the puny rice-eaters of Bengal; "who eat fish, boiled rice, bitter oil; and an infinite variety of vegetables; but of wheaten or barley bread, and of pulse, they know not the taste, nor of mutton, fowl, or ghee, (clarified butter.) The author of the Riaz-es-Selatin, is indeed of opinion that such food does not suit their constitutions, and would make them ill if they were to eat it"—an invaluable doctrine to establish in dieting a pauper population! "As to their dress, they have barely enough to cover them—only a piece of cloth, called a dhoti, wrapped round their loins, while their head-dress consists of a dirty rag rolled two or three times round the temples, and leaving the crown bare. But the natives of Hindustan, and even their descendants to the second and third generation, always wear the jamah, or long muslin robe, out of doors, though in the house they adopt the Bengali custom. The author of the Kholasat-al Towārikh, (an historical work,) says that both men and women formerly went naked; and no doubt he is right, for they can hardly be said to do otherwise now." Such are the peasants of Bengal—a race differing from the natives of Hindustan in language, manners, food, dress, and personal appearance; but who, from their vicinity to the seat of the English Supreme Government, have served as models for the descriptions given by many superficial travellers, as applying to all the natives of British India, without distinction! The horrible Hindu custom of immersing the sick, when considered past recovery, in the Ganges, and holding their lower limbs under water till they expire,[13] excites, as may be expected, the disgust of the khan; but the reason which he assigns for it, "the belief of these people, that if a man die in his own house, he would cause the death of every member of the family by assuming the form of a bhut or evil spirit," is new to us, and appears to be analogous to the superstitious dread entertained by the Greeks and Sclavonians, of a corpse reanimated into a Vroucolochas, or vampire. "But if a man escapes from their hands, and recovers after this treatment, he is shunned by every one; and there are many villages in Bengal, called villages of the dead, inhabited by men who have thus escaped death; they are considered dead to society, and no other persons will dwell in the same villages."

[12] "Almost immediately on leaving Allahabad," (on his way from Calcutta to the Upper Provinces,) "I was struck with the appearance of the men, as tall and muscular as the largest stature of Europeans; and with the fields of wheat, almost the only cultivation."—Heber's Journal, vol. iii. "Some of our boatmen passing through a field of Indian corn, plucked two or three ears, certainly not enough to constitute a theft, or even a trespass. Two of the men, however, who were watching, ran after them, not as the Bengalis would have done, to complain with joined hands, but with stout bamboos, prepared to do themselves justice par voye de faict. The men saved themselves by swimming off to the boat; but my servants called out to them—'Ah! dandee folk, beware, you are now in Hindustan; the people here know well how to fight, and are not afraid.'"

[13] "I told his (Pertab Chund's) father, that it was wrong to keep him where he then was, and he told me to take him down to the river. He was lifted up on his bedding; his speech was not very distinct at that time, but sufficiently so to call on the name of his T'hakoor, (spiritual guide,) which he did as desired; he then began to shiver, and complained of being very cold. I was one of those who went with the rajah to the river side. Jago Mohun Dobee pressed his legs under the water, and kept them so; and about 10 p.m. his soul quitted the body. When he died, his knees were under water, but the rest of his body above." Evidence of Radha Sircar and Sham Chum Baboo, before the Mofussil Court of Hoogly, September 1838, in the enquiry on the impostor Kistololl, who personated the deceased Pertab.

The stay of the khan in Calcutta was prolonged for more than a month, during which time he rented a house from a native proprietor in the quarter of Kolitolla. While removing his effects from his boat to this residence, he became involved in a dispute with the police, in consequence of the violation by his servants, through ignorance, of the regulation which forbids persons from the Upper Provinces to enter the city armed; but this unintentional infringement of orders was easily explained and arranged by the intervention of an European friend, and the arms, of which the police had taken possession, were restored. While engaged in preparing for his voyage, the khan made the best use of his time in visiting the public buildings, and other objects of interest, among which he particularly notices the minar or column erected in the maidan, (square,) near the viceregal palace of the Nawab Governor-General Bahadur, by a subscription among the officers of the army, native as well as English, to the memory of the late Sir David Ochterlony; but rates it, with truth, as greatly inferior, both in dimensions and beauty, to the famous pillar of the Kootb-Minar near Delhi. The colossal fortifications of Fort-William are also duly commemorated; "they resemble an embankment externally, but when viewed from within are exceedingly high—no foe could penetrate within them, much less reach the treasures and magazines in the interior." Our traveller also visited the English courts of justice, in the proceedings of which he seems to have taken great interest, and was apparently treated with much hospitality by many of the European functionaries and other residents, by whom he was furnished with numerous letters of introduction, as well as receiving much information respecting the manners and customs of Ingilistan, or England. The choice of a ship, and the selection of sea-stock, were of course matters of grave consideration, and the more so from the peculiar unfitness of the habits and religious scruples of an Indian Moslem for the privations unavoidable at sea; but a passage was at last taken for the khan and his two servants on board the Edinburgh of 1400 tons, and it being agreed that he should find his own provisions, to obviate all mistakes on the score of forbidden food, and the captain promising moreover that his comforts should be carefully attended to, this weighty negotiation was at length concluded. It is due to the khan to say, that whether from being better equipped, or from being endued with more philosophy and forbearance than his compatriot, Mirza Abu-Talib Khan, (to whom we have above referred,) he seems to have reconciled himself to the hardships of the kala-pani, or ocean, with an exceedingly good grace; and we find none of the complaints which fill the pages of the Mirza against the impurity of his food, the impossibility of performing his ablutions in appointed time and manner, and sundry other abominations by which he was so grievously afflicted, that at a time of danger to the vessel, "though many of the passengers were much alarmed, I, for my own part, was so weary of life that I was perfectly indifferent to my fate." Abu-Talib, however, sailed in an ill-regulated Danish ship; and in summing up the horrors of the sea, he strongly recommends his countrymen, if compelled to brave its miseries, to embark in none but an English vessel.

During the last days of the khan's sojourn in Calcutta, he witnessed the splendid celebration of the rites of the Mohurrum, when the slaughter of the brother Imams, Hassan and Hussein, the martyred grandsons of the Prophet, is lamented by all sects of the faithful, but more especially by the Rafedhis or Sheahs, the followers of Ali, "of whom there are many in Calcutta, though they are less numerous than the orthodox sect or Sunnis, from whom they are distinguished, at this season, by wearing black as mourning. At the Baitak-Khana (a quarter of Calcutta) we witnessed the splendid procession of the Taziya,[14] with the banners and flags flying, and the wailers beating their breasts."... "It is the custom here, at this season, for all the natch-girls (dancers) to sit in the streets of the Chandnibazar, under canopies decorated with wreaths and flowers in the most fantastic manner, and sell sweetmeats, cardamums, betelnuts, &c., upon stalls, displaying their charms to the passers-by. I took a turn here one evening with five others, and found crowds of people collected, both strangers and residents: nor do they ordinarily disperse till long after midnight." On the second day after his visit to this scene of gaiety, he received notice that the ship was ready for sea; and on the 8th of Mohurrum 1256, (March 13, 1840,) he accordingly embarked with his baggage and servants on board the Edinburgh, which was towed in seven days, by a steamer, down the river to Saugor; and the pilot quitting her the next day at the floating light. "I now found myself," (says the khan,) "for the first time in my life, in the great ocean, where nothing was to be seen around but sky and water."

[14] Taziya, literally grief, is an ornamental shrine erected in Moslem houses during the Mohurrum, and intended to represent the mausoleum of Hassan and Hussein, at Kerbelah in Persia. On the 10th and last day of the mourning, the taziyas are carried in procession to the outside of the city, and finally deposited with funeral rites in the burying-grounds.—See Mrs Meer Hassan Ali's Observations on the Mussulmans of India. Letter I.

The account of a voyage at sea, as given by an Oriental, is usually the most deplorable of narratives—filled with exaggerated fears, the horrors of sea-sickness, and endless lamentations of the evil fate of the writer, in being exposed to such a complication of miseries. Of the wailing of Mirza Abu-Talib we have already given a specimen: and the Persian princes, even in the luxurious comfort of an English Mediterranean steamer, seem to have fared but little better, in their own estimation at least, than the Mirza in his dirty and disorderly Danish merchantman. "Our bones cried, 'Alas! for this evil there is no remedy.' We were vomiting all the time, and thus afflicted with incurable evils, in the midst of a sea which appears without end, the state of my health bad, the sufferings of my brothers very great, and no hope of being saved, we became most miserable." Such is the naive exposition of his woes, by H. R. H. Najaf Kooli Mirza; but Kerim Khan appears, both physically and morally, to have been made of different metal. Ere he had been two days on board we find him remarking—"I had by this time made some acquaintance among the passengers, and began to find my situation less irksome and lonely;" shortly afterwards adding—"The annoyances inseparable from this situation were relieved, in some measure, by the music and dancing going on every day except Sundays, owing to the numerous party of passengers, both gentlemen and ladies, whom we had on board—seeing which, a man forgets his griefs and troubles in the general mirth around him." So popular, indeed, does the khan appear already to have become, that the captain, finding that he had hitherto abstained from the use of his pipe, that great ingredient in Oriental comfort, from an idea that smoking was prohibited on board, "instantly sent for my hookah, had it properly prepared for me, and insisted on my not relinquishing this luxury, the privation of which he knew would occasion me considerable inconvenience." In other respects, also, he seems to have been not less happily constituted; for though he says that "the rolling and rocking of the ship, when it entered the dark waters or open sea, completely upset my two companions, who became extremely sick"—his remarks on the incidents of the voyage, and the novel phenomena which presented themselves to his view, are never interrupted by any of those pathetic lamentations on the instability of the human stomach, which form so important and doleful an episode in the relations of most landsmen, of whatever creed or nation.

The commencement of the voyage was prosperous; and the ship ran to the south before a fair wind, interrupted only by a few days of partial calm, till it reached the latitude of Ceylon, where the appearance of the flying fish excited the special wonder of the khan, who was by this time beginning, under the tuition of his fellow passengers, to make some progress in the English language, and had even attempted to fathom some of the mysteries of the science of navigation; "but though I took the sextant which the captain handed me, and held it precisely as he had done, I could make nothing of it." The regular performance of the Church service on Sundays, and the cessation on that day from the ordinary amusements, is specially noticed on several occasions, and probably made a deeper impression on the mind of our Moslem friend, from the popular belief current in India that the Feringhis are men of no caste, without religious faith or ceremonies—a belief which the conduct and demeanour of the Anglo-Indians in past times tended, in too many instances, to confirm. Off the southern extremity of Ceylon, the ship was again becalmed for several days; but the tedium of this interval was relieved, not only by the ordinary sea incidents of the capture of a shark and the appearance of a whale, (the zoological distinctions between which and the true fishes are stated by the khan with great correctness,) but by the occurrence of a mutiny on board an English vessel in company, which was fortunately quelled by the exertions of the captain of the Edinburgh.

"The spicy gales of Ceylon," blowing off the coast to the distance, as stated, of fifty miles, (an extremely moderate range when compared with the accounts of some other travellers,) at last brought on their wings the grateful announcement of the termination of the calm; but before quitting the vicinity of this famous island, (more celebrated in eastern story under the name of Serendib,) the khan gives some notices of the legends connected with its history, which show a more extended acquaintance with Hindu literature than the Moslems in India in general take the trouble of acquiring. Among the rest he alludes to the epic of the Ramayuna, and the bridge built by Rama (or as he calls him, Rajah Ram Chunder) for the passage of the monkey army and their redoubled general, Huniman, from the Indian continent into the island, in order to deliver from captivity Seeta, the wife of the hero. The wind still continuing favourable, the ship quickly passed the equator, and the pole-star was no longer visible—"a proof of the earth's sphericity which I was glad to have had an opportunity of seeing;" and they left, at a short distance to the right, the islands of Mauritius and Bourbon, "which are not far from the great island of Madagascar, where the faithful turn their faces to the north when they pray, as they turn them to the west in India," the kiblah, or point of direction, being in both cases the kaaba, or temple of Mekka. They were now approaching the latitude of the Cape; and our voyager was astonished by the countless multitudes of sea-birds which surrounded the ship, and particularly by the giant bulk of the albatrosses, "which I was told remained day and night on the ocean, repairing to the coast of Africa only at the period of incubation." The Cape of Storms, however, as it was originally named by Vasco de Gama, did not fail on this occasion to keep up its established character for bad weather. A severe gale set in from the east, which speedily increased to a storm. A sailor fell from "the third stage of the mainmast," (the main topgallant yard,) and was killed on the deck; and as the inhospitable shores of Africa were close under their lee, the ship appears for some time to have been in considerable danger. But in this (to him) novel scene of peril, the khan manifests a degree of self-possession, strongly contrasting with the timidity of the royal grandsons of Futteh Ali Shah, the expression of whose fears during a gale is absolutely ludicrous. "We were so miserable that we gave up all hope; we gave up our souls, and began to beseech God for forgiveness; while the wind continued increasing, and all the waves of the western sea rose up in mountains, with never-ceasing noise, till they reached the planets." Even after the violence of the hurricane had in some measure abated, the sea continued to run so high that the ports were kept closed for several days. "At last, however, they were opened for the purpose of ventilating the interior; and the band, which had been silent for some days, began to play again." The appearance of a water-spout on the same afternoon is thus described:—"An object became visible in the distance, in the form of a minaret, and every one on board crowded on deck to look at it. On asking what it was, I was told that what appeared to be a minaret was only water, which was drawn up towards the heavens by the force of the wind, and when this ceased would fall again into the sea, and was what we should call a whirlwind. This is sometimes extremely dangerous to vessels, since, if it reaches them, it is so powerful as to draw them out of the sea in the same manner as it draws up the water; in consequence of which many ships have been lost when they have been overtaken by this wonderful phenomenon."

The storm was succeeded by a calm, which detained the ship for two days within sight of the lofty mountains near the Cape. "It was bitterly cold, for the seasons are here reversed, and instead of summer, as we should have expected, it was now the depth of winter. At length, however, (on the 69th day after our leaving Calcutta,) a strong breeze sprung up, which enabled us to set all sail, and carried us away from this table-land." The run from the Cape to St Helena seems to have been barren of incident, except an accidental encounter with a vessel in distress, which proved to be a slaver which had been captured by an English cruiser, and had sustained serious damage in the late storm while proceeding to the Cape with a prize crew. On approaching St Helena, the captain "gave orders for the ship to be painted, both inside and out, that the people of the island might not say we came in a dirty ship; and as we neared the land, a white flag was hoisted to apprise those on shore that there was no one ill on board. In cases of sickness a yellow flag is displayed, and then no one is permitted to land from the ship for fear of contagion. The island is about twenty-six miles in circuit, and is constantly enveloped in fog and mist. It is said to have been formerly a volcano, but has now ceased to smoke. The vegetation is luxuriant, but few of the flowers are fragrant. I recognised some, however, both flowers and fruits, which seemed similar to those of India. I took the opportunity of landing with the captain to see the town, which is small, but extremely well fortified, the cannon being so numerous that one might suppose the whole island one immense iron-foundery. It is populous, the inhabitants being chiefly Jews and English; but as it was Sunday, and all the shops were shut, it had a dull appearance. After surveying the town, I ascended a hill in the country, leading to the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, which is on an elevated spot, four miles from the town.

"This celebrated personage was a native of Corsica; and enjoying a fortunate horoscope, he entered the French army, and speedily rose to the rank of general; and afterwards, with the consent of the people and the soldiery, made himself emperor. After this he conquered several kingdoms, and the fame of his prowess and his victories filled all the European world. When he invaded Russia, he defeated the Muscovites in several great battles, and took their capital; but, in consequence of the intensity of the cold, several thousands of his army both men and horses, perished miserably. This catastrophe obliged him to return to France, where he undertook the conquest of another country. At this time George III. reigned in England; and having collected all the disposable forces of his kingdom, appointed Lord Wellington (the same general who was employed in the war against Tippoo Sultan in Mysore) to command them, and sent him to combat the French Emperor. He entered Spain, and forced the Emperor's brother, Yusuf, (Joseph,) who was king of that country, to fly—till after a variety of battles and incidents, too numerous to particularize, the two hostile armies met at a place called by the English Waterloo, where a bloody battle was fought, as famous as that of Pāshān, between Sohrab and the hero Rustan: and Napoleon was overthrown and made prisoner. He was then sent, though in a manner suitable to his rank, to this island of St Helena, where, after a few years, he finished his earthly career. His tomb is much visited by all who touch at the island, and has become a durgah (shrine) for innumerable visitors from Europe. There are persons appointed to take care of it, who give to strangers, in consideration of a small present, the leaves and flowers of the trees which grow round the tomb. No other Emperor of the Europeans was ever so honoured as to have had his tomb made a shrine and place of pilgrimage: nor was ever one so great a conqueror, or so renowned for his valour and victories."

The remainder of the voyage from St Helena to England was apparently marked by no incident worthy of mention, as the khan notices only the reappearance of the pole-star on their crossing the line, and re-entering the northern hemisphere, and their reaching once more the latitude of Delhi, "which we now passed many thousand miles to our right; after which nothing of importance occurred till we reached the British Channel, when we saw the Scilly Isles in the distance, and about noon caught a glimpse of the Lizard Point, and the south coast of England, together with the lighthouse: the country of the French lay on our right at the distance of about eighty miles. I was given to understand that the whole distance from St Helena to London, by the ship's reckoning, was 6328 miles, and 16,528 from Calcutta." In the Downs the pilot came on board, from whom they received the news of the attempt recently made by Oxford on the life of the Queen; and here the captain, anxious to lose no time in reaching London, quitted the vessel as it entered the Thames, "the sources of which famous river, I was informed, were near a place called Cirencester, eighty-eight miles from London, in the zillah (county) of Gloucester." The ship was now taken in tow by a couple of steam-tugs, and passing Woolwich, "where are the war-ships and top-khana (arsenal) of the English Padishah, at length reached Blackwall, where we anchored."

"I now (continues the khan) returned thanks to God for having brought me safe through the wide ocean to this extraordinary country—bethinking myself of the answer once made by a man who had undertaken a voyage, on being asked by his friends what he had seen most wonderful—'The greatest wonder I have seen is seeing myself alive on land!'" The troubles of the khan, however, were far from being ended by his arrival on terra firma: for apparently from some mistake or inadvertence, (the cause of which does not very clearly appear,) on the part of the friends whom he had expected to meet him, he found himself, on landing at Blackwall and proceeding by the railway to London, left alone by the person who had thus far been his guide, in apartments near Cornhill, almost wholly unacquainted with the English language, separated from his baggage and servants, who were still on board the Edinburgh, and with no one in his company but another Hindustani, as little versed as himself in the ways and speech of Franguestan. In this "considerable unhandsome fix," as it would be called on the other side of the Atlantic, the perplexities of the khan are related with such inimitable naivete and good-humour, that we cannot do better than give the account of them in his own words. "As I could neither ask for any thing, nor answer any question put to me, I passed the whole night without a morsel of food or a drop of water: till in the morning, feeling hungry, I requested my companion to go to some bazar and buy some fruit. He replied that it would be impossible for him either to find his way to a bazar through the crowds of people, or to find his way back again—as all the houses were so much alike. I then told him to go straight on in the street we were in, turning neither to the right nor the left till he met with some shop where we might get what we wanted: and, in order to direct him to the place on his return, I agreed to lean half out of the window, so that he could not fail to see me. No sooner, however, did he sally forth, than the people, men, women, and children, began to stare at him on all sides, as if he had dropped from the moon; some stopped and gazed, and numbers followed him as if he had been a criminal about being led to execution. Nor was I in a more enviable position: the people soon caught sight of me with my head and shoulders out of the window; and in a few minutes a mob had collected opposite the door. What was I to do? If I withdrew myself, my friend on returning would have no mark to find the house, while, if I remained where I was, the curiosity of the crowd would certainly increase. I kept my post, however, while every one that passed stopped and gazed like the rest, till there was actually no room for vehicles to pass; and in this unpleasant situation I remained fully an hour, when seeing my friend returning, I went down and opened the door for him. He told me he had gone straight on, till he came to a fruit-shop, at the corner of another street, when he went in, and laying two shillings on the counter, said in Oordu, (the polished dialect of Hindustani,) 'Give me some fruit.' The shopman, not understanding him, spoke to him in English; to which he replied again in Oordu, 'I want some fruit!' pointing at the same time to the money, to signify that he wanted two shillings' worth of fruit. The man, however, continued confounded; and my friend at last, not knowing of what sort the fruits were, whether sour or sweet, bitter or otherwise, ventured, after much hesitation and fruitless attempts to communicate with the shopman by signs and gestures, to take up four apples, and then made his retreat in the best manner he could, followed, as here, by the rabble. I at last caught a glimpse of him, as I have mentioned, and let him in; and we sat down together, and breakfasted on these four apples, my friend taking two of them, and I the others."

It must be admitted that our khan's first meal in England, and the concomitant circumstances, were not calculated to impress him with a very high idea, either of the comforts of the country or the politeness of the inhabitants; but the unruffled philosophy with which he submitted to these untoward privations was, ere-long, rewarded by the arrival of the East India agent to whose care he had been recommended, and who, after putting him in the way of getting his servants and luggage on shore from the vessel, took him out in a carriage to show him the metropolis. "It was, indeed, wonderful in every point of view, whether I regarded the immense population, the dresses and faces of the men and women, the multitudes of houses, churches, &c., and the innumerable carriages running in streets paved with stone and wood, (the width and openness of which seem to expand the heart,) and confining themselves to the middle of the road, without overturning any of the foot-passengers." The cathedral of St Paul's is described with great minuteness of detail, and the expense of its erection stated at seventy-three lakhs of rupees, (about L.750,000;) "but I have heard that if a similar edifice were erected in the present day, it would cost four times as much, as the cost of every thing has increased in at least that proportion."

The difficulties of the khan, from his ignorance of the language, and Moslem scruples at partaking of food not dressed by his own people, were not yet, however, at an end. For though, on returning to his lodging in the evening, he found that his friend had succeeded in procuring from the ship a dish of kichiri, (an Indian mess, composed of rice and ghee, or clarified butter,) his inability to communicate with his landlady still occasioned him considerable perplexity. "Having ventured to take some pickles, which I saw on the sideboard, and finding them palatable, I sent for the landlady, and tried to explain to her by signs, pointing to the bottles, that I wanted something like what they contained. Alas, for my ignorance! She thought I wished them taken out of the room, and so walked off with them, leaving me in the utmost astonishment. How was I to get it back again? it was the only thing I had to relish my kichiri. I had, therefore, recourse to this expedient—I got an apple and pared it, putting the parings in a bottle with water; and showing this to the landlady, intimated, by signs, that I wanted something like it to eat with my rice. She asked many questions in English, and talked a great deal, from which I inferred that she had at last discovered my meaning, but five minutes had hardly elapsed when she re-appeared, bearing in her hand a bottle of water, filled with apple-parings cut in the nicest manner imaginable! This she placed on the table in the most respectful manner, and then retired!"

The good lady, however, conceiving that her guest was in danger of perishing with hunger, was benevolently importunate with him to partake of some nourishment, or at least of some tea and toast, "since it is the custom in this country for every one to eat five times a-day, and some among the wealthy are not satisfied even with this!" The arrival of an English acquaintance, who explained to the landlady the religious prejudices of her lodger, in some measure relieved him from his embarrassment; but he was again totally disconcerted, by finding it impossible, after a long search, to procure any ghee—an ingredient indispensable in the composition of every national dish of India, whether Moslem or Hindu. "How shall I express my astonishment at this extraordinary ignorance? What! do they not know what ghee is? Wonderful! This was a piece of news I never expected—that what abounds in every little wretched village in India, could not be purchased in this great city!" How this unforeseen deficiency was supplied does not appear; but probably the khan's never-failing philosophy enabled him to bear even this unparalleled privation with equanimity, as we hear no further complaints on the subject. He did not remain, however, many days in those quarters, finding that the incessant noise of the vehicles passing day and night deprived him of sleep; and, by the advice of his friends, he took a small house in St John's Wood, where he was at once at a distance from the intolerable clamour of the streets, and at liberty to live after the fashion of his own country.

The first place of public resort to which he directed his steps, appears to have been the Pantheon bazar in Oxford Street, whither the familiar name perhaps attracted him—"for the term bazar is in use also among the people of this country;" but he does not appear to have been particularly struck by any thing he saw there, except the richness and variety of the wares. On the contrary, he complains of the want of fragrance in the flowers in the conservatory, particularly the roses, as compared with those of his native land—"there was one plantain-tree which seemed to be regarded as a sort of wonder, though thousands grow in our gardens without any sort of culture." The presence of the female attendants at the stalls, a sight completely at variance with Asiatic ideas, is also noticed with marked disapprobation—"Most of them were young and handsome, and seemed perfect adepts in the art of selling their various wares; but I could not help reflecting, on seeing so many fine young women engaged in this degrading occupation, on the ease and comfort enjoyed by our females, compared to the drudgery and servile employment to which the sex are subjected in this country. Notwithstanding all the English say of the superior condition of their women, it is quite evident, from all I have seen since my arrival, that their social state is far below that of our females." This sentiment is often repeated in the course of the narrative, and any one who has read, in the curious work of Mrs Meer Hassan Ali, quoted above, an account of the strict domestic seclusion in which Moslem females having any pretensions to rank, or even respectability, are constantly retained in India, will not be surprised at the frequent expression of repugnance, whenever the writer sees women engaged in any public or out-of-doors occupation—a custom so abhorrent to Oriental, and, above all, to Indian ideas.

We next find the khan in the Zoological Gardens, his matter-of-fact description of which affords an amusing contrast with that of those veracious scions of Persian royalty, who luxuriate in "elephant birds just like an elephant, but without the proboscis, and with wings fifteen yards long"—"an elephant twenty-four feet high, with a trunk forty feet long;" and who assure us that "the monkeys act like human beings, and play at chess with those who visit the gardens. On this day a Jew happened to be at this place, and went to play a game with the monkey. The monkey beat, and began to laugh loudly, all the people standing round him; and the Jew, exceedingly abashed, was obliged to leave the place." The khan, in common with ourselves, and the generality of visitors to the Regent's Park, was not fortunate enough to witness any of the wondrous feats which gladdened the royal eyes of the Shahzadehs—though he saw some of the apes, meaning the orang-outan, "drink tea and coffee, sit on chairs, and eat their food like human beings." * * *

"There is no island or kingdom," (he continues,) "which has not contributed its specimens of the animal kingdom to these gardens: from the elephant and rhinoceros, to the fly and the mosquito, all are to be seen here"—but not even the giraffes, strange as their appearance must have been to him, attract any particular notice; though the sight of the exotics in the garden draws from him a repetition of his old complaint, relative to the want of fragrance in the flowers as compared with those produced under the genial sun of India. The ceremony of the prorogation of Parliament by the Queen in person was now at hand, and the khan determined to be present at this imposing scene. But as he takes this opportunity to introduce his observations and opinions on the laws and customs of this country, we shall postpone to our next Number the discussion of these weighty subjects.



It was on a sultry July evening that a joyous party of young men were assembled in the principal room of a wine house, outside the Potsdam gate of Berlin. One of their number, a Saxon painter, by name Carl Solling, was about to take his departure for Italy. His place was taken in the Halle mail, his luggage sent to the office, and the coach was to call for him at midnight at the tavern, whither a number of his most intimate friends had accompanied him, to drink a parting glass of Rhenish wine to his prosperous journey.

Supper was over, and some magnificent melons, and peaches, and plates of caviare, and other incentives to drinking, placed upon the table; a row of empty bottles already graced the sideboard, while full ones of that venerable cobweb-mantle appearance, so dear to the toper, were forthcoming as rapidly as the thirstiest throats could desire. The conviviality was at its height, and numerous toasts had been given, among which the health of the traveller, the prosperity of the art which he cultivated, and of the land of poetry and song to which he was proceeding, had not been forgotten. Indeed, it was becoming difficult to find any thing to toast, but the thirst of the party was still unquenched, and apparently unquenchable.

Suddenly a young man started up, in dress and appearance the very model of a German student—in short frock coat and loose sacklike trousers, long curling hair hanging over his shoulders, pointed beard and mustache, and the scars of one or two sabre cuts on his handsome animated countenance.

"You want a toast, my friends!" cried he. "An excuse to drink, as though drinking needed an excuse when the wine is good. I will give you one, and a right worthy one too. Our noble selves here assembled; all, so many as we are!" And he glanced round the table, counting the number of the guests. "One, two, three, four—thirteen. We are Thirteen. Es lebe die Dreizehn!"

He raised his glass, in which the golden liquor flashed and sparkled, and set it down, drained to the last drop.

"Thirteen!" exclaimed a pale-faced, dark-eyed youth named Raphael, starting from his seat, and in his turn counting the company. "'Tis true. My friends, ill luck will attend us. We are Thirteen, seated at a round table."

There was evidently an unpleasant impression made upon the guests by this announcement. The toast-giver threw a scornful glance around him—

"What!" cried he, "are we believers in such nursery tales and old wives' superstitions? Pshaw! The charm shall soon be broken. Halls! Franz! Winebutt! Thieving innkeeper! Rascally corkdrawer! where are you hidden? Come forth! Appear!"

Thus invoked, there toddled into the room the master of the tavern—a round-bellied, short-legged individual, whose rosy gills and Bacchus-like appearance proved his devotion to the jolly god whose high-priest he was.

"Sit down here!" cried the mad student, forcing him into a chair; "and now, Raphael and gentlemen all, be pleased to shorten your faces again, and drink your wine as if one with a three after it were an unknown combination of numerals."

The conversation now took a direction naturally given to it by what had just occurred, and the origin and causes of the popular prejudice against the number Thirteen were discussed.

"It cannot be denied that there is something mysterious in the connection and combination of numbers," observed a student in philosophy; "and Pythagoras was right enough when he sought the foundation of all human knowledge in the even and uneven. All over the world the idea of something complete and perfect is associated with even numbers, and of something imperfect and defective with uneven ones. The ancients, too, considered even numbers of good omen, and uneven ones as unpropitious."

"It is really a pity," cried the mad student, "that you philosophers should not be allowed to invert and re-arrange history in the manner you deem fitting. You would soon torture the crooked stream of time into a straight line. I should like to know from what authors you derive your very original ideas in favour of even numbers. As far as my reading goes, I find that number three was considered a sacred and a fortunate number by nearly all the sects of antiquity, not excepting the Pythagoreans. And the early Romans had such a respect for the uneven numbers, that they never allowed a flock of sheep to be of any number divisible by two."

The philosopher did not seem immediately prepared with a reply to this attack.

"You are all of you looking too far back for the origin of the curse that attends the number Thirteen," interposed Raphael. "Think only of the Lord's Supper, which is rather nearer to our time than Pythagoras and the Roman shepherds. It is since then that Thirteen has been a stigmatized and fatal number. Judas Iscariot was the Thirteenth at that sacred table and believe me it is no childish superstition that makes men shun so unblest a number."

"Here is Solling, who has not given his opinion yet," cried another of the party, "and yet I am sure he has something to say on the subject. How now, Carl, what ails thee, man? Why so sad and silent?"

The painter who, at the commencement of the evening, had entered frankly and willingly into the joyous humour of his friends, had become totally changed since the commencement of this discussion on the number Thirteen. He sat silent and thoughtful in his chair, and left his glass untasted before him, while his thoughts were evidently occupied by some unpleasant subject. His companions pressed him for the cause of this change, and after for some time evading their questions, he at last confessed that the turn the conversation had taken had brought painful recollections to his mind.

"It is a matter I love not to speak about," said he; "but it is no secret, and least of all could I have any wish to conceal it from you, my good and kind friends. We have yet an hour before the arrival of the mail, and if you are disposed to listen, I will relate to you the strange incidents, the recollection of which has saddened me."

The painter's offer was eagerly accepted; the young men drew their chairs round the table, and Solling commenced as follows:—

"I am a native of the small town of Geyer, in Saxony, of the tin mines of which place my father was inspector. I was the twelfth child of my parents and half an hour after I saw the light my mother give birth to a Thirteenth, also a boy. Death, however, was busy in this numerous family. Several had died while yet infants, and there now survive only three besides myself, and perhaps my twin brother.

"The latter, who was christened Bernard, gave indications at a very early age of an eccentric and violent disposition. Precocious in growth and strength, wild as a young foal, headstrong and passionate, full of spiteful tricks and breakneck pranks, he was the terror of the family and the neighbours. In spite of his unamiable qualities, he was the pet of his father, who pardoned or laughed at all his mischief, and the consequence was, that he became an object of fear and hatred to his brothers and sisters. Our hatred, however, was unjust; for Bernard's heart was good, and he would have gone through fire and water for any of us. But he was rough and violent in whatever he did, and we dreaded the fits of affection he sometimes took for us, almost as much as his less amiable humours.

"As far back as I can remember, Bernard received not only from his brothers, but also from all our playfellows, the nickname of the Thirteenth, in allusion, of course, to his being my mother's thirteenth child. At first this offended him grievously, and many were the sound thrashings he inflicted in his endeavours to get rid of the obnoxious title. Finally he succeeded, but scarcely had he done so when, from some strange perversity of character, he adopted as an honourable distinction the very name he had taken such pains to suppress.

"We were playing one Sunday afternoon in the large court of our house; several of the neighbours' children were there, and it chanced that we were exactly twelve in number. We had wooden swords, and were having a sort of tournament, from which, however, we had managed to exclude Bernard, who, in such games, was accustomed to hit rather too hard. Suddenly he bounded over a wall, and fell amongst us like a thunderbolt. He had painted his face in red and black stripes, and made himself a pair of wings out of an old leathern apron; and thus equipped and armed with the largest broomstick he had been able to find, he showered his blows around him, driving us right and left, and shouting out, 'Room, room for the mad Thirteenth!'

"Soon after this incident my father died. Bernard, who had been his favourite, was as violent in his grief as he had already shown himself to be in every thing else. He wept and screamed like a mad creature, tore his hair, bit his hands till they bled, and struck his head against the wall; raved and flew at every body who came near him, and was obliged to be shut up when his father's coffin was carried out of the house, or he would inevitably have done himself or somebody else a mischief.

"My mother had an unmarried brother in the town of Marienberg, a wealthy man, and who was Bernard's godfather. On learning my father's death he came to Geyer, and invited his sister and her children to go and take up their abode with him. But the worthy man little knew the plague he was receiving into his house in the person of his godson. Himself of a mild, quiet disposition, he was greatly scandalized by the wild pranks of his nephew, and made vain attempts to restrain him within some bounds; but by so doing he became the aversion of my brother, who showed his dislike in every possible way. He gave him nicknames, broke his china cups and saucers, by which the old gentleman set great store, splashed his white silk stockings with mud as he went to church, put the house clock an hour forward or back, and tormented his kind godfather in every way he could devise.

"Bernard had not forgotten his title of the Thirteenth; but it was probable he would soon have got tired of it, for it was not his custom to adhere long to any thing, had not my uncle, who was a little superstitious, strictly forbidden him to adopt it. This opposition was all that was wanting to make my brother bring forward the unlucky number upon every possible occasion. When any body mentioned the number twelve before him, or called any thing the twelfth, Bernard would immediately cry out, 'And I am the Thirteenth!'

"No matter when it was, or before whom; time, place, and persons were to him alike indifferent. For instance, one Sunday in church, when the clergyman in the course of the service said, 'Let us sing a portion of such a psalm, beginning at the twelfth verse,' Bernard immediately screamed out, 'And I am the Thirteenth!'

"This was a grievous scandal to my uncle, and Bernard was called that evening before a tribunal, composed of his godfather, my mother, and the old clergyman whom he had so gracelessly interrupted, and who was also teacher of Latin and theology at the school to which Bernard and I went. But all their reproaches and remonstrances were lost upon my brother, who had evidently much difficulty to keep himself from laughing in their faces. My mother wept, my uncle paced the room in great perplexity, and the worthy old dominie clasped his hands together, and exclaimed, 'My child! I fear me, God's chastisement will be needed to amend you.' The event proved that he was right.

"It was on the Friday before Christmas-day, and we were assembled in school. The near approach of the holidays had made the boys somewhat turbulent, and the poor old dominie had had much to suffer during the whole day from their tricks and unruliness. My brother, of course, had contributed largely to the disorder, much to the delight of his bosom friend and companion, the only son of the master. This boy, whose name was Albert, was a blue-eyed, fair haired lad, gentle as a girl. Bernard had conceived a violent friendship for him, and had taken him under his protection. Albert's father, as may be supposed, was little pleased at this intimacy, but yet, out of consideration for my uncle, he did not entirely forbid it; and the more so as he perceived that his son in no respect imitated his wild playmate, but contented himself with admiring him beyond all created beings, and repaying with the warmest affection Bernard's watchful and jealous guardianship.

"On the afternoon in question, my brother surpassed himself in wayward conceits and mischievous tricks, to the infinite delight of Albert, who rocked with laughter at each new prank. The good dominie, who was indulgence itself, was instructing us in Bible history, and had to interrupt himself every moment to repress the unruliness of his pupils, and especially of Bernard.

"It seemed pre-ordained that the lesson should be an unlucky one. Every thing concurred to make it so. Our instructor had occasion to speak of the twelve tribes of Israel, of the twelve patriarchs, of the twelve gates of the holy city. Each of these served as a cue to my brother, who immediately shouted out, 'And I am the Thirteenth!' and each time Albert threw himself back shrieking with laughter, thus encouraging Bernard to give full scope to his mad humour. The poor dominie remonstrated, menaced, supplicated, but all in vain. I saw the blood rising into his pale face, and at last his bald head, in spite of the powder which sprinkled it, became red all over. He contained himself, however, and proceeded to the account of the Lord's Supper. He began, 'And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.'

"'And I am the Thirteenth!' yelled Bernard.

"Scarcely were the words uttered, when a Bible flew across the school, the noise of a blow, and a cry of anguish followed, and the old man fell senseless to the ground. The heavy Bible, the corners of which were bound with silver, and that he had hurled in a moment of uncontrollable passion at my brother, had missed its mark, and struck his own son on the head. Albert lay bleeding on the floor, while Bernard hung over him like one beside himself, weeping, and kissing his wounds.

"The boys ran, one and all, out of the school-room, shrieking for assistance. Our cries soon brought the servants to the spot, who, on learning what had happened, hastened with us back to the school, and lifted up the old master, who was still lying on the ground near his desk. He had been struck with apoplexy, and survived but a few hours. Albert was wounded in two places, one of the sharp corners of the Bible having cut open his forehead, while another had injured his left eye. After much suffering he recovered, but the sight of the eye was gone.

"Bernard, however, had disappeared. When we re-entered the school-room, a window which looked into the playground was open, and there were marks of footsteps on the snow without. A short distance further were traces of blood, where the fugitive had apparently washed his face and hands in the snow. We have never seen him since that day."

The painter paused, and his friends remained some moments silent, musing on the tragical history they had heard.

"And do you know nothing whatever of your brother's fate?" enquired Raphael at last.

"Next to nothing. My uncle caused enquiries to be made in every direction, but without success. Once only a neighbour at Marienberg, who had been travelling on the Bohemian frontier, told us that he had met at a village inn a wandering clarinet-player, who bore so strong a resemblance to my brother that he accosted him by his name. The musician seemed confused, and muttering some unintelligible reply, left the house in haste. What renders it probable that this was Bernard is, that he had a great natural talent for music, and at the time he left home, had already attained considerable proficiency on the clarinet."

"How old was your brother when he so strangely disappeared?" asked one of the party.

"Fifteen, but he looked at least two years older, for he was stout and manly in person beyond his age."

At this moment the rattling of wheels, and sound of a postilion's horn, was heard. The Halle mail drove up to the door, the guard bawling out for his passenger. The young painter took a hasty leave of his friends, and sprang into the vehicle, which the next instant disappeared in the darkness.

There was an overplus of travellers by the mail that night, and the carriage in which Solling had got, was not the mail itself, but a caleche, holding four persons, which was used as a sort of supplement, and followed close to the other carriage. Two of the places were occupied by a Jew horse-dealer and a sergeant of hussars, who were engaged in an animated, and to them most interesting conversation, on the subject of horse-flesh, to which the painter paid little attention; but leaning back in his corner, remained absorbed in the painful reflections which the incidents he had been narrating had called up in his mind. In spite of his brother's eccentricities, he was truly attached to him; and although eight years had elapsed since his disappearance, he had not yet given up hopes of finding him, if still alive. The enquiries that he and his uncle had unceasingly made after their lost relative, had put them, about three years previous to this time, upon the trace of a clarinet-player who had been seen at Venice and Trieste, and went by the name of Voltojo. This might have been a name adopted by Bernard, as being nearly the Italian equivalent of Geyer, or hawk, the name of his native town; and Solling was not without a faint hope, that in the course of his journey to Rome he might obtain some tidings of his brother.

He was roused from his reverie by the postilion shouting out to the guard of the mail, which was just before them on the road, to know when they were to take up the passenger who was to occupy the remaining seat in the caleche.

"Where will the Thirteenth meet us?" asked the man.

"At the inn at Schoneber," replied the guard.

The Thirteenth! The word made the painter's blood run cold. The horse-dealer and the sergeant, who had begun to doze in their respective corners, were also disturbed by the ill-omened sound.

"The Thirteenth! The Thirteenth!" muttered the Jew in his beard, still half asleep. "God forbid! Let's have no thirteenth!"

A company of travelling comedians, who occupied the mail, took up the word. "The Thirteenth is coming," said one.

"Somebody will die," cried another.

"Or we shall be upset and break our necks," exclaimed a third.

"No Thirteenth!" cried they all in chorus. "Drive on! drive on! he sha'n't get in!"

This was addressed to the postilion, who just then pulled up at the door of a village inn, and giving a blast with his horn, shouted loudly for his remaining passenger to appear.

The door of the public-house opened, and a tall figure, with a small knap-sack on his shoulder and a knotty stick in his hand, stepped out and approached the mail. But when he heard the cries of the comedians, who were still protesting against the admission of a Thirteenth traveller, he started suddenly back, swinging his cudgel in the air.

"To the devil with you all, vagabonds that ye are!" vociferated he. "Drive on, postilion, with your cage of monkeys. I shall walk."

At the sound of the stranger's voice, Solling sprang up in the carriage and seized the handle of the door. But as he did so, a strong arm grasped him by the collar, and pulled him back into his seat. At the same moment the carriage drove on.

"The man is drunk," said the sergeant, who had misinterpreted his fellow-passenger's intentions. "It is not worth while dirtying your hands, and perhaps getting an ugly blow, in a scuffle with such a fellow."

"Stop, postilion, stop!" shouted Solling. But the postilion either did not or would not hear, and some time elapsed before the painter could persuade his well-meaning companion of his peaceable intentions. At length he did so, and the carriage, which had meanwhile been going at full speed, was stopped.

"You will leave my luggage at the first post-house," said Solling, jumping out and beginning to retrace his steps to the village, which they had now left some distance behind them.

The night was pitch-dark, so dark that the painter was compelled to feel his way, and guide himself by the line of trees that bordered the road. He reached the village without meeting a living creature, and strode down the narrow street amid the baying of the dogs, disturbed by his footfall at that silent hour of the night. The inn door was shut, but there was a light glimmering in one of the casements. He knocked several times without any body answering. At length a woman's head was put out of an upper window.

"Go your ways," cried a shrill voice, "and don't come disturbing honest folk at this time o' night. Do you think we have nought to do but to open the door for such raff as you? Be off with you, you vagabond, and blow your clarinet elsewhere."

"You are mistaken, madam," said Solling; "I am no vagabond, but a passenger by the Halle mail, and"—

"What brings you here, then?" interrupted the virago; "the Halle mail is far enough off by this."

"My good madam," replied the painter in his softest tone, "for God's sake tell me who and where is the person who was waiting for the mail at your hotel."

"Ha! ha!" laughed the hostess, considerably mollified by the madam and the hotel. "The mad Italian musician, the clarinet fellow? Why, I took you for him at first, and wondered what brought him back, for he started as soon as the mail left the door. He'd have done better to have got into it, with a dark night and a long road before him. Ha! ha! He's mad, to be sure."

"His name! His name!" cried Solling, impatiently.

"His name? How can I recollect his outlandish name? Fol—Vol——"

"Voltojo!" cried the painter.

"Voltojo! yes, that's it. Ha! ha! What a name!"

"It is he!" cried Solling, and without another word dashed off full speed along the road he had just come. He kept in the middle of the causeway, straining his eyes to see into the darkness on either side of him, and wondering how it was he had not met the object of his search as he came to the village. He ran on, occasionally taking trees and fingerposts for men, and cursing his ill luck when he saw his mistake. The sweat poured down his face in streams, and his knees began to knock together with fatigue. Suddenly he struck his foot against a stone lying in the road, and fell, cutting his forehead severely upon some pebbles. The sharp pain drew a cry from him, and a man who had been lying on the grass at the roadside, sprang up and hastened to his assistance. At that moment a flash of summer lightning lit up the road.

"Bernard! Bernard!" cried the painter, throwing his arms round the stranger's neck. It was his brother.

Bernard started back with a cry of horror.

"Albert!" he exclaimed in a hollow voice, "Cannot your spirit rest? Do you rise from the grave to persecute me?"

"In God's name, my dear brother, what mean you? I am Carl—Carl, your twin brother."

"Carl? No! Albert! I see that horrid wound on your brow. It still bleeds!"

The painter grasped his brother's hand.

"I am flesh and blood," said he, "and no spirit. Albert still lives."

"He lives!" exclaimed Bernard, and clasped his brother in his arms.

Explanations followed, and the brothers took the road to Berlin. When the painter had replied to Bernard's questions concerning their family, he in his turn begged his brother to relate his adventures since they parted, and above all to give his reasons for remaining so long severed from his friends and home.

"Although I fully believed Albert killed by the blow he received," replied Bernard, "it was no fear of punishment for my indirect share in his death, that induced me to fly. But when I saw the father senseless on the ground, and the son expiring before my eyes, I felt as if I was accursed, as if the brand of Cain were on my brow, and that it was my fate to roam through the world an isolated and wretched being. When you all ran out of the school to fetch assistance, it seemed to me as though each chair and bench and table in the room received the power of speech, and yelled and bellowed in my ears the fatal number which has been the cause of all my misfortunes—'Thirteen! Thirteen! Thou art the Thirteenth, the Accursed One!'

"I fled, and since that day no rest or peace has been mine. Like my shadow has this unholy number clung to me. Wherever I went, in all the many lands I have wandered through, I carried with me the curse of my birth. At every turn it met me, aggravating my numerous hardships, embittering my rare moments of joy. If I entered a room where a cheerful party was assembled, all rose and shrunk from me as from one plague-tainted. They were twelve—I was the Thirteenth. If I sat down at a dinner-table, my neighbour left his chair, and the others would say, 'He fears to sit by you. You are the Thirteenth.' If I slept at an inn—there were sure to be twelve persons sleeping there; my bed was the Thirteenth, or my room would be number Thirteen, and I was told that the former landlord had shot or hung himself in it.

"At length I left Germany, in the vain hope that the spell would not extend beyond the land of my birth. I took ship at Trieste for Venice. Scarcely were we out of port when a violent storm arose, and we were driven rapidly towards a rocky and dangerous coast. The steersman counted the seamen and passengers, and crossed himself. We were thirteen.

"Lots were drawn who should be sacrificed for the salvation of the others. I drew number thirteen, and they put me ashore on a barren rock, where I passed a day and night half dead with cold and drenched with sea water. At length an Illyrian fisherman espied me, and took me off in his boat.

"It is unnecessary to relate to you in detail my wanderings during the last eight years, or if I do, it shall be at some future time. My clarinet enables me to live in the humble manner I have always done. You remember, probably, that I had some skill in it, which I have since much improved. When travelling, my music was generally taken as payment for my bed and supper at the petty hostelries at which I put up; and when I came to a large town, I remained a few days, and usually gained more than my expenses.

"About a year since, I made some stay at Copenhagen, and at last, getting wearied of that city, I put myself on board a ship, without enquiring whither it was bound. It took me to Stralsund.

"The day of my arrival, there was a shooting-match in the suburb beyond the Knieper, and I hastened thither with my clarinet. It was a sort of fair, and I wandered from one booth to the other, playing the joyous mountain melodies which I had not once played since my departure from Marienberg. God knows what brought them into my head again; but it did my heart good to play them, and a feeling came over me, that I should like once more to have a home, and to leave the weary rambling life I had so long led.

"I had great success that day, and the people thronged to hear the wandering Italian musician. Many were the jugs of beer and glasses of wine offered to me, and my plate was soon full of shillings. As I left off playing, an old greyheaded man pressed through the crowd, and gazed earnestly at me. His eyes filled with tears, and he was evidently much moved.

"'What a likeness!' he exclaimed. 'He is the very picture of my Amadeus. I could fancy he had risen out of the sea. The same features, the sane voice and manner.'

"He came up to me and took my hand. 'If you do not fear a high staircase,' said he with a kindly smile, 'come and visit me. I live on the tower of St Nicholas's Church. Your clarinet will sound well in the free fresh air, and you will find those there who will gladly listen.' So saying, he left me.

"The old man's name was Elias Kranhelm, better known in Stralsund as the old Swede; he was the town musician, and had the care of the bells of St Nicholas. The next day was Sunday, and I hastened to visit him. His kind manner had touched me, unaccustomed as I was to kindness or sympathy from the strangers amongst whom I always lived. When I was halfway up the stairs leading to the tower, the organ began to play below me, and I recognised a psalm tune which we used often to sing for our old schoolmaster at Marienberg. I stopped a moment to listen, and thoughts of rest and home again came over me.

"I was met at the tower door by old Kranhelm, in his Sunday suit of black; large silver buckles at his knees and shoes, and a round black velvet cap over his long white hair. His clear grey eyes smiled so kindly upon me, his voice was so mild, and his greeting so cordial, that I thought I had never seen a more pleasing old man. He welcomed me as though I had been an old friend, and without further preface, asked me if I should like to become his substitute, and perform the duties for which his great age had begun to unfit him. His only son, on whom he had reckoned to take his place, had left him some time previously, to become a sailor on board a Norwegian ship, and had been drowned in his very first voyage. It was my extraordinary likeness to this son that had made him notice me; and the good, simple-hearted old man seemed to think that resemblance a sufficient guarantee against any risk in admitting a perfect stranger into his house and intimacy.

"'My post is a profitable one,' said he; 'and, in consideration of my long services, the worshipful burgomaster has given me leave to seek an assistant, now that I am getting too old for my office. Consider then, my son, if the offer suits you. You please me, and I mean you well. But here comes my Elizabeth, who will soon learn to like you if you are a good lad.'

"As he spoke, a young girl entered the room, with a psalm-book in her hand, and attired in an old-fashioned dress, which was not able, however, to conceal the elegance of her figure, and the charms of her blooming countenance.

"'How think you, Elizabeth?' said her father. 'Is he not as like our poor Amadeus as one egg is to another?'

"'I do not see the likeness, my dear father,' replied Elizabeth, looking timidly at me, and then casting down her eyes, and blushing.

"I accepted the old man's offer with joy, and took up my dwelling in the other turret of the church tower. My occupation was to keep the clock wound up, to play the evening hymn on the balcony of the tower, and to strike the hours upon the great bell with a heavy hammer.

"I soon felt the good effect of repose, and of the happy, tranquil life I now led; my spirits improved, and I began to forget the curse which hung over me—to forget, in short, that I was the unlucky Thirteenth. Old Kranhelm's liking for me increased rapidly, and, in less than three months, I was Elizabeth's accepted lover. Time flew on; the wedding-day was fixed, and the bridal-chamber prepared.

"It was on Friday evening, exactly eight days ago, that I went out with Elizabeth, and walked down to the port to look at a large Swedish ship that had just arrived. The passengers were landing, and one amongst them immediately attracted our attention.

"This was a tall, lean, raw-boned woman, apparently about forty years of age, who held in her hand a long, smooth staff, which she waved about her, nodding her head, and muttering, as she went, in some strange, unintelligible dialect. Her dress consisted of a huge black fur cloak, and a cape of the same colour fringed with red. Her whole manner and appearance were so strange, that a crowd assembled round her as soon as she set foot on shore.

"'Hallo! comrade,' cried one of the sailors of the vessel that had brought her, to a boatman who was passing. 'Hallo! comrade, do you want a job? Here's a witch to take to Hiddensee.'

"We asked the sailor what he meant; and he told us that this strange woman was a Lapland witch, who every year, in the dog-days, made a journey to the island of Hiddensee, to gather an herb which only grew there, and was essential in her incantations.

"Meantime, the witch was calling for a boat, but no one understood her language, or else they did not choose to come. My unfortunate propensity to all that is supernatural or fantastic impelled me, with irresistible force, towards her. In vain Elizabeth held me back. I pushed my way through the crowd, until we found ourselves close to the Lapland woman, who measured us from head to foot with her bright and glittering eyes. Slipping a florin into her hand, I gave her to understand, as well as I could, that we wished to have our fortunes told. She took my hand, and, after examining it, made a sign that she either could or would tell me nothing. She then took the hand of Elizabeth, who hung upon my arm, trembling like an aspen leaf, and gazing intently upon it, muttered a few words in broken Swedish. I did not understand them, but Elizabeth did, and, starting back, drew me hastily out of the crowd.

"'What did she say?' enquired I, as soon as we were clear of the throng.

"Elizabeth seemed much agitated, and had evidently to make a strong effort before she could reply.

"'Nothing,' answered she, at last; 'nothing, at least, worth repeating. And yet 'tis strange; it tallies exactly with a prediction made to my mother when I was an infant, that I should one day be in peril from the number Thirteen. This strange woman cautioned me against the same number, and bade me beware of you, for that you were the Thirteenth!'

"Had the earth opened under my feet, or the lightning from heaven fallen on my head, I could not have felt a greater shock than was communicated to me by these words. I know not what I said in reply, or how I got home. Elizabeth, doubtless, observed my agitation, but she made no remark on it. I felt her arm tremble upon mine as we walked along, and by a furtive glance at her face saw that she was pale as death. Not a word passed between us during our walk back to the tower, on reaching which she shut herself up in her room. I pleaded a severe headach and wish to lie down; and, begging the old man to strike the hours for me, retired to my chamber.

"It would be impossible to give an idea of the agony of mind I suffered during that evening. I thought at times I was going mad, and there were moments when I felt disposed to put an end to my existence by a leap from the tower window. Again, then, this curse that hung over me was in full force. Again had that fatal number raised itself before me like an iron wall, interposed between me and all earthly happiness. Wearied out at length by the storm within me, I fell asleep.

"As may be supposed, I was followed in my troubled slumbers by the recollection of my misery. Each hour that struck awoke me out of the most hideous dreams to a scarce less hideous reality. When midnight came, and the hammer clanged upon the great bell, a strange fancy took possession of my mind that it would this night strike Thirteen, and that at the thirteenth stroke the clock, the tower, the city, and the whole world, would crumble into atoms. Again I fell asleep and dreamt. I thought that my head was changed into a mighty bronze bell, and that I hung in the tower and heard the clock beside me strike Thirteen. Then came the old schoolmaster, who yet, at the same time, had the features of Elizabeth's father; and, as he drew near me, I saw that the hammer he held in his hand was no hammer, but a large silver-bound Bible. In my despair I made frightful efforts to cry out and to tell him that I was no bell, but a man, and that he should not strike me; but my voice refused its service and my tongue clove to my palate. The greyhaired old man came up to me, and struck thirteen times on my forehead, till my brains gushed out at my eyes.

"By daybreak the next morning I was two leagues from Stralsund, having left a few hurried ill-written lines in my room, pleading I know not what urgent family affairs, and a dislike to leave-taking, as excuses for my sudden departure. Over field and meadow, through rivers and forests, on I went, as though hell were at my heels, flying from my destiny. But the further I got from Stralsund the more did I regret all I left there—my beautiful and affectionate mistress, her kind-hearted father, the peaceful happy life I led on the top of the old tower. The vow I had made to fly from the haunts of men, and seek in some desert the repose which my evil fate denied me among my fellows, that vow became daily more difficult to keep. And yet I went on, dreading to depart from my determination, lest I should encounter some of those bitter deceptions and cruel disappointments that had hitherto been my lot in life. Shame, too, at the manner in which I had left the tower, withheld me, or else I think I should already be on my road back to Stralsund. But now I have met you, brother, and that my mind is relieved by the knowledge that I have not, even indirectly, Albert's death to reproach myself with, I must hasten to my Elizabeth to relieve her anxiety, and dry the tears which I am well assured each moment of my absence causes her to shed. Come with me, dearest Carl, and you shall see her, my beautiful Elizabeth, and her good old father, and the tower and the bell. Ho! the bell, the jolly old bell!"

The painter looked kindly but anxiously in his brother's face. There was a mildness in his manner that startled him, accustomed as he had been to his eccentricities when a boy.

"You are tired, brother," said he. "You need repose after the emotions and fatigues of the last week. I, too, shall not be sorry to sleep. Let us to bed for a few hours, and then we will have post-horses and be off to Stralsund."

"I have no need of rest," replied Bernard, "and each moment seems to me an eternity till I can again clasp my Elizabeth to my heart. Let us delay, then, as little as may be."

As he spoke they entered the gates of Berlin. The sun was risen, and the hotels and taverns were beginning to open their doors. Seeing Bernard's anxiety to depart, the painter abandoned his intention of taking some repose, and after hasty breakfast, a post-chaise was brought to the door, and the brothers stepping in, were whirled off on their road northwards.

The sun was about to set when the travellers came in sight of the spires of Stralsund, among which the church of St Nicholas reared its double-headed tower. Bernard had enlivened the journey by his wild sallies, and merry but extravagant humour. Now, however, that the goal was almost reached, he became silent and anxious. The hours appeared to go too slowly for him, and his restlessness was extreme.

"Faster! postilion," cried Carl, observing his brother's impatience. "Faster! You shall be paid double."

The man flogged his horses till they flew rather than galloped over the broad level road. Suddenly, however, a strap broke, and the postilion got off his seat to tie it up. Through the stillness of the evening, no longer broken by the rattle of the wheels and clatter of the horses' feet, a clock was heard striking the hour. Another repeated it, and a third, of deeper tone than the two preceding ones, took up the chime. Bernard started to his feet, and leaned so far out of the carriage that his brother seized hold of him, expecting him to lose his balance and fall out.

"It is she!" exclaimed Bernard. "'Tis the bell of St Nicholas. Listen, Carl—my Elizabeth calls me. She strikes the bell. I come, dearest, I come!"

And with these words he sprang out of the carriage, and set off at full speed towards the town, leaving his brother thunderstruck at his mad impatience and vehemence.

Running at the top of his speed, Bernard soon reached the city gate, and proceeded rapidly through the streets in the direction of St Nicholas's church. It seemed to him as though he had been absent for years instead of a few days, and he felt quite surprised at finding no change in the city since his departure. All was as he had left it; all conspired to lull him into security. An old fruitwoman, of whom he had bought cherries the very day of his last walk with Elizabeth, was in her usual place, and, as he passed, extolled the beauty of her fruit, and asked him to buy. A large rose-tree, at the door of a silversmith's shop, which Elizabeth had often admired, was still in full bloom; through the window of a house in the market-place, he saw a young girl, Elizabeth's dearest friend, dressing her hair at a looking-glass, and as he passed the churchyard, the old dumb sexton, who appeared to be hunting about for a place for a grave, nodded his head in mute recognition.

Bernard opened the tower door, and darted up the staircase. He was not far from the top when he heard the voices of two men above him. They were resting on one of the landing-places of the ladderlike stairs.

"It is a singular case, doctor," said one; "a strange and incomprehensible case. It is evidently a disease more of the mind than the body."

"Yes," replied the other, by his voice apparently an old man. "If we could only get a clue to the cause, any thing to go upon, something might be done, but at present it is a perfect riddle."

Bernard heard no more, for the men continued their ascent.

"The old father must be ill," said he to himself; but as he said it a feeling of dread and anxiety, a presentiment of evil, came over him, and he stood for a few moments unable to proceed. The door at the top of the stairs was now opened, and shut with evident care to avoid noise. "The old man must be very ill," said Bernard, as if trying to persuade himself of it. He reached the door, and his hand shook as he laid it upon the latch. At length he lifted it, and entered the room. It was empty; but, just then, the door of Elizabeth's chamber opened, and old Kranhelm stepped out. On beholding Bernard, he started back as though he had seen a ghost. He said a word or two in a low voice to somebody in the inner room, and then shutting the door, bolted it, and placed his back against it, as if to prevent Bernard from going in.

"Begone!" cried he in a tremulous voice; "in the name of God, begone! thou evil spirit of my house;" and he stretched out his arms towards Bernard as though to prohibit his approach. No longer master of himself, the young man sprang towards him, and, grasping his arm, thundered in his ear the question—

"Where is my Elizabeth?"

The words rang through the old tower, and the confused murmuring of voices in the inner room was heard. Bernard listened, and thought he distinguished the voice of Elizabeth repeating, in tones of agony, the fatal number.

One of the physicians knocked, and begged to be let out. The old tower-keeper opened the door cautiously, and, when the doctor had passed through, carefully shut and barred it. But during the moment that it had remained open, Bernard heard too plainly what his ears had at first been unwilling to believe.

"Is that the man?" demanded the physician hastily. "In God's name, be silent. You will kill the patient. She recognized your voice, and fell immediately into the most fearful paroxysm. She has got back again to the infernal number with which her delirium began, and she shrieks it out perpetually. It is a frightful relapse. Begone! young man; yet stay—I will go with you. You can, doubtless, give us a key to this mystery."

The old physician took Bernard's arm to lead him away; but at that very moment there was a shrill scream from the next room, and Elizabeth's voice was heard calling upon Bernard by name. The unfortunate young man could not restrain himself. Shaking off the grasp of the physician, he pushed old Kranhelm aside, tore back the bolts, and flung open the door. There lay Elizabeth on her deathbed, her arms stretched out towards him, her mild countenance ashy pale and frightfully distorted, her soft blue eyes straining from their orbits. She made a violent effort to speak, but death was too near at hand; the sound died away upon her lips, and her uplifted arms dropped powerless upon the bed; her head fell back—a convulsive shudder came over her: she was dead. Her unhappy lover fell senseless to the ground.

When Bernard awoke out of a long and deathlike swoon, it was night, and all around him was still and dark. He was lying on the stone floor outside Kranhelm's dwelling. The physicians had removed him thither; and, being occupied with the old tower-keeper and his daughter, they had thought no more about him. On first recovering sensation, he had but an indistinct idea of where he was, or what had happened. By degrees his senses returned to a certain extent—he knew that something horrible had occurred, but without remembering exactly what it was.

He felt about him, and touched a railing. It was the balustrade round the open turret where hung the great bell. He was lying under the bell itself, and, as he gazed up into its brazen throat, the recollection of the frightful dream which had persecuted him the night before his flight from Stralsund came vividly to his mind; he appeared to himself to be still dreaming, and yet his visions were mixed up with the realities of his everyday occupations.

He had just stepped out, he thought, to strike the hour on the bell, and rising with some difficulty from the hard couch which had stiffened his limbs, he sought about for the hammer. He made no effort to shake off the sort of dreaming semi-consciousness which seemed to prevent him from feeling the horror and anguish of reality.

"Thirteen strokes," thought he; "thirteen strokes, and at the Thirteenth the tower will fall, the city crumble to dust, the world be at an end." Such had been his dream, and the moment of its accomplishment was come.

He found the hammer, and struck with all his force upon the bell. He repeated the blow; twelve times he struck, and each stroke rang with deafening violence through his brain; but at the Thirteenth, as he raised his arms high above his head, and leaning back against the railing, threw his whole strength and energy into the blow, the frail balustrade gave way under his weight, and he fell headlong from the tower. The last stroke tolled out, sad and hollow as a funereal knell, and the sound mingled with the death-cry of the luckless Thirteenth!


[15] Reminiscences of Syria. By Colonel E. Napier.

Galloping, gossiping, flirting and fighting, feasting and starving, but always in high spirits and the best possible humour, Colonel Napier might answer an advertisement for "A Pleasant Companion in a Post-chaise," without the slightest chance of rejection. But it is difficult to imagine so dashing a traveller, boxed up in a civilized conveyance, rolling quietly along a macadamized road, with a diversity of milestones and an occasional turnpike gate, the only incidents by the way—no wild Maronite glimpsing at him over the hedge; no black-eyed houri peeping over the balustrades of the caravanserai, (called by vulgar men the Bricklayers' Arms)—no Saices to help John Hostler to change horses; but dulness, uniformity, and most tiresome and unromantic safety. England, we are sorry to confess it, is not the land of stirring adventures or hair-breadth 'scapes—a railway coach occasionally blows up; a blind leader occasionally bolts into a ditch; a wheel comes occasionally into dangerous collision with one of Pickford's vans; but these are the utmost that can be hoped for in the way of peril, and other excitement there is positively none. We have treated life as the mathematician did Paradise Lost—we have struck out all its similes—obliterated its flights—expunged its glorious visions—we have made it prose. But fortunately for us—for Colonel Napier—for the reading public—there is a land where mathematicians are unknown, and where poetry continues to flourish in the full vigour of cimeters and turbans—the region of the sun—

"The first of Eastern lands he shines upon."

It was in this very beautiful, but rather overdone portion of earth's surface, that the adventures occurred of which we are now to give some account; and as probably most of our readers have heard the name of Syria pretty often of late, we need not display much geographical erudition in pointing out where it lies. It would be pleasant to us if we could atone for brevity in this respect, by illuminating the reader on the causes that have brought Syria so prominently forward; but on this point we confess, with shame and confusion of face, that we know no more than Lord Ponsonby or M. Thiers. The truth seems to be, that some time, about two or three years ago, five or six people in influential stations went mad, and our Secretary for Foreign Affairs took the infection. He showed his teeth and raised his "birse," and barked in a most audacious manner, till the French kennel answered the challenge; an old dog in Egypt cocked his tail at the same time, and the world began to be afraid that hydrophobia would be universal. All parties were delighted to let the rival yelpers fight it out on so distant a field as Syria; and in that country of heat and dryness, of poverty, anarchy, cruelty, and superstition, there was a skrimmage that kept all Christendom on the tenter-hooks for half-a-year; and this we believe to be the policy of the Syrian campaign. Better for all parties concerned, that a few thousand turbaned and malignant Turks or Egyptians should bite the dust, than that there should be another Austerlitz or Waterloo. So the signal was accordingly given, and the work began.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse