ADVENTURES OF ALEEFA, DAUGHTER OF MHEREJAUN, SULTAN OF HIND, AND EUSUFF, SON OF SOHUL, SULTAN OF SIND.
Mherejaun, sultan of Hind, was many years without any progeny, and immersed in melancholy at the thought of his kingdom's passsing to another family. One evening, while indulging his gloomy thoughts, he dropped into a doze, from which he was roused by a voice exclaiming, "Sultan, thy wife this night shall conceive. If she bears a son, he will increase the glory of thy house; but if a daughter, she will occasion thee disgrace and misfortune." In due time the favourite sultana was delivered of a daughter, to the great mortification of the parents, who would have destroyed her had not her infant smiles diverted their anger. She was brought up in the strictest privacy, and at the end of twelve years the sultan had her conveyed to a strong citadel erected in the middle of a deep lake, hoping in such a confinement to prevent her from fulfilling the prediction which had been made concerning her. Nothing could excel the magnificence of her abode, where she was left only with female attendants of the highest accomplishments, but no male was allowed to approach even the borders of the lake, except when supplies were conveyed for the use of its fair inhabitants, who were then restricted to their apartments. The gate of the citadel was entrusted to the care of an old lady, the princess's nurse. For three years the fair Aleefa lived happy in her splendid prison, but the decree of fate was not to be overcome, and an event predestined by heaven overturned the cautious project of sultan Mherejaun.
Eusuff, a dissipated young prince, son to the sultan of Sind, having offended his father, fled from his court, and with a few attendants reached the borders of the lake, in his way to seek an asylum in the territories of Mherejaun. Curious to know who inhabited the citadel in the midst of it, he swam over the lake, and landed at the gate, which he found shut, but no one answered his loudest call for admission. Upon this he wrote a note, requesting compassion to a helpless stranger, and having fixed it to an arrow, shot it over the battlements. It luckily for him fell at the feet of the princess, then walking in one of the courts of her palace. She prevailed upon her nurse to open the gate, and at sight of Eusuff fell in love with him, as he did with her. He was admitted, and the tenderest interviews took place between them. Joy and pleasure prevailed in the citadel, while the piince's attendants remained, expecting his return, on the banks of the lake.
After some time, sultan Sohul wishing to be reconciled to his son, and having learnt the route he had taken, dispatched his nephew named Yiah to assure him of forgiveness, and invite him to return to Sind. Yiah arriving at the lake, was informed by Eusuff's attendants that the prince had entered the citadel, since which they had not seen or heard anything of him. Yiah, upon this, penned a note expressive of the sultan's forgiveness, and his wish to see the prince, which he fixed to an arrow and shot it into the palace, in the garden of which it fell, as Eusuff and Aleefa were walking for their amusement. The prince, on reading the note, overcome with joy at the intelligence of his father's forgiveness of his errors, resolved to return home and pay his duty to his parents. He communicated his design to the princess, who was plunged into the deepest sorrow at the thought of his departure, but he comforted her by assurances of his speedy return, declaring that nothing but filial duty could have torn him from her, even for a moment. She now implored him to to take her with him, but Eusuff prudently represented that such a step could only disgrace her fame and enrage her father, who, on discovery of her flight, would invade the kingdom of Sind with his powerful armies, and a scene of unnecessary bloodshed would ensue. On the contrary, it they waited patiently, sultan Mherejaun might be prevailed upon to consent to their union; but, in the mean time, he would visit her often, while their meetings might, through the fidelity of their mutual attendants, be kept secret. Aleefa, though unwilling, was obliged to acknowledge the justice of his reasoning, and consented to his departure; but on his taking leave, with tears and embraces entreated him not to be long absent, which he promised, and with truth, for his love was sincere, and it was with difficulty he submitted to the call of duty to a forgiving parent.
Eusuff having swam the lake with his bow and quiver upon his head, as before, rejoined his companions, who rejoiced to see him. He was received by his cousin Yiah with transports of affection, and informed of what had happened since his departure from court; after which the prince related his love adventure with the fair Aleefa, at the same time requesting his secrecy, and that he would charge the same on his attendants, as to his having been in the citadel, which he should earnestly beg also of his companions to observe. After a night's repose the two princes marched towards Sind, and when within a day's distance from the capital, dispatched a courier to give notice of their approach. Sultan Sohul, overcome with joy at the recovery of his son, having commanded the city to be ornamented and splendid entertainments to be made for his triumphal entry, with his whole court in their most magnificent array advanced to meet him. The prince, on seeing his father's train, dismounted, fell on his face, then running up, eagerly embraced the stirrup of the old sultan, who threw himself upon his neck in a transport of joy, and wept over him with tears of affectionate rapture. A horse sumptuously caparisoned was now brought for the prince's mounting, and the father and son rode side by side into the city, amid the acclamations of all ranks of people; while, as they proceeded, basins full of silver and gold, coined for the occasion, were showered amongst the assembled crowds in the streets. It is impossible to describe the tender interview between the prince and the queen his mother, whose heart had been nearly broken on the flight of her son, or the glad transports of Eusuff's own ladies, who were in number three wives and forty concubines. Suffice it to say, that all was joy and pleasure in the palace, except in the breast of Eusuff; who mingled with the satisfaction of return to his family an ardent desire to meet again the beautiful Aleefa, so that the caresses of his women gave him no pleasure; and when he retired to his apartment, he did not, as was usual, call any of them to his presence, but passed the night alone, thinking of his beloved. Morning invited him to new scenes of festivity, prepared by his happy parents, who little suspected how soon they were again to lose their son.
Eusuff having sacrificed a few days (to him long as the eve of dissolution) to his sense of duty, could no longer restrain his impatience, but with a faithful slave named Hullaul, mounted on a favourite courser behind him, left the palace undiscovered in the darkness of night, and speeded with the swiftness of the gale towards the citadel of Aleefa. Being arrived on the banks of the lake, he secured his saddle and bridle among some bushes, and was carried with his attendant safely through the water by his noble steed. Unbounded was the joy of the princess at again meeting her faithful lover, nor was his rapture less than hers. Having committed Hullaul to the care of the ladies of Aleefa, they retired to their apartment. Thirty days rolled on almost unperceived by Eusuff, who forgot his parents, his family, and country, in the delights of love.
On the thirtieth evening, as Eusuff and Aleefa were viewing the beautiful prospect from the terrace of the palace, they perceived a boat sailing towards it, which, as it drew nearer, the princess knew to belong to her father the sultan Mherejaun; upon which she requested her lover to keep himself concealed from view, while she received the persons in the vessel. Eusuff accordingly withdrew into a chamber, the lattice of which looked upon the lake; but how can we express his indignant surprise, and furious jealousy, when he beheld landing from the boat two handsome young men, into the arms of one of whom Aleefa threw herself with eager transport, and after mutual embraces they withdrew together into the palace. Without considering that his supposed rival might be a near relation to the princess, as he in fact was, being her first cousin, who had been brought up with her till her confinement to the lake; Eusuff suffered himself to be overcome by unworthy suspicion, and resolved to quit for ever a faithless mistress. Having written an angry letter upraiding her with falsehood, and bidding her farewell, he with his attendant Hullaul mounted his courser; then delivering his note to one of the females, to be given to the princess, he swam over the lake and speeded rapidly to his own country, where he was once more joyfully received by his parents and family; and in order to forget the charms of Aleefa, he indulged himself in mirth and pleasure with his lately forsaken ladies, who, delighted with the long-wished-for return of his affection, strove with each ether who should please him best.
The unsuspecting Aleefa was engaged with her cousin Sohaul and Ali Bin Ibrahim, a faithful eunuch who was his attendant, asking a thousand questions and listening to the news of her father's court, when Eusuff's letter was put into her hands. Rising up, she withdrew into a closet, opened it, and was mnch vexed at its ungrateful contents; but knowing herself innocent, and trusting that her lover would return when convinced of his mistake, she composed her mind as firmly as she, could till the departure of her cousin, who after some days took leave and returned to the capital of Mherejaun, leaving behind him the eunuch, to the great satisfaction of the princess, who hoped to make him the mediator between her and her beloved. Nor was she mistaken. When unfolding to him the whole of her adventures with Eusuff, he agreed to be the bearer of a letter, and explain to him the cause of his needless suspicion. Having swam the lake with the fair Aleefa's packet wrapped in his clothes upon his head, the faithful Ah in twenty days reached the city of Sind, and demanding an audience in private, which was readily granted, delivered his commission to the prince. Eusuff, whose anger was now calmed, and who had already begun to feel uneasy at absence from the still reigning favourite of his heart, on perusing her letter was overcome with joy. He listened eagerly to the account of his fancied rival by the eloquent Ali Bin Ibrohim, to whom he expressed his conviction of her constancy, his own sorrow for his unreasonable desertion of her, and his intention of departing to visit her the next night, till when he desired the eunuch to repose himself after his fatigue. Ali Bin Ibrahim was then lodged, by the prince's orders, in one of the most splendid apartments of the palace, and respectfully waited upon by the domestics of his court. The night following, EusufF having ordered his favourite Hullaul to make preparations, departed from Sind as before, with the eunuch mounted on a second courser. They in a few days reached the borders of the lake, swam over, and to the great joy of the once more happy Aleefa arrived at the citadel. The recollection of the pains of absence added a zest to the transports of reunion, and the lovers were, if possible, more delighted with each other than before their separation. The faithful Ali Bin Ibrahim was now dismissed with invaluable presents of precious stones, and returned to the court of Mherejaun, the time for his stay at the citadel of the lake being expired. On his arrival, the sultan, anxious for intelligence of his daughter's health, took him into his closet, and while he was questioning him, by some accident the eunuch's turban unfortunately falling off, the precious stones, which, with a summary of the adventures of Eusuff and Aleefa, and his own embassy to Sind, were wrapped in the folds, tumbled upon the floor. The sultan knew the jewels, and examining the turban, to make farther discoveries, found the paper, which he eagerly read; and furious was his wrath, when from the contents it appeared that all his caution to guard against the decrees of heaven had been vain, that the princess had been seduced, and his house dishonoured. He sternly inquired of the trembling Ali if Eusuff was yet with his daughter, and was answered in the affirmative, when he immediately gave orders for vessels to be prepared for his departure, hoping to take him prisoner, and at the same time commanded his army to march along the banks of the lake and encamp opposite the citadel. The unfortunate eunuch was thrown into a dungeon and loaded with heavy chains, after he had been bastinadoed almost to death; but still faithful to the lovers, he prevailed upon his gaoler by a large bribe during the night to permit him to dispatch a note by a trusty messenger to the princess, apprising her of the misfortune which had happened, in hopes that she would have time to escape with Eusuff towards his own country before her father's arrival. Fortunately for the lovers, this information reached them the next morning, when they consulted what measures to pursue, and it was agreed, that instead of both quitting the citadel, only Eusuff and Hullaul should return to Sind, as the princess was unequal to such a rapid journey, but that in order to ensure her safety, the slaves should, on the sultan's arrival, assure him that she had gone off with her lover, when he would either return home or pursue the prince with his army; who, however, mounted as he was on so swift a courser, could not be overtaken. It was also settled that Eusuff, on his arrival in his own country, should send an embassy to Mherejaun, declaring his marriage with Aleefa, and requesting pardon, and leave to pay his duty as his son-in-law. This stratagem had in part its effect, but no precaution could ward off the fulfilment of the prediction at the princess's birth, which was that she should occasion the disgrace and death of her father.
Mherejaun armed at the citadel a few hours after Eusuff's escape, and was informed by her attendants that she had also accompanied him in his flight; upon which the enraged sultan, hurried on by fate, without stopping to search the palace in which his daughter was concealed, hastened to join his troops on the banks of the lake, and with a vast army pursued the Sindian prince, who, however, reached his capital in safety. On his arrival, having informed his father of his adventures, the old sultan, eager to gratify his son, approved of his additional marriage with the fair Aleefa, and dispatched an embassy to Mherejaun, who by this time was in the territory of Sind, laying it waste with fire and sword, no troops scarcely being opposed to his sudden invasion. He received the ambassador with mortifying haughtiness, bidding him return to his master, and imform him that he never would forgive the seduction of his daughter, in revenge for which he had taken a solemn oath to overturn the kingdom of Sind, raze the capital, and feast his eyes with the blood of the old sultan and his son. On receipt of this ungracious reply to his proposals, the sultan and Eusuff had no alternative but to oppose so inveterate a foe. They collected their troops, by whom they were much beloved, and marched to meet the enemy, whom, after an obstinate battle, they defeated, and Mherejaun was slain in the action. It is impossible to resist the decrees of heaven. From God we came, and to God we must return.
Eusuff, after the action, behaved with the greatest humility to the conquered, and had the body of the unfortunate Mherejaun embalmed and laid in a splendid litter, in which it was conducted by a numerous escort, in respectful solemnity, to the capital of Hind, and deposited with funeral pomp, becoming the rank of the deceased, in a magnificent mausoleum, which had been erected by himself, as is customary among the sovereigns of Asia. The prince, at the same time, dispatched letters of condolence to the mother of Aleefa, lamenting the fate of Mherejaun, whom he had been, much against his will, necessitated to oppose in battle, and expressing his ardent love for her daughter, a marriage with whom was his highest hope, as it was his first wish to console the mother of his beloved in her misfortunes.
The sultana, who had received intelligence of the decisive victory and the death of her husband, and who expected, instead of such conduct, to see the victor besieging her capital, felt some alleviation of her sorrow in the prospect of saving her people from destruction, by consenting to an union between Eusuff and Aleefa. Her answer accordingly was favourable, upon which the prince of Sind repaired to the lake, and conducting his willing bride to the capital of Hind, at the expiration of the stated time of mourning for Mherejaun, their nuptials were celebrated with all possible magnificence, amid the united acclamations of the subjects, who readily acknowledged his authority, and had no cause to repent of their submission to his yoke. His next care was to inform the caliph Mamoon, who was then commander of the faithful at Bagdad, of the events which had happened, accompanying his petition with a great sum of money, and offerings of all the rarities the countries of Hind and Sind afforded; among which were ten beautiful slaves, highly accomplished in singing, dancing, and a talent for poetry. They recited extempore verses before the caliph, but the subject of each was so expressive of their wish to return to their beloved sovereign, and delivered in so affecting a manner, that Mamoon, though delighted with their wit and beauty, sacrificed his own pleasure to their feelings, and sent them back to Eusuff by the officer who carried the edict, confirming him in his dominions, where the prince of Sind and the fair Aleefa continued long, amid a numerous progeny, to live the protectors of their happy subjects.