« AnteriorContinuar »
ary change of feeling should lead them down to ruin. The fatality of a moment governs the happiness of the future -of too many the miseryyet who can govern it? She for whom I am now a fettered assassin, trembling on the brink of existence, was seen but once, to enthral all my affections, and occupy and lead my mind as if some ethereal being. I knew that even to entertain an attachment other than of respectful devotion to her service, was a fault which merited the severest chastisement of my master; but in the commencement, the strength of my passion drove away every feeling of rectitude, and afterwards, when she was persecuted by him on account of my fatal passion for her, a sense of honor — on my part sincere, because it aspired not to the commendation of the world, but to that of her heart alone increased my love.
'I would here state that my master, the Z. E., had long been in office, and was esteemed by our Sultan for his talents and energy. On the workings of the former I have often deeply reflected, yet now fear without having ever understood them. You have doubtless heard of him as one worthy of every respect and affection, so little are the true and private characters of official men known to the public, which is interested only in their public acts. As a distinguished favor, my father obtained permission to place me near him; and from this moment commenced the most eventful part of my life. Under his protection I gave scope to the ideal dreams of worldly happiness which I had already loved to cherish ; those youthful reveries unchastened by a knowledge of the world, and which, from the lasting impressions they make upon the mind, are of such importance, and therefore need careful guidance. They then afforded me the greatest pleasure, but so treacherous have they proven, that now they are the source of all my sorrows.
'I will now speak of my master, with an endeavor to delineate his character such as it has appeared to me. Perhaps my observations may have been erroneous, and when I point out what to my mind seemed errors, to yours they may appear only as the workings of a lofty and unbending spirit.
'He had formerly been in the military service of the Sultan, and acquired some celebrity in campaigns against Russia. I know but little of his early life, and nothing of his
parentage farther than that the latter was of the middle class; and therefore, from owing nothing to it, he was a self-made man. He was early promoted to a superior grade, and knew but little of the heart-burnings of a subordinate. His personal bravery none ever doubted, and his talents had been severally drawn forth by the charges confided to him by the Sultan. With regard to his personal appearance, a smile generally played upon his countenance; and except a shade which occasionally came over it when a prey to passion, it remained unchangeable. He was thought deep and calculating, yet his simplicity often entrapped others in the snare which their ingenuity had set for him. His smile was deceptive, and often concealed the harsh feelings and intentions which lurked beneath it. Yet he was not a hypocrite, for he loved whatever was open, frank, and candid, and it was only when urged, as he thought, by necessity, that he would descend to dissimulation. His passions often led him to commit the most de grading excesses, and yet he never seemed to reflect and reform after a
fit of anger had passed over, and which had reduced him to a par almost with a maniac. There seemed to be a limit to his better qualities, but none to his anger and revenge ; his friendship was guarded and courteous; his hatred often expended itself upon unworthy objects, and without any restraint. When actuated by the former feeling, it was easy to work upon his credulity; when unfortunately laboring under the latter, nothing but time and entire submission to his will could restore any one to his confidence. It seems natural for pity to succeed revenge and resentment, for the mind soon gluts with misery of its own causing, as it also satiates with enjoyed possession; and when it thus relents, and its fury is spent, ordinarily confers a benefit upon the devoted object of its rage. It was not so, however, with him.
*Another of the peculiar traits of his character was a feeling of regret for the past, which he endeavored to conceal even from himself
. "We easily reconcile our minds to whatever we wish others should consider as correct, and by this self-conviction we deceive ourselves. Again: when, in his own mind, my master perceived and recognized his error, it was a maxim of his life never to acknowledge it to others, lest by so doing they should disrespect his judgment. I would add, that to me and those about his person, he was a kind and protecting master, and though without any endeavor to correct his own wayward passions, he took care to keep alive in others those of virtuous and manly ambition. To differ with him in opinion was an unpardonable crime; and though he might adopt and act upon the suggestions of others, it was without any acknowledgment of his own incapacity, or approval of the adviser, who, perhaps, at a later hour, would be punished for his temerity. He was liberal even to imprudence, but never lavished money in any improper manner. When he took a part, his thoughts and intentions were clear and distinct, for already had he looked upon either side of the question, ere forming any determination. I have, alas ! found to my utter desolation that he then pursued his intention until a successful conclusion left nothing more to be done.
Whilst you fancied his confidence was reposed in you, he was nevertheless at work to penetrate your mind, and detect, not your errors, but a flaw in your judgment, which he then hastened to point out to you, always in such a manner as would bring forward for your companion his own superior wisdom. His principle was to play off one friend or one servant against another, by exciting their jealousy; and when the fault was not grave, when necessity compelled him to do so, to restore a discarded and neglected friend or servant, apparently, to his confidence and good-will. His reading was extensive, and his intercourse with mankind of high and low degree very great. He was a 'republican'
in profession and public life, though an absolutist' in his own family. He had a strong mind by nature, but its superiority had been acquired, not inherited from his parents, nor could it be transmitted to his offspring, though indeed many of them were equally remarkable for their mental capacity, which, however, they neglected to cultivate. His parentage might be questioned, but he was tenacious of his rank and standing in the world, and often assumed a bearing--a haughty superiority -over those from among whom he had sprung, as it were, but yesterday.
'I was fond of being near him, dazzled by the public report of the favors conferred upon him by the Sultan. I soon formed an attachment for him, which he was not long in perceiving. In a few months I became acquainted with every branch of my duties; assisted the seal-bearer when needed; handed his coffee and pipe ; sometimes copied his reports, carried them to the Porte, or attended on him when there. It is scarcely necessary that I should dwell farther upon the nature of his affairs — those which he at times confided to me; the journeys I undertook in the distant pachaliks of the empire for him; or the intrigues of the court, by which he only fell to rise the higher, through the superiority of his talents. Enough has been said to acquaint you with those traits of his character which I loved or feared, and to show how dangerous was he as an enemy, how precarious as a friend. His form and voice are now only recalled to my mind with anguish. Why was the deed which I have committed predestined ? What link is it in the chain of occurrences which my CREATOR determined before the world was? It is now my only consolation to know that I am but the passive agent in His hands; that destiny could not be thwarted ; and yet my religious education teaches me that, being thus, I must be sacrificed eternally to fate. But death will soon release me from myself, and ignorance of the future is bliss.
‘After this short sketch, I will hasten, my friend, to close my short but eventful history.
‘My master's third wife, to whom I have already made allusion, was a Circassian whom he had purchased, and whom, after having given birth to a child, he freed and married. She was but fresh from her wild native soil, and only fourteen years of age when she became his slave. Stolen from her parents and home at the age of eight years, she had been the property of several dealers in slaves, each of whom endeavored to add to her value by having her taught new accomplishments, such as dancing, singing, music, and to attend upon the great. The two first Cadeus of my master had been the wives of his youth, and it was more in anger than love that he determined to purchase another who should ostensibly supersede them in his affections. The profusion of riches with which he surrounded her, at first led her to feel affection for him as their source; but, as she told me, his age was an insurmountable barrier to all love: subsequently, when his violence alienated her regard and destroyed her
peace of mind, it was natural for her affections to seek some new object
, or at least to be readily engaged. A black slave who attended upon her, informed me of her mistress's unhappiness; and when I attended upon her on her excursions in the Bosphorus, my kindness for her gained her heart. She confided to me her grievances, and sympathy soon kindled into love. Poor girl ! she had never had a home since being stolen from that of her parents — of her birth ; and she remembered it with all the vividness, and bore for it all the affection due to a childhood's home.' Nature had impressed upon her a character of sensibility and intelligence, and art had not dulled the one nor weakened the other. Her heart was a tablet too ready to receive impressions, and the sorrow which she evinced for my recent persecutions has proved how difficult they were to be effaced.
One morning my master called me to him, and without expressing his reasons, bade me leave his palace and presence for ever. Whether from a consciousness of meriting such dishonorable dismission, or indignation, felt for a false accusation, I will not say; but I left him without proffering a word in my defence. My companions in service would have thrown themselves at his feet to ask my forgiveness, but the determination visible on his brow excited in their minds feelings of hopelessness. I never saw him but once more.
'After wandering some days in the city through shame and consciousness of having caused my dismissal, I at length turned my steps to the door of my now aged parents, and was welcomed when my entrance could only bring sorrow. Through one of my master's female slaves, they had received information of my attachment for his Circassian slave wife, and how tenderly it had been returned. Knowing the character of my master, and how lasting were his enmities, they preferred interceding for my admittance into the service of some other Effendi, than for a return to his. Some weeks after my dismissal, I was received into the household of the D. A., who had often spoken kindly to me when I had been in attendance on my former master. A few days only elapsed when he received a message from the Z. E., requesting my dismissal, and representing me as unworthy of his protection.
*Unwilling to remain in my aged father's house, a tax upon his limited means, I sought employment in different bureaux of the government, in the several esnaffs or guilds of the capital, but was pursued by his relentless and merciless revenge. An indiscreet sympathy for the unhappiness of his young wife, more than a desire to wean her affections from their legal object, was my only crime. If I loved her, it was involuntary; if my affection was returned by her, it was not sought for by me, but was due to a source from which flows all that is human in the heart, and is akin to divine.
• With a heart oppressed with sorrow, more for her fate than my own, I persevered in search of a means of support. I engaged as an assistant rower to one of the Caikjis of the Bosphorus, and thought that in this obscure calling I would be concealed from my late master's hatred. But this was a vain hope; my employer was ordered to dismiss me by the office from which he received a permit for his boat.
'I procured a tabla, or waiter of wood, such as used by the itinerant Ekmekjis of the capital, and retailed bread in the streets; but as I finally had to apply for a permit to follow this trade, it was also eventually denied to me.
*In the midst of my poverty and grief, I learned by accident of the sudden decease of the poor girl on whose account I was so cruelly persecuted, and was told that her master and husband had strangled her with his own hands, in the false belief that she had been unfaithful to him. Overcome with my own sorrow, this news served to increase the anguish of my heart, and reduce me to a state of desperation. Need I follow up my changes and his persecutions? need I excite your farther sympathy for my sufferings, or your abhorrence of his relentless punishment and revenge? For months I was a vagrant ainong my fellow-men; each time I chose a profession, however humble, or entered an employment, his influence drove me from it into misery.
When no longer any hope existed in my mind of employment near any member of the government of the capital, my heart revolted against itself; all the moral reflections of my life, all my theories of propriety and virtue forsook me; and, forgetful even of the sorrow which the act would entail upon the home which I loved so well, in a moment of desperation I formed a plan which Iblis but too ably assisted me in executing. When my master entered the mosque of Sultan Ahmet, and knelt before the presiding Imaum, my dagger entered his heart! In a moment the heinousness of my crime deadened my every faculty, and even in my own breast I was a condemned assassin. Oh! Memory, thou art indelible and undying! Tears for the past, like the genii of the departed, obscure my vision, and prevent me continuing my task.
One day later.— I have broken my aged father's heart, and they tell me he cannot survive another day; perhaps even now his soul has entered eternal life. My mother bends with the blow; it is an attribute of her gentler sex to offer consolation to the wounded heart, whilst her own is bleeding. My sister, sweet Ayesha, has been to kiss the fettered hand of her yet beloved brother, and mingle her tears with his, though without being able to offer one consolation to his murderous breast.
'I HAVE learned my sentence. The Sultan has ordered my decapitation, and in a few hours more you will receive this imperfect sketch. My poor father is no more, and I am denied the satisfaction of being pressed once more in the arms of my heart-broken mother and sister! My home — my childhood's home - I can never enter again; from my window I gaze upon it for the last time. Oh! how magical is the effect of these two words upon my mind! They offer the severest pang of all my unhappiness.
“Yesterday, as they led me past its now ancient and crumbling threshold, in one moment flashed across my mind the remembrance of my ather, mother, sister, and departed brother, and a thousand associations, once endearing, but now teeming with anguish and misery! They come — farewell !'
EXISTENCE is a Novel in two parts: