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he had the virtue to speak truth, in opposition to the all but universal custom of his countrymen, and in the presence of one whose passions were as fierce as his heart was cold. The Shah showed in general the same superiority in his total want of jealousy with regard to the military merit and renown of others. Deprived of one source of sensual gratification, he despised all the rest; he ate the loaf of the common soldier; he never, unlike most Persians of rank, was known to violate the prophet's law against wine; he was, to old age, unwearied in labour of every kind— restless as determined-fearless as far-sighted. Sir John Malcolm thus describes him in his sixty-third year :
His person was so slender, that at a distance he appeared like a youth of fourteen or fifteen. His beardless and shrivelled face resembled that of an aged and wrinkled woman, and its expression, at no time pleasant, was horrible when clouded, as it often was, with indignation. He was sensible of this, and could not bear that any one should look at him *.
His first passion was the love of power; the second, avarice; the third, revenge. In all these he indulged to excess, and they ministered to each other; but the two latter yielded to the first whenever they came into collision. His knowledge of the character and feelings of others was wonderful, and it is to this knowledge, and his talent of concealing his own purposes, that we must refer his extraordinary success. He never employed force until art had failed.'-Ivid.
We refer our reader to the chapter from which we have been quoting, for copious details of the intrigues, the battles, the sieges, the massacres, the executions, which mark the successive stages of Aga Mohamed's career. He at last perished by the hands of two of his own most confidential personal attendants, under circumstances which, says Malcolm, can leave little doubt that his mind had become deranged.' Having discovered his two valets de chambre, as we may call them, in a conspiracy against his crown, he pronounced immediately the sentence of death, but deferred its execution until next morning, and meantime permitted the men to continue their functions about his person. These condemned traitors were the nearest watchers that night as usual in the apartments where the king slept. Next morning he was found stabbed in his bed, and the murderers had escaped. Such is Malcolm's edition of the story. Our novelist, on the ground, no doubt, that le vrai n'est pas toujours vraisemblable, has given another version. We are not sure, however, that in this he has shown his usual judgment. Mad
* Sir John tells us elsewhere, that a favourite centinel of the guard, happening to gaze one day on the Shah, as he rode by his post, had his eyes seared out on the
ness was not only possibly, but most probably, in Aga Mohamed's mind from the beginning. He had through life been afflicted with epilepsy. For ourselves, we confess we find it difficult, in spite of some three or four bright pages in Roman history, to imagine the existence of a perfectly sane despot; nor does it seem easier to conceive of an eunuch who does not either doze on the border of idiotism, or tremble on that of mania. What must it be when the two angry fountains of disease mix in the blood of one creature-placed in body out of nature—in mind beyond the natural relations of humanity?
A single page from Malcolm's History of Aga Mohamed will save Mr. Morier from all suspicion of having overdrawn the tiger half of his character. One of the most important triumphs of his career was the capture of Kerman, (the ancient Caramania,) where an old enemy, Looft Ali Khan, had, after many reverses of fortune, shut himself up, and made a most gallant defence. When all his outworks had been destroyed, and it was obvious that another day must consummate the success of the Shah, Looft Ali, and three of his principal officers, mounted their horses at midnight, fairly cut their way through the besieger's lines, and escaped scatheless to Nermansheer.
'When day dawned, and Aga Mohamed found, to use a Persian phrase, that the lion had burst his toils," he wreaked his vengeance on the unfortunate inhabitants of Kerman: nearly twenty thousand women and children were given as slaves to his soldiers; all the males who had reached maturity were commanded to be put to death or deprived of their eyesight. Those who escaped owed their safety neither to mercy nor to flight, but to the fatigue of the executioners, who only ceased to glut the revengeful spirit of their monarch when themselves were exhausted with the work of blood. The numbers of the slain exceeded those deprived of sight, though the latter amounted to seven thousand. Many of these miserable wretches are still alive
Sir John adds in a note
• When at Shiraz on the 4th of June, 1800, I thought the best mode of celebrating the birth-day of our beloved monarch was to distribute alms to the poor: a great number assembled, and among them were more than a hundred men, whose eyes had been taken out at Kerman. It has been stated that Aga Mohamed ordered a certain number of pounds weight of eyes to be brought to him; nor is the tale in the least incredible.'
The following paragraph is a curious one. mingles even in the tender mercies of the tyrant! What soul-bruizing arrogance in his very repentance!
The meerza, or secretary, of Looft Ali was brought before him. He demanded how he had dared to send firmans or mandates to him VOL. XLVIII. NO. XCVI, who
who was a sovereign. "I wrote," said the man, "by the order of my master, Looft Ali; my fear of him present was greater than of you at a distance." "Strike off his hands and tear out his eyes," exclaimed the monarch, and the savage order was instantly obeyed. Next day he sent for the son of the man whom he had thus treated, and said, "Tell your father that the prophet has upbraided me in a dream for my usage of him: what can I do to repair the injuries I have done?" "He will desire if he lives," said the boy, "to pass the remainder of his days at the tomb of the holy Ali at Nujjuff." The king immediately directed that mules, tents, and every necessary equipment should be furnished for his journey. He also sent him a present of three hundred tomauns, and intreated the youth to solicit his father to forgive him, and remember him in his prayers.'-Malcolm, vol. ii., pp. 124, 125.
Mr. Morier's story opens with a lively description of this Monarch's levee, and introduces us, among other personages, to his benevolent vizier, his nephew, a youth of extraordinary personal beauty and grace, and an imaginary lump of deformity and mean cunning, who is represented as enjoying an extraordinary share of Aga Mohamed's favour and confidence-the royal barber, commonly called Goozoo, i. e. the Hunchback. A great hunting match, almost every particular of which reminds us of the Cyropædia, has been fixed for this morning. His Majesty's nephew is to attend him in the field, and his niece has been sent on, with other ladies of the harem! to pitch their tents in a sequestered valley, at a considerable distance from the capital, which the king designs to reach in the course of the evening. The whole pomp and circumstance of the royal chasse are given in picturesque fulness of detail; while by a few skilful touches here and there, we already begin to discover that the main interest of the opening narrative is to be connected with the fortunes of the yet unseen princess. The first incidents, however, which present the Shah in connexion with his gallant heir, are all we shall quote from this chapter:
'Having advanced well into the recesses of the mountains, which reared their rude crests ever and anon into the most fantastic shapes, apparently forbidding the horseman's approach, or appalling his audacity, at length a cry was heard, loud and shrill, repeated from different stations on the rocks, "Goor khur! Goor khur!" "The ass! -the wild ass!" And, sure enough, some two or three of these beautiful and independent animals were seen quietly feeding in the very bottom of a deep ravine, apparently unmindful of their surrounding assailants. The old Chief of the Hunt came up in breathless haste, this time regardless of all ceremony, to where the Shah was posted, to inform him of the fact, and to point whither it ought to be their object to drive the game, in order that it might fall in with the different relays of dogs which had been posted in the mountains, and without which it would be in vain to attempt to tire the almost uncon
querable activity and bottom of these beasts. The Shah yielded a quick and eager assent, and without loss of time rode in the prescribed direction.
'With great wariness and skill, the huntsman got the wind of the game, and then, being within two or three hundred yards of them, slipped from the couples two of the swiftest and strongest greyhounds. The beasts no sooner heard the noise of the hunt than, with head and ears erect, crest up, snorting aloud the nervousness of their activity, they bounded off a few paces-then stopped-then bounded a few more-stopped, and turned front on their pursuers, when, as if disdaining all pursuit, they allowed the dogs to approach within a few yards, and then darted off at a speed which left imagination far behind. Having gained an immense advance, as in derision of their pursuers, they stopped, and even fed; when the same flight was again repeated, and again and again terminated with success. It was now that the well-known prowess of the Persian horsemen might be remarked: no ascent, however steep, no descent, however rapid, seem to stop them, but urging their bold and sure-footed horses over every impediment, they kept way with the dogs, in a manner that no one could believe who had not seen them. Among the foremost of these rode the king himself, with eager eye, in the direction of the chase, bearing in one hand his Georgian gun, and with the other directing his horse, with a quickness and dexterity worthy of any mountain chief. Close to the royal person rode the young prince his nephew, reckless of every danger, only anxious to be foremost, and distressed that he might not precede his uncle. He also had taken his gun in hand, for as the chase had now ascended to the rocky summits he might have a better chance of bringing down his game with it than with his spear. The Goors had now been chased by two relays of dogs, and still no symptoms of faintness were seen; they had carried their pursuers to the very summit of the most stupendous heights, near to which only some three or four horsemen had ventured to follow them; the rest either remained behind or were toiling up the rocks and ravines, but still the ground was so disposed that the whole scene was kept in full view by all the party. A suspension of all exertion seemed to have taken place, when a quadruped was seen to take post on the very apex of a triangular rock, which formed the summit of the highest mountain, cutting the blue sky with its form. At that moment a shot was fired-the animal still kept its post; a second after, another was discharged-and lo! down it fell from its proud height, tumbling prone into a yawning precipice, and bounding from rock to rock, from projection to projection, until it alighted almost at the very feet of the Shah himself. An universal shout of approbation from a thousand uplifted voices was immediately heard, which resounded in a thousand echoes through the deep recesses of the mountains. But well would it have been for him who fired the shot, who excited the admiration, whose heart bounded with delight, that he had never fired it! As soon as the successful result of it was seen, the envy and rage of the Eunuch 2 D2
at once started into active passion. Turning sharp round, with a face beaming with wickedness, he exclaimed, "Who was that? What burnt soul dared to perform that feat?" Fatteh Ali, with his head down, his arms just supporting his drooping gun, and altogether deprived of his exultation, confessed himself the culprit by his silence. The gallant youth was instantly ordered from the field, and told to proceed at once to the night's resting-place, there to wait the king's further pleasure.
With the excited anger of the tyrant fell his eagerness for the sport. His mind became the prey of every little hate and spite; and he would perhaps have sacrificed the promoter of it to his ill humour, had he possessed any other relative to whom he might look for perpetuating his dynasty.'-vol. i., p. 39-45.
The young prince, on reaching the camp, was imprudent enough to engage in shooting at a target with some of his attendants. On arriving there the old Shah's subsiding ill humour was rekindled by the sound of their firing. He suspected that his nephew was still exulting in the recent triumph of his marksmanship. After a brief interval the youth is summoned to the tent of secrecy:'The day had now completely closed, and two tapers were just about being introduced, when Fatteh Ali stepped in, and discovered his uncle seated in a corner, not unlike a venomous snake coiled up within itself, ready to dart upon its unconscious prey. This face-to-face interview at first staggered him, but conscious of no offence, in all the innocence and confidence of his youth, he presented himself as if nothing of importance had occurred.
"Fatteh Ali," said the Shah, in no very agreeably toned voice, "sit!" This was an unheard-of privilege; however, in obedience he sat down. "Fatteh Ali," repeated the King, with a strangely solemn air," You are young-you are heedless, 'tis true; but young and heedless as you are, you must be taught that if you once lose respect for those to whom respect is due, you may in time commit acts of the most reprehensible nature,-acts, which if not rebellious, may border on rebellion, and leave me, your lord and master, no other alternative than that one of depriving you of the power of so doing." "For the love of the Prophet! for the love of Ali!" exclaimed Fatteh Ali, "what words are these? I am your sacrifice, my uncle! Whose dog am I, that I should think of rebellion? By your sacred head, by your salt which I have so long eaten, I was carried away by the ardour of the chase in what I did to-day-had I known that you would have been displeased, I would rather have cut my finger off than pulled that ill-fated trigger; pardon-oh pardon!" "All this is very well, Fatteh Ali! but before we part, I have something of importance to communicate to you. Prepare yourself-the King is in earnest." Saying this, he drew forth a small though strongly-secured box, at which he looked with an expression of malignity and mystery that no pen can describe; and applying a key to the padlock with which it was closed, drew forth a parcel wrapped in a silken handkerchief. • Fatteh