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ill in life; he was now opulent, and was farther from content than he had ever been. He was a dependant on the bounty of a woman whom he loathed, for the very degradation which her abused liberality occasioned.
He was a traitor to the woman whom he loved, and had forfeited all claim to her affections, at the moment the blessing he had despaired of appeared to be within his grasp.
Though his marriage with Miriam was still kept a secret, scandal was busy with the fame of the widow; and seldom as her reputed lover now visited her dwelling, his goings and comings were watched by the neighbours, and wellknown to her kinsmen.
One evening, on entering her abode, he observed a number of Levantines loitering about the gallery of the okella; but, as they did not appear to notice him, he slipped into the passage and posted himself behind the door to watch their motions.
He had not been long there before he heard a heavy footstep overhead, and shortly after he had a glimpse of a tall figure in a Dervish habit descending the stairs. Mourad had a
full view of his countenance as he leisurely approached the door; he appeared to be rather past the prime of life; a rubicund, smooth-faced calendar, whose roguish eye gave something of an absurd expression to the prevailing indolence of his features.
Our hero was not a little confounded at the sight of a stranger quitting the apartments of his wife: the first impulse carried his hand to the pistol in his girdle; the second was one of more prudence, for it sprang from the suggestion that he had a good plea for getting rid of a troublesome connexion. He slammed to the door the moment the Dervish was about making his exit, and pounced on him with the fury of a tiger, ere he gave him time to recover from the astonishment which his sudden appearance produced.
Dog of a Sufi !" said he, "what business has brought you to this dwelling? what secret villainy has carried you, at this unseasonable hour, to the forbidden walls of my harem ?"
"By the propitious star of your house!" exclaimed the Dervish, in a tremulous voice, "I conjure you to take your fingers from my
throat; I charge you, by the unlucky planet of my birth, suffer me to breathe and to assure you of my innocence. By the source of all evil, the implacable Goddess Beltha, listen to me, if you are a man of discretion and understanding, and repent of the insult you offer to my robe. If this be your house, the sick woman in the harem must be your wife, and to you I must look for the remuneration of my visits. Allah is most bounteous! but this is not the way to fee a hakkim, who has promised to consult the heavenly bodies for the health of your household."
"Follow me, impostor," cried Mourad, "to the chamber of your pretended patient; you shall be confronted with this sick lady, and in her presence will I know the truth; and, if I find the shadow of a falsehood on your lip, let me see which of the planets will save you from my vengeance."
The poor Dervish resigned himself to his fate; he followed with reluctant step, sighing as he went along, and uttering imprecations on the Goddess Beltha, and all the planets of her tribe.
"Now, son of a pagan !" cried our hero, entering the apartment of his wife, "make a full confession of your guilt, and I will suffer you to go forth unharmed: fool me with lies, and I will tear you, like a ravening vulture, joint by joint."
"Truth," said the Dervish, sighing from the bottom of his heart," is always commendable, and can never be too highly recompensed. Since I must speak it, close all the doors, and remember your promise; and since you have consented to let me live, I pray you to consider that life is not worth possessing without the sparkling waters of that spiritual fountain which Hafiz quaffed in the bowers of Rochnabad, and which the profane call wine. Money I have none, to buy it; therefore, Effendi, before I commence my confession, lend me half-a-dozen bergoots; and suffer me, like Tarafa, while I live, to drench my brains with wine, lest, having drunk too little here below, I should be intemperate in my cups at the pond of the Prophet in the place above."
"Cease, kafir!" cried our hero, "your pro
fligate discourse; speak, and that briefly, of the infamy these cursed walls have witnessed."
"Then listen and be entirely content," exclaimed the Dervish, " for I am sure I can tell you nothing worse than what your fancy has already pictured. In our convent in Stamboul, a Hindi fakir once told me, that a wise man's wife was always virtuous; and that a book, a lute, a weapon, and a woman, were all of them useless or valuable, according to the hands in which they fell. The poor fakir had certainly no great opinion of his own wisdom, for he spoke disparagingly of his wife, and admitted that a bright-eyed woman is never satisfied with lovers, no more than fire is satisfied with fuel, the sea with rivers, or death with victims. Now, Effendi, there may be some doubt as to the insatiable disposition of bright-eyed women, but there can be none at all as to the probability of the wise man's wife being well-conducted and discreet. If I know any thing of the star which sheds its propitious light over the solemn mysteries of Aniran, it is this; that a bad husband is in the bosom of his poor wife, as a dead body in the abode of the living; an