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THE CHIEFTAIN'S DAUGHTER; A TALE OF of Kaniya. She was very young, and seem
ed as if animated by the peculiar happiness known only to the young and pure, for a soft smile was or her lip, and a bright light in her eye, and her cheek had the freshness of a new-blown flower ere the noontide heat or the evening shower has touched its beauty; while every line of her form, as she gently bent, sometimes to raise a blossom that had fallen on the marble pavement, sometimes to note the effect of her labor, proved that the beautiful Komari acknowledged no tutoress of grace but the nature that she worshipped, and while the feathered songsters of the grove instructed her to imitate their sweetest melodies, her elastic step and undulating movements owed nothing of their charm to art.
The fane itself, too, was very graceful, and well calculated to excite admiration among the radiant Krishna's worshippers, being of pure white marble, and in its orna- The lady thus stood alone in Kaniya's fane ments free from any of those grotesque de- entwining her white and amber-colored formities frequent on the temples of the East, wreath, while the perfume of the scattered while the scene in which it stood possess- flowers surrounded her like incense. Her ed that quiet sylvan beauty, ever supposed attire was simple, and her ornaments tasteful, to be the aspect of nature beloved by the rather than gorgeous or encumbering. youthful deity. Rich groves of tamarind might have been difficult, therefore, to have and peepul trees sheltered the temple from guessed her rank, but that through the distant the noontide blaze, while a glittering stream trees might be seen camels richly caparisonnow reflected their wavering shadows, and ed, with horsemen, palankeens, and a goodly agina crept tremblingly away among the dens- train of picturesquely-attired followers, such est foliage, there only to be traced by its quiet as wait only on the princes of that land: but murmurings against the shining pebbles or tan- at Kaniya's shrine, the lady Komari needed gling flowers that seemed to oppose its course. no protection, nor did she even seek any comBounding the sweet vale that I have thus en- panion, but him who now approached, and deavored to describe was a chain of rocky for whom apparently she lingered there. hills, tinged with the rosy hues of evening The stranger was also young, and attired light, which threw into strong relief the out- in priestly robes; but, as the quick ear of the lines of many a fortress, such as were neces- maiden caught the sound of his step from besary to protect the Rajpoot princes and theirhind the altar, she turned, and cast her arms followers at a period in their history when tenderly around him. dissension was common, ambition great, and even the darkest crimes were regarded as venial when the object to be gained was considered worth the desperate game the chieftains played for. The horrors induced, however, by this aggressive system, whatever shape they may have taken, were confined to the open country, or to the harems and dungeons of the forts, for to the grove of Kaniya they never could penetrate. Affording the right of sanctuary, no blood could there be shed, no sacrifice be offered, but that of flowers and incense; for the pastoral god of India, delighting in smiles and melody, suffers neither cruelty nor austerity to approach his shrine.
Perhaps it was this attractive character of the sun-god's fane which had now led hither one of the fairest of his votaries; or there may have been another yet more pressing reason, which the progress of my tale may show; but at the time I would describe, a lovely Hindu girl, weaving a wreath of mogree and chumpa blossoms, stood by the altar
"Ah! my brother," she exclaimed, "chide me not that I sought thee thus at Kaniya's shrine; soon shall we be parted, and well you know how in the retirement of the rawula (harem), I long for the sweet air and bright world around me, and how doubly sweet do both become, Jowanda, when enjoyed with those we love."
Kaniya's priest smiled fondly on the speaker, but, as he replied, there was an earnestness in his manner, scarcely warranted, perhaps, by what had passed. "Dear Komari! it is strange that I, thy brother only by one parent, and she not of the royal race, should yet so nearly resemble thee in taste as 'tis said we do in feature. For, though I were offered fortresses and lands, power and influence, as the legitimate son of my honored father, I would far rather hear the minars chattering among the boughs of yonder grove, than the wisest counsellors in his highness's durbar, and the sweet cooing of the wood-doves to the clash of arms that could gain for me a throne. But tell
me, dear Komari, is it true, that our father | banks of the blue Yamuna; stay but a while, has entertained the suit of the young rajah of and I will bring it thee with speed; the Jeitpoor, and that the prince even now is en- servants are well entertained, and will not camped near the city, about to claim you as note thy absence." his bride; and are you content, my sister, that this should be?"
A moment had scarce elapsed, after the departure of the priest, when a rustling sound was heard among the trees around the fane, and a warrior, fully armed, and of most princely bearing, sprang from his charger, and, rapidly ascending the marble steps, stood before the maiden. Unused to the presence of men, unless that of her immediate relatives, Komari started at the coming of the stranger, and, looking anxiously around her, blushed deeply, seeming as if about to fly; but again she raised her eyes, and that which met her gaze gave promise rather of security than cause for fear. The stranger was young and eminently handsome; slight in figure, yet firmly knit, as if trained to athletic exercises from his youth; and although his eyes were now beaming with the gentlest feelings, one well versed in the expressions of the human countenance would have noted, that there was that in their depths which times might animate with a bold defiance, before which even the bravest in the land would quail.
For a moment, a bright blush spread over the fair brow of the beautiful Komari; but, as it again fainted to the tender tint whose native hue ever lingered on her cheek, the maiden rested one hand upon her brother's arm, and, still holding the mogree-wreath loosely in the other, she fixed her bright eye on the distant grove, and softly answered, "Yes, Jowanda, I am content; for 'tis my noble father's wish, and this surely is enough. Think what love his was, my brother, who, in direct opposition to our Rajpoot laws, which command to the tomb the infant daughters of our noble houses, reared me with tender care to look abroad upon the sweet earth, to note its beauties, to feel its truth, and to be loved by all I love. Is not my life due to him who thus has saved me, and is not all obedience but poor payment for such a debt?" "You are good as you are fair, sweet sister," returned Jowanda, tenderly; "but tell me, feel you aught like love for your affianced hus- Perhaps there is a sympathy between the band?" "Love!" returned the fair girl,turning gentleness of woman, seeking protection, her full dark eyes upon her brother's face: and that manly courage which is willing "oh! no. How is it possible to love that which and powerful to yield it; but certain it is, we know not? Theysay the prince is young that the maiden now felt little disposed to and noble, a warrior, and generous; but I can fly; and when the youth, in apologetic tone, love that only which from my childish years has told her that, wearied by the heat and tedium been ever with me; I love my mother, father, of a journey, he had sought Kaniya's shrine yourself, the companions of my sports; yes, and for rest and shelter, and craved her pardon, the bright flowers, with their fragrant breath, believing, as he said, that the retainers that bring with it sweet thoughts; the birds, grouped together in the grove were those of that seek to answer me so gratefully with the prince her father, whom he had once their harmony of speech; and even the twink-served with in the wars with Scindiah, the ling stars, so full of mystery and beauty, that maiden blushed and smiled, and readily forI could gaze on them for ever, dreading the gave him, when, as her brother's step was envious dawn that hides them from my view heard returning, she suffered the stranger to -all these, my brother, love I as dearly as press his lip upon her hand, and reproached my life but the rajah!-oh no, no! Jo-him not; neither did she betray him, for wanda, I do not love the rajah."
"But yet," inquired Jowanda, anxiously, 'you hate him not, sweet sister; you do not fear your marriage?" "Why should I hate him, dear Jowanda?" was the reply. They say the prince will love me, and the whole world seems so full of goodness, that the prince may be even more noble than all I can imagine him. But give me now, my brother, the blessing I have come to seek, for I have lingered here too long, and my people will grow impatient." "I will bestow on thee, sweet sister," replied the priest, a talisman more powerful in guarding thee from harm than even a brother's blessing. I have a lotus-flower, gathered by the sun-god on the
when the priest returned, he found Komari still weaving alone her fragrant wreath, and although the distances of the flowers were no longer well preserved, and the circle had become an oblong, Jowanda did not note it, nor how coldly she received the talisman, nor how hurriedly she left him and sought her palankeen. As she did so, however, Komari glanced stealthily around, and her eye well noted a mounted warrior spurring towards the hills, nor were her attendants slow to do the same; but, as some pointed to the flying horseman, a cry arose of " Look, look! see you the prince? it is the Jeitpoor Rajah, on his famous Arab Suleiman."
Komari heard, and, casting herself back
in her palankeen, yielded to a dream of hap-at once your accepted claim to the hand of piness which, if the anticipation of secure the daughter of the Rana Umra, and retire and gratified love can give joy to the human heart, made this fair girl's complete.
with your followers from the province." "And by what right does Sangram Singh demand this at my hands?" inquired the prince haughtily. "By that right," answered the chelah, with a sneer curling his lip, "that all Rajpoot warriors acknowledge; the power to enforce his will; but, as in this instance the king deigns to give you a reason for its exercise, he bids me say, that the hand of the Princess Komari was promised to his predecessor ere her father dared pledge his word to spare her infant life; and the king adds, that if his claim is disregarded, he will not only reduce yon fortress to the dust, but, abandoning the regal crimson of your tent, he will cause you to fly before his face, and every warrior of Jeitpoor shall fall upon our swords."
In a crimson tent, guarded on all sides by his feudal adherents, and patrolled by small bands of mercenary soldiery, sat Prince Zalim, and before him, with haughty mien and angry brow, stood the chelah, or confidential adviser of Sangram Singh, whose hosts, to the extent of some five thousand men, had encamped but a few miles distant. The chelah, or messenger of Sangram, was a pattern of his class; ambitious and intriguing; treacherous to those who trusted him, but cringing to the dust before his master. As a Pathan soldier of low origin, the favoritism of a tyrant had raised him to the position he Prince Zalim, who had labored to restrain held, and as he now stood in his quilted robe his passion up to the moment when the mesof gold brocade, with a rich Cashmere shawl senger would pause, now started again from about his waist, and a jewelled fillet secur- his cushions, and fixing on the chelah a look ing his long glossy hair, there was a trucu- of withering scorn, exclaimed, "Begone, lence in his bearing that would have better suited the lowest mercenary engaged upon a foray, than the favorite and adviser of a Rajpoot noble.
thou slave of an unworthy master! did I drag thee over yonder plain at my horse's heels, as would a Moslem noble, or command that thou shouldest be blown from our nearest gun, There had evidently been a pause in the thy punishment would be less than thy insoconversation between the Prince Zalim and lence deserves. But go, tell thy master that the accredited negotiator of Sangram Singh, Zalim Singh defies him, and will keep the and angry defiance marked the bearing of lustre of his honor bright; moreover, that he each; but at length the envoy, as if weary of will not strike a tent to pleasure him, until waiting for the occasion of that offence he marches into the city to meet his bride, which it had been his object to excite, inquir- and in that day, let Sangram look to it, that ed, resting as he did so on the jewelled pom- he oppose him not." Then, turning to the mel of his sword, as if addressing his inferi- warriors who stood around, "Escort," said or, "The king my master waits for a reply, and his messenger proposes to bear back that which may be given him."
he, "in safety this loud-tongued slave to the camp of Sangram Singh, and, as you go, command that the escort set forth at once with the marriage-gifts designed for the rawula of the Rana Umra."
The prince started, and gazed at the speaker, with flashing eyes, a flushed brow, and a gesture of angry scorn as his grasp stole in- The tent was soon cleared, but the last voluntarily on the cross-handled creeze or warrior had scarcely disappeared from the dagger worn in his cummerbund; but he kanat, when Ajit, the young and favorite brochecked his rising violence, and after a mother of Zalim, laid his hand upon the prince's ment's apparent stuggle, calmly replied, sleeve. "Beware," he said, "my brother. "There is in thy words a tone of insolence Sangram is powerful and impetuous, his in ill-keeping with thy office, and a manner hosts are numerous, and his wealth is unwell deserving chastisement; but it is thy master's arrogance, and not thine, that should excite my anger; state, therefore, again, as briefly as thou canst, what are his demands." "The king my master," replied the chelah, twisting the long ends of his wiry moustache, as he threw a quick and triumphant glance around, at which the swords of more "Ajit," replied the prince, "think you than one of the adherents of Prince Zalim that, as a Rajpoot warrior, I could bear the were half-drawn from their scabbards, "the insolent scoffs of yonder chief, and not teach king my master demands that you withdraw him in return the temper of our steels? And
bounded. The Rana Umra is in fact his vassal, and will not dare to refuse him his alliance at any cost. Is it not better, then, to waive your claim, and return to Jeitpoor, than to bathe this fair land in blood, and bring destruction on the Rana and his family?""
is Zalim Singh to suffer the pangs of morti- to some tender words addressed to her by fied expectation and of disappointed hopes, Komari, "you are about to leave the home while he is girt round with faithful nobles of thy youth for the harem of a stranger; yet and brave friends, eager to do him right, not a shade of grief attends the change. Thou simply because his enemies demand it? And wert our first-born, and, at my frantic prayer, again, Ajit: were I base enough for this and thy noble father, even against the usages of even more, I love the daughter of the Rana his house and the express laws of his tribe, Umra, and have sworn by Kaniya's shrine, spared thy infant life. Even now I seem to that the man lives not who shall tear her feel again the terror, the doubt, of that fearfrom my arms." Prince Ajit smiled. "Nay, ful hour when the opium, already blended Zalim," he exclaimed, "this is mere folly; with nature's earliest draught, awaited but we Rajpoot suitors, whose lady-loves are the Rana's signal to close the sweet eyes so shaded from our eyes by the lattices of the lately opened to heaven's light; but, at rawula, if we love at all, must love the production of our own imaginations, a passion easily managed, I should think; there are few among the princes of this land who would not gladly seek the alliance of the Rajah of Jeitpoor; so 'tis but setting your fancy in another key, my brother, and the melody produced will please as well. Fortune may have interfered in this matter to save you from a shrew, and as you follow as blindly as she is said to lead, trust her, and take her warnings."
length, the stern purpose of the Rajpoot chief melted before the husband's tenderness, and thou wert spared. But, alas! ere three hot seasons had passed away, the dread of scorn, the fear of what might be thy fate, urged again the sacrifice; but as thy father sat with his bared sword across his knee, meditating the deed which he thought had become necessary to save his honor, upon the death of the prince to whom thou wert betrothed, thou, sweet child, stole to his side, and, with a soft caress, smiled at and played with the glittering weapon intended for thy destruction. I had followed stealthily, vowed not to outlive my babe; but I saw a tear fall upon the blade, and, sheathing his sword in haste, thy father blest and bade thee live." Komari listened, and as the Ranee paused, she raised her streaming eyes towards her mother's, and cast herself upon her bosom.
"You speak, wisely, Ajit, though somewhat, perhaps, in jest; nor is Zalim Singh wont to dream of beauty when he should be girding on his sword for war. We Rajpoots have no fabled houris, as the Moslems have, to urge them on to deeds of blood; but for the daughter of the Rana, it is no dream; I have seen her, Ajit, and the memory of her grace and beauty animated me like the warcry of our race. Urge me no more, then, for I have sworn that Komari shall be my bride." | mations of surprise from the startled slave
The rawula of the Rana Umra was rife with mirth and joy. The rich carpet in the apartment of the fair Komari was strewn with the costly presents of her affianced husband, and the slave-girls, who were gathered round them, had expatiated for hours on their surpassing beauties, nor were they yet wearied of the theme. The pearls were, they decided, the largest ever seen, the kinkaubs the richest and most glittering, the shawls the softest of the Cashmere looms, the attar and golaub panee (rose-water) unequalled in all Persia. Yet, while this display of female gratification was at its height, with bright eyes beaming and sweet lips smiling delighted approval of those gauds which, it is supposed, most surely win the hearts of women, the Princess Komari knelt at her mother's feet, and with her fair face bent upon the knee of the Baji Bhye, remained forgetful of all but her filial gratitude and approaching joy.
"My child," replied the Ranee, in answer
From this seeming trance of tenderness, however, both were soon aroused by excla
girls, who suddenly rose from the ground, in some alarm, as the Rana Umra advanced into the apartment. The Ranee and her daughter rose immediately to meet him; but the Baji Bhye, reading strange matters on her husband's countenance, paused suddenly, while the blood forsook her cheek and her lip trembled. The fair Komari, however, saw only on her father's face the necessity for counsel or consolation, and resting her hand upon his arm, she gazed tenderly on his agitated countenance. At her touch, however, the Rana started, with a recoiling gesture, putting aside her hand, and then he gazed on her with the fascinated gaze of one who endeavors to recall the memory of some olden tale, whose characters seem interwoven with the lineaments of one who may have been an actor in the drama, and then, with a heavy sigh, such as are known only to the remorseful and the guilty, the Rana passed on, and stood by the pile of precious stuffs.
"Take hence these gauds," commanded he, addressing the trembling slave-girls in a voice whose tone seemed strangely hoarse
and unnatural to the ear; "Take them hence, and bear them to those who wait without. The marriage of the Princess Komari with the Jeitpoor Rajah is at an end, and his servants and his camels must bear back the marriage-gifts."
eyes fell upon the ground, and a still more terrible pause ensued. The poor mother thought that any decision, even the most terrible, so that it ended this agonizing suspense, had been merciful; but she ceased so to think when the Rana fixed his fierce glance upon her face, and hoarsely uttered, "Woman! at thy prayer this girl was saved ;saved, to work ruin upon her land, despair and destruction upon her family. The council will decide her fate, but remember, whatever that may be, I am no longer an erring, misled father, but a Rajpoot noble, firm to defend his honor and his name!"
Komari heard no more; a crowd of busy images rushed over the brain, leaving no distinct impression; a film fell on her sight, strange sounds seemed floating in the air, and the maiden sunk, heartstricken and insensible, at her father's feet. The slavegirls gathered round their mistress, and bore her from the apartment; and then it was that the Rana drew near his trembling wife, and told her of the claim advanced by Sangram Singh, and of the fearful feud between the princely suitors. " My power, my throne, Alas! alas! it was a land where mercy for my life," he added, are all in the hands of hapless women found no place in the counSangram Singh. The Jeitpoor prince obsti- cils of her masters. The rival princes refusnately persists on his right by acceptance, ed to withdraw their claims, the Rana was and blood has been already spilled on every threatened with a war of extermination, and side. I am contemned by all my nobles; the one means alone remained by which to save curse of my disobedience to my country's himself from dishonor, and his country from laws is working my destruction, and I can destruction; and this dark path was chosen. even now see the sneer of the princes of Rajpootana on the downfall of the chief who saved his daughter's life, but to dye his land in blood, and lay it desolate."
As he spoke, the Rana's head drooped low upon his breast, and with arms folded across it, he seemed to abandon himself to despair. His miserable wife gazed on him long and anxiously, trembling at the pause, yet finding in herself no reason to advance in solace of the agony both felt. After a while, however, with low-toned voice and deep emotion, she gently murmured, "Alas! alas! unstable are all our hopes, as dew upon the lotus-buds, and unhappily, my lord, Komari loves this Jeitpoor rajah. Yet still, doubt not, she well knows her duty as a Rajpoot maiden, and never will she oppose thy will that she should wed the powerful Sangram Singh. Wait but, my lord, until the first terrible surprise is past, and all will yet be well;-our country be restored to peace, your honor spared, our child made happy. Force will have compelled you to break your contract with Prince Zalim, and the same power will protect you against the violence of his disappointment." As the Ranee commenced speaking, the king raised his eyes and gazed on her so intently, that it seemed as if every word that passed her lips had power to agitate the listener; and so indeed it was, for he watched to catch if it were but one word of hope, the shadow even of a thought that could bring a reprieve to his intense despair; but yet it came not, and when the Baji Bhye had ended, her husband again sighed heavily, his
The chief apartment of the rawula, so late the scene of joyous preparation, was now silent, and deserted by all but the hapless maiden who was so late its brightest ornament. It is true, that, from without, the sunbeams still played among the fragrant blossoms that hung about the lattices: the bulbuls still warbled their soft love-notes in the chumpa grove, and nature smiled as gaily as she was wont to do; but man's passions had marred all peace, all hope, all joy within, and desolation followed on his steps.
Upon a pile of cushions, her delicate robe of soft white muslin draped around her graceful form, and her face half-screened by the luxuriant and loosened tresses of the dark hair that fell in masses upon her shoulder, lay the fair Komari, while, from time to time, a deep but broken sigh burst from her lips, as if her effort to constrain it was still in vain. But she grieved alone; no attached slaves ministered to her wants, no devoted mother tended the object of her fondest care, but where mirth and tenderness so late had mingled their blithe music, the maiden lay in solitude, trembling, tearful, and broken-hearted. This strange silence had become so hushed and so unbroken, that the slightest sound startled the listener's ear, as it now seemed to act on that of the poor Komari, who suddenly starting from her crouched and motionless position encountered the sorrowful gaze of Krishna's priest bent full upon her.